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Completely relevant fact[edit]

An editor removed this as "completely irrelevant."

"Icelanders are fairly sure Iceland was not Thule, as Pytheas lived centuries before its colonization by European agriculturalists, and Greenland for the same reason is out of the question."

That was a really strange thing to say. First I list the possibilities. Then I exclude the ones that can be excluded. Greenland and Iceland are out because no one lived there. How is that irrelevant? I'm putting this back in modified form. I think you really wanted to condense. You should say that, not that it is "irrelevant."

Moving the linguistics show[edit]

Hi Doug. I guess you were right, you didn't delete anything from the etymological section, only marked it up. I was a bit surprised at the mark up because that bit is covered in the ref given just a few sentences before. However, sometimes one has to repeat the same ref. What is a little more surprising is your insistence that all this needs some special academic credentials. This is the mainstream view; in fact, as far as I can see, there no other on this one. P-Celtic - well, you see, the word begins with a p and not a q. That means it is p-Celtic. No brainer. But, if you personally think it should be developed for the benefit of the public I see no reason not to oblige. As I indicated in the reasons somewhere, this means more space and more words on linguistics. Come to think of it I think it would be nice to see if there has been any work done on locating such a tribal name in earlier peoples. After all the Indo-Europeans were great tatooers. Christianity pretty much wiped it but somehow it is back. I've seen some wonderful Scythian tatoos on motercycle club people. My kids were always after me for them to get the tatoo-similar body painting at fairs. One of my sons went for the real tatoos. Ladies too seem to like it a lot. Some of the beautiful women in my region sport the most beautiful works of skin art you ever saw, inviting you to look further. I will pass by the murder of people in Danzig so their tatooed skin could be sold as lampshades. Better perhaps also to pass by the drinking from the skulls of your enemies fashioned into nice cups. I suppose also we would want to pass by the good old Celtic custom of taking the head as a token and posting it on the poles of your hut. What? Why - good Lord, I don't see any of that stuff in the restorations of good old Celtic Britain! I know Hemingway has a thing or two to say about the local militias taking heads in the Spanish Civil War. Ah, the good old Celts in Old Celtovia. But I digress. We have another article where this material fits more comfortably, Britain (name). After all Pytheas was not a linguistics person. He did not discuss the linguistics of Britain. Those are our insertions. I think I will uninsert them from here and insert them there. Then I can do a better linguistic job because that is the topic of that article. Whatever Pytheas is made to mention here will stay here of course. So, the circus is activating another ring, and that will kill two birds with one stone. Ciao.Dave (talk) 03:31, 11 July 2012 (UTC)

Major problems with the Thule sections[edit]


I just encountered this article and while I can appreciate the effort and the good prose, unfortunately the article still falls short of Wikipedia standards. We are talking about an explorer whose report is the only antique Greek reference on the northern territories, a scientist who used pioneering methods largely unclear to both his contemporaries and to the modern scholars, an author whose works have been lost, with only one direct quote surviving, and an author whose work we know largely from a source (Strabo) that ridicules him and has perhaps never even read Pytheas. We are also talking about an author who has been interpreted by hundreds of authors since his age to the modern era. While a lot of this is disguised as historical research, the monumental lack of material renders it almost completely hearsay, guesswork, or fiction. Now it should be clear from these facts that indicative mood hardly suits this article and almost anything written on Pytheas should be strongly attributed, heavily critisized and as many alternatives as possible suggested. Unfortunately, the Thule sections of this article have not gone quite in this direction, currently reading like a huge OR. I will try to bring relevant passages as we go.

...island of Berrice, "the largest of all", which may be Lewis in the outer Hebrides. - According to whom? Is this the only interpretation? Now, the actual quote from the source goes: "the largest of all, from which the crossing to Thule starts / from which men make the voyage to Thule." How does this point to the Hebrides?

If Berrice was in the outer Hebrides, the crossing would have brought Pytheas to the vicinity of Trondheim, Norway, explaining how he managed to miss the Skagerrak. If this is his route, in all likelihood he did not actually circumnavigate Britain, but returned along the coast of Germany, accounting for his somewhat larger perimeter. - OR?

Concerning the location of Thule, a discrepancy in data caused subsequent geographers some problems, and may be responsible for Ptolemy's distortion of Scotland. - OR?

The parallel running through that mouth also passes through Celtica and is Pytheas' base line. Using 3700 or 3800 stadia (approximately 420–430 miles or 5.3°-5.4°) north of Marseilles for a base line obtains a latitude of 64.8° or 64.9° for Thule, well short of the Arctic Circle. It is in fact the latitude of Trondheim, where Pytheas probably made land. - OR?

Nansen points out that according to this statement, Pytheas was there in person and that the 21- and 22-hour days must be the customary statement of latitude by length of longest day. He calculates the latitudes to be 64° 32′ and 65° 31′, supporting Hipparchus' statement of the latitude of Thule. - This deserves much critisizm. The relevant quote from Geminus goes actually: "To the people even further to the north the longest day lasts for sixteen hours, and to the people even further to the north seventeen and eighteen. To these regions the Massalian Pytheas seems also to have come. He says at least in his treatise "On the Ocean": "the Barbarians showed us the place where the sun goes to rest. For it was the case that in these parts the nights were very short, in some places two, in others three hours long, so that the sun rose again a short time after it had set." First of all, the quote only proves Geminus thought Pytheas apparently was there in person. Second, astronomers traditionally do not count twilight as part of the night, which makes tremendous difference in high latitudes. How would Nansen know Pytheas' method for determining the length of the night? Third, the 17-18 h maximum day appears to be reported from the same spot as the 2-3 h night, which should be discussed.

The northernmost location cited in Britain at the Firth of Clyde is now northern Scotland. To get this country south of Britain to conform to Strabo's interpretation of Pytheas, Ptolemy has to rotate Scotland by 90°. - OR?

The 5000 stadia must be discounted: it crosses the Borysthenes upriver near Kiev rather than at the mouth.[28] It does place Pytheas on the Arctic Circle, which in Norway is just south of the Lofoten islands. On the surface it appears that Eratosthenes altered the base line to pass through the northern extreme of Celtica. Pytheas, as related by Hipparchus, probably cited the place in Celtica where he first made land. If he used the same practice in Norway, Thule is at least the entire northwest coast of Norway from Trondheim to the Lofoten Islands. - OR?

The mouth was further north than it is today; even so, 48.4° is up near Dnepropetrovsk. The Greeks must be allowed some inaccuracy for their measurements. In any case damming has changed the river a great deal and a few thousand years has been enough to change the courses of many rivers. - This is outrageous. Some damming has moved the Dniepr mouth and the Black Sea shore hundreds of kilometres to the south? Not only has the author of this any idea of the river development or shoreline geology, you also choose to use this fiction to come to a desired result and present it in an encyclopedia. I am shocked. Please see File:Ancient_Greek_Colonies_of_N_Black_Sea.png and remove this nonsense.

A manuscript variant of a name in Pliny has abetted the Iceland theory: Nerigon instead of Berrice, which sounds like Norway. If one sails west from Norway one encounters Iceland. Burton himself espoused this theory. - What manuscript variant? Why is this guesswork important?

Scythia stretches eastward from the mouth of the Vistula; thus Pytheas must have described the Germanic coast of the Baltic sea; if the statement is true, there are no other possibilities. As to whether he explored it in person, he said that he explored the entire north in person (see under Thule above). As the periplus was a sort of ship's log, he probably did reach the Vistula. - OR?

That number happens to be the distance from the mouth of the Skagerrak to the mouth of the Vistula, but no source says explicitly where the figure was taken. - OR?

"Mentonomon" is unambiguously stated to be an aestuarium or "estuary" of 6000 stadia, which using the Herodotean standard of 600 feet per stadium is 681 miles. That number happens to be the distance from the mouth of the Skagerrak to the mouth of the Vistula, but no source says explicitly where the figure was taken. Competing views, however, usually have to reinterpret "estuary" to mean something other than an estuary, as the west of the Baltic Sea is the only body of estuarial water of sufficient length in the region. - A water body of 681 miles is nothing we would call an estuary. Please remove this nonsense.

Strabo gives it as 24°, which may be based on a previous tangent of Pytheas, but he does not say. The Arctic Circle would then be at 66°, accurate to within a degree.[60] - Sounds very far fetched.

That is what Pytheas means when he says that Thule is located at the place where the Arctic Circle is identical to the Tropic of Cancer - It should be emphasized that this is just one interpretation and could actually mean anything we cannot relate to. Moreover, how does the Arctic location make sense with the local people using honey and grow millet or the 2-3 days of night at the summer solstice? I hope you can explain.

Regards, --Jaan Pärn (talk) 10:36, 19 November 2012 (UTC)

Thanks. I've been aware of problems with this article for some time but haven't had the energy or resources to work on it. Most of the material on Thule was added by one editor. You might want to see our article on Thule as well. Dougweller (talk) 13:03, 19 November 2012 (UTC)


The long discussion of the various Baltic peoples Pytheas would have encountered if he had encountered any Baltic peoples is a little out of place, since he turned back before he encountered them. I'm not going to remove it entirely, since it is still interesting stuff and tells us a lot about the world Pytheas lived in, but I'm going to correct a few major errors. In particular, most linguists don't believe that there was a Proto-Baltic language distinct from Proto-Balto-Slavic. Instead, the area was home to a bunch of Balto-Slavic languages, one of which eventually became Proto-Slavic. 2603:3024:210F:FE00:A091:ADA0:615E:DBA4 (talk) 23:38, 18 February 2017 (UTC)