As many of you likely saw, Georgeos Díaz-Montexano, formerly known as Cuban researcher Jorge Díaz Sanchez, replied to my review of his appearance on National Geographic Channel’s Atlantis Rising documentary. In his reply in the comments section of my blog post, he alleged that there were many reasons that I did not understand the full scope of his argument, mostly revolving around the idea that the documentary failed to capture the complexity and depth of his reasoning. He directed interested parties to his multivolume published works, in Spanish, and to the single-volume English summary he published as a tie-in to profit from his appearance on Nat Geo. Needless to say, he did not offer free access to his evidence, but rather expects us to pay him to hear it. Given the quality of his response, it would seem to be a waste of money.
That sounds mean, of course, but in his comments Díaz-Montexano managed to contradict himself shamelessly. He claimed, for one thing, that “I have never been a fanatical believer in Atlantis, nor do I claim that Atlantis—like described in Plato—has existed.” Nevertheless, his evidence is and remains drawn from the very texts--Timaeus and Critias—he claims not to believe. For example, “The bull is a main symbol and an attribute of the god Poseidon, and is the main animal to which the Atlanteans worshiped, as we see in Plato’s description of Critias about the historical legend of Atlantis.” Both things cannot be true. Plato’s Atlantis cannot be fictitious and also an accurate description of the past. He elides this by saying his efforts are literary rather than historical, and yet he goes in search of physical evidence nonetheless.
Díaz-Montexano directed me to an article on his website giving the chronology of the Atlantis he says never existed. This, too, is an exercise in bizarre special pleading and motivated reasoning. Let’s take a look at what he has to say.
The article starts out badly, with Díaz-Montexano claiming linguistic expertise by dint of his involvement with Barry Fell’s Epigraphic Society, by which he alleges that he can translate ancient inscriptions, which magically confirm parts of Plato’s story in ways that no one else has ever confirmed. In his comments on my blog, he alleged that he could read some markings as “Semitic” (which is not actually a language but a language family, one not tied to a specific script) and a description of a sinking island.
In the article proper, he asserts that Atlantis was destroyed between 2600 and 1550 BCE, a date range that does not conform to Plato’s estimate of 9600 BCE. Nevertheless, he also asserts that we know the cause of the destruction could not be volcanic because Plato does not mention volcanoes. His justification for this is that he reads the reference to nine thousand years in the Timaeus to state that the story of Atlantis starts in 9600 BCE, and therefore he can end it whenever he fancies. That’s all well and good, but it’s contradicted by the clear statement in the Critias that “nine thousand was the sum of years which had elapsed since the war which was said to have taken place between those who dwelt outside the Pillars of Heracles and all who dwelt within them” (trans. Benjamin Jowett). In other words, Plato makes plain that the end not the start of the story is fixed at 9,570 BCE. Despite this clear statement, Díaz-Montexano places this war between 2700 and 1550 BCE.
Next, he etymologizes the name of the king of Atlantis, Atlas, as “the one supporting, upraising, or upholding (the sky),” a claim that, while not indefensible, is far from certain. In the past, “Atlas” was thought to derive from a reconstructed Proto-Indo-European word meaning “to uphold,” but there is great dispute over this. Many linguists suspect the word is actually non-Greek in origin, perhaps related to the Berber word ádrār, meaning mountain, or to a pre-Greek word from before Indo-European contact. In short, we don’t know, and neither does Díaz-Montexano, certainly not with the degree of confidence needed to identify this Atlas—a human son of Poseidon—with the Titan of the same name and thus with the Egyptian god Shu, the god of cool air. In the interpretatio graeca, the Titan Atlas was identified with the Egyptian Shu, but the Atlas of Plato is not the Titan, so the correlation does not hold, even when Díaz-Montexano alleges that Solon (Plato’s alleged source) translated Egyptian names to their Greek equivalent in telling the story of Atlantis from Egyptian records.
Nevertheless, despite claiming the story to be a Greek translation of an Egyptian original, Díaz-Montexano proceeds to use Greek pseudo-historic chronology—itself a product of Classical and Hellenistic efforts to merge together contradictory folktales and myths—and antediluvian Biblical chronology from Genesis—another fantasy!—to fix the date of Atlantis:
The end of Atlantis can be established at some point within the time frame that goes, rounded, from 2.600 to 1.600 BC, for the simple reason that the catastrophic flood that destroys the primitive Athens is supposed to occur just before the Deucalion’s deluge (epi Deukalionos), after the Atlanteans had been defeated by the Athenians, which is dated around 1.530 BC, according to the most reliable Greek written sources. All the Classical sources agree that the cataclysm prior to Deucalion occurred in Ogygus or Ogyges times. Ogygian flood has been associated – since ancient times- to the biblical cataclysm known as “Noah’s flood” which has been dated by biblical exegetes, in round figures, at some point between 2.500 and 2.300 BC.
First, there are not Greek sources that record a war between Atlantis and Athens before Plato invented it. None place it in 1530 BCE. The flood of Ogyges has indeed been compared to that of Noah from time to time (though Deucalion’s more frequently is), but its date is not given as 2500 BCE. Sextus Julius Africanus, the first Christian chronographer to try his hand at the game, placed it in 1793 BCE but thought it different than the older flood of Noah, occurring instead during the Exodus. This alone is proof that we cannot automatically accept the flood of Ogyges as that of Noah on the authority of some imagined universal ancient association.
He alleges that part of Atlantis still existed as late as the second century CE on the authority of Aelius Aristides, who in his Orations (no. 36, “The Egyptian Discourse”) contradicts an older Greek account by the geographer Euthymenes of Masslia (c. 500 BCE) about a great freshwater river Ocean by referencing an island opposite to Spain which many traveled back and forth to. “And neither can the fishermen at Gadira nor those who cross over to the great island opposite Spain be heard to say that the outside sea is fresh-water” (trans. C. A. Behr). Aristides meant for his Greco-Roman audience to understand him; this is not some secret island. He is referring rather clearly to opposite side of Iberia from Gadira (Cadiz), which means the north. The great island must be the British Isles.
Aristides, for what it’s worth, hated Euthymenes and accused him of fabricating his whole account of rounding the horn of Africa and discovering the source of the Nile in the River Ocean.
The long and short of it is that Díaz-Montexano cherry-picks at will, just like every other Atlantis claimant.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Esquire, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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