Pytheas, a navigator of the Phocean colony of Massilia (Marseilles), determined the latitude of that port with considerable precision by the somewhat clumsy method of ascertaining the length of the longest day, and when, about 330 B.C., he set out on exploration to the northward in search of the lands whence came gold, tin and amber, he followed this system of ascertaining his position from time to time.
Pytheas, whose own narrative is not preserved, coasted the Bay of Biscay, sailed up the English Channel and followed the coast of Britain to its most northerly point.
Beyond this he spoke of a land called Thule, which, if his estimate of the length of the longest day is correct, may have been Shetland, but was possibly Iceland; and from some confused statements as to a sea which could not be sailed through, it has been assumed that Pytheas was the first of the Greeks to obtain direct knowledge of the Arctic regions.
During this or a second voyage Pytheas entered the Baltic, discovered the coasts where amber is obtained and returned to the Mediterranean.
On the other hand he unwisely rejected the results of the observations for latitude made by Pytheas in 326 B.C. at his native town, Massilia, and during a subsequent voyage to northern Europe.
Pytheas, as far as known, was the first to utilize it for the determination of a latitude.
Among the travellers of whose information he was thus able to avail himself were Pytheas of Massilia, Patroclus, who had visited the Caspian (285-282 B.C.), Megasthenes, who visited Palibothra on the Ganges, as ambassador of Seleucus Nicator (302-291 B.C.), Timosthenus of Rhodes, the commander of the fleet of Ptolemy Philadelphus (284-246 B.C.) who wrote a treatise " On harbours," and Philo, who visited Meroe on the upper Nile.
Even Strabo (c. 30 B.C.) adopted its main features, but while he improved the European frontier, he rejected the valuable information secured by Pytheas and retained the connexion between the Caspian and the outer ocean.
So Pytheas of Massilia (4th cent.
He also wrote on the trade of Carthage, on Pytheas of Marseilles, the geographer, and two important works on numismatics (La Numismatique du moyen age, Paris, 2 vols., 1835; Etudes numislnatiques, Brussels, 1840).
Again, Strabo may be censured for discarding the statements of Pytheas respecting the west and north of Europe, accepted as they had been by Eratosthenes.
It must be admitted that the statements of Pytheas did not accord with the theory of Strabo just in those very points where he was at variance with Eratosthenes.
But a people of this name seems to have been mentioned by the early traveller Pytheas as inhabiting the coasts of the northern ocean in his time.
Again, individual travellers from the time of Pytheas onwards had visited Teutonic countries in the north.
Pytheas, towards the end of the 4th century), but hardly any records of their journeys survive.
PYTHEAS, of Marseilles (Massilia), a celebrated Greek navigator and geographer, from whom the Greeks apparently derived their earliest definite information concerning western Europe, and especially the British Islands.
Fijs rEpl050s, or 7rEpi Tou 'S21ceavou) point to a geographical treatise, in which Pytheas had embodied the results of his observations, rather than to a continuous narrative of his voyage.
Some modern writers have supposed Pytheas to have been sent out, at public expense, in command of an expedition organized by the republic of Massilia; but there is no ancient authority for this, and Polybius, who had unquestionably seen the original work, expressly states that he had undertaken the voyage in a private capacity and with limited means.
All that we know concerning the voyage of Pytheas (apart from detached notices) is contained in a brief passage of Polybius, cited by Strabo, in which he tells us that Pytheas, according to his own statement, had not only visited Britain, but had personally explored a large part of it ("travelled all over it on foot," according to one reading of the text in Strabo, bk.
This substance Pytheas had himself seen, according to Strabo (bk.
The countries visited, and to a certain extent explored, by Pytheas, were previously unknown to the Greeks - except, perhaps, by vague accounts received through the Phoenicians - and were not visited by any subsequent authority during more than two centuries.
Eratosthenes, indeed (276-196 B.C.), attached great value to his authority as to Britain and Spain, though doubting some of his statements; but Polybius (c. 204-122 B.C.) considered the whole work of Pytheas a tissue of fables, like that of Euhemerus concerning Panchaea; and even Strabo, in whose time the western regions of Europe were comparatively well known, adopted to a great extent the view of Polybius.
C. Lewis in his History of Ancient Astronomy (pp. 466-481) revived the sceptical view, the tendency of modern critics has been rather to exaggerate than to depreciate the value of what was really added by Pytheas to knowledge.
The most important statement made by Pytheas in regard to Thule was that connected with the astronomical phenomena affecting the duration of day and night therein.
Unfortunately the reports transmitted to us differ so widely that it is almost impossible to determine what Pytheas himself stated.
Of course this would be true had Thule been situated under the Arctic Circle, which Pytheas evidently considered it to be, and his skill as an astronomer would lead him to accept as a fact what he knew must be true at some point as a voyager proceeded onwards.
2, 35) Pytheas is represented as stating that amber was brought from an island called Abalus, distant a day's voyage from the land of the Guttones, a German nation who dwelt on an estuary of the ocean called Mentonomus, 6000 stadia in extent.
It has been conjectured that the "estuary" here mentioned refers to the Baltic, the existence of which as a separate sea was unknown to all ancient geographers; but the obscure manner in which it is indicated, as well as the inaccuracy of the statements concerning the place from whence the amber was actually derived, both point to the sort of hearsay accounts which Pytheas might readily have picked up on the shores of the German Ocean, without proceeding farther than the mouth of the Ems, Weser or Elbe, which last is supposed by Ukert to have been the limit of his voyage in this direction.
As to the Cassiterides, or Tin Islands, the exploration of which would naturally be one of the chief objects of Pytheas, he seems to have furnished Timaeus, who wrote less than a century after him, with details upon the same, especially in regard to the commercial centre of Iktis (St Michael's Mount in Cornwall ?),?), which are preserved by Diodorus.
Pytheas certainly had one merit which distinguished him from almost all his contemporaries - he was a good astronomer, and was one of the first who made observations for the determination of latitudes, among others that of his native place Massilia, which he fixed with remarkable accuracy; his result, which was within a few miles of the truth, was adopted by Ptolemy, and became the basis of the Ptolemaic map of the western Mediterranean.
Pytheas was also the first among the Greeks.
The fragments of Pytheas have been collected by Arvedson (Upsala, 1824), and by Fuhr (De Pythea massiliensi, Darmstadt, 1835).
Of the numerous treatises and dissertations on the subject, see Ukert, "Bemerkungen fiber Pytheas," in vol.
Romer, pp. 298-309, which contains an excellent summary of all that is known concerning Pytheas; Sir George C. Lewis, Historical Survey of the Astronomy of the Ancients, pp. 466480 (London, 1862); Sir Edward H.
See also Sir Clements Markham's paper, "Pytheas, the Discoverer of Britain," in the Geographical Journal (June 1893); and H.
THULE, the Greek and Roman name for the most northerly known land in the north Atlantic. The first to use the name was the Greek navigator Pytheas (about 300 B.C. probably).
After Pytheas, the name is used loosely for the farthest north.
Apart from a doubtful reference by Pliny to a statement of the early traveller Pytheas, the first notices we have of the Goths go back to the first years of the Christian era, at which time they seem to have been subject to the Marcomannic king Maroboduus.