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CLIMA (κλίμα), literally a slope or inclination, was used in the mathematical geography of the Greeks1 with reference to the inclination of various parts of the earth's surface to the plane of the equator. Before the globular figure of the earth was known, it was supposed that there was a general slope of its surface from south to north, and this was called κλίμα. But as the science of mathematical geography advanced, the word was applied to different belts of the earth's surface, which were determined by the different lengths of the longest day at their lines of demarcation. This division into climates was applied only to the northern hemisphere, as the geographers had no practical knowledge of the earth south of the equator.

Hipparchus (about B.C. 160) seems to have been the first who made use of this division; his system is explained at length by Strabo (ii. p.132). Assuming the circumference of a great circle of the earth to be 252,000 stadia, Hipparchus divided this into 360 degrees, of 700 stadia to each; and then, beginning at the parallel of Meroë, and proceeding northwards, he undertook to describe the astronomical phenomena observed at each degree of latitude, or every 700 stadia: among these phenomena he observed that the length of the longest day at Meroë was 13 hours, and at Syene 13 1/2 The observations of later astronomers and geographers--such as Geminus, Strabo, Pliny, and Ptolemy--are described in the works cited below. Ukert, in a table, shows the climates as given by Ptolemy (Geogr. 1.23). There are nineteen climates, the beginning and middle of which are marked by lines called parallels, of which the first marks the equator, and the thirty-third the Arctic circle. The term κλίμα was afterwards applied to the average temperature of each of these regions, and hence our modern use of the word. (Strab. l.c.; Dionys. A. R. 1.9; Plut. Mar. 11, Aem. Paul. 5, Moral. p. 891; Plb. 7.6.1, 10.1.3; Athen. 12.523 e; Gemin. Elem. Astron. 5; Plin. Nat. 2. §§ 73-77; Agathem. 1.3; Cellar. Geog. 1.6; Ukert, Geog. vol. i. pt. 2, pp. 182, &c.)


1 The corresponding Latin word is inclinatio (Vitr. 1.1), also declinatio, devergentia (comp. Aul. Gel. 14.1; Col. 3.19). Clima was only used at a late period.

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