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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Diogenes Laertius

James, George G.M.

George G. M. James (1893-1956)  a professor of ancient Greek, was born in British Guiana and lectured at a number of North American universities. He gained widespread notoriety with his 1954 book, Stolen Legacy(a)in which he claimed that “the term Greek philosophy is in fact wrong because there is no such philosophy. The Greeks did not have a natural ability necessary for the development of philosophy. The Greek philosophy was not invented by Greeks but by the Blacks of Northern Africa, the Egyptians”. His ‘chip-on-the-shoulder’ afrocentrism pervades his book, often sinking into downright racism.

Our interest in James stems from his claim[858.109] that both Republic and Timaeus were stolen by Plato and quotes the 3rd century AD biographer, Diogenes Laërtius (8.85), in support of his contention. Although he touches on the authorship of Timaeus he does not refer to the Atlantis passages.

James’ unorthodoxy is not confined to a criticism of the origins of Greek philosophy, but elsewhere claims that the pyramids were built around 10,000 BC, predating the claims of Graham Hancock and Robert Bauval by decades.

(a)  http://www.jpanafrican.com/ebooks/eBook%20Stolen%20Legacy.pdf

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

 

Aristotle

Aristotle (c.384-322 BC) was born at Stagira, a Grecian colony in Macedonia and died in Chalcis. He became Plato’s pupil at the age of seventeen and developed to become one of the trinity of the greatest Greek philosophers, along with Socrates and Plato. In turn, Aristotle was the tutor of Alexander the Great. However, Aristotle was something of a ‘know-all’, had his own blind spots. Katherine Folliot mentioned that Aristotle ‘held all non-Greeks in utter contempt’ clouding his judgement regarding any story originating in Egypt. John Michael Greeraristotle[335.16] points out that Aristotle consistently disagreed with his teacher, Plato. Aristotle’s geographical knowledge is highly suspect, claiming as he did that both the Danube and the Guadalquivir rose in the Pyrenees. However, it was Aristotle, revered by the Church, who maintained that the universe was earth-centred, a view that led to the persecution of Galileo and the burning of Giordano Bruno for their ‘heretical’ cosmological views.

According to Diogenes Laertius, Aristotle disagreed with his teacher on philosophical matters while Plato was still alive, causing Plato to remark, “Aristotle has kicked me, as foals do their mothers when they are born.” While there is evidence that Aristotle never lost his high personal regard for Plato, the fact remains, that in his later writings he never mentions Plato except to refute his doctrines, maintaining that the Platonic method is fatal to science.

Thorwald C. Franke refers specifically to Aristotle’s silence on the subject of Atlantis in his Aristotle and Atlantis[0706.30] in the following manner, “After all, if Aristotle were against the existence of Atlantis, one might have expected him to document his disagreement with Plato in some way and dispute the matter at hand. (Ingemar) Düring[1421] expresses what every person familiar with ancient literature knows well: ‘in accordance with the prevailing practice of that time, one mentioned the author of an opinion only if one did not agree … when it came to prevailing views with which he agreed, he [Aristotle] never mentioned the author.’

   Thus the original argument is turned on its head: Aristotle’s very silence meant – if anything – more that he was for the existence of Atlantis than against it.”

My interest in Aristotle stems from the fact that he is constantly presented as the only classical writer to argue with the existence of Atlantis. A typical example are the comments of David Hatcher Childress who describes[620 .141]Aristotle as sceptical on many matters and that as well as doubting the reality of Atlantis he also appears to have questioned the veracity of Homer’s Trojan War when Strabo quotes Aristotle as saying that the Greek wall of Troy may never have been built but “invented and then demolished by the poet” (Geography XIII.i.36:).

However, Thorwald C. Franke‘s book, now published in English, persuasively  disputes this commonly held view that Aristotle did not accept the existence of Atlantis. He points out that the alleged critical comment did not come directly from the writings of Aristotle but from a quotation attributed to Aristotle by Strabo (Geog. II 102). Franke has traced the use of this text as a dismissal of the existence of Atlantis by Aristotle back to 1816, when the French astronomer and mathematician Jean Baptiste Joseph Delambre (1749-1822) misinterpreted the commentary on Strabo’s Geographica by Isaac Casaubon in 1587.

Franke has recently augmented his book with a YouTube video, in English(d) and German(e).

Franke points out that a study of more than twenty passages from Aristotle’s writings relating to Atlantis reveals that he was inclined to accept the Atlantis story as true since he accepted many of its details without expressing any doubt about the core of  it.

*Jean Baptiste d’Anville (1697-1782) was a highly regarded geographer and cartographer, and also an Atlantis sceptic. However, as Franke has pointed d’Anville accepted that Aristotle believed in the existence of Atlantis[880.83].*

In May 2016, there was held at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, in ancient Stagira and in ancient Mieza, an international conference ‘Aristotle 2400 Years’ at which it was claimed(a) that Aristotle’s long lost tomb had been discovered at Stagira, his birthplace. Understandably, this generated an immediate critical response(b).

Aristotle like others of his era are still highly regarded as philosophers, but unfortunately it took over a millennium before Ibn al-Haytham developed the concept of experimental data and reproducibility of its results. On the other hand, Aristotle, is not an ideal mentor regarding many subjects outside philosophy.

He was happy to justify slavery, as was Athenian society in general.

Aristotle was also a biologist whose work amazed Darwin when William Ogle sent him a copy of The Parts of Animals[1317] which he had translated. Now in The Lagoon[1318],  a modern biologist, Armand Marie Leroi, reveals more of Aristotle’s wide-ranging scientific investigations and his conclusions, not all of which were correct(c) .

(a) http://www.ancient-origins.net/news-history-archaeology/breaking-news-archaeologists-claim-have-found-long-lost-tomb-aristotle-020849?nopaging=1

(b) http://www.livescience.com/54923-archaeologists-doubt-aristotle-tomb-discovery.html

(c) https://cosmosmagazine.com/biology/origins-science

(d) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=inWb6IVNWFQ (English)

(e) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qDG7a09xkZE (German)