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The Edges of the Earth in Ancient Thought: Geography, Exploration, and Fiction

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Overview

For the Greeks and Romans the earth's farthest perimeter was a realm radically different from what they perceived as central and human. The alien qualities of these "edges of the earth" became the basis of a literary tradition that endured throughout antiquity and into the Renaissance, despite the growing challenges of emerging scientific perspectives. Here James Romm surveys this tradition, revealing that the Greeks, and to a somewhat lesser extent the Romans, saw geography not as a branch of physical science but as an important literary genre.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
For the ancient Greeks and Romans, geography was as much a form of narrative fiction as a scientific description of terrains or peoples. In an interesting, suggestive, and thoroughly documented study, Romm (classics, Bard Coll.) traces the development of geography from early accounts in Homer and Herodotus through the various texts emerging from the conquests of Alexander the Great, such as those by Strabo and Pliny, to the Romans. He explores the symbolic landscapes, realms of wonders, and other literary conventions that formed the backdrop for these texts. He also looks at the perceptions of other ancient peoples, from the Ethiopians in the South and Hyperboreans in the North to the Indians in the East. A handy, readable, and valuable contribution. For educated readers.-- T.L. Cooksey, Armstrong State Coll., Savannah, Ga.
Bryn Mawr Classical Review

An immensely engaging and erudite work, packed full of provocative insights.... Romm successfully sorts out for us some of the most complex traditions of ancient geographic literature; and he deserves high marks for doing it in such an intelligent, original, and attractive manner.
— T. Corey Brennan
Bryn Mawr Classical Reviews - T. Corey Brennan
An immensely engaging and erudite work, packed full of provocative insights.... Romm successfully sorts out for us some of the most complex traditions of ancient geographic literature; and he deserves high marks for doing it in such an intelligent, original, and attractive manner.
Classical Bulletin - Helen Liebel-Weckowicz
Romm's incisive and brilliant analysis of Greco-Roman ideas of earth's geography is grounded in a linguistic interpretation of Greek conceptions of space and boundary. . . . His work captures the imagination as few others have and will provide material for the study of the classical legacy in the shaping of the modern scientific mind for many years to come.
From the Publisher
"An immensely engaging and erudite work, packed full of provocative insights.... Romm successfully sorts out for us some of the most complex traditions of ancient geographic literature; and he deserves high marks for doing it in such an intelligent, original, and attractive manner."—T. Corey Brennan, Bryn Mawr Classical Reviews

"Romm's incisive and brilliant analysis of Greco-Roman ideas of earth's geography is grounded in a linguistic interpretation of Greek conceptions of space and boundary. . . . His work captures the imagination as few others have and will provide material for the study of the classical legacy in the shaping of the modern scientific mind for many years to come."—Helen Liebel-Weckowicz, Classical Bulletin

Bryn Mawr Classical Reviews
An immensely engaging and erudite work, packed full of provocative insights.... Romm successfully sorts out for us some of the most complex traditions of ancient geographic literature; and he deserves high marks for doing it in such an intelligent, original, and attractive manner.
— T. Corey Brennan
Classical Bulletin
Romm's incisive and brilliant analysis of Greco-Roman ideas of earth's geography is grounded in a linguistic interpretation of Greek conceptions of space and boundary. . . . His work captures the imagination as few others have and will provide material for the study of the classical legacy in the shaping of the modern scientific mind for many years to come.
— Helen Liebel-Weckowicz
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691069333
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 6/1/1992
  • Pages: 252
  • Product dimensions: 5.88 (w) x 8.82 (h) x 0.88 (d)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Works Frequently Cited
Introduction: Geography as a Literary Tradition 3
1 The Boundaries of Earth 9
Boundaries and the Boundless 11
Ocean and Cosmic Disorder 20
Roads around the World 26
Herodotus and the Changing World Picture 32
Aristotle and After 41
2 Ethiopian and Hyperborean 45
The Blameless Ethiopians 49
The Fortunate Hyperboreans 60
Arimaspians and Scythians 67
The Kunokephaloi 77
3 Wonders of the East 82
Before Alexander 83
Marvel-Collectors and Critics 94
The Late Romance Tradition 109
4 Ultima Thule and Beyond 121
Antipodal Ambition 124
The North Sea Coast 140
The Headwaters of the Nile 149
The Atlantic Horizon 156
5 Geography and Fiction 172
Ocean and Poetry 176
The Voyage of Odysseus 183
Pytheas, Euhemerus, and Others 196
The Fiction Election 202
Epilogue: After Columbus 215
Index 223
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