The Persian Wars are believed by some to have been the inspiration for the story of the Atlantean invasion described by Plato. Giuseppe Bartoli was apparently the first, in 1780, to make such a claim. Not too long afterwards Pierre-André Latreille supported the same idea.
This idea fails on two principal grounds, date and geography. Since the Persian War took place around 500-449 BC, this would make it subsequent to Solon’s visit to Egypt (570-526 BC) and Persia was east of Athens and Egypt, while the Atlanteans came from the west (Tim.25b & Crit.114c)! In fact, what Plato said was that the invasion came from the Atlantic Sea (pelagos). Although there is some disagreement about the location of this Atlantic Sea, all candidates proposed so far are west of both Athens and Egypt.
Since the Persian War took place over half a century after Solon’s death, in some ways, the suggestion that the Persian conflict inspired Plato’s Atlantis story, implies that Plato lied about Solon as the conduit for the account, which is completely at variance with the acceptance of Plato as a man of unquestioned integrity.
Apart from this date discrepancy, Jürgen Spanuth lists other divergences of the Persian Invasion theory from Plato’s text. Spanuth, together with many other authors, favours the Sea Peoples or as he puts it ‘the North Sea Peoples’, being the Atlanteans of Plato’s tale.
However, Pierre Vidal-Naquet, a prominent Atlantis sceptic, is adamant that the Persian Wars, with some modifications, parallel the Athenian war with Atlantis. William Babcock expressed a similar opinion in the early years of the 20th century. Acceptance of this view would rule Solon out as Plato’s source and undermine the credibility of the whole narrative.
Keep in mind that you can also find parallels between many of the European wars of the last few hundred years.
*In the mid-20th century, W. A. Heidel, an Atlantis sceptic, claimed(a) that an expeditionary naval force was sent by Darius in 515 BC under Scylax of Caryanda to explore the Indus River, which eventually encountered waters too shallow for his ships, was the inspiration behind Plato’s tale of unnavigable seas!*
He further claimed that Plato’s battle between Atlantis and Athens is a distortion of a war of invasion between the Persians and the Indians.
In late 2008 a new theory about Atlantis, was launched(a) by August Hunt that purports to link Atlantis with the Persian Empire with either Persepolis or Susa as the Atlantean capital described by Plato. He also offers the curious explanation for Plato’s 9,000 years for the age of Atlantis as being in reality a reference to the number of Athenians present at the Battle of Marathon! His short book is entitled Atalante and the Persian Empire
Jim Allen in a discussion of a number of ancient Persian cities, notes that some are circular and often had concentric walls, suggesting that they may have been the inspiration for Plato’s description of Atlantis’ capital city!
If the Persians were in fact the Atlanteans of Plato’s story, it seems rather odd that their invasion fleet, as recorded by Herodotus (Bk.7.89), included 200 Egyptian ships, while at the same time that Athens and Egypt were supposedly allies in opposition to Atlantis!
Ocean and Sea are words employed by classical writers in a manner different to our present usage. Originally the Greek word Oceanos referred to the ‘Great River’ that was assumed to flow around the then known world. Stecchini wrote that “the existence of a river Oceanus as an extension of the Nile along the Equator was considered a serious reality in Greek times” (e)
Anton Mifsud has pointed out that Homer used the word ocean for the sea and in fact used the same word for the Tyrrhenian ‘Sea’ (a). Both Seneca and Cicero referred to the Mediterranean Sea as the Atlantic Ocean(b)(c). Diodorus Siculus notes further that the word for ocean has even been applied to the Nile(d). Herodotus noted that Homer also called the Nile ‘Okeanòs’(f), as it was generally believed that it began and ended in an ocean (quoted by J.H. Agnew)[1232.123].
Georgeos Diaz-Montexano made a similar point when he commented that the classical writers had three words for bodies of salt water; pontos (small), pelagos (medium) and okeanos (large). Plato always referred to Atlantis being in a pelagos.
Alfred C. Moorhouse, among others, has pointed out(a) that ‘pontos’ is seemingly derived from words meaning ‘path’ or ‘bridge’, which in turn gave us the Latin ‘pons’ for bridge. Understandably, early sailors preferred shore-hugging and the use of trusted sea routes. ‘Pelagos’ refers to open seas, probably when out of sight of land. Agnieszka Adamowicz-Pospiech suggested that the words were used to distinguish “between the familiar and the foreign”.(h)
>George Sarantitis suggested that ‘Pelagos’ “usually denotes a small sea in the shape of an embrace and contains islands, bays, peninsulas”, while ‘Pontos’ “denotes a sea with strong currents that require extra effort to navigate.”(i)<
We can conclude therefore that since Plato never used the term ‘ocean’ in connection with Atlantis there is no proof that he was referring to our present-day Atlantic, while in all likelihood he was indicating the western basin of the Mediterranean or the reported large inland sea where the chotts of Tunisia and Algeria are all that remain of it today.
(a) Odysseus x. 508,
(b) Quaestiones Naturales,
(c) Somnium Scipioni
(d) Biblioteca Storica i.
(e) https://www.metrum.org/mapping/cosmol.htm (link broken Oct 2020)
(i) The Atlantis Hypothesis (2nd Conference)(Heliotopos, Athens, 2010) p.400<