Astromythology (Astrotheology) is the study of the astronomical origins of religion; how gods, goddesses, and devils are personifications of astronomical phenomena such as lunar eclipses, cometary appearances and planetary alignments, Christianity(c), Islam(d), Judaism, Zoroastrianism, Mithraism, and the ancient Egyptian(b) faith systems are examples of religions that have been influenced by astronomical observations. A series of videos on the subject is available on YouTube(a).
Claude Gétaz, a Swiss researcher, has gone further and claimed that the Atlantis story is an interpretation of celestial events. Alan E. Alford similarly suggests that Plato’s Atlantis story is a recounting of a very ancient and dramatic astronomical event, namely the explosion of a planetary body, witnessed by humans.
The Etymology of Atlantis is frequently given in many modern books and websites(b)(c) to means ”daughter of Atlas” while some writers have opted for ”island of Atlas”. Thorwald C. Franke has pointed out that the more correct meaning is “of Atlas” or just “Atlas’ …….” with the context determining the precise interpretation.
J. Warren Wells[783.13] has pointed out that the word Atlantis was used by Hesiod in line 938 of his Theogony, centuries before both Plato and Solon, while Hellanicus of Lesbos certainly used the term before Plato.
A collection of pre-Platonic references to Atlantis which do not directly use its name has been compiled by R.Cedric Leonard(a).
*(a) See: Archive 2055
Classical Writers Supporting the Existence of Atlantis
Although many of the early writers are quoted as referring to Plato’s Atlantis or at least alluding to places or events that could be related to his story there is no writer who can be identified as providing unambiguous independent evidence for Atlantis’ existence. One explanation could be that Atlantis may have been known by different names to different peoples in different ages, just as the Roman city of Aquisgranum was later known as Aachen to the Germans and concurrently as Aix-la-Chapelle to the French. However, it would have been quite different if the majority of post-Platonic writers had completely ignored or hotly disputed the veracity of Plato’s tale.
Alan Cameron, a devout Atlantis sceptic, is adamant that ”it is only in modern times that people have taken the Atlantis story seriously, no one did so in antiquity.” Both statements are clearly wrong, as can be seen from the list below and my Chronology of Atlantis Theories and even more comprehensively by Thorwald C. Franke’s Kritische Geschichte der Meinungen und Hypothesen zu Platons Atlantis (Critical history of the hypotheses on Plato’s Atlantis).
H.S. Bellamy mentions that about 100 Atlantis references are to be found in post-Platonic classical literature. He also argues that if Plato “had put forward a merely invented story in the Timaeus and Critias Dialogues the reaction of his contemporaries and immediate followers would have been rather more critical.” Thorwald C. Franke echoes this in his Aristotle and Atlantis[880.46]. Bellamy also notes that Sais, where the story originated, was in some ways a Greek city having regular contacts with Athens and should thertefore have generated some denial from the priests if the Atlantis tale had been untrue.
Homer(c.8thcent. BC)wrote in his famous Odyssey of a Phoenician island called Scheriathat many writers have controversially identified as Atlantis. It could be argued that this is another example of different names being applied to the same location.
Herodotus (c.484-420 BC)regarded by some as the greatest historian of the ancients, wrote about the mysterious island civilization in the Atlantic.
Hellanicus of Lesbos (5th cent. BC) refers to ‘Atlantias’. Timothy Ganz highlights one line in the few fragments we have from Hellanicus as being particularly noteworthy, “Poseidon mated with Celaeno, and their son Lycus was settled by his father in the Isles of the Blest and made immortal.”
Syrianus (died c.437 BC) the neoplatonist and one-time head of Plato’s Academy in Athens, considered Atlantis to be an historical fact. He wrote a commentary on Timaeus, now lost, but his views are recorded by Proclus.
Eumelos of Cyrene (c.400 BC) was a historian and contemporary of Plato’s who placed Atlantis in the Central Mediterranean between Libya and Sicily.
Aristotle (384-322 BC) Plato’s pupil is constantly quoted in connection with his alleged criticism of Plato’s story. This claim was not made until 1819, when Delambre misinterpreted a commentary on Strabo by Isaac Casaubon. This error has been totally refuted by Thorwald C. Franke. Furthermore it was Aristotle who stated that the Phoenicians knew of a large island in the Atlantic known as ’Antilia’. Crantor (4th-3rdcent. BC) was Plato’s first editor, who reported visiting Egypt where he claimed to have seen a marble column carved with hieroglyphics about Atlantis. However, Jason Colavito has pointed out that according to Proclus, Crantor was only told by the Egyptian priests that the carved pillars were still in existence.
*Crantor (4th-3rd cent. BC) was Plato’s first editor, who reported visited Egypt where he claimed to have seen a marble column carved with hieroglyphics about Atlantis. However, Jason Colavito has pointed out(a) that according to Proclus, Crantor was only told by the Egyptian priests that the carved pillars were still in existence.*
Theophrastus of Lesbos (370-287 BC) refers to colonies of Atlantis in the sea.
Theopompos of Chios (born c.380 BC), a Greek historian – wrote of the huge size of Atlantis and its cities of Machimum and Eusebius and a golden age free from disease and manual labour. Zhirov states[458.38/9] that Theopompos was considered a fabulist.
Apollodorus of Athens (fl. 140 BC) who was a pupil of Aristarchus of Samothrace (217-145 BC) wrote “Poseidon was very wrathful, and flooded the Thraisian plain, and submerged Attica under sea-water.” Bibliotheca, (III, 14, 1.)
Poseidonius (135-51 BC.) was Cicero’s teacher and wrote, “There were legends that beyond the Hercules Stones there was a huge area which was called “Poseidonis” or “Atlanta”
Diodorus Siculus (1stcent. BC), the Sicilian writer who has made a number of references to Atlantis.
Marcellus (c.100 BC) in his Ethiopic History quoted by Proclus [Zhirov p.40] refers to Atlantis consisting of seven large and three smaller islands.
Statius Sebosus (c. 50 BC), the Roman geographer, tells us that it was forty days’ sail from the Gorgades (the Cape Verdes) and the Hesperides (the Islands of the Ladies of the West, unquestionably the Caribbean – see Gateway to Atlantis).
Timagenus (c.55 BC), a Greek historian wrote of the war between Atlantis and Europe and noted that some of the ancient tribes in France claimed it as their original home. There is some dispute about the French druids’ claim.
Philo of Alexandria (b.15 BC) also known as Philo Judaeus also accepted the reality of Atlantis’ existence.
Strabo (67 BC-23 AD) in his Geographia stated that he fully agreed with Plato assertion that Atlantis was fact rather than fiction.
Plutarch (46-119 AD) wrote about the lost continent in his book Lives, he recorded that both the Phoenicians and the Greeks had visited this island which lay on the west end of the Atlantic.
Pliny the Younger (61-113 AD) is quoted by Frank Joseph as recording the existence of numerous sandbanks outside the Pillars of Hercules as late as 100 AD.
Pomponius Mela (c.100 AD), placed Atlantis in a southern temperate region.
Tertullian (160-220 AD) associated the inundation of Atlantis with Noah’s flood.
Claudius Aelian (170-235 AD) referred to Atlantis in his work The Nature of Animals.
Arnobius (4thcent. AD.), a Christian bishop, is frequently quoted as accepting the reality of Plato’s Atlantis.
Ammianus Marcellinus (330-395 AD) [see Marcellinus entry]
Proclus Lycaeus (410-485 AD), a representative of the Neo-Platonic philosophy, recorded that there were several islands west of Europe. The inhabitants of these islands, he proceeds, remember a huge island that they all came from and which had been swallowed up by the sea. He also writes that the Greek philosopher Crantor saw the pillar with the hieroglyphic inscriptions, which told the story of Atlantis.
Cosmas Indicopleustes (6thcent. AD), a Byzantine geographer, in his Topographica Christiana (547 AD) quotes the Greek Historian, Timaeus (345-250 BC) who wrote of the ten kings of Chaldea [Zhirov p.40]. Marjorie Braymer[198.30] wrote that Cosmas was the first to use Plato’s Atlantis to support the veracity of the Bible.
There was little discussion of Atlantis after the 6th century until the Latin translation of Plato’s work by Marsilio Ficino was produced in the 15th century.
John Victor Luce (1920-2011)(b) was born in Dublin and educated at Cheltenham College, England and Trinity College, Dublin, where he graduated with First Class Honours in Classics and Philosophy in 1942. Among other academic honours, he was a lecturer in Greek at Glasgow University, visiting professor in classics at Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut and is emeritus professor of classics at Trinity College, Dublin. He has written a number of books including one concerning the eruption of Thera in the second millennium BC. (This was published under slightly different names, in the UK, The End of Atlantis and in the USA, Lost Atlantis: New Light on an Old Legend . During a panel discussion hosted by Indiana University in 1975, Professor Luce presented his view that Plato’s story was a mixture of fact and fiction.
In his book, The End of Atlantis, highlighted[0120.14] how various Greek myths and legends have been proven to contain historical elements and that consequently Plato’s Atlantis story should be studied with this in mind.
He was of the view that the description of Atlantis closely matched that of the 16th century BC Minoan empire.
Luce encapsulates[120.24] the Atlantis narrative in the following terms; “ I have in mind what Aristotle would call the ‘essential plot’: a great and highly civilised island empire aims at universal domination and is defeated by the early Greeks, especially the Athenians, and later succumbs to a natural cataclysm. On this framework Plato embroiders a large number of remarkable details.” In 1994 Luce wrote a brief paper (a) reviewing the Thera evidence in the light of contemporary scientific discoveries. Luce also suggested that the eruption of Thera was the inspiration behind details in Hesiod’s Theogony[0120.128].
Jelle Zeilinga de Boer is anemeritus professor of geology at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut and co-author of Volcanoes in Human History [together with fellow geologist Donald Theodore Sanders. Chapter three of their book is entitled ‘The Bronze Age Eruption of Thera: Destroyer of Atlantis and Minoan Crete?’ in which they add their weight to the suggestion that the Theran eruption played a part in the development of the story of Atlantis (p.70).
What is remarkable is that the two geologists were apparently so seduced by the Minoan Hypothesis and in spite of Plato’s clear statement that Atlantis was destroyed by an earthquake they were prepared to contradict him and support instead the idea that a volcanic eruption was responsible. They also link the eruption with the Flood of Deucalion. In 2005 they co-authored a companion book, Earthquakes in Human History.
Some of Zeilinga de Boer’s views coincide with those of William Lauritzen as expressed in his recent book, The Invention of God. Haraldur Sigurdsson the volcanologist, has also suggested that volcanic eruptions, particularly Thera, have influenced the development of Greek myths such as Hesiod’s Theogony and Plato’s Atlantis!
The Titans were the ancient gods during the Golden Age of Greece. They were later challenged by a race of younger gods, the Olympians, led by Zeus, to whom they lost in a conflict recorded dramatically in Hesiod’s Theogony. There were originally twelve Titans of whom one was Iapetus the father of Atlas, after whom Atlantis was named. The offspring of the original twelve were also designated as Titans.
Iapetus has been frequently equated with the biblical Japheth (Genesis 9.25-27), the son of Noah, a subject which is investigated at length on the vast and fascinating website(a) of Walter Reinhold Warttig Mattfeld y de la Torre.
Olaf Rudbeck believed that Japheth settled in Sweden after the Biblical Deluge and fathered Atlas, the first king of Atlantis. In a lecture(b) in 1867, Bishop Patrick Lynch of Charleston, S.C. declared “I shall take it as an established fact that America was peopled by the sons of Japheth.” whom he identified more specifically as the Phoenicians. Lynch also identified America as Plato’s Atlantis.
Ignatius Donnelly thought that the kings of Atlantis became the gods of Greek mythology. John D. Baldwin was quoted by Donnelly and later L. Taylor Hansen as believing that the Titans were Atlanteans. Over half a century ago Paul Hoffmann identified the Greek Gods as the rulers of ancient Athens, while the Titans were Atlanteans(c).
(c) Atlantis Vol.6, No.1, May 1953