At first blush this theory seems impossible. The Greek philosopher Aristotle doubted the ability of even small rocks—meteors—to fall from the sky and instead believed them to be the tops of exploded volcanoes, but the Roman Pliny did believe in falling space rocks. In neither case, however, did these ancient authors suggest that whole islands were descending from the heavens. This would have been a blatant impossibility, since in the mythological scheme of things the Greek sky was itself a dome made of bronze (Iliad 17.425) or iron (Odyssey 15.329).
In order to make the case that Atlantis was a UFO, Ancient Aliens provided two pieces of evidence. Let’s take them in order. First, according to the narrator of the program, “One myth tells of the Titan goddess named Asteria who fell from the sky and became an island.” But is this what the myth really says? Surprisingly, the show has it almost right. But not quite.
Notice that Ancient Aliens leaves out the part about the bird, lest the real myth seem to stray too far from the idea that the island was an alien spaceship. Nor in myth does Asteria become an island before falling into the sea. Further, other “ancient texts” make clear that the island of Asteria (or Ortygia, or Delos, depending on the source) fell “like a star,” meaning that the ancients were attempting to liken the island to meteors (as the well-known phenomenon of shooting stars), not to aliens, since Asteria was (surprise!) the goddess of falling stars. Thus, the non-extraterrestrial explanation for this myth is both obvious and evident: The goddess of falling stars was associated, poetically but not unnaturally, with an island that was one of the falling stars. No UFOs necessary. And since other islands were said to have grown from such origins as a clump of sod (Pindar, Pythian 4) or the union of the sun god and a nymph, we can discount the idea of a widespread sky-island tradition as the origin of Greek islands.
“In Ancient Greece we have a number of myths which describe islands—bronze, gleaming islands—that fell from the sky and landed in water. I don’t think that Atlantis therefore was an actual, stationary, physical island. Atlantis, according to Plato, disappeared in one night with a lot of fire and a lot of smoke. See, I don’t think that Atlantis sank. I think that Atlantis lifted off.”
Let’s leave aside the inconsistency of taking Plato’s allegorical dialogues literally for the age and description of Atlantis while arguing that Plato’s plain statement of its sinking should be discounted. I must admit that here I am at a complete loss. I cannot find a reference to “bronze, gleaming islands” anywhere in Greek mythology. The closest I can find is the “island of bronze” in the 1963 Ray Harryhausen movie Jason and the Argonauts, but this was not an island made of bronze but rather one that housed bronze statues. There are some myths that are sort of in the ballpark:
- The island of Corfu was said to have been formed from an adamantine sickle that fell from the sky, the sickle Cronus (Kronos) used to castrate his father, Uranus (Ouranos). This wasn’t an island when it fell and it wasn’t bronze, though it is the only myth I could find that was relatively close to Tsoukalos’ claims. The myth derives from the island’s characteristic sickle shape.
- In the Odyssey (10.1-4) Aeolus had a floating island surrounded by cliffs and a wall of bronze. But this wasn’t a falling bronze island. It floated because he was the god of wind and therefore lived in the air.
- During the Gigantomachy Athena killed Enkelados by “hurling” the island of Sicily through the air to crush him. But again the island wasn’t made of bronze, nor did it fall from the sky.
- The Aloadi (Aloads) imprisoned the war god Ares in a bronze jar before attacking the gods in the heavens by piling mountains atop one another, but while this myth has the sky and bronze and moving landforms, it lacks an island or falling things.
- Ares also had an island on which lived birds with feathers that shot out like arrows, but this isn’t even close.
- Icarus with his wax wings fell out of the sky, and an island was named for him. But he wasn’t bronze, nor is the island of Icaria.