Page:EB1911 - Volume 02.djvu/906

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
858
ATLAS—ATLAS MOUNTAINS

bordered the Mediterranean. Athens alone had withstood them with success. Finally the sea had overwhelmed Atlantis, and had thenceforward become unnavigable owing to the shoals which marked the spot. In the Critias Plato adds a history of the ideal commonwealth of Atlantis. It is impossible to decide how far this legend is due to Plato’s invention, and how far it is based on facts of which no record remains. Medieval writers, for whom the tale was preserved by the Arabian geographers, believed it true, and were fortified in their belief by numerous traditions of islands in the western sea, which offered various points of resemblance to Atlantis. Such in particular were the Greek Isles of the Blest, or Fortunate Islands, the Welsh Avalon, the Portuguese Antilia or Isle of Seven Cities, and St Brendan’s island, the subject of many sagas in many languages. These, which are described in separate articles, helped to maintain the tradition of an earthly paradise which had become associated with the myth of Atlantis; and all except Avalon were marked in maps of the 14th and 15th centuries, and formed the object of voyages of discovery, in one case (St Brendan’s island) until the 18th century. In early legends, of whatever nationality, they are almost invariably described in terms which closely resemble Homer’s account of the island of the Phaeacians (Od. viii.)—a fact which may be an indication of their common origin in some folk-tale current among several races. Somewhat similar legends are those of the island of Brazil (q.v.), of Lyonnesse (q.v.), the sunken land off the Cornish coast, of the lost Breton city of Is, and of Mayda or Asmaide—the French Isle Verte and Portuguese Ilha Verde or “Green Island”—which appears in many folk-tales from Gibraltar to the Hebrides, and until 1853 was marked on English charts as a rock in 44° 48′ N. and 26° 10′ W. After the Renaissance, with its renewal of interest in Platonic studies, numerous attempts were made to rationalize the myth of Atlantis. The island was variously identified with America, Scandinavia, the Canaries and even Palestine; ethnologists saw in its inhabitants the ancestors of the Guanchos, the Basques or the ancient Italians; and even in the 17th and 18th centuries the credibility of the whole legend was seriously debated, and sometimes admitted, even by Montaigne, Buffon and Voltaire.

For the theory that Atlantis is to be identified with Crete in the Minoan period, see “The Lost Continent” in The Times (London) for the 19th of February 1909. See also “Dissertation sur l’Atlantide” in T. H. Martin’s Études sur le Timée (1841).

ATLAS, in Greek mythology, the “endurer,” a son of the Titan Iapetus and Clymene (or Asia), brother of Prometheus. Homer, in the Odyssey (i. 52) speaks of him as “one who knows the depths of the whole sea, and keeps the tall pillars which hold heaven and earth asunder.” In the first instance he seems to have been a marine creation. The pillars which he supported were thought to rest in the sea, immediately beyond the most western horizon. But as the Greeks’ knowledge of the west increased, the name of Atlas was transferred to a hill in the north-west of Africa. Later, he was represented as a king of that district, rich in flocks and herds, and owner of the garden of the Hesperides, who was turned into a rocky mountain when Perseus, to punish him for his inhospitality, showed him the Gorgon’s head (Ovid, Metam. iv. 627). Finally, Atlas was explained as the name of a primitive astronomer, who was said to have made the first celestial globe (Diodorus iii. 60). He was the father of the Pleiades and Hyades; according to Homer, of Calypso. In works of art he is represented as carrying the heavens or the terrestrial globe. The Farnese statue of Atlas in the Naples museum is well known.

The plural form Atlantes is the classical term in architecture for the male sculptured figures supporting a superstructure as in the baths at Pompeii, and in the temple at Agrigentum in Sicily. In 18th-century architecture half-figures of men with strong muscular development were used to support balconies (see Caryatides and Telamones).

A figure of Atlas supporting the heavens is often found as a frontispiece in early collections of maps, and is said to have been first thus used by Mercator. The name is hence applied to a volume of maps (see Map), and similarly to a volume which contains a tabular conspectus of a subject, such as an atlas of ethnographical, subjects or anatomical plates. It is also used of a large size of drawing paper.

The name “atlas,” an Arabic word meaning “smooth,” applied to a smooth cloth, is sometimes found in English, and is the usual German word, for “satin.”

ATLAS MOUNTAINS, the general name for the mountain chains running more or less parallel to the coast of North-west Africa. They extend from Cape Nun on the west to the Gulf of Gabes on the east, a distance of some 1500 m., traversing Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. To their south lies the Saharan desert. The Atlas consist of many distinct ranges, but they can be roughly divided into two main chains: (1) the Maritime Atlas, i.e. the ranges overlooking the Mediterranean from Ceuta to Cape Bon; (2) the inner and more elevated ranges, which, starting from the Atlantic at Cape Ghir in Sús, run south of the coast ranges and are separated from them by high plateaus. This general disposition is seen most distinctly in eastern Morocco and Algeria. The western inner ranges are the most important of the whole system, and in the present article are described first as the Moroccan Ranges. The maritime Atlas and the inner ranges in Algeria and Tunisia are then treated under the heading Eastern Ranges.

The Moroccan Ranges.—This section of the Atlas, known to the inhabitants of Morocco by its Berber name, Idráren Dráren or the “Mountains of Mountains,” consists of five distinct ranges, varying in length and height, but disposed more or less parallel to one another in a general direction from south-west to north-east, with a slight curvature towards the Sahara.

1. The main range, that known as the Great Atlas, occupies a central position in the system, and is by far the longest and loftiest chain. It has an average height of over 11,000 ft., whereas the loftiest peaks in Algeria do not exceed 8000 ft., and the highest in Tunisia are under 6000 ft. Towards the Dahra district at the north-east end the fall is gradual and continuous, but at the opposite extremity facing the Atlantic between Agadir and Mogador it is precipitous. Although only one or two peaks reach the line of perpetual snow, several of the loftiest summits are snowclad during the greater part of the year. The northern sides and tops of the lower heights are often covered with dense forests of oak, cork, pine, cedar and other trees, with walnuts up to the limit of irrigation. Their slopes enclose well-watered valleys of great fertility, in which the Berber tribes cultivate tiny irrigated fields, their houses clinging to the hill-sides. The southern flanks, being exposed to the hot dry winds of the Sahara, are generally destitute of vegetation.

At several points the crest of the range has been deeply eroded by old glaciers and running waters, and thus have been formed a number of devious passes. The central section, culminating in Tizi n ’Tagharat or Tinzár, a peak estimated at 15,000 ft. high, maintains a mean altitude of 11,600 ft., and from this great mass of schists and sandstones a number of secondary ridges radiate in all directions, forming divides between the rivers Dra’a, Sús, Um-er-Rabíā, Sebú, Mulwíya and Ghír, which flow respectively to the south-west, the west, north-west, north, north-east and south-east. All are swift and unnavigable, save perhaps for a few miles from their mouths. With the exception of the Dra’a, the streams rising on the side of the range facing the Sahara do not reach the sea, but form marshes or lagoons at one season, and at another are lost in the dry soil of the desert.

For a distance of 100 m. the central section nowhere presents any passes accessible to caravans, but south-westward two gaps in the range afford communication between the Tansíft and Sús basins, those respectively of Gindáfi and Bíbáwan. A few summits in the extreme south-west in the neighbourhood of Cape Ghir still exceed 11,000 ft., and although the steadily rising ground from the coast and the prominence of nearer summits detract from the apparent height, this is on an average greater than that of the European Alps. The most imposing view is to be obtained from the plain of Marrákesh, only some 1000 ft. above sea-level, immediately north of the highest peaks. Besides