Atlantis Ile-Ife
Women in Ile-Ife, 1911. Leo Frobenius, on discovering what informed his belief that Ile-Ife was the ancient Atlantis was stunned that “this assembly of degenerate and feeble-minded posterity should be the legitimate guardians of so much loveliness.” Photo Source: Frobenius Institut

Atlantis is the fictional ancient civilization that became submerged under the ocean in the Greek philosopher, Plato’s dialogue, the “Timaeus” and the “Critias,” written about 330 B.C. Although the movement of the earth’s lithosphere, as described in the plate tectonic theory precludes the possibility of a lost continent in the recent geological past, Leo Frobenius, a German anthropologist had sensationalized his findings at Ile-Ife in 1910, half a century before this foreclosing geological theory, suggesting the Southwest Nigerian town as heir to the lost civilization described by Plato. In this story, supposed to have taken place nine thousand years before Plato, the Athenians had overcome through the help of their god, a technologically sophisticated but soulless empire- Atlantis, which attempted world domination through its formidable military.

For most of history before the late 19th Century, people understood the Atlantis as a fictional plot of Plato conveyed to celebrate the civility of his countrymen and victory over tyranny. As early as the times of Plato nevertheless, people who believed in the historicity of Critas existed. Crantor wrote in his commentary on the work of his master, Plato, after ostensible inquiry with the Egyptians, that Atlantis is neither a mere myth nor unadorned history. Several locations were propounded in history as the Atlantis, from Antarctica to Caribbean locations, especially the Bermuda Triangle, areas in the Pacific and Indian oceans, and expectedly, the Atlantic ocean. On 30 January 1911, a lead story, “German discovers Atlantis in Africa” appeared in the New York Times. Frobenius lodged his claim, which he called indisputable on the artistic merit of his find, the Ori Olokun, whose finesse, beyond the competence of Europe of its time, he believed, was not of local making.