L. Sprague deCamp (1907-2000) is probably better known as a science fiction writer with over 120 books to his credit, including two non-fiction titles, Citadels of Mystery (First ed.: Ancient Ruins and Archaeology)  and Lost Continents , in which he was extremely sceptical of the reality of the Atlantis described by Plato. He offers the blunt declaration that Plato concocted the whole story, basing the tale on a mixture of the wealth of Tartessos in Spain, the destruction of the Greek island of Atalanta all intermingled with the mythology of Atlas. Although his criticism is harsh, it should be said that deCamp does display a reasonable degree of objectivity. It is probably because of his perceived integrity that other Atlantis sceptics continually trot out his views in support of their own position.
>A few years after Lost Continents was published, Nikolai Zhirov wrote a critique of the book(c), rejecting both its style and content. He notes that “the work shows a bad one-sided knowledge of geology and oceanography which is not counterbalanced by a critical examination of the published geological and oceanographical facts, although it is only by a study of these last that the Atlantis problem can be fully resolved.” Personally, I think that Zhirov’s comments are a reflection of his own bias towards an Atlantic location for Atlantis and ignore many other aspects of the Atlantis question, such as the date when Atlantis existed, as well as the identity of the Atlanteans.<
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. 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 a much smaller territory [0194.27]. In fact the term ‘Asia’ at one point was just applied to a small region of modern Turkey. Similarly, ‘Libya’ was not the country we know by that name today, but the term was often employed to designate all of North Africa west of Egypt. There are a number of other details in Plato’s narrative that require explanation or interpretation and so as long as any such elucidation is based on evidence and reason they cannot be glibly dismissed as substantive ‘changes’.
He scathingly refutes the more outlandish Atlantis theories that have deviated dramatically from Plato’s narrative, commenting that without matching the “date, location, size and island character” with the text we do not have Atlantis.
DeCamp also considered Alfred Wegner’s theory of continental drift as “very doubtful”, but corrected this statement in a 1970 edition of his book. Immanuel Velikovsky also received the sharp end of deCamp’s pen, describing his catastrophic theories as ‘mad’. Further information on deCamp can be found on the internet(a) where excerpts from his Lost Continents are also available(b).
Henry Eichner drew attention  to the fact that in three books relating to Atlantis authored by deCamp he describes a ring found by Adolf Schulten at the site of Tartessos, but slightly differently in all three! In Lost Continents it is plain, in Lands Beyond it is copper, while in Ancient Ruins and Archaeology it became gold!
Frank Joseph incorrectly claimed in the July/August 2011 issue of AtlantisRising magazine that DeCamp “formerly a staunch disbeliever in Atlantis, was later convinced it did indeed exist in south-coastal Iberia.”
(a) https://www.lspraguedecamp.com/ (offline August 2016)
>(c) Atlantis, Volume 11, No.5, July/August 1958<
Fundamentalist Atlantology is a term that I use to describe the idea that everything written about Atlantis by Plato, must be taken at face value. In other words when he refers to 9,000 years, this along with all the other numbers he uses in relation to the dimensions of the plain of Atlantis, its structures or its military manpower should be accepted literally! Such an acceptance flies in the face of both common sense and science, particularly in the case of Plato’s dating of Atlantis, while the dimensions he has for the ditch surrounding the plain of Atlantis were deemed incredible (his word) by Plato himself (Crit.118c), he felt obliged out of deference to Solon’s reputation he recorded the details as he received them.
Without wishing to offend anyone, I believe that acceptance, for example, of Plato’s/Solon’s numbers is comparable with the belief of religious fundamentalists who hold that creation’took just six days.
Although it is understandable that researchers have accepted Plato’s details without question, there has been extensive research over the past century into seeking more rational explanations for many of those more difficult passages in the Atlantis narrative which has produced alternative explanations that are compatible with both science and common sense.
While Plato’s 9,000 years were initially, rather glibly dismissed as a transcription error and that hundreds and not thousands had been intended, it has been demonstrated that the ancient Egyptian priesthood used a lunar calendar so that the ‘ýears’ were in fact months, which was noted in the 4th century BC by Eudoxus of Cnidos and repeated by Manetho and Diodorus Siculus. This would reduce the timeline by a factor of twelve. Another explanation was put forward by Rosario Vieni who proposed that the ‘years’ actually referred to seasons of which there are three in the Egyptian solar year. These, as far as I am aware, are the principal alternatives suggested in place of a literal reading of 9,000 years. After all, neither Athens or Egypt was home to anything more than primitive societies 9,000 years before Solon’s visit.
A further example concerns the size of Atlantis, which Plato consistently referred to as an island and never a continent and is described by him as greater than Libya and Asia combined. Irrespective of how extensive in size the Libya and Asia in question were, the Greek word for greater – meizon, actually relates to greater in strength, power or influence not extent. A few years ago Thorwald C. Franke pointed out that the traditional enemies of Egypt came from Libya and Asia, so that to describe the threat from Atlantis as greater than Libya and Asia combined indicates how great the threat from Atlantis was.
The more contentious issue of the actual location of the Pillars of Heracles, I will not go into here, suffice it to say that a number of valid competing arguments have been put forward in favour of locations other than the Strait of Gibraltar. In fact all of them could have been correct at different times, changing their position as the Greek colonists and traders gradually moved westward. Eventually, I believe that at some point in time the term simply became a metaphor for the limits of the world as generally known to the Greeks.
My point is that understandable difficulties exist in the Atlantis texts and that a number of sensible alternative explanations have been put forward, which will be individually tried and tested until a consensus emerges, in the same way that the idea of a geocentric universe was gradually replaced by the simple fact that our little planet revolves around the sun.
Marilyn Luongo is a South African entrepreneur involved in social projects there(b). Her website has an unexpected section dealing with the history of the Middle East(a) of which the second half involves a review of Plato’s Atlantis account. She attempts to link Mesopotamia with Atlantis, beginning with locating the ‘Pillars of Heracles’ at the Strait of Hormuz and then using the highly controversial interpretation of ‘meizon‘ meaning ‘between’ rather than ‘greater’ she proceeds to argue that Mesopotamia is ‘between’ Asia and Libya and therefore is the home of Atlantis!
The Bering Strait between Asia and America has been a source of ongoing controversy regarding the peopling of America.
James Howell (1594-1666) relates how even in the 17th century the existence of the strait, then known as the Anian, was disputed, although at the same time there was also a theory that the nomadic Scythians had originally crossed over the Strait from America.
>By the end of the 18th century the importance of the Strait had been recognised, when Paul Felix Cabrera wrote “That most troublesome of all the difficulties hitherto started by authors respecting the passage of animals to America, particularly of the ferocious kinds at enmity with man, even retaining in full force the plausible reasons so ingeniously urged, if not entirely removed, is nearly surmounted by the discovery and examination of Anian or Behring’s straits’ which are of no greater breadth than thirteen leagues from shore to shore, and where, by means of the ice, the two continents of Asia and America are connected; this would afford a practical route not only for animals but men, from whom it is possible to suppose that those who inhabit the most northerly countries from the straits as far as Hudson’s and Baffin’s Bays, and from the Frozen Sea to California, New Mexico, and Canada to the southward, are descended.” (s)<
In certain circumstances, it is still possible to walk across the Bering Strait. “A 2.5-mile stretch divides Russia’s Big Diomede island from Alaska’s Little Diomede island. In the winter, the water separating the two islands freezes, allowing you to trek from one destination to the other.”(n) Wikipedia notes that “numerous successful crossings without the use of a boat have also been recorded since at least the early 20th century.” (o)
There is little doubt that at some point in prehistory a landbridge linked the two continents.
Although it is frequently claimed that the Hadji Ahmed Map of 1559 shows a landbridge between the two continents, it only appears to be so because of the way the map is drawn.
A recent paper(a) by Heather Pringle and Krista Langlois offers evidence that the link was more than just an isthmus, but was in fact a vast area of land, Beringia, the size of Australia and that it provided a crossing point, for humans and animals earlier and for longer than previously believed (See map above right).
After crossing the Strait there were two southward routes, one along the coast and the other via what is known as the Ice-Free Corridor Route which ran between two vast ice sheets, the Laurentide to the east and the Cordilleran to the west(c). According to a 2018 report(i), the coastal route which followed deglaciation “was physically and environmentally viable for early human migration to the Americas.” Another report in 2018 claims that the earliest settlers in America were island-hopping sea-farers from Asia(j)(k).
However, there is now compelling evidence that peopled reached South America before the existence of the northern ice-free corridor, suggesting the alternative coastal migration route, which, so far, has little evidence to support it. This recent report is the result of excavations at the Huaca Prieta ceremonial mound, 600 Km north of the Peruvian capital, Lima. Human activity there has now been dated to around 15,000 years ago(e). Further evidence has now emerged(p) that the peopling of America was not carried out by a single group, but by immigrants from different geographical areas.
Professor Jody Hey of Rutgers University published in 2011 the results of his North American DNA studies, which confirmed the arrival of the first migrants from Asia around 14,000 years ago in a group of not more than 70 people(r).
Pre-Columbian contact between Asia and Alaska was confirmed by a report(b) from Purdue University in September 2016. Artifacts were discovered in a house dated between 700 and 900 years old. The bronze items were identified as having been smelted in Asia, while a leather strap was radio carbon dated to between 500 and 800 years old.
Another 2016 report(d) added genetic evidence for the Beringia migration route, when the remains of two infants, dated to around 10,000 years ago were discovered at the Upward Sun River site in Alaska.
The ‘received wisdom’ regarding the origins of the Clovis people was that they had crossed into the Americas from Asia via the Bering Strait 12,000 years ago. This has been challenged in a book by two archaeologists, Dennis J. Stanford and Bruce A. Bradley, who claim “that the first Americans crossed the Atlantic by boat and arrived earlier than previously thought. Supplying archaeological and oceanographic evidence to support this assertion, the book dismantles the old paradigm while persuasively linking Clovis technology with the culture of the Solutrean people who occupied France and Spain more than 20,000 years ago.” In 2014, Stephen Oppenheimer endorsed the work of Stanford and Bradley(h). Coincidentally, an article(m) in the August 2017 edition of Antiquity offers evidence that humans lived in Brazil more than 20,000 years ago, which is many millennia before the Clovis people arrived in North America.
A sceptical view of their work should also be read(f). Furthermore, in 2016 the Solutrean Hypothesis also appears to have been contradicted by recent genetic studies(g).
Late August 2019 saw the dating controversy surrounding the arrival of the First Americans re-ignited with a study which pushes the date back to over 16,000 years ago(l) . This is based on archaeological discoveries at Cooper’s Ferry in Idaho. This earlier date suggests that the ice-free corridor would not have been available to these people, but are more likely to have used the coastal route from Asia via the Bering Strait. A secondary matter raised by these finds is that “Based on their analysis of the stone tools from Cooper’s Ferry, the researchers suggest that they are most similar to artifacts of the same general period found on the other side of the Pacific. Specifically, they appear to share many traits with tools produced on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido 13,000-16,000 years ago!”
The idea that the Clovis people were the first Americans is gradually losing support as the evidence found at Cooper’s Ferry and other sites indicates otherwise. A recent paper on the National Geographic website supports such a revised view(q).
The only direct connection of the Bering Strait with Atlantis has been suggested by Albert. M. Chelchelnitsky, who proposed that Atlantis had been situated in Alaska and placed the Pillars of Herakles in the Strait itself.
Sean Bambrough is a New Zealand researcher of ancient mysteries. Since 1999 he has been developing a theory which places Plato’s Atlantis in the Andes and identifies its city as Tiwanaku. He has published 37 pages of notes in support of this contention(a)(c). A reader will find them tough going and at times repetitious, but it is clear that he has put a lot of study into the subject even if he has, in my opinion, produced a very flawed theory.
A number of researchers have assumed that when Plato referred to an ‘opposite continent’ he was referring to the Americas, however Herodotus, who flourished after Solon and before Plato, was quite clear that there were only three continents known to the Greeks, Europe, Asia and Libya [4.42].
Bambrough’s first major error is to equate the sinking of Atlantis with the uplifting of the Andes! The Andes are rising at a rate of some millimetres per year. and the geological evidence is that in the past the uplift rate was somewhat more rapid, which “in geologic terms, rapid means rising one kilometer or more over several millions of years.”(b)(e)
There is no evidence that the cataclysmic upheaval described by him could have occurred around 1400BC. He does not explain how these newly elevated mountains created muddy shoals that made the Atlantic impassable.
As I have already argued in respect of Jim Allen’s Andean theory, the idea of an invasion of the eastern Mediterranean by an army from the west side of South America is untenable. That they would try it in reed boats like those of Titicaca is equally daft. Then, this mighty army from ten regions of South America were defeated by the small city-state of Athens is equally laughable.
I could go on, but just a final couple of points; Plato never described Atlantis as a continent and Kircher’s speculative map depicts Atlantis quite clearly in our Atlantic Ocean between Spain and America.
Bambrough has recently updated his website(d), however, his writing style is as irritating as ever, in particular his excessive use of retronyms (forward slashes).
In 2017, he published(f) an extended ‘check-list’ which he feels supports his location theory. This offering is far too long and repetitious. It is clearly a triumph of quantity over quality.
In September 2020 Bambrough gave me a new link(g).
(f) https://www.allempires.com/forum/forum_posts.asp?TID=36133 (link broken Dec. 2019)
Meizon is given the sole meaning of ‘greater’ in the respected Greek Lexicon of Liddell & Scott . Furthermore, in Bury’s translation of sections 20e -26a of Timaeus there are eleven instances of Plato using megas (great) meizon (greater) or megistos (greatest). In all cases great or greatest is employed except just one, 24e, which uses the comparative meizon, which Bury translated as ‘larger’! J.Warren Wells concluded that Bury’s translation in this single instance is inconsistent with his other treatments of the word and it does not fit comfortably with the context[787.85]. This inconsistency is difficult to accept, so although meizon can have a secondary meaning of ‘larger’ it is quite reasonable to assume that the primary meaning of ‘greater’ was intended.
*In 2006, on a now defunct website of his, Wells noted that “Greater can mean larger, but this meaning is by no means the only possible meaning here; his overall usage of the word may show he meant greater in some other way.”*
It is also worth considering that Alexander the Great, (Aléxandros ho Mégas) was so called, not because of his physical size, apparently he was short of stature, but because he was a powerful leader.
The word has entered Atlantis debates in relation to its use in Timaeus 24e ’, where Plato describes Atlantis as ‘greater’ than Libya and Asia together and until recently has been most frequently interpreted to mean greater ‘in size’, an idea that I previously endorsed. However, some researchers have suggested that he intended to mean greater ‘in power’.
Other commentators do not seem to be fully aware that ‘Libya’ and ‘Asia’ had completely different meanings at the time of Plato. ‘Libya’ referred to part or all of North Africa, west of Egypt, while ‘Asia’ was sometimes applied to Lydia, a small kingdom in what is today Turkey. Incidentally, Plato’s statement also demonstrates that Atlantis could not have existed in either of these territories as ‘a part cannot be greater than the whole.’
A more radical, but less credible, interpretation of Plato’s use of ‘meizon’ came from the historian P.B.S. Andrews, who suggested that the quotation has been the result of a misreading of Solon’s notes. He maintained that the text should be read as ’midway between Libya and Asia’ since in the original Greek there is only a difference on one letter between the words for midway (meson) and larger than (meizon). This suggestion was supported by the classical scholar J.V. Luce and more recently on Marilyn Luongo’s website(a). This interpretation is quite interesting, particularly if the Lydian explanation of ‘Asia’ mentioned above is correct. Viewed from either Athens or Egypt we find that Crete is located ‘midway’ between Lydia and Libya.
In relation to all this , Felice Vinci has explained that ancient mariners measured territory by the length of its coastal perimeter, a method that was in use up to the time of Columbus. This would imply that the island of Atlantis was relatively modest in extent – I would speculate somewhere between the size of Cyprus and Sardinia. An area of such an extent has never been known to have been destroyed by an earthquake.
Until the 21st century, it was thought by many that meizon must have referred to the physical size of Atlantis rather than its military power. However, having read a paper[750.173] delivered by Thorwald C. Franke to the 2008 Atlantis Conference, I was persuaded otherwise. His explanation is that “for Egyptians the world of their ‘traditional’ enemies was divided in two: To the west there were the Libyans, to the east there were the Asians. If an Egyptian scribe wanted to say, that an enemy was more dangerous than the ‘usual’ enemies, which was the case with the Sea Peoples’ invasion, then he would have most probably said, that this enemy was “more powerful than Libya and Asia put together”.
This is a far more elegant and credible explanation than any reference to physical size, which forced researchers to seek lost continental sized land masses and apparently justified the negativity of sceptics. Furthermore, it reinforces the Egyptian origin of the Atlantis story, demolishing any claim that Plato concocted the whole tale. If it had been invented by Plato he would probably have compared Atlantis to enemy territories nearer to home, such as the Persians.
(b) https://lost-origins.com/atlantis-no-lost-continent/ (offline Jan. 2018) See: Archive 2349
North Africa has received considerable attention as a possible location for Atlantis since the beginning of the 19th century. Gattefosse and Butavand are names associated with early 20th century North African theorists. They, along with Borchardt, Herrmann and others have proposed locations as far west as Lixus on the Atlantic coast of Morocco, on through Tunisia and Libya and even as far east as the Nile delta.
One of the earliest writers was Ali Bey El Abbassi who discussed Atlantis and an ancient inland sea in the Sahara. The concept of such an inland sea, usually linked with Lake Tritonis, has persisted with the Chotts of Tunisia and Algeria as prime suspects. There is acceptance that a seismic/tectonic convulsion in the vicinity of the Gulf of Gabés cut off this inland sea from the Mediterranean. Diodorus Siculus records this event in his third book dating it to around 1250 BC. If such an event did not occur, how do we explain the salt laden chotts? However, proving a connection with Atlantis is another matter.
Whether this particular geological upheaval was related to the episode that destroyed parts of ancient Malta is questionable as the Maltese event was one of massive subsidence.
It should be kept in mind that Plato described the southern part of the Atlantean confederation as occupying North Africa as far eastward as Egypt (Tim.25b & Crit.114c). This of course conflicts with the idea of the Atlanteans invading from beyond ‘Pillars of Heracles’ situated at Gibraltar since they apparently already controlled at least part of the Western Mediterranean as far as Italy and Egypt.
*One of the principal arguments against Atlantis being located in North Africa is that Plato clearly referred to Atlantis as an island. However, as Papamarinopoulos has pointed out that regarding the Greek word for island, ‘nesos’ “a literary differentiation between ‘island’ and ‘peninsula’ did not exist in alphabetic Greek before Herodotus’ in the 5th century BC. Similarly, there was not any distinction between a coast and an island in Egyptian writing systems, up to the 5th century BC.” In conversation with Mark Adams[1070.198] Papamarinopoulos explains that in the sixth century BC, when Solon lived, nesos had five geographic meanings. “One, an island as we know it. Two, a promontory. Three, a peninsula. Four, a coast. Five, a land within a continent, surrounded by lakes, rivers or springs.”
Personally, from the context, I am quite happy to accept that the principal city of the Atlantean alliance existed on an island as we understand the word. This was probably north of Tunisia, where a number of possible candidates exist. However, it may be unwise to rule out a North African city just yet!
Another argument put forward that appears to exclude at least part of North Africa is that Plato, according to many translations, he refers to Atlantis as ‘greater’ than ‘Libya’ and ‘Asia‘ combined, using the Greek word, ‘meizon‘, which had a primary meaning of ‘more powerful’ not greater in size. Atlantis could not have been situated in either Libya or Asia because ‘a part cannot be greater than the whole’. However, if Plato was referring to military might rather than geographical extent, as seems quite likely, North Africa may indeed have been part of the Atlantean alliance, particularly as Plato describes the control of Atlantis in the Mediterranean as far Tyrrhenia and Egypt.*
The Mediterranean Sea is at the heart of the Atlantis story. Solon brings the tale back from Egypt to Athens and relates how the Atlanteans controlled the Mediterranean as far as Tyrrhenia and Egypt. The Atlanteans attack Athens and Egypt. Although the Pillars of Heracles are now generally believed to have been located at the Strait of Gibraltar, a number of other locations in the Mediterranean are known to have been similarly designated at different periods. As I have argued elsewhere, the Pillars of Heracles were undoubtedly a designation for the Strait of Gibraltar from the time of Eratosthenes, there is clear evidence that it was applied to other locations in earlier ages and probably over time, it became a metaphor for the limits of Greek maritime knowledge.
I may be the first to claim here that modern studies of Homer’s Odysseus offer a possible argument in favour of a Central Mediterranean Atlantis. Armin Wolf, the German historian, has made a 40-year study of 80 theories regarding the route taken by Odysseus. Around 30 of these included maps, a number of which are included in Wolf’s book, Homers Reise: Auf den Spuren des Odysseus, a shorter version in English, including maps, is also available as a pdf file(a). It is obvious that although a reasonable degree of agreement exists between many of the theories regarding the position of the twelve specific locations recorded by Homer, those that confine the ‘wanderings’ to the Mediterranean, consistently keep all locations in the eastern basin and Central Mediterranean with the sole exception of the inclusion of Gibraltar which looks out of place on maps,>with apparently nothing happening on the way there or on the return trip.< Wolf’s carefully thought out route does not include Gibraltar and in my opinion is a better reflection of actual Greek seafaring knowledge and naval capabilities at that time and adds a further suggestion, however inconclusive, that the Pillars of Heracles were situated in the Central Mediterranean. Wolfgang Geisthövel follows Wolf’s conclusions in Homer’s Mediterranean.
Today’s leading theories regarding the location of Atlantis are virtually all related to the Mediterranean region. Between Morocco in the west and the Black Sea in the east there is an embarrassment of suggested locations.
*The principal objection to a Mediterranean location for Atlantis is frequently claimed to be the apparent physical extent of the island as described by Plato,*which if accepted as written, could not have fitted anywhere in that body of water. He gives us measurements for the plain adjacent to the city as being 240×360 miles. However, it is widely agreed that most of Plato’s dimensions are highly suspect and exaggerated by as much as a factor of ten.
On the other hand if Atlantis had been located outside the Mediterranean it is difficult to understand how the disaster that destroyed Atlantis could also have devastated Athens and its hinterland when the two locations would have been over 1700 miles apart. No single known natural disaster, such as an earthquake, could have affected the two cities at the same time. So if they were destroyed concurrently we must conclude that the two locations were situated in the same region and since Athens was clearly in the Mediterranean so must Atlantis. However, Plato does not explicitly say that the two armies were destroyed at the same time, although it seems to be implied.
As stated in the Invasion entry, all ancient empires expanded through the invasion of adjacent territories and so there is no good reason to think that Atlantis’ attack was not launched against an Athens that was within easy striking distance. This proximity could possibly explain the inference that Atlantean and Athenian armies were destroyed simultaneously by some natural catastrophe!
Finally, please consider the following facts;
(1) Herodotus tells us that the ancient Greeks only knew of three continents, Asia, Europe and Libya (Africa) (Hist.4.42).
(2) Plato never called Atlantis a continent but consistently referred to it as an island.
These three details taken together offer a compelling argument in favour of a Mediterranean Atlantis.
** Sicily is in fact larger in terms of area (25,708 v 24,090 km2). However, the coastal length of Sardinia is much greater than Sicily’s (1843 v 1115 km). Felice Vinci recently explained how ancient seafarers measured territory by its coastal perimeter rather than by its area, as we do today. So Herodotus was correct according to the conventions of his day.
The term ‘Continent’, is derived from the Latin terra continens, meaning ‘continuous land’ and in English is relatively new, not coming into use until the Middle English period (11th-16th centuries). Apart from that, it is sometimes used to imply mainland. The Scottish island of Shetland is known by the smaller islands in the archipelago as Mainland, in fact its old Norse name is Megenland, which means mainland. In turn the people of Mainland, Shetland, will apply the same title to the Britain, who in turn apply the term ‘continuous land’ or continent to mainland Europe. Consequently it is clear the term is clearly relative.
The term has been applied arbitrarily by some commentators to Plato’s Atlantis, usually by those locating it in the Atlantic. In fact Plato never called Atlantis a continent, but instead as the sixteen instances below prove, he consistently referred to it as an island, probably the one containing the capital city of the confederation or alliance!
[Timaeus 24e, 25a, 25d Critias 108e, 113c, 113d, 113e, 114a, 114b, 114e, 115b, 115e, 116a, 117c, 118b, 119c]
A number of commentators have assumed that when Plato referred to an ‘opposite continent’ he was referring to the Americas, however Herodotus, who flourished after Solon and before Plato, was quite clear that there were only three continents known to the Greeks, Europe, Asia and Libya [4.42]. In fact prior to Herodotus only two landmasses were considered continents, Europe and Asia, with Libya sometimes considered part of Asia.*Furthermore, Anaximander drew a ‘map’ of the known world (left), a century after Herodotus, showing only the three continents, without any hint of territory beyond them.*
So when Plato does use the word ‘continent’ [Tim. 24e, 25a, Crit. 111a] we can reasonably conclude that he was referring to one of these landmasses, and more than likely to either Europe or Libya (North Africa) as Atlantis was in the west, ruling out Asia.
Philo of Alexandria (20 BC-50 AD) in his On the Eternity of the World(b) wrote “Are you ignorant of the celebrated account which is given of that most sacred Sicilian strait, which in old times joined Sicily to the continent of Italy?” (v.139). It would seem that in this particular circumstance the term ‘Sicilian Strait’ refers to the Strait of Messina, which is another example of how ancient geographical terms often changed their meaning over time (see Atlantic & Pillars of Herakles).
The name ‘Italy’ was normally used in ancient times to describe the southern part of the peninsula(d). Some commentators think that Philo was quoting Theophrastus, Aristotle’s successor. This would push the custom of referring to Italy as a ‘continent’ back to the time of Plato, who clearly states (Tim. 25a) that the Atlantean alliance “ruled over all the island, over many other islands as well. and over sections of the continent.” (Wells). The next passage recounts their control of territory in Europe and North Africa, so it naturally begs the question as to what was ‘the continent’ referred to previously? I suggest that the context, had a specific meaning, which, in the absence of any other candidate and the persistent usage over the following two millennia can be reasonably assumed to have been southern Italy.
Centuries later, the historian, Edward Gibbon (1737-1794) refers at least twice[1523.6.209/10] to the ‘continent of Italy’. More recently, Armin Wolf (1935- ), the German historian, when writing about Scheria relates(a) that “Even today, when people from Sicily go to Calabria (southern Italy) they say they are going to the “continente.” This continuing usage of the term is confirmed by a current travel site(c) and by author, Robert Fox in The Inner Sea [1168.141].
I suggest that Plato used the term in a similar fashion and can be seen as offering a more rational explanation for the use of the word ‘continent’ in Timaeus 25a, adding to the idea of Atlantis in the Central Mediterranean.
Giovanni Ugas claims that the Mediterranean coast of southern Spain and France, along with the Italian peninsula constituted the ‘true continent’ (continente vero) referred to by Plato. (see below)
Furthermore, the text informs us that this opposite continent surrounds or encompasses the true ocean, a description that could not be applied to either of the Americas as neither encompass the Atlantic, which makes any theory of an American Atlantis more than questionable.
Modern geology has definitively demonstrated that no continental mass lies in the Atlantic and quite clearly the Mediterranean does not have room for a sunken continent .
Atlantis from a Geographer’s Perspective  by Dr. Ulf Erlingsson, a Swedish geographer and geomorphologist, endeavours to identify Ireland as the original Atlantis described by Plato. As an Irishman, I would be delighted to support this view, if the evidence was strong enough. Unfortunately, I cannot see Erlingsson’s book advancing the case for an Irish Atlantis. I am willing to accept that the megalithic cultures of Western Europe and North Africa were probably part of a loose confederation of societies that led to a later tale of a mighty empire, as its existence was relayed through the myths of succeeding civilisations. However, to claim that Ireland was the centre of this civilisation is rather fanciful and unsubstantiated by anything other than the fertile imagination of Dr. Erlingsson.
Erlingsson refers to Henry O’Brien’s book, The Round Towers of Ireland as a sort of precursor of his own. In fact, O’Brien’s book was an attempt to link the Round Towers of Ireland with a pre-Christian period. O’Brien never referred to Plato or Atlantis at all. Now after more than a hundred and fifty years, no evidence to support O’Brien’s claim has been forthcoming. There is a consensus that the round towers date from the early part of the first millennium AD, but it must be admitted that with regard to their purpose, some mystery still exists.
The most glaring flaw in Erlingsson’s theory is his arbitrary use of the diagonal dimensions of Ireland in order to shoehorn it into Plato’s dimensions. Using the island’s latitudinal and longtitudinal dimensions, a much smaller figure would have resulted. However, his application of Plato’s 3,000 x 2,000 stadia (550 x 370 km) to the entire island, is dishonest as Plato’s figures only refer to the plain of Atlantis, whereas the Central Plain of Ireland would only occupy a fraction of that area.
Some of my other reasons for dismissing Dr. Erlingsson’s theory are:
- Ireland is too far north to have produced two crops annually and was mainly covered in ice during the last Ice Age. Furthermore;
- Ireland did not disappear beneath the sea
- Ireland has always been somewhat short of elephants
- Ireland does not have hot springs
- There is no evidence of any harbour in the immediate vicinity of Tara or Newgrange.
- Conventional archaeology indicates that Ireland did not have dressed stone structures until around 5th Century AD.
*Erlingsson, in order to explain the fact that Ireland was not submerged, has proposed that when the story of megalithic Ireland reached Egypt, it became confused with the tale of the inundation of Doggerland, which resulted from the Norwegian storegga event of around 6200 BC.*
My final gripe with the book, or should I say booklet, as it contains just a hundred pages, is that it lacks an index, an irritating omission that a number of authors reviewed here have also been guilty of.
On 19th August 2004, the respected The Irish Times newspaper, reported(c) that Erlingsson had appeared to backtrack on some of his initial claims when he said that “The existence of Atlantis has never been proven” and that “the purpose of his book was to test Plato’s claim that he based the utopia on a real, historic place.”
UPDATE – JULY 2016
It’s over ten years since I read Erlingsson’s book and have only recently re-read it because the author wrote to me complaining that I had included inaccuracies in my original comments on his book. Having perused the first chapter again, I quickly realised that any shortcomings on my part were greatly exceeded by those of Erlingsson’s.
Firstly, he claims that Atlantis was Ireland, but the island which sank, referred to by Plato, was in the North Sea, part of Doggerland. He claims that the story of a sunken island was a tale from Atlantis, not about Atlantis! He attempts to explain this away by simply claiming that Solon/Plato made a mistake! It is far more likely that Erlingsson is making a mistake.
He then uses Doggerland to explain away the elephants that Plato said inhabited Atlantis, claiming that the remains of mammoths were reclaimed from the North Sea. However, he fails to record that the mammoths in question were dated at 40,000 BC(b), tens of thousands of years before Atlantis.*Nevertheless, there is now evidence that mammoths may have existed on Wrangel Island in the Arctic Ocean as recently as 2500-2000 BC(d)(e).*
My second complaint is that he initially matches the dimensions of the entire island of Ireland with those of the plain of Atlantis given by Plato, namely 3000 x 2000 stadia. I have already pointed out that if you remove the mountains from the Ireland, the remaining plains of our island, if combined, might amount to a third of that of the plain of Atlantis(a). In order to shoehorn Ireland into his hypothesis he abitrarily chose to use a value of 166m to the stade, instead of the more generally accepted 185m. On top of that, as already noted, he measured Ireland diagonally rather than north-south and east-west.
Furthermore, speaking of mountains, the highest Irish peak is only 1,038m high. On the other hand, Plato describes the mountains of Atlantis being renowned for their number, size and beauty, which apart from beauty cannot be applied to the modest Irish mountain ranges. I would expect better from a geographer.
The first chapter contains other errors, including the idea that the ancient Greeks knew of America. In fact they only knew of three continents, Europe, Asia and Libya (Africa). Herodotus, who flourished after Solon and before Plato, was quite clear that there were only three known to the Greeks. [Histories 4.42].
There are more speculative claims in this first chapter, but, at this point I could take no more and gave up, unwilling to waste any more time on this nonsense. Erlingsson claims that his hypothesis matches Plato’s Atlantis story with a probability of 99.98%. Hilarious.