Written by Graham | Created: Friday 30th August 2019 @ 1124hrs | Revised: Sunday 4th October 2020 @ 1129hrs
Once more at the distance of ten days' there is a salt-hill, a spring, and an inhabited tract. 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. They are reported not to eat any living thing, and never to have any dreams.
- Herodotus, Histories [4.184].
The Atlantes, if we believe what is said, have lost all characteristics of humanity; for there is no mode of distinguishing each other among them by names, and as they look upon the rising and the setting sun, they give utterance to direful imprecations against it, as being deadly to themselves and their lands; nor are they visited with dreams, like the rest of mortals.
- Pliny the Elder, Natural History [5.8].
It is from the midst of the sands, according to the story, that [Mount Atlas] raises its head to the heavens; rugged and craggy on the side which looks toward the shores of the ocean to which it has given its name, while on that which faces the interior of Africa it is shaded by dense groves of trees, and refreshed by flowing streams; fruits of all kinds springing up there spontaneously to such an extent, as to more than satiate every possible desire. Throughout the daytime, no inhabitant is to be seen; all is silent, like that dreadful stillness which reigns in the desert. A religious horror steals imperceptibly over the feelings of those who approach, and they feel themselves smitten with awe at the stupendous aspect of its summit, which reaches beyond the clouds, and well nigh approaches the very orb of the moon. At night, they say, it gleams with fires innumerable lighted up; it is then the scene of the gambols of the Ægipans and the Satyr crew, while it re-echoes with the notes of the flute and the pipe, and the clash of drums and cymbals. All this is what authors of high character have stated, in addition to the labours which Hercules and Perseus there experienced. The space which intervenes before you arrive at this mountain is immense, and the country quite unknown.
- Pliny the Elder, Natural History [5.1].
As mythology relates, their home was on an island which, because it was in the west, was called Hespera, and it lay in the marsh Tritonis. This marsh was near the ocean which surrounds the earth and received its name from a certain river Triton which emptied into it; and this marsh was also near Ethiopia and that mountain by the shore of the ocean which is the highest of those in the vicinity and impinges upon the ocean and is called by the Greeks Atlas.
- Diodorus Siculus, Library of History [3.53.4].
The story is also told that the marsh disappeared from sight in the course of an earthquake, when those parts of it which lay towards the ocean were torn asunder.
The first people against whom they advanced, according to the tale, was the Atlantians, the most civilized men among the inhabitants of those regions, who dwelt in a prosperous country and possessed great cities; it was among them, we are told, that mythology places the birth of the gods, in the regions which lie along the shore of the ocean.
Upon entering the land of the Atlantians they defeated in a pitched battle the inhabitants of the city of Cernê, as it is called, and making their way inside the walls along with the fleeing enemy, they got the city into their hands; and desiring to strike terror into the neighbouring peoples they treated the captives savagely, put to the sword the men from the youth upward, led into slavery the children and women, and razed the city. But when the terrible fate of the inhabitants of Cernê became known among their fellow tribesmen, it is related that the Atlantians, struck with terror, surrendered their cities on terms of capitulation and announced that they would do whatever should be commanded them, and that the queen Myrina, bearing herself honourably towards the Atlantians, both established friendship with them and founded a city to bear her name in place of the city which had been razed; and in it she settled both the captives and any native who so desired. Whereupon the Atlantians presented her with magnificent presents and by public decree voted to her notable honours, and she in return accepted their courtesy and in addition promised that she would show kindness to their nation.
And since the natives were often being warred upon by the Gorgons, as they were named, a folk which resided upon their borders, and in general had that people lying in wait to injure them, Myrina, they say, was asked by the Atlantians to invade the land of the afore-mentioned Gorgons. [...] But when the Gorgons drew up their forces to resist them a mighty battle took place in which the Amazons, gaining the upper hand, slew great numbers of their opponents and took no fewer than three thousand prisoners; and since the rest had fled for refuge into a certain wooded region, Myrina undertook to set fire to the timber, being eager to destroy the race utterly, but when she found that she was unable to succeed in her attempt she retired to the borders of her country. [...] Now as the Amazons, they go on to say, relaxed their watch during the night because of their success, the captive women, falling upon them and drawing the swords of those who thought they were conquerors, slew many of them; in the end, however, the multitude poured in about them from every side and the prisoners fighting bravely were butchered one and all.
"Now they say that the Emporicus Gulf has a cave which at the full tides admits the sea inside it for a distance of even seven stadia, and that in front of this gulf there is a low, level place containing an altar of Heracles, which, they say, is never inundated by the tide."
"An arm of the sea flows into the land here [at Lixus], with a serpentine channel, and, from the nature of the locality, this is interpreted at the present day as having been what was really represented by the story of the dragon keeping guard there. This tract of water surrounds an island, the only spot which is never overflowed by the tides of the sea, although not quite so elevated as the rest of the land in its vicinity. Upon this island, also, there is still in existence the altar of Hercules; but of the grove that bore the golden fruit, there are no traces left, beyond some wild olive-trees."
"The Hesperian Libyans inhabit a land narrow and long, and on all sides surrounded by the sea; for the external sea being divided about the summit of this neck embraces the land with numerous and marine billows. To these men Atlas is a temple and a statue. But Atlas is a hollow mountain, of a great altitude, open to the sea like theatres to the air; and in the middle region of the mountain and the sea there is a deep valley, fertile and well planted with trees. In this valley you may see fruits hanging on the trees, which, when surveyed from the summit, appear to be as it were at the bottom of a welld; but it is neither possible to descend into it, for it is precipitous, nor lawful. The prodigy in this place is the ocean, which inundates the shore, and not only pours on the plains but crowns Atlas itself with waves. You may also see the water rising by itself like a wall, and neither flowing into the hollow places nor supported by the land; but between the mountain and the water there is much air and a hollow grove. This is the temple and deity, the oath and statue of the Libyans."