Edward Forbes was one of the first, in 1846 , to hypothesise the existence of a continent in the Atlantic linking Ireland, the Azores and the Iberian Peninsula, which was popularly called ‘Atlantis’. Charles Darwin described his idea as ‘speculative’.
This would appear to conflict with Marco Ciardi, who claimed that Darwin had accepted the existence of Atlantis, I presume later, but did so “under the influence of, among others, the botanist J. D. Hooker” and “reverted to the hypothesis of a lost continent to which the Atlantic islands testified since they constituted the tips of its highest mountains.” This information was cited by Pierre Vidal-Naquet in The Atlantis Story [580.xxii].
Ignatius Donnelly sent a copy of his Atlantis to Darwin, but received a less than enthusiastic response(b).
Marco Ciardi is an Associate Professor of the History of Science at the Department of Philosophy, University of Bologna. In 2002 he published ATLANTIDE: Una controversia scientifica da Colombo a Darwin. (ATLANTIS: A scientific controversy from Colombus to Darwin). As the title implies, the author reviews the various Atlantis ideas from the time of Colombus until the 19th century. His book received the endorsement of Pierre Vidal-Naquet.
In 2011 he published Le metamorfosi di Atlantide. Storie scientifiche e immaginarie da Platone a Walt Disney. (The metamorphosis of Atlantis. scientific and fictional stories from Plato to Walt Disney).
Pierre Vidal-Naquet (1930-2006) was a noted French historian, political activist and was also a fervent sceptic regarding the reality of Atlantis. He has frequently written and lectured on the subject with particular reference to the nationalistic zeal that seemed to underlie the theories of so many writers. His recent book presents the radical view that Plato’s Atlantis was actually based on ancient Athens. This work was originally published in French but is now available in an English translation,The Atlantis Story.
Dr Jürgen Spanuth (1907-1998) was born in Austria and studied theology and archaeology at university. He became pastor of Bordelum in Northern Germany. His first book Das Entraselte Atlantis was published in 1953, following excavations near Heligoland. It was later published in English and is now available on the Internet(a). His basic thesis was that following a major catastrophe in the North Sea around 1250 BC, the Mediterranean experienced an invasion of Scandinavians, whom he referred to as the ‘North Sea Peoples’. Part of the physical evidence he produced was the horn-helmeted Sea Peoples depicted at Medinet Habu. Since we are all used to seeing Vikings depicted with horned helmets, many are surprised to find that it is a late 19th century invention(e)(f).
Spanuth’s theory implies that such helmets had been standard army issue in the region for over a millennium. In fact the Vikings used rather plain helmets which they did not manufacture themselves but traded for them from other Germanic peoples on mainland Europe(d). On the other hand, one of the Sea Peoples, the Shardana, generally believed to have come from Sardinia, did use horn-helmets. However, there are aspects of this claim that are the subject of continuing debate, but the suggestion of a North Sea connection has weakened considerably.
Spanuth considered Basileia, the royal island of Atlantis, to have been located near Heligoland. He produced a mass of evidence to support his views but found his book under severe attack by many academics, which, in general, had the support of the public. After being publicly labelled, among other things, a liar, Spanuth was forced to challenge his detractors in the courts. After some six years he was vindicated when ten professors withdrew their plea, admitting that their arguments against the pastor were untenable.Felix R. Paturi has more information[1339.215] on this disgraceful episode, as well as a note of scientists who supported Spanuth.
A study of Spanuth’s references would suggest that he had access to the prehistoric research archives of the Ahnenerbe and has successfully collated and analysed a lot of this extensive material in his books. Vidal-Naquet bluntly labels him a Nazi[580.124], although his publisher, Wolfram Zeller, denied it. *It may be relevant to mention that in the 1930’s, Heinrich Pudor an avowed German anti-Semite also proposed Helgoland as Atlantis, but I have been unable to find any reference to Pudor by Spanuth!*
The German Wikipedia claims that Spanuth was a member of the NSDAP (Nazi Party) from 1933 until 1945. Similar claims that he had been in the SS have also been refuted(c). In 2002, Frank Doenenburg, on his website(b)discussed Spanuth’s politics at length. In my view, all these matters, however unsavoury, risk distracting us today from discussing dispassionately the merits or otherwise of Spanuth’s Atlantis theories.
Spanuth’s second book had a much better reception. His final offering was Die Atlanter(1976), which was also published in English, however this is really just a revised and expanded version of his 1965 book.
Spanuth has still a lot of supporters and is constantly referred to, particularly by German investigators such as Arn Strohmeyer and Gerhard Herm. Felice Vinci, who strongly favours a Northern European origin for Homer’s epic tales, also places Atlantis in a northern context. The Danish writer, Kirsten Bang, published a short book in which she also placed Atlantis in the Wadden Sea where Helgoland is located. She also supports a date of 1300 BC for its destruction.
Another recent supporter of Spanuth’s Atlantis theory is Holger Kalweit who has written a trilogy, the first of which is Irrstern über Atlantis. This initial volume is concerned with the destruction of Atlantis by a comet (Phaeton) in 1222 BC, leaving Helgoland as a remnant. Refugees fled south to the Eastern Mediterranean leaving their cultural imprint on the region. Unfortunately. this huge 700-page book is to be followed by two more in which the author moves on to expand on the subject of ‘lizard people’, which for me has him as a fully paid-up member of the lunatic fringe.
(b) http://www.fdoernenburg.de/Forum/viewtopic.php?f=28&t=1213 (page closed, July 2017)
Albert Herrmann (1886-1945) was Professor of Geography at Berlin University. He was very interested in oriental geography and is perhaps best known for his 1935, Historical and commercial Atlas of China, which was widely used
His other passion was Atlantis, so that between 1927 and 1931 he declared support for Borchardt’s northwest Africa location theory in a number of publications. In 1938 he used is influence to mount a large exhibition in Berlin about Atlantis(a).
He agreed that a large dried up saltwater lake in Tunisia called Shott el Djerid was originally Lake Tritonis and was known during Solon’s time as the ‘Atlantic Sea’ and further claimed that it had been the location of Atlantis; a theory supported by of a number of investigators.>In more recent times, Charles A. Rogers is one such advocate of this identification(b).<
Herrmann suggested that it was the result of an upheaval of the land, which extended a land barrier between the Shott and the sea. He locates the Pillars of Heracles where this barrier was created. Anton Mifsud has pointed out that the 1st century BC writer Apollonius Rhodius located the Strait of Heracles in ancient Syrtis Minor, now the Gulf of Gabés, apparently supporting Herrmann’s contention. At one point, Herrmann cited as Atlantis, the village of Rhelissa, near the mouth of the old River Tritonis, which flowed into the Gulf of Gabes.
Herrmann disagreed with Plato’s 9,000 years and proposed that he had instead been referring to the 13th or 14th century BC.
Finally, Herrmann, in an effort to match this location with the Platonic narrative, felt obliged to reduce its dimensions by a factor of thirty. He claimed that the priest or interpreter at Sais had erred in the conversion of the Egyptian ‘schoinos’ into Greek stadia. The schoinos was adopted by the Greeks, where it must be noted that it, as well as the Geek stadion, had variable regional values; the number of schoeni per stadion varied between 30 and 120.
In a later book, Herrmann shifted his view from his original stance suggesting that Tunisia had been just a colony under the influence of a culture originating in Friesland, later to become famous as the source of the Oera Linda Book. It is not impossible that the introduction of a Northern European slant to his theories were the consequence of political pressure in Germany at the time, typified by Borchardt being imprisoned because of his Jewish background. Vidal-Naquet describes Herrmann as ‘an avowed Nazi’ [580.121] so pressure may not have been necessary.
August Hunt is an American freelance writer with a range of fictional and historical works to his name. His interests range across Arthurian literature, Celtic religion, mythology and folklore.
In 2008 he published a new Atlantis theory on the Internet in which he linked the Persian Empire with Atlantis, with either Persepolis or Susa as the capital city of the Atlanteans.*In 2010, he published The Real Moses and his God and added A New Theory on Atlantis as a thirty-page appendix to it. The first is now available online(c), while his Atlantis theory has been published separately as a Kindle book.*
Hunt argues that the 9,000 years since the Atlantean-Athenian War must be wrong since Athens did not exist until around 3000 BC. He then points out that the only conflict in which the Athenians defeated a large invading force was against the Persians at the Battle of Marathon in 490 BC. He strangely refers to the Atlantis story as a prophesy even though it was recorded by Plato over a century after the Battle of Marathon!
His most bizarre suggestion is that the 9,000 years quoted by Plato actually refers to the number of Athenians at the Battle of Marathon.
I was surprised to read(p138) that Hunt found “it odd that no one has thought to associate this geographical entity (Persia) with the Atlantis described by Plato”, since he was not the first to suggest a connection between the Persia-Athenian War and the war with Atlantis. Pierre-André Latreille (1762-1833) the French entomologist did so in 1819 when he concluded that Plato’s tale was a distorted version of the war with Persia. William Henry Babcock (1849-1922) also suggested that Plato’s Atlantis story incorporated details of the defeat of the Persians.*Benjamin Jowett, held a related opinion. In 1953, the German classicist, Hans Diller, expressed the view that Plato’s Atlantis account was a fictional parallel with the Greco-Persian wars.*In 2007 the prominent sceptic, Pierre Vidal-Naquet, also saw parallels with the Persian war in Plato’s narrative.
*The Persian Wars took place between 500 and 449 BC, while Solon lived circa 630-560 BC, so it would not have been possible for Solon to refer to those conflicts in the Atlantis story that he brought from Egypt. We are therefore forced to conclude that Jowett and others were probably accusing Plato of lying about the provenance of the story, if not the actual contents of the narrative!*
Jim Allen who advocates a Bolivian Atlantis has also written an extensive article(b) linking the Persian military details with the forces of Atlantis.
In view of all this it is hard to accept Hunt’s claim that he is the author of a new Atlantis theory.
The Persian Wars are believed by some to have been the inspiration for the story of the Atlantean invasion described by Plato. Giuseppe Bartoli was apparently the first, in 1780, to make such a claim. Not too long afterwards Pierre-André Latreille supported the same idea.
This idea fails on two principal grounds, date and geography. Since the Persian War took place around 500-449 BC, this would make it subsequent to Solon’s visit to Egypt (570-526 BC) and Persia was east of Athens and Egypt, while the Atlanteans came from the west (Tim.25b & Crit.114c)! In fact, what Plato said was that the invasion came from the Atlantic Sea (pelagos). Although there is some disagreement about the location of this Atlantic Sea, all candidates proposed so far are west of both Athens and Egypt.
Since the Persian War took place over half a century after Solon’s death, in some ways, the suggestion that the Persian conflict inspired Plato’s Atlantis story, implies that Plato lied about Solon as the conduit for the account, which is completely at variance with the acceptance of Plato as a man of unquestioned integrity.
Apart from this date discrepancy, Jürgen Spanuth lists other divergences of the Persian Invasion theory from Plato’s text. Spanuth, together with many other authors, favours the Sea Peoples or as he puts it ‘the North Sea Peoples’, being the Atlanteans of Plato’s tale.
However, Pierre Vidal-Naquet, a prominent Atlantis sceptic, is adamant that the Persian Wars, with some modifications, parallel the Athenian war with Atlantis. William Babcock expressed a similar opinion in the early years of the 20th century. Acceptance of this view would rule Solon out as Plato’s source and undermine the credibility of the whole narrative.
Keep in mind that you can also find parallels between many of the European wars of the last few hundred years.
*In the mid-20th century, W. A. Heidel, an Atlantis sceptic, claimed(a) that an expeditionary naval force was sent by Darius in 515 BC under Scylax of Caryanda to explore the Indus River, which eventually encountered waters too shallow for his ships, was the inspiration behind Plato’s tale of unnavigable seas!*
He further claimed that Plato’s battle between Atlantis and Athens is a distortion of a war of invasion between the Persians and the Indians.
In late 2008 a new theory about Atlantis, was launched(a) by August Hunt that purports to link Atlantis with the Persian Empire with either Persepolis or Susa as the Atlantean capital described by Plato. He also offers the curious explanation for Plato’s 9,000 years for the age of Atlantis as being in reality a reference to the number of Athenians present at the Battle of Marathon! His short book is entitled Atalante and the Persian Empire
Jim Allen in a discussion of a number of ancient Persian cities, notes that some are circular and often had concentric walls, suggesting that they may have been the inspiration for Plato’s description of Atlantis’ capital city!
If the Persians were in fact the Atlanteans of Plato’s story, it seems rather odd that their invasion fleet, as recorded by Herodotus (Bk.7.89), included 200 Egyptian ships, while at the same time that Athens and Egypt were supposedly allies in opposition to Atlantis!
Fernand Robert (1908-1992) was a French Hellenist, a professor at the Sorbonne in Paris and a former member of the l’École française d’Athènes (The French School of Athens). In the 1950’s he gave a lecture in which he suggested that the Atlantis story was probably inspired by Minoan Crete. Attending that lecture was Pierre Vidal-Naquet who found that Robert’s talk spurred on his nascent Atlantis scepticism, which fully manifested itself fifty years later with the publication of the original French edition of The Atlantis Story.
Herodotus (c.484 – c.420 BC) was born in Halicarnassus, today known as Bodrum, a popular tourist resort in Turkey. He wrote the first comprehensive history of the ancient world. His work has been lauded and denounced in equal measure, earning the twin appellations of ‘Father of History’ and ‘Father of Lies’. The latter is the consequence of some of his accounts appearing incredible at first reading, but a little
investigation and lateral thinking can reveal underlying truth of his statements as demonstrated by Reginald Fessenden among others. Herodotus also described an unusual Egyptian barge, known as a ‘baris’, which was not confirmed until the 21st century(e).
A recent article(d) on the Ancient Origins website defends Herodotus’ reputation.
Another example is to be found in Book IV of The Histories where he mentions the Atlantes as being vegetarians and never dreaming (v.184). This apparently strange comment may be explained by the fact that vegetarians are frequently short of vitamin B6, which is recognised today as leading to the suppression of dreams. This is reminiscent of a reference in the Mahabharata to Atala, sometimes proposed as a reference to Atlantis, where it notes that it is inhabited by “white men who never have to sleep or eat” (Santi Parva, Section CCCXXXVII).
Writing nearly a century before Plato, Herodotus refers to Atlantes as a people occupying the interior of what was then known as Libya (Hist.4.184.1) and since the Atlanteans controlled the Mediterranean as far as Egypt (Timaeus 25b) Herodotus may have been alluding to them. In Book I, 202, Herodotus refers to the sea beyond the Pillars of Heracles as the ‘Sea of Atlantis’. The pre-platonic date of these comments dispels the notion that Atlantis was an invention of Plato’s. This same text refers to the fact that all the known seas are connected; (i) ‘the sea known to the Greeks’, namely the Aegean or eastern Mediterranean, (ii) ‘the sea beyond the Pillars of Heracles’ in the western Mediterranean and (iii) the ‘Erythraean’ or Red Sea. This interpretation of the text implies that Pillars of Heracles were located somewhere in the region of Malta, a view supported by some recent writers such as Anton Mifsud.
Herodotus, who flourished after Solon and before Plato, was quite clear that there were only three continents known to the Greeks, Europe, Asia and Libya [4.42]. This provides a powerful argument against the claim that America was known to the Greeks or that Plato’s ‘opposite continent’ could have been a reference to America.*Furthermore, Anaximander drew a ‘map’ of the known world in the 6th century BC showing three continents without any suggestion of territory beyond them.*
In spite of the above references that are apparently supportive of the existence of Atlantis, it has been reasonably argued, by Alan Alford, that they are counterbalanced by the fact that Herodotus considered the wars between the Persians and the Greeks as the greatest of all time, that he considered Sardinia the largest in the world and that the Minoans had developed the first sea empire in the Mediterranean, all attributes of Plato’s Atlantis. In response, I must argue that the war with Atlantis could have been the greatest up to that point in time but subsequently eclipsed by the scale of the war with the Persians. Similarly, the First World War was the most extensive until World War II. With regard to the Minoans, it must be pointed out that the Phoenicians had a more extensive trading empire encompassing both the eastern and western Mediterranean, whereas the Minoans were mainly active in the eastern basin.
Finally, Herodotus was wrong regarding Sardinia, as Sicily is in fact the largest island in the Mediterranean in terms of area (25,708 km2 vs. 24,090 km2). However, the coastal length of Sardinia is much greater than Sicily’s (1843 vs 1115 km). Interestingly, Felice Vinci recently wrote that ancient seafarers measured territory by its coastal perimeter rather than by its area, as we do today. In fact he relates how this method was in use up to the time of Columbus. So in the end Herodotus was quite correct according to the criteria of his age. Once again we see the dangers inherent in trying to understanding writings from another age and culture.
This method of measuring territory by the length of its coastal boundaries must be taken into account when considering Plato’s description of Atlantis being greater than Asia and Libya together.
Pierre Vidal-Naquet has pointed out[580.23] how Jean-François Pradeau after studying the language of Critias demonstrated that ‘this dialogue employs certain terms that do not appear elsewhere in Plato’s works, terms that are borrowed from Herodotus’.
*A modern review of Herodotus’ Histories was written by Daniel Mendelsohn in The New Yorker in April 2008(f).*
Thorwald C.Franke delivered a paper to the 2008 Atlantis Conference with the self-explanatory title of The Importance of Herodotus’ Histories for the Atlantis Problem. This interesting document is now available online(c). Franke believes that Herodotus has more to offer Atlantology than is generally thought. He mentions the work of J.V.Luce having made a positive use of Herodotus’ Histories as a contribution to the Atlantis debates.
The full text of Herodotus’ writings is available online(b).