The Edges of the Earth in Ancient Thought: Geography, Exploration and Fiction (Paperback)
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Short Description for The Edges of the Earth in Ancient Thought For the Greeks and Romans the earth's farthest perimeter was a realm radically different from what they perceived as central and human. This book reveals 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.
- Published: 19 September 1994
- Format: Paperback 248 pages
- ISBN 13: 9780691037882 ISBN 10: 0691037884
- Sales rank: 766,854
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Full description for The Edges of the Earth in Ancient Thought
For the Greeks and Romans the earth's furthest 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 S. 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. The tradition described by Romm emerged in Homer and Hesiod, whose imaginative geography defined the earth by giving it boundaries - the river Ocean, the Pillars of Heracles, and other mythic forms of circumscription. Other Greek authors developed exotic literary landscapes by filling these "limits" with idealized human societies and bizarre or monstrous animal life, while the Romans adapted the concept of perimeters to goals of imperial conquest. As Hellenistic and Roman voyages of exploration failed to confirm the fancied landscapes, the tradition came to be seen as one in which invented narratives had masqueraded as truths. As a result some of late antiquity's most daring innovators seized on geography as a theme for prose fiction, and the explorer's log became an important antecedent of the early modern novel.