Malta is a small densely populated archipelago, strategically situated in the Central Mediterranean between Sicily and Tunisia. There is a claim that early Maltese were Phoenicians who came from Lebanon around 3000 BC(i).
Malta’s name is generally accepted to be derived from the Greek word for honey meli and was later known to the Romans as Melita the Latin equivalent. Malta was renowned in ancient times for the quality of its honey, which may explain why the light-fingered, 1st century BC Roman governor, Verres, stole 400 amphorae of it (about 2800 gallons) over a three-year period.
Today, Malta is a stepping-stone between North Africa and Europe. At the time of the last Ice Age it was probably joined to Sicily but whether it was also joined to North Africa is a matter for debate. This possibility depends on the extent to which the level of the Mediterranean was lowered by the growth of the Ice Age glaciers and whether that lowering was exacerbated by the existence of a land bridge between Southern Spain and Morocco. Vittorio Castellani offers a possible map of the enlarged Sicily extending to include the Maltese Islands, leaving a narrow strait between the expanded Malta and the coast of Tunisia. Dr. Anton Mifsud has researched ancient maps of the Central Mediterranean region and demonstrated that the early cartographers knew the Maltese archipelago as having a much larger area than at present. G.N. Godwin expressed similar views regarding an earlier enlarged Maltese landmass in his Guide to the Maltese Islands .
The Greek text describes Atlantis as being ‘pro’ in front of or before the Pillars of Heracles rather than ‘meta’ beyond them, which would fit a description of Malta being in front of (east of) Pillars, if as suggested, they were located at the Strait of Sicily.
Commenting on this preposition, J. Warren Wells points out that “Plato uses ‘pro’ seven times in Timaeus and twice in Critias. In eight of these cases, it is used in relation to ‘time before’ rather than ‘place before.’It is used only one time in relation to place or position. That single occurrence is where he refers to the island of Atlantis being before (pro) the straits at the Pillars of Heracles.” He concludes that at the very least, close proximity is implied.
W.K.C.Guthrie in A History of Greek Philosophy (Vol.5, p245) comments similarly – “’before the entrance’ I take to mean that it was at no great distance, but the volcanic Azores have a better geographical claim to be the remains of Atlantis than any spot within the Mediterranean.”
Guthrie recognised that Plato was describing the island of Atlantis being near the Pillars of Heracles, but based on the assumption that the Pillars were situated at Gibraltar, he was forced to opt for the Azores as the location of Atlantis, in spite of the fact that at a distance of 1,100 miles they cannot in any way be described as being “at no great distance” from the ‘Pillars’. Consideration of other know locations, particularly in the Central Mediterranean, that were also, at different times, designated as the Pillars of Heracles, show a number of islands, including Malta, in close proximity to each nominated site.
Malta is home to some of the earliest and most spectacular megalithic monuments in Europe. Unfortunately many more have been lost, Lenie Reedijk in her recent book, Sirius – the Star of the Maltese Temples , she lists 100 megalithic sites on Malta & Gozo, of which two-thirds have been lost [p.14/15]. She also contends that the temple building in Malta was spread over a much longer period than generally accepted, beginning as early as 9150 BC and last until 4250 BC.
A number of attempts have been made to link the orientation of the temples with various astronomical bodies. A limited study by John Cox proposed a connection with moonrise (t) . Mario Vassallo favours an association with the winter solstice sunrise(u) . Klaus Albrecht also identifies the winter solstice sunrise as his preferred orientation(v) . Reedijk offers a far more radical explanation for the alignment of all the temples, namely that they directed at Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky at that time. However, precession slowly broke that alignment. Reedijk noted that “a star whose rising and setting point was aligned with a temple axis of a given monument at a given time will have moved out of its line of sight in the course of several centuries. When this happened the need would have been felt to build another monument with a slightly different orientation of its main axis, in order to be in line with the star again.”
What I do not understand is why, according to Reedjik, the Maltese temple builders continued to build their re-aligned monuments for over five millennia without simply modifying existing temples rather than engaging in the immense work involved in starting from scratch after every failure of orientation.
Malta is home to some the earliest and most spectacular megalithic monuments in Europe. Dr. Mifsud has pointed out that the size and number of these ancient monuments is greater than an island of Malta’s present extent could be expected to produce. This view when combined with the mysterious ‘cart-ruts’[ that run straight off cliffs, and then reappear on the opposite side of a bay or across open sea, all point to Malta having been a much larger landmass within the experience of man, namely, not earlier than 5000 BC. The cartruts.com website shows(d) the possible shoreline of Malta at 5000 BC and 8000 BC. The same site has a page on ‘torba’ an alleged prehistoric Maltese cement.The tiny island of Filfla three miles off the south coast of Malta had cart ruts visible on it before it was used for target practice by British military(g). The clear implication being that it had been connected to the main island while it was inhabited. Furthermore, three miles offshore from Sliema on the north site of Malta submerged ruins of what is thought to be a temple (now named ‘Gebel Gol-Bahar’)(h) were discovered in 1999.
It is quite possible that further discoveries will be made, but as it is, there is sufficient evidence to prove that when it was initially settled and certainly as late as some of the Temple Period, the archipelago had been considerably greater in extent than today. A short history of Filfla is worth a read.(o)
In 2010, a former co-author of Mifsud’s, Charles Savona-Ventura, rather strangely, independently published a fourteen-page booklet, In Search of Atlantis, in which he reiterated his support for Malta as Atlantis!
In 2014, it was reported(k) in the Times of Malta that a huge canyon, previously unknown, with an area eight times the size of the Maltese Islands, had been discovered in an area known as the Malta Escarpment. It was also found that the canyon had been active recently, highlighting the geological instability in the region. (The link below includes a short video clip).
In 1923, R. M. Gattefossé commented that many of Malta’s ancient monuments were “Atlantean” in character, although he believed that Atlantis had been located in the Atlantic. Dr Mifsud attributes the earliest linking of Malta with Atlantis to the 16th century writer, Bibischok. However, it was over three hundred years before the suggestion was made again, when in 1854, Giorgio Grongnet de Vasse, the renowned Maltese architect, proposed that the Maltese Islands were remnants of Atlantis. In 1910 the celebrated Maltese botanist, John Borg offered the opinion that Atlantis had been situated on the submerged land between Malta and North Africa.
D. H. Childress reports that in 1922, the archaeologist, Joseph Bosco also supported this idea. Another three quarters of a century passed before that the idea of a Maltese connection with Atlantis was again revived, in particular by the publication of two books, one by Anton Mifsud and the other Francis Galea, in English and Maltese respectively. Both of these books are the result of extensive investigation and have inspired others to continue the study. Graham Hancock was prompted to visit the island and gained material there for his popular book on ancient flooded cities.
Two other contributors to the study and literature of the island’s prehistoric origins that should be mentioned are the late Joseph S. Ellul and Hubert Zeitlmair. Ellul was Maltese and the author of a work, Malta’s Prediluvian Culture…, that links the submergence of some of Malta’s monuments with Noah’s Flood, which he identified with the controversial idea of the breaching of a land bridge between Spain and Morocco.
While most researchers have focused on the extraordinary number of ancient monuments on the small archipelago, it might be worth considering what is not found on the islands, namely, anything to do with military action. There are no obvious defensive structures and no depiction of warriors or their weaponry. Everything seems to indicate a peaceful society, perhaps, as I, and others have already speculated, it was originally a place of pilgrimage(m)(n) or some form of sanctuary!
Zeitlmair, a retired German real estate investor, who is fascinated by the Megalithic remains on Malta, but unfortunately he ascribes their existence to the intervention of alien visitors a la Zechariah Sitchin. He has outlined his views in a book, written in German with an English version promised in the future. Zeitlmair expands on a number of his outlandish claims on his website(f), UFOs, Nibiru as well as “the Atlantean ‘Cold Fire Fusion’ Power house in Malta that still generates Non-lethal High Frequency Active Auroral Energy.” Similar waffle has been published in the first two books of a trilogy by Francis Xavier Aloisio, who claims that the Maltese temples “are a Reservoir of Consciousness, so we need to start to look at the structures in a very different way. They were ‘charge compressors’, ‘energy generators’ and ‘power houses.’ In a word, they were ‘energy centres’ for planet Earth.” Quite recently, Aloisio’s wife, Christine, also joined the ‘lunatic fringe’ and plans to publish The Crystal City of Atlantis, which she claims is under Malta!
Casey Terry notes[1542.36] that Pavel Smutny, a Slovakian researcher, who is an ardent promoter of the idea of ancient advanced technology, has proposed that the Maltese temple complexes “were used probably as generators of high frequency acoustic waves. Purpose were (maybe) to arrange a communication channel between various islands”!
The most recent and more rational support for a Maltese location has come from Albert Nikas, a computer engineer, who submitted a paper(b) to the 2008 Atlantis Conference. Sunday November 19th 2017 saw the publication of an article(l) by Nikas in Malta’s Sunday Independent, in which he describes his recent visit to many temples in the archipelago. He goes on to claim that he has located the ruins of an ancient city, just offshore, which he believes to have been the capital of Atlantis, not far from Valletta, the modern capital.
Massimo Rapisarda submitted another paper to the same conference suggesting that Atlantis had been located in Sicily in the vicinity of the seaport of Marsala. That conference also heard Axel Hausmann identify a region that included part of North Africa and the area between Libya and Sicily as the home of Atlantis.
Alberto Arecchi, who also advocates a Central Mediterranean Atlantis noted that “We can identify in this system the “Heracles’ columns” of the ancient mythology (one of the two “columns” appears identifiable with the island of Malta).” (s)
I do not know what future investigations will reveal, but I am certain that they will demonstrate that Malta had a more important part to play in the Atlantis story than is generally accepted today. The megalithic heritage of Malta predates that of Egypt by a millennium, considerably enhancing its candidacy as the location of Atlantis. A wonderful panoramic view of some the temples can be seen on the Internet(c).
The second largest of the Maltese archipelago, Gozo, is claimed by some to have been Ogygia the home of the mythical Calypso.
A number of websites discuss the prehistory of Malta(a). One well-illustrated site(e) concentrates on the evidence of catastrophic events affecting the landscape of the archipelago in the distant past. A newspaper report of June 2016(j) pushes back the prehistory of Malta by 30,000 years with the claim that Neanderthals may have lived on the island, assuming that it was an island then!*In 2016, Mifsud published Dossier Malta – Neanderthal  in which he outlines the evidence for the existence of Neanderthal Man on Malta.*
Malta also produces a Cabernet Sauvignon wine in the town of Marsaxlokk appropriately, but not uniquely, called Atlantis.
On Sunday January 13th 2019. the UK’s Sunday Express delighted its readers with TWO Atlantis stories(q)(r). The online edition of the paper offered a video clip of the Maltese island of Filfla, while the commentator told us that Plato had said that a devastating earthquake had destroyed Atlantis it was finished off by an eruption. This is factually incorrect as Plato never mentioned an eruption. Then, as if that was not enough, the same edition of the same newspaper has another story by the same ‘reporter’, with an ‘Atlantis Discovered’ headline claims that the remains of an ancient 8,000-year-old city, home to ‘tens of thousands’ of people, had been discovered in the North Sea, in a huge region sometimes referred to as Doggerland. The reporter cites Dr.Richard Bates in support of this account. Unfortunately, the 2012 comments by Dr. Bates never mentioned ‘a city’, only a vast area occupied by ‘tens of thousands’ of people, presumably early farmers(p). These two accounts are a sad reflection on the quality of media reporting today.
(a) http://www.aboutmalta.com/HISTORY/PREHISTORY/ (link broken June 2018)
(d) http://cartruts.com/ (Link broken Mar. 2019) See: https://web.archive.org/web/20190102032648/http://cartruts.com/
(f) http://www.maltadiscovery.org/en/ (link broken 2018) See: https://web.archive.org/web/20160401190453/http://www.maltadiscovery.org/en/
(m) http://www.templesofmalta.com/ggantija.htm (Link broken Aug. 2018) See: https://web.archive.org/web/20160823204054/http://www.templesofmalta.com/ggantija.htm
(u) ‘The Location of the Maltese Neolithic Temple Sites’, Sunday Times, 26 August 2007, pp. 44–46.
This conclusion is probably based on the existence of a location on the northeast coast of the island called Gadir. However, it must be kept in mind that Gadira or variants of it are frequently found in the Mediterranean region, usually at the site of former Phoenician settlements. However, north of Pantelleria are the Egadi Islands(c), another name evocative of Plato’s Gades.
Gades has been associated with Erytheia in the story of the Trials of Hercules, so if the Map Mistress website is correct in locating Erytheia(d) between Pantelleria and the Egadi Islands, it would confine all the ‘Trials’ in the Central and Eastern Mediterranean, consequently, locating the Pillars of Heracles somewhere in the latter region.
More recently, some authors have identified the Straits of Sicily as being the location of the Pillars of Heracles referred to by Plato in his tale of Atlantis. A land bridge between Sicily and Tunisia, including Pantelleria, has also been suggested, but this is unlikely according to bathymetric data.
A fortified Neolithic village has been unearthed on its west coast and ancient structures, known as ‘sesi’, similar to the nuraghi of Sardinia, are to be seen in the southeast. In 2005, jewellery in the style of the Egyptian Second Intermediate Period (1700-1550 BC) was discovered on the island. This would add to the opinion that Pantelleria was a major trading and cultural crossroads in ancient times.
Massimo Rapisarda has commented that “a good candidate to host a primordial civilization might have been the archipelago then existing in the Strait of Sicily, a natural maritime link between Tunisia and Italy, prized by the presence of an obsidian source at Pantelleria.”(f)
In August 2015, it was claimed(b) that a manufactured stone column was found on the Pantelleria Vecchia Bank, just north of the island of Pantelleria, in 40 metres of water. It is claimed that the area was an archipelago, if not actually connected to Sicily, before the last Ice Age ended around 7350 BC. The monolith was dated using shells extracted from it. It took no time before the discovery was linked by a number of sites with Plato’s Atlantis. While I believe that the area was part of the Atlantean domain, I am more inclined to date its expansionist intentions to a much later period, such as the 2nd millennium BC.
Massimo Rapisarda is an Italian physicist from Catania in Sicily, who has opted for the as the location of the Pillars of Heracles and that Atlantis itself was Sicily with its capital situated in the vicinity of Marsala on the western end of Sicily. This city is located on the site of Lilybaeum, the main Carthaginian stronghold on the island.
Rapisarda is somewhat sceptical regarding the details of Plato’s story, but accepts that it might have been compatible with an existence in the Central Mediterranean at the end of the last Ice Age. (see his map)
He has a website(a) with a section on Atlantis to which he has now added an English translation that is better than the Google translator provides.
In 2015, Rapisarda published a paper entitled A Scientific Approach to Plato’s Atlantis. This extensive document is an illustrated and fully referenced product in which he offers a wealth of evidence to support a literal acceptance of Plato’s early date for Atlantis. The paper, in English, can be freely downloaded(b).
The Egadi Islands are located off the west coast of Sicily and were the location for a naval battle in 241 BC that resulted in the defeat of the Carthaginians by the Romans which brought an end to the First Punic War.
At the height of the last Ice Age the islands were connected by a landbridge to the Sicilian mainland, because of the lower sea level(c).They have been suggested by Andis Kaulins(a) as the location of the kingdom of Gadirus, who was the twin brother of Atlas, the first king of Atlantis. Until recently, it was generally accepted that the realm of Gadirus had been situated in the vicinity of modern Cadiz, known in ancient times as Gades. This idea was enhanced by its proximity to the Strait of Gibraltar, deemed by many to be site of the Pillars of Heracles.
However, there has been growing support for the idea of the Pillars, referred to by Solon/Plato, being situated in the Central Mediterranean, at either the Strait of Messina or the Strait of Sicily, the latter supported by Andis Kaulins, who goes further and suggests a link between Tartessos and ancient Carthage across the Strait in Tunisia.
More recently, Albert Nikas has argued cogently(b) for placing the Pillars of Heracles in the vicinity of the Egadi Islands and identifying them with Plato’s Gades and then concluded that Malta had been ‘the island in front of the Pillars’ and was Atlantis.
If the name of the Egadi Islands is more than just evocative of Plato’s Gades and since Gades has also been associated with Erytheia in the story of the ‘Trials of Hercules’, then if Izabol Apulia’s Map Mistress website is correct in locating Erytheia(d) between Pantelleria and the Egadi Islands it would confine all the ‘Trials’ in the Central and Eastern Mediterranean, consequently, locating the Pillars of Heracles somewhere in that region.
Opposite the Egadi Islands on the mainland of Sicily is the port of Marsala, which has also been identified, by Massimo Rapisarda, as another possible location for Atlantis.
A Shoal of mud is stated by Plato (Tim.25d) to mark the location of where Atlantis ‘settled’. Plato describes these shallows in the present tense, clearly implying that they were still a maritime hindrance in Plato’s day.
Three of the most popular translations clearly indicate this:
….the sea in those parts is impassable and impenetrable, because there is a shoal of mud in the way; and this was caused by the subsidence of the island.
…..the ocean at that spot has now become impassable and unsearchable, being blocked up by the shoal of mud which the island created as it settled down.”
…..the sea in that area is to this day impassible to navigation, which is hindered by mud just below the surface, the remains of the sunken island.
Since it is probable that Atlantis was destroyed around a thousand years or more before Solon’s Egyptian sojourn, to have continued as a hazard for such a period suggests a location that was little affected by currents or tides. The latter would seem to offer support for a Mediterranean Atlantis as that sea enjoys negligible tidal changes, as can be seen from the chart below. The darkest shade of blue indicates the areas of minimal tidal effect.
If Plato was correct in stating that Atlantis was submerged in a single day and that it was still close to the water’s surface in his own day, its destruction must have taken place a relatively short time before since the slowly rising sea levels would eventually have deepened the waters covering the remains of Atlantis to the point where they would not pose any danger to shipping. The triremes of Plato’s time had an estimated draught of about a metre so that the shallows must have had a depth that was less than that.
The reference to mud shoal resulting from an earthquake brings to mind the possibility of liquefaction. This perhaps what happened to the two submerged ancient cities close to modern Alexandria. Their remains lie nine metres under the surface of the Mediterranean.
Our knowledge of sea level changes over the past two and a half millennia should enable us to roughly estimate all possible locations in the Mediterranean where the depth of water of any submerged remains would have been a metre or less in the time of Plato.
The tidal map above offers two areas west of Athens and Egypt that do appear to be credible location regions, namely, (1) from the Balearic Islands, south to North Africa and (2) , a more credible straddling the Strait of Sicily. This region offers additional features, making it much more compatible with Plato’s account.
By contrast, just over a hundred miles south from that Strait, lies the Gulf of Gabés, which boasts the greatest tidal range (max 8 ft) within the Mediterranean.
The Gulf of Gabes formerly known as Syrtis Minor and the larger Gulf of Sidra to the east previously known as Syrtis Major, were greatly feared by ancient mariners and continue to be very dangerous today because of the shifting sandbanks created by tides in the area.
There are two principal ancient texts that possibly support the gulfs of Syrtis as the location of Plato’s ‘shoal’. The first is from Apollonius of Rhodes who was a 3rd century BC librarian at Alexandria. In his Argonautica (Bk IV ii 1228-1250)(a) he unequivocally speaks of the dangerous shoals in the Gulf of Syrtis. The second source is the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 27 13-18) written three centuries later, which describes how St. Paul on his way to Rome was blown off course and feared that they would run aground on “Syrtis sands.” However, good fortune was with them and after fourteen days they landed on Malta. The Maltese claim regarding St. Paul is rivalled by that of the Croatian island of Mljet as well Argostoli on the Greek island of Cephalonia. Even more radical is the convincing evidence offered by Kenneth Humphreys to demonstrate that the Pauline story is an invention(b).
Both the Strait of Sicily and the Gulf of Gabes have been included in a number of Atlantis theories. The Strait and the Gulf were seen as part of a larger landmass that included Sicily according to Butavand, Arecchi and Sarantitis who named the Gulf of Gabes as the location of the Pillars of Heracles. Many commentators such as Frau, Rapisarda and Lilliu have designated the Strait of Sicily as the ‘Pillars’, while in the centre of the Strait we have Malta with its own Atlantis claims.
Zhirov[458.25] tried to explain away the ‘shoals’ as just pumice-stone, frequently found in large quantities after volcanic eruptions. However, Plato records an earthquake not an eruption and Zhirov did not explain how the pumice-stone was still a hazard many hundreds of years after the event. Although pumice can float for years, it will eventually sink(c). It was reported that pumice rafts associated with the 1883 eruption of Krakatoa were found floating up to 20 years after that event. Zhirov’s theory does not hold water (no pun intended) apart from which, Atlantis was destroyed as a result of an earthquake. not a volcanic eruption and I think that the shoals described by Plato were more likely to have been created by liquefaction and could have endured for centuries.