An A-Z Guide To The Search For Plato's Atlantis

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Colaeus (Kolaios) was a Greek merchant from the island of Samos who was reputedly the first Greek to reach Tartessos (c.640 BC). The story is told by Herodotus (Bk.4.152) that on a trip to Egypt, Colaeus was blown off course by an east wind which lasted for days and brought them through the Pillars of Heracles and in due course landed them in Tartessos. There they met the king Arganthonios, who gave them silver and tin, so that when they eventually returned to Samos, they did so as wealthy men.

Although, the tale is probably just a legend with some historical core I suggest that it may contain some hints as to the location of the Pillars of Heracles. Firstly, I find it highly improbable that an east wind would blow anyone the entire length of the Mediterranean and do so with such unerring precision that Colaeus and his companions failed to encounter the landmasses of Sicily or what is modern Tunisia or any of the islands that lie between them – Malta, The Pelagian Islands or Pantelleria. In addition to this remarkable passage through the Strait of Sicily without landfall, we are also to believe that they were also blown unerringly through the Strait of Gibraltar, without touching Spain or North Africa, before reaching Tartessos, assumed to be at the mouth of the Guadalquivir River. As I see it, to get blown through one strait was remarkable, but to get through two was miraculous.

My conclusion is that Colaeus possibly made it through the ‘Pillars’,  at that time located in the vicinity of the Strait of Sicily, and then carried on to finally land somewhere in the western Mediterranean. If the story was true then any claim that Tartessos was Atlantis must be abandoned. The Tartessos in the story was clearly above sea level, Colaeus’ trip took place just a decade before Solon was born and Colaeus was not treated as a foreign enemy.

It should be noted that Herodotus mentions twice that the story is uncorroborated, told to him by Therans alone. We must therefore consider the possibility that the story includes some corruption and so must be treated with extreme caution.

Tartessos, is itself the subject of controversy and on 19/01/10  it was reported(a) that Spanish researchers were examining the Donana National Park for evidence that the capital of the Tartessian empire had been located there. The same site has already been claimed as the location of Atlantis based on satellite imagery. Watch this space.