Monday, August 09, 2010


Fifteenth century Italian poet Ludovico Ariosto, writing about the rediscovery of Ptolemy's Geography (Greek original; translated into Latin circa 1409) -- essentially, the first atlas -- quoted in Toby Lester's The Fourth Part of the World (2009), at 148:
Let him wander who desires to wander. Let him see England, Hungary, France and Spain. I am content to live in my native land. I have seen Tuscany, Lombardy, and the Romagna, and the mountain range that divides Italy, and the one that locks her in, and both the seas that wash her. And that is quite enough for me. Without ever paying an innkeeper I will go exploring the rest of the earth with Ptolemy, whether the world be at peace or else at war. Without ever making vows when the heavens flash with lightning, I will go bounding over all the seas, more secure aboard my maps than aboard ships.


Lame-R said...

I think Ptolemy was a round-earth guy. iirc, Pompey remarked in reference to Ptolemy's arguments that the earth was round, that "everybody knows the world is round." My memory is very fuzzy so don't quote me on that.

The troubling part is the cultural and scientific regression that transpired between then and now. What other knowledge has been and is yet to be lost?

OBloodyHell said...


Ptolemy, c. AD 90 – c. 168

Pompey, September 29, 106 BC – September 29, 48 BC

Unless Shirley MacLaine was channeling Pompey, your quote seems unlikely.

Perhaps you're thinking of someone else. Pythagoras is more likely the one who spoke of a round earth, and whom one might inadvertently connect with Ptolemy.

The Wiki article on Spherical Earth has some nice historical bullet points on this.

Of particular note are Eratosthenes, who estimated its circumference from shadow lengths in different locations on the same day combined with geometry

Seleucus of Seleucia (ca. 190 BC) is also if interest for not only advocating a spherical Earth, but also promoted the theory propounded by Aristarchus of Samos that the Earth orbited the Sun.

Carl said...

By the time of the Birth of Christ, almost no educated person believed in a flat earth. The dispute was over the size (circumference) of the planet--which Columbus underestimated by almost a third.

L-R: Though much knowledge was "rediscovered" during the Renaissance not sure what knowledge was lost, though plenty may "yet" be lost.

Lame-R said...

@OBH--lawl, ty for pointing out the error of my memory! I knew my memory was bad, but sheesh, it's really bad!

Now I'm gonna have to dig back and try to figure out who the heck the actual people were that I'm thinking of...

Lame-R said...

Alright, got my P's confused, it was Pliny the Elder who I was thinking of who claimed that everybody knew the earth was round. But I'm not sure how I managed to get Ptolemy thrown in there.

It sucks when I can't even trust my own brain to be truthful with me. Thankfully there's smarter folks around who I can refer to, such as Carl and OBH.

OBloodyHell said...

I've been a trivia fan for years, and history is a side interest, so I was pretty sure that Ptolemy was after the Triumvirate period that Pompey was a part of.

Not so much "smarter" as "practiced my recall more", perhaps. ;oD

OBloodyHell said...

P.S., as should be obvious, I also got my actual info from wiki. One advantage of being online, you can check stuff as you write it.

The side danger of that is the same as with opening any encyclopedia -- you often get easily sidetracked (assuming you're not matching Farmer's definition of 'dullard'):

"Dullard: Someone who looks a thing up in the encyclopaedia, turns directly to the entry, reads it, and then closes the book."
- Phillip Jose Farmer -

P.P.S. You want to really really know of someone insightful, it's a long read but Vannevar Bush's As We May Think is worth reading. The man was describing the internet to a 't', even though his tech was all wrong. Much like Robert Heinlein, he foresaw the future even though he got the exact mechanisms involved wrong.

A_Nonny_Mouse said...

"Dullard: Someone who looks a thing up in the encyclopaedia, turns directly to the entry, reads it, and then closes the book."
- Phillip Jose Farmer -


Ah, thank God I'm no dullard!

(However my time usage when "looking up stuff" can be extremely inefficient -- 3 hours surfing one Saturday, looking up the recommended way to freeze and re-use scrambled eggs, but getting distracted and wandering off-topic -- "so much to see, so little time". Sigh.)