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

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    Joining The Dots

    I have now published my new book, Joining The Dots, which offers a fresh look at the Atlantis mystery. I have addressed the critical questions of when, where and who, using Plato’s own words, tempered with some critical thinking and a modicum of common sense.Read More »
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Atlantes

Golbéry, Sylvain Meinrad Xavier de

Sylvain Meinrad Xavier de Golbéry (1742-1822) was a French geographer and military engineer. He is best known for his account of his travels in western Africa in Fragmens d’un voyage en Afrique [1297] . His book was translated into English by W. Mudford with a new title of Travels in Africa[1298]. He refers to Atlantis in the Atlantic with the Azores and Canaries as ‘its shattered remains’[p.207] with a possible connection with the Atlantes of northwest Africa.

Toltecs, The

The Toltecs were the predecessors of the Aztecs in central Mexico. It is generally accepted that they ruled between the 10th and 12th centuries AD. Some rather pathetic attempts by Theosophists and New Agers have been made to link the Toltecs with Atlantis. Annie Besant,  the theosophist, informed us that the Toltecs were 27 feet tall! In the Toltec city of Tula, in the Mexican state of Hidalgo are 15 foot high statues known as Atlantes, which is also an architectural term used to describe supporting columns carved in the shape of a man.atlantes - Tula

Atlas Mountains

The Atlas Mountains stretch for over 1,500 miles across the Maghreb of North-West Africa, from Morocco through Algeria to Atlas-MountainsTunisia. The origin of the name is unclear but seems to be generally accepted as having been named after the Titan.

Herodotus states (The Histories, Book IV. 42-43) that the inhabitants of ancient Mauretania (modern Morocco) were known as Atlantes and took their name from the nearby mount Atlas. Jean Gattefosse believed that the Atlas Mountains were also known as the Meros and that a large inland sea bounded by the range had been known as both the Meropic and the Atlantic Sea. Furthermore, he contended that Nysa had been a seaport on this inland sea.

The Maghreb, or parts of it, have been identified as the location of Atlantis by a number of commentators. One of the earliest was Ali Bey El Abbassi, who wrote of the Atlas Mountains being the ancient island of Atlantis when what is now the Sahara held a huge interior sea in the centre of Africa.

Ulrich Hofmann concluded his presentation at the 2005 Atlantis Conference with the comment that “based on Plato’s detailed description it can be concluded that Atlantis was most likely identical with the Maghreb.”[629.377] Furthermore, he has proposed that the Algerian Chott-el-Hodna has a ring structure deserving of investigation.

To add a little bit of confusion to the subject, the writer Paul Dunbavin declared[099] that Atlas was a name applied by ancient writers to a number of mountains.

My contention is that the Atlas Mountains of northwest Africa are the mountains referred to by Plato in Critias 118, where he describes the mountains north of the Plain of Atlantis as being the most numerous, the highest and most beautiful. Certainly, within the Mediterranean region, they are the only ones that could match the superlatives used by Plato. In isolation, the Atlas ranges can justifiably be proposed as the peaks referred to by Plato, but there is much more to justify this identification.

The North African climate was slightly wetter in the 2nd & 3rd centuries BC, later, Algeria, Egypt and particularly Tunisia, became the ‘breadbaskets’ of Rome (b).  Even today well-irrigated plains in Tunisia can produce two crops a year, usually planted with the autumnal rains and harvested in the early spring and again planted in the spring and harvested in late summer. The Berbers of Morocco produce two crops a year — cereals in winter and vegetables in summer(a).

There is general acceptance that the North African Elephant inhabited the Atlas Mountains until they became extinct in Roman times(d)(e). The New Scientist magazine of 7th February 1985(c) outlined the evidence that Tunisia had native elephants until at least the end of the Roman Empire. These were full-sized animals and not to be confused with the remains of pygmy elephants found on some Mediterranean islands. Plato refers to many herds of elephants, which he describes (Critias 115a) as being ‘the largest and most voracious’ of all the animals of Atlantis.

On top of all that, the only unambiguous geographical clues to the extent of the Atlantean confederation are that it controlled southern Italy as far as Tyrrhenia (Etruria) and northwest Africa as far as Egypt as well as some islands (Tim.25b & Crit.114c). So we have fertile plains with magnificent mountains to the north, inhabited by elephants and controlled by Atlanteans. Q.E.D.

(a)  https://www.britannica.com/place/Atlas-Mountains

(b)  https://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Tunisia

(c)  https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=yoa0FqP-rWUC&pg=PA39&lpg=PA39&dq=elephants+in+Tunisia&source=bl&ots=t-VBIs13N4&sig=4WMoiqmnEfbmL4eZlvTbK9NWrRQ&hl=en&sa=X&ei=ZWzqVL3aNeLY7AbtuYHQAQ&ved=0CCAQ6AEwADgK#v=onepage&q=elephants%20in%20Tunisia&f=false

(d)  https://interesting-africa-facts.com/Africa-Landforms/Atlas-Mountains-Facts.html

(e)  https://www.moroccoworldnews.com/2014/08/137456/5-animals-that-once-roamed-morocco-but-no-longer-exist/

Atlantes (I)

AtlantesAtlantes is an architectural term used to describe supporting columns in the form of standing or kneeling men, but in ancient times it was the name given by Herodotus, sixty years before Plato, to the inhabitants of the ancient kingdom of Mauretania in north west Africa. The term is also applied to the 15-foot statues in Tula, Mexico.

Herodotus

Herodotus (c.484 – c.420 BC) was born in Halicarnassus, today known as Bodrum, a popular tourist resort in Turkey. He wrote the first comprehensive history of the ancient world. His work has been lauded and denounced in equal measure, earning the twin appellations of ‘Father of History’ and ‘Father of Lies’. The latter is the consequence of some of his accounts appearing incredible at first reading, but a little Herodotus
investigation and lateral thinking can reveal underlying truth of his statements as demonstrated by Reginald Fessenden among others. Herodotus also described an unusual Egyptian barge, known as a ‘baris’, which was not confirmed until the 21st century(e).

A recent article(d) on the Ancient Origins website defends Herodotus’ reputation.

Another example is to be found in Book IV of The Histories[1239]  where he mentions the Atlantes as being vegetarians and never dreaming (v.184). This apparently strange comment may be explained by the fact that vegetarians are frequently short of vitamin B6, which is recognised today as leading to the suppression of dreams. This is reminiscent of a reference in the Mahabharata to Atala, sometimes proposed as a reference to Atlantis, where it notes that it is inhabited by “white men who never have to sleep or eat” (Santi Parva, Section CCCXXXVII).

Writing nearly a century before Plato, Herodotus refers to Atlantes as a people occupying the interior of what was then known as Libya (Hist.4.184.1) and since the Atlanteans controlled the Mediterranean as far as Egypt (Timaeus 25b) Herodotus may have been alluding to them. In Book I, 202, Herodotus refers to the sea beyond the Pillars of Heracles as the ‘Sea of Atlantis’. The pre-platonic date of these comments dispels the notion that Atlantis was an invention of Plato’s. This same text refers to the fact that all the known seas are connected; (i) ‘the sea known to the Greeks’, namely the Aegean or eastern Mediterranean, (ii) ‘the sea beyond the Pillars of Heracles’ in the western Mediterranean and (iii) the ‘Erythraean’ or Red Sea. This interpretation of the text implies that Pillars of Heracles were located somewhere in the region of Malta, a view supported by some recent writers such as Anton Mifsud.

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]. This provides a powerful argument against the claim that America was known to the Greeks or that Plato’s ‘opposite continent’ could have been a reference to America.*Furthermore, Anaximander drew a ‘map’ of the known world in the 6th century BC showing three continents without any suggestion of territory beyond them.*

In spite of the above references that are apparently supportive of the existence of Atlantis, it has been reasonably argued, by Alan Alford, that they are counterbalanced by the fact that Herodotus considered the wars between the Persians and the Greeks as the greatest of all time, that he considered Sardinia the largest in the world and that the Minoans had developed the first sea empire in the Mediterranean, all attributes of Plato’s Atlantis. In response, I must argue that the war with Atlantis could have been the greatest up to that point in time but subsequently eclipsed by the scale of the war with the Persians. Similarly, the First World War was the most extensive until World War II. With regard to the Minoans, it must be pointed out that the Phoenicians had a more extensive trading empire encompassing both the eastern and western Mediterranean, whereas the Minoans were mainly active in the eastern basin.

Finally, Herodotus was wrong regarding Sardinia, as Sicily is in fact the largest island in the Mediterranean in terms of area (25,708 km2 vs. 24,090 km2). However, the coastal length of Sardinia is much greater than Sicily’s (1843 vs 1115 km). Interestingly, Felice Vinci recently wrote[019] that ancient seafarers measured territory by its coastal perimeter rather than by its area, as we do today. In fact he relates how this method was in use up to the time of Columbus. So in the end Herodotus was quite correct according to the criteria of his age. Once again we see the dangers inherent in trying to understanding writings from another age and culture.

This method of measuring territory by the length of its coastal boundaries must be taken into account when considering Plato’s description of Atlantis being greater than Asia and Libya together.

Pierre Vidal-Naquet has pointed out[580.23] how Jean-François Pradeau after studying the language of Critias demonstrated[385] that ‘this dialogue employs certain terms that do not appear elsewhere in Plato’s works, terms that are borrowed from Herodotus’.

*A modern review of Herodotus’ Histories was written by Daniel Mendelsohn in The New Yorker in April 2008(f).*

Thorwald C.Franke delivered a paper to the 2008 Atlantis Conference with the self-explanatory title of The Importance of Herodotus’ Histories for the Atlantis Problem. This interesting document is now available online(c). Franke believes that Herodotus has more to offer Atlantology than is generally thought. He mentions the work of J.V.Luce having made a positive use of Herodotus’ Histories as a contribution to the Atlantis debates.

The full text of Herodotus’ writings is available online(b).

(b) https://classics.mit.edu/Herodotus/history.html

(c) https://www.atlantis-scout.de/Franke_Herodotus_Atlantis2008_Proceedings.pdf

(d) https://www.ancient-origins.net/history/picking-apart-words-herodotus-was-he-father-histories-or-lies-009085?nopaging=1

(e) https://www.livescience.com/65028-herodotus-ship-discovered.html?utm_source=ls-newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=20190320-ls

*(f) https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2008/04/28/arms-and-the-man-3*