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Reconstruction of the capital of Atlantis according to Plato's description,
drawn by Walter Heiland. Albert Herrmann, Unsere Ahnen und Atlantis. 1934. Sign: 931 B 4.


Plato’s Atlantis: A Place in History

by Don Ingram

Plato’s story of Atlantis has been thought of by most classical scholars as generally fictitious, perhaps with some elements of truth, and written for the purpose of presenting his theories of an ideal society, despite the fact that he asserts—no less than five times in the Timaeus—that the story is true. Other more fanciful people have taken his story at face value and treated it as the absolute truth. They have invented societies of superior beings and ‘Elder cultures’ with impossibly advanced technologies, in order to compensate for the anomalies and inconsistencies presented in Plato’s original story.

I really think we need to look seriously at this historical perspective when considering Plato’s story, as well as the mass of oral and written traditions that he must have had at his disposal when constructing his plays. There is a wealth of information in the classical writings of Greece and many confirming details in the myths and legends of Ireland. Existing archaeology offers abundant clues to the Middle Bronze Age which can fit very well with Plato’s account of the war between Athens and the Atlantians, so we can stop clasping at anything that looks like an under water city, and impossible imaginings of magic technology to try and prove the existence of Atlantis.

The vast number of theories concerning the Atlantis story, from both sides of the academic/esoteric divide has created a muddled and rancorous state of war between believers and sceptics. Most scholarly opinion has it that the story is allegorical, and that Plato invented the story as a lesson in morality; this is in spite of the fact that he insisted several times in Timaeus, that the story was true, and despite the fact that he disliked fiction because he believed it to be socially corrosive. This is expressed in no uncertain terms it the Republic where he criticises Homer for his poetic embellishments and his fictionalising of past epic events. I think the primary cause of so much debate is due to two major, but perfectly understandable errors in Plato’s original story that have made identification of his Atlantians, and even his Athenian Greeks all but impossible. The errors are; the location of the island—directly out from the Pillars of Hercules (the Strait of Gibraltar)—and the impossibly large time-frame for the institutions of Athens and Saitic Egypt, and the war between the Atlantians and the Athenians. Once these errors are identified and understood, the whole story fits remarkably well with conventional history.

The error of the island’s location can, I think can be put down to the navigation practices of the first Mediterranean sailors to venture into the Atlantic Ocean. Sailing with the wind, to go in a particular direction to a particular destination would have worked well enough in the Mediterranean, but in the Atlantic, riding a high pressure weather system, they would have been swept in a clock-wise ark northward. Believing they were sailing westward, they would have ended up in the British Isles. Of course, the sun would appear to rise and set in a different place each day, but this could have been put down to the capricious nature of the gods. When sailors of a later age, using celestial navigation, actually did sail directly out from the Mediterranean, they would have found the island was missing.

Plato tells us that the story came down via Critias and his forebears, from Solon, one of the great statesmen of Athens. The time-frame was given by Plato and attributed to Solon who was told by an Egyptian priest—c 600BCE—that the respective ages of their institutions were eight and nine thousand years. This would take us back to the very beginning of the Neolithic, to the very early settled communities, and this of course, does not gel with Plato’s matter-of-fact descriptions of the combatants and their weapons. The excessively large numbers must surely have been due to a mistranslation of thousands for hundreds. Large measurements too, are excessive. This ‘mistranslation of numbers’ hypothesis has previously been discounted by scholars on the grounds that the numbering systems of Egypt and Greece would not allow for such an error. Unfortunately, Linear B of the Late Bronze Age Mycenaeans has been overlooked for the source of mistranslation. In this system, units up to and including nine were represented by a vertical stroke; ten was rendered as a horizontal dash. Hundreds were shown as circles; ten times a hundred had the horizontal dash within the circle, and a hundred, hundred was shown as a circle with four radial ticks around the perimeter - so that, for example, 900, 9000, and 90 000 were all represented by nine circles with small distinguishing marks. This is almost certainly where a mistranslation would have occurred.

There are several other points in Plato’s story that every one seems to have overlooked and are well worth noting:

Plato’s description of Atlantis, its environs, resources and technologies were unremarkable and seemed to reflect his own expectations of what a city in Atlantis would be like. He said absolutely nothing about the magical technologies introduced by modern writes in the cast of Edgar Cayce. His Atlantians were referred to in much the same way as his virtuous Athenians. The esoteric writings of Helena Blavatsky are nowhere hinted at by Plato, and Ignatius Donnelly’s biblical assertions have no place in the original story.

According to Plato the war was on Greek soil, and so, the logistics of shipping thousands of troops across the Atlantic Ocean—as is proposed by many commentators—to the eastern end of the Mediterranean would have been perilous beyond belief. The numbers of solders and their deployment given by Plato would require ships almost as large as modern ocean liners, the technology required to build such ships is nowhere in evidence.

Poseidon was almost certainly a Mediterranean god of a sea-faring people—closely related to the other gods of the Greek pantheon—and Plato implies it was only with his arrival on the island that things started to happen… For this event, I think we need look no further than the arrival in Britain of the Mediterranean Neolithic culture c3300BCE.

The island was named for Atlas. One of his earliest manifestations was as leader of the titans in a battle against the Greek gods of Olympus (to whom they were related). Defeated by the gods they were banished to the far west… The continental Neolithic farming revolution—from just north of the Balkan Peninsula—reached Britain c 3000BCE, about 300 years after the Mediterranean influences, most likely retaining their original titan/ancestor worshiping religion.

Claims have repeatedly been made that the name of the island had never been used before Plato’s Timaeus and Critias, and this may be true as far as it goes, but the naming of the island and the Atlantic Ocean implies an inextricable link with Atlas, a very prominent figure in Greek mythology. Also, there is the well known story of Perseus’ journey to Hyperborea to cut off the head of Medusa during which, he visited the home of Atlas. Reference in the story to the “rain-worn figures of men and wild beasts, standing in the fields, having been turned to stone by Medusa’s gaze” can hardly refer to anything other than the standing stone arrays of Atlantic Europe. The circumstances of his return to Greece would seem to imply a time very soon after the eruption of Thera that brought an end to the Middle Bronze Age, which is the most likely time for the ending of hostilities between Plato’s Atlantis and Athens.

The Beaker Burial culture, in particular, that of Wessex II, was contemporary with the First Palace Period of the Minoans when they encroached onto mainland Greece in the third millennium BCE. It is likely that Athens was a Middle Bronze Age colony of the Minoans that could very likely have been erased during the Thera eruption c 1650BCE. Convention has it that the history of the city of Athens only goes back to about 800BCE, but if Plato’s assertion that the fighting men of Athens used to live on top of the Acropolis when it was covered with soil; and they were buried beneath the earth in a cataclysm of rain and earthquakes in a single day and night, surely the Athenians and all their artefacts would be buried deep beneath the soil surrounding the Acropolis at or near the original ground level.

Strange, vicious and deadly new weapons suddenly appeared in the Aegean area during the MBA which look suspiciously European. These artefacts have been found in the early Grave Circles of Late Bronze Age Mycenae, along with jewellery of the kind that was manufactured in Wessex. For me, it’s possible and even likely that the Mycenaean rulers were directly descended from the Wessex II ruling class, and so, for the sake of this hypothesis – they were the direct descendants of Atlas, who coincidentally, according to ancient legend, established the province of Arcadia on the Peloponnesian peninsular and was an ancestor of Agamemnon, ruler of Mycenae and his brother Menelaus, king of Sparta, cuckolded husband of Helen of Troy.

Artist's interpretation of a gold ring seal, item number 241, case 27 in the Athens Museum from Shaft Grave IV, at Mycenae. Important points to note: Two combatants with plumed head-dresses are probably Minoan, with dagger, lance and tower shield. The other two soldiers, one with a long rapier-like sword, are probably European - all of the Middle Bronze Age. The globule-like motifs around the edge seem to represent an inundation by a massive wave. Judging from its time in history, this must surely depict events at the end of the Middle Bronze Age when the volcanic island of Thera erupted.

I really think we need to look seriously at this historical perspective when considering Plato’s story, as well as the mass of oral and written traditions that he must have had at his disposal when constructing his plays. There is a wealth of information in the classical writings of Greece and many confirming details in the myths and legends of Ireland. Existing archaeology offers abundant clues to the Middle Bronze Age which can fit very well with Plato’s account of the war between Athens and the Atlantians, so we can stop clasping at anything that looks like an under water city, and impossible imaginings of magic technology to try and prove the existence of Atlantis.

Please have a look at, The Unlost Island: A History of Misunderstanding Atlantis, on the Zeus Publications website. A modern look at the history behind the ancient story.

© 2010 by Don Ingram 
This is Copyrighted Material

Book by the Author

The Unlost Island
Author: Don Ingram
Publisher: Zeus Publications
Date Published: 2009

Language: English
ISBN: 978-1-921574-21-4
Format: Paperback
Number of pages: 372
Genre: Non Fiction

Recommended Price: $AU32.95
Online Price: $AU31.95 + Postage
Ebook - downloadable pdf - $AU9.00



About the Author

Don Ingram was born in 1944 in Adelaide, South Australia – a beautiful little city built on a plain surrounded by hills and could be said to be on the sea in the middle of Australia. A newspaper artist for 34 years from 1968, he worked extensively with journalists to produce illustrations, maps, diagrams and all manner of information graphics. As a young man, in the atmosphere of the art department, he developed an avid but sceptical interest in the controversial story of Atlantis and other ancient myths. The reasons for the age-old debate became evident in November of 1998, with an insight into the erroneous notions of location and time-frame given by Plato. The following nine years of research and writing for The Unlost Island, was extraordinarily exciting, as the available clues from archaeology and conventional history, remarkably just fell into place, like tumblers in a lock.

Subject Related Links



Timaeus and Critias  by Plato, H.D. Lee (Editor)
Atlantis: The Antediluvian World by Ignatius Donnelly, Everett F. Bleiler (Editor)
The Destruction of Atlantis:Compelling Evidence of the Sudden Fall of the First Great Civilization  Frank Joseph, Zecharia Sitchin 
From the Ashes of Angels : The Forbidden Legacy of a Fallen Race
The Atlantis Secret
Edgar Cayce on Atlantis Edgar Evans Cayce, Hugh L. Cayce (Editor)

Atlantis: Egyptian Genesis
The myth of Atlantis has puzzled researchers for decades. The debate over its meaning has raged for more than two millenia. Was it an historical island-nation, a political metaphor, a spiritual allegory, or none of the above? In this work, the authors explore the Egyptian roots of Plato's famous narrative, and examine the strange similarities between Atlantis and worldwide creation mythologies. A fresh and unique look at an ancient enigma, the book is essential reading for anyone interested in the mystery of Atlantis, layman and scholar alike. With an appendix on Egyptian mythology and its connection to Plato's Atlantis by renowned musicologist Ernest G. McClain.

Scientific American National Geographic  

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