Nicolas Fréret (1688-1749) was a French scholar with a particular interest in history and mythology, which inevitably led to his study of the Atlantis question.>He was unhappy with accepting that Plato’s 9,000 ‘years’ was a reference to solar years, but preferred instead to consider that units of three or four months were used.<As a consequence, he concluded that the Atlantean War took place in 3380 BC.
>To make Plato’s 9,000 years more credible, commentators such as Giovanni Carli, also in the 18th century and Rafinesque in the 19th have suggested that Plato’s years were in fact ‘seasons’. The idea has gained further traction in more recent years with support from Radek Brychta and the late Axel Hausmann and most recently Rosario Vieni.<
Fréret was one of the first to suggest Syrtis Major as the location of Atlantis.
Syrtis was the name given by the Romans to two gulfs off the North African coast; Syrtis Major which is now known as the Gulf of Sidra off Libya and Syrtis Minor, known today as the Gulf of Gabes in Tunisian waters. They are both shallow sandy gulfs that have been feared from ancient times by mariners. In the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 27.13-18) it is described how St. Paul on his way to Rome was blown off course and feared that they would run aground on ‘Syrtis sands.’
The earliest modern reference to these gulfs that I can find in connection with Atlantis was by Nicolas Fréret in the 18th century when he proposed that Atlantis may have been situated in Syrtis Major. Giorgio Grongnet de Vasse expressed a similar view around the same time. Since then there has been little support for the idea until recent times when Winfried Huf designated Syrtis Major as one of his five divisions of the Atlantean Empire.
However, the region around the Gulf of Gabes has been more persistently associated with aspects of the Atlantis story. Inland from Gabes are the chotts, which were at one time connected to the Mediterranean and considered to have been part of the legendary Lake Tritonis, sometimes suggested as the actual location of Atlantis.
In the Gulf itself, Apollonius of Rhodes placed the Pillars of Herakles(a) , while Anton Mifsud has drawn attention to the writings of the Greek author, Palefatus of Paros, who stated (c. 32) that the Columns of Heracles were located close to the island of Kerkennah at the western end of Syrtis Minor. Lucanus, the Latin poet, located the Strait of Heracles in Syrtis Minor. Mifsud has pointed out that this reference has been omitted from modern translations of Lucanus’ work!
Férréol Butavand was one of the first modern commentators to locate Atlantis in the Gulf of Gabés. In 1929 Dr. Paul Borchardt, the German geographer, claimed to have located Atlantis between the chotts and the Gulf, while more recently Alberto Arecchi placed Atlantis in the Gulf when sea levels were lower(b) . George Sarantitis places the ‘Pillars’ near Gabes and Atlantis itself inland, further west in Mauritania, south of the Atlas Mountains. Antonio Usai also places the ‘Pillars’ in the Gulf of Gabes.
In 2018, Charles A. Rogers published a paper(c) on the academia.edu website in which he identified Tunisia as Atlantis with it capital located at the mouth of the Triton River on the Gulf of Gabes. He favours Plato’s 9.000 ‘years’ to have been lunar cycles, bringing the destruction of Atlantis into the middle of the second millennium BC and coinciding with the eruption of Thera which created a tsunami that ran across the Mediterranean destroying the city with the run-up and its subsequent backwash. This partly agrees with my conclusions in Joining the Dots!
(a) Argonautica Book IV ii 1230
Carla Sage, a British archaeologist, announced in November 2003 her support for a North African location for Atlantis, in particular she believed that the Gulf of Sidra (Syrtis Major) in Libya holds the remains of Atlantean ports. She was apparently impressed by ancient accounts that recorded how the Mycenaean, Cretan and Egyptian civilisations all traded with Atlantis. She concluded that this was improbable if Atlantis had been located in the Atlantic(a).
Sage contended that Atlantis had flourished when North Africa had been a very fertile region. However, desertification following a dramatic climate change led to the destruction of Atlantis by sand rather than water as described by Plato. Dr. Sage was reportedly planning a multinational expedition to seek concrete evidence to support her theories.
I have unsuccessfully endeavoured to locate an archaeologist named Carla Sage. The deafening silence in the intervening years has cast doubt on the factual correctness of the original press report, in fact, some are now happy to call it a hoax(b), a view that is not unreasonable. This has now been confirmed, as the Sage story originally appeared in the now defunct and largely fictional US tabloid magazine, Weekly World News, (11/11/2003). It was then picked by many less than diligent websites and took on a life of its own. I am indebted to Stel Pavlou for uncovering the origin of this story(c).
(a) See: Archive 2821
North Africa has received considerable attention as a possible location for Atlantis since the beginning of the 19th century. Gattefosse and Butavand are names associated with early 20th-century North African theorists. They, along with Borchardt, Herrmann and others have proposed locations as far west as Lixus on the Atlantic coast of Morocco, on through Tunisia and Libya and even as far east as the Nile delta.
One of the earliest writers was Ali Bey El Abbassi who discussed Atlantis and an ancient inland sea in the Sahara. The concept of such an inland sea, usually linked with Lake Tritonis, has persisted with the Chotts of Tunisia and Algeria as prime suspects.
>There is some acceptance that a seismic or tectonic upward thrust in the vicinity of the Gulf of Gabés created a barrier that cut off this inland sea from the Mediterranean, leaving the trapped water to gradually evaporate. However, the chotts still receive some runoff from the Atlas mountains in winter, which liquefies the salty crust. Diodorus Siculus records this event (Bk.3.55) “The story is also told that the marsh Tritonis disappeared from sight in the course of an earthquake, when those parts of it which lay towards the ocean were torn asunder.” [1731a.179] However, this is more a description of the removal of a barrier, rather than the creation of one! Ludwig Borchardt suggested that this event took place around 1250 BC(c).<
If such an event did not occur, how do we explain the salt-laden chotts? However, proving a connection with Atlantis is another matter.
Whether this particular geological upheaval was related to the episode that destroyed parts of ancient Malta is questionable as the Maltese event was one of more massive subsidence.
It should be kept in mind that Plato described the southern part of the Atlantean confederation as occupying North Africa as far eastward as Egypt (Tim.25b & Crit.114c).
The exact extent of Egyptian-controlled territory in Libya at the time of Atlantis is unclear. We do know that “In the mid-13th century, Marmarica was dominated by an Egyptian fortress chain stretching along the coast as far west as the area around Marsa Matruh; by the early 12th century, Egypt claimed overlordship of Cyrenaican tribes as well. At one point a ruler chosen by Egypt was set up (briefly!) over the combined tribes of Meshwesh, Libu, and Soped.”(b) Another site(a) suggests that Egyptian control stretched nearly as far as Syrtis Major, which itself has been proposed by some as the location of Atlantis.
All this, of course, conflicts with the idea of the Atlanteans invading from beyond ‘Pillars of Heracles’ situated at Gibraltar since they apparently already controlled at least part of the Western Mediterranean as far as Italy and Egypt.
One of the principal arguments against Atlantis being located in North Africa is that Plato clearly referred to Atlantis as an island. However, as Papamarinopoulos has pointed out that regarding the Greek word for island, ‘nesos’ “a literary differentiation between ‘island’ and ‘peninsula’ did not exist in alphabetic Greek before Herodotus’ in the 5th century BC. Similarly, there was not any distinction between the coast and an island in Egyptian writing systems, up to the 5th century BC.” In conversation with Mark Adams[1070.198], Papamarinopoulos explains that in the sixth century BC, when Solon lived, ‘nesos’ had five geographic meanings. “One, an island as we know it. Two, a promontory. Three, a peninsula. Four, a coast. Five, land within a continent, surrounded by lakes, rivers or springs.”
Personally, from the context, I am quite happy to accept that the principal city of the Atlantean alliance existed on an island as we understand the word. This was probably north of Tunisia, where a number of possible candidates exist. However, it may be unwise to rule out a North African city just yet!
Another argument put forward that appears to exclude at least part of North Africa is that Plato, according to many translations, he refers to Atlantis as ‘greater’ than ‘Libya’ and ‘Asia‘ combined, using the Greek word, ‘meizon‘, which had a primary meaning of ‘more powerful’ not greater in size. Atlantis could not have been situated in either Libya or Asia because ‘a part cannot be greater than the whole’. However, if Plato was referring to military might rather than geographical extent, as seems quite likely, North Africa may indeed have been part of the Atlantean alliance, particularly as Plato describes the control of Atlantis in the Mediterranean as far as Tyrrhenia and Egypt.
(a) https://starshinetours.com/first-signs-of-weakening/ (Link broken)
Egypt occupies the northeastern corner of Africa. However, the ancient Egyptians considered themselves Asian (Tim. 24b). Over its long history, Egypt itself was overrun by a variety of invaders – Hyksos, Kushites, Assyrians, Persians, Greeks and Romans.
In practical terms, its territory consisted of a few miles on either side of the Nile together with its large Delta. In an expansionist period in the 2nd millennium BC, Egypt controlled parts of what are now Israel, Lebanon, Syria and Libya.
The exact extent of Egyptian-controlled territory in Libya at the time of Atlantis is unclear. We do know that “In the mid-13th century BC, Marmarica was dominated by an Egyptian fortress chain stretching along the coast as far west as the area around Marsa Matruh; by the early 12th century, Egypt claimed overlordship of Cyrenaican tribes as well. At one point a ruler chosen by Egypt was set up (briefly!) over the combined tribes of Meshwesh, Libu, and Soped.”(r)
A Wikipedia map(q) suggests that Egyptian New Kingdom control stretched at least halfway towards Syrtis Major, which has been proposed by some as the location of Atlantis.
As most are aware the history of Egypt is inextricably linked with that of the Old Testament, leading to the suggestion by some, such as Ahmed Osman(k), that individuals in the Egyptian 18th Dynasty can be identified with some of the Hebrew Patriarchs, most notably Moses and the heretic king Akhenaten. Interestingly, this linkage had been put forward previously by Sigmund Freud!
>Charles N. Pope has endorsed Osman’s identification of Moses as Akhenaten in his online book Living in Truth: Archaeology and the Patriarchs(z).<
Osman goes further and contends that the main tenets of Christianity developed on the banks of the Nile  and additionally “provides a convincing argument that Jesus himself came out of Egypt.” This is in sharp contrast to those that claim that both Moses and Jesus are completely fictitious characters(l).
Egypt was viewed by the Greeks of Plato’s time as guardians of ancient history and wisdom and consequently was a place of pilgrimage for many of its greatest philosophers, who travelled there to be initiated into the cults of Isis and Osiris. Gustav Parthey (1798-1872), the German antiquarian, researched the education of 40 leading philosophers, writers and politicians of ancient Greece and found that all had studied under Egyptian priests. Clement of Alexandria (150-215 AD) suggested that Plato travelled to Heliopolis and was a disciple of the Egyptian priest Sechnuphis. Other classical writers such as Strabo and Plutarch have confirmed this(i).
Zsofia Frei has published a paper defending the idea that Greek philosophy came from Egypt(s).
Despite this, the Greeks arrogantly referred to all non-Greeks, including the Atlanteans (Crit. 113a) as ‘barbarians’. It is of interest that Athene after whom the Greek capital is named originated in Egypt where she was worshipped as Neith.
The late Philip Coppens went as far as to suggest(a) that Greece was an Egyptian colony!
Plato’s text seems to infer that the destruction of Atlantis in 9600 BC was contemporary with Egyptian civilisation, raising archaeological questions regarding the earliest date for the establishment of an organised society in Egypt. Unfortunately, there is not a lot to support this contention. The oldest known art in Egypt was discovered in 2007 when petroglyphs were estimated to be 15,000 years old(u). The earliest culture along the Nile, identified by archaeologists is that of what is known as the Badarian dating to around 4500 BC. They produced basic pottery, and jewellery and used stone tools although they had some knowledge of metals. The Badarians were followed by the Naqada who led on to what we identify as the spectacular ancient Egyptian civilisation. However, in 2007, rock carvings, similar in style to the Lascaux paintings were discovered near the village of Qurta, 650km south of Cairo. The 160 carvings, spread over 1.5km of the rock face, discovered so far, mainly depict wild bulls and have been dated to 13000 BC(h)
September 2013 saw the publication(c)(d) of a more definitive date for the start of the state of Egypt, beginning with the reign of king Aha circa 3100 BC. Before that, early agriculture in Egypt appears to date back to around 5000 BC(t). This eventually led to the establishment of permanent agricultural villages. In time some of these grew into towns and cities eventually leading to Dynastic Egypt. This undermines even more firmly the claims of the Egyptians that their country was founded around 8,600 BC as reported by Plato.
It is not surprising that ancient Egypt has presented us with very many unanswered questions, some of which have been compiled, posted on Wikipedia but subsequently removed(g).
Many writers have remarked how all aspects of ancient Egyptian culture seem to have arrived fully developed, while later dynasties did not surpass some of the achievements of the earlier ones! The conclusion of some is that the fully matured civilisation of the early Egyptians was a legacy from elsewhere.
Sanchuniathon refers to the original kings of Egypt calling them ‘Aleteans’. Albert Slosman claims that survivors from Atlantis had migrated to Egypt. The archaeologist, Marcelle Weissen-Szumianska, in a 1965 book, Origines Atlantiques des Anciens Egyptiens , maintained that the pre-pharaonic Egyptians originated in Atlantis, which had been situated in Morocco! Others suggest that Egypt was an Atlantean colony. The idea was brought to a ridiculous level by Augustus Le Plongeon who claimed that Egypt was a Mayan colony!
A more grounded study by Alapan Roy Chowdhury investigates the claim put forward by some researchers that there are remarkable similarities between the cultures of ancient India and Egypt(v-y)*. “Was there a real connection or are these similarities only coincidences?”(j) The tributetohinduism.com website(n) develops this idea further.
Robert Schoch has controversially dated the construction of the Sphinx to between 7000-5000 BC, while the megalithic structures at Nabta Playa suggest a sophisticated culture in that region around 5000 BC. Even if both these early dates are correct they are still over four and a half millennia short of Plato’s date. This most likely explanation is that Plato’s number of 9,000 years before Solon is incorrect as 9000 is too neat and may have been a siglum used to express a large but uncertain number or is an exaggeration just as today we speak of having ‘a million and one things to do’.
In 1897, a Russian scientist, A.N. Karnozhitsky was probably the earliest commentator to propose a close link between Egypt and Atlantis, placing the Pillars of Heracles near Sais and locating Atlantis itself not far from the western mouth of the Nile.
Some years ago, Egypt was again been proposed as the original Atlantis, in a still (June 2021) unpublished book, The Joshua Crossing, by N. R. James. However, 2006 saw a paper presented by Professor Hossam Aboulfotouh of Minia University, Egypt, placed Atlantis in the Nile Delta. The following year R. McQuillen also offered an Egyptian location for Atlantis, placing it at Pharos near Alexandria.
More recently (March 2021), Diego Ratti, published Atletenu , in which he placed Atlantis in Egypt, with its capital located at Avaris, better known before now as the capital of the Hyksos. He questions a number of the English translations of the Greek text, offering his own where ‘appropriate’. The book is carefully constructed and well-illustrated, but, although he appears to match some of Plato’s Atlantis details with the Nile Delta, there was not enough to convince me.
A novel idea has been put forward by Mary Whispering Wind(b), who bravely offers the idea that the Atlantean province of Egypt was, Colchis, situated on the east coast of the Black Sea! She bases her claim on an interpretation of Herodotus (Book II.104/5) who was commenting on circumcision being only practised by Egyptians, Ethiopians and Colchians, in my mind, stretching what Herodotus said beyond the acceptable.
An even more radical suggestion was made by Reinoud M. de Jong in a 2009 paper(f) where he boldly claimed “that during the whole period of the (Michigan) copper trade, America was part of the Egyptian Empire” and during the Old Kingdom “this huge empire was known as Atlantis”!
One blogger, from California, has gone so far as to suggest that the ‘Egypt’ that Solon visited was on the shores of the Sea of Marmara!(e)
Margaret Bunson’s Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt + is now available online.
(a) See Archive 2136
(o) (99+) (PDF) Atlantis: ‘Lost in Translations’ – In Search of the Egyptian Version | Jean-Pierre PÄTZNICK – Academia.edu (French with English translation available)