Syrtis was the name given by the Romans to two gulfs off the North African coast; Syrtis Major which is now known as the Gulf of Sidra off Libya and Syrtis Minor, known today as the Gulf of Gabes in Tunisian waters. They are both shallow sandy gulfs that have been feared from ancient times by mariners. In the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 27.13-18) it is described how St. Paul on his way to Rome was blown off course and feared that they would run aground on ‘Syrtis sands.’
The earliest modern reference to these gulfs that I can find in connection with Atlantis was by Nicolas Fréret in the 18th century when he proposed that Atlantis may have been situated in Syrtis Major. Giorgio Grongnet de Vasse expressed a similar view around the same time. Since then there has been little support for the idea until recent times when Winfried Huf designated Syrtis Major as one of his five divisions of the Atlantean Empire.
However, the region around the Gulf of Gabes has been more persistently associated with aspects of the Atlantis story. Inland from Gabes are the chotts, which were at one time connected to the Mediterranean and considered to have been part of the legendary Lake Tritonis, sometimes suggested as the actual location of Atlantis.
In the Gulf itself, Apollonius of Rhodes placed the Pillars of Herakles(a) , while Anton Mifsud has drawn attention to the writings of the Greek author, Palefatus of Paros, who stated (c. 32) that the Columns of Heracles were located close to the island of Kerkennah at the western end of Syrtis Minor. Lucanus, the Latin poet, located the Strait of Heracles in Syrtis Minor. Mifsud has pointed out that this reference has been omitted from modern translations of Lucanus’ work!
Férréol Butavand was one of the first modern commentators to locate Atlantis in the Gulf of Gabés. In 1929 Dr. Paul Borchardt, the German geographer, claimed to have located Atlantis between the chotts and the Gulf, while more recently Alberto Arecchi placed Atlantis in the Gulf when sea levels were lower(b) . George Sarantitis places the ‘Pillars’ near Gabes and Atlantis itself inland, further west in Mauritania, south of the Atlas Mountains. Antonio Usai also places the ‘Pillars’ in the Gulf of Gabes.
In 2018, Charles A. Rogers published a paper(c) on the academia.edu website in which he identified Tunisia as Atlantis with it capital located at the mouth of the Triton River on the Gulf of Gabes. He favours Plato’s 9.000 ‘years’ to have been lunar cycles, bringing the destruction of Atlantis into the middle of the second millennium BC and coinciding with the eruption of Thera which created a tsunami that ran across the Mediterranean destroying the city with the run-up and its subsequent backwash. This partly agrees with my conclusions in Joining the Dots!
(a) Argonautica Book IV ii 1230
Flavius Josephus, the 1st century AD historian and Jewish priest, has been invoked by Georges Diaz-Montexano to support his belief in an Iberian location for Atlantis(a). Diaz-Montexano refers to Book II. 374-375, which records the incursion by, what appears to have been a tsunami, onto the Atlantic coastal lands of modern Spain and Portugal, while at the time occupied by the Lusitanians and Cantabrians. Diaz-Montexano claims, let it be said, without proof, that this could only have been the same inundation that destroyed Atlantis.
Ralph Ellis has made the wild claim that Josephus was in fact St. Paul!(b) This idea has been put forward by others(c). On the other hand Flavio Barbiero offers the theory that Josephus and St. Paul were certainly known to each other(d). In his book, The Secret Society of Moses , Barbiero expands on the idea that Josephus played an important role in the development of early Christianity.
*Some doubt has been cast on Josephus’ reliability as an historian(c).
Divine Twins (Dioscurism) occur frequently in many cultures worldwide(c), Greek mythology being no exception, although Plato’s report that five sets of twins were the original rulers of Atlantis, it provides one of the more unusual elements in the account. Could there be any connection between the male twins of the Atlantis and the male twins, Romulus and Remus, who founded Rome or Amphion and Zethos who established Thebes?
Greek and Roman mythologies also shared the twins Castor and Pollux. Furthermore, a Christian reference to them can be found in the Acts of the Apostles (28.11), where St.Paul is said to have left Malta for Rome on a ship displaying the sign of Castor and Pollux.
The idea of Divine twins is also found in the old Slavic pantheon according to Michael Shapiro in a 1982 paper(g)*and found across European mythologies(i).*
According to Jim Allen, the leading proponent of the idea of Atlantis having existed in the Andes, the Aymara kingdoms which existed on the Andean Altiplano also governed in pairs, so he has no doubt that the story of Atlantis had its origins in a Bolivian legend(a). It is accepted that ‘The Hero Twins’ are part of Mayan mythology in the form of Xbalanque and Hunaphu. The anthropologist Robert L. Hall has detected twins in the native symbolism as far north as the Mississippi. The existence of twin rulers also existed in Bronze Age Scandinavia – one being the chief of war, the other the chief of rituals.
A recent paper by Alastair Coombs entitled The Atlantis Twins offered further thoughts on possible prehistoric references, including a suggested link with Göbekli Tepe. This article was expanded and retitled Göbekli Tepe & the Atlantis Twins and was later published on Graham Hancock’s website(d).
In December 2017, Anton Mifsud, the doyen of Maltese Atlantologists, published an intriguing suggestion(f), when he pointed out that on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, painted by Neo-Platonist Michelangelo, something odd can be perceived in the central panel, known as The Creation of Adam. There, we find ‘god’ surrounded by five pairs of flightless ‘cherubs’. This is reminiscent of Poseidon’s five pairs of twin sons that ruled Atlantis. However, Christian iconography invariably shows cherubs with wings, so it begs the question; why this departure from the norm? Mifsud contends that together with other aspects of the fresco, this depiction is closer to Plato’s ‘god’, Poseidon, than that of the Mosaic creator in Genesis!
My own view is that the story of the five sets of male twins is just one of the mythological threads in Plato’s Atlantis narrative. P.P. Flambas who has taken a generally literal view of Plato’s account, admits the improbability of happening to one couple through natural means. However, in correspondence, he defensively quotes the somewhat dubious(e) case of “the greatest officially recorded number of children born to one mother is 69, to the wife of Feodor Vassilyev (1707–c.1782), a peasant from Shuya, Russia.”
(g) Michael Shapiro, Neglected Evidence of Dioscurism (Divine Twinning) in the Old Slavic Pantheon, JIES 10 (1982), 137-166.
Ralph Ellis is an airline pilot by profession with a passion for ancient history and religions. His revisionist views has been heavily criticised. He has authored a number of books(a)focussing in the main on ancient Egypt. As noted elsewhere he has drawn attention to evidence for re-dating the pyramids. In a 2015 article(e) he claims that the four small shafts in the Great Pyramid had nothing to do with alignment with stars but were associated with the value of pi, an idea first suggested in 1859 by John Taylor (1781-1864)(i) in a book entitled The Great Pyramid: Why was it Built, and Who Built it?
His 2013 book, Eden in Egypt , locates the Garden of Eden in Egypt and claims that Adam and Eve were Akhenaton and Nefertiti! He has also proposed(f) that Flavius Josephus was in fact St. Paul! This idea has been taken up by others(g).
He has also co-authored a number of articles with Mark Foster(b).
In his trilogy, The Gospel of King Jesus, Ellis ‘reveals’ that Jesus was the great grandson of Queen Cleopatra and was King Izas of Edessa, in what is now northern Syria. Understandably, this has stirred up quite a controversy(a).
Ellis first touched on the subject of Atlantis in his book Thoth locating Plato’s island in the Atlantic, but in a later book, Tempest & Exodus he changed his opinion and subscribed to the Minoan Hypothesis.
Ellis has now turned his attention to ice age theory, since the exact cause of the onset of an ice age is still a matter of active debate. He has now proposed a new theory based on a cyclical alteration of polar albedo by atmospheric dust(c).
In a recent paper published(d) in Atlantis Rising magazine, Ellis reviews the mystery of the Carolina Bays, but offers little that is new and supports the growing consensus that the ‘Bays’ were the result of a cometary impact in the Great Lakes region, which was then covered by the Laurentide ice sheet. The impact shattered the ice and ejected millions of ‘slush balls’, many of which survived their high-speed journey through the atmosphere, creating the ‘Bays’ on landing.
Another of Ellis’ weirder claims is that “there exists a large copy of the Great Pyramid way up in the Himalayas, highlighted in an article(h) and book, K2: Quest of the Gods” !
(d) See Archive 3025
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.