Theopompus of Chios (c. 4th Cent. BC.) is quoted by Aelian (i) where he seems to describe a continent on the far side of the Atlantic in terms similar to Plato’s account of Atlantis. This excerpt is reputed to be from a play of Thespis, a contemporary of Solon, who is believed to have parodied Solon’s Atlantis poem, which, if true, adds credence to the view that Atlantis was not just an invention of Plato’s.
However, N. Zhirov urges caution as ‘Theopompus was considered a writer of fables even in antiquity’. *Stephen P. Kershaw notes that Aelian “exposes how Theopompus quite flagrantly ripped off the Timaeus and the Critias.” [1585.109]*
Ignatius Donnelly points out that Theopompus referred to Atlanteans as Meropes. In spite of any misgivings about reliability of Theopompus it would appear that he personally accepted the existence of Atlantis.
(i) Variae Historiae (III, 18)
Meropes, according to Ignatius Donnelly, was the name applied by the classical writer Theopompus to the inhabitants of Atlantis. This reference is to be found in the works of Aelian (Bk III, Chap. XVIII) that in fact does not mention Atlantis but refers to a huge distant continent that may in fact, as some speculate, have been an early reference to America. Peter James also supports[047.293] this view of Meropes being ‘an oblique reference to Atlantis’ .
The Greek historian Strabo wrote (Book VII) of an island with an advanced culture called Meropis and its inhabitants Meropes. He also supported the reality of Plato’s Atlantis story.
Jean Gattefossé contended that the Atlas Mountains of North Africa were also known as the Meros. He believed that these mountains had previously bounded a large inland sea that has been referred to as both the Meropic and Atlantic Sea.
*Frank Joseph has speculated that “Merope was probably the name of an allied kingdom or colony of the Atlantean Empire in coastal North Africa, perhaps, occupying the southern half of present-day Morocco” [104.186].
In 1898, the American novelist, H.H. Buckman (1858-1914), published Merope or The Destruction of Atlantis , which uses a fictional account of the final days of Atlantis as a backdrop to what is classified by some to be an early example of science fiction.*
Meropes is also an ancient name for the inhabitants of the Greek island of Kos.
Classical Writers Supporting the Existence of Atlantis
Although many of the early writers are quoted as referring to Plato’s Atlantis or at least alluding to places or events that could be related to his story there is no writer who can be identified as providing unambiguous independent evidence for Atlantis’ existence. One explanation could be that Atlantis may have been known by different names to different peoples in different ages, just as the Roman city of Aquisgranum was later known as Aachen to the Germans and concurrently as Aix-la-Chapelle to the French. However, it would have been quite different if the majority of post-Platonic writers had completely ignored or hotly disputed the veracity of Plato’s tale.
Alan Cameron, a devout Atlantis sceptic, is adamant that ”it is only in modern times that people have taken the Atlantis story seriously, no one did so in antiquity.” Both statements are clearly wrong, as can be seen from the list below and my Chronology of Atlantis Theories and even more comprehensively by Thorwald C. Franke’s Kritische Geschichte der Meinungen und Hypothesen zu Platons Atlantis (Critical history of the hypotheses on Plato’s Atlantis).
H.S. Bellamy mentions that about 100 Atlantis references are to be found in post-Platonic classical literature. He also argues that if Plato “had put forward a merely invented story in the Timaeus and Critias Dialogues the reaction of his contemporaries and immediate followers would have been rather more critical.” Thorwald C. Franke echoes this in his Aristotle and Atlantis[880.46]. Bellamy also notes that Sais, where the story originated, was in some ways a Greek city having regular contacts with Athens and should thertefore have generated some denial from the priests if the Atlantis tale had been untrue.
Homer(c.8thcent. BC)wrote in his famous Odyssey of a Phoenician island called Scheriathat many writers have controversially identified as Atlantis. It could be argued that this is another example of different names being applied to the same location.
Herodotus (c.484-420 BC)regarded by some as the greatest historian of the ancients, wrote about the mysterious island civilization in the Atlantic.
Hellanicus of Lesbos (5th cent. BC) refers to ‘Atlantias’. Timothy Ganz highlights one line in the few fragments we have from Hellanicus as being particularly noteworthy, “Poseidon mated with Celaeno, and their son Lycus was settled by his father in the Isles of the Blest and made immortal.”
Syrianus (died c.437 BC) the neoplatonist and one-time head of Plato’s Academy in Athens, considered Atlantis to be an historical fact. He wrote a commentary on Timaeus, now lost, but his views are recorded by Proclus.
Eumelos of Cyrene (c.400 BC) was a historian and contemporary of Plato’s who placed Atlantis in the Central Mediterranean between Libya and Sicily.
Aristotle (384-322 BC) Plato’s pupil is constantly quoted in connection with his alleged criticism of Plato’s story. This claim was not made until 1819, when Delambre misinterpreted a commentary on Strabo by Isaac Casaubon. This error has been totally refuted by Thorwald C. Franke. Furthermore it was Aristotle who stated that the Phoenicians knew of a large island in the Atlantic known as ’Antilia’. Crantor (4th-3rdcent. BC) was Plato’s first editor, who reported visiting Egypt where he claimed to have seen a marble column carved with hieroglyphics about Atlantis. However, Jason Colavito has pointed out that according to Proclus, Crantor was only told by the Egyptian priests that the carved pillars were still in existence.
*Crantor (4th-3rd cent. BC) was Plato’s first editor, who reported visited Egypt where he claimed to have seen a marble column carved with hieroglyphics about Atlantis. However, Jason Colavito has pointed out(a) that according to Proclus, Crantor was only told by the Egyptian priests that the carved pillars were still in existence.*
Theophrastus of Lesbos (370-287 BC) refers to colonies of Atlantis in the sea.
Theopompos of Chios (born c.380 BC), a Greek historian – wrote of the huge size of Atlantis and its cities of Machimum and Eusebius and a golden age free from disease and manual labour. Zhirov states[458.38/9] that Theopompos was considered a fabulist.
Apollodorus of Athens (fl. 140 BC) who was a pupil of Aristarchus of Samothrace (217-145 BC) wrote “Poseidon was very wrathful, and flooded the Thraisian plain, and submerged Attica under sea-water.” Bibliotheca, (III, 14, 1.)
Poseidonius (135-51 BC.) was Cicero’s teacher and wrote, “There were legends that beyond the Hercules Stones there was a huge area which was called “Poseidonis” or “Atlanta”
Diodorus Siculus (1stcent. BC), the Sicilian writer who has made a number of references to Atlantis.
Marcellus (c.100 BC) in his Ethiopic History quoted by Proclus [Zhirov p.40] refers to Atlantis consisting of seven large and three smaller islands.
Statius Sebosus (c. 50 BC), the Roman geographer, tells us that it was forty days’ sail from the Gorgades (the Cape Verdes) and the Hesperides (the Islands of the Ladies of the West, unquestionably the Caribbean – see Gateway to Atlantis).
Timagenus (c.55 BC), a Greek historian wrote of the war between Atlantis and Europe and noted that some of the ancient tribes in France claimed it as their original home. There is some dispute about the French druids’ claim.
Philo of Alexandria (b.15 BC) also known as Philo Judaeus also accepted the reality of Atlantis’ existence.
Strabo (67 BC-23 AD) in his Geographia stated that he fully agreed with Plato assertion that Atlantis was fact rather than fiction.
Plutarch (46-119 AD) wrote about the lost continent in his book Lives, he recorded that both the Phoenicians and the Greeks had visited this island which lay on the west end of the Atlantic.
Pliny the Younger (61-113 AD) is quoted by Frank Joseph as recording the existence of numerous sandbanks outside the Pillars of Hercules as late as 100 AD.
Pomponius Mela (c.100 AD), placed Atlantis in a southern temperate region.
Tertullian (160-220 AD) associated the inundation of Atlantis with Noah’s flood.
Claudius Aelian (170-235 AD) referred to Atlantis in his work The Nature of Animals.
Arnobius (4thcent. AD.), a Christian bishop, is frequently quoted as accepting the reality of Plato’s Atlantis.
Ammianus Marcellinus (330-395 AD) [see Marcellinus entry]
Proclus Lycaeus (410-485 AD), a representative of the Neo-Platonic philosophy, recorded that there were several islands west of Europe. The inhabitants of these islands, he proceeds, remember a huge island that they all came from and which had been swallowed up by the sea. He also writes that the Greek philosopher Crantor saw the pillar with the hieroglyphic inscriptions, which told the story of Atlantis.
Cosmas Indicopleustes (6thcent. AD), a Byzantine geographer, in his Topographica Christiana (547 AD) quotes the Greek Historian, Timaeus (345-250 BC) who wrote of the ten kings of Chaldea [Zhirov p.40]. Marjorie Braymer[198.30] wrote that Cosmas was the first to use Plato’s Atlantis to support the veracity of the Bible.
There was little discussion of Atlantis after the 6th century until the Latin translation of Plato’s work by Marsilio Ficino was produced in the 15th century.
Briareus was described in Greek mythology as a fifty-headed and hundred-handed giant, who guarded Cronos on the island of Ogygia. The mythologist, Michael MacRae, interprets this as a reference to Briareus as the captain of a ship with fifty oarsmen[985.180].
Felice Vinci notes that Aristotle had the ‘Pillars of Briareus’ as an earlier name for the Pillars of Heracles(a). Frank Joseph claims that he was also known as Aegeon (Aigaios) whereas Hesiod and Homer have recorded Briareus as the son of Aigaios(b).
(a) Fragment 687 Rose, in Plutarch, Il Voltodella Luna (Adelphi, Milan, 1991) (see ‘c’ below)
(c) http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Plutarch/Moralia/The_Face_in_the_Moon%2a/D.html (see footnote 302, where fragment 678, not 687 is cited))
Claudius Aelian (170-235 AD) was a Roman teacher of rhetoric who wrote in Greek. In his Natura Animalium he has recorded [619.xv.2] how the natives of the Atlantic coast have a legend that tells of the Atlantean kings, who, in order to symbolise their authority from Poseidon, wore headgear made from strips from the skins of ‘marine ram fish’ while their queens wore headgear made from the skins of ’marine ewes’. [These animals have not been clearly identified] Nevertheless it would appear obvious from this excerpt that Aelian did not have any doubt regarding the reality of Atlantis.