Fundamentalist Atlantology is a term that I use to describe the idea that everything written about Atlantis by Plato, must be taken at face value. In other words when he refers to 9,000 years, this along with all the other numbers he uses in relation to the dimensions of the plain of Atlantis, its structures or its military manpower should be accepted literally! Such an acceptance flies in the face of both common sense and science, particularly in the case of Plato’s dating of Atlantis, while the dimensions he has for the ditch surrounding the plain of Atlantis were deemed incredible (his word) by Plato himself (Crit.118c), he felt obliged out of deference to Solon’s reputation he recorded the details as he received them.
Without wishing to offend anyone, I believe that acceptance, for example, of Plato’s/Solon’s numbers is comparable with the belief of religious fundamentalists who hold that creation’took just six days.
Although it is understandable that researchers have accepted Plato’s details without question, there has been extensive research over the past century into seeking more rational explanations for many of those more difficult passages in the Atlantis narrative which has produced alternative explanations that are compatible with both science and common sense.
While Plato’s 9,000 years were initially, rather glibly dismissed as a transcription error and that hundreds and not thousands had been intended, it has been demonstrated that the ancient Egyptian priesthood used a lunar calendar so that the ‘ýears’ were in fact months, which was noted in the 4th century BC by Eudoxus of Cnidos and repeated by Manetho and Diodorus Siculus. This would reduce the timeline by a factor of twelve. Another explanation was put forward by Rosario Vieni who proposed that the ‘years’ actually referred to seasons of which there are three in the Egyptian solar year. These, as far as I am aware, are the principal alternatives suggested in place of a literal reading of 9,000 years. After all, neither Athens or Egypt was home to anything more than primitive societies 9,000 years before Solon’s visit.
A further example concerns the size of Atlantis, which Plato consistently referred to as an island and never a continent and is described by him as greater than Libya and Asia combined. Irrespective of how extensive in size the Libya and Asia in question were, the Greek word for greater – meizon, actually relates to greater in strength, power or influence not extent. A few years ago Thorwald C. Franke pointed out that the traditional enemies of Egypt came from Libya and Asia, so that to describe the threat from Atlantis as greater than Libya and Asia combined indicates how great the threat from Atlantis was.
The more contentious issue of the actual location of the Pillars of Heracles, I will not go into here, suffice it to say that a number of valid competing arguments have been put forward in favour of locations other than the Strait of Gibraltar. In fact all of them could have been correct at different times, changing their position as the Greek colonists and traders gradually moved westward. Eventually, I believe that at some point in time the term simply became a metaphor for the limits of the world as generally known to the Greeks.
My point is that understandable difficulties exist in the Atlantis texts and that a number of sensible alternative explanations have been put forward, which will be individually tried and tested until a consensus emerges, in the same way that the idea of a geocentric universe was gradually replaced by the simple fact that our little planet revolves around the sun.
Marilyn Luongo is a South African entrepreneur involved in social projects there(b). Her website has an unexpected section dealing with the history of the Middle East(a) of which the second half involves a review of Plato’s Atlantis account. She attempts to link Mesopotamia with Atlantis, beginning with locating the ‘Pillars of Heracles’ at the Strait of Hormuz and then using the highly controversial interpretation of ‘meizon‘ meaning ‘between’ rather than ‘greater’ she proceeds to argue that Mesopotamia is ‘between’ Asia and Libya and therefore is the home of Atlantis!
DuWayne Heupel is the author of Atlantis in Context in which he concludes that the Atlantis story was an invention by Plato to promote his concept of an ideal form of government and “demonstrate the dangers of national hubris.” However, it would seem to fail as a morality tale when Plato also included the demise of the ‘righteous’ Athenians in his narrative. This is compounded by his reference to another ideal city, Magnesia, in Laws. Why did he need to create two model cities?
Nevertheless, Heupel includes a lot of historical background to Athens and the people referred to by Plato, although by his own admission, he does engage in some speculative conclusions. He also claim that elements in Plato’s story were possibly inspired by real places, like Carthage, Atalanta and Thera and real events such as the Persian and Peloponnesian Wars. What I find strange about that is that the places listed by Heupel are not mentioned at all by Plato, but locations, such as Tyrrhenia and Libya, which are included in the text, are apparently not considered to be relevant by Heupel. It seems clear that Heupel accepts that there are actual historical underpinnings to the Atlantis story, but in my opinion has chosen the wrong ones.
The late Anthony N. Kontaratos, listed twenty-two direct and indirect instances, in Timaeus and Critias, where Plato has asserted the truthfulness of the Atlantis story. As far as I’m aware, there is nothing comparable with this anywhere else in Plato’s writings. This alone should persuade listeners/readers that at least Plato believed he was transmitting a true story. However, Plato did have some reservations regarding details in Solon’s narrative, as expressed in Critias 118c-d. If Plato had invented the whole story, it is highly unlikely that he would create exaggerations in an invented tale and then draw attention to them, unless, of course, he was engaging in a double bluff! For my part, I believe that this is highly improbable and that his reluctance to blindly accept all that was transmitted to him was outweighed by the trustworthiness of Solon, his source. Solon was held in such high regard by the people of Athens that for a writer to invoke his name as an informant, without good reason, would be committing literary suicide. This would be similar to unjustifiably quoting George Washington or Nelson Mandela. It is equally improbable that Plato would invoke the names of his family in support of a hoax.
Therefore, it is not unreasonable to assume that Plato, in good faith, wrote down the story of Atlantis as recorded by Solon. Unfortunately, trust in Solon is not enough to explain away the difficulties in the narrative, including the very item that raised the initial doubts in Plato’s own mind.
For my part, I believe that the balance of probabilities favours the acceptance of the reality of Atlantis and is clearly worthy of continuing research.
Bob Idjennaden is a Belgian author now living in Ireland, working in the field of business organisation. His private interests include the study of North African prehistory and history. This has led to the writing of a series of short books, sometimes with co-authors, which deal with specific aspects of North African history and culture.
*[An article on the tribes of the Roman province of Africa Proconsularis, centred around modern Tunisia should be read(b) in conjunction with Idjennaden’s work.]*
I am not aware of Idjennaden touching on the subject of Atlantis, in spite of the fact that Plato clearly states that the Atlanteans controlled Libya as far as Egypt. Nevertheless, many of the books deal with specific matters related to different Atlantis theories, such as the Sea Peoples , the Canary Islands and Berbers.
André Capart (1914-1991) was a former head of the Belgian Royal Institute of Natural Sciences and has also directed oceanographic research for NATO. Professor Capart and his anthropologist wife Denise (1918-2011) believed that the Atlanteans originally came from Libya and invaded the Aegean setting up their colonial capital on Thera(a). Capart and his wife were planning an expedition to Santorini in the late 1980’s, but it appears that no report of their findings has been published.
In 1986 the Caparts published L’ homme et les déluges which deals with the recurring cycles of ice ages, changing sea levels and the associated floods. They linked Noah’s Flood with the Black Sea(b) over a decade before Ryan & Pitman published their better known book, Noah’s Flood.?
Sean Bambrough is a New Zealand researcher of ancient mysteries. Since 1999 he has been developing a theory which places Plato’s Atlantis in the Andes and identifies its city as Tiwanaku. He has published 37 pages of notes in support of this contention(a)(c). A reader will find them tough going and at times repetitious, but it is clear that he has put a lot of study into the subject even if he has, in my opinion, produced a very flawed theory.
A number of researchers have assumed that when Plato referred to an ‘opposite continent’ he was referring to the Americas, however Herodotus, who flourished after Solon and before Plato, was quite clear that there were only three continents known to the Greeks, Europe, Asia and Libya [4.42].
Bambrough’s first major error is to equate the sinking of Atlantis with the uplifting of the Andes! The Andes are rising at a rate of some millimetres per year. and the geological evidence is that in the past the uplift rate was somewhat more rapid, which “in geologic terms, rapid means rising one kilometer or more over several millions of years.”(b)(e)
There is no evidence that the cataclysmic upheaval described by him could have occurred around 1400BC. He does not explain how these newly elevated mountains created muddy shoals that made the Atlantic impassable.
As I have already argued in respect of Jim Allen’s Andean theory, the idea of an invasion of the eastern Mediterranean by an army from the west side of South America is untenable. That they would try it in reed boats like those of Titicaca is equally daft. Then, this mighty army from ten regions of South America were defeated by the small city-state of Athens is equally laughable.
I could go on, but just a final couple of points; Plato never described Atlantis as a continent and Kircher’s speculative map depicts Atlantis quite clearly in our Atlantic Ocean between Spain and America.
Bambrough has recently updated his website(d), however, his writing style is as irritating as ever, in particular his excessive use of retronyms (forward slashes).
*In 2017, he published(f) an extended ‘check-list’ which he feels supports his location theory. This offering is far too long and repetitious. It is clearly a triumph of quantity over quality.*
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 tale 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 water 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 (Refugees from Atlantis)(a).
George Sarantitis (1954- ) was born in Athens and is by profession an electronics engineer. He is also a serious student of Ancient Greek history and literature whose research(a) enabled him to present three papers to the 2008 Atlantis Conference. These included a revised translation of many of the key words and phrases in Plato’s Atlantis texts. He quotes Strabo’s Geographica (22.214.171.124) to demonstrate the multiplicity of locations on offer for the Pillars of Heracles. He places Atlantis in North Africa at the Richat Structure, with the Pillars of Heracles situated in the Gulf of Gabes which formerly led to an inland sea where the chotts of Tunisia and Algeria are today, as well as a number of other lakes and rivers in what is now the Sahara.
He posits a number of large inland seas in Africa including a much larger Lake Chad. The 2014 May/June edition of Saudi Aramco World has an article(c) on the remnants of the ‘Green Sahara’, during what is known technically as the African Humid Period (9000-3000 BC). Sarantitis also claims that at one stage in the distant past Libya had been a peninsula. In a June 2015 report the University of Royal Holloway in London revealed that the size of Lake Chad was dramatically reduced in just a few hundred years(d). A similar map showing enormous inland North African lakes 13,000 years ago are included in Taylor Hansen’s The Ancient Atlantic[0527.36].
Sarantitis offers details of his theories on his extensively illustrated Plato Project website(a), which I wholeheartedly recommend readers to visit. He includes a rather technical forensic analysis of Plato’s use of myth. Sarantitis also suggests that the ‘unfinished’ Critias is in fact continued at the beginning of Homer’s Odyssey (1.32-34).
Some of Sarantitis’ section on Methodology of Mythology will be difficult for non-academic readers, such as myself, to fully comprehend. For me his proposal that there were two Atlantean Wars, which took place in 9600 BC and 8600 BC(e) is extremely difficult to accept, since those wars were with an Athens and Egypt that did not even exist at those dates! I find it difficult to accept this apparent abandonment of commonsense and the science of archaeology.
In 2010, Sarantitis published his theories in The Apocalypse of a Myth in Greek. Now (2017) that work has been translated into English and is currently being prepared for publication with a new title of Plato’s Atlantis: Decoding the Most Famous Myth.
There is now an extensive video clip Q & A session available on Sarantitis’ website(b).
(e) Proceedings of the 2008 Atlantis Conference[750.389](editor S.Papamarinopoulos)
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