Charles Clanton Rogers

Reflections based on poetry, music, visual art, book reviews, history of science, first-person history, philosophical essays and International Blogging

Ptolemy_World_MapImage from Ptolemy’s data 2

Actually, it is unlikely that anyone laughed.

Scholars had abandoned the “flat earth” idea almost two thousand years before Columbus lived.  3

In my public school days, I spent very little time thinking about history, but when I did,  I figured that all of the interesting stuff started about five hundred years ago: There was Martin Luther, Christopher Columbus,
Elizabeth I, William Tyndall and  Johannes Guttenberg.   Luther nailed his ninety-five Theses to the door of All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg, Germany on  October 31, 1517. Tyndall translated and published The Bible  into the English language in 1525 giving literacy to the  common man.  4  I was never good at dates so 1492, 1517 and 1525, I rounded off to, say, 1500 and called it:  close enough.  It seemed like a good “Beginning of the World” to me.  In school they tried to touch on  1607, 1620, 1776, 1789, 1865, 1914, then skipped forward to October 29, 1929. , then  December 7, 1941. We now know that cica 1500 was the third of three milestone revolutions of human history:  Cognitive, Agricultural and Scientific  (the discovery of ignorance and how to cure it). These occurred at 70, 000, 12,000 and 500 years ago. 5
In 500 years, man has gone from three small ships with a hand-held periscope, to a hundred million airline passenger miles per year, man on the Moon,  personal computers, the Internet , the Hubble Telescope with a view of hundreds of billions of other galaxies and deciphering the human genome.
 Agriculture required counting and writing for the recipe for making beer  and record keeping which gives us our first evidence of written history.   I believe that an introduction to this  knowledge is required for a  properly informed, functional adult  to succeed in the Twenty-first Century.

Now to the first recorded knowledge of geography  The Greeks were outstanding among people of the ancient world for their pursuit and development of geographic knowledge.  3, ,5, 6  The shortage of arable land in their own region  led to maritime exploration and the development of commerce and colonies. By 600 BCE, Miletus, a town on the Aegean Sea, had become a center of geographic knowledge, as well as of cosmography speculation. Hecataeus, a scholar of Miletus, probably produced the first book on geography in about 500 BCE. A generation later, Herodtus,  (known as the father of history) using more extensive studies and wider travels, expanded upon Hecataeus. Herodotus recorded an early circumnavigation of the African continent by the Phoenicians. He also improved on the delineation of the shape and extent of the then-known regions of the world, and he declared the Caspian Sea to be an inland sea, opposing the prevailing view that it was part of the “northern oceans”

Although Hecataeus regarded the Earth as a flat disk surrounded by oceans, Herodotus and his followers questioned the concept and proposed a number of other possible forms. Indeed, the philosophers and scholars of the time appear to have been preoccupied for a number of years with discussions on the nature and extent of the World. They documented their observations that the shadow of the Earth made upon the Moon was curved and this implied a round component. Some modern scholars attribute the first hypothesis of a spherical Earth to Pythagoras (6th century BCE) or Parmenedes (5th century BCE). The idea gradually developed into a consensus over the  years. In any case by the mid-4th Century (BCE) the theory of a spherical Earth was well accepted among Greek scholars, and about 350 BCE, Aristotle, formulated six arguments to prove that the Earth was, in truth, a sphere. From that time forward, the idea of a spherical Earth was generally accepted among geographers and other men of science.

About 300 BCE , Dicaearchus, a disciple of Aristotle, placed an orientation line on the  world map, running east and west through Gibraltar and Rhodes. Eratosthenes, MarinusM of Tyre, and Ptolemy successively developed the reference-line principle until a reasonably comprehensive system of parallels and meridians, as well as methods of projecting them, had been achieved.

Before the birth of Jesus, Eratosthenes measured the circumference of the earth to ninety-nine per cent of our current knowledge and globes were described in Alexandria.  3

Eratosthenes, not only believed the earth to be a sphere, he actually measured the circumference of the earth and the angle of the tilt of the axis of rotation. Pollard and Reid 3 describe the ingenious method used by Eratosthenes to collect the data which he used to calculate these values. His value for the circumference of the earth was 252,000 stadia which is believed to be equal to 24,662 miles. The modern measurement is 24,860 miles giving the early Greek an accuracy of 99.2%! His calculations of the earth’s tilt was 23 degrees and 56 minutes compared to the current measurement of 23 degrees and 46 minutes (99.5%). 3

The greatest figure of the ancient world in the advancement of geography and cartography was  Claudius Ptolemaeus, ,3,6 (Ptolemy) CE 90–168).5  An astronomer and mathematician, he spent many years studying at the library in Alexandria, the greatest repository of literature and scientific knowledge for more than a millenia. His monumental work, the Guide to Geography  was produced in eight volumes. The first volume discussed basic principles and dealt with map projection  and globe  construction. The next six volumes carried a list of the names of some 8,000 places and their approximate latitudes and longitudes. Except for a few that were made by observations, the greater number of these locations were determined from older maps, with approximations of distances and directions taken from travelers. They were accurate enough to show relative locations on the very small-scale, rudimentary maps that existed.

The eighth volume was a most important contribution, containing instructions for preparing maps of the world and discussions on mathematical geography and other fundamental principles of cartography. Ptolemy’s map of the world, as it was then known, marked the culmination of Greek cartography as well as a compendium of accumulated knowledge of the Earth’s features at that time. Although the original text was lost, with most of the treasures of the Library of Alexandria, Ptolemy’s Geographica  (Alexandria, Egypt CE 90- 168), was recovered a thousand years later. The Constantinople copy gives us strong reasons to believe that the scientists and cartographers of this time had constructed world maps and globes with remarkable geographical displays of, at least the Eastern Hemisphere. Pollard and Reid state that the Arabic translation  of Ptolemy’s text, which was discovered in  1295 and translated into Latin, were  delivered to leaders of Europe and are believed to have been used to justify the voyages of Christopher Columbus.3

Charles Clanton Rogers, April 26, 2015

1.  This is an extensive  revision of an earlier edition with the same title, in  The Rogers Post. 2013

2.  Reproduction of Ptolomy’s map 1482, Encyclopaedia Britannica

3.  Pollard, J. and Reed, H., The Rise and Fall of Alexandria, Penguin Books, 2007

4. Rogers, C,  How the English Language Came in First, The Rogers Post, April 7,           2015

5. Harai, Yuvah, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind,  HarperCollins, 2014

6.   Enclopaedia Britannica

9 thoughts on ““They All Laughed at Christopher Columbus….” 1

  1. Janice Wald says:

    1. I teach history. I use to teach ancient world not I teach medieval world history. I teach Columbus who your post is about.
    2. I love your zebra. Did you see in my latest post I discussed lines and patterns? Cool zebra photo!
    3. Thank you so much for following my blog Reflections this morning. Nice to meet you.


    1. clanton1934 says:

      Hey Janice, looks like we were twins separatedat birth! I’m so glad you found my ramblngs on the ancient Greeks in Alexandria and how they had all of this decyphered two thousand years ago. The photograph of my Zebra was taken by my friend “Orchid” Nguyuen. The Zebra is my symbol found in Sol Silverstein’s Where the sidewalk ends. Love your blog. Mine is a late discovery in my “golden years”. The tools of my education were blackboard, chalk, erasers, #2 pencils on widelined paper, then later mechanical typewriters with paper carbon and mimeographs. Therefore having a MacBookPro with spellcheck and WordPress templates give me cheep thrills just driving these neat vehicle around even if aimlessly. I’m looking forward to following you. Thank you for sharing my interests your kind words. c

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Janice Wald says:

        We were twins separated at birth. I am also a Shel Silverstein fan. I am very familiar with Where the Sidewalk Ends. Too funny. Thank you so much for following my blog. I look forward to more interactions.


      2. clanton1934 says:

        Dear Janice,
        Have I lost you?
        My most recent post employs a nice image of a peony loaned to me by one of my Facebook Friends: Urscia Mahring.


        Liked by 1 person

  2. Janice Wald says:

    1. The “Did I lose you” comment made me feel–great!
    2. I will try and get over more. I actually don’t see a “follow” button, so I put you in my reader.
    3. If we’re twins separated at birth, I should know your name–Charles?
    4. Everything here is cool, the history, the photography, I even tried reading Memoirs of a Geisha but couldn’t get past Page 60.
    5. Since we have photography in common, and we’re long lost twins and all, can you please offer your opinion on something? The photography post I did, I wondered what category you thought my MailChimp photo falls in–repeating patterns or Rule of Thirds? Here is the link once again,
    6. This Sunday I’m thinking of writing a post about special effects in photography, so stay tuned! Thanks for writing me today.
    PS I don’t see a peony.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. clanton1934 says:

      Thank you. I’ll be back re: your photography post.🌹c

      Liked by 1 person

    2. clanton1934 says:

      I read your post on photographs for “grabbing” opens (again). I would say That you haven’t missed anything important. When I’m choosing, employ my “mule rule”.: “A man hits a mule between the eyes with a bat. He is told ‘you have to treat mules with kindness! The first man replies: But first, you have to get their attention!!” 😂 c

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Janice Wald says:

    I checked out your works cited section; I needed an example. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. clanton1934 says:

      It is most rewarding when another author/ teacher can use one’s efforts. 🌹c


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