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

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  • NEWS September 2023

    NEWS September 2023

    September 2023. Hi Atlantipedes, At present I am in Sardinia for a short visit. Later we move to Sicily and Malta. The trip is purely vacational. Unfortunately, I am writing this in a dreadful apartment, sitting on a bed, with access to just one useable socket and a small Notebook. Consequently, I possibly will not […]Read More »
  • Joining The Dots

    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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M. P. Courville

Courville, Matthew P.

Matthew P. Courville is the Canadian author of Ancient Navigators [1960] with the bold subtitle of Phoenician Colony of Atlantis. The author is not the first to associate the Phoenicians with Atlantis, but he is certainly the first to offer a reasoned argument rather than speculation to justify the suggestion. That is not to say that Courville has completely avoided conjecture.

He suggests that the ‘opposite continent’ referred to by Plato was Africa. Many have proposed America, while I offered Europe, specifically Southern Italy. One important point with which I agree with Courville on, is that the apparent date of 9600 BC offered by Plato for the time of the Atlantean War is blatantly wrong.

However, we disagree on a number of other issues. Courville arbitrarily decided that the unit of linear measure, the Greek stade, employed by Plato, should have been the ‘plethrum’, but offers little to support this contention. Also unexplained is when Plato does use the plethron are we also to assume that he meant something else? In Critias 116a & 118c the stade and the plethrum appear together but in contexts where, taken at face value, both appear to offer exaggerated dimensions!

I found Courville’s reinterpretation of Athanasius Kircher’s map of Atlantis particularly annoying. Kircher clearly marked Atlantis as situated in the Atlantic Ocean, with Spain and Africa on one side and America on the other. If, as proposed by Courville, Atlantis is Africa, how could it be between itself and America as shown on Kircher’s map? However, my view is that Atlantis was situated in the Mediterranean, where the only two locations unambiguously named as Atlantean were located, namely Southern Italy and North Africa along with some of the numerous Central Mediterranean islands.

I could continue on a nitpicking expedition, but it would seem pointless if we cannot agree on the basic question of the location of Atlantis. His idea that the Atlanteans were Phoenician must compete with the theories that they were connected with the Sea Peoples or the Hyksos, both of whom were active in the second millennium BC.

The author has obviously put a lot of work into this book, so it is a pity that we have a 400-page work without an index.


The Plethrum (Plethron) is a Greek measurement of 100 Greek feet in length (101 English feet or about 30 metres) as well as 10,000 sq.ft. in area. It and its plural, plethra, is used in four instances in Critias (115d, 116a, 116d and 118c).

It is interesting to note that in one case (118c) Plato found the dimensions of the 10,000 stade ditch surrounding the plain of Atlantis as very hard to believe but felt obliged to record it out of deference to the reputation of his source, Solon. The text states that this ditch was dug by hand to a depth of a plethrum and a stade in width.

The late Ulf Richter argued that Solon had been given dimensions in Egyptian khets (52.4 metres) but that he had noted them as Greek stades (185 metres)(a).

He was forced to make this suggestion because he recognised that the dimensions for the plain of Atlantis as recorded by Plato must have been exaggerated. However, when it came to the ditch which surrounded the plain he was also contented to accept that the stade width of the ditch was excessive but that the plethrum depth was acceptable because the clay banks would have been continually subject to slippage! Feasible, but for me, not totally convincing.

>The most recent entrant into this particular debate is M.P. Courville [1960.10] who has proposed that Plato intended to use the plethrum, which is around 30 metres long or very roughly one-fifth the length of a stade. The problem arising from that idea is that Plato also uses the plethrum together with the stade in contexts where they both seem too large (Crit.116a & 118c)!<

(a) CiteSeerX — Plato´s Atlantis was in a River Delta (


The Stade was an ancient Greek measurement of distance. The origins of the stade are not clear. One opinion claims that at first, it was the distance covered by a plough before turning. Later it was the length of a foot race in a Greek Stadion (Roman Stadium) or 157 meters. Different ‘standard’ stadia existed in various city-states of ancient Greece ranging from 157 to 211 meters.

Some commentators have treated the stade as a synonym for the British ‘furlong’ (one eight a mile or 220 yards – approximately 201 metres), which was an old Anglo-Saxon measure for a ‘long furrow’.

Nick Kollerstrom has published a paper on Graham Hancock’s website arguing that Mother Earth was clearly the source of the Greek stade, though the ancient Greek philosophers do not seem to have been aware of this fact.”(e)

Most commentators on Plato’s Atlantis seem to accept a value of 185 metres (607 feet) to the stade. Thorwald C.Franke argues for a value of 176 metres – It is confusing: The building called “stadion” had been 185 meters, but the measure “stadion” not. We can conclude that the Athenians once had a shorter building, but decided to build a bigger building in later times. It is the same story for the “stadion” of other cities.” (private correspondence)

>The problem that has arisen is that irrespective of whichever stade was used by Plato, the resulting dimensions suggested by him are unacceptably large. This has led quite a number of commentators to suggest that Plato’s use of the stade was possibly due to some misunderstanding or transcription error and have striven to find a more credible unit of measurement.<

Jim Allen who is the leading advocate for a Bolivian location for Atlantis has used a value for the stade that is half the conventionally accepted 185 metres. He bases this on the fact that the ancient South Americans used a base of 20 rather than 10 for counting. He offers an interesting article with impressive images on his website(a) in support of his contention.

Dr Rainer Kühne, who recently publicised that a site in Andalusia, identified by Werner Wickboldt from satellite photos, suggested that Plato used a stade that was probably 20% longer than what is normally accepted since the dimensions of the Spanish site are greater than those given in Plato’s text. This idea is not satisfactory as so many other dimensions of the city’s features already suggest over-engineering on a colossal scale. To add a further 20% would be even more ridiculous.

If the dimensions of Atlantis did originate on the pillars in the temple at Sais, the unit of measurement used was probably Egyptian (or Atlantean) and so their exact value must be open to question. The values given by Plato relating to Atlantis have long been ammunition for sceptics. They argue that Plato’s topographical data suggests either a degree of over-engineering that was improbable in the Bronze Age or impossible in the Stone Age and must, therefore, be a fantasy.

In the 1930s and 1940s, there was a degree of confusion among those reluctant to accept that the Greek ‘stade’ was a reliable unit of measurement for the architectural features described by Plato in Atlantis. Alexander Braghine in 1940, seems to have the matter entirely confused when he wrote [156.58] about Albert Hermann‘s proposal of 1934 that the unit of measurement used by the Egyptians to describe Atlantis was the ‘shoinos’, which Braghine noted is 604 times shorter than a stade, which is completely wrong or just a misprint that should read 60! Earlier in 1937 James Bramwell also commented on Hermann’s suggestion that it was the Egyptian ‘schoinos’, which is equivalent to 30 stadia [195.117].

William Smith’s Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, noted that “SCHOENUS (?, ?, ???????), literally, a rope of rushes, an Egyptian and Persian itinerary and land measure (Herod. i. 66). Its length is stated by Herodotus (ii. 6, 9) at 60 stadia, or 2 parasangs; by Eratosthenes at 40 stadia, and by others at 112 or 30. (Plin. H. N. v. 9. s. 10, xii. 14. s. 30.) Strabo and Pliny both state that the schoenus varied in different parts of Egypt and Persia. (Strabo, p. 803; Plin. H. N. vi. 26. s 30; comp Athen. iii. p. 122, a.) [–Phillip Smith]”

>An award-winning paper by Newly Walkup discusses in detail Eratosthenes attempt to measure the circumference of the Earth(f).<

Today, Wikipedia proposes a conversion rate of 40 schoeni to the stade(c).

The late Ulf Richter proposed a simple solution to this problem(b), namely that the unit of measurement originally recorded was the Egyptian Khet. This was equivalent to 52.4 metres or approximately 3.5 times less than the value of the stade. The acceptance of this rational explanation removes one of the great objections to the veracity of the Atlantis narrative.

>The most recent entrant into this particular debate is M.P. Courville [1960.10] who has proposed that Plato intended to use the plethrum, which is around 30 metres long or very roughly one-fifth the length of a stade. The problem arising from that idea is that Plato also uses the plethrum together with the stade in contexts where they both seem too large (Crit.116a & 118c)!<

Jean-Pierre Pätznick commented in a paper on the website that “the 10,000-stadia ditch that would have surrounded the great plain on three sides would in fact have measured 1850 km long, 30.80 m deep and 185 m wide. A colossal structure that would have been 23 times larger than the Panama Canal and nearly 10 times larger than that of the Suez Canal!”(d)

It seems that all of Plato’s numbers, or at least all the larger ones, appear to be exaggerations and in my opinion, should be reduced by a common factor to bring them in line with credibility. I have elaborated more fully on this in Joining the Dots.




(d) (99+) (PDF) Atlantis: ‘Lost in Translations’ – In Search of the Egyptian Version | Jean-Pierre PÄTZNICK –  (French with English translation available)

(e) Ancient Units and Earth-Measure – Graham Hancock Official Website 

(f) *