The Seven Cities of Antilia are legendary cities reputed to have existed on the island of Antilia situated somewhere in the Atlantic. Medieval cartographers show Antilia (with a variety of spellings) at different locations in that ocean. Belief in its existence was firmly established by the time of Christopher Columbus. His son, Ferdinand, wrote of the many attempts to find it.
In the early 20th century geographer, W. H. Babcock, identified Cuba as Antilia, while later in 2000, Andrew Collins, in his Gateway to Atlantis devoted two chapters to the subject of the Seven Cities and also concluded that Cuba was its most likely location and by extension was also the home of Atlantis.
Robert Charroux (1909-1978) was the pen-name of Robert Grugeau who originally was a fiction writer and whose critics unkindly claim that he never deviated from that genre. During World War II he was Minister for Cultural Affairs in the French Vichy government. In the 1960’s he turned his attention to a study of ancient history and proceeded to publish a series of best-selling books on forgotten civilisations, ancient astronauts and a range of historical mysteries.*[He placed Hyperborea between Hudson Bay and Greenland[875.98] where it had been the home of a blond blue-eyed Nordic race.]*
He frequently touched on the subject of Atlantis*[in a number of his books, The Mysterious Unknown, The Mysterious Past and Lost Worlds,]*suggesting that Atlantis was located in the Atlantic and possibly known as Antilia, the Fortunate Isles or the island of the Seven Cities. He suggested that the final remnants of Atlantis may have existed on the Canary Islands and may have lasted until the fifteenth century AD in the form of the Guanches.
Charroux also thought that the Azores had been part of Atlantis but was adamant that the ‘geological convulsions’ in the region will have destroyed any physical evidence[875.93].
Sceptics regarding the existence of Atlantis have been around since the time of Plato. The first such critic was assumed to be Aristotle, a pupil of Plato’s, who apparently denounced the Atlantis tale as an invention. However, this presumed scepticism of Aristotle has now been seriously challenged by Thorwald C. Franke in a 2012 book, Aristotle and Atlantis specifically dealing with the subject. Nevertheless, Aristotle does record the existence of a large island in the Atlantic known to the Phoenicians as Antilia, inadvertently supporting Plato’s story(i).
Franke has recently outlined the extensive support for the existence of Atlantis from the earliest times in his recent German-language book. He has followed that with a YouTube video(j) in which he relates how scepticism became more extensive in the 19th century.
>Sprague deCamp was probably the most quoted Atlantis sceptic of the second half of the 20th century. He offered the blunt declaration that Plato concocted the whole story, basing the tale on a mixture of the wealth of Tartessos in Spain, and the destruction of the Greek island of Atalanta all intermingled with the mythology of Atlas.
One of deCamp’s most quoted extracts is that “you cannot change all the details of Plato’s story and still claim to have Plato’s story.” While I fully endorse this comment, I must point out that there is a difference between changing and interpreting details. For example, when Plato refers to Asia or Libya, even deCamp accepted that in Plato’s day ‘Asia’ was not the landmass we know, stretching from the Urals to Japan, but interpreted Plato’s ‘Asia’ as a reference to a much smaller territory [0194.27].<
Many modern commentators believe that in the interests of dramatic effect Plato heavily embellished the core truth underlying the story, namely that of an ancient submerged civilisation.
A claim frequently put forward by sceptics was echoed by Ian Alex Blaise, who wrote(l) that “we can summarise the ‘Timaeus and Critias’ as a parable of good (ancient Athens) triumphing over evil (Atlantis).” This, however, would appear to run counter to Plato’s narrative that records that both vanquished and victorious armies were destroyed!
Another critic, Joe Garcia, offers a paper attacking both the Minoan and Spanish location theories(m).
However, when we consider modern sceptics we find that they have been provided with unlimited ammunition by the poor scholarship of many Atlantis supporters and the outright ravings of the likes of Blavatsky, Steiner, Cayce, and a profusion of other authors, who claim to have channelled information regarding Atlantis.
Edwin Ramage, in his essay on Atlantis, makes the interesting comment that “believers tend to overshadow the sceptics for the simple reason that a positive theory, whether it is simple or elaborate, tends to be more attractive and to make better reading than any attempt at refutation, no matter how well taken it may be.” This is probably akin to referenda questions being framed by governments in a manner that favours a Yes vote that will provide the outcome that they want. This is because most people prefer to say Yes rather than No.
However, if the Atlantis narrative has any truth in it, the legitimate criticisms of sceptics must be given due consideration. One such sceptic is Paul Jordan who has produced a highly critical work on the subject. Jason Colavito is another vocal non-believer and has written a considerable amount on the subject(d). Several other websites(b)(c)(e) can also be recommended, in particular, a seven-part offering by Pat Linse(b).
I recently came across a sceptic review of Atlantis theories by Justin Spring which I thought contained some novel views and although I totally disagree with his conclusions, I feel it should be given a reading(g).
While I expect that few sceptics will be reading this entry, I would recommend to anyone a paper by Karla Mclaren, a former New Age ‘believer’ who developed into a sceptic(f).
A 2015 survey by the Chapman University of California was repeated in 2016, which suggested that nearly 40% of Americans believe that an advanced prehistoric civilisation, such as Atlantis, existed, causing consternation among sceptics(h). Why they found it so depressing is hard to understand since popular belief is no guarantee that it is supported by reality. After all, it was once commonly thought that the sun revolved around the earth!
There are times when I regret that I have not had a university education and then along comes a qualified academic who manages to remove any such feeling. One of those is Seth Stein, a professor at Northwestern University, who specialises in plate tectonics, who was reported in early 2018(k) to have proposed that “one of the strongest reasons to dispel Atlantis as a true ancient civilization is the fact that we haven’t found it.” This asinine comment shows a total abandonment of critical thinking because he seems to think that because something has not been found, proves that it does not exist. For example, before Heinrich Schliemann, Troy did exist but had yet to be located. Professor Stein’s stupid statement is also built on a flawed understanding of what Plato said or more correctly, did not say. Plato never described Atlantis as a continent, as assumed by Stein and it can be reasonably argued that our Atlantic Ocean where he sought Atlantis was not the Atlantic ‘Sea’ referred to by Plato. I suggest that Stein sticks to earth sciences and leave Atlantis to others.
In October 2021, Franke published an essay on what he calls the ‘dark side’ of Atlantis scepticism, which offers an interesting overview of anti-Platonism since the time of the philosopher(n).
(i) Strabo, II, 102 and XII, 598. Cf. Proclus In Timaeum 61a (Diehl I, p. 197).
(l) https://www.oocities.org/debunkinglc/atlantis.html (link broken)
Classical Writers Supporting the Existence of Atlantis
Although many of the early writers are quoted as referring to Plato’s Atlantis or at least alluding to places or events that could be related to his story there is no writer who can be identified as providing unambiguous independent evidence for Atlantis’ existence. One explanation could be that Atlantis may have been known by different names to different peoples in different ages, just as the Roman city of Aquisgranum was later known as Aachen to the Germans and concurrently as Aix-la-Chapelle to the French. However, it would have been quite different if the majority of post-Platonic writers had completely ignored or hotly disputed the veracity of Plato’s tale.
Alan Cameron, another Atlantis sceptic, is adamant that ”it is only in modern times that people have taken the Atlantis story seriously, no one did so in antiquity.” Both statements are clearly wrong, as can be seen from the list below and my Chronology of Atlantis Theories and even more comprehensively by Thorwald C. Franke’s Kritische Geschichte der Meinungen und Hypothesen zu Platons Atlantis (Critical history of the hypotheses on Plato’s Atlantis).
H.S. Bellamy mentions that about 100 Atlantis references are to be found in post-Platonic classical literature. He also argues that if Plato “had put forward a merely invented story in the Timaeus and Critias Dialogues the reaction of his contemporaries and immediate followers would have been rather more critical.” Thorwald C. Franke echoes this in his Aristotle and Atlantis[880.46]. Bellamy also notes that Sais, where the story originated, was in some ways a Greek city having regular contacts with Athens and should therefore have generated some denial from the priests if the Atlantis tale had been untrue.
Homer(c.8thcent. BC)wrote in his famous Odyssey of a Phoenician island called Scheria that many writers have controversially identified as Atlantis. It could be argued that this is another example of different names being applied to the same location.
Herodotus (c.484-420 BC)regarded by some as the greatest historian of the ancients, wrote about the mysterious island civilization in the Atlantic.
Hellanicus of Lesbos (5th cent. BC) refers to ‘Atlantias’. Timothy Ganz highlights one line in the few fragments we have from Hellanicus as being particularly noteworthy, “Poseidon mated with Celaeno, and their son Lycus was settled by his father in the Isles of the Blest and made immortal.”
Syrianus (died c.437 BC) the Neoplatonist and one-time head of Plato’s Academy in Athens, considered Atlantis to be a historical fact. He wrote a commentary on Timaeus, now lost, but his views are recorded by Proclus.
Eumelos of Cyrene (c.400 BC) was a historian and contemporary of Plato who placed Atlantis in the Central Mediterranean between Libya and Sicily.
Aristotle (384-322 BC) Plato’s pupil is constantly quoted in connection with his alleged criticism of Plato’s story. This claim was not made until 1819 when Delambre misinterpreted a commentary on Strabo by Isaac Casaubon. This error has been totally refuted by Thorwald C. Franke. Furthermore, it was Aristotle who stated that the Phoenicians knew of a large island in the Atlantic known as ’Antilia’. Crantor (4th-3rdcent. BC) was Plato’s first editor, who reported visiting Egypt where he claimed to have seen a marble column carved with hieroglyphics about Atlantis. However, Jason Colavito has pointed out that according to Proclus, Crantor was only told by the Egyptian priests that the carved pillars were still in existence.
Crantor (4th-3rd cent. BC) was Plato’s first editor, who reportedly visited Egypt where he claimed to have seen a marble column carved with hieroglyphics about Atlantis. However, Jason Colavito has pointed out(a) that according to Proclus, Crantor was only told by the Egyptian priests that the carved pillars were still in existence.
Theophrastus of Lesbos (370-287 BC) refers to colonies of Atlantis in the sea.
Theopompos of Chios (born c.380 BC), a Greek historian – wrote of the huge size of Atlantis and its cities of Machimum and Eusebius and a golden age free from disease and manual labour. Zhirov states[458.38/9] that Theopompos was considered a fabulist.
Apollodorus of Athens (fl. 140 BC) who was a pupil of Aristarchus of Samothrace (217-145 BC) wrote “Poseidon was very wrathful, and flooded the Thraisian plain, and submerged Attica under sea-water.” Bibliotheca, (III, 14, 1.)
Poseidonius (135-51 BC.) was Cicero’s teacher and wrote, “There were legends that beyond the Hercules Stones there was a huge area which was called “Poseidonis” or “Atlanta”
Diodorus Siculus (1stcent. BC), the Sicilian writer who has made a number of references to Atlantis.
Marcellus (c.100 BC) in his Ethiopic History quoted by Proclus [Zhirov p.40] refers to Atlantis as consisting of seven large and three smaller islands.
Statius Sebosus (c. 50 BC), the Roman geographer, tells us that it was forty days’ sail from the Gorgades (the Cape Verdes) and the Hesperides (the Islands of the Ladies of the West, unquestionably the Caribbean – see Gateway to Atlantis).
Timagenus (c.55 BC), a Greek historian wrote of the war between Atlantis and Europe and noted that some of the ancient tribes in France claimed it as their original home. There is some dispute about the French druids’ claim.
Philo of Alexandria (b.15 BC) also known as Philo Judaeus also accepted the reality of Atlantis’ existence.
Strabo (67 BC-23 AD) in his Geographia stated that he fully agreed with Plato’s assertion that Atlantis was fact rather than fiction.
Plutarch (46-119 AD) wrote about the lost continent in his book Lives, he recorded that both the Phoenicians and the Greeks had visited this island which lay on the west end of the Atlantic.
Pliny the Younger (61-113 AD) is quoted by Frank Joseph as recording the existence of numerous sandbanks outside the Pillars of Hercules as late as 100 AD.
Pomponius Mela (c.100 AD), placed Atlantis in a southern temperate region.
Tertullian (160-220 AD) associated the inundation of Atlantis with Noah’s flood.
Claudius Aelian (170-235 AD) referred to Atlantis in his work The Nature of Animals.
Arnobius (4thcent. AD.), a Christian bishop, is frequently quoted as accepting the reality of Plato’s Atlantis.
Ammianus Marcellinus (330-395 AD) [see Marcellinus entry]
Proclus Lycaeus (410-485 AD), a representative of the Neo-Platonic philosophy, recorded that there were several islands west of Europe. The inhabitants of these islands, he proceeds, remember a huge island that they all came from and which had been swallowed up by the sea. He also writes that the Greek philosopher Crantor saw the pillar with the hieroglyphic inscriptions, which told the story of Atlantis.
Cosmas Indicopleustes (6thcent. AD), a Byzantine geographer, in his Topographica Christiana (547 AD) quotes the Greek Historian, Timaeus (345-250 BC) who wrote of the ten kings of Chaldea [Zhirov p.40]. Marjorie Braymer[198.30] wrote that Cosmas was the first to use Plato’s Atlantis to support the veracity of the Bible.
There was little discussion of Atlantis after the 6th century until the Latin translation of Plato’s work by Marsilio Ficino was produced in the 15th century.
Antilia (Antillia), according to Aristotle, was the name by which a large island in the Atlantic was known to the Carthaginians. It may be worth noting that in Portuguese the word, ante-ihla, can be translated as ‘before’ or ‘in front of the island’. Aristotle, who had been one of Plato’s students, was the first to criticize his story of Atlantis. However it was Aristotle who wrote of a huge island in the Atlantic Ocean known by the Phoenicians as “Antilia” and so he appears to have unwittingly ended up supporting Plato‘s story.
Antilia is also the name of a landmass shown on medieval charts, varying in size and location between the Azores/Canaries and the Caribbean. In 1474, Paulo Toscanelli (1397-1482) produced a chart(a) showing the island of Antilia in the mid-Atlantic due west of the Canaries. The same map also includes the mythical St. Brendan’s Isle as a larger landmass further south. Battista Boccario shows Antilia on a 1435 map as did Zuane Pizzigani a decade earlier. After the discovery of the West Indies it assumed its present plural form of ‘Antilles’ to describe the large archipelago there.
In 1492, Martin Behaim (1436-1507) a German geographer constructed the earliest globe that we still have today. On it he depicts ‘Insula Antilia Septa Citida’ [The Island of Antilia of the Seven Cities] with an associated comment that relates how in 734 AD after the Moorish invasion of Spain the archbishop of Porto with six other bishops occupied this island. The legend of the Seven Cities was widely recorded, but its exact location is shown on old, and often not totally reliable, charts, as ranging from the Azores to the West Indies.
William H. Babcock writing in the 1920’s firmly opted for Cuba as Antilia, but was rather sceptical about the existence of Atlantis. On the other hand a more recent writer, Andrew Collins, is convinced that Cuba had been home to Atlantis.
Lewis Spence, writing in the 1920’s suggested that Antilia was a land bridge between Atlantis and the Americas. He proposed that refugees fleeing from a sinking Atlantis used this land bridge from the centre of the Atlantic and headed for what is today the Yucatan peninsula.
‘Antilia’ is also the name given to what is reputed to be the world’s first billion dollar residence. It is located in Mumbai and is the home of the Indian billionaire Mr Mukesh Ambani.