The Plethrum is a Greek measurement of 100 Greek feet in length (101 English feet) as well as 10,000 sq.ft. in area. It and its plural, plethra, is used in four instances in Critias (115d, 116a, 116d and 118c).
It is interesting to note that in one case (118c) Plato found the dimensions of 10,000 stade ditch surrounding the plain of Atlantis as very hard to believe but felt obliged to record it out of deference to the reputation of his source, Solon. The text states that this ditch was dug by hand to a depth of a plethrum and a stade in width.
He was forced to make this suggestion because he recognised that the dimensions for the plain of Atlantis as recorded by Plato must have been exaggerated. However, when it came to the ditch which surrounded the plain he was also contented to accept that the stade width of the ditch was excessive but that the plethrum depth was acceptable because the clay banks would have been continually subject to slippage! Feasible, but for me, not totally convincing.
The Stade was an ancient Greek measurement of distance. The origins of the stade are not totally clear. One opinion claims that at first it was the distance covered by a plough before turning. Later it was the length of a foot race in a Greek Stadion (Roman Stadium) or 157 meters. A number of ‘standard’ stadia existed in various city states of ancient Greece ranging from 157 to 211 meters.
*Some commentators have treated the stade as a synonym for the British ‘furlong’ (one eight a mile or 220yards – approximately 201 metres), which was an old Anglo-Saxon measure for a ‘long furrow’.*
Most commentators on Plato’s Atlantis seem to accept a value of 185 metres (607 feet) to the stade. Thorwald C.Franke argues for a value of 176 metres – ” It is confusing: The building called “stadion” had been 185 meters, but the measure “stadion” not. We can conclude that the Athenians once had a shorter building, but decided to build a bigger building in later times. It is the same story for the “stadion” of other cities.” (private correspondence)
Jim Allen who is the leading advocate for a Bolivian location for Atlantis has used a value for the stade that is half the conventionally accepted 185 metres. He bases this on the fact that the ancient South Americans used a base of 20 rather than 10 for counting. He offers an interesting article with impressive images on his website(a) in support of his contention.
Dr. Rainer Kühne, who recently publicised that a site in Andalusia, identified by Werner Wickboldt from satellite photos, suggested that Plato used a stade that was probably 20% longer than what is normally accepted, since the dimensions of the Spanish site are greater than those given in Plato’s text. This idea is not satisfactory as so many other dimensions of the city’s features already suggest over-engineering on a colossal scale. To add a further 20% would be even more ridiculous.
If the dimensions of Atlantis did originate on the pillars in the temple at Sais, the unit of measurement used was probably Egyptian (or Atlantean) and so their exact value must be open to question. The values given by Plato relating to Atlantis have long been ammunition for sceptics. They argue that Plato’s topographical data suggests either a degree of over engineering that was improbable in the Bronze Age or impossible in the Stone Age and must, therefore, be a fantasy.
The late Ulf Richter has recently proposed a simple solution to this problem(b), namely that the unit of measurement originally recorded was the Egyptian Khet. This was equivalent to 52.4 metres or approximately 3.5 times less than the value of the stade. The acceptance of this rational explanation removes one of the great objections to veracity of the Atlantis narrative.
Axel Hausmann (1939-2014) was a German physics professor at the Technical University of Aachen. He had identified a circular underwater feature 20 miles due south of Syracuse in Sicily (36°45’N & 15°18’E) as the possible location of Plato’s city of Atlantis and south of that again existed the plain of Atlantis extending as far as Malta. He contended that Atlantis had an area of influence that stretched from Tunisia to Italy including Malta and Sicily. He erroneously claimed in a paper presented to the 2005 Atlantis Conference [629.351] to be the first to suggest the Central Mediterranean region as a runner in the Atlantis Stakes (d). However, he does appear to be the first scientist to promote the idea of a late breaching of a Gibraltar Dam leading to the inundation of Atlantis.
He dated the submergence of Atlantis to around 3500 BC, based on the assumption that Plato’s ‘years’ were Egyptian seasons (three per solar year). He perceived the remarkable megalithic temples on Malta & Gozo as the remnants of Atlantis and anticipated similar discoveries on Sicily.
In a paper delivered to the 2005 Atlantis Conference on Milos, Hausmann speculated that the famous cart-ruts of Malta were irrigation channels[629.356], ignoring the fact that they follow the natural undulations of the landscape, unless he thought that these Maltese Atlanteans found a way to make water flow uphill.
Hausmann has also followed the suggestion of the late Ulf Richter who argued that the linear measurements of Atlantis used the Egyptian khet (52m)as the unit of measurement rather than the Greek stade (175m).
Hausmann proposed that the survivors of the catastrophe migrated to Crete, Egypt and Syria where they provided the stimulus for the subsequent civilisations of Egypt, Minoan Crete and Sumer. He specifically identified the Phaistos Disk as possibly having been brought to Crete by Atlantean refugees and also presented a paper on this idea to the 2005 Atlantis Conference(c). He has written a number of books including a second volume more directly related to Atlantis, Atlantis – Die Versunkene Wiege der Kulturen (Atlantis-The Sunken Cradle of Culture).
*Hausmann has written a two-part paper entitled Atlantis war Sizilien (Atlantis is Sicily) available on the Atlantisforschung.de website(a)(b) . In it, he echoes my own view that it seems incredible that commentators place Atlantis in locations on every continent and ignore the only region that Plato unambiguously identified as Atlantean territory, namely the Central Mediterranean, from Southern Italy to North Africa (Crit. 114c & Tim. 25a/b).
The Geographical Dimensions of Atlantis were not fully recorded by Plato, except for a comment that its influence extended as far as Libya and Tyrrhenia. Initially the island of Atlantis was divided among the ten sons of mythical Poseidon and then over time it seems that they acquired other islands as well as* other continental territory in the region.*
Plato’s descriptions and dimensions relate only to the capital of Atlantis that would appear to have been located on a large island, although this is not absolutely clear. Plato notes that a plain adjacent to the city was 2,000 x 3,000 stadia, (385 x 580 km or 240 x 360 miles). Ulf Richter argued that the unit of measurement employed was in fact the Egyptian khet, which would reduce Plato’s figures by a factor of 3.5, giving us more credible dimensions.
Although these measurements have been disputed as exaggerations resulting from a misinterpretation of the original Egyptian unit of measurement it must be pointed out that Plato also discusses the size of the Atlantean army which indicates a total of around a million men. Such a military force would have to be supported by a civilian population numbering many more millions. Such a figure could not be accommodated on a small island but would require a larger landmass with at least the dimensions recorded by Plato.
To confuse matters further Plato describes Atlantis as being greater (meizon) than Libya and Asia together. This led many Atlantis seekers to search for the remains of a very large island and were forced to assume that it could only have existed in the Atlantic, an idea refuted by modern geology. However, another more credible interpretation is that this refers to the power of Atlantis being greater than Libya and Asia combined.
Thorwald Franke points out that “For Egyptians the world of their “traditional” enemies 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 of Egypt, 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”. If, what is likely, the statement “more powerful” in the Egyptian original had been expressed by the common word “wr”, then the mistake is explained: “wr” is “big” in its basic meaning, but it is widely used in a metaphorical way.
I note that in a short article in early 2016 and in The Destruction of Atlantis[102.82], Frank Joseph has now adopted Franke’s explanation. Unsurprisingly, Joseph does not credit Franke as the author of this elegant clarification.
The Architecture of Atlantis is described in such detail, that you can almost feel the ’buzz’ of a large maritime capital. We are left with the feeling that it is either the creation of a skilled writer or the report of an observant eyewitness. Once again, I am inclined to see it as an amalgam of both. Quite possibly the description is based on one of the models that have been suggested by some writers, such as Troy, Syracuse, Carthage or even Athens. In fact, elements from all these can be seen in Plato’s Atlantis.
The canals, bridges, watchtowers, warehouses and the acropolis, as described, would all have been within the experience of Plato or his associates.
Mention should be made of the dimensions ascribed by Plato to some of the architectural features of Atlantis, which appear to be exaggerated even for a sophisticated Late Bronze Age city. No matter how wealthy Atlantis may have been, the level of over-engineering suggested by Plato is not credible. However, Ulf Richter has recently provided a rational explanation for the apparently extravagant structures in the city by suggesting that the much shorter Egyptian khet rather than the Greek stade was the unit of measurement originally recorded by Solon.
For the record I should mention that the earliest prehistoric archictecture was reported in 2012(a) after the remains of 20,000 year-old huts were discovered in Jordan.*A decade ago, it was discovered that the Zarqa Valley, also in Jordan, has been inhabited and irrigated for 13,000 years(b), which is is close to the time of Göbekli Tepe!*
The Plain of Atlantisis one of the principal features recorded by Plato in great detail. He describes it being “3000 stades in length and at its midpoint 2000 stades in breath from the coast” (Critias 118a, trans. Lee). The shape of the plain is frequently given as ‘rectangular’ or ‘oblong’ and contained an efficient irrigation system that was fed by mountain streams. The fertility of the plain gave the inhabitants two crops annually.
The dimensions given by Plato would translate into 370 x 555 km (230 x 345 miles). However, the late Ulf Richter has recently proposed(a) that the dimensions originally given to Solon by the priests of Sais used the Egyptian ‘khet’ (52.4 meters) as the unit of measurement. Possibly Solon recorded the figures without mentioning the units employed. In Ireland, we changed over to the metric system some years ago, but builders still speak and write of using ‘2×4’ lengths of timber without specifying that they are referring to inches. Such unqualified notations made at present could be interpreted in the future as 2×4 centimetres. This illustrates how reasonable Richter’s suggestion is. The acceptance of it would give us a more credible 105 x 157 km (65 x 97 miles) as the dimensions of this plain. Richter also maintains that the plain was in fact a river delta, which explains the remarkable fertility of the land.
Jim Allen, who supports an Andean location for Atlantis, offers a strong argument against other principal Atlantis candidates by critically examining the plains included in alternative location theories(c). However, it must be pointed out that Allen had to divide Plato’s imensions for the plain by two in order to shoehorn it into his chosen location.
While I accept that there is evidence that there was flooding on the Altiplano, it took place some thousands of years before the Bronze Age Atlantis described by Plato and certainly long before he wrote “this is why the sea in that area is to this day impassible to navigation, which is hindered by mud just below the surface, the remains of the sunken island.” (Timaeus 25d – Desmond Lee) This not a description that can be applied to anywhere on the Altiplano during the 1st millennium BC. Apart from that, Plato’s account clearly states that Atlantis was submerged and was still so in his own day, making Allen’s critique somewhat redundant.
*An interesting suggestion, although badly flawed, was made by Jean Deruelle who has proposed ‘Doggerland‘ in the North Sea as the location of Atlantis, added an interesting twist to Plato’s description of the Plain. “Deruelle, an engineer and a geologist by profession, offers a hypothesis that is rational, highly precise, and based on his areas of expertise. No other hypothesis than Deruelle’s tackles so credibly the most outlandish elements in Plato’s description of Atlantis: the description of a vast plain, surrounded by a man-made ditch, 180 meters broad and thirty meters deep, large enough to circulate supertankers: it was not a ditch, but a dyke, build over centuries to protect a large part of Doggerland against the slowly rising waters of the North Sea.”(d)*
Diaz-Montexano maintains that Plato never said that the plain was shaped like a rectangle.
The Mediterranean, between Sicily and North Africa has been offered by a number of commentators, such as Alberto Arecchi and Alex Hausmann, as the location of the Plain of Atlantis. There is evidence of large areas of land having been submerged within the region between Malta and the Pelagie Islands. I include here a passing reference from Ernle Bradford who sailed the region which may be of interest to supporters of a Central Mediterranean Atlantis. When discussing the Egadi Islands off the west coast of Sicily he describes Levanzo, the smallest of the group as being “once joined to Sicily, and the island was surrounded by a large fertile plain. Levanzo, in fact, was joined to more than Sicily. Between this western corner of the Sicilian coast and the Cape Bon peninsula in Tunisia there once lay rich and fertile valleys-perhaps, who knows, long lost Atlantis?” [1011.57]
The number of different locations that have been proposed for the plain is obviously a reflection of the number of sites suggested for the city of Atlantis. I list the most popular below with the added comment that, at best, only one can be correct while all may be wrong.
Plain of Atlantis
Mesara Plain on Crete (Braymer)
Central Plain of Ireland (Erlingsson)
Sea of Azov (Flying Eagle & Whispering Wind)
Altiplano of Bolivia (Jim Allen)
Andalusian Plain (Diaz-Montexano)
North Sea (Doggerland) (Jean Deruelle)
Plain of Catania, Sicily
Plain of Campidano, Sardinia
Souss-Massa Plain, Morocco (Michael Hübner)
Greenland (Mario Dantas)
Beni Bolivia (David Antelo)
Mesopotamia in Argentina (Doug Fisher)
Black Sea (Werner E. Friedrich)
Plain of Troy (J.D.Brady)
South of England (E.J. deMeester)
Celtic Shelf (Dan Crisp)
Western Plain, Cuba (Andrew Collins)
Portugal (Peter Daughtrey)
Wales (Paul Dunbavin)
Florida (Dennis Brooks)
Atlantic Floor (Michael Jaye)
Baffin Bay, Greenland (Ian Fox)
Pannonian Plain, Hungary+(Ticleanu, Constantin & Nicolescu)
Guadalete River Plain (Karl Jürgen Hepke)
Saudi Arabia (Stan Deyo)
Ulf Richter (1935-2006) was a German researcher, who was a regular contributor to the Atlantis Rising forums and who presented a paper(a) to the 2005 Atlantis conference on Melos. Richter offered us a number of very interesting and cogently argued points in his essay [629.451]. He discusses the topographical details provided by Plato and concludes that the capital city of Atlantis was constructed on a river delta(b). He contended that the ‘circular’ canals were possibly an adaptation of existing natural features and provides good reasons to believe that the dimensions noted by Plato are incorrect as a consequence of confusion between the Greek stade and the Egyptian ‘khet’.
Richter offered some thoughtful comments regarding his interpretation of Plato’s reference to 9,000 years, subsequently quoted on an online forum(d). [see Archive 2846]
Sadly, Ulf died of cancer in April 2006.