Atlantis-Scout          Contents Overview          Inhaltsübersicht

Nesselrath vs. Franke 2021

Table of Contents

The strange representation of Thorwald C. Franke's ideas about Plato's Atlantis in a talk by Heinz-Günther Nesselrath at the University of Bologna

Review of: Heinz-Günther Nesselrath, News from Atlantis? Some recent proposals for the location of Plato’s mysterious island, A talk given at the University of Bologna on 4 April 2017, at Collegio Superiore in Sala Pasoli Via Zamboni 32. Please note: Not available in libraries., available since 13 March 2021.

Review by: Thorwald C. Franke, Frankfurt am Main / Germany, 14 March 2021.

Just yesterday I got to know that Professor Heinz-Günther Nesselrath delivered a talk about two "Atlantologists" at the University of Bologna in Italy in April 2017. One of those two was me, Thorwald C. Franke. Unfortunately, I find my own ideas surprisingly misrepresented in Nesselrath's talk. Therefore, I have to undergo the cumbersome effort of clearing up the mistakes one by one.

The strange reception history of Plato's Atlantis

Nesselrath's talk begins with unfolding the reception history of Plato's Atlantis. Already here many things are strange.

There is e.g. the strange claim that "Plato’s immediate contemporaries – as far as we know, in any case – did not give much attention nor credit to the alleged former existence of Atlantis" (p. 1; bold by me). – Since we have no information, it may be allowed to cautiously conclude that there was not much attention given to Plato's Atlantis. But to speak of knowing (!) in connection with the claim that no credit was given to the existence of Plato's Atlantis is a vastly exaggerated statement, because we know nothing about it. Several pages later, the talk itself says: "in Plato’s contemporary Athens there is not a single reflection or echo of the story" (p. 9).

Besides this, there may have been indeed echoes of Plato's Atlantis story from Plato's contemporary Athens, although these echoes do not help much on the crucial question. Eucken and Görgemanns brought up such ideas, about which the audience of this talk is not informed. But we leave it at that, for now.

Strange also, that this talk avoids the reception history beyond Crantor. Neither Strabo nor Posidonius are discussed, neither the many ancient utopias which allegedly reflect the allegedly obvious utopian nature of Plato's Atlantis, nor the quarrels of Platonists with Christians about chronology and knowledge from Egypt, nor the quarrels among Neoplatonists about Plato's Atlantis are mentioned. There is also no mention of Aristotle and his direct successor Theophrastus, although there is an explicit statement by Theophrastus in favour of the existence of Plato's Atlantis. (And Theophrastus, born ca. 371 BC, was a contemporary to Plato, who died ca. 348 BC, but I don't want to press on this.)

Once, the reception history of Plato's Atlantis in antiquity was a drill field of classicists to demonstrate that Plato's Atlantis can easily be recognized as an invention. Now silence. Silence also about the fact, that the Middle Ages were not silent about Atlantis, as was the claim by Pierre Vidal-Naquet and most classicists until recently. Something must have happened. And yes, something has happened. In July 2016, my book "Kritische Geschichte der Meinungen und Hypothesen zu Platons Atlantis" was published, about which Nesselrath is completely silent in this talk of April 2017. My book debunked a lot of misconceptions about the reception history of Plato's Atlantis. But nevertheless, this talk still recommends Pierre Vidal-Naquet's dated book about the reception history, although it is full of mistakes and wrong perspectives.

Then another misconception: "I would like to stress a fact that today’s Atlantologists in general do not take sufficiently in consideration [...] that existence or non-existence of Atlantis is not a very important question for Antiquity." (pp. 8 f.) – Wrong of course. Because Plato's credibilty depended on this. Therefore Crantor looked for confirmation in Egypt, in defence of Plato. Therefore the quarrels with the Christians about the correct timeline: Was the world created only 6,000 years ago, and therefore Atlantis with its 9,000 years was just an invention, and religious faith is more important than philosophical rationality? Also the Neoplatonists had a considerable discussion about Atlantis. Even after the Middle Ages, Plato's Atlantis played a role in breaking the dogma of the church of an age of the world of only 6,000 years. – It may be said that there was not much interest in Atlantis by itself, since it was considered to be sunken, thus not reachable, and the "real thing" was primeval Athens, not Atlantis, but the question of the truth status of the Atlantis story was important for other reasons.

For the rest of the reception history, Nesselrath knows only of the discovery of America and what discussions it inspired (pp. 1 f.). – But what about the fact that academia turned to a strict Atlantis denialism only in the course of the 19th century? And this on the basis of completely wrong and romantic misconceptions about Plato and his philosophy, and by ignoring the possibilities of historcial criticism? Also this was known in 2017 by the 2016 publication.

Graham Hancock and Thorwald C. Franke on the same page?

The ideas of Graham Hancock about Atlantis can easily be debunked (pp. 2 ff.). They are just pseudo-science, nothing more. Nesselrath does what has to be done. He could have even done more.

Yet absolutely bewildering is the fact, that I, Thorwald C. Franke, am just lumped together with Graham Hancock under the headline "Atlantologists", as if both would argue on the same low level of pseudo-science. In the transitional sentence from the chapter about Graham Hancock to the chapter about Thorwald C. Franke (p. 5), I am even accused to "ignore" Plato's 9,000 years (because I apply historical criticism, but this is not explained), what Graham Hancock had "preserved" (because Hancock sticks to the pseudo-scientific literalist reading of Plato's and Herodotus' timeline of an age of Egypt of 10,000 years and more, but this is not explained, either). The expectation of the audience at this moment of the talk is clearly lead to the impression that Thorwald C. Franke is even a more "ignorant" pseudo-scientific "Atlantologist" than Graham Hancock.

The lumping together of me and Graham Hancock as "Atlantologists" continues for the rest of the talk (e.g. p. 8), and culminates in the headline of the concluding chapter 4: "A competent judgment of Plato’s Atlantis Tale is not possible without having comprehensive knowledge of Classical Antiquity" (p. 13). – Graham Hancock is a lost case, this is true. But me? It makes me laughing. If my knowledge of Classical Antiquity is not "comprehensive", who's is? And then, some knowledge about Egyptology would not be bad, either. Not to speak of knowledge concerning natural sciences and so many other things. The field of "Classical Antiquity" is quite a narrow field of knowledge, covering only the golden times of Athens and Rome. In order to make up your mind about what is possible and plausible in respect to Plato's Atlantis, knowledge about Classical Antiquity alone will not be sufficient.

Thorwald C. Franke: Silly boaster or decent researcher?

The gravest mistake of this talk is to depict me as a silly boaster of the simplistic "Atlantologist" type. My two books are presented under the perspective of pressing Herodotus and Aristotle into the role of "crown witnesses" for the existence of Plato's Atlantis, and of a silly Thorwald C. Franke boasting with simplistic premature conclusions. The fact that I apply historical criticism is not mentioned in this talk. The mere word of "historical criticism" is avoided. Not that anybody starts to think that this Thorwald C. Franke could be more than a silly "Atlantologist".

Thorwald C. Franke: Herodotus book

In truth, my book about Herodotus humbly tries to clarify the historical context in which Plato wrote the Atlantis story, in order to draw conclusions by applying historical criticism. These conclusions are not the "big" ones: Herodotus is of course not a "crown witness" for the existence of Plato's Atlantis. But many "minor" conclusions can be drawn, which are of significance for a correct interpretation of Plato's Atlantis. For example, that the 9,000 years of Atlantis correlate with Herodotus' 11,340 (and more) years for the age of Egypt, independent of whether Atlantis is an invention or not (and we always keep in mind that Egypt in fact came into being only around 3,000 BC). Or that Plato's Atlantis did not stand out as an obvious invention in the eyes of the ancient Greeks. These "minor" conclusions, though decent and humble they may seem, are groundbreaking and run counter to certain wide-spread opinions in science about Plato's Atlantis, e.g. that Atlantis would be easily recognizable as an invention.

But this talk provides a completely different perspective on my interest in Herodotus: "As for the historian Herodotus, he may have offered himself to Franke as a suitable subject of investigation, because he is the first to attest the word "Atlantis" in connection with a large body of water, namely in the word group 'Atlantís thalassa', i.e. 'Atlantic Sea' " (p. 6). – This sound like the usual premature conclusion of silly "Atlantologists" that the word "Atlantis" in Herodotus must have something to do with Plato's Atlantis. But this is not at all my idea. I reject this in my book, as well as any other parallels between Plato's Atlantis and Herodotus' "Atlanteans". (But Pierre Vidal-Naquet, who is recommended in this talk, draws such parallels: Isn't this strange?)

And when I draw the conclusion that I have demonstrated that Plato's Atlantis was "plausible" in Plato's world, Nesselrath steps in: "It must be stressed as well that for a phenomenon to be "plausible" is by no means sufficient to prove its reality" (p. 7). – Well, of course not. This was never the claim. I am not a silly boaster. But to have demonstrated that Plato's Atlantis is plausible, after so many Atlantis sceptics have told us that it is easy to see that it is a literary invention, is quite an achievement. An achievement admitted and played down by this talk at the same time.

Time and again this talk provides the impression of a silly Thorwald C. Franke drawing premature conclusions. My statements about the division of the world in two instead of three continents, and about the chariot army of Atlantis, are countered in this talk with Isocrates and Ephorus and the Persian chariots (p. 7). – But in fact, I did indeed consider Isocrates and Ephorus and the Persian chariots in my argument! But this talk just ignores this.

This talk concludes the Herodotus chapter with repeating the wrong perspective: "All in all, Franke does not get beyond a vague possibility that the contents of Herodotus’ work do not contradict the existence of Atlantis, and this is surely insufficient, if one wants to acquire Herodotus as a further crown witness for the former existence of Atlantis." (p. 7) – Well, there never was any such claim of a "crown witness". My book is about the historical context, historical criticism, and "minor" but groundbreaking conclusions.

Once, the author of this talk expressed a "worth reading" for my Herodotus book in his BMCR review of Vidal-Naquet's book, because of my successful debunking of Vidal-Naquet's way of arguing against the existence of Plato's Atlantis. This is omitted here. Instead, there is a recommendation for Vidal-Naquet's book. The author of this talk plays a game of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Thorwald C. Franke: Aristotle book

My book about Aristotle is first and foremost about debunking the widespread claim among classicists that Aristotle spoke out explitictly against the existence of Plato's Atlantis. Therefore, the perspective on my book presented by Nesselrath is only strange: "Franke unfortunately has to concede that – just as we already knew before his book – Aristotle has left us no explicit statements about Atlantis" (p. 7). – But it is just the other way round: Nesselrath himself did NOT know this before he read my book, as he himself concedes only one page later (p. 8): "Franke, however, has devoted a considerable part of his book on Aristotle to the effort to undermine this opinion, and – as I would say today – he has been rather successful; I for one would now no longer claim that the sentence in question was really pronounced by Aristotle".

The wrong perspective continues: "With this question [What did the philosopher really think about Plato‘s island empire?], Franke of course implies that Aristotle did indeed think something about Atlantis – something, however, that would still have to be proved in the first place." (p. 6) – Well, it was not me in the first place, who claimed to know "something" about Aristotle's opinion, but many classicists, among them Nesselrath himself, did claim this. Now, that I have debunked their claim and presented a humble analysis of a possible cautious inclination of Aristotle towards the idea that Atlantis was a real place, these classicists should listen carefully instead of boasting and bragging just the other way round than they did until recently.

Time and again this talk provides the impression of a silly Thorwald C. Franke drawing premature conclusions, e.g.: "He overlooks, however, that in the Aristotle passages he cites there is certainly talk of phenomena which Plato in Timaeus and Critias connects with Atlantis; but the mere mention of these phenomena does by no means imply that the one who mentions them also had to believe in the existence of Atlantis." (pp. 7 f.) – Of course I have not overlooked this. Therefore I did not conclude this prematurely. Therefore I presented an extended argument.

And again, the impression of a silly Thorwald C. Franke drawing premature conclusions is provided, e.g.: "... this does not mean that Aristotle’s now total silence on Atlantis implies – as Franke would have it – something like approval of Atlantis’ existence on Aristotle’s part." (p. 8) – Of course not. Therefore I did not draw this conclusion. My argument is much more elaborated and looks quite different. I do not conclude from simple silence to anything. This talk avoids e.g. to talk about Theophrastus, here. We have an explicit statement by Theophrastus about Atlantis as a real place. Theophrastus was the disciple and direct successor of Aristotle. Just as a hint that my argument could indeed be much more elaborated than represented in this most strange talk.

Nesselrath's own argument (developed off-the-cuff after I debunked his previous error), that Aristotle just was not interested in Atlantis (p. 8), is rather insipid. And it is a pure speculation by Nesselrath that Aristotle knew that Plato had given up to write the dialogue Critias (p. 9) (and that he even knew for what reasons exactly he had given it up?!).

The talk's conclusion for my Aristotle book continues pressing the wrong perspective: "Franke’s efforts to recrute further ancient witnesses for an existence of Atlantis [h]as basically failed" (p. 9). – Yet, the biggest achievement of my book is to debunk the idea that Aristotle spoke out explicitly against the existence of Plato's Atlantis. And whether I succeeded in "recruting" Aristotle as a cautious witness for the existence of Atlantis, I leave to judge to every reader of my book. I could "recrute" Theophrastus and Posidonius and Strabo, at least.

Thorwald C. Franke's Atlantis hypothesis

Most strangely, a one-page (!) research program from 2003 of me has been taken for this talk as the basis for describing my Atlantis hypothesis. It was written before (!) all my books have been written. And there is an unmistakable disclaimer: "My Atlantis hypothesis is not a theory in the sense of a fully developed scientific theory. It is rather a hypothesis, for which valid proofs will have to be found first. It is not the result of many years of research, but a research program that is only at the beginning of many years of research. I do not claim to have found Atlantis, but merely to have found a good idea that is worth pursuing." (bold by me)

Despite of this disclaimer, this 2003 paper is taken as a basis to write time and again: "Franke believes" (p. 11), "Franke’s 'evidence' " (p. 11), or "Franke again regards something as proved" (p. 12), although I do not claim anything with this 2003 text! And even worse: Since I do not present any deeper argument in this one-page (!) paper, I am described to "ignore" something (p. 5) and to deviate from Plato without giving reasons (p. 10 f.). – This is a clear misrepresentation of my thoughts about Atlantis.

Especially hurtful is the misrepresentation of my idea about the 9,000 years of Atlantis. As everybody can see in my Herodotus book, my idea is that the 9,000 years show a striking correspondance to the 11,340 and more years of the age of Egypt as presented by Herodotus. Whether Atlantis is a real tradition from Egypt, or an invention under the ancient Greeks' perspective on Egypt, the 9,000 years have to be interpreted in the light of these 11,340 years. This is one of the reasons why Nesselrath can follow my groundbreaking conclusion from the Herodotus book that Atlantis did not look strange in the eyes of ancient Greeks, including the 9,000 years: "It is within the frame of these notions that Plato develops a very consistent picture, which would have seemed perfectly plausible to every Greek of his times" (p. 11).

Yet this talk simply omits (!) my idea from the Herodotus book based on historical criticism, and instead prefers a sentence from a cautious 2003 paper about the mere possibility (!) of an interpretation with moon years (p. 12). Imagine this: Moon years, the age-old simple claim of "Atlantologists" presented as my, Thorwald C. Franke's, idea of Atlantis! It hurts. Moon years were only my second choice in the Herodotus book 2006 (p. 151), and with the Atlantis conference 2008 I dropped the idea entirely (p. 164). But here we are, in the year 2017 when this talk was held, and a cautious non-printed research program from 2003 from a Web site (not my own Web site, by the way) is taken to impute things to me.

It is not fully clear what the talk intended with this sentence: "... an Atlantis supposed to lie on Sicily (which was very well known to the Greeks of Plato’s time) and supposed to have existed at a time that would more or less have been contemporary with the Trojan War (for which the Greeks of Plato’s time also had a very clear chronological notion); such an Atlantis would have met with nothing but surprise and disbelief among Plato’s contemporaries." (p. 11) – For clarification: While the Greeks had a (not really) clear chronological notion of the Trojan War, they had no idea about the Sea Peoples wars, and no idea what happened in Sicily at this time. Plato believed Atlantis to be 9,000 years old, and Egypt to be 11,340 (and more) years old, although this timeline is simply wrong and vastly overstretched, as we know today, since Egypt came into being only around 3,000 BC. There is no reason, why there could not have been a (misinterpreted) historical tradition about the time of the Sea Peoples wars from Egypt.

Concerning the big numbers in Plato's Atlantis account, this talk avoids the realization that these numbers could indicate an intention by Plato but that the event itself could nevertheless be historical, despite the numbers (p. 13). Are Herodotus' numbers about the Persian army real? And was the Persian army real? Or are the whole Histories of Herodotus mere inventions to glorify Athens? – It is not allowed to work with double standards, as Atlantis sceptics often do. For them, their belief in the invention of Atlantis is so strong, that they often do not realize that they are not allowed to conclude from the invention ... to the invention. Therefore, no double standards.

The argument against my – cautious – Italos thesis makes me wonder: This talk puts forward the claim, that it would be much easier to take the mythological Atlas as inspiration for the king Atlas of Atlantis (p. 14). – But I explained at length in my Herodotus book why king Atlas of Atlantis is not at all corresponding to the titan Atlas of Greek mythology. And Nesselrath consented in this point with me in his 2006 Kritias commentary (p. 267): The king is not the titan. Therefore, there is no such easy way as Nesselrath suggests. The name of king Atlas could of course be inspired by titan Atlas, but how likely is this, under the perspective that they have nothing in common except the mere name? This would be a premature conclusion, fully dependent on a dogmatic belief that Plato invented it all. Not every Atlas is "the" Atlas, not every Kritias is "the" Kritias, and not every Aristotle is "the" Aristotle. Somebody with a comprehensive knowledge of Classical Antiquity knows this.

It is obviously wrong that a reflection of the Sea Peoples on Plato's Atlantis story would mean a great distortion and thus would lose any significance (pp. 11 f.). Nesselrath's attempts to map Plato's Atlantis onto Sicily shows that Nesselrath has neither a sophisticated idea of Sicily, nor of Plato's description of Atlantis (p. 13). More on all this in a coming book. We should not cross bridges before coming to them. Neither was Rome built on one day, nor can Atlantis be found by hurrying up. Only silly "Atlantologists" do this, I am not doing this.

The usual mistakes of Atlantis scepticism in this talk

This talk puts forward some of the usual misconceptions of Atlantis sceptics.

There is e.g. the age-old nonsensical claim, that it is allegedly not allowed to deviate from Plato's descriptions, and that it would be like making king Arthur out of Queen Cleopatra (p. 11, 14). – As if I had not written an entire book about Herodotus to clarify the historical context and to understand which historical-critical arguments may work. Does the author of this talk e.g. believe that we are not allowed to deviate from the 11,340 years of Herodotus? Do we have to believe either in an Egypt being that old, or that Egypt does not exist at all? Of course not. It is utter nonsense to take the question to these two extremes, as this talk does with Atlantis. Well-reasoned deviations of the literalist reading of ancient texts under a historical-critical perspective are needed to interpret these texts correctly, while insisting in the literalist reading of ancient texts is a game for fools.

Then, that I allegedly had repeatedly chosen "suggestive" titles, headlines and words. Suggestive in the sense of misleading. For example, that I speak of the Atlantis "report" (p. 7). – But this accusation is downright wrong, since of course the Atlantis story is presented in the dialogue as a report of ancient times. Whether invented or not, there is no doubt about it. A valid example for a misleading suggestive wording would be e.g. to talk of the Atlantis "myth" as classicists often do. For many reasons: E.g. first, because this story is not a myth in any sense of this word as we usually use it. E.g. secondly, because the story is explicitly presented to be not a "mythos" but "logos". Whatever this means, we are not allowed just to ignore this. – Finally, this talk itself is guilty of wrong suggestive wordings, e.g. of this one: There is repeatedly talk of the "Atlantis tale". Now, "tale" is not a neutral word, it has a clear inclination towards an untrue, insecure story, such as sailors' yarn, fairy tales or myths. In a discussion where exactly this question is at stake, whether Atlantis is meant to be a real place or not, it is inappropriate to insert such subtle insinuations. – Also speaking of knowing (!) in connection with the claim that no credit was allegedly given to the existence fo Atlantis by Plato's contemporaries (p. 1, and see above) is a very suggestive wording.

That it would be a problem that we have only Plato as witness (p. 5). – It is not a problem. Aren't ancient authors often the only witnesses for the events they describe? What remains from antiquity, if we take away every single detail for which we have only one author? And how much nonsense remains for which we have more than one author?

That Plato would "hide" behind his dialogue participants, and would say nothing in his own authority and would not take responsibility for what he wrote about Solon and the priest (pp. 5 f., 7). – But of course, Socrates is the Alter Ego of Plato, and in the Timaeus, consenting philosophers talk on the same level of philosophy, trusting and confirming each other, including Socrates. Plato's credibilty would have suffered a lot if what he wrote was basically not true. The idea of an invented story of Atlantis as an "argument" within Plato's philosophy is weird in itself and cannot be explained. Do modern political philosophers increase their credibility by telling lies about political events in the past to which they connect their political philosophy?

That Atlantis was out of reach in a mythical realm: "In the horizon of Plato himself (...) the known world reaches to the Pillars of Hercules (or Strait of Gibraltar), and Atlantis lies just a bit beyond" (p. 12). – Not true of course. Atlantis was situated directly in front of Gibraltar, in Plato's eyes, since the mud allegedly left behind by the sunken island allegedly prevented to sail into the Atlantic sea. Atlantis was not out of reach, but fully within reach. The same is true for Plato's speculations about traces from primeval Athens, or for the city of Sais in Egypt with its written tradition of Atlantis. Crantor allegedly even traveled to Egypt and allegedly confirmed the Atlantis story by information he got in Egypt. The mythical out-of-reach theory is utter nonsense.

That Plato was not a historian (p. 13). – This does not mean at all that he did not care for history, since his philosophy has many historical aspects, and only true history can serve to make true (and credible) philosophy. Do modern political philosophers increase their credibility by telling lies about political events in the past to which they connect their political philosophy?

That behind all details of Plato's Atlantis account there was a concept (p. 13). – Really? And what about Hans Herter wondering about the Atlantean kings' ritual as superfluous? What about Nesselrath's idea of concept-less "Fabulierlust" which allegedly has driven away Plato when writing the Critias? But maybe there was indeed a concept behind this, but not the one Atlantis sceptics would like. The concept of the truthful historical reporter who reports what was told to him, whether he believes it or not, whether necessary for his point to make, or not.

That "Plato’s Atlantis can be understood most easily – and without anything inexplicable remaining –, if we take it as a construct invented by Plato, by which he wanted to demonstrate propositions and concepts which were important to him." (p. 14) – There are many weak explanations, and many explanations missing. As we have already seen: Why did Plato not identify king Atlas with titan Atlas, if this was his inspiration and his point of connecting the invention with known "reality"? It looks rather disconnected to usual Greek beliefs of titan Atlas. (Therefore, later Greek authors inserted such a connection with some force into the story.) The mentioned "Fabulierlust", which allegedly has driven away Plato when writing the Critias, is another weak explanation. And what a strange way of making an argument, just to invent something! I do not see any explanation in which way an invented primeval Athens and Atlantis could be a valid and working argument for anything! An invention usually does not serve as an argument. Even more so, if it is disguised as a non-fictional story. Imagine if someone realizes that it is a fiction! And wasn't Plato mocked for some of his Platonic Myths by contemporaries? The mockery works exactly because Plato believed in it. Some classicists take refuge in the idea of a "Noble Lie". But also they will have to explain a lot, which they can't. This is not the place to unfold the shortcomings of the idea that everything is explained. We just have to take into consideration the many contradictions between various classicists in their attempts to explain the Atlantis story as an invention. If it is so clear and so easy, why then so many contradictions? – More on this in a later book. Ockham's razor has a lot of work to do.

Minor mistakes

p. 5
I am not an "information scientist", but a computer scientist. In German: "Diplom-Informatiker", University of Karlsruhe (TH), today KIT.

p. 5
To be precise, I had published not three but four books about Atlantis at this time. Besides the two mentioned by Nesselrath, one by Gunnar Rudberg as editor, and one about the reception history of Plato's Atlantis in July 2016, about which Nesselrath is silent in his talk of April 2017.

p. 5
I did not participate in, and did not submit articles to, all the three Atlantis conferences, but I participated only in the conference in Athens 2008.

p. 10
"self-proclaimed geo-archaeologist Eberhard Zangger": Zangger is really a geo-archaeologist and did scientific excavations. He even has a PhD. And it is a shame how he was treated for his legitimate Atlantis hypothesis, though wrong it was.

p. 12
"... and Atlantis lies just a bit beyond – just as in the Renaissance Thomas Morus placed the island of Utopia invented by him just a bit beyond the new regions of the world in the Western Atlantic that had just been discovered by the Europeans." – Not true. Thomas Morus' Utopia is meant as a utopia and explicitly called "Utopia". It makes recognizable allusions to the island of Great Britain. Therefore, since it is a utopia, it is placed far out of reach, not only "a bit beyond". The journey to the island takes "many days" into unkown realm, even south to the southern tropical circle. This is how a real utopian text looks like. Plato's Atlantis does not match this pattern at all.


Normally, the author of this talk is a subtle author providing fruitful insights. Yet this time, something must have driven him away from his usual ways of arguing. In this talk Heinz-Günther Nesselrath has not lived up to the ideal of science.

PS 22 March 2021: Nesselrath's strange response to this review

Heinz-Günther Nesselrath has written a response to this review.

Heinz-Günther Nesselrath, On Praising Oneself and Bashing Others – A Response to Thorwald Franke’s review of my talk News from Atlantis? Some recent proposals for the location of Plato’s mysterious island of 2017. Please note: Not available in libraries., available since 21 March 2021.

The response continues the irrational and insulting attack with an orgy of illegitimate evasions of criticism, factual mistakes, distracting questions, rhetorical stun grenades etc.
Just a short bullet list:

Only one correction from my side:

Conclusion of PS

Nesselrath avoided to admit anything, although this is his duty. He only stepped deeper into the swamp. What is the purpose of attacking me in this irrational and insulting way? It will not do any good for him, nor for science. There is a danger that pseudoscientific Atlantologists like Graham Hancock may gain the most from this. The conclusion remains the same: In his talk and in his response, Heinz-Günther Nesselrath has not lived up to the ideal of science.

PS 30 March 2021: Severe breach of trust by Heinz-Günther Nesselrath

I have to realize that the Bologna talk from 2017 constitutes a severe breach of trust by Heinz-Günther Nesselrath.
See here:

PS 20 August 2021: Heinz-Günther Nesselrath still runs after a lost case

Heinz-Günther Nesselrath has written yet another response:

Heinz-Günther Nesselrath, And Still No Evidence for Atlantis … On Thorwald C. Franke's Further Reactions to My Refutation of His Atlantis Hypothesis, Göttingen 2021., available since 15 or 16 August 2021. Please note: Not available in libraries.

Nesselrath has still not realized that he has a serious moral problem which severely undermines his credibility. Without an excuse, everything he writes is now under the suspicion of seriously bad intentions. And nothing of it may be meant seriously but may be malicious irony. And spreading insults is closing all doors. Yes, Nesselrath has now begun to direct open insults against me. He calls me the "Supreme Spiritual Leader of the Universal Church of Atlantologists" and "Atlanto-Pope Thorwald I", and depicts me as the author of an "encyclical" and as an "ardent believer" in the existence of Atlantis, "whom no arguments to the contrary will be able to sway." (pp. 1, 11, 15)

These insults are not only insults but also another rhetorical stun grenade: They frame my research as the epitome of pseudoscientific "Atlantology" and me even as a "leading" person among "Atlantologists". Not true at all. But although Nesselrath frames me as a hopeless case which is not worth the ink, he has again written almost 15 pages with no less than 49 elaborated footnotes to counter my arguments. There is a certain irony in this situation, surely not intended by Nesselrath.

Again a huge amount of rhetorics

Even the title itself is a rhetorical stun grenade: "And Still No Evidence for Atlantis … On Thorwald C. Franke's Further Reactions to My Refutation of His Atlantis Hypothesis". – This title puts a double emphasis on "Evidence for Atlantis" and on a complete "Atlantis Hypothesis". So far I have not put forward any claim that I had "evidence" for the existence of Atlantis and I have not presented any claim of a substantiated Atlantis hypothesis, yet. So what is Nesselrath talking about?! This title is obviously intended to misguide every reader about the point of this whole discussion right from the beginning. The point is that I have put forward reasonable claims on detail questions quite successfully, as even Nesselrath had to concede. Therefore, Nesselrath wants the reader to focus on the "big thing" in order to lose sight of this important point. – In the same way, Nesselrath takes one of my balanced arguments to the extreme: My argument was: "To doubt the reality of Atlantis just because it is mentioned in a fictional dialogue is an illegitimate stun grenade. Shall we doubt that the earth is a sphere just because this fact had been mentioned first within a dialogue of Plato, and even within a quite strange Platonic Myth?" What Nesselrath makes of it is this: "Franke implies that every 'fact' presented in a fictional text is scientific!" (p. 11) – Oh, did I really imply this?

Then again there is a whole series of small and big imputations:

Then, there are self-entanglements and tautologies:

So far the rhetorics.

The substance of Nesselrath's arguments has become so thin now, that it almost fades away

Nesselrath repeats once more the claim that his Atlantis booklet from 2002 allegedly told its readers that Atlantis was no wonderland (p. 1 ff.). – But I can only repeat that the booklet does this only for certain aspects of the Atlantis story, not for all of its aspects, and especially not for the whole story as such. Saying that Plato wrote "Science Fiction" based on inspirations drawn from the real world (p. 24 booklet) does not convey this message to the reader. I can imagine that Nesselrath knew in 2002 that Atlantis was no wonderland, but he did not write it explicitly, and this is the point. Atlantis sceptics generally prefer to talk not too explicitly of the matter (for obvious reasons), or they still believe in the wonderland thesis. Therefore it was necessary that I pointed this out explicitly.

Nesselrath repeats desperately his futile claim concerning Morus' Utopia. He has still not understood the difference between the locations of Plato's Atlantis and Morus' Utopia. – I repeat that Atlantis was located directly next to the most remote point of the known world, while Morus' Utopia was located a long distance away from this point. I repeat, that the journey to Morus' island takes "many days" into unkown realm, even south to the southern tropical circle. All the vain rhetorics that I allegedly had no idea of Morus' Utopia cannot make this difference go away, and also not all the other severe differences.

Nesselrath makes the futile attempt to construe a chronology which makes it downright impossible that the elder Critias (Ostracon 480 BC) was the dialogue participant in Timaeus-Critias. He anchors his attempt in the assumption that "those" who think so would allegedly date the event at the Apaturia festival mentioned in the Timaeus to the year 520 BC. Nesselrath is pointing to Erler as the source (Philosophie der Antike – Platon, 2007, p. 273). – But Erler does not say that "those" assume this. Erler, who is not one of "those", just claims that this was the date, and not exactly this date but "around" this date ("um 520 v.Chr."). Besides the fact that "those" have varying reasons for their opinion. Nesselrath has no valid argument, here.

Nesselrath makes another futile attempt to prefetch the invention of the historical novel by several centuries. According to Nesselrath, a fiction would not be a lie, since the Greeks knew only one word for both: pseudos (p. 14). In truth, it is just the other way round: The Greeks knew only one word, exactly because fiction was (initially) considered a lie. There is a reason why it took several centuries to develop the genre of the historical novel, long after Plato.

Then there are the usual wrong, weak or insufficient arguments, all invalidated but nevertheless repeated a thousand times: About the alleged 1000 years of oral tradition until the Atlantis story was written down in Sais, or that Plato's dialogues are like theatre plays, or that Solon allegedly was not in Egypt, or why no one talked about Atlantis until Plato, etc. etc. – Repetition does not improve these arguments.

Concerning Nesselrath's claim that there would be a word of Plato in Strabo 2.3.6, independent from Plato's Timaeus, this claim is just repeated now (p. 14 f.) without adding any argument and without spending a single word on my arguments, which cover more than four pages and are now published in my book "Kritische Geschichte" (2nd edition 2021, 1st volume, pp. 99-104). So, the dissent on a correct translation has come to stay, as it seems.

Concerning the question, whether Philo really relied on Theophrastus when writing about Atlantis, Nesselrath now points to the commentary of R.W. Sharples (Commentary vol. 3.1: Sources on Physics, 1998). Sharples reports that over time several doubts have arisen, whether this or that passage in Philo's text really relies on Theophrastus, as was claimed by Philo, and Sharples gives a list of authors from 1858 until today (in a footnote), who doubted this or that passage, among them also Runia who doubted the Atlantis passage, as I discussed and successfully refuted. But none of these doubts ever produced a substantial argument respectively they even were invalidated, such as Runia's doubts in my case. What remains is only a gut feeling of doubts which is not based on any substantial argument but only on this long history of non-substantial doubts directed at this or that passage. Though Nesselrath desperately claims that there would be something which I had not considered (p. 3), this commentary adds simply nothing to the debate, and I already have successfully covered exactly the appropriate authors who wrote about the Atlantis passage. With Colson I covered even one more than the Sharples commentary mentions. It remains true: As long as there are not any substantial arguments that the Atlantis passage does not rely on Theophrastus, there is no basis for any substantial doubt. End of story.
       The doubts of Nesselrath ("very far from providing firm evidence" (p. 3), "no guarantee at all" (p. 4)) are way too strong, because they have no other basis than only this historical gut feeling. It has a certain irony that Nesselrath says that I allegedly did not rely on "more recent scholarship" but allegedly "on (mostly) obsolete treatments" (p. 3), while Nesselrath himself tries to base his argument on a mere historical gut feeling going back until 1858. As Nesselrath concedes, "the commentary says nothing explicitly" about the Atlantis passage (p. 5). That this disinterest by the modern commentator would be a hint to a disinterest on behalf of Theophrastus is only a desperate speculation on behalf of Nesselrath (p. 5). Even more desparate is Nesselrath's claim that the arguments against Aristotle's authorship of the Atlantis passage in Strabo 2.3.6 would be "similar arguments" (p. 5) as the arguments against Theophratus' authorship of the Atlantis passage in Philo! Because: What arguments, for heaven's sake? There are no arguments against Theophrastus' authorship! There is only this historical gut feeling. – Last but not least, the Sharples commentary reports on p. 135 f. of modern scholars who support the opinion that Philo's passages from Plato's Timaeus, and this includes the Atlantis passage, really rely on Theophrastus (especially Sedley 1998).
        It is legitimate that Nesselrath follows his personal doubts, but he should stop to put forward such desperate pseudo and makeshift "arguments". He should accept the current state of affairs, and remain silent until he can provide substantial arguments. Furthermore, he should consider that Theophrastus' Atlantis belief fits perfectly to the other authors of the time. Plato presents the Atlantis story as a real story, his enemies mock him, Aristotle is inclined to take it for real, Crantor clearly says that it is real, etc. etc. There is enough reason for a considerable gut feeling to doubt Nesselrath's doubts, even if he had an argument of some substance! The slowliness of the change of the gut feeling from doubt to acceptance is the only friend left to Nesselrath. What shall I say? Roma locuta causa finita?

Concerning the historical-critical method:

On Plato and historiography:

Where Nesselrath is right

Nesselrath claims that I am wrong (and therefore "sloppy", p. 15) in saying that he is now trying to demonstrate for "more than 20 years" that Atlantis is just an invention by Plato, because his booklet was published only in 2002, and my statement was made in 2021, therefore these are not "more than 20 years" but 19 years. True. – But wait ... hasn't Nesselrath published "Atlantes and Atlantioi" in 2001? And "Thomas Morus und Platon" in 2000? And "Utopie-Parodie in Lukians Wahren Geschichten" in 1993? And there is more. All these publications express the clear assumption that Plato invented Atlantis. But it could be said that an assumption is not a demonstration. True again. Therefore, Nesselrath is right and my number of 20 years was wrong. What an incredible sloppiness! – But wait again ... what about Nesselrath's "liberal" representations of some of his sources, and his horrendous misrepresentations of my theses?! No sloppiness here? No, it's not sloppiness. It's intention.

Conclusion of PS

We see a Heinz-Günther Nesselrath desperately running after a lost case. Nesselrath has largely run out of arguments and has thrown moral standards overboard. Nesselrath even does not realize the tragicomical irony of writing an elaborated response to allegedly worthless theses. Is there anyone who is not sad about this all? – One item has to be added to the list of required excuses:

There is a hint to Nesselrath's deeper motivation concerning Atlantis in his recent response. On p. 3 Nesselrath writes, that Franke "hideously destroys Plato's majestic fantasy and reduces Atlantis to a paltry bronze-age town on the east coast of Sicily." Obviously, Nesselrath has an inner picture of Plato as a great poet with a "majestic fantasy". This sounds quite romantic. It reminds of scholarly statements about the "great poet" Homer in the 19th century. For romanticists, finding Troy in the real world was blasphemy and lèse-majesty against the "divine" Homer. We can empathise with Nesselrath about his hurt romantic feelings. But we are obliged to follow reason first, not feelings.


Thorwald C. Franke, 2003: Hypothese: Lag Atlantis auf Sizilien?.
No printed publication. Not my Web site. Only of historical value. Please do not ignore the disclamer at the beginning of this text: "My Atlantis hypothesis is not a theory in the sense of a fully developed scientific theory. It is rather a hypothesis, for which valid proofs will have to be found first. It is not the result of many years of research, but a research program that is only at the beginning of many years of research. I do not claim to have found Atlantis, but merely to have found a good idea that is worth pursuing."

Announcement of Nesselrath's talk at the University of Bologna, 2017:

Thorwald C. Franke, Mit Herodot auf den Spuren von Atlantis – Könnte Atlantis doch ein realer Ort gewesen sein?, zweite verbesserte und vermehrte Auflage, editor editor Books on Demand, Norderstedt 2016. First edition was 2006.

Thorwald C. Franke, The Importance of Herodotus' Histories for the Atlantis problem, in: Stavros P. Papamarinopoulos (editor), Proceedings of the 2nd International Conference "The Atlantis Hypothesis" (ATLANTIS 2008), 10-11 November 2008 Athens/Greece, Publisher: Heliotopos Conferences / Heliotopos Ltd., Athens 2010; pp. 161-168.

Thorwald C. Franke, King Italos = King Atlas of Atlantis? A contribution to the Sea Peoples hypothesis, in: Stavros P. Papamarinopoulos (editor), Proceedings of the 2nd International Conference "The Atlantis Hypothesis" (ATLANTIS 2008), 10-11 November 2008 Athens/Greece, Publisher: Heliotopos Conferences / Heliotopos Ltd., Athens 2010; pp. 169-180. NB: Internet-published revised approach on the Italos question Oct 2010, cf. www. atlantis-scout. de/atlantis_italos. htm

Thorwald C. Franke / Ulrich Hofmann / Ulf Richter / Christian M. Schoppe / Siegfried G. Schoppe, The Atlantis Research Charter: A defined position in the colourful world of Atlantis research, in: Stavros P. Papamarinopoulos (editor), Proceedings of the 2nd International Conference "The Atlantis Hypothesis" (Atlantis 2008), 10-11 November 2008 Athens/Greece, Publisher: Heliotopos Conferences / Heliotopos Ltd., Athens 2010; pp. 637-643.

Thorwald C. Franke, Aristoteles und Atlantis – Was dachte der Philosoph wirklich über das Inselreich des Platon?, zweite verbesserte und vermehrte Auflage, editor Books on Demand, Norderstedt 2016. First edition was 2010. English 2012.

Thorwald C. Franke, Kritische Geschichte der Meinungen und Hypothesen zu Platons Atlantis – von der Antike über das Mittelalter bis zur Moderne, editor Books on Demand, Norderstedt 2016.        Contents Overview        Inhaltsübersicht
COPYRIGHT © March 2021 Thorwald C. Franke
Rechtliche Hinweise!