Tartessos or Tartessus is generally accepted to have existed along the valley of the Guadalquivir River where the rich deposits of copper and silver led to the development of a powerful native civilisation, which traded with the Phoenicians, who had colonies along the south coast of Spain(k).
It is assumed by most commentators that Tartessos was identical with the wealthy city of Tarshish that is mentioned in the Bible. There have been persistent attempts over the past century to link Tartessos with Atlantis. The last king of Tartessia, in what is now Southern Spain, is noted by Herodotus to have been Arganthonios, who is claimed to have ruled from 630 BC until 550 BC. Similarly, Ephorus a 4th century BC historian describes Tartessos as ‘a very prosperous market.’ However, if these dates are only approximately true, then Atlantis cannot be identified with Tartessos as they nearly coincide with the lifetime of Solon, who received the story of Atlantis as being very ancient.
The existence of a ‘Tartessian’ empire is receiving gradual acceptance. Strabo writes of their system of canals running from the Guadalquivir River and a culture that had written records dating back 6,000 years. Their alphabet was slightly different to the ‘Iberian’. The Carthaginians were said to have been captured Tartessos after the reign of Arganthonios and after that, contact with Tartessos seems to have ended abruptly!
The exact location of this city is not known apart from being near the mouth of the Guadalquivir River in Andalusia. The Guadalquivir was known as Baetis by the Romans and Tartessos to the Greeks. The present day Gulf of Cadiz was known as Tartessius Sinus (Gulf of Tartessus) in Roman times. Cadiz is accepted to be a corruption of Gades that in turn is believed to have been named to after Gaderius. This idea was proposed as early as 1634 by Rodrigo Caro, the Spanish historian and poet, in his Antigüedades y principado de la Ilustrísima ciudad de Sevilla, now available as a free ebook(i).
In 1849, the German researcher Gustav Moritz Redslob (1804-1882) carried out a study of everything available relating to Tartessos and concluded that the lost city had been the town of Tortosa on the River Ebro situated near Tarragona in Catalonia. The idea received little support.
*A few years ago, Richard Cassaro endeavoured to link the megalithic walls of old Tarragona with the mythical one-eyed Cyclops and for good measure suggest a link with Atlantis(l). With regard to the giants, the images of doorways posted by Cassaro are too low to comfortably accommodare giants! Cassaro has previously made the same claim about megalithic structures in Italy(m).*
The German archaeologist Adolf Schulten spent many years searching unsuccessfully for Tartessos, in the region of the Guadalquivir. He believed that Tartessos had been the centre of an ancient culture that was Atlantis or at least one of its colonies. Schulten also noted that Tartessos disappeared from historical records around 500 BC, which is after Solon’s visit to Egypt and so could not have been Atlantis.
Otto Jessen also believed that there had been a connection between Atlantis and Tartessos. Jean Gattefosse was convinced that the Pillars of Heracles were at Tartessos, which he identifies as modern Seville. However, Mrs E. M. Whishaw, who studied in the area for 25 years at the beginning of the 20th century, believed that Tartessos was just a colony of Atlantis. The discovery of a ‘sun temple’ 8 meters under the streets of Seville led Mrs Whishaw to surmise that Tartessos may be buried under that city. Edwin Björkman wrote a short book,The Search for Atlantis in which he identified Atlantis with Tartessos and also Homer’s Scheria.
More recently Karl Jürgen Hepke has written at length, on his website(a), about Tartessos. Dr. Rainer W. Kühne, following the work of another German, Werner Wickboldt, had an article published in Antiquity that highlighted satellite images of the Guadalquivir valley that he has identified as a possible location for Atlantis. Kühne published an article(b) outlining his reasons for identifying Tartessos as the model for Plato’s Atlantis.
Although there is a general consensus that Tartessos was located in Iberia, there are a number of refinements of the idea. One of these is the opinion of Peter Daughtrey, expressed in his book, Atlantis and the Silver City in which he proposes that Tartessos was a state which extended from Gibraltar around the coast to include what is today Cadiz and on into Portugal’s Algarve having Silves as its ancient capital.
It was reported(c) in January 2010 that researchers were investigating the site in the Doñana National Park, at the mouth of the Guadalquivir, identified by Dr. Kühne as Atlantis. In 2011, Professor Richard Freund of the University of Hartford garnered a lot of publicity when he visited the site and expressed the view that it was the location of Tartessos which he equates with Atlantis.
A minority view is that Tarshish is related to Tarxien (Tarshin) in Malta, which, however, is located some miles inland with no connection to the sea. Another unusual theory is offered by Luana Monte, who has opted for Thera as Tartessos. She bases this view on a rather convoluted etymology(e) which morphed its original name of Therasia into Therasios, which in semitic languages having no vowels would read as ‘t.r.s.s’ and can be equated with Tarshish in the Bible, which in turn is generally accepted to refer to Tartessos. Giorgio Valdés favours a Sardinian location for Tartessos(f). Andis Kaulins has claimed that further south, in the same region, Carthage was possibly built on the remains of Tartessos, near the Pillars of Heracles(j).
A more radical idea was put forward in 2012 by the Spanish researcher, José Angel Hernández, who proposed(g)(h) that the Tarshish of the Bible was to be found on the coast al region of the Indus Valley, but that Tartessos was a colony of the Indus city of Lhotal and had been situated on both sides of the Strait of Gibraltar!
There is an extensive website(d) dealing with all aspects of Tartessos, including the full text of Schulten’s book on the city. Although this site is in Spanish, it is worthwhile using your Google translator to read an English version.
Scheria is the name of a Phaeacian island mentioned by Homer in his Odyssey and identified by some, including Ignatius Donnelly, as Atlantis. Scheria has been noted as only second to Atlantis for the array locations ascribed to it. For example, Heinrich Schliemann, as well as many ancient and modern commentators, considered Scheria to have been Corfu. Others, such as Felice Vinci suggest Norway, while Iman Wilkens offers the Canaries.
Armin Wolf (1935- ), the German historian, suggests(b) Calabria in Southern Italy was Scheria and even more controversially that the Phaeacians were in fact Phoenicians!
Wolf also claims[669.326] that although the country of the Phaeacians is in some translations called an island, the original Greek text never calls it ‘island’ just Scheria, which, Wolf informs us, etymologically means ‘continent’ – perfectly fitting Calabria. Even today, when people from Sicily go to Calabria they say they are going to the ‘continente’. Wolf puts Scheria in the vicinity of Catanzaro, the capital of Calabria. It has been suggested to me in private correspondence(d) that the etymology of Catanzaro is strongly indicative of a Phoenician influence! Catanzaro is also known as ‘the city of the two seas’, having the Tyrrhenian Sea to the west and the Ionian Sea to the east. It is Wolf’s contention that it was across this isthmus that Odysseus travelled[p.327].
A further mystery is that, according to Dr. Ernst Assmann quoted by Edwin Bjorkman, “both the vessel of Odysseus, as pictured in Greek art, and the term applied to it, are of Phoenician origin.”
Daniel Fleck(a) lists ten similarities between Scheria and Atlantis. Jürgen Spanuth quoted and added to an even more extensive list of comparisons between the two compiled by R. Hennig. Rainer W. Kühne has also written a paper(c) on the similarities.Walter Leaf perceived a connection between the two and wrote accordingly. Edwin Björkman went further and wrote a book that linked Tartessos, Scheria and Atlantis. More recently, Roger Coghill stressed the similarity of Homer’s Scheria to Plato’s Atlantis in The Message of Atlantis . Ernle Bradford notes that the name Scheria itself is thought by some to be derived from the Phoenician word ‘schera’, which means marketplace, which is not incompatible with Plato’s description of Atlantis as a hive of commercial activity [1011.204] .
Michael MacRae in his Sun Boat: The Odyssey Deciphered also thinks that Scheria could be identified with Atlantis and as such was probably situated at the western end of the Gulf of Cadiz near Portugal’s Cape Vincent. A number of 20th century researchers such as Sykes and Mertz have places the travels of Odysseus in the Atlantic. More recently, Gerard Janssen has followed this school of thought and as part of his theories identifies Scheria as the island of Lanzarote in the Canaries (e).
However, Ernle Bradford, who retraced the voyage of Odysseus, voiced his view that Corfu was the land of the Phaeacians and noted that “the voice of antiquity is almost as unanimous about Scheria being Corfu as it is about the Messina Strait being the home of Scylla and Charybdis.”
(a) See: Archive 2087
(d) Private correspondence Jan. 2016
Edwin Björkman, (1866-1951) was a Swedish-American literary critic, newspaperman, translator and author. Among his works was a short volume on Atlantis in the late 1920’s. The sub-title of Björkman’s book is Excursions by a Layman among Old Legends and New Discoveries, which describes his researches into classical literature and what was then ‘modern’ archaeology.
Atlas was the first king of Atlantis and was the son of Poseidon according to the story of Atlantis from Plato. However, in traditional, Atlas was the son of the Titan, Iapetus, often identified with the biblical Japheth, and the nymph Clymene. This apparent contradiction can be explained by the fact that the name Atlas is applied to more than one figure in Greek legends.
Atlas is usually portrayed kneeling with the world on his shoulders. However, the earliest known statue of Atlas, the 2nd century Farnese Atlas(c), which is a Roman copy of an older Greek statue, has the sky is represented as a sphere with a map of the stars and constellations known to the Ancient Greeks, which they represented as objects, animals and mythological creatures and characters. 16th century cartographers assumed that the globe represented the Earth, not the sky and since then it has been depicted accordingly.
Edwin Björkman noted the opinion that the name Atlas does not have a Greek root but is generally thought to have a Semitic origin. He also suggested the possibility that the name may have been derived from one of the Greek words for sea, thalassa.
However, Peter James points out[047.190] the name has a clear etymology in the Greek root ‘tlaô’ which can mean ‘to bear’, ‘to endure’ or ‘to dare’. Atlas has also been identified with both the Egyptian god Shuand the biblical Enoch, the latter being a more controversial concept. Lewis Spence went further and identified the meso-American deity, Quetzalcoatl, with Atlas!
A somewhat more conventional view was offered by Thorwald Franke who has written a convincing paper(a) identifying Atlas with king Italos of the Sicels, who gave their name to Sicily and were one of the earliest groups to inhabit the island.
A more radical view has been put forward by Brit-Am writer John R.Salverda, who claims that the biblical Adam is the Atlas of Plato’s Atlantis narrative. A similar theory was proposed by Roger M. Pearlman in a 2018 booklet . In this small, difficult to read, book the author suggests, a linkage between the destruction of Sodom & Gomorrah and Atlantis, places Atlantis in the Jordan Valley and equates Abraham with Atlas – “ If Atlas as described in Plato’s work was based on a historic figure, Abraham alone meets key criteria.”*In a more recent paper(d), Pearlman suggests that Göbekli Tepe was founded by Noah (Noach) and his sons!*
Moving further east, the Hittites had an equivalent if not original version of Atlas in the form of Tantalus. The Hittites in turn may have developed the identity from the Hurrian god Ubelleris. It was this Anatolian figure that led Peter James to his conclusion that Atlantis had been located in Turkey. Tantalus had a son Pelops, whom some consider Phrygian and according to Herodotus the Phrygians were the oldest race on earth.
An even more extreme idea has been proposed by Sean Griffin that the yogic concept of Kundalini is contained within part of Plato’s Atlantis story(b). Griffin begins his explanation by pointing out that Atlas is the medical term for the 33rd vertebra of the human spine!
Madeira, an autonomous region of Portugal, is a small group of islands in the Atlantic, just north of the Canaries. The archipelago includes the tiny independent Principality of Pontinha(a), which today has bitcoin as its official currency.
Ignatius Donnelly proposed it as one possible location for Atlantis. This followed soundings taken in the area at the end of the 19th century, which suggested that there existed a submerged ridge linking the islands with the European mainland. Madeira is frequently linked with the Azores and the Canaries as visible remains of Atlantis.
There are a couple of YouTube clips(a)(b) that purport to show the remains of Atlantis on Madeira. In fact all they show are ruins, subjectively identified as Atlantis. Apart from which, unlike Atlantis, Madeira is obviously not submerged.
Unfortunately, I’m afraid the closest you’ll come to Plato’s famous island on Madeira is in a bottle of Blandy’s Atlantis rosé wine.
(d) Neue Erkenntnisse zur Geographie Homers”, Rheinischen Museum für Altphilologie (N. F) Band 75, 1926, S. 266, 282