Ancient Evidence for Catastrophes: Part One


Though we almost never hear about them, ancient writers testify that men witnessed some of these catastrophes. Of course we are all familiar with the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in Italy during the first century AD, but catastrophes powerful enough to raise mountain ranges and even continents from the depths of the sea make the destruction of Pompeii seem miniscule.

Ussher, in his Annals of the World, documents two deluges after the flood of Noah, one around the time Esau reached the age of forty, and one recorded by Cecrops, an Egyptian contemporary of Moses. Ussher provides many sources outside the Scriptures to attest to the historical accuracy of these flood records.

1796 BC At this time the Ogygian Deluge occurred in the country of Attica 1020 years before the first olympiad. This is reported by Hellanicus, Castor, Thalus, Diodorus Siculus and Alexander Polyhistor in his third book of his Chronography, by Julius Africanus, as we find it in Eusebius’ book, de Prap. Evang. Varro says this flood happened 300 years earlier.

1556 BC Cecrops, an Egyptian, transported a colony of the Saits into Attica (Diod. Sic. 1. 1.) and set up there the kingdom of the Athenians. This was 780 years before the 1st Olympiad, according to Eusebius in Chron. reports from Castor. From the time of Cecrops, the Chronology of the He of Paras, published by that most learned J. Selden, among his Marmora rundelliana, deduces history or antiquities of Greece. After him memorable things happened in Greece as follows: a) Deucalion’s flood b) Phaeton’s fire

This implies that the supposed Greek myth of Deucalion’s flood, often thought to be a variation of Noah’s Flood, occurred at a different time. It also mentions “Phaeton’s fire”, another account believed to be a myth centering on the son of the god Apollo (Phaëthon, the son of Helios) driving his father’s chariot of the sun wildly and scorching the Earth. Note the reference to “Phaeton’s fire” by the Egyptian in the following account of Plato concerning of the words of Solon.

Writing around 375 BC, Plato states that men witnessed a series of catastrophes powerful enough to create mountains. In his dialogue Timaeus, Plato has Critias first affirm that what he is about to say is true:

Then listen, Socrates, to a strange tale, which is, however, certainly true, as Solon, who was the wisest of the seven sages, declared. He was a relative and great friend of my great-grandfather, Dropidas.

Solon was a great leader of Athens. The Athenians honored him for his honesty.

One of the [Egyptian] priests, who was of very great age; said, ‘O Solon, Solon, you Hellenes are but children, and there is never an old man who is an Hellene.’

Solon, bearing this, said, ‘What do you mean?’

‘I mean to say,’ he replied, ‘that in mind you are all young; there is no old opinion handed down among you by ancient tradition, nor any science which is hoary with age. And I will tell you the reason of this: there have been, and there will be again, many destructions of mankind arising out of many causes.

‘There is a story which even you have preserved, that once upon a time Phaëthon, the son of Helios, having yoked the steeds in his father’s chariot, because he was not able to drive them in the path of his father, burnt up all that was upon the earth, and was himself destroyed by a thunderbolt.

‘Now, this has the form of a myth, but really signifies a declination of the bodies moving around the earth and in the heavens, and a great conflagration of things upon the earth recurring at long intervals of time: when this happens, those who live upon the mountains and in dry and lofty places are more liable to destruction than those who dwell by rivers or on the sea-shore; and from this calamity the Nile, who is our never-failing savior, saves and delivers us.

‘When, on the other hand, the gods purge the earth with a deluge of water, among you herdsmen and shepherds on the mountains are the survivors, whereas those of you who live in cities are carried by the rivers into the sea; but in this country neither at that time nor at any other does the water come from above on the fields, having always a tendency to come up from below, for which reason the things preserved here are said to be the oldest.

‘The fact is, that wherever the extremity of winter frost or of summer sun does not prevent, the human race is always increasing at times, and at other times diminishing in numbers. And whatever happened either in your country or in ours, or in any other region of which we are informed–if any action which is noble or great, or in any other way remarkable has taken place, all that has been written down of old, and is preserved in our temples; whereas you and other nations are just being provided with letters and the other things which States require; and then, at the usual period, the stream from heaven descends like a pestilence, and leaves only those of you who are destitute of letters and education; and thus you have to begin all over again as children, and know nothing of what happened in ancient times, either among us or among yourselves.

‘As for those genealogies of yours which you have recounted to us, Solon, they are no better than the tales of children; for, in the first place, you remember one deluge only, whereas there were many of them; and, in the next place, you do not know that there dwelt in your land the fairest and noblest race of men which ever lived, of whom you and your whole city are but a seed or remnant. And this was unknown to you, because for many generations the survivors of that destruction died and made no sign.

If you are not familiar with this short dialogue of Plato, it would be worthwhile to read Timaeus and the companion dialogue which follows, Critias. The important paragraphs of Timaeus are in the middle of the dialogue. The bulk of Critias is a longer, more detailed description of Atlantis, which most people find more interesting, though the specifics are entirely hearsay or fantasy. The important testimony here is that various sudden catastrophes destroyed entire civilizations leaving only “those of you who are destitute of letters and education; thus you have to begin all over again as children, and know nothing of what happened in ancient times, either among us [the Egyptians] or among yourselves [Athenians].” The myths, according to Plato, are actual events repeated in ways those “destitute of letters and education” could understand. However, some of Plato’s testimony is firsthand. He clearly states that the Atlantic Ocean in his day (4th/5th centuries B.C.) was not navigable, though it was navigable in the days of Atlantis.

This power came forth out of the Atlantic Ocean, for in those days the Atlantic was navigable; and there was an island situated in front of the straits which you call the Columns of Heracles: the island was larger than Libya [Africa] and Asia put together, and was the way to other islands, and from the islands you might pass through the whole of the opposite continent which surrounded the true ocean; for this sea which is within the Straits of Heracles is only a harbor, having a narrow entrance, but that other is a real sea, and the surrounding and may be most truly called a continent.

A straightforward reading of this paragraph first says that the Mediterranean Sea was “only a harbor.” Before we reject this out of hand, we should remember that much of Alexandria, Egypt, which was built by Alexander of Macedonia 50-100 years after Plato wrote this dialogue is today under the Mediterranean Sea. The Roman writer, Virgil, wrote in the first century BC in his Aeneid, the story of the founding of Rome which contains the record of the Trojan horse, that Sicily and Italy were connected by a land bridge. That land bridge, according to Virgil, was destroyed by a catastrophe. Even today the Mediterranean has a higher salt content than the Atlantic.

Second, Plato says that there was “an island situated in front of the straits which you call the Columns of Heracles.” Today we call these straits the straits of Gibralter. Again, a straightforward reading of the text has Plato placing the island of Atlantis just west of Portugal and Morocco.

The third point seems impossible to modern readers. “The island was larger than Libya and Asia put together.” Remember that Plato wrote this from the perspective of an Athenian relating a story told to him by an Egyptian priest and probably does not mean the continents of Africa and Asia as we know them today. So even though the exact size of Atlantis is in doubt, a straightforward reading of Plato’s dialogue makes it too large to fit in the Mediterranean Sea.

The fourth point seems to validate Plato’s record. Atlantis “was the way to other islands, and from the islands you might pass through the whole of the opposite continent which surrounded the true ocean.” The “other islands” are in what we call the Caribbean Sea. Some of these islands we call Jamaica, Cuba and Haiti. Then Plato writes “from the islands you might pass through the whole of the opposite continent.” This “opposite continent” we call the Americas or the New World. Plato places a “true ocean” on the other side of this continent. We call this “true ocean” the Pacific Ocean. Since the Atlantic Ocean was not navigable in his day, how did Plato learn about these things?

This is especially interesting since after listing these geographic features, Plato mentions a war between Atlantis and Athens which ended with a catastrophe.

“But afterward there occurred violent earthquakes and floods, and in a single day and night of rain all your warlike men in a body sunk into the earth, and the island of Atlantis in like manner disappeared, and was sunk beneath the sea. And that is the reason why the sea in those parts is impassable and impenetrable, because there is such a quantity of shallow mud in the way; and this was caused by the subsidence of the island.”

In the time of Atlantis, according to Plato, the “Atlantic Ocean was navigable.” We may dismiss all of Plato’s testimony up to this point as hearsay. However, according to Plato the Atlantic Ocean in his day was “impassable and impenetrable, because there is such a quantity of shallow mud in the way.” The Atlantic Ocean of the modern world from Europe and Africa to the Americas not only has no shallow mud to make the ocean “impassable and impenetrable,” there is no hard evidence that there ever was an island of that size at that place. Plato not only records past catastrophes, but he testifies that the world he lived in was vastly different from the world we know. Both Plato’s world and the world before his were vastly different from the age before.

Plato’s catastrophe references are easily understood and clearly spelled out, but other ancient writers throughout the world are not. Their references to worldwide catastrophes make it difficult for us to determine the scope of the catastrophe. Examples of this kind are the plagues which befell Aeneas and his followers soon after they left Troy and settled on Crete. Though this seems at first reading to be something regional, Virgil claims that this plague came from Sirius, the Dog Star.


When rising vapors choke the wholesome air,
And blasts of noisome winds corrupt the year;
The trees devouring caterpillars burn;
Parch’d was the grass, and blighted was the corn:
Nor ‘scape the beasts; for Sirius, from on high,
With pestilential heat infects the sky:
My men- some fall, the rest in fevers fry.
Again my father bids me seek the shore
Of sacred Delos, and the god implore,
To learn what end of woes we might expect,
And to what clime our weary course direct.

If we do not dismiss this reference to Sirius as mere superstition, but something based on an actual event, it seems impossible for a plague from the heavens to be a regional plague.

Another reference to a great catastrophe is in the Book of Enoch. 1 Enoch 16 says “For the sun changes oft for a blessing or a curse.” 1 Enoch 41 says “Also another phenomenon I saw in regard to the lightnings: how some of the stars arise and become lightnings and cannot part with their new form.” 1 Enoch 60:18, which claims to be a fragment of the Book of Noah, says “The spirit of the sea is masculine and strong, and according to the might of his strength he draws it back with a rein, and in like manner it is driven forward and disperses amid all the mountains of the earth.” This was after the great deluge.

The Bible references numerous local catastrophes after the flood which could easily have been widespread or even global. God promised not to completely destroy the earth again with a flood, but this does not mean there could not have been extensive flooding that wiped out most low-lying areas of one or more civilizations or even continents.

First are the repeated droughts which resulted in famines. There were famines during the time of Abraham, Issac and a severe seven-year famine which drove Israel’s family to Egypt. There was a three-year drought and resulting famine during the reign of Ahab which Elijah prayed for, ending with a torrential downpour which Elijah also prayed for.

Second were the signs of heaven which must have been global such as the sun standing still for Joshua and moving backwards for Hezekiah. Third were the plagues on Egypt during the time of Moses. Though the Bible does not record any of these plagues occurring anywhere outside of Egypt, it would not be surprising to discover that at least some were regional, if not global. Fourth is the massive earthquake in Uzziah’s day (Amos 1:1) which caused damage which we see today throughout the ancient world.

2 thoughts on “Ancient Evidence for Catastrophes: Part One

  1. Hello Michael:

    I’ve been following your blogs for quite some time now. I’m impressed not only with your writing and your content, but also how you are promoting your books. I’m a lifelong author with many published books to my credit. (Search Norma Jean Lutz in author search on At this point I have have all rights reverted back to me on all my previously published novels. I have a few on Kindle and Nook now. But things are moving slowly.

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    Besides my books, I have a six-month extensive novel-writing course that I’m attempting to market. It too is moving very slowly.

    I have done some marketing and promoting on my own but it certainly isn’t my favorite thing to do,. [?]

    Would love to hear back from someone who appears to be doing something right. There are so many “come on’s” out there and all promise the moon. (You know how that goes.)

    Any tips you could share would be greatly appreciated. Have a blessed day, Norma Jean

    1. Norma, we appreciate your reading and commenting so much! We’ve been writing for over 30 years, and just publishing about 4. If you can hang on until tomorrow, I’ll post about our publishing experience, and link you to a few other blogs I’ve written about it. 🙂 I’ll share what we’ve done, and some places where you can get other people’s help as well.

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