Diodorus Siculus: Theogony of the Atlantians – Possible Anthropological and Historical information

In this post we present and analyze excerpts from Diodorus Siculus‘ “Library of History“, Book III (Loeb Classical Library), that refer to the Theogony-Mythology of the Atlantians.


Where were the Atlantians situated?

54 1 Setting out from the city of Cherronesus, the account continues, the Amazons embarked upon great ventures, a longing having come over them to invade many part of the inhabited world. 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, in this respect agreeing with those among the Greeks who relate legends, and about this we shall speak in detail a little later.

[NovoScriptorium: Therefore, the Atlantians lived on the West coasts of Africa.]

56 1 But since we have made mention of the Atlantians, we believe that it will not be inappropriate in this place to recount what their myths relate about the genesis of the gods, in view of the fact that it does not differ greatly from the myths of the Greeks. 2 Now the Atlantians, dwelling as they do in the regions on the edge of the ocean and inhabiting a fertile territory, are reputed far to excel their neighbours in reverence towards the gods and the humanity they showed in their dealings with strangers, and the gods, they say, were born among them. And their account, they maintain, is in agreement with that of the most renowned of the Greek poets* when he represents Hera as saying:

For I go to see the ends of the bountiful earth, Oceanus source of the gods and Tethys divine. Their mother.

*(He means Homer. The excerpt comes from the Iliad.)

3 This is the account given in their myth: Their first king was Uranus, and he gathered the human beings, who dwelt in scattered habitations, within the shelter of a walled city and caused his subjects to cease from their lawless ways and their bestial manner of living, discovering for them the uses of cultivated fruits, how to store them up, and not a few other things which are of benefit to man; and he also subdued the larger part of the inhabited earth*, in particular the regions to the west and the north. 4 And since he was a careful observer of the stars he foretold many things which would take place throughout the world; and for the common people he introduced the year on the basis of the movement of the sun and the months on that of the moon, and instructed them in the seasons which recur year after year. 5 Consequently the masses of the people, being ignorant of the eternal arrangement of the stars and marvelling at the events which were taking place as he had predicted, conceived that the man who taught such things partook of the nature of the gods, and after he had passed from among men they accorded him immortal honours, both because of his benefactions and because of his knowledge of the stars and then they transferred his name to the firmament of heaven, both because they thought that he had been so intimately acquainted with the risings and the settings of the stars and with whatever else took place in the firmament, and because they would surpass his benefactions by the magnitude of the honours which they would show him, in that for all subsequent time they proclaimed him to be the king of the universe.

*(“κατακτήσασθαι δ’ αὐτὸν καὶ τῆς οἰκουμένης τὴν πλείστην, καὶ μάλιστα τοὺς πρὸς τὴν ἑσπέραν καὶ τὴν ἄρκτον τόπους“, according to the ancient Greek text, which literally means “he conquered most of the World – the Ecumene- and mostly the places to the West and to the North”)

[NovoScriptorium: Uranus (Ουρανός), before anything else, is a Greek name. Diodorus tends to use the local people’s names in his writings. We are not sure though if he ‘translates’ in Greek here from another language. It would make a huge difference in any attempted further analysis to know such a thing. Nevertheless, the value of what we read remains unaltered; King Uranus organized the first urban societies for the primitive and  wild people of his time, in West Africa. The claim that he was the first to teach “the uses of cultivated fruits and how to store them up” is amazing. We have another candidate, together with the other very ancient myth of Triptolemus which we have presented here


for the region where seeds were first domesticated and early Agriculture appeared.

Uranus conquered almost all the World and mainly the regions to the West and to the North, according to the text. But, the regions ‘to the West’ cannot be other than Hesperia, i.e. what we nowadays name America. Remeber that the Atlantians lived on the Atlantic coast of Africa, therefore, the regions ‘to the West’ can be nothing more or less than the American continent. As for the regions ‘to the North’ obviously they may include many parts of the European continent.

Uranus is also described as a capable astronomer who teaches, the ignorant masses, basic Astronomy for their practical needs. Additionally, he appears to foretell/predict things that were going to happen using his astronomical knowledge. Diodorus is clear that what Uranus achieved was the product of scientific knowledge and not some kind of arbitrary ‘prophecy’. In the eyes of the perfectly ignorant though, a scientist predicting e.g. a solar eclipse, would look to their eyes as a…god. This is exactly what happened after his death; he was ‘deified’. This was a very common practice among the Greeks, which we meet in countless of their mythological narrations; ‘deification’ of mortals for their great deeds and their benefactions.]

57 1 To Uranus, the myth continues, were born forty-five sons from a number of wives, and, of these, eighteen, it is said, were by Titaea, each of them bearing a distinct name, but all of them as a group were called, after their mother, Titans. 2 Titaea, because she was prudent and had brought about many good deeds for the peoples, was deified after her death by those whom she had helped and her name was changed to Gê. To Uranus were also born daughters, the two eldest of whom were by far the most renowned above all the others and were called Basileia and Rhea, whom some also named Pandora. 3 Of these daughters Basileia, who was the eldest and far excelled the others in both prudence and understanding, reared all her brothers, showing them collectively a mother’s kindness; consequently she was given the appellation of “Great Mother”; and after her father had been translated from among men into the circle of the gods, with the approval of the masses and of her brothers she succeeded to the royal dignity, though she was still a maiden and because of her exceedingly great chastity had been unwilling to unite in marriage with any man. But later, because of her desire to leave sons who should succeed to the throne, she united in marriage with Hyperion, one of her brothers, for whom she had the greatest affection.

[NovoScriptorium: The names continue to be Greek. We notice here another recorded ‘deification after death’. Titaea was given the name Gê (i.e. Earth) after her death. This maybe of some value. Let’s take a look at the etymology of the name ‘Titaea’. From the Liddel & Scott Lexicon we learn that τιταίνω means τείνω, τεντώνω, εκτείνω (i.e. stretch out, extend). Both words, Titaea and Titan(s) derive from this original verb. Could it be possible that this name change contains some short of geological information? If yes, then in case we knew the time when the Earth ‘extended’ – obviously in comparison to the waters, the Sea- then we could be able to receive a possible estimate of the era these events took place.

Another very interesting thing is that people of such a distant era apparently didn’t have any problem to recognize a woman as their leader; it appears that ‘excellence in prudence and understanding’ were the standards of evaluation of a leader -or a person in general- and not his/her sex. The ‘marriage to her brother’ is a probable indication of ignorance of the health issues that such mating produces or an indication of an era where people, being few in numbers, were somehow forced to have incestuous relationships in order to breed]


60 1 After the death of Hyperion, the myth relates, the kingdom was divided among the sons of Uranus, the most renowned of whom were Atlas and Cronus. Of these sons Atlas received as his part the regions on the coast of the ocean, and he not only gave the name of Atlantians to his peoples but likewise called the greatest mountain* in the land Atlas. 2 They also say that he perfected the science of astrology and was the first to publish to mankind the doctrine of the sphere; and it was for this reason that the idea was held that the entire heavens were supported upon the shoulders of Atlas, the myth darkly hinting in this way at his discovery and description of the sphere. There were born to him a number of sons, one of whom was distinguished above the others for his piety, justice to his subjects, and love of mankind, his name being Hesperus. 3 This king, having once climbed to the peak of Mount Atlas, was suddenly snatched away by mighty winds while he was making his observations of the stars, and never was seen again; and because of the virtuous life he had lived and their pity for his sad fate the multitudes accorded to him immortal honours and called the brightest of the stars of heaven after him.


[NovoScriptorium: The mountains are still called Atlas in our times. We must note here that ‘Astrology‘ in the text has hardly anything to do with the modern usage of the term. On the contrary, it has an identical meaning with the word ‘Astronomy‘ which we use today to describe the science that deals with the laws of the stars.

So, Atlas was an astronomer, like his father and grandfather before him, who ‘perfected this science’. This is an indication that Knowledge was preserved ‘from father to son’ or from ‘an initiated to an initiated’, a practice that hardly ever seized among Humans of all times and places. This causes the obvious problem that if the chain of Knowledge is broken, for any reason, then Knowledge is either lost or eventually distorted because of ignorance. Only very recently in Human History, Knowledge became accessible to the majority of the inhabitants of Earth.

Then another amazing piece of information appears: Atlas was “the first to publish to mankind the doctrine of the sphere“! Not only people of such ancient times are supposed to teach ‘the doctrine of the sphere‘ but, even more amazingly, here we have a direct reference to written language at times unknown and surely extremely ancient!

We also receive a rational explanation about the myth of Atlas having the ‘entire heavens supported upon his shoulders‘.

We also learn about Hesperus (means ‘the western/er’), the son of Atlas, that he was also an astronomer ‘making his observations of the stars at the peak of Mount Atlas’. So, here we have a written affirmation that the ancients indeed observed the stars from great heights.

Characteristics of Hesperus: “piety, justice to his subjects, love of mankind, virtuous life“. This is probably an indirect way to imply that a scientist, as well as a man of authority of some kind, should have these qualities. For all these, Hesperus receives by the people “immortal honours“, i.e. here we have another case of ‘deification after death’. This is indeed in accordance with the core of ancient Greek Philosophical doctrines and Thinking, as we have already presented in multiple articles in our ‘Philosophy‘ section.]


4 Atlas*, the myth goes on to relate, also had seven daughters, who as a group were called Atlantides after their father, but their individual names were Maea, Electra, Taÿgetê, Steropê, Meropê, Halcyonê, and the last Celaeno. These daughters lay with the most renowned heroes and gods and thus became the first ancestors of the larger part of the race of human beings, giving birth to those who, because of their high achievements, came to be called gods and heroes; Maea the eldest, for instance, lay with Zeus and bore Hermes**, who was the discoverer of many things for the use of mankind; similarly the other Atlantides also gave birth to renowned children, who became the founders in some instances of nations in other cases of cities. 5 Consequently, not only among certain barbarians but among the Greeks as well, the great majority of the most ancient heroes trace their descent back to the Atlantides. These daughters were also distinguished for their chastity and after their death attained to immortal honour among men, by whom they were both enthroned in the heavens and endowed with the appellation of Pleiades. The Atlantides were also called “nymphs” because the natives of that land addressed their women by the common appellation of “nymph.”

*[Atlas (Άτλας) from τλάω = τολμάω, ανέχομαι, υπομένω (dare, tolerate, being patient). άτλας = άτολμος, απαθής (timid, apathetic). Atlas could equally mean: the one who does not dare, the one who is not tolerant, the one who is not patient. Again, women appear to innovate here instead of men.]

**[According to Homer and Hesiod, Maea lay with Zeus in Kyllene, Arcadia, in the Peloponnese. And there is where Hermes was born.]

[NovoScriptorium: From the names Maea, Electra, Taÿgetê, Steropê, Meropê, Halcyonê and Celaeno we receive quite a bit of information. Maea (μαία) means τροφός, θηλάστρια (i.e. nurse, breastfeeding woman). Meropê (Μερόπη) derives from μέροψ which means the ‘articulating man, the man who is able to speak’. Electra (Ηλέκτρα) derives from ηλέκτωρ which denotes ‘the ablaze’. Taÿgetê (Ταϋγέτη) is a name of unknown etymology but obviously related to the well-known Mount Taÿgetus (Ταΰγετος) in the Peloponnese. Steropê (Στερόπη) derives from στέροψ which means ‘the effulgent’. Halcyonê (Αλκυόνη) is actually the name of a fish-eating sea-bird. It may be indicative of the diet this group of people followed, based on sea-food. Its etymology shows that it must derive from the verb άλκω = αλέξω which means ‘ward off, prevent, repel’. Celaeno (Κελαινώ) derives from κελαινός which means ‘of dark colour’, ‘black’. These women “distinguished for their chastity and after their death attained to immortal honour among men”; we notice another case of ‘deification after death’. The myth might imply that a pioneering, mixed group of Humans, both white (‘ablaze-effulgent’, in the same way άργος -argos- indicates the same thing with a very similar word) and ‘dark skinned-black’, first developed language, agriculture, sciences, organized cities and then migrated towards other places. The narration provides us with the information that there were already Humans in the other parts of the World, as this pioneering group “became the first ancestors of the larger part of the race of human beings” (and not of all) and “founders in some instances of nations in other cases of cities” (i.e. the pioneering group either mingled with the locals or it just helped them evolve by knowledge transfer). “All deities of fertilizing moisture and other natural forces were called nymphs”, we read in the L&S Lexicon. Hence, we cannot exclude the possibility that the myth should equally be interpreted scientifically instead of historically. And, of course, as with many other myths, it may have been written in such a way as to provide information whichever expalantory path we may choose to follow.]


61 1 Cronus, the brother of Atlas, the myth continues, who was a man notorious for his impiety and greed, married his sister Rhea, by whom he begat that Zeus who was later called “the Olympian.” But there had been also another Zeus, the brother of Uranus and a king of Crete, who, however, was far less famous than the Zeus who was born at a later time. 2 Now the latter was king over the entire world, whereas the earlier Zeus, who was lord of the above-mentioned island, begat ten sons who were given the name of Curetes; and the island he named after his wife Idaea, and on it he died and was buried, and the place which received his grave is pointed out to our day. 3 The Cretans, however, have a myth which does not agree with the story given above, and we shall give a detailed account of it when we speak of Crete. Cronus, they say, was lord of Sicily and Libya, and Italy as well, and, in a word, established his kingdom over the regions to the west; and everywhere he occupied with garrisons the commanding hills and the strongholds of the regions, this being the reason why both throughout Sicily and the parts which incline towards the west many of the lofty places are called to this day after him “Cronia.”

[NovoScriptorium: Here is an example of the usage of the same name for different people. The older Zeus, brother of Uranus, was a king of Crete. Cronus “was a man notorious for his impiety and greed” and ruled over Sicily, Libya, Italy, and generally “established his kingdom over the regions to the west”. But he was a tyrannical leader, enforcing his leadership through violence: “everywhere he occupied with garrisons the commanding hills and the strongholds of the regions”. Cronus married his sister – we have discussed above this type of information.]


4 Zeus, however, the son of Cronus, emulated a manner of life the opposite of that led by his father, and since he showed himself honourable and friendly to all, the masses addressed him as “father.” As for his succession to the kingly power, some say that his father yielded it to him of his own accord, but others state that he was chosen as king by the masses because of the hatred they bore towards his father, and that when Cronus made war against him with the aid of the Titans, Zeus overcame him in battle, and on gaining supreme power visited all the inhabited world, conferring benefactions upon the race of men. 5 He was pre-eminent also in bodily strength and in all the other qualities of virtue and for this reason quickly became master of the entire world. And in general he showed all zeal to punish impious and wicked men and to show kindness to the masses. 6 In return for all this, after he had passed from among men he was given the name of Zên, because he was the cause of right “living” among men, and those who had received his favours showed him honour by enthroning him in the heavens, all men eagerly acclaiming him as god and lord for ever of the whole universe.

[NovoScriptorium: Zeus, the son of Cronus, is described as the leader of leaders, a ‘father’ for all Humans: a noble World leader. He was “honourable and friendly to all”, he “visited all the inhabited world, conferring benefactions upon the race of men”, he “showed all zeal to punish impious and wicked men and to show kindness to the masses”. He “became master of the entire world”. He was virtuous and bodily strong. He offered so much to the lives of Men that “he was given the name of Zên” (Ζήνα – το ζήν = η ζωή = life). So, basic terms of a Human life appear to be the following: honour, virtue, friendship, benefaction, non-discrimination among human beings, justice, kindness.

There are three interpretation paths here; one of them is to take literally that, at some unknown extremely old era, some person named Zeus, ruled all Humans in an almost divine way. The other one is to apply the above characteristics assigned to Zeus to the Actual/Real Being and analyze the excerpt purely theologically. The last possible interpretation is that the text could represent personal views of the author about the World, stemming from Philosophical ideals and beliefs. But, normally, the last one is not met in ancient Greek mythological narrations.]

These, then, are in summary the facts regarding the teachings of the Atlantians about the gods.

(Source: Diodorus Siculus, “Library of History”, Book III)


Research-Selection-Comments for NovoScriptorium: Isidoros Aggelos

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