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

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    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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Colossus of Rhodes

Seafaring and Atlantis

Seafaring and Atlantis are inextricably linked. In Critias 117d Plato anachronistically refers to the shipyards of Atlantis being full of triremes, which were not developed until the 7th century BC, long after the demise of Atlantis. However, the term ‘trireme’ was probably employed by Plato in order to make his narrative more relevant to his audience. He credits the Atlantean navy of 1200 ships, which for me seems like borrowing and rounding of either the Achaean fleet (1186) in Homer’s Iliad or that of the Persian invaders (1207).

Seldom referred to, but perhaps even more interesting is to be found earlier in Critias 113e which reads “for at that time neither ships nor sailing were as yet in existence” in reference to the origins of Atlantis. However, we are given little information to bridge the time up to its development as a major trading entity. It is reasonable to assume a gap of several thousand years.

Recent studies(a) have suggested that primitive seafaring took place in the Mediterranean thousands of years earlier than originally thought and may even have been engaged in by Homo Erectus and Neanderthals in the form of island hopping and coastal-hugging, the latter continuing into historical times.

Plato’s describes an advanced maritime trading nation with a powerful naval capacity. How much was part of the original story brought from Egypt by Solon or if it was in any way embellished by Plato is unclear? The earliest known trading empire is that of the Minoans which began in the 3rd millennium BC and has led to many identifying them with the Atlanteans. However, there are very many other details in Plato’s narrative that seriously conflict with this hypothesis.

>The limitations of ancient seafaring raise many questions regarding the navigation supports available to these early sailors(b). Initially, sailing, probably for fishing, would have been confined to daytime travel and keeping within the sight of land. With the development of maritime trade, the demand for improved navigation methods also grew.

In time sailors acquired a familiarity with the night sky that enabled them to used the stars as navigational aids, given clear skies. Gradually, as nighttime travel became more common, the use of beacons and later lighthouses also expanded. The lighthouse at Pharos near Alexandria came to be counted as one of the wonders of the Old World. Similarly, it is thought that the Colossus at Rhodes performed a similar function.

Different navigation skills have been identified in different parts of the world. In the Pacific, the navigational capabilities of the Polynesians are legendary(c). The ancient Chinese employed magnetism(e) and in the cloudy North Atlantic, the Vikings used their ‘sunstones’(d).

In their book, Atlantis in America [244] Ivar Zapp & George Erikson claimed that the stone spheres of Costa Rica had a navigational function[p34] as Zapp discovered that the sightlines of all the stones remaining in their original positions, did point to important ancient sites such as Giza, Stonehenge and Easter Island!

A most imaginative proposal has come from Crichton E.M. Miller who has proposed [1918] that the ubiquitous Celtic Cross is an image of an ancient navigational device. He further claims that “This instrument can tell the time, find latitude and longitude, measure the angles of the stars, predict the solstices and equinoxes and measure the precession of the equinoxes. It can also find the

ecliptic pole as well as the north and south poles; it can make maps and charts, design pyramids and henges and—used in combination with these sites—can record and predict the cycles of nature and time(f)“. Then for good measure, he proceeded to patent the device.<

(a) https://news.yahoo.com/ancient-mariners-did-neanderthals-sail-mediterranean-192112855.html

(b) http://www.ancient-wisdom.com/navigation.htm

(c) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polynesian_navigation

(d) https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn20052-vikings-crystal-clear-method-of-navigation/

(e) http://www.ancient-wisdom.com/magnetism.htm

(f) Atlantis Rising magazine #35   http://pdfarchive.info/index.php?pages/At

Pharos

pharosPharos in the Nile Delta has been suggested by R. McQuillen as the location of Atlantis. It should be noted that the cities of Canopus and Herakleion in the same area were submerged, apparently due to liquefaction(h), following an earthquake between 731 and 743 BC. If something similar occurred to Atlantis situated at Pharos it might explain the shoals of mud reported by Plato and may even have been the reason for the erection of the famous lighthouse there, completed around 280 BC.

This lighthouse at Pharos took 20 years to build and is reported to have been as much as 450 feet in height, topped with a statue of Poseidon (or Zeus). It is claimed that there was also a furnace on top which, according to Robert Temple [928], suggested that some form of mirror reflected light out to sea. There is evidence from writers as early as Homer that nocturnal sea travel was commonplace in ancient times(d), so some system of beacons to assist this, would have been a natural development.

>Themistocles (524-459 BC) is traditionally credited with having established the first Greek lighthouse at Athens’ port, Piraeus, in the 5th century BC, which was a column with a beacon on top.<

>The coining of ‘pharology’ as a term to describe the study of lighthouses is generally credited to the British hydrographer John Purdy (1773-1843).<

In a study of ancient lighthouses (pharology) by Ken Trethewey(a),>now a retired marine engineer,<he indicates that there were probably precursors to the Alexandrian edifice, but that there is no archaeological evidence to support this contention.>Just as New York’s Empire State Building could not have been built without the preceding decades of evolution of building methods, similarly, the magnificent Pharos lighthouse must have had forerunners.<

Another suggestion is that altars, temples and latterly Christian churches frequently situated at the end of promontories may have functioned initially as navigational aids, keeping in mind that early Mediterranean seafarers preferred coastal hugging to open sea travel. I would think it strange if such locations were not used for beacons.

A book review by Terrance M.P. Duggan draws attention to the use of the word ‘pharos’ as far back as Homer’s time, centuries before the Alexandrine structure was built(c). Duggan has also noted in an extensive study of ancient beacons(d) how “sailing at night was practiced in antiquity, first by the Phoenicians” and that “later, sailing at night is mentioned repeatedly by Homer in the Odyssey.” It must be obvious that such regular nocturnal travel could not have been achieved without the availability of some system of warning beacons.

Duggan also notes the use of false beacons such as in the story of “Palamedes’s father, the King of Naupilus or Euboea, then lit a series of false beacons leading to the shipwreck off Euboea of much of the Achaean fleet returning from the Trojan War, using false maritime navigational beacons to serve as a wrecker’s device, and with the use of these false navigational beacons quite clearly indicating the presence at this date of considerable numbers of genuine navigational beacons along coastlines to provide an expected navigational guide for ships sailing through the night.

What I also found interesting was another quote by Duggan of a passage from Al-Mas’udi, circa 947 AD – “At the point where the Mediterranean Sea joins the Atlantic Ocean, there is a lighthouse of stone and copper (bronze), built by the giant Hercules (probably to be associated with the location of the Phoenician Temple of Melkart-Herakles on the North African side). It is covered with inscriptions and statues whose hand gestures proclaim to those coming from the Mediterranean who wish to enter the Atlantic Ocean, ‘There is no way beyond me’” This is a clear association of Heracles with a lighthouse and raises the question of whether this was a more widespread occurrence, which seems possible.

At the other end of the Mediterranean, the Colossus of Rhodes is also thought by some(g) to have functioned as a lighthouse, but at the very least was a daytime navigational marker, Heracles was also worshipped on the island as the founder of its first settlement.

The Tower of Hercules is an ancient Roman lighthouse on a peninsula about 2.4 km (1.5 mi) from the centre of the town of A Coruña, Galicia, in north-western Spain. There is also a claim that a Roman lighthouse existed at Akko (Acre), now in northern Israel, is discussed elsewhere and supported by numismatic and archaeological evidence(i). 

Massimo Rapisarda & Marcello Ranieri have now published a paper(f) pointing to possible land-based navigational aids, most likely, Phoenician, at the Sicilian promontory of Capo Gallo. They also refer to “the  renowned  Phoenician ability  to  navigate  at  night.”

Trethewey, a leading pharologist, published Ancient Lighthouses [1667] in 2018. Furthermore, he has also published a series of eight lengthy papers on pharology on the academia.edu website(e).

Other papers by Marco Vigano also investigate the subject of proto-lighthouses(b)(j), furthermore, a book review by Terrance M.P. Duggan draws attention to the use of the word ‘pharos’ as far back as Homer’s time, centuries before the Alexandrine structure was built(c). Duggan has also written a paper on The Missing Navigational Markers(d).

A recent book, The Electric Mirror on the Pharos Lighthouse[948], edited by Larry Brian Radka, argues spiritedly for the use of electricity at Pharos!

(a) https://www.academia.edu/Documents/in/Ancient_lighthouses

(b) https://www.academia.edu/30325978/Boulders_and_Lights_Guides_to_an_insidious_World._Four_thousand_years_of_navigation_aids_in_the_Mediterranean?auto=download

(c) https://www.academia.edu/13182366/Baldassarre_Giardina_Navigare_necesse_est._Lighthouses_from_Antiquity_into_the_Middle_Ages_History_architecture_iconography_and_archaeological_remains_Oxford_2010_Archaeopress_BAR_Int._Series_2096?email_work_card=view-paper

(d) https://www.academia.edu/7665901/On_the_Missing_Navigational_Markers?auto=download

(e) https://www.academia.edu/Documents/in/Lighthouses

(f) https://www.academia.edu/31132814/A_PHOENICIAN_LIGHTHOUSE_AT_CAPO_GALLO_PALERMO?email_work_card=view-paper

(g) https://www.athensjournals.gr/mediterranean/2019-5-1-2-Kebric.pdf

(h) Science Notes 2001: The Sunken Cities of Egypt (ucsc.edu)

(i) https://www.researchgate.net/publication/236849769_The_Roman_Lighthouse_in_Akko_Israel

(j) http://www.arigenova.it/wail/Articoli/Pharology.pdf