Italy seems to have an uncertain etymology; Thucydides claims that Italos, the Sicilian king gave his name to Italy, while more recently Emilio Spedicato(h) considers that ”the best derivation we believe to be the one proposed by the Italian nuclear engineer Felice Vinci (1998), in his monograph claiming a Baltic setting for the Homeric epic: he derives Italia from the rare Greek word aithalia, meaning the smoking one.” This is thought to be a reference to Italy’s many volcanoes.
Italy today is comprised of territory south of the Alps on mainland Europe including a very large boot-shaped peninsula, plus Sicily, Sardinia and some smaller island groups, which along with the French island of Corsica virtually enclose the Tyrrhenian Sea.
The earliest proposal that Italy could be linked with Atlantis came from Angelo Mazzoldi in 1840 when he claimed that before Etruria, Italy had been home to Atlantis and dated its demise to 1986 BC. Mazzoldi expressed a form of hyperdiffusion that had his Italian Atlantis as the mother culture which seeded the great civilisations of the eastern Mediterranean region(b).
Some of Mazzoldi’s views regarding ancient Italy were expanded on by later scholars such as Camillo Ravioli, Ciro Nispi-Landi, Evelino Leonardi, Costantine Cattoi, Guido DiNardo and Giuseppe Brex. Ravioli sought to associate the Maltese island of Gozo with his proposed Atlantis in Italy.
The Italian region of Lazio, which includes Rome, has had a number of very ancient structures proposed as Atlantean; Monte Circeo (Leonardi) and Arpino(a) (Cassaro). Another aspect of Italian prehistory is the story of Tirrenide, which was described as a westward extension of the Italian landmass into the Tyrrhenian Sea during the last Ice Age, with a land bridge to a conjoined Sardinia and Corsica. At the same time, there were land links to Sicily and Malta, which were all destroyed as deglaciation took place and sea levels rose.
It is surprising that so few researchers have commented on Italy’s part in Plato’s Atlantis narrative considering that he twice, without any ambiguity, informs us that the Atlantean domain extended as far as Tyrrhenia (modern Tuscany).
Crit.114c. So all these, themselves and their descendants dwelt for many generations bearing rule over many other islands throughout the sea and holding sway besides, as was previously stated, over the Mediterranean peoples as far as Egypt and Tuscany. Tim.25a/b. Now in this island of Atlantis there existed a confederation of kings, of great and marvellous power, which held sway over all the island, and over many other islands also and parts of the continent; and, moreover, of the lands here within the Straits they ruled over Libya as far as Egypt, and over Europe as far as Tuscany. (Bury)
The quotation from Timaeus is most interesting because of its reference to a ‘continent’. Some have understandably but incorrectly claimed that this is a reference to America or Antarctica, when quite clearly it refers to southern Italy as part of the continent of Europe. Moreover, Herodotus is quite clear (4.42) that the ancient Greeks knew of only three continents, Europe, Asia and Libya.
Philo of Alexandria (20 BC-50 AD) in his On the Eternity of the World(g) 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).>The name ‘Italy’ was normally used until the third century BC to describe just the southern part of the peninsula(e).<Some commentators think that Philo was quoting Theophrastus, Aristotle’s successor. This would push the custom of referring to Italy as a ‘continent’ back near to the time of Plato. More recently, Armin Wolf, the German historian, when writing about Scheria relates(f) that “Even today, when people from Sicily go to Calabria (southern Italy) they say they are going to the ‘continente’.” This continuing usage is further confirmed by a current travel site(d) and by author, Robert Fox[1168.141]. I suggest that Plato used the term in a similar fashion and can be seen as offering the most rational explanation for the use of the word ‘continent’ in Timaeus 25a.
When you consider that close to Italy are located the large islands of Sicily, Sardinia and Corsica, as well as smaller archipelagos such as the Egadi, Lipari and Maltese groups, the idea of Atlantis in the Central Mediterranean can be seen as highly compatible with Plato’s description.
If we accept that Plato stated unambiguously that the domain of Atlantis included at least part of southern Italy and also declared that Atlantis attacked from beyond the Pillars of Heracles, then this appellation could not be applied at that time to any location in the vicinity of the Strait of Gibraltar but must have been further east, probably not too far from Atlantean Italy. This matches earlier alternative locations recorded by classical writers who placed the ‘Pillars’ at the straits of Messina or Sicily. I personally favour Messina, unless there is stronger evidence that some of the islands in or near the Strait of Sicily such as the Maltese or Pelagian Islands or Pantelleria were home to the ‘Pillars’.
(c) Archive 2946
Malta: Echoes of Plato’s Island  by Anton Mifsud, Simon Mifsud, Chris Agius Sultana and Charles Savona-Ventura is a large format, well illustrated and referenced, if somewhat slender book. There are valuable notes, many of which could have been included in the main body of text. Unfortunately, it lacks a comprehensive index, but it is an important addition to the literature on Plato’s Atlantis narrative.
The book presents, in a very rational manner, the case for considering the Maltese islands as remnants of Atlantis. The authors highlight a wealth of evidence for the islands being far more extensive in area in the distant past but within the experience of man. For example, the surface of Malta today is totally incapable of generating the volume of water that was required to scour out the islands extensive valleys. This anomaly was first commented on as early as 1791 by the French geologist, Déodat de Dolomieu (1750-1801).
Mifsud et al. discuss the archaeology and geology of the region and the compatibility of the existing topography with Plato’s description. Classical sources are liberally quoted in support of their theory. It is generally accepted that the archipelago was once fully connected and considerably extended southwards. Claudius Ptolemy writing in the 2nd century AD records this southern extension of the islands as being enjoyed by human inhabitants and its existence orally transmitted into historical times. Ptolemy gives co-ordinates for the latitude of the temple of Hercules ten minutes (10’) south of the present landmass or about 11 miles.
The book introduces to the Atlantis debate, the concept of biogeographical indexing, which is designed to indicate the probability of an island being colonised based on its size and distance from a mainland. *Mifsud draws on the work of Mark Patton  and that of MacArthur & Jones  for the relevant biogeographical data.*
On this basis the islands of Pantelleria and Lampedusa, one of the Pelagie Islands, which lie between Malta and the North African mainland, have the lowest biogeographical indices in the Mediterranean. However, both Lampedusa and Pantelleria were occupied as early as the 6th millennium BC, suggesting that they were probably, at that point in time, greater in size or even part of a single more extensive landmass that included the Maltese archipelago.
*A further biogeographical element in Mifsud’s theory, of a much larger Maltese landmass, is the distribution of the podarcis filfolensis wall lizard, which is only found on the Maltese and Pelagie islands.[p.26-27]*
Mifsud and his collaborators proposed a date of 2200 BC for the destruction of this lost kingdom. They point out that this date coincides with the collapse of a number of civilisations in the Mediterranean and the Middle East. Their suggested date conflicts with that of their fellow Maltese writer, the late Joseph S. Ellul, who considered the destruction of Atlantis to be a consequence of the Biblical Deluge which he placed many thousands of years earlier.
Charles Savona-Ventura is a medical colleague of Dr. Anton Mifsud, with whom he has collaborated on a number of articles and books[210–214] regarding Maltese prehistory.
Simon Mifsud is also a medical practitioner, being registrar in paediatrics at Gozo General Hospital and was co-author with Anton Mifsud of another book on prehistoric Malta.
Chris Agius Sultana was a professional artistic designer with an interest in underwater exploration and is credited with generating the interest that led to this book. Sadly, he died in 2007.
This book is now available to read or download online(a).
Also See: Los Millares
Pantelleria was formed by ancient volcanic action, but even as recently as 1891 there was a submarine eruption off its NW coast. This ancient vulcanism created large deposits of highly-prized obsidian on the island. Because of its importance for tool making, it was traded extensively in the Central Mediterranean from the Neolithic period onwards(g).
This conclusion is probably based on the existence of a location on the northeast coast of the island called Gadir. However, it must be kept in mind that Gadira or variants of it are frequently found in the Mediterranean region, usually at the site of former Phoenician settlements. However, north of Pantelleria is the Egadi Islands(c), another name evocative of Plato’s Gades.
Gades has been associated with Erytheia in the story of the Trials of Hercules, so if the Map Mistress website is correct in locating Erytheia(d) between Pantelleria and the Egadi Islands, it would confine all the ‘Trials’ in the Central and Eastern Mediterranean, consequently, locating the Pillars of Heracles somewhere in the latter region.
More recently, some authors have identified the Straits of Sicily as being the location of the Pillars of Heracles referred to by Plato in his tale of Atlantis. A land bridge between Sicily and Tunisia, including Pantelleria, has also been suggested, but this is unlikely according to bathymetric data.
>Novelist Samuel Butler (1835-1902) identified Pantelleria as Calypso’s Island, but the idea received little support(i).<
A fortified Neolithic village has been unearthed on its west coast and ancient structures, known as ‘sesi’, similar to the nuraghi of Sardinia, are to be seen in the southeast. One in particular, known as the Grande Sese, is a 5,000-year-old six-metre high mausoleum, containing twelve ‘cells’. “The civilization who built this and another sese nearby are believed to have settled on the island after arriving from Northern Africa.”(h)
In 2005, jewellery in the style of the Egyptian Second Intermediate Period (1700-1550 BC) was discovered on the island. This would add to the opinion that Pantelleria was a major trading and cultural crossroads in ancient times.
Massimo Rapisarda has commented that “a good candidate to host a primordial civilization might have been the archipelago then existing in the Strait of Sicily, a natural maritime link between Tunisia and Italy, prized by the presence of an obsidian source at Pantelleria.”(f)
In August 2015, it was claimed(b) that a manufactured stone column was found on the Pantelleria Vecchia Bank, just north of the island of Pantelleria, in 40 metres of water. It is claimed that the area was an archipelago, if not actually connected to Sicily before the last Ice Age ended around 7350 BC. The monolith was dated using shells extracted from it. It took no time before the discovery was linked by a number of sites with Plato’s Atlantis. While I believe that the area was part of the Atlantean domain, I am more inclined to date its expansionist intentions to a much later period, such as the 2nd millennium BC.
Gades is the Roman name of what is generally accepted as having been located at or near modern Cadiz in southern Spain. In his Critias, Plato relates that the twin brother of Atlas, the first ruler of Atlantis, was named Gadeiros although known in Greek as Eumelos. It is assumed that he had his realm in the vicinity of Cadiz and had his capital named, Gadeira, after him.
However, it has been pointed out that the Phoenicians who, before the time of Plato, possessed a port city in southwest Spain named Gadir meaning ‘enclosure’ or ‘fortress’ and was, over time, corrupted to Cadiz.
Until recently it was generally accepted, based on classical writers including the historian Livy, that the Phoenicians founded Gades around 1100 BC. Writers today such as Mark Woolmer have pointed out [1053.46] that the archaeological evidence suggests a more recent date, perhaps the middle of the 8th century BC.
However, a number of locations with similar-sounding names are to be found in the Central and Western Mediterranean region, weakening the certainty normally associated with the more generally accepted identification of Gadeirus’ city with South-West Spain.
Another solution has recently been proposed by the late Michael Hübner, in which he offers the Souss-Massa plain of Southern Morocco as the location of Atlantis. On the Atlantic coast of the plain is the large town of Agadir, whose name is also probably derived from the word ‘gadir’ which means fort or enclosure in the local Tamazight language. It can also mean ‘sheep fold’, which may tie in with Plato’s use of ‘Eumelos’ as the Greek translation of Gadeiros means ‘rich in sheep’.
Alternative suggestions have been proposed, including one by Andis Kaulins(a), who is inclined to identify the islands of Egadi (Aegadian), off the west coast of Sicily, which is opposite today’s Tunis. Should this Egadi be the original Gades it would make sense for two of the suggested alternatives for the location of the Pillars of Heracles, either the Strait of Messina or the Strait of Sicily, where there is a Gadir on the island of Pantelleria(b). It would mean that Egadi would have been outside the Pillars of Heracles from either an Athenian or Egyptian perspective. Albert Nikas has pointed out the existence of a place in Malta called Il Ghadira, which has the largest sandy beach on the island!
More recently Jonathan Northcote has suggested that Gadeira may have been Ireland, citing Strabo, who quoted Eratosthenes, who had noted that Gades is five days sailing from the ‘Sacred Promontory’. Wikipedia lists(d) eleven promontories stretching from Crimea to Wales that have been so named, but notes that these were only some of the locations given that designation. So he arbitrarily chose either of the two Portuguese Capes listed as the most likely starting point for a five-day journey to Ireland (Gadeira)!
Stuart L. Harris has echoed this, employing linguistic gymnastics(c). He uses Felice Vinci‘s idea that Homeric Greek was in fact a form of Finnish and so Gadeira was Käde Eiran, meaning ‘Hand of Eira’, supposedly a variant of Éire (Ireland) and consequently Atlantis lay to the west of Ireland. Convoluted, is an understatement.
The Egadi Islands are located off the west coast of Sicily and were the location for a naval battle in 241 BC that resulted in the defeat of the Carthaginians by the Romans which brought an end to the First Punic War.
At the height of the last Ice Age, the islands were connected by a landbridge to the Sicilian mainland, because of the lower sea level(c). They have been suggested by Andis Kaulins(a) as the location of the kingdom of Gadirus, who was the twin brother of Atlas, the first king of Atlantis. Until recently, it was generally accepted that the realm of Gadirus had been situated in the vicinity of modern Cadiz, known in ancient times as Gades. This idea was enhanced by its proximity to the Strait of Gibraltar, deemed by many to be the site of the Pillars of Heracles.
However, there has been growing support for the idea of the Pillars, referred to by Solon/Plato, being situated in the Central Mediterranean, at either the Strait of Messina or the Strait of Sicily, the latter supported by Andis Kaulins, who goes further and suggests a link between Tartessos and ancient Carthage across the Strait in Tunisia.
More recently, Albert Nikas has argued cogently(b) for placing the Pillars of Heracles in the vicinity of the Egadi Islands and identifying them with Plato’s Gades and then concluded that Malta had been ‘the island in front of the Pillars’ and was Atlantis.
>Ernle Bradford made one passing reference to Atlantis in Ulysses Found [1011.57] which may be of interest to supporters of a Central Mediterranean Atlantis. When discussing the Egadi Islands off the west coast of Sicily he describes Levanzo, the smallest of the group as being “once joined to Sicily, and the island was surrounded by a large fertile plain. Levanzo, in fact, was joined to more than Sicily. Between this western corner of the Sicilian coast and the Cape Bon peninsula in Tunisia there once lay rich and fertile valleys-perhaps, who knows, long lost Atlantis?” This would seem to be close to the views of Alberto Arecchi and others.<
If the name of the Egadi Islands is more than just evocative of Plato’s Gades and since Gades has also been associated with Erytheia in the story of the ‘Trials of Hercules’, then if Izabol Apulia’s Map Mistress website is correct in locating Erytheia(d) between Pantelleria and the Egadi Islands it would confine all the ‘Trials’ in the Central and Eastern Mediterranean, consequently, locating the Pillars of Heracles somewhere in that region.
Opposite the Egadi Islands on the mainland of Sicily is the port of Marsala, which has also been identified, by Massimo Rapisarda, as another possible location for Atlantis.
Obsidian is a glassy rock produced as a consequence of rhyolitic volcanic eruptions and is usually dark blue. It was highly prized during the Stone Age when it was found to produce good sharp edges, suitable for tools and weapons when fractured. Michael Grant remarked ”it is the first traded substance of which there are material remains”.
Recent excavations in Northern Israel have revealed the use of obsidian tools over six thousand years ago(e). The nearest source of obsidian was Anatolia, so these pre-Canaanite people must have had trade links that extended at least that far.
It is interesting to read that obsidian was also considered valuable in North America around 7000 BC, when obsidian artifacts were discovered at an underwater site in Lake Huron, using material that had been brought from central Oregon 2,000 miles away(h).
In 2011 it was reported(b) that a new technique, which permitted the dating of obsidian, revealed that the Greek island of Melos saw the mining of obsidian as early as 15,000 years ago and its exportation throughout the Aegean and beyond, which also is evidence of extensive marine travel at that early date. However, 13,000 BC saw sea levels much lower than at present, as the Ice Age glaciation was still in place. This would have led to greater land exposure in the Aegean with shorter distances between islands, which were easily crossed with relatively primitive boats.
Massimo Rapisarda has noted that the only obsidian west of the Aegean in the Mediterranean is to be found in the Central region on the islands of Lipari, Palmarola, Pantelleria and Sardinia(g). A graduate thesis(f) by Barbara A. Vargo, explores in great detail the characteristics, history and distribution of Pantellerian obsidian.
Robert Ishoy who advocates a Sardinian location for Atlantis suggested(a) that obsidian, “commonly used on ancient Sardinia” was the mysterious orichalcum referred to by Plato. On the other hand. Christian and Siegfried Schoppe, who support a Black Sea location also identify obsidian as orichalcum. This is quite improbable, as obsidian would not easily lend itself to being used as wall cladding. This idea is even more impractical than Jürgen Spanuth’s proposal that orichalcum was a reference to amber. Apart from that orichalcum was described by Plato (Critias 116b-d) as a metal not rock.
Dr Ellery Frahm at the University of Sheffield has now developed a method whereby a piece of obsidian can be traced, not only to a particular volcano but to a specific quarry at the volcano(c).
In September 2013 Frahm revealed(d) that a new technique had been developed that permits the sourcing of obsidian artefacts in just 10 seconds.
In 2017 Robert H. Tykot published a very detailed paper on the sourcing and distribution of obsidian in the Central Mediterranean.(i)