The Commercialisation of the Atlantis name took off in a dramatic fashion during the second half of the 20th century. Film and television programmes, usually with a totally distorted slant on Plato’s original story, became very popular. Manufacturers, shops and even what was once the largest brothel in Germany(a), all exploited the universal recognition of the Atlantis name.
What would Plato have thought?
Book publishers have cynically republished books with new titles that included the word ‘Atlantis’. Arguably the worst example of this was The Round Towers of Ireland  by Henry O’Brien, who referred to neither Atlantis or Plato in it. Over a century and a half later, Adventures Unlimited Press, founded by David Hatcher Childress, published O’Brien’s text again as The Round Towers of Atlantis  .
What would O’Brien have thought?
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.
The Phoenicians or Canaanites are linguistically regarded as a Semitic people, who among their many achievements are credited with giving us our alphabet (without vowels). Both Strabo and Herodotus claim that they originally came from Bahrain(p), but this origin is denied by the phoenicia.org website(q). The correctness of these two ancient writers has been heavily criticised(r).
A recent essay explicitly claims that there never any such entity as ‘Phoenicia’! It also charts the manner in which ‘Phoenicians’ have been arbitrarly claimed as ancestors by distant nations, having been “enlisted in support of the nationalist histories of Lebanon, Britain and Ireland, and in some cases seriously distorted by them. Despite claims by various partisans of Lebanese, British and Irish nationalism to enlist the Phoenicians as their ancient progenitor, the Phoenicians never existed as a self-conscious community, let alone a nascent nation.” (y)
The Phoenicians flourished during the 1st and 2nd millennia BC. The late Joseph Robert Jochmans has suggested(c) that similarities between Phoenician names and those of the sons of Poseidon are more than coincidental. The descendants of the Phoenicians are still to be found in great numbers in modern Lebanon as well as elements of the Phoenician language. Contrary to popular belief the Maltese language is more related to Phoenician than Arabic(g). Similarly, in a mountainous and isolated north-east corner of Asia Minor its people still speak Greek in a dialect known as Romeyka(l). Dr Ioanna Sitaridou of Queen’s College, Cambridge explains that ‘Although Romeyka can hardly be described as anything but a Modern Greek dialect, it preserves an impressive number of grammatical traits that add an Ancient Greek flavor to the dialect’s structure – traits that have been completely lost from other Modern Greek varieties.’
A more radical view of the Phoenicians has been expressed by Professor Josephine Quinn(o) who declared “the Phoenicians never existed as a self-conscious community, let alone a nascent nation.” In a lengthy article she suggests that “‘‘Phoenician’ was just a generic label invented by ancient Greek authors for the Levantine sailors they encountered in their own maritime explorations. Although some of these Greek writers entertain a mild stereotype of these Phoenicians as rather cunning or tricksy, they never use the term as a description of a distinct ethnocultural community.”
The Phoenicians have been frequently identified as the Atlanteans of Plato’s narrative. Peter Dawkins’ Zoence Academy website has the following logic stretching gem – “Atlas also is known by other names, such as Enoch or The Phoenix, (hence Atlantis is Phoenicia, the land of the Phoenix)(v).
Keith Hunt noted on his website that “Prof. George Rawlinson (1812-1902), in his “Story of Phoenicia,” tells us that Phoenicia derived its name from the forests of date or Phoenix palms which grew there in great luxuriance. So far so good; but whence did the Phoenix palm derive its name? Horapollo says: “A palm branch was the symbol of the Phoenix.” Yes, but what or who was the Phoenix? Sanchomathon, the Phoenician writer, states that “Phoenix was the first Phoenician.” Phoenix, then, was a man. Now, the word Phoenix is the Greek form of the Egyptian term “Pa-Hanok,” the house of Enoch. In Hebrew Enoch also is Hanok. Thus the mystery of that ancient race is solved: they were the sons and descendants of Enoch and of Noah and his three sons, who after the Flood started their westward march. Their descendants have kept it up since, settled, first north of the Persian Gulf in the bushlands of Mesopotamia, where they found a dusky race in occupation of the land, the ancient Sumerians, and from thence towards the Mediterranean.” (w)
James Nienhuis has recently identified Canaanites as Atlanteans(m)! The supporters of a Bronze Age date for the invasion of the Atlanteans see in the Phoenicians the powerful far flung maritime civilisation described by Plato. However, this identification is in conflict with Plato’s statement that Atlantis or its influence extended as far as Tyrrhenia and Libya, whereas the Phoenicians had their original base further east in the region of modern Lebanon and Israel. It also runs counter to Plato’s clear account of the Atlanteans attacking from their bases in the Central Mediterranean (Tim.25b & Crit.114c).
The Phoenicians were never unilaterally at war with Greece and/or Egypt, but their successors, the Carthaginians, whose main military campaigns were directed against the Roman Empire, did clash with the Greeks in Sicily.
It is accepted that the Phoenician commercial empire began with the three cities of Tyre, Sidon and Byblos. They expanded with the establishment of trading settlements along the Mediterranean coast of North Africa usually separated by a day’s rowing – somewhere between 30 to 60 miles.
It is claimed that the Phoenicians together with the Egyptians had an influence on the development of the Minoan culture(e).
Jonas Bergman recently presented a paper to the 2005 Melos Atlantis Conference on the subject of a Phoenician association with the Atlantis story. He outlined how Plato’s description of Atlantis was similar to the western colonies of the Phoenicians.
“Roderic O’Flaherty (Ruaidrhí Ó Flaithbheartaigh) was the first Irish scholar to suggest in his influential work Ogygia (1685) that the Phoenicians formed part of Irish ancestry. In the 18th century, O’Flaherty’s theory of the Phoenicians as progenitors of the Irish became very popular among the Protestant Ascendancy as well as Gaelic intellectuals.”(y)
Joaquín Lorenz Villanueva (1757-1837) was a Spnish historian, who moved to Dublin in later life, where he wrote Ibernia Phœnicea  , which was an attempt to prove that Ireland had been colonised by the Phoenicians. This was translated into English and published by Henry O’Brien in 1833 as Phoenician Ireland  .
Phoenicians in America
Some German writers in the 19th century such as Robert Prutz and later Jakob Kruger have advocated the idea that Phoenicians had discovered America, where he also placed Atlantis. However, in spite of the fact that there is widespread support for this concept and the even more extreme claim of Phoenicians in Australia, a Lebanese website (now offline), in the original home of Phoenicia, discounted all such claims for lack of evidence. Nevertheless, attention-seeking Rex Gilroy persists in promoting the idea of Phoenicians in Australia(h).
A paper by Christian C. Karam, who believes that Atlantis had been located in the Atlantic has expanded on the idea of a Phoenician presence in Brazil three thousands years ago(n).
In 1886, the American novelist Ann Eliza Smith (1819-1905) published a fantasy novel(j), Atla, that tells the tale of the discovery of the Atlantis civilization by the Phoenicians.
In 1889, Enrique Onffroy de Thoron proposed that Atlantis had been Phoenician and situated in America. Indeed, claims still persist that the Phoenicians did reach South America(f). However, Onffroy was not the first to suggest this, as he was preceded by Robertus Comtaeus Nortmannus as early as 1644 and Georg Horn in 1652 . Arguably, the best known exponent of the ‘Phoenicians in America’ school of thought was Bernardo Silva Ramos(i).
Nevertheless, John Denison Baldwin, writing in the late 19th century, was highly critical of the Phoenicians being early colonisers in America and after reviewing the arguments in favour of the idea, he concluded that “if it were true that the civilization found in Mexico and Central America came from people of the Phoenician race, it would be true also that they built in America as they never built any where else, that they established a language here radically unlike their own, and that they used a style of writing totally different from that which they carried into every other region occupied by their colonies. All the forms of alphabetical writing used at present in Europe and Southwestern Asia came directly or indirectly from that anciently invented by the race to which the Phoenicians belonged, and they have traces of a common relationship which can easily be detected. Now the writing of the inscriptions at Palenque, Copan, and elsewhere in the ruins has no more relatedness to the Phoenician than to the Chinese writing. It has not a single characteristic that can be called Phoenician any more than the language of the inscriptions or the style of architecture with which it is associated; therefore we can not reasonably suppose this American civilization was originated by people of the Phoenician race, whatever may be thought relative to the supposed ancient communication between the two continents and its probable influence on civilized communities already existing here.”(x)
In his 2009 book, Uncovering Archaeology, Dennis Cassinelli outlines in some detail his Atlantis theory, which he locates in Central America(s). He suggests that Phoenicians landed in Central America and on seeing the Mayan cities concluded that they had landed in Atlantis. Not unexpectedly, Jason Colavito had a few words to say about this idea(t).
Hugh Fox (1932-2011) wrote of the early peoples of the Americas in his well-received Gods of the Cataclysm. The ‘cataclysm’ referred to is the biblical Deluge, in respect of which he follows the ideas of Velikovsky and the christian catastrophist Donald W. Patten (1929-2014), who attributed Noah’s Flood to a close encounter with a massive extraterrestrial body around 2800 BC. Fox explicitly claims that before the Flood, transoceanic travel was commonplace, with the Chinese in America, Indian theology in the Mediterranean and that after the Flood we had the Phoenicians and Odysseus in America.
>More recently, Andrew Collins has drawn attention to the extraction of purple dye from shellfish in a number of Central and South American countries [072.357], commenting that “quite clearly, the presence of purple dye processes in Costa Rica, Mexico and Ecuador, as well as in Peru, could well constitute positive proof of transoceanic contact with ancient seafarers from the eastern Mediterranean.”
Collins quotes from Thomas Crawford Johnston’s 1913 book Did the Phoenicians Discover America [1902+] – “There is probably no stronger evidence of the presence of the Phoenician in the New World than can be drawn from the use of dyes.” Collins also notes that similar sentiments were expressed by Wolfgang Born in a 1937 paper.
Collins has also noted [p361] how cotton was widely produced in the Americas before the Spanish conquest and that genetic studies have shown “that the variety of cotton cultivated in the New World from very earliest times is a hybrid form derived from an Old World species crossed with species native only to the American continent. Crawford Johnston also claimed that the compass had been invented by the Phoenicians!<
The late Sabatino Moscati, a renowned linguist and archaeologist, wrote a highly regarded work on the subject of the Phoenicians. Additionally, there is an invaluable website(a) on offer from Salim George Khalaf, a modern Phoenician from Lebanon. This huge site with its 2,000 pages that covers all aspects of Phoenician culture. This same site(b), drawing on the work of Ignatius Donnelly, identifies the kings of Atlantis with the Phoenician pantheon and claims that the gods of the Greeks were also the deified Atlantean kings.
Jacques Hébert, who places Atlantis in the Indian Ocean on the island of Socotra, suggests that the Atlanteans had a colony in the Eastern Mediterranean whose inhabitants developed into the Phoenicians!
(g) See: Archive 2852
(h) https://www.mysteriousaustralia.com/pyramid-sequel/chapter16.html (reinstated)
(i) https://pt.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bernardo_de_Azevedo_da_Silva_Ramos (Portuguese)
Ireland according to James Bramwell [0195.181], was first identified with Atlantis as early as circa 1250 AD in the Speculum Regale (The King’s Mirror)(g) which was written in Norway. Apart from that, Ireland was less controversially was first suggested in the 18th century as a possible location of Atlantis by the English geologist John Whitehurst. The idea lay dormant for over a century until the early part of the 20th century when George H. Cooper  suggested that Cork harbour fits Plato’s description of the harbour of Atlantis. Fifty years later an official guidebook claimed that one of the outposts of Atlantis was to be found on the west coast of Galway. As a nation famed for its storytelling we have never let truth stand in the way of a good tale.
The mythical Hy-Brasil was shown west of Ireland on maps as early as 1325 and incredibly, was not removed from naval charts until 1865. The UK’s Daily Star (21/5/16) with typical tabloid accuracy told its readers(f) that Hy-Brasil was off the coast of ‘Britain’!
In 1976, Steiner Books, New York, republished a book under the misleading title of Atlantis in Ireland. One may be excused for viewing this as a blatant case of exploitative opportunistic publishing. The original text was written by Henry O’Brien and published in London (1834) as The Round Towers of Ireland. Apart from being written in the rather turgid English of the period, there is not a single reference to Plato or Atlantis to be found in that volume.
Diodorus Siculus, in a well-known passage (Bk 1.158), that is claimed by some as a reference to Ireland(h), describes it as ”an island in the ocean over against Gaul, to the north, and not inferior in size to Sicily, the soil of which is so fruitful that they mow there twice in the year.” Some consider this to be reminiscent of the Platonic reference to the two crops a year gathered in Atlantis. However, I am more inclined to think that Diodorus was referring to Britain. Diodorus also mentions the Irish singular temples of ’round form’, however, this seems too early to be a reference to the round towers and more likely to be an allusion to the astronomically aligned mounds such as Newgrange, Dowth and Knowth in Ireland or Stonehenge in Britain!
Bob Quinn has written and lectured on possible ancient cultural links between North Africa and Ireland. This idea may have been reinforced by a number of 19th century reports that visitors from North Africa were able to understand the Irish language!(i)
In 1923, Conor MacDari, who’s eccentricity was comparable with that of Comyns Beaumont, published Irish Wisdom Preserved in the Bible and Pyramids , which among a litany of bizarre claims, proposed that Atlantis had been located in Ireland.
When Ignatius Donnelly came to the subject of Ireland, he attributed an Atlantean origin to so the various waves of settlers that came to the post-glacial island. He substitutes evidence with assertion and speculation. Donnelly further claimed that the famous round towers of Ireland are proof that the people of Atlantis settled in Ireland.
More recently Ulf Erlingsson, a Swedish geographer, insisted that with a claimed probability
factor of 99.98%, that his interpretation of Plato’s text demonstrates that Ireland was home to Atlantis . The subtitle of the book, Mapping the Fairy Land, is probably a good guide on how seriously to take this book, particularly as it is by an author who hails from the land of the original Trolls.
In March 2008, it was reported that a Dr. Jac Hummer had mounted an expedition to South America with the intention of discovering the remains of St. Patrick under a pyramid there. But it gets better – he then explains that such a discovery will prove his theory that Ireland is Plato’s lost island of Atlantis!I can only conclude that this is a hoax story.
Irish legend speaks of the Domnu, people of the deep sea from a land that disappeared beneath the waves. However, Ireland is still above the waves and in contrast to Plato’s statement that even in his time the location of Atlantis was marked by impassable shallows. Since sea levels have generally risen only slightly since Plato lived, he cannot have been referring to Ireland.
John Douglas Singer in his slender book, Ireland’s Mysterious Lands and Sunken Cities , has carried out an investigation into the ancient legends of Ireland and their possible connection with Plato’s Atlantis. He points out that Ireland has the greatest number of legends relating to sunken cities and islands! He draws on the works of Egerton Sykes and Lewis Spence among others.
Ireland was also nominated by Thomas Dietrich as an early colony of Atlantis in The Origin of Culture.
Somewhat incongruously, the website of extremist, Dejan Lucic, has an extensive and fully referenced article entitled The Irish Origins of Civilisation(a), including not a few controversial sources such as, Comyns Beaumont, Ralph Ellis and John Gordon.
Around 2010, a father and son team Francis J.Ward & Francis P.Ward seeminglly published their first book The Truth Against the World-Red Phoenix Rising & the Return of the Thunder Gods , in which they express the view that “Atlantis was a global, maritime empire based in Ireland”.(c)
In 2013, Skender Hushi informed the world that Albanian had been the original language of Ireland and Atlantis! Another equally odd claim came from Zoltán Simon who proposed that the ancient Hun Calendar came from Ireland [0549.147]!
Evidence for the earliest humans in Ireland is now dated as 10,500 BC.(d)(e)
In July 2020, Erlingsson’s Atlantis in Ireland theory was recycled by a website(j) with the title of ‘Keystone University’. It promises to build a world-class enterprise centre in Ireland in 2025. The site implies that Keystone has the support of Brian Tracy, an American self-development speaker. While Keystone seems to focus on business success and personal development, it incongruously includes a study of Atlantis a la Erlingsson as part of its course! It has published two papers on the Ancient Origins website(k)(l).
>The Atlantis claims of Keystone were found earlier in January on YouTube and while it ostensibly appeared to add the gravitas of an educational institution to the subject of Atlantis, it was only a smokescreen for an attempt to intice people to sign up for overpriced seminars. Jason Colavito drew attention(m) to this at the time and to the more recent articles on Ancient Origins(n).<
Henry O’Brien (1807-1835) was an Irishman born in Co. Kerry who only lived a short twenty-eight years. In 1830 the Royal Irish Academy sponsored a competition for the most appropriate essay, which explained the origin and purpose of Ireland’s Round Towers. The winner’s prize went to George Petrie. O’Brien’s thesis was considered too radical and so, controversially, O’Brien was only awarded a consolation prize of £20.
His work was published in 1834 and republished in more recent years with new but totally misleading titles that imply that the author linked Ireland with Atlantis. The book has nothing to do with Atlantis or Plato but is an attempt to attribute the building of the famous round towers of Ireland to the Tuatha dé Danann who invaded Ireland in the distant mists of time and whom O’Brien contended came originally from Persia. The book is written in the turgid style of the period and today would not be considered an ‘easy read’. However, his book can now be read or downloaded from the internet for free(a).
While O’Brien’s theory may appear outlandish today, the 21st century has continued to generate revolutionary theories regarding our round towers, relating to both their function and location. American professor Phil Callahan, after studying a map of Ireland showing the towers he realised that “the towers formed a star map of the northern night sky at the time of the winter solstice.” However he goes further(b)(c), claiming that “Soils around round towers are highly paramagnetic and enjoy great fertility.”
Callahan believes that the Irish towers act as wave-guides or aerials for extra-low-frequency (ELF) radiation from high above Earth ( Schumann radiation) and the sun . Vital to our health, ELF waves are able to penetrate water and soil, unlike higher frequencies of radiation. To amplify incoming ELF, towers must be paramagnetic, and the effect is enhanced even more when paramagnetic and diamagnetic (i.e. weakly repelled by a magnet) materials are sandwiched together. Callahan’s theories are more fully explored in his Ancient Mysteries, Modern Vision.
(b) https://frackingfreeireland.org/2015/01/06/the-irish-round-towers/ (link broken May 2018)