Scholars the world over have repeatedly declared that ancient sources describing Atlantis are plentiful, “but before Plato–nothing”. They make such a declaration because of several reasons:
- they disregard every record in which Atlantis is not mentioned by name;
- they tend to disregard records which utilize a variant spelling of Atlantis;
- they imply (whether consciously or unconsciously) that we possess all the ancient manuscripts ever written between the time of Solon and Plato;
- they seem to be unfamiliar with the Sanskrit writings of India–apparently forgetting that those Sanskrit speakers originated in Central Europe.
For a timeline of ancient writers before and after Plato
|470 A.D.||Proclus||Com. On Timaeus||Preserves Crantor’s account (now lost) of his trip to Sais, Egypt to see the temple records reported by Solon|
|370 A.D.||Marcellinus||Res Gestae||On the disappearence of landmasses: “in the Atlantic sea, off the coast of Europe, a large island was swallowed up.”|
|300 A.D.||Arnobius||Adversus Gentes||Writes of the destruction of Atlantis as if it were an accepted fact of history.|
|100 A.D.||Plutarch||Orb of the Moon||Claims that the Atlantic was shallow and unnavigable because of the subsidance of the island of Atlantis.|
|10 A.D.||Philo Judaeus||Incorruptibility||The Island of Atalantes in Plato’s Timaios was overwhelmed by floods and earthquakes and suddenly disappeared.|
|8 B.C.||Diodorus||Library of History||Describes a race of “Atlanteans” living in Libya (North Africa), whose deities originate in the Atlantic.|
|25 B.C.||Strabo||Geography||Expressed the opinion that possibly Plato’s story about the island of Atlantis was not a fiction.|
|c. 100 B.C.||Marcellus||Ethiopic History||Canary Islanders preserved traditions of Atlantis, which they alleged had once governed all the islands in the Atlantic.|
|100 B.C.||Aelian||De Natura Animalium||“Dwellers by the ocean” say the ancient kings of Atlantis traced their descent back to the god Poseidon.|
|250 B.C.||Manetho||Old Chronicle||Lists the ten god-kings, (which he called the “Auritae”) who, during the Reign of the Gods, ruled a “foreign country”.|
|300 B.C.||Crantor||Com. on Timaeus||Priests of Sais show Crantor the temple columns from which Solon derived his knowledge of the story of Atlantis.|
|320 B.C.||Theopompus||Meropis||Priests of Phrygia tell him of a continent of great size in the far west inhabited by both peaceful and warlike people.|
|340 B.C.||Bhavishya||Purana||Mentions Atala, the “White Island” across a sea of saltwater in the West, inhabited by Magas who worship Surya, the Sun.|
|350 B.C.||Plato||Timaeus/Critias||Plato relates the now familiar story of Atlantis and its final destruction by earthquakes, floods and subsidance.|
|450 B.C.||Herodotus||Histories||The ocean now called the Atlantic he calls “the Atlantis Sea”. He describes a tribe of “Atlanteans” living in North Africa.|
|590 B.C.||Solon||Atlantica (lost)||Solon began his epic poem “Atlantica” based on the story of Atlantis he had gotten from the priests at Sais, Egypt.|
|600 B.C.||Mahabharata||Karna Parva||Describes a ten-year war at the end of which the island of Atala and all its inhabitants sank into the “Western Ocean”.|
|735 B.C.||Hesiod||Theogeny||Tells us of the Titans who, after losing a ten-year war, were imprisoned beneath the waters of the Ocean in the far West.|
|800 B.C.||Homer||Iliad||Refers to the imprisonment of the Titan Cronos at the “far end of the earth” beneath the “waters of the restless sea.”|
|1190 B.C.||Sanchuniathon||Phoenician History||Calls ancient god-kings of former times the “Aletean kings”. Gives Phoenician legends of Thoth, Cronos, Atlas and Zeus.|
|1300 B.C.||Turin Papyrus||King-List||Lists the ten god-kings whose reign over a foreign country ended 9850 B.C., followed by the reign of the demi-gods|
|c. 2000 B.C.||Vishnu||Purana||Locates Atala, the White Island, in the “Western Ocean” at same latitude as Canary Islands in the Atlantic.|
|c. 2500 B.C.||Palermo Stone||Royal Canon||Lists the last eight of the ten god-kings, including Cronos (Seb), Osiris, Set and possibly Thoth.|
|c. 4000 B.C.||Egyptian||Book of the Dead||King Thoth ruled an Island in the West which was destroyed by water, and brought the surviving rulers eastward to Egypt|
Let us use an example from a hundred years before Plato in which Herodotus, the “father of history,” mentions Atlantis by name in referring to the body of water into which it sank. Here is the Greek text of a portion of Clio (History, Bk I, 202) in which the waters outside the Pillars of Hercules is said to be known as the Atlantis Sea.
From the above quote we can see that the body of water we call the Atlantic was also known as the Erythaean Sea. Herodotus is not refering to the Persian Gulf in this case. To clarify, the well-known mythologist, Prof. H. J. Rose (1969), described an island named Erythaea located by the ancient Greeks in the Far West, the name of this island deriving from “the beams of the setting sun.” (p. 111) The body of water surrounding the island of Erythaea would quite naturally be called the Erythaean Sea.
And even though most people associate the Erythaean Sea with the Persian Gulf, there were actually several bodies of water in ancient times called Erythaean (the Greek root ery simply means “red”), one of which was immediately west of Gibraltar (Bulfinch, 1885; Rose, 1969; Stapleton, 1978, et al.). The Erythaean Sea in the above quote is located by Herodotus just “outside the Pillars”.
But most importantly, Herodotus tells us that the very same body of water was also called the Atlantis Sea. Some translators are guilty of “fudging” their translations (cf. George Rawlinson’s translation), and translate the name in this instance as “Atlantic”. But as is clearly demonstrated above, the word actually used is “Atlantis”. The accuracy of the Greek text pictured above can be verified at any university dealing with classical Greek texts.
Herodotus does not here use the Greek adjectival inflection (Atlantikos), which some have construed to refer to Mt. Atlas in Morocco; he uses the direct title Atlantis (he writes literally, “the Atlantis Sea”). I know of no major body of water named after a mountain. The “Atlantic Ocean” article (Enc. Brit., 1961 edition) states: “The term is supposedly derived from Atlantis, presumed to be a submerged continent below the present ocean.” The Britannica definition has become more “guarded” in later editions.
The point here is that Atlantis was known before Plato–well enough known that even in Herodotus’ time the sea outside Gibraltar was occasionally called the Atlantis Sea. It had acquired that name because Atlantis had once occupied that area. We carry the same tradition down when we refer to that same body of water as the Atlantic Ocean. However, even a minimal amount of research demonstrates that the Atlantic Ocean had yet another more geographically descriptive name in ancient times.
Ancient Egyptian, Sanskrit, Greek, and even Latin sources (Pliny the Elder), occasionally referred to the Atlantic Ocean as the “Western Ocean”–important if one is looking for ancient records of Atlantis. Hesiod refers to the Isles of the Blessed (makarôn nêsoi) in the Western Ocean in his Works and Days (Pindar does likewise). Given these clues, we will encounter records dating back before Plato, records which have been overlooked by most modern scholars.
Walter Burkert (1985) in his “Greek Religion” notes that “Achilles is transported to the White Isle, which may refer to Mount Teide on Tenerife, whose volcano is often snowcapped and as the island was sometimes called the white isle by explorers.” Was the White Isle one of these Isles of the Blessed, and could there be an Atlantis connection? We will learn more about the White Island (called Atala) shortly.
As we encounter these writings, it should be noted that Atlantis itself is sometimes represented by various spellings (Philo Judaeus spelled it “Atalantes”); but it should also be noted that when the context is properly considered, there is no doubt about the identity of the island being referenced. And, as will be demonstrated, there is no doubt that the “Western Ocean” mentioned is indeed our present-day Atlantic Ocean.
According to Critias, Solon was given the story by the Egyptian priests at Saïs which they had obtained from engraved columns within the temple precincts. Manetho, whose writings form the basis of our knowledge of ancient Egyptian history, obtained his famous King-Lists from similar sources. So what about this source?
THE EGYPTIAN WRITINGS
Over a half-century ago Cambridge scholar and explorer, Harold T. Wilkins (1946), noted the depiction of a great festival on column 8 of the Great Hall of the temple of Rameses at Karnak, along with an accompanying text memorializing the loss of a drowned continent in the Western Ocean. The column mentioned cannot be easily dismissed, and is a relevant example of the type of source to which Solon (in Plato’s Timaeus) refers.
Plato described Atlantis as being ruled by ten kings before its demise. Egyptian king-lists going back thousands of years before Plato (we will look at one example here) establish four important facts which we should notice. They are:
- Egyptian tradition begins with the “reign of the gods”
- In all there were ten of these so-called “god-kings”
- They were said to have reigned in a foreign country
- From all appearances they were called “Atlanteans”
This last statement will be challanged by scholars, so let’s take a closer look at the Egyptian king-lists. One noticable fact is that Manetho (250 B.C.) calls the first series of kings who ruled during the “reign of the gods,” Auriteans. This seems to be nothing more than a corruption of the word “Atlantean”. Let me explain.
Egyptian hieroglyphics only approximate real sounds: for instance, a hieroglyphic “k” must be used to represent the hard “g” sound. The hieroglyph that Manetho transcribed as r can equally be transcribed as an l. The l to r (and vice versa) shift in phonics is also well known (Dinneen, 1967; Shipley, 1977). Thus the “Auriteans” of Manetho’s king-lists could just as well be “Auliteans”: phonetically almost identical to “Atlanteans”.
This idea obtains credible support from the fact that the ancient Phoenician historian Sanchuniathon (1193 B.C.) calls these very same kings Aleteans (Cory, 1826). Since “Auriteans” is obviously a borrowed word, it would be subject to the recognized rules of phonemic variation (Kurath, 1961; Ward, 1960), which could result in such a change.
Although there are numerous ancient Egyptian king-lists in existence, only a few include the famous “reign of the gods”. These include the Palermo Stone (2565-2420 B.C.), the Turin Papyrus (1300 B.C.), and Manetho’s Egyptian Chronicles (250 B.C.). Of these, the Turin Papyrus is by far the most complete source.
The Turin Papyrus (Gardiner, 1987; Smith, 1872) lists ten kings who ruled during the “reign of the gods,” complimenting the fragments of Manetho which have come down to us. Most importantly, it allows us to equate the Egyptian names with the Greek names given by Manetho. Below is a list of god-kings from the Turin Papyrus, with Manetho’s fragmented list alongside:
|The Turin Papyrus||Manetho’s King-list|
|Horus||. . .|
|Thoth||. . .|
|Ma||. . .|
So we have ten Auritean (or, Aletean) kings reigning in a “foreign land” during the precise time Plato says ten Atlantean kings reigned in Atlantis. The Turin Papyrus also records the installation of the next series of kings in 9850 B.C.! This date is so close to the date given for the end of Atlantis that coincidence is virtually out of the question. In such a case, the equation “Aletean=Atlantean” doesn’t seem out of the question.
THE SANSKRIT WRITINGS
The Sanskrit writings of ancient India contain several descriptions of Atlantis, and even assert that Atlantis was destroyed as the result of a war between the gods and Asuras (recalling the war between the gods and the Titans). Present day scholars are so steeped in Greek and Roman (western) literature that Indian sources are too often ignored.
The Vishnu Purana (circa. 2000 B.C.), one of the oldest of the Hindu Puranas, speaks of “Atala, the White Island,” one of the seven dwipas (islands) belonging to Patala (Book II, chaps. i, ii, and iii). This old text locates Atala geographically on the seventh (heat, or climate) zone, which according to Francis Wilford (the translator) is 24 to 28 degrees north latitude, putting it in the same latitude as the Canary Islands just off the North African coast. Col. Wilford rightly calls Atala, “Atlantis, the White Island”. (Wilford, 1808)
At least one “authority” has attempted to identify Atala with Italy, but Italy is not an island. Also, Italy is 38 to 45 degrees north latitude. Finally, I fail to see any possibility that the “Western Ocean,” mentioned as its location, could be the Mediterranean when the Karna Parva of the Mahabharata clearly describes Africa as comprising that ocean’s eastern shoreline–placing that body of water clearly to the west of Africa.
Another non-Sanskrit scholar implies that Atala might be one of the well-known northern lands, such as Iceland or Greenland, and that the epithet “White Island” refers to its being covered with snow the majority of the time–even the mythological Hyperborea has been suggested. Unfortunately, this does not seem to be the case.
Atala and Sveta Dwipa (“White Island”) are not the only names for Atlantis in Sankrit lore. Another name, Saka Dwipa, is used just as often in the Puranas; and according to the Sanskrit Dictionary, Saka Dwipa means “island of fair skinned people.” It therefore appears that “white” refers to the skin color of its inhabitants, rather than to the dominant color of the island–although it should not be imagined that all Atlanteans were white-skinned.
The terms “Atala” and “White Island” are used also by the Bhavishya Purana (4th cent. B.C.). Here it is stated that Samba, having built a temple dedicated to Surya (the Sun), made a journey to Saka Dwipa, located “beyond the salt water” looking for the Magas (magicians), worshippers of the Sun. He is directed in his journey by Surya himself (i.e., journeys west following the Sun), riding upon Garuda (the flying vehicle of Krishna and Vishnu) he lands at last among the Magas.
The Mahabharata (circa. 600 B.C.) also refers to “Atala, the White Island”, which is described as an “island of great splendour.” It continues: “The men that inhabit that island have complexions as white as the rays of the Moon and they are devoted to Narayana . . . Indeed, the denizens of White Island believe and worship only one God.” (Santi Parva, Section CCCXXXVII)
I do have my critics on this issue. Despite the minute and detailed descriptions of the location, culture and technology of Atala provided in the Sanskrit literature, there are those who disagree. For instance, it has been alledged that Plato called Atlantis “a continent,” whereas Atala was only an island; therefore, it is reasoned, they could not be one and the same.
In actual fact, Plato never calls Atlantis a continent: only a “large island”. That Atala is also a very large island can be deduced from the Mahabharata, which describes Atala as having a capital city (Tripura), other major cities with houses, palaces, and streets, and as being populated by numerous tribes, some of whom chose to wage war against other nations. This is not a description of a small island.
It has also been alleged that the Sanskrit word tala means “place”: its negative (a-tala) would then mean “no-place”. But, according to the Sanskrit Dictionary tala means a “surface,” “plane” or “land”. Atala is the “name of a hell,” “bottomless,” “at the bottom” (McDonnell, 1974).* It is not unusual for a destroyed or sunken land like Atala to re-emerge in later religion as a “land of the departed” (whether hell or paradise). Among the Egyptians, Amentet (“Land of the West”) eventually became the “realm of the dead”.
The ancient Sanskrit literature contains more than one account of a powerful islandic empire in the Atlantic which sank to the bottom of the “Western Ocean” ending a horrendous war. Although originally described in the Mahabharata as an island in the far West, in modern parlance Atala has become a “hell”, and its original inhabitants (Daityas, Danavas, Asuras) “demons”.
The Santi Parva also describes Atala as being inhabited by white men who never have to sleep or eat. (Ibid.) Interestingly enough, the Greek historian Herodotus (450 B.C.) describes a tribe of Atlanteans who “never dream and eat no living thing”. (History, Book IV) Can this be coincidence? And just as the god Poseidon is very much involved in the Atlantis story, likewise in the Sanskrit accounts we find Varuna (the Hindu Poseidon) very much involved in Atala.
In other words, Atala, the White Island is remarkably similar to Plato’s Atlantis, even down to its circular capital city, Tripura! Tripura is made in three concentric parts, just as Plato’s Metropolis is divided into three parts by concentric canals. During the war of the gods and Asuras, the wicked cities of the Asuras began to fall, one by one, amidst loud cries of woe: “Burning those Asuras, he [the hero] threw them down into the Western ocean” (Karna Parva, Section XXXIV).
Concerning the “concentric arrangment” of Tripura, a recent archeological discovery of a fortified palace in Bactria, India, known as Dashly-3, turned out to be a concentric 3-ringed structure of the “tripura type”. [Their words, not mine.] The archaeologists, excavating under the auspices of the Archaeological Departments of Pakistan and India (Mahadevan, 15), also state that the Dasyas, the builders of Dashly-3, were “Asura-worshippers”.
In the Surya Siddhanta, an ancient Sanskrit text on astronomy, the translator (W. D. Whitney, 1860) mentions an “island” (dwipa) called Jambu Dwipa, surrounded by rings of alternating land and water. I am tempted to equate Jambu Dwipa with the Atlantean capital, which Plato describes as surrounded by circular canals, “making alternate zones of sea and land” (Critias).
The geographical specifics given in the above writings render the location of the powerful island civilization known as Atala beyond question: Atala was a large island, containing numerous cities, located off the western shore of Africa in the Atlantic Ocean. Following a tremendous war, the island with all its cities and inhabitants, was sent burning to the bottom of that ocean, after which peace prevailed. To attempt to separate these accounts from Plato’s Atlantis is an exercise in triviality.
I believe the above accounts constitute ample evidence that my years of research have not been wasted. Perhaps literary scholars’ assertion that no pre-Platonic accounts of Atlantis exist should be seriously reconsidered.
by R. Cedric Leonard
You can also read the whole story The Legend Of Atlantis in four parts
- Part I: Atlantis in History
- Part II: The Antediluvian World
- Part III: Edgar Cayce’s Atlantis
- Part IV: Atlantis Rising