Atlantis is an ancient island that sank into the ocean, according to the Classical Greek philosopher Plato, who tells the story in his dialogues. While most people today believe that the story is simply an allegory, the idea of a lost continent has captured public imagination since the days of Plato. Atlantis was supposedly home to an advanced civilization that had conquered many nations before failing in combat against Athens and collapsing into the ocean during an earthquake.
It is a matter of speculation whether or not the idea of Atlantis or a similar island predates Plato, as no earlier ancient sources are known. In the Classical era, philosophers and historians were divided over whether or not the story had any basis in fact. Though some claimed to have proof of the island's existence, none of it was definitive. Some writers of the ancient era wrote their own stories of vanished utopias that appear to parody Plato's tale.
In the Middle Ages, the story of Atlantis was largely forgotten, but it resurfaced during the Enlightenment, when Francis Bacon used it as a symbol of Utopia in his The New Atlantis (1626). Bacon's account is similar to that of Plato, except that Bacon places the island in the Americas. In the late 19th century, the idea of the island as a real historical place regained popularity, and many expeditions sought proof of its existence. Scholars theorized a link between it and Mesoamerican cultures such as the Aztecs. Atlantis was often portrayed as a very advanced society, with technology surpassing that of the present, and it began to interest those in Spiritualist circles.
Though Plato portrayed Atlantis as a flawed society, the antithesis to the ideal of Athens, the missing island became increasingly interpreted as a pinnacle of culture and enlightenment in the modern era. While the current understanding of plate tectonics has made the possibility of it as a real place unlikely to say the least, the vanished continent remains a powerful cultural symbol. It often appears in science fiction and fantasy works of all kinds, from books and films to video games and cartoons.