The Definitive Geographic Location of Atlantis
Originally posted at abovetopsecret.com
(Some images retain references to the previous website,
- Beyond The Bounds Of History
- A Man With A Plain
- Atlantis In Plain Site
- Concessions Of An Atlantis Theorist
- Sinking Atlantis
- Walling The City
A Brief DisclaimerClaiming to have located The Definitive Geographic Location Of Atlantis may at first seem a bit boastful, but that is by no means the intent. Every Atlantis theory has its strength and this statement is simply identifying the element which is the strength of this particular site theory, an element differentiating itself from all other site theories by its degree of accurate adherence to the original account's geographic detail.
This proposed site is definitive in the sense that there are no other locations on the planet that conform as closely to the geographic construct of Plato's Atlantis. Even more significantly, it conforms to a level that is almost impossible to occur by chance. For instance, consider the plain. It is described as a 10,000-stade (1,150-mile) rectangle defined by a navigable waterway. There is only one plain on our planet that conforms to these parameters. Had the writer opted for a slightly smaller or much larger rectangle or even a 10,000-stade circular plain it would have been an entirely different matter. None exist. So finding one lone 10,000-stade rectangular plain on the planet that is defined by navigable waterways is significant. Finding this truly unique feature within Plato's specified 14.5-mile distance from the sea, well, you start to realize Plato was either one of the luckiest individuals ever to have existed or perhaps there exists elements of truth within his story.
The Atlantis account provided by Plato provides an extraordinarily well-detailed description of the continent that includes the arrangement of geographic features (e.g., the inclusion of a plain surrounded by mountains to the north and open to the sea in the south), scale (larger than ancient Asia and Africa combined), and dimensions (an 1,150-mile rectangular plain within 14.5 miles of the sea). There is absolutely no other site on the planet that approaches the level of adherence that South America achieves. Does this constitute definitive proof that this is the site of Atlantis? Absolutely not, but the site does provide a level of intrigue insofar as how the ancient Egyptians—who are claimed to be the original source of the Atlantis tale—could so accurately describe a location that truly exists but, according to archaeologists and historians, exists well outside their historical reach.
I. Beyond The Bounds Of HistoryDepending on the flexibility of one's worldview, the site for Atlantis typically finds itself lying on a sliding scale extending between the limits of historical plausibility and geographic accuracy. Lying at the extreme end of historical plausibility—in essence, complying with established history—Atlantis strays furthest from geographic accuracy, finding itself lying outside the realm of the real world and existing merely in the mind and imagination of Plato, the Greek philosopher who penned the tale in two of his dialogues, Timaeus and Critias. This theory maintains that Atlantis was a wholly fictitious land and civilization, which were invented for the sole purpose of illustrating certain social ideals. There is a very good possibility that this is indeed the case and certain aspects of the account lend some support to this view, yet other possibilities do exist.
Just a hairsbreadth down the scale lie the many sites which also give little regard to Plato’s geographic description of the land, but cede to the remote historical possibility that the Atlantis tale was based on a land and cataclysmic event of far lesser scale having occurred in the near vicinity of Greece and Egypt. These sites typically conform to the idea that a localized cataclysm having a significant effect on the region was embellished to mythic proportions. The pinnacle of sites within this framing is the island of Santorini with Crete coming in a close second. According to these popular theories, the Atlantis saga is based on the volcanic eruption on Santorini and either the total destruction of the island's Minoan population and city Akrotiri or the devastation unleashed upon Crete and its Minoan population via a related tsunami, earthquake or both. These theories have garnered considerable support among academics because, although they can never be verified fully, they can be reasonably reconciled to known historical events.
|The island of Santorini located in the southern Aegean Sea. A massive eruption which occurred here circa 1500-1600 BCE destroyed the city of Akrotiri and possibly brought some degree of devastation upon the nearby Minoan island of Crete. There are many that believe this incident may have been the basis for the Atlantis tale.|
Lying in the middle of the scale in a virtual no man’s land, lie postulations that stray further away from historical likelihood, but also have very little in common with Plato's geographic construct. This includes most sites beyond the Mediterranean.
Continuing on to the end of the scale farthest from historical conformity, lies the concept of a massive sunken continent lying at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. This of course is the ultimate in geographic conformance as per Plato’s tale, “Atlantis, which, as was saying, was an island greater in extent than Libya and Asia, and when afterwards sunk by an earthquake, became an impassable barrier of mud to voyagers sailing from hence to any part of the ocean.” Unfortunately, not only does this theory lack conformity with history, it also lacks conformity with science.
|An 1882 map by American politician and Atlantis theorist Ignatius L. Donnelly which places Atlantis over the Azores Islands in the North Atlantic Ocean. Donnelly believed the islands might be the tops of mountains rising up from the sunken continent.|
Dialing it back just a notch from the improbable overnight sinking of an entire continent sits the geographic sweet spot and the subject of this article. Here lies a geohistorical anomaly, where a historical account relegated to the depths of allegorical fiction by many modern-day academics suddenly breaches the surface of physical reality.
|History-weighted versus geographically-weighted site theories. At the extremes are those that fall more in line with accepted history—Atlantis was either pure fiction or an exaggeration of a cataclysmic event that occurred in or near the Mediterranean—and those that fall more in line with Plato's geographic description—Atlantis was a continent located in the Atlantic beyond Europe, Asia, and Africa that either sank or experienced cataclysmic earthquakes and flooding.|
It all begins beyond the Mediterranean and far beyond the current bounds of established history. Plato's dialogues are quite clear, Atlantis and its advanced seafaring civilization existed in the vast ocean or sea beyond the Mediterranean and the Pillars of Heracles—an ancient Greek term denoting the Strait of Gibraltar. The text from Plato's Timaeus states that the Atlanteans:
|"came forth out of the Atlantic Ocean." - Timaeus 24e (Unless otherwise noted, all quotes of Timaeus and Critias are from the Benjamin Jowett translation.)|
And goes on to classify this ocean beyond the strait as:
|"The true ocean; for this sea [the Mediterranean Sea] which is within the Straits of Heracles is only a harbour, having a narrow entrance [the Straits or Pillars of Heracles], but that other is a real sea." - Timaeus 25a|
The author is describing a common ancient Greek concept which is embodied in the image below of Hecataeus' World Map circa 500 BCE. The map depicts the Greek worldview during the time of Solon, the Athenian statesman and poet who, according to the dialogues, produced the Hellenized version of the tale after having received the original from an Egyptian priest. On the map, the Mediterranean Sea can be seen as the central harbor surrounded by the three known continents of Europe, Libya and Asia with only the small "narrow entrance" of the Pillars of Heracles separating it from the much larger body of water, Oceanus or the Atlantis Sea.
|Hecataeus World Map circa 500 BCE, which is similar to the way in which many Greeks of Solon's time viewed the world. Here you can easily visualize Solon's equating the Pillars of Heracles with the Strait of Gibraltar. Solon claims Mare Magnum—the Mediterranean Sea—"which is within the Straits of Heracles is only a harbour, having a narrow entrance [the Straits of Heracles], but that other [Oceanus or Atlantis sea] is a real sea."|
Of course further confirmation of a location beyond the Mediterranean can be found in another portion of this passage from Timaeus:
|"There was an island situated in front of the straits which are by you called the Pillars of Heracles; the island was larger than Libya and Asia put together." - Timaeus 24e|
This obviously eliminates the small islands of Santorini and Crete and targets a large continental mass well outside the limited confines of the Mediterranean.
II. A Man With A PlainFurther confirming Atlantis was the size of a continent, the account describes a large geographic feature existing in the midst of the island which is roughly the size of Great Britain. A geographic feature with key distinct attributes that readily made it the central focus in my search for Plato's Atlantis. That feature is an extremely large, uniquely rectangular plain, and Plato included a component that would prove an invaluable aid in narrowing down the search: Dimensions.
|"The whole country was said by him to be very lofty and precipitous on the side of the sea, but the country immediately about and surrounding the city was a level plain, itself surrounded by mountains which descended towards the sea; it was smooth and even, and of an oblong shape, extending in one direction three thousand stadia, but across the centre inland it was two thousand stadia." - Critias 118a|
|"It was originally a quadrangle, rectilinear for the most part, and elongated; and what it lacked of this shape they made right by means of a trench dug round about it...and since it was dug round the whole plain its consequent length was 10,000 stades." - Critias 118c,d [Bury]|
Yet, I was not the first to recognize the potential the unique layout of the Atlantis plain held in identifying the lost continent. For many decades the seemingly best geographic match for Atlantis and its unique plain was offered by another Atlantis theorist, Jim Allen. In the 1970s Allen set out on his own search for the Atlantis plain ultimately linking it to the Altiplano, a large plain located high up in the Andes Mountains in the western region of Bolivia, South America. The plain possesses the requisite rectangular shape and is clearly surrounded by mountains, but more importantly, Allen had boldly pushed past the bounds of established history favoring geographic conformance with Plato's description of a continent beyond the Mediterranean.
|South America and Jim Allen's posited site of the Atlantis plain high in the Andes Mountains, the Altiplano.|
So in regard to geographic accuracy, Allen's Atlantis theory has sat at the forefront for quite some time, setting the bar for others like myself to clear. The following analysis of the Altiplano site will reveal where that bar actually sits and provide perspective on the challenges involved in locating and identifying the ancient plain of Atlantis. (More information can also be found at Allen's website.)
The claim is made that the Altiplano matches the Atlantis plain's 2,000 by 3,000 stade (230 by 344 mile) measurement, but does so with some major concessions. Because the Bolivian Altiplano is substantially smaller than the Atlantis plain, a theoretical stade has been adopted measuring roughly half the length of the ancient Greek and Egyptian stades, but even with this posited half-stade, the Altiplano does not appear to legitimately achieve a 2,000 by 3,000 proportion.
The image below is a reproduction of Allen's assessment of the Altiplano as a 2,000 by 3,000 stade rectangle utilizing a stade measuring 330 feet versus the Greek stade of 606 feet. The plain's 13,000-foot elevation is outlined in yellow while the plain's interior 12,000-foot elevation is outlined in dark blue. Allen has chosen the placement of the 2,000 by 3,000 stade rectangular channel of water said to define the plain by utilizing the 13,000-foot elevation for the lateral measurement while utilizing the 12,000-foot elevation for the vertical measurement.
There are several obvious problems with this layout. First among them is the basin in the west that sits at and below the 12,000-foot elevation, dictating that the channels of water that were said to crisscross the plain could only occur on the eastern portion of the plain. Keeping the channels in this portion of the plain flowing with water would have caused flooding of the deeper western portion; the western half of the plain would have been one large lake. Secondly, to attain the rectangular channel that defined the plain, the Atlanteans would have been required to dig ditches through a hundred miles or more of mountainous terrain in the plain's western region.
|A reproduction of Jim Allen's layout of a 2,000 by 3,000 half-stadium rectangle on the Altiplano. Not only does this layout abandon the account's standard-sized stadium for an obscure half-stadium measurement, but the layout also overlooks a 1,000-foot depression in its midst (yellow boundary encircling the entire green plain lies at 13,000 feet and the dark blue contour within the plain encircling the large light patch lies at 12,000 feet) in order to allow the Altiplano to conform to Plato's dimensions. Further complications arise in the layout of the rectangular ditch that was said to define the plain. Much of it would have been dug through mountainous terrain in the west.|
|An oblique view of the Altiplano gazing northward, revealing the mountainous western region included within the plain of the Altiplano theory and the course the proposed rectangular ditch cuts through it.|
Aside from the necessity to introduce a new measurement for the stade, the proposed site also necessitates the introduction of a mountain lake, Poopó Lake, as a third sea, although Plato's account makes absolutely no effort to distinguish or suggest any seas beyond two, the Mediterranean and Atlantic. This adjustment in interpretation was required because the original account places the sea very near to the plain. A hill which would be the site of the capital city having a diameter of 27 stades (3.10 miles), was said to lie 50 stades (5.7 miles) from both the plain and the sea, combined measurements which require the plain to lie within 14.5 miles of the sea.
|"Near the plain again,
and also in the centre of the island at a distance of
about fifty stadia, there was a mountain not very high
on any side (the site of the city)...And beginning from
the sea they bored a canal of three hundred feet in
width and one hundred feet in depth and fifty stadia in
length, which they carried through to the outermost zone
[of the city]." - Critias 113c, 115d
Poopó Lake is an endorheic basin having no outlets to a sea or ocean. During periods of excessive water flow from the north, which would have had to have been the norm in order to fill and maintain a navigable channel around the Altiplano, the lake spills out onto the Altiplano filling two large salt basins, Salar de Coipasa in the west and Salar de Uyuni in the south, but this direction of flow runs counter to the Atlantis plain. While water travels from Poopó Lake—the proposed 'sea'—past the city and onto the plain, according to Plato's account all the waters of the plain ran in the reverse direction, from the plain and into the sea near the city. Instead of a landlocked lake, it seems clear that the account is describing the common geographic dynamic of most low-lying plains whose waters originate and flow down from the mountains, run through or around the plain, and inevitably empty into a true sea or ocean.
|"[The ditch] was carried
round the whole of the plain, and was ten thousand stadia in
length. It received the streams which came down from the
mountains, and winding round the plain and meeting at the
city, was there let off into the sea. Further inland,
likewise, straight canals of a hundred feet in width were
cut from it through the plain, and again let off into the
ditch leading to the sea." - Critias 118c,d
Note too that none of the canals are said to directly empty into the sea, but instead they flowed out into the plain's perimeter ditch and then emptied into the sea. This suggests that the sea did not exist inside the plain's perimeter as is the case of the Altiplano and again gives every indication that it is referring to a true sea existing beyond the plain.
The site also falls short regarding the full layout of the plain's surrounding mountains:
|"The country immediately
about and surrounding the city was a level plain, itself
surrounded by mountains which descended towards the sea. This
part of the island looked towards the south, and was
sheltered from the north. The surrounding mountains
were celebrated for their number and size and beauty, far
beyond any which still exist." - Critias 118a,b
This passage describes a plain which was enclosed on three sides, but open towards the south. The illustration below of an enclosed courtyard perfectly illustrates an enclosed area looking to or open toward the south and sheltered from the north. The Altiplano, however, remains completely surrounded on all four sides by mountains; essentially sheltered from both the north and the south.
|This image depicts an enclosed courtyard, which similar to the Atlantis plain is open or "look(s) towards the south, and (i)s sheltered from the north" while also "looking towards the sea." This layout stands in contrast to the Altiplano in the Andes which is entirely surrounded by mountains, sheltered from every direction while the sea sits within the northeastern portion of the plain.|
Also note this parallel passage:
|"Looking towards the
sea, but in the centre of the whole island, there
was a plain which is said to have been the fairest of
all plains and very fertile." - Critias 113c
There is some confusion among interpretations regarding the phrase "looking towards the sea," but contextually, like the phrase "looked towards the south," it would appear to be describing the plain. In other words, "In the center of the whole island there was a plain looking or facing towards the sea." It is difficult to derive any other meaning, and together the two phrases assert that the plain was open toward or faced the sea in the south. Here again, we see that the Altiplano fails by locating a sea in the east and as stated above incorrectly inside the boundaries of the plain.
Then there are also a few issues seen in the proposed site of the capital city at Pampa Aullagas. Like the sea, this theory incorrectly locates the city within the boundaries of the plain. The city's stated location was 50 stades (5.7 miles) outside the plain, whereas the proposed site of the city in this theory locates it on a hill over 200 stades (23 miles) inside the plain.
|Near the plain again, and also in the centre of the island at a distance of about fifty stadia, there was a mountain not very high on any side." (The site of the capital city.) - Critias 113c|
Even more problematic, the concentric rings of water that were said to define the city are theorized to have existed in sand-filled contours set into the side of the hill with the land in between forming the concentric rings of land, but these would actually have been partial bands of land and water and not the full circular rings described. The original account makes clear that these were "circles" of water believed to be natural formations isolating the ringed islands and rendering them inaccessible except by boat. This runs counter to the proposed bands at Pampa Aullagas, which would allow the central island where the acropolis was located to have been fully accessible by land in the south.
|"Breaking the ground, enclosed the hill in which she dwelt all round, making alternate zones of sea and land larger and smaller, encircling one another; there were two of land and three of water, which he turned as with a lathe, each having its circumference equidistant every way from the centre, so that no man could get to the island, for ships and voyages were not as yet." - Critias 113d,e|
Further, each band on the proposed site is located sequentially at higher levels as they approach the proposed location of the acropolis on the hill's peak. If the Altiplano were flooded to a depth to fill the upper ring, the lower rings would be flooded over and not exist. Not to mention nearly all of the Altiplano would have been a lake and no longer a plain.
|Pampa Aullagas on the Altiplano; the proposed site of the ringed capital city of Atlantis. Contradicting Plato's description of rings of water fully encircling islands only accessible by boat, the site at Pampa Aullagas proposes bands of water and allows access to the central island by way of land in the south.|
Perhaps we can imagine that the upper rings were artificially filled with water, but this too is problematic since according to the account the Atlantean ships of war were able to sail not only from the sea to the outer ring of the city but also between rings of water with access to the central island where the palace was located along with docks full of warships and naval stores.
|"They divided at the bridges the zones of land which parted the zones of sea, leaving room for a single trireme to pass out of one zone into another, and they covered over the channels so as to leave a way underneath for the ships; for the banks were raised considerably above the water." - Critias 115e|
|"The docks were full of triremes and naval stores, and all things were quite ready for use. Enough of the plan of the royal palace. Leaving the palace and passing out across the three..." - Critias 117d|
Yet with this proposed site the rings are at levels separated by 50 to 150 feet in elevation which would have required locks to move between channels, which would in turn create further complications in maintaining the water level in the upper ring.
The only possible solution is to accept that the account was not exaggerating when it states that "the banks were raised considerably above the water." In this configuration, the proposed rings or channels of water would have been excavated to a common depth with covered channels or tunnels created "so as to leave a way underneath for the ships." The uppermost inner ring would have been excavated to a depth of about 350 feet. This would have allowed the plain to remain an unflooded plain and still facilitate ship access between channels, but it seems highly doubtful that these sand-filled contours were excavated to such an extent and based on the natural occurrence of sand-filled contours on other hills nearby, it is almost certain that naturally formed and intact solid bedrock lie just feet below the surface proving no such excavation ever took place.
|This image of Pampa Aullagas includes cutaway views of the proposed partial rings of water from the previous view. Note the required depth of each ring to reach a water level that would allow 'triremes' to move between each 'ring' as was claimed and at the same time leave the plain unflooded. Other hills in the vicinity exhibiting identical geomorphology where erosion and ancient flooding has formed sand beds in shallow recesses suggest that it is more likely that solid bedrock lies just below the surface of the site's proposed bands.|
All said, aside from being a rectangular plain surrounded by mountains, the Altiplano shares very little in common with the Atlantis plain. The isolated location of the plain and the unexpected introduction of a mountain lake as a third sea also creates a disjointed and confusing narrative, as the account restricts its detail of the Atlantean combatants to the 240,000 mountain men from the plain who apparently sailed about Poopó Lake in large 200-man warships, yet provides no explanation as to how these mountain men and their ships had access to the Atlantic or had acquired a mastery of the open seas.
|"Of the combatants on
the one side, the city of Athens was reported to have been
the leader and to have fought out the war; the combatants on
the other side were commanded by the kings of Atlantis...Let
us give the precedence to Athens." - Critias 108e-109a
"And next, if I have not forgotten what I heard when I was a child, I will impart to you the character and origin of their adversaries." - Critias 112e
|"I will now describe the plain...As to the population, each of the lots in the plain had to find a leader for the men who were fit for military service, and the size of a lot was a square of ten stadia each way, and the total number of all the lots was sixty thousand. The leader was required to furnish for the war...four sailors to make up the complement of twelve hundred ships. Such was the military order of the royal city-the order of the other nine governments varied, and it would be wearisome to recount their several differences." - Critias 118c-120d|
Based on the figures above the 1,200 naval ships or triremes were manned by 200-man crews all sourced from the inhabitants of the plain. Also keep in mind that not only were the triremes said to have access to the city from a channel to the sea with many triremes filling the inner harbors, but the account also states that a multitude of merchant ships arriving from other regions filled the outer harbor.
|"The largest of the harbours were full of vessels and merchants coming from all parts." - Critias 117e|
All signs point to an ancient maritime empire with its capital city near the "true sea" and not a large naval contingency wielding power over the inhabitants of the Mediterranean from their high perch on an isolated lake in the Andes.
This evaluation should demonstrate the extreme difficulty of identifying and associating a real-world plain with the Atlantis plain. It is not so surprising given the extensive set of restrictive parameters provided by Plato's account, comprising a complex matrix of geographic features with relative alignments to each other, alignments to cardinal directions, and finally dimensions of size and distance which are the most critical and extremely limiting qualifiers.
On the upside, due to the presence of such intricate detailing, the account's description should prove every bit as effective as using a physical map in locating and identifying the ancient plain and the long-sought continent of Atlantis. It is for all intents and purposes a treasure map in written form.
III. Atlantis In Plain SiteWhen I first began analyzing Plato's detailed layout of the rectangular plain, the surrounding mountains were clearly significant, but I realized that they did not necessarily define the shape of the plain. The plain was defined by a navigable waterway and I felt that in the search for Atlantis, this was the far more significant feature deserving of focus.
While most people are aware of Atlantis' portrayal as a maritime power with an economy based in sea trade, many may be unaware of its purportedly robust river-based trade.
|"The island itself provided most of what was required by them for the uses of life. In the first place, they dug out of the earth whatever was to be found there, solid as well as fusile, and that which is now only a name and was then something more than a name, orichalcum, was dug out of the earth in many parts of the island, being more precious in those days than anything except gold. There was an abundance of wood for carpenter's work, and sufficient maintenance for tame and wild animals." - Critias 1184e|
Like many other ancient cultures, highly navigable waterways facilitated efficient transportation of the region's wide range of domestic goods. The mountain's supply of wood and precious metals and the plain's harvests were transported down around the plain's perimeter, eventually arriving at the capital city near where the surrounding waters converged and emptied into the sea.
|"I will now describe the plain, as it was fashioned by nature and by the labours of many generations of kings through long ages. It was for the most part rectangular and oblong, and where falling out of the straight line followed the circular ditch. The depth, and width, and length of this ditch were incredible, and gave the impression that a work of such extent, in addition to so many others, could never have been artificial. Nevertheless I must say what I was told. It was excavated to the depth of a hundred, feet, and its breadth was a stadium everywhere; it was carried round the whole of the plain, and was ten thousand stadia in length. It received the streams which came down from the mountains, and winding round the plain and meeting at the city, was there let off into the sea. Further inland, likewise, straight canals of a hundred feet in width were cut from it through the plain, and again let off into the ditch leading to the sea: these canals were at intervals of a hundred stadia, and by them they brought down the wood from the mountains to the city, and conveyed the fruits of the earth in ships, cutting transverse passages from one canal into another, and to the city." - Critias 118c-118e|
Of course, maintaining a fully navigable waterway of this purported size would have required a great deal of runoff from the surrounding mountains. The account's description of a plain with a multitude of channels cut through and around it to facilitate both irrigation and navigation suggests that Atlantis was a completely self-sustaining riverine culture rivaling the likes of other ancient cultures like the Babylonians and Assyrians on the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers and the ancient Egyptian, Chinese and Indian cultures based on the Nile, Yellow and Indus rivers respectively. Logically, if all these great ancient waterways still flow and remain navigable we should expect that the extensive waterway of the Atlantis plain should still exist in some form today as well. In the image below, you can get a sense of how large the Atlantis plain and its rectangular waterway were in comparison with the Mesopotamian plain lying between the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers.
It is possible that the waterway may have been altered over thousands of years, but it is highly doubtful that the waters completely dried up and stopped flowing from the surrounding mountains. In fact, based on the purported scale of the surrounding mountains as the source of these waters, mountains which according to the account were "celebrated for their number and size and beauty, far beyond any which still exist," one would expect meltwater to flow out from these mountains in similar abundance as in the past.
|A 2,000 by 3.000 stade rectangle representing the Atlantean plain, scaled and overlaid onto an image of Mesopotamia. The Atlantean plain with a border defined by a navigable waterway and a multitude of irrigation channels cut through it, would have rivaled other ancient riverine civilizations of the past whose waterways still exist and are in full use today. Logically, if these other great waterways still exist we should expect that the Atlantis waterway should still exist in some form today as well.|
So this is where I began my search, looking throughout the globe for a large waterway that hopefully still retained its rectangular form and in searching throughout the globe, it quickly became apparent that there was only one such plain in existence and it happened to be very close to the size specified for the Atlantis plain. The plain lies in Argentina and is defined by two surrounding rivers, the Paraná and Uruguay, and like its namesake in the Middle East has had appropriately bestowed upon it the name Mesopotamia, as the name means, "land between rivers."
|The Mesopotamian plain located in northern Argentina is the world’s largest rectangular plain that is defined by waterways in accordance with Solon’s description.|
The Atlantis plain was said to measure 10,000 stades (1,150 miles) around its rectangular perimeter. How well does this plain match up? The Paraná and Uruguay Rivers drop out from the Brazilian Highlands in the north, landing some distance apart where they flow onto Argentina's northern plain. The foothills between them effectively seal off and define a 70-mile portion of the plain's northern border (see image below). From this point the Uruguay River flows 410-miles southward forming the eastern edge of the plain before eventually converging with the Paraná River in the south. Where the Paraná River drops onto the plain in the north, it immediately veers westward roughly 150-miles, forming the remainder of the northern border then drops 420-miles southward forming the plain's western border. The Paraná finally veers to the southeast 150-miles to meet up with the Uruguay River fully enclosing the plain at its southern end and defining the Mesopotamian plain's rectangular perimeter. All these measurements combine to form a 1,200-mile perimeter, placing the Mesopotamian plain within a mere 50-miles of matching the plain of Atlantis.
|Topographic map of the Mesopotamian plain with the inclusion of measurements in miles, which total up to a 1,200 mile (10,455 stadia) perimeter, only 50 miles (455 stadia) off from Plato's perimetric measurement. Note that all four sides of the rectangular plain are defined by waterways, with only a small 70-mile portion in the north defined by foothills. There are no other rectangular plains in the world larger and there are none at even half its size, which are similarly defined by waterways on all four sides, which makes it all the more intriguing that Plato would just happen to ascribe the correct measurement for the only such plain in existence.|
Perhaps Plato was just the beneficiary of extraordinarily good luck to land an estimate within 50 miles of the only plain that even remotely matches the size and description of the Atlantis plain. For a certainty there are absolutely no other plains on the planet defined on all four sides by waterways that are larger and none even approaching half its size, but as was demonstrated in the previous section with the Altiplano, Plato included complex restrictive details in his description of the plain which could quickly bring an end to Plato's short run of luck. And with only one plain in the world conforming to the size of the Atlantis plain, the odds of further conformity should not be all that good for a place that many claim to be pure fiction.
Incredibly, the Mesopotamian plain's level of conformity extends well beyond size and shape. In the image below, a topographic map of the region reveals that its entire layout conforms perfectly to the Atlantis plain. The plain accurately receives the waters that flow down from the mountains which enclose it all around, and after the waters flow around the perimeter of the rectangular plain they converge and empty out into the sea.
|"[The ditch] was carried round the whole of the plain, and was ten thousand stadia in length. It received the streams which came down from the mountains, and winding round the plain and meeting at the city, was there let off into the sea." - Critias 118c,d|
More specifically, as can also be seen very clearly in the image below, not only does the entire mountain bound region—which includes Mesopotamia and the plains surrounding it—open up or look toward the south, but also it correctly looks toward the sea in the south just as Plato described.
|"The country immediately about and surrounding the city was a level plain, itself surrounded by mountains which descended towards the sea. This part of the island looked towards the south, and was sheltered from the north." - Critias 118a,b|
|"Looking towards the sea, but in the centre of the whole island, there was a plain which is said to have been the fairest of all plains and very fertile." - Critias 113c|
|Perhaps the most compelling proof of Atlantis' existence, this topographic map illustrates how perfectly the Mesopotamian plain matches up to the Atlantis plain. The 10,000-stade rectangular plain defined by the Paraná and Uruguay Rivers not only meets size criteria, the plain’s perimeter is formed by tributaries originating from the surrounding mountains in the north, west and east. The entire mountain-bound region accurately faces and is open toward the sea in the south where, as the account states, both waterways converge before emptying into the sea. Too perfect? Well for a certainty there is no other site on the planet that approaches this level of conformance and yet it does not end here.|
As impressive as this may be, dimensions are a far better means of providing precise verification of conformance and in this regard, the Mesopotamian plain is the plain that just keeps on giving. The convergence of the Paraná and Uruguay rivers marks the Mesopotamian plain's nearest approach to the sea and as detailed in the previous section, Plato places a highly restrictive measurement for the maximum distance between the plain and the sea at 14.5 miles. This is an extremely strict qualifier that could easily discredit this or any other potential site. For instance similar to the Argentine plain, Iraq's Mesopotamian plain comes nearest the sea where the outlying waterways, the Tigris and Euphrates, converge, but the distance between plain and sea is 100 miles. On the other extreme, both outlying rivers could empty into the sea separately without ever converging.
So adding significantly to the evidence pool, we find the convergence of the two surrounding waterways lying at a distance ranging between 8 to 12 miles from the sea, well within the account's specified 14.5-mile range.
|The original Mesopotamian plain in Iraq (left) lies over 100 miles inland, coming nearest the sea where the two outlying rivers converge. This places it well outside Solon’s 14.5-mile qualifier, easily negating it as a possible site for the Atlantis plain. Argentina's Mesopotamia (right) however lies within 12 miles of the sea, like its namesake, being closest to the sea where its outlying rivers converge. This places South America’s Mesopotamia within the range of Solon’s 14.5-mile qualifier.|
The incredible odds of a real-world plain reaching this level of conformity with Atlantis are staggering, to say the least. Yet not all is perfect with this proposed site of the Atlantis plain. All sites have had to make some concessions and this one is no different, but I believe the few discrepancies that remain can be resolved reasonably within the context of Plato's dialogues.
IV. Concessions Of An Atlantis Theorist1. Proportion
The first discrepancy to be addressed is the Mesopotamian plain's proportion. At first glance, the plain appears to be aligned accurately with its length running parallel to the coast and its shorter width extending inland from the coast.
|"The country immediately about and surrounding the city was a level plain, itself surrounded by mountains which descended towards the sea; it was smooth and even, and of an oblong shape, extending in one direction three thousand stadia, but across the centre inland it was two thousand stadia." - Critias 118a|
But even though the perimeter is of the correct length and the alignment true, there is a proportional disparity between the Mesopotamian plain, which would be more accurately estimated at a rounded 4,000 by 1,000 stades, and the Atlantis plain's specified 3,000 by 2,000 stade proportion.
|Argentina's Mesopotamian plain with a scaled overlay of the Atlantis plain. While both have perimeters complying with the 10,000-stade specification, there is clearly disparity in proportion, but there is also evidence that the introduction of dimensions for width and length may have been an estimate added into the account at a later time.|
This discrepancy in length and width is far simpler to overcome than it would initially appear. There is a very strong possibility that the original source may have only provided an estimated measurement for the perimeter of the rectangular plain and described its alignment parallel with the coast while a later source introduced measurements of width and length. If an individual felt it necessary to introduce these dimensions, given the overall measurement of the rectangle at 10,000 stades—a measurement clearly rounded to the nearest thousand—he would have likely chosen width and length from the two available options of similarly rounded numbers: 2,000 by 3,000 or 1,000 by 4,000. In this particular instance favoring a measurement of 2,000 by 3,000.
As noted earlier, the Atlantis account was originally conveyed from an Egyptian priest to Solon. That Solon took some liberties with the original account, Critias states very clearly:
|"Before proceeding further in the narrative, I ought to warn you, that you must not be surprised if you should perhaps hear Hellenic names given to foreigners. I will tell you the reason of this: Solon, who was intending to use the tale for his poem, enquired into the meaning of the names, and found that the early Egyptians in writing them down had translated them into their own language, and he recovered the meaning of the several names and when copying them out again translated them into our language. My great-grandfather, Dropides, had the original writing, which is still in my possession, and was carefully studied by me when I was a child. Therefore if you hear names such as are used in this country, you must not be surprised, for I have told how they came to be introduced." - Critias 113a,b|
Hence we find that Solon was tailoring his retelling of the Egyptian account to an Athenian audience by replacing Egyptian names with Greek names. Yet names of foreigners were not the only Hellenized aspects of the account. Solon also introduced the trireme, a Greek warship, into the narrative, even stocking it with the standard Greek 200-man crew.
|"The docks were full of triremes and naval stores, and all things were quite ready for use." - Critias 117d|
|"Each of the lots in the plain had to find a leader for the men who were fit for military service, and the size of a lot was a square of ten stadia each way, and the total number of all the lots was sixty thousand. And of the inhabitants of the mountains and of the rest of the country there was also a vast multitude, which was distributed among the lots and had leaders assigned to them according to their districts and villages. The leader was required to furnish for the war the sixth portion of a war-chariot, so as to make up a total of ten thousand chariots; also two horses and riders for them, and a pair of chariot-horses without a seat, accompanied by a horseman who could fight on foot carrying a small shield, and having a charioteer who stood behind the man-at-arms to guide the two horses; also, he was bound to furnish two heavy armed soldiers, two slingers, three stone-shooters and three javelin-men, who were light-armed, and four sailors to make up the complement of twelve hundred ships. Such was the military order of the royal city." - Critias 118e-120d|
This passage has a few significant elements suggesting it was introduced by Solon as a means of conveying to his Greek audience the power and size of the Atlantean combatant in familiar Greek terms, and it relied entirely on establishing the area—width times length—of the plain; the plain's perimeter alone would not have sufficed. By assuming a 2,000 by 3,000 dimension for the plain Solon is able to define the existence of 60,000 lots of 10 square stades versus 40,000 lots should the plain have measured 4,000 by 1,000. Then with each lot providing 4 sailors he conveniently stocks 1,200 Greek triremes with standard Greek crews of 200 men. (60,000 lots x 4 sailors ÷ 1,200 triremes = 200-man crews)
Of course it is doubtful that the Atlanteans used triremes and perhaps too much to assume that the ships they did use would be similarly crewed. Triremes were most likely not in use at the time and if they had been they would have required a design much different from the Greek version. Triremes were designed with three banks of oars on each side that when properly manned and operated made the vessels extremely swift and maneuverable in battle, but Greek triremes were typically operated on fairly calm seas and near the coast. The reason for this is that the lowest set of oar holes could lie within 18 inches of the waterline when fully crewed, making them highly susceptible to sinking should rough seas wash through the oar holes and fill the ship's hull.
|Cross-section of the ancient Greek warship known as the trireme. The trireme was propelled by three banks of oars on each side of the ship which made it both fast and agile. This design would have made it impractical for transatlantic voyages as the lowest bank of oars sat within 18 inches of the waterline rendering it susceptible to sinking in rough waters.|
Further giving this the appearance of a personal attempt by Solon to estimate the potential size of the Atlantean force is the fact that he estimates the number of combatants based on all 60,000 lots being populated and all lots being of the same large proportion. While it is possible that all the lots just happened to be of the same large size and fully populated at the time of the conflict, based on the appearance of convenience, it seems more feasible that Solon populated all the lots himself and set the larger size of the lots to effect an imposing estimate of the Atlantean force.
So from all appearances there is ample evidence that Solon may have been compelled to insert an inaccurate approximation of the plain's length and width into the account in order to formulate a size for the Atlantean forces, thus enhancing his epic tale.
2. Artificial Versus Natural
The second discrepancy in the plain appears to be in the naturally formed rivers lining its perimeter, a perimeter which was said to be an artificial manmade ditch.
|"I will now describe the plain, as it was fashioned by nature and by the labours of many generations of kings through long ages. It was for the most part rectangular and oblong, and where falling out of the straight line followed the circular ditch. The depth, and width, and length of this ditch were incredible, and gave the impression that a work of such extent, in addition to so many others, could never have been artificial. Nevertheless I must say what I was told. It was excavated to the depth of a hundred, feet, and its breadth was a stadium everywhere; it was carried round the whole of the plain, and was ten thousand stadia in length." - Critias 118c,d|
It is important to point out that the account never states that the plain was not originally defined by natural waterways. If someone were to make the accurate assessment that the Mesopotamian plain in the Middle East is walled in by mountains to the east, it is understandable that someone unfamiliar with the plain might assume that the plain's eastern border is defined by mountains although the plain sits away from the mountains and is actually defined by the Tigris River in the east.
I believe this to be the same incorrect assumption being made by the individual adding commentary here, he seems to be assuming that the surrounding mountains form the plain's rectangular shape. He does state that the plain "was fashioned by nature" or was naturally rectangular in shape. Bury's translation reinforces the idea that the plain was from the beginning a naturally formed rectangle for the most part, but a ditch was dug to correct its shape.
|"It was originally a quadrangle, rectilinear for the most part, and elongated; and what it lacked of this shape they made right by means of a trench dug round about it." - Critias 118c,d; Bury translation.|
As was pointed out earlier there had to be a natural waterway already existing on the Atlantean plain in order to provide a constant supply of water to the ditch. If the Atlantis plain were similar to Argentina's Mesopotamian plain, 'naturally rectangular' by way of bordering waterways, then it is far more likely that the actual excavation taking place to correct the rectangle where "it lacked of this shape," refers to closing the only natural opening in the rectangular waterway. This would have entailed digging a ditch roughly 70 miles in length to connect the Paraná and Uruguay Rivers in the north. So the herculean task of excavating a 10,000-stade channel completely around the plain can suddenly be put aside for a more reasonably sized and extraordinarily practical endeavor.
|Possible location of the ditch or canal which corrected the flaw in the naturally rectangular-shaped plain, by closing off the plain's one opening so that water completely encircled the plain. "What [the plain] lacked of this shape they made right by means of a trench dug round about it."|
What makes this an exceedingly credible undertaking is that there is precedence in other ancient riverine cultures having excavated canals of similar length for the purpose of improving irrigation and creating shorter more efficient routes between two separate waterways. In the Middle East, Mesopotamia's southern plain was effectively fully encircled by digging a ditch roughly 40 miles in length between the Euphrates and Tigris River. Known as Nahar Malcha or Royal Canal, Herodotus claimed it was of adequate width and depth to allow navigation by merchant ships.
Pliny the Elder writes about similar attempts to connect the Nile to the Red Sea going as far back as the 19th century BC.
|"Next comes the Tyro tribe and, on the Red Sea, the harbour of the Daneoi, from which Sesostris, king of Egypt, intended to carry a ship-canal to where the Nile flows into what is known as the Delta; this is a distance of over 60 miles. Later the Persian king Darius had the same idea, and yet again Ptolemy II, who made a trench 100 feet wide, 30 feet deep and about 35 miles long, as far as the Bitter Lakes." - Natural History, Pliny the Elder VI.33.165|
There is another clue that this was indeed the original idea conveyed. The reference to 'circle' and 'round' in the two translations. Jowett appears to be struggling with his assumption that the excavators were straightening the lines of the entire plain and renders a somewhat confusing translation: "Where falling out of the straight line followed the circular ditch." Whereas Bury appears to be more closely grasping the intent of the passage: "What it lacked of this shape they made right by means of a trench dug round about it."
The Greek word being translated is 'kukló' and means circle, round about, or encircle and this allows for the more refined translation, "Where the plain lacked its rectangular shape they corrected it by digging a ditch to fully encircle it." This ditch would have been a highly useful canal which aided in irrigation, but also, if navigable, it would have provided a more efficient alternative to overland transport in the northern region.
3. Atlantis An Island
Some may have noticed my use of the word continent to define Atlantis. The reason for this is fairly obvious, Atlantis earns that title by being an island the size of two continents.
|"Atlantis, which, as was saying, was an island greater in extent than Libya and Asia." - Critias 108e|
Yet, as is the case in the preceding quote, Atlantis is clearly called an island making it an island continent. So how could South America have been Atlantis when it does not classify as an island, at least by our modern definition of the term. Of course this is what makes this discrepancy rather easy to resolve, there is existing proof ancient Greece would have referred to South America as an island.
In this instance the Greek word used for island is 'nesos', and in virtually every instance it does indeed denote the same familiar meaning, a body of land completely surrounded by water, but there is an instance where the term is applied to a landform exhibiting a very slight variance. Peloponnesos, also referred to as Peloponnese or Peloponnesus, is a large peninsula extending from the southern end of Greece. While today we classify Peloponnesos a peninsula because it is a small landmass extending out from a larger landmass, the Greeks were apparently comfortable referring to it as an island. The name Peloponnesos, which contains the root 'nesos', translates "Island of Pelops," acknowledging the peninsula's conquest by the mythical Greek hero Pelops while also acknowledging that ancient Greece did indeed refer to at least one peninsula as a 'nesos' or island.
This usage suggests that 'nesos' may have had a slightly broader meaning describing any landmass surrounded by water on all four sides. Unlike typical peninsulas, which extend out from a larger landmass with water washing up on just three shores, Peloponnesos is bound by water on all sides but tethered by a narrow strip of land to the Greek mainland.
|Peloponnesos, which contains the root ‘nesos’ and translates “Island of Pelops,” confirms that the Greek term ‘nesos’ denotes a landmass surrounded by water on all sides, even if tethered to a larger landmass by an isthmus.|
South America shares this same geographic structure. The continent is almost entirely encircled by water, but like Peloponnesos is similarly tethered to a larger landmass by a long narrow isthmus. So the term 'nesos' may have been applied to South America in the same sense.
Another very good possibility is that someone, perhaps Solon, may have incorrectly inferred that Atlantis was an island. The account describes two continents, Atlantis and another large continent which was accessible by a path of islands. This would be a very good description of South America with the Caribbean Islands forming a very distinct path to the North American continent on the opposite end.
|"The island was larger than Libya and Asia put together, and was the way to other islands, and from these you might pass to the whole of the opposite continent." - Timaeus 24e|
While the original story may have been simply pointing out the islands' significance as an important, unique route between continents, it would have been very easy for someone to misconstrue the inclusion of this sea route between continents as the only route, hence Atlantis must be a separate island continent. In reality, the slow, tedious overland route up the Isthmus of Panama would likely have been omitted only because it held little importance for a maritime civilization.
|The Atlantis ‘nesos’. Like Peloponnesos, South America is tethered to a continent by a narrow isthmus, in this case the Isthmus of Panama. Also like Plato’s Atlantis, a path of islands—the Caribbean Islands—lead to a continent on the opposite end, North America. The Caribbean Islands would have proved a very efficient route to North America for a maritime people dwelling in the vicinity of Rio de la Plata.|
Like the other possible reinterpretations and alterations covered in this section, changes appear to have occurred as the account was passed down over generations. The account refers to these multiple retellings and Critias' effort to recount the story told him in his youth. It has all the makings of an ancient game of Chinese whispers.
|"Then listen, Socrates,
to a tale which, though strange, is certainly true, having
been attested by Solon, who was the wisest of the seven
sages. He was a relative and a dear friend of my
great-grandfather, Dropides, as he himself says in many
passages of his poems; and he told the story to Critias, my
grandfather, who remembered and repeated it to us." - Timaeus
"If I (Critias) can recollect and recite enough of what was said by the (Egyptian) priests and brought hither by Solon." - Critias 108d
"I did not like to speak at the moment. For a long time had elapsed, and I had forgotten too much." - Timaeus 26a
Critias: "This I infer because Solon said..." - Critias 110a
Perhaps one of the most intriguing examples of a modification occurring sometime after the tale was transmitted to Solon and before Plato put it in writing pertains to what is likely the most conspicuous of discrepancies in this theory. Unlike Atlantis, South America still sits above the sea...
V. Sinking Atlantis1. Solon Sinks A Continent
|Atlantis, which, as was saying, was an island greater in extent than Libya and Asia, and when afterwards sunk by an earthquake, became an impassable barrier of mud to voyagers sailing from hence to any part of the ocean." - Critias 108e|
Although in Plato's account Solon informs us that Atlantis, an island continent greater in size than Asia and Libya combined, sank beneath the sea in the span of a day, a key discovery detailed in this section exposes the circumstances influencing this clearly false assumption while also demonstrating the legitimacy of an unsubmerged South America as the possible site of Atlantis.
It all came to light when I discerned the historical context of Solon’s comparison of the Mediterranean Sea with the ‘true ocean’ and the sudden introduction of a new and mysterious 'boundless' continent. Following is the relevant passage from Timaeus with my interpretation of the described landforms inserted in brackets:
|The island [Atlantis/South America] was larger than Libya and Asia put together, and was the way to other islands [the Caribbean Islands], and from these you might pass to the whole of the opposite continent [North America] which surrounded the true ocean; this sea which is within the Straits of Heracles is only a harbour, having a narrow entrance, but that other is a real sea, and the surrounding land may be most truly called a boundless continent. In this island of Atlantis there was a great and wonderful empire which had rule over the whole island [Atlantis/South America] and several others [the Caribbean Islands], and over parts of the continent [North America]." - Timaeus 24e-25a|
If you look at other Atlantis theories that actually attempt to address this passage, you will find most abandon historical context and reconcile the ‘true ocean’ and the surrounding continent to our current worldview. Rand and Rose Flem-Ath attempt to validate their popular Antarctica theory by suggesting that Solon was describing the oceans surrounding Antarctica with all other continents combined composing the opposite continent which in turn encircled this ‘true ocean’.
|US Navy's specialized polar projection submitted by Rand and Rose Flem-Ath as proof that the world's continents can be distorted to approach the appearance of a continent surrounding the world's oceans.|
Unfortunately, there are still many large openings in this 'surrounding continent' and to believe that an ancient civilization just happened to share a similarly distorted view of the world is a huge stretch. The above map is a unique modern projection that is extremely complex and exemplifies the capabilities of highly sophisticated mathematics applied to mapmaking. If we were seriously looking for a map projection that distorted the world enough so that a continent appeared to be surrounding a large ‘true sea’, we need to look no further than an arctic polar projection map as in the image below. This creates a much more appealing concept of a 'surrounding continent' by distorting and exaggerating the size of the Antarctic continent and wrapping it around a truly enormous world ocean. Yet like the Flem-Aths' projection, the distortion may give the appearance of an enclosed sea, but aside from complex projection maps, no reasonable person would ever describe the actual continent of Antarctica as encircling the world's oceans and all other landforms.
|A simple polar projection centered over the North Pole which gives the appearance that Antarctica surrounds the world's oceans. Yet like the Flem-Aths' projection, the distortion may give the appearance of an enclosed sea, but aside from complex projection maps, no reasonable person would ever describe the actual continent of Antarctica as encircling the world's oceans and all other landforms.|
Jim Allen, who like me, maintains that South America is Atlantis, albeit with the capital city located high in the Andes Mountains, reckons that the ‘true ocean’ was the Pacific Ocean, while Eurasia represents the opposite continent which could be reached via the many islands of the Pacific. It seems odd however that Solon's account would include a description of Eurasia which lies exceedingly far from South America, but somehow omit all references to a much closer continent like North America which is just next door and actually attached to 'Atlantis'.
|Jim Allen's interpretation of South America as Atlantis with the many islands of the Pacific highlighted to demonstrate a path to Eurasia which Allen considers to be the continent surrounding the 'true ocean'.|
Of course, each of these theories requires us to make unlikely assumptions, that 1) Solon was directly conveying a description provided by an ancient people extraordinarily well-traveled having a similar worldview to our own, and 2) Somehow any of these landforms can be perceived as being a single unbroken, ‘boundless’ continent that entirely surrounds a large ocean of water.
It becomes clear that these two interpretations of Solon's 'boundless continent' are actually a bit over thought and contrived when you place Solon's description within the context of his era. Having a familiarity with ancient Greek maps, I came to realize that Solon was providing a slightly skewed description of the ancient Greek worldview.
Greek maps comprised two large bodies of water as seen in the two maps below:
|1) The Mediterranean
Sea which is encircled by the three continents of
Europe, Libya, and Asia, and
2) The much larger 'true ocean', Oceanus, surrounding the three continents.
The only link between these two seas was a small entrance into the Mediterranean known then as the Pillars of Hercules and known today as the Strait of Gibraltar.
|Reconstructions of Homer's (left) and Hecataeus’ (right) world maps, which demonstrate the ancient Greek worldview of two major bodies of water, the Mediterranean Sea and Oceanus separated only by the Pillars of Hercules, or the Strait of Gibraltar as we know it today.|
The skewed portion of Solon's description was the inclusion of a continent which was unbroken or ‘boundless’ completely surrounding Oceanus. Solon’s comparison of the two known bodies of water makes it clear that the Mediterranean Sea “within the Straits of Heracles is only a harbour, having a narrow entrance, but that other is a real sea,” apparently not a harbor with any such opening or entrance and no large bodies of water beyond it, therefore “the surrounding land may be most truly called a boundless continent.”
As it turns out a contemporary of Solon’s, Anaximander, theorized that the world was cylindrical in nature and Europe, Libya and Asia sat atop one of its flat surfaces surrounded by Oceanus which in turn was likely contained by the outer lip of the cylinder, a “boundless” unbroken ring of land. Prior to Anaximander, Homer, whom Anaximander was certainly familiar with, suggests a similar construct when making several references to the existence of a land lying on the other side of Oceanus. He believed Hades, the land of the dead, could be reached via this distant land.
|But when in thy ship thou hast now crossed the stream of Oceanus, where is a level shore and the groves of Persephone—tall poplars, and willows that shed their fruit—there do thou beach thy ship by the deep eddying Oceanus, but go thyself to the dank house of Hades. - Homer, Odyssey 10.508|
Solon is clearly building on Homer’s concept of a land beyond Oceanus by stating that this far-off land extended completely around Oceanus. Since there are no continents surrounding an ocean in the real world and the only historical descriptions of such a landform lie in a worldview existing in Solon’s time and an account of Atlantis also from Solon’s time, simple logic dictates that these two boundless continents surrounding a large “true ocean” were one and the same.
|Anaximander's concept of the world as a cylinder. A view which Solon apparently adopted.|
So it is almost certain that Solon was reconciling the Egyptian account of two large continents in the waters beyond the Mediterranean Sea to his limited worldview depicted in the image above. The problem with this limited view was that the Greeks believed Oceanus was an enormous river forming a continuous stream around the known world with only a few small islands scattered about, but there were no continental landmasses breaching its surface and impeding its flow.
Solon could associate the Egyptian's inclusion of an opposite continent (North America) to the outer ring of land surrounding Oceanus, as this would have been the only other continent-sized landmass known to be raised above the sea besides Europe, Libya, and Asia—this mistaken association explaining the altered description of North America—but how could he reconcile the existence of a second continent, Atlantis?
The Egyptians described the capital city as an island and they also related “in a single day and night” an island “disappeared in the depths of the sea.” I believe that the island that actually sank was the capital city and Solon, unwilling to accept the existence of a continental landmass in the midst of Oceanus, was finally forced to reconcile the Egyptian account of the sinking small island capital to the entire island continent of Atlantis. By interpreting the Egyptian account in this way, Solon would be able to maintain the Greek worldview of an unimpeded ‘ocean stream’ that now flowed over a submerged Atlantis as in the image above.
Providing full plausibility to this theory are similar adjustments made in modern times as in the case of Santorini in the Mediterranean Sea. Unable to accept either the sinking of a continent or the existence of a highly advanced maritime culture existing far beyond the Mediterranean, modern-day researchers have applied similar grand-scale alterations to Atlantis, raising it up from the depths of the Atlantic and relocating it within the Mediterranean while reducing it from the size of a continent to the size of a minuscule island all in an effort, similar to that of Solon's, to reconcile the possible reality of an ancient foreign account within the limits of one's current worldview.
2. A City Sinks
Lending support to the view that the sinking applied to the capital city and not the entire continent is the very real possibility that the city was built on a delta. Suddenly the destruction described is far better realized.
|"There occurred violent earthquakes and floods; in a single day and night of misfortune all your warlike men in a body sank into the earth, and the island of Atlantis in like manner disappeared in the depths of the sea. For which reason the sea in those parts is impassable and impenetrable, there is a shoal of mud in the way; and this was caused by the subsidence of the island." - Timaeus 25c,d|
Were a series of 'violent earthquakes' to have occurred as Solon relates, the impact on a river delta would have been tremendously catastrophic with results matching very closely Solon's description. During an earthquake, a phenomenon known as liquefaction can occur destabilizing the ground and transforming the soil into a liquid consistency.
The silt and sand composition within a delta would have rendered the capital city and surrounding area highly susceptible to liquefaction and may explain why the "warlike men" were said to have "sank into the earth" as opposed to having sunk into the sea. The agitated soil would have also transformed the delta's many distributaries and the channel leading toward the city into mudflows. Mud obstructions that would have left "an impassable barrier of mud to voyagers." One only has to look so far as the slowly sinking delta city of New Orleans and imagine the impact a strong quake would have on such a site. The resulting cataclysm would likely replicate the destruction recounted in Plato’s dialogues with a massive city sinking into the earth and disappearing beneath the sea in a single day and night, never to rise again.
The determination of the capital city's location in a delta begins where Solon tells us that the surrounding waterway "winding round the plain and meeting at the city, was there let off into the sea." We know that the waters did not meet 'precisely' at the city, because Solon held that the city was located 50 stadia (5.7 miles) from the plain, and locating the city immediately at the point of convergence would place the city squarely on the plain's border. Perhaps acknowledging and reconciling the passage within this context, R.G. Bury offers the following alternate translation:
|"It received the streams which came down from the mountains and after circling round the plain, and coming towards the city on this side and on that, it discharged them thereabouts into the sea." - Critias 118d; translation by R.G. Bury|
We established that the city was the same distance from the plain as it was from the sea. This would center the city 7.25 miles—(5.7 miles from plain to city + 3.1-mile diameter of the city + 5.7 miles from the city to the sea) ÷ 2—between the plain and the sea. In the image below, an array of lines 14.5-miles in length representing channels extending between various points along the plain and the sea allow for multiple locations of the island city along an arc designated ABC in the image below. The most extreme placements of the channel place the central city along Rio Gutierrez, a more northern offshoot of the Paraná River, at point A, and atop the confluence of the Rio Gutierrez and Uruguay Rivers at point C. Extending the channel between the Rio Gutierrez and the confluence so that the center point is equidistant from both waterways, finds center point B lying atop an intriguing and unique formation.
|Lines A, B, and C represent 14.5-mile channels extending between the plain and the sea with a center point at 7.25 miles representing the center point of the island city. Lines A and C represent extreme channel placements where the island city would lie closest to the Rio Gutierrez and the confluence of the Rio Gutierrez and Uruguay rivers. Line B aligns the channel so that the center point is equidistant from the Mesopotamian plain and the sea. Multiple other channel placements would find the city's center located between these three points along or near arc ABC. Equidistant point B mysteriously sits atop a circular landform while line B itself lies near channels of similar overall length leading from the plain to the sea. Could this be the site of Atlantis’ island city?|
The center point sits atop a very curious circular landform in the Paraná Delta. A small distributary channel breaking off from Rio Gutierrez flows eastward alongside line B before splitting into two waterways creating a river bifurcation. The split waterway flows almost entirely around the circular formation but veers away suddenly toward the sea just before completely enclosing a circular island with the lower waterway running immediately under line B. The resultant landform consequently appears as a three-quarter circle with a triangular extension leading off to the east. Now there are several levels of intrigue here because 1) It is the only landform in the Paraná Delta approaching a circular form, 2) It just happens to fall very closely within the limited range of distances afforded the circular city of Atlantis per Plato's narrative, and 3) And this is perhaps the most amazing aspect to consider, the circular portion of the landform conforms very, very closely to Solon's dimensions for the circular city as seen in the image below.
Solon's combined measurements for the multi-ringed city establishes the overall diameter at 27 stadia, or 3.10 miles. Solon claimed however that this first outermost ring was composed of a 3-stadia wide channel of water giving the next concentric ring of the city, which was land, an overall diameter of 21 stadia, or 2.41 miles diameter for the largest ring of land. Both diameters match up very closely with the circular portion of this Paraná Delta landform. Could this circular formation possibly be the site of the legendary city?
|Satellite image of the circular landform in the Paraná Delta (top). Same image (below) with a 2.50-mile dimension set with Google Earth™ to establish scale. The overlain rings conform to Atlantis’ concentric rings of land and water and have been scaled to the image. While the circular landform does not appear to have any visible demarcations suggesting the existence of inner zones or rings, the outer zone of water conforms fairly closely to the specified 2.41-mile inner and 3.10-mile outer diameters. If this is the site of the city, settling of sediment into the city’s outer channel may have deformed the delta’s surface just enough allowing water to partially retrace the outer channel’s circular shape.|
Solon describes the city as being formed from a circular mountain, in which the god Poseidon excavated three concentric channels of water:
|"There was a mountain not very high on any side Poseidon breaking the ground, enclosed the hill, making alternate zones of sea and land larger and smaller, encircling one another; there were two of land and three of water, which he turned as with a lathe, each having its circumference equidistant every way from the centre."- Critias 113d|
Water does not choose a course entirely at random, rather gravity and terrain are key in determining its path. Thousands of years have passed since the city’s alleged sinking, and had it existed in a delta many layers of silt would have accumulated over the site burying it deep beneath. It is likely that sediment settling deeper into the three ringed channels of water may have formed shallow troughs on the delta’s surface and, if this is indeed the site of the city, it would appear that the outer ring or trough was defined well enough to intercept and redirect the water's course around the sunken city while less settling on the backside may have permitted the water to break out of the outer ring’s contour creating the current formation.
There are some discrepancies involving the distancing of the formation from the plain and the sea. Still, the central circular feature presents a thought-provoking conundrum. Studying the many other deltas throughout the world, which contain hundreds of islands and river bifurcations, none possess landforms nearly as round and none approach this size. Given everything that has been covered thus far with the Mesopotamian plain's proper alignment, size, positioning, and distance from the sea, this definitely establishes the landform as a site of significant interest.
VI. Walling The CityAlthough this circular feature is located almost precisely where the account suggests the city would lie in relation to plain and sea, it is important to keep in mind that there are still other factors at play, such as changes occurring in the region over thousands of years that may have altered waterways. In other words, the delineation between the plain and the delta may be substantially different from what it was in the past which could place the original site for the city miles from the site currently proposed.
One of the questions raised pertaining to this location, is the limited space for locating an outer wall that many believe encircled the city all around at a distance of 5.7 miles (50 stades).
|A bad fit? The capital city of Atlantis laid out on the Paraná Delta with its proposed outermost wall measuring over 45 miles in circumference. The placement of the wall, based on the location of the circular landform, sees it straddling the confluence of the Paraná and Uruguay Rivers in two places.|
As I will go on to demonstrate, this vast outer wall was never described but is a common misconception that actually originates with the English translation of Plato's account where the translators overlooked one small, but significant piece of contextual continuity. Regardless of whether or not Atlantis existed, Critias, the individual providing the original description, would have had a clear vision of what he was attempting to portray, and the following analysis will take a closer look at the text and help convey that original vision.
Here is the passage in dispute:
|"And after crossing the three outer harbors, one found a wall which began at the sea and ran round in a circle, at a uniform distance of fifty stades from the largest circle and harbor, and its ends converged at the seaward mouth of the channel. The whole of this wall had numerous houses built on to it, set close together; while the sea-way and the largest harbor were filled with ships and merchants coming from all quarters, which by reason of their multitude caused clamor and tumult of every description and an unceasing din night and day." - Critias 117d,e; translation by R.G. Bury|
It would appear from this translation that Critias was indeed describing a wall that fully encircled the circular capital city, paralleling its outermost ring at a distance of 50 stades (5.7 miles) with the ends of the wall converging at the sea. With the multi-ringed city having a diameter of 3.10 miles, this would put the wall at 14.5 miles in diameter and over 45 miles in circumference.
|Artist's rendition of the capital city of Atlantis depicting the common belief that beyond the three walls of the multi-ringed capital existed a fourth circular wall lying 50 stades (5.7 miles) beyond the outermost ring. The entrance through this wall can be seen in the lower- left corner.|
Certainly an impressive structure, yet one based on an imagined fourth wall, where clearly the original account defines only three walls.
First of all, let us consider the first portion of the passage:
|"And after crossing the
three outer harbors, one found a wall..." - Critias
It is clear that the translator is suggesting that 'after crossing the three outer harbors, one found a wall' lying 50 stades from the city at the sea, but contextually this is wholly incorrect. After crossing the three outer harbors one actually came to the mouth of the 50-stadium channel within the outer harbor, not at the sea, but more importantly one did indeed come to a wall, a wall lining 'the largest circle and harbor', one of three walls existing in the multi-ringed city. This conforms to an earlier passage where Critias states that the outer harbor or outermost circle was lined with a brass covered wall:
|"And they covered with
brass, as though with plaster, all the circumference of the
wall which surrounded the OUTERMOST CIRCLE." - Critias
Now many have incorrectly assumed that this brass wall surrounded the outermost circle of LAND as depicted in the above image, but without this portion of the account specifically stating whether this circle was associated with 'land' or 'water' we must adhere to contextual consistency and check other references to this 'outermost circle' to make the proper determination. And Critias' only other reference to the 'OUTERMOST CIRCLE' is clearly regarding the outermost circle of WATER or harbor and occurs just a few scant sentences earlier meaning it is highly doubtful that Critias would affix two different meanings to a unique phrase addressed within a single continuous thought:
|"For, beginning at the
sea, they bored a channel right through to the OUTERMOST
CIRCLE, which was three plethra (303 feet) in breadth,
one hundred feet in depth, and fifty stades (5.7 miles) in
length; and thus they made the entrance to it
[obviously the harbor] from the sea like that to a harbor by
opening out a mouth large enough for the greatest ships to
sail through." - Critias 115d; Bury
"And they covered with brass, as though with plaster, all the circumference of the wall which surrounded the OUTERMOST CIRCLE; and that of the inner one they coated with tin; and that which encompassed the acropolis itself with orichalcum which sparkled like fire." - Critias 116b,c; Bury
So this establishes that there was a brass clad wall lining the outermost circle of water, but let us take a quick look at the positioning of the remaining two walls. Critias specifies the location of this outermost brass wall and the location of the orichalcum wall he places on the small central island or acropolis, but he refers to the tin wall as merely 'the inner one'. Benjamin Jowett provides a translation with a slightly more specific location for the tin wall:
|"The entire circuit of
the wall, which went round the outermost zone, they covered
with a coating of brass, and the circuit of the next
wall they coated with tin, and the third, which
encompassed the citadel, flashed with the red light of
orichalcum." - Critias 116b,c; Benjamin Jowett
This would place the tin wall as an inner wall next in a sequence that begins with the brass outer wall and ends at the central orichalcum wall. If the brass wall had surrounded the outermost ringed island as many have wrongly believed and the orichalcum wall surrounded the central island, this would establish a set or pattern of wall-bound islands and therefore 'next' in this sequence would most definitely be discerned as the smaller ringed island. The artist's rendition above again demonstrates this common placement for the tin clad wall on this smaller ring of land.
However, since the brass wall actually surrounded the outermost ring of water and the orichalcum wall surrounded the central island, the sequence is not limited to the placement of walls around islands, but rather all delineations between rings of water and land become part of the sequence. Thus 'next' in the series after the brass wall would be the next delineation between land and water, establishing that the outermost circle of land was bounded by the tin clad wall, which coincides with the narrow channel through this island that restricted passage to a single trireme, demonstrating the secure exclusive nature of the three islands intended for military and royalty while the outer harbor and channel could be fully accessed by civilian merchant ships. The image below therefore represents the definitive positioning of the three walls of Atlantis' capital city.
|This image demonstrates the correct placement of the three walls directly in and around the city complex. The wall of brass surrounded the 'outermost circle' of water, or harbor. The tin wall followed next, lining the outermost circle of land followed by the wall of orichalcum which surrounded the citadel, the central island.|
Based on this corrected layout, here again we find that after crossing the three harbors we come to a wall as was stated by Critias. If the wall being spoken of had been a fourth located at the sea 5.7 miles from the third outer harbor, a fourth wall that never came closer than 5.7 miles from the multi-ringed city and its outermost harbor, instead only coming in contact with a small portion of the channel at its seaward mouth as that misinterpretation maintains, portions of the passage would seem a bit disconnected and unnecessarily added.
|"The whole of this wall had numerous houses built on to it, set close together; while the sea-way and the largest harbor were filled with ships and merchants coming from all quarters, which by reason of their multitude caused clamor and tumult of every description and an unceasing din night and day." - Critias 117e; Bury|
Here we have a description of the constant interaction between the inhabitants of the city dwelling on the wall and the merchant ships that filled both "the sea-way and the largest harbor." Problem is, the only such interaction with the alleged fourth wall would be limited to a very small area at the mouth of the channel near the sea. And in fact, if there were guard towers located on both sides of the entrance into the channel then there would have been virtually no interaction between those that lived on the wall and the merchant ships entering the channel. We would have to assume that an extremely small group of people living on the wall were generating an 'unceasing din night and day' for all the city at all times of the day. It also makes little sense for Critias to mention the merchant ships in the largest harbor since they would not have been visible at all from any point along this vast wall, let alone for those dwelling on the wall to become so ecstatic about their activity 5.7 miles away.
At the bottom of the following image you can see how truly isolated this fourth wall would have been from the ships entering the channel and especially from those ships in the outermost harbor. If you look closely the little white specs in the channel and outer harbor represent ships of about 120 feet in length, a general size for Greek triremes used merely to provide a sense of overall scale.
|Common misconception of a fourth wall lying 5.7 miles from the city complex and completely encircling it. Interaction between those living on this outer wall and the merchant ships filling the canal would have been minimal, limited to the entrance of the channel while there would have been absolutely no interaction with the ships in the city's outer harbor, seemingly conflicting with Plato's account.|
However if the wall being described was indeed the one encircling the outer harbor, one can easily imagine nonstop day and night activity where the people inhabiting space on the wall would be actively involved in trade with merchant ships in the harbor.
But what of the comment that the wall existed a 'distance of fifty stades from the largest circle and harbor'? Since, as we established, Critias is referring to the wall surrounding the outer harbor, it becomes clear that he is describing the full extent of this same wall explaining that it extended out beyond the outer harbor the length of the canal to the sea or as he plainly states, "one found a wall which began at the sea" not a wall located at the sea. (See image below.) And again this fits perfectly with the context, first of all reaffirming that the channel to the sea was 5.7 miles in length and then explaining the interaction in the channel between those who dwelt on the wall with the merchant ships. This leads to my interpretation of the passage which proves contextually more consistent, maintaining focus on the wall's significance by linking interaction with trade ships in both the channel and harbor to the entire length of the wall:
|"And after crossing the
three outer harbors, one found a wall which originated at
the sea a distance of fifty stades from the largest circle
and harbor; It ran round everywhere with its ends converging
at the seaward mouth of the channel.
The whole of this wall had numerous houses built on to it, set close together; while the sea-way and the largest harbor were filled with ships and merchants coming from all quarters, which by reason of their multitude caused clamor and tumult of every description and an unceasing din night and day."
|The true configuration of the three walls of Atlantis conforming to Critias' linking heightened day and night interactivity between inhabitants on the wall and merchant ships in both the outermost harbor and within the 5.7-mile channel. It also clarifies Critias' original vision, "After crossing the three outer harbors, one found a wall which originated at the sea a distance of fifty stades from the largest circle and harbor; It ran round everywhere with its ends converging at the seaward mouth of the channel."|
|A depiction of the walled capital city overlaid onto the circular landform in the Paraná Delta.|
This is indeed the layout of the three and only three walls described by Critias and portrays most accurately the outer wall as he envisioned it. Contextually all the elements align perfectly. He conveys his vision by describing crossing the three harbors, bringing himself and his audience to a wall along the outer harbor in front of the 50-stadium channel. From this vantage point, a separate wall 5.7 miles away would have been too far removed to have even been mentioned. In fact, since the sides of the land rings were said to be higher than the ships in the harbor, most of this remote wall would not have even been visible from this point.
|"Moreover, through the circles of land, which divided those of sea, over against the bridges they opened out a channel leading from circle to circle, large enough to give passage to a single trireme; and this they roofed over above so that the sea-way was subterranean; for the lips of the landcircles were raised a sufficient height above the level of the sea." - Critias 115d,e; Bury|
However with this new interpretation, all mentioned elements are suddenly in play and visible from this one single location. Crossing the outer harbor and sitting in front of the entrance to the channel, Critias' audience could simultaneously perceive being fully surrounded in the harbor by a brass clad wall while also envisioning this great structure extending far down each side of the 5.7-mile channel. From this same vantage point, we are also able to envision the many merchant ships moving about both the harbor and the channel—both likely lined with docks accessible from the wall—and realize the great amount of excitement the ships' presence would generate for the multitude who dwelt on the wall, 'clamor and tumult of every description and an unceasing din night and day'.
Adding substantial credibility and practicality to this proposed layout is the existence of the similarly fashioned Long Walls of Athens depicted in the image below. Like the walls of Atlantis, the Long Walls of Athens encircled the city and extended out forming a long narrow corridor to the sea. The only difference being that Athens' passage was of land while Atlantis' passage was of water. Similar long wall constructions were established throughout Greece as a means of securing access to the sea. In the case of the Long Walls at Athens, the walls secured a 40-stadium (4.5 miles) passage to the port city of Piraeus from where supplies could be safely transported to the city of Athens in times of land siege.
|The Long Walls of Athens as they existed at the time of the Peloponnesian War. Similar to the walls of Atlantis they provided a secure narrow corridor through which the city was able to maintain access to the sea.|
Of course this shared attribute between Atlantis and Athens also introduces an interesting chicken versus the egg debate. If the Atlantis saga is true, could Solon's description of its city walls have influenced the building of the Greek long walls a century later? Or if either Plato or Critias invented a fictitious Atlantis, did they base the design of its capital city on the Long Walls of Athens which existed in their day?
|"There should be absolutely no doubt that if Atlantis did exist at the purported scale detailed in Plato's dialogues, then this is indeed the site of Atlantis. There is without exception no other site proposed or yet to be proposed within the confines of a finite Earth that could ever conform as closely to the combination of large scale and restrictive parameters provided in Plato's account, and the Americas conform in spectacular fashion."|
For those claiming that the Atlantis saga was purely allegorical, the long walls of Atlantis definitely add fuel to that fire. One might reasonably suspect that Plato was building up an ideal society by incorporating improved aspects of his own world. Athens' Long Walls allowed secure overland portage from the sea to the city, so Atlantis finds itself upgraded with a walled channel of water allowing secure access to the inland city by ship. Also, the two main Mediterranean cultures featured in the account are Greece and Egypt, one a maritime culture and the other a riverine culture, and Atlantis just happens to incorporate the best of both cultures.
So there are definitely elements of the story that suggest Plato created a fictional Atlantis, but within the dialogues themselves Timaeus states clearly:
|"Then listen, Socrates, to a tale which, though strange, is certainly true, having been attested by Solon, who was the wisest of the seven sages." - Timaeus 20d,e|
Compare this to another of Plato's dialogues in Allegory of the Cave from his most popular work The Republic. Note his very straightforward presentation of the work as fiction:
|Socrates: "This entire allegory, I said, you may now append, dear Glaucon, to the previous argument; the prison-house is the world of sight, the light of the fire is the sun, and you will not misapprehend me if you interpret the journey upwards to be the ascent of the soul into the intellectual world according to my poor belief, which, at your desire"|
Plato's incorporation of cylindrical Earth, addressed above, also adds a layer of authenticity to the account as Plato adhered to the belief that the world was spherical, yet the dialogues clearly convey this much older worldview existing in Solon's day.
But I believe the strongest evidence lies in the account's surprisingly accurate portrayal of the true physical world beyond the Mediterranean. It appears to be the first recorded account recognizing the existence of not just one, but TWO CONTINENTS in and about the Atlantic and accurately describes the existence of the Caribbean Islands as a convenient path of travel between the two continents lying at opposite ends, North and South America. If we consider this just chance coincidence, his description of a unique 1,150-mile rectangular plain defined by waterways, which can only be found on one of these two continents, specifically South America, strains the bounds of coincidence. And pushing far beyond these bounds are the incredible odds of accurately portraying this singular plain as being surrounded by mountains which open up toward the sea in the south while also accurately locating the plain within 14.5 miles of the sea.
There should be absolutely no doubt that if Atlantis did exist at the purported scale detailed in Plato's dialogues, then this is indeed the site of Atlantis. There is without exception no other site proposed or yet to be proposed within the confines of a finite Earth that could ever conform as closely to the combination of large scale and restrictive parameters provided in Plato's account, and the Americas conform in spectacular fashion.
|Assuming Atlantis did exist and with the purported scale and layout detailed in Plato's dialogues, South America would appear to be the most likely site of Atlantis.|
If South America should prove to be home to Atlantis, stretching an already distended view of history a bit further might allow for this seafaring culture—or one of its offshoots said to live on islands beyond Atlantis—to have ventured to the northernmost regions of Antarctica, eventually circumnavigating and charting the entire continent. Whatever the case may be, the mere existence of these accurate ancient portrayals of three far off continents—North America, South America, and Antarctica—along with the accurate portrayal of associated islands—the Caribbean Islands and Antarctica's Siple, Carney and Ross islands—defies such inconceivable odds it cannot help but soften and gray the bounds of history.