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 5. Atlantis in Sardinia

With reference to Sergio Frau's book "Le Colonne d'Ercole - un'inchiesta", the most interesting writings that mention the Pillars of Ercules are reviewed. These pillars, if placed in the actual Strait of Sicily, would suggest Atlantis was Sardinia. Even thouh texts of ancient writers features obvious mistakes and vagueness, the pillars were safety placed at Gibraltar during the whole I millennium BC, while the Sicilian pillars fall into pure speculation, contradicted by writings, archaeological data and scientific evidence.


This chapter includes the following paragraphs:

5.1 Introductory notes
5.2 The vague pillars: Pindar and Herodotus
5.3 Other authors before Eratosthenes
5.4 The peripli
5.5 Conclusions
Final note: Rosario Vieni's theory

5.1 Introductory notes

In 2002 the thesis of an Italian journalist working for the newspaper Repubblica, Sergio Frau, attempted to dispute the millenary corrispondence of the Pillars of Hercules with the Strait of Gibraltar. He suggested that, before Eratosthenes (III century BC), they were in the Strait of Sicily, between Sicily and Tunisia. The evidence would be that the geographical description of known places before III century BC can make sense only shifting the pillars in this strait. Frau's work, also thanks to the Repubblica sponsorship (one of the most authoritative newspapers in Italy), got the interst of some academic people. It was discussed in the prestigious "Accademia dei Lincei" in Rome and also got a symposium in Paris, in 2005, under the organization of UNESCO. Anyway his thesis caused sensation and harsh disputes. Someone would ask why, after so long time, many people easily blinks to this thesis and why no one, after centuries of archaeological research and classical texts knowledge, relized the correct position of the pillars. Maybe the cause is Atlantis: each time you want to locate Atlantis somewhere, first of all you have to solve the problem of the pillars. That is the same trick applied by many authors on Atlantis like Luce or Arysio Nunos Dos Santos. Anyway, in Frau's case the trick is more subtle and there is some truth that must be investigated without any reverence. Some of the courtesy towards Frau's work, as we said, is because the shifting of the pillars would lead to the identification of Atlantis with the nuragic civilisation of Sardina; and that would free archaeologists to worry about the mysterious Atlantis any more. Frau's research started, as he himself states, looking at historical sea levels of Mediterranean basin. About 12000 years ago the level was lower about 100 meters, and the Strait of Sicily was narrower. Then, if the strait of the pillars had been there, the equation "Atlantis = Sardinia" would have been rather obvious. This is the very poorly orginal starting point to search a way to shift the pillars. As we said, in this case, his research is somewhat tricker than others, as it is based to the vagueness of certain ancient texts about the Pillars of Hercules and the chance to read them intending the Strait of Sicily. Frau's conclusion is that before Eratosthenes, everyone who mentioned the pillars intended the Strait of Sicily, claiming there is no evidence they were in Gibraltar. On the contrary he thinks they show only clues related to the Strait of Sicily. Since Plato (V and IV century BC) lived before Eratosthenes it would be obvious that even the pillars cited in his Critias are referred to the Strait of Sicily. Before all it would be useful to know how the myth (which had a probable Phoenician origin) explains the establishment of the pillars. It is found in the tenth laboutr of Hercules, where he had the task to steal Geryon's kines. The myth of Hercules' twelve labours was described in the lost epic poem "Heracleia" by Peisander of Camirus in the VII century BC. Here we report Apollodorus (II century BC) words, which refer to that heritage:

"As a tenth labour he was ordered to fetch the kine of Geryon from Erythia. Now Erythia was an island near the ocean; it is now called Gadira. This island was inhabited by Geryon, son of Chrysaor by Callirrhoe, daughter of Ocean. He had the body of three men grown together and joined in one at the waist, but parted in three from the flanks and thighs. He owned red kine, of which Eurytion was the herdsman and Orthus, the two-headed hound, begotten by Typhon on Echidna, was the watchdog. So journeying through Europe to fetch the kine of Geryon he destroyed many wild beasts and set foot in Libya, and proceeding to Tartessus he erected as tokens of his journey two pillars over against eachother at the boundaries of Europe and Libya"

Probably it is not an accident that in this myth ther is not any geographical reference that canplace the pillars in the strait of Sicily. The boundaries of Libya and Europe match Gibraltar better. Tartessus and the island of Gadira are usually associated by authors to the Iperian peninsula. Coming back home, Hercules follows this path:

"And passing through Abderia he came to Liguria, where Ialebion and Dercynus, sons of Poseidon, attempted to rob him of the kine, but he killed them and went on his way through Tyrrhenia."

Moving from the Pillars of Hercules to Greece, Hercules went past the Phoenician city of Abdeira located in Spain, then he crossed the country of Liguria (Southern France) and then reached Tyrrhenia (Tuscany, Italy). This path doesn't make nay sense if the pillars where in the Strait of Sicily. Apollodorus wrote in the II century BC, after Eratosthenes shifted the pillars (if Frau is correct). Is it then possible that Apollodorus rewrote this much older myth (at least VII century BC) to fit this shifting? That seems incredible. Now, leaving the mythical sources and before examining the most older references to the pillars, it is very important to do two preliminary remarks:

1) Phoenicians and Greeks in the first half of the I millennium (1000 - 500 BC) already set colonies (Map 1 and 2) along the coasts of the western Mediterranean basin (the one on the left of Italy to be more clear). The city of Gades, cornering the strait of Gibraltar just beyond it, was established at least in the VIII century BC. Greeks on their side reached the Iberian peninsula. So western Mediterranean sea was remarkably explored

2) In the I millenium BC the sea level of the Mediterranean was more or less the same as today except a difference of one meter to be generous. The Strait of Sicily was not narrow (not a strait in the very sense of the word) and being large and deep enough couldn't have shallow waters preventing ships to go any further. This is proved by undisputable scientific data. Only around 10000 years BC, at the end of the last ice age, the ice melting allowed a rise of sea levels of about 100 meters. Anyway, even lowering actual sea levels of 100 meters, the Strit of Sicily would be a passage of 70 km with waters at least 100 meters deep. So it can be hardly thought as a narrow entrance and can't forbid the passage to ancient ships. More information can be found beginning with the article of Wikipedia or reading any book on geography or enciclopedia.

5.2 The vague pillars: Pindar and Herodotus

Speculating on the width and depth of the Strait of Sicily (claimed to be 100-200 meters deeper in 4000 BC) Frau begun his search. He cites Pinda, who in the V century wrote maybe for the first time about hte pillars. According to the Italian journalist, the inform us that the pillars are characterized by very shallow waters that prevent ships to go further:

"it is not easy to cross the trackless sea beyond the pillars of Heracles, which that hero and god set up as famous witnesses to the furthest limits of seafaring. He subdued the monstrous beasts in the sea, and tracked to the very end the streams of the shallows, where he reached the goal that sent him back home again, and he made the land known"

Pindar states that it is difficult the exploration fo the unknown (trackless) sea. Perhaps the monsters and the streams of the shallow are referred to the trackless sea and they explain why it can't be crossed easily. The mention of the streams of the shallow is not necessarily related to the pillars. During Pindar age the western Mediterranean had been widelyexplored so the description of the trackless sea, if the pillars are to be placed in the Strait of Sicily, doesn't match it. Moreover talking about the exploration of the western Mediterranean as a great accomplishment would sound rather odd. Beyond that it is also true that Pindar's words are somewhat vague. The only clear point seems to be that the pillars sign the boundary of known places, beyond them only a hostile trackless sea. Many people think that the shallow waters beyond the pillars were an invention of Phoenicians to save for them all the interesting resourceful coasts and places out of them. Just to know something more about what Pndar knew on the pillars, there is a very interesting text by Strabo (Geography, book III, chapter 5), who cites Pindar:

"the pillars which Pindar calls the 'gates of Gades' when he asserts that they are the farthermost limits reached by Heracles."

Gades : the Phoenician city beyond Gibraltar. That is the location of bounds signed by Hercules. Other Pindar verses just suggest the pillars were the extreme point of known lands; only brave people would dare go further than them. Since known lands at Pindar age included also Iberia this would be enough to show Frau's thesis contradiction. We have also to state that Pindar was a poet and consequently managed his poetic licences according to his wishes. So it is also important to know the opinion of someone more concentrated on concrete data. We consider another great writer of the V century BC: Herodotus, who is one of Frau's favourite war horses. Herodotus in his work Historiae mentions the Pillars of Hercules 10 times: is it possible that with such number of recurrences the pillars' location has been badly misunderstood? Let analyze his own words:

1. "The Caspian is a sea by itself, having no connection with any other. The sea frequented by the Greeks, that beyond the Pillars of Hercules, which is called the Atlantic, and also the Erythraean, are all one and the same sea. But the Caspian is a distinct sea, lying by itself, in length fifteen days' voyage with a row-boat, in breadth, at the broadest part, eight days' voyage. Along its western shore runs the chain of the Caucasus, the most extensive and loftiest of all mountain-ranges."

Here Herodotus inform us that the sea frequented by the Greeks (must be the whole Mediterranean since Greeks had colonies in South Italy, Sicily, Corsica and French coasts up to Spanish coasts), the one outside the pillars (called Atlantic) and the Erythraean (actual Red Sea) are the same sea (connected alltogether by waters). That's true since the Mediterranean Sea flows in the Atlantic that, encircling Africa, reaches the Red Sea. If the pillars are to be located at Gibraltar everything works perfectly. If they are to be located ion the Strait of Sicily we have to remark that the western Mediterranean sea was also called Atlantic and that it was not frquented by the Greeks even if they already colonized its coasts.

2. "This latter river has its source in the country of the Celts near the city Pyrene, and runs through the middle of Europe, dividing it into two portions. The Celts live beyond the pillars of Hercules, and border on the Cynesians, who dwell at the extreme west of Europe. Thus the Ister flows through the whole of Europe before it finally empties itself into the Euxine at Istria, one of the colonies of the Milesians."

That is one of Frau's favourite clues. Here the source of Herodotus knowledge is probably the periplus belonging to Scylax of Caryanda (VI century BC) whom we're going to speak about later. Celts were a central Europe population bordering Spain, and North Italy and they bordered also Cynesians, a forgotten population in the South of France. How could Cynesians be considered dwelling at the very end of western Europe? Note that this is a mistake wherever the pillars are located since Greeks had colonies west of France. Moreover how could Celts be beyond the pillars if they actually dwelt central Europe (they had the maximum expansion in III century BC)? Be careful now: they are just "beyond" the pillars but not necessarily "in Spain" as Frau speculates; even British islands were thought by classical authors beyond the pillars and that didn't lead people to mistake them for the Iberian peninsula. Now we must remember that explorations and commercial routes were mainly tracked by ship by Phoenicians (who are the source of geographical information) and also by Greeks. So Celts (who presumably didn't reach Mediterranean coasts in V century BC) could be reached by sea. The only way to reach them by sea was indeed through Gibraltar, where the Pllars of Hercules had to be. Herodotus didn't have a first hand knowledge of the western lands and so it is probable he wrote a personal wrong deduction about the unknown Cynesians. Since the pillars were located in the West of Europe and the Celts dwelt beyond them, so the Cynesians, who bordered the Celts, were thought to be even further in the West. There is no need to place the pillars in the Strait of Sicily to understand these statements of Herodotus. Just to give little more information we have to remember that Celts probably begun to penetrate in Spain in the VI century BC. So their presence there, even if a minorance, during Herodotus century wouldn't be a surprise.

3. "Geryon lived outside the Pontus, in an island called by the Greeks Erytheia, near Gades, which is beyond the Pillars of Hercules upon the Ocean. Now some say that the Ocean begins in the east, and runs the whole way round the world; but they give no proof that this is really so."

Here we found a first concrete geographical reference: Gades (Now Cadiz) is the city that Phoenicians established in the VIII century a.C. and it is correctly placed beyond the Pillars in the coasts facing the Atlantic Ocean. Now the pillars can be located both at Gibraltar and Sicily since Gades is beyond them all. But we have to remember what Apollodorus told us about the creation of the pillars. Here, in fact, Herodotus confirms Apollodorus words and so the origin of the pillars is located in Spain beyond any question.

4."Europe extends the entire length of the other two, and for breadth will not even (as I think) bear to be compared to them. As for Libya, we know it to be washed on all sides by the sea, except where it is attached to Asia.This discovery was first made by Necos, the Egyptian king, who on desisting from the canal which he had begun between the Nile and the Arabian gulf, sent to sea a number of ships manned by Phoenicians, with orders to make for the Pillars of Hercules, and return to Egypt through them, and by the Mediterranean. The Phoenicians took their departure from Egypt by way of the Erythraean sea, and so sailed into the southern ocean. When autumn came, they went ashore, wherever they might happen to be, and having sown a tract of land with corn, waited until the grain was fit to cut. Having reaped it, they again set sail; and thus it came to pass that two whole years went by, and it was not till the third year that they doubled the Pillars of Hercules, and made good their voyage home.On their return, they declared- I for my part do not believe them, but perhaps others may- that in sailing round Libya they had the sun upon their right hand. In this way was the extent of Libya first discovered."

This is the story on how Phoenicians successfully circumnavigated Africa and understood that it was almost entirely boarded by the sea. In order to achieve that they certainly doubled both Gibraltar and the Strait of Sicily. It is said that they made their return voyage passing the pillars and then the Mediterranean. If the pillars are located in the Strait of Sicily one must deduce that the western Mediterranean again is confused with the Atlantic Ocean, which is very odd. It is remarkable the fact that it was known the extension of Africa and that they knew it was bordered by the sea in the West coasts beyond Gibraltar.

5. "and Sataspes went down to Egypt, and there got a ship and crew, with which he set sail for the Pillars of Hercules. Having passed the Straits, he doubled the Libyan headland, known as Cape Soloeis, and proceeded southward. Following this course for many months over a vast stretch of sea, and finding that more water than he had crossed still lay ever before him, he put about, and came back to Egypt"

Here the pillars are described as a narrow passage. That is true for Gibraltar, not for the Strait of Sicily. The most interesting fact is that as soon as they went past the pillars they proceeded southward for many months! That is possible only from Gibraltar, while from the Strait of Sicily it took much more miles before proceeding southwards. That matches Hanno the Navigator notes about his voyage to the western coasts of Africa (VI century BC). He went past the pillars and then proceeded southwards for more than 14 days. That wouldn't be possible following the coastline of Africa bordering the Mediterranean.

6. "The storm not abating, they were driven past the Pillars of Hercules, and at last, by some special guiding providence, reached Tartessus. This trading town was in those days a virgin port, unfrequented by the merchants."

Tartessus is said to beyond the pillars. Most of the experts, locate Tartessus somewhere in Spaing near Gualdaquivir mouth. Also ancient text usually place Tartessus along with the name of Gades (e.g.: remeber the tenth labour of Hercules) suggesting they were very close. A stone found at Nors (Sardinia) features a writing which can be deciphred lik "at Tartessus". Nora was a city established by Phoenicians (Pausania recalls it was established by king Norace) and these ones also used to trade silver with Tartessus (also Nora featured notable silver mines). While Tartessus wasn't considered a colony of Phoenicians, the same can't be said for Nora. Moreover Tartessus was destroyed later by Carthaginians in the VI century BC. That is not true for Nora.

7. "Such are the tribes of wandering Libyans dwelling upon the sea-coast. Above them inland is the wild-beast tract: and beyond that, a ridge of sand, reaching from Egyptian Thebes to the Pillars of Hercules ... Near the salt is a mountain called Atlas, very taper and round; so lofty, moreover, that the top (it is said) cannot be seen, the clouds never quitting it either summer or winter. The natives call this mountain 'the Pillar of Heaven'; and they themselves take their name from it, being called Atlantes."

Here Herodotus describes all wandering tirbes that dwell along the North of Africa, from Egypt to the Pillars of Hercules. The description of the known tribes stops at mount Atlas, which is a mountain certainly belonging to actual Atlas mouintain ridge. It is not clear how far towards West this mountain was, or if it was past the pillars or not. It is said to be 40 days journey from Thebe (not clear if by ship or by feet). The name "Atlanteans" suggest they could face Atlantic Ocean in the West coast of Africa.

8. "As far as the Atlantes the names of the nations inhabiting the sandy ridge are known to me; but beyond them my knowledge fails. The ridge itself extends as far as the Pillars of Hercules, and even further than these;"

It is difficult to estimate what was the exact point towards West that was boundary to Herodotus information. He knew there was something else but didn't have much information. It is also impossible to understand how far the sandy ridge went past the pillars.

9. "The Carthaginians also relate the following:- There is a country in Libya, and a nation, beyond the Pillars of Hercules, which they are wont to visit, where they no sooner arrive but forthwith they unlade their wares, and, having disposed them after an orderly fashion along the beach, leave them, and, returning aboard their ships, raise a great smoke. "

10. "It was not, however, without difficulty that they were induced to advance even so far as Delos. All beyond that seemed to the Greeks full of danger; the places were quite unknown to them, and to their fancy swarmed with Persian troops; as for Samos, it appeared to them as far off as the Pillars of Hercules."

The last two fragments don't offer interesting clues. The tenth suggests that the Greeks are reluctant to approach Asia, dominated by Persians. The fact they perceived the island of Samo (before Asia Minor) as far as the Pillars of Hercules testifies how much they felt lost. In the end there is not a passage in the Historia of Herodotus that connects the pillars to the Strait of Sicily. Moreover he never mentions shallow waters around the Pillars. Even if a a bit of vagueness surrounds his texts on the pillars it seems more likely they are to be located at Gibraltar. It is very important the fact they did know Africa extended towards West up to Gibraltar (point 4). In fact, if the pillars in the V century BC marked the end of known lands (e.g.: Pindar), how could someone locate them near Sicily? Frau Claims that beyond the Strait of Sicily the Greeks had very poor knowledge owing to the Carthaginan fleets closing all routes of the Mediterranean Sea. That is contradicted by Herodotus words and archaeological proofs of Greek colonies in the western Mediterranean before V century BC. The fact that at certain point Carthaginians dominated the sea doesn't imply the Greek lost their past knowledge. Trading routes with Phoenicians were still open and from them the Greeks continued to gather information about the world. Phoenicians already established Gades around VIII century BC and much of Herodotus information (see point 4 and 5) was from Phoenician sources. In his work Herodotus also mentions the cities of Gades, Alalia (which is in East coast of Corsica) and Massalia. They are all beyond the Strait of Sicily and that testifies that for Greeks the world beyond that "strait" was still full of life. Besides Herodotus mentions at least 10 times Sicily and he never mentions the Pillars or shallow waters when referring about the routes around Sicily. For example, in the following fragment he could say "that part of Sicily beyond the pillars of Hercules", but actually uses other geographical references:

"This place, Kale-Acte (or the Fair Strand) as it is called, is in the country of the Sicilians, and is situated in the part of Sicily which looks towards Tyrrhenia."

5.3 Other authors before Eratosthenes

There are also other classic authors who, according to Frau, intended the pillars located in the Strit of Sicily, before Ertosthenes revolution. Let's consider Plato's Atlantis (IV century BC). In the Timaeus it is reported:

"for in those days the Atlantic was navigable; and there was an island situated in front of the straits which are by you called the Pillars of Heracles; the island was larger than Libya and Asia put together, and was the way to other islands, and from these you might pass to the whole of the opposite continent which surrounded the true ocean; for this sea which is within the Straits of Heracles is only a harbour, having a narrow entrance"

In the last sentence the sea inside the pillars is compared to the one which lays outside, called Atlantic Ocean, and, in Plato's opinions, it is really big. Isn't that the exact comparison we can do between Mediterranean Sea and actual Atlantic Ocean? Isn't the first an harbour with a narrow entrance? That matches Gibralatar position. If the pillars are located in the strait of Sicily then Plato's description hardly matches the comparison between the eastern and western part of the Mediterranean Sea. Besides the extension of the island of Atlantis doesn't give any chance to the pillars to be inside the Mediterranean sea. Then Plato also wrote:

"the men of Atlantis had subjected the parts of Libya within the columns of Heracles as far as Egypt, and of Europe as far as Tyrrhenia"

We know that Atlantis was coming from West to East and already conquered some countries which were inside the Pillars like they are for Gibraltar. "Europe as far as Tyrrenia" would be out of the pillars if the Strait of Sicily is considered. Going on we found some other evidence in the Critias:

"... To his twin brother, who was born after him, and obtained as his lot the extremity of the island towards the Pillars of Heracles, facing the country which is now called the region of Gades in that part of the world, he gave the name which in the Hellenic language is Eumelus, in the language of the country which is named after him, Gadeirus"

It is redundant to say again the city of Gades was located in Spain beyond Gibraltar. So, if Atlantis was in front of Spain, there can't be any doubt Plato (and his sources) really mean the strai of Gibraltar .On the other hand other pieces of the dialogues say Lybia has a part inside the Pillars and a part outside them. Since Lybia was the whole North Africa, from Marocco up to Egypt it's clear the pillars can still be at Gibraltar. According to Plato the pillars were far from the Strait of Sicily and Sardinia was not Atlantis.

Let's speak now about Mainakč which was the last city of the Greek in the Iberian peninsula. Strabo (I century BC) reports (Geography, book III, chapter 4):

"The first city on this coastline is Malaca, which is as far distant from Calpe as Gades is; it is now an emporium for the Nomads on the opposite coast,84 and it also has great establishments for salting fish. Some regard Malaca as identical with Maenaca,85 which, as we have been taught, lies farthest of the Phocaean cities in the west; but this is not true. On the contrary, the city of Maenaca is farther away from Calpe, and is now in ruins (though it still preserves the traces of a Greek city), whereas Malaca is nearer, and bears the stamp of a Phoenician city"

In the Pseudo-Scimno (II secolo a.C) periplus it is reported that:

"They say the mouth of the Atlantic sea spans 120 stades: this small trait of sea is delimited by the capes of Europe and Libya. Next to each of the coasts there are two islands 30 stades far from each other: someone call them Pillars of Hercules. Next to one of the Pillars of Hercules there is the Massalian city of Mainakč, which is the last of all the Greek cities in the continent"

Avienus (IV century AD) in his ora maritima, reports information he said to date back 9-10 centuries before:

" Here are the columns of persistent Hercules, Abila and Calpe. The latter is on the left of the mentioned land; Abila is neighbor to Libya... Instead Euctemon from Athens reported they weren't rocky elevations whose peaks erected above the sides of the strait. There were two islands between the coasts of Libya and Europe: these island according to him are named Pillars of Hercules. They are 30 stades far eachother and they're covered by a impenetrable vegetation, making them uninhabitable for sailors... the sea surrounds these islands and for a relevant trait has shallow waters with mud that forbids heavy ships to reach their coasts..."

Avienus then cites a third island (consacrated to the Moon) where ships' cargoes could be left to reach those shores. Pseudo-Scymnus and Avienus probably got the information of the two islands (30 stades [5 km] far from eachother) from the same source: Euctemon. Avienus dates back Euctemon to V century BC. It is possible then that also the reference to the width of the strait (120 stades are 21 km) came from V century BC. That width perfectly matches the width of Gibraltar (which is 14 km wide in the shortest path and about 20 km on its sides). The islands between the coasts of the strait really do not exist either in Gibraltar and Sicily. So Euctemon had some confused information. Here the pillars are associated to shallow waters but it is impossible to use such information since the islands seems to be nowhere (maybe,we'll see in the end, they are just before Gades). Even the words of Avienus do not give any evidence that can locate the pillars next to Sicily. In another calssic text, the peri kosmos, which is attributed to a Pesudo-Aristotle writer there is a description that is considered favourable to the Strait of Sicily:

"Opening in a narrow passage towards the West, at the so-called Pillars of Heracles, the Ocean forms a current into the inner sea, as into a harbour ; then gradually expanding it spreads out, embracing great bays adjoining one another, opening into other seas by narrow straits and then widening out again. First, then, on the right as one sails in through the Pillars of Heracles it is said to form two bays, the so-called Syrtes, the Greater and the Lesser as they are called ; on the other side it does not make such bays, but forms three seas, the Sardinian, the Gallic, and the Adriatic. Next to these comes the Sicilian sea, lying crosswise, and after it the Cretan."

This fragment then ends annotating the eastern Mediterranean seas. Here the Pseudo-Aristotle, even if a in a way a bit confused, mentions all the seas that take form thanks to the Atlantic Ocean that feeds the Mediterranean sea through the Pillars of Hercules, that are said to be a narrow passage placed towards West. The statement of the "gradual opening" matches very well the Strait of Gibraltar. Then it is described which seas take form on the right side and which ones on the right side (proceeding East from the pillars). On the right side two bays, called "Syrtes", which are North of actual Libia. On the left side ("on the other side") the Sardinian Sea, the Gallic (Gulf of Lion) and the Adriatic. At first sight this description seems to disprove either positions of the Pillars of Hercules. If they are at Gibraltar it looks weird that the "Syrtes" are soon on the right; if they are at the Strait of Sicily it is weird that going past them on the left there are the Sardinian and Gallic seas. That would also mean that the Atlantic forms the Sardinian and Gallic seas. Now this description must be observed from a general perspective. Indeed, entering the Mediterranean Sea from Gibraltar, the Sardinian, Gallic and Adriatic seas are really on the left coast (the Sardinian is more on the center but probably embraced all actual Tyrrhenian). The two "Syrtes" are correctly on the right side even if not very next to the pillars. Besides in this way the outer Ocean (Atlantic) is correctly pulled apart from other seas. In the same work the Atlantic is said to be out of inhabited lands and so it couldn't coincide with western Mediterranean seas:

" and the Pillars of Heracles already mentioned, outside which the Ocean flows round the earth. In this sea are situated two very large islands, the so-called British Isles, Albion and lerne, which are greater than any which we have yet mentioned and lie beyond the land of the Celts"

The Mediterranean sea can't match this description. The exact location of the British Isles show how even for Aristotle and its disciples the geographical horizons of earth where far beyond the Strait of Sicily. So, Considering the Pesudo Aristotle fragments it is clear that Frau's objections to the pillars at Gibraltar are easily refuted (we saw also the cases of Pindar and Herodotus) and usually depends on classic authors' vague statements. Also classic geographers could do mistakes, above all when working on second hand sources that could hardly be verified by that time. A clear example of contradiction is the one of Dicaearchus of Messana (IV century BC). He stated that from Cape Malea (Southeast in the Pelopponese) the Pillars of Hercules were 10000 stades far (that is 1800 km). Now, the distance between Cape Malea and the Strait of Sicily is around 1000 km (not following African coastline). There is too much difference. Cape MAlea is distant at least 2500 km from Gibraltar. 1800 km would put the pillars under Balearic Islands, more or less equidistant from Gibraltar and Sicily. Anyway, if the pillars were 1800 km far from Cape Malea how could Dicaearchus state that the Adriatic's end (about 1400 km from Cape Malea) was more distant from Cape Malea than than the pillars? It is obvious he contradicts himself. He really didn't give any evidence the pillars were at Gibraltar or at Sicily and moreover he provided very confused and paradoxical information.

5.4 The peripli

It is important to say that in the first millennium BC, a periplus was a sort of ship's log where commanders annotated their routes and events. Among the most known are those of Hanno the Navigator (it is very sure he reached Sierra Leone in the V century BC), Scymnus (probably III century BC) and Hecataeus (VI century BC). Greeks usually get their knowledge even from them. Hanno the Navigator, commander of a huge Carthaginian fleet, reports that once left the Pillars of Heracles he travelled southward for more than 14 days. That would be an improbable route inside the Mediterranean basin. A copy of his periplus has been saved up to actual days in an early Greek translation. Pytheas (IV century BC), a Greek explorer from Massalia, was able to go past the Pillars of Hercules (from Massalia!) and reach the northern part of Europe. In his periplus he describes frozen seas and the polar lights. After a journey lasting 4 months he came back home and aknowledged people about his findings. Hecataeus of Miles (VI century BC) was maybe the first Greek to describe the known geographical regions. His periplus beings from the farthest West, where he also places the Pillars of Hercules, to the East regions. Before Tyrrhenia and Sicily he describes Iberian cities and French cities, so the pillars wherenot in the Canal of Sicily in his opinion. Scylax of Caryanda (VI century BC) stated that from Carthage, with most favourable conditions, the journey to the Pillars of Hercules lasted 7 days and 7 nights. That would be too much if they were located in the Strait of Sicily. The periplus of Pseudo-Scylax(IV - III century BC), annotates all the seas and lands of the Mediterranean basin from West to East and it reports very exactly that:

"The Pillars of Hercules face eachother and they are far one journey. Next to them, are two islands called Gadeira or Gades; the latter also has a city, one day journey far from the Pillars of Hercules. Beyond the Pillars of Hercules, on the side of Europe, there are many Carthaginian trading posts, mud, tides, trackless sea ."

It is very clear that locating the pillars in the Strait of Sicily would lead to many paradoxes. This fragment also suggests where the small islands mentioned by Avienus and Pesudo-Scymnus can be located. They probably were two very small islands in front of the city of Gades, where the pillars could be physically located in local Hercules' temples.

5.5 Conclusions

Having reviewed ancient authors texts, it is undisputable that before Eratosthenes

  • The Greeks and Phoenicians knew Gibraltar

  • The Pillars of Hercules signed the western bound of known inahbited lands

  • Beyond the Pillars of Hercules a trackless and boundless sea (called Oceanus and/or Atlantic) encircled all the inhabited lands. Man couldn't traverse it owing to mud, tides etc etc.

  • Only Gades, Tartessus and the coasts of northern Europe were considered beyond the Pillars of Hercules

  • Cosica, Carthage, Sardinia and all other cities in the whole Mediterranean sea are NEVER told to be outside the Pillars of Hercules

  • The Pillars of Hercules are a narrow passage

  • The Pillars of Hercules delimited the bounds of Europa and Africa

Considering points 1) and 2) in the paragraph 5.1, this is much more than enough to conclude that classic authors of the I millenium BC always intended the Pillars of Hercules as the Strait of Gibraltar. There are also many other considerations on classic texts that would make appear Frau's thesis very odd, but that's enough. Now if we play locating the Pillars of Hercules in the Strait of Sicily, the hypothetical geographical knowledge before Eartosthenes would be somewhat hilarious:

1.Hercules separated Africa and Europe breaking the land between Africa and Sicily. When coming back home from Sicily to Greece his first stage was Spain, then South France, Italy, Sicily again and at last Greece.

2.Thanks to Phoenician and Greek explorations in the early I millennium BC the western bounds of Africa and Europe were very well known and colonized. Anyway the Pillars of Hercules, marking the end of known world on the West (Pindar), had established near Sicily and it was impossible to go past them towards West.

3.In V century BC the Greeks, after colonizing the shores of western Mediterranean sea, forgot all their geographical knowledge and established the Pillars of Hercules in the Strait of Sicily. Beyond them there was the western Mediterranean basin, that they didn't navigate and also called it Atlantic or Ocean. So Greeks in their minds colonized some lands they didn't really know about.

4.Since Atlantis, according to Plato, was greater than Libya and Asia, it lies in the western Mediterranean sea even if a bit squashed.

5.Atlantis is at the same time before Spain and Sicily.

6.Europe as far as Tyrrhenia (Tuscany) is on the east beyond the Strait of Sicily.

7.Aristotle knew the pillars were located in the Strait of Sicily and also knew Sardinia. Anyway when asked about Atlantis he answered it never existed. Soon after Plato's death, scholars' started a debate on Atlantis: everyone knew about the pillars, no one was so clever to found Sardinia.

8.Erastothenes shifts the pillars towards Gibraltar. No one from his generation and following ages got aware of this even if he radically changed geography. There is not a piece of document that relate this revolution or that tries to conciliate the geography before and after Eratosthenes.

9.The eastern Mediterranean is an harbour with a narrow entrance if compared to the western one. Western Mediterranean, encircling all known lands, couldn't be explored.

10.In the V century BC western Mediterranean seafares were almost impossible due to shallow waters between Sicily and Tunisia.

11.The Pillars of Hercules would be 100 km wide. Anyway they were known by ancients as a strait 120 stades wide. It is rather obvious that the Greek stade was 833 meters and not the actual known size of 177 meters.

12.In all geography commentaries Gades and Tartessus are always annotated to be beyond the Pillars of Hercules. No one was so cunning to conclude that also Carthage, Sardinia and Corsica were beyond the pillars.

13.The Sardinian Sea and Gulf of Lion would lie in the eastern Mediterranean basin.

14.The legend narrates about how an oracle imposed that Gades had to be established beyond the Pillars of Hercules. Phoenicians not only went past the Pillars but also established the city 1500 km further: they had to be sure they left the pillars on their back.

So most of the thing simply do not work at all when placing the pillars in Sicily. The forbidden Pillars of Hercules, obstructed by Phoenicians, were at Gibraltar and it is not a coincidence that Greek colonization couldn't proceed further than eastern Iberian peninsula. Most of the ambiguity takes place because a large number of routes from eastern Mediterranean towards the extreme West (Atlantic Ocean and Spain) and viceversa are forced to go past either Gibraltar and Sicily. That is why the Strait of Sicily accidentally matches some of the ancient writers' statements about the Pillars of Hercules. In fact the same could be said for the Strait of Messina which is not considered just because it has not any island before. In the end some vagueness in the description of the surrounding places of the pillars of Hercules is rather obvious since it was the farthest known land. No vagueness in the world of I millenium BC could overshadow Sicily's surroundings instead.

Final note: Rosario Vieni's theory

To tell the truth the thesis of the sicilian pillars was originally proposed by Rosario Vieni. Analyzing Plato's dialogues and the geographic maps of the ice age he came to the same conclusions as Frau did later. From a certain point of view his arguments are even weaker than Frau's ones. He speculates beyond any reason on Plato's words. He explain Atlantis was not bigger that Libya and Asia togheter claiming that the Greek term "meizo" can be intended as "more powerful". So Atlantis was military and economically greater but not bigger. The fact is that Plato gave a geographical meaning to Asia and Africa. If Rosario Vieni was right then Plato would have stated that Atlantis was "greater than all populations [nations] of Liby and Asia togheter". But in following statements Plato also states that Atlantis deserves to be considered a "continent" thanks to this comparison to Asia and Libya. That gives agai a geographic meaning to Plato's word. He really intended Atlantis' extension of land. To call Atlantis a "continent" because of its "political and military" power would be pointless. Another speculation is about the "gadeiric" region which faced towards Atlantis. According to Vieni, the term "gadeiric" has an archaic meaning (based on etimology of Greek languages) and can be intended as "ridge of land" or "chain of islands". But Plato just calls that region "gadeiric" because he himself and all his coaetaneus called that region of Spain in that way. No matter the origin of the word. Obviously he used the geographical references related to his age to be understood. And that region, in the IV century BC, could only point out the region of Gades (Spain) as also Apollodorus confirmed.





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