Natus est Ergo Hic beatus Columbanus



Some of the works of Columbanus provide access to a body of knowledge and learning in ancient Ireland going back many centuries before the arrival of Christianity in the 5th century.

Celestial Gaels: Other Cultures

In the century straddling 300 BC, the date given by the Book of Leinster for the Slaughter of Dinn Righ, the Celts under a leader named

Bren were attacking Greece and Rome, and Dionysus II the tyrant of Syracuse in Sicily was said to have been in league with them

against Rome. Dion, a close friend of Plato’s, had estates on the island which Dionysus seized, prompting Plato to travel from his home

on the Agean island of Samos to Sicily to plead on his friend’s behalf. Dionysus put him under house arrest for a year, during which time

they both discussed everything under the sun while some Celts in Dionysus’ service saw to Plato’s comfort. On his return home Plato

wrote the tracts Timaeus and Critias. Timaeus is made to relate the scheme of the Solar System according to Pythagorean dogma,

and Critias responds with the story of an island beyond the Pillars of Hercules called Atlantis.


Plato introduces the story with a priest of Sais (in Egypt) saying (Jean Markale’s translation) that,


            in this form the story is clearly a fable; but what is true is that

            there were great revolutions in the space around the Earth

            and in the heavens, and that at long intervals huge

            conflagrations wreaked havoc on the surface of the globe.


J.V. Luce puts it,


            Now this has the form of a myth, but really signifies a

            declination of the bodies moving in the heavens around the

            Earth, and a great conflagration of things upon the Earth.


Most books on this tale contain diagrams of a lost city constructed from the information and dimensions given by Plato.

It can be seen from this diagram

That the city was made up of a series of concentric circles alternately of land and water, of specific dimensions, with a canal going

through from the centre to the outer limit of the island. The dimensions for a further circuit are given, but these are so out of scale

with the rest that this circuit can not be diagramaticaly represented with the others. There is a similarity between the use of alternate

zones of land and water with the story of Diarmuid and the king of the Land of Under Wave to be discussed later.


The proportions given by Plato in Critias for the eccentric circuit are as follows,


            It was smooth and even, and of oblong shape, extending in

            one direction 3,000 stadia, but across the centre of the

            island it was 2,000 stadia.

 ... It was naturally for the most part rectangular and oblong,

 and where falling out of a straight line, had been made

regular by a surrounding ditch.  The ditch was 100 feet deep

and one stadium wide and 10,000 in length. Straight canals

100 feet wide were cut from this through the plain at intervals

of 100 stadia. ... Each of the lots in the plain was a square of

10 stadia each way, and the total number of lots was 60,000.


The shape given for the plain appears contradictory by being both rectangular and oblong. However, it fits the picture for an

elliptical orbit having a major axis of 3,000 and a minor axis of 2,000, or 1.5 to 1. These compare to Mercury’s orbit of 1.51 to 1, 

and each time Mercury transits between the Earth and the Sun it crosses the Sun at a different angle, a feature which seems to be

represented in the series of 100 foot wide canals at intervals of 100 stadia.


The area given for the plain is that of a rectangle whose sides are 3,000 by 2,000, equalling 6,000,000 square stadia, which would

not fit into an elliptical plain of these proportions. The elliptical area of the plain of Mercuty’s orbit is the major axis by the minor

axis by Pi over four, or 0.7854.


In Plato’s story the way this discrepancy is treated is as follows,


            The leader of each lot was required to furnish for the war the

            one sixth portion of a war chariot, so as to make up 10,000

            chariots, also two horses and riders for them, and a pair of

            chariot horses without a car, accompanied for a horseman

            who could fight on foot and having a charioteer who stood

            behind the man at arms to guide the two horses; plus two

            heavy armed soldiers, two archers, two slingers, three stone

            throwers, three javelin men, and four sailors to make up the

            complement for 1,200 ships.


These figures make the following list for his 60,000 lots,


            120,000 riders

             60,000 horsemen

             60,000 charioteers

            120,000 heavy armed soldiers

            120,000 archers

            120,000 slingers

            180,000 stonethrowers

            180,000 javelin men

            240,000 sailors for ships


       1,200,000 men in total, which, when levied on 6,000,000 leaves 4,800,000.


Together with these are


            120,000 horses for cavalry

            120,000 horses for 10,000 chariots


            240,000 horses in total.


Modern data gives the Eccentricity of Mercury’s orbit as 0.206; the figure 0.2 is found in the number of men to square stadia, and

in the number of horses to men. The ratio of men to horses is 5 : 1, so that a value of 1.2 could be applied to men mounted on

horses, which would increase the value total man power levy by 36,000 to 1,236,000, in a manner similar to that in the story of the

‘Pigs of Angus’. The 0.206th part of 6,000,000 square stadia also equals 1,236,000. When this is taken from 6,000,000 we are left

with 4,764,000. And when the area of Plato’s oblong of 4,712,389 is increased for Mercury’s orbital ratio of 1.5108 rather than 1.5,

we get 4,768,938, a discrepancy of about 5,000 square stadia in about 5,000,000.


Plato further provides details for a canal and harbour system. The city’s harbour was constructed of a series of concentric circles,

alternatively of land and water. The outer harbour was reached by a straight canal which was 50 stadia long and half a stadia wide.

This first harbour was a ring of water 3 stadia wide, and a bridge over the channel connected the outer land mass to the next inner

land mass which was an island 3 stadia wide and concentric with the outer harbour.


An observer standing on the deck of a ship midway between the two first land masses and looking towards the outer entrance of the

long canal 51.5 stadia away could see the moon at its apparent maximum angle exactly framed between the two sides of the outer

entrance (0.5 stadia wide/51.5 stadia long = 0 degs 33 mins 22.5 secs). As his ship moves to the point where the canal cuts through

the next inner land zone 53 stadia from the sea, the angle subtended by the outer entrance becomes almost equal to that of the

maximum angular diameter of the sun; a half over 53 is the same as 1 over 106 which is the number of the missing line Columbanus

poem ‘Carmen de Mundi Transitu’. At 54.5 stadia, half way through the first inner land zone, the angle equals the minimum diameter

of the sun. At 58.5 stadia, bringing him onto the innermost land zone, the angle becomes the minimum diameter for the moon

(0.4897 degrees).


Framing the discs of the Sun and Moon in this way suggests an imaginary model of an astronomical observation device which has

within it exactly the same proportions as those described in the Midhir and Etain model and the passages at Newgrange and Knowth.

By Plato’s time, however, Hipparchus had already invented a handheld version called the four cubit rod dioptra which Ptolomey

describes in ‘The Almagest’, and Pappus in his commentary on same (see description and diagram ‘Ptolomey, Copernicus, Kepler’,

 translation Cambridge University, Encyclopaedia Britanica 1952, page 171).

With this handheld version however, Ptolomey was forced to admit,


            we find the sun’s diameter everywhere contained by very

            nearly the same angle with no variation worthy of mention

            resulting from its distances.


As we have seen, Plato already had these angles centuries earlier.He did not bother to provide the details for the rest of the nine planets

of the solar system known to him - what he had provided was sufficient evidence to overturn Timaeus’ Pythagorean arrogance.

As he points out,


            Such was the military order of the royal city - the order of the

            other nine governments varied, and it would be wearisome to

            recount their several differences.


Dictatorial theorists it seems, prevented Plato from providing an open version of the universe which contradicted that of the

Pythagoreans. Columbanus found himself in a similar situation with Rome a thousand years later, as did Galileo after him.

Isaac Newton was far more diplomatic - he learned to keep his discoveries under his chest until appropriate circumstances

presented themselves.


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We publish studies and data which throw new light on Ireland's ancient history and culture. Because of small market size, this material will not be thought of as having a commercial benefit to book publishers. What is published here will have been reviewed by scholars.

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Codici Bobbiesi is a work published in Milan in 1907. There are two Volumes, the second has approx 100 plates of MSS brought from Columbans' monastery at Bobbio to Turin in the 17th cent. 175 copies of the Codici were printed, and it is now very rare indeed. Up until now, it has been the only place to see images of some these MSS.

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