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Eurōpa

Εὐρώπη). One of the three main divisions of the ancient world. With the northern parts of it the ancients were very slightly acquainted — viz., what are now Prussia, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, and Russia. They applied to this quarter the general name of Scandinavia, and thought it consisted of a number of islands. From the Portuguese Cape to the Ural Mountains, the length of modern Europe may be reckoned at about 3300 miles, and from Cape Nord to Cape Matapan, about 2350.

The etymologies given for the name Europa are numerous:


1.

from the maiden Europa (q.v.);


2.

from Eurus, the southeast wind;


3.

from εὐρύς and ὤψ, applied to the continent as distinguished from the islands, and hence=“Broad Land,” an explanation favoured by Hermann; and


4.

from the Semitic erebh, “darkness,” i. e. “the land of the setting sun,” or “land of the West.”

As regards the progress of geographical discovery, it may be remarked that the earliest notices of Europe are in the writings of the Greeks, who inhabited the southeastern corner of the continent. From this country the geographical knowledge of Europe extended by degrees to the west and north. Homer was acquainted with the countries round the Aegean Sea. He had also a fairly accurate general notion respecting those which lie on the south coast of the Black Sea; but what he says about the countries west of Greece, on the shores of the Mediterranean, is a mixture of fable and truth, in which the fabulous part prevails. It would seem that, in his age, these seas were not yet visited by his countrymen, and that he obtained his knowledge from the Phœnicians, who had probably for some time sailed to these regions, but who, according to the common policy of trading nations, spread abroad false accounts of these unknown countries, in order to deter other nations from following their track, and participating in the advantages of this distant commerce. It is probable, also, that the Phœnicians long excluded the Greeks from the navigation of the Mediterranean; for when the latter began to form settlements beyond their native country, they first occupied the shores of the Aegean, and afterwards those of the Black Sea. As the European shores of this last-mentioned sea were not very well adapted for agriculture, their early settlements were mostly on the Asiatic coasts, and, consequently, little addition was made by these colonies to the geographical knowledge of Europe. But the navigation of the Phœnicians was checked in the middle of the sixth century before Christ, apparently because of their subjugation by the Persians. About this time, also, the Greeks began to form settlements in the southern parts of Italy and on the island of Sicily, and to navigate the Mediterranean Sea to its full extent. Accordingly, we find that in the time of Herodotus (B.C. 450) not only the countries on each side of the Mediterranean, and the northern shores of the Black Sea, were known to the Greeks, but that, following the track of the Phœnicians, they ventured to pass the Pillars of Hercules, and to sail as far as the Cassiterides, or Tin Islands, by which name the Scilly Isles and a part of Cornwall must be understood. It is even reported that some of their navigators sailed through the English Channel and entered the North Sea, and perhaps even the Baltic. (See Antichan, Les Grands Voyages de Découvertes des Anciens [Paris, 1891]). Thus a considerable part of the coasts of Europe was discovered, while the interior remained almost unknown. When the Romans began their conquests, this deficiency was partly supplied. The conquest of Italy was followed by that of Spain and the southern parts of Gaul, and, not long afterwards, Sicily, Greece, and Macedonia were added. Caesar conquered Gaul and the countries west of the Rhine, together with the districts lying between the different arms by which that river enters the sea. His two expeditions into Britain made known also, in some measure, the nature of that island and the character of its inhabitants. (See Britannia.) Thus, in the course of little more than two hundred years, the interior of all those countries was explored, the shores of which had been previously known. In the meantime, nothing was added to the knowledge of the coasts, the Greeks having lost their spirit of discovery by sea, and the Romans not being inclined to naval enterprise. After the establishment of imperial power at Rome, the conquests of the Romans went on at a much slower rate, and the boundaries of the Empire soon became stationary. This circumstance must be attributed chiefly to the nature of the countries which were contiguous to those boundaries. The regions north of the Danube are mostly plains, and at that time were inhabited only by wandering tribes, who could not be subjected to a regular government. Such, at least, are the countries extending between the Carpathian Mountains and the Black Sea, and therefore the conquest of Dacia by Trajan was of short continuance and speedily abandoned. The countries between the Alps and the Danube were soon added to the Empire; but as the nations who inhabited the tracts north of that river had not given up a nomadic life, they were enabled to elude the Roman yoke. (See Germania.) The most important addition to the Empire and to geographical knowledge was the conquest of Britain during the first century after Christ, to which, in the following century, the south of Scotland was added. Nothing seems to have been gained afterwards. The geography of Ptolemy contains a considerable number of names of nations, places, and rivers in those countries which were not subjected to the Romans. Probably they were obtained from natives and from Roman traders who had ventured to penetrate beyond the boundaries of the Empire. But these brief notices are very vague, and in most cases it is very difficult to determine what places and persons are indicated. See Geographia.

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