Atlantis and the Gods of Antiquity
ATLANTIS is the subject of a short but important article appearing in the Annual Report of the
Board of Regents of The Smithsonian Institution for the year ending June 30th, 1915. The author, M. Pierre Termier, a member
of the Academy of Sciences and Director of Service of the Geologic Chart of France, in 1912 delivered a lecture on the Atlantean
hypothesis before the Institut Océanographique; it is the translated notes of this remarkable lecture that are published in
the Smithsonian report.
"After a long period of disdainful indifference," writes M. Termier, "observe how in the last
few years science is returning to the study of Atlantis. How many naturalists, geologists, zoologists, or botanists are asking
one another today whether Plato has not transmitted to us, with slight amplification, a page from the actual history of mankind.
No affirmation is yet permissible; but it seems more and more evident that a vast region, continental or made up of great
islands, has collapsed west of the Pillars of Hercules, otherwise called the Strait of Gibraltar, and that its collapse occurred
in the not far distant past. In any event, the question of Atlantis is placed anew before men of science; and since I do not
believe that it can ever be solved without the aid of oceanography, I have thought it natural to discuss it here, in this
temple of maritime science, and to call to such a problem, long scorned but now being revived, the attention of oceanographers,
as well as the attention of those who, though immersed in the tumult of cities, lend an ear to the distant murmur of the sea."
In his lecture M. Termier presents geologic, geographic, and zoologic data in substantiation
of the Atlantis theory. Figuratively draining the entire bed of the Atlantic Ocean, he considers the inequalities of its basin
and cites locations on a line from the Azores to Iceland where dredging has brought lava to the surface from a depth of 3,000
meters. The volcanic nature of the islands now existing in the Atlantic Ocean corroborates Plato's statement that the Atlantean
continent was destroyed by volcanic cataclysms. M. Termier also advances the conclusions of a young French zoologist, M. Louis
Germain, who admitted the existence of an Atlantic continent connected with the Iberian Peninsula and with Mauritania and
prolonged toward the south so as to include some regions of desert climate. M. Termier concludes his lecture with a graphic
picture of the engulfment of that continent.
The description of the Atlantean civilization given by Plato in the Critias may be summarized
as follows. In the first ages the gods divided the earth among themselves, proportioning it according to their respective
dignities. Each became the peculiar deity of his own allotment and established therein temples to himself, ordained a priestcraft,
and instituted a system of sacrifice. To Poseidon was given the sea and the island continent of Atlantis. In the midst of
the island was a mountain which was the dwelling place of three earth-born primitive human beings--Evenor; his wife, Leucipe;
and their only daughter, Cleito. The maiden was very beautiful, and after the sudden death of her parents she was wooed by
Poseidon, who begat by her five pairs of male children. Poseidon apportioned his continent among these ten, and Atlas, the
eldest, he made overlord of the other nine. Poseidon further called the country Atlantis and the surrounding sea the
Atlantic in honor of Atlas. Before the birth of his ten sons, Poseidon divided the continent and the coastwise sea
into concentric zones of land and water, which were as perfect as though turned upon a lathe. Two zones of land and three
of water surrounded the central island, which Poseidon caused to be irrigated with two springs of water--one warm and the
The descendants of Atlas continued as rulers of Atlantis, and with wise government and industry
elevated the country to a position of surpassing dignity. The natural resources of Atlantis were apparently limitless. Precious
metals were mined, wild animals domesticated, and perfumes distilled from its fragrant flowers. While enjoying the abundance
natural to their semitropic location, the Atlanteans employed themselves also in the erection of palaces, temples, and docks.
They bridged the zones of sea and later dug a deep canal to connect the outer ocean with the central island, where stood the
palaces And temple of Poseidon, which excelled all other structures in magnificence. A network of bridges and canals was created
by the Atlanteans to unite the various parts of their kingdom.
Plato then describes the white, black, and red stones which they quarried from beneath their
continent and used in the construction of public buildings and docks. They circumscribed each of the land zones with a wall,
the outer wall being covered with brass, the middle with tin, and the inner, which encompassed the citadel, with orichalch.
The citadel, on the central island, contained the pal aces, temples, and other public buildings. In its center, surrounded
by a wall of gold, was a sanctuary dedicated to Cleito and Poseidon. Here the first ten princes of the island were born and
here each year their descendants brought offerings. Poseidon's own temple, its exterior entirely covered with silver and its
pinnacles with gold, also stood within the citadel. The interior of the temple was of ivory, gold, silver, and orichalch,
even to the pillars and floor. The temple contained a colossal statue of Poseidon standing in a chariot drawn by six winged
horses, about him a hundred Nereids riding on dolphins. Arranged outside the building were golden statues of the first ten
kings and their wives.
In the groves and gardens were hot and cold springs. There were numerous temples to various
deities, places of exercise for men and for beasts, public baths, and a great race course for horses. At various vantage points
on the zones were fortifications, and to the great harbor came vessels from every maritime nation. The zones were so thickly
populated that the sound of human voices was ever in the air.
That part of Atlantis facing the sea was described as lofty and precipitous, but about the central
city was a plain sheltered by mountains renowned for their size, number, and beauty. The plain yielded two crops each year,,
in the winter being watered by rains and in the summer by immense irrigation canals, which were also used for transportation.
The plain was divided into sections, and in time of war each section supplied its quota of fighting men and chariots.
The ten governments differed from each other in details concerning military requirements. Each
of the kings of Atlantis had complete control over his own kingdom, but their mutual relationships were governed by a code
engraved by the first ten kings on a column' of orichalch standing in the temple of Poseidon. At alternate intervals of five
and six years a pilgrimage was made to this temple that equal honor might be conferred upon both the odd and the even numbers.
Here, with appropriate sacrifice, each king renewed his
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THE SCHEME OF THE UNIVERSE ACCORDING TO THE GREEKS AND ROMANS.
From Cartari's Imagini degli Dei degli Antichi.
By ascending successively through the fiery sphere of Hades, the spheres of water, Earth, and
air, and the heavens of the moon, the plane of Mercury is reached. Above Mercury are the planes of Venus, the sun, Mars, Jupiter,
and Saturn, the latter containing the symbols of the Zodiacal constellations. Above the arch of the heavens (Saturn) is the
dwelling Place of the different powers controlling the universe. The supreme council of the gods is composed of twelve deities--six
male and six female--which correspond to the positive and negative signs of the zodiac. The six gods are Jupiter, Vulcan,
Apollo, Mars, Neptune, and Mercury; the six goddesses are Juno, Ceres, Vesta, Minerva, Venus, and Diana. Jupiter rides his
eagle as the symbol of his sovereignty over the world, and Juno is seated upon a peacock, the proper symbol of her haughtiness
oath of loyalty upon the sacred inscription. Here also the kings donned azure robes and sat
in judgment. At daybreak they wrote their sentences upon a golden tablet: and deposited them with their robes as memorials.
The chief laws of the Atlantean kings were that they should not take up arms against each other and that they should come
to the assistance of any of their number who was attacked. In matters of war and great moment the final decision was in the
hands of the direct descendants of the family of Atlas. No king had the power of life and death over his kinsmen without the
assent of a majority of the ten.
Plato concludes his description by declaring that it was this great empire which attacked the
Hellenic states. This did not occur, however, until their power and glory had lured the Atlantean kings from the pathway of
wisdom and virtue. Filled with false ambition, the rulers of Atlantis determined to conquer the entire world. Zeus, perceiving
the wickedness of the Atlanteans, gathered the gods into his holy habitation and addressed them. Here Plato's narrative comes
to an abrupt end, for the Critias was never finished. In the Timæus is a further description of Atlantis, supposedly
given to Solon by an Egyptian priest and which concludes as follows:
"But afterwards there occurred violent earthquakes and floods; and in a single day and night
of rain all your warlike men in a body sank into the earth, and the island of Atlantis in like manner disappeared, and was
sunk beneath the sea. And that is the reason why the sea in those parts is impassable and impenetrable, because there is such
a quantity of shallow mud in the way; and this was caused by the subsidence of the island."
In the introduction to his translation of the Timæus, Thomas Taylor quotes from a History
of Ethiopia written by Marcellus, which contains the following reference to Atlantis: "For they relate that in their time
there were seven islands in the Atlantic sea, sacred to Proserpine; and besides these, three others of an immense magnitude;
one of which was sacred to Pluto, another to Ammon, and another, which is the middle of these, and is of a thousand stadia,
to Neptune." Crantor, commenting upon Plato, asserted that the Egyptian priests declared the story of Atlantis to be written
upon pillars which were still preserved circa 300 B.C. (See Beginnings or Glimpses of Vanished Civilizations.) Ignatius
Donnelly, who gave the subject of Atlantis profound study, believed that horses were first domesticated by the Atlanteans,
for which reason they have always been considered peculiarly sacred to Poseidon. (See Atlantis.)
From a careful consideration of Plato's description of Atlantis it is evident that the story
should not be regarded as wholly historical but rather as both allegorical and historical. Origen, Porphyry, Proclus, Iamblichus,
and Syrianus realized that the story concealed a profound philosophical mystery, but they disagreed as to the actual interpretation.
Plato's Atlantis symbolizes the threefold nature of both the universe and the human body. The ten kings of Atlantis are the
tetractys, or numbers, which are born as five pairs of opposites. (Consult Theon of Smyrna for the Pythagorean doctrine
of opposites.) The numbers 1 to 10 rule every creature, and the numbers, in turn, are under the control of the Monad, or 1--the
Eldest among them.
With the trident scepter of Poseidon these kings held sway over the inhabitants of the seven
small and three great islands comprising Atlantis. Philosophically, the ten islands symbolize the triune powers of the Superior
Deity and the seven regents who bow before His eternal throne. If Atlantis be considered as the archetypal sphere, then its
immersion signifies the descent of rational, organized consciousness into the illusionary, impermanent realm of irrational,
mortal ignorance. Both the sinking of Atlantis and the Biblical story of the "fall of man" signify spiritual invol