(BEING CONTINUED FROM 1/7/15)
5. The forgotten knowledge
All this knowledge was acquired during the time period between the beginning or the middle of the 3rd millennium B.C. and the end of the Mycenaean era, i.e. around the end of the 2nd millennium,about 100 – 150 years after the Trojan War.
This is concluded by the texts left mainly by the Orphics, Homer, Hesiod and Plutarch, who is much younger (50 – 120 AD).
It is well known, the fall of the Mycenaean empire was followed by an era, known as dark ages. During this period a lot of the knowledge acquired by the prehistoric Greeks, for unknown reasons, was lost.
Consequently, and despite the fact that the Greeks of the historical times managed to create the well known Greek Civilisation which peaked during the 5th century B.C., nevertheless they ignored the Ocean. It is strange that, while they created colonies, they developed the commerce and the seafaring,they had conquests, they developed the architecture, the poetry, the theatre etc., they forgot all about the river Ocean, they forgot the Cronian Sea, they forgot about Ogygia and the islands where the sun sets for only an hour per day, for the duration of a month etc.
All these were forgotten, and they were also forgotten by Alexander the Great, by the Romans, but also later by the Christians.
The only exception is Pytheas of Massilia (approx. 380 –310 B.C.), who left Marseille and after reaching Britain and Ierne (Ireland), he arrived at Thule, which is said to be the present-day Iceland.
From there, Pytheas must have arrived in the arctic area and then he must have returned to Massilia.
Consequently, most of the ancient people, including the Phoenicians, must have travelled in the Ocean, but never far from the European coasts. The fact is of course that the book “About the Ocean” («Περί Ωκεανού»), written by Pytheas around 320 B.C., has been lost and therefore we can’t know exactly up to which point he managed to go.
6. The discovery of the Gulf Stream
All the above-mentioned were re-discovered at least 3,000 years later, around the 16th century AD,when Ponce de Leon first described the “Florida Current” (1513).
After this, an effort of studding the Atlantic Ocean currents has started. An intensive study of the Gulf Stream begun during the second half of the 18th century. The occasion was a letter sent by Benjamin Franklin, (then Postmaster General of the North American Colonies) to captain Folger, asking him to make a chart of Gulf Stream, in order to make the postal delivery from England faster.
By the end of this century, several maps were constructed, among them temperature maps, after detailed and systematic temperature measurements.
The first maps of the area refer to the Gulf Stream as “Gulf of Florida”, or as “Florida Straits”, or “Bahama channel”. The name “Gulf Stream” appeared for the first time in 1842, on a map by Sydney Morris and Samuel Breese.
The systematic observations begun actually in 1845, while Mathew Maury, in his book «Physical Geography of the Sea» (1855) wrote:
«There is a river in the ocean. In the severest droughts it never fails, and in the mightiest floods it never overflows….Its current is more rapid than the Mississippi or the Amazon…»,Compare the above passage to that of Homer (8th (?) cent. B.C.):
“…he set the mighty stream of the river Oceanus…” (Iliad,XVIII) / «…και έθεσεν επάνω τον μεγαλόσθενο / ποταμό του Ωκεανού…» (Ιλιάδα, Σ 607).
“…After we were clear of the river Oceanus…” (Odyssey, XII) / «…αφού κατέλιπε την ροή του ποταμού Ωκεανού…» (Οδύσσεια, μ1).
From the recent research activity of the scientific community, the results we’ re interested in are the ones referring to the meanderisms of the current, as well as the location of gyres and warm core eddies.
It’s a research effort that begun during the seventies, with the utilization of modern space applications.
These applications verify the knowledge – legacy of the Orphics, Homer and Hesiod,
Plutarch, Ovid and others. In other words, it is verified that:
• The Ocean is a great river that surrounds the Earth (then considered a disc), as it was depicted on the shields of Hercules and Achilles.
• The Ocean is back-flowing (αψόροος, οπισθόροος).
• The Ocean is deep-flowing (βαθύρροος).
• The Ocean is deep-vortexed (βαθυδίνης).
7. Discussion – conclusions
Summarising all the above mentioned, taken of the writings of two great poets, and mainly (a)Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, (b) Hesiod’s Theogony and Works and Days, (c) Orphics’ Argonautica and (d) Plutarch’s Moralia, we can assert that the prehistoric Greeks, already as far back as the times of Titan Cronus, up until the times of Hercules and Ulysses, should had known plenty of the present day Atlantic Ocean and its islands, as well as the lands located beyond the Pillars of Hercules.
According to the writings of Plutarch, the prehistoric Greeks should have known the following:
(i) Britain and Ierne (Ireland).
(ii) Iceland, which is mentioned as Ogygia, its relative position to Britain and the distance between the two islands.
(iii) The three islands located west of Ogygia (Iceland), which should be the present-day islands of Greenland, Buffin Island and New Foundland.
(iv) That the three above-mentioned islands are equidistant.
(v) He refers to the “Cronian Main (Sea)” that, according to the Orphics, is the name given by the Hyperboreans to the present-day North Atlantic Ocean and a part of the Arctic Ocean.
They also knew:
(vi) That at the west of these three islands there was a great mainland (a great continental country) that encircles the great Sea.
(vii) That the coast of a gulf on this great continent was inhabited by Greeks.
(viii) That the size of the above-mentioned gulf is approximately the same as that of the Maeotian Sea (present-day Azov Sea).
(ix) That this gulf is located “on the same straight line” as the mouth of the Caspian Sea. This means that the northern coast of the Caspian Sea are located on the same latitude as the gulf located on the great mainland (great continent). After this detailed definition, there really must be no doubt that this gulf should be the St. Laurence Gulf of the present-day Canada, and consequently the “great mainland” is North America.
(x) They also knew that sea-currents exiting from the above-mentioned gulf towards the Atlantic carried argillaceous material (“earthiness”) that obstructed the sailing of the ships, that’s why the sailors, as they could not use the sails, they sailed by oars.
(xi) That the people that arrived there with Hercules, stayed in an area on one of the three islands,where the sun only set for one hour, for a period of 30 days.
Taking into consideration all the above-mentioned, one can indirectly draw more, concerning the knowledge of the prehistoric Greeks, beyond the confirmation of what is mentioned by Plutarch.
These indirect conclusions are the following:
(i) That they knew how to measure great surfaces, i.e. the surface of the Azov Sea (Maeotis) and that of the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
(ii) That the discovery of Iceland, of the three islands and that of the great mainland, must have taken place, according to the most conservative assessment, approx. at the beginning of the 3rd millennium B.C., i.e. at the start of the Proto-Helladic era.
(iii) That they knew the way to determine the latitude of a given area.
(iv) That long before the time of Hercules and the Argonauts, even before the time of Phrixus and Elle, they knew the Caspian Sea, the Hyperboreans, the Rippean mountains, the Sarmatian Sea (Baltic Sea), the different rivers like the Dneiper (which they called Vorysthenis), Don (Tanais) etc., as well as the people who lived in the areas between the Euxenian Pontus and the Baltic Sea (Sarmatian Sea).
Concerning the knowledge about the Ocean, based on Homer’s works, Iliad and Odyssey, and those of Hesiod, the conclusions are the following:
(i) Oceanus is a great river that stretches to the four points of the horizon. That means that Oceanus doesn’t surround the Earth statically, but dynamically, as it flows like a river.
(ii) The Earth is surrounded by the “…ever-encircling waters” of Oceanus (Il., Σ 606-607).
(iii) “…Old Ocean too …, / Whose liquid arms begirt the solid land” (after Orphic Hymn to the god Pan).
Based on the above mentioned, it is clear that they knew about the Ocean currents, not only those of the Atlantic Ocean, but of all the Oceans, as “…the great river stretches to the four points of the horizon…”.
Taking into account all the above mentioned, the following question is posed:
Is it possible for someone (or more) to describe all these places and all these physical and oceanographic characteristics, if they had not visited the area or crossed the Ocean?
Let me remind you that we refer to the time period between the beginning of the 3rd Millennium and the end of the 1st Millennium B.C.
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Plutarch. Moralia, Concerning the Face which appears in the Orb of the Moon. Available online at: http://www.mikrosapoplous.gr/anc_texts/texts_plut.htm (Greek text), and http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Plutarch/Moralia/The_Face_in_the_Moon*/D.html)
(TO BE CONTINUED)
Mariolakos I.D.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
SOURCE Bulletin of the Geological Society of Greece, 2010,Proceedings of the 12th International Congress Patras, May, 2010