Thursday, 2 September 2021

Atlantis, Lake Tritonis and Pharos


  The following note looks at Robert Graves’s casual writings about Atlantis, 1953-1967, foregrounding areas of difference with classical scholars and sources of influence. 
Smith, Oliver D. "Atlantis, Lake Tritonis and Pharos", The Robert Graves Review 1, no. 1 (2021): 215217.

Sunday, 8 August 2021

A Checklist of Hypotheses for the Yeti

 This paper provides a checklist of 35 hypotheses concerning the identity of the yeti – a hairy creature in Sherpa folklore, Tibetan literature, and cryptozoology. Most scientists dismiss the idea the yeti is an unidentified animal and instead suggest known animal misidentifications such as bears (e.g., Ursus thibetanus thibetanus) to explain yeti stories by the Sherpa as well as reported sightings of the creature at high altitudes in the Eastern Himalayas. Reports of yeti tracks in the snow (typically above 15,000 ft.) have been explained by many different animals.   
Smith, Oliver D. "A Checklist of Hypothesis for the Yeti", Academia Letters no. 2845 (2021): 112.

Saturday, 22 May 2021

Arcadian King Atlas and Plato’s Atlantis

 Plato in his dialogue Critias (c. 355 BCE) wrote about an imaginary king named Atlas and an island civilisation (Atlantis) which derived its name from him. This article argues Plato based his king Atlas on a mythical Arcadian king of the same name and his main inspiration for Atlantis was the town Methydrium and nearby city Megalopolis, both in Arcadia. Based on an ancient anecdote, it is argued Plato might have visited Megalopolis in the 360s BCE.

 Smith, Oliver D. "Arcadian King Atlas and Plato’s Atlantis"CORE (2021): 17.

Thursday, 11 March 2021

The Wildman of China: The Search for the Yeren

In ancient Chinese literature there are several mentions of hairy humanlike beings, and eyewitness reports of the yeren ("wildman") in China have persisted into the modern era. Dozens of alleged sightings of the Chinese wildman in the forests of Shennongjia (northwestern Hubei) eventually prompted a large-scale expedition of scientists to investigate the region in 1977. This article discusses three possible explanations for the Chinese Wildman. It concludes that the yeren is not an unidentified or elusive animal species, as some have proposed, but rather that stories about the wildman probably originated in early encounters of the Chinese with bearded European peoples. In fact traditions regarding the wildman in China can be traced back to the Qin dynasty when Chinese first encountered Greeks in the Far East and, unfamiliar with their hairier physical appearance, originated stories about a semi-human being.  
Smith, Oliver D. "The Wildman of China: The Search for the Yeren"Sino-Platonic Papers no. 309 (2021): 117.

Sunday, 3 January 2021

Did Solon Travel to Egypt?


Solon is widely thought by classicists to have once travelled to Egypt during his lifetime; this paper in contrast denies Solon set foot in Egypt based on issues with Herodotean chronology as well as puts forward a new argument: Egypto-Greek contact during Solon’s lifetime was limited to commerce mostly by Greek merchants from Asia Minor (such as Ionia), rather than mainland Greece or Aegean. Solon therefore unlikely considered travelling to Egypt for his apodemia (10-year period abroad). It is concluded that since Solon had never visited Egypt, Plato’s story of Atlantis that Solon supposedly overheard from Saitic priests is fiction.

  Smith, Oliver D. "Did Solon Travel to Egypt?"CORE (2021): 110.

Tuesday, 18 August 2020

Atlantis and the Minoans

In the 1960s and early 1970s it was fashionable among academics to identify Atlantis with Minoan Crete or Thera (Santorini) in the Aegean Sea. This Minoan hypothesis or Thera-Cretan theory was proposed in 1909 but did not attract much attention until it was popularised by three books in 1969. However, the hypothesis was criticised and arguably refuted in the late 1970s. Today there is consensus among archaeologists Atlantis never existed. This article details the background, heyday, and demise of the Minoan hypothesis, furthermore, it looks at why the Thera-Cretan theory collapsed. 

 Smith, Oliver D. "Atlantis and the Minoans"CORE (2020): 127.

Monday, 1 June 2020

An Alternative Site for Troy on Imbros (Gökçeada)

The Iliad describes Poseidon's view of Troy from Samothrace, atop the highest mountain on the island. It is argued from this view, the city of Troy couldn't have been Hisarlik. Instead, an alternative location for Troy is suggested, about 45 miles northwest of Hisarlik on the island Imbros (Gökçeada), further identifying the Trojan citadel (Ilios) with the archaeological mound Yenibademli Höyük. 
Smith, Oliver D. "An Alternative Site for Troy on Imbros (Gökçeada)", Kerberos: KCL's Classics Undergraduate Research Journal 2, no. 2 (2020): 6170.

Thursday, 18 July 2019

In Search of the Pillars of Heracles

The Pillars of Heracles were columns ancient Greeks regarded as marking the boundaries of the furthest west. In Greek mythology, Heracles laid down the columns when sailing to the island Erytheia at the edge of the world. It is argued the original columns were located during the time of Homer (late 8th century BCE) and Hesiod (c. 700 BCE) at Epirus (northwestern Greece) but were relocated to the south Iberian Peninsula in the 630s BCE, when Greeks expanded their geographical horizon and began trading with Tartesso-Iberians. 
Smith, Oliver D. "In Search of the Pillars of Heracles"Kerberos: KCL's Classics Undergraduate Research Journal 1, no. 3 (2019): 6976. 

Thursday, 9 May 2019

Greek Myth and the Relict Hominoid Hypothesis: Satyrs and Neanderthals

In 1982 Myra Shackley published “The Case for Neanderthal Survival: Fact, Fiction or Fraction?” in the journal Antiquity, followed by a book the next year Still Living? Yeti, Sasquatch and the Neanderthal Enigma. While focusing on recent alleged sightings of the Almas (a hairy human-like creature) across Central Asia as a possible relict population of Neanderthals surviving in remote mountainous areas, she also discussed Boris Porshnev’s (1968) theory that there might have been Neanderthal survival in other parts of the world such as forests and mountains in Greece, furthermore that Satyrs in Greek myth, rather than being imaginary creatures, were based on sightings of relict Neanderthals, albeit distorted, as stories about them were retold. This paper examines evidence for the Satyr-Neanderthal relict hominoid hypothesis (based on classical artwork and ancient literary descriptions of Satyrs) concluding like Shackley did, Porshnev’s theory “deserves serious consideration”. 
 "Greek Myth and the Relict Hominoid Hypothesis: Satyrs and Neanderthals" (Conference Paper), Open University Classical Studies Postgraduate WiP Day, Milton Keynes 9th May 2019.

Monday, 4 June 2018

Hesiod and Geomythology

The ancient Greeks had a myth about five successional kinds (ages) of mankind: gold, silver, bronze, heroic and iron. While most classicists accept the last three kinds have some basis in historical truth (interpreting them as the archaeological sequence of bronze and iron metalworking), the silver or gold kinds are instead treated as metaphorical or symbolic. In this article it is instead argued for a geomythological interpretation; the first two metals as a folk memory of the Neolithic, when deposits of these native metals were discovered.     
Smith, Oliver D. "Hesiod and Geomythology", Logoi: The Oxford and Cambridge Undergraduate Classics Journal 1, no. 1 (2021): 111.*
* The online journal Logoi closed soon after my manuscript passed review; I self-published and revised the paper with permission of the journal's editor Konrad Suchodolski (personal email communication).

Monday, 8 August 2016

The Atlantis Story: An Authentic Oral Tradition?

The story of Atlantis appears in Plato’s Timaeus-Critias (c. 355 BCE) as an oral tradition Solon acquired in Egypt and adapted into an epic poem, but which he left unfinished. Nevertheless, Solon told the story to his family relative Dropides, who passed it orally to his son (Critias the elder), who in turn told it to his grandson (Critias the younger). Either this oral transmission actually took place, or Plato was the fabricator. If the latter, the entire tradition (including the island of Atlantis) is likely to be fiction. This article shows there is a lack of evidence for the Atlantis story being an authentic oral tradition and highlights problems with the transmission. Supposing oral retellings of the tradition did take place, it is seemingly impossible to distinguish fact from fiction in the story since the tale of Atlantis must have been garbled as it was retold over generations; reciting a tradition by word of mouth is unreliable.  
Smith, Oliver D. "The Atlantis Story: An Authentic Oral Tradition?"Shima: The International Journal of Research into Island Cultures 10(2): 1017.

Submergence: Atlantis and Related Mythologies

Dawson, Helen., Hayward, Philip., Smith, Oliver D., et al. (2016). Submergence - A Special Issue on Atlantis and Related Mythologies. Shima: The International Journal of Research into Island Cultures 10(2): 1128 (Contents).

Monday, 24 June 2013

Atlantis and Euhemerism: Geomythology

The author analyses the Atlantis story (Plato's Timaeus-Critias) and argues it is an authentic oral tradition that was passed from Solon to the family of Dropides, before eventually reaching Plato. The story was garbled via oral transmission (retelling a story by word of mouth is unreliable) and therefore semi-fictionalized, but probably contains a folk memory of a real location or an event. Geomythology is a form of euhemerism that tries "to explain certain specific myths and legends in terms of actual geologic events that may have been witnessed by various groups of people" (Vitaliano, 1973: 1). The author argues for a deep-time geological folk memory in the Atlantis myth of copper and gold when deposits of these native metals were first discovered during the Neolithic (Chalcolithic) and identifies the metropolis of Atlantis with Sesklo and the great plain of Atlantis, with the Thessalian plain.  
Atlantis and Euhemerism: Geomythology (University of Roehampton: BA Dissertation, 2013).* 

* Published as an e-book, Atlantis as Sesklo.
Rev. ed. Atlantis in Greece (Morrisville, NC: Lulu Books, 2014).