It’s been a while since we’ve heard from our friend Giorgio Tsoukalos, but the online iKypros.com published a Greek-language profile of the Ancient Aliens star yesterday, apparently reprinted from the Greek Espresso tabloid newspaper, and it contains a few gems. Since it’s written in Greek, a few translations of the relevant and interesting sections are in order, starting with the first paragraph, which is a doozy:
His hairstyle choices ... may seem strange, but they have perhaps played a role in his international recognition as one of the most famous proponents of the theory that the heavenly beings mentioned in all religions were nothing more than visitors from outer space! (ellipses in original)
(All translations in this blog post are my own.)
The article, written by Manos Tsagkarakis (as I transliterate his name), describes Tsoukalos as “the star with the weird hairdo” but is nevertheless thrilled that he is of Greek decent.
The reporter gives Tsoukalos’s birthdate as March 14, 1978, which I’m happy to have since Tsoukalos’s age has been reported differently in other sources. It describes his childhood in Switzerland, his fluency in multiple languages (English, French, German, Greek, and Italian), as well as his introduction to the sport of bodybuilding at the age of 13. The profile says that Tsoukalos organized major bodybuilding events, such as Mr. Olympia, while still a teenager, since it claims he was doing this while also earning his bachelor’s degree in sports communication from Ithaca College. He graduated from IC in 1998, at the age of twenty.
(Disclosure: I graduated from IC in 2003, but Tsoukalos had graduated before I started college. I met him only once while I was in school, in 2002, when I interviewed him for a class project.)
Tsoukalos told Tsagkarakis that he has conducted in-person investigations of ancient sites in 54 countries, from which, of course, he has turned up no physical evidence of ancient astronauts. “I believe that aliens inspired earth’s massive monuments, but they did not build them! Perhaps they may have built only Puma Punku in Bolivia,” he said. The reporter then trusts Tsoukalos to provide “factual” information about Puma Punku and falsely reports that Puma Punku is 12,000 years old (with an exclamation point after the date, no less). Puma Punku is believed to have been built in the centuries before 1000 CE, and the earlier date is based on the incorrect work of Arthur Posnansky, who assumed that nearby Tiahuanaco had been laid out in 15,000 BCE to track the position of the sun in that year.
Tsoukalos told Tsagkarakis that human beings worshiped the aliens as gods and that the Greek gods were not just aliens but super-scientists: “The gods of mythology were space travelers who created genetically-engineered creatures such as the Cyclopes and Centaurs, robots like Talos, and traveled with flying machines,” he said.
He didn’t use qualifications that time, and these are actually testable claims! Let’s see, do we have any skeletons of Cyclopes or Centaurs? No, we don’t. There isn’t a shred of evidence that either creature ever actually existed. Being fluent in German, he is of course aware of the century-old claim by Othenio Abel in 1914 that the Cyclopes were inspired by fossil elephant skulls.
Do we have evidence of robots like Talos? Well, the Greeks and Romans were masters of clockwork masterpieces—the Byzantine emperors had one of the most impressive clockwork “robot” displays in history, by all accounts—but there isn’t even good evidence that Talos was a robot. As Arthur B. Cook demonstrated a century ago, the oldest references to Talos heavily imply that he originated as the Cretan sun god, not as a robot. Only later was the Minoan figure thought to be the last survivor of the Age of Bronze, and still later a man made of bronze, as Apollonius describes him in the Hellenistic Argonautica (4.1639-1693; parallel to the Orphic Argonautica 1358-1360 and Apollodorus (1.9.26).
I’ve described this at length in an earlier blog post, but the highlights are that the “ancient texts” state that Talos was a living creature, that he had a father, and that he had children. Therefore, he was either not a robot or the ancient texts are wrong, in which case we have no evidence to use.
I’ll believe the flying machine claims when Tsoukalos’s trips to 54 countries uncover one. In the case of Greece, the most common assertion is that the Golden Ram who rescued Phrixus and Helle was an airplane. Erich von Däniken made the claim in Odyssey of the Gods (1999), but he was copying from Robert Charroux, who put it this way in The Mysteries of the Unknown (1972): “An important detail is that the golden fleece was that of a flying ram, traditionally identified with a flying machine used by Initiators. This particular relic, which no doubt was the wreck of an airship, was to be located in Georgia” (trans. Olga Sieveking). He, in turn, was echoing the Afrocentrist Drusilla Dunjee Houston, who made the same claim in 1926, attributing the Golden Fleece flying machine to a master race of Ethiopians.
That said, as I outlined in another earlier blog post, the oldest surviving references to the Golden Ram, vase paintings from the fifth century BCE, show the ram swimming, not flying, and both Diodorus (4.47) and pseudo-Eratosthenes (Catasterismi 19) endorsed the idea of a water passage (Diodorus assuming the Ram was a boat), as did most Latin authors, including Ovid, Seneca, and Valerius Flaccus.
Tsoukalos again repeated his claim that the island of Atlantis did not sink into the ocean but instead flew off in to the sky, something that no conceivable reading of Plato (Timaeus and Critias), Strabo (Geography 2.3), Marcellus (in Proclus On Timaeus 1.1), Pliny the Elder (Natural History 6.36), or any other ancient author to mention Atlantis could possibly support. Plato was unusually clear on this point, writing in Timaeus: “But afterwards there occurred violent earthquakes and floods; and in a single day and night of misfortune all your warlike men in a body sank into the earth, and the island of Atlantis in like manner disappeared in the depths of the sea” (trans. Benjamin Jowett).
The point, however, is that Tsoukalos knows the stories of centaurs and the Golden Fleece and Talos only from popular sources, not at the deep level needed to really understand the many variants and sort among them to find the truth. Is it any wonder that he prefers to discuss his fans, who wear t-shirts with his picture on them and use the phrase “Tsoukalicious” to describe him? It’s easier to be a personality than a scholar, to make wild claims than to defend them.
Oh, and ladies, Tsoukalos also wants you to know that “in his personal life” he isn’t all about aliens: “he prefers enjoying a good meal with close friends or watching a movie, listening to jazz and opera, and sailing and diving in the sea.”
I'm an author and editor who has published on a range of topics, including archaeology, science, and horror fiction. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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