Volcanic Eruption of Callisti–The Lost City of Atlantis? by Rebecca Lochlann

Posted by on Oct 23, 2012 in Ancient Greece, Historical Research, Historical Tidbits | 2 comments

With a grating clash, the earth beneath them split, sucking them into a fissure. Chrysaleon, flailing as he fell, caught a protruding root in his right hand and Aridela’s wrist in the left. He strained to hold her, groaning beneath shooting agony in his injured arm and thigh as she climbed his body, gripping his thighs then his waist, and finally his shoulders. There they hung, choking in a cloud of dust and avalanche of dirt and stones, suspended by one tough root and Chrysaleon’s ability to disregard his injuries. Outside the trench, he heard blasts and roaring. The crack of wood. The earth splitting open in a thousand wounds.

The world was being unmade.

* * * *

Blood ran down Chrysaleon’s injured forearm as he hoisted Aridela to the summit of the chasm. She pulled herself out and turned, grabbing him, helping him over the crumbling lip and back onto the earth’s welcoming surface.

But what he’d always considered solid, imperishable, was dissolving. Dirt and sand erupted in fountains on every side. A nearby grove of black oak and junipers thrashed as though a titan stamped through them, yanking them out as he came.

Blood dripped off the ends of his fingers. He tucked his arm behind his back so Aridela wouldn’t see, and tried to ignore the burn of the wound being torn open.

Distant susurration echoed like the faraway roar of lions, and built until the air hummed.

Aridela reached out to him. Chrysaleon took her hand and pulled her, first one direction then another, as gashes split the earth and barred their way.

Above them, the heavens fractured.

Neither could do anything but press their hands to their ears and wait for death to end the terror. The detonation of the sky ripped through Chrysaleon’s head with such force he feared his skull would shatter.

The ground heaved. “Goddess, forgive me!” Aridela shrieked as she stumbled on land turned to maelstrom. “Forgive us!”

She thought Lady Athene was punishing them for what they’d done. Shivers arced through Chrysaleon’s spine as he peered into the sky, convinced she was right. A dirty-red glow, sparked by eerie rapid-fire flashes of lightning, marred the northern horizon.

Aridela fell to her knees, whispering, “Velchanos.” She stared into the sky, at the lightning. “He comes for us….”

Another rift opened, so close that she teetered and started to fall, but Chrysaleon grabbed her and jerked her back.

Something else, a boiling blackness, ringed with molten haze like clouds of fire, obliterated the heavens in the same direction as the lightning. He stared, stiff with horror, seeing Great Poseidon rise from the sea. “Come,” he cried, knowing this blood-soaked shadow brought their deaths. “Run!” He half-dragged Aridela past freshly uprooted trees.

* * * *

Murderous wind snapped tree trunks like twigs in the angry clasp of a god. The air grew hot and stank of sulfur. Branches burst into flames. Chrysaleon made sure Aridela pressed her face to her knees and he did the same. He covered his head and hers with his arms, but there was no escape, no choice between breathing and not. His lungs and mouth seared like meat on a spit. Aridela whimpered.

The wind died, leaving a crackle of burning wood, branches collapsing, the tortured shriek of animals. They saw nothing through the gaps but a smoky-red haze. “Are you hurt?”

The words scraped against Chrysaleon’s scorched, swollen throat. She whispered, “I am burned.”

Excerpt from The Thinara King 

The island in the Mediterranean nowadays called Santorini has had many names throughout the centuries. One of the oldest known names, and the one I use, is Callisti. In ancient Greek, it means “The Most Beautiful,” and is alternately spelled Kalliste.

Strongyle, another of Santorini’s ancient names, meant, “The Round One.”

Thera, yet another name long used for this volcanic island, can be translated as “Fear,” which, as it turns out, was rather prophetic, as is the name of the central mountain, rumored by some to be Alcmene, meaning “Wrath of the Moon.”

Book number two of my series, The Thinara King, jumps into the middle of this famed volcanic eruption on Callisti.

For many years, until “super” volcanoes were more clearly understood, this eruption was considered the worst in human history. It was so enormous, so destructive, (categorized as a Plinian type event) that it made the eruption of Tambora look like a tiny belch in the earth. It would have made the Mt. Saint Helen’s eruption seem like nothing more than a brief, sleeping baby’s gasp.

As scientists become more adept at studying the effects of volcanoes, (it’s impressive how much they’ve learned about the Santorini volcano, though it happened so very long ago), they have conjectured that the repercussions of this event went clear round the world, and probably affected the earth’s climate for many years. From the depth of the ash on the sea floor, they have determined that the worst damage done to Crete, a mere seventy miles away, was on the east side. With improved methods and the study of more recent eruptions, there are now conjectures that the pyroclastic flow (the most dangerous, murderous part of an eruption) could very well have traveled on top of the water clear to Crete. The idea that such a thing could happen is amazing, and is merely theory, not proven. But that’s how huge this eruption was. Tsunamis of course came along after, and devastated the entire coast; there are theories that the tsunami, which struck the northern coast, managed to flow clear into the city of Knossos. Charles Pellegrino, in his book Unearthing Atlantis, says: “Within hours of the Theran upheaval of 1628 BC., death rolled into southern Turkey on the tongue of a tsunami. Two peninsulas jutting into the Aegean Sea confined the wave as if between the prongs of a mighty tuning fork, building it higher and higher and ultimately funneling it thirty miles inland. To penetrate so far, it had to be eight hundred feet tall when it hit the shore.” (Pellegrino, C. Unearthing Atlantis. New York: Avon, 1991)

One small bit of positive news: recent theories state that most of the populace on Santorini actually managed to escape the island before it blew into the heavens, (leaving nothing but a sliver, part of which is again beginning to send out ominous messages). The volcano gave them warning, a warning they apparently heeded. Since Callisti is considered by many to be an outpost of Crete, it’s no leap of logic to assume most of the refugees would go there, and that’s what happens in my book.

As awful as this eruption was, it did not end Cretan society. I have no doubt many died of the aftereffects, like starvation and ash suffocation, and I explore those aftereffects in The Thinara King. But the Cretan civilization did eventually recover. These intrepid, hardy people managed to survive and even thrive again after this indescribable event. But at some point, later, the wondrous Bronze Age society of Crete (or Kaphtor) did disappear. This segment of my series, (a trilogy) offers one possible reason why, sets the starting point for the later books, and initiates a more familiar history—one that might never have occurred had Crete survived, retaining its original power and influence.

From everything Plato said about Atlantis, there is no doubt in my mind Thera is that fabled place.

Rebecca Lochlann, October 23, 2012  This post originally appeared on N. Gemi Sasson’s website


  1. A very vivid description – almost like being there. Writing about deep ancient times must be one of the hardest things an author can do. I look forward to reading more
    Judith Schara Caldwell

  2. Interesting info, Rebecca. I’d not heard that many of the people of Santorini actually survived the disaster. While I think I agree with the Thera-as-Atlantis theory, loyalty makes me toss out Bimini as a possible Atlantis site, since I used that locale in my book, POSEIDON’s DAUGHTER. 🙂