Atlanteans vs Roman Technology
The ditch surrounding the Plain of Atlantis was found to be ‘incredible’ by Plato (Crit.118c), it is worth comparing it with one of the most extensive ancient ditch systems still visible to day.
While the length of the ditch is remarkable, but being a stade (600ft) in width and a plethrum (100ft) deep, it amounts to a cross section of an astounding 60,000 sq ft. It brought to my mind the Fossatum Africae, which was a defensive ditch over 600 km long delineating the southern limit of the Roman Empire in what is now Algeria and Tunisia. This feature was rediscovered in 1947 by Jean Baradez, a retired French Air Force pilot and described in great detail in his 1949 book, Fossatum Africae. While the depth and width of the fossatum varies considerably, they are approximately 10ft x 10ft, which would give an average cross section of just 100 sq ft.
This means that the Atlantean ditch described by Plato would have been 600 times greater in cross section than the best produced by the might of the Roman Empire. A rough graphical depiction is given in the paragraph above, where the initial letter ‘W’ represents the cross section of the Roman fossatum, while the entire paragraph represents the presumed dimensions of the perimeter ditch surrounding the plain of Atlantis. Also keep in mind that the effort required to raise earth from a depth of ten feet becomes exponentially greater the deeper you go, so that the manpower required excavating the Atlantean ditch would be many thousands of times greater than that required for the fossatum. No wonder Plato found the dimensions passed to him by Solon ‘incredible’.
The illustration above should convince any reasonable person that Plato’s numerical data, at least in this instance, is greatly exaggerated.
Henri-Paul Eydoux has also written a chapter on this African feature [927.171].
Elephants are specifically mentioned by Plato as being indigenous to Atlantis. This must have significance for anyone trying to arrive at a credible location for Atlantis. For example, supporters of the Theran Atlantis School cannot show where such large animals could have lived on the small volcanic island. There are no physical remains, no frescos and no historical references. Rodney Castleden who supports the Minoan Hypothesis admits that “no raw elephant ivory has been found (on Thera) and very little in the way of worked ivory”[225.70]. He later speaks of the importation of ivory into Crete[p.172] having bravely denounced Plato’s description (Critias 115a) of herds of elephants on Atlantis as “false”[p.136].
Similarly, Spanuth’s Heligoland location would have been climatically unsuited to elephants. Spanuth himself admits that the elephant reference “is hard to explain“. Nevertheless, Felice Vinci who champions a Northern European origin for Greek mythology believes that Plato’s elephant reference may be a lingering memory of the woolly mammoths that inhabited Arctic regions as recently as 2500-2000 BC(t)(u). In the late 17th century Olof Rudbeck, recognising the problem that Plato’s reference to elephants presented for his Swedish Atlantis, argued that Plato had been speaking figuratively when describing the large voracious animals and had actually been referring to wolves, the Swedish word for wolf being ‘ulf’, which sounds like the beginning of ‘elephant’!!
Elephants in Western Europe were undoubtedly represented by mammoths, remains of which have been recovered from the North Sea – Doggerland and dated to around 40,000 years ago. Coincidentally, a tool made of mammoth bone, used for making rope, has also been dated to 40,000 years ago(i)(n). This discovery(s) by Nicholas Conard from the University of Tubingen was made shortly before Ashley Cowie published his interesting book on the history of rope-making. Further information on string, ropes and knots was published in March 2017(o). This ingenuity of our very distant ancestors, so often underestimated, is slowly being revealed by modern archaeology. In 2000, in the Czech Republic, it was discovered that woven cloth was being produced on looms 27,000 years ago(v). A few years later a team from Harvard’s Peabody Museum reported the discovery of fibres that ‘were spun, twisted or knotted’ and dated to at least 34,000 years ago(x). 2020 saw evidence emerge which suggested that even as far back as 41,000 – 52,000 years ago the Neanderthals had mastered the making of cords(w). Later the same year, further evidence was offered that string making may have begun even earlier(y).
Allied to the demise of the Siberian mammoths is the often-repeated fib that when the remains were first discovered, their flesh was still fresh enough to eat, which has recently been debunked by Jason Colavito(j). He has also unearthed the truth behind that other canard relating to a Siberian mammoth, namely that fresh buttercups were found in its mouth(j). He has now(q) traced back the earliest reference to the frozen mammoths to George Cuvier in 1822 [1586.11].
Eckart Kahlhofer, in a forthcoming book advocates a North-West European location for Atlantis, suggests that where Plato referred to elephants he actually meant deer! Kahlhofer offers, as a simple explanation for this seemingly daft contention, the fact that the Greek for elephant, elephas, is very similar to the Greek elaphos which means deer. He claims that a simple transcription error by a scribe could have caused the mix-up.
The elk was the largest species of deer to be found in the northern hemisphere and are still to be found in Scandinavia. The Great Irish Deer which died out around 5500 BC had an antler span of 11ft and a maximum height of 10ft, though usually less. The tallest African elephant ever recorded was 13 feet at the shoulder, which would appear to give the elephant the edge over the deer heightwise. Furthermore, It is worth pointing out, again, that Plato described his elephants as the ‘largest and most voracious’ animal, so when we realise that an adult elephant eats 250-300 lbs a day, while a moose manages on 40-60 lbs, there seems to be no contest.
Gene Matlock in an attempt to bolster his Mexican location for Atlantis has suggested that Plato’s elephants were in reality the long-snouted tapirs of Meso-America!(c), an idea ‘borrowed’ from Hyde Clarke
While the elephant issue should not be dealt with in isolation it does serve to illustrate the difficulties involved in analysing Plato’s text. Consider the possibility that the early date of 9600 BC for Atlantis is accepted, then the islands that are too small today to accommodate elephants may have been considerably larger and sometimes connected to each other or a mainland during the Ice Age, when sea levels were lower, and consequently capable of supporting pachyderms. In this regard, Sundaland would have been the most suitable candidate. Not only would today’s South China Sea’s archipelagos been a single landmass, but there would have been access to the region from the Asian mainland, home today to large numbers of elephants.
Strangely enough, even the Andes, considered by some as the home of Atlantis, reveal the fact that during the last Ice Age a species of elephant called Cuvieronius lived there but became extinct around 8000 BC. These animals are to be found carved on the great Gateway of the Sun in Tiahuanaco suggesting that they were common in the region. Supporters of an Atlantis link with Tiahuanaco have highlighted this fact.
James Bailey who supports the idea of Atlantis in America believes that Plato’s mention of elephants could be a reference to the American mammoth, generally believed to have died out circa 10,000 BC, although Victor von Hagen, the American explorer, contentiously maintained that they survived as late 2000 BC. A similar idea was presented to the 2005 Atlantis Conference by the American researcher, Monique Petersen.
The Schoppes, in support of their theory of Atlantis in the Black Sea region, contend(l) that Indian elephants existed there until 800 BC and support this with a reference to the Egyptian pharaoh Thutmosis III who killed 120 elephants ‘there’ around 1200 BC, which is a strange claim as Thutmosis did not venture beyond Syria and he died circa 1426 BC!
Elephas Antiquus (Palaeoloxodon), is a dwarf species whose remains have been found throughout the islands of the Mediterranean from Sardinia to Cyprus. All those found were dated 200,000 BC or earlier! In sharp contrast, Simon Davis, in an article in New Scientist (3 Jan.1985), dated Mediterranean dwarf elephants to as recent as 6000 BC(p). Some writers, such as Roger Coghill, have tried to use the pygmy elephant as an explanation for Plato’s text (Crit. 114e & 115a) where we find that he describes the elephants as being ‘of its nature the largest and most voracious’. This is not a description of pygmy elephants.
Victoria Louise Herridge is a palaeontologist at the Natural History Museum in London. She has published a lengthy paper in two parts(z)(aa) offering an in-depth technical study of dwarf elephant species found on Mediterranean islands.
However, Ghar Hasan or Hasan’s Cave in southeast Malta has palaeolithic cave paintings that depict elephants, indicating more recent contact with the animals. Whether these represented full-sized or the pygmy variety is unclear. A small booklet by Dr. Anton Mifsud and Dr. Charles Savona-Ventura describes this cave system.
In Dossier Malta – Neanderthal  Mifsud has drawn attention to another cavern, not far away, formerly known as Ghar Dulam, now Ghar Dalam, where thousands of dwarf elephant bones were discovered. Dulam means ‘small elephant’ in Arabic. This is one of the mainstays of his ‘Atlantis in Malta’ theory. Whether these diminutive creatures justify Plato’s description that they were the “largest and most voracious” of animals (Crit.115a) is clearly debatable. For me, this is not a description of pygmy elephants and so in all probability is an indication of a North African location or, as some claim, an Asian one!
The Atlanteans had control in Europe as far as Tyrrhenia and Egypt, which would have included what is now modern Tunisia, the home of the last recorded wild elephants in that region!
Readers should be aware that there is general acceptance that the North African Elephant inhabited the Atlas Mountains until they became extinct in Roman times(e)(h). The New Scientist magazine of 7th February 1985(d) outlined the evidence that Tunisia had native elephants until at least the end of the Roman Empire.
In Elephant Destiny Martin Meredith records that one of the earliest references to the African elephant came from Hanno, the 5th century BC Carthaginian explorer, who related how he came across marshes at the foot of the Atlas Mountains, which “were haunted by elephants and multitudes of other grazing beasts.” Meredith also mentions that stables for as many as 300 elephants were to be found within the city of Carthage itself.
Nevertheless, the species of elephant used by Hannibal has been a source of debate for years(f). The Numidians of North Africa (202 BC–46 BC) also used local elephants in warfare(g). It would seem to me that the North African Elephant, rather than the Asian or African species, would have been more suited to the trek across the Alps. Needless to say, the Atlas Mountains were part of the Atlantean sphere of control (Timaeus 25a-b) and so may be the reason that Plato mentioned them. It is also reported that during the reign of the Ptolemies in Egypt (323 BC-30 BC), they imported war elephants from Eritrea in East Africa(r).
The latter half of 2010 saw a new piece of nonsense hit the blogosophere when a claim that the Atlanteans had flying machines made of elephant skins suddenly appeared and before you could say “cut and paste” it was ‘adopted’ by a variety of websites(a)(b). So Dumbo was not the first flying elephant! In fact this daft idea was just a recycling of one of Edgar Cayce’s ‘revelations’ (Reading 364-6)(m).
(a) https://www.articledashboard.com/Article/Speaking-of-Atlantis/1872335 (Offline October 2017)
Volcanism is not part of the Atlantis story as related by Plato. His narrative clearly attributes the destruction of Atlantis and the Athenians to flooding and earthquake. Admittedly, flooding can be the result of some volcanic activity, but in the absence of any evidence to support this view in the case of Atlantis, the idea is only supposition. While most accept that Atlantis was named after its first king, Atlas, Frank Joseph’s fertile imagination suggests that ‘the island of Atlantis was named after its chief mountain, a dormant volcano’. For those that place Atlantis in the Atlantic the idea of volcanic or seismic activity as the cause of the flooding of Atlantis AND Athens are hard pressed to suggest a location for this activity that would explain two catastrophes two thousand miles or more apart.
However, the red, white and black stone that Plato may be related to volcanic eruptions that produce rock of tufa (red), pumice (white) and lava (black). Pumice has been found at various locations in Egypt and identified as originating not only from Thera, but also from eruptions on the Greek islands of Nisyros and Giali as well as the Italian Lipari Islands(o).
Jelle Zeilinga de Boer and Donald Sanders are the authors of Volcanoes in Human History in which they support the idea that the eruption on Thera was a factor in the development of the Atlantis story and also suggest a link with the Flood of Deucalion.
Nevertheless, a recent book by William Lauritzen, The Invention of God, makes a convincing case for accepting volcanic activity as the inspiration behind some of the imagery of ancient mythologies and most major religions. A recent article(i) on the BBC website expanded on this further. Lauritzen also suggests that the pyramids were meant to represent volcanoes.
The most active volcanic region of Europe is to be found in Italy, where Etna and Stromboli have been continuously erupting for thousands of years(b). There is a report that a 6000 BC extreme eruption of Etna resulted in a tsunami 130 feet in height which swept the Mediterranean(c). However, the most devastating prehistoric volcanic eruption discovered so far seems to have been in Siberia 252 million years, which may have led to the most extensive mass extinction of life on earth(e). This is now rivalled by Tamu Massif in the Pacific mentioned below.
The cataclysmic volcanic eruption of Thera in the second millennium BC has had a strong level of support as the cause of Atlantis’ collapse, a view endorsed by recent television documentaries and an IMAX film. The Greek volcanologist, George Vougioukalakis, whose research is featured in the aforementioned film, is convinced that the eruption of Santorini offers the most rational explanation for the truth behind Plato’s story(a). However, he dissents from the recently expressed view that pumice found on the Northern Sinai Peninsula was transported there by a tsunami generated by the eruption of Thera and prefers to believe their transportation there was by normal sea currents.
Apart from Santorini, Jim Allen had initially proposed the Andean village of Quillacas, which lies on top of a volcano, as the site of Atlantis, but later found that the nearby site of Pampa Aullagas had a greater correspondence with the description of Atlantis. More recently Richard W. Welch has suggested the eruption of a supervolcano in the Atlantic as the cause of Atlantis’ demise. And so the idea of a volcanic destruction of Atlantis still has some support!
Since January 2011, Santorini has shown some signs of a volcanic reawakening(d).
In September 2013 studies revealed(f) what may be the location of the largest volcano ever to have erupted on our planet. It would have been the size of the British Isles and situated underwater in the northwest Pacific and known as Tamu Massif. It would have rivalled the Olympus Mons on Mars, but fortunately, has been dormant for 140 million years.
March 2014 saw a post on Dale Drinnon’s website(g) take the linkage between Atlantis and a volcano rather further with the suggestion that “the capital city of Atlantis in Plato’s description was built in the caldera of an extinct volcano and that many of the features of the description are volcanic in origin.The “Poseidon’ temple is the pyramidal volcanic neck, an erosional feature that stood out like a conical mound some hundreds of feet in diameter and possibly some hundreds of feet high on the outside. there was a tunnel bored through this aligned East and West, to allow the sunlight in at the beginning and the end of the day for certain rituals.”
In December 2014 a report from Princeton University revealed that a massive series of volcanic eruptions 66 million years ago can be aligned with the extinction of the dinosaurs and should be included as part of the cause of that extinction along with the Yucatan meteorite impact(h).>However, in February 2021, a report from Harvard proposed that the Yucatan impactor was a comet rather than an asteroid or meteor(s).<
In 2009, it was reported(q) that another example of contemporaneous meteorite impact and flood volcanism was identified in Belarus.
The Laki volcano in Iceland erupted in 1783, killing 9,000 local people but more dramatically causing the Nile Valley population to be cut by a sixth, according to a study published by scientists at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. “The study is the first to conclusively establish the linkage between high-latitude eruptions and the water supply in North Africa”(j).
A 2015 report(k) suggests that a series of North American volcanic eruptions in 536 AD had such a detrimental effect on the climate of Europe that contributed to the demise of the Roman Empire.
Furthermore, there is now evidence(m) that the eruption of El Chicon volcano in Southern Mexico around 540 AD led to the disruption of the Maya civilisation. Can there be a connection between these two events? In 2020, it was reported that the massive Tierra Blanca Joven eruption of the Ilopango volcano in El Salvador had been accurately dated to within a year or two of 431 AD, which also devastated Maya communities within an eighty kilometre radius(r).
However, David Keys in his book, Catastrophe, has proposed that a massive eruption of Krakatoa around 535 AD caused disruption on a global scale. Matthew Toohey from the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research in Kiel, Germany, has suggested the possibility of a double event involving both El Chicon and Krakatoa!
Recently the longest (1,200 miles) continental volcano chain was identified in Australia(l).
The BBC reported(n) in 2016 that “Deep-sea volcanoes are so remote, until recently we did not even know they existed” and although “We do not see them erupt, yet more than half of the Earth’s crust can be attributed to their dramatic explosions” and “In fact, the mid-ocean ridges form the largest volcanic systems on Earth. But as they are largely hidden from sight, they have long remained elusive.”
In July 2017, the BBC offered an interesting article on the potential ongoing threat from supervolcanoes around our globe(p) and the inevitability of a future eruption.
Krakatoa, the Indonesian volcano that erupted so violently in 1883, produced many recorded effects that are frequently used as yardsticks when discussing the possible consequences of similar events in the past, particularly the second millennium BC destruction of Thera, a leading contender in the Atlantis stakes. The Krakatoan eruption had a detrimental effect on global climates for some years.
However, this was not the first time that the eruption of Krakatoa had calamitous global consequences. David Keys (image below), an archaeological journalist, details the effects of an eruption of Krakatoa in 534/5 AD, in his book, Catastrophe. This book was the subject of a documentary on the UK’s Channel Four(d). A few years before his book was published Keys wrote an article entitled: Comet may have caused catastrophe on Earth(e), in which he dismissed a volcanic eruption as the cause of the 6th century crop failures, plagues, wars, social unrest and widespread deaths, yet his subsequent book advocates[p.269] a massive eruption of Krakatoa as the culprit. Around the same time, Mike Baillie was about to publish his Exodus to Arthur  in which he argued
strongly that the mid-6th century range of catastrophes were caused by a cometary impact. Five years later, Baillie co-authored, with Patrick McCafferty, another book linking comets with Irish mythology, The Celtic Gods, in which they point out that Keys’ proposed huge eruption has not been reflected in any of the various Greenland ice cores in the form of a volcanic-acid spike[0112.164]!
This debate regarding the cause of the global catastrophes in the mid-6th century would appear to be far from over. A 2015 report(f) suggests that a series of North American volcanic eruptions in 536 AD had such a detrimental effect on the climate of Europe that it contributed to the final demise of the Roman Empire. Furthermore, there is now evidence(g) that the eruption of the El Chicon volcano in Southern Mexico around 540 AD led to the disruption of the Maya civilisation. Matthew Toohey from the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research in Kiel, Germany, has suggested the possibility of a double event!
Early in the 19thcentury the eruption of Tambora, also in Indonesia, was even more powerful(a). However, the most violent eruption of the last two million years also took place in Indonesia 74,000 years ago, when Mt. Toba erupted with devastating consequences for the Indian sub-continent and further afield(b). The Toba caldera is now Lake Toba. A recent study suggested(c) that the Mt.Toba event led to the near extinction of humans.
The Theran eruption was equivalent to the 19th century Krakatoa event when measured according to a volcanic explosivity index (VEI), based on quantitative criteria, as discussed in Walter Friedrich’s book on Thera.*Within a decade, the explosivity figure for Thera was reassessed by Professor Floyd McCoy of the University of Hawaii, who has written and broadcast extensively on the matter of the Late Bonze Age eruption of Thera. This included a paper delivered to the 2005 Atlantis Conference. In it, he noted that “New finds of tephra – ash and pumice – both on land and on the seafloor indicate a far larger eruption than previously assumed, suggesting a volume of at least 100 km3 of tephra (bulk volume) ejected, perhaps more. Such a volume ranks the eruption on the Volcanic Explosivity Index (VEI) at 7.0, equivalent or larger than the 1815 eruption of Tambora (‘the year without a summer’), ten times larger than the eruption of Krakatau in 1883, and approximately 100 times that of Mt. St. Helens in 1980.” [629.311]*
Today, when we watch the 20th century eruption of Mt. St. Helens or the Montserrat volcanoes on our televisions, it gives no real notion of the incredible power of these events or the absolute terror that was experienced by those living close by.
*(d) https://www.davidkeys.co.uk/davids-documentaries/ (Link broken Nov. 2018)*
Greek Mythology permeates Plato’s Atlantis story as it does virtually all Classical Greek writing. The challenge presented by Plato’s narrative is how to accurately separate the historical from the mythological. Carlos Parada has an interesting website(a), for those wishing to pursue a study of it, and also includes a few interesting pages on Atlantis. Another site worth a look is theoi.com(b).
*The former chairman of the Texas Board of Education, Robert Bowie Johnson jnr. contends that Greek mythology is a distorted version of biblical tales(e)(f).*
Some commentators have remarked how many of the Greek (and Roman) gods morphed into Christian saints. Furthermore, after the fall of the Roman Empire, the Western Church also adopted many of the trappings of imperial Rome(d).
I can also recommend Mark Cartwright’s Ancient History Encyclopedia(c).
The Army of Atlantis, according to the details given by Plato portrays a force comparable with any of the major empires of the Mediterranean or Middle East.
Even today the U.S. army only numbers around 1.5 million active soldiers. Atlantis had 800,000 foot soldiers, 200,000 horses, 10,000 chariots, and 1,200 ships. Most writers seem to have glossed over the enormous size of the Atlantean war machine although a few such as Wolter Smit have commented on it(a).
There is no need to maintain an army of that size unless there are potential enemies of similar strength. Who were these enemies? If the 9600 BC date is accepted, the size of this Atlantean army seems quite excessive. A fascinating military website(b)should have its first three chapters studied closely. Among many other matters it describes how in 2300 BC, Sargon of Akkad was hard put to maintain an army of 5,400 men. The same site relates how a thousand years later the Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses II had a mainly conscript army of 100,000 soldiers to maintain his entire empire, although another source(c) puts the figure as low as 20,000. Towards the end of the Roman Empire an army of 350,000 men controlled its vast territories.
The Battle of Karkar (Qarqar) in 853 BC was fought between the Assyrian army of Shalmaneser III against an alliance of eleven kings led by the king of Damascus. It is claimed to have had the greatest number of combatants up to that date. The Assyrians claimed to have had 100,000 troops, but this is disputed by some scholars(d).
The military numbers presented by Plato do appear inflated to the same extent as his dimensions of the Atlantean capital city as well as the date of the war with Atlantis. Either the entire story is an invention or Plato felt obliged to embellish an account of a real prehistoric military power with his own numbers in order to emphasise their might. Alternatively, we must consider the real possibility that all of Plato’s large numbers are suspect and should be revised downward by a common factor, probably ten!
Henriette Mertz (1898-1985) During World War II she worked as a code-breaker in the U.S. government’s cryptography department, while later she became an American patent lawyer in Chicago. Her interest in archaeology led her to be the first to propose that Odysseus, after wandering about the Atlantic, was the earliest European to set foot in America: an idea now taken up by others including Enrico Mattievich.
Mertz recognised that ancient America was host to guests if not residents from both east and west and has written in Pale Ink on the evidence for the existence of persistent pre-Columbian Chinese contacts. This book was later re-published as a paperback and retitled as Gods from the Far East.
Her book The Mystic Symbol argues that some early Christians fled to America to escape persecution in the Roman Empire. Wayne N. May, the Mormon publisher of Ancient American, has also published a paper on the Mystic Symbol(b).
In a paper reprinted in the Ancient America website, Mertz decried the fact that thousands of inscribed artifacts recovered from mounds in the State of Michigan, between 1890 and 1920, were destroyed, in particular the controversial Newberry Tablet(c).
Her reputation as a serial heretic also forced her to privately publish a volume on Atlantis following rejection by twenty publishers. She gave a lecture on her views in London in 1964(d) and enjoyed extensive coverage in the Greek press including the serialisation of her book.
Her contention is that Atlantis was located in the southeast of the United States. She begins with the legend of the Seven Cities of Antillia and its depiction on the 1436 map of Andrea Bianco. A comparison of this map with a modern map of Florida convinced her that they referred to the same region. She discusses many aspects of Plato’s story and their compatibility with the archaeology, geography and legends of her chosen location. She also offers a map of Atlantis that encompasses the land bound by the Mississippi, Ohio and Potomac rivers as well as the Atlantic giving us the ‘island’ of Atlantis. To support this possibility she ingeniously suggests that Plato used the word ‘sea’ in the sense of being navigable and so was also applicable to rivers.
Mertz’s book, Wine Dark Sea, which claims that Homer’s Odyssey describes a very ancient trip to America, inspired the Austrian ethnologist, Christine Pellech, to expand on her work with a number of books on diffusionism together with a website on the subject. Unfortunately, Pellech’s books are only available in German but she has also established an English language magazine and website(a).
(d) Atlantis, Volume 17, No.6, October 1964.<