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Is Atlantis Mentioned in the Mysterious Egyptian Temple of Edfu?

The Temple of Edfu in Egypt.
The Temple of Edfu in Egypt. Is Atlantis Mentioned in the Egyptian Temple of Edfu? Credit: Wikimedia Commons, CC-BY-SA 3.0

Plato’s story of Atlantis has sparked countless theories about its origin. Supposedly, this was a powerful island civilization that disappeared into the sea thousands of years ago. Many researchers say Plato completely fabricated this story, but others say it could be connected to a real civilization. One claim is that Egyptian records at the Temple of Edfu tell of the legend of Atlantis.

The connection between Egypt and Atlantis

First of all, why would we expect Egyptian records to possibly mention Atlantis in the first place? The reason is because Plato specifically tells us that the story of Atlantis originated from Ancient Egypt.

Plato claims that Critias spoke about a time when Solon, the Athenian lawmaker, visited Egypt. There, the Egyptian priests told Solon all about the tale of Atlantis. All of the details about Atlantis in Plato’s Timaeus and Critias supposedly come from these Egyptian priests. In fact, Plato’s account even claims that the story of Atlantis was written in the histories of the Egyptians, preserved in their temples.

For this reason, many researchers have sought to identify the story of Atlantis in Egyptian texts, especially in writings found inside temples. One example which some have pointed to as the source of Atlantis is the Temple of Edfu.

The Temple of Edfu and the legend of Atlantis

The Temple of Edfu is located in the far south of Egypt, on the west bank of the River Nile. On the walls of the temple, we find a fascinating myth which bears some similarities to the story of Atlantis.

Supposedly, these records tell the myth of a primordial world. At first, there was just water. Then, a bit of land came up. The gods caused this land to grow into a large island with a prominent mountain in the center. This is where the earliest gods lived. Eventually, some kind of catastrophe happened. A great serpent attacked the island, and then afterwards, the island was covered with water again.

This story does have some similarities to the story of Atlantis. According to the legends, the gods were involved in the creation of an island. Both Atlantis and the island of this myth had a mountain in the center. An outside force attacked the island in both stories. Finally, they both end with the island submerged underwater.

On the basis of these similarities, many researchers have argued that this myth on the Temple of Edfu was the source of the legend of Atlantis.

Problems with this theory

There are a number of key problems with this theory. One crucial problem is a chronological one. Plato wrote his account in the fourth century BCE. Any source for the story of Atlantis must predate Plato’s writings at the very least. But given that the whole point of this theory is that it connects to the story of Solon receiving the legend from the Egyptian priests, the source must predate Solon.

Solon visited Egypt in the early sixth century BCE. Therefore, this myth must date back to before that time if it is to be interpreted as the source for the Atlantis story.

The reality is quite different. The Temple of Edfu actually dates to after the time of Plato. It started being built in about 237 BCE, long after Plato wrote the story of Atlantis. Therefore, the idea that this Egyptian myth could have been the source of the Atlantis legend is simply impossible.

Stark differences between Atlantis and the Temple of Edfu

Another issue when it comes to interpreting this Egyptian myth as the source of the Atlantis legend is the fact that the two stories are actually not similar at all. The summary of the Egyptian myth that many researchers present is actually highly inaccurate, intentionally made to look more similar to the story of Atlantis than it really is.

It is true that the story starts off by relating the creation of the world. However, the specific bit of land which is the focus of the story is that on which the Temple of Edfu itself is located. The story, really, is about the creation of this temple. It explains how Horus landed there, beginning the worship of himself at that site.

The rest of the myth very explicitly describes the creation of the temple specifically. Furthermore, the attack of the serpent (supposedly analogous to the Grecian attack on Atlantis) in this Egyptian record happens fairly early in the story rather than the end. It is also a defeat for the serpent, not a victory.

Finally, there is simply no reference to this ‘island’ (actually the land underneath the Temple of Edfu) sinking or being submerged with water. This is a modern version. Therefore, there is no basis for concluding that the story of Atlantis comes from the Egyptian Temple of Edfu.

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