The ancient city of Lacedaemon – is it the legendary Atlantis? Part Two
(Read Part One) Turning to the second “point of agreement” about the location of Atlantis is the highly disputed location of the ‘Pillars of Hercules’. Many scholars identified the Pillars with the Straits of Gibraltar and mistook the Platonic Atlantic Pelagos (large and extensive area) for the Atlantic Ocean. Plato however has used his own interpretation about Atlantis and the Atlantic Pelagos. His terms derived from Atlas, the first son of Poseidon and Kleito, the divine couple and the first inhabitants of the famous island.
Atlas was said to be the first king of Atlantis and was the son of Poseidon. Photo source.
I have identified the Pillars of Hercules with the Columns, which were erected on the Mount Thornax, some 2 kilometres from the Lagoon of Lacedaemon, very close to the Eurotas River. The slope of the mount facing the river was meticulously cut and transformed to a platform to house and to support the columns. These columns were a unique archaeological mystery in Antiquity; in fact they were the two obelisks, of 15-16 metres in height, which were erected later in the sanctuary (temenos) of Apollo Pythaeus in front of the city of Sparta, near the Eurotas (Pausanias III, 10,8).
Sometime thereafter, one of them was removed to the famous sanctuary of Apollo at Amyclae, and was enclosed in the monument made by the sculptor and architect Bathycles of Magnesia before the middle of the 6 th century BC. Herodotos mentions the statue (“το νυν της Λακωνικής εν Θόρνακι ίδρυται” Ι,69), and Pausanias, in the second century AD, gave a description of the columns, which were gilded with the gold that King Kroisos of Lycia donated to the Spartans. The columns were crowned by a curious figure of the God Apollo and the one at the Amyclaion was placed upon the cenotaph of Hyacinthos, the Dorian deified hero, the most revered cultic figure of their Minyan forefathers, the Atlantes of Lacedaemon.
The columns, or Pillars of Hercules, were placed in the narrowest point of the street, which led to the islands of Lacedaemon and therefore they acquired the name “Agyieis”, from the Doric word agyia (αγυιά), which means a narrow street or passage. The column Agyieus became the holy heirloom of the Dorian cities throughout the ancient world, from Sicily to Egypt, and in Rome itself, and was taken for the symbol of the Golden Age, the Aetas Aurea, the Arcadian Utopia (see my book LACEDAEMON, vol.II, p. 447).
Atlantis was not the only island in the Pelagos of Lacedaemon, it was one of several islands, the main island among the groups of small islands, which form the model, the prototype, of the 500 tiny islands of Venice, which are also supported on wooden trunks. Some of these islands in the Pontos of Lacedaemon were referred to in the Greek epic poetry (see Odyssey book 15, 405 ff). The Lexicographer Stefanos Byzantios states that there is an island known as Tyros in the Lakoniki, and the so-called Tyrian Odyssey refers to some other islands, originally situated in the Pontos of Lacedaemon, like Scheria, Ogygia, Aia and so on (LACEDAEMON vol.II,462-3). Plato added ‘Asia’ and ‘Libya’.
The miraculous island Atlantis with the huge temple of Poseidon, whose ceiling was made of ivory, variegated with gold and silver, was enclosed in three rings of sea and land. The most external of the rings, near the outflow of Eurotas, close to the bountiful spring of Vivari, the main tributary of Eurotas, is preserved to some extent and is still visible today. According to the Periegetes, (travellers) of the 19 th century (Leake, Bursian, Ross, Fraser and Loring) it measured 200 metres, was made in masonry and crossed the river Eurotas. It is identified with the “Characoma”, (the Entrenchment), a monumental construction mentioned by Pausanias (III, 21,2). It is situated in the right place to be convincingly identified with the external ring of the island of Atlantis, referred to in Plato’s Critias, 117 E.
An illustration of Atlantis with three rings of sea and the Temple of Poseidon in the centre. Image source.
Atlantis and the entire island group was destroyed, and disappeared beneath a layer of mud. Plato refers to exceptional earthquakes and to cataclysmic rains, which lasted one day and one night. It was a natural disaster, which was probably synchronised with the volcanic eruption in Thera (Santorini). The tsunami from Thera affected not only the island of Crete, it devastated the Minyan Palatial establishments in the Aegean and the East Mediterranean, on Kea, Avaris (Tell el’ Daba) in Egypt, Tell Kabri in Galilee, Dabna in Syria and the remote city of Mari on the Euphrates. In all these places, the destruction layers were accompanied with pumice from the Thera Volcano, but before they fell to ruins, they had been decorated with fresco paintings, similar to those unearthed at Akrotiri in Santorini. Some of the representations in these palaces are echoed in references in the Greek epic (see my book LACEDAEMON, vol. II, p. 357 ff).
The destruction of Atlantis. Image source.
Featured image: Two pillars on Seville's city hall. The Pillars encourage one to ignore the ancient warning, to take risks and go further beyond. It indicates the desire to see the Pillars as an entrance to the rest of the world rather than as a gate to the Mediterranean Sea. Source: Wikipedia