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Some have claimed that a reference to Gaulish druids' origin stories appearing works by Timagenes and Julius Caesar refer to the destruction of Atlantis. This page assesses these and other claims from western Europe and north Africa.

The ancient writers, in doubt as to the earliest origin of the Gauls, have left an incomplete account of the matter, but later Timagenes, a true Greek in accuracy as well as language, collected out of various books these facts that had been long forgotten; which, following his authority, and avoiding any obscurity, I shall state clearly and plainly. Some asserted that the people first seen in these regions were Aborigines, called Celts from the name of a beloved king, and Galatae (for so the Greek language terms the Gauls) from the name of his mother. Others state that the Dorians, following the earlier Hercules, settled in the lands bordering on the Ocean. The Drysidae (i.e. druids) say that a part of the people was in fact indigenous, but that others also poured in from the remote islands and the regions across the Rhine, driven from their homes by continual wars and by the inundation of the stormy sea.
- Ammianus Marcellinus, Roman History [15.9.2-4].

A 19th-century engraving of two druids based on a 1719 illustration by Bernard de Montfaucon, who claimed that he was reproducing a bas-relief found at Autun, Burgundy.

This vision of a portion of the great nation of the Gauls coming in from far away islands is certainly alluring, particularly with reference to Atlantis (and the prominence of western islands in the worldview of the later Celtic peoples of Ireland and elsewhere).

It is equally certain, however, that this statement, which Ammian takes on the authority of Timagenes, has nothing to do with Plato's Atlantis: no less a personage than the great Roman general and statesman Julius Caesar [Commentarii de Bello Gallico 6.13] is good enough to supply the name of the island in which the concepts of druidry were said to have developed: -

[T]he druids [...] are engaged in things sacred, conduct the public and the private sacrifices, and interpret all matters of religion. To these a large number of the young men resort for the purpose of instruction, and they [the Druids] are in great honor among them. For they determine respecting almost all controversies, public and private; and if any crime has been perpetrated, if murder has been committed, if there be any dispute about an inheritance, if any about boundaries, these same persons decide it; they decree rewards and punishments; if any one, either in a private or public capacity, has not submitted to their decision, they interdict him from the sacrifices. This among them is the most heavy punishment. [...] Over all these Druids one presides, who possesses supreme authority among them. Upon his death, if any individual among the rest is pre-eminent in dignity, he succeeds; but, if there are many equal, the election is made by the suffrages of the Druids; sometimes they even contend for the presidency with arms. These assemble at a fixed period of the year in a consecrated place in the territories of the Carnutes, which is reckoned the central region of the whole of Gaul. Hither all, who have disputes, assemble from every part, and submit to their decrees and determinations. This institution is supposed to have been devised in Britain, and to have been brought over from it into Gaul.

Though Britain's inhabitants are no strangers to water, the island is still above sea level.

The account also finds echoes in the Irish myth of the Tuatha Dé Danann and their sojourn in the so-called "northern islands of Greece" (where "Greece" is likely a gloss dating from a time after the initial development of the tradition). From four cities - named as Falias, Gorias, Finias and Murias - they were said to have brought four priceless magical artefacts into Ireland, whence they appeared veiled in mist, generations after their ancestors had departed.

Of course, the Tuatha Dé appear to be euhemerised Celtic deities worshipped by the pre-Christian Irish, though Celtic mythology is - as stated above - certainly cognizant of mystical islands.

In addition to the discourse above, Ammian provides a classification of earthquakes [17.7.13]: -

Now earthquakes take place in four manners: either they are brasmatiae which raise up the ground in a terrible manner, and throw vast masses up to the surface, as in Asia, Delos arose, and Hiera; and also Anaphe and Rhodes, which has at different times been called Ophiusa and Pelagia, and was once watered with a shower of gold; and Eleusis in Boeotia, and the Hellenian islands in the Tyrrhenian sea, and many other islands. Or they are climatiae, which, with a slanting and oblique blow, level cities, edifices, and mountains. Or chasmatiae which suddenly, by a violent motion, open huge mouths, and so swallow up portions of the earth, as in the Atlantic sea, on the coast of Europe, a large island was swallowed up, and in the Crissaean Gulf, Helice and Bura, and in Italy, in the Ciminian district, the town of Saccumum was swallowed up in a deep gulf and hidden in everlasting darkness. And among these three kinds of earthquakes, myaemotiae are heard with a threatening roar, when the elements either spring apart, their joints being broken, or again resettle in their former places, when the earth also settles back; for then it cannot be but that crashes and roars of the earth should resound with bull-like bellowings. Let us now return to our original subject.

Whether or not Ammian has Atlantis in mind here is moot: he postdates Plato, so obviously he - like so many other supposed purveyors of information about Atlantis - would have heard of such a destruction through Plato.


It now behooves us to ask whether traces of Atlantis can be found among the peoples neighbouring the Gauls, as well as others who lived - and continue to live - along the Atlantic seaboards of Europe and Africa. This section will encompass brief notes about claims that the Basques, Berbers - and even the Norsemen(!) - knew of Atlantis and remembered the sunken island in their tales.


One claim commonly seen in books on the subject written by what one might call "alternative theorists" pertains to the ancient Euskara people, more commonly known as Basques, who live in the western Pyrenees about the French-Spanish border.

The Basques are of particular interest to linguists and historians in that they continue to speak their own language, unrelated to the Indo-European tongues which dominate much of Europe, whose closest relative is the ancient Aquitanian language spoken in south-western Gaul during the era of Caesar's campaigns.

Gaul is a whole divided into three parts, one of which is inhabited by the Belgae, another by the Aquitani, and a third by a people called in their own tongue Celtae, in the Latin Galli.
- Caesar, Commentarii de Bello Gallico [1.1].

The Basques are claimed to have knowledge of their origins from a "Green Isle" from which their ancestors - the Atlaintika - are said to have fled. The only source I have been able to establish for these claims is a poem entitled Aintzinekoak, a valid Basque term with a meaning along the lines of "pertaining to ancient times."

There are, however, issues with this. The information appears to have originated among writers interested in Atlantis rather than the Basques and their mythology, and circulates within an echo chamber made up of the likes of he of the truly bizarre career path, "Frank Joseph" and Ancient Aliens talking head David Hatcher Childress.

Of course, none of this invalidates the hypothesis of Basques holding traditions about Atlaintika, but it is not the most glowing endorsement of the theory either.

Plus, there is no timescale put on when such traditions - should they actually exist - arose. Needless to say, the Basques - like all the peoples of Europe and North Africa heirs of Classical tradition - have had ample time to have heard of Atlantis from Plato's dialogues and to have incorporated it into their own mythologies.


Another ancient people who dwell in a relevant part of the world are the Berbers (endonym: Amaziɣ [singular], Imaziɣen [plural]), the native population of Africa north of - and into - the Sahara and west of Egypt, offspring of the ancient Libyans - to which large grouping Herodotus' Atlantes and Atarantes would have certainly belonged.

A number of sources - of similar profile to those connecting the Basques to Atlantis - make mention of Attala or Atlala as an enemy from out of the western ocean who threatened the Berbers but ultimately met with ill-fortune and vanished.

Of course, the objections rehearsed above in the cases of Ammian and of the Basques also apply here: there is no reason to believe that, should these traditions actually exist, they are independent of Plato's account.

Additionally, in this case, one must also add that the term "Berber" itself covers quite a wide range of disparate groups. Many are still to be found in and around the Atlas mountains and the region of the former "Lake Tritonis," while the "Berber languages" are spoken by groups as far away as Libya, and also includes the language of the Tuareg, who live as far south as Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger. The Guanches, former inhabitants of the Canary Islands, spoke a related tongue. Thus, a blanket reference to "Berbers" seems an oversimplification.


The Vikings believed that Atli was a wondrous land in the west, and it was there also that the Teutonic races placed Valhalla, a mystic land of self-renewing fighting, drinking, and feasting.
- Charles Berlitz. Atlantis, the Eighth Continent.

Perhaps more than any other writer, Charles Berlitz - most well-known for his mastery of eight languages, whose other interests included various aspects of the paranormal - developed notions of knowledge of Atlantis among the modern peoples of Europe and Africa which are covered here.

This particular kernel of information, however, appears to be mistaken: Atli is, in Nordic sources, a personal name, being the Old Norse rendering of the name of the Hunnic leader Atilla.

Assuming good faith, Berlitz' contention may have arisen from the fact that the longer of two extant versions of the tale of Atli is known as Atlamál in grǿnlenzku (the shorter, dating from about AD 900, is Atlakviða), i.e. "the Greenlandic Lay of Atli." Atlamál in grǿnlenzku was likely written during the 12th century and, given the name, probably has its origins in an oral tradition passed around among the Greenlandic Norse people.

While Greenland was - and remains - a "land in the west," Atli was a conquerer from a people whose origins lay far in the opposite direction. The expert seafarers from early medieval Scandinavia did indeed discover and settle in a number of lands to the west - including parts of the Americas - but "Atli" is nowhere, to my knowledge, listed among them. As for Atlantis, how could they have visited an island which sunk generations upon generations before they ever put forth to sea?

Sir Graham