Note: This post has been edited to add additional details.
I have a treat for you today! I’m currently reading Mark Adams’s Meet Me in Atlantis, and he mentioned something I wasn’t familiar with: According to some European Atlantis theorists, an ancient historian named Eumalos of Cyrene wrote a book about Atlantis around 400 BCE that detailed the island’s history, taken from an earlier book by Aristippus, the fifth century philosopher. Such an important document, you would think, ought to be a prime piece of Atlantis literature, yet virtually nothing has been written about the text in English. Well, for your reading pleasure I have translated the entire Sixth Book of Eumalos’s summary of the History of Libya into English, along with the original commentary on it offered by its first publisher, the Marquis de Fortia d’Urban, who translated the text in to French in 1828. So far as I know, this is the first time the text has been presented in English. Too bad it’s all a hoax.
According to what I can piece together from fragmentary references to the incident in various old sources and modern summaries, in 1821 (or 1817, depending on the source) a manuscript allegedly written by Eumalos of Cyrene was found in Crete and then taken to Malta, where the sixth book, on Atlantis, was translated into Italian. The original manuscript, if ever it existed, vanished not long after. Then, in 1826, a stone was found in Malta bearing the name of Atlantis. Although now known to be a hoax, in 1827 the French Asiatic Society took interest in the stone, and the Marquis de Fortia d’Urban considered that the Eumalos manuscript, which he knew from correspondents in Malta, could shed light on the connection between Malta and Atlantis, so he translated the text into French and published it with an exhortation to his colleagues to use the text to interpret the stone. Later, it was translated from French into Latin. German scholars also wrote about the text, but after around 1830, it drops out of literature almost completely.
Classical scholars routinely consider the Eumalos text a hoax, but some Atlantis investigators aren’t buying it. Atlantis research Anton Mifsud, writing in the Atlantipedia, is a defender of the text, and he published last year an argument for why it should be taken seriously, rebutting a summary for the case for a hoax by Thorwald C. Franke. (He is wrong that ancient epitomizers are all but anonymous; Justin, for example, is much better known than Trogus, whom he abridged; and Eumalos allegedly signed his own name to the work!) The text is much more often cited by Maltese Atlantis researchers, and for obvious reasons: Eumalos allegedly identifies Malta with Atlantis!
However, to my mind there is no doubt that the text is a hoax. When read in its entirety, the conclusion is virtually inescapable. As you read the text, watch for special appearances by the fish-man Oannes (copied from Berossus, along with Xisuthrus) as a king of Atlantis and the Nephilim-giants as the ten kings of Atlantis. Thrill to the fact that the mythology contained in the text is taken point for point from Jacob Bryant’s New System, down to the detail of identifying Noah’s Ark with Jason’s Argo. Bryant, too, had identified Eumalos’s main character, Ogyges, as Deucalion and Noah. But note more importantly that the philosophy given in Eumalos is very much of the post-Napoleonic era. In the world restored by the Council of Vienna, is it any surprise that the “new” ancient text would symbolically liken the flood that destroyed Atlantis to the French Revolution, both sweeping away a noble monarchy at the behest of communists and sexual libertines? Eumalos even ends as the Revolution did, with the restoration of the rightful monarchs to their much diminished thrones.
There is of course the problem that if Eumalos wrote in 400 BCE, he discussed Xisuthrus and Oannes before Berossus had given them those names in the 200s BCE. Oannes the fish man was a corruption of the earlier figure of the Great Sage Adapa (known to Ashurbanipal as Uan), who at that time was not a fish.
As a piece of early nineteenth century speculative fiction, Eumalos’s text is an interesting reflection of the social concerns of its day (and do read the Marquis’s misogynistic explication of the text), and it also does a great job of finding the undercurrent of similarity in various Near Eastern flood myths, of which Plato’s last lines in the Critias heavily imply Atlantis was meant to be one. Ignatius Donnelly would make use of many of the same arguments in his Atlantis: The Antediluvian World, similarly making the island kingdom the same as the corrupting world of giants and wonders from the days before Noah.
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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