• Thu. Mar 30th, 2023

Terra Australis The Fabled Continent Of Antiquity’s Antipodes


Oct 3, 2022

For almost 2,000 years, proper up till Captain James Prepare dinner’s second voyage to the Pacific in 1775, geographers debated the existence of Terra Australis, a legendary landmass to the south-east mentioned to be the fifth and ultimate continent of the world. Identified variously as Terra Incognita , Oceano Oriental , Mar del Sur , Mare Pacificum , and Zuytlandt, this hypothetical area was first contemplated by Greek students satisfied it acted as a counter-balance to the oikoumene, the recognized and inhabited territories of Europe. By the fifteenth century, following improvements in seafaring know-how, Europeans have been lastly ready discover out if the theories superior by their ancestors have been appropriate.

Pythagoras, historic Greek thinker. From Thomas Stanley, (1655), The historical past of philosophy: containing the lives, opinions, actions and Discourses of the Philosophers of each Sect ( Public Domain )

The Idea Of Terra Australis

The notion of Terra Australis originated within the sixth century BC, when Greek mathematician Pythagoras concluded that the earth have to be a sphere just like the solar and moon. His successor Aristotle continued to ponder the query, reasoning that the presence of a continent situated within the south-east, outdoors of the oikoumene, would supply the required stability {that a} spherical earth wanted, as a way to keep on the middle of the universe. This hidden realm, which he named the Antichthon, was an idea that was additional developed by later students comparable to Roman statesman Cicero and Alexandrian geographer Ptolemy.

Alternatively, the thought of an untouched fifth continent that offered equilibrium to a globular Earth was closely criticized by early Christians, who maintained that the earth was in actual fact a disk surrounded by water. Saint Augustine within the fifth century was a notable detractor, notably offended by the idea that the Antichthon additionally housed the descendants of Adam and Eve. With no point out of the Antichthon in holy scriptures, Augustine acknowledged that even when there have been residing beings, that he would nonetheless take into account them outsiders to Christianity.

The medieval T-O map represents the inhabited world as described by Isidore in his Etymologiae. (Public Domain)

The medieval T-O map represents the inhabited world as described by Isidore in his Etymologiae. ( Public Domain)

In distinction, Isidore of Seville, the seventh century savant, was extra open-minded, taking the thought of Terra Australis rather more critically. Isidore theorized that the world was divided into 4 elements, the final of which was located within the southern reaches of the map: “unknown to us due to the burning solar” .


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Jake Leigh-Howarth holds a masters diploma in Trendy Historical past from the College of Leeds, the place he specialised within the travelogues of Western guests to Soviet Central Asia. His favourite historic durations embrace the Tamerlane Empire, the Mongolian Empire, and the Eleusinian Mysteries of Historic Greece.

Prime Picture : A printed map from the fifteenth century depicting Ptolemy’s description of the Ecumene by Johannes Schnitzer (1482) ( Public Domain )

By: Jake Leigh-Howarth

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