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Plato's Mistake (cont.)
By Nick Kollerstrom, PhD

Francis Bacon affirmed in his New Atlantis, ‘You shall understand (that which you will scarcely think credible) that about three thousand years ago, or somewhat more, the navigation of the world (especially for remote voyages) was greater than at this day.’ [7] If, as Graham Hancock has argued, we are ‘a species with amnesia,’ [8] then we may in some degree hope to overcome that amnesia by grappling with the Earth-measure question. Did nations long ago use such a measuring system, one assuming a mean circumference? Only a maritime civilisation would have needed that.

Primary evidence here comes from the Acropolis length & breadth as measured very carefully by Francis Penrose in 1882 (100 x 225 Greek feet): his measurements gave a mean value of 100 Greek feet as 101.368 feet; while taking a modern mean Earth radius, and dividing its circumference into arcseconds, gave 101.365 feet. [9]

Visiting Athene’s temple at the Acropolis (constructed about ten years before he was born), Plato never apprehended that its width, of 100 ‘Olympic’ Greek feet, derived from this very number, – that indeed it provided the most precise measure in existence of one 604 fraction of Earth’s mean circumference. Only in our time, as we come into high-precision knowledge of Earth’s dimensions, can this be ascertained. Whoever built the Acropolis had to have known this - or come from a tradition which did. An amnesia prevailed amongst Greek philosophers over this matter, of how ‘geo-metry’ had once signified earth-measure. Visiting the stadium racetrack in Athens, Plato would indeed have mulled over its six hundred feet length, and where, he would have wondered, did that unit, the number of feet in a stade, come from? The answer, that this Greek stade measured out one tenth of an arcminute of a Great Circle around the Earth, could alas never dawn upon him. ‘600 Olympic Stades were thus equal to one degree of latitude, and 100 Greek feet equalled 1 second of latitude – facts of which the Greeks themselves were quite unaware’ wrote John Ivimy. [10]

It never dawned upon Plato, leaning against the newly-built Acropolis, that it measured the Earth. No Greek philosopher twigged that their system of units was Earth-based. He took the Ur-number 604 to be a measure of Time, not Space, and garbled the ancient wisdom with a nonexistent period; only sorted out in our time by the Platonist philosopher John Michell.

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  1. J. Spedding, The works ... of Francis Bacon, 1858-74, Vol. 3, p.140-1. [back to text]
  2. Graham Hancock, Fingerprints of the gods, 1995, p.199. [back to text]
  3. N.K., ‘The Acropolis Width and Ancient Geodesy’, Cal Lab the International Journal of Metrology, 2005 Vol 12, pp.38-41. [back to text]
  4. John Ivimy, The Sphinx and the Megaliths, 1976, p.55 [back to text]

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