Pliny the Elder
The Voyage of Hanno, the Carthaginian navigator, was undertaken around 500 BC. The general consensus is that his journey took him through the Strait of Gibraltar and along part of the west coast of Africa. A record, or periplus, of the voyage was inscribed on tablets and displayed in the Temple of Baal at Carthage. Richard Hennig speculated that the contents of the periplus were copied by the Greek historian, Polybius, after the Romans captured Carthage. It did not surface again until the 10th century when a copy, in Greek, was discovered (Codex Heildelbergensis 398) and was not widely published until the 16th century.
The 1797 English translation of the periplus by Thomas Falconer along with the original Greek text can be downloaded or read online(h).
Edmund Marsden Goldsmid (1849-?) published a translation of A Treatise On Foreign Languages and Unknown Islands by Peter Albinus. In footnotes on page 39 he describes Hanno’s periplus as ‘apocryphal’. A number of other commentators(c)(d) have also cast doubts on the authenticity of the Hanno text.
Three years after Ignatius Donnelly published Atlantis, Lord Arundell of Wardour published The Secret of Plato’s Atlantis intended as a rebuttal of Donnelly’s groundbreaking book. The ‘secret’ referred to in the title is that Plato’s Atlantis story is based on the account we have of the Voyage of Hanno.
Nicolai Zhirov speculated that Hanno may have witnessed ‘the destruction of the southern remnants of Atlantis’, based on some of his descriptions.
>Rhys Carpenter dedicated nearly twenty pages to the matter of Hanno commented that ”The modern literature about his (Hanno’s) voyage is unexpectedly large. But it is so filled with disagreement that to summarize it with any thoroughness would be to annul its effectiveness, as the variant opinions would cancel each other out”[221.86]. Carpenter included what he describes as ‘a retranslation of a translation’ of the text.<
Further discussion of the text and topography encountered by Hanno can be read in a paper by Duane W. Roller.
What I find interesting is that so much attention was given to Hanno’s voyage as if it was unique and not what you would expect if Atlantic travel was as commonplace at that time, as many ‘alternative’ history writers claim.
However, even more questionable is the description of Hanno sailing off “with a fleet of sixty fifty-oared ships, and a large number of men and women to the number of thirty thousand, and with wheat and other provisions.” The problem with this is that the 50-oared ships would have been penteconters, which had limited room for much more than the oarsmen. If we include the crew, an additional 450 persons per ship would have been impossible, in fact it, is unlikely that even the provisions for 500 hundred people could have been accommodated!
Lionel Casson, the author of The Ancient Mariners commented that “if the whole expedition had been put aboard sixty penteconters, the ships would have quietly settled on the harbour bottom instead of leaving Carthage: a penteconter barely had room to carry a few days’ provisions for its crew, to say nothing of a load of passengers with all the equipment they needed to start a life in a colony.“
The American writer, William H. Russeth, commented(f) on the various interpretations of Hanno’s route, noting that “It is hard for modern scholars to figure out exactly where Hanno travelled, because descriptions changed with each version of the original document and place names change as different cultures exert their influence over the various regions. Even Pliny the Elder, the famous Roman Historian, complained of writers committing errors and adding their own descriptions concerning Hanno’s journey, a bit ironic considering that Romans levelled the temple of Ba’al losing the famous plaque forever.”
George Sarantitis has a more radical interpretation of Hanno’s journey, proposing
(e) that instead of taking a route along the North African coast and then out into the Atlantic, he proposes that Hanno travelled inland along waterways that no longer exist. He insists that the location of the Pillars of Heracles, as referred to in the narrative, matches the Gulf of Gabes .
The most recent commentary on Hanno’s voyage is on offer by Antonio Usai in his 2014 book, The Pillars of Hercules in Aristotle’s Ecumene. He also has a controversial view of Hanno’s account, claiming that in the “second part, Hanno makes up everything because he does not want to continue that voyage.” (p.24) However, the main objective of Usai’s essays is to demonstrate that the Pillars of Hercules were originally situated in the Central Mediterranean between eastern Tunisia and its Kerkennah Islands.
A 1912 English translation of the text can be read online(a), as well as a modern English translation by Jason Colavito(k).
Another Carthaginian voyager, Himilco, is also thought to have travelled northward in the Atlantic and possibly reached Ireland, referred to as ‘isola sacra’. Unfortunately, his account is no longer available(g).
>The controversial epigrapher Barry Fell went so far as to propose that Hanno visited America, citing the Bourne Stone as evidence!<
The livius.org website offers three articles(i) on the text, history and credibility of the surviving periplus together with a commentary.
>Another excellent overview of the document is available on the World History Encyclopedia website.(l) <
Thérêse Ghembaza is a French researcher who has a website, in French and English, entitled The Great Enigmas of Antiquity(a) in which she discusses matters such as the Hyksos, the identity of Moses and the Kushites. The site also deals with her theory that Atlantis had been situated in Meroë on the Upper Nile, a theory that she developed in a number of other papers(c), which are certainly worth a read.
While at first sight this might be seen as a wild claim, Ghembaza offers a well reasoned theory which was presented to the 2nd Atlantis Conference held in Athens in 2008. She has imaginatively linked aspects of Meroitic geography and history with Plato’s story of Atlantis. For example, she identifies Tyrrhenia with Tyre in Lebanon and claims that Tyrrhenia in Italy was a later colony of Tyre! While some of her ideas are convincing I found others a little threadbare. Nevertheless Ghembaza must be applauded for her efforts to construct a scientific explanation for the Atlantis narrative.
In April 2015, Ghembaza offered a short paper(d) in support of identifying Bab-el-Mandeb as the location of the Pillars of Heracles.
Ghembaza has kindly drawn my attention to two quotations from Pliny the Elder and Ovid that offer possible explanations for Plato’s orichalcum (see Document 091011). The former refers to a Cypriot copper mixed with gold which gave a fiery colour and called pyropus, while Ovid also refers to a cladding of pyropus, a term often translated as bronze. She also mentions auricupride(Cu3Au), an alloy that may be connected with orichalcum.
(b) Hecataeus of Miletus‘ Periegesis 550 – 480 “now lost, but probably the main source of Plato and Eratosthenes”
(d) See: Archive 2526
The Strait of Gibraltar according to Greek mythology was created by Herakles. Neville Chipulina explains that “it seems that the person responsible for the myths about Hercules was Peisander of Rhodes, a 7th century BC Greek epic poet who apparently got the story from an unknown Pisinus of Lindus who almost certainly plagiarised it from somebody else. In other words, it’s a pretty old story.”(c)
The Strait is very much a part of many current Atlantis theories. Primarily, it is contended that the region itself held the location of Atlantis. This is based on Plato’s statement that Eumelos, also known as Gadeirus, the twin brother of Atlas the first king of Atlantis gave his name to Gades, known today as Cadiz. Andalusia in Southern Spain has been the focus of attention for over a hundred years. In recent years Georgeos Diaz-Montexano and his rival Jacques Colina- Girard have been investigating the waters of the Strait itself while south of the Strait Jonas Bergman has advanced his theory that Atlantis was located just across the Strait in Morocco.
Although there is general acceptance that the Pillars of Heracles had their final resting place in the vicinity of the Strait of Gibraltar, it must be noted that there have been other candidates at different times with equally valid claims. The location of the ‘Pillars’ referred to by Plato at the time of Atlantis is the subject of continuing debate.
Strato, the philosopher, quoted by Strabo, spoke of a dam separating the Atlantic and the Mediterranean being breached by a cataclysm. This idea was reinforced by comments of Seneca. Furthermore, a number of Arabic writers, including Al-Mas’udi, Al-Biruni and Al-Idrisi, have all concurred with this idea of a Gibraltar land bridge in late prehistory.
A more radical theory is that of Paulino Zamarro who contends that the Strait was in fact closed by a landbridge during the last Ice Age because of the lower sea levels together with silting. When the waters rose and breached the landbridge, he believes that the flood submerged Atlantis, which he situates in the Aegean. Others support Zamarro’s idea of a Gibraltar Dam amongst whom are Constantin Benetatos and Joseph S. Ellul.
Terry Westerman on his heavily illustrated website surveys impact craters globally. He suggests that “The Strait of Gibraltar was formed by two meteor impacts. The first blasted the round area in the western Mediterranean Sea to form a land bridge between Spain and Morocco.” He maintains that a second impact broke the landbridge around 5.33 million years ago, creating what is called the Zanclean Flood which refilled the then desiccated Mediterranean(d).
A German-language website(a) presented some of the following data+, apparently recording the dramatic widening of the Strait of Gibraltar between 400 BC and 400 AD. The same list was included in the ‘Strait of Gibraltar’ entry of the German Wikipedia(b) until a few years ago. It has since been removed.
+Damastes of Sigeum, circa 400 BC. – about 1.3 km
+Pseudo-Skylax, probably fourth Century BC – about 1.3 km
*Turiano Greslio? 300BC – 8.0 km
+Strabo 63 BC- 24 AD – from 9.5 to 13.0 km
+Pomponius Mela , 50 AD – about the 15.0 km
+Pliny the Elder, 50 AD – about 15.0 km
*+Victor Vicensa (*Vitensa?), 400 AD – about 18 km
The above figures suggest that in the latter half of the first millennium BC, the Strait of Gibraltar was gradually widened. Nevertheless, until the methods used and all the data on offer have been verified, the idea must be treated with great caution.
My list had originally included Euctemon, the 5th century BC Athenian astronomer, however, Werner E. Friedrich notes that Euctemon was referring to the Sea of Marmara near the entrance to the Black Sea [0695.38].
However, more recently, John Jensen Jnr. has offered a comparable, if shorter, number of dates showing the reducing width of the strait the further back you go, from which he extrapolated that around 3450 YBP, when he believes that a landbridge there was breached(e).
Georgeos Diaz-Montexano has also referred to the descriptions by ancient writers of the Strait of Gibraltar indicating a width of around two kilometres. Unfortunately, he does not cite references(f). He also is sympathetic to the existence of an earlier landbridge at Gibraltar.
The Scilly Isles are located southwest of Cornwall’s Land’s End in the Atlantic Ocean. The islands were more extensive before the end of the last Ice Age and their inundation following the melting of the glaciers undoubtedly produced numerous legends in the region of sunken cities and lost civilisations. Apparently, there was once a paved causeway joining some of the islands and according to an 18th-century report, it was then under 8 feet of water. Even earlier in the 3rd century AD, Solinus referred to the Scillies in the singular as insulam Siluram.
O.G.S. Crawford, who was the first Archaeology Officer with the British Ordnance Survey, was also the founder in 1927 of Antiquity which continues today. In its first edition(c) he wrote of the earlier Scillies as a single landmass and its relationship to the legend of Lyonesse(b).
Some writers have identified the Scillies as the Cassiterides (Isles of Tin) referred to by Pliny the Elder. However, there are no known tin deposits on the islands, although it is possible that before the ocean levels rose ore deposits were accessible, similar to those in nearby Devon and Cornwall, but this inundation probably occurred before the technology existed to exploit its use.
In more recent times the Russian Scientist Viatcheslav Koudriavtsev was convinced that Atlantis was located on the Celtic Shelf near the Scilly Isles. He specifically identified an underwater feature known as the Little Sole Bank, whose highest point is just 75 metres beneath the ocean’s surface. He had been promoting his theory since 1995 and eventually obtained official government permission to carry out explorations in the area, but he was unable to raise the necessary funds to carry out the operation.
In 2009, excavations on St. Agnes in the Scillies revealed a remarkable Bronze Age pottery sherd which seems to depict the earliest know image of a sailing boat ever found in the United Kingdom(a).
In 1651, the Netherlands declared war on the Scillies, a little detail that was forgotten until 1986, when a peace treaty was finally signed(d) !
(c) https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/antiquity/article/lyonesse/37725F1992B3D4ADF36561E144227F11 (Jan. 2019 access restricted)
São Tomé and Príncipe are two islands in the Gulf of Guinea, off the coast of the West African state of Gabon. The website(a) dedicated to the work of Livio Stecchini unequivocally identifies São Tomé as the island of Atlantis referred to by Pliny the Elder (VI 36, 199).
Pliny the Elder (23 -79 AD), or more correctly Gaius Plinius Secundus, was a Roman writer and naturalist whose only extant work is the 37 volume Historia Naturalis, considered to be the first encyclopaedia. It was Pliny the Elder who was credited with saying “that the only certainty is that nothing is certain.”
Pliny makes a number of references to Atlantis that give us small clues to add to the writings of Plato. Jürgen Spanuth quotes Pliny where he recorded (vi.49) how in Sogdiana, in today’s Uzbekistan, there was reputed to have been an altar and ‘Pillars of Heracles’. Pliny also describes (vii.56) the encounter between the Athenians and Atlanteans as the first recorded battle. Interestingly he also refers to this conflict being fought with wooden sticks hardened by fire since they did not have iron. We can also infer from this comment that they did not have bronze either, thus setting the war in the Stone Age. Pliny’s comment would therefore place this event somewhere between 4000 BC and 2000 BC.
Anton Mifsud notes how over the centuries various versions of Pliny’s text have been guilty of omissions and amendments. Pliny refers to Atlantis on a number of occasions but individual translations have omitted different references to ‘Atlantis’, ‘the islands of Atlantis’ and the Atlantic Sea. While it is accepted that Pliny’s writings do contain errors such arbitrary meddling with the text by translators does little to inspire confidence in the average reader!
Pliny in his remarks on the islands off the west coast of Africa notes that there was an island ‘off Mount Atlas’ called Atlantis (vi.36).
Intriguingly, Pliny describes Italy as being shaped like an oak leaf (iii.43), an image that inspired Camillo Ravioli to produce a matching speculative map of ancient Italy.
According to Pliny, Atlantians was the name that was applied to all Ethiopians including some known as White Ethiopians. In turn Ethiopians was a term applied to all Africans.
Pliny died, after being overcome by fumes, while trying to study the 79 AD eruption of Vesuvius.
The Hesperides in Greek mythology were the daughters of Atlas. They lived on an island in the far west guarding a tree that bore golden apples made famous in the story of the twelve labours of Hercules who was charged with obtaining some of the apples.
The Hesperides have also been referred to as the Fortunate Islands and is the name applied by classical writers to islands off the west coast of Africa that have been variously identified with the Azores, Canaries or Cape Verde islands. Other opinions place the garden at Gades or on the Atlantic coast of Morocco,> such as Pliny’s suggested location of Lixus(b).<
>According to Wikipedia “the Sicilian Greek poet Stesichorus, in his poem the “Song of Geryon”, and the Greek geographer Strabo, in his book Geographika (volume III), the garden of the Hesperides is located in Tartessos, a location placed in the south of the Iberian peninsula.”(c)<
While the majority opinion is that the name specifically refers to the Canaries, a minority view espoused by Andrew Collins(a) is similar to that of Oviedo, namely that Hesperides refers to the Caribbean, where he is convinced that Cuba had been the home of Atlantis.
(b) Pliny the Elder. Historia Naturalis – Book V. *
(c) Hesperides – Wikipedia *
Guanches and Canarios were the names given to the natives of the Canary Islands when conquered by the Spanish in the 15th century following a hundred-year campaign. They are generally considered to be of Cro-Magnon origin having fair or red hair and blue/grey eyes, characteristics that are still to be seen today. Many writers have been convinced that the Guanches were the remnants of the Atlantean civilisation. Recent DNA studies(j) reveal a diversity of origins for the descendants of Guanches, comparable with the general Canarian population today.
However, a number of recent genetic studies(l)(m) have established a clear relationship with the Berbers of North Africa. Furthermore, it is claimed that the aboriginal language of the Guanches is related to one of the Berber dialects(n). Further evidence favouring a Berber connection was provided in 2017(o). A 2018 paper develops this further with particular reference to the Lybico-Berber script(p).
Prior to the arrival of the Europeans, it is claimed that the population numbered over 20,000. It is not commonly known that in the 15th century many of the Guanches were abducted and brought to the Madeiras to work as slaves(g).
The Guanches were reported to have had no boats or maritime heritage. If they were all that was left following a catastrophic event, the Guanches were probably the descendants of mountain people who had no seagoing heritage. This view was queried by Henry Eichner who claims that this idea was generated by the faulty assumptions of one of the first Spaniards to visit the island, Nicoloso de Recceo. In 2013, Sergio Navio decided to disprove this notion with a practical demonstration. The plan is to use a basic raft-like boat, named ‘Ursa Minor’ to sail from Lanzarote to La Palma, a distance of 250 miles(f).
The Spanish conquerors of the Canary Islands may have been able to shed more light on the subject, had they been more interested in history than in territory. According to these early explorers, the natives were surprised to learn that other people had survived the disaster that had flooded their world and submerged much of their homeland. They excitedly asked the conquistadors for help translating ancient inscriptions left by their ancestors that they could no longer read, but unfortunately – for the natives and for history – the Spanish exterminated their tribe before any more information was learned about their history and legends. Their inscriptions remain undeciphered.
The Guanches have been linked with both ancient Egypt and America on a number of grounds including similar methods of mummification(i) and the step pyramids found at both locations(d). Perhaps the most radical idea to emerge in recent times from Jonah G. Lissner was the suggestion that the Guanches or more correctly their ancestors were the founders of predynastic Egypt(q). In a similar vein, Helene E. Hagan wrote The Shining Ones, in which she identified the Tamazigh, related to the Guanches, as the founders of Egyptian civilisation.
Reinhard Prahl has published a paper(k) on the Migration & Diffusion website in which he also highlights cultural similarities of the Guanches and ancient Egyptians.
In The Atlantis Encyclopedia [104.130], Frank Joseph wrote, “In 45 A.D., he (Marcellus) recorded that “the inhabitants of the Atlantic island of Poseidon preserve a tradition handed down to them by their ancestors of the existence of an Atlantic island of immense size, of not less than a thousand stadia [about 115 miles], which had really existed in those seas, and which, during a long period of time, governed all the islands of the Atlantic Ocean.” Pliny the Elder seconded Marcellus, writing that the Guanches were in fact the direct descendants of the disaster that sank Atlantis. Proclus reported that they still told the story of Atlantis in his day, circa 410 A.D.” Joseph expanded on some of this in an article in issue #34 of Atlantis Rising(u).
José Luis Concepción (1948- ), a Canarian, has written a number of books with a local theme including The Guanches, Survivors and their Descendant , a booklet providing a brief history of the islands. He concurs with the view that the Guanches have an African Cro-Magnon ancestry and are related to modern Berbers. The author also claims that the Guanches are still the dominant race on the Canaries. The booklet has been translated into a number of languages and includes an extensive Spanish bibliography.
A website(a) discussing the Guanches has some interesting if controversial suggestions regarding their origins. Another site highlights a possible connection with the Dravidians of Southern India(c). This Dravidian connection is supported by the late Edo Nyland(e) in his Linguistic Archaeology.>Some time ago, Arysio dos Santos wrote a paper, claiming that “we provide linguistic evidence that the Guanche language is very likely of Dravidian derivation, and not indeed Hamito-Semitic, as usually stated(v). The present article is intended to be read in connection with the one entitled: TheMysterious Origin of the Guanches(w).”<
Two Russian writers, B.F. Dobrynin and B. L. Bogaevsky in the first quarter of the 20th century wrote articles that supported the idea that there were links between the Guanches and the original Atlanteans.
A 2020 article(t) on the BBC website reiterates the Guanche – Berber connection but adds that “They adapted caves and grottoes to be used as silos and temples. Some of those structures have been preserved to this day and indicate the Guanches’ sophisticated astronomical knowledge: holes on the caves’ walls allowed sunlight in at certain positions during different times of the year, marking solstices and equinoxes.”
(i) See Archive 2617
(q) https://joe3998.tripod.com/guanches/ (link broken)
(s) http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/cgi-bin/abstract/39792/Abstract (Link Broken)
(u) Atlantis Rising magazine #34 http://pdfarchive.info/index.php?pages/At
Ethiopia as a geographical area had very different meanings depending on the period in which it was used. Frank Joseph stated that until the 1st century BC. Ethiopia referred to the Atlantic coast of North Africa. Zhirov claimed that ‘Ethiopia’ simply meant a land inhabited by dark-skinned people[0458.98].
Pliny the Elder stated that Aethiopia was formerly called Atlantia (p. 116). Proclus, the Greek philosopher, was convinced that Atlantis existed and was connected with ancient Ethiopia, quoting The Ethiopian History of Marcellus.
Col. Alexander Braghine believed in a connection between the ancient Ethiopians and Atlantis. The map above dating from 1650 and published in a book by J.A. Rogers shows the South Atlantic as ‘The Ethiopic Ocean’, while the entire Central Africa is named Ethiopia. We can only conclude that the location of the original Ethiopia is nearly as difficult to pinpoint as the location of Atlantis itself.
>In 2020, African author George Mac D Lynch published Ethiopia is Atlantis and has made it freely available on the Internet Archive.(a) Lynch has been greatly influenced by the writings of Ignatius Donnelly, Drusilla Dunjee Houston and Gerald Massey. He claims Ethiopia as the cradle of civilisation.<
Avalon is the legendary resting place of Britain’s King Arthur. Tradition has it that it was also famous for its apples and this feature led some to link it with the legend of the Hesperides considered another name for Atlantis. This linkage of Avalon with Atlantis is extremely tenuous. The apple connection is also suggested by the Welsh for Avalon which is Ynys Afallon, possibly derived from afal, the Welsh for apple.
Pliny the Elder in his Naturalis Historiae (xxxvii.35) named Helgoland as ‘insulam Abalum’, which has been suggested as a variant of Avalon. Other locations such as Sicily and Avallon in Burgundy have been also been proposed. A series of YouTube clips(a) bravely links Avalon, Mt.Meru and Atlantis, which is supposedly situated in the Arctic!
The isle of Lundy in Britain’s Bristol Channel has been speculatively identified as Avalon(b).>Other leading contenders are the Isle of Man and Glastonbury(c).<