But what does it really mean to say that we must take myths and legends literally? Let’s look at a few and then compare them to the stories these speculators won’t tell you about.
On the other hand, Atlantis theorists from Ignatius Donnelly on down inform us that Plato’s Timaeus and Critias are to be taken as history, not allegory, and followed to the letter to find Atlantis, except where such literalism interferes with the selective changes they wish to induce to fit Atlantis to their pet theory. Graham Hancock tells us that pre-Columbian legends of savior gods are to be taken as literal records of the lost white race of Atlantis visiting the Americas (whereas ancient astronaut writers prefer to see them as aliens, and earlier Christian missionaries as wandering European saints or the devil in disguise).
While no two theorists agree on exactly what such myths mean, all agree on one thing: ancient people are not capable of making things up, or reporting false information. Their stories are derived from real life and are therefore a reliable guide to the past.
So what do these theorists make of the following stories?
- The Roman walls of southern Germany were believed down to the twentieth century to have been built by the Devil.
- Roman amphitheaters of southern France and Toledo were for many centuries called “palais de Gallienne,” after Galiana, the (fictional) Moorish wife of Charlemagne, who they falsely believe built or lived in them.
- “Caesar’s Camp” in Sussex was traditionally described as a Roman fortress but proved to have been built by the Normans.
These tales misattribute known constructions to wrong builders. But, you may say, so what? This is Roman material, so it isn’t relevant. Let’s have a few more.
- The Bolewa of Nigeria have a tradition that their chief’s sacred sword was carried from Yemen many centuries ago and is therefore extremely valuable. Upon examination, it proved to have been made in Prussia only a few decades before.
- The Arabs of the Sudan, prior to the colonial era, claimed that their chain armor had been captured from the Crusaders and brought by the Arabs from the Holy Land. In fact, was imported from Germany in the late 1700s.
- The Arabs of Jordan had a tradition ascribing the Treasury building at Petra (the one seen in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade) to Pharaoh from the Bible, even though Petra’s buildings are obviously later than dynastic Egypt.
Pshaw! Arabs. Not relevant to aliens or Atlantis, despite Jacques Bergier’s claim that the Qur’an’s story of Iram of the Pillars was an extraterrestrial act of explosive destruction.
Fine, let’s have some more, and this time let’s include both prehistory and supernatural power, ancient alien writers' favorite themes:
- Prehistoric African stone works of known medieval construction are still ascribed to the work of spirits or demons in folk traditions.
- The dolmens of France and Britain, known by archaeological findings to be the tombs of Bronze Age notables, were believed down to the twentieth century to have been built by fairies.
- The hill forts of Ireland were down to the middle twentieth century popularly held by tradition to be the work of the Danes, despite actually being prehistoric in origin.
- Stonehenge, a late Neolithic/early Bronze Age construction, was routinely ascribed to the magic powers of Arthur’s wizard Merlin down to the early modern period.
(All of the above examples, excepting Stonehenge, are drawn from Lord Raglan’s The Hero, wherein he provides full citations for each.)
So, I ask ancient alien speculators and lost civilization hypothesizers this: If these folktales, myths, legends, and traditions proved wrong in the face of known historical facts, what warrant do we have for assuming that your selections from myth, legend, and tradition are true? If you do not believe the fairies built the British dolmens, or Charlemagne’s wife built Roman amphitheaters, how can we trust a medieval Arab writer that the pyramids were inspired by sky beings, or a Ptolemaic stela that an Egyptian god bequeathed the rocks used to build the first pyramid? In short, why do you get to pick and choose what the rest of us should accept as true, and based on what objective criteria?