Flora and Fauna of Atlantis
The Flora and Fauna of Atlantis is mentioned in great detail by Plato in Critias;
“Besides all this, the earth bore freely all the aromatic substances it bears today, roots, herbs, bushes and gums exuded by flowers or fruit. There were cultivated crops, cereals which provide our staple diet. And pulse (to use its generic name) which we need in addition to feed us; there were the fruits of trees, hard to store but providing the drink and food and oil which gives us pleasure and relaxation and which we serve after supper as a welcome refreshment to the weary when appetite is satisfied – all these were produced by that sacred island, then still beneath the sun, in wonderful quality and profusion.” (115a-b)
James Bramwell noted how Leo Frobenius was convinced that his chosen Atlantis location of Yorubaland in Nigeria was reinforced by Plato’s description of the flora of his disappeared island [0195.119].
The lack of sufficient detail in the extract from Critias has led to a variety of interpretations. Jürgen Spanuth in support of his North Sea location for Atlantis has claimed [015.68] that during the Bronze Age the snow line in that region was higher than at any other time since the last Ice Age at 1,900 metres. He claims that as a result, grapes and wheat were cultivated there during that period.
The existence of the same species of plants and animals on both sides of the Atlantic has been noted for some time, so when the Mid Atlantic Ridge (MAR) was discovered in the 19th century and subsequently combined with the realisation that sea levels had dropped during the last Ice Age, it was thought that a stepping-stone/s, if not an actual landbridge, between the continents had been identified. This idea was popular with many geologists and botanists at the beginning of the 20th century, such R.F. Scharff and H.E. Forrest, both of whom also saw the MAR as the location of Atlantis, an idea that still persists today. Emmet Sweeney is a modern writer who also sees the earlier exposed MAR as an explanation for the shared transatlantic biota and is happy to identify the Azores as the last remnants of Atlantis.
Andrew Collins has attempted to squeeze a reference to coconuts out of this text to support his Caribbean location for Atlantis. However, coconuts were not introduced into that region until colonial times(c). Ivar Zapp & George Erikson, driven by similar motivations had made the same claim earlier.
>Dhani Irwanto has noted that “DNA analysis of more than 1,300 coconuts from around the world reveals that the coconut was brought under cultivation in two separate locations, one in the Pacific basin and the other in the Indian Ocean basin. (Baudouin et al, 2008; Gunn et al, 2011).(d)“<
My reading of the text is that Plato is describing food with which he is personally familiar and is unlikely to have been referring to coconuts.
>Michael Hübner in support of his Moroccan location for Atlantis has drawn attention to the argan tree, native to Southern Morocco, from which a valuable oil is produced. He goes further and claims that the appearance of the fruit of the argan tree may also have been the source of the story of the ‘golden apples’ stolen by Hercules from the Hesperides. Critias 114e tells us how Atlantis “brought forth also in abundance all the timbers that a forest provides for the labours of carpenters”. Even today, across the northern regions of Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco, woodlands and forests still cover an area of nearly 360,000 square kilometers(e).<
Mary Settegast points out that around 7300 BC there is evidence of crop rotation including cereals at the Tell Aswad site in Syria.
The olive tree thrives best in regions with a Mediterranean climate. Olive trees are mainly found between 25° and 45° N. latitude, while in France, they are only found in its southern Mediterranean region.
Ignatius Donnelly devoted Chapter VI(a) of his Atlantis tome to a review of the Atlantean flora and fauna. The print media at the start of the 20th century kept the general public aware of these theories(b).
Those that believe that Plato’s Atlantis narrative was just an invention to promote Plato’s political philosophy cannot explain the level of detail that is provided relating to the flora and fauna of Atlantis. In Plato’s dialogue Laws, Magnesia, another ideal city-state, which was an invention, had no such embellishment included. For me, the minutiae of the plants and animals noted by Plato in Critias is not what you would expect in a philosophical or political dissertation, but is more in keeping with a factual report.