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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Gibraltar

Alexander Knörr

Alexander Knörr is the author of Hagar Qim [1605] in which he discusses the cart-ruts of Malta, concluding that they must be at least 9,000 years old. But he goes further, declaring that the famous temples of Malta are more than 12,000 years old! Inevitably, he tackles Atlantis, attributing its demise to the breaching a dam at Gibraltar leaving Atlantis at the bottom of the Mediterranean.

Bell Beaker People

The Bell Beaker People identified by their distinctive pottery existed from around 2800 BC until 1800 BC. They occupied large areas of Iberia, Central Europe and the British Isles as well as some of the western Mediterranean Bell Beakerislands. Associated with them are the Wessex people divided into Wessex I and Wessex II, who are found in western Europe and southern Britain, the latter, dated to 1650-1400, were involved with the construction of the later stages of Stonehenge.

Uwe Topper associates the beginning of metallurgy with the Bell-Beaker People(e).

Melville Nicholls and others(b) have linked Atlantis with the Bell Beaker culture, identifying a location near Gibraltar as the site of Atlantis. He published his views in Children of the Sea God[944], a 2013 Kindle ebook(a)and a second ebook, The Real and Imaginary Atlantis[945] generally reprising the first, later the same year!

Donald Ingram was more specific equating the Atlanteans with the Wessex II culture in The Unlost Island[665].

The Beaker People are also claimed to have crossed the Atlantic, where they have been linked to the Adena culture of North America. A leading exponent of this theory is undoubtedly Jay S. Wakefield, co-author of How the SunGod reached America [0751]. He has reprised his views in a 2018 paper on the Diffusion & Migration website(c) . Others have expanded on his concepts(d).

(a) http://www.amazon.com/Children-Sea-God-ebook/dp/B00CNCD9GA

(b) http://widespreadblyss.blogspot.ie/2013/02/platos-atlantis-and-bell-beaker-culture.html (link broken Sept. 2018)

(c) http://www.migration-diffusion.info/article.php?year=2018&id=558

(d) http://www.ancient-origins.net/ancient-places-americas/adena-people-and-prehistoric-colonization-north-america-003342

(e) http://www.migration-diffusion.info/article.php?id=545

 

Festin, Carl

Carl Festin (1957- ) is a Swedish researcher who was prompted by questions from his children to investigate the history of civilisation. His studies led him to conclude that the hundreds of worldwide flood myths involved a catastrophe that involved the biblical story of Noah and Plato’s Festintale of Atlantis.

In a PowerPoint presentation provocatively entitled Noah, Refugee from Atlantis Festin outlines a new Atlantis theory. He first suggests that a ridge of sediment built up in the vicinity of Gibraltar gradually cutting off the Mediterranean from the Atlantic when sea levels were much lower during the last Ice Age.*This similar in some ways with the theory of Paulino Zamarro.*

Festin posits an island in the Eastern Mediterranean, south of Crete, called Basileia, which dominated land around what we now call the Ionian Sea. This nation was known as Atlantis.

He identifies the mountains of what is now Crete and Al Jabal Al Akhdar (Green Mountain) in Libya as the Pillars of Heracles. These are shown on a new map(b). Other maps(c) show his proposed Atlantean capital, Poseidopolis and are sometimes oriented east-west.

Around 3,500 BC the Gibraltar ridge broke due to the pressure of the rising ocean levels following the melting of the ice. The influx of cold water into the Western Mediterranean Basin created extensive anti-cyclonic rainfall over Basileia (40 days and nights!). The Western and Eastern Mediterranean Basins were separated by a landbridge at the Strait of Sicily which now broke, inundating the eastern basin. Festin claims that the millions of tons of additional Mediterranean facing westwater created earthquakes in seismically fragile central Mediterranean, destroying  Basileia. Survivors included Noah who headed eastward. Others reached both North and South America.

Festin is now organising a five day cruise in the Mediterranean, which will include a dive in a small submersible to the Atlantean capital Poseidopolis on the submerged island of Basileia lying between Crete and Cyrenaica in Libya. The adventure can be watched on board the ship on large screens, while for the really enthusiastic, there are 8/10 spaces available in the submarine. He currently estimates the basic cost to be €2,000 and €100,000 for each of the 8/10 submariners(d). I think comment is unnecessary!

His theories are published in Swedish as Flykting från Atlantis[753] (Refugees from Atlantis)(a).

(a) http://www.resmalet.se/ 

(b) http://www.resmalet.se/Atlantis.htm

(c) http://www.resmalet.se/FindPos.htm

(d) http://www.resmalet.se/PoseidopolisC.htm

Atlantrope

Atlantrope in spite of its name has no connection with Atlantis. It was in Herman Sorgelfact the name of an enormous dam building project first proposed in 1928 by the German architect Herman Sörgel (1885-1952). Ironically, he was hoping to create artificially what some think had existed in reality and within the memory of man and whose destruction may have led to the destruction of Atlantis.

His idea was to create dams at Gibraltar, the Dardanelles and the Strait of Sicily and gradually reclaim land by lowering the level of the Mediterranean and incorporate hydro-electric plants into the scheme(a)(b). He went further and  suggested flooding large sections of the Sahara Desert. For a few years after Sörgel’s death, efforts were still being made to gain support for the idea.

Sörgel’s proposal was briefly referred to in SKY TV’s second series of The Man in the High Castle.

(a) http://longstreet.typepad.com/thesciencebookstore/2011/04/jf-ptak-science-books-llc-post-691-blog-bookstore-simply-the-thing-i-am-shall-make-me-live-from-jorge-luis-borges-sha.html

(b) http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atlantropa

Strabo

Strabo (c. 64 BC – 23 AD) was an important Greek geographer and historian Strabowho wrote (i) of his full agreement with Plato’s assertion that Atlantis was fact rather than fiction.  *An English translation of his Geography (Geographica) in three volumes can be read online [1647].*

The location of the Pillars of Heracles, mentioned by Plato, is assumed by many to have always been situated near the Strait of Gibraltar. Other researchers have claimed that this was not the only location and have referred to various classical writers to support this contention, one of whom was Strabo, who records (ii) the variety of opinions regarding the location of the Pillars of Heracles among classical writers, adding that Alexander the Great on reaching the easternmost point in his military campaign erected an altar with ‘Pillars of Heracles’, giving further support to the view that the ‘Pillars’ were not a singular landmark but a feature that was to be found at different locations at different points in history. Strabo produced a map of Europe on which he located the ‘Pillars’ at Gibraltar in his day (1st century AD). Strabo also noted that, in the distant past 300 cities lined the coasts on either side of the Pillars.

Strabo also wrote (iii) of Hera’s Island as being one of two islands located near the Pillars of Heracles, beyond which was Gades in Spain. The two islands have not been identified. He was writing some centuries after Erathostenes had been the first to place the ‘Pillars’ at the western end of the Mediterranean.

James Bramwell has cast some doubt on the reliability of ancient geographers in general and Strabo in particular, whom he claims[195.129] oriented the Pyrenees as running north-south rather than their actual east-west.

I should mention that, coincidentally, a temple of Hera was discovered near Marsaxlokk on Malta, the larger of the two principal Maltese islands.

(i) Geographia (2.3.6/7)

(ii) Geographia (3.5.5)

(iii) Geographia (3.5.3)

Mediterranean Sea Level

Mediterranean Sea Level. There is general acceptance that, on more than one occasion, the Strait of Gibraltar was closed completely. Tectonic plate movement, worldwide sea level drops due to the onset of Ice Age glaciation or a combination of both, could have caused this. There is also clear undisputed evidence that the Mediterranean Sea has dried out completely on a number of occasions. What is not clear is when the last desiccation or partial drying-out of the Mediterranean ended. The conventional date given for the last breaching of a Gibraltar Dam is 5 million years ago. However, there is a small but growing opinion that there was a more recent breach of a dam within the memory of modern man and preserved in history and myth.

bathymetric medWhere one theory on the location of Atlantis is concerned, the existence of a Gibraltar dam before the end of the last Ice Age is critical, namely that Atlantis was situated near modern Cyprus. The site chosen by author Robert Sarmast is 1650 metres beneath the present level of the Mediterranean. His theory is totally dependent on proving the existence of this dam. It would seem prudent to have carried out a more detailed study of the evidence for a relatively recent removal of the dam before engaging in a very costly exploration over a mile under the eastern Mediterranean.

There are a number of facts that appear to suggest a more recent Mediterranean inundation but even collectively they do not offer any more than circumstantial evidence.

(i) The Mediterranean sea level must have dropped by as much as from 150 to 300 meters or more. Several years ago, by chance divers found submerged entrances (below sea level) in Southern France, which subsequently led them to discover the now famous prehistoric cave paintings there. There are many man-made stone structures around the Mediterranean that are now under water as well.

Cosquer Cave, near Marseilles, has its entrance 37 metres underwater. It contains several dozen works painted between 25000-17000 BC. The opening was once several miles inland until about 10000 BC when the sea began to rise at the end of the last Ice Age. It has been estimated that that it was originally at a height of 80 metres above sea level, according to anthropologist, James Q. Jacobs(a).  This cave art depicts the Auk, which had never been found this far north.

(ii) Submerged Maltese structures, although their inundation may have been caused by local seismic activity rather than global sea level changes.

(iii) H. S. Bellamy claimed[091] that ancient geographers hinted at the non-existence of the Strait of Gibraltar within human memory.

(iv) A modern Guide to Provence(b) also claims a relatively recent removal of the Gibraltar land bridge.

(v) Medieval Arab writers such as Al-Biruni, Al-Idrisi and Al-Mas’udi suggest the existence of a Gibraltar landbridge, again within the memory of man.

(vi) The sunken port of ancient Syedra in Turkey.

(a) http://www.jqjacobs.net/rock_art/dawn.html

*(b) Landmark Visitors Guide – Provence & Côte D’Azure by Richard Sale. (p.16)*

Rousseau-Liessens, Auguste (L)

Auguste Rousseau-Liessens (1894-1954), a Belgian, was of the opinion that the Pillars of Heracles were located in the Gibraltar region. To support his view he wrote a book[443], in French, that was recommended by the renowned Jean Gattefosse.

Rousseau-Liessens concluded that the plain of Atlantis was four-sided with sides having a ratio of 1:2:3:4 giving the dimensions of those sides as 184, 368, 552 and 736 km.

Peripheral to the study of Atlantis are the works of Homer, on which subject Liessens has also written[444].

Floods

Floods on a catastrophic scale have been recorded in the mythologies and histories of all ancient civilisations. There are various possible causes for such devastating floods. Undoubtedly, many of these legends originated with the raising of sea levels that followed the de-glaciation at the end of the last Ice Age.

Other floods may have been caused by tsunamis resulting from underwater earthquakes or storegga. Quite recently it was discovered(a) that around 6000 BC a calamitous tsunami was generated in the Mediterranean when Mt. Etna in Sicily sent approximately 6 cubic miles of rock and rubble crashing into the sea. One could be forgiven for speculating that this event may have triggered the flooding of the Black Sea, which is dated to this same period.

Since writing, as we know it, did not develop until long after de-glaciation, it is virtually impossible to precisely identify the date, location or extent of any of the early myths relating to these possible de-glaciation inundations.

Flood Myths are found throughout the world and for centuries were seen as confirmation of the reality and universality of the Biblical Flood of Noah. However, when it was discovered that the Earth had endured a series of Ice Ages and that following each of these, the melting ice caps led to worldwide inundations with a consequent immortalisation of these events through locally developed myths, it led to speculation that Noah’s Flood may have been just a regional but nonetheless a catastrophic event. It is also probable that separate regional inundations would have occurred as deglaciation continued at the end of the last ice age, so when recounted through mythology many centuries later they may appear to refer to a single global event. It is also probable that separate regional inundations would have occurred as deglaciation continued at the end of the last ice age, so when recounted through mythology many centuries later they may appear to refer to a single global event.

Nevertheless, megafloods are not necessarily only caused by tsunamis and melting glaciers. A 43-day storm that began in December 1861 put central and southern California underwater for up to six months” a catastrophic event that is now generally forgotten. An extensive 2013 article(f) in Scientific American has full details.

China has its own ‘Great Flood’ tradition, which in the August 2016 edition of Science journal had its reality given strong support in a paper(e) by a mainly Chinese team of researchers. They date the event to 1920 BC.

Recent years have seen the above-mentioned flooding of the Black Sea or even more controversially, the flooding of the Mediterranean basins, following the breaching of a suggested landbridge at Gibraltar, proposed as possible sources of the story of Noah in the Bible. These inundations are dated at around 5600 BC and their memory should have survived in the traditions and mythologies of the region. In addition to that, the Persian Gulf is also accepted by many to have been dry during the last Ice Age but also began to flood around 5000 BC. In Northern Europe, the Baltic Sea and the Celtic Shelf both suffered post-glacial inundations, while around the same time in the South China Sea the enormous Sunda Shelf suffered extensive flooding.

The flooding of the Celtic Shelf along with parts of southwest Britain and southeast Ireland is the subject of a 2016, thought provoking book[1166] by Philip Runggaldier.

Plato’s Atlantis story contains a curious reference in Timaeus (23a-c) to a series of floods having apparently occurred in the Eastern Mediterranean. If based on historical fact, on its own, the Biblical Flood or the breach of a land bridge cannot explain this succession of inundations, but suggests that there could be a much more complex story, still to be revealed, that was spread over millennia.

Anastasios Stamou presented a paper[0750.183]to the 2008 Atlantis Conference in which he reviewed the evidence relating to three floods that befell ancient Greece and alluded to by Plato. Drawing on ancient Greek texts including the Parian Marble, he places these events in chronological order  beginning with the flood of Ogyges, then Deucalion’s and finally that of Dardanos.

Stamou accepts that convention wisdom has it that these flood events occurred in the 2nd millennium BC and based his paper on that assumption. However he expressed serious doubts about this dating suggesting a much earlier date for some inundations and promising a future paper dealing with this revision.

*In an August 2017 paper, on the Migration & Diffusion website(g), Stuart L. Harris has put forward his reasons for dating the Flood of Noah to 3161 BC and the Exodus Flood to 1445 BC.*

An extensive and more general collection of Flood myths can be found on the internet(b). A USGS list of the world’s greatest floods, ancient and recent, is available as a pdf file(c). Similarly, a website by Mark Isaak offers an extensive overview of flood myths around the world, although the site does not appear to have been updated for some years(d).

(a) http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/11/061128083754.htm

(b) http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/flood-myths.html

(c) http://pubs.usgs.gov/circ/2004/circ1254/pdf/circ1254.pdf

(d) http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/flood-myths.html

(e) http://science.sciencemag.org/content/353/6299/579

(f) https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/atmospheric-rivers-california-megaflood-lessons-from-forgotten-catastrophe/

*(g) http://www.migration-diffusion.info/article.php?year=2017&id=540*

Pillars of Heracles

The Pillars of Heracles is the name given by Plato to describe a maritime boundary marker of the ancient Greek world. According to his text, Atlantis lay just beyond or just before this boundary. However, strictly speaking, Plato does not call them ‘pillars’ but refers to them as stelai (pronounced “stee-lie”) and its singular Stele (pronounced “stee-lee”) which are the Greek words for stone slabs used as boundary or commemorative markers, not a reference to supportive columns. Rhys Carpenter favours the idea that the term when applied to the Strait of Gibraltar was used with the sense of boundary markers, indicating ”the limits of the Inner Sea that, for the Greeks, was the navigable world.”[221.156]

According to Aristotle, the Pillars of Heracles were also known by the earlier name of ‘Pillars of Briareus’. Plutarch places Briareus near Ogygia, from which we can assume that the Pillars of Heracles are close to Ogygia. Since Malta has been identified as Ogygia, it was not unreasonable, to conclude, as some do, that the Pillars were probably in the region of the Maltese Islands.

However, Ogygia has also been identified with one of the Faroe Islands in the North Atlantic by Felice Vinci[019.3], who then proposed that the Pillars of Heracles had also been located in that archipelago. John Larsen has made similar suggestions.

Furthermore, Aristotle also wrote that “outside the pillars of Heracles the sea is shallow owing to the mud, but calm, for it lies in a hollow.” This is not a description of the Atlantic that we know, which is not shallow, calm or lying in a hollow and which he refers to as a sea not an ocean.

Classical writers frequently refer to the Pillars without being in anyway specific regarding their location. Rosario Vieni has suggested that the Symplegades, at the Bosporus, encountered by Homer’s Argonauts were precursors of the Pillars of Heracles, although Vieni settled on the Strait of Sicily as their location[1177], before Sergio Frau adopted the same location. 

However, there is little doubt that during the last centuries BC ‘the Pillars’ referred almost exclusively to the Strait of Gibraltar. The online encyclopaedia Wikipedia notes that Pillars were, in earlier times, identified with the Strait of Sicily, but from the time of Erastosthenes (c. 250 BC) the term was used to refer to the Strait of Gibraltar, reflecting the expansion of Greek maritime knowledge.

I consider it highly relevant that no writer prior to Eratosthenes had referred to the Pillars of Heracles being located at Gibraltar. It is not unreasonable to conclude that this silence reflects the lack of knowledge possessed by the ancient Greeks regarding the western Mediterranean, which only improved gradually, as their colonising and trading expanded westward.

Federico Bardanzellu locates them on the island of Motya off the west coast of Sicily(h). This view is hotly disputed.

Alessio Toscano has suggested that the Pillars were situated at the Strait of Otranto and that Plato’s ‘Atlantic’ was in fact the Adriatic Sea. A more distant location was proposed by Chechelnitsky who placed the ‘Pillars’ at the Bering Strait between the Chukchi and Seward peninsulas in Russia and the USA respectively.

It always seemed to me that when the Greeks began their expansion westward, they did so hugging the northern shores of the Mediterranean. Understandably, they would have taken the shortest route from the Greek mainland to the heel of Italy and later on to Sicily. As they progressed with their colonisation, new limits were set, and in time, exceeded. I suggest that these limits were each in turn designated the ‘Pillars of Heracles’ as they expanded further. I speculate that Capo Colonna (Cape of the Column) in Calabria may have been one of those boundaries. Interestingly, 18th century maps shown up to five islands near the cape that are no longer visible(g), suggesting the possibility that in ancient times they could have been even more extensive, creating a strait that might have matched Plato’s description. On the other hand, the Strait of Messina was one of the locations recorded as the site of the ‘Pillars’ and considering that mariners at that time preferred to stay close to the coast, I would opt for the Strait of Messina rather than the more frequently proposed Strait of Sicily.

An extensive collection of classical references to the ‘Pillars’ is to be found on the Internet(j).

However, the poet Pindar in the Third Nemean Ode would appear to have treated the Pillars as a metaphor for the limit of established Greek geographical knowledge (Olympian 3.43-45), a boundary that was never static. In 1778, Jean-Silvain Bailly was certain that the Pillars of Hercules  were just “a name that denotes limits or boundaries.” [926.v2/293]

Dag Øistein Endsjø, a  Norweigan professor, has added the use of the ‘Pillars’ as a metaphor to include the limits of human endeavour(d) and quotes the classicist, James S. Romm in support(e). My own view is that where the term may have initially referred to physical pillars, over time a metaphorical usage became the norm.

Paulino Zamarro has mapped 13 locations(f) identified as the ‘Pillars’ by classical authors (see map below) and expands on this further in his book[024]. He identified Pori, a rocky islet north of the Greek island of Antikythera, as the location of the Pillars of Herakles.

The Pillars are assumed by some to refer to the Rock of Gibraltar in Europe and to Mt. Acha or Jebel Musain, which are near Ceuta in Morocco. Others prefer to accept them as a physical pair of pillars set up outside a temple.

The idea that geographical terms can radically change their location over time is illustrated by the name (H)esperia, which means ‘evening land’ or as we might say ‘land of the setting sun’, was originally used by Greeks to indicate Italy and later employed by Roman writers as a designation for Spain. It could be argued that the Greek use of this appellation could be an indication that when introduced they were not too sure what lay beyond Italy.

Herodotus (Hist. Bk II.44) refers to Heracles as a god of the Egyptians ‘from time immemorial’. He also visited a temple of Heracles in Tyre with two pillars, one of gold and the other emerald. According to the priests there it had stood for two thousand three hundred years or from approximately 2700 BC.

Heracles is clearly the Greek counterpart of the Phoenician god Melqart, who was the principal god of the Phoenician city of Tyre. Melqart was brought to the most successful Tyrian colony, Carthage and subsequently further west, where at least three temples dedicated to Melqart have been identified in ancient Spain, Gades, Ebusus, and Carthago Nova. Across the Strait in Morocco, the ancient Phoenician city of Lixus also has a temple to Melqart.

Gades (Cadiz) was originally named Gadir (walled city). It has been generally accepted that it was founded around 1100 BC, although hard evidence does not prove a date earlier than the 9th century BC. It is today regarded as the most ancient functioning city in Western Europe.

Pairs of free standing columns were apparently important in Phoenician temples and are also to be found in Egyptian temples as well as being part of Solomon’s temple (built by Phoenician craftsmen). Consequently the pillars of Melqart temple in Gades are considered by some to be the origin of the reference to the Pillars of Melqart and later of Heracles (by the Greeks) and Hercules (by the Romans) as applied to the Strait of Gibraltar.

Spanuth dismisses those who have identified the red and white cliffs of Heligoland as the Pillars of Heracles, decrying the idea as a fallacy. He explains that “Natural rock formations were not what was originally meant by the Pillars of Heracles. Those at the Straits of Gibraltar were not, as one so often reads, the rocks to the north and south of the Straits, but two man-made pillars which stood before the temple of Heracles at Gades (present-day Cádiz) about 100 km north of the Straits.”

The Pillars of Heracles usually play a critical part in the construction of any theory relating to the location of Atlantis. Even the authors of theories that have placed Plato’s island civilisation in such diverse locations as Antarctica, the North Sea or the South China Sea, have felt obliged to include an explanation for the ’Pillars’ within the framework of their particular hypothesis.

There is one location clue in Plato’s text (Tim.24e) that is often overlooked, namely, that the island of Atlantis was situated close to the Pillars of Heracles. Although it can be argued that Plato’s island was immediately before or after the Pillars, the text clearly implies proximity. This was pointed out by W.K.C. Guthrie in volume 5 of A History of Greek Philosophy [946.245] and independently endorsed by Joseph Warren Wells in The Book on Atlantis[783].

A number of alternative locations have been identified as being referred to in ancient times as the Pillars of Heracles. Robert Schoch[454] writes “This distinctive name, taken from the most powerful hero of Greek mythology, was given to a number of ancient sites known in modern times by quite different appellations”. The Greeks, however, used the name Pillars of Heracles to mark other sites besides Gibraltar, some outside the Mediterranean – namely, the Canary Islands in the Atlantic and the Strait of Kerch dividing the Black Sea from the Sea of Azov – and even more inside – specifically, the Strait of Bonafaccio between Corsica and Sardinia, the Strait of Messina between mainland Italy and Sicily, the Greek Peleponnese, the mountainous coast of Tunisia, and the Nile Delta.

Arguably the most unusual suggestion this year has come fro Marco Goti in his book, The Island of Plato[1430] in which he identified the ‘Pillars’ in the Atlantic, being the basalt columns of the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland in the west and their counterpart in Scotland’s Isle of Staffa in the east! However, this idea is not original, having been first mooted nearly seventy years ago by W.C. Beaumont(n).

Perhaps the first ‘modern’ writer to propose the eastern Mediterranean as the location for the ‘Pillars’ was Russian, Avraam Norov. He considered them to have been shrines drawing on both Greek and Arabic sources for his ideas.

G. Galanopoulos and E. Bacon suggest[263] that the Pillars of Heracles were possibly associated with Melos, one of the Cyclades or Cape Maléa, the eastern promontory of the Gulf of Laconia. Both James Mavor and Rodney Castleden defend this view, which continues to have some support(p).?

Zangger quotes[483] the 4th century AD. Roman writer Servius, “Columnas Herculis legimus et in Ponto et in Hispania. (through the Columns of Herakles we go within the Black Sea as well as in Spain)”.

Tacitus, the renowned Latin historian, in chapter 34 of Germania, clearly states that it was believed that the Pillars of Hercules were located near the Rhine in the territory of the Frisians.

Olof Rudbeck opted for a location further east in the Baltic at the Øresund strait between Sweden and Denmark.

Strabo, the Greek historian and geographer, records that Alexander the Great built an altar and ‘Pillars of Heracles’ at the eastern limit of his Empire. Pliny the Elder noted that in Sogdiana in modern Uzbekistan there was reputed to be an altar and ‘Pillars of Heracles’. Aristotle in de Mundo describes the north coast of Europe on the edge of a vast sea, beyond the Celts and the Scythians up to Sinus Gallicus and the Pillars of Heracles!

Ulrich Hofmann combines the Periplus of Pseudo-Scylax with the writings of Herodotus to build a credible argument for placing Atlantis in North Africa in Lake Tritonis, now occupied by the Chotts of modern Algeria and Tunisia. Consequently, Hoffmann places the Pillars at the Gulf of Gabés, which would put Malta to the east of them. He also argues that the Pillars were part of Atlantis rather than separate from it.

George Sarantitis presented a paper to the 2008 Atlantis Conference in which he also argued that the Pillars had been situated in the Gulf of Gabes[750.403]. He cites Strabo among others to highlight the multiplicity of locations that have been attributed to Pillars in ancient times.

Scylax of Caryanda describes(a) in his Periplus, a guide to the Mediterranean, the Maltese Islands as lying to the east of the Pillars of Heracles.  The opinions of Hofmann and Sarantitis would certainly support this view.

Anton Mifsud argues that had the Pillars been located at Gibraltar the islands to the east would have been the Balearics. Mifsud also points out that the 1st century BC writer, Apollonius Rhodius, located the Strait of Heracles in ancient Syrtis Minor, now the Gulf of Gabés. Delisle de Sales placed the ‘Pillars’ not too far away at the Gulf of Tunis, the gateway to Carthage. Mifsud has now revised his opinion and in a December 2017 illustrated article(o) has identified the Maltese promontory of Ras ir-Raheb near Rabat, with its two enormous limestone columns as the Pillars of Herakles. This headland had originally been topped by a Temple of Herakles, confirmed by archaeologist, Professor Nicholas Vella.

Sergio Frau, in his recent book[302], published in Italy, insists that the Pillars were in fact located in the Strait of Sicily. He sees this location as according with the writings of Homer and Hesiod. He discusses in detail the reference by Herodotus to an island to the west of the Pillars, suggesting that the world ‘ocean’ had a different meaning than today and pointing out that elsewhere Herodotus refers to Sardinia as the largest island in the world. Following this lead Frau concluded that Atlantis was in fact located in Sardinia. Frau commented that Eratosthenes, circa 200 BC, was the first geographer to place the Pillars of Heracles at Gibraltar. He also quotes the earlier geographer Dicaearchus whose comments appear to also support a location near Malta. Antonio Usai , in his critique of Frau’s book has opted for the Pillars having been between the coast of Tunisia and the islands of Kerkennah.

It should be noted that many of the other known ‘Pillars of Heracles’ existed in the Eastern Mediterranean and Black Sea. This is possibly because until the middle of the 1st millennium BC the Greeks were, generally speaking, restricted to this region. It would appear that for the ancient Greeks, the Pillars of Heracles marked straits or promontories at the limits of their known world. These boundaries were extended further and further as their maritime capabilities improved. In the Late Bronze Age the Bosporus in the east and probably the Strait of Sicily in the west confined the Greeks. It was only shortly before Solon’s trip to Egypt that the Greek colony of Massilia (modern Marseilles) was founded and so, at last, the western limit of the Mediterranean was brought within the reach of Greek ships. Obviously as their range extended so too did the location of new Pillars and possibly led to the decline in the usage of the title at former boundaries, leaving us today with only the Strait of Gibraltar to carry the name.

*Even Nikolai Zhirov, a proponent of an Atlantic Atlantis, accepted that they were other locations considered to have been designated Pillars of Herakles, both within and beyond Gibraltar, as shown on a map of half a century ago in his well-regarded book.[458.86]*

P. Rambling has placed the ‘Pillars’ on Insula Herculis, now a small sunken island immediately south of Tyre(k).

Various locations of the Pillars as noted by classical authors

Various locations of the Pillars as noted by classical authors

Nevertheless, Thorwald C. Franke maintains that the westward shift of the ‘Pillars’ to Gibraltar occurred hundreds of years before Solon. He expanded on this at the 2008 Atlantis Conference[750] and in his 2006 book on Herodotus[300].

Even Arthur C. Clarke suggested that there was evidence that the early Greeks did not originally refer to the Strait of Gibraltar as the Pillars of Heracles. Clarke did not cite his sources, but expressed a personal preference for the Strait of Messina.

Fundamentalist Atlantology, as proclaimed by the ‘prophet’ Donnelly in the 19th century, will accept no explanation other than that Plato was referring to ‘Pillars’ near Gibraltar. Certainly, it is perfectly clear that Plato MAY have been referring to the Strait of Gibraltar, but it is also clear that this was not the only location with that designation in ancient times. Consequently, if any of the alternatives mentioned above enable the construction of a new credible Atlantis location hypothesis, then it deserves careful rational consideration.

In 1913, Nicolae Densusianu proposed a location for the Pillars on the Danube, in ancient Dacia, modern Romania. Ranko Jakovljevic has recently expressed the view that the nearby Iron Gates section of the Danube in Serbia was the location of Atlantis. A paper presented to the 2008 Atlantis Conference by Ticleanu, Constantin & Nicolescu[750.375] has the ‘Pillars’ at the Iron Gates but place Atlantis a little further west on what is now the Pannonian Plain.

The late Arysio dos Santos claims[320] claimed that “there was only one real pair of pillars: the ones that flank Sunda Strait in Indonesia”, in keeping with his Indonesian location for Atlantis. However, he does list (p.130) nine sites designated by ancient authorities as having been locations of ‘Pillars’, reinforcing the idea that the term was not exclusively applied to just one site.

Even more exotic locations such as Chott-el-Djerid in Tunisia, Bab-el-Mandeb(b) at the mouth of the Red Sea, the Strait of Hormuz(i) at the entrance to the Persian Gulf and even the Palk Strait between Sri Lanka and India have all been suggested at some stage as the ‘Pillars’.

George H. Cooper offered[236] an even more outrageous solution when he wrote that Stonehenge in England were the original Pillars of Heracles. In 2018, David L. Hildebrandt published Atlantis – The Awakening [1602]in which he has endeavoured to do just that with a mass of material that he claims supports the idea of Atlantis in Britain and Stonehenge as the remnants of the Temple of Poseidon. He suggests that the the five trilithons represent the five sets of male twins, an idea voiced by Jürgen Spanuth and more recently by Dieter Braasch.

Sometimes, in ancient Greek literature, this phrase refers to the strait between Sicily and the southern tip of Italy (a place which the Greeks did know well, having established colonies in Sicily and southern Italy). An indication of the level of confusion that existed in early geography and cartography is the fact that some ancient maps & texts mark the Mediterranean region west of the Strait of Sicily as “the Atlantic Ocean” and even state that Tyrrhenia is in the ‘Atlantic’!

Finally, my own conclusion regarding the location of the ‘Pillars’ referred to by Plato/Solon, is that a careful reading of Plato’s text shows clearly that they were located in the Central or Western Mediterranean. I base this view on (i) Critias 108 which states that the Atlantean war was between those that lived outside the Pillars of Heracles and those that lived within them and (ii) Critias 114 which declares that Atlantis held sway over the Western Mediterranean as far as Tyrrhenia in the north and up to the borders of Egypt in the south. Consequently, we can assume that west of Tyrrhenia and of Egypt were beyond the Pillars of Heracles. Depending on the exact location of the ancient borders of Tyrrhenia and Egypt, the Pillars could have been situated between Malta and Crete. This interpretation opens up the possibility of Malta, Sicily or Sardinia as prime candidates for the location of Atlantis,*my preference being at the Strait of Messina between Sicily and mainland Italy.

Plato’s comments make little sense, if he was describing an attack by people outside the Pillars located at Gibraltar on those inside the Pillars, since at least half of the coastal territory, in both Europe and Africa, east of Gibraltar was already conquered. However, if the Pillars were located somewhere much further east, his comments make greater sense.

The Schoppes, in support of their Black Sea location for Atlantis, maintain that the Pillars were situated at the Bosporus and not Gibraltar. They contend “the maintained misinterpretation results from the fact that Herakles went to Iberia. At late Hellenistic and at Roman times Iberia was Spain. However, this leads to inconsistencies: After putting up the Pillars (supposed to be Gibraltar) Herakles put together a fleet to go to Iberia, he was still there!” The Schoppes point out that in the distant past ‘Iberia related to the land of an ethnic group to the east of the Black Sea.

In spite of all this two writers, R. McQuillen and Hossam Aboulfotouh, have suggested the vicinity of Canopus, situated in the west of the Nile Delta, as the location of the ‘Pillars’.

Luana Monte, a supporter of the Minoan Hypothesis has also proposed[0485] a location at the mouth of the Nile Delta where the recently rediscovered sunken city of Herakleoin was situated. This identification appears to have been made in order to keep the Minoan Empire west of the ‘Pillars’.

Even more bizarre is the suggestion(c) that the ‘Pillars’ were in fact two bright stars in the western sky at the end of the last Age of Libra around 12,500 BC.

What is clear from all of the above is that the term Pillars of Heracles was, without doubt, applied to a variety of locations but Plato’s reference MIGHT relate to Gibraltar although equally strong if not stronger cases can be made for other sites at earlier dates. It is also plausible that at some point it also became a metaphor for any geographical limit.

Neville Chipulina, a Gibraltarian, has an interesting article(m) on the ‘history’ of the Pillars of Hercules and its association with Gibraltar.

Apart from any connection with Atlantis, it has been suggested that the vertical lines in the US dollar $ign represent the Pillars of Heracles!(l) 

(a)  http://www2.le.ac.uk/departments/archaeology/people/shipley/pseudo-skylax

(b) http://www.grahamhancock.com/underworld/DrSunilAtlantis.php

(c) http://dailygrail.com/blogs/Charles-Pope/2011/8/Atlantis-Above-and-Below-Part-3

*(d) http://www.gunnzone.org/constructs/endsjo.htm (Link broken 2019)*

(e) http://books.google.ie/books/about/The_Edges_of_the_Earth_in_Ancient_Though.html?id=UOTxOcI_YJgC&redir_esc=y
(f) http://www.atlantidaegeo.com/c_hercules.html

(g) http://classics.mit.edu?Aristotle/meteorology.2.ii.html

(h) http://www.museodeidolmen.it/popomare.html

(i) http://middle-east.mavericsa.co.za/history.html

(j) https://shebtiw.wordpress.com/the-sea/the-pillars-of-hercules/

(k) http://redefiningatlantis.blogspot.ie/search/label/Heracles

(l) http://www.pravda-tv.com/2016/07/atlantis-die-dollar-note-und-die-saeulen-des-herakles/

(m) http://gibraltar-intro.blogspot.ie/2015/10/bc-pillars-of-hercules-if-ordinary.html

(n) https://www.theflatearthsociety.org/library/pamphlets/Is%20Britain%20the%20Lost%20Atlantis.pdf

(o) https://www.academia.edu/35505631/THE_PILLARS_OF_HERCULES_MYTH_OR_REALITY?auto=download&campaign=weekly_digest

(p) https://stillcurrent.wordpress.com/2016/04/05/atlantis-maybe-not-so-lost/