by Alan F. Alford

from Eridu Website

Nearly twenty-four hundred years ago, the Athenian philosopher Plato penned one of the most controversial and tantalizing stories ever written. Once upon a time, he said, there had existed a magnificent seafaring civilization which had attempted to take over the world, but had perished when its island sank into the sea – the result of an unbearable cataclysm of earthquakes and floods. This civilization had been called Atlantis, and it had heralded from the Atlantic Ocean, taking its name from the god Atlas who presided over the depths of the sea. Its main island had sunk some nine thousand years before the time of Solon, circa 9600 BC by our modern-day system of reckoning.

The puzzle of Atlantis is this. On the one hand, Plato was adamant that the island had sunk in the Atlantic Ocean, and equally adamant that the story was absolutely true. And yet, on the other hand, modern scientists have mapped the floor of the Atlantic Ocean, using echo sounders, ‘Geosat’ radar and multibeam sonar, and found no trace whatsoever of any sunken island. The result is a deadlock on how to decipher the story. Some argue that it is a myth, of uncertain meaning. Others argue that it is a moral and political fable. And others, still, continue to argue that it is pure history, and that Plato simply got his geographical facts wrong.

In ‘The Atlantis Secret(click image right), I suggest a new solution to this age-old mystery.

The essence of my theory is that the story of Atlantis – or strictly speaking the story of the war between Ancient Athens and Atlantis – was an allegory for the myth of the creation of the Universe. Or, in other words, an encrypted account of a secret tradition which had been preserved for millennia by the mystery schools of Egypt, Mesopotamia, and Greece.

In this way, Plato’s story of Atlantis may be seen as a ‘true story’. For the ancients sages believed that the myth of creation was an absolutely true account of how the Universe had been brought into being.

My theory has the rare distinction of being able to explain every single aspect of Plato’s story, in contrast to historical interpretations which are always forced to reject the legitimacy of one or more crucial elements in the account. This does not guarantee that the creation myth theory of Atlantis is correct, but it does make it the only satisfactory theory currently available.

Support for my theory comes from Professor Christopher Gill, who is one of the world’s leading experts on Plato and the Atlantis story. In his Foreword to ‘The Atlantis Secret’, Gill writes:

“ Alan Alford’s book has the considerable merit that, while offering a widely accessible account of the Atlantis story, it strongly rejects the popular view that the story has a historical basis. The book takes as its starting point a fact often ignored in non-specialist treatments of Atlantis: that Plato is the original and only primary source for the story, and that we must begin by locating the story within Plato’s philosophical and conceptual world-view... I applaud the lucidity of Alford’s argument and the transparency with which his claims are based on either quoted or fully documented sources... I am very glad to have encountered such a lucid and wide-ranging statement of this [creation myth] hypothesis, and to see it applied so suggestively to the Atlantis story.”

Before I summarize the merits of my new approach to the Atlantis mystery, I will first address the fundamental problems of the historicist theories.

I should preface the following remarks by reminding the reader that the story of Atlantis is told only in the works of Plato, specifically in the books ‘Timaeus’ and ‘Critias’, which he penned during the 4th century BC. Many misconceptions have arisen from the fact that people have not bothered to read or understand Plato, preferring instead to lend credence to the opinions of later commentators such as Ignatius Donnelly, Madame Blavatsky, and Edgar Cayce, who have consistently promoted the idea that the story of Atlantis was a true in a historical sense. It is my sincere belief that these modern individuals have muddied the waters of Plato’s original account (no pun intended).

Problems with the Popular Conception of Atlantis

Problem 1: Plato

As much as Atlantis-hunters would wish Plato to have been a historian in the mould of Herodotus or Thucydides, he was not. And nor was he a geographer in the mould of, say, Hecataeus. On the contrary, Plato was a philosopher and a part-time mythologist. Moreover, he was not even an ordinary philosopher; rather, he was a ‘true philosopher’, whose interests lay primarily in metaphysical, otherworldly matters. Therefore, if there is any truth behind Plato’s account of Atlantis, it is unlikely to have anything to do with history or geography; rather, it should be rooted in myth, mysticism, esotericism and the metaphysical world.

Problem 2: Herodotus

It is highly significant that Herodotus, the so-called ‘father of history’, said nothing at all about any war between Athens and Atlantis. Writing almost a century before Plato, Herodotus was widely travelled (he had visited Egypt where the Atlantis story supposedly came from) and very knowledgeable about military history. But as far as he was concerned, the greatest wars of history had been those between Greeks and Persians, notably the battle of Marathon (490 BC), the battles of Thermopylae and Salamis (480 BC), and the battle of Plataea (479 BC). Moreover, in regard to the battle of Plataea, Herodotus tells a highly revealing story of a bragging contest between the Athenians and the Tegeans in which each side listed their greatest military accomplishments. Here, the Athenians recited their heroism at the battle of Marathon, but spoke also of their achievements in ‘ancient times’ – their intervention in the war of ‘the Seven against Thebes’, their repulsion of the Amazonians who had invaded Attica, and their instrumental role in the Trojan War. But as for the idea that their ancestors had repulsed the invasion of Atlantis, the Athenian soldiers said nothing at all – a very strange omission if Plato’s account contained any historical truth.

Plato’s story is also called into question by several other statements made by Herodotus. The greatest danger ever faced by the Athenians, he said, was when the Persian army had invaded Attica and instigated the battle of Marathon (490 BC). The biggest armed force ever assembled, he said, was that of the Persian king Xerxes (480 BC). The biggest island in the whole world, he said, was Sardinia. And the earliest sea empire in the Mediterranean, he said, had been forged by king Minos of Knossos. All of these claims fly in the face of Plato’s claim, nearly a century later, that Atlantis had been the biggest island in the world and had assembled the largest army ever, to forge the first sea empire of the Mediterranean.

Thus spoke the historian Herodotus who, had he lived a century later, would have been highly skeptical of the historicity of Plato’s story.

Problem 3: Socrates

Socrates was one of the greatest intellectuals of his day, and yet when Critias introduced the story of Athens’ heroic victory over Atlantis, he responded by saying:

“Tell me though, what was that ancient deed our city performed...? I’ve never heard of it.”

If the Athenian victory had been magnificent in a historical sense, or even in an orthodox mythical sense (as in their involvement in the Trojan War or the earlier epic battle ‘the Seven against Thebes’), then Socrates certainly would have heard of it. QED. We must be dealing here with a myth and, moreover, with a new myth – perhaps a variation on a theme.

Problem 4: The Saite Calendar

That a cataclysm could have instigated the beginning of a calendar nine thousand years before the time of Solon (c. 9600 BC) is not implausible. Nor is it implausible that such a calendar could have been preserved for nine thousand years and handed down for posterity via the Egyptian Saites (compare the Hebrew calendar which is today nearly six thousand years old). It is therefore possible that Solon (or perhaps Plato himself) learned the date of the Atlantis cataclysm from the Egyptian priests at the town of Sais. But the important question is this: is it really likely that the date of the cataclysm originated in this way?

In fact, everything we know about ancient Egypt argues against the possibility. Archaeologists have found no evidence at all for a calendar of this ilk. Nor is there any such evidence in the Egyptian texts, which generally refer to ancient events in the vaguest of terms. Moreover, even when we do find numbers in these texts, they usually turn out to be sacred, symbolic or rounded, the latter suggesting some imaginative ex-post rationalization by the priests. To presume, as some researchers do, that the Saites possessed a calendar dating back nine thousand years (to a time one thousand years earlier than the foundation of their own state) is to go far beyond what can be justified.

There is more. Why is it that the Saite tradition preserved only the date of the Atlantis cataclysm? After all, Plato had the Egyptian priest claim that several cataclysms had occurred after the sinking of Atlantis, including the famous flood of Deucalion. And yet nowhere in Egypt, nor in Plato, nor anywhere else in the Greek writings, do we find any record of the dates of these subsequent cataclysms. If Solon (or Plato) really did receive the date of the Atlantis cataclysm from the Egyptian priests, why did he not also receive the dates of the other, more recent events?

There is another problem, too. Why is it that only the Egyptian Saites preserved the date of the Atlantis cataclysm? If the event was historical and as dramatic as Plato suggests, then it would have affected much of the world and would have been recorded in other ancient traditions. But, despite the prevalence of worldwide flood myths, no record has ever been found pointing to the date 9600 BC.

In summary, it is a leap of faith to suppose that the Egyptian Saites had access to the purported date when no-one else in the world did; it is a further leap of faith to suppose that the Egyptian records were entirely destroyed (from an archaeological perspective); it is a further leap of faith to suppose that Solon had access to these records when no-one else did; and it is a leap of faith, too, to suppose that Solon’s testimony fell into the hands of Plato and no-one else. To go with all these suppositions is to hop, skip and jump into the land of improbability. And there still remains the awkward problem of explaining how Plato (or the Egyptians, if one prefers) knew the date of the Atlantis cataclysm but not the dates of the three, more recent cataclysms that followed it, including the well-known flood of Deucalion.

A more likely explanation for the date of the war is that Plato was speaking idiomatically and that ‘nine thousand years ago’ signified ‘nine eons ago’, i.e. an infinitely long time ago. See the evidence compiled in my book.

Problem 5: Lost Civilizations

The implication of the historicist argument is that two highly advanced civilizations – Atlantis and Athens respectively – existed c. 9600 BC. And yet, according to archaeologists, civilization began much more recently, c. 4000 BC (in the lands of ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia). How, then, could the two fantastic civilizations described by Plato have existed more than five thousand years earlier, during what archaeologists call ‘the Neolithic period’? The idea is controversial, to say the least.

As regards Atlantis, Plato placed the former island in the Atlantic Ocean. On this point, his language is unequivocal. Atlantis had been in the great Ocean, in the Atlantis Ocean, in the realm of Atlas, opposite the Pillars of Heracles (the straits of Gibraltar) and, fully consistent with this, the Atlantians had directed their hostilities against Europe and Asia. To look for Atlantis anywhere else but the Atlantic Ocean is to totally ignore what Plato actually wrote. Unfortunately for Atlantis-hunters, this leads to a fundamental problem, namely that scientists have nowadays mapped the floor of the Atlantic Ocean, in outline, using echo sounders, ‘Geosat’ radar and multibeam sonar, without discovering any trace of the sunken island or continent as described by Plato. The historicist interpretation of Plato’s Atlantis is thus strongly contradicted by scientific evidence.

Moreover, there is equally strong evidence against the idea of a 10th millennium BC civilization in Athens in Greece. The earliest temples in Athens, for example, have been dated archaeologically to only the 8th century BC; below their foundations there is only virgin soil.

On the face of it, then, as we enter the 21st century AD, the notion of two highly advanced civilizations fighting a worldwide war c. 9600 BC would seem to be a complete fantasy.

Rather, the date of ‘nine thousand years ago’ is surely idiomatic for ‘an infinitely long time ago’, as suggested earlier.

Moving the Goal Posts

The reaction of Atlantis-hunters to the non-discovery of Atlantis on the floor of the Atlantic Ocean has been to suggest that the story was garbled at some point or else expressed in poetic terms, thus causing Plato to cite an incorrect geography. This assumption means that the lost island can be moved from the Atlantic to any other alternative location, preferably one that has not been mapped by sonar! The problem with this approach is that, once one presumes Plato to have made one mistake (with the location), it becomes tempting to take a little license with the text, and then some more license still, and thus the situation arises where Atlantis-hunters produce ‘solutions’ that owe little to what Plato actually said.

What we should be looking for is an island of circular shape, larger than Libya and Asia Minor combined (!), fringed by mountains, with a rectangular plain and a six-ringed, circular city within. But what we get is the mountains alone, or the plain alone – and always of the wrong dimensions – with the other features conveniently ignored. At the extreme, some researchers have even staked their reputations on islands that have not yet sunk. To which one must retort that if an island isn’t sunk, then it isn't Plato’s Atlantis.

The Creation Myth Theory

My theory rejects the historical interpretation of Plato’s story and suggests instead that the Atlantis story – or rather the story of the war between Ancient Athens and Atlantis – was ‘true’ in a mythical sense in that it allegorized the creation of the Universe. The validity of my theory stems from the ancient axiom that the myth of creation was a true story.

The four keys to my theory are as follows:

  1. Atlantis was a metaphor for the primeval underworld (the interior of the earth).

  2. The invasion of the known world by Atlantis allegorized the eruption of the underworld. (Note: this is a key aspect of the creation myth).

  3. Ancient Athens, which represented the ideal, or archetypal, city, first existed in the sky in the form of a celestial body, i.e. a metaphorical city. (Note: the lowering of cities from the heavens to the Earth is a feature of Mesopotamian and Hindu mythology.)

  4. The defeat of Atlantis by Ancient Athens allegorized the fall of the sky and the war between Heaven and Earth. (Note: this is another key aspect of the creation myth, and parallels Hesiod’s tale of the cataclysmic battle between the gods and the Titans.)


The Merits of the Creation Myth Theory

  1. The theory accords with the most important facts of Plato’s story. By identifying Atlantis with the underworld, it allows Atlantis to be in the Atlantic Ocean (which symbolized the subterranean sea); it allows Atlantis to be sunk; and it allows Atlantis to be larger than two continents. These are fundamental points, and yet all other Atlantis theories reject the legitimacy of either one, two, or all three, of these statements and suppose, instead, that Plato somehow, like an idiot, got things cockeyed.

  2. The theory decodes Atlantis in the context of its invasion of the world and ensuing war with ancient Athens. The worst thing a researcher can do is to study either one of these cities in isolation from the context of the war. My theory, however, makes the inter-relationship between Athens and Atlantis a fundamental basis of the interpretation.

  3. The theory accounts for all of the bizarre elements in Plato’s story. It explains how the six-ringed city of Atlantis came out of Clito’s primeval hill. It explains why the island was a perfect circle (code for a sphere). It explains the unknown metal oreichalkos (meteoritic iron). It explains how the island was transformed into a shallow sea of mud. It explains why the Athenian army sank suddenly into the Earth. And it even explains the opposite continent which, bizarrely, was said to completely surround the true Ocean.

  4. The theory is able to resolve a crucial perceived anomaly in Plato’s text. By proposing that Athens descended from Heaven against Atlantis, it verifies Plato’s statement that the war between the two sides coincided with the foundation of Athens in the Earth ‘nine thousand years ago’, and it thus exonerates Plato from the accusation that he made a careless chronological error. The supposed error, in fact, turns out to be a linchpin to understanding the story.

  5. The theory improves substantially the reading of the story. By proposing that the Athenian army descended from Heaven, it explains why the warriors sank, all at once, beneath the earth. The Athenians, far from suffering a tragic accident some time after the war (as the badly mistranslated text suggests), rather died a heroic death at the climactic moment of the war. This, surely, was Plato’s intention, given that the story was told, ostensibly, to depict Socrates’ ideal state in action (“I’d love to see our city distinguish itself in the way it goes to war and in the way it pursues the war...”).

  6. The theory vindicates Plato’s claim that the story of the war was absolutely true. By proposing that the story was a re-telling of the creation myth (the war between Heaven and Earth variant), it allows that the story be true in the mythical sense.

  7. The theory takes into account the wider aspects of Platonic philosophy. It must be emphasized (no doubt to the great disappointment of many Atlantis-hunters) that Plato was no historian or geographer, and thus we are hardly likely to find an account of a lost civilization at the heart of his works. On the contrary, both Plato and Socrates were ‘true philosophers’, who were obsessed with cosmogony and the theory of the soul. In their way of thinking, something important had indeed been lost, but it belonged to myth rather than to history, and to Heaven rather than to Earth. Here, the Theory of Forms is the key, for it presupposes a fall of the archetypes from Heaven to Earth, including, most significantly, the archetype of the ideal state, which was, after all, the subject of Plato’s story. By proposing that Ancient Athens (and earlier Atlantis) had fallen from Heaven to Earth (into the underworld), my theory cuts to the very heart of Platonic philosophy.

  8. The theory sets Plato’s story of Athens and Atlantis against the broader context of ancient Greek myths, and the older Near Eastern myths from which the Greek ones were largely derived. In these myths, important parallels are found for ideas such as: the birth of the Universe in a cataclysm; the fall of the sky; the fall of the golden age; the wars of the gods of Heaven and the underworld; the fall of gods, islands and continents from Heaven into the underworld or subterranean sea; the birth of all things from the Earth or subterranean sea (impregnated by the seed of Heaven); and the idea that mythical peoples dwelt in Heaven, the Earth and the underworld. Most importantly, these creation myths enshrine the principle of personification, with the poets using human-like gods or heroes to personify the falling sky and the erupting underworld. My interpretation of Plato’s story thus has its roots in a well-documented, three-thousand-year-old literary tradition.



In summary, I would remind the reader that there is no archaeological evidence for the historicity of the war between Athens and Atlantis (quite the opposite); that there is no evidence whatsoever for a sunken island-continent on the Atlantic Ocean floor; that Herodotus and Socrates had never heard of the Athens-Atlantis war; that Plato did insist on the poetic (i.e. mythical) nature of Solon’s story by comparing Solon to the great poets Homer and Hesiod; that Plato did place the war in a pre-diluvian era (predating the creation of mankind!); and that Plato was not a historian, nor a geographer, but a true philosopher, whose interests lay primarily in metaphysics, myths and mysticism.

It therefore makes sense that Atlantis signified the ‘true myth’ of the creation of the Universe, encapsulating ideas such as the antediluvian paradise lost, the fall of the sky, the mystery of the underworld, and the mystery of the soul, or spirit, that had brought everything to life.

Thus Atlantis becomes a symbol for a spiritual quest – the quest for knowledge of the origins of the Universe, the quest for knowledge of the origins of life, and the quest for knowledge of what life truly is.

Alas! To search for Atlantis here on Earth, in the form of a lost civilization, is the veritable antithesis of Plato’s philosophy. The great man would be grieved indeed to witness such materialistic folly.