DuWayne Heupel is the author of Atlantis in Context in which he concludes that the Atlantis story was an invention by Plato to promote his concept of an ideal form of government and “demonstrate the dangers of national hubris.” However, it would seem to fail as a morality tale when Plato also included the demise of the ‘righteous’ Athenians in his narrative. This is compounded by his reference to another ideal city, Magnesia, in Laws. Why did he need to create two model cities?
Nevertheless, Heupel includes a lot of historical background to Athens and the people referred to by Plato, although by his own admission, he does engage in some speculative conclusions. He also claim that elements in Plato’s story were possibly inspired by real places, like Carthage, Atalanta and Thera and real events such as the Persian and Peloponnesian Wars. What I find strange about that is that the places listed by Heupel are not mentioned at all by Plato, but locations, such as Tyrrhenia and Libya, which are included in the text, are apparently not considered to be relevant by Heupel. It seems clear that Heupel accepts that there are actual historical underpinnings to the Atlantis story, but in my opinion has chosen the wrong ones.
The late Anthony N. Kontaratos, listed twenty-two direct and indirect instances, in Timaeus and Critias, where Plato has asserted the truthfulness of the Atlantis story. As far as I’m aware, there is nothing comparable with this anywhere else in Plato’s writings. This alone should persuade listeners/readers that at least Plato believed he was transmitting a true story. However, Plato did have some reservations regarding details in Solon’s narrative, as expressed in Critias 118c-d. If Plato had invented the whole story, it is highly unlikely that he would create exaggerations in an invented tale and then draw attention to them, unless, of course, he was engaging in a double bluff! For my part, I believe that this is highly improbable and that his reluctance to blindly accept all that was transmitted to him was outweighed by the trustworthiness of Solon, his source. Solon was held in such high regard by the people of Athens that for a writer to invoke his name as an informant, without good reason, would be committing literary suicide. This would be similar to unjustifiably quoting George Washington or Nelson Mandela. It is equally improbable that Plato would invoke the names of his family in support of a hoax.
Therefore, it is not unreasonable to assume that Plato, in good faith, wrote down the story of Atlantis as recorded by Solon. Unfortunately, trust in Solon is not enough to explain away the difficulties in the narrative, including the very item that raised the initial doubts in Plato’s own mind.
For my part, I believe that the balance of probabilities favours the acceptance of the reality of Atlantis and is clearly worthy of continuing research.
Pierre-André Latreille (1762-1833) was an ordained priest as well as the leading entomologist of his day. He was arrested during the French Revolution and was sentenced to death, but was released as a result of the intervention of Bory de Saint Vincent. It appears that Latreille subscribed to the idea that Plato’s war was just a version of the war between the Persians and the Athenians and consequently Atlantis should be sought in Attica of which Athens was the capital.
In his 1819 book.
Giuseppe Bartoli (1717-1788) was a professor of Greek at the University of Turin and ‘antiquarian’ to the King of Sardinia.
In 1780 he published a work in French, half of which was devoted to a study of Atlantis. Galanopoulos & Bacon claim[263.93] that he was the first to locate Atlantis in the Eastern Mediterranean. They also claim that he was the first to claim that Plato’s Atlantis story was a retelling of the Persian War with Athens. *However, Stephen P. Kershaw is of the opinion that Bartoli believed the Atlantean War represented both the Peloponnesian War, between Athens and Sparta, and also the internal conflicts within Athens!*
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!