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

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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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Chalcidius

Timaeus (Dialogue)

Timaeus is the title of one of the two Dialogues of Plato, named after one of the participants. In it we encounter the first clear reference to Atlantis. The dialogue is usually seen as a continuation of The Republic.  The first Latin translation of Timaeus comes from Cicero in the first century BC(b), but unfortunately from the point of view of Atlantology, he only translated 27d-47b, just missing the Atlantis passages. One of the most influential Latin translations came from Chalcidius in the 4th century AD. However, it fell to the 15th century Marsilio Ficino to produce the first translation of Plato’s complete works(c).

Some claim that Timaeus is the only character used by Plato that does not appear to have actually existed in ancient Greece. However, it is more generally accepted that the Timaeus in the Dialogues was based on a real astronomer and mathematician known as Timaeus of Locri, who was a Pythagorean philosopher who formed his own Pythagorean School in Locri in Southern Italy when the School in Croton was forced to close. Timaeus is said to have been around 70 at the time that the Dialogues were written.

Timaeus of Taormina who was born about 20 years before Plato died is not the Timaeus referred to in the dialogue of the same name. This Timaeus was a noted historian who among others was heavily relied on by Diodorus Siculus.

Also at issue is the actual authorship of Timaeus, because Hermippus of Smyrna (3rd cent. BC) claimed that Plato copied his text from the philosopher Philolaus. This suggestion has been debated into modern times(a).

(a) http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/philolaus/

*(b) See: http://atlantipedia.ie/samples/archive-2559/

(c) See: http://atlantipedia.ie/samples/archive-2560/*

Plato’s Text (L)

Plato’s Text has reached us through a rather circuitous route. Wikipedia notes that ‘the scholastic philosophers of the Middle Ages did not have access to the works of Plato – nor the Greek to read them. Plato’s original writings were essentially lost to Western civilisation until they were brought from Constantinople in the century before its fall.’ Today there are only seven manuscripts of Plato’s work extant, the earliest of which dates to 895 AD and is now in Oxford(c). It is unfortunate that the earliest versions of Plato’s work available to us are only Latin translations of an early original Greek text. Chalcidius undertook the first translation of Timaeus from Greek to Latin in the 3rd century AD.  He translated the first 70% of the text from earlier Greek versions, now lost. The earliest translation of Plato’s complete works into Latin was by Marsilio Ficino in the late 15th century. Janus Cornarius provides us with a Latin translation from earlier Greek sources, apparently different from those used by Ficino. A comparison of the Chalcidius and Ficino translations shows considerable divergences. The Ficino Latin text was in turn translated back into Greek at the Aldina Academy in Venice in the 16th century.

Diaz-Montexano has written, in his hallmark poor English, a short criticism(a) of the quality of medieval translations of Plato’s Timaeus and Critiasthat are the basis of the vernacular versions available today.

There are legitimate questions that can be raised regarding the accuracy of the text used by researchers and since some theories relating to Atlantis are often dependant on the precise meaning of particular words, this lack of an original text, leaves some doubt over the persuasiveness of individual hypotheses.

Many quotations from Plato’s text will have alphanumeric references, which are derived from the 1578 edition of Plato’s works by the 16th century French scholar and printer, Henricus Stephanus, which show his page numbers, and the letters a-e, equally spaced down the margin of each page. Although they bear no relationship to the natural breaks in the debate or narrative, the majority of editions and translations now include them.

All of Plato’s Dialogues are to be found on many sites on the Internet. However, we can highly recommend the Perseus website(b) where the works of most ancient authors can be found there in both English and their original languages. It has a number of valuable search tools for both the novice and seasoned student of Atlantology.

(ahttp://www.antiquos.com/La-Atlantida-de-Platon/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=65 (link broken 14/6/16)

(b) http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/

*[(c) http://atlantisonline.smfforfree2.com/index.php?topic=21170.0;wap2]*

Ficino, Marsilio

ficino_01Marsilio Ficino (1433-1499) is not a name with instant recognition today, although most of us are familiar with the phrase ‘platonic love’, which was coined by him. However, it is largely due to his efforts that we are aware of Plato’s Atlantis story. He was the first translator of Plato’s complete works into Latin in the 15th century, while under the patronage of Cosimo di Medici. Unfortunately, the original Greek documents used by him are now lost. It is claimed that a comparison of Ficino’s translation with that of the partial translation by Chalcidius’ of Timaeus reveals a somewhat casual approach on the part of both men, a possible source of some of the problems encountered in the search for Atlantis.

Stephen P. Kershaw cites Ficino [1410.161] as explicity declaring support for existence of Atlantis in his Opera Omnia(c) .

Ficino was a Florentine priest who was a leading light of the Italian Renaissance. He is reputed to have had a prodigious knowledge of the ancient world and in particular early Greek and Egyptian religions. The late Philip Coppens contended(a) that Ficino believed that Christianity was in fact a development of earlier belief systems including the ancient Egyptian cult of Serapis.

Ficino also entered into an arrangement with his close associate Michael Mercator that whoever died first would give a sign to the survivor that there was an afterlife. Ficino was first to depart and allegedly did give such an assurance to his friend(b)

*(a) http://www.philipcoppens.com/ficino_mag.html (offline March 2018) See: Archive 2137*

(b) http://esoterx.com/2015/02/25/best-friends-forever-the-afterlife-experiment-of-marsilio-ficino-and-michael-mercato/

*(c) https://archive.org/details/diviniplatonisop00plat*

 

Chalcidius

Chalcidius (Calcidius) was a fourth century Christian neo-Platonist. At the request of Bishop Hosius of Córdoba he produced one of the earliest Latin versions that we have of part of Plato’s Timaeus, sections 17a-53c(f), based on long lost Greek manuscripts. Chalcidius also gave us a commentary on the text. which was at times more studied than the translation itself. One researcher claims that Chalcidius was possibly Saint Augustine(a).

The oldest known complete manuscript of a number of the dialogues is known as the Clarke Plato (Codex Oxoniensis Clarkianus 39, or Codex Boleianus MS E.D. Clarke 39), which was written, in Greek, in Constantinople in 895(b).

The Digby23 codex contains a 12th century copy of Chalcidius’ Latin translation of Timaeus bound with a copy of The Song of Roland, which is also kept in in Oxford’s Bodleian Library, can now be read online(d)(e).

We had to wait until the 15th century for a full translation, of all the dialogues, also in Latin, to be produced by Marsilio Ficino.

(a) https://sites.google.com/site/tribesofatlantis/Home/wisdom-of-the-first-book-of-atlanteans

(b).  http://atlantisonline.smfforfree2.com/index.php?topic=21170.0;wap2

*(d) https://medieval.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/catalog/manuscript_4352*

(e) http://www.baylor.edu/lariatarchives/news.php?action=story&story=44491

(f)  http://translate.googleusercontent.com/translate_c?depth=1&hl=en&prev=/search%3Fq%3Datlantomaniacs%26start%3D10%26sa%3DN%26rlz%3D1T4GZEV_enIE442IE442%26biw%3D1024%26bih%3D507&rurl=translate.google.co.uk&sl=de&u=http://12koerbe.de/pan/timaios.htm&usg=ALkJrhi8s2bUDTX6Xa5YztRJ5vs0E_vAjw

 

Chain of Transmission

The Chain of  Transmissionof Plato’s tale to us today should be borne in mind when applying any interpretation to elements in the text available to us. We have absolutely no idea how many languages had to carry the story before it was inscribed on their ‘registers’ (Jowett) in Sais, assuming that aspect of the story to be true. The Egyptian priests translated this tale from the pillars for Solon, who then related the story to his friend Dropides who passed it on to his son the elder Critias who, at the age of ninety conveys it to his grandson, the younger Critias, aged nine. Critias then conveyed the tale to his nephew Plato. Platothen composed his Timaeus and Critias dialogues, which eventually reached us through a rather circuitous route.

There are a number of versions of Plato’s family tree, Sprague de Camp records[194.324] three from ancient sources, Diogenes Laërtius, Iamblichus & Proclus, which have small variations. Some sceptics have sought to undermine the credibility of the Atlantis story by highlighting these differences and/or questioning whether the persons recorded by Plato adequately span the years between Solon and Plato. Some of the controversies stem from a number of family members, historical figures of that era and participants in the dialogues who share the same name.On the other hand, I would argue if the Atlantis narrative was just a concoction, I would expect Plato to also have invented a more watertight pedigree.

Plato’s original writings were essentially lost to Western civilisation but for the efforts of Muslim scholars who preserved them until they eventually emerged in Western Europe during the Middle Ages, after they were brought from Constantinople in the century before its fall. In due course the texts were translated into Latin from those Greek versions, which are now lost.

Wilhelm Brandenstein suggested that Solon had combined two accounts, one from Egypt relating to the Sea Peoples and the other concerned a conflict between Athens and Crete(c). However, this is not convincing as it conflicts with too many other details in Plato’s narrative.

Wikipedia notes that ‘the scholastic philosophers of the Middle Ages did not have access to the works of Plato – nor the Greek to read them.’ Today there are only seven manuscripts of Plato’s work extant, the earliest of which dates to around 900 AD. It is unfortunate that the earliest versions of Plato’s work available to us are only Latin translations of the original Greek text.

Chalcidius undertook the first translation of Timaeus from Greek to Latin in the 3rd century AD.  He translated the first 70% of the text from earlier Greek versions, now lost. The earliest translation of Plato’s complete works into Latin was by Marsilio Ficinoin the late 15th century. Janus Cornarius provided us with a Latin translation from earlier Greek sources, apparently different from those used by Ficino. A comparison of the partial Chalcidius and complete Ficino translations shows considerable divergences. The Ficino Latin text was in turn translated back into Greek at the Aldina Academy in Venice in the 16th century.

In chapter two of his History of Atlantis Lewis Spence has produced a version of the Atlantis texts that is an amalgam of various earlier translations ‘acceptable’ to him.

Diaz-Montexano has written, in his distinctive poor English, a short criticism(a) of the quality of medieval translations of Plato’s Timaeus and Critias that are the basis of the vernacular versions available today.

There are legitimate questions that can be raised regarding the accuracy of the text used by researchers and since some theories relating to Atlantis are often dependant on the precise meaning of particular words, this lack of an original text, leaves some doubt over the persuasiveness of individual hypotheses. It is highly improbable that current texts do not contain a variety of errors when we consider the number of links in the chain of transmission.

Many quotations from Plato’s text will have alphanumeric references, which are derived from the earliest printed edition of Plato’s works by the 16th century French scholar and printer, Henricus Stephanus; these show page numbers and the letters A-E at equal distances down each page. Although they bear no relationship to the natural breaks in the narrative, the majority of editions and translations now include them.

The entirety of Plato’s Dialogues is to be found on many sites on the Internet. However, I can highly recommend the Perseus website(b) where the works of most ancient authors can be found there in both English and their original languages. It has a number of valuable search tools for both the novice and seasoned student of Atlantology.

*(a) https://web.archive.org/web/20090928000147/http://www.antiquos.com/La-Atlantida-de-Platon/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=65*

(b) http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/

(c) http://www.atlantis-scout.de/atlantis_brandenstein_engl.htm

 

Asty

Asty is another name that Athenians had for their city. According to Diodorus Siculus (Book 1) it is claimed that the Athenians were colonists from Sais in Egypt and that they brought the name Asty from the city of the same name there, which is thought to be Alexandria. Sais was the centre of the cult of the Egyptian goddess Neith and accepted by Plato (Tim. 21E) as identical to Athena after whom the Greek city was named. Tim. 21E uses the term Asty in the Latin translation of Chalcidius only, a fact highlighted by R. McQuillen who also claims(a) that Atlantis was in fact located in the Nile Delta and uses Asty as a starting point for his thesis.

*(a) http://gizacalc.freehostia.com/Atlantis.html (link broken 16/6/14) See: https://web.archive.org/web/20110711034907/http://gizacalc.freehostia.com/Atlantis.html*.