IV. Concessions Of An Atlantis Theorist
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 over all
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 a 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
"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
"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
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
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 20d,e
"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...