The discovery of the Arctic Circle and geographic North America 325 BC by Pytheas the Greek

Door San Daniel gepubliceerd in Verhalen en Poëzie



'Greenland is geographically part of North America and geologically part of the Canadian shield. 85% of the land is covered with an ice layer of a maximum of 3 km thickness. Only the coastal strip of 15–150 km wide, especially in the south and west, is habitable, partly due to the influence of the Gulf Stream. "
The line that runs through the map shown below is the (Northern) Arctic Circle. As the map shows, the line runs through Canada, Greenland, Norway, Finland and Russia. On Earth, the (North) Arctic Circle is at a latitude of 66 ° 33′47.8 ″ N, and the (South) Arctic Circle is at a latitude of 66 ° 33′47.8 ″ S


This is the area where the sun does not set except 1 day per year. Compare the shape of the earth with that of an egg, oval, roundish in nature and it is clear that the sun does not set in the areas above and below, or in the extreme north and extreme south. Why the one day a year? That has to do with the fact of the axial tilt of the earth, our planet is not 'straight' in space relative to the sun, so the angle with respect to the sun changes slightly every day.

If you look at the first map again, you can see that Iceland is South of Greenland, geographically associated with North America. That is important for this article since Iceland is at a latitude of 64 ° 8 ′ 0 ″ N and we know from the above that the Arctic Circle starts from the 66th latitude. So 2 degrees North.


                                 the 'mappa Mundi,' about 1300

From Piri Reis (1465 AD) and Columbus (1492 AD) back to Pytheas (325 BC)

Ahmed Muhiddin Piri (1465 - 1553, better known as Piri Reis was an Ottoman admiral, navigator, geographer and cartographer. He compiled a world map based on a multitude of maps that he had been able to lay hands on. These were mappae mundi sailor cards that tried to describe the then known world.

Piri also stated that he had used ten Arabic sources and four Indian maps. Remarkably enough the map shows the contours of the Antarctic coast (polar circle coast).

In addition, Piri Reis states that he also had knowledge of eight Ptolemaic maps, an Arabic map of India, four drawn maps from Sindhe (Sindhe is modern-day Pakistan) and he also had old notes and maps of Hind (India) and Çin (China) geometrically drawn.

There is a scientific debate as to whether the 20 maps and mappae mundi in Piri's inscriptions contain the eight Ptolemaic maps, the four Portuguese maps, and the Arabic map. From one perspective, the number of cards and mappae mundi used by Piri is equal to 20, while in the other case this could be a total of 34.


He claims that the source maps were found in the old library of Alexandria, which is plausible by Piri's allusions to Alexander the Great, the founder of Alexandria, Ptolemae I, who ruled Alexandria in the 4th century BC, and Claudius Ptolemae, the Greek geographer and cartographer who lived in Alexandria in the 2nd century AD and that seems more than likely.

That in itself seems like a rational conclusion. Alexander lived from 21 July 356 BC - 11 June 323 BC and subjected the known world to his authority as far as Egypt and India and Pakistan. He founded Alexandria as the capital and equipped it with the largest and most complete library in the ancient world.

'Unfortunately, that library was later lost in a sea of flames. In the year 642 the library / temple was destroyed by the Arabs under caliph Omar when he conquered Egypt.



Legend has it,  that he gave the following order, inspired by General Amr ibn al-As: "Either the books are in conflict with the Quran and in that case it is heresy, or they are in accordance with the Quran and therefore unnecessary." The book rolls would then fall victim to being burned and to be used as fuel for the bathhouses. The entire content, except the works of Aristotle, were destroyed. Thus the largest and most ancient source of knowledge of the early world was destroyed.

It is known that Columbus and Piri Reis made use of each other's maps. Columbus not only used the Piri Reis mapss but also was befriended with Amerigo Vespucci, who was his countryman. He discovered America in 1492, or at least he went down in history as having done so.

Columbus' journeys were the first European expeditions to the Caribbean, Central America and South America. Note that North America is missing in this list!

The early life of Columbus is somewhat unclear, but historians generally agree that he was born in the Republic of Genoa (Italy). He knew Amerigo Vespucci; March 9, 1454 - February 22, 1512, who was an Italian explorer, financier, navigator, and cartographer from the Republic of Florence (Italy). He was in possession of not only an early Piri Reis map, but also Vespucci maps.



Amerigo Vespucci showed that Brazil and the West Indies were not eastern territories of Asia (as initially suspected by the Columbus travels), but a separate, undiscovered land mass that is popularly known as the New World. In 1507, the new continent of America was named after the Latin version of the first name of Vespucci, thereby confirming his contribution to the discovery of America.

Columbus got the name and fame, Piri Reis and Vespucci had delivered the knowledge and the maps. Columbus mistakenly felt that he had sailed around the world and that he had arrived in India. As a result, the people there were named Indians. Piri Reis and Vespucci were the navigators and cartographers who realized that a "new" world had been discovered.



Pytheas of Massalia (4th century BC) was a Greek geographer and explorer from the Greek colony of Massalia. He made a voyage of discovery to north-western Europe in about 325 BC, but his account of it, widely known in ancient times, did not survive and is now known only by the writings of others.

His work with other scientific work was probably lost in the arson of the library of Alexandria by the Muslim General Amr ibn al-As.

On this trip he traveled around and visited a considerable part of today's Great Britain and Ireland. He was the first known scientific visitor to see and describe the Arctic, polar ice and the Celtic and Germanic tribes.

He is also the first registered person to describe the Midnight Sun. The theoretical existence of some northern phenomena that he described, such as a cold zone and moderate zones where the nights in the summer are very short and the sun does not set. He also reports on a land of eternal snow and darkness

Pytheas introduced the idea of ​​Thule (Greenland) in the distance into the geographical reality, and his calculation of the tides is the earliest known suggesting the moon as their cause.


Pytheas described his travels in a work that did not survive time; there are only fragments, quoted or paraphrased by later authors, most familiar in Strabo's Geographica, Pliny the Roman historian and passages in Diodorus of the history of Sicily.

Most ancient writers, including the first two that have just been mentioned, refer to his work under his name: "Pytheas says ..." Two late writers give titles: the astronomical author Geminus of Rhodes states: τὰ περὶ τοῦ Ὠκεανοῦ ( ta peri tou Okeanou), literally "things about the ocean", sometimes translated as "description of the ocean", "on the ocean" or "ocean"; Marcianus, the philosopher on Apollonius of Rhodes, calls περίοδος γῆς (periodos gēs), a "journey around the earth" or περίπλους (periplous), "sail around". It is suggested here that Pytheas would have sailed around the earth.

These titles can be interpreted as the names of individual works that covered individual journeys. As is common with old texts, multiple titles can represent a single source, for example if a title refers to a section instead of the whole. The common consensus is that there was only one work, "on the Ocean," based on a periplus (logbook).

The importance of Pytheas was very great during antiquity. For a long time he was the most important and probably even the only source of knowledge about northwestern Europe in the Mediterranean region. His calculations about the maximum height of the sun were used by Greek scientists in all sorts of calculations, such as when calculating the circumference of the earth. His works would certainly have found a place in the library of Alexandria.


Strabo says, starting from his text by Polybius, "Pytheas claims that he has explored the entire northern region of Europe to the ends of the world." Strabo explains what Pytheas means by the ends of the world. Thoulē, he says (now spelled Thule); Pliny the Elder uses Tyle; Vergil refers to ultima Thule in Georgian I, line 30, where the ultima refer to the end of the world is the northernmost place after the British Isles.

There, the circle of the summer tropics is the same as the polar circle. Moreover, says Strabo, none of the other authors mention Thule, a fact that he uses to discredit Pytheas, but what historians say is that Pytheas was the first explorer to arrive there and tell about it.

Thule is described as an island North of Great Britain, near the frozen sea (pepēguia thalatta, "solidified sea"). Pliny adds that it has no nights during the midsummer when the sun passes through the sign of the crab (at the summer solstice), confirming that it is on the polar circle. He adds that the crossing to Thule started from the island of Berrice.

Strabo reports that Eratosthenes places Thule on a parallel 11500 stadiums (1305 miles or 16.4 °) north of the mouth of the Borysthenes. The parallel that runs through that mouth also passes through Celtica and is the baseline of Pytheas. If you use 3700 or 3800 stadiums (approximately 420–430 miles or 5.3 ° –5.4 °) north of Marsalia for a baseline, you will get a width of 64.8 ° or 64.9 ° for Thule, well ahead of the polar circle, because it is located (see beginning of article) at a latitude of 66 ° 33′47.8 ″ N ,.

From the beginning of the article you know that at latitude 64.8 Iceland is located and that the sea is not frozen there and the sun sets. After all, the North pole circle runs at a latitude of 66 ° 33′47.8 ″ N. So Pytheas was, read more Northern than Iceland.

A statement by Geminus of Rhodes, quoting 'On the Ocean' as follows:

... the barbarians have shown us the place where the sun will rest. For it was the case that in these parts the nights were very short, in some places two, in others for three hours, so that the sun rose again shortly after it had set.

According to this statement, Pytheas was there in person and that the 21 and 22 hour days should be the usual longitude and latitude. Strabos calculates latitudes to be 64 ° 32 ′ and 65 ° 31 ′, partially confirming Hipparchus' statement of the Thule latitude. And yet Strabo says:

Pytheas of Massalia tells us that Thule ... is the farthest north, and that the circle of the summer tropic is the same as the polar circle.

The explorer, Richard Francis Burton, states in his study of Thule that it has had many definitions over the centuries. Many more authors have written about it than have remembered Pytheas. The question about the location of Thule of Pytheas remains. The latitudes of the old authors can be reconciled. The missing data needed to determine the location is longitude: "Apparently we cannot trust in the longitude."


Pytheas crossed the waters to the north from Berrice, in the north of the British Isles, but it is not known whether he went starboard, port or straight. From the time of the Roman empire all possibilities were repeatedly suggested by every generation of writers: Iceland, Shetland, and later Greenland. A manuscript variant of a name in Pliny has fueled Icelandic theory: Nerigon instead of Berrice, which sounds like Norway. If you sail from Norway to the west, you will come across Iceland (latitude 64).

But then you are not on the polar circle that is located at a latitude of 66 ° 33′47.8 ″ N.

Pliny quotes Pytheas: "Thule is described as an island north of Great Britain, near the frozen sea (pepēguia thalatta," solidified sea ").

Then you are slightly past Greenland at 66th latitude. In summary: if Pytheas has seen the frozen sea (frozen) and the eternal nights, then he was at least at the 66th parallel, the polar circle.

I'll just quote Geminus (above). '

A statement by Geminus of Rhodes quotes 'On the Ocean' as follows:

... the barbarians have shown us the place where the sun will rest. Because it was the case that the nights in these parts were very short. .. and the sea was solidified!

The barbarians cannot be a reference to his own crew. This suggests that Greenland residents were located on the polar circle at latitude: 66 ° 33′47.8 ″ N,

Pytheas not only reached the polar circle and was forced by ice mass to stop his journey, but he visited Greenland where the 'barbarians' showed him the place where the sun did not set. Midnight Sun.

That Piri Reis later used maps from the Alexandria library to capture 'his' view of the world and that Vespucci and Columbus used it, is irrelevant to the fact that Pytheas visited Greenland and reached the North Pole in the year 325 BC .



I started my article that Greenland belongs geographically to North America and geologically speaking to the Canadian shield. 85% of the land is covered with an ice layer of a maximum of 3 km thickness. Only the coastal strip of 15–150 km wide, especially in the south and west, is habitable, partly due to the influence of the Gulf Stream. "


The line that runs through the map shown above is the (Northern) Arctic Circle. As the map shows, that line runs through Canada, Greenland, Norway, Finland and Russia. On Earth, the (North) Arctic Circle is at a latitude of 66 ° 33′47.8 ″ N, and the (South) Arctic Circle is at a latitude of 66 ° 33′47.8 ″ S

Geographically speaking, Pytheas discovered North America in the year 325 BC.

Thank you for your attention, God bless.'

San Daniel 2019.


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02/11/2019 04:32

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