Could Thera have been Atlantis?

by R. Cedric Leonard

Maps of the Islands of Crete and Thera (Santorini) located in the Aegean Sea (Close up of Thera on the right)

Regarding Atlantis, one of the modern ideas most widely accepted by modern scholars is commonly known as the Minoan Hypothesis. In briefest terms, the Minoan Hypothesis places Atlantis within the Mediterranean Sea near Greece, among the islands of Crete and modern Thera (Santorini). In addition, its time-frame is placed in the Bronze Age, as opposed to the Ice Age time-frame in which Plato described it. By thus "miniaturizing" it (both size-wise and time-wise), it has been made more palatable for modern scientists and scholars to accept.

It is claimed by the "Minoan" advocates that the island once known as Santorini in the Aegean Sea was Plato's Metropolis, the capital city of Atlantis, and that the Minoan civilization was the Atlantean Empire. It is further alleged that Plato's Atlantean civilization was destroyed when the Stronghyle volcano located on Santorini blew its top in a tremendous explosion during the Bronze Age (ca. 1600 B.C.), effectively destroying the Minoan civilization. Further, it is alleged that details incorporated within the Minoan Hypothesis fulfills all the requirements for the acceptance of these islands as Plato's Atlantis.

Of course, what they are really talking about is the Minoan civilization, of which they seek to make an Atlantean connection. Regardless of how many modern authorities have accepted the Minoan Hypothesis, there are serious objections which are not being faced with honesty. And while trivial objections could number into the hundreds, only eighteen fundamental objections will be presented in the following list.

Objections to the Minoan Hypothesis

1. Minoan advocates allege that two rocky prominences jutting out from Attica into the Aegean Sea were known in ancient times as the "pillars of Heracles". Yet not a single shred of evidence—a writing, an inscription, or any other reference calling these features the "Pillars of Heracles"—has ever been brought to light. One might also question whether these two prominences would even qualify as being components of the "Straits" mentioned by Plato. Plato used the term in the sense of "a narrow waterway connecting two large bodies of water" (Webster's) which these narrow strips do not.

2. The proponents of the Minoan Hypothesis allege that Plato's Timaeus used the Greek word meson ("between") rather than mezon ("greater than") in its relation to Asia and Libya. In other words, that Atlantis was "in between" Libya and Asia, instead of "larger than" those land masses. They allege that the Greek letters 'S' and 'Z' look so similar a later copiest made a mistake, even though in the ancient Greek scripts the two letters looked nothing alike (see Plato's FAQs). (They seem unaware that Plato made the same statement about Atlantis being larger than Libya and Asia also in his Critias, which would imply that the copiests repeated their same mistake in yet another of Plato's works.)

3. The Egyptian priests, according to Plato, told Solon that Atlantis was an extremely powerful empire which was on the verge of overwhelming the entire known world just before its demise. But Egyptian records depict the Minoans as paying tribute to Egypt during the reign of Thutmose III (just before the fall of the Minoan empire). In fact, the Cretan prince is shown to be actually making obeisance to the king of Egypt!

4. Plato describes Atlantis as having "subjected the parts of Libya within the columns of Heracles as far as Egypt, and of Europe as far as Tyrrhenia." (Timaeus, 25) The Minoan kings never conquered either Europe nor North Africa. But archeological evidence is abundant indicating that a cohesive "megalithic culture" occupied those very same areas of Europe and North Africa in Mesolithic times (5,000-6,000 years before the Minoan empire began).

5. The scheme of harbors detailed by Plato would have been unworkable in the Aegean Sea with its feeble tides. Dr. James W. Mavor (1969) of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution admits that even elementary hydraulics tells us that stagnation and fouling of the main channel could not have been prevented with no tides to refresh the system. However, the same network would work beautifully in the Atlantic with its liberal tides.

6. Plato describes the southern plain of Atlantis as being 3000 X 2000 stadia in size. In modern miles that computes to around 340 X 230 miles in round figures (a little larger than the state of South Dakota in the U.S.). That's not including any land outside of the plain; nor does it take into account the mountain ranges described as existing on three of the four sides of the plain. Plato is thus describing a land mass of between 250,000 and 500,000 square miles (depending on how massive the mountain chains were). Assuming a "middle" estimate of 375,000 square miles for Atlantis, compared with Crete's meager 3,235, Crete and Thera together would barely be one hundreth the size Plato gives for Atlantis,

7. As to sources describing Atlantis as being extremely large, Plato is not the only one of these sources. Philo Judaeus, Crantor, and others who believed Plato (Greek and Latin sources) all describe Atlantis as being large, even "immense". Atala, island of the Sanskrit epics, was said to be 10,000 yohanas (50,000 mi.) in extent (Encyclopedia of the Hindu world), and possessed numerous cities and peoples (Karna Parva).

8. There have been only four palaces found by archeologists on Crete (none on Thera, which was blown up by the volcano). Plato places not only the palace of Poseidon on Atlantis, but also 10 offspring ("princes," thus 10 more palaces) ruling ten provinces (Critias, 113-114, 116). This implies SIZE! Crete, the largest island in the Minoan empire, wouldn't be large enough for a single province of Atlantis.

9. Plato describes a magnificent Temple of Poseidon (Critias, 116) in the center of the Metropolis of Atlantis as its principle building. Temples are utterly lacking in Minoan Crete, and so far as has been excavated, no temples have been found on Thera. Contrary to the intimations of the Minoan advocates, Knossos was the seat of Minoan rule, not Thera—they allege that the circular capital city of Atlantis was on the island of Thera. If it weren't for the tremendous caldera left by the explosion of the vocano, Thera wouldn't look anything like the "Metropolis complex" described by Plato. (Look at the map: it doesn't much, even now.)

10. According to Syncellus' King-list, Ovid's Metamorphosis and Herodotus' Euterpe, the flood of Deucalion ended the first Bronze Age, occurring close to the date most geologists assign to the eruption of Thera. The Egyptian priests at Säis were well aware of this relatively recent event, telling Solon that the destruction of Atlantis was actually three floods earlier (Critias, 112a).

11. Every ancient writer who does mention Atlantis by name (Plato, Crantor, Aelian, Marcellus, Strabo, Philo, etc.) depicts it as submerged (except for possible mountain peaks). To my way of thinking, any landmass that's still above water cannot be Plato's Atlantis.

12. The ancient Greek poet Orpheus (570 B.C.) in his Argonautica calls Poseidon "King of the lands beyond the sea and Libya" (Poseidon is the founder of Atlantis, according to Plato). To the ancient Greeks "the sea," when not otherwise delineated, would mean the Mediterranean Sea, and "Libya" was North Africa (particularly that portion near Gibraltar). "Beyond the sea and Libya" therefore means "outside Gibraltar".

13. Pindar (518-438 B.C.) warns man not to venture beyond the Columnae Herculis at the boundaries of the world (Pindar, Isthmians, 4.11). Plato says that the subsidence of Atlantis left a "shoal of mud," making the sea outside the Pillars impassible (Timaeus, 25). Evidently, similar traditions were carried down from antiquity, since Orpheus, Hanno, Himilco, Scylax, Aristotle, and Plutarch all mention the shallows, rocks, mud and fog, along with other dangers in sailing beyond Gibraltar. A volcanic event in the Aegean Sea would never have so affected navigation beyond the Straits in the Atlantic Ocean.

14. Many modern scholars believe it highly likely that King Minos, the founder of the Minoan empire, is identical to the famed King Menes (3100 B.C.) who also unified Upper and Lower Egypt. The Minoan empire is younger than the Sumerian, Hindu, and Egyptian civilizations, and thus cannot be Atlantis.

15. The Great Eboni Label mentions king Menes' search for the "Western Land" outside Gibraltar in the Atlantic toward the end of his reign (ca. 3100 B.C.), and found it had truly disappeared at a time when the Minoan empire was just getting started. The Thera eruption did not even occur until ca. 1600 B.C.

16. Nu, the Egyptian god of the Primeval Sea, is represented on the Marble Sarcophagus of Seti I as being up to his waist in water with arms upraised to carry the Solar Boat across the Sky. He is said to have held the royal occupants of this boat above the flood waters engulfing their mountainous island home in the West. (Budge, 1960) This agrees with other ancient testimony that the Egyptians came from an island in the West, and were far more ancient than the Minoans.

17. Egyptian records attribute the creation of their civilization (writing, medicine, mathematics, astronomy, laws, etc.) to Thoth, whom they say ruled a "Western Domain" (Book of the Dead, Chapter LXXXV). "The Egyptians descended from Misor, who descended from Taautus, who invented the writing of the first letters: him the Egyptians call Thoth, and the Greeks Hermes" (Sanchuniathon, History of Phoenicia; 1193 B.C.). I know of no ancient historian who associates Thoth in any way with Minoan Crete.

18. Diodorus of Sicily (Library of History) describes the Egyptians as "strangers, who, in remote times, settled on the banks of the Nile, bringing with them the civilization of their mother country, the art of writing, and a polished language. They had come from the direction of the setting sun and were the most ancient of men." I don't think any geographer would describe Crete as being in the direction of the setting sun from Egypt, or the Cretans as "the most ancient of men".

This web site tries to cover most scientific objections to the story as Plato narrated it to us, allowing him some leeway for poetic licence; but one must take the time to investigate the chronological, geological, and archeological/anthropological data presented in order to properly understand the position outlined here. If one chooses to jump to conclusions without a thorough investigation, he merely does a disservice to himself.

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Copyright © R. Cedric Leonard, 2010.