Atlanticus is the word used by Pedro Sarmiento de Gamboa to describe Atlantis. Thomas Taylor in his celebrated translation of Plato’s works has subtitled Critias as Atlanticus. In the 20th century The Critias Atlanticus was published, being a compilation(a) of seven translations of Plato’s Critias that includes the work of Thomas Taylor, Benjamin Jowett, Henry Davis, R. G. Bury, Lewis Spence, W.R.M. Lamb, John Alexander Stewart.
Robert Catesby Taliaferro (1907-1989) was an American mathematician, philosopher and classical philologist. In his latter capacity he wrote a foreword to a 1944 reprint of Thomas Taylor‘s translation of Timaeus and Critias . From it Frank Joseph has quoted [802.140] the following; “it appears to me to be as least as well attested as any other narration in any ancient historian. Indeed, he [Plato] who proclaims that ‘truth is the source of every good both to gods and men,’ and the whole of whose works consist in detecting error and exploring certainty, can never be supposed to have wilfully deceived mankind by publishing an extravagant romance as matter of fact, with all the precision of historical detail.”
*However, shortly after I posted the above, I was contacted by Thorwald C. Franke, who kindly pointed out that Frank Joseph’s quotation was from Thomas Taylor’s own introduction not Taliaferro’s later addition in 1944. This is just another example of sloppy research by Joseph.*
Pateneit is the name of the Egyptian priest that Solon spoke to in Sais, according to Proclus (5th cent. AD) in his Commentary on Plato’s Timaeus (Vol I). He adds that he also spoke to two other priests, Ochlapi at Heliopolis and Ethimon at Sebbynetus. However, Plutarch (2nd cent. AD) gives the names of the priests at Sais and Heliopolis as Sonchis and Psenophis respectively. It is frustrating that we no longer have access to the sources used by Plutarch and Proclus, but they do seem to enhance the provenance of Plato’s account.
The Thomas Taylor translation of Proclus’ commentary can be read online(a)(b).
The Tyrrhenian Sea was clearly an important part of the Atlantean domain. Plato clearly states that Atlantis controlled Europe as far as Tyrrhenia (Critias 114c), which implies that they dominated the southern half of the Italian peninsula. The Sea is surrounded by the islands of Corsica, Sardinia, Sicily and the Lipari Islands as well as continental Europe in the form of the Italian mainland. Not only does it contain islands with an adjacent continent (see Timaeus 24e). It is also accessed through the straits of Messina and Sicily, both of which have been identified as locations for the Pillars of Heracles before Eratosthenes applied that appellation to the region of Gibraltar.
Timaeus 24e-25a as translated by Bury reads “there lay an island which was larger than Libya and Asia together; and it was possible for the travellers of that time to cross from it to the other islands, and from the islands to the whole of the continent over against them which encompasses that veritable ocean (pontos=sea). For all that we have here, lying within the mouth of which we speak, is evidently a haven having a narrow entrance; but that yonder is a real ocean (pelagos=sea), and the land surrounding it may most rightly be called, in the fullest and truest sense, a continent.” Similarly, Lee and Jowett have misleadingly translated both pontos and pelagos as ‘ocean’, while the earliest English translation by Thomas Taylor correctly renders them as ‘sea’. Modern translators such as Joseph Warren Wells and a Greek commentator George Sarantitis are both quite happy to agree with Taylor’s translation. However, Peter Kalkavage translates pontos as ‘sea’ but pelagos as ‘ocean’!
For me, there is a very strong case to be made for identifying the Tyrrhenian Sea as the ‘sea’ referred to by Plato in the passage quoted above. However, it was probably F.Butavand, in 1925, who first proposed the Tyrrhenian as the sea described by Plato in his La Veritable Histoire de L’Atlantide .
Pushing the boat out a little further, I note that Rome is situated in Central Italy and by tradition was founded by the twins Romulus and Remus!
A 1700 map of the Tyrrhenian Sea is available online.
‘Tyrrhenia’ is sometimes used as a geological term to describe a sunken landmass in the Western Mediterranean Basin(b)(c).
English Translations of Plato’s Timaeus and Critias have been freely available since 1793 when Thomas Taylor produced his translation.
In 1804 Taylor published the first English translation of the entire Platonic corpus. In 1871, Benjamin Jowett produced the most commonly quoted version of the Atlantis Dialogues, principally because his work is now out of copyright. Henry Davis produced a translation of Critias in the 19th century and John Alexander Stewart also offered a translation of Critias early in the 20th century.
1925 saw W.R.M. Lamb publish a translation of some of Plato’s works and today his rendering of both Timaeus and Critias is used by the Perseus Digital Library(a). In 1929, Lewis Spence included a composite version of the Atlantis texts in The History of Atlantis, using the English translations of Jowett and Archer-Hind for Timaeus and the French translations of Jolibois and Negris for Critias. Rev. R. G. Bury gave us what was arguably the best translation of the Dialogues (Loeb Classical Library, 1929) and is included at the beginning of this book. Francis M. Cornford (1874-1943) published his Timaeus (Bobbs-Merrill, 1937)
Sir Desmond Lee produced a new English translation in 1972 (Penguin)
Professor Diskin Clay delivered an acclaimed translation of Critias (Hackett Publishing, 1997). Professor Donald J. Zeyl offered a new translation of Timaeus (Hackett Publishing, 2000). Dr. Peter Kalkavage published a highly regarded translation of Timaeus (Focus Philosophical Library, 2001).
Thomas Taylor (1758-1835) was the first to publish, in English, the complete works of Plato and Aristotle, in 1804. His publication was the completion of valuable work begun by the unfortunate Floyer Sydenham. Taylor is regarded by some as having had a valuable insight into the mind of Plato, which made his translations superior to many others. In 2009, a five volume, first edition set went on sale for $22,000.
Although Taylor’s work was generally well received, a subsequent translation by Rev. Henry Davis scathingly referred to Taylor’s work as “uncouth, obscure, unEnglish and often extremely erroneous.” Nevertheless, Madame Blavatsky and other theosophists were very happy with Taylor’s translation.
A reprint of Taylor’s 1810 translation of Timaeus and Critias has been made available by Kessinger Publishing. Unfortunately, it does not include the Stephanus pagination references, which makes navigation a little more difficult.
However, an extensive website dealing with the work of Gerald Massey(b) includes Taylor’s translation of Plato’s Critias and Timaeus with pagination (see introduction Pt.5).
Gerald Massey (1828-1907) was an English poet and self-taught Egyptologist. One result of his studies was to identify the Egyptian god Horus with Jesus. On the subject of Atlantis, Massey claimed that sun-worshipping Atlanteans migrated to Egypt but failed to identify their place of origin. His huge work on ancient Egypt, Ancient Egypt: The Light of the World, is widely available.
(a) http://www.masseiana.org/intro.htm (offline Nov.2017)
(b) http://gerald-massey.org.uk/massey/index.htm (offline Nov. 2017)
Proclus Lycaeus (412-487) is considered the last major Greek philosopher. He came from a rich family in Constantinople. After studying in Alexandria and a brief legal career in Constantinople, he went to Athens to study at the famous School of Philosophy founded 800 years earlier by Plato.
He refers to ancient historians mentioning seven small islands in the Outer Ocean (Atlantic) dedicated to Persephone and three larger ones, of which one was 1,000 stadia long and dedicated to Poseidon.
In 1820, Thomas Taylor produced the only English translation that we have of Proclus’ commentary. Andrew Collins has drawn attention[0072.100] to a translation error by Taylor, noted by Alan Cameron and Peter James, which seems to offer a quote from Plato rather than Crantor, which in turn obscures whether it was Crantor or Plato actually travelled to Egypt.
Taylor notes that in a fragment from a lost book of Proclus, he seems to refer to orichalcum under the name of migma(c).
*(a) http://www.masseiana.org/intro.htm (offline Nov. 2017)
(b) https://archive.org/details/ProcluscommentaryOnTheTimaeusOfPlato *
(d) In Platonis Theologiam
Orichalcum is one of the many mysteries in Plato’s Atlantis narrative. It is mentioned five times in the Critias [114e, 116c-d, 119c] as a metal extensively used in Atlantis. I am not aware of any reference to it anywhere else in his writings, a fact that can be advanced as evidence of the veracity of his Atlantis story. Plato took the time to explain to his audience why the kings of Atlantis have Hellenised names. However, he introduces Orichalcum into the story without explanation suggesting that the metal was something known to the listeners. It is therefore natural to expect that metals might play an important part in determining the credibility of any proposed Atlantis location.
*Bronze was an alloy of copper and tin, while brass was a mixture of copper and zinc, their similarity is such that museums today refer to artefacts made of either refer to them as copper alloys.*
According to James Bramwell[195.91], Albert Rivaud demonstrated that the term ‘orichalcum’ was known before Plato and not just invented by him. Similarly, Zhirov notes that both Homer and Hesiod refer to the metal[0458.46], , as does Ibycus, the 6th century BC poet, who compares its appearance to gold suggesting a brasslike alloy. Thomas Taylor (1825) noted that in a fragment from a lost book of Proclus, he seems to refer to orichalcum under the name of migma(c). Wikipedia also adds that “Orichalcum is also mentioned in the Antiquities of the Jews – Book VIII, sect. 88 by Josephus, who stated that the vessels in the Temple of Solomon were made of orichalcum (or a bronze that was like gold in beauty). Pliny the Elder points out that the metal had lost currency due to the mines being exhausted. Pseudo-Aristotle in ‘De mirabilibus auscultationibus’ describes orichalcum as a shining metal obtained during the smelting of copper with the addition of ‘calmia’, a kind of earth formerly found on the shores of the Black Sea, which is attributed to be zinc oxide.”
Orichalcum, or its equivalent Latin Aurichalcum, is usually translated as ‘golden copper’ referring to either its colour or composition (80% copper and 20% zinc) or both. However, Webster’s Dictionary translates it as ‘mountain-copper’ from ‘oros’ meaning mountain and ‘chalchos’ meaning copper.
Sir Desmond Lee described the metal as ‘imaginary’ without explaining away the classical references or the fact that ”In numismatics, orichalcum is the name given to a brass-like alloy of copper and zinc used for the Roman sestertius and dupondius. Very similar in composition to modern brass, it had a golden-yellow color when freshly struck. In coinage, orichalcum’s value was nearly double reddish copper or bronze. Because production cost was similar to copper or bronze, orichalcum’s formulation and production were highly profitable government secrets.”(m)
Modern writers have offered a range of conflicting explanations for both the origin and nature of orichalcum. A sober overview of the subject is provided by the Coin and Bullion Pages website(d).
In 1926 Paul Borchardt recounted Berber traditions that recalled a lost City of Brass. Salah Salim Ali, the Iraqi scholar, points out that a number of medieval Arabic writers referred to an ancient ‘City of Brass’ echoing the Orichalcum covered walls of Plato’s Atlantis.
Ivan Tournier, a regular contributor to the French journal Atlantis proposed that orichalcum was composed of copper and beryllium. Tournier’s conclusion seems to have been influenced by the discovery in 1936 at Assuit in Egypt of a type of scalpel made from such an alloy(e).
An unusual suggestion was made by Michael Hübner who noted that “small pieces of a reddish lime plaster with an addition of mica were discovered close to a rampart” in his chosen Atlantis location of South Morocco. He links this with Plato’s orichalcum, but does so without any great enthusiasm.
Jim Allen, promoter of the Atlantis in Bolivia theory, claims that a natural alloy of gold and copper is unique to the Andes. Tumbaga is the name given by the Spaniards to a non-specific alloy of gold and copper found in South America. However, an alloy of the two that has 15-40% copper, melts at 200 Co degrees less than gold. Dr. Karen Olsen Bruhns, an archaeologist at San Francisco State University wrote in her book, Ancient South America, “Copper and copper alloy objects were routinely gilded or silvered, the original colour apparently not being much valued. The gilded copper objects were often made of an alloy, which came to be very important in all of South and Central American metallurgy: tumbaga. This is a gold-copper alloy which is significantly harder than copper, but which retains its flexibility when hammered. It is thus ideally suited to the formation of elaborate objects made of hammered sheet metal. In addition, it casts well and melts at a lower temperature than copper, always a consideration when fuel sources for a draught were the wind and men’s lungs. The alloy could be made to look like pure gold by treatment of the finished face with an acid solution to dissolve the copper, and then by hammering or polishing to join the gold, giving a uniformly gold surface”.
Enrico Mattievich also believed that orichalcum had been mined in the Peruvian Andes(b).
Jürgen Spanuth tried to equate Orichalch with amber. Paul Dunbavin links Orichalcum with Wales. Robert Ishoy implies a connection between obsidian and Orichalcum, an idea also promoted by Christian & Siegfried Schoppe, while Felice Vinci equates it with platinum.
Albert Slosman thought that there was a connection between Moroccan oricalcita, a copper derivative, and Plato’s orichalcum. Peter Daughtrey has offered [893.82] a solution from a little further north in Portugal where the ancient Kunii people of the region used ori or oro as the word for gold and at that period used calcos for copper.
Thorwald C. Franke has suggested[750.174] that two sulphur compounds, realgar and orpiment whose fiery and sometimes translucent appearance might have been Plato’s orichalcum. His chosen location for Atlantis, Sicily, is a leading source of sulphur and some of its compounds. I doubt this explanation as realgar disintegrates with prolonged exposure to sunlight while it and orpiment, a toxin, could not be described as metals comparable with gold and silver as stated by Plato.
Frank Joseph translates orichalcum as ‘gleaming or superior copper’ rather than the more correct ‘mountain copper’ and then links Plato’s metal with the ancient copper mines of the Upper Great Lakes. Joseph follows Egerton Sykes in associating ‘findrine’, a metal referred to in old Irish epics, with orichalcum. However, findrine was usually described as white bronze unlike the reddish hue of orichalcum.
Ulf Erlingsson suggested [319.61] that orichalcum was ochre, which is normally yellow, but red when burnt. He seems to have based this on his translation of the text Critias116b. In fact the passage describes the citadel flashing in a fiery manner, but it does not specify a colour!
Other writers have suggested that orichalcum was bronze, an idea that conflicts with a 9600 BC date for the destruction of Atlantis since the archaeological evidence indicates the earliest use of bronze was around 6000 years later.
Thérêse Ghembaza has kindly drawn my attention to two quotations from Pliny the Elder and Ovid that offer possible explanations for Plato’s orichalcum (see Document 091011). The former refers to a Cypriot copper mixed with gold which gave a fiery colour and called pyropus, while Ovid also refers to a cladding of pyropus. She also mentions auricupride(Cu3Au), an alloy that may be connected with orichalcum.
Zatoz Nondik, a German researcher, has written a book about Plato’s ‘orichalcum’, From 2012 to Oreichalkos, in which he describes, in detail, how the orichalcum may be related to Japanese lacquer and suitable for coating walls as described in the Atlantis(b) narrative!
The fact is that copper and gold mixtures, both natural and manmade, have been found in various parts of the world and have been eagerly seized upon as support for different Atlantis location theories. A third of all gold is produced as a by-product of copper, lead, and zinc production.
It is also recorded that on ancient Crete, in the Aegean, two types of gold were found, one of which was a deep red developed by the addition of copper. Don Ingram suggests that the reddish gold produced in ancient Ireland is what Plato was referring to.
Irrespective of what orichalcum actually was, I think it is obvious that it was more appropriate to the Bronze Age than 9,600 BC. Furthermore, it occurs to me that Plato, who was so careful to explain or Hellenise foreign words so as not to confuse his Athenian audience, appears to assume that orichalcum is not an alien term to his audience.
The result of all of this is that Orichalcum has been advanced to support the location of Atlantis in North and South America, Sundaland, Ireland, Britain and the Aegean. Once again an unintentional lack of clarity in Plato’s text hampers a clear-cut identification of the location of Atlantis.
A fascinating anecdote relating the use of a term similar to ‘orichalcum’ to describe a mixture of copper and gold was used by a metalsmith in Dubai as recently as 2007 and is recounted on the Internet(a) .
The Wikipedia entry(f) for ‘orichalcum’ adds further classical references to this mysterious metal.
2015 began with a report that 47 ingots of ‘orichalcum’ had been found in a shipwreck off the coast of Sicily and dated to around 600 BC(g). What I cannot understand is that since we never knew the exact composition of Plato’s alloy, how can anyone today determine that these recovered ingots are the same metal. Thorwald C. Franke has more scholarly comments on offer(h). Jason Colavito has also applied his debunking talents to the subject(i). In June of the same year, Christos Djonis, in an article(j) on the Ancient Origins website, wrote a sober review of the media coverage of the shipwreck. He also added some interesting background history on the origin of the word ‘orichalcum’.
An analysis revealed(k) that those ingots were composed of 75-80% copper, 15-20% zinc, and traces of nickel, lead and iron, but no proof that this particular alloy was orichalcum. The recovery of a further 39 ingots from the wreck were reported in February 2017 and the excavation of the sunken ship continues.
The most recent explanation for the term comes from Dhani Irwanto who has proposed that orichalcum refers to a form zircon(l) that is plentiful on the Indonesian island of Kilimantan, where he has hypothesised that the Plain of Atlantis was located [1093.110].
(e) Atlantis Research Vol 2. No.6, Feb/Mar 1950, p.86
*(g) http://news.discovery.com/history/archaeology/atlantis-legendary-metal-found-in-shipwreck-150106.htm (link broken Oct. 2018) See: Archive 2460*