Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Herodotus a true seeker after knowledge

The Greek historian Herodotus is someone I must find out more about.  He described how a Phoenician expedition circumnavigated Africa, or Libya as he called it, departing from the bottom of the Red Sea and returning through the Pillars of Hercules.  He met the crew it seems, and reported their story.  They told him amongst other things that when they were sailing west the sun rose and set in the wrong direction.  Herodotus reports this fact whilst commenting “I do not believe them”.
Herodotus died about 428 BCE.  What a wonderful man, a true seeker after knowledge. He didn’t believe them, but passed the account on anyway.  It is in fact precisely this detail which convinces that the story is true.  Sailing west – this is when they were rounding the Cape of Good Hope.    The sun rose and set in the wrong direction – this is exactly what happens when you are south of the equator, a  concept that was clearly foreign to Herodotus, hence his disbelief.
I picked this up browsing in a book ship in Kanturk, Co Cork.  There were many books there I should have liked to buy but I wouldn’t have had time to read them.