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 It is true that Pytheas of Marseilles affirms that the farthest country north of the British islands is Thule; for which place he says the summer tropic and the arctic circle is all one. But he records no other particulars concerning it; [he does not say] whether Thule is an island, or whether it continues habitable up to the point where the summer tropic becomes one with the arctic circle.1 For myself, I fancy that the northern boundaries of the habitable earth are greatly south of this. Modern writers tell us of nothing beyond Ierne, which lies just north of Britain, where the people live miserably and like savages on account of the severity of the cold. It is here in my opinion the bounds of the habitable earth ought to be fixed. If on the one hand the parallels of Byzantium and Marseilles are the same, as Hipparchus asserts on the faith of Pytheas, (for he2 says that at Byzantium the gnomon indicates the same amount of shadow as Pytheas gives for Marseilles,) and at the same time the parallel of the Dnieper is distant from Byzantium about 3800 stadia, it follows, if we take into consideration the distance between Marseilles and Britain, that the circle which passes over the Dnieper traverses Britain as well.3 But the truth is that Pytheas, who so frequently misleads people, deceives in this instance too. It is generally admitted that a line drawn from the Pillars of Hercules, and passing over the Strait [of Messina], Athens, and Rhodes, would lie under the same parallel of latitude.4 It is likewise admitted, that the line in passing from the Pillars to the Strait of Sicily divides the Mediterranean through the midst.5 Navigators tell us that the greatest distance from Keltica to Libya, starting from the bottom of the Galatic Bay, is 5000 stadia, and that this is likewise the greatest breadth of the Mediterranean. Consequently from the said line to the bottom of the bay is 2500 stadia; but to Marseilles the distance is rather less, in consequence of that city being more to the south than the bottom of the bay.6 But since from Rhodes to Byzantium is about 49007 stadia, it follows that Byzantium must be far north of Marseilles.8 The distance from this latter city to Britain is about the same as from Byzantium to the Dnieper.9 How far it may be from Britain to the island of Ierne is not known. As to whether beyond it there may still be habitable lands, it is not our business to inquire, as we stated before. It is sufficient for our science to determine this in the same manner that we did the southern boundaries. We there fixed the bounds of the habitable earth at 3000 stadia south of Meroe (not that these were its exact limits, but because they were sufficiently near); so in this instance they should be placed about the same number of stadia north of Britain, certainly not more than 4000.10 It would not serve any political purpose to be well acquainted with these distant places and the people who inhabit them; especially if they are islands whose inhabitants can neither injure us, nor yet benefit us by their commerce. The Romans might easily have conquered Britain, but they did not care to do so, as they perceived there was nothing to fear from the inhabitants, (they not being powerful enough to attack us,) and that they would gain nothing by occupying the land. Even now it appears that we gain more by the customs they pay, than we could raise by tribute, after deducting the wages of the soldiers necessary for guarding the island and exacting the taxes. And the other islands adjacent to this would be still more unproductive.
1 The tropic being placed at 24° from the equator by Strabo, and most probably by Pytheas also, the latitude of Thule, according to the observation of this traveller, would be fixed at 66°, which corresponds with the north of Iceland.
3 Hipparchus placed Marseilles and Byzantium at 30,142 stadia, or 43° 3′ 38″ of latitude, and estimated the parallel for the centre of Britain at 33,942 stadia, or 48° 29′ 19″. Whereas Strabo only allowed for this latter 32,700 stadia, or 46° 42′ 51″.
4 Viz. the 36° of latitude. The actual latitudes are as follow: The Pillars of Hercules, or Strait of Gibraltar, 360.The Strait of Messina, 38° 12′. Athens, 38° 5′. The middle of the Isle of Rhodes, 36° 18′; and the city, 36° 28′ 30″.
5 This mistake of Strabo caused the derangement in his chart of the whole contour of this portion of the Mediterranean, and falsifies the position of the surrounding districts.
6 Strabo having allowed 25,400 stadia, or 36° 17′ 8″, for the latitude of Rhodes and the Strait of Messina, determined the latitude of Marseilles at 27,700 stadia, or 39° 34′ 17″; its real latitude being 43° 17′ 45″, as exactly stated by Pytheas.
7 Or about 70. The actual difference in latitude between Rhodes and Byzantium is 4° 32′ 54″.
8 On the contrary, Marseilles is 2° 16′ 21″ north of Byzantium.
9 3800 stadia, or 5° 25′ 43″.
10 The following is a tabular form of the latitudes as stated by Strabo:
|From the equator to Alexandria||21,800||31° 8′ 34″|
|From Alexandria to Rhodes, he computes in this instance 3600 stadia||25,400||36 17′ 8″|
|From the parallel of Rhodes to Marseilles, about 2300 stadia||27,700||39° 34′ 17″|
|From the parallel of Rhodes to the bottom of the Galatic Gulf, 2500 stadia||27,900||39° 51′ 25″|
|From Marseilles to the northern extremity of Gaul, or the southern extremity of Britain, 3800 stadia||31,500||45° 0′ 0″|
|From Marseilles to the middle of Britain, 5000 stadia||32,700||46° 42′ 51″|
|From the northern extremity of Gaul to the parallel of the northern extremity of Britain, 2500 stadia||34,000||48° 34′ 17″|
|From the northern extremity of Gaul to Ierne, 5000 stadia||36,500||52° 8′ 34″|
|From the northern extremity of Britain to the limits of the habitable earth, 4000 stadia||38,000||54° 17′ 9″|
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