There is an argument to be made that myths exist to help audience to understand in symbolic terms information that they aren’t able to process or deal with at the conscious level. This may be one reason that Atlantis theories keep making news even though not a shred of evidence for the reality of Atlantis has ever come to light. In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Atlantis theories tended to reflect the concerns of colonialism and imperialism, focusing on which lands received influence from a superior culture, and how their colonial empire worked. In the middle twentieth century, Atlantis theories tended to reach for the mystical and the occult on one hand and space age techno-determinism on the other. Today, we see a renewed interest in climate change, particularly the role climate catastrophes play in destroying civilizations.
In Saturday’s Guardian newspaper Florence Evin simply assumes that Sardinia is Plato’s Atlantis in discussing whether ancient texts can help us determine whether a comet destroyed the “Tyrrhenian civilization,” which regular readers will know better as the Nuragic civilization, whose megalithic constructions have been mistaken for the works of giants by modern Sardinians, and as such were the subject of a Forbidden History documentary in 2013, where the Nephilim were invoked. The Nuragic civilization built more than 7,000 beehive-shaped stone towers from 1600 to 1200 BCE, and evidence indicates they were used as forts and strongholds. Unlike other Bronze Age cultures, this one did not entirely vanish in the Bronze Age collapse, but they did stop building towers. The culture maintained some continuity from the Bronze Age down to colonization by Phoenicians, Greeks, and Romans.
Evin attended a Sardinian conference on myths of Sardinia held in June before the opening of “Big Wave: The Mythical Island of Sardinia” at the Museum of Sardana. The gathering was organized by journalist Sergio Frau, a believer in Atlantis-as-Sardinia. According to the conference, Sardinia’s connection to Atlantis can be deduced from the claims of Aristotle and Herodotus that the Pillars of Heracles were actually located on Sicily and Tunisia, not at Gibraltar. From Classical Greece on down, the name was always associated with Gibraltar, but in the past, conference organizers claim, the name was once applied to the Strait of Sicily, which we know from Aristotle’s claim that the Pillars were formerly the Pillars of Briareus, who lived on Ogygia, which is sometimes Malta. Unfortunately, this claim is not secure. Herodotus placed the Pillars of Heracles near Gadeira, or Cadiz, in Spain (Histories 4.8.1). Aristotle’s claim is known only from a citation in Aelian, and it is likely a later forgery. The text, in toto, reads: “Aristotle affirms that those Pillars which are now called of Hercules, were first called the Pillars of Briareus; but after that Hercules had cleared the Sea and Land, and beyond all question shewed much kindness to men, they in honour of him, not esteeming the memory of Briareus, called them Heraclean” (Various Histories 5.3, trans. Thomas Stanley). The association of Briareus with Ogygia comes from Plutarch (De Defectu Oraculorum 18 and De Faciae 27), who placed the island beyond Britain, where it also appears in the pseudo-Aristotelian corpus.
Before the Classical period, archaic Greeks thought of the Pillars as actual columns (stelai) quite similar to Enoch’s Pillars of Wisdom. These were associated with marking the cosmic sea that surrounded creation, and they were localized in the real world at many different sites all across the known world, none of which are relevant to us except insofar as we are discussing what Plato meant by the Pillars of Heracles.
But the Atlantis believers aren’t terribly concerned with the details of the ancient texts they cherry-pick for evidence. Evin reports that some Sardinian historians claim that news of the Trojan War was signaled from tower to tower! Anyway, in order to explain the collapse of the Bronze Age tower culture, conference attendees propose that a tidal wave submerged the island and destroyed the civilization of the island. This tsunami was allegedly triggered by a comet. As Evin notes, not a single scrap of physical evidence has been presented to document a tsunami at the end of the tower-building period, nor a comet impact—which would have affected a much broader area than just central Sardinia.
As evidence, Evin cites Ezekiel 27:32, which speaks of the destruction of Tyre, “destroyed in the midst of the sea.” Her Italian sources would like us to read the fate of Tyre as being modeled on Tharros, a Phoenician city on Sardinia, but the destruction of Tyre is a prophecy, not a report.
According to Evin, when Frau presented an Egyptian inscription describing how the Sea Peoples reported a flood and claimed that the Sea Peoples were Sardinian merchants, the assembled crowd of Sardinians in the audience burst into “a storm of applause worthy of the first night of an opera.” In other words, local pride at placing Sardinia at the center of history is playing a role in how both the investigator and his audience interpret and understand the past.
Notice the way that Sardinia, over the course of the article, slid from Atlantis to the Sea Peoples, even though to believe both is to contradict oneself since the Egyptians who discussed the Sea Peoples are allegedly the same Egyptian priesthood that told Solon (who told Plato) about Atlantis, a land that was decidedly not discussed in terms comparable to the Sea Peoples. But to take Frau and his colleagues at the word is to see Sardinia as having once been part of the axis of the world, a great land felled only by forces of cosmic power. Without such a disaster, Sardinia would have held and maintained its rightful place as the center of the world.
This is made quite clear in the article, in the words of a Tunisian archaeologist who specializes in Roman Africa:
“One of the merits of the research carried out by Sergio Frau is to have shown that the nuraghe civilisation was one of the focal points of the ancient world, in terms of both geography and outlook,” says Azzedine Beschaouch, former head of the Unesco world heritage centre. “Now we need to give scientific, historical, cultural, political and emotional substance to a still mysterious past.”
In other words, Frau invented a new, almost mythic world-historical role for Sardinia. All that remains is to cherry-pick enough evidence to make it plausible.
The reason for this is quite clear: Sardinia has long been treated as a cultural backwater populated by bumpkins and rubes. Cicero, Livy, and Pope Gregory the Great all made reference to the ignorance and savagery of the Sardinians, and that stereotype persists today, as many mainland Italians consider them arrogant, obstinate hicks. (Every region is associated with its own stereotypes, most of which involve being loud, greedy, stubborn, or a bumpkin.) A more glorious past might help to develop a stronger sense of regional pride and combat the perception of Sardinians as inferior to mainlanders. Who needs the grandeur that was Rome if you have a culture older and grander that would have surpassed Rome had it not been for that naughty comet? It certainly explains Beschaouch’s reference to “emotional substance.”
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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