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.
The Egyptian Calendar is central to the debate regarding the date of the Alantean war. At first sight it appears that Plato dated that event to 9,000 years prior to Solon’s visit to Egypt. However, since such a date conflicts with both archaeology and common sense, commentators have striven to reconcile the differences. Either the number is exaggerated, the unit of measurement is wrong, or both require revision. I’m inclined towards the latter.
The ancient Egyptians had three types of ‘years’, solar, lunar or seasonal(a). The first was based on the heliacal rising(b) of the star Sirius, the second was a count of the annual lunar cycles and the last was the number of seasons of which there were three in the Egyptian year. The lunar cycles or months were the means by which the Egyptian priesthood calculated the passage of time and since Solon received the story of Atlantis from Egyptian priests it is assumed by many that the 9,000 ‘years’ were in fact months. Apart from modern authorities, the use of lunar cycles by the Egyptians for calculating time was noted by Eudoxus of Cnidos (410- 355 BC) and also by Plutarch, Manetho, Herodotus and Diodorus Siculus.
Some others, such as Radek Brychta and Rosario Vieni, have proposed that the number of seasons were used in a similar manner. Even more extreme was the contention of André de Paniagua who claimed that the date of Atlantis was recorded in Sothic cycles of 1,460 solar years each, which would push its time back 13 million years!
Nevertheless, there are many who still maintain that Plato’s 9,000 should be taken literally, even though neither Egypt nor Athens existed as structured societies at such an early date!
Seasons are sub-divisions of the year usually based on changes in ecology, weather or hours of daylight. The number of seasons varies between two (Polar) and six (India). My native Ireland has been described by cynics as now having only three seasons, as recent weather changes seem to have removed summer from our calendar.
The Egyptian year is divided into three seasons as they also did in the Indus civilisation. In an effort to make Plato’s 9,000 years more credible, commentators as early Giovanni Carli in the 18th century and Rafinesque in the 19th have suggested that Plato’s years were in fact ‘seasons’. The idea has gained further traction in more recent years with support from Axel Hausmann and Radek Brychta and most recently Rosario Vieni. Both Hausmann and Vieni presented papers to the 2005 Atlantis Conference, where Hausmann proposed that the ‘years’ be treated as seasons and so concluded that the demise of Atlantis took place in 3522 BC[629.359]. However, at the same conference Vieni presented his paper entitled “11,500 years ago…..” [629.337], obviously at that stage accepting Plato’s 9,000 years at face value. Three years later, he presented a paper to the 2008 Atlantis Conference which he entitled “About 5600 years ago….” [750.347], in which he had changed his understanding of Plato’s ‘years’ to be now seasons. While his intellectual honesty is to be applauded, I must point out that because a person changes their opinion, there is no guarantee that their second choice is any more correct than the first.
I am not convinced by the ‘seasons’ explanation, as it just seems to be a rather feeble attempt to explain away Plato’s 9,000 being a reference to solar years. Supporters of this ‘seasons’ explanation appear to be forced to look for an alternative to a literal 9,000 years as that figure conflicts dramatically with the Bronze Age setting of the Atlantis narrative and runs counter to the archaeological evidence for dating the foundation of both Athens and the Egyptian civilisation.
The more popular alternative suggestion of treating the ‘years’ as lunar cycles makes much more sense, as it brings the Atlantis story into the end of the Greek Bronze Age. It also matches the time of the destruction of the spring on the Acropolis (Crit.112d) and conforms to details on the Parian Marble. But perhaps most important of all is that the use of lunar cycles by the Egyptians for calculating time was noted by Eudoxus of Cnidos (410-355 BC) and also by Plutarch, Manetho, Herodotus and Diodorus Siculus.
The Siriadic Columns were reported by Manetho, the 3rd century BC Egyptian historian, to have been two columns erected in Egypt, by Thoth before the Deluge, one of brick and the other of stone, in order to survive either flood or fire, on which it was said that the wisdom of the ancients was inscribed. The Siriadic Columns have been associated with the star Sirius, worshipped as Sothis by the Egyptian but have also been linked with Syria and Sarmatia, in western Scythia.
Frank Joseph speculates[104.253] that these columns “may have been the same stele inscribed with the history of Atlantis that were seen by Solon and Krantor” that provided the basis for Plato’s Atlantis narrative.
Egerton Sykes linked these columns with an Arab tradition regarding the pyramids(a).
The Kings of Atlantis were, according to Plato, originally the sons of Poseidon and Cleito. They were ten in number and consisted of five sets of male twins. The first-born was Atlas who was given authority over the others, each of whom controlled their own territory. Some commentators reacted with such incredulity to this story, that they have either dismissed this detail or in some cases the entire Atlantis tale as pure fantasy. Of course, it is highly improbable, if not virtually impossible to accept that Clieto had five sets of all male twins. However, we are dealing here with a myth that is an echo of the legends of many other cultures describing their antediluvian origins. Lenormant & Chevallier wrote of this over a hundred years ago:
“…The ten kingdoms of Atlantis are perpetuated in all the ancient traditions. ‘In the number given by the Bible for the Antediluvian patriarchs we have the first instance of a striking agreement with the traditions of various nations. Other nations, to whatever epoch they carry back their ancestors…are constant to the sacred number of ten… In Chaldea (Babylon), Berosus, writing in the third century BC, numerates ten Antediluvian kings whose fabulous reign extended to thousands of years. The legends of the Iranian race commence with the reign of ten Peisdadien (Poseidon?) kings…. In India we meet with the nine Brahmadikas, who, with Brahma, their founder, make ten, and who are called the Ten Petris, or Fathers. The Chinese count ten emperors, partaking of the divine nature, before the dawn of historical time. The Germans believed in the ten ancestors of Odin, and the Arabs in the ten mythical kings of the Adites”.
It may be just coincidence, but Plato tells us that the domain of Atlantis extended as far as Tyrrhenia (modern Tuscany), just south of which was Rome, a city, which according to legend was founded by twin brothers, Romulus and Remus. It has been claimed that the story of their origins are a variation of the story in the Hindu epic Ramayana concerning the twin sons of king Sri Rama, Luva and Kusha(c).
Although Babylon is supposed to have had ten kings before the Flood, it must be noted that they reigned successively rather than concurrently, as was the case in Atlantis.
Attention has been drawn to the fact that Manetho (c. 300 BC), the Egyptian historian called the first sequence of Egyptian god-kings ‘Auriteans’, which has been seen as suspiciously like a corruption of ‘Atlanteans‘.
Some writers have attempted to link these names with specific regions; such as Atlas with Morocco, Eumelos (Gadeiros) with Gades (Cadiz) and Elasippos with Lisbon. Beyond these three there is very little agreement. Lewis Spence correctly points out “Plato expressly states that these names had been Egyptianised from the Atlantean language by the priest of Sais, and subsequently Hellenised in Critias, so that there is little hope that they were transmitted in anything like their original form.” Spence also commented on the similarity of the Phoenician gods and the early kings of Atlantis, an idea suggested earlier by Ignatius Donnelly.
R. Cedric Leonard is convinced that Manetho’s list of Egyptian god-kings is in fact a list of the first kings of Atlantis and expands on this idea on his website(a). However, in his 1979 book, Quest for Atlantis, Leonard has suggested that the kings of Atlantis were human-alien hybrids and that humans are the result of alien genetic experiments!!
Another site(b) identifies the kings of Atlantis with the pantheon of Phoenician gods, an idea first mooted by Ignatius Donnelly(part IV. chap.III). But Donnelly, also suggested, unconvincingly, that the gods of the Greeks were just the deified kings of Atlantis (part IV, chap. II), while it is also possible that they were just personifications of natural phenomena.
An unusual feature of the Atlantean kings is the meeting every fifth and sixth year. Plato explains this as a way of honouring odd and even numbers. However, Bacon & Galanopoulos suggest[263.152] that in fact this may have been the result of an awareness of the eleven-year cycles of rains. I believe that this explanation is equally weak and the subject requires further investigation.
*(a) http://www.atlantisquest.com/Hiero.html (offline March 2018)
Factor Ten is a term I have employed to describe the fact that so many of the numbers in Plato’s Atlantis story, referring to time, physical dimensions and population all appear to be exaggerations, but would be more credible if reduced by a factor of ten. The date of 9600 BC for a war between Atlantis and Athens is not compatible with the Bronze Age description given by Plato, the dimensions of the canals in the city of Atlantis suggest a profligate degree of over-engineering and the size of the Atlantean army, as recorded, is comparable to the numerical strength of today’s USA’s military. On top of that, there is no archaeological evidence to support the idea of Athens having anything more than a Stone Age culture in the 10th millennium BC.
Dr A. G. Galanopoulos, who spent years excavating on Santorini, alsosuggested that all numbers in the thousands in Plato’s text were exaggerated, during translation, by a factor of ten. One can be forgiven for thinking that he was prompted to do this in order to match Atlantis to the timeframe of the Theran eruption, which occurred about 900 years before Solon’s Egyptian trip. However, J. V. Luce and Dorothy Vitaliano have refuted this idea.
A more frequently suggested explanation for the conflict between the 9,000 years given by Plato and the Bronze Age backdrop is that a lunar rather than a solar calendar was utilised by the Egyptian priests which would bring the two elements more into phase. So perhaps ‘Factor Twelve’ might be a more appropriate appellation.
Eudoxus of Cnidos (c.408-355 BC) who also studied astronomy with the priests of Heliopolis in Greece was one of the first to suggest that the Ancient Egyptians used lunar cycles to measure time. The idea was later endorsed by the Egyptian priest Manetho, Plutarch and Diodorus Siculus. Centuries later, Francisco Cervantes de Salazar (1514-1575) in his Crónica de la Nueva España he was a firm supporter of the idea of interpreting Plato’s 9,000 ‘years’ as lunar cycles, echoing the earlier statement of Eudoxus.
However, while the substitution of solar years with lunar cycles would give a date for the Atlantean war that is more compatible with conventional archaeology, it still leaves the apparently inflated dimensions and military numbers recorded by Plato, unexplained. Since all of Plato’s numbers, in the Atlantis narrative appear to be overstated by a similar amount it would seem appropriate to invoke the application of Occam’s Razor(c), which leads to an exaggeration by a factor of ten as the most likely explanation!
The use of lunar rather than solar units might explain the unrealistic ages ascribed to biblical characters such as Adam, Methuselah, or Noah although close study does not address all the difficulties. Similar problems exist with the length of the reign of individual Sumerian kings. My belief is that a common explanation will eventually be found to rationalise both sets of anomalies. The answer will probably include the application of the Sumerian use of a numeric base of 60, coupled with lunar, solar and the Egyptian use of three seasonal ‘years’ per solar year. Zoltán Simon has claimed that the ages of the patriarchs were calculated using 90-day ‘years’[0549.7].
A number of suggestions have been put forward to explain how Plato’s exaggerated numbers came to be. Georgeos Diaz-Montexanocontends that it was not any confusion over hieroglyphics that led to the a tenfold exaggeration of numbers but the fact that in the spoken language of the Egyptians 100 and 1000 can be easily confused.
What may be of relevance is the fact that the Cretan scripts known as Linear A and Linear B use similar numbering signs. The number 100 is designated by a circle whereas 1000 is a circle with four nipples known as excrescences at the cardinal points. Both James Mavor and Rodney Castleden have advocated the idea that it was a misreading of these Minoan numerals that led to Plato recording hundreds as ‘thousands’.
Another reason for considering a factor ten error in Plato’s numbers may be drawn from the Chicago Demotic Dictionary, which has been developed over the past three decades at the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago. It is edited by Professor Janet H. Johnson and is concerned with the ancient Egyptian cursive script in use from circa 650 BC, which is around the time of Solon, until the 5th century AD. Their website reveals that the cursive numerals for hundreds only differ from thousands by having longer tails(b) . I note that Johnson also records “that thousands sometimes had longer tails than expected”(p.23). This offers another credible explanation for how a transcription error could increase numbers by a factor of ten, which would bring Plato’s dates into conformity with other details in his Atlantis story, namely the Bronze Age milieu so clearly described there.
I also note that the Greeks had no zero or decimal point in their number system, making this kind of tenfold mistake quite a credible one(a).
Auriteans is the name given by the ancient writer Manetho to the first kings to rule over Egypt during the “reign of the gods”. R. Cedric Leonard comments on this on his website and in his books(a).
“Plato described Atlantis as being ruled by ten kings before its demise. Egyptian king-lists going back thousands of years before Plato (we will look at one example here) establish four important facts, which we note:
Egyptian tradition begins with the “reign of the gods”
In all there were ten of these so-called ‘god-kings‘
They were said to have reigned in a foreign country
From all appearances they were called ‘Atlanteans’
This last statement will be challenged by scholars, so let’s take a closer look at the Egyptian king-lists. One noticeable fact is that Manetho (250 BC) calls the first series of kings, who ruled during the “reign of the gods,” Auriteans. This seems to be nothing more than a corruption of the word ‘Atlantean.’ Let me explain.
Egyptian hieroglyphics only approximate real sounds: for instance, a hieroglyphic ‘k’ must be used to represent the hard ‘g’ sound. The hieroglyph that Manetho transcribed as ‘r’ can equally be transcribed as an ‘l’. Thus the ‘Auriteans’ of Manetho’s king-lists could just as well be ‘Auliteans’: phonetically almost identical to ‘Atlanteans.’ This idea obtains credible support from the fact that the ancient Phoenician historian Sanchuniathon (1193 BC) calls these very same kings ‘Aleteans‘ (b). Isn’t it likely that Aleteans=Atlanteans?”
In spite of this valiant attempt to equate the Egyptian king lists with the kings of Atlantis, it must be pointed out that the ten Atlantean kings noted by Plato were brothers and so reigned concurrently over different part of the empire, whereas the king lists cited by Leonard relate to kings that reigned successively.
*(a) http://www.atlantisquest.com/Writings.html (offline March 2055) See: Archive 2055*
Manetho of Sebennytos in the Nile Delta was an Egyptian priest and historian who flourished in the 3rd century BC. He produced a significant history of Egypt in three volumes, Aegyptiaca[1373.40], but unfortunately only fragments have survived(b).
His lists of Egyptian kings continue to be used as one of the pillars of Egyptian chronology. Interestingly, he would seem to claim that the earliest of the kings ruled in a foreign land. This has been taken by some, such as R. Cedric Leonard, to mean Atlantis(a).
Also relevant is that Manetho wrote of the ancient Egyptians counting time in months rather than years – “The year I take, however, to be a lunar one, consisting, that is, of 30 days: what we now call a month the Egyptians used formerly to style a year.”
*(a) http://www.atlantisquest.com/Hiero.html (offline March 2018)*
The Egyptian God–Kings have been equated with the original ten Kings of Atlantis by R. Cedric Leonard. He points out how Manetho, the Egyptian historian writing in the 2nd century BC, refers to the Egyptian god-kings having reigned “in a foreign land”thousands of years before Plato. Leonard has compared Manetho’s list with that of the Turin Papyrus and discovered a remarkable similarity between the two lists of god-kings. In addition, he points out(a) that the Turin Papyrus records the next series of kings in 9850 BC. It is important to note that both the Turin Papyrus and the writings of Manetho are the subject of some debate regarding their reliability.
Frank Joseph pointed out that ten kings ruled both Sumer and Babylonia before a great Flood, while Genesis refers to ten antediluvian ‘patriarchs’.
Joseph Robert Jochmans identified(b) similar parallels between the recorded dynasties of the ancient Middle East.
Dating the Atlantis War is one of the most contentious difficulties faced by Atlantology. The critical problem is to identify the time of the Atlantean War and that of the later destruction of Atlantis itself; two events apparently separated by a time span not recorded by Plato. This entry is only concerned with the date of the war. However, it should be pointed out that Plato also reveals that the Atlantis story has a very long history before the war, back to a time when ships and sailing did not yet exist (Crit.113e), so it is understandable when Plato filled the historical gap with mythological characters, namely fijves sets of twins sired by Poseidon. Of course, Poseidon being a sea god did not require a boat to get to the island of Atlantis! Plato also informs us that the twins and their descendants lived on the island for ‘many generations’ and extended their rule over many other islands in the sea (Crit.114c).
There are roughly three schools of thought regarding this important detail. The first group persist in accepting at face value Plato’s reference to a period of 9,000 solar years having elapsed since the War with Atlantis up to the time of Solon’s visit around 550 BC. The second group are convinced that the 9,000 refers to periods other than solar years, such as lunar cycles or seasons. The third group seeks to identify the time of Atlantis by linking it to other known historical events.
[1.0] 9550 BC is factually correct
This view has a slowly dwindling number of supporters among serious investigators. In order to defend this date they cite a wide range of evidence to suggest the existence of advanced cultures in the 10th millennium BC. Matters such as an earlier than conventionally accepted date for the Sphinx, early proto-alphabets a la Glozel or apparently anomalous structures such as the Lixus foundations or the controversial Baalbek megaliths have all been recruited in order to support an early date for Atlantis, many, if not all, have their dates hotly disputed. Apart from the contentious dates there is NOTHING to definitively link any of them with Plato’s Atlantis.
In common with most nations, the Egyptians competitively promoted the great antiquity of their own origins. Herodotus reports that while in Egypt he was told of a succession of kings extending over 17,000 years. The priests of Memphis told him firmly that 341 kings and a similar number of high priests had until then, ruled their country. (Herodotus, Book II, 142). Even an average reign of 20 years would give a total of nearly 7000 years whereas a more improbable 26-year average would be required to span the necessary 9000 years.
It is therefore obvious that the 17,000 years related to Herodotus is not credible raising a question regarding the trustworthiness of the 9000 years told to Solon.
In The Laws Plato refers to Egyptian art going back 10,000 years, seemingly, indicating a consistency in his belief in great antiquity of civilisation and fully compatible with his date for Atlantis. However, I have discovered that in Plato’s time ‘ten thousand’ was frequently used simply to express a large but indefinite number.
A Bible study site tells us that “The use of definite numerical expressions in an indefinite sense, that is, as round numbers, which is met with in many languages, seems to have been very prevalent in Western Asia from early times to the present day.”(h)
The acceptance of Plato’s 9,000 years as literally correct defies both commonsense and the archaeological evidence, which demonstrates that neither Athens nor a structured Egypt existed at such an early period.
[2.0] 9000 refers to units of time other than solar years
Advocates of this view, understandably point out, that the Atlantis described in such detail by Plato belongs to the Bronze Age and could not have existed at an earlier date. It is worth noting that the technology is coincidental with the most advanced known to Plato and his audience. For those who argue that mankind has been destroyed on one or more occasion and has had to start again from scratch, it is not credible that if this was the case, that the culture and technology described by Plato as existing in 9500 BC is precisely what he would have experienced himself. There is nothing in the Atlantis texts to connect it with a pre-Bronze Age society, nor is there anything to suggest any technology or cultural advance beyond that of the 4th century BC. Plato’s tale tells of the existence of at least three major nations before the destruction of Atlantis: Egypt, Athens and Atlantis. There is no archaeological evidence to indicate anything other than Neolithic cultures existing in Egypt or Athens around 9500 BC. In fact, the currently accepted date for the beginning of Egyptian civilisation is circa 3100 BC and also for the existence of a primitive culture around Athens at about the same time. This would parallel the time of the western European megalithic builders.
It may be worth noting the comments of Israel Finkelstein and Neil Silberman who have argued for a 7thcentury BC date for the final draft of the Exodus narrative rather than during the 2nd millennium BCas suggested by the text.
“In much the same way that European illuminated manuscripts of the Middle Ages depicted Jerusalem as a European city with turrets and battlements in order to heighten its direct impact on contemporary readers” (p68). Similarly, it is quite possible that Plato added architectural and technological details of his day to a more ancient tale of a lost civilisation in order to make a more powerful impression on his audience.
According to Bury’s translation, Plato mentions (Crit. 119e) that iron was used for utensils and weapons in Atlantis and so forcing us to look to a date later than 2000 BC for its destruction. Olaf Rudbeck spotted this reference around 1700.
Diaz-Montexano claims that the ‘9000 years’ in Critias has been mistranslated. He refers to the earliest versions of Critias that are available and insists that the texts permit a translation of either ‘9 times in a 1000 years’ or ‘1009’, the first being the more rational! Frank Joseph has also used this 1009 number, quoting private correspondence from Kenneth Caroli, in his 2015 regurgitation of Atlantis and 2012. Diaz-Montexano has also drawn attention to the commentary on Timaeus by Proclus,writing in the 5th century AD, where he treats Plato’s use of 9000 as having symbolic rather than literal meaning. It should also be kept in mind that many cultures, ancient and modern use specific numbers to indicate indefinite values(e).
[2.2] In June 2017, a forum on the Historum.com website included the following possible explanation for the Atlantean dates:
“ The date 8000 is given as a fraction of 8 since the Greeks commonly used fractional notation. Plato wrote in 400 BC and Solon obtained the account in 570 BC.
No Egyptian Annals ever went back 9000 or even 8000 years. The furthest back the Egyptian annals went at the time of Herodotus was to 3050 BC to the reign of Menes the first Pharaoh who Herodotus knew about. Therefore it is obvious that the number of years has been given as a fraction which was extremely common in Greek numerology.
Thus the war between Atlantis and Athens occurred in 9000/8 + 570 = 1695 BC (+/-63 years) which is pretty close to the date of the war between the Titans and the Gods c.1685-1675 BC. The entire story of Atlantis runs concurrent to the time of the Thera Eruption. You even have 10 kings ruling the land equivalent to the 12 Titans.”
The bible too denotes years as fractions, i.e. seasons, equinoxes/solstices etc. That is why you have biblical patriarchs that lived 800 and 900 year old. The ages to Noah are all counted in Lunar months.”(i)
While I’m aware that the Egyptians also had a different way of dealing with fractions, I really cannot fully understand the suggestion made above.
[2.3] 900 not 9000 years
In order to address these apparent conflicts, some have suggested that the stated 9000 years, which allegedly elapsed since the catastrophe, are the result of incorrect transcription by someone along what is a very long chain of transmission and that hundreds have somehow been confused with thousands and that the correct figure should be 900 years. Another suggestion is that the Egyptian hieroglyphics for ‘hundred’ and ‘thousand’ are easily confused. This explanation does not hold water, as there is little room for confusion between these hieroglyphics as illustrated below.
However, 900 years earlier than Solon would place the conflict with the Atlanteans during the XVIIIth Dynasty and would have been well recorded. More recently Diaz-Montexano put forward the idea that the Egyptian words for ‘100’ and ‘1000’ when spoken sounded similar leading to Solon’s error. This idea has now been taken up by James Nienhuis and in greater detail by R. McQuillen(a) .
Another explanation offered by James W. Mavor Jnr. is that the original Egyptian story emanated from Crete where it may have been written in either the Linear A or Linear B script where the symbols for 100 and 1000 are quite similar. In both scripts the symbol for 100 is a circle whereas the symbol for 1000 is a circle with four equally spaced small spikes or excrescences projecting outward.
*Nevertheless, the most potent argument against the ‘factor ten’ solution is that if the priests did not intend to suggest that Egypt was founded 8000 years before Solon’s visit but had actually meant 800 years, it would place the establishment of Egypt at around 1450 BC, which is clearly at variance with undisputed archaeological evidence. However, I contend that they were referring to the establishment of Sais as a centre of importance, not the foundation of the entire country.*
[2.4] 9000 months not years
As early as 1572 Pedro Sarmiento de Gamboa suggested the application of lunar ‘years’ rather than solar years to Plato’s figures. Augustin Zárate expressed the same view in 1577, quoting Eudoxus in support of it.
Then there are some, such as Émile Mir Chaouat and Jürgen Hepke who subscribe to the view that the 9000 ‘years’ recorded by Plato referred to months rather than solar years, as the early Egyptians extensively used a lunar calendar and in fact continued to use it throughout their long history, particularly for determining the dates of religious festivals and since Solon received the Atlantis story from Egyptian priests it would be understandable if they used lunar ‘years’ in their conversations. Eudoxus of Cnidos (c.400 BC- c. 350 BC), mathematician and astronomer, who spent a year in Egypt, declared, “The Egyptians reckon a month as a year”. Diodorus Siculus (1st cent. BC) echoes this statement. (see Richard A. Parker) and Manetho (3rd cent.BC) (Aegyptiaca[1373.40])
This use of months rather than years would give us a total of just 750 years before Solon’s visit and so would place the Atlantis catastrophe around 1300 BC, nearly coinciding with the eruption of Thera and the collapse of the Minoan civilisation.
A similar explanation as been offered by J.Q. Jacobs to rationalise the incredible time spans found in ancient Indian literature, who suggested that numbers referred to days rather than years(b).
[2.5] 5,000 not 9,000 years
A claim was made on Graham Hancock’s website in 2008(c) that Plato did not write 9,000 but instead wrote 5,000, but that the characters for both were quite similar leading to the misunderstanding. This claim was apparently originally made by Livezeanu Mihai. However, my reading of Greek numerals makes this improbable as 9,000 requires five characters ( one for 5,000 and one for each of the other four thousands), while 5,000 needs just the one.
[3.1] Sometime after 9500 BC.
Jonas Bergmancorrectly points out that according to the story related by the priests of Sais to Solon,the Egyptian civilisation was founded 1000 years after Athens was first established in 9600 BC. Plato describes the original division of the earth between the gods of old, Poseidon got Atlantis and Athena got Greece. The implication is that both were founded at the same time, namely 9600 BC. Realistically, the 9000 year time span is better treated as an introductory literary cliché such as ‘once upon a time’ or the Irish ‘fado, fado’ (long, long ago). Plato’s text describes the building of Atlantis and informs us that no man could get to the island ‘for ships and voyages were not yet’. Since Atlantis had twelve hundred warships at the time of the conflict with Athens, the war could not have taken place in 9600 BC. The development of seafaring and shipbuilding would have taken a considerable time. Bergman concludes that the war with Atlantis took place long after 9600 BC.
[3.2] Peter James as quoted in Francis Hitching’s The World Atlas of Mysteries[307.138] is reported to have accepted the orthodox date of 3100 BC as the start of Egyptian civilisation and considering the priest’s statement that the events outlined took place one thousand years before the creation of Egypt and so added only 500 years to compensate for nationalistic exaggeration and has concluded that 3600 BC is a more realistic date for the destruction of Atlantis.
[3.3] Early in the 20th century, the German scholar Adolf Schulten and the classicist H. Diller from Kiel, both advocated an even more radical date of around 500 BC, having identified the narrative of Plato as paralleling much of the Persian wars (500-449 BC) with the Greeks. This however would be after Solon’s trip to Egypt and have made little sense of Plato’s reference to him.
[3.4] 4015 BC is the precise date offered by Col. Alexander Braghine who credits the destruction of Atlantis to a close encounter with Halley’s Comet on the 7th June in that year. This is close to the date favoured by deGrazia.
[3.5] 3590-1850 BChas been suggested by the Czech writer Radek Brychta who has developed an ingenious idea based on the fact that the Egyptians who were so dependent on the Nile, divided their year into three seasons related to their river, the flooding, the blossom and the harvest periods. Brychta points out that counting time by seasons rather than solar years was common in the Indus civilisation that occupied part of modern Pakistan. Even today Pakistan has three seasons, cool, hot and wet. Brychta contends that the 9000 ‘years’ related to Solon were in fact seasons and should be read by us as 3000 years which when added to the date of Solon’s Egyptian visit would give an outside date of 3590 BC. If Brychta is correct this 9000 year/season corruption could easily have occurred during the transmission and translation of the story during its journey from the Indus to the Nile valley.
[3.7] 2200 BCis the proposed date put forward by Dr. Anton Mifsud for the end of Atlantis, located in the vicinity of his native Malta. He arrived at this conclusion after studying the comments of Eumelos of Cyrene who dated the catastrophe to the reign of King Ninus of Assyria. Around the same time, in Egypt, unusually low Nile floods led to the collapse of centralised government and generations of political turmoil(f). According to some commentators(g) the Los Millares culture also ended around the same time.
[3.8] 1200 BC is a date favoured by investigators such as Frank Joseph, Eberhard Zangger and Steven Sora. It is dependent on the acceptance of Plato’s 9000 ‘years’ being lunar rather than solar. It is worth noting that this date has also been linked to the suggested close encounter with the Phaëton comet and its destructive effects globally.
[3.9] More than one Atlantis!
It is not unreasonable to consider Plato’s Atlantis narrative as a literary amalgam of two or more historically based stories or myths. One possibility is that the Egyptian priests related to Solon the tale of the inundation of a powerful and advanced culture in the dim and distant past. Such an event did occur, worldwide, when the Ice Age glaciers melted, resulting, for example, in the eastern Atlantic, the flooding the North Sea, the Celtic Shelf and dramatically reducing in size the Canaries and the Azores and creating the British Isles. Obviously, the entire world was affected by this event, so that there were also major inundations in the West Indies and the South China Sea. However, events off the coasts of Europe and Africa would be more likely to become part of folklore on this side of the Atlantic.
[4.0] My own preference is to treat the use of 9000 by Solon/Plato as an expression of an indefinite number. It is worth noting that the Egyptian hieratic numerals also stopped with the highest value, expressed by a single character, being 9000. However, having studied the matter more closely I am reluctantly drawn to the ‘factor ten’ theory. This I have written about at some length in Joining the Dots.
The 1st millennium BC saw the introduction and gradual development of new writing and numerical systems by the Greeks. At an early stage 9000 was the highest number expressed by a single character in Greek and in time it came to be used to denote a large but uncertain number. As the needs of commerce and science demanded ever higher numbers a new character ‘M’ for myriad with a value of 10,000 was introduced. It also was used to indicate a large indefinite number, a practice that continues to this very day. Greek numerical notation was still being developed during Plato’s life.
Today, we use similar expressions such as ‘I have a million things to do’ with no intention of being taken literally, but simply to indicate ‘many’(e). It is unfortunate that this interpretation of 9,000 does little to pinpoint the date of the Atlantean war, but it is not unreasonable to attribute a value to it of something in excess of 1,000 and possibly a multiple of it.
However, having said that, I am also attracted to the ’factor ten’ theory after a study of other numbers in the Atlantis narrative which all seem to be consistently exaggerated by a similar amount, which seems to be a factor of ten!
Andrew Collins in his Gateway to Atlantis[072.52] wrote “a gross inconsistency has crept into the account, for although Critias affirms that Athens’ aggressor came from ‘without’ the Pillars of Hercules, the actual war is here said to have taken place ‘nine thousand years’ before the date of the dialogue, c.421 BC. This implies a date in the region of 9421 BC, which is not what was stated in the Timaeus. Here 9000 years is the time that has elapsed between the foundation of Athens and Solon’s visit to Sais c. 570 BC. Since Egypt was said to have been founded a full thousand years later, and the ‘aggressor’ rose up against both Athens and Egypt, it provides a date post 8570 BC. These widely differing dates leave us with a glaring anomaly that defies explanation. The only obvious solution is to accuse Plato of a certain amount of sloppiness when compiling the text.”
Collins’ suggestion of ‘sloppiness’ is made somewhat redundant if my suggestion that Plato was using 9,000 as a large, but indefinite idiomatic value, could be substantiated.
The late Ulf Richter was quite unwilling to accept Plato’s 9,000 years as reliable after a close study of the relevant texts.
Others have produced evidence to suggest that this period in the Earth’s history saw one or more major catastrophic events that may or may not have been interconnected; (i) a collision or near miss with an extraterrestrial body, (ii) a pole shift, (iii) the melting of the glaciers of the last Ice Age and the consequent raising of sea levels worldwide. This rise provides a credible mechanism that could account for the ’sinking’ of Atlantis.
Mary Settegast, an archaeological researcher, has defended the early date for Atlantis with a remarkable book that delves extensively into Mediterranean and Middle Eastern prehistory and mythologies.