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Eratosthenes' "Geography"

Eratosthenes' "Geography"

Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    Eratosthenes' "Geography"
    Book Description:

    This is the first modern edition and first English translation of one of the earliest and most important works in the history of geography, the third-century Geographika of Eratosthenes. In this work, which for the first time described the geography of the entire inhabited world as it was then known, Eratosthenes of Kyrene (ca. 285-205 BC) invented the discipline of geography as we understand it. A polymath who served as librarian at Alexandria and tutor to the future King Ptolemy IV, Eratosthenes created the terminology of geography, probably including the wordgeographiaitself. Building on his previous work, in which he determined the size and shape of the earth, Eratosthenes in theGeographikacreated a grid of parallels and meridians that linked together every place in the world: for the first time one could figure out the relationship and distance between remote localities, such as northwest Africa and the Caspian Sea. TheGeographikaalso identified some four hundred places, more than ever before, from Thoule (probably Iceland) to Taprobane (Sri Lanka), and from well down the coast of Africa to Central Asia.

    This is the first collation of the more than 150 fragments of theGeographikain more than a century. Each fragment is accompanied by an English translation, a summary, and commentary. Duane W. Roller provides a rich background, including a history of the text and its reception, a biography of Eratosthenes, and a comprehensive account of ancient Greek geographical thought and of Eratosthenes' pioneering contribution to it. This edition also includes maps that show all of the known places named in theGeographika, appendixes, a bibliography, and indexes.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-3221-7
    Subjects: History, History of Science & Technology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. ix-xii)

    Interest in the size, shape, and inhabitants of the surface of the earth goes back to prehistoric times, as early humans moved beyond the limits of their own environment and encountered a world that was different from their own. The earliest literature is replete with travelers. Enkidu traveled to Uruk to meet Gilgamesh, Cain went from Eden to Nod, and Odysseus came to the Land of the Lotos Eaters. A primitive sense of geographical curiosity was an inevitable by-product of these wanderings. Enkidu met peoples whose lifestyles were different from his own, and Odysseus unfortunately learned both about the perils...

  5. Abbreviations
    (pp. xiii-xiv)

    • The Background
      (pp. 1-7)

      The discipline of geography began with Eratosthenes of Kyrene and the publication of hisGeographikain the last third of the third century BC. Before that time there had been interest in the surface of the earth, its formative processes, and its shape and structure, but it was Eratosthenes who brought these divergent streams of thought and experience together to create a new scholarly discipline. He also devised the terminology to accompany his ideas, with the new words “geography” (γεωγράψέω) and “geographer” (γεωγράψοѕ) , based on the verb γεωγραψέω, “to write [about] the earth.”¹ Erastosthenes’ treatise was probably created by...

    • The Life of Eratosthenes
      (pp. 7-15)

      Although biographical data about Eratosthenes are limited, it is possible to reconstruct a broad outline of his career.37He was the son of Aglaos and was born in the mid-280s BC in Kyrene. Both his name and that of his father are rare, indicating humble origins and demonstrative of the upward mobility possible in the Hellenistic world.38Kyrene, founded by Greeks in the seventh century BC, had long existed as a prosperous and cosmopolitan outpost of Greek culture, lying between Egyptian and Carthaginian territory, and serving as the contact point between the Greek world and interior Africa.39The city controlled...

    • The Geographika of Eratosthenes
      (pp. 15-30)

      Eratosthenes’Geographikawas a modest work, only three books in length.82It probably did not survive intact past the second century AC and exists today in 155 fragments, mostly from the geographical treatise of Strabo of Amaseia, written in the Augustan period. Strabo quoted Eratosthenes extensively in his own first and second books, and throughout his work, providing 105 of the extant fragments. The only other author to make frequent use of theGeographikawas Pliny the Elder, with 16 fragments. Scattered sources into Byzantine times provide minor details: the latest is Tzetzes.

      The earliest extant author to cite the...

    • The Reception and Later History of the Geographika
      (pp. 30-38)

      Although Eratosthenes is best remembered today as the originator of the discipline of geography, in antiquity his reputation as a geographer was less certain. TheGeographikacame under extensive criticism within a generation of his death. By the late Hellenistic period, his topographical data, especially in the western Mediterranean, had been superseded and was seen as inadequate, something that was used to criticize the work as a whole. Eratosthenes became famous for calculating the circumference of the earth (a feat not originally published in theGeographika), yet he would be remembered primarily as a philologist and poet: theSoudabiography...


    • Book 1
      (pp. 41-57)

      That which we choose to investigate now, geography, is, we believe, a discipline like others and for the scholar. We believe that this is not inconsequential and that it is obvious for many reasons. those who first dared to begin to consider it were men such as homer, anaximandros of Miletos and his fellow-citizen hekataios, just as Eratosthenes has said, as well as Demokritos, Eudoxos, Dikaiarchos, Ephoros, and a number of others.

      He [Eratosthenes] says that all poets attempt to amuse rather than teach. on the contrary, the ancients say that poetry is foremost a pursuit of knowledge, introduced into...

    • Book 2
      (pp. 58-68)

      In his second book, he [Eratosthenes] attempts to change the structure of geography and states his own assumptions, and if there is any further correction, there must be an attempt to provide it. To introduce mathematics and physics into the topic is well considered, and also the idea that if the earth is spherical, just as the cosmos, it is inhabited all around, as well as other such comments. But later writers do not agree as to whether it is as large as he has said, nor do they approve of his measurements. Yet in regard to the signs of...

    • Book 3
      (pp. 69-108)

      Such being the shape of the entire [inhabited world], it appears useful to take two straight lines, which cut across each other at a right angle, one going through all the greatest width and the other the length, and the first will be one of the parallels and the other one of the meridians. Then one should think of lines parallel to these on either side, which are used to divide the land and the sea that we happen to use. Thus the shape will be somewhat more clear, as I have described, according to the length of the line,...


    • Commentary to Book 1
      (pp. 111-140)

      Commentary:The opening of Strabo’sGeographyimmediately shows his major debt to eratosthenes, the first primary source mentioned. in fact Strabo’s comments about the validity of geography as a scholarly discipline may derive from eratosthenes’ own opening, since he would stress the legitimacy of his new discipline. Strabo (and probably eratosthenes) noted that geography was the concern of the ψιλόσοψоѕ, a word not to be translated with the misleading “philosopher” but better as “scholar” (or, more cumbersomely, “educated person”), a meaning in use since the fifth century BC (first generically by Plato, Republic 5.19, and then specifically about Euripides [Athenaios 13.561a]...

    • Commentary to Book 2
      (pp. 141-160)

      Commentary:In the introduction to his second book, Eratosthenes summarized what he had previously published in hisOn the Measurement of the Earth:the diameter of the earth (measured by a meridian) is 252,000 stadia (see infra, pp. 263–7). This calculation is presumably the mathematics and physics to which Strabo referred. Eratosthenes also reemphasized that he believed the earth to be spherical, with habitation not limited to the known areas, ideas new enough to need stressing (see F15). Strabo, 200 years later, felt that Eratosthenes went on at too great length about these issues, perhaps failing to realize how...

    • Commentary to Book 3
      (pp. 161-222)

      Commentary:Having laid out some details of the extent of the inhabited world in Book 2, Eratosthenes now turned to its specifics. Despite the statement at the beginning of F47, F46 is probably the opening to Book 3. Without providing measurements or topographical details, he explained his methodology of comprehending the inhabited world. Building on the work of Dikaiarchos, who created a prime meridian and a prime parallel, Eratosthenes devised a series of both, so that the entire inhabited world would be covered with a grid of parallels and meridians. As far as can be determined, no one had ever...

  9. Gazetteer
    (pp. 223-248)

    Approximately 400 toponyms are preserved in theGeographika.They range from the obvious (Athens, Europe) to the obscure and unlocated. The following gazetteer has been designed to assist with identification and to limit intrusive toponymic details in the commentaries.

    Identification of ancient toponyms is a problematic and often messy business. Even the ones that may seem obvious (e.g. Albania, India) may bear little or no relationship to their modern homonyms. The complex recension of the fragments applies equally to their toponyms and only exacerbates an already difficult problem. Spellings are inconsistent, often reflecting the original source, yet there may be...

  10. MAPS
    (pp. 249-260)

    • Appendix 1: On the Measurement of the Earth
      (pp. 263-267)
    • Appendix 2: Testimonia for the Life of Eratosthenes
      (pp. 268-270)
    • Appendix 3: Lengths of Measurement
      (pp. 271-274)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 275-280)
  13. Index of Passages Cited
    (pp. 281-288)
  14. General Index
    (pp. 289-304)