National Geographic or Nat Geo are registered trademarks of the National Geographic Society and are now, sadly, part of the Murdoch communications empire. Its magazine and TV channel enjoy global recognition. Undoubtedly, NG has enhanced our view of the world around us. One piece of NG trivia is that the word ‘tsunami’ first appeared in an English language publication in the September 1896 edition of National Geographic Magazine.
Generally, NG has avoided controversy, but not always(a) , so it will be interesting to see how its new chief James Murdoch, a climate change denier(b), will deal with the NG views on the subject up ’til now(c) . However, for me, it was something of a surprise when NG tackled the subject of Atlantis.
In 2004 NG News published a short article(d) highlighting the theories of Ulf Erlingsson and Rainer Kühne, who, respectively, were advocates for Ireland and Spain as Atlantis locations. Also in 2004, Zeilitsky and Weinzweig claimed to have found submerged man-made structures near Cuba and subsequently sought US government funding for further research there. It has been suggested that NG objected and further exploration did not take place! In 2006 NG gave the Atlantis in America theory of Zapp & Erikson an airing(e).
*However, in 2012, Andrew Collins offered a different account of the Zelitsky funding difficulties(m).*
In 2011 a short article(l)., NG trotted out the now generally abandoned idea that Atlantis had been a continent. The idea was obviously later dumped by NG as well, when James Cameron et al went looking for Atlantis in Malta, Sardinia and Santorini in 2016.
December 2012 saw NG publish an article on Doggerland, without any reference to the suggestion that there might be an Atlantis connection. NG has also voiced the scepticism of well-known commentators, such as Robert Ballard and Charles E. Orser jnr(f).
However, I find that the NG treatment of Atlantis inconsistent. In October 2011 an anonymous article(k) on one of their sites, entitled The Truth Behind Atlantis: Facts, declared that Atlantis was continental in size (and so must have been located in an Ocean?) This is based on a misinterpretation of the Greek word meison. Nevertheless last year NG had Simcha Jacobovici, remotely guided by James Cameron, scouring the Mediterranean, from Spain to Sardinia, Malta, and Crete for evidence of Atlantis. This attention-seeking exercise found nothing a few stone anchors that proved nothing and inflicted on viewers an overdose of speculation!
NatGeo TV aired a documentary(g) in 2015 relating to earlier excavations in the Doñana Marshes of Southern Spain by a Spanish team and partly hijacked by Richard Freund. A new NG documentary, hyped with the involvement of James Cameron and Simcha Jacobovici, was filmed in 2016, and later broadcast at the end of January 2017. Initially, it was thought by Robert Ishoy to be in support of his Atlantis location of Sardinia, but at the same time Diaz-Montexano was convinced that his Afro-Iberian theory was to be the focus of the film. To coincide with the airing of the new documentary D-M has published a new book, NG National Geographic and the scientific search for Atlantis with both English and Spanish editions.
Jason Colavito was promised a screener but had the offer subsequently withdrawn. One wonders why?
Once again NG promotes the region of the Doñana Marshes as a possible location for Atlantis(i), based on rather flimsy evidence, such as six ancient anchors found just outside the Strait of Gibraltar. They estimate the age of the anchors at 3,000-4,000 years old but. unfortunately, they are not marked ‘made in Atlantis’. Rabbi Richard Freund, never afraid to blow his own shofar, makes another NG appearance. Jacobovici throws in the extraordinary claim that the Jewish menorah represents the concentric circles of the Atlantis capital cut in half, a daft idea, already suggested by Prof. Yahya Ababni(k).
What I cannot understand is why this documentary spends time dismissing Santorini and Malta as possible locations for Plato’s Atlantis and at the same time ignoring the only unambiguous geographical clue that he left us, namely that the Atlantis alliance occupied part of North Africa and in Europe as far as Tyrrhenia (Tuscany) and presumably some of the islands between the two.
Overall, I think the NG documentaries have done little to advance the search for Atlantis as they seem to be driven by TV ratings ahead of truth. Perhaps, more revealing is that Cameron is not fully convinced by the speculative conclusions of this documentary.
Jason Colavito, an arch-sceptic regarding Atlantis has now published a lengthy scathing review(j) of NG’s Atlantis Rising, which is well worth a read. While I do not agree with Colavito’s dismissal of the existence of Atlantis, I do endorse the litany of shortcomings he identified in this documentary.
(d) http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2004/08/0819_040819_atlantis.html (link broken August 2018) See: Archive 3582)
Marilyn Luongo is a South African entrepreneur involved in social projects there(b). Her website has an unexpected section dealing with the history of the Middle East(a) of which the second half involves a review of Plato’s Atlantis account. She attempts to link Mesopotamia with Atlantis, beginning with locating the ‘Pillars of Heracles’ at the Strait of Hormuz and then using the highly controversial interpretation of ‘meizon‘ meaning ‘between’ rather than ‘greater’ she proceeds to argue that Mesopotamia is ‘between’ Asia and Libya and therefore is the home of Atlantis!
Meizon is given the sole meaning of ‘greater’ in the respected Greek Lexicon of Liddell & Scott . Furthermore, in Bury’s translation of sections 20e -26a of Timaeus there are eleven instances of Plato using megas (great) meizon (greater) or megistos (greatest). In all cases great or greatest is employed except just one, 24e, which uses the comparative meizon, which Bury translated as ‘larger’! J.Warren Wells concluded that Bury’s translation in this single instance is inconsistent with his other treatments of the word and it does not fit comfortably with the context[787.85]. This inconsistency is difficult to accept, so although meizon can have a secondary meaning of ‘larger’ it is quite reasonable to assume that the primary meaning of ‘greater’ was intended.
*In 2006, on a now defunct website of his, Wells noted that “Greater can mean larger, but this meaning is by no means the only possible meaning here; his overall usage of the word may show he meant greater in some other way.”*
It is also worth considering that Alexander the Great, (Aléxandros ho Mégas) was so called, not because of his physical size, apparently he was short of stature, but because he was a powerful leader.
The word has entered Atlantis debates in relation to its use in Timaeus 24e ’, where Plato describes Atlantis as ‘greater’ than Libya and Asia together and until recently has been most frequently interpreted to mean greater ‘in size’, an idea that I previously endorsed. However, some researchers have suggested that he intended to mean greater ‘in power’.
Other commentators do not seem to be fully aware that ‘Libya’ and ‘Asia’ had completely different meanings at the time of Plato. ‘Libya’ referred to part or all of North Africa, west of Egypt, while ‘Asia’ was sometimes applied to Lydia, a small kingdom in what is today Turkey. Incidentally, Plato’s statement also demonstrates that Atlantis could not have existed in either of these territories as ‘a part cannot be greater than the whole.’
A more radical, but less credible, interpretation of Plato’s use of ‘meizon’ came from the historian P.B.S. Andrews, who suggested that the quotation has been the result of a misreading of Solon’s notes. He maintained that the text should be read as ’midway between Libya and Asia’ since in the original Greek there is only a difference on one letter between the words for midway (meson) and larger than (meizon). This suggestion was supported by the classical scholar J.V. Luce and more recently on Marilyn Luongo’s website(a). This interpretation is quite interesting, particularly if the Lydian explanation of ‘Asia’ mentioned above is correct. Viewed from either Athens or Egypt we find that Crete is located ‘midway’ between Lydia and Libya.
In relation to all this , Felice Vinci has explained that ancient mariners measured territory by the length of its coastal perimeter, a method that was in use up to the time of Columbus. This would imply that the island of Atlantis was relatively modest in extent – I would speculate somewhere between the size of Cyprus and Sardinia. An area of such an extent has never been known to have been destroyed by an earthquake.
Until the 21st century, it was thought by many that meizon must have referred to the physical size of Atlantis rather than its military power. However, having read a paper[750.173] delivered by Thorwald C. Franke to the 2008 Atlantis Conference, I was persuaded otherwise. His explanation is that “for Egyptians the world of their ‘traditional’ enemies was divided in two: To the west there were the Libyans, to the east there were the Asians. If an Egyptian scribe wanted to say, that an enemy was more dangerous than the ‘usual’ enemies, which was the case with the Sea Peoples’ invasion, then he would have most probably said, that this enemy was “more powerful than Libya and Asia put together”.
This is a far more elegant and credible explanation than any reference to physical size, which forced researchers to seek lost continental sized land masses and apparently justified the negativity of sceptics. Furthermore, it reinforces the Egyptian origin of the Atlantis story, demolishing any claim that Plato concocted the whole tale. If it had been invented by Plato he would probably have compared Atlantis to enemy territories nearer to home, such as the Persians.
*(b) http://lost-origins.com/atlantis-no-lost-continent/ (offline Jan. 2018) See: Archive 2349
North Africa has received considerable attention as a possible location for Atlantis since the beginning of the 19th century. Gattefosse and Butavand are names associated with early 20th century North African theorists. They, along with Borchardt, Herrmann and others have proposed locations as far west as Lixus on the Atlantic coast of Morocco, on through Tunisia and Libya and even as far east as the Nile delta.
One of the earliest writers was Ali Bey El Abbassi who discussed Atlantis and an ancient inland sea in the Sahara. The concept of such an inland sea, usually linked with Lake Tritonis, has persisted with the Chotts of Tunisia and Algeria as prime suspects. There is acceptance that a seismic/tectonic convulsion in the vicinity of the Gulf of Gabés cut off this inland sea from the Mediterranean. Diodorus Siculus records this event in his third book dating it to around 1250 BC. If such an event did not occur, how do we explain the salt laden chotts? However, proving a connection with Atlantis is another matter.
Whether this particular geological upheaval was related to the episode that destroyed parts of ancient Malta is questionable as the Maltese event was one of massive subsidence.
It should be kept in mind that Plato described the southern part of the Atlantean confederation as occupying North Africa as far eastward as Egypt (Tim.25b & Crit.114c). This of course conflicts with the idea of the Atlanteans invading from beyond ‘Pillars of Heracles’ situated at Gibraltar since they apparently already controlled at least part of the Western Mediterranean as far as Italy and Egypt.
*One of the principal arguments against Atlantis being located in North Africa is that Plato clearly referred to Atlantis as an island. However, as Papamarinopoulos has pointed out that regarding the Greek word for island, ‘nesos’ “a literary differentiation between ‘island’ and ‘peninsula’ did not exist in alphabetic Greek before Herodotus’ in the 5th century BC. Similarly, there was not any distinction between a coast and an island in Egyptian writing systems, up to the 5th century BC.” In conversation with Mark Adams[1070.198] Papamarinopoulos explains that in the sixth century BC, when Solon lived, nesos had five geographic meanings. “One, an island as we know it. Two, a promontory. Three, a peninsula. Four, a coast. Five, a land within a continent, surrounded by lakes, rivers or springs.”
Personally, from the context, I am quite happy to accept that the principal city of the Atlantean alliance existed on an island as we understand the word. This was probably north of Tunisia, where a number of possible candidates exist. However, it may be unwise to rule out a North African city just yet!
Another argument put forward that appears to exclude at least part of North Africa is that Plato, according to many translations, he refers to Atlantis as ‘greater’ than ‘Libya’ and ‘Asia‘ combined, using the Greek word, ‘meizon‘, which had a primary meaning of ‘more powerful’ not greater in size. Atlantis could not have been situated in either Libya or Asia because ‘a part cannot be greater than the whole’. However, if Plato was referring to military might rather than geographical extent, as seems quite likely, North Africa may indeed have been part of the Atlantean alliance, particularly as Plato describes the control of Atlantis in the Mediterranean as far Tyrrhenia and Egypt.*
Libya, referred to as Ta Tenehu, is first mentioned in Egyptian texts around 1200 BC, when the name was applied to a relatively small district in the western Nile delta. Unfortunately the Libya referred to by Plato and other early writers is not geographically delineated with any degree of clarity. This is just another example of the unintentional ambiguity that is common in the writings of the classical authors. Sometimes Libya appears to refer to all of Africa while at other times it is just the name for the land immediatelyto the west of Egypt. Robert Temple[736.414] quotes Percy Newberry, who referred to the variety of meanings applied to the term Libya by different ancient commentators. Temple also offers evidence that North Africa was a fertile region as late as 2500 BC.
Herodotus stated that there were only three continents, Europe, Asia and Libya and that the latter was surrounded by sea except where it joins Asia (Bk IV.42). He also mentions that the names of all the Greek gods came from Egypt except Poseidon who came from Libya where he had always been worshipped (Bk II.50). This is interesting since Plato pronounced Poseidon the founder of Atlantis.
Ancient Libya had a megalithic culture, the remnants of which can be seen in the likes of the Terrgurt valley where “there had been originally no less than eighteen or twenty megalithic trilithons, in a line, each with its massive altar placed before it” according to H. S. Cowper, a 19th century explorer[1566.279].
In the context of the Atlantis story Plato declares that Atlantis was ‘greater’ than Libya and Asia together. On the face of it this might appear to be a geographical comparison, but it has been argued that the Greek word ‘meizon’ which was used means ‘greater’ or ‘more powerful’ rather than larger.
An English Professor of History, P.B.S. Andrews, has suggested that Plato may have misread Solon’s notes and used the word for ‘larger than’ instead of ‘midway between’ where there is a difference of only one letter.
Irrespective of the exact meaning of ‘meizon’ in this text, it is quite clear from it that the ancient Libya known to Plato was a separate entity to Atlantis. Not withstanding this, the Cyrenaica region of modern Libya has now been identified as the home of Atlantis itself(a) by an anonymous German researcher who planned to lead an expedition to their proposed site in late 2006. Based on a study of satellite images he is convinced that a 590 x 320 km plateau to the east of Benghazi (ancient Berenice) is the location of Plato’s Atlantis. This mysterious researcher, using the pseudonym ‘a. petit’, claims that this area had been a large island in ancient times. The results of that 2006 expedition are now available, in German, in book form, entitled Expedition nach Atlantis.
In an address[0750.419] to the 2008 Atlantis Conference, George Sarantitis quotes a number of ancient authors who describe journies in and around Libya that have led him to conclude that the flooded chotts of Tunisia and Algeria had been linked to a much enlarged Lake Chad(b) further south creating a large Libyan peninsula. This situation, he believes, pertained until the 3rd century BC when the waters dried up and eventually led to the topography we have today.
P.B.S. Andrews is an English historian who has been involved in a variety of controversial subjects including the dating of Pride and Prejudice, the Piltdown Hoax(a) and the location of Ithaca. In 1967 in a short article in the journal Greece and Rome, he expressed the view the 2nd millennium BC explosion of Thera had inspired the Atlantis story. In addition, he suggested that Plato’s declaration that the island of Atlantis was larger than Libya and Asia combined, was the result of either a scribal error or a misreading of Solon’s notes. The alteration of a single letter would have rendered the translation as noting the island being located ‘between’ Libya and Asia. This explanation is somewhat suspect as the majority of Atlantis candidates, such as the Atlantic could not be described in those terms. In fact the only place that is exactly between Libya and Asia is Egypt!
However, Andrews’ idea never gained any great support and in recent years the explanation offered by Thorwald C. Franke, is that the Egyptian priest was describing the military power of Atlantis being greater than the combined might of Egypt’s traditional enemies, the Libyans and the Asians. This interpretation is more compatible with the Greek word used for ‘greater’, meizon.
The Size of Atlantis has been the subject of controversy for many years. Debate has centred on the comparative of the Greek adjective Meizon used in Timaeus 24e where it was generally translated as ‘larger’ suggesting that Atlantis was larger than Libya and Asia combined.
The meaning of ‘Asia’ at different times in the distant past quite clearly had a variety of connotations. Edward Gibbon, who wrote a monumental work on the Roman Empire, stated that when the ancient Greek and Latin writers referred to ’Asia’ they meant Turkey. Another historian, Michael Grant, is of the opinion that ‘Asia’ could have been applied to the ancient kingdom of Lydia, which only occupied a small region of Eastern Turkey. Similarly, ‘Libya’ was sometimes applied to a relatively small narrow strip of coastal land to the west of the Nile Delta and more often to the entire Mediterranean coast of Africa except Egypt.
Perhaps the most interesting contribution to this debate has been from Felice Vinci who recently wrote in his book, The Baltic Origins of Homer’s Epic Tales, that ancient seafarers measured territory by its coastal perimeter rather than by its area, as we do today. He refers to this coastal measurement method being still in use by Christopher Columbus. Acceptance of this contention would require a total review of the ‘Atlantis greater in size than Asia and Libya together’ controversy. In this regard is worth noting that Herodotus (Bk IV.45) refers to Europe being in length “equal to Asia and Libya combined” – eerily like Plato’s phrase, but endorsing Vinci’s contention. In a similar vein, Strabo (Bk Chap 4.1) recounts how Pytheas reported that the coast-line of Britain was more than forty thousand stadia (4,590 miles).
The application of Vinci’s coastal measurement to the combination of Asia and Libya could have suggested a relatively modest land area somewhere between that of Cyprus and Sardinia.
Irrespective of the size of Atlantis, if it was greater in any sense, it cannot have been located in either Libya or Asia, because according to the old mathematical axiom ‘a part cannot be greater than the whole’.
However, many researchers felt the need to seek a larger landmass in view of Plato’s description of the plain of Atlantis having dimensions of 2,000 x 3,000 stades (230×345 miles) which combined with sheltering mountains to the north implies quite an extensive total area for the island and would be far greater than an earthquake could destroy.
A more radical explanation for Plato’s description comes from the historian P.B.S. Andrews, who has suggested that the quotation has been the result of a misreading of Solon’s notes. He maintains that the text should be read as ’midway between Libya and Asia’ since in the original Greek there is only a difference on one letter between the words for midway (meson) and larger than (meizon). This suggestion was supported by the classical scholar J.V. Luce. This interpretation is quite interesting, particularly if the Lydian explanation of ‘Asia’ mentioned above is correct. Viewed from either Athens or Egypt we find that Crete is located ‘midway’ between Lydia and Libya.
If we return to the Greek meizon and refer to the respected Greek Lexicon of Liddell & Scott we find meizon is given the sole meaning of ‘greater’. Furthermore, in Bury’s translation of sections 20e -26a of Timaeus there eleven instances of Plato using megas (great) meizon (greater) or megistos (greatest). In all cases great or greatest is employed except just one, 24e, which uses the comparative meizon, which Bury translated as ‘larger’! J.Warren Wells concluded that Bury’s translation in this single instance is inconsistent with his other treatments of the word and additionally does not fit comfortably with the context[0783.85].
This inconsistency is difficult to accept, so although meizon can have a secondary meaning of ‘larger’ it is quite reasonable to assume that the primary meaning of ‘greater’ was intended.
However, in a paper[750.173] delivered by Thorwald C. Franke to the 2008 Atlantis Conference he persuasively argued that “for Egyptians the world of their ‘traditional’ enemies divided in two: To the west there were the Libyans, to the east there were the Asians. If an Egyptian scribe wanted to say, that an enemy was more dangerous than the ‘usual’ opponents, which was the case with the Sea Peoples’ invasion, then he would have most probably said, that this enemy was “more powerful than Libya and Asia together.”
I find this a far more elegant and credible explanation than any reference to physical size which forced researchers to seek lost continental sized land masses. Furthermore it reinforces the Egyptian origin of the Atlantis story, demolishing any claim that Plato concocted the whole tale. If it had been invented by Plato he would probably have compared Atlantis to enemy territories nearer to home, such as the Persians.
However, although this explanation may seem to remove the need to look for a very large landmass, it still leaves the unrealistic dimensions of 2,000 x 3,000 stades of the cultivated plain of Atlantis. However as I will explain elsewhere all of Plato’s numbers in excess of 1,000, with a single exception, should be treated as approximations and then divided by 10.
Thorwald C. Franke was born in 1971 in Konstanz in southwest Germany. He studied computer science at the University of Karlsruhe and now works as a software developer. Since 1999 he has been promoting the idea of Atlantis having been located in Sicily. He has written a paper, which makes the case for identifying Atlas with king Italos of the Sicels, who were one of the first tribes to inhabit Sicily, and gave their name to the island.
In October 2010 Franke announced that a part of his theory has weaknesses in it that require further research(f).
He is of the opinion that the war with the Atlanteans was recorded by the Egyptians as the conflict with the Sea Peoples of whom the Sicilians are generally accepted to have been part.
Franke has a well presented website(a), in English and German, where he cogently outlines his views. He has also written a lengthy, 23-page paper on the need for a classification of Atlantis theories . Even though this item is in German, English readers may find it quite interesting using their browser’s translator. Franke has also compiled an extensive list of Atlantis related websites(d) that he expanded further in a new format in October 2011.
His paper for the 2nd Atlantis Conference in Athens in 2008 is available on the Internet(c) in which he expanded on his Sicilian location for Atlantis.
Franke has also published a book, in German that focussed on Herodotus’ contribution to the Atlantis question(p).*In the same paper, he dealt with the true meaning of the phrase in Timaeus 24e which tells us that Atlantis was ‘greater’ (meizon) than Asia and Libya combined, which he clarified as actually referring to their combined power rather than size. However, Franke proposed that the Egyptian word ‘wr’, whose primary meaning is ‘big’ and is sometimes used in a metaphorical sense, may have influenced the wording of the Greek text
He builds his case on an 1816 misinterpretation by a French mathematician, Jean Baptiste Joseph Delambre, of a 1587 commentary on Strabo’s Geographica by Isaac Casaubon. Combined with other evidence he has presented a case which removes the only prominent classical writer alleged to have apparently dismissed the existence of Atlantis. In late 2012 Franke published an English translation with the title of Aristotle and Atlantis. Franke’s views regarding Aristotle have been well received and his book frequently cited, most recently by Dhani Irwanto in his Atlantis:The Lost City is in the Java Sea[1093.110].
Franke has now augmented his book on Aristotle with a YouTube video in English(l) and German(m).
2012 also saw the publication, by Franke, of the first English translation of Gunnar Rudberg’s 1917 monograph Atlantis och Syrakusai, now Atlantis and Syracuse. This is a welcome addition to Atlantis literature in English. Students of the Atlantis mystery owe a debt of gratitude to Herr Franke.
In 2006, Franke published a paper outlining Wilhelm Brandenstein’s contribution to Atlantology which in 2013 he published in English(g). This was followed by a translation(h) of his overview of the work of Massimo Pallattino, who had adopted some of Brandenstein’s approach to the Atlantis question.
On the 30st of May 2013 Franke announced(i) that his Atlantis Newsletter, which until now was only available in German, in future will also be published in English. Today he discusses the antics of extremist Atlantis sceptics and the abuse of Wikipedia. I encourage everyone to register and congratulate Thorwald on this development.
There is also a video clip available of Franke showing his library of Atlantis related books(e). 2017 has seen Franke produce a number of 30-minute videos, which readers will find informative. They are available in both German and English, (Just Google Plato’s Atlantis – Thorwald C. Franke – YouTube).
Franke has now (July 2013) revamped his website (http://www.atlantis-scout.de/)
More recently, July 2016 saw the publication, in German, of Kritische Geschichte der Meinungen und Hypothesen zu Platons Atlantis (Critical history of the hypotheses on Plato’s Atlantis). This tome of nearly 600 pages will undoubtedly be a valuable addition to any serious researcher’s library. There is a promotional video, in German, to go with it(j). Hopefully, an English translation of the book will follow.
In June 2018, Franke published a YouTube video in English(r) and German(s) highlighting the manner in which Plato’s 9,000 years have been alternatively accepted and then rejected many times over since the time of Plato. Franke proposes that the 9,000 years recorded by Plato was comparable with the accepted age of Egypt in his day, at 11,00 years. However, archaeology has demonstrated that Egypt was only 3,000 years old or less when Plato was alive, suggesting that the 9,000 should be reduced by a comparable amount to arrive at the real time of Atlantis.
In his Newsletter No.90, Franke has highlighted that a small German right-wing group, ‘Pro Deutschland’, has cited on their website the ‘superior civilisation’ of Atlantis in support of their extremist views.
Franke’s Newsletter No. 103 has now provided us with five parallel versions of the Atlantis texts(n), Two English; Jowett & Bury and Two German; Susemihl & Müller as well as a Greek text from the Scottish classicist John Burnet (1863 – 1928).
Franke’s Newsletter No.104 offers an overview of the difficulties involved in accepting Plato’s writings too literally(o). He gives particular attention to the 9,000 years claimed to have elapsed between the Atlanean War and Solon’s visit to Egypt.
*Franke has now published two new videos(t), in both German and English, in which he reviews a number of Atlantis related books, both supportive and sceptical. He does so in his usual balanced manner and also exhorts students of Atlantology to learn German in order to have access to important works only available in that language.*
(l) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=inWb6IVNWFQ (English)
(m) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qDG7a09xkZE (German)