An A-Z Guide To The Search For Plato's Atlantis

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Joining The Dots

I have now published my new book, Joining The Dots, which offers a fresh look at the Atlantis mystery. I have addressed the critical questions of when, where and who, using Plato's own words, tempered with some critical thinking and a modicum of common sense.


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P.B.S. Andrews

Meizon

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.

This interpretation of meizon has now been ‘adopted’ by Frank Joseph in The Destruction of Atlantis[102.82], but without giving any due credit to Franke(b).

(a) http://middle-east.mavericsa.co.za/history.html

*(b) http://lost-origins.com/atlantis-no-lost-continent/ (offline Jan. 2018) See: Archive 2349

(c) https://web.archive.org/web/20070212101539/http://greekatlantis.com/*

Libya

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.

Tribes of LibyaHerodotus 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[673].

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.

(a) http://www.expedition-atlantis.com/index.html

(b) https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/06/150629162542.htm

Andrews, P.B.S. (L)

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[056] 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.

(a) http://www.clarku.edu/~piltdown/map_prim_suspects/DAWSON/Dawson_Prosecution/historyislies.html

Identity of the Atlanteans (m)

The Identity of the Atlanteans has produced a range of speculative suggestions nearly as extensive as that of the proposed locations for Plato’s lost island. However, it is highly probable that we already know who the Atlanteans were, but under a different name.

The list below includes some of the more popular suggestions and as such is not necessarily exhaustive. While researchers have proposed particular locations for Atlantis, not all have identified an archaeologically identified culture to go with their chosen location. The problem being that most of the places suggested have endured successive invasions over the millennia by different peoples.

It would seem therefore that the most fruitful approach to solving the problem of identifying the Atlanteans would be to first focus on trying to determine the date of the demise of Atlantis. This should reduce the number of possible candidates, making it easier to identify the Atlanteans.

A final point to consider, is that the historical Atlanteans were a military alliance, and as such may have included more than one or none of those listed here. The mythological Atlanteans, who included the five sets of male twins and their successors would be expected to share a common culture, wheras military coalitions are frequently more disparate.

 

Basques: William Lewy d’Abartiague, Edward Taylor Fletcher

Berbers: Alberto Arecchi, Alf Bajocco, Ulrich Hofmann, Jacques Gossart, Ibn Khaldun

British: William Comyns Beaumont, E. J. de Meester, Donald Ingram, George H. Cooper, Anthony Roberts, Paul Dunbavin.

Cro-Magnons: R. Cedric Leonard, Theosophists, Georges Poisson, Robert B. Stacy-Judd,  Kurt Bilau, Louis Charpentier

Guanches: B. L. Bogaevsky, Bory de Saint Vincent, Boris F. Dobrynin, Eugène Pégot-Ogier

Irish: Ulf Erlingsson, George H. Cooper, John Whitehurst, Thomas Dietrich, Padraig A. Ó Síocháin, Lewis Spence,

Maltese: Anton Mifsud, Francis Xavier Aloisio, Kevin Falzon, Bibischok, Joseph Bosco, David Calvert-Orange, Giorgio Grongnet de Vasse, Albert Nikas, Joseph S. Ellul, Francis Galea, Tammam Kisrawi, Charles Savona-Ventura, Hubert Zeitlmair. 

Maya: Robert B. Stacy-Judd, Charles Gates Dawes, Colin Wilson, Adrian Gilbert, L. M. Hosea, Augustus le Plongeon, Teobert Maler, Joachim Rittstieg, Lewis Spence, Edward Herbert Thompson, Jean-Frédérick de Waldeck,

Megalith Builders: Lucien Gerardin, Paolo Marini, Sylvain Tristan, Jean Deruelle, Alan Butler, Alfred deGrazia, Helmut Tributsch, Hank Harrison, Walter Schilling, Robert Temple, Manuel Vega

Minoans: K.T. Frost, James Baikie, Walter Leaf, Edwin Balch, Donald A. Mackenzie, Ralph Magoffin, Spyridon Marinatos, Georges Poisson, Wilhelm Brandenstein, A. Galanopoulos, J. G. Bennett, Rhys Carpenter, P.B.S. Andrews, Edward Bacon, Willy Ley, J.V. Luce, James W. Mavor, Henry M. Eichner, Prince Michael of Greece, Nicholas Platon, N.W. Tschoegl, Richard Mooney, Rupert Furneaux, Martin Ebon, Francis Hitching, Charles Pellegrino, Rodney Castleden, Graham Phillips, Jacques Lebeau, Luana Monte, Fredrik Bruins, Gavin Menzies, Lee R. Kerr, Daniel P. Buckley.

Persians: August Hunt, Pierre-André Latreille, William Henry Babcock, Hans Diller.

Phoenicians: Jonas Bergman, Robert Prutz,

Sardinians: Paolo Valente Poddighe, Robert Paul Ishoy, Sergio Frau, Mario Tozzi, Diego Silvio Novo, Antonio Usai, Giuseppe Mura.

Sicilians: Phyllis Young Forsyth, Thorwald C. Franke, Axel Hausmann,  Peter Jakubowski, Alfred E. Schmeck, M. Rapisarda,

Swedes: Johannes Bureus, Olaf Rudbeck

*[Trojans: Eberhard Zangger, Erich vonDäniken?]*

Size of Atlantis

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[019], 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.