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Review of: Johan S. Ellefsen, Solon’s Atlantis – The sources of Plato’s myth. An Ugaritic tale found in Egypt, Amazon Direct Publishing 31 January 2023.

Reviewed by: Thorwald C. Franke 24 April 2024.

The book Solon’s Atlantis by Johan S. Ellefsen from 2023 is promising: finally another author who takes Plato seriously and searches for an Egyptian source for the Atlantis story. The author has read deeply into the scientific literature. He substantiates everything and is reasonably consistent in his bibliography. He gives references to ancient texts and explains his arguments with original quotations. Where necessary, the author also includes original texts in ancient Greek, Egyptian or other languages. The whole book makes a very professional impression. In short, one can really expect a significant gain in knowledge on the subject of Atlantis from such an author. Even if the overall thesis is wrong, there may still be interesting partial theses.

Unfortunately, however, Ellefsen largely disappoints. The main reason must be seen in the fact that Ellefsen has consistently not dared to question the scientific authorities and their opinions and to put forward his own theses. To a certain extent, Ellefsen slavishly adheres to numerous theses that are typical of the representatives of the prevailing invention hypothesis in order to build an existence hypothesis on this basis. Moreover, Ellefsen ends up being too willing to accept weak analogies as evidence that an element of the Atlantis story comes from here or there, as we unfortunately see far too often with many Atlantis hypotheses – be they existence or invention hypotheses.

Repetition of errors of the invention hypothesis

From page 1 onwards, the Atlantis story is consistently referred to as a "myth". The term is hardly problematised, the phenomenon of the so-called Platonic Myths remains completely unmentioned. Equally unmentioned is the fact that Plato contrasts the Atlantis story with mere myths as a better, because written, tradition.

In a separate chapter, the contrast between "fact" and "fiction" is opened up in order to search for "something" between these two extremes (p. 11 ff.). In a footnote, Luc Brisson’s terrible book Plato the Myth Maker is referred to for the terms "myth" and "fabrication" instead of clarifying them himself (footnote 19 on p. 219 to page 14). The last sentence of the book makes the confusing statement: "The account of Atlantis was a myth, not a fabrication." (p. 215) Of course, the complex phenomenon of Plato’s Atlantis story cannot be grasped with these superficial categories.

Because he considers the Atlantis story to be a myth, the author believes he can apply mythological research to the Atlantis story (p. 17 f.). This also includes the idea of an oral tradition over many generations. In this, the author believes he is following the idea of Euhemerus; it is possible that Plato even influenced Euhemerus, as is reported on the basis of an author of the invention hypothesis. This is of course grotesque. The author himself recognised that Plato refused to look for explanations in myths. But the author did not assert his own thinking against the authorities.

The idea of the Platonic Noble Lie is also discussed (p. 14 f.). The author is clearly unable to come up with good arguments against this possibility. Somewhat weakly, it is said that Plato may not have invented the entire Atlantis story.

The transmission of the Atlantis story from Egypt was allegedly mainly oral (p. 21). A written tradition is recognised, but compared with the scanty notes of events in chronologies typical of the time (p. 20). But the Atlantis story is not a chronology. It is more like a drama, which suggests other notes. Moreover, one could not read extensively in scanty notes, as is claimed in the Atlantis story.

The book also repeats the eternally false thesis of a 1000-year oral tradition before the Atlantis story was first recorded in writing, based on the difference of 9,000 and 8,000 years between primeval Athens and Sais (e.g. p. 47). But such a period of oral tradition is not claimed by Plato. It is a completely exaggerated conclusion by representatives of the invention hypothesis, for which there is no sufficient basis in Plato’s text. If Plato had wanted to assert such a period of oral tradition, especially in view of the praise for the written form of the tradition, Plato should have made this clear. In addition, one must not confuse Sais with Egypt. And: Plato himself speaks elsewhere of an age of Egypt of 10,000 years, as the author himself quotes (p. 41). The author tries to explain this with a later change in Plato’s opinion: Plato then later followed Herodotus again (p. 47). This is an extremely weak explanation.

The book completely ignores the testimony of Krantor, also ignores the testimony of Theophrastus, and quotes Alan Cameron without contradiction that Plato’s contemporaries did not believe in the existence of Atlantis (footnote 2 on p. 216 to p. 5). There is also no mention of Aristotle, and no reason is given for not mentioning him, although numerous authors on whom the author relies claim that Aristotle spoke out against the existence of Atlantis. The work which could justify this silence is not mentioned (Franke (2012)).

Tom Garvey adopted the thesis that the dispute between gods at the founding of Athens was transferred by Plato to peoples who were each led by their deity (p. 15 f. with footnote 27). However, this overlooks the fact that the conflict between gods was only transferred to another level, which would be unplatonic. Platonic gods do not advise their peoples to do wrong and evil. – Another typical error of the invention hypothesis is that the opposite continent would have completely enclosed the sea (p. 8). However, Plato does not mention this in this form. – Finally, the author leaves open which Critias is the dialogue participant Critias (p. 21), only to assume later in the book without further ado that it is the tyrant (p. 60). And this is wrong, as more and more authors admit (they sometimes postulate, however, that the mere name "Critias" should somehow have reminded us of the tyrant).

Allegedly an inner-Greek tradition

Just as fundamentally erroneous is the hypothesis that the Atlantis story was also handed down in Greece, even if only weakly (p. 9, 22 ff.). This is not the case. According to Plato, the memory of the events in Greece at that time was completely lost, and only mere names were passed on. The author has also misunderstood this: He believes that Plato would have seen a tradition from the time of Atlantis in the mythical traditions of the Athenian kings such as Cecrops (pp. 9, 13). This is not the case. Nowhere does the author explicitly discuss Plato’s cyclical view of history, which knows of more than just one flood in the past, which could be a reason for such errors.

The author essentially discusses two Greek traditions as alleged traditions of Atlantis: Firstly, the tradition that the kings of Arcadia were descendants of Atlas (pp. 25-28). However, this idea was already discussed in detail by Oliver D. Smith in 2021, two years before the publication of this book, from the point of view of an invention hypothesis (cf. Smith (2021)). This should have been mentioned.

The other tradition is Hellanicus of Lesbos, who wrote about the Atlantides, the daughters of Atlas, and about Celaino, which sounds like Cleito. However, there are problems aplenty here: firstly, one must not confuse King Atlas of Atlantis with the Titan Atlas from Greek mythology. Secondly, Hellanicus writes about classical myths, but the Atlantis story is in no way a classical myth. Celaino and Cleito sound similar, but that is not enough. There are many other reasons, large and small, why Plato’s Atlantis story and the Atlantides of Hellanicus cannot be related to each other. The author himself admits that many references are only weak or missing altogether and that only vague contours of the Atlantis story are recognisable in Hellanicus, if at all (p. 35), and then goes so far as to argue that Plato uses Hellanicus on the one hand, but attacks him on the other (p. 36), which is very contradictory and illogical.

After all, the author was inspired to this thesis by John V. Luce (footnote 72 on p. 223 to p. 30). But here, too, the author should have followed his own instinct rather than authority. It is also inappropriate that the author writes that Hellanicus provides "evidence" that the Atlantis story is related to the Arcadian traditions (p. 29). Equally inappropriate are words such as "corroborate" or "confirm", although it is admitted on the same page that there are numerous serious differences between the myths and the Atlantis story (p. 37). Such full-bodied claims, which turn out to be unfounded, do not please.

Plato would have wanted to synchronise chronologies with Eudoxus

According to this book, Plato’s central aim with the Atlantis story was to show that Athens was older than Egypt after all (pp. 8, 13, 41 ff.). This, too, is a typical error of supporters of the invention hypothesis. For Plato evades this discussion with his Atlantis story, in that in the Atlantis story both Athens and Sais are founded independently of each other by the goddess Athena. In this way, neither of the two cities is a later colony of the other city, and the question of the higher age no longer implies any dependence. In addition, Egypt is older than Sais and Athens in Plato’s eyes. All this was misjudged here.

Plato allegedly followed the theory of Eudoxus of Cnidus (ca. 390-340 BC), according to which the early years of Egyptian history were not to be understood as solar years, but as lunar years, i.e. months, or as seasons of three months each (p. 46). The author attempts to show this with the use of the Phaethon myth by Aristotle and Eudoxus, among others (p. 43 f.), but no helpful argument can be recognised here. Various Egyptian myths that are said to resemble the Phaethon myth do not really resemble it either (p. 44). It is also incorrect that the Platonic Myth of Theuth in Phaedrus and the Atlantis story were written at about the same time (p. 44), because one is a so-called middle and the other a late dialogue, which clearly differ in style.

Allegedly, Plato would have wanted to synchronise the dating of Greek mythology and the dating of Egyptian tradition (pp. 9, 46). But the author himself admits that the 9,000 years of Atlantis are not so different from the 11,340 years of Herodotus or the 10,000 years of Plato (p. 46). In addition, the author – as seen above – tries to explain Plato’s 10,000 years as a later change of opinion by Plato: Plato later followed Herodotus again (p. 47). None of this is convincing.

An Egyptian story from Ugarit?

The author claims to have found an Egyptian source for Plato’s Theut myth (p. 70), namely the "The Satire of the Trades". But again, the arguments put forward in favour of this prove to be unfounded: the papyrus lists various professions and then proclaims that the profession of the scribe is the best profession. This is not a sufficient analogy to the Platonic Myth of Theuth – on which the author builds further conclusions about Egyptian literature, which are also not very convincing.

The next central argument is the assumption of the mere possibility that the "The Satire of the Trades" may have been handed down together with the story of the so-called Astarte papyrus, and that Plato thus came to know both the Theut myth and the Atlantis story (p. 84). The content of the Astarte papyrus, which exists only in fragments, is reconstructed in this book on the basis of the Ugaritic Yam-Baal cycle, which supposedly tells the same story (84 ff.). As can be seen, one vague assumption builds on the other.

In terms of content, the story is about the Egyptian god Seth, who fights against a sea god with the Semitic name Yam (p. 85 ff.). Yam had become ruler of earth and sky and demanded tribute from the Egyptian Ennead (nine deities). Yam was one of 70 children of another deity. Mythical opponents are the spirits and deities of the periphery of the underworld. As can easily be seen, this content has absolutely nothing to do with the Atlantis story. They are classical myths with no tangible analogue.

Plato’s Atlas would correspond to the Ugaritic god Attar (p. 120). The ring structure of Atlantis would be an image of the cosmos (p. 180): This is a thesis of representatives of the invention hypothesis, which is questionable. The ring structure would also correspond to a depiction of a city on the Egyptian wall relief of the Battle of Kadesh (p. 211). And Plato’s description of the island of Atlantis would correspond to the Egyptian "Field of Reeds" or sekhet-aaru, i.e. the Egyptian idea of an afterlife paradise (p. 197). You can see how the analogies slip out of the author’s grasp.

All this is underpinned by the Greek Orphics, the author Pherecydes (p. 57 ff.) and the assumption that fragmentary sentences from a drama by Euripides were actually written by Critias the Tyrant (p. 60), who is tacitly assumed to be a dialogue participant in Plato’s Timaeus-Critias. However, this authorship instead of Euripides is highly questionable, and even if it were, these few sentences of the drama would prove nothing. Finally, the Babylonian world map (p. 61), the Phoenician Sanchuniathon (p. 93) and the Jewish author Philo of Alexandria are cited as evidence, as well as the Book of Thoth and the Hermetic Tradition (pp. 91 ff., 99). One can see how the author helplessly piles up more and more powerless arguments in favour of his theses.

Correctly recognised

Unlike the typical existence hypotheses, the author has recognised well that the myth of Phaethon is not intended to mean that a celestial body crashed to earth, but that it is about nearer or more distant solar orbits (p. 5).

Unlike the typical invention hypotheses, the author has well recognised that the statement in the Phaedrus that Socrates easily invents Egyptian stories should not be interpreted to mean that Socrates actually easily invents Egyptian stories (p. 14 with footnote 23). The author has correctly seen this in Niall Livingstone.

It is also very well observed that Plato did not favour inventing his own stories (p. 16). Unfortunately, this very thought-provoking and correct thesis is left unsupported.


The page headers are the same throughout the book and unfortunately do not indicate the chapter you are currently in.

Many statements that should have been in the main text have been relegated to footnotes. This makes it difficult to read straight through. In addition, the footnotes are not placed at the foot of each page, but are printed at the end of the book as endnotes. This also makes reading more difficult.

The name of Euhemerus is consistently misspelled as "Evemeros", as is Euhemerism misspelled as "Evemerism" (p. 17).

An index would have been helpful.


Johan S. Ellefsen has written an interesting book, which unfortunately does not go beyond compiling a great deal of useful individual knowledge, which will appeal above all to supporters of the invention hypothesis, and in the end remains stuck in unfounded analogies. Nevertheless, it is an interesting read whose standard leaves 90% of Atlantis literature behind.


Ellefsen (2002): Johan S. Ellefsen, La Atlantida, in: Clásica Boliviana – Actas del II Encuentro Boliviano de Estudios Clásicos 2002; pp. 71-89.

Ellefsen (2023): Johan S. Ellefsen, Solon’s Atlantis – The sources of Plato’s myth. An Ugaritic tale found in Egypt, Amazon Direct Publishing 31 January 2023.

Franke (2012): Thorwald C. Franke, Aristotle and Atlantis – What did the philosopher really think about Plato's island empire?, published by Books on Demand, Norderstedt 2012. First German edition was 2010.

Franke (2021): Thorwald C. Franke, Platonische Mythen – Was sie sind und was sie nicht sind – Von A wie Atlantis bis Z wie Zamolxis, published by Books on Demand, Norderstedt 2021.

Smith (2021): Oliver D. Smith, Arcadian King Atlas and Plato’s Atlantis, self-published May 2021 on and

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