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That geographical investigation is not inconsistent with philosophy.—That Homer gives proof of it throughout his poems.—That they who first wrote on the science have omitted much, or given disjointed, defective, false, or inconsistent accounts.—Proofs and demonstrations of the correctness of this statement, with general heads containing a summary description of the disposition of the whole habitable earth.—Credit to be attached to the probabilities and evident proofs that in many regions the land and sea have been shifted, and exchanged places with each other.


1 IF the scientific investigation of any subject be the proper avocation of the philosopher, Geography, the science of which we propose to treat, is certainly entitled to a high place; and this is evident from many considerations. They who first ventured to handle the matter were distinguished men. Homer, Anaximander the Milesian, and Hecatæus, (his fellow-citizen according to Eratosthenes,) Democritus, Eudoxus, Dicæarchus, Ephorus, with many others, and after these Erastosthenes, Polybius, and Posidonius, all of them philosophers.

Nor is the great learning, through which alone this subject can be approached, possessed by any but a person acquainted with both human and divine things,2 and these attainments constitute what is called philosophy. In addition to its vast importance in regard to social life, and the art of government, Geography unfolds to us the celestial phenomena, acquaints us with the occupants of the land and ocean, and the vegetation, fruits, and peculiarities of the various quarters of the earth, a knowledge of which marks him who cultivates it as a man earnest in the great problem of life and happiness. [2]

Admitting this, let us examine more in detail the points we have advanced.

And first, [we maintain,] that both we and our predecessors, amongst whom is Hipparchus, do justly regard Homer as the founder of geographical science, for he not only excelled all, ancient as well as modern, in the sublimity of his poetry, but also in his experience of social life. Thus it was that he not only exerted himself to become familiar with as many historic facts as possible, and transmit them to posterity, but also with the various regions of the inhabited land and sea, some intimately, others in a more general manner. For otherwise he would not have reached the utmost limits of the earth, traversing it in his imagination. [3]

First, he stated that the earth was entirely encompassed by the ocean, as in truth it is; afterwards he described the countries, specifying some by name, others more generally by various indications, explicitly defining Libya,3 Ethiopia, the Sidonians, and the Erembi (by which latter are probably intended the Troglodyte Arabians); and alluding to those farther east and west as the lands washed by the ocean, for in ocean he believed both the sun and constellations to rise and set.

“ Now from the gently-swelling flood profound
The sun arising, with his earliest rays,
In his ascent to heaven smote on the fields.4

Iliad vii. 421

“And now the radiant sun in ocean sank,
Dragging night after him o'er all the earth.5

Iliad viii. 485
The stars also he describes as bathed in the ocean.6 [4]

He portrays the happiness of the people of the West, and the salubrity of their climate, having no doubt heard of the abundance of Iberia,7 which had attracted the arms of Hercules,8 afterwards of the Phoenicians, who acquired there an extended rule, and finally of the Romans. There the airs of Zephyr breathe, there the poet feigned the fields of Elysium, when he tells us Menelaus was sent thither by the gods:—

“ Thee the gods
Have destined to the blest Elysian isles,
Earth's utmost boundaries. Rhadamanthus there
For ever reigns, and there the human kind
Enjoy the easiest life; no snow is there,
No biting winter, and no drenching shower,
But Zephyr always gently from the sea
Breathes on them, to refresh the happy race.9

Odyssey iv. 563

The Isles of the Blest10 are on the extreme west of Maurusia,11 near where its shore runs parallel to the opposite coast of Spain; and it is clear he considered these regions also Blest, from their contiguity to the Islands. [6]

He tells us also, that the Ethiopians are far removed, and bounded by the ocean: far removed,—

“ The Ethiopians, utmost of mankind,
These eastward situate, those toward the west.12

Odyssey i. 23
Nor was he mistaken in calling them separated into two divisions, as we shall presently show: and next to the ocean,—

“ For to the banks of the Oceanus,
Where Ethiopia holds a feast to Jove,
He journey'd yesterday.13

Iliad i. 423
Speaking of the Bear, he implies that the most northern part of the earth is bounded by the ocean:

“ Only star of these denied
To slake his beams in Ocean's briny baths.14

Iliad xviii. 489; Odyssey v. 275.
Now, by the ‘Bear’ and the ‘Wain,’ he means the Arctic Circle; otherwise he would never have said, ‘It alone is deprived of the baths of the ocean,’ when such an infinity of stars is to be seen continually revolving in that part of the hemisphere. Let no one any longer blame his ignorance for being merely acquainted with one Bear, when there are two. It is probable that the second was not considered a constellation until, on the Phœnicians specially designating it, and employing it in navigation, it became known as one to the Greeks.15 Such is the case with the Hair of Berenice, and Canopus, whose names are but of yesterday; and, as Aratus remarks, there are numbers which have not yet received any designation. Crates, therefore, is mistaken when, endeavouring to amend what is correct, he reads the verse thus: “ οἷος δ᾽ ἄμμορός ἐστι λοετρῶν,

” replacing οἴη by οἶς, with a view to make the adjective agree with the Arctic Circle, which is masculine; instead of the Arctic Constellation, which is feminine. The expression of Heraclitus is far more preferable and Homeric, who thus figuratively describes the Arctic Circle as the Bear,—‘The Bear is the limit of the dawn and of the evening, and from the re- gion of the Bear we have fine weather.’ Now it is not the constellation of the Bear, but the Arctic Circle, which is the limit of the rising and the setting stars.

By the Bear, then, which he elsewhere calls the Wain, and describes as pursuing Orion, Homer means us to under- stand the Arctic Circle; and by the ocean, that horizon into which, and out of which, the stars rise and set. When he says that the Bear turns round and is deprived of the ocean, he was aware that the Arctic Circle [always] extended to the sign opposite the most northern point of the horizon. Adapting the words of the poet to this view, by that part of the earth nearest to the ocean we must understand the horizon, and by the Arctic Circle that which extends to the signs which seem to our senses to touch in succession the most northern point of the horizon. Thus, according to him, this portion of the earth is washed by the ocean. With the nations of the North he was well acquainted, although he does not mention them by name, and indeed at the present day there is no regular title by which they are all distinguished. He informs us of their mode of life, describing them as ‘wanderers,’ ‘noble milkers of mares,’ ‘living on cheese,’ and ‘without wealth.’16 [7]

In the following speech of Juno, he states that the ocean surrounds the earth.

“ For to the green earth's utmost bounds I go,
To visit there the parent of the gods,

Iliad xiv. 200.

Does he not here assert that ocean bounds all its extremities, and does it not surround these extremities? Again, in the Hoplopœia,18 he places the ocean in a circle round the border of Achilles' shield. Another proof of the extent of his knowledge, is his acquaintance with the ebb and flow of the sea, calling it ‘the ebbing ocean.’19 Again,

“ Each day she thrice disgorges, and again
Thrice drinks, insatiate, the deluge down.20

Odyss. xii. 105.
The assertion of thrice, instead of twice, is either an error of the author, or a blunder of the scribe, but the phenomenon is the same, and the expression soft-flowing,21 has reference to the flood-tide, which has a gentle swell, and does not flow with a full rush. Posidonius believes that where Homer describes the rocks as at one time covered with the waves, and at another left bare, and when he compares the ocean to a river, he alludes to the flow of the ocean. The first supposition is correct, but for the second there is no ground; inasmuch as there can be no comparison between the flow, much less the ebb of the sea, and the current of a river. There is more probability in the explanation of Crates, that Homer describes the whole ocean as deep-flowing, ebbing, and also calls it a river, and that he also describes a part of the ocean as a river, and the flow of a river; and that he is speaking of a part, and not the whole, when he thus writes:—

“ When down the smooth Oceanus impell'd
By prosperous gales, my galley, once again,
Cleaving the billows of the spacious deep,
Had reach'd the Ææan isle.22

Odyssey xii. l.
He does not, however, mean the whole, but the flow of the river in the ocean, which forms but a part of the ocean. Crates says, he speaks of an estuary or gulf, extending from the winter tropic towards the south pole.23 Now any one quitting this, might still be in the ocean; but for a person to leave the whole and still to be in the whole, is an impossibility. But Homer says, that leaving the flow of the river, the ship entered on the waves of the sea, which is the same as the ocean. If you take it otherwise you make him say, that departing from the ocean he came to the ocean. But this requires further discussion. [8]

Perception and experience alike inform us, that the earth we inhabit is an island: since wherever men have approached the termination of the land, the sea, which we designate ocean, has been met with: and reason assures us of the similarity of those places which our senses have not been permitted to survey. For in the east24 the land occupied by the Indians, and in the west by the Iberians and Maurusians,25 is wholly encompassed [by water], and so is the greater part on the south26 and north.27 And as to what remains as yet unexplored by us, because navigators, sailing from opposite points, have not hitherto fallen in with each other, it is not much, as any one may see who will compare the distances between those places with which we are already acquainted. Nor is it likely that the Atlantic Ocean is divided into two seas by narrow isthmuses so placed as to prevent circumnavigation: how much more probable that it is confluent and uninterrupted! Those who have returned from an attempt to circumnavigate the earth, do not say they have been prevented from con- tinuing their voyage by any opposing continent, for the sea remained perfectly open, but through want of resolution, and the scarcity of provision. This theory too accords better with the ebb and flow of the ocean, for the phenomenon, both in the increase and diminution, is every where identical, or at all events has but little difference, as if produced by the agitation of one sea, and resulting from one cause. [9]

We must not credit Hipparchus, who combats this opinion, denying that the ocean is every where similarly affected; or that even if it were, it would not follow that the Atlantic flowed in a circle, and thus continually returned into itself. Seleucus, the Babylonian, is his authority for this assertion. For a further investigation of the ocean and its tides we refer to Posidonius and Athenodorus, who have fully discussed this subject: we will now only remark that this view agrees better with the uniformity of the phenomenon; and that the greater the amount of moisture surrounding the earth, the easier would the heavenly bodies be supplied with vapours from thence. [10]

Homer, besides the boundaries of the earth, which he fully describes, was likewise well acquainted with the Mediterranean. Starting from the Pillars,28 this sea is encompassed by Libya, Egypt, and Phoenicia, then by the coasts opposite Cyprus, the Solymi,29 Lycia, and Caria, and then by the shore which stretches between Mycale30 and Troas, and the adjacent islands, every one of which he mentions, as well as those of the Propontis31 and the Euxine, as far as Colchis, and the locality of Jason's expedition. Furthermore, he was acquainted with the Cimmerian Bosphorus,32 having known the Cimmerians,33 and that not merely by name, but as being familiar with themselves. About his time, or a little before, they had ravaged the whole country, from the Bos- phorus to Ionia. Their climate he characterizes as dismal, in the following lines:—

“ With clouds and darkness veil'd, on whom the sun
Deigns not to look with his beam-darting eye,
But sad night canopies the woeful race.34

Odyssey xi. 15 and 19.
He must also have been acquainted with the Ister,35 since he speaks of the Mysians, a Thracian race, dwelling on the banks of the Ister. He knew also the whole Thracian36 coast adjacent thereto, as far as the Peneus,37 for he mentions individually the Pæonians, Athos, the Axius,38 and the neighbouring islands. From hence to Thesprotis39 is the Grecian shore, with the whole of which he was acquainted. He was besides familiar with the whole of Italy, and speaks of Te- mese40 and the Sicilians, as well as the whole of Spain41 and its fertility, as we have said before. If he omits various intermediate places this must be pardoned, for even the compiler of a Geography overlooks numerous details. We must forgive him too for intermingling fabulous narrative with his historical and instructive work. This should not be complained of; nevertheless, what Eratosthenes says is false, that the poets aim at amusement, not instruction, since those who have treated upon the subject most profoundly, regard poesy in the light of a primitive philosophy. But we shall refute Eratosthenes42 more at length, when we have occasion again to speak of Homer. [11]

What we have already advanced is sufficient to prove that poet the father of geography. Those who followed in his track are also well known as great men and true philosophers. The two immediately succeeding Homer, according to Eratosthenes, were Anaximander, the disciple and fellow- citizen of Thales, and Hecatæus the Milesian. Anaximander was the first to publish a geographical chart. Hecatæus left a work [on the same subject], which we can identify as his by means of his other writings. [12]

Many have testified to the amount of knowledge which this subject requires, and Hipparchus, in his Strictures on Eratosthenes, well observes, ‘that no one can become really proficient in geography, either as a private individual or as a professor, without an acquaintance with astronomy, and a knowledge of eclipses. For instance, no one could tell whether Alexandria in Egypt were north or south of Babylon, nor yet the intervening distance, without observing the latitudes.43 Again, the only means we possess of becoming acquainted with the longitudes of different places is afforded by the eclipses of the sun and moon.’ Such are the very words of Hipparchus. [13]

Every one who undertakes to give an accurate description of a place, should be particular to add its astronomical and geometrical relations, explaining carefully its extent, distance, degrees of latitude, and ‘climate.’44 Even a builder before constructing a house, or an architect before laying out a city, would take these things into consideration; much more should he who examines the whole earth: for such things in a peculiar manner belong to him. In small distances a little deviation north or south does not signify, but when it is the whole circle of the earth, the north extends to the furthest confines of Scythia,45 or Keltica,46 and the south to the extremities of Ethiopia: there is a wide difference here. The case is the same should we inhabit India or Spain, one in the east, the other far west, and, as we are aware, the anti- podes47 to each other. [14]

The [motions] of the sun and stars, and the centripetal force meet us on the very threshold of such subjects, and compel us to the study of astronomy, and the observation of such phenomena as each of us may notice; in which too, very considerable differences appear, according to the various points of observation. How could any one undertake to write accurately and with propriety on the differences of the various parts of the earth, who was ignorant of these matters? and although, if the undertaking were of a popular character, it might not be advisable to enter thoroughly into detail, still we should endeavour to include every thing which could be comprehended by the general reader. [15]

He who has thus elevated his mind, will he be satisfied with any thing less than the whole world? If in his anxiety accurately to portray the inhabited earth, he has dared to survey heaven, and make use thereof for purposes of instruction, would it not seem childish were he to refrain from examining the whole earth, of which the inhabited is but a part, its size, its features, and its position in the universe; whether other portions are inhabited besides those on which we dwell, and if so, their amount? What is the extent of the regions not peopled? what their peculiarities, and the cause of their remaining as they are? Thus it appears that the knowledge of geography is connected with meteorology48 and geometry, that it unites the things of earth to the things of heaven, as though they were nearly allied, and not separated.

“ As far as heaven from earth.49

Iliad viii. 16

To the various subjects which it embraces let us add natural history, or the history of the animals, plants, and other different productions of the earth and sea, whether serviceable or useless, and my original statement will, I think, carry perfect conviction with it.

That he who should undertake this work would be a benefactor to mankind, reason and the voice of antiquity agree. The poets feign that they were the wisest heroes who travelled and wandered most in foreign climes: and to be familiar with many countries, and the disposition of the inhabitants, is, according to them, of vast importance. Nestor prides him- self on having associated with the Lapithæ,50 to whom he went, ‘having been invited thither from the Apian51 land afar.’

So does Menelaus:—

“ Cyprus, Phœnicia, Sidon, and the shores
Of Egypt, roaming without hope I reach'd;
In distant Ethiopia thence arrived,
And Libya, where the lambs their foreheads show
With budding horns defended soon as yean'd.52

Odyssey iv. 83.
Adding as a peculiarity of the country,

“ There thrice within the year the flocks produce.53

Odyssey iv. 86.
And of Egypt:—‘Where the sustaining earth is most prolific.’54 And Thebes,

“ the city with an hundred gates,
Whence twenty thousand chariots rush to war.55

Iliad ix. 383, et seq.

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