Ignatius Donnelly was obviously aware that Gladstone was familiar with the works of Plato having studied the classics at Oxford and having written and lectured on the works of Homer and so sent him a copy of his book in February 1882. *There is a story, probably apochryphal that “Gladstone sent this letter and addressed it to Ignatius Donnelly Esquire, America. And Ignatius being an Irish man and not wishing to be outdone, decided to reply to him and his reply said: The Right Honorable William Ewart Gladstone, the world.”(a)* A short correspondence between them ensued.
It then seems that Gladstone was so impressed by Donnelly’s book on Atlantis that he sought funds from the British Treasury to send a ship to locate the position of Atlantis in the Atlantic. The Treasury declined the request. However, as Marjorie Braymer remarked, “news like this sent the sales of Donnelly’s book skyrocketing”. Incidentally, Gladstone would have been familiar with the works of Plato having studied the classics at Oxford and having written and lectured on Homer and his works.
Crete was until recently thought to have been first settled around 7000 BC. However, excavations at nine sites in 2008 and 2009 have revealed double-edged hand axes dated to “at least” 130,000 years ago. This discovery has suggested(a) that Stone Age man had developed seafaring abilities.
By general consensus Crete was known as Keftiu to the ancient Egyptians.
Sir Arthur Evans, knighted for his archaeological finds on Crete, excavated at Knossos from 1900-1905 leading to the discovery of the famous ‘palace’ there. Evans saw Knossos as an administrative centre although it had no defensive features, which might be expected. In the 1970’s Hans Georg Wunderlich (1928-1974) following the views of Oswald Spengler, proposed in The Secret of Crete , that the ‘palace’ was in fact a mortuary temple. This idea has more recently been considered by the late Philip Coppens(c).
As early as 1910 the Rev. James Baikie suggested Crete as the location of Atlantis. A year earlier K.T. Frost outlined parallels between Atlantis and the Minoan empire. In the 1920’s Joseph McCabe a former Catholic priest was also comvinced that Crete was the location of Atlantis. More decades were to pass before Dr Angelos Galanopoulos developed the idea further. There has been doubt that the decline of the Minoan civilisation in the 2nd millennium BC was linked with Theran explosion. Nevertheless, Bacon and Galanopoulos admit that a Minoan explanation for the Atlantis story ‘is correct in all points’ except date, dimensions and location of ‘Pillars’! Many commentators have added reasons to support the Minoan Hypothesis.
*Atlantis was the way to other islands. This is an accurate description of Crete as the gateway to the Cyclades and Greece.
*The palace of the Atlantians is on a low hill 50 stadia inland and near to a fertile plain is a good description of Knossos.
*The description of the land fits perfectly with the southern coast of Crete.
*There were bulls hunted without weapons, which is characteristic of Minoan Crete.
*The construction of the buildings matches Knossos.
Marjorie Braymer highlights the fact that the Cretan Mesara Plain is oblong in shape and one tenth of the dimensions of the plain mentioned by Plato. A fact that gains in importance if a tenfold exaggeration of the dimensions by Plato is accepted.
J. G. Bennett has gone further and argued strongly for a linkage of the destruction of Minoan civilisation, with the Flood of Deucalion, the Biblical Exodus and the obliteration of Plato’s Atlantis. Bennett quotes Plato’s Laws (705.15), which speaks of a significant migration from Crete, as evidence for a major catastrophe on the island.
In April 2004 a BBC Timewatch programme looked at a possible link between Crete and Atlantis focussing on evidence of ancient tsunami damage on the island that they linked to the eruption of Thera. This idea has been refuted by W. Shepard Baird who offers a pyroclastic surge as a more credible explanation(b). In 2010 the BBC broadcast another documentary supporting the Minoan Hypothesis, although not very convincingly in the opinion of this compiler.
On the other hand, Peter James points out that there is no connection in Greek mythology between Crete and Atlas. Further objections include the fact that no ancient canals have been found on Crete, the island did not sink and the failure of Plato to simply name Crete as the location of his Atlantis.
Recently Gavin Menzies has, unsuccesfully, in my view, attempted to breathe new life into the Minoan Hypothesis in The Lost Empire of Atlantis.
An even less impressive effort to support a Minoan Atlantis is a slender work by Lee R. Kerr entitled Griffin Quest – Investigating Atlantis , who also published an equally useless sequel, Atlantis of the Minoans and Celts.
Classical Writers Supporting the Existence of Atlantis
Although many of the early writers are quoted as referring to Plato’s Atlantis or at least alluding to places or events that could be related to his story there is no writer who can be identified as providing unambiguous independent evidence for Atlantis’ existence. One explanation could be that Atlantis may have been known by different names to different peoples in different ages, just as the Roman city of Aquisgranum was later known as Aachen to the Germans and concurrently as Aix-la-Chapelle to the French. However, it would have been quite different if the majority of post-Platonic writers had completely ignored or hotly disputed the veracity of Plato’s tale.
*Alan Cameron, a devout Atlantis sceptic, is adamant that ”it is only in modern times that people have taken the Atlantis story seriously, no one did so in antiquity.” Both statements are clearly wrong, as can be seen from the list below and my Chronology of Atlantis Theories and even more comprehensively by Thorwald C. Franke’s Kritische Geschichte der Meinungen und Hypothesen zu Platons Atlantis (Critical history of the hypotheses on Plato’s Atlantis).*
H.S. Bellamy mentions that about 100 Atlantis references are to be found in post-Platonic classical literature. He also argues that if Plato “had put forward a merely invented story in the Timaeus and Critias Dialogues the reaction of his contemporaries and immediate followers would have been rather more critical.” Thorwald C. Franke echoes this in his Aristotle and Atlantis[880.46]. Bellamy also notes that Sais, where the story originated, was in some ways a Greek city having regular contacts with Athens and should thertefore have generated some denial from the priests if the Atlantis tale had been untrue.
Homer(c.8thcent. BC)wrote in his famous Odyssey of a Phoenician island called Scheriathat many writers have controversially identified as Atlantis. It could be argued that this is another example of different names being applied to the same location.
Herodotus (c.484-420 BC)regarded by some as the greatest historian of the ancients, wrote about the mysterious island civilization in the Atlantic
Syrianus (died c.437 BC) the neoplatonist and one-time head of Plato’s Academy in Athens, considered Atlantis to be an historical fact. He wrote a commentary on Timaeus, now lost, but his views are recorded by Proclus.
Eumelos of Cyrene (c.400 BC) was a historian and contemporary of Plato’s who placed Atlantis in the Central Mediterranean between Libya and Sicily.
Aristotle (384-322 BC) Plato’s pupil is constantly quoted in connection with his alleged criticism of Plato’s story. This claim was not made until 1819, when Delambre misinterpreted a commentary on Strabo by Isaac Casaubon. This error has been totally refuted by Thorwald C. Franke. Furthermore it was Aristotle who stated that the Phoenicians knew of a large island in the Atlantic known as ’Antilia’.
Crantor (4th-3rdcent. BC) was Plato’s first editor who reported visiting Egypt where he claimed to have seen a marble column carved with hieroglyphics about Atlantis.
Theophrastus of Lesbos (370-287 BC) refers to colonies of Atlantis in the sea.
Theopompos of Chios (born c.380 BC), a Greek historian – wrote of the huge size of Atlantis and its cities of Machimum and Eusebius and a golden age free from disease and manual labour. Zhirov states[458.38/9] that Theopompos was considered a fabulist.
Apollodorus of Athens (fl. 140 BC) who was a pupil of Aristarchus of Samothrace (217-145 BC) wrote “Poseidon was very wrathful, and flooded the Thraisian plain, and submerged Attica under sea-water.” Bibliotheca, (III, 14, 1.)
Poseidonius (135-51 BC.) was Cicero’s teacher and wrote, “There were legends that beyond the Hercules Stones there was a huge area which was called “Poseidonis” or “Atlanta”
Diodorus Siculus (1stcent. BC), the Sicilian writer who has made a number of references to Atlantis.
Marcellus (c.100 BC) in his Ethiopic History quoted by Proclus [Zhirov p.40] refers to Atlantis consisting of seven large and three smaller islands.
Statius Sebosus (c. 50 BC), the Roman geographer, tells us that it was forty days’ sail from the Gorgades (the Cape Verdes) and the Hesperides (the Islands of the Ladies of the West, unquestionably the Caribbean – see Gateway to Atlantis).
Timagenus (c.55 BC), a Greek historian wrote of the war between Atlantis and Europe and noted that some of the ancient tribes in France claimed it as their original home. There is some dispute about the French druids’ claim.
Philo of Alexandria (b.15 BC) also known as Philo Judaeus also accepted the reality of Atlantis’ existence.
Strabo (67 BC-23 AD) in his Geographia stated that he fully agreed with Plato assertion that Atlantis was fact rather than fiction.
Plutarch (46-119 AD) wrote about the lost continent in his book Lives, he recorded that both the Phoenicians and the Greeks had visited this island which lay on the west end of the Atlantic.
Pliny the Younger (61-113 AD) is quoted by Frank Joseph as recording the existence of numerous sandbanks outside the Pillars of Hercules as late as 100 AD.
Pomponius Mela (c.100 AD), placed Atlantis in a southern temperate region.
Tertullian (160-220 AD) associated the inundation of Atlantis with Noah’s flood.
Claudius Aelian (170-235 AD) referred to Atlantis in his work The Nature of Animals.
Arnobius (4thcent. AD.), a Christian bishop, is frequently quoted as accepting the reality of Plato’s Atlantis.
Ammianus Marcellinus (330-395 AD) [see Marcellinus entry]
Proclus Lycaeus (410-485 AD), a representative of the Neo-Platonic philosophy, recorded that there were several islands west of Europe. The inhabitants of these islands, he proceeds, remember a huge island that they all came from and which had been swallowed up by the sea. He also writes that the Greek philosopher Crantor saw the pillar with the hieroglyphic inscriptions, which told the story of Atlantis.
Cosmas Indicopleustes (6thcent. AD), a Byzantine geographer, in his Topographica Christiana (547 AD) quotes the Greek Historian, Timaeus (345-250 BC) who wrote of the ten kings of Chaldea [Zhirov p.40]. Marjorie Braymer[198.30] wrote that Cosmas was the first to use Plato’s Atlantis to support the veracity of the Bible.
There was little discussion of Atlantis after the 6th century until the Latin translation of Plato’s work by Marsilio Ficino was produced in the 15th century.
Marjorie Braymer (1911–1988) was a teacher, editor and latterly a writer of children’s books. She was the author of a book that reviewed the development of the Atlantis story from Plato to the discovery of America and the subsequent identification of it with Atlantis. She then shows how the American location lost favour and attention shifted to the Atlantic, a view brought to great prominence by Ignatius Donnelly. In time our improved knowledge of geology gradually undermined the acceptability of Donnelly’s view and so in the middle of the 20th century attention shifted further east to the Mediterranean with the discovery of Minoan remains under a mass of volcanic ash on ancient Thera, now Santorini, that seemed to match Plato’s lost civilisation in many respects. Braymer devoted more than a quarter of her book to the subject and concluded that it was highly probable that Thera had been Atlantis.
The book was written over a quarter of a century ago and as a consequence could not take account of more recent developments such as the Maltese, Sardinian and Egyptian location theories.
Although Braymer’s very informative book is primarily intended for young adult readers, it is quite adequate as an introduction to the Minoan Hypothesis for a wider audience.
The Bible offers no direct reference to Atlantis, but this is not to be seen as proof of its non-existence, when you consider that in spite of the fact that the Hebrews were in Egypt for hundreds of years, the Bible does not mention the pyramids either and they most certainly did and still do exist.
The Bible has been invoked as justification for everything from war to slavery. It has been one of the most divisive books ever, having been instrumental in the creation of hundreds, if not thousands, of competing Christian sects over the last two millennia. It is assumed that any theory, religious or secular that can be shown to have a biblical foundation will automatically have enhanced credibility.
Jean De Serres, the 16th century historian, was probably the first to link Atlantis with the Bible when he wrote that Atlantis had been located in the Holy Land. Lewis Spence[259.33] accused Huet, Borchart and Vossius, in the 16th and 17th centuries of using ‘ingenious misreading of the Pentateuch’ to claim that the Platonic story of Atlantis was in reality a version of patriarchal history. In a similar vein, in 1726 a French lawyer, Claude Olivier, wrote of his conviction that the ten tribes of Israel were to be equated with the ten kingdoms of Atlantis.
The Book of Genesis in particular has inspired speculation regarding a possible link between the Bible and the Atlantis narrative.
Therefore, I advise that any new scriptural interpretation must be treated with extreme caution. With that in mind, I mention that an American researcher, J. D. Brady, who claims to be a scriptural scholar and as such has identified Atlantis, drawing on chapters 26-28 of Ezekiel. He refers to the Atlanteans as Tyrrhenians and names their leader as Satan! He claims that the Tyre referred to in these chapters was in fact an island named Tyrus that Plato knew as Atlantis. He offers a range of data to suggest that this Tyrus was not the Tyre we know today located in Lebanon. Brady claims with great certainty that the remains of Atlantis are to be found in the Bay of Troy! A 2014 book by David Hershiser, Beyond the Pillars of Hercules, has taken up this idea that the reference in Ezekiel was concerned with Atlantis.
Not content with identifying Atlantis, Brady also claims to know the location of the Ark of the Covenant, saying that “It is currently secreted in an underground treasure crypt on Lemnos Island.”(b)
H.S. Bellamy, the Austrian researcher, also produced a volume, The Book of Revelation is History, devoted to demonstrating that the last book of the New Testament is in fact a coded description of the catastrophes that accompanied the capture of our Moon. He claimed that the reference to the ten horns is an allusion to the ten Atlantean kings. He also interpreted the Book of Jeremiah I & II as well as Ezekiel as containing references to aspects of the Atlantis story.
However, R Cedric Leonard does offer(a) an interesting comparison of a passage in the Old Testament with the classical writers:
“And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them, that the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose…
There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same mighty men (heroes) which were of old, men of renown.” (Genesis 6:1-2,4)
Leonard points out that this coincides with Plato’s history of the Atlanteans and highlights that Hesiod referred to the Titans, of which Atlas was one, as the ‘sons of heaven’.
Leonard also offers a more rational translation of Job 26:5-6 that strengthens this view that the Atlanteans and Titans are identical:
“The Titans tremble beneath the waters and the inhabitants thereof. Hell is naked before him, and destruction hath no covering”.
2011 saw the publication of Atlantis: The Eyewitnessesby Walter Parks in which he also quoted extensively from the Book of Job, having claimed that it was written in 9619 BC and contained an eyewitness account of the catastrophe that destroyed Atlantis!
Thorwald C. Franke has reviewed a range of theories that have sought to associated various aspects of Bible history with elements of the Atlantis story. Most are rather speculative but Franke concludes(d) that “the Bible should not be underestimated: There could indeed be indirect hints to Plato’s Atlantis in the Bible!”
The biblical references to Tarshish is also used by those who equate it with Tartessos and in turn identify it as Atlantis. The location of Tarshish is a highly contentious issue with scholars unable to arrive at any clear consensus. However, there is some agreement that Tartessos had been located in Southern Spain. Some proponents of that idea not only consider Tarshish identical with Tartessos, but with Atlantis as well. Richard Freund is a proponent of a Spanish Tartessos, which he also identifies with Atlantis and of course with the biblical Tarshish. This Bible connection was taken further in the 2017 James Cameron National Geographic documentary, Atlantis Rising, shows Simcha Jacobovici offering as ‘evidence’ for a linkage between Atlantis and the Jewish Temple, the design of the Hebrew menorah(g), which he claims is a representation of one half the concentric rings of Plato’s city of Atlantis. This foolish idea is not new, as it has already been suggested by Prof. Yahya Ababni(f).
Turning the tables on the idea of the Bible supporting the story of Atlantis, Marjorie Braymer[198.30]wrote that Cosmas Indicopleustes (6th cent. AD) was the first to use Plato’s Atlantis to support the veracity of the Bible.
Another line of investigation might be the suggested parallels between Greek mythology and Genesis(c).
A paper on the Academia.edu website(e) by M. De Rosa argues that Atlantis was the ‘Beast’ in the Book Of Revelations!
*(b) http://www.ritmeyer.com/2008/05/15/the-ark-of-the-covenant-on-the-trail-again/ (no access June 2017)*