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

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Joining The Dots


Joining The Dots

I have now published my new book, Joining The Dots, which offers a fresh look at the Atlantis mystery. I have addressed the critical questions of when, where and who, using Plato's own words, tempered with some critical thinking and a modicum of common sense.


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Crantor

Crantor (c. 340-275 BC) was born in, Soli, Cilicia, in Asia Minor. He is recognised as the first commentator on Plato’s work and a firm believer in the reality of Plato’s Atlantis story. His original text is lost but fortunately much is preserved in the writings of Proclus Lycaeus. It is widely accepted that Crantor either travelled to Egypt in person or used an agent to confirm that the Egyptian record of Atlantis was still in existence there.

However, a more critical view has been expressed(a) on the Wikipedia website and widely copied elsewhere. For the sake of balance I have included it here.

Some ancient writers viewed Atlantis as fiction while others believed it was real. The philosopher Crantor, a student of Plato’s student Xenocrates, is often cited as an example of a writer who thought the story to be historical fact. His work, a commentary on Plato’s Timaeus, is lost, but Proclus, a Neoplatonist of the fifth century AD, reports on it. The passage in question has been represented in the modern literature either as claiming that Crantor actually visited Egypt, had conversations with priests, and saw hieroglyphs confirming the story or as claiming that he learned about them from other visitors to Egypt. Proclus wrote
As for the whole of this account of the Atlanteans, some say that it is unadorned history, such as Crantor, the first commentator on Plato. Crantor also says that Plato’s contemporaries used to criticize him jokingly for not being the inventor of his Republic but copying the institutions of the Egyptians. Plato took these critics seriously enough to assign to the Egyptians this story about the Athenians and Atlanteans, so as to make them say that the Athenians really once lived according to that system.
    The next sentence is often translated “Crantor adds, that this is testified by the prophets of the Egyptians, who assert that these particulars [which are narrated by Plato] are written on pillars which are still preserved.” But in the original, the sentence starts not with the name Crantor but with the easy ‘He’, and whether this referred to Crantor or to Plato is the subject of considerable debate. Proponents of both Atlantis as a myth and Atlantis as history have argued that the word refers to Crantor. Alan Cameron(b),  however, argues that it should be interpreted as referring to Plato, and that when Proclus writes that “we must bear in mind concerning this whole feat of the Athenians, that it is neither a mere myth nor unadorned history, although some take it as history and others as myth”, he is treating “Crantor’s view as mere personal opinion, nothing more; in fact he first quotes and then dismisses it as representing one of the two unacceptable extremes”. Cameron also points out that whether he refers to Plato or to Crantor, the statement does not support conclusions such as Otto Muck’s

“Crantor came to Sais and saw there in the temple of Neith the column, completely covered with hieroglyphs, on which the history of Atlantis was recorded. Scholars translated it for him, and he testified that their account fully agreed with Plato’s account of Atlantis” or J. V. Luce’s suggestion that Crantor sent “a special enquiry to Egypt” and that he may simply be referring to Plato’s own claims.

(a) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atlantis

(b) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Cameron_(classical_scholar)