Today we examine Book VI, the last section of Gavin Menzies’ The Lost Empire of Atlantis. Entitled “The Legacy,” it attempts to extrapolate from Menzies foundation of sand upward to a glorious, if unsteady, superstructure. We then sputter to a conclusion and discover some weird similarities between the exact wording of Menzies' sources and that of famous authors.
This chapter is about haplogroup X, a DNA marker Menzies thinks meant that the Minoans bred with the Native Americans and thus were responsible for their lineage. How he thinks all the Native peoples of the Americas descended from a couple of dozen Minoans within historic times, I cannot fathom. The same “evidence” has been used to “prove” that (a) Spaniards colonized America in 20,000 BCE, that (b) the Native Americans are “really” a lost tribe of Jews, and (c) the Book of Mormon is thus correct about (b) but on a much shorter timetable. According to science (remember that?) haplogroup X2, the specific one Menzies cites, emerged around the last glacial maximum and spread to the New World with the ancestors of the Paleoindians. The same haplogroup is found in the indigenous populations of southwestern Siberia, suggesting that multiple migrations from the Caucasus outward account for the spread of the haplogroup. No Minoan mystery there.
This chapter presents a colorful retelling of the fall of Crete, which, even by Menzies' own timeline, he places three hundred years after the Thera eruption he claims caused it. He places the fall of Minoan Crete at 1179 BCE (rather specific) and the Thera eruption at 1450 BCE, while most scholars prefer a date of around 1600 BCE for the eruption. I fail to see direct cause and effect with a centuries-long interlude. Menzies assumes we’ve forgotten everything he had previously asserted by this point and are just going along with whatever he says.
This chapter involves ego stroking as Menzies describes media interest in his “discoveries.” It then goes on to talk about the Greek scholar Minas Tsikritis’ alleged translations of Linear A, which he says represents many languages, including (surprise!) Greek. His views are not widely accepted by scholars and in fact have found acceptance pretty much only by Gavin Menzies and fringe authors following him. Tsikritis has never published his results in a peer-reviewed journal, only in a (modern) Greek-language book put out by a small press in Greece. I’m willing to entertain the idea, but given that there is also a Georgian scholar who told me personally that he also recently discovered how to translate Linear A and that it is in fact (surprise!) an old Georgian language, I can’t say I’m too bullish on the alleged decipherment. We tend to find what we look for.
We finish up with Menzies’ reflections on Minoan accomplishments, paralleled with passages from Plato’s Atlantis writings, including a key line that has been re-translated by Rodney Castleden in Atlantis Destroyed to emphasize the alleged connection to the Americas. The left is Castleden and the right is a standard translation by Benjamin Jowett.
In the broader context, it is quite clear that Plato is not referring to North America but rather to the mythic ring of land supposedly existing on the opposite shore of the River Ocean, which in the flat-earth cosmology of Greek myth, surrounded Europe, Asia, and North Africa as a ring. Castleden’s translation hides this somewhat, made much worse by the excerpting Menzies does. (Castleden had translated the entire Atlantis section of the Timaeus.)
Bonus points: Castleden’s translation of the Timaeus, in its entirety, is nearly word-for-word that of Bury’s Loeb translation (minus some odd omissions). Here’s the relevant line: “For all that we have here, lying within the mouth of which we speak, is evidently a haven having a narrow entrance; but that yonder is a real ocean, and the land surrounding it may most rightly be called, in the fullest and truest sense, a continent.” But the rest of the "translation" is even closer than that. Coincidence?
Actually, no, it’s not. Castelden’s translation parallels that of the Loeb edition in almost every word, and he cites Bury in the bibliography but not in the text of Atlantis Destroyed. Castleden does not note any connection between Bury’s text and his own despite their near-identity. While all translations of the same text are, by definition, similar, few are nearly word-for-word the whole way through. (See, for example the differences between Jowett's and Bury's translations.) The key substantive change he made is altering Bury’s (incidentally, copyrighted) translation to change “haven” to “basin” to make it sound all science-like. (The Greek literally reads “harbor.”) Castleden carefully altered Bury’s translation with just a word here and there, making it just Google-proof enough that a Google search wouldn’t uncover the copying.
But that is for a review of another book. Menzies cares nothing for this; his goal is simply to use other people’s work as much as possible in constructing a flimsy case on the backs of other theorists’ fantasies. He closes the chapter by stating his belief in his own theory and then asking the audience a question: “This is a tale that tells us one thing: that the history of this world is far more fascinating, complex and indeed more beautiful than we could ever imagine. Most important of all – what do you think?”
Every reader will agree, and with that loaded question feel as though he has agreed with Menzies. Except that the question has nothing to do with the theory it follows. Nice bait and switch.
The epilogue presents parallels between Plato’s Atlantis tale and Minoan Crete which Menzies admits to borrowing wholesale from a 1969 book. He make no observations of his own. He fails to address the problem of how exactly such knowledge was transmitted for more than a thousand years without leaving a single reference or trace anywhere. By contrast, the coeval Mycenaeans left elaborate traces of their culture in the very fabric of Greek life and were revered as the heroes of the Heroic Age. How, one wonders, did Atlantis become a secret myth unrecorded before 380 BCE while Minoan Crete was simultaneously remembered as the kingdom of Minos, with his bull god Minotaur and the labyrinth memorializing the palaces? Even the name of the Minoan architect Daedalus survived, attested as it is (well, a form referring to a building where he was worshiped as a major Cretan god, anyway) on the Linear B tablets. And yet we are to believe that this same myth complex also spawned Atlantis somewhere in secret, accurately preserving every detail of Minoan Crete in some locked room somewhere in Egypt?
He concludes by describing the stunning accuracy of Plato’s description of Minoan Crete as Atlantis—except, he says, for the understandable errors of the size of the island, the date of its destruction, the relationship of the city to the island, and the “conflation” of “three realities” into one Atlantis myth. Uh-huh. Stunningly accurate, once you rewrite it to meet your preconceived notions. Then, anything’s possible.
As a final note, I really hated being told time and again by Menzies that “more information,” “complete details,” “the full bibliography,” or relevant maps, charts, and photos were available on “our” (who are we?) website. This was less a book than one giant hyperlink. I expect a book to be complete in and of itself, not a trailer for a website. If I have to go do research on your website to understand your book, you didn’t write it right. Also, asking your readers to do research is just bad business when you’re an alternative author. Readers might just discover all the lies like I did.
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.
Enter your email below to subscribe to my newsletter for updates on my latest projects, blog posts, and activities, and subscribe to Culture & Curiosities, my Substack newsletter.
Terms & Conditions
Please read all applicable terms and conditions before posting a comment on this blog. Posting a comment constitutes your agreement to abide by the terms and conditions linked herein.