2 Apr 2011

In the name of Atlantis

I'm appreciating Ancient Tides by George LeFever who notifies us of events happening in archaeology. However in a recent post he tells us that Evidence Points to Atlantis Site in Spain without even a hint of sarcasm or doubt. Egad.

Balanced or blind reporting?

In all due respect, something needs to be remarked on the social evils of blind reporting, reporting in absence of informed commentary that would strive to contextualize and distinguish fact from garbage. While others have a glib attitude about how media affects all of us, I'm not so naive which is why I'm always concerned and conscious of it. I want to do better than the status quo. I hope you do too, reader.

Perverted versions of balanced reporting are sisters to this issue that the History Channel has sold out to. It's the classic scam of provoking interest through absurdity, emotional rhetoric and faux mystère. Unlike merely posting links, contextualizing is the truly valuable service to viewers or readers. It's a priceless human input that can't be automated. It's a sieve to filter out the nonsense of our media-soaked world. If you're doing anything less than adding your own insights concerning the topics you post, you risk being replaceable and irrelevant to readers, a secondhand news source.

One more case for anti-credentialism

Sufficed to say, there simply can be no purely literal "Atlantis", nor can it be in Spain. What Professor Richard Freund "discovered" may still be historically relevant, but the hype of Atlantis attached to it is intellectually draining and offensive. The educated consensus, for good reason, has already determined that if Atlantis is based at all on a true story, it alludes to the Minoan civilization a millennium prior to the classical Greek world into which Plato was born. This is not some idle suggestion nor does it need to be constantly opened up to shallow debates like that which plague the case-closed topics of evolution and the devastating effects of human pollution. This thought is determined by a web of facts that must be understood before yelling "Eureka! I found Atlantis" like a raving fool.

Since it's apparently a "professor" under the cloak of the University of Hartford that heads this fruitless quest for Atlantis, either ignorant of the story's full context or callously manipulating media for his gain, it makes it all the plainer to see why a PhD can hold no weight when gauging someone's credibility or expertise. One must stick to the difficult "hard way" of questioning all one reads with facts, the old-school method, purposely oblivious to a person's status instead of taking shortcuts by judging books by their glossy cover or people by their certificates.

Now for the real news

Luckily we don't need to pretend that Atlantis chasers and other nuts are the important headlines. It's far more mentally stimulating to meditate directly on the account of Atlantis in Plato's Timaeus.

If one follows the link I provide, one will see a side-by-side translation of the Greek text on the right into English on the left which makes the problem of modern misunderstanding so clear. Begin by pondering on the great potential for inaccuracy and distortion in the translations of some key Greek words in the legend:
  • Εὐρώπη ≠ 'Europe'
    This is not referring to the entire continent of Europe as we are aware of it today. Semantic shift is at work.
  • Ἀσία ≠ 'Asia'
    Again this doesn't refer to the entire Asian continent but only to Asia Minor (Turkey).
  • ἤπειρος ≠ 'continent'
    Certainly the classical Greeks knew nothing of tectonic plates or the modern notion of "continent", so the value given here is anachronistic and misleading. It's also unnecessary. 'Coastline' or 'land' is its more accurate and fundamental meaning, ie. land as opposed to water. This alters the translation significantly, but for the better.
  • ἐκ τοῦ Ἀτλαντικοῦ πελάγους ≠ 'out of the Atlantic Ocean'
    This by far is one of the more horrible translations because, based on straight-forward context, 'out of the Atlantean Sea' is far more apt, that is, the sea surrounding Atlantis. What would the Classical Greeks know about the difference between 'sea' and 'ocean'? Again, by forcing πέλαγος to specifically mean 'ocean', its more general meaning is clumsily overlooked: any large body of salt water rather than fresh water. Stripping us of this mistranslation, Freund's search near the Strait of Gibraltar deserves chastising.
  • Ἡρακλέους στήλη ≠ 'The Strait of Gibraltar'
    Fools will assume blindly that these Pillars of Hercules *must* refer to the Straight of Gibraltar. Yet this mythological term could quite honestly refer to any geographic location perceived of as great sky-pillars, including islands emerging from the open sea or mountains rising to the sky.
The list of Greek terms able to be contorted into incorrect English values is endless. Combine linguistic distortions with historical ones and we have a seriously compounded problem. However if we read the entire account from beginning to end instead of reading snippets, the emerging context we learn can insulate us against the unending gullibility of popular media. In fact, by reading the entire story, one can see for oneself why interpreting Atlantis, if anything, as a relic of a Minoan past is most preferred by historians and the only one that connects to reality.


  1. Could you contextualize the Minoan Atlantis theory for us by providing a reference to some articles that make the connection clear?
    Would it be possible for the "ringed city" in Spain to be Minoan?

  2. Part of understanding the correct context of Atlantis is facing the fact that Plato himself had made it clear that this was a story told secondhand, nay, third-hand.

    If we've come to terms with the implications of that fact, that the story therefore cannot be assumed blindly to be 100% accurate, then this search for a perfect match for Plato's description of Atlantis is evidently fruitless. Regardless of whether this might be linked to Minoans or not, this is terribly unlikely to have anything to do with "Atlantis".

    Rodney Castleden in Atlantis Destroyed (1998) elaborates on the Minoan Atlantis theory well and also contextualizes it from the perspective of overtly recognizing that the story can't be taken literal whatsoever. See for example page 150.