(BEING CONTINUED FROM 8/8/14)
THE FORGOTTEN GEOGRAPHIC AND PHYSICAL – OCEANOGRAPHIC
KNOWLEDGE OF THE PREHISTORIC GREEKS
3. The Genealogy of Gods
According to the genealogy of gods, demigods, heroes, and the other protagonists of the Greek Mythology, mentioned in Hesiod’s Theogeny, the Titans belong to the third generation and they are the offsprings of Gaea (1st generation) and Uranus I(Heaven) (2nd generation).
The six Titans and six Titanesses constituted the first Dodecatheon (twelve Gods), which was replaced by the 12 well known Olympian Gods, the generation of Zeus and Poseidon. It is widely known that this was not a smooth or peaceful replacement, but the result of a war between the Gods of the Cronuse’s generation and the one of Zeus. This battle, referred in the Greek Mythology as Titanomachy,resulted in the defeat and the punishment of the Titans, as well as to their exile from Greece, and the Mediterranean Sea, in general.
Three of the most important Titans are Oceanus, Atlas and Cronus (Satturn by the Romans).
Oceanus, according to Hesiod, did not take part in the Titanomachy, but he had already left the Mediterranean with his sister and wife, Tethys, and had gone to the place where the sun sets. This Titan gave his name to the endless sea that surrounds the land of Libya ( = Africa) and Europe, e.g.Ocean = Ωκεανός.
Atlas, who had lived and had reigned in the central Peloponnesus in Arcadia, and specifically on Mainalon mt., was exiled by Zeus at the north-western part of Africa, on mount Atlas. He was then punished to carry the celestial globe on his shoulders. Atlas gave his name to the neighbouring Ocean, since then known as Atlantic Ocean, as well as to the great island “Atlantis”, mention by Plato, whose geographical position has been unknown, since it had been destructed by a natural disaster,long before the time of Plato.
Cronus ( = Saturn), the third Titan, was also the Titans’ leader during the Titanomachy. It is known that Cronus, along with his sister Rhea, who was also his wife, were the parents of the first 6 great Gods of the 4th generation, namely Poseidon, Hades, Demeter, Hera, Hestia and Zeus.
Cronus is widely known for two of his deeds. The first is that he overturned his father, Uranus, and so he became ruler of the world. The second is that, during his reign and because he had been afraid that one of his offspring would overturn him, ordered his wife Rhea to bring to him every newborn child to eat him or her. But Rhea, both in the case of Poseidon and that of Zeus, managed to cheat Cronus, thus saving her two children. When Zeus, Poseidon and the others grew up to be men, doubted the supremacy of Cronus and so, a long war started between the Titans and the Olympians, known as Titanomachy. Finally,Zeus and the other Olympians defeated the Titans and exiled them to a far place of the west. But where?
3.2 Cronus after the Titanomachy
Cronus on the other hand, initially reached Western Europe, on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean and then it seems that he travelled further, firstly to the north and then to the west.
The final place of exile of the leader of the Titans has been described by Plutarch in such a detail that no doubt remains that the prehistoric Greeks of these ancient times had discovered places, which were unfortunately later forgotten. Worth to note that the hero Herculew visited the place of Cronus exile, but much later.
The original greek text of Plutarch, along with its english translation, are given in Fig. 2.
The texts describing these heroic feats is one of the many texts written by the author in his book, entitled “Concerning the Face Which Appears in the Orb of the Moon” and is a part of a great series of texts, know as “Moralia”1.
Fig. 2 cont.: A passage of the original text of Plutarch and its English translation of the book “Concerning the Face which appears in the Orb of the Moon”.
From the above mentioned text, anyone can locate the geographical position of the island of Cronus’ exile, the travels of the people of Cronus (Cronians), the position of the Gulf of the Great Continent in relation to that of the Caspian Sea, and more.
From this revealing text, we have chosen to present only a few passages, since in such a limited space, it is impossible to refer in detail to all that this great author describes in his book.
Let’s see now some of the most important passages of Plutarch’s text:
a. “An isle, Ogygia, lies far out at sea, a run of five days off from Britain as you sail westward” Accepting that vessels similar to Argo (the ship of the Argonauts), could develop speeds approximately 4 – 5 miles/hour, then the distance traveled within 5 days must have been in the order of 5 x24 = 120 hours, 120 x 4 m/h = 480 miles ≈ 900 km (Fig. 3).
According to these, and using a simple school atlas, Ogygia should correspond to the present-day Iceland. But, concerning the location of Ogygia, there are various viewpoints, such as: a part of Iceland, Greenland, Azores islands (Henriette Mertz), the Bermudas, the small island of Gozo next to Malta, Gavdos isl. south of Crete and Sicily.
Plutarch further informs us:
b. “…three other islands equally distant from it and from one another lie out from it in the general direction of the summer sunset”
Which could these islands be?
If Ogygia corresponds to the present-day Iceland, then the 3 islands located to the west, must be Greenland, New Foundland and Buffin Isl. But their distances from Iceland are not equal.
If the name Ogygia corresponds to the present-day Greenland, then the 3 islands should be New Foundland, Buffin Isl. and Breton Isl. In my opinion, this version is not correct.
c. “…In one of these, according to the tale told by the natives, Cronus (Saturn) is confined by Zeus, and the antique Briareus, holding watch and ward over those islands and the sea that they call the Cronian main, has been settled close beside him…”
If this is so, Cronus should have been confined in one of the three above mentioned islands, i.e.Greenland, Buffin Isl. or New Foundland. Concerning the Cronian main (Sea), a name that has been given by the Hypeboreans, it should be the North Atlantic Ocean (North Sea) and mainly the “cold sea”, in other words the Sea that is partly, and from time to time, frozen, that is the Arctic Ocean.
d. “…The great mainland, by which the great ocean is encircled, while not so far from the other islands, is about five thousand stades from Ogygia, the voyage being made by oar, for the main is slow to traverse and muddy as a result of the multitude of streams.”
They knew that, west of these islands a mainland existed. But which could this great mainland be?
It is obvious that the only great continent, west of the three great islands, which encircles the great Ocean, is the present-day North America. It is important to underline that Plutarch is not only speaking about a land, but about a great continental land ( = μεγάλη ηπειρωτική χώρα).
e. “…The streams are discharged by the great land-mass and produce alluvial deposits, thus giving density and earthiness to the sea, which has been thought actually to be congealed.”
f. “…On the coast of the mainland Greeks dwell about a gulf which is not smaller than the Maeotis and (lies on the same line as) the mouth of the Caspian Sea. These people consider and call themselves continentals and the inhabitants of this land islanders because the sea flows around it on all sides…”
If we take into account that Maeotis is the present-day Azov Sea, and based on a common school geographical atlas, we draw a “straight” line from the “mouth” (that is the northern coast) of Caspian Sea, then we see that the gulf, on the coast of which the Greeks dwell, is the St. Laurence Gulf.
g. “…at a later time those who arrived in the train of Heracles…”
Even Heracles, the great hero of the Mycenaean era, visited this great continent, where Greeks continued to inhabit, even at much later time.
h. “…Now when at intervals of thirty years the star of Cronus, which we call ‘Splendent’ but they,our author said, call ‘Night-watchman,’ enters the sign of the Bull, they, having spent a long time in preparation for the sacrifice and the expedition, choose by lot and send forth a sufficient number of envoys in a correspondingly sufficient number of ships, putting aboard a large retinue and the provisions necessary for men who are going to cross so much sea by oar and live such a long time in a foreign land. Now when they have put to sea the several voyagers meet with various fortunes as one might expect; but those who survive the voyage first put in at the outlying islands, which are inhabited by Greeks, and see the sun pass out of sight for less than an hour over a period of thirty days, — and this is night, though it has a darkness that is slight and twilight glimmering from the west. …”
After the above-mentioned, two questions rise, namely: (i) ”Where did the prehistoric Greeks know that the sun passes out of sight for less than an hour?” and (ii) “Which islands see the sun “passing out” for less than an hour?”
The answer to the first question is not easy. For sure, Plutarch, who was born in Chaeronia, a small city of the continental Greece, could not have any personal experience. On the other hand, Plutarch later became a priest at the Delphi Oracle. It is throughout possible that he could have been, directly or indirectly, informed by somebody. During these old times, the newly acquired knowledge was restricted mainly among the priests in the temples and in the oracles. The same happened with the priests of Egypt.
But, which are the islands that see the sun “passing out” for less than an hour? It is well known that the Arctic Cycle coincides to the latitude of 66.5o North. Consequently, the areas, and in this case the islands, which “see the sun passing out for less than an hour” should lie a little to the south of the arctic cycle.
And another important question: Why would they go to North America? What were they after? The answer is that they wanted the native copper, which is found in great quantities in the mines around Lake Superior and on Isle Royale (area of present-day U.S.A. – Canadian borders). This view is validated by archaeological excavation and radiodating of findings ranging from 2,450 – 1,050 B.C.,i.e. from the beginning of the Proto-Helladic era, until the fall of the Mycenaean Civilization.
Fig. 3: Map showing the location of the places described in Plutarch’s text, the distance between Britain and Ogygia (Iceland), as well as the line (latitude) connecting the entrance of the Caspian Sea and the Gulf of St. Laurence.
4. The knowledge about the Ocean
Let’s see now how Homer describes some of the physical and oceanographic characteristics of the Ocean. As it is now accepted, Homer must have lived approximately during the 9th and/or 8th century B.C., while the events he described must have taken place even further in the past, the most recent being the Trojan war and the coming-back of Ulysses.
Homer refers to the Ocean 18 times in the Iliad and 16 times in the Odyssey. Out of all these references,we garner the following:
• “I am going to the world’s end to visit oceanus…” (Iliad, XIV) – «…Ο Ωκεανός βρίσκεται
στα πέρατα της εύφορης Γης…» (Ξ 201).
• “…the sun’s glorious orb now sank into oceanus …” (Iliad, VIII) – «…Εκεί που πέφτει το
λαμπρό φως του Ήλιου…» (Θ 485).
• “…as the sun was beginning to beat upon the fields, fresh-risen from the slow still currents of Oceanus…” (Odyssey, XIX) – «…εκ νέου φώτισε τα χωράφια από τον ήσυχο
βαθύρροον Ωκεανόν…» (τ 433).
The fact that the sun sets in the Ocean was known, as they have visited again and again the Atlantic Ocean, but how did they know that it also rises from an Ocean? It is well known that to the east of the Aegean area, there are only high mountains. Besides, the Indian Ocean is not located to the east.
So, how did they know that the sun rises from the Ocean?
• “(The Earth is surrounded by the) …ever-encircling waters of Oceanus…” (Iliad, XVIII) – Ο Ωκεανός περιβάλλει πανταχόθεν την Γη (Σ 606-607).
• Oceanus is a great river Ωκεανός that stretches to the 4 points of the horizon.
• “…By the flow of the Ocean, towards the west, lies Hades (Odyssey, XIX) and beyond the
Elysium plains …” – “…Δίπλα στις ροές του Ωκεανού, προς Δυσμάς, κείται ο Άδης (ω
11) και εντεύθεν κείται το Ηλύσιον Πεδίον…:
Analyzing all the above, we conclude that the Ocean is not a “wide sea”, as the Mediterranean or the Red Sea. On the contrary, the Ocean is considered to be a great river, which means that it does not surround the Earth statically, but dynamically, as it flows like a river. Besides, the etymology of the word Ωκεανός (Oceanus) in ancient greek, shows this perpetual movement of the river Oceanus.
The word Ωκεανός (Oceanus) is the result of the word “Ωκύς” which means “quick” and “νάω” which means flow. So, the very word Ωκεανός – Oceanus means quick flow.
Another group of texts that refer to the Ocean and its physical and oceanographic characteristics is the Orphic texts. From the Orphics Argonautica and the orphic hymns, we garner the following:
a. “… Hence every river, hence the spreading sea…” – «…από τον Ωκεανό προέρχονται όλοι / οι ποταμοί και όλη η θάλασσα…»
Consequently, the Ocean is compared to the sea. The sea, in this case, is certainly the Mediterranean Sea.
b. “OCEAN I call, whose nature ever flows, From whom at first both Gods and men arose;/ Sire incorruptible, whose waves surround, / And earth’s concluding mighty circle bound…” (From the Orphic hymn to the Ocean) – «…αθάνατον πατέρα και αρχή των αθανάτων / θεών και θνητών / ανθρώπων, που κυματίζει γύρω από την / Γη που την περικυκλώνει…»
c. “…Old Ocean too …, / Whose liquid arms begirt the solid land…” (From the Orphic hymn to Pan) – «…Ωκεανός τε πέριξ εν ύδασι γαίαν ελίσσων…» –
The poet Hesiods, in his work “Theogony” refers to the Ocean, as:
d. “…Ocean, the perfect river…” (Hes., 242) – «…Ωκεανοιο, τελήοντος ποτάμοιο…» /
«Ωκεανός, ο τέλειος πόταμος» (Ησ. 242) /.
4.2 Characteristics of the Ocean river
Let’s see now, how the special characteristics of the flow of the river Ocean, i.e. of the current, are described.
Hesiod refers to the Ocean as αψόροο (back-flowing). This characterization has been render as “swaying”, in modern greek. This means that the ocean water perform a “reversible movement”,i.e. a movement along an axis. In my view, this interpretation is not accurate, since the ancient greek word αψ-ροή could be rendered as “wild flow”, in other words, turbulent flow.
Homer refers to the Ocean, using the terms deep-flowing (βαθύροος) and deep-vortexed (βαθυδίνης).
Deep-flowing means that the river Ocean flows not only on the surface, but also in depth, and this deep flow is not laminar but turbulent, that’s why the Ocean is also characterised as deep-vortexed (βαθυδίνης).
Today, we know that the oceanic currents extend to a depth of about 800 – 1200 m. and that up to that point their flow is turbulent. In recent times, this has been verified with the use of different instruments that allowed the simultaneous measurement of the flow velocity as well as the depth.
But, at the time of Homer, how could anyone know that the river Ocean displays a turbulent flow both on the surface and in depth?
Generally speaking, all the knowledge about the Ocean was forgotten. Even after the discovery of America, nothing is mentioned about the currents, despite the fact that the fishermen of the Ocean must have known them, but for different reasons, they preferred not to speak about them.
(TO BE CONTINUED)
National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Faculty of Geology and Geoenvironment,
Department of Dynamic, Tectonic & Applied Geology, Panepistimioupoli, Zografou,
157 84, Athens, Greece, email@example.com
1 (both the original text and the transliteration can be easily found on line (see References).
SOURCE Bulletin of the Geological Society of Greece, 2010,Proceedings of the 12th International Congress Patras, May, 2010