Scylla and Charybidis were a sea monster and a whirlpool in Greek mythology who according to Homer and other writers were located opposite each other across a narrow strait. This led to the idiomatic phrase “between Scylla and Charybidis” similar to our more modern phrase of being “between the devil and the deep blue sea” describing being caught between two opposing forces.
Many, such as Heinrich Schliemann, assume the original to have been located between Sicily and the Italian mainland at the strait of Messina. A minority have opted for the Scylla being Calpe (The Rock of Gibraltar) and Charybdis being Mt. Abyla across the strait in North Africa or in other words the Pillars of Heracles(a) . However, Professor Arysio Santos promoting his Atlantis in Indonesia theory suggested that the ‘original’ Pillars of Heracles were in at Sunda Strait and later brought to ancient Greece where it was included by Homer in his Odysseus as Scylla and Charybdis!(b)
Writers who have located the wanderings of Ulysses in the North Atlantic have gone further afield in their search for Scylla and Charybdis with the west coast of Scotland (Pillot and Nyland), the Orkneys (Sora) southwest Cornwall near the Scilly Isles (Wilkens) .
Homer (c. 8th cent. BC) is generally accepted as the author of the Iliad and the Odyssey, regarded as the two greatest epic poems of ancient Greece. A recent study of the Greek used by Homer has enabled scientists from the University of Reading to confirm that the language used is compatible with that used in the 8th century BC, in fact dating it to around 762 BC(i).
It should also be noted that over 130 quotations from the Illiad and Odyssey have been identified in Plato’s writings(s). George Edwin Howes (1865-1942), an American classicist, produced a dissertation on Homeric quotations in Plato and Aristotle.
Almost nothing is known of his life. He has been variously described as mad, blind and even mythical. Andrew Dalby, the English linguist, has gone so far as to claim that the author of the two famed epics was in fact a woman! While in 1897 Samuel Butler, the novelist, was even more specific when he proposed that Homer was a Sicilian woman(j).
For centuries it was assumed that the content of these Homeric poems was the product of his imagination, just as the historical reality of Homer himself has been questioned. In 1795, F.A. Wolf, a German academic declared that ‘Homer’ was in fact a collective name applied to various poets whose works were finally combined into their present form in the 6th century BC. Wolf’s ideas sparked furious argument among Greek scholars that still resonates today. Now (2015), historian, Adam Nicholson has claimed that the author ‘Homer’ should not be thought of as a person but instead as a ‘culture’(o).
The identification of the site at Hissarlik in modern Turkey as Troy by Heinrich Schliemann led to a complete re-appraisal of Homer’s work and, of course, further controversy. Homer’s Iliad is the story of the Trojan War and it has been suggested that in fact he had compressed three or more Trojan wars into one narrative. What is not generally known is that there are also ancient non-Homeric accounts of the Trojan War(q).
Kenneth Wood and his wife Florence have built on the research of his mother-in-law, the late Edna Leigh, and produced, Homer’s Secret Iliad, a book that attempts to prove that the Iliad was written as an aide memoire for a wide range of astronomical data.
Allied to, but not directly comparable with, is the astronomical information identified in the Bible by the likes of E. W. Maunder (1851-1928).
Guy Gervis has adopted some of their work and specifies a date of around 2300 BC for the events described in the Iliad and Odyssey, based on an analysis of this astronomical data(n). Harald A.T. Reiche held similar views which followed some of the ideas expressed in Hamlet’s Mill by Santillana & Dechend who were colleagues of Reiche at M.I.T. They also claimed that “myths were vehicles for memorising and transmitting certain kinds of astronomical and cosmological information.”
*Much has been written about the historicity of Homer’s epic accounts, including a good overview on Wikipedia(ab). Many have concluded that Homer did use real events, even if they were frequently dressed in mythological clothing compatible with the literary conventions of his day. I consider Plato to have treated the story of Atlantis in a similar manner.*
A recent study of solar eclipses recorded in Odyssey using data from NASA has apparently confirmed that Odysseus returned to Ithaca on 25th of October 1207 BC(r).
Scholars have generally supported the idea that Homer’s works have a Mediterranean backdrop with regular attempts to reconcile his geography with modern locations, such as the claim in 2005 by Robert Brittlestone, a British investigator to have located the site of Ithaca, the homeland of Odysseus, on the Greek island of Cephalonia. This popular idea should be put alongside the views of Zlatko Mandzuka who maintains that all the locations mentioned in the Odyssey can be identified in the Adriatic.
Nevertheless, there has been a growing body of opinion that insists that this Mediterranean identification is impossible. A range of alternative regions has been proposed(f) as the setting for the epics, which extend from Portugal as far northward as the Baltic.
In his Odyssey (VII: 80), Homer wrote about the island of Scheria in the western sea. His description of the island has been compared with Plato’s description of Atlantis and has led to the theory that they refer to the same place. There is little doubt that both the detailed geography and climatic descriptions given by Homer cannot be reconciled with that of the Mediterranean. Consequently, the Odyssey has had many interpretations, ranging from Tim Severin’s conclusion that it refers entirely to the Eastern Mediterranean to Iman Wilkens’ book, Where Troy Once Stood, that has the voyage include the west coast of Africa, then across to the West Indies and following the Gulf Stream returns to Troy which he locates in Britain. Location is not a problem exclusive to the writings of Plato. Wilkins views are a reflection of similar ideas expressed by Théophile Cailleux in the 19th century. Gilbert Pillot has also argued for voyages of Ulysses having taken him into the North Atlantic. In 1973, Ernst Gideon (? – 1975) wrote in a similar vein in Homerus Zanger der Kelten, reprinted later as Troje Lag in Engelan.
An interesting overview of the various attempts to transfer the Odyssey from the Mediterranean to Northern Europe is available(w).* Damien Mackey has also endorsed the idea of a Northern European backdrop to Homer’s Odyssey(aa).*
Another researcher who places all of Odysseus’ travels in the eastern Atlantic is Gerard. W.J. Janssen of Leiden University on the academia.edu website(v).
E.J. de Meester also argues for the British Isles as the location of many of Homer’s references. It struck me as quite remarkable that the level of debate regarding the date, source and geographical details of Homer’s works is rather similar to the controversy surrounding Plato’s Atlantis in Timaeus and Critias. The late Edo Nyland was another researcher who had also opted for a Scottish backdrop to the Odyssey and had recently published his views.
Felice Vinci also supports a Northern European background to the Iliad and Odyssey. However, in Vinci’s case, Scandinavia, and in particular the Baltic Sea, is identified as the location for the adventures in Homer’s classics. An English language synopsis of his book is available on the Internet. The persuasiveness of Vinci’s argument has recently renewed interest in the idea of a Baltic Atlantis. The assumption being that if Troy could be located in the Baltic, so might Atlantis. Vinci’s views are comparable with those of J. Rendel Harris expressed in a lecture delivered in 1924(p) in which he claims that “we are entitled to take Homer and his Odysseus out of the Mediterranean or the Black Sea, and to allow them excursions into Northern latitudes.”
However, a scathing review of Vinci’s book can be found on the Internet(d) and in issue 216 (2006) of Fortean Times written by Marinus Anthony van der Sluijs.
Further support for a Northern European Troy has come from the historian Edward Furlong, a former naval navigation officer, who has advocated for over twenty years that the journey of Odysseus went as far north as Norway. His particular views are outlined on the Internet(c) .
Other writers, such as the late Henrietta Mertz [0396/7], , have suggested that Homer’s epic refers to a trip to North America. Professor Enrico Mattievich Kucich of Lima University is also certain that the ancient Greeks discovered America America. However revolutionary this idea may seem it shows how this particular subject is growing and would probably justify a reference book of its own.
The idea of an Atlantic backdrop to the Homeric epics will not go away. The Dutch researcher, N.R. De Graaf, continues to write extensively on his Homeros Explorations website(x) regarding many of the specifics in Homer’s accounts.
In 1973 James Bailey proposed in his well-received The God-Kings and the Titans that the Odysseus recorded a trans-Atlantic trip. Evidence exists for large-scale mining in the Americas as early of the 5th millennium BC. Bailey maintained that the Europeans imported enormous quantities of copper and tin from Central and South America to feed the demands of the Old World Bronze Age, an idea that was later heavily promoted by Frank Joseph and in great, if overly speculative, detail by Reinoud de Jong(y).
Finally, the Atlantis connection with this entry is that if, as now appears to be at least a possibility, Homer’s Odyssey was about a journey to the North Sea then the possibility of a North Sea setting for the Atlantis story is somewhat reinforced.
A recent book by Steven Sora has developed the Atlantic notion further with the suggestion that not only was Troy located outside the Strait of Gibraltar but that both Homer’s Trojan war and Plato’s Atlantean war are two versions of the same war with the understandable distortions and embellishments that can occur with a narrative, probably involving some degree of oral transmission and then written down hundreds of years after the events concerned.
Ukraine is soon to be added to the growing list of alternative locations for the setting of Homer’s epics with the publication of Homer, The Immanent Biography, a book by A.I. Zolotukhin(g). He claims that Homer was born in Alibant (Mykolayiv, Ukraine) on September 14, 657 BC(t). He follows the views of Karl Ernst von Baer (1792-1876) who believed that most of Odysseus’s travels took place in the Black Sea rather than the Mediterranean. Additionally, he locates Atlantis in the western Crimean area of Evpatoria(l). His 60-page book is available on his website(m).
An interesting paper(e) by the German historian, Armin Wolf, relates how his research over 40 years unearthed 80 theories on the geography of the Odyssey, of which around 30 were accompanied by maps. One of the earliest maps of the travels of Odysseus was produced by Abraham Ortelius in 1597(u) , in which the adventures of Odysseus all take place within the Central and Eastern Mediterranean, arguably reflecting the maritime limits of Greek experience at the time of Homer’s sources!*Another website(z) by Jonathan S. Burgess, Professor of Classics at the University of Toronto offers further information on this, including some informative bibliographical material.*
In 2009, Wolf published, Homers Reise: Auf den Spuren des Odysseus a German language book that expands on the subject, also locating all the travels of Odysseus within Central and Eastern Mediterranean.
Wolf’s ideas were enthusiastically adopted by Wolfgang Geisthövel in his Homer’s Mediterranean, who also concurs with the opinion of J.V. Luce , who proposed that Homer was “describing fictional events against authentic backgrounds.” This would be comparable to a James Bond movie, which has an invented storyline set in actual exotic locations around the world.
Perhaps the most radical suggestion has come from the Italian writer, Michele Manher, who has proposed(h) that Homer’s Iliad originated in India where elements of it can be identified in the Mahabharata!
In August 2015, a fifteen hour reading of the Iliad was performed in London.
(k) https://web.archive.org/web/20180320072706/http://www.nwepexplore.com (see ‘n’)
Felice Vinci (1946- ) is an Italian nuclear engineer with a background in Latin and Greek studies and is a member of MENSA, Italy. It is his belief that Greek mythology had its origins in Northern Europe.
His first book on the subject in 1993, Homericus Nuncius, was subsequently expanded into Omero nel Baltico and published in 1995. It has now been translated into most of the languages of the Baltic as well as an English version with the title of The Baltic Origins of Homer’s Epic Tales. The foreword was written by Joscelyn Godwin.
However, the idea of a northern source for Homeric material is not new.*In the seventeenth century Olof Rudbeck insisted that the Hyperboreans were early Swedes and by extension, were also Atlanteans.*In 1918, an English translation of a paper by Carus Sterne (Dr. Ernst Ludwig Krause)(1839-1903) was published with the title of The Northern Origin of the Story of Troy.(m)
Vinci offers a compelling argument for re-reading Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey with the geography of the Baltic rather than the Mediterranean as a guide.A synopsis of his research is available on the Internet(a).
His book has had positive reviews from a variety of commentators(j). Understandably, Vinci’s theory is not without its critics whose views can also be found on the internet(d)(b).and in particular I wish to draw attention to one extensive review which is quite critical(k).
Stuart L. Harris has written a number of articles for the Migration and Diffusion website(c) including a number specifying a Finnish location for Troy following a meeting with Vinci in Rome. M.A. Joramo was also influenced by Vinci’s work and has placed the backdrop to Homer’s epic works to northern European regions, specifically identifying the island of Trenyken, in Norway’s Outer Lofoten Islands, with Homer’s legendary Thrinacia.
Jürgen Spanuth based his Atlantis theory on an unambiguous identification of the Atlanteans with the Hyperboreans of the Baltic region.*More specifically, he was convinced [p88] that the Cimbrian peninsula or Jutland, comprised today of continental Denmark and part of northern Germany had been the land of the Hyperboreans.*
As a corollary to his own theory, Vinci feels that the Atlantis story should also be reconsidered with a northern European origin at its core. He suggests that an island existed in the North Sea between Britain and Denmark during the megalithic period that may have been Plato’s island. He also makes an interesting observation regarding the size of Atlantis when he points out that ‘for ancient seafaring peoples, the ‘size’ of an island was the length of its coastal perimeter, which is roughly assessable by circumnavigating it’. Consequently, Vinci contends that when Plato wrote of Atlantis being ‘greater’ than Libya and Asia together he was comparing the perimeter of Atlantis with the ‘coastal length’ of Libya and Asia.
A 116 bullet-pointed support for Vinci from a 2007 seminar, “Toija and the roots of European civilization” has been published online(h). In 2012 John Esse Larsen published a book expressing similar views.
An extensive 2014 audio recording of an interview with Vinci on Red Ice Radio is available online(f). It is important to note that Vinci is not the first to situate Homer’s epics in the Atlantic, northern Europe and even further afield. Henriette Mertz has Odysseus wandering across the Atlantic, while Iman Wilkens also gives Odysseus a trans-Atlantic voyage and just as controversially locates Homer’s Troy in England. Edo Nyland has linked the story of Odysseus with Bronze Age Scotland.
Christine Pellech has daring proposed in a 2011 book, that the core narrative in Homer’s Odyssey is a description of the circumnavigation of the globe in a westerly direction(i). These are just a few of the theories promoting a non-Mediterranean backdrop to the Illiad and Odyssey. Obviously they cannot all be correct and probably all are wrong. Many have been seduced by their novelty rather than their provability. For my part I will, for now, stick with the more mundane and majority view that Homer wrote of events that took place mainly in the central and eastern Mediterranean. Armin Wolf offers a valuable overview of this notion(g).
(m) The Open Court magazine. Vol.XXXII (No.8) August 1918. No. 747
Bob Quinn (1935 – ) is an Irish filmmaker who was born in Dublin but now lives in Connemara in the west of Ireland. Although he does not concern himself with demonstrating the reality of Plato’s Atlantis, he published a book based on his four TV documentaries(a), which outline a wide range of ancient cultural connections between Ireland and North Africa, as well as other regions. The book and DVDs are a valuable source for those that see Atlantis as an echo of a prehistoric cultural ‘empire’ stretching along the North African coast and up the western seaboard of Europe. This would broadly coincide with those regions that are richest in megalithic remains.
Quinn visited the enormous stone circle at Mzora in Morocco and was struck by its similarity to Newgrange in Ireland(b).
Edo Nyland credits Quinn’s book as having provided some of the inspiration for his own Odysseus and the Sea Peoples.
Commencing Sept 27th 2011, the Irish TV channel TG4 broadcast a series of his documentaries every Tuesday, each one introduced by Quinn himself.
Quinn’s Atlantean documentary is available on YouTube(c).
(see last comment)
Guanches and Canarios were the names given to the natives of the Canary Islands when conquered by the Spanish in the 15th century following a hundred-year campaign. They are generally considered to be of Cro-Magnon origin having fair or red hair and blue/grey eyes, characteristics that are still to be seen today. Many writers have been convinced that the Guanches were the remnants of the Atlantean civilisation. Recent DNA studies(j) reveal a diversity of origins for the descendants of Guanches, comparable with the general Canarian population today.
However, a number of recent genetic studies(l)(m) have established a clear relationship with the Berbers of North Africa. Furthermore, it is claimed that the aboriginal language of the Guanches is related to one of the Berber dialects(n).*Further evidence favouring a Berber connection was provided in 2017(o). A 2018 paper develops this further with particular reference to the Lybico-Berber script(p).*
Prior to the arrival of the Europeans it is claimed that the population numbered over 20,000. It is not commonly known that in the 15th century many of the Guanches were abducted and brought to the Madeiras to work as slaves(g).
The Guanches were reported to have had no boats or maritime heritage. If they were all that was left following a catastrophic event, the Guanches were probably the descendents of mountain people who had no sea going heritage. This view was queried by Henry Eichner who claims that this idea was generated by the faulty assumptions of one of the first Spaniards to visit the island, Nicoloso de Recceo. In 2013, Sergio Navio decided to disprove this notion with a practical demonstration. The plan is to use a basic raft-like boat, named ‘Ursa Minor’ to sail from Lanzarote to La Palma, a distance of 250 miles(f).
The Spanish conquerors of the Canary Islands may have been able to shed more light on the subject, had they been more interested in history than in territory. According to these early explorers, the natives were surprised to learn that other people had survived the disaster that had flooded their world and submerged much of their homeland. They excitedly asked the conquistadors for help translating ancient inscriptions left by their ancestors that they could no longer read, but unfortunately – for the natives and for history – the Spanish exterminated their tribe before any more information was learned about their history and legends. Their inscriptions remain undeciphered.
The Guanches have been linked with both ancient Egypt and America on a number of grounds including similar methods of mummification(i) and the step pyramids found at both locations(d). Perhaps the most radical idea to emerge in recent times was the suggestion that the Guanches or more correctly their ancestors were the founders of predynastic Egypt. In a similar vein Helene E. Hagan wrote The Shining Ones, in which she identified the Tamazigh, related to the Guanches, as the founders of Egyptian civilisation.
Reinhard Prahl has published a paper(k) on the Migration & Diffusion website in which he highlights cultural similarities of the Guanches and ancient Egyptians.
José Luis Concepción (1948- ), a Canarian, has written a number of books with a local theme including The Guanches, Survivors and their Descendant , a booklet providing a brief history of the islands. He concurs with the view that the Guanches have an African Cro-Magnon ancestry and are related to modern Berbers. The author also claims that the Guanches are still the dominant race on the Canaries. The booklet has been translated into a number of languages and includes an extensive Spanish bibliography.
A website(a) discussing the Guanches has some interesting if controversial suggestions regarding their origins. Another site highlights a possible connection with the Dravidians of Southern India(c). This Dravidian connection is supported by the late Edo Nyland(e) in his Linguistic Archaeology. Furthermore Arysio dos Santos who promoted a Sundaland location for Atlantis also supported a Dravidian origin for the language of the Guanches(h).
Two Russian writers, B.F. Dobrynin and B. L. Bogaevsky in the first quarter of the 20th century wrote articles that supported the idea that there were links between the Guanches and the original Atlanteans.
(i) See Archive 2617
The Basques of south-western France and northern Spain have an extremely ancient and distinctive culture that includes a language, Euskara, with no undisputed link with any other language. The late Larry Trask (1944-2004) provided a sober view(a) of the language while Edo Nyland (1941-2009) perceived extensive links between Basque and other languages.
Professor John Campbell in a 15-page paper entitled The Hittites in America(e) began his dissertation with a claim that the language of the Iroquois and the Basques were closely related. In Peter de Roo’s History of America Before Columbus, he recounts the then (1900) commonly held idea that there was a linguistic link between the Basques and various native American tribes, and puts forward the view that the Basques were originally American[890.1.164].
However fanciful this idea may seem, there appears to be little doubt that the Basques, master whalers of the 16th and 17th centuries(i), had regular contact with the coast of Labrador(j) .
An 18th century abbot, Dominique Lahetjuzan (1766-1818?), announced that his studies indicated that Euskara had been spoken in the Garden of Eden! In the 19th century S.H. Blanc offered examples from the language that implied great antiquity. One was that the Basque word for knife means literally “stone that cuts,” and that the word for ceiling means “top of the cavern”.
One website(c) is devoted to establishing a link between the Basques, Atlantis and the Algonquins of North America. Bizarrely, at the end of the 19th century, a study of land snails in the Pyrenees led Léopold de Folin to suggest that the ancestors of the Basques came from Atlantis!
Alexander Braghine in his own search for Atlantis relates how a Basque missionary when speaking in his own language was understood by the Indians of the Peten district in Guatemala. Dr. James Rendel Harris (1852-1941), the English biblical scholar, claimed that the Mexican province of Tabasco derived its name from an ancient Egyptian word meaning land of the Basques.
A further tale from Braghine records how a person from Georgia in the Caucasus was similarly understood by Basques. This would normally be considered some sort of an urban myth but it should be noted that the linguist Arthur Holmer who is studying(b) the connections between the languages of the Caucasus and Basque believes that the number of similarities are too great to be explained by coincidence alone.*A recent (2019) BBC article has highlighted claims of possible linguistic, toponymic, mythological and even DNA links between Armenians and Basques(k). It is interesting that Armenia and Georgia are neighbours.*
I have been unable to find any corroboration of the claimed Guatemalan connection with the Basque language.
*It is frequently noted that the Basques have a legend that they originally came from Atlantis, which they call Atlaintika. Since names, such as ‘Atlantis’, recorded by Solon were Hellenised versions of the words found in the temple ‘registers’ in Sais, it seems more likely that the Basques would have had a different word to describe any former homeland. It is probable that ‘Atlaintika’ is a modification of a loanword adopted from their neighbours.*
Apart from the suggestion of language similarities some have pointed out facial resemblances between Central American Indians (old Maya or modern Lancadon Indians) and Basques. The Basques believe in a mythical seven-headed serpent (disintegrating comet?), Erensuge while the Aztecs worshipped snakes. The Basques used to count in twenties rather than tens, a practice also found in Central America. The Basque ballgame of jai alai played with a wicker basket tied to the players arm is vaguely similar to pok-ta-pok played by the Maya. Fortunately the Basques did not adopt the Mayan custom of beheading the captain of the losing team. It is reported that both the Basques and the Indians of Mexico and Peru practiced artificial head flattening.
The Basques are genetically distinct, having a uniquely high incidence of blood group O, a lower than usual frequency of group A and the lowest record of group B in Europe. They have the highest frequency of Rh-negative blood in the world apart from some Berber tribes.
The Cro-Magnons were tall with larger brain capacity than modern humans. They occupied areas of France and Spain at the end of the last Ice Age. They were similar to the Guanches of the Canary Islands. It is thought that the Basques are related to them. The Cro-Magnons were also artistically talented although limited to primitive tools.
Recent studies have strongly indicated that following a study of the genomes of human skeletons from El Portalón, Atapuerca, the results point to prehistoric Iberian farmers as the closest match to the modern Basques(h).
Overall the evidence for the Basques being remnants of the survivors of Atlantis is weak.
That the Basques are an ancient people is undisputed, but a very early connection with Central America is at best, just remotely possible. That they are the Atlanteans of Plato’s tale is, in my opinion, even more unlikely.
The latest (2015) genetic studies(f) indicate that the Basques are descended from “early farmers who mixed with local hunters before becoming isolated for millennia.” It was claimed later in 2015 that the origins of the Basques had been discovered in Northern Spain after studying the DNA of eight skeletons found in the El Portolan Cave(g).
A website with a number of English and Spanish papers on the subject of the Basques is also worth a visit(d).
(c) See: Archive 2935
(j) National Geographic (08.2018)