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Book: Aristotle and Atlantis

What did the philosopher really think about Plato's island empire?

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Author: Thorwald C. Franke
Publisher: Books on Demand
Publication date: October 2012
Paperback: 136 pages
ISBN: 978-3-8482-2791-4

For the German edition look here:
Aristoteles und Atlantis

Also available in English:
Atlantis and Syracuse


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What is this book about?

Aristotle considered Plato’s Atlantis to be an invention; so we read time and again – but is this really true? Until the late 19th century, academia still held the opposite opinion. How did this shift in opinion take place? And was it justified?

Over 100 works from the Atlantis and Aristotle literature, from antiquity to the Renaissance, from the 18th to the 21st century, were examined in order to track down the truth. A scientific adventure regarding Aristotle’s opinion about Atlantis unfolds step by step, starting 200 years ago and reaching into the present.

What did the great philosopher and disciple of Plato really think? All the relevant passages from Aristotle’s works as well as all the steps taken during the literary research are documented in the appendix.

Opinions about this book:

Prof. Heinz-Günther Nesselrath: (Professor of Classical Philology in Göttingen; Atlantis skeptic)
"... Franke has comprehensively examined this attribution [of Aristotle's authorship], and thereby undermined its supposed certainty so much, that since then it cannot be assumed any longer with unconcerned conscience that here actually Aristotle is speaking." (translated by Thorwald C. Franke)

                    Prof. Nesselrath: Bemerkungen (PDF, German) about an other book, but with statements on the Aristotle question.
                    Thorwald C. Franke: Besprechung (PDF, German) Comments on the remarks of Prof. Nesselrath.

Mark Adams: (New York Times bestselling author, in: Meet me in Atlantis p. 181 f.)
Franke was diligent about his philological research, to the extent that he had self-published a nifty bit of textual detective work, Aristotle and Atlantis, that examined the sources of Aristotle's supposed doubt. ... Franke argues convincingly that the Aristotle quote can be traced to a conflation of two similar-sounding passages ... Over the years a misinterpretation hardened into fact.
       What I found even more interesting in Franke's book was his argument that not only hadn't Aristotle objected to the idea of Atlantis, but also in many of his works he seems to confirm some belief in its veracity. ... Aristotle – crucially – affirms his teacher's ideas that knowledge is discovered and lost repeatedly in cycles and that 'mythical traditions are remnants of knowledge from before the last cultural demise,' Franke writes. Franke concludes that ... we can deduce from Aristotle's 'eloquent silence' that at the very least the second-greatest Western philosopher didn't consider the lost island an outright fabrication.

Tony O'Connell: (
When I began my own research the prevailing understanding was that Aristotle had rejected the story of Atlantis as an invention. Franke’s study has turned this idea completely on its head ... – (Franke) has carried out extensive research that brought him back to 1587 when a commentary on Strabo was published, which in turn was badly misinterpreted in 1816 by Jean Baptiste Joseph Delambre ... – If the work of one person, Delambre, initiated nearly two centuries of misinformation, I hope that another individual, Thorwald C. Franke, can now begin to redress that situation. This book is a ‘must read’ for anyone interested in a serious study of the Atlantis question.

Melville E. Nicholls: (author, on
It is a technical and very careful analysis. ... – It is an interesting story how this false claim came to be made and accepted as fact amongst academia ... – This work is essential reading for any serious researcher of Plato’s tale, and an important bulwark against those who continue to insist without factual evidence that Aristotle believed Plato invented Atlantis. Its conclusions were very important in formulating my own speculations on the Atlantis story.

The School of Athens, by Raphael


The School of Athens, by Raphael


Reviews & Responses:
One document for German and English edition.

Addenda & Corrigenda:
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Table of Contents:

Preface 11

Introduction 13

The Implicit Argument 15

The Arguments against Atlantis 15

No mention of Atlantis 15

No room for Atlantis 16

No Atlantis in the Atlantic 16

Opposition to Plato 16

Many more relevant Aristotle passages 16

Geography 17

Geology 18

Cyclical catastrophism 18

Political 19

Rhetoric and Poetics 20

Pseudo-Aristotelian passages 21

Insignificant passages 21

The Aristotle passages support the existence of Atlantis 22

Land between Gibraltar and India 22

Mud west of Gibraltar 23

Enough room for Atlantis 24

Cyclical catastrophism 25

Catastrophic geology 26

Political 27

Rhetoric and poetry 28

Pseudo-Aristotelian passages 29

Aristotle’s eloquent silence 29

Atlantis not overlooked 30

Disagreement with Plato? 30

Opposition to Plato? 30

Aristotle's opinion on Atlantis 31

Overcoming the bipolarity of ‘for’ and ‘against’ 31

Uncertainty 32

Uncertainty leaning towards existence 32

Ancient and modern authors 33

Posidonius 33

Other ancient authors 34

Modern authors 35

Summary of the implicit argument 37

The explicit argument 39

The arguments against Atlantis 39

The passage Strabo 13.1.36 39

The passage Strabo 2.3.6 40

The Proclus In Timaeum passages, I 1,190 and1,197 41

Passages in the original text 41

The direct counter-argument 42

Third- and fourth-hand speech 42

Use of an Aristotelian statement 43

Strabo does not mention Aristotle 44

A winged word 44

The analogous wording says nothing 44

An illustrative example 45

The expanded counter-argument 46

Nobody adopts Aristotle's alleged assertion 46

Who is making the invention assertion? 46

Vidal-Naquet versus Festugière 47

Invention assertion about the island? 48

Perhaps a statement by Aristotle after all? 48

Excursus: Strabo’s opinion of Plato’s Atlantis 49

Genealogy of the error 50

The authors in dispute on Strabo 2.3.6 51

Evolutionary tree of the error 53

The strange handling of Strabo 2.3.6 55

How did the error become established? 57

Delambre versus Ali Bey and Bailly 57

Berger versus Donnelly 59

Couissin versus SEA and Paul Le Cour 60

The “critical mass” is reached 61

A collective error 61

Who suffers from the error? 62

Summary of explicit argument 62

Closing thoughts 63

Appendix A: Basic Chronology 65

Appendix B: The Ancient Sources in Excerpts 67

Aristotle – Geographical 67

The “Columbus passage” 67

The “Mud passage” 67

The “Interrupted Oecumene passage” 68

Pseudo-Aristotle – Geographical 69

The “Continents passage” 69

The “Island of the Carthaginians passage” 69

The “Sargasso Sea passage” 69

Aristotle – Geological 70

The “Aggradation/Submergence passage” 70

The “Earthquake passage” 71

The “Tsunami passage” 71

The “Island Earthquake passage” 72

Aristotle – Cyclical catastrophe scenario 72

The “Aether-in-De-caelo passage” 72

The “Aether-in-Meteorologica passage” 72

The “Mythical Tradition passage” 73

The “Syssitia passage” 73

The “Proverb passage” 73

The “Catastrophe of the Flood passage” 74

Aristotle – Political 74

The “Republic-Laws passage” 74

The “Godlike Übermensch passage” 74

Die “Diminishing Virtue passage” 75

The “Co-regents passage” 75

The “Superior Dynasty passage” 75

The “Athenian Constitution passage” 76

The “Kingship-from-the-Beginning passage” 76

Aristotle – Rhetoric and Poetics 76

The “Factual-Text-in-Prose passage” 76

The “Epic-in-Hexameter passage” 77

Later authors 77

Polybius 77

Pliny 78

The Strabo 2.3.6 passage and its surroundings 78

Strabo 2.3.6 78

Strabo 13.1.36 78

Proclus In Timaeum I 1,190 79

Proclus In Timaeum I 1,197 79

Appendix C: Literature research on Strabo 2.3.6 81

Antiquity and the Renaissance 81

Second half of the 18th Century 82

First Half of the 19th Century 84

Second Half of the 19th Century 88

First half of the 20th Century 93

Second half of the 20th Century 99

First half of the 21st Century 107

Appendix D: Strabon / Poseidonios / Aristoteles? 113

Appendix E: Works Cited 117

Appendix F: Supplement to the English Edition 131

Theophrastus in support of the existence of Atlantis 131

Theophrastus’ fragment on Plato’s Atlantis 132

A modern myth: Aristotle and Atlantis in the Middle Ages 133

Truly no other author before Delambre? 134

More context to Berger's Atlantis article 134

Editor's notes on the English edition 136        Contents Overview
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