Medieval Academy of America

The Voyage of an Island Author(s): Vincent H. de P. Cassidy Source: Speculum, Vol. 38, No. 4 (Oct., 1963), pp. 595-602 Published by: Medieval Academy of America Stable URL: . Accessed: 10/09/2013 08:05
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1934). For it happened that in these parts the nightbecomes sometimes threehourslong.Fridtjof Nansen.101. 6 Strabo.Astronomia. the island that has stimulated the imagination of scholars for fourteen hundredyears. that thesun rises short. wholebroad earthshall be revealed.Pytheas of Massilia. WarmingI. pp.. 30.a Punic blockade keptothermariners from the Atlantic. Mists (London. "Tibi serviatultimaThule.1 agreethat he sailed northward His account of Thule raises a numberof questions.. Medea. the stirred of men."4The Greekgeographer Strabo (d. vI. For the Greek sources concerning (New York.In Northern ton..however. nec sit terris York. TerraeIncognitae (Leiden.1947).Greek Geography pp.Genesisdel Descubrimiento. Caryand E.At least he says in his treatiseOn theOcean: 'The Barbariansshowedus the place wherethe sun sets.1927).ed.THE VOYAGE OF AN ISLAND BY VINCENT H.242 on Tue. others. 1929). 1 For a account of the voyage of Pytheas see VilhjalmurStefansson. 79 A. About the time that Alexanderthe Great was forcefully expanding horizonsin the east. H. 2 Geminus ofRhodes.textually at least.preserved by Geminusof Rhodes (first century B. The AncientExplorers(London. 4 ultimaThule. See also Richard Hennig. 1944-1953).5 But Plinythe Elder (d. Poets adopted it as one of theirfavoriteultimates. 169-176.D. two. Warmington. see E. When Carthage was the dominantpower in the westernMediterranean. Geography. somewhatmore reservedly. H. who introduced Thule to classical scholarship." . 1-107.but scholars on a voyage of exploration.How Pytheasreachedthe Atlanticis a matterof some debate. 24 A. Ultima generally satisfactory Thule(New York. 1940) pp. DE P.D. 155-182. and AntonioBallesteros. rejectedonly his reportof northern lands and islands. I. CASSIDY ULTIMA THULE.0. Pytheas describedhis voyage in a work entitledOn the Ocean which. 10 Sep 2013 08:05:19 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . 4. has not survived. is too briefto be rehelpful:"It seemsthat Pytheas of Massilia came also to these [farnorthern] gions.). iii. Pytheas.especiallyconcerning the location of the island. 33-40. I.whenTethys shall disclosenew worldsand Thule not be the limitofthe lands.had at least one pointin commonwithotherultimates: itsplace on thefringe ofthe worldwas not absolutelysecure." Georgics. Historiade America(Buenos Aires.).sometimes extremely a shortwhileafter sunset.The chief reasonfor its insecurity was that. M.1911). was one of the fewto get through the blockade.) refusedto accept the wordof an "archfalsifier" such as Pytheas and considered Irelandthe mostnortherly inhabitedcountry. pp. I.' "2 cited indirectly of antiquity. Vol." Seneca. 3 Virgil.The only directquotation from Pytheas. 43-73.Some of Pytheas was frequently by the writers them consideredhim an out-and-out him a competent liar. III of Ballesteros.unfortunately.considering scientist whohad allowedhimself to get too farout in one instance. probed the Atlantic west. 595 This content downloaded from 193.the islandwas not firmly anchored.C. 58-66. Miller (New . Pytheas.Virgil imagination Thule would bow beforeAugustus3 and an even more prophesiedthat farthest famousprophecy wouldappear in the pages ofSeneca's Medea: "There willcome an age in thefar-off whenthe yearswhenOcean shall unloosethe bonds ofthings. Translatedby Frank J.The utmostisland.

in."e.Geography. 6 II.Some. I."was to be foundfar to the north to Mela (who oppositethat part of Europe whichborderedon Asia.242 on Tue. 30. such as Cleomedes. 1. 12Ptolemy. 16 has ".but betweenPytheas and Tacitus."For locationofBelcae see III. wouldbe rediscovered which west a thousand at the yearslater.8 Othersmaintainedthat Thule was closerthan Pytheas would have thembelieve. forexample.9 north. "the northern of whichis in the old maps designatedby the name of Nary or Nery. 2. 10 Sep 2013 08:05:19 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . 5. years and exacting. including and his mistakes.). 6. 77. Pliny.othershave "Nerigon.596 The Voyageof an Island whosewritings weremorewidelyknownin the west than those of Strabo. II.ex qua in Tylen navigetur". scholarship.perhaps the greatestof the ancient geographers. Chorographia.In Northern Mists.the epitomeof in his age. I.NaturalHisof Pliny's Natural History(London." promontory See also Nansen.12 If Berricen.Pytheas' statement. 1826). 359) that Nerigosis equatable withthe island of Lewis..7Pliny's account of Thule is of especial importance since the marvel-mongering Solinus. yet Ptolemyalso placed Thule to the northeast..NaturalHistory. lived in Alexandriaabout one hundredand fifty His after exact Christ.whoseworkwas a mediaeval favorite. "only turning been stretching a pointto connectthename oftheultimateislandwiththat ofhis one of the hero. "Thyle Belcarum litoriadposita est. Pliny's Natural History. 1887) tory(London. Grais et nostriscelebrata carminibus. gleanedmanyof Disagreementabout the location of Thule began early among those who accepted its existence. his wondersfrom the pages of the NaturalHistory.11 by a circular theeast Thule movedwithin thisocean rim.ed. anothersource."The Barbarians showedus the place wherethe sun sets. It would soon reveala tendency to move northeastward. 9 Tacitus.the closerto India it wouldbe.I. The distancebetweenThule and England was not the only point of disagreement. Ch.under ordersfrom rounded the coast of Britainand exploredto the northern Agricola. 10.101.. ii. 100 A. Ptolemy.reported that the Roman fleetwhich.that Britain. Agricola.D. Tacitus (fl. "celebrated Pomponius in our [Roman]songsand thoseof the Greeks. 10Mela. However.6 perhapsfrom the "crossing to Thule" beginsat Nerigos (apparently the island of Lewis off the northwestern coast of Scotland). is morelikelythat Agricolaor the Roman seamen considered Faeroes or even one ofthe Shetlandsto be Thule.ex qua in Thulen navigetur. 2. This content downloaded from 193." indicatesclearlythat his Thule was to the west as well as north. went so far" as Thule WhileTacitus may have before back. 107. G. had drifted south and east. the island. Alreadythe Spanish geographer his Mela had informed readers that Thule. scholarship to make Scotland fitintohis worldpicturePtolemytipped it farto the east. cited Pytheas withno apparent distrustwhen placing Thule a six days' sail northof Elsewherehe adds morespecifically. by time the tendencywould be to accept everything his guesses he said..Kuklikestheorias meteoron bibliadua. The Bostock and Riley translation uses the lattertextand in a note suggests(i.Mela represented the popular view.g. Pliny.placed it on the Arctic circle. Claudius Ptolemy. 5. 11Ibid.10 According cited as evidencethe case of Indians drivenby stormsto the Germancoast) the worldwas surrounded The further to ocean navigableto the north.textuallyat least. i.0. 7 The Loeb editionof iv. 8 Cleomedes.

It lay. oleam creat. vi.His account of Thule was based upon Pliny's. vii. nascitur. 53. a palm coveredisland.the protegeof St Augustine. xii. iceboundbeneaththe pole-star. vi-vii(New York. reportedthat Thule was "situated in the and "knownto onlya few.Loeb Library(New York.SevenBooksofHistory AgainstthePagans. 1933). 11.20 Byzantine Procopius."Claudian added: "The Orcadesranred with Saxon slaughter. I. Claudian equated Thule withtheFaeroes ortheShetlands.or perhaps. I.If thiswerenot bewildering enough.The Voyageof an Island 597 the relationship beto its properplace whilemaintaining Scotland wererestored tweenScotland and Thule whichexistsin Ptolemy. collection as was his description of the Indian island of Tylos."15 ofTheodosiuswho "laid wastethenorth. 17 24-38. 1936). 18 Orosius. Orosius. 15 Claudian. CollectaneaRerum Memorabilium.proThe ductivein oil.equated near or farfrom Thule was to the northwest or to the northeast. 239-240. Fourth Consulship ofHonorius. iv-xxvi.had arrivedat the islandofTylus. 20. 16Perhaps he had also been readingStrabo. he said. wherethe trees never lost theirleaves.and it was neitherrough nor running and all thingsin woodedforthe mostpart.242 on Tue. 1922)."'7 Thule had apparentlymoved to accessible again regions. historian Thule with Norway. 15.Archiasreported.13 inconsistent. Jordanes. Pliny.22 scholarsbeofChristian Asian islandwouldbe called continually to the attention 13Claudian. numquamcaretfolio. Claudian. III.probingsouth in was the PersianGulf. abundant in vines.14 Four years later he wrotethat. This content downloaded from 193. Tylus."21 his the Roman Solinusoffered Six hundredyearsafterPytheas and Alexander."Cf. Arrian. but his testimony In 396 he describedThule as an island whichno ship could reach."18 middleofthe Ocean towardthe northwest" the as to location of Thule werean ocean mid-sixth the By century. ice-bound Hibernia16 wept for the heaps of slain Scots.11. terrasomnes hoc miraculosola vincit. his Thule in be compounded.quod quaecumque in ea arbos vI. 49. 19Jordanes. LII. The easy access to Thule proclaimedby Claudian was not of long duration. "about a day and a night'ssail" fromthe mouth of the Euphrates "for a ship beforethe wind. the worldwas unitedand at peace and that "to visitThule and the exploits In a poem describing exploreits once dreadedwildsis but a sport.vmII. 1. Thule was warm with the blood of Picts. 20. AgainstRufinus. "Tylos Indiae insula est: ea fertpalmas. 9. Procopius.History oftheWars. the Thule at the westernedge of the AtlanticOcean19whilehis contemporary. Getica.Thule would be back to the is therefore northwest of Britain. but the sortwhichbore gardenfruits due season. 2 (New York.easily was to the confusion reachedor inaccessible. 21 Anabasis ofAlexander. ofmarvelsto the world. 32. II.At approximately the time Pytheas was reporting the Northern Ocean. 10 Sep 2013 08:05:19 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . 14Claudian. is The poet Claudian also providedinformation about Thule. vineis abundat. 22 Solinus. opinions a historyof his people. thanksto Rome.Ptolemy'splacementof Thule to the northeast suspect.101.." The island "was large. a lieutenantof Alexandernamed Archias. vI. ThirdConsulship of Tacitus.154-157. Britain. 21. 20 See also ibid. placed the who wrote Christian Goth apart.0. On Stilicho'sConsulship. 11.

598 The Voyageofan Island Isidore. 23 24 This content downloaded from 193. Hafner.Etymologiae (1422). an Indian island.But laterwriters CityofGod. Augustine." 33. Parthey (Berlin. Edited by M.0. Geography of theMiddle Ages opp. p. another "Thyle" in the westernocean. RavennatisAnonymiCosmographia. 5 (New York.has this advantage over all otherlands. reported thatno treewhichgrowsin it everloses itsfoliage.In the CityofGod.1948). Reproducedin Kimble.242 on Tue. Re Britain and "Thile" see Chapter31.101. cause ofan Augustinian from Solinus. re "Thilos. 1860). re FortunateIslands and "Thyle.xxi." 17. 36.24 Solinus had establishedno direct connectionbetween the Asian Tylos and Thule in the west (withits somewhat schizophrenic tendencies)."23 By themiddleoftheseventh centuryan anonymous geographerin Ravenna decided that there was one "Thile" northeastof Britain. 10 Sep 2013 08:05:19 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . and a "Thilos" in the Persian Gulf.St Augustine borrowing that "Tilon. Pinder and G.

6."3'He had heard of Thule frommonks This Thule was obviously whohad visitedtheislandthirty Iceland. an Irish monkwho wrotea geotreatisein 825. iv. King Alfredgave his royal blessingsto the northwestern "ytemesteland" that men call "Thila"29and Irishclericssailingin the same direction wereaccustomed to seek solitudeon the island of "Tile. 3. De MensuraOrbisTerrae. 30 Vita Sancti Albei. beyond Iceland was Greenland. 32Ibid.27 The two islands also approached each othertextuallyin more devious ways. 27 Ibid..The Voyageof an Island 599 would graduallybringthemtogether. was himself graphic disposedat timesto seek an islandretreat"in the regionof the circleand in the north."34 As faras people in the northwere concerned. 84Adam ofBremen. vII. 36."25 In such a system it was ofEurope and one to thesouthofAsia to lie side possibleforan islandto thenorth readersand by side. although "afterwardsthey went away since they would not live here with WiththeoccupationofGreenland in thetenthcentury theprophecy of pagans. Islendingabok. 29 Alfred.there werethefivezones of classicalclimatology twotemperate. the problemof Thule was now was little over.I.Ibid. XLVI.Thule.32 where Irish monks were living when the Scandinavian colonists arrived. 38."30Dicuil. For example. 1. Vitae Sanctorumliberniae(Oxford. in Charles Plummer.however. Iv.Thule had settleddownto be Iceland. v. Adam ofBremen. Hammaburgensis 26 Isidore. and XLVII.101. Orosius. yearsbefore. His the ocean "flowed in its location. 11-13.This led to considerableconfusion. Ch. twofrigid) (one torrid. Etymologiae. The VenerableBede had located Thule farto the northnear the Riphean mounwhichwould indicatethat he favoreda northeastern location.providedone way to make such a unionpossible. whichIsidore presented as fiveclimaticcirclesside by side around a flatcircular earthwiththetwofrigid zones "adjacent to each other."33 Adam of Seneca had cometo pass: Thule was earth'send no more. statement that endlessly help clarifying Isidore. 31Dicuil. Isidore of Seville.De Natura Rerum.Isidore believed in a flatcircularearth.242 on Tue.reported Bremen. 28 Bede.XLI. 6. iv.1910). 1-4.but within tains. De NaturaRerum. 83Ari (Frode) Thorgilsson." the furthest India26 island in the Ocean" to the northand west of Britain.x. Exactly thereafter in the same Vita thereis a reference which"Tile" thiswas mightbe debated since shortly a piece of vine (palmes) with fruit to a voyage made by Ailbe fromwhich he returnedcarrying thereon. vii.but drewhis materialfromworksin which the earthwas consideredas a sphere.0. 25 This content downloaded from 193..28 a century those who thoughtit should be in the northwest would gain steadily. Isidore does not pointthisout. 10 Sep 2013 08:05:19 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . a near contemporary of the Ravennese..iv. xiv. xiv.GestaPontificum Ecclesiae. but he had manythoughtful he does report"Tyle whichneverlacks leaves on its trees" amongthe islandsof and "Thyle.was now called Iceland. and beyond Greenlandthere was Vinland "which had been ascertainedby many in that ocean. ix. 10.

Chrysa. Tyle. withoutindicating geographiclocation. Argyria.] Hybernia. Britannia [. one "Tyle" is listed among islands in the East. "Thilos.having Ireland on the left. The Asian century. leaving it withoutrestriction Geoffrey location. 3 (August1925). University of Illinois Studiesin Lanx. 11.In this manuscript not represent the names of both islands are spelled exactlythe same.unobtrusively.In thistextat least.." the island knowledge."greenthroughout the season.38 as to had liberatedthe easternThule.althoughAdam knewthat Thule was Iceland." farto the north. "In oceano Orientaliab austro ad aquilonemsunt Taprobane. Tyle. 906-907. 11.also describesthe island "Atilis" which "produces flowers and fruitsin an eternal spring. whichbeganin thePersianGulf. Anotherwork of the same period." This content downloaded from 193. In any case. Iceland could no longerbe Thule. Iv. the characteristics the European and Asian Thules had finally been attachedto a singleisland. Gangania. guageand Literature. refusing to allow moderndiscoveriesto intrudeupon their did not make such an equation. Glossaria. . green throughoutthe seasons. Ibid.however. Iceland was too well knownto acquireunchallenged themarvelsofthe easternisland. Hyperborea. Others."receivesits name 'furthest' the solsticewhichthe summer a sun makes there. 38 Tractatus III. Edited and translated by JohnJay Parry. Thule does not appear in the sectionon India." wherethe treesnever lose theirfoliageand wherefor six months thereis continuous ofsummer day."37Although does not locate it. The authorof the Tractatus had spelled the names of both islands the same.Apolitana. Northamannia. spellingof the name did a trend.Once this happened. he thought tains..In fact.those who equated Thule withIceland mightexplain the "Thile" and "Thyle" of the Ravennese geographer as two manifestations of the same island. anotherin the Northernocean. A geographical treatiseincorporated of Monmouthinto his Vita by Geoffrey Merlini contains a strangeand book-learnedaccount of the European Thule: fromthe sun.101. Scotia. 10 Sep 2013 08:05:19 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . the TractatusExcerptionium doubtfully indicatesthat Geoffrey's assignedto Hugh of St-Victor. Atilis. 37 Vita Merlini.was stillafloat.was an island that one would hardlyexpectto find near Ytilie farto the north. iv.Orcades.Since Adam considered Iceland to be northeast of the Britishislands. Late in the eleventh had already gone further. 36. on the rightthe cliffs of Norway. 10. 7. 881-886. Excerptionium.36 Iceland was northeast of Britain. However.242 on Tue. Some. because of "Ytilie.the pasof both Thules to a sage in De Imagine Mundi whichgave the characteristics 86Ibid. for of six monthsof winter continuous night." Geoffrey. but Adam ofBremenhad alreadytold his southerncolleaguesthat therewas a Greenlandin that vicinity. a very popular work appeared called De Imagine Mundi. In oceano Septentrionali batia.0. Alab orientein occidenteminsula Phanesiorum." whichwe first Geoffrey met as Tylos in the Persian Gulf. and further offthe islands of Iceland and Greenland"35 combinedwithhisspecific statement that Greenland was oppositetheRiphean the sectionon Britain thereis mentioned a NorthAtlanticisland called "Chile..600 The Voyageof an Island around the orb of the earth.

oleam creat." The mistakingof a In the Vita Sancti Albei."39 If Thule was not Iceland. vineis omnes miraculo sola vincit. he could have been following an old map."43 Giraldusobviouslyhad not seen. map quarter Lambert containing Europe. facing GeorgeH.quod quaecunque in ea arbor nascitur.40 have been influenced the Ravennese or may directlyby geographer. i." This content downloaded from 193. cannothelp but startle. the oldest no Although surviving manuscript contains a it includes of a the of the world longer mappe-monde.. 8. wherewas it? The Ravennese had mentionedtwo Thules in the Atlantic.nunquam abundat. was to work.101.By coincidence. i. day knew anyan about island of that name. PatrologiaLatina CLXIII. an Indian the name of Chile in South Americacomesfrom wordmeaning"Land ofSnow" and "Snowland" was the first Norse name forIceland. even p. farto the west. Iterum et Solinus. 31.the other "Thyle" to thewestofGibraltar. terrarum caretfolio. note 2 (London. cols. quam in obliquo reperies.The Voyageof an Island 601 single"Chile" listedIceland as a separatedisland. whichone should expect to findon the shoresof the South Sea farto the southeastofAsia.) Nevertheless the appearance in the North Atlanticof Chile. Kimble. Orosius. withthe naked eye. 'Tylis insula Indiae est. 1222) was also convincedthat Iceland was not Thule. 'Indiae insulam. 9. 1027-28. his warningcame too late. This map places Thule to the west of Gibraltar.. foliisomni temporevivens. 11. ii. the spellingprovidedby the Tractatus cited Excerptionium above.42 He foundreferences to Thule in the of and no in his but one Solinus.Sed aequivicatio te non decipiat. 1003-1031. forexample. norwas it to thewestofIceland wherehe reported "onlyocean" althoughIceland and many otherislands lay to the north.eo "Augustinustamen. that the other especiallywhenone is busilydemonstrating Thule made such a trip. Isidore.242 on Tue. St-Omer. The Asian Thule had not only takenadvantage of the oblique similarity to migrateto the Atlantic:some of its characteristics would come to rest near Ireland. India also.cols. The fifteenth-century English39De ImagineMundi.theLiberFloridus. "Isole in qua fitsolstitium.put Thule whereJordanes had placed it. Thule appears in manuscriptT for C was not infrequent.' Unde et in India esse videtur. names was "oblique" ratherthan "straight. et affert palmas. not because of differing in but because the similarity characteristics. 40A copy of this map appears in Migne. variantmanuscripts as Tile.They could not be the same. The ascription to Capella can be "Thile" northeastof Britain. he hastenedto explain.The latterpositionwas favoredby LambertofSt-Omer(fl. For Lambert of LiberFloridus(Notitia et Excerpta) see ibid.Unde et Ysidorus: Tylis insula est Indiae.p. ii.Topographia Hlibernica. 43 Ibid. haec Tyle vocatur. et non in recto." far westofEurope as it was possibleto go. had an St mentioned islandnamed Augustine thing from which Giraldus "the same concluded island would seem to be in Tylen. "Chile" is undoubtedlya misprint for"Thile. pages Virgil. Later manuscripts of the LiberFloriduscontain a mappe-monde attributedto Martianus Capella in which Thule is also found west of the Mediterranean. 42GiraldusCambrensis. Illa enim Tylis. (See note 29 above. 1938). XXI0 libro De civitate ceteristerris.Geography ofthe LambertMap. in thisworkis a reproduction at thisreducedscale. GiraldusCambrensis(d. Tele and Cele. 1110).41 in thecartographic Such placement. This Frenchcosmographer's encyclopaedic be accompaniedby a mappe-monde.he was onlyjoking. At any rate. 1. quod omnisarbor quae in ea gignitur praeferri nunquam nudaturtegminefoliorum. Plate II. convendirectly tion of the time. 17: Dei. dicit Tylen. 41 in theMiddle Ages.0. or could not accept. 10 Sep 2013 08:05:19 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . T.

101. and the "lost island" whichwas foundby St Brendan. . on the otherhand. 17. Bacon's wererepeatedby Pierred'Ailly (1350-1420) in his Imago Mundi and through this work arguments wereknown to Columbus.theydoo themto be born in to anotheryle and over the waterforto dye.and "Islonde.It was afterall a naturaland an old mistake and one whichpeople who knewless mightnothave made. The islands discussedincludePlato's Atlantis."44 A generationlater Vincent of Beauvais seems to have humorlessly reached that "the same islandwouldseemto be in India also. xxxII. I. Hibernica. As scholarsturnedtheirattention elsewhere. Opus Majus." The characteristic which the evergreenisland acquired here had been attributedby Giraldus Cambrensis ii. Roger Bacon had marshalledhis authorities to convince himself that the habitable zone stretched around a sphericalearth.but.242 on Tue.althoughnot by name.0. Caxton presentedthe English translationto the world in WestIndian for East Indian isby mistaking day. however. (Topographia 45VincentofBeauvais. UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHWESTERN LOUISIANA 41Mirror oftheWorld. SpeculumNaturale. . 4) to an islandin a lake in Munster. 10 Sep 2013 08:05:19 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . Caxton translation (London. Thule."45 VincentofBeauvais can be accused ofcareplaced the western lessness. At that point. century Yiddish.xxxII. 1913) p. whantheyben so olde & feblethat ." Giraldus'jokingconclusion He leaves the eastern "Tyle" among the Indian islands wherehe had already "Ultima Thule. and English. theyhad lever dye than might lyve. 46 Roger Bacon. he was compilinghis materialabout 1250 when moreand morepeople were beingreminded that the worldwas not shaped like a wheelbut like a globe.602 The Voyageof an Island man would knowthat therewas a wonderful island near Ireland whereno man die: " . . 371. 16. And thetrees benin thisylekepetheir that and in verdure alle tymes. . This content downloaded from 193.1928).actually enhancehisreputation intrudedto interrupt lands. levesgrene winterand somer.continents the search for Thule was stillbeyondthem. by Robert Belle Burke (Philadelphia. In themid-thirteenth the De ImagineMundi was recast into Frenchand the Frenchwas translatedinto Hebrew. Columbuswould. 98 (myitalics). trans.46 We should himwho persisted not be too criticalofVincentofBeauvais norofthosebefore in seekingan easternislandin the west.

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