When describing in the XVIIIth Song of the Iliad the form in that Hephaestus built a shield for Achilles, Homer tells that that one engraved what I find to be the first sketch of a map of the northwestern coast of the European continent, that is to say the arctic coast of Norway. It is the same one that later on was known under the vernacular name of Thule.

The verses 481to 486 describe the engraving of the shield of Achilles:

“Five layers had the shield, and in the superior one
the god engraved many artistic figures, with wise intelligence.
There he t put the earth, the sky and the sea,
the untiring sun and the full moon:
there, the stars that the sky crowns,
the Pleiades, the Hyades, the robust Orion”

(“Pente d'ar'autou esan sakeos ptykhes autar in car
Poiei daidala polla idyiesi prapidessin.
In men gaian eteux ', in d'ouranon, in of thalassan,
Helion t ' akamanta, selenen you plethousan.
In of ta teipea panta ta t ' ouranos estephanotai,
Pleiadas th ', Hyadas you, to you sthenos Orionos”).

        Although Hephaestus did not say it, we could presume that the figures engraved on the Achilles´ shield referred to a map in which, when figuring the sea and the earth, he was necessarily engraving the coast contours of some place.



I presume this because Homer told in the Song IV of the Odyssey, verse 365, the basic and unavoidable fact to make a map like it is it establishing the meridian of the place. For it he used the procedure of transmitting a legend in which Idothea tells that her father Proteus, the Old man of the Sea, left the waters exactly at noon to sleep on the beach a nap amid his seals.

It is possible that in that opportunity, Homer had heard the word “hour” with reference to a particular moment, but without realizing what the hour had a particular length that is the same that has come up to us. Homer used the word “hour” as synonym of season of the year in Iliad, XXI, 450 and in Odyssey, II, 107; X, 469 and XI, 295.  

        Erroneously it has been supposed that the word “Idothea” , “Eidothee”) it would mean a first name, in circumstances that he mentions to the occupation of a “person that knows how to make the things with perfection". The Greek word (“eidyia”) means: “connoisseur, expert". This would this explain the reason exactly for which Homer already used in the verse 482 mentioned the expression (“idyiesi”), directly related with “eidyia”, to refer to a performance “wisely” carried out.

        On the other hand, the Greek word (“theos”) could allude to the harmonic movement of the Cosmos and only later would have passed to mean "god" like synonym of “power for organizing the Cosmos”.

Creation of the Cosmos

Creation of the Cosmos

        As a form of reaffirming the geographical and climatic knowledge that could arrive until Homer through the Phoenicians navigators, it would be convenient to mention that in the Song IV, 477-478, of the Odyssey, it is said in firm form that the rains of Zeus are those that feed to the river of Egypt. In this same sense it is necessary to remember that the appearance of the Hyades, followed by that of the Pleiades and of the hunter Orion, announced the arrival of the winds “etesian” or annual, better known as “Monsoon”, bearers of the summer rains. The person who observes carefully the “Ancient Map” of the figure 7,


will discover with huge admiration that in it the sources of the Nile river appear formed by two lakes situated to the south of the equinoctial line.

7.- “Ancient Map”, mentioned by Eratosthenes. Greek manuscript of Vatopédi.

7.- “Ancient Map”, mentioned by Eratosthenes. Greek manuscript of Vatopédi.



        It should be pointed out that Homer when referring to the Maelström says that the whirlwind drags planks (pinakas) of ships and human remains. Homer uses the Greek word "Pinax" with the meanings, “board” " plank ", “tables to write", and “sauce or plate to eat", but because the first maps should have been drawn on flat surfaces, as an example, a table or a plate. The word "pinax" later on passed also to mean for analogy "map".
Homer also uses the word “pinax” in the Iliad, Song VI, v.168-169:

(“pente de min Lykien de, poren d ho ge semata lygra,
grapsas en pinaki ptykto thymophthora polla”)
"He sent him to Lycia by giving him dismal signs,
many reasons written in folds".

        The Greek word (“sêma, sêmatos) that means "sign", it can be both a piece of news written on a table or a sign of the sky, like a shade projected by a gnomon when this is lit by the sun.

        Herodotus in his work “The Nine Books of the History”, Book. IV, 36, he alludes to a drawing of the “contour of the Earth”, (“Gês periódous”), made in a circular way and that make him laugh by showing the Earth of same height and width, in circumstances that he says that “is it well known that it is longer than high, without nobody gives an explanation about it”.

Ruins of Greece

Ruins of Greece


Well then, the idea that the Earth appeared drawn of same height and width it can only be applicable to a circular flat map and not to a sphere. It is visible that the words of Herodotus refer to a circular flat map “made with a pair of compasses”, because the Greek word “Tornos” refers to an awl or style that rotates around a central point.

        It is possible that such a circumstance has influenced in the medieval authors to call “compass” to the “sea compass” when this was introduced in Europe toward the year 1200, because the needle of this last instrument also rotates around a central point.

        Nevertheless, such an assimilation is an apparent error, since the sea compass always indicates direction and never distance that is the essential element in the construction of a map.

        If Herodotus had wanted to refer to a “mechanical lathe”, the map had not been flat but not in the form of a sphere or in a cylinder. It would be necessary to supposed that this had to be the same map that the Phoenician Thales of Miletus, because a map of such a nature could never be made by a single person but for many generations of men that knew how to recognize the terrestrial distances through the movement of the stars.

        It is important to warn that the Greek word (" Platys ") that means “plane” and “wide”, gave origin to the English voice "plate", in the sense of plane or map. The name Plataea (Plátaia) given to the plain where the Greek and Persian fought one another, it expressed clearly the circumstance of being a wide plane surface.

Second Part 


        Thanks to the work “Geography” of the Greek Strabo of Amasia, written in times of Christ, we have known the longitudinal and latitudinal distances of the oeucumene given by Eratosthenes of Cyrene, third librarian of Alexandria, toward the year 250 before Christ.

         We will demonstrate mathematically that he took them of the “Ancient Map” , “arkhaios geôgraphikos pínax”), to the one that he denominated this way in the Bok.. II, cap. I, 2, because in his time already nobody knew its origin neither less the time in that it was made. This is a Mankind´s authentic Monument.

        For the reader's better understanding we will notice that said map has been wrongly attributed to Claudius Ptolemaeus (Ptolemy) because he only limited to use it to edit his work “Geographical Introduction” or “Geography” in the century II. Ptolemy had received this map form Marinus of Tyrus who had numbered the meridians in base of 500 furlongs to the degree to follow Posidonius. See fig. 7 and 8, the first one taken from (“Historia de la Cartografía: La Tierra de Papel” (“History of the Cartography”: The Paper Earth”), Buenos Aires, Códex, 1967, p. 26-27.

        It is not known if Ptolemy published his work with maps, but that Almamun, the third caliph of Baghdad, from 813 to 832, ordered to translated the Almagest and the geographical works of Ptolemy and that Al-Masudi (915–940) spoke of these last books and of his illuminated maps. In the XIIIth century, the byzantine Maximos Planudes made several copies of the “Geography” of Ptolemy, illustrating it with multiple copies of pre-existent maps.

        It is possible that one of these copies has been the ones that arrived at the Monastery of Vatopédi in Mount Athos, in the north coast of the Aegean sea. This copy was part of a “Códex” that also contained the “Geography” of Strabo and the “Periplus of Arrianus ” when it was discovered in 1840 by a Russian investigator. A photolithographic facsimilar edition of this codex was published in 1867 in Paris by Didot, with a historic introduction, made by Victor Langlois.

        Another of the Greek copies of Maximus Planudes could serve as a basis to the first Latin translation of the text of the “Geography” and of his maps that Jacobus Angelus made in 1410, in which were based, in turn all the Latin editions of the Renaissance, among them the edition published in Rome in 1478, made with the maps engraved in copper by Conrad Sweynheym. This edition was reissued as a facsimile in Amsterdam in 1966 under the direction of R.A. Skelton and it is the one that we will use to demonstrate that all the figures given by Eratosthenes were taken of the Ancient Map, in each one of the 20 distances that we will study in the following chapter.

        Nobody could sustain with scientific judgement that the geodesic successes referred by Eratosthenes could be product of a mere coincidence with the reality that we know today. If that said was exact it was because the old ones managed an empiric science that allowed them to arrive to remarkable geodesic successes. Mathematics will liberate us of any reasonable doubt.




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