Guest Blog by Carl Martin, author of Edge of Remembrance: Gods and Dragons

Matriarchy: Athena's Acropolis
Acropolis and Parthenon with its large statue of Athena, patron goddess of Athens. Painting: Leo von Klenze, 1846 (PD).

Was Atlantis a matriarchy? In our modern, patriarchal society, the notion of women ruling a nation is something out of the ordinary. There are exceptions, like Britain’s Queen Elizabeth, but for the most part, presidents, prime ministers and royal heads of state have been male. Was there ever a time when women in power was the rule rather than the exception? There may have been.

When I first had the idea for Edge of Remembrance, I had been doing research on the past possible existence of Atlantis, combing through hundreds of pages of scientific literature, myth and legend, studying geology, climate science, oceanography, history, anthropology, archaeology, linguistics, genetics and more. During months of research, I came across an unexpected clue—a myth that sounded a lot like Plato’s story of Atlantis, though it never mentioned the “A” word.

I’ve been writing about this topic matriarchy and Atlantis for some time. Check out my article, “Atlantis Quest — Uncovering the Secrets that Prove Plato Right.”

Matriarchy: Temple of Athena Nike.
Reconstructed Temple of Athena Nike (Athena victory). Could the goddess have been symbol for a matriarchal society? Photo: Dimboukas (CC BY-SA-3.0).

If Atlantis was a matriarchy, why didn’t Plato mention it? Do people ever leave out uncomfortable details? We have to remember that the story of Atlantis went through several people before it came to Plato. If Plato’s story was true (and he claims it was), he lived in a society which treated women as second class citizens. Both the Greeks and the Romans despised the Etruscans (Tuscany) for the power they gave their women. The Etruscans had stone buildings and roads hundreds of years before the Romans stopped being merely dirt farmers. They were the powerful, older “step-brother” on the Italian peninsula.

The Atlantis story was supposedly passed down through thousands of years of Egyptian priests. Then, about 600 BC, one priest mentioned the story to Solon, the great law giver from Athens. Solon told the story to his family members and they passed it down from one generation to the next, until it reached Plato’s ears.

Atlantis Legend and the Story of Athena’s Birth

Matriarchy: Temple of Athena
Temple of Athena close-up, Parthenon, Athens. Photo: Thermos (CC BY-SA-2.5).

The critical details for our comparison are these:

  • Atlantis was the most advanced nation of all time (until Plato’s life).
  • Atlantis threatened to conquer the world.
  • Atlantis was swallowed whole by the sea, in a day and a night.
  • Refugees who may have fled the capital (head) city took with them fully mature knowledge of civilization.
  • Refugees carried with them the military might and weapons to protect themselves.

There is one other Greek myth which has these same elements. It is the story of Metis and the birth of Athena.

  • Metis was the wisest individual of all time.
  • The children of Zeus by Metis would one day overthrow him as king of the gods.
  • Metis was swallowed whole to prevent the birth of those children.
  • Athena was born from Zeus’s head, fully grown.
  • Athena wore armor and carried weapons upon her birth.

The myth of Metis, Zeus and Athena has some bizarre elements that don’t make much sense. But as symbols for the Atlantis story, they make perfect sense. Try to picture a man swallowing his wife whole. Gulp! And try to imagine a full grown woman wearing armor and carrying pointy things while still residing in her father’s head. Ouch!

But picture Metis as a symbol for matriarchal Atlantis being swallowed whole by the sea (a vast part of nature), and the myth starts to sound far more reasonable. Zeus was the king of all nature and the children of Atlantis threatened to take over the entire world. And now, picture Athena as a symbol for the refugees of Atlantis, being fully mature in their knowledge of civilization. They possessed a mature society. They held the weapons and technology to protect themselves from the chaos of an uncivilized, primitive world.

The fact that Metis and Athena were both women should tell us that they represent the nature of their society—one ruled by women—a matriarchy.

Egyptian Myth

Matriarchy: Egyptian goddess, Asett
Egyptian goddess, Asett (Isis). Could Asett have been another symbol of a matriarchal group? Painting in tomb of Seti I (PD).

Some of the Egyptian myths are equally bizarre until we look at them as stories told by people with an inadequate vocabulary. There is one story of Asett (Isis), Sett (Seth) and Heru (Horus) battling each other. It starts out with Asett and her son, Heru, against the invading Sett. But when Asett shows leniency to her brother, Sett, Heru is outraged. He cuts off Asett’s head and hides it from her in the mountains. Later Ra, the sun god, restores Asett’s head to her and gives her a crown to protect her.

How can a person live without their head? Impossible! But a group can live without their leader. If the head of a group is kidnapped, and later the leader is rescued, then the story starts to make more sense. Those who came afterward may not have had the vocabulary for “empire,” “faction,” and similar concepts.

In the novel, a renegade group of the Military Class attacks Egypt and Merla Velzna responds. In the Atlantean language, the Military Class is “setitsa.” The Egyptians call them Sett. When Merla comes to their aid with he own military forces, the Egyptians call her Asett—opposition of Sett.

While studying the Egyptian culture, I discovered that gods with a “T” ending were female, like Bast and Asett. (Note: the double-T ending is my own invention to help distinguish the name “Set” from the common word “set.”) But in the Egyptian myth, Sett was male. Could it be that the Sett military group came from a matriarchy, but was led by a male? That would explain the male god having a female ending.

Comparative Linguistics and Gender Equality

Matriarchy: Basques in costume
Basques in traditional costume, in Gipuzkoa province, Spain. Photo: Izurutuza (CC BY-SA-3.0).

A number of cultures through history have been closer to gender neutral than purely patriarchal. For instance, the Egyptians seem to have been matrilineal—the power to rule passing through the female. This is not exactly a matriarchy, but it’s closer. In other words, the new king (pharaoh) was not the eldest son as in strictly patriarchal societies. The new king was whomever the eldest daughter of the pharaoh decided to marry. If she didn’t marry, she became the new pharaoh. This happened at least twice in Egyptian history.

Societies with strong women who shared power abound throughout history. Some of the references for these remain scarce. Some require more corroboration, but they’re worth looking into.

The Etruscans were a far more gender neutral society and both the Romans and Greeks hated them for it. The Basques of Northern Spain and Southern France have long had strong women and men who did things other cultures would categorize as feminine. Basques have a strong tradition of the men cooking. They have the couvade, where the man curls up in birth pains while the woman goes into labor. The Georgians of the Black Sea have their Queen Tamara in their Golden Age and their strong princess, Medea in their myth of the Golden Fleece.

Matriarchy: Saint Sebastien, Basque Country
Saint Sebastien, Basque Country. Photo: Monster1000 (CC-BY-SA-3.0).

But the languages also offer some clues to a possible, matriarchal past. Across Eurasia, we find a number of languages of the agglutinative type. This by itself remains weak as evidence. Agglutinative merely means the structure of words includes “gluing” word parts together without any change in form or meaning in order to form other words. This linguistic behavior gives us little evidence that any of the languages are related. But it doesn’t disprove a relationship, either. Skeptics need to remember this fact: a lack of evidence does not disprove a hypothesis.

Linguists of the 19th century found a great deal of affinity between Basque (Euskara) and Georgian (Kartuli). Both regions were called Iberia, something Soviet leader, Josef Stalin (a Georgian), tried to outlaw. Modern linguists tend to dismiss any link, because there’s not enough evidence to prove a link. But that’s the point: a lack of evidence does not disprove a link. There still may be one; we may merely need to find more evidence, if it still exists.

The following are agglutinative languages that may be related to the children of Atlantis in one fashion or another. That’s a bold claim, I know. But it has some supporting data.

  • Basque (Euskara)
  • Etruscan (Rasena)
  • Georgian (Kartuli)
  • Sumerian
  • Finnish (Suomi)
  • Hungarian (Magyar)
  • Dravidian

One fascinating clue involves what are perhaps the two most sentimentally favorite words in any language—“mother” and “father.” These would have a tendency to persist over time, more than any other words. Here are “mother” and “father” in some of these agglutinative languages:

  • Basque—ama, aita
  • Etruscan—ati, apa
  • Etruscan gods—Ana, Aita
  • Sumerian—ama, ada
  • Finnish—äiti, isä
  • Hungarian—anya, apa or atya
  • Dravidian—amma, appa(n)
  • Georgian—deda, mama

If any or all of these societies switched from matriarchy to patriarchy at some time in the past, they had two key choices:

  • Keep the words with the roles, or
  • Keep the words with the gender.
Matriarchy: Tbilisi sidewalk cafes
Tbilisi sidewalk cafes in Georgia, land of the Golden Fleece and golden dragon. Photo: Copyright © Marko Petrovic.

Notice the difference between Basque and Etruscan. Basque for mother looks a little like Etruscan for father. Both use the letter “a” to surround a labial sound—“m” or “p.” Basque for father is similar to Etruscan for mother, with the letter “t” in the middle of the word—“aita” vs. “ati.” When I first found this, it remained a minor curiosity. But while digging into the Etruscan pantheon, I discovered two gods that revealed a startling clue to the Etruscan past. Their goddess of beginnings was named Ana and their god of endings was named Aita. While the words for mother and father appear to be gender-swapped between the two languages, the names of the Etruscan gods match the gender of their equivalent words in Basque: Ana = ama, Aita = aita.

Think about this for a moment. Both cultures once were matriarchies, born from the children of Atlantis. The Basques kept the words with the gender, so mothers remained “ama” and fathers remained “aita.” On the other hand, the Etruscans kept the words with the roles, so while mothers used to rule, men became the new “mothers” or “rulers.”

Perhaps the strangest discovery during my research was to find that the Georgians may have done a similar gender swap when they went patriarchal. Their word for mother is “deda,” while their word for father is “mama.” This is not proof that they were matriarchal, but it remains a significant clue in support of that possibility.

More Clues to the Children of Atlantis

Digging through history made me feel a bit like Indiana Jones. None of the discoveries gave me proof, but much of it made the story of Atlantis seem that much more plausible. While researching dragon myths, I found an interesting pattern that added to the sense of reality. More on that in my next blog.

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Edge of Remembrance: Gods and Dragons - coverEdge of Remembrance: Gods and Dragons is now available for pre-order. Check out the announcement.

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