William Matthew Flinders Petrie (1853-1942) was a renowned English Egyptologist, who developed improved archaeological methods, some of which are still employed today.*One of his first publications was in 1883, entitled The Pyramids and Temples 0f Gizeh.*
Jason Colavito has drawn attention(a) to a short article written by Flinders Petrie in Ancient Egypt, September 1924, in which he finds value in the work of Reginald Fessenden, who was an advocate of Atlantis in the Caucasus. However, I note that he makes no explicit comment on Fessenden’s Atlantis theory. Petrie was interested in the evidence that strongly suggested that people from the Caucasus region had an influence on the development of the ancient Egyptian culture, noting again a couple of year s later “It appears, then, that the cultural connections of the earliest Egyptians, as well as the physical descriptions in their mythology, point to the Caucasus region. When, further, we find there the names of the principal places of the mythology in their relative positions, it gives strong grounds for regarding that region as the homeland of the earliest civilization of the Egyptians”. (Ancient Egypt, June 1926) (b) .
Dr. Margaret Murray (1863-1963), who worked with Petrie, was also sympathetic to this view. More recently, Ronnie Gallagher has taken up this cause and has gone further by suggesting the possibility that not only were migrants from the Caucasus responsible for kick-starting the development of Egyptian culture, but that people from the same region had a similar influence on the early inhabitants of Sumeria and the Indus Valley.
The Caspian Sea is not usually associated with the story of Atlantis, but as early as the 19th century Moreau de Jonnès proposed the Sea of Azov as the location of Atlantis and that the Black, Caspian and Aral Seas were just remnants of a large ocean.
While this may sound like a wild idea, one modern researcher, Ronnie Gallagher, has written an important paper(b) supporting the concept (see fig.8). This enlarged inland sea is also thought to have extended as far north as the Arctic.
Fessenden cites Strabo (Book 11:7;43), who recounts a tradition that the Caspian had been connected with the Black Sea by way of the Sea of Azov.
Modern proponents of Atlantis in the Sea of Azov have suggested(a) that at the end of the last Ice Age floods of meltwater poured into the Caspian Sea, which in turn escaped through the Manych-Kerch Gateway(c) into what is now the Sea of Azov, but at that time contained the Plain of Atlantis!
Immediately to the south of the Caspian are the Caucasus Mountains which have also had links with Atlantis proposed.
Ronnie Gallagher is an amateur archaeologist with a great interest in the Caucasus region, where he has carried out extensive research. He has written an interesting paper on the effects of the post-glacial flooding of the Caspian Sea and its former physical connection with the Black Sea as well as with the Arctic Ocean(a).
Gallagher has also drawn attention to cart ruts in Azerbaijan(b) similar to, but not as numerous as, those on Malta. He is also an admirer of the work of Reginald Fessenden who placed Atlantis in the Caucasus(c) and proposed that migrants from that region were responsible for kick-starting what we know as the Egyptian civilisation. The renowned Flinders Petrie and Margaret Murray were sympathetic to this view, as is Gallagher(d) .
His own conclusion regarding the location of Atlantis in the Caucasus region was that it was inundated as a consequence of the creation of a vast ‘flooded Eurasia’ that resulted from the collapse of glacial ice-dams(d), *comparable with the Lake Missoula Floods in America.*
Gallagher’s paper should be read in conjunction with a 2004 paper(e) from a team of Russian and US scientists that relates to a ‘Giant Siberian Lake’.
His studies in Ajerbaijan continue, where he has identified an extensive number of strandlines in the region resulting from ancient catastrophic flooding.
He has now published two extended abstracts of recent papers on the academia.edu website(f)(g).
(e) See: Archive 2372)
Eugene: The Last King of Atlantis is the intriguing title of a website devoted to ancient history. The title is a reference to Prince Eugene Francis of Savoy-Soissons (1663-1736)(a). Although he was gay, he is better known as an outstanding military commander responsible for halting the westward expansion of the Ottoman Empire.
The unknown author of the site, at the beginning of a long rambling paper, refers to The Austrian Chronicle which traces the origins of Eugene back to Abraham(b) who is claimed to be the first king of Austria! The Chronicles also lists Jewish rulers of the region from the end of the 8th century BC(c).
While all this is rather fanciful, I have introduced this site mainly because it has an interesting article on the Pillars of Heracles (d), unfortunately I find that the content of that article has been plagiarised from the work of Reginald Fessenden.
Island, Peninsula or Continent? Advocates of a continental rather than island identification for Atlantis have to contend with the fact that Plato never referred to Atlantis as a continent instead he used the Greek words for island, namely ‘nesos’ and ‘neson’. Their line of argument is that these words in addition to ‘island’ or ‘islands’ can also mean “islands of an archipelago” or “peninsula”. Furthermore it is claimed that the ancient Greeks had no precise word for ‘peninsula’.
Gilles le Noan, quoted by Papamarinopoulos[629.558], has offered evidence that there was no differentiation in Greek between ‘island’ and ‘peninsula’ until the time of Herodotus in the 5th century BC. In conversation with Mark Adams[1070.198] he 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.”
Robert Bittlestone, in his Odysseus Unbound [1402.143] also notes that “nesos usually means an island whereas cheronesos means a peninsula, but Homer could not have used cheronesos when referring to the peninsula of Argostoli for two very good reasons. First, it cannot be fitted into the metre of the epic verse and second, the word hadn’t yet been invented: it doesn’t occur in Greek literature until the 5th century BC.”
Another researcher, Roger Coghill, echoed the views of many when he wrote on an old webpage that “To the Greeks peninsulae were the same as islands, so the Peloponnesian peninsula was “the island of Pelops” and the Chersonnese was to them “the island of Cherson”. Similarly in describing a place found after escaping the Pillars of Hercules, Plato quite normally describes the Lusitanian coast (modern Portugal) as an “island”, reached, he clearly says, after passing Cadiz”.
Johann Saltzman claimed that ‘nesos’ did not mean ‘island’ or ‘peninsula’ but ‘land close to water’. However I would be happier sticking to the respected Liddell & Scott’s interpretation of island or peninsula. If Saltzman is correct, what word did the Greeks use for island?
The Modern Greek word for peninsula is ‘chersonesos’ which is derived from ‘khersos’ (dry) and ‘nesos’ (island) and can be seen as a reasonable description of a peninsula. It is worth noting that the etymology of the English word ‘peninsula’ is from the Latin ’paene’ (almost) and ’insula’ (an island).
Jonas Bergman maintains that the Greek concept of ‘island’ is one of detachment or isolation. He also points out that the original Egyptian word for island can also mean lowland or coastland, because the Egyptians had a different conception of ’island’ to either the ancient Greeks or us. Some commentators have claimed that the Egyptians of Solon’s time described any foreign land as an island.
Eberhard Zangger offers another correction of the Atlantis mystery: If one compares the land- / sea-distribution in Egypt and in the Aegean Sea, it becomes obvious why the Egyptians used at that time the expression “from the islands”. While today the word “island” has a clear meaning, this was not the case at the late Bronze Age. For the Egyptians more or less all strangers came from the islands. As there had been practically no islands in Egypt, the ancient Egyptian language did not have any special character for it. The hieroglyphic used for “island” was also meaning “sandy beach” or “coast” and was generally used for “foreign countries” or “regions on the other side of the Nile”.
A contributor to the Skeptic’s Dictionary(b) has added “I remind you that the Greek definition of “island” paralleled that of “continent.” To the Greeks, Europe was a continent. West Africa was an island, especially since it was cut off from the rest of what we now call “Africa” by a river that ran south from the Atlas mountains and then west to what is now the Western Sahara. This now dry river was explored by Byron Khun de Prorok in the 1920’s.”
Reginald Fessenden wrote: “One Greek term must be mentioned because it has given rise to much confusion. The word ‘Nesos’ is still translated as meaning ‘island’ but it does not mean this at all, except perhaps in late Greek. The Peloponnesus is a peninsula. Arabia was called a “nesos” and so was Mesopotamia”. This ambiguity in the written Greek and Egyptian of that period was highlighted at the 2005 Atlantis Conference by Stavros Papamarinopoulos.
Werner Wickboldt pointed out at the same conference that Adolph Schulten in the 1920’s referred to a number of classical writers who used the term ‘nesos’ in connection with the Nile, Tiber, Indus and Tartessos, all of which possessed deltas with extensive networks of islands.
To confuse matters even further, there have been a number of theories based on the idea that the ‘island’ of Atlantis was in fact land surrounded by rivers rather than the sea. These include Mesopotamia in Argentina proposed by Doug Fisher, the Island of Meroë in Sudan suggested by Thérêse Ghembaza and a large piece of land bound by the Mississippi, Ohio, Potomac rivers offered by Henriette Mertz. However, none of these locations match Plato’s description of Atlantis as a maritime trading nation with a naval fleet of 1200 ships, nor do any of them explain how they controlled the Mediterranean as far as Egypt and Tyrrhenia.
The waters around Plato’s island are indeed muddy!
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).