This document is a Google translation of an article by Luana Monte in which she identifies Thera with the biblical Tarshish. I have removed text that was triplicated and inserted paragraphs to which Italians seem particularly averse.
Journal of Archaeology Online
Luana MONTE: Thera, the island of many names, is perhaps the legendary Tarshish?
Thursday, August 24, 2006 00:00 |
In the Aegean Sea, just north of Crete, is Thera , the southernmost of the Cyclades Islands, so named for being arranged in a circle, greek Kyklos , around Delos , birthplace of Apollo. In the configuration of Minoan Thera was shocked by the terrible volcano that dominated and “contemporary Thera is no longer an island, but a group of several islands, formed after the eruption of the mid-second millennium BC and the Next: Thera, Therasia Aspronisi and around the caldera, Palaea Kameni and Nea Kameni in the center thereof. If the original was round and dominated by the mountain, now its main feature is precisely this caldera, on the walls, which rise vertically from the sea for over 200 meters, is almost impressed, thanks to the layers that are followed, the whole geological history island ”
(1). Thera is today better known as Santorini , the name derives from the Venetians, who avendovi found a small chapel built in honor of St. Irene, would spend the whole island to Santa (Santa Irini, a name now then over time Santorini). Men, over the millennia, they called this island in different ways. In ancient times was called Strongyle , ie “round”, a name that is well suited to a volcanic island, and that was also given today’s Stromboli in the Aeolian islands, also a volcanic Mediterranean
(2). Another name given to the island in antiquity, the beauty of its scenery, was Kalliste or Calliste , ie “beautiful”, as Apollonius Rhodius and Pliny testify: ” the island called Calliste, or beautiful, sacred nurse of the sons of Euphemus “,” Tera called the Beautiful, when came out of the sea ”
(3). Herodotus tells us that, subsequently, it was named of Thera Thera or a Spartan hero, a descendant of Cadmus, who was colonized with the companions: ” During those days, Tera, son of Autesione … started from Sparta to found a colony. This Tera, race Cadmea … stated that he would remain in Sparta, but it would put to sea to reach the people of his race … In fact, the island now known as Tera had landed the son of Agenor Cadmus, in search of Europa, we had landed and … I had left some Phoenicians, including Membliareo that belonged to his family. They inhabited the island called Calliste for eight generations before the arrival of Tera from Sparta … Tera went with three pentecontere to reach the descendants of Membliareo … The island of Calliste was then called Thera after its colonizer ”
(4). This narrate the sources, but the tablets found at Knossos, on which are given to religious texts in Linear B writing Mycenaeans
(5) They deny this version: In fact, some of them (Fp1, 6, 5.1, 6.2, 13.2, 14.2, 48.2) dating back to XV-XIV sec.aC about, among the names of deities addressed offerings, we read the name q-ra-si-ja (in Fp.16.2 is qe-ra-si-jo ). In the tablet Fp1, for example, have noted the offers of a month, which consisted of various amounts oil to be assigned to the sanctuaries of Zeus Ditteo of Amnisos, the Daidaleion, to all the gods, to Qe-ra-si-ja
(6). Some people associate the name, qe-ra-si-ja to Tiresias , the famous seer, who to a god of the hunt
(7). Indeed, many think that Qe-ra-si-ja is a deity purely Cretan, Mycenaean, and then passed into the pantheon that his name is connected to an ethnic Thera / Therasia . “… That a local goddess of the island of Thera was also worshiped in Crete is certainly possible given that the Minoans were in close contact with the island, as is proved by the excavations at Akrotiri … Repeated eruptions have made ??them sensitive to the constant looming threat the Volcano ”
(8). A cultic use of pumice from Thera , placed in conical cups, to be offered to the deity (eg documented archaeologically. to Zakro to Nirou Chani), persisted over time, after the great catastrophe which befell the ‘Minoan empire around 1500 BC, and that there were traces even after two hundred years. And ‘reasonable suporre that “the deity worshiped by offering heaps of pumice originally from Thera was nothing but the same q-ra-si-ja . In Crete the cult begins … at the end of the sixteenth century … ”
(9). In short qe-ra-si-ja would be a source word pregreca “associated with the name Thera / Therasia and the ethnic Therasios . It is argued that ‘qe-ra-si-ja’ was a local goddess who was worshiped at Thera and Crete that was worshiped by offering heaps of pumice. His real name was apparently unknown to the Minoans, who called it simply ” the Thera “from the name of his island”
(10) The Minoan Crete, due to its geographical position it was in an ideal condition for maritime and in fact was the center of a dense network of routes, who put it in communication with the various countries of the Mediterranean: departing from Amnisos , could be reached through the Cyclades to the Greek mainland, from Zakro or Palekastro, in the east, it sailed for the Levant, Rhodes, Cyprus and Egypt, from Kommos on the south coast, you could fly to Libya and Egypt. Next in Crete, the island of Thera , was the crossroads of international trade, as evidenced by the materials found there, imported from Egypt, Greece and the Orient: “The existence of a large natural bay, which is currently covered by a mantle of scoria, made ??of Akrotiri a great stopover point on the routes between Crete and other islands, mainland Greece and Asia Minor. Experience the seafaring island of the Cyclades … offered the opportunity to Minoan Crete to establish international business relations, based on the exchange of surplus agricultural products with esotici.Gli Cycladic island thus became the most experienced sailors prehistoric Aegean, offering their services in exchange for material goods. The city of Akrotiri with its discoveries and perhaps the best proof of these trading activities. The exceptional wealth, reflected in the elegant residences, in the murals and rinvenimenti can be explained satisfactorily only by recognizing at Akrotiri on the role of the center’s primary international maritime trade: more than half of the lead weights and about half of the oldest anfore bracket (the most common container for transporting wine and oil) have so far found throughout the Aegean area, come from Akrotiri and indicate in whose hands they were, at that time, trade and shipping. Finds from Crete and mainland Greece, Egypt and Syro-Palestinian coast confirm the international character of these commercial activities ”
(11). Around the middle of the second millennium BC, the Minoan sailors, merchants of Crete, Thera, of the islands, then, perhaps, not yet called the Cyclades, but were described as Therasie , named after the most illustrious of them, sailed the length and breadth of the central-eastern Mediterranean on their agile and fast boats, touching the ports of Greek coasts, Syro-Palestinian, Egyptian, exchanging different goods: precious metals, ivory, craft products, oil, wine, fruits of the earth, spice, spices, wool, pottery, jewelry. The appearance of Minoan wall paintings in style , both for the technique that iconography, at Avaris , in Egypt, to Alalakh, in Anatolia, in Qatna , in Syria, Kabri, in Israel, shows the arrival, in those places, not only of artists from the Minoan world, but also of officials and wealthy merchants are able to accept and appreciate those decorations. Frescoes of Akrotiri show us “tall, elegant ships but also reliable and fast, able to challenge the open sea”
(12), perhaps in these other places were depicted boats and boats that celebrated the power and wealth which was based on the Minoan trading empire and that, in the heart and stories of those who had traveled, is transfigured, becoming a legendary and fabulous connotation. Maybe that the most agile and fast boat that Minoan Crete, were associated with Thera and the neighboring islands and that, even after the eruption of the volcano of Thera , and the advent of the Mycenaeans, things have not changed: in this case it would have been called the ship of Thera, Therasia, boat Therasios . In Semitic languages ??the vowels are not written, therefore, probably along the Syrian coast-Palestinian sources in place of Therasios , they noted Trss , you could read Tarshish … Tarshish is a name repeated several times in the Bible, and from time to time, identifies a person (son of Javan; descendant of Benjamin, counselor of the king of Persia) a location (the fleet .., the king’s ships went to ..; the king of ..), a type (Jehoshaphat built ships of Tarshish to go for gold ..)
(13). The first mention occurs in respect of the sons of Javan, son of Jafeth, third son of Noah: “The sons of Javan: Elisa Tarshish, Kittim, and those of Cyprus Rhodes “( Genesis, 10, 4); “Sons of Greece: Elisa, Tarshish, Kittim, and those of Cyprus Rhodes” ( Chronicle , 1, 1, 7). In relation to the type, Then, the ships of Tarshish are certainly suitable for large ships sailing the high seas: “Because the king had at sea a navy of Tarshish, beyond the fleet of Hiram: every three years came the navy of Tarshish brought loads of gold and d ‘ silver, ivory, and apes “(1 Kings, 10, 22);” Then Jehoshaphat king of Judah joined with Ahaziah king of Israel …. to build ships capable of reaching Tarsis .. “( Chronicles 2, 20, 35-36); “.. there will be a day of the Lord of hosts against all the ships of Tarshish, and against all luxury boats” ( Isaiah , 2, 12-16); “ships in the front row of Tarshish, bringing your sons from afar, with silver and gold “( Isaiah, 60, 9). The prophets Isaiah (eighth century. BC.), Jeremiah and Ezekiel (both of the VII-VI century . BC), frequently appoint Tarshish: “Let the lament, ships of Tarshish, for your refuge has been destroyed! While returning from the land of Kittim, it was given them news … Switch to Tarshish, make lamentation, inhabitants of the coast … Nurture your land like the Nile, O daughter of Tarshish, the port does not exist anymore …. “( Isaiah , 23, 1-10). “Wrought silver and laminate brought from Tarshish, and gold of Ophir, work as an artist and hand jewelery, purple and scarlet is their role: all the work of talented artists ..”. ( Jeremiah , 10, 9). “Tarshish traded with you, for your riches of every kind, exchanging your goods with silver, iron, tin and lead .. The ships of Tarshish traveled, bringing your merchandise “( Ezekiel , 27.12 to 25). From biblical quotations given, it is evident that Tarshish must also be a location relatively distant from Israel, and Jonah “went on his way to escape to Tarshish, away from the Lord “( Jonah , 1.3). The affirmation of Psalm 48, “there trembling seized them, as labor pains of giving birth, like the east wind that pierces the ships of Tarshish” (7-8) , has me thinking that, since vessels propelled by an east wind, you dirigessero west, and then you find that Tarshish in the far West. And in the West, unknown place, so beautiful, prosperous and happy, where the Greeks projected their hopes and dreams
(14), Greek sources put Tartessos, mysterious locality mentioned by various authors, assimilated to Tarshish . Stesichorus (600 BC) speaks in Gerioneide , of which there are few snippets: “Almost opposite the famous Erythia, with the myriad sources, from the roots of silver, the river Tartessos ( fragment 6 – a ). Herodotus (fifth century BC) says that when they reached Focei Tartessos, “made friends with the king of Tartessii, whose name was Argantonio; Tartessos he ruled for eighty years and lived one hundred and twenty … “(I, 163, 2). Even Coleo of Samos, according to Herodotus, came to Tartessos (IV, 152, 2). Apollodorus (second century BC) Tartessos appointment in relation to the story of Heracles and Geryon (2.5, 10). Pausanias (second century .. C.), in his Description of Greece (6,19,3) reports that “tell the Tartessos is a river in the land of the Iberians, who throws himself into the sea with two branches, and that between these two mouths lies a city with the same name … ”
(15). Many authors and scholars, ancient and modern, have sought to understand how you should place known or could identify the Biblical Tarshish, the Tartessos of the Greeks. There has been much speculation: Tarso , in Cilicia (Josephus), Carthage , Rhodes or Cyprus ; Tarrha , ancient city on the island of Crete; Tharros in Sardinia; Tartessos in Spain, a settlement related to the activity of mining and processing of metals (Tarshish is etymologically approached furnace, refinery ). We have not much news around the first millennium before Christ, and the port city of Tarsus in Cilicia, Rhodes and Cyprus are clearly named in the Bible , from the archaeological data available to us , does not seem to Carthage, or Tarrha or Tharros or Tartessos existed in the tenth century BC (indeed the Iberian Tartessos has not yet been identified with certainty with a real site), or in Greek or Phoenician ships that date must be pushed with regularity to the Iberian coast (the first settlement “Western” in that land are dated around the eighth century BC). In summary, Tarshish : there is far from the Lord , far from the coast of Palestine, located in the West, as the east wind will pierces the ship; is between the peoples Greeks, being mentioned in Genesis and Chronicles along with Rhodes and Cyprus, among the sons of Javan, Ionia, Greece. Its ships are part of the fleet of King Solomon (tenth century BC); fly like clouds, like doves , that are nimble and maneuverable, and suitable for navigation on the high seas, carrying gold and silver, ivory, apes, baboons, and exchange the goods of Tyre with silver, iron, tin and lead. A cuneiform inscription in the era of the Assyrian king Assurheddon (681-668 BC) appoint a Tarsisi , together with Cyprus and Javan: “All the kingdoms (islands) of the medium sea, the land of Tarshish Iadanan and Iaman up to have bowed to my feet. ” The kingdoms of the middle of the sea very much reminiscent of Psalm 72, 10: The kings of Tarshish and the islands will , together with the fact that this quote the personification of the locality, Tarshish, is called the son of Ionia or Greece, suggesting that it may be of Thera and the Cyclades, located on the west coast of Palestine, west of Cyprus, Rhodes, far away, but not so much (as it would be Spain), it can not be considered tax Assyria. In fact, Thera satisfies all the conditions attached to Tarshish : it is to the west, but close enough to Assyria, is linked to other islands, is quoted from the Bible that Assyrian inscription, has large ships able to sail the seas, trading with the Syro-Palestinian coast
(16). Some verses from ‘ Ippolito of Euripides, “Ship cretica, white wings, and for the resonant ocean waves traghettasti my sovereign from affluent homes ..” which describes a vessel sailing in the Aegean, with its white sails as wings white, reminiscent in a unique way the quote from Isaiah: “Who are these that fly along like clouds, like doves to their nests? There are ships that gather for me, the ships of Tarshish in the front row … “( Isaiah 60, 8-9). The easterly winds that tear the ships of Tarshish , mentioned in Psalm 48, 7-8 , could be the Etesian winds that blow in the Aegean in the summer and, especially offshore, can blow so hard as to cause storms. Cyclades, then, are rich in metals: “The gold mines of Sifnos and Taso, those of silver Kimolos, Sifnos by, Siro and Laurion, at the eastern tip of Attica, the people attracted to the Aegean where the search for raw materials has always represented a problem of vital importance. Besides gold and silver, the inhabitants of the Cyclades have used arsenic to copper Kitno of Sifnos or, again, of Laurion .. ”
(17). The name passed from Greek sources, Tartessos recalls of placenames pregreci the Aegean, as Knossos, Tilisso, Lissos … Tarshish, with the expansion of geographical knowledge and the progress of colonization suffered the fate of many other names: “In fact, the Greeks ribattezzavano with the same names, cities and regions posed as the most distant from the mother country, so often, when the source is mentioned only the name of a locality, without further information of historical or geographical reasons, not easy to identify exactly which site it is … ”
(18). The same happened with the name of Hesperia, the land of the sunset , “the first name that is assigned to the eastern coast of Italy, the most easily accessible, the nearest, and later when the geographical horizons were extended further, also came to designate Iberia “(ibid. p. 56). Thus, in all likelihood, the biblical Tarshish , from the Aegean was first moved to Sardinia, in the River Tirso, then in Iberia, in the area of the Guadalquivir. As long as Thera, as recounted the classical sources, it was derived from the homonymous Spartan colonist, son of Autesione and a descendant of Cadmus, was difficult to associate the Aegean island of Solomon and Hiram, King of Tyre, who lived in the tenth century BC: too little would be time, because it turning in a highly civilized and has a fleet and trade relations with all countries in the East. The discovery, decryption and interpretation of the Linear B tablets of Knossos, bringing the q- ra-si-ja , which predates the name Thera / Therasia even the Minoan, we can now put the Aegean island in connection with the legendary Tarshish / Tartessos and formulate a new exciting hypotheses. things have not changed, in which case it would have been called Ship of Thera, Therasia, boat Therasios . In Semitic languages ??the vowels are not written, therefore, probably along the Syrian coast-Palestinian sources in place of Therasios , they noted Trss , you could read Tarshish … Tarshish is a name repeated several times in the Bible, and from time to time, identifies a person (son of Javan; descendant of Benjamin, counselor of the king of Persia) a location (the fleet .., the king’s ships went to ..; the king of ..), a type (Jehoshaphat built ships of Tarshish to go for gold ..)
(1) Monte L.. Atlantis The Mysterious Island , Genoa, 2004, p. 100.
(2) “In this island [Lipari] and Sicily it is another, called the first Terasia now Iera, why sacred to Vulcan in it is a hill that spews flames at night. The third island, 6 miles east of Stromboli Lipari [Strongyle], site of the palace of Aeolus … “Pliny, Natural History , III, 93-94.
(3) Apollonius Rhodius, The Argonautica , IV, vv. 1757-1758; Pliny, Op cit., IV, 70.
(4) Herodotus, Histories , IV 147-148. And Apollonius: “Tera, the good son of Autesione, took them to the island Calliste which he gave his name Thera. But that came well after the time Euphemus “, Ibid, IV, vv. 1760-1764. In Sparta “There is another sanctuary of Athena … was dedicated, he says, from Thera, son of Autesione … when he led her to found a colony on the island now called by his name, Thera “Pausanias, Guide of Greece 3.15.6
(5) In the mid-second millennium BC, the Minoan empire was at its peak and at its maximum extension, but the forces of nature unleashed the terrible eruption of the volcano Thera, upset this view: the Mycenaean warriors taking advantage of the favorable moment, when a disaster had weakened the power of Minoan Crete, and landed in the other Minoan bases and seized it, imposing their rule.
(6) Corpus of Mycenaean Inscriptions from Knossos I (1-1063), Rome 1986. IG LXXXVIII / 1
(7) “… Querasiya (” the Slayer “? word group ther, the game?) .. “. Faure P., Ulysses El Greco , Rome, 1985, p. 113.
(8) S. Hiller – Minoan Qe-Ra-Si-Ja. The Religious Impact of the Thera Volcano on Minoan Crete, p. 675 et seq., in: ” Thera and the Aegean World I “, London, 1978.
(10) C. Lambrou-Phillipson – Thera in the Mythology of the Classical Tradition: An Archaeological Approach, p. 170, in: ” Thera and the Aegean World III “, London, 1989.
(11) C. Doumas, Thera, in: EAA, Supplement II, 1971-1994 , p.751.
(12) Monte L., op., p. 130.
(13) The Bible , Casale Monferrato, 1995: ( Genesis , 1.10, 4, and Chronicles , 1.1, 7; Chronicles , 1, 7, 10, Esther , 1, 14), (1 King , 10, 22; Chronicles , 2.9, 21; Psalms , 72.10), (1 Kings, 22, 49).
(14) In the collective imagination of the ancient Tarshish / Tartessos was associated with Atlantis, the mysterious and fascinating land suddenly disappeared under the waves of the sea, with whom he shared the location to the west.
(15) Among the Latin authors, Cicero probably refers to Herodotus when senectute in De, 69, speaks of ‘King of the ages of Tartessii Argantonio, while Gaius Julius Solinus (third century AD), in his “Collection of memorable things,” IV, 1, tells how Sardo and Norace giungessero in Sardinia “the one from Africa, the’ else to Tartessos of Spain. ”
(16) “.. during the 34. year of the reign of Thutmose III Cretan ships carrying timber from Palestine to Egypt ..” (Traffics Mycenaeans in the Mediterranean, Proceedings of Palermo, Taranto, 1986, p.250.
(17) L. Godart – The Cycladic civilization, in: Archaeological No. 2, February 1994, Milan, pp. 60-61. Wealth of metals can associate Thera and the Cyclades with an etymology type ” furnace or refinery “while being islands to another etymology asociata to Tarshish, and akin to the sea or coast …
(18) Monte L., op., p. 174.
Author: Monte, Luana
History: Arch Greek
Tartessos or Tartessus is generally accepted to have existed along the valley of the Guadalquivir River where the rich deposits of copper and silver led to the development of a powerful native civilisation, which traded with the Phoenicians, who had colonies along the south coast of Spain(k).
It is assumed by most commentators that Tartessos was identical with the wealthy city of Tarshish that is mentioned in the Bible. There have been persistent attempts over the past century to link Tartessos with Atlantis. The last king of Tartessia, in what is now Southern Spain, is noted by Herodotus to have been Arganthonios, who is claimed to have ruled from 630 BC until 550 BC. Similarly, Ephorus a 4th century BC historian describes Tartessos as ‘a very prosperous market.’ However, if these dates are only approximately true, then Atlantis cannot be identified with Tartessos as they nearly coincide with the lifetime of Solon, who received the story of Atlantis as being very ancient.
The existence of a ‘Tartessian’ empire is receiving gradual acceptance. Strabo writes of their system of canals running from the Guadalquivir River and a culture that had written records dating back 6,000 years. Their alphabet was slightly different to the ‘Iberian’. The Carthaginians were said to have been captured Tartessos after the reign of Arganthonios and after that, contact with Tartessos seems to have ended abruptly!
The exact location of this city is not known apart from being near the mouth of the Guadalquivir River in Andalusia. The Guadalquivir was known as Baetis by the Romans and Tartessos to the Greeks. The present day Gulf of Cadiz was known as Tartessius Sinus (Gulf of Tartessus) in Roman times. Cadiz is accepted to be a corruption of Gades that in turn is believed to have been named to after Gaderius. This idea was proposed as early as 1634 by Rodrigo Caro, the Spanish historian and poet, in his Antigüedades y principado de la Ilustrísima ciudad de Sevilla, now available as a free ebook(i).
In 1849, the German researcher Gustav Moritz Redslob (1804-1882) carried out a study of everything available relating to Tartessos and concluded that the lost city had been the town of Tortosa on the River Ebro situated near Tarragona in Catalonia. The idea received little support.
*A few years ago, Richard Cassaro endeavoured to link the megalithic walls of old Tarragona with the mythical one-eyed Cyclops and for good measure suggest a link with Atlantis(l). With regard to the giants, the images of doorways posted by Cassaro are too low to comfortably accommodare giants! Cassaro has previously made the same claim about megalithic structures in Italy(m).*
The German archaeologist Adolf Schulten spent many years searching unsuccessfully for Tartessos, in the region of the Guadalquivir. He believed that Tartessos had been the centre of an ancient culture that was Atlantis or at least one of its colonies. Schulten also noted that Tartessos disappeared from historical records around 500 BC, which is after Solon’s visit to Egypt and so could not have been Atlantis.
Otto Jessen also believed that there had been a connection between Atlantis and Tartessos. Jean Gattefosse was convinced that the Pillars of Heracles were at Tartessos, which he identifies as modern Seville. However, Mrs E. M. Whishaw, who studied in the area for 25 years at the beginning of the 20th century, believed that Tartessos was just a colony of Atlantis. The discovery of a ‘sun temple’ 8 meters under the streets of Seville led Mrs Whishaw to surmise that Tartessos may be buried under that city. Edwin Björkman wrote a short book,The Search for Atlantis in which he identified Atlantis with Tartessos and also Homer’s Scheria.
More recently Karl Jürgen Hepke has written at length, on his website(a), about Tartessos. Dr. Rainer W. Kühne, following the work of another German, Werner Wickboldt, had an article published in Antiquity that highlighted satellite images of the Guadalquivir valley that he has identified as a possible location for Atlantis. Kühne published an article(b) outlining his reasons for identifying Tartessos as the model for Plato’s Atlantis.
Although there is a general consensus that Tartessos was located in Iberia, there are a number of refinements of the idea. One of these is the opinion of Peter Daughtrey, expressed in his book, Atlantis and the Silver City in which he proposes that Tartessos was a state which extended from Gibraltar around the coast to include what is today Cadiz and on into Portugal’s Algarve having Silves as its ancient capital.
It was reported(c) in January 2010 that researchers were investigating the site in the Doñana National Park, at the mouth of the Guadalquivir, identified by Dr. Kühne as Atlantis. In 2011, Professor Richard Freund of the University of Hartford garnered a lot of publicity when he visited the site and expressed the view that it was the location of Tartessos which he equates with Atlantis.
A minority view is that Tarshish is related to Tarxien (Tarshin) in Malta, which, however, is located some miles inland with no connection to the sea. Another unusual theory is offered by Luana Monte, who has opted for Thera as Tartessos. She bases this view on a rather convoluted etymology(e) which morphed its original name of Therasia into Therasios, which in semitic languages having no vowels would read as ‘t.r.s.s’ and can be equated with Tarshish in the Bible, which in turn is generally accepted to refer to Tartessos. Giorgio Valdés favours a Sardinian location for Tartessos(f). Andis Kaulins has claimed that further south, in the same region, Carthage was possibly built on the remains of Tartessos, near the Pillars of Heracles(j).
A more radical idea was put forward in 2012 by the Spanish researcher, José Angel Hernández, who proposed(g)(h) that the Tarshish of the Bible was to be found on the coast al region of the Indus Valley, but that Tartessos was a colony of the Indus city of Lhotal and had been situated on both sides of the Strait of Gibraltar!
There is an extensive website(d) dealing with all aspects of Tartessos, including the full text of Schulten’s book on the city. Although this site is in Spanish, it is worthwhile using your Google translator to read an English version.
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, 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.
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. 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.
A number of alternative locations have been identified as being referred to in ancient times as the Pillars of Heracles. Robert Schoch 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 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 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).?
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, 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]*
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 and in his 2006 book on Herodotus.
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 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 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 , 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.
Luana Monte, a supporter of the Minoan Hypothesis has also proposed 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)
*(d) http://www.gunnzone.org/constructs/endsjo.htm (Link broken 2019)*
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.
The Identity of the Atlanteans has produced a range of speculative suggestions nearly as extensive as that of the proposed locations for Plato’s lost island. However, it is highly probable that we already know who the Atlanteans were, but under a different name.
The list below includes some of the more popular suggestions and as such is not necessarily exhaustive. While researchers have proposed particular locations for Atlantis, not all have identified an archaeologically identified culture to go with their chosen location. The problem being that most of the places suggested have endured successive invasions over the millennia by different peoples.
It would seem therefore that the most fruitful approach to solving the problem of identifying the Atlanteans would be to first focus on trying to determine the date of the demise of Atlantis. This should reduce the number of possible candidates, making it easier to identify the Atlanteans.
A final point to consider, is that the historical Atlanteans were a military alliance, and as such may have included more than one or none of those listed here. The mythological Atlanteans, who included the five sets of male twins and their successors would be expected to share a common culture, wheras military coalitions are frequently more disparate.
Basques: William Lewy d’Abartiague, Edward Taylor Fletcher
Maltese: Anton Mifsud, Francis Xavier Aloisio, Kevin Falzon, Bibischok, Joseph Bosco, David Calvert-Orange, Giorgio Grongnet de Vasse, Albert Nikas, Joseph S. Ellul, Francis Galea, Tammam Kisrawi, Charles Savona-Ventura, Hubert Zeitlmair.
Maya: Robert B. Stacy-Judd, Charles Gates Dawes, Colin Wilson, Adrian Gilbert, L. M. Hosea, Augustus le Plongeon, Teobert Maler, Joachim Rittstieg, Lewis Spence, Edward Herbert Thompson, Jean-Frédérick de Waldeck,
Minoans: K.T. Frost, James Baikie, Walter Leaf, Edwin Balch, Donald A. Mackenzie, Ralph Magoffin, Spyridon Marinatos, Georges Poisson, Wilhelm Brandenstein, A. Galanopoulos, J. G. Bennett, Rhys Carpenter, P.B.S. Andrews, Edward Bacon, Willy Ley, J.V. Luce, James W. Mavor, Henry M. Eichner, Prince Michael of Greece, Nicholas Platon, N.W. Tschoegl, Richard Mooney, Rupert Furneaux, Martin Ebon, Francis Hitching, Charles Pellegrino, Rodney Castleden, Graham Phillips, Jacques Lebeau, Luana Monte, Fredrik Bruins, Gavin Menzies, Lee R. Kerr, Daniel P. Buckley.
Luana Monte is an Italian journalist and author of a number of books. She is a firm supporter of the Minoan Hypothesis and has promoted this view in a book published in Italian, Atlantis: L’Isola Misteriosa(b). In order to overcome one of the principal objections to the Minoan solution Monte argues forcefully that the Pillars of Heracles referred to by the Egyptian priests had been located at the mouth of the Nile at the now submerged port of Herakleion, named after Herakles(c). In a 2005 paper, she suggested that Carthage may have inspired Plato’s description of Atlantis(c). An Internet article(a) by Monte proposed that Thera had been known as Therasia, a name still applied to one of the islands created by the 2nd millennium BC eruption. She then claims that the name became corrupted to Tarsis, the equivalent of the biblical Tarshish and that subsequently the name was brought, by refugees, first to Sardinia and later to Iberia, where it was known as Tartessos. [An English translation can be read in Archive 3919.
(c) http://www.antikitera.net/articoli.asp?ID=116 (Italian)