The Associated Press
updated 10/29/2003 1:39:50 PM ET 2003-10-29T18:39:50

Some say it is in the Aegean, others in the Azores, off the Celtic Ridge of Britain or even as far as the South China Sea, but a California researcher says everyone has been looking in the wrong place. Atlantis was in Cyprus, and the ancient philosopher Plato is about to be vindicated, according to Robert Sarmast.

“THE ISLAND of Cyprus was, or is, part of Atlantis — a mountaintop,” Sarmast said from his home in Los Angeles. “This region is at the heart of the ancient world.”

Drawn from accounts by the ancient Athenian lawmaker Solon, Plato’s description of a powerful civilization destroyed by the wrath of God has fired the dreams of explorers for centuries.

Of late, it has inspired fantasies of web-limbed people living in glass bubbles on the seabed; of old, it was thought by some to be the Garden of Eden, where mankind fell from God’s grace.

Geologists say the land mass of Cyprus’s central mountain range once formed the ocean floor. Sarmast says the mountainous island was the tip of the civilization submerged in a devastating earthquake and flood thousands of years ago.

Using deep-sea imagery, simulations of the seabed, and following 50 clues found in Plato’s Critias and Timaeus Dialogues, Sarmast said he has discovered a sunken rectangular land mass stretching northeast from Cyprus, toward Syria.

“Everything matches the descriptions in the dialogues of Atlantis to an uncanny degree,” said Sarmast.

Using scientific data collected a decade ago, Sarmast said he came up with detailed three-dimensional maps and simulated models of the eastern Mediterranean basin.

“We lowered the sea level by 1,600 meters (5,250 feet) and an island popped up,” he said.

Having written a book about his discovery, Sarmast now hopes to organize an expedition to the region for further research.

SCHOLARS SKEPTICAL

His theory has been challenged by archaeologists, who say the Atlantis story is merely a myth.

Sarmast, however, says the sheer volume of detail found in the dialogues is proof enough that something is lurking in the watery deep. “The dialogues read like a treasure map,” he said.

Although theories on where Atlantis was are many and varied, most believers speculate that the ancient city was probably destroyed in a flood of biblical proportions, which has its parallel in the history of the Babylonians, Assyrians, Persians, Egyptians and South Americans.

Plato describes a series of worldwide floods culminating in the deluge of the Deucalion, dated by Greek historians to the end of the last Ice Age, about 10,000 B.C.

According to those ancient texts, Atlantis was a powerful nation whose residents became so corrupted by greed and power that Zeus, the king of the gods, destroyed it.

Cypriot scholars are skeptical of Sarmast’s conclusions.

“The possibility of Cyprus being Atlantis is next to zero,” said Plato scholar Sofronis Sofroniou.

“Cyprus is mentioned by Homer and other people, and there is no mention of that. If Cyprus was Atlantis, it would probably have been mentioned. There is absolutely no basis for this theory.”

Sophocles Hadjisavvas, director of the Antiquities Department, agrees. “This is mere speculation and has nothing to do with reality,” he said.

“Atlantis is mythology, but even mythology speaks of Atlantis being outside the Gates of Hercules in the Atlantic,” he said, referring to the Straits of Gibraltar.

“But it is good for Cyprus tourism,” he added.

Sarmast won’t be swayed. “Heinrich Schliemann discovered Troy by following clues in Homer’s Iliad,” he said, referring to the German explorer who found what he thought was the ancient city of Troy in 1873. “Before that archaeologists said it was a myth. It wasn’t, and nor is Atlantis.”

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