Modern Classical Scholars are frequently constrained by the need to raise research funding and are consequently reluctant to express privately-held views on particular controversial subjects. Others want to avoid endangering career prospects or simply fear ridicule. Atlantis can be considered one such ‘hot potato’ topic.
Nevertheless over the past century a number of classical scholars have expressed acceptance of all or some of the Atlantis story as historically factual. Hans Diller, J.V.Luce, J.G.Stallbaum, Victor Bérard, W.Brandenstein, Denys Eissart, H.Görgemanns, Walter Leaf and W.Christ have all supported the reality of Atlantis.
Unfortunately, the expansion of the Internet has permitted the widespread publication of many nonsensical ideas regarding Atlantis. The proliferation of such drivel has undermined the credibility of the more rational ideas of serious researchers.
Interpretation, which deals with the spoken word, obviously preceded translation which is concerned with the written word and could only have followed the development and spread of literacy. Interpretation in ancient Egypt goes back to 3000 BC when we find what seems to be the earliest hieroglyphic believed to mean ‘interpreter’(a)(b).
J.V. Luce informs us[120.23] that one of the Saite pharaohs, Psammetichus I (c.664-610 BC), established a school for interpreters, which possibly had its services availed of by Solon during his visit there.
*(a) https://www.vcinterpreting.com/09/it-didnt-start-off-glamorous/ (offline July 2019)
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.”
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).
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!
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’)
Meizon is given the sole meaning of ‘greater’ in the respected Greek Lexicon of Liddell & Scott . Furthermore, in Bury’s translation of sections 20e -26a of Timaeus there are eleven instances of Plato using megas (great) meizon (greater) or megistos (greatest). In all cases great or greatest is employed except just one, 24e, which uses the comparative meizon, which Bury translated as ‘larger’! J.Warren Wells concluded that Bury’s translation in this single instance is inconsistent with his other treatments of the word and it does not fit comfortably with the context[787.85]. This inconsistency is difficult to accept, so although meizon can have a secondary meaning of ‘larger’ it is quite reasonable to assume that the primary meaning of ‘greater’ was intended.
*In 2006, on a now defunct website of his, Wells noted that “Greater can mean larger, but this meaning is by no means the only possible meaning here; his overall usage of the word may show he meant greater in some other way.”*
It is also worth considering that Alexander the Great, (Aléxandros ho Mégas) was so called, not because of his physical size, apparently he was short of stature, but because he was a powerful leader.
The word has entered Atlantis debates in relation to its use in Timaeus 24e ’, where Plato describes Atlantis as ‘greater’ than Libya and Asia together and until recently has been most frequently interpreted to mean greater ‘in size’, an idea that I previously endorsed. However, some researchers have suggested that he intended to mean greater ‘in power’.
Other commentators do not seem to be fully aware that ‘Libya’ and ‘Asia’ had completely different meanings at the time of Plato. ‘Libya’ referred to part or all of North Africa, west of Egypt, while ‘Asia’ was sometimes applied to Lydia, a small kingdom in what is today Turkey. Incidentally, Plato’s statement also demonstrates that Atlantis could not have existed in either of these territories as ‘a part cannot be greater than the whole.’
A more radical, but less credible, interpretation of Plato’s use of ‘meizon’ came from the historian P.B.S. Andrews, who suggested that the quotation has been the result of a misreading of Solon’s notes. He maintained that the text should be read as ’midway between Libya and Asia’ since in the original Greek there is only a difference on one letter between the words for midway (meson) and larger than (meizon). This suggestion was supported by the classical scholar J.V. Luce and more recently on Marilyn Luongo’s website(a). This interpretation is quite interesting, particularly if the Lydian explanation of ‘Asia’ mentioned above is correct. Viewed from either Athens or Egypt we find that Crete is located ‘midway’ between Lydia and Libya.
In relation to all this , Felice Vinci has explained that ancient mariners measured territory by the length of its coastal perimeter, a method that was in use up to the time of Columbus. This would imply that the island of Atlantis was relatively modest in extent – I would speculate somewhere between the size of Cyprus and Sardinia. An area of such an extent has never been known to have been destroyed by an earthquake.
Until the 21st century, it was thought by many that meizon must have referred to the physical size of Atlantis rather than its military power. However, having read a paper[750.173] delivered by Thorwald C. Franke to the 2008 Atlantis Conference, I was persuaded otherwise. His explanation is that “for Egyptians the world of their ‘traditional’ enemies was divided in two: To the west there were the Libyans, to the east there were the Asians. If an Egyptian scribe wanted to say, that an enemy was more dangerous than the ‘usual’ enemies, which was the case with the Sea Peoples’ invasion, then he would have most probably said, that this enemy was “more powerful than Libya and Asia put together”.
This is a far more elegant and credible explanation than any reference to physical size, which forced researchers to seek lost continental sized land masses and apparently justified the negativity of sceptics. Furthermore, it reinforces the Egyptian origin of the Atlantis story, demolishing any claim that Plato concocted the whole tale. If it had been invented by Plato he would probably have compared Atlantis to enemy territories nearer to home, such as the Persians.
*(b) http://lost-origins.com/atlantis-no-lost-continent/ (offline Jan. 2018) See: Archive 2349
Myths along with legends and nursery thymes are part of a culture’s folklore. The word is given a primary meaning in dictionaries of “a traditional story of unknown authorship, serving usually to explain some phenomenon of nature, the origin of man, or the customs, religious rites etc. of a people. Mythological ‘gods’ were frequently personifications of those natural phenomena. A secondary meaning is ‘fictitious story’ which is the usual dismissive and derogatory application of the term to the Atlantis story. Time and time again, various ‘myths’ across a wide range of cultures have been shown to have a factual basis. These myths were generated to explain something that is important but incomprehensible. Sometimes myths are imported from other cultures and languages, leading to possible distortion of the original tale.
J. V. Luce, the Irish classics scholar, has highlighted[0120.14] how various Greek myths and legends have been proven to contain historical elements and that Plato’s Atlantis story should be studied with this in mind.
Alexander Braghine quotes the French historian, Gustave Glotz (1862-1935), who wrote in his History of Greece, that “it is a well-known fact that legend comes before history, but an attentive and rigorous analysis of any myth gives us the opportunity to detect historical data even in a myth. The comparative method is very useful in these cases.”
Luce has also pointed out that Plato also uses ‘logos’ or truth rather than ‘muthos’ or legend when referring to the Atlantis story.
Euhemerus (circa 300 BC) was one of the first to propose that the ‘gods’ of Greek myth were in fact ancient heroes that were, by convention, posthumously ‘deified’ by their bardic biographers.
It is perfectly reasonable to assume that the older a myth is the less specific detail it may retain regarding any underlying truth. I would suggest that Plato’s story has at least two elements; (i) an ancient and powerful civilisation was destroyed through inundation hundreds if not thousands of years earlier and (ii) the detailed description of an expansionist Bronze Age alliance that was also destroyed. The first, because of its antiquity, is of necessity vague; the second is incredibly detailed in the manner of an eyewitness account.
The ancient Greeks were apparently not conscious of the last Ice Age and the consequent effects of the melting of the retreating glaciers. Today we are aware of these events and find it interesting that Plato’s description of the flooding of Atlantis and its date appears compatible with real prehistoric facts, although the melting of the glaciers was a relatively slow process and is highly unlikely to have submerged Atlantis in ‘a day and a night’. The second element in Plato’s story is too detailed to be considered as fact but could be accepted as a reasonable embellishment by Plato who in order to emphasise the might of the earlier civilisation, ascribed to it all the trappings of contemporary imperial nations such as the Persians.
Before writing was developed our ancestors artfully used the rhyme and rhythm (meter) of poetry as a vehicle to ensure the faithful conveyance of their legends and traditions over countless generations. However, the details are often misunderstood or corrupted when such traditions are translated into different languages and the aide memoire value of the original poetry is lost. Even when writing was available but known only to an elite few, the value of verse as a transmission vehicle continued for thousands of years.
The value of traditional stories was highlighted by a recent paper presented at a conference in Japan which resulted from a study of Aboriginal stories from around the Australian coast(d). The details in those stories, relating to the rising sea levels at the end of the last Ice Age, coincide with remarkable accuracy to what has already been demonstrated scientifically. The conclusion is that these oral traditions can reliably span at least ten millennia and raise questions regarding the value traditional tales in other parts of the globe.
The Internet provides useful access to various mythological resources. One of those is Mythopedia(a) which has a valuable collection of articles and images dealing with mythologies and religions and the possible influence of ancient celestial sights on some aspects of them.
A paper(b) available on the internet by R. Cedric Leonard discusses with his usual thoroughness, various traditions and mythologies that may have contained details of the Atlantis story before Plato wrote his Timaeus and Critias dialogues.
In 2009, a paper(e) on the reliability of orally transmitted myths by Rens Van der Sluijs was published on the thunderbolts website. The same is said of the accuracy of nursery rhymes and other folk tales(f) some of which were of a more secular and sometimes subversive nature(g).
*A groundbreaking overview of mythology is on offer from E. J. Michael Witzel (1943- ) who has traced the origins of many our myths to origins in Africa 100.000 years ago with the understandable revisions and accretions as humans spread throughout our planet, producing both new and local variations of the same themes. His influence today is seen by some, but not all, as comparable to that of James Frazer (1854-1941) and Eliade Mircea (1907-1986).*
(b) http://www.atlantisquest.com/Myth.html (offline March 2018)
A Tsunami was probably first described in the 5th century BC by Thucydides when he wrote “in my opinion, the cause of the phenomenon was this: where the earthquake was most violent, the sea receded and was then pushed back with even greater violence, thus bringing about a flood. Such a thing would not have happened without an earthquake” (Peloponnesian War, Book III.89)(b). However, there are also conditions that can produce tsunamis inland, such as occurred around 500 AD inundating Geneva in the Alps(k)(m).
The word ‘tsunami’ first appeared in an English language publication in the September 1896 edition of National Geographic Magazine in which the devastation caused by an earthquake wave in Japan was graphically described.
Recent studies(g) indicate that a similar tsunami saved the Greek town of Nea Poteidaia from a Persian attack in 479 BC. Herodotus in reporting the event attributed the Persian defeat to divine intervention by Poseidon, god of the sea.
A similar event on an even greater scale has been one of the suggestions as the possible cause of the flooding of Atlantis. A 2002 paper(a), by Louisiana State University geologist, Gary Byerly and his team, identified an ancient asteroid impact that generated a tsunami that “swept around the earth several times, inundating everything except the mountains”. The study of ancient tsunamis is at a very early stage of development.
Ivan T. Sanderson in one of his books, Investigating the Unexplained , recounts an 1863 report of a 200-foot high tsunami which sped up the Ganges and Houghli Rivers in India killing tens of thousands of people without ‘snapping-off’ trees. He contrasts this with the tree stumps covering acres around East Creek, New Jersey that have all been broken off at the same height and where he suggested that only a tsunami could have caused such widespread and uniform destruction. In view of the fact that some of these cedar trees had six foot diameter trunks he speculates on the possible size of a tsunami that could bring about such extreme damage.
Perhaps even more relevant to the study of Atlantis is the evidence gathered by Jürgen Spanuth in his chapter on the ‘Natural Catastrophes of the 13th Century’ including an interesting section on tsunamis[015.167].
Marc-André Gutscher of the University of Western Brittany in Plouzané, France, has discovered evidence of ancient tsunami on Spartel Island, an Atlantis candidate, in the Gulf of Cadiz. Georgeos Diaz-Montexano has pointed out that Josephus, the 1st century Jewish historian, seems to describe the devastation caused by its assault on the Atlantic coast of Spain and Portugal at the time of the Lusitanians and Cantabrians in the 1st millennium BC.
Professor Stefano Tinti of Bologna University visited Sardinia and explained(r) “that until the 1980s no one was aware that tidal waves had occurred in the Mediterranean. But since 2004 scientists have identified 350 events of this type over a 2,500-year period,” and regarding the Sardinian tsunami “So what would have been required in our case?” he then asked. “We’re talking about a huge volume of water, some 500 metres high [the elevation up to which the nuraghi were affected]. Only a comet could do that, if the impact occurred very close to the coast and in a very specific direction,” he asserted. An event of this sort may have occurred near Cagliari, with the resulting wave devastating the plain of Campidano.”
Tinti has also noted(w) that generally speaking, the majority of tsunamis are generated by seismic rather than volcanic activity. Globally, volcanic tsunamis account for only 2% of the total, however, the profusion of volcanoes in Southern Italy has considerably increased this percentage.*Furthermore, according to a recent article on the BBC website “The scale of the tsunami hazard from volcanoes that collapse into the sea has been underestimated.”(x)
More recently, Dhani Irwanto has written of the probable effect of tsunamis on his Indonesian Atlantis(y). Studies of the sedimentary record in a sea-cave in Sumatra have revealed the frequency and strength of tsunamis in the region over a five thousand year span from 5900 BC until 900 BC(u).*
Tsunamis are also associated with destruction on Crete following the eruption of Thera in the 2ndmillennium BC. A TV documentary entitled Sinking Atlantis(i), provided graphic evidence of tsunami damage on Minoan Crete(h).
J.V.Luce cited[120.119] a number a local legends from around the Aegean that may have originated with the tsunami that followed the eruption on Thera.
However, the extent of this damage is strongly contested by W. Sheppard Baird(j) and he proposes instead that it was in fact more likely to have been a pyroclastic surge from the Theran eruption that caused most damage.
A recent report(d) concludes that a large tsunami generated by the volcanic activity of Mt. Etna around 6000 BC produced waves up to 43 feet high that struck the coasts of Greece and Libya. This event would have caused devastation on nearby Malta, where evidence of past tsunamis was published in the journal Zeitschrift für Geomorphologie. The research was carried out over three years by scientists from the University of Portsmouth, led by Dr Malcolm Bray with assistance from colleagues at the Department of Geography at the University of Malta(n). A 1693 earthquake generated the earliest recorded tsunami on Malta and as recent as 1908 Malta was hit by a tsunami that resulted from a catastrophic earthquake in the vicinity of the Strait of Messina(p).
On the Atlantic west coast of Ireland we have a 250 km2 locality, in County Clare, known as the Burren, which consists of limestone denuded of soil cover. Recently, strong evidence was discovered suggesting a 4000 BC tsunami in the region(o). For me the karst landscape of the Burren is reminiscent of areas of Malta.
Plato’s description does not support the idea of a tsunami as the primary cause of Atlantis’ inundation since tsunamis will eventually subside and return to the ocean, whereas Atlantis was still under water years after the event, causing a permanent navigation hazard. John Michael Greer makes a similar point [345.126] in relation to the megatsunami which struck Madagascar 2800 BC. Evidence of other ancient megatsunamis in Hawaii was presented to 2012 meeting of the American Geophysical Union(l). The power of megatsunamis is highlighted in an article the UK’s MailOnline website(t).
Recent excavations at Olympia on the Peloponnese peninsula, the location of the original Olympic Games, have pointed to the site having been repeatedly hit by devastating tsunamis during the past 7,000 years(c).
The Bunurong tribe in Australia have a ‘myth’ which explains the creation of Melbourne’s Port Philip Bay. A recent article(e) has linked this to a tsunami which resulted from the impact of Comet Manhuika south-west of New Zealand in the 15th century. A more cautious view of this event is expressed elsewhere(f).
The excellent livescience.com website has an interesting list of ten history-making tsunamis(q), while Wikipedia offers an extensive list of European tsunamis from prehistoric times until the present(s).
A 100-metre-high tsunami, caused by a landslide, one of the highest ever recorded was experienced in a remote area of Greenland in June 2017. Four lives were lost and eleven houses destroyed in the fishing village of Nuugaatsiaq, located on an island about 20 kilometres away(v).
(a) http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2002/08/0823_020823_asteroid.html (link Broken August 2018) See: Archive 2931
(l) http://www.ouramazingplanet.com/3854-hawaii-giant-tsunami-landslides.html (link broken May 2019)
The Sea Peoples is the name given by modern scholarship to a group of allies who caused havoc among the nations of the Eastern Mediterranean including Egypt which they invaded at least twice in the 2nd millennium BC. The phrase ‘Sea Peoples’ was never used in any ancient accounts. The coining of the term in 1855 is now generally attributed to French Egyptologist, Emmanuel de Rougé who used the term peuples de la mer (literally “peoples of the sea”) in a description of reliefs at Medinet Habu. The phrase was later popularised by another French Egyptologist, Gaston Maspero (1846-1916). Eckart Kahlhofer has recently suggested that even earlier, J. F. Champollion (1790 –1832) employed an equivalent term gens navales to describe the occupants of the invading swan-necked boats. Just a few years after Maspero the German classical scholar, Wilhelm Christ, was probably the first to identify the invading Sea Peoples with the Atlanteans(p), predating Jürgen Spanuth’s theory by the better part of a century. Christ’s idea was also supported to varying degrees by Theodor Gomperz, Spyridon Marinatos, John V. Luce, and Herwig Görgemanns.
Cyprian Broodbank in The Making of the Middle Sea  argues that the Sea People “never actually existed as a single people. Instead small roving bands were a symptom of the collapse, not the cause, and they were blown out of proportion by Egyptian propagandists working for Ramasses III.” (ai)
The Sea Peoples’ exact origin continues to be a matter of intense speculation(ad). The debate regarding their true identity has been ongoing for a long time and will probably continue as long as the chronologies of the Middle East are not fully harmonised to the satisfaction of all. There is some agreement that the Sea Peoples mounted two separate invasion attempts on Egypt around 1208 & 1176 BC (Facchetti & Negri).
There is a claim that the Sea Peoples also attacked Mycenaean Greece on two occasions and that Athens survived both(ae). Contrast that with the contention that there was a Mycenaean group within the Sea Peoples. The confusion surrounding the Sea Peoples is exemplified by the response to a question on the quora.com website(af).
The earliest book devoted to the Sea Peoples, that I am aware of, was Immanuel Velikovsky’s Peoples of the Sea. However, Velikovsky was more concerned with revising the chronologies of the Middle East and so focused on dating the invasion of the Sea Peoples rather than identifying their origins.
The Oxford Companion to the Bible is certain that the Sea Peoples were originally Mycenaean, who moved south, following the collapse of their civilisation at the end of the Late Bronze Age. They were repelled by the Egyptians and then moved on to the Levant where they later became known as the Philistines. A paper(ab) that also links the Philistines with the Sea Peoples from a biblical perspective is available.
A more recent (2017) paper(aa) on a conservative website suggests that the Sea Peoples were ‘early Western Europeans’.
One website(h) describes the Sea People as groups of dispossessed raiders driven by hunger following crop failures resulting from climate change. The same idea is expanded on by Lu Paradise in an extensive article(v).
A different view was expressed by the Egyptologist Robert Anderson who commented “It would seem that, rather than bands of plunderers, the Sea People were probably part of a great migration of displaced people. The migration was most likely the result of widespread crop failures and famine.”(d)
Evidence is mounting that climate change played a significant part in the Late Bronze Age collapse of civilisations in the Eastern Mediterranean region. In fact there is a school of thought that believes that the widespread societal disintegration was more the result of environmental factors rather than the depredations of the Sea Peoples(ag).
The Malagabay website published a lengthy article(t) in July 2016, offering evidence along with some conjecture, supporting the radical idea that the Sea Peoples had originated in India and having migrated westward, some of them reached the Aegean and became known as Dorians! The author of the article appears to have followed the ideas of Edward Pococke published in his India in Greece.
Bob Idjennaden along with co-author, Mebarek S. Taklit, have produced The Mysterious Sea Peoples attack Egypt, which provides an overview of the various incursions against Egypt during the 2nd millennium BC. The prominent part played by the Berbers in varying alliances that constituted the Sea Peoples is highlighted.
Eberhard Zangger argues that the Sea Peoples were survivors of the Trojan War that fled to various parts of both central and eastern Mediterranean(g). He has written further on this identification and more on the Luwian Studies website(s). Zangger claims that the Sea Peoples were an alliance of Libyans and Western Anatolian (Luwian) states(s)(y), which seems odd since Plato describes the Atlanteans as mightier than Libya and Asia combined. If Zangger is correct in identifying Troy as Atlantis, he is also implying that a part (Troy) is greater than the whole (Libya and Asia combined), Troy being part of Asia! Something is clearly wrong with his theory.
Jürgen Spanuth,not surprisingly, referred to them as the North Sea Peoplesand offered a range of evidence from Egyptian inscriptions at Medinet Habu to support this idea. This evidence includes a variety of features that Egyptians used to portray the Sea Peoples such as types of swords, shape of ships, shields and helmets as well as hair, clothing and shaving fashions. He then identified these Scandinavians as Atlanteans who later attacked Egypt. His opinion in this regard was strongly supported by Felix R. Paturi[1339.218]. Quite recently Spanuth’s ideas have also been echoed by Walter Baucum in his Bronze Age Atlantis.
Prior to the development of these Bronze Age seafarers there was a history of Northern Boat-peoples who gradually expanded globally after the last Ice Age. A paper by Andres Pääbo charts their story(k). Zach Zorich is a freelance journalist and contributing editor at Archaeology magazine. In January 2016 he wrote an article(r) that would seem to contradict the idea of Northern European ‘Sea People’ invading Egypt, for the simple reason that sailing boats were not developed in Scandinavia until around the time of the Vikings! – “The plankboats and logboats being built in northern Europe were not the most advanced watercraft of their time. The Greeks, Egyptians, and other cultures around the Mediterranean Sea used sailing ships to conduct trade, and sails wouldn’t be used in Northern Europe until the Iron Age, during the seventh or eighth century CE.”
Quite a number of writers have identified the Atlanteans as the Sea Peoples whose invasion of the Eastern Mediterranean has been recorded in some detail by the Egyptians. One such high profile identification in the 20th century was by Spyridon Marinatos.
One of the latest to join this school is Dr. Rainer W. Kühne,who not only makes the same identification, but using satellite images, he believes that he has pinpointed the capital of Atlantis in Southern Spain. His website has a list of comparisons of Atlanteans and Sea Peoples(a) which is worth consideration.
Erick Wright, a regular contributor to Atlantis Rising forums, has now concluded(b) that Atlantis was located in modern southern Turkey and that Atlanteans were among the Sea Peoples who attacked Egypt in 1200 BC.
Another Atlantis Rising forum(e)on the subject is also worth a look as is another illustrated site(f) which includes a map of the homelands of the Sea People.
According to Raffaele D’Amato & Andrea Salimbeti [1152.20], the Denyen were one of the major groups of the Sea Peoples and have been known in ancient sources by different names; Danai, Danaoi, Danaus, Danaids, Dene, Danaids, Danuna. Other have linked them with the Danaan of Irish mythology. Velikovsky has an interesting footnote in his Peoples of the Sea [758.4], which reads; “When Ramses III speaks of ‘Peoples of the Sea’ he specifies the Tkeker, the Shekelesh, the Teresh, the Weshesh and the Sherden (or Sardan) ; he specifies the Denyen as ‘Peoples of the Isles.'”
In his book, The Luwian Civilisation [1217.20], Zangger makes the interesting point that “Sea Peoples with feather crowns bear the name Tekker, which is reminiscent of ‘Teucer’, a term commonly used for the Trojans after 1200 BCE.”
The Tuatha de Danaan invaded Ireland in prehistoric times. Having noted that Dan/Don/Danu were ancient words for water, it is not such a wild supposition that the Tuatha de Danaan were at least a constituent part of the Sea Peoples, an idea promoted by Leonardo Melis. On the other hand Egerton Sykes was of the opinion that the Tuatha de Danaan were refugees from Atlantis, an idea he expressed in his 1949 edition of Ignatius Donnelly’s Atlantis. He was convinced that Murias one of the legendary cities of the de Danann had been located in Bimini. This is highly speculative idea has failed to bear fruit as have all efforts to identify the location of the other three cities, Falias, Finias and Gorias.
Eric Cline has noted that the only member of the Sea Peoples alliance whose identity has been ‘firmly established’ is that of the Peleset who are accepted as Philistines. He also comments that identifying the Shekelesh with Sicily and the Shardana with Sardinia is based in part on the ‘consonantal similarities’[p.4].
Joseph Morris in his thesis(m) presented to the Classics Department of Florida State University in 2006 defined the Sea Peoples as “a coalition consisting of the indigenous populations of Syria-Palestine led by the neo-Hittite states.”
Federico Bardanzellu offers a number of papers on his Museo dei Dolmen website(n) in which he suggests specific homelands for many of the members of the alliance(o).
Another unexpected twist is the claim, by the discoverer of the Phaistos Disk, Luigi Pernier, that the characters used on the Disk are similar to the representations of the Sea Peoples at Medinet Habu.
Also related to the carvings at Medinet Habu is an interesting study of the Sea Peoples’ ships depicted there, by the nautical archaeologist Professor Shelley Wachsmann(aj), who also offers evidence that at least some Mycenaeans were involved with the Sea Peoples(ak). Salimbetti’s website has a lengthy paper on Aegean Bronze Age ships(al) as well as the Sea Peoples(am) .
Another site(an) also describes the various ships of the period used by the Egyptians, Greeks and the Sea Peoples. One unusual suggestion on the same site is that some of the Sea Peoples, although allied with groups from across the Mediterranean, came from Britain and Northern Europe(ao)!
The most radical suggestion regarding the Sea Peoples has come from Jim Allen who has drawn attention to the similarity of their headgear with that of Amazonian ‘Indians’(c).
Speculation regarding the identity of individual tribes in the federation can be found on a number of websites(i)(j). One of the most comprehensive is provided by two Italians military historians, D’Amato & Salimbeti in a 2015 booklet and on the internet(l) and both are to be highly recommended. They highlight the complexities involved in definitively identifying the members of the varying alliances that were loosely described as the ‘Sea Peoples’ over a three hundred year period.
Trude & Moshe Dothan have added another valuable book to the Sea Peoples literature with their People of the Sea, which has the interesting sub-title of The Search for the Philistines. Related to their work, is the result of recent excavations at Ashkelon, an important Philistine city, which suggests that the city had received migrants from southern Europe during the Bronze Age, who may have constituted a component of the Sea Peoples(ah). Clearly further investigation wll be required to confirm these indications.
An extensive review of all the available material relating to the Sea Peoples was also published online in October 2015(q). The MalagaBay website has also a wide-ranging illustrated article(u) about the Sea Peoples, although without reaching any firm conclusions.
The most recent addition to our knowledge of the Sea Peoples appears to be imminent with the publication of a paper in the December 2017 issue of the journal Proceedings of the Dutch Archaeological and Historical Society. Written by Frederik Woudhuizen and Eberhard Zangger, the authors offer a translation of a 3200-year-old inscription That may refer to the Sea Peoples and linking them with western Turkey. You can read more, now, on the Livescience website(z) . In a 2006 paper(ac), The Ethnicity of the Sea Peoples, Woudhuizen included some groups from the Central Mediterranean as part of the Sea Peoples.
There is an extensive bibliography of books and papers relating to the ‘Philistines and other Sea Peoples’ available online. (last updated 16.09.19)(ap)
*(i) http://disc.yourwebapps.com/discussion.cgi?disc=177754;article=8441;title=The%20Ancient%20Near%20Eastern%20Chronology%20Forum (link broken Nov. 2019)*
(k) See: Archive 2337 All Three Parts
(p) Abhandlungen der bayerischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, Vol. XVII, 2nd part, Munich 1886, pp. 451-512. (German)
(q) http://www.lessonfromthepast.com/?p=941 or See Archive 2759
(aa) See Archive 3429
(ai) https://www.reddit.com/r/history/comments/c3fm5j/who_were_the_mysterious_sea_people_during_the/ (halfway down page)
Also see: Shardana
Pre–Platonic References to Atlantis are rare but this should not be surprising. First of all Atlantis is probably a Hellenised version of another name given to Solon by the priests of Sais. It is perfectly understandable for an individual state and its people would have a number of unrelated names, some of which can have a colloquial or even derogatory origin.
A good example of this today is the land where ’Dutch’ people come from has been known variously as ‘The Low Countries’, ’Holland’ or ’The Netherlands’. My own country has been known as ‘Ireland‘, ‘Erin‘, and ‘Hibernia’ and its people are often referred to as ’Celtic’, ’Irish’ ’Paddys’ in Britain or ’Micks’ in America.
Consequently, we should consider the name ’Atlantis’ as a possible invention of Plato’s and seek out pre-Platonic references through the descriptions used rather than by any name utilised by Plato.
Furthermore, Atlantis is probably just a ‘name of convenience’, applied to the alliance of a number of independent states, many of which were individually known previously by other names to the Greeks through trade. After all, if the Atlanteans were situated close enough to trade, they were close enough to invade.
J. Warren Wells[783.13] has pointed out that the word Atlantis was used by Hesiod in line 938 of his Theogony, centuries before both Plato and Solon, while Hellanicus of Lesbos certainly used the term before Plato. The earliest suggestion of Hellanicus offering a possible pre-Platonic mention of Atlantis was voiced by J.V. Luce in his contribution to Edwin Ramage’s Atlantis : Fact or Fiction[0522.72]
A collection of pre-Platonic references to Atlantis which do not directly use its name has been compiled by R.Cedric Leonard(a).
*(a) http://www.atlantisquest.com/Writings.html (offline March 2018) See Archive 2055)*
Also See: Hellanicus of Lesbos
The Minoan Hypothesis proposes an eastern Mediterranean origin for Plato’s Atlantis centred on the island of Thera and/or Crete. The term ‘Minoan’ was coined by the renowned archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans after the mythic king Minos. (Sir Arthur was the son of another well-known British archaeologist, Sir John Evans). Evans thought that the Minoans had originated in Northern Egypt and came to Crete as refugees. However, recent genetic studies seem to indicate a European ancestry!
It is claimed(a) that Minoan influence extendedas far as the Iberian Peninsula as early as 3000 BC and is reflected there by what is now known as the Los Millares Culture. Minoan artifacts have also been found in the North Sea, but it is not certain if they were brought there by Minoans themselves or by middlemen. The German ethnologist, Hans Peter Duerr, has a paper on these discoveries on the Academia.edu website(e). He claims that the Minoans reached the British Isles as well as the Frisian Islands where he found artifacts with some Linear A inscriptions near the site of the old trading town of Rungholt, destroyed by a flood in 1362(f).
The advanced shipbuilding techniques of the Minoans are claimed are claimed to have been unmatched for around 3,500 years until the 1950’s(l).
The Hypothesis had it origin in 1872 when Louis Guillaume Figuier was the first to suggest a link between the Theran explosion and Plato’s Atlantis. The 1883 devastating eruption of Krakatoa inspired Auguste Nicaise, in an 1885 lecture(c) in Paris, to cite the destruction of Thera as an example of a civilisation being destroyed by a natural catastrophe, but without reference to Atlantis.
The Minoan Hypothesis proposes that the 2nd millennium BC eruption(s) of Thera brought about the destruction of Atlantis. K.T. Frost and James Baikie, in 1909 and 1910 respectively, outlined a case for identifying the Minoans with the Atlanteans, decades before the extent of the Theran eruption was fully appreciated by modern science.*In 1917, Edwin Balch added further support to the Hypothesis.*
As early as April 1909 media speculation was already linking the discoveries on Crete with Atlantis(h), in spite of Jowett’s highly sceptical opinion.
Supporters of a Minoan Atlantis suggest that when Plato wrote of Atlantis being greater than Libya and Asia he had mistranscribed meson(between)as meizon (greater), which arguably would make sense from an Egyptian perspective as Crete is between Libya and Asia, although it is more difficult to apply this interpretation to Thera which is further north and would be more correctly described as being between Athens and Asia. Thorwald C. Franke has now offered a more rational explanation for this disputed phrase when he pointed out[750.173] that “for Egyptians the world of their ‘traditional’ enemies was divided in two: To the west there were the Libyans, to the east there were the Asians. If an Egyptian scribe wanted to say, that an enemy was more dangerous than the ‘usual’ enemies, which was the case with the Sea Peoples’ invasion, then he would have most probably said, that this enemy was “more powerful than Libya and Asia put together”.
It has been ‘received wisdom’ that the Minoans were a peace-loving people, in fact Dr. Barry Molloy of Sheffield University has now shown that the exact opposite was true(d) and that “building on recent developments in the study of warfare in prehistoric societies, Molloy’s research reveals that war was in fact a defining characteristic of the Minoan society, and that warrior identity was one of the dominant expressions of male identity.”
In 1939 Spyridon Marinatos published, in Antiquity, his opinion that the eruption on Thera had led to the demise of the Minoan civilisation. However the editors forbade him to make any reference to Atlantis. In 1951, Wilhelm Brandenstein published a Minoan Atlantis theory, echoing many of Frost’s and Marinatos’ ideas, but giving little credit to either.
*However, Colin MacDonald, an archaeologist at the British School in Athens, is of the opinion that “Thira’s eruption did not directly affect Knossos. No volcanic-induced earthquake or tsunami struck the palace which, in any case, is 100 meters above sea level.” The Sept. 2019 report(n) in Haaretz suggests it’s very possible the Minoans were taken over by another civilization and may have been attacked by the Mycenaeans, the first people to speak the Greek language and they flourished between 1650 B.C. and 1200 B.C. Archaeologists believe that the Minoan and Mycenaean civilisations gradually merged, with the Mycenaeans becoming dominant, leading to the shift in the language and writing system used in ancient Crete.*
The greatest proponents of the Minoan Hypothesis were arguably A.G. Galanopoulos and Edward Bacon. Others, such as J.V. Luce and James Mavor were impressed by their arguments and even Jacques Cousteau explored the seas around Santorini, while Richard Mooney, the ‘ancient aliens’ writer, thought that the Minoan theory offered a credible solution to the Atlantis mystery. More recently Elias Stergakos has proposed in an overpriced 68-page book, that Atlantis was an alliance of Aegean islands that included the Minoans.
Alain Moreau has expressed strong opposition to the Minoan Hypothesis in a rather caustic article(i), probably because it conflicts with his own support for an Atlantic location for Atlantis.
The hypothesis remains one of the most popular ideas with the general public although it conflicts with many elements in Plato’s story. A few examples of which are: where were the Pillars of Heracles? How could Crete/Thera support an army of one million men? Where were the Elephants? There is no evidence that Crete had walled cities such as Plato described. The Minoan ships were relatively light and did not require the huge harbours described in the Atlantis story.
Gavin Menzies has now become the standard bearer for the Minoan Hypothesis. In The Lost Empire of Atlantis he argues for a vast Minoan Empire that spread throughout the Mediterranean and even discovered America (p.245). He goes further and claims that they were the exploiters of the vast Michigan copper reserves, which they floated down the Mississippi for processing before exporting it to feed the needs of the Mediterranean Bronze industry.
Tassos Kafantaris has also linked the Minoans with the exploitation of the Michigan copper, in his paper, Minoan Colonies in America?(k) He claims to expand on the work of Menzies, Mariolakos and Kontaratos. Another Greek Professor, Minas Tsikritsis, also supports the idea of ancient Greek contact with America. However, I think it more likely that the Minoans obtained their copper from Cyprus, whose name, after all, comes from the Greek word for copper.
Frank Joseph has criticised[802.144] the promotion of the Minoan Hypothesis by Greek archaeologists as motivated by nationalism rather than genuine scientific enquiry. This seems to ignore the fact that Nicaise and Figuier were French, Frost, Baikie and Bacon were British, Luce was Irish and Mavor was American.
Furthermore, Crete has quite clearly not sunk beneath the waves. Henry Eichner commented, most tellingly, that if Plato’s Atlantis was a reference to Crete, why did he not just say so? The late Philip Coppens was also strongly opposed to the Minoan Hypothesis.(g)
Excavations on Thera have revealed very few bodies resulting from the 2nd millennium BC eruptions there.The understandable conclusion was that pre-eruption rumblings gave most of the inhabitants time to escape. Later, Therans founded a colony in Cyrene in North Africa, where you would expect that tales of the devastation would have been included in their folklore. However, Eumelos of Cyrene, originally a Theran, opted for the region of Malta as the remnants of Atlantis. How could he have been unaware of the fame of his homeland?
A 2008 documentary, Sinking Atlantis, looked at the demise of the Minoan civilisation(b). There is also an interesting article from James Thomas, who has published an extensive study of the Bronze Age, with particular reference to the Sea Peoples and the Minoans(j).
More extreme is the theory of L. M. Dumizulu, who offers an afrocentric view of the Atlantis. He claims Thera was part of Atlantis and that the Minoans were black!(m)
(e) https://www.academia.edu/7256326/r_r_r_KOM_M_E_NTA_R_Eine_unendliche_Geschichte (offline 1/7/14)
*(g) https://web.archive.org/web/20180128190713/http://philipcoppens.com/lectures.php (June 3, 2011)*