Damien F. Mackey
Behind Plato’s famed legend of ‘Atlantis’ there may lie some genuine historical reality.
THE LEGEND OF ATLANTIS (Timaeus and Critias)
The legend of Atlantis still, today, fascinates people, and many are the efforts to pinpoint its original location. Alan Hefner (http://www.pantheon.org/articles/a/atlantis.html) gives the following basic summary of Plato’s account of it:
Atlantis: the Myth
The story of the Isle of Atlantis first occurs in Plato’s two dialogues the “Timaeus” and the “Critias.” Plato’s story centers on Solon, a great Greek legislator and poet who journeyed to Egypt some 150 years earlier. While in the Egyptian city of Sais Solon received the story of Atlantis from priests. The priests respected Solon’s reputation and cordially welcomed him. They also respected the Athenians, whom they regarded as kinsmen, because they believed their deity Neith to be the same deity as the Greeks called Athena. Therefore, she was believed to be the patroness and protector of both Greece and Egypt.
My Comment: “Solon” was, according to my article
a Greek appropriation of the wise king Solomon of Israel.
The story that the priests told Solon was unknown to him. According to ancient Egyptian temple records the Athenians fought an aggressive war against the rulers of Atlantis some nine thousand years earlier and won.
These ancient and powerful kings or rulers of Atlantis had formed a confederation by which they controlled Atlantis and other islands as well. They began a war from their homeland in the Atlantic Ocean and sent fighting troops to Europe and Asia. Against this attack the men of Athens formed a coalition from all over Greece to halt it. When this coalition met difficulties their allies deserted them and the Athenians fought on alone to defeat the Atlantian rulers. They stopped an invasion of their own country as well as freeing Egypt and eventually every country under the control of the rulers of Atlantis.
Shortly after their victory, even before the Athenians could return home, Atlantis suffered catastrophic earthquakes and floods until it disappeared beneath the sea. All of the brave men were swallowed up in one day and night of horror according to legend. This is why the Egyptians were ever grateful to the Athenians.
Also in the story Plato gives is a history of Atlantis that shows how the rulers eroded to such a state were [sic] they wanted to conquer everyone. This history had been recorded by Solon in notes that were handed down through his family.
According to Solon’s notes the history of Atlantis began at the beginning of time. It was then that the immortal gods divided the world among themselves and each ruled their proportion. The god Poseidon received Atlantis, an island larger the Libya and Asia combined. He chose for a wife the mortal woman Cleito, and with her begun the royal family of Atlantis.
Poseidon built Cleito’s home on a high hill at the very center of the island. The home overlooked a fertile plain bordered by the sea. For his beloved wife’s protection Poseidon surrounded her house with five concentric rings of water and land. He carved the rings with the ease and skill of a god. He made hot and cold springs come from the earth. With the development of a future city his descendants never lacked for water.
Cleito bore Poseidon ten sons, five sets of boys. Atlas the first son of the first set of twins, was made king over the vast territory by his father. His brothers were appointed princes and each ruled over a large section of the territory that was distributed to him. The most valuable section of the kingdom remained his mother’s home on the hilltop and the land surrounding it. This was given to Atlas. Atlas himself had many sons with the succession of the throne always passing to the eldest son.
For generations Atlantis remained peaceful and prospered. Almost all of the population’s needs were met from the island’s mines, fields and forests. Anything that the kingdom did not produce was imported. This was possible because a channel was eventually built which transversed all the rings from the ocean to the center of the kingdom, or the acropolis. On this stood the royal palace near the original home of Poseidon and Cleito. Each succeeding king tried to out do his predecessor in building a greater kingdom. Finally the splendid city Metropolis and the outer city of Atlantis existed behind a great outer wall.
Poseidon sat down laws for Atlantis that the rulers were to fellow. The ruling body was to meet regularly. It was to consist of ten rulers that represented the first rulers — Atlas and his nine brothers — who reigned with absolute power of life and death over their subjects. These meeting occurred in the temple of Poseidon where the first rulers inscribed the laws on a pillar of orichalcum. First, as required by ancient ceremony, pledges were exchanged. Then a sacred bull was captured and killed. The body was burned as a sacrifice to the god. Then the blood was mixed with wine and poured over the fire as an act of purification for each man. The rulers were served wine in golden cups, each poured a libation over the fire and swore by oath to give judgment according to the inscribed laws. When ending his vow each drank his wine and dedicated his cup to the temple. This was followed by a dinner that preceded the rulers putting on magnificent blue robes in which they judged matters concerning the kingdom according to Poseidon’s laws.
As long as they judged and lived by Poseidon’s laws they and the kingdom prospered. When the laws began to be forgotten trouble began. More of the rulers eventually began marrying mortals and started acting like foolish humans. Soon pride overtook the rulers who soon began grasping for greater power. Then Zeus saw what had happened to the rulers. They had abandoned the laws of the gods and acted in an evil coalition as men. He assembled all the gods of Olympus around him and was to pronounce judgment on Atlantis. This is where Plato’s story stops.
Whether Plato intended to end his story of Atlantis so abruptly or whether he intended to extend it no one knows. Just as no one knows whether Plato believed in the real existence of the island or whether it was purely a mythical kingdom. Many have said they believe that Plato believed in the island’s existence because he exerted so much detail in its description, while others reject this by claiming since the story was purely fiction Plato could put in as much detail as he wanted, it does not prove a thing. Also in doubt is the time period of the story. Solon writes the island existed 9000 years before. This would place the time period in the Early Stone Age. In this period it is hard to imagine the type of agriculture, architecture and sea navigation as described in the story. One explanation for this time period inconsistency is that Solon misinterpreted the Egyptian symbol for “100” for “1000.” If this be the case then Atlantis would have existed 900 years before. This would place the Atlantians in the Middle Bronze Age where they would possess the tools and equipment needed for the development described within the story.
To collaborate this 900 year theory there is geological evidence showing that roughly about 1500 BCE there was a gigantic volcanic eruption which caused half of the island to sink into the sea. Also a lost city has been said to have sunk in the Bay of Naples. At the time several rich and luxurious seaside resorts were located in the area. In the retelling of the story of Atlantis it is easy to see how one of these cities could be associated with it. The story is still being told which enthralls hundreds, as archaeological digs are conducted to unearth evidence of the real Atlantis. Until then the myth remains.
[End of quote]
Since much of Greek mythology was, as we are finding, of a composite nature – an interweaving of many (and often biblically-based) traditions collected from different historical eras – then it may be, too, that Plato’s “Atlantis” presents a composite picture, including the great Genesis Flood.
John R. Salverda, who has the happy knack of extracting biblical events from Greek (and other) ancient myths, is of the opinion that the “Atlantis” legend pertains essentially to the “antediluvian civilization”, and that the name, “Atlantis” derives from first man “Atlas”, who is Adam (http://genesisflood-amaic.blogspot.com.au/2014/02/re-our-post-prophet-elijah-as-greek.html):
Then there was the story of that previous civilization on the Earth, from which our modern culture sprang, which was destroyed, engulfed, in a great aqueous catastrophe. This previous civilization, called, “Atlantis,” was named after Atlas, he was said to be their first king, and the flood which engulfed the place, is still known as the “Atlantic” Ocean. We learn the story of Atlantis from the Greek Plato, who explains why these ancient People were drowned away back then. He says that at first, their race was pure, but they earned their destruction because they had a racial fall, and had degenerated through mortal admixture. And that was that for Plato’s Atlantean civilization. So it was much like the Bible’s antediluvian civilization, where Adam’s daughters, bred with the giants, and this caused racial impurities, (His Spirit could not “strive with men indefinitely,”) precursing the intolerable state which lead to Yahweh’s flood.
Atlas was cursed, just as Adam, to expect a certain “son” who could be described as nothing less than “messianic.” Here’s Ovid on the subject; “There dwelt huge Atlas, vaster than the race of man: son of Iapetus, his lordly sway extended over those extreme domains, … Aglint with gold bright leaves adorn the trees,—boughs golden-wrought bear apples of pure gold. … But Atlas, mindful of an oracle since by Themis, the Parnassian, told, recalled these words, “O Atlas! mark the day a son of Jupiter shall come to spoil; for when thy trees been stripped of golden fruit, the glory shall be his.” Fearful of this, Atlas had built solid walls around his orchard, and secured a dragon, huge, that kept perpetual guard, and thence expelled all strangers from his land.” (Ovid, “Metmorphoses” Book 4. 8. 631-661 ff.). A “son of god” (Herakles) did come and in order to pluck from the tree he had to destroy the serpent.
The wife of Atlas “Hesperus” was named after the sun setting, the “Evening,” or as we know it better by its common clipped form the “Eve” (The origin for this English term in defining the sun setting is lost to dim antiquity and I personally do not think that it is a mere coincidence.). Actually, according to Diodorus, the land was named after his wife, not the daughters; “Now Hesperos (Evening) begat a daughter named Hesperis (Evening), who he gave in marriage to his brother (Atlas) and after whom the land was given the name Hesperitis; and Atlas begat by her seven daughters, who were named after their father Atlantides, and after their mother Hesperides.” (Diodorus Siculus, “Library of History” 4. 26. 2). Why were the daughters of Hesperus often the ones who were blamed for picking the fruit? I’m not sure, but perhaps it was a way to show the generational consequences for the act of committing the Original Sin. The term “Hesperides” may have carried an original meaning that was equivalent to the term “Daughters of Eve” indicating womankind in general. ….
John Salverda now turns to his theme of “Atlas” as Adam:
…. Atlas is a rival claimant, instead of Zeus, for the role of Adam, and I think that he makes a much better fit. The concept of Zeus and Hera may have had its basis in Adam and Eve, but they were elevated into the status of gods very early in the course of Greek history. In their deified classification they were the proprietors of the garden, not its residents, neither Zeus nor Hera were said to have been born (much less created) there, and did not live there, so far as we can tell. Atlas, on the other hand, was said to have lived there, and he was punished at a place just outside the Garden. Atlas was not a god, he was a rebel giant. This is exactly as the Jews pictured Adam; “The dimensions of his body were gigantic, reaching from heaven to earth” (from Louis Ginzberg, “The Legends of the Jews” Volume I, Chapter II “Adam”, Sub-chapter “The Ideal Man”). And Atlas was punished for his rebellion against god (Zeus); “Atlas through hard constraint upholds the wide heaven with unwearying head and arms, standing at the borders of the earth before the clear-voiced Hesperides; for this lot wise Zeus assigned to him.” (Hesiod, Theogony 507 ff.). The method of his punishment holds a didactic lesson about the doctrine of Mount Sinai. He was condemned to be a mountain that separates the Heavens from the Earth. We all pray for the Kingdom of Heaven to come down to the Earth, but there is something in the way, it is the sin of Adam, because of which, there needs to be a “covenant with sin and death” in place, the mountain of the law.
Then there was the story of that previous civilization on the Earth, from which our modern culture sprang, which was destroyed, engulfed, in a great aqueous catastrophe. This previous civilization, called, “Atlantis,” was named after Atlas, he was said to be their first king, and the flood which engulfed the place, is still known as the “Atlantic” Ocean. We learn the story of Atlantis from the Greek Plato, who explains why these ancient People were drowned away back then. He says that at first, their race was pure, but they earned their destruction because they had a racial fall, and had degenerated through mortal admixture. And that was that for Plato’s Atlantean civilization. So it was much like the Bible’s antediluvian civilization, where Adam’s daughters, bred with the giants, and this caused racial impurities, (His Spirit could not “strive with men indefinitely,”) precursing the intolerable state which lead to Yahweh’s flood. ….
[End of quotes]
Regarding the probably composite nature of the legend of “Atlantis”, as already noted – its having been drawn from more than one source – I also find most interesting the following striking comparisons between Plato’s description of “Atlantis” and the prophet Ezekiel’s description of the great port city entrepôt of Tyre (Ezekiel 26-28). This website claims ten points of comparison between the two tales (http://atlantissolved.com/identityevidence.cfm):
ATLANTIS SOLVED – I Shall Bring up The Deep Upon Thee
IDENTICAL FEATURES of PLATO’S ATLANTIS and EZEKIEL’S TYRUS
|1-But afterwards (after the invasion) there occurred violent earthquakes and floods; and in a single day and night of misfortune, all your warlike men in a body sank into the earth, and Atlantis… disappeared in the depths of the sea.
|1-He shall slay thy people by the sword.. Shall not the isles shake at the sound of thy fall, when the wounded cry, when the slaughter is made in the midst of thee? ..and great waters shall cover thee.. (Eze.26:11, 15, 19)
|2-In this Island of Atlantis…
|2-Thy borders are in the midst of the seas (Eze. 27:4)
|3-Atlantis was situated in front of the straits.
|3-Thou art situate at the entry of the sea. (Eze. 27:3)
|4-Rulers of divers islands in the open sea…
|4-Many isles were the merchandise of thine hand. (Eze. 27:15)
|5-The canal and the largest of the harbours were full of vessels and merchants from all parts, who kept up a multitudinous sound of human voices, and din and clatter of all sorts night and day.
|5-…all the ships of the sea…were in thee to occupy thy merchandise. (Eze. 27: 12-24)
|6-…they had such an amount of wealth as was never before possessed by kings and potentates…
|6-…thou hast gotten thee riches, and hast gotten gold and silver into thy treasures …thine heart is lifted up because of thy riches …(Eze. 28: 4,5)
|7-…they were full of avarice (greed) and unrighteous power.||7-By the multitude of thy merchandise they have filled the midst of thee with violence. (Eze. 28: 16)
|8-Atlantis had subjected the parts of Libya…
|8-They of Phut (Libya) were in thine army (Eze. 27: 10)
|9-The Island of Atlantis disappeared into the depths of the sea.
|9-I shall bring up the deep upon thee, and great waters shall cover thee; (Eze. 26: 19)
|10-The sea in those parts is impassable and impenetrable, because there is a shoal of mud in the way, and this was caused by the subsidence of the island.
|10-I will also scrape her dust from her, and make her like the top of a rock. (Eze. 26: 4)
“Plato” (likely also a composite character) may have had a predilection for the writings of the prophet Ezekiel. For I have recently drawn comparisons between: