Fundamentalist Atlantology is a term that I use to describe the idea that everything written about Atlantis by Plato, must be taken at face value. In other words when he refers to 9,000 years, this along with all the other numbers he uses in relation to the dimensions of the plain of Atlantis, its structures or its military manpower should be accepted literally! Such an acceptance flies in the face of both common sense and science, particularly in the case of Plato’s dating of Atlantis, while the dimensions he has for the ditch surrounding the plain of Atlantis were deemed incredible (his word) by Plato himself (Crit.118c), he felt obliged out of deference to Solon’s reputation he recorded the details as he received them.
Without wishing to offend anyone, I believe that acceptance, for example, of Plato’s/Solon’s numbers is comparable with the belief of religious fundamentalists who hold that creation’took just six days.
Although it is understandable that researchers have accepted Plato’s details without question, there has been extensive research over the past century into seeking more rational explanations for many of those more difficult passages in the Atlantis narrative which has produced alternative explanations that are compatible with both science and common sense.
While Plato’s 9,000 years were initially, rather glibly dismissed as a transcription error and that hundreds and not thousands had been intended, it has been demonstrated that the ancient Egyptian priesthood used a lunar calendar so that the ‘ýears’ were in fact months, which was noted in the 4th century BC by Eudoxus of Cnidos and repeated by Manetho and Diodorus Siculus. This would reduce the timeline by a factor of twelve. Another explanation was put forward by Rosario Vieni who proposed that the ‘years’ actually referred to seasons of which there are three in the Egyptian solar year. These, as far as I am aware, are the principal alternatives suggested in place of a literal reading of 9,000 years. After all, neither Athens or Egypt was home to anything more than primitive societies 9,000 years before Solon’s visit.
A further example concerns the size of Atlantis, which Plato consistently referred to as an island and never a continent and is described by him as greater than Libya and Asia combined. Irrespective of how extensive in size the Libya and Asia in question were, the Greek word for greater – meizon, actually relates to greater in strength, power or influence not extent. A few years ago Thorwald C. Franke pointed out that the traditional enemies of Egypt came from Libya and Asia, so that to describe the threat from Atlantis as greater than Libya and Asia combined indicates how great the threat from Atlantis was.
The more contentious issue of the actual location of the Pillars of Heracles, I will not go into here, suffice it to say that a number of valid competing arguments have been put forward in favour of locations other than the Strait of Gibraltar. In fact all of them could have been correct at different times, changing their position as the Greek colonists and traders gradually moved westward. Eventually, I believe that at some point in time the term simply became a metaphor for the limits of the world as generally known to the Greeks.
My point is that understandable difficulties exist in the Atlantis texts and that a number of sensible alternative explanations have been put forward, which will be individually tried and tested until a consensus emerges, in the same way that the idea of a geocentric universe was gradually replaced by the simple fact that our little planet revolves around the sun.
The Egyptian Calendar is central to the debate regarding the date of the Alantean war. At first sight it appears that Plato dated that event to 9,000 years prior to Solon’s visit to Egypt. However, since such a date conflicts with both archaeology and common sense, commentators have striven to reconcile the differences. Either the number is exaggerated, the unit of measurement is wrong, or both require revision. I’m inclined towards the latter.
The ancient Egyptians had three types of ‘years’, solar, lunar or seasonal(a). The first was based on the heliacal rising(b) of the star Sirius, the second was a count of the annual lunar cycles and the last was the number of seasons of which there were three in the Egyptian year. The lunar cycles or months were the means by which the Egyptian priesthood calculated the passage of time and since Solon received the story of Atlantis from Egyptian priests it is assumed by many that the 9,000 ‘years’ were in fact months. Apart from modern authorities, the use of lunar cycles by the Egyptians for calculating time was noted by Eudoxus of Cnidos (410- 355 BC) and also by Plutarch, Manetho, Herodotus and Diodorus Siculus.
Some others, such as Radek Brychta and Rosario Vieni, have proposed that the number of seasons were used in a similar manner. Even more extreme was the contention of André de Paniagua who claimed that the date of Atlantis was recorded in Sothic cycles of 1,460 solar years each, which would push its time back 13 million years!
Nevertheless, there are many who still maintain that Plato’s 9,000 should be taken literally, even though neither Egypt nor Athens existed as structured societies at such an early date!
Late Bronze Age Collapse of civilisations in the Eastern Mediterranean in the second half of the 2nd millennium BC has been variously attributed to earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and severe climate change. It is extremely unlikely that all these occurred around the same time through coincidence. Unfortunately, it is not clear to what extent these events were interrelated. As I see it, political upheavals do not lead to earthquakes, volcanic eruptions or drought and so can be safely viewed as an effect rather than a cause. Similarly, climate change is just as unlikely to have caused eruptions or seismic activity and so can also be classified as an effect. Consequently, we are left with earthquakes and volcanoes as the prime suspects for the catastrophic turmoil that took place in the Middle East between the 15th and 12th centuries BC. Nevertheless, August 2013 saw further evidence published which blamed climate change for demise of civilisations in the region.
Robert Drews dismisses any suggestion that Greece suffered a critical drought around 1200 BC, citing the absence of any supporting reference by Homer or Hesiod as evidence. He proposes that “the transition from chariot to infantry warfare as the primary cause of the Great Kingdoms’ downfall.”
This extended period of chaos began around 1450 BC when the eruptions on Thera took place. These caused the well-documented devastation in the region including the ending of the Minoan civilisation and probably the Exodus of the Bible and the Plagues of Egypt as well. According to the Parian Marble, the Flood of Deucalion probably took place around the same time.
Professor Stavros Papamarinopoulos has written of the ‘seismic storm’ that beset the Eastern Mediterranean between 1225 and 1175 BC(a). Similar ideas have been expressed by Amos Nur & Eric H.Cline(b)(c). The invasion of the Sea Peoples recorded by the Egyptians, and parts of Plato’s Atlantis story all appear to have taken place around this period. Plato refers to a spring on the Athenian acropolis (Crit.112d) that was destroyed during an earthquake. Rainer Kühne notes that this spring only existed for about 25 years but was rediscovered by the Swedish archaeologist, Oscar Broneer, who excavated there from 1959 to 1967. The destruction of the spring and barracks, by an earthquake, was confirmed as having occurring at the end of the 12th century BC.
(this is a shorter version of (c) below)
Seasons are sub-divisions of the year usually based on changes in ecology, weather or hours of daylight. The number of seasons varies between two (Polar) and six (India). My native Ireland has been described by cynics as now having only three seasons, as recent weather changes seem to have removed summer from our calendar.
The Egyptian year is divided into three seasons as they also did in the Indus civilisation. In an effort to make Plato’s 9,000 years more credible, commentators as early Giovanni Carli in the 18th century and Rafinesque in the 19th have suggested that Plato’s years were in fact ‘seasons’. The idea has gained further traction in more recent years with support from Axel Hausmann and Radek Brychta and most recently Rosario Vieni. Both Hausmann and Vieni presented papers to the 2005 Atlantis Conference, where Hausmann proposed that the ‘years’ be treated as seasons and so concluded that the demise of Atlantis took place in 3522 BC[629.359]. However, at the same conference Vieni presented his paper entitled “11,500 years ago…..” [629.337], obviously at that stage accepting Plato’s 9,000 years at face value. Three years later, he presented a paper to the 2008 Atlantis Conference which he entitled “About 5600 years ago….” [750.347], in which he had changed his understanding of Plato’s ‘years’ to be now seasons. While his intellectual honesty is to be applauded, I must point out that because a person changes their opinion, there is no guarantee that their second choice is any more correct than the first.
I am not convinced by the ‘seasons’ explanation, as it just seems to be a rather feeble attempt to explain away Plato’s 9,000 being a reference to solar years. Supporters of this ‘seasons’ explanation appear to be forced to look for an alternative to a literal 9,000 years as that figure conflicts dramatically with the Bronze Age setting of the Atlantis narrative and runs counter to the archaeological evidence for dating the foundation of both Athens and the Egyptian civilisation.
The more popular alternative suggestion of treating the ‘years’ as lunar cycles makes much more sense, as it brings the Atlantis story into the end of the Greek Bronze Age. It also matches the time of the destruction of the spring on the Acropolis (Crit.112d) and conforms to details on the Parian Marble. But perhaps most important of all is that the use of lunar cycles by the Egyptians for calculating time was noted by Eudoxus of Cnidos (410-355 BC) and also by Plutarch, Manetho, Herodotus and Diodorus Siculus.
The Sea of Kronos (Cronos), according to modern researchers such as Alan Alford and Frank Joseph as well as Immanuel Velikovsky, is a name frequently applied to the Atlantic Ocean by ancient writers. Velikovsky cites Plutarch, Clement of Alexandria and Aristotle in support of this contention(a). If Plato believed that Atlantis had been located in the Atlantic why did he not simply say that it was situated in the Okeanos or the Sea of Kronos?
The 1624 Argonautica Map by Abraham Ortelius has the Adriatic Sea designated as ‘Cronivm Mare’. Eratosthenes in his Map of the Oecumene referred to the frozen Cronian Sea as being seven days north of Britain. Diodorus Siculus (Bk.III 61.3) describes Kronos as lord of Sicily, Libya and Italy!
Until it can be shown otherwise, I am inclined to think that Plato did not know precisely where Atlantis had been located but used the term ‘beyond the Pillars of Herakles’ as indicative of a place outside the ambit of what was then current Greek maritime knowledge!
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).
North Africa has received considerable attention as a possible location for Atlantis since the beginning of the 19th century. Gattefosse and Butavand are names associated with early 20th century North African theorists. They, along with Borchardt, Herrmann and others have proposed locations as far west as Lixus on the Atlantic coast of Morocco, on through Tunisia and Libya and even as far east as the Nile delta.
One of the earliest writers was Ali Bey El Abbassi who discussed Atlantis and an ancient inland sea in the Sahara. The concept of such an inland sea, usually linked with Lake Tritonis, has persisted with the Chotts of Tunisia and Algeria as prime suspects. There is acceptance that a seismic/tectonic convulsion in the vicinity of the Gulf of Gabés cut off this inland sea from the Mediterranean. Diodorus Siculus records this event in his third book dating it to around 1250 BC. If such an event did not occur, how do we explain the salt laden chotts? However, proving a connection with Atlantis is another matter.
Whether this particular geological upheaval was related to the episode that destroyed parts of ancient Malta is questionable as the Maltese event was one of massive subsidence.
It should be kept in mind that Plato described the southern part of the Atlantean confederation as occupying North Africa as far eastward as Egypt (Tim.25b & Crit.114c). This of course conflicts with the idea of the Atlanteans invading from beyond ‘Pillars of Heracles’ situated at Gibraltar since they apparently already controlled at least part of the Western Mediterranean as far as Italy and Egypt.
*One of the principal arguments against Atlantis being located in North Africa is that Plato clearly referred to Atlantis as an island. However, as Papamarinopoulos has pointed out that regarding the Greek word for island, ‘nesos’ “a literary differentiation between ‘island’ and ‘peninsula’ did not exist in alphabetic Greek before Herodotus’ in the 5th century BC. Similarly, there was not any distinction between a coast and an island in Egyptian writing systems, up to the 5th century BC.” In conversation with Mark Adams[1070.198] Papamarinopoulos explains that in the sixth century BC, when Solon lived, nesos had five geographic meanings. “One, an island as we know it. Two, a promontory. Three, a peninsula. Four, a coast. Five, a land within a continent, surrounded by lakes, rivers or springs.”
Personally, from the context, I am quite happy to accept that the principal city of the Atlantean alliance existed on an island as we understand the word. This was probably north of Tunisia, where a number of possible candidates exist. However, it may be unwise to rule out a North African city just yet!
Another argument put forward that appears to exclude at least part of North Africa is that Plato, according to many translations, he refers to Atlantis as ‘greater’ than ‘Libya’ and ‘Asia‘ combined, using the Greek word, ‘meizon‘, which had a primary meaning of ‘more powerful’ not greater in size. Atlantis could not have been situated in either Libya or Asia because ‘a part cannot be greater than the whole’. However, if Plato was referring to military might rather than geographical extent, as seems quite likely, North Africa may indeed have been part of the Atlantean alliance, particularly as Plato describes the control of Atlantis in the Mediterranean as far Tyrrhenia and Egypt.*
Robert von Ranke Graves (1895-1985), the renowned poet and mythologist, placed Atlantis in the region of modern Tunisia and Libya. He first did this in a 1953 article(c) that followed the writings of Diodorus Siculus. He firmly believed that the salts marshes of North Africa were the remnants of Lake Tritonis where Atlantis had existed prior to a destructive catastrophe that led to the dispersal of its survivors in various directions. However, Jean Deruelle claims that Graves was the first, if briefly(b),to suggest the Dogger Bank as the location of Atlantis.*It seems that he quickly abandoned this idea on the grounds of distance(d).*
Further confusion is added by an entry in Wikipedia that claims(a) that Graves argued that Atlantis was the Island of Pharos off the western coast of the Nile Delta, that is, before Alexander the Great connected the island to mainland Egypt by building a causeway.
In The Greek Myths, Graves considered the likelihood that the Atlantis story was comprised of a number of components from different legends. It may be relevant to include Graves’ definition of myths, which was “whatever religious or heroic legends are so foreign to a student’s experience that he cannot believe them to be true.”
(c) The Atlantic Monthly, October 1953, (pp.71-74)
Factor Ten is a term I have employed to describe the fact that so many of the numbers in Plato’s Atlantis story, referring to time, physical dimensions and population all appear to be exaggerations, but would be more credible if reduced by a factor of ten. The date of 9600 BC for a war between Atlantis and Athens is not compatible with the Bronze Age description given by Plato, the dimensions of the canals in the city of Atlantis suggest a profligate degree of over-engineering and the size of the Atlantean army, as recorded, is comparable to the numerical strength of today’s USA’s military. On top of that, there is no archaeological evidence to support the idea of Athens having anything more than a Stone Age culture in the 10th millennium BC.
Dr A. G. Galanopoulos, who spent years excavating on Santorini, alsosuggested that all numbers in the thousands in Plato’s text were exaggerated, during translation, by a factor of ten. One can be forgiven for thinking that he was prompted to do this in order to match Atlantis to the timeframe of the Theran eruption, which occurred about 900 years before Solon’s Egyptian trip. However, J. V. Luce and Dorothy Vitaliano have refuted this idea.
A more frequently suggested explanation for the conflict between the 9,000 years given by Plato and the Bronze Age backdrop is that a lunar rather than a solar calendar was utilised by the Egyptian priests which would bring the two elements more into phase. So perhaps ‘Factor Twelve’ might be a more appropriate appellation.
Eudoxus of Cnidos (c.408-355 BC) who also studied astronomy with the priests of Heliopolis in Greece was one of the first to suggest that the Ancient Egyptians used lunar cycles to measure time. The idea was later endorsed by the Egyptian priest Manetho, Plutarch and Diodorus Siculus. Centuries later, Francisco Cervantes de Salazar (1514-1575) in his Crónica de la Nueva España he was a firm supporter of the idea of interpreting Plato’s 9,000 ‘years’ as lunar cycles, echoing the earlier statement of Eudoxus.
However, while the substitution of solar years with lunar cycles would give a date for the Atlantean war that is more compatible with conventional archaeology, it still leaves the apparently inflated dimensions and military numbers recorded by Plato, unexplained. Since all of Plato’s numbers, in the Atlantis narrative appear to be overstated by a similar amount it would seem appropriate to invoke the application of Occam’s Razor(c), which leads to an exaggeration by a factor of ten as the most likely explanation!
The use of lunar rather than solar units might explain the unrealistic ages ascribed to biblical characters such as Adam, Methuselah, or Noah although close study does not address all the difficulties. Similar problems exist with the length of the reign of individual Sumerian kings. My belief is that a common explanation will eventually be found to rationalise both sets of anomalies. The answer will probably include the application of the Sumerian use of a numeric base of 60, coupled with lunar, solar and the Egyptian use of three seasonal ‘years’ per solar year. Zoltán Simon has claimed that the ages of the patriarchs were calculated using 90-day ‘years’[0549.7].
A number of suggestions have been put forward to explain how Plato’s exaggerated numbers came to be. Georgeos Diaz-Montexanocontends that it was not any confusion over hieroglyphics that led to the a tenfold exaggeration of numbers but the fact that in the spoken language of the Egyptians 100 and 1000 can be easily confused.
What may be of relevance is the fact that the Cretan scripts known as Linear A and Linear B use similar numbering signs. The number 100 is designated by a circle whereas 1000 is a circle with four nipples known as excrescences at the cardinal points. Both James Mavor and Rodney Castleden have advocated the idea that it was a misreading of these Minoan numerals that led to Plato recording hundreds as ‘thousands’.
Another reason for considering a factor ten error in Plato’s numbers may be drawn from the Chicago Demotic Dictionary, which has been developed over the past three decades at the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago. It is edited by Professor Janet H. Johnson and is concerned with the ancient Egyptian cursive script in use from circa 650 BC, which is around the time of Solon, until the 5th century AD. Their website reveals that the cursive numerals for hundreds only differ from thousands by having longer tails(b) . I note that Johnson also records “that thousands sometimes had longer tails than expected”(p.23). This offers another credible explanation for how a transcription error could increase numbers by a factor of ten, which would bring Plato’s dates into conformity with other details in his Atlantis story, namely the Bronze Age milieu so clearly described there.
I also note that the Greeks had no zero or decimal point in their number system, making this kind of tenfold mistake quite a credible one(a).
Paul Dunbavin (1954- ) is a data and business analyst. “His interest for over 35 years has been cross-disciplinary research into prehistory, which he has occasionally published in his books and various articles and papers.”
He is the author of controversial but clearly well researched books relating to the ancient history of Britain. In one of these he identified the Picts of Scotland as being originally from the Baltic. In another he investigated the possible origins of Plato’s story of Atlantis. Using mythological, geological and archaeological sources he concluded that an asteroid or comet collided with the Earth around 3100 BC resulting in the tilting of the Earth’s axis. Dunbavin argued that this impact caused dramatic climate and sea-level changes that led to the submergence of a Neolithic civilisation on a low-lying plain off the coast of Wales. He believed that this destruction was the inspiration for the Atlantis legend. David Furlong claimed to have independently arrived at the same conclusion.
In 2005 Dunbavin published another volume on ancient catastrophes and their possible connection with cometary impacts or near collisions.
I note with interest that Dunbavin has another book, Towers of Atlantis, completed and should be available in April 2019. There is more information about this and his other books on his website(a) , which also includes links to other related sites(b) .
Once again, Dunbavin has returned to the subject of the British Isles during the Neolithic period and their possible association with Plato’s story of Atlantis. He draws on the ancient Egyptian concept of a paradisaical afterlife comparable with the Greek ‘Elysian Fields’, both believed to be located in the far west. These notions are seen by Dunbavin to have possible parallels in Plato’s description of the Plain of Atlantis.
The author highlights the value of mythology, which he employs in conjunction with classical writers such as Herodotus, Diodorus Siculus as well as others to lead us to his considered belief that the Irish Sea prior to its eventual inundation after the last Ice Age had been home to the Plain of Atlantis, stretching from the island of Anglesea to the Isle of Man. This book should be read in conjunction with his previous offering, Atlantis of the West. Rather than wild speculation, Dunbavin has again offered evidence, although subjectively interpreted, that offers a coherent hypothesis.