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

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Thorwald C. Franke

Taliaferro, Robert Catesby

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 [1569]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.*

Gomperz, Theodor (N)

Theodor Gomperz (1832-1912) was an Austrian classicist, born in Brno, now part of the Czech Republic. His best known work is arguably Greek Thinkers[1428].

Thorwald C. Franke has drawn attention(a) to volume three, where Gomperz has discussed the subject of Atlantis, although with some degree of ambiguity. Nevertheless, while identifying some of Plato’s embellishments, Gomperz conceded that there was probably a degree of historical reality underpinning the narrative.


Kershaw. Stephen P.

Stephen P. Kershaw is Classics scholar with a particular interest in myth ology. He was editor of The Penguin Dictionary of Classical Mythology[1406] and has published a short series in his own right; A Brief Guide to the Greek Myths[1407], A Brief Guide to Classical Civilization[1408] and A Brief History of the Roman Empire[1409] . In September 2017, A Brief History of Atlantis[1410]  was published, which is a valuable introduction to the wide variety of opinions regarding Atlantis that have been expressed since the time of Plato.

His first chapter gives a number of instances where highly regarded ancient geographers have been quite inaccurate, citing the Roman belief that the west of Britain faced south. He concludes with ”the point here is that whether we are dealing with descriptions of the mythical Scherie, the real Britannia of of Plato’s Atlantis, ancient geographical knowledge can be vague and contradictory.”

Kershaw is an Atlantis sceptic who concludes that, ”Too many difficulties get in the way of accepting Plato’s story at face value: the chronology of putting a developed civilisation in the Mesolithic period; the geological impossibility of there being a sunken continent beneath the Atlantic; the total absence of any finds from the ancient world carrying the name Atlantis; and the fact that there is no mention anywhere of Atlantis in any ancient text prior to Plato’s – not even in Herodotus or Solon. Put bluntly, there is no source of the Atlantis story other than Plato. Atlantis is just a tale from Egypt ‘the most brilliant and enduring of all hoaxes’(Trevor Bryce[1499])”

With regard to the above, I must point out that the date for Atlantis noted by Plato is regarded by many atlantologists as a corruption and have offered a number of possible explanations for what is obviously incorrect. With regard to an Atlantic location, I along with others favour a Mediterranean setting. The name Atlantis was part of the Hellenising of the narrative recounting the war with an alliance whose members were likely to have been known by a variety different names. Plato also explains how Greece lost much of its history as a result of catastrophic floods (Timaeus 23b), which may explain why the Atlantis story was new to Solon.

*Thorwald C. Franke has written a valuable and hard-hitting critique of Kershaw’s Atlantis book(a).*

In January 2017, the University of Oxford began a short course on Plato’s Atlantis with Kershaw as the lecturer.


Wells, Edward (L)

Edward Wells (1667-1727) was an English mathematician, geographer and controversial theologian. In a 1701 work, A Treatise of Antient and Present Geography [1259.146], he refers to the belief of some linking America with Plato’s Atlantis, although he avoids revealing his own opinion on the matter. He refers to Cosmographie by Peter Heylyn (1599-1662), where the arguments are more fully expounded. Thorwald C. Franke discusses Wells in his 2016 book [1255.321], unfortunately in German only.

Hissmann, Michael (m)

Michael Hissmann (1752-1784) was a German philosopher of some repute. He also translated a number of French works into German., including that of Delisle de Sales, in which he added his own view that Atlantis had been situated in the Atlantic contrary to the view of the original author. He died of tuberculosis while in his early thirties,*[in the same year that he became a full professor. For German readers, Thorwald C. Franke has a more extensive account[1255.385] of Hissmann’s work.]*

Henke, Christoph (L)

Christoph Henke has prepared, in German, a comprehensive list of Atlantis criteria, available on Thorwald C.Franke’s website(a). Checklists of arbitrarily chosen criteria have been offered by a number of Atlantis theorists in an effort to bolster their particular ideas. The 2005 Atlantis Conference ended with a list of 24 such criteria[629.573], some of which, I consider misleading, while in my opinion, other, more relevant matters, have been omitted!

(a)  (German)


Gisinger, Friedrich (L)

Friedrich Gisinger (1888-1964) was a German classical scholar and in 1951 was appointed honorary professor of ancient geography at the University of Freiburg. He was the author of a short 1932 paper Zur geographischen Grundlage von Platons Atlantis (The geographical basis of Plato’s Atlantis). He was of the opinion, along with many others, that Aristotle implicity disputed the existence of Atlantis. This interpretation has been recently refuted by Thorwald C. Franke in his Aristotle and Atlantis[880] .

Maximillian I

Maximillian I of the Holy Roman Empire (1459-1519) appointed Lukas Fugger vom Reh as the ‘titular’ king of Atlantis in 1499. The certificate of appointment Maximilliannominated the Azores as the remnants of Atlantis. This could have been considered a provocative act by the Portuguese, who controlled the Azores, as their principal rivals, the Spanish, had allied themselves through marriage with Maximillian the previous year. Leaving the politics aside, this event indicates that Maximillian accepted the reality of Atlantis and placed it in the Atlantic.

This very early reference to Atlantis is covered in greater detail on the excellent website(a), who got the information from Markus Fugger von dem Rech, a descendant of Lukas. We are indebted to Thorwald C. Franke for the first mention of this in English(b).



Susemihl, Franz

Franz_SusemihlFranz Susemihl (1826-1901) was a professor of classical philology at Greifswald University and later became rector there. He was renowned in academic circles for his translations of the works of Plato and Aristotle. His remarks on the Atlantis commentators of his day are as relevant today as over a century ago when he said “The catalogue of statements about Atlantis is a fairly good aid for the study of human madness.”  The accuracy of his statement is borne out by the swollen ranks of today’s ‘lunatic fringe’ who claim inspiration from psychics, extraterrestrials or who insist that Atlantis was powered by crystals and possessed flying machines. The publication of such nonsense has continually undermined the credibility of serious Atlantology.

*Susemihl’s German translation of Plato’s Timaeus and Critias is available online.(a)(b). Thorwald C. Franke has also included Susemihl’s translation along with that of Müller, Bury and Jowett and the Greek text of John Burnet[1492], all in a parallel format(c).*

It should be noted that Susemihl was an Atlantis sceptic.




Casaubon, Isaac (t)

Isaac Casaubon (1559-1614) was born in Geneva where he became a professor of Greek. He later worked in France and England, but finally settled on editing Greek literature as a more rewarding occupation. Among his works was a 1587 commentary on Strabo and it was this production which inadvertently brought him into the Atlantis controversy in the early part of the 19th century.

In commenting on Strabo 2.3.6., Casaubon refers to Aristotle doubting the existence of the Achaeans walls reported by Homer in the Iliad. Casaubon notes that this statement was taken by Posidonius, who then inserted Plato’s Atlantis in place of the Achaean walls. Franke explains that this was done “in order to reject this comparison.” Nowhere does Casaubon attribute to Aristotle any claim that Atlantis was an invention by Plato.

However in 1816, Jean Baptiste Joseph Delambre when referring to Casaubon’s commentary hastily misinterprets the passage and describes Atlantis as the object of Aristotle’s doubt. This error was then repeated by later writers until gradually the idea reached critical mass so that in the 20th century it became “received wisdom”.

Nevertheless, in 2012, Thorwald C. Franke published a complete refutation of this incorrect addition by Delambre in his forensic study Aristotle and Atlantis[880], an English translation of the original German.