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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Critias

Two Crops a Year

Two Crops a year is one of the characteristics of Atlantean agriculture according to Plato (Critias 118e).

The North African climate was slightly wetter at the time of Hannibal (2nd & 3rd cent. BC), later, Algeria, Egypt and particularly Tunisia, were the ‘breadbasket’ of Rome(b) and may also have been so for the Atlanteans who earlier had control from North Africa to Tyrrhenia! Even today well-irrigated plains in Tunisia can produce two crops a year, usually planted with the autumnal rains and harvested in the early spring and again planted in the spring and harvested in late summer. The Berbers of Morocco produce two crops a year—cereals in winter and vegetables in summer(a).

*It is worth noting that Mago, the Carthaginian author of a 28-book work on the agricultural practices of North Africa. had his books brought to Rome after the destruction of Carthage in 146 BC, where they were translated from Punic into Latin and Greek and were widely quoted. It is clear that Mago’s work was a reflection of a highly developed agricultural society in that region, a description that could also be applied to Plato’s Atlantis!*

Although two crops are possible annually in other parts of the world, I must emphasise that North Africa is the only part of the Atlantean territory referred to by Plato (Timaeus 25b) that was so productive and continued to be so until the Romans, who depended on it along with Egypt to feed Rome.

(a) http://www.britannica.com/place/Atlas-Mountains

(b) http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Tunisia

Nesselrath, Heinz-Günther

NesselrathHeinz-Günther Nesselrath (1957- ) is a German professor of classical philology. He has studied Plato’s Atlantis story and concluded[1213] that it is purely an invention and should be treated as a morality tale. Although an Atlantis sceptic, he is also considered fair-minded.

Nesselrath has also published a German translation of and commentary on Plato’s Critias[1199].

*In his Newsletter 118(a) of July 2018 Thorwald C. Franke revealed that Nesselrath had provided some qualified support for Franke’s thesis[706][880] which contradicts the long-held view that Aristotle had denied the existence of Plato’s Atlantis. Nesselrath goes further and “adds a brand new suggestion who could have been the true author of the invention assertion in Strabo 2.3.6: He suggests Eratosthenes, the famous geographer, mathematician, and author of poems, as a good candidate to be the true author. The reasons given for this are Eratosthenes’ geographical knowledge, his poetry, and his skepticism towards e.g. Homer’s Odyssee.”* 

(a) https://www.atlantis-scout.de/atlantis_newsl_archive.htm#an118

Stewart, John Alexander

John Alexander Stewart (1846-1933) was a Scottish philosopher and classical scholar. One of his best known works is The Myths of Plato[1512]He believed that the Atlantis story was an invention. His translation of Critias is one of seven translations included in The Critias Atlanticus(a).

*(a) https://web.archive.org/web/20190516063330/http://www.hiddenmysteries.com/xcart/Critias-Atlanticus.html*

Sarantitis, George

George Sarantitis (1954- ) was born in Athens and is by profession an electronics Sarantitisengineer. He is also a serious student of Ancient Greek history and literature whose research(a) enabled him to present three papers to the 2008 Atlantis Conference. These included a revised translation of many of the key words and phrases in Plato’s Atlantis texts. He quotes Strabo’s Geographica (3.5.5.20) to demonstrate the multiplicity of locations on offer for the Pillars of Heracles. He places Atlantis in North Africa at the Richat Structure, with the Pillars of Heracles situated in the Gulf of Gabes which formerly led to an inland sea where the chotts of Tunisia and Algeria are today,  as well as a number of other lakes and rivers in what is now the Sahara.

He posits a number of large inland seas in Africa including a much larger Lake Chad. The 2014 May/June edition of Saudi Aramco World has an article(c) on the remnants of the ‘Green Sahara’, during what is known technically as the African Humid Period (9000-3000 BC). Sarantitis also claims that at one stage in the distant past Libya had been a peninsula. In a June 2015 report the University of Royal Holloway in London revealed that the size of Lake Chad was dramatically reduced in just a few hundred years(d). A similar map showing enormous inland North African lakes 13,000 years ago are included in Taylor Hansen’s The Ancient Atlantic[0527.36].

Sarantitis offers details of his theories on his extensively illustrated Plato Project website(a), which I wholeheartedly recommend readers to visit. He includes a rather technical forensic analysis of Plato’s use of myth. Sarantitis also suggests that the ‘unfinished’ Critias is in fact continued at the beginning of Homer’s Odyssey (1.32-34).

Some of Sarantitis’ section on Methodology of Mythology will be difficult for non-academic readers, such as myself, to fully comprehend. For me his proposal that there were two Atlantean Wars, which took place in 9600 BC and 8600 BC(e) is extremely difficult to accept, since those wars were with an Athens and Egypt that did not even exist at those dates! I find it difficult to accept this apparent abandonment of commonsense and the science of archaeology.

In 2010, Sarantitis published his theories in The Apocalypse of a Myth in Greek. Now (2017) that work has been translated into English and is currently being prepared for publication with a new title of Plato’s Atlantis: Decoding the Most Famous Myth.

There is now an extensive video clip Q & A session available on Sarantitis’ website(b).

(a) http://platoproject.gr/

(b) http://platoproject.gr/faqs/

(c) http://archive.aramcoworld.com/issue/201403/last.lakes.of.the.green.sahara.htm

(d) http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/06/150629162542.htm

(e) Proceedings of the 2008 Atlantis Conference[750.389](editor S.Papamarinopoulos)

English Translations (L)

English Translations of Plato’s Timaeus and Critias have been freely available since 1793 when Thomas Taylor produced his translation.

In 1804 Taylor published the first English translation of the entire Platonic corpus. In 1871, Benjamin Jowett produced  the most commonly quoted version of the Atlantis Dialogues, principally because his work is now out of copyright. Henry Davis produced a translation of Critias in the 19th century and John Alexander Stewart also offered a translation of Critias early in the 20th century.

1925 saw W.R.M. Lamb publish a translation of some of Plato’s works and today his rendering of both Timaeus and Critias is used by the Perseus Digital Library(a). In 1929, Lewis Spence included a composite version of the Atlantis texts in The History of Atlantis, using the English translations of Jowett and Archer-Hind for Timaeus and the French translations of Jolibois and Negris for Critias. Rev. R. G. Bury gave us what was arguably the best translation of the Dialogues (Loeb Classical Library, 1929) and is included at the beginning of this book. Francis M. Cornford (1874-1943) published his Timaeus (Bobbs-Merrill, 1937)

Sir Desmond Lee produced a new English translation in 1972 (Penguin)

Professor Diskin Clay delivered an acclaimed translation of Critias (Hackett Publishing, 1997). Professor Donald J. Zeyl offered a new translation of Timaeus (Hackett Publishing, 2000). Dr. Peter Kalkavage published a highly regarded translation of Timaeus (Focus Philosophical Library, 2001).

In 2008, Robin Waterfield offered a new translation of Critias and Timaeus[0922 as well as a revision of Desmond Lee’s translation of them by Thomas Kjeller Johansen.

(a) http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/collections

Critias [Dialogue]

Critias is the title of one of the two dialogues of Plato that gave the world its first unambiguous mention of Atlantis. Benjamin Jowett’s English translation of 1871 is widely available on the Internet(a) as it is now out of copyright.

The Critias dialogue ends in the middle of a sentence while on the point of revealing more about Atlantis. This fact has generated regular comment over the centuries and some have concluded that Plato grew tired of the Atlantis story, while others suggest that he was at the end of his writing career and old age or illness prevented him from finishing the dialogue. However, since it is accepted that Plato’s Laws, which also ends abruptly,was written later than Critias the idea that death prevented its completion does not hold up.

*Perhaps relevant to the incomplete Critias, is the suggestion that there is an entire intended dialogue missing, apparently with the possible title of Hermocrates. This would appear to be confirmed by Critias 108 which twice mentions, in the same passage, that Hermocrates is due to make a contribution of some substance, which the repetition implies!*

The British philosopher, A.E.Taylor, held the view that Critias had only reached the stage of being just a rough draft[0853].  Taylor believed that Atlantis was just an invention of Plato’s.

H. S. Bellamy in his book The Atlantis Myth points out that there is no evidence of any classical writer commenting on the unfinished nature of Critias until Plutarch, at the beginning of the second century AD. The implication of this is that the original manuscript was completed but somehow over the centuries the final part of Critiaswas lost. It is easier to believe that the final incomplete sentence was originally at the end of a line of text at the bottom of a page that became separated from the following leaves than imagine that a person of Plato’s literary stature was incapable of finishing a sentence. I am tempted to subscribe to this theory and hope that somehow a copy of the ‘missing’ pages turn up in some obscure library.

George Sarantitis offers a novel explanation for the sudden ending of Critias. He proposes that Plato finished his narrative where Zeus was about to speak in the expectation that his audience would have been guided by the earlier content of Timaeus to complete the text with an utterance by Zeus in Homer’s Odyssey (1.32-34) “O alas, the manner in which the mortals put the blame on the gods. For they claim that from us do derive their misfortunes, yet often they themselves with their wicked deeds (hubristically behaviour) fall into grief beyond what can be written.”   (Sarantitis’ translation).
His full argument can be read online(c).

A few years ago a Greek by the name of Keramidas produced what he claimed was the missing ending to Critias(b).  It was an unconvincing piece that was quickly dismissed as spurious.

(a) http://classics.mit.edu/Plato/critias.html

(b) http://atlantisonline.smfforfree2.com/index.php?topic=333.0 

(c) http://platoproject.gr/mom-1/ (section 5)

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

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

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

 

Massey, Gerald

gerald_masseyGerald Massey (1828-1907) was an English poet and self-taught Egyptologist. One result of his studies was to identify the Egyptian god Horus with Jesus. On the subject of Atlantis, Massey claimed that sun-worshipping Atlanteans migrated to Egypt but failed to identify their place of origin. His huge work on ancient Egypt, Ancient Egypt: The Light of the World[1515], is widely available.

There are extensive websites(a)(b) dealing with his work which include Thomas Taylor’s translation of Plato’s Critias and Timaeus as well as Proclus’ commentary on Timaeus.

(a) http://www.masseiana.org/intro.htm (offline Nov.2017) 

(b) http://gerald-massey.org.uk/massey/index.htm (offline Nov. 2017) 

 

Olivier, Claude-Mathieu (m)

Claude-Mathieu Olivier (1701-1736) was a French theologian and lawyer from Marseilles, who published his Dissertation sur le Critias (Essay on the Critias) in 1726. In it he developed the rather daring theory that the ten kingdoms of Atlantis should be equated with the ten lost tribes of Israel and placed Atlantis in the Holy Land. His idea was a development of the suggestions of other writers of the period, such as Baër and Eurenius who also sought to link biblical history with that of Plato’s Atlantis.