Atlantis: The Continent That Solon Sank
“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, Benjamin Jowett translation)
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 below exposes the circumstances influencing this clearly false assumption while also demonstrating the legitimacy of an unsubmerged South America as the possible site of Atlantis.
There are ONLY TWO times in history where we find accounts of a boundless continent surrounding the world's oceans.
BOTH occur at the time of SOLON: The Atlantis saga and Anaximander's cosmological theory.
I M P L I C A T I O N S:
- Solon was distorting the original account to conform to his limited worldview. — Hence the original Egyptian account detailing the plausible sinking of the capital delta island became the unrealistic sinking of an entire island continent. (Note how similarly a limited worldview led Herodotus to discount the tale of a voyage around Africa because he was unable to reconcile the stated position of the sun though it was correct.)
- Solon was most definitely referring to the Strait of Gibraltar as the 'Pillars of Hercules'. — In Anaximander's and Solon's worldview, this strait was the pivotal 'narrow entrance' positioned between the 'harbor' like Mediterranean and the 'true sea', Oceanus.
- Plato's dialogues were genuine and not fabricated. — Plato adhered to the belief that the world was spherical, but the dialogues clearly convey a much older worldview held by Solon. While obviously not conclusive, it does add to the evidence pool. It is intriguing that Plato would rely so heavily on such an elaborately contrived detail likely lost on many of his contemporaries who shared his worldview. especially as it necessitated the creation of not one, but two continents beyond the pillars where the introduction of one would have itself proven a hard sell.
- Solon introduced TWO CONTINENTS beyond the Pillars of Hercules with islands forming a path between. — The two continents were the island continent of Atlantis and a larger continent lying at the opposite end of a path of islands. Today we know that there ARE two large and distinct continents beyond the Pillars, North and South America, and they are accompanied by a set of islands, the Caribbean Islands, laying a very distinct pathway between them.
Atlantis: The Continent That Solon Sank
My approach to deducing Atlantis’ location (see Atlantis: The Land Beyond The Pillars) was based on maintaining the strictest adherence to Solon’s geographical specifications reconciled within the context of contemporary views. An obvious example is when Plato’s dialogues state that Atlantis was “the size of Asia and Libya combined” it is understood that these regions were perceived much differently then than they are today. Asia referred to an area mostly confined to Asia Minor, while Libya was confined to a portion of North Africa. (Obviously the continent of South America falls within this range of being larger than these two combined.)
A finding which shed substantial light on Atlantis came about when I discerned the significance of Solon’s comparison of the Mediterranean Sea with another much larger body of water referred to as the ‘true ocean’ and also Solon’s introduction of a new mysterious 'boundless' continent. Following is the relevant passage from Timaeus with my interpretation of the described landforms inserted in brackets:
“The island [Atlantis] 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, Benjamin Jowett translation)
If you look at other Atlantis theories that actually attempt to address this passage, you will find most 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 continents combined composing the opposite continent which encircled this ‘true ocean’. (Fig, 1)
Figure 1 - 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 similar 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 look no further than an arctic polar projection map as in the image below. (Fig. 2) 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.
Figure 2 - 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 most likely 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. (Fig. 3) 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'.
Figure 3 - 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 require 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 a collection of multiple distinct landforms can be referred to 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 were composed of two large bodies of water, 1) the Mediterranean Sea which is encircled by the three continents of Europe, Libya and Asia, and 2) Oceanus, the much larger 'true ocean', surrounding the three continents. (Fig. 4) 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.
Figure 4 - 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, 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 contained by the outer lip of the cylinder, a “boundless” unbroken ring of land. (Fig. 5) Since there are no boundless continents surrounding an ocean in the real world and the only historical descriptions of such a landform lie in a theory formulated in Solon’s time and in 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.
Figure 5 - 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.
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 continent-sized 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; falling victim to quakes per the original account that likely brought about tsunamis while the unstable nature of a delta city would have seen catastrophic liquefaction and the rapid subsidence of structures and perhaps the entire island. Picture the slowly sinking city of New Orleans being suddenly hit by a large quake. The resulting cataclysm would likely replicate the destruction recounted in Plato’s dialogues with a massive city disappearing beneath the sea in a single day. This scenario is far more reasonable than the preposterous and mythical notion of an entire continent sinking beneath the sea in the space of a day.
So why would Solon claim instead that the whole of Atlantis sank beneath the sea? It appears that Solon, unwilling to accept the existence of another continental landmass in Oceanus, was finally forced to believe that the Egyptian account of a sinking island was not limited to the small island capital, but 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.
In reality, there are no island continents larger than the size of Libya and Asia combined lying beneath the world’s oceans, so if we are to accept that Solon’s account is based on fact and that it was the continent sized landmass described, it seems very reasonable that it was Solon himself who sank Atlantis to fit his preconceptions. If Atlantis truly existed as a continent, then the majority or all of it still sits above the sea and a string of islands likely still lay a path to 'the whole of the opposite continent'. (Fig. 6)
Figure 6 - Solon introduced not one, but TWO VERY LARGE CONTINENTS beyond the Pillars of Hercules with islands forming a path between. The two continents were the island continent of Atlantis and a larger continent lying at the opposite end of a path of islands. Today we know that there ARE two large and distinct continents beyond the Pillars which represent the limits of the Mediterranean Sea. They are North and South America, and they are accompanied by a set of islands, the Caribbean Islands, laying a very distinct pathway between them.
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