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Does Astronomical and Geographical Information of Plutarch's De Facie Describe a Trip Beyond the North Atlantic Ocean?

Does Astronomical and Geographical Information of Plutarch’s De Facie
Describe a Trip Beyond the North Atlantic Ocean?
Ioannis Liritzis
*, Panagiota Preka-Papadema
, Panagiotis Antonopoulos
, Konstantinos Kalachanis
and Chris G. Tzanis
Department of Mediterranean Studies
Laboratory of Archaeometry
University of the Aegean
Rhodes 85132, Greece
Department of Physics
Section of Astrophysics, Astronomy and Mechanics
National and Kapodistrian University of Athens
Athens 15784, Greece
ICT Consultant
InterMediaKT-Interactive Media Knowledge Transfer
Patras, Greece
Nea Gnosi Professional and Vocational Training
Athens 11744, Greece
Department of Physics
Section of Environmental Physics and Meteorology
National and Kapodistrian University of Athens
Athens 15784, Greece
Liritzis, I.; Preka-Papadema, P.; Antonopoulos, P.; Kalachanis, K., and Tzanis, C.G., 2018. Does astronomical and
geographical information of Plutarch’s De Facie describe a trip beyond the North Atlantic Ocean? Journal of Coastal
Research, 34(3), 651–674. Coconut Creek (Florida), ISSN 0749-0208.
In Plutarch’s book On the Apparent Face in the Orb of the Moon, the interlocutors develop a dialogue about a trip to the
‘‘great continent’’ beyond the North Atlantic Ocean. By applying modern scientific data, the present reappraisal of the
astronomical and geographical elements within this dialogue has produced a novel interpretation of the date and place of
the meeting and a journey to the northern Atlantic Ocean. A described solar eclipse is dated to AD 75, making use of the
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)/Espenak/Meeus list, as well as historical information. The
described peculiar, recurrent trips take place every 30 years (when the planet Saturn reaches the Taurus constellation)
from the Mediterranean Sea to the Cronian Open Sea, which is identified with northern Atlantic Ocean coasts. It has
been suggested that the last mission had returned homeland in April AD 56. The information provided concerns,
distances between coastal sites and islands, duration of sea paths in days, and the reported setting and size between the
destination place and its gulf with regards to Azov (in Crimea) and the Caspian Sea. Implications of sea currents and the
coastal geomorphology of those lands are given. Following strictly the Gulf Stream current, as well as other known sea
currents in the northern Atlantic Ocean, and introducing estimated speed for the ship, the geographical location of
destination of the Greek settlers is proposedly identified with St. Lawrence Gulf and Newfoundland island. Other
unnamed islands mentioned in this dialogue are identified with Norway’s islands, Azores, Iceland, Greenland, and Baffin
islands. It has been shown that the journey is made with good knowledge of sea currents but by using bright stars and
stellar configurations as astronomical nightscape markers that determine the exact orientation of the sailing toward the
Iberian Peninsula and back to the eastern Mediterranean, making the current working hypothesis a plausible event.
ADDITIONAL INDEX WORDS: Astronomy, coastal, constellation, dialogue, Greece, Mediterranean Sea, Plutarch,
Roman, Moon, Saturn, Gulf Stream, sailing, solar eclipse.
Plutarch is a significant historian, biographer, and
philosopher who lived in AD 45–50 to 120. He was born
in Chaeronia, Greece, from a wealthy family, studied in the
Academy of Athens (AD 67–68), and traveled a lot in the
eastern Mediterranean, mainly in Rome, Egypt, Sicily, etc.
It is claimed that Plutarch made several trips to Rome
during the reign of Vespasian and probably stayed in Rome
twice between AD 89 and 92 (Stadter, 2014a, p. 8). In
Rome, he met important personalities (e.g., Minicius
Fundanus [a Roman philosopher], Iunius Rusticus [a
Roman senator], and Lucius Maestrius Florus [a Roman
consul]) and others. Specifically, Lucius Maestrius took
care to award Plutarch the title of Roman citizen.
Maestrius also accompanied Plutarch in the first trip to
Rome, while Plutarch still young, and in Lombardy, in
Cremona, which was looted and destroyed in AD 69 after
DOI: 10.2112/JCOASTRES-D-17-00105.1 received 17 June 2017;
accepted in re vision 12 August 2017; corrected pro ofs received
26 September 2017; published pre-print online 30 November 2017.
*Corresponding author:
Coastal Education and Research Foundation, Inc. 2018
Journal of Coastal Research 34 3 651–674 Coconut Creek, Florida May 2018
two battles against Vitelian, during emperor Vespasian
time (Plutarch, 1926, pp. 14.1–15.4, 18.1–2).
After having acquired Roman citizenship, the name Plutarch
was altered to Lucius Mestrius Plutarch (Lamberton, 2001). He
was Magistratus of Chaeronia and had served as a ‘‘represen-
tative’’ of Chaeronia and Boeotia. During his last 30 years, he
also served as High Priest in the oracular Temple of Apollo in
Delphi (Plutarch, 1936, Moralia 792F), and he had the
responsibility of the interpretation of the prophecies. Then,
he stopped traveling and wrote his work Parallel Lives. Among
the numerous books written by Plutarch, On the Apparent Face
in the Orb of the Moon (or abbreviated to De Facie)isthe
epitome of his work, found in the title Moralia (Plutarch, 1936).
In this book, he engaged with various opinions on the nature of
the Moon and presents significant astronomical elements.
Plutarch’s Moralia is a miscellaneous collection of essays and
treatises composed earlier than Parallel Lives (Goodwin, 1878).
As the dialogue now stands, the reader is thrust amid a
corrupt text and without any prefatory mise-en-scene into the
conversation itself, which in turn confronts the reader almost
immediately (Plutarch, 1960, 920B) with an enigmatic refer-
ence to the matter being recapitulated. The reason that the
circumstances are unspecified, as well as those of the
conversation itself, is making the onset difficult to explain
because the beginning of the De Facie is lost (Martin, 1974).
In On the Apparent Face in the Orb of the Moon (Plutarch,
1960), some close relatives of Plutarch discuss issues concerning
the Moon while walking. Also, a dialogue about a trip to the
‘‘great continent’’ beyond the North Atlantic Ocean has taken
place after the six interlocutors have finished their walk and are
sitting on pedestals (Plutarch, 1960, 937 D 2). This meeting
follows an earlier gathering (probably a symposium) meeting;
according to the book (Plutarch, 1960, 937 C 9), they should now
discuss for ‘‘those that have not fled the memory of what were
said earlier.’’ Cherniss (1951) reported that a previous discus-
sion must have occurred in which the main speaker Lambrias
and Lucius refer to ‘‘ our friend’’ (Plutarch, 1960, 921 F 1), and
possibly they imply Plutarch (see also Sandbach [1929]).
It is of value to refer to the participants of the debate, as they
are related to place and time of this meeting. These
participants are known persons from other books of Plutarch.
Coordinator of the discussion is the Plutarch’s brother,
Lambrias, priest in the Oracle of Livadia (De defectu orac-
ulorum, 431 C-D) and also magistratus in the Apollo Temple in
Delphi (Dittenberger, S.I.G. ii, 868 C note 6). The geometer
Apollonides, someone called Aristotle, Pharnaces, Theon the
grammarian from Egypt a stoic philosopher (Theon Gramm,
Testimonia, 1, 1) and the mathematician Menelaus (from
Alexandria) quoted by Ptolemaeus (Syntaxis mathematica 1, 2,
30, 18), which also was a famous astronomer who made two
astronomical observations in Rome, in January of the year AD
98. The next participant is Sulla (Sextius) from Carthage
(Tunis), who offered the welcome dinner to Plutarch for his
arrival in Rome after his long absence; this is recorded in the
8th book Symposia (Quaestiones conivales,727B and De
cohibenda ira 453, C 9). Finally, Lucius the Tyrrhenian, a
Pythagorean student of Moderatus who participated in this
discussion, mentioned in the Quaestiones conivales (727B 5), is
also present in the dinner in Rome (see also Prickard [1911]).
All were experts of different disciplines from letters, astrono-
my, physical sciences, and natural philosophy that echo Stoics,
Pythagoreans, Aristotle’s Peripatetic school, and other schools
of thought in ancient Greece.
Regarding the place and time of the gathering, various
opinions have been offered (see Table 1). The exact time is not
given, but this meeting came shortly after a solar eclipse,
though it is not clear if this was visible only in some Roman
provinces or in Rome itself (Plutarch, 1960, 931 D-E). This
eclipse started shortly after noon, and stars were seen in the
sky, while the atmosphere became much like that of morning
twilight. This description is in accordance with the occurrence
of a total solar eclipse (Littmann et al., 2008).
At the end of the dialogue, the participants were invited to
listen to Sulla regarding a narration of an unnamed stranger,
whom he met in Carthage, describing a mysterious journey to
the Isle of Cronus and an eschatological myth that the stranger
heard from the chamberlains and servitors of the Temple of
Cronus. The stranger, in fact, is related to this peculiar trip
(Plutarch, 1960, 941 A-C) that takes place every 30 years (when
the planet Saturn reaches the Taurus constellation) from the
Mediterranean Sea toward the great continent at the Cronian
Open Sea, which from the context is identified with northern
Atlantic Ocean coasts.
An earlier approach regarding this trip is given by Mariol-
akos (2010). He maintains that prehistoric Greeks knew of the
Atlantic Ocean and that they traveled there, and he presents
his skepticism and hypothesis about this trip, identifying
Ogygia with Iceland, and attributes the location of the arrival
to the St. Lawrence Gulf, without, however, describing the
details of this journey. The retrieved information of geograph-
ical significance of the entire book On the Apparent Face in the
Orb of the Moon has been studied elsewhere and by much
earlier scholars (see Coones [1983] and references therein).
Table 1. The proposed time of the dialogue based on the solar eclipse occurrence.
Author Chronology (AD) Place
Ginzel, 1899 20 March 71 Chaeronia
Sandbach, 1929 5 January 75 Carthage, Rome
Sandbach, 1929 27 December 83 Alexandria
Cherniss and Helmbold, 1957 Later than 75 in or about Rome
Stephenson and Fatoohi, 1998 20 March 71 Greece
Hirzel, 1895 After the devastation of Delphi and before the
restoration of the oracle.
Adler, 1910 Before 84
The current study 75 Rome
Journal of Coastal Research, Vol. 34, No. 3, 2018
652 Liritzis et al.
In this paper, scientific evidence concerning issues regarding
astronomical phenomena and the journey itinerary is given.
The timing and place of this dialogue is determined based on
the astronomical events provided in the ancient text and the
historical elements. Then, following the outline of the text on
these recurrent trips and the detailed description of the
location of the named great continent, in which the ships
arrive, the destination is pinpointed, and the route of these
trips is determined.
Indeed, the dialogue challenges us to reconfirm this story.
Thus, any questions posed here regarding the timing, location,
identification, and the both ways of the journeys themselves
may well be more instructive to us than a mere professional
philological or philosophical treatise could be. Astronomy has, in
its proper course of development, become extremely technical
and mathematical, sharply distinguished from general physical
enquiry in reading ancient literature, though recently the onset
of archaeoastronomy as a discipline has contributed a lot in
deciphering hidden knowledge or allegorically reported issues
(Liritzis and Coucouzeli, 2007; Liritzis et al., 2017; Magli, 2016).
Identification of bright stars and attribution of zoomorphic or
anthropomorphic images to the constellations was an early
practice in early Greece, Egypt, and elsewhere for navigation,
agricultural activities, determination of time for rituals, and
festivities (Castro Belen, 2015; Hannah, 2015). Therefore, via
natural sciences and definition of each physical parameter, the
reported elements stated in this dialogue are deciphered.
Even astronomer Hipparchus of Rhodes, ‘‘though he loved
truth above everything’’ yet, was not versed in natural science
and was content to explain the motions of the heavenly bodies
by a hypothesis mathematically consistent, without care for its
physical truth (see Dreyer [1906, p. 165] and the passages
quoted from Theon of Alexandria and Ptolemy, in Tihon
[1999]). Along this rationale, the environmental elements
recorded in this dialogue are treated strictly on a natural
sciences basis, interpreting, confirming, reconstructing, and
synthesizing all information to a convergent point: to provide a
sound basis of this dialogue taking into account any vague and
inconsistent quote in the text.
It is worth mentioning the importance of Plutarch’s book on
the Moon that has inspired and has been well studied by
several pre-20th century authors and some renowned renais-
sance scholars such as Kepler (Rosen, 2003) and Newton
(Whewell, 1887).
Although extraordinary, it seems that discoveries from the
past overthrow current opinions. Extraordinary or plausible is
a matter of investigation, provided that the transmitted
information follows logical and robust present evidence. It is
the latter rationale that has been applied, and this information
is being unfolded in a most reliable modern scientific
interdisciplinary approach. Yet evidence is provided that uses
tools as a capable and necessary condition to decipher ancient
information and to test its validity.
Subsequently, a critically assessed interpretation is unfold-
ed, first on the solar eclipse and the ceremonial journey to the
great continent and the destination land of settlers/colonists
using updated astronomical software and second, describing
the itinerary of the journey going and returning based on
astronomical data, geographical coordinates in relation to the
described trip, and other oceanographic and coastal elements.
However, although the putative histories of the journey that
are obtained from Plutarch reflect coordination with modern
scientific knowledge, they are not fully supported by undoubted
evidence; hence, the data must be interpreted cautiously.
Historical interpretation is always a continuously working
process until robust data are discovered. This is a challenge
that is faced by all historians and is a key aspect of what it
means to investigate historical accounts. Natural sciences
assisting history and archaeology can be an asset in this
This written historical report is tried and tested and is finally
coined scientific and not mythical; it is based on narrated
sources (geographical, environmental, astronomical) critically
assessed, and accreditation is given to proven elements that
validate the true against false information provided. The
distances and time of journey is tried based on actual facts
regarding speed of triremes and sea currents given in the
scientific literature.
In this investigation concerning ancient night skies, the
digital planetarium Starry Night Pro Plus 6 (Starry Night
User’s Guide, 2006) was used. This software provides accurate
representations of the celestial sphere between 4713 BC and
AD 10,000 from any location on Earth. Starry Night User’s
Guide (2006) algorithms take into account the axial precession
of Earth (precession of the equinoxes) to correctly represent the
celestial sphere of the past. According to the software’s
creators, the position of the eight major planets should be
accurate to within 5 arcseconds for times within 3000 years of
the present. The position of the Moon should be accurate to
within 10 arcseconds for several thousand years in either
direction. The calculations are based on the VSOP87 model.
For the solar eclipses, Xavier Jubier’s web application ‘‘Five
Millennium (1999 to þ3000) Canon of Solar Eclipses Data-
base’’ (Xavier Jubier, 2017) was employed, which uses the data
based on Espenak and Meeus (2006). This National Aeronau-
tics and Space Administration (NASA)/Espenak/Meeus list is
based on model VSOP87D for the calculation of the position of
the Sun and on model ELP-2000/82 for the calculation of the
position of the Moon (Espenak and Meeus, 2006, 2009).
Many of the earlier authors (Cherniss and Helmbold, 1957;
Sandbach, 1929) suggested that the gathering was at Rome or
close to Rome because the basic interlocutors are related to
Rome; the authors connect this dialogue with the second visit of
Plutarch to Rome (see Table 1), while other authors attribute
the place somewhere in Greece or Alexandria (Ginzel, 1899;
Sandbach, 1929; Stephenson and Fatoohi, 1998). The predom-
inance of opinion, however, is with Rome. Finally, earlier
attempts have proposed various chronologies about this philo-
sophical gathering based on this reported solar eclipse (Table 1).
The scholiasts of this dialogue state that several interlocutors
were present in the symposium to honor Plutarch on his return
to Rome after a long absence, linking this dialogue to that
Journal of Coastal Research, Vol. 34, No. 3, 2018
Astronomical and Geographical Information of Plutarch’s De Facie 653
gathering in Rome. Hence, the scholiasts do not imply of
present meeting being Plutarch’s first visit to Rome. Indeed,
the circle of respondents with coordinator Plutarch’s brother
Lambrias shows an earlier acquaintance of each other. It is
worth noting that the specific debate seems that another
discussion-meeting referred to in the text ensued and that it
indicated a person involved in that meeting that, although not
named, the scholiasts suggest was Plutarch himself. Thus,
after that meeting, the friendly circle continues the conversa-
tion while walking (Plutarch, 1960, 921 F, 937 C-D).
The Solar Eclipse
The time of this conversation is unknown, but according to
Plutarch’s text, this dialogue came shortly after a total solar
eclipse (Plutarch, 1960, 931 D-E), though it is not clear whether
this was visible in some Roman provinces or in Rome itself
(Figure 1).
In fact, it is worth noting that (1) this ‘‘recent’’ eclipse started
shortly after noon, and (2) the eclipse’s description matches
with a total and not a partial solar eclipse. However, based on
NASA (2017) software, no total solar eclipse was visible in
Rome during the first century AD. Therefore, the quoted solar
eclipse in the dialogue was seen from another place of the
Roman Empire (Table 2, Figure 1).
Indeed, 71 total solar eclipses are found, and 29 hybrid solar
eclipses that occurred during AD 1–120; nine of them could be
visible from the various regions of the Roman Empire, which
was extended from the Iberian Peninsula to the Persian Gulf
and from Egypt and northern Africa to Britain, as seen in Table
2 and Figure 1. A hybrid eclipse (also called an annular/total
eclipse) shifts between a total and annular eclipse. At certain
points on the surface of Earth, it appears as a total eclipse,
whereas at other points it appears as annular. In Table 2,
except for the path of totality, the maximum eclipse location,
the time of maximum phase in this location, the maximum
obscuration from Rome, and the starting time of the event in
Rome is given for a comparison. The path of totality is the path
run by the eclipse shadow (umbra) and is the only part of the
Earth’s surface in which the eclipse is observed as a total
eclipse. Maximun obscuration is the maximum coverage
percentage of the solar disc (from the moon) during a solar
eclipse. Maximum eclipse location is the location in which the
total eclipse has its maximum time duration.
However, knowing Plutarch’s lifetime (AD 45–120), the solar
eclipses of AD 17, 21, and 24 should be excluded. Similarly, the
solar eclipse of AD 59 is excluded because Plutarch was a 14-
year-old boy. Also, the last two solar eclipses of AD 113 and 118
are excluded because they started very early in the morning
and not shortly after noon. Additionally, according to histori-
ans, Plutarch did not travel in the last 30 years of his life, i.e.
after about AD 90. Moreover, the solar eclipse of AD 71 is also
Figure 1. Map of Roman Empire (; under the Creative Commons
Attribution-ShareAlike License).
Journal of Coastal Research, Vol. 34, No. 3, 2018
654 Liritzis et al.
excluded because the start time was ~0802 UT (or ~0902 LT)
in Rome as well in Libya, i.e. early in the morning and not
shortly after noon.
Therefore, among the solar eclipses of Table 2, only two
remain as possible candidates: those of AD 75 and 83 (Figure
2a,b). Note that Lucius, who mentioned the solar eclipse, comes
from Tyrrhenian, between Carthage and Egypt, which are
regions where these total solar eclipses were observed. The
start time of the total solar eclipse of AD 83 in Rome was ~1049
UT (~1149 LT), i.e. exactly at noon. If, however, the referred
start time in the text concerns the position of the total solar
eclipse, indeed this event started in Egypt immediately after
noon (~1249 LT). Therefore, the solar eclipse of AD 75 is left
and is favored, according to the following rationale.
The AD 75 Total Solar Eclipse: The 30 Years’ Recurrent
Trip to the Great Continent Related to the Planet
Saturn’s Position in the Sky
According to the text, Sulla met a stranger in Carthage and
conveys to his interlocutors the conversation he has had with
him. This stranger had returned of a trip from the distant great
continent (Plutarch, 1960, 942 B), which is in the Cronian Sea.
The following is according to Sulla’s narration, which is
itemized to ease the sequence of events.
A trip of settlers was taken place in that great continent
every 30 years, when the planet Saturn (star of the Titan
Cronus named Fainon or Nyctouros in the text) reaches the
Taurus constellation (Plutarch, 1960, 941 C 9–941 D 5). The
arrival to planet Saturn–Kronus in the Taurus constellation
means that Saturn’s orbit in the Ecliptic (zodiac circle) starts to
project onto the sky in a region that houses the Taurus
constellation. It is known that the time orbit of Saturn around
the Sun is 29.4571 years, so this position of the planet is
observed about every 30 years.
Once this happens, multiple preparations start for sending
ships with colonizers to the great continent, which lasts a long
time (Plutarch, 1960, 941 A 10–C 10).
The journey is deemed dangerous and lasts a long time
(Plutarch, 1960, 941 B).
When the mission gets to the distant country, the settlers of
the previous mission may return again back to their homeland.
Making use of astronomical ephimerides and a Starry Night
software astronomical program (Starry Night User’s Guide,
2006), the time periods that Saturn projected to the Taurus
constellation was defined as during the first century AD (Table
According to Lucian’s remark about a recent solar eclipse, the
return trip of the stranger to his homeland and his visit to
Carthage, where he met and spoke with Sulla, should have
been preceded from a total solar eclipse, visible in the Roman
Empire. Then, shortly after the quoted eclipse, the specific
dialogue takes place. That is, the following successions of the
reported events take place:
(1) Entrance of the planet Saturn to the Taurus constella-
(2) Return of the stranger from the foreign distant country.
(3) Arrival of the stranger at Carthage, where he searches
for some sacred parchments buried outside the city
(Plutarch, 1960, 942 C), when the old town was destroyed
(149–146 BC) in the Third Punic War.
(4) He stayed too long in Carthage looking for these
parchments (Plutarch, 1960, 942 C).
(5) Then he meets Sulla and others and gave them more
information (Plutarch, 1960, 942 C); later, Sulla passed
some of this information on to his interlocutors.
(6) After some time, the total solar eclipse occurs, starting
immediately after midday.
(7) A short time later, this meeting and dialogue takes place.
Consequently, the time of the dialogue is determined based
on the above analysis in comparison with the results (see
Tables 2 and 3). The first time period (AD 26–29) of Table 3 does
not concern this study because Plutarch was born in AD 45–50.
Additionally, in accordance to these recorded events and in
compliance with the narrative above, the return of the stranger
from the distant country could not have been made in AD 85–88
(see Table 3) because the two following total solar eclipses of the
years AD 113 and 118 (see Table 2) do not start shortly after
midday, but in the morning. Moreover, in this case, his arrival
to Carthage should not have happened earlier than AD 90, but
as historians say, Plutarch did not travel after AD 90 (Jones,
1971; moreover, the Philosophers were again expelled from
Rome after the death of Rusticus in AD 92). Hence, the stranger
has returned from the great continent, when the last mission of
the years AD 56–58 arrived there (see Table 3 and Figure 3).
Consequently, the stranger must have arrived on the great
continent with the AD 26–29 mission. Specifically with the
entrance of the planet Saturn to the Taurus constellation in
April AD 56 (Figure 4a), according to the text the lengthy
preparations of the mission that the stranger waited to get back
home had started. The journey must have started in the spring
of AD 57, and the mission had reached the great continent after
Table 2. Total solar eclipses observable from the Roman Empire (AD 1–120).
Date (AD)
(Type) Path of Totality
Max Obscuration
from Rome
Start Time in
Rome UT (LT)
Max Eclipse
Max Time in this
Location (UT)
15 Feb 17 Hybrid Tripolitania (Libya), Greece, Moesia, Thrace 79% 0824 (0924) Libya 0938
19 Jun 21 Total Britania, Gallia 76% 0948 (1048) Czech Rep. 1111
24 Nov 24 Total Dacia, Asia Minor 73% 0704 (0804) Qatar 0924
30 Apr 59 Total Africa (Tunisia), Aegean Sea, Cyprus, Asia Minor (Syria) 76% 1148 (1248) Morocco 1218
20 Mar 71 Hybrid Tripolitania (Libya), Greece, Thrace 72% 0802 (0902) Mediterranean Sea 0914
5 Jan 75 Total Africa (Tunisia), Sicilia, Italia, Illyria, Dacia 89% 1314 (1414) Cape Verde 1313
27 Dec 83 Total Egypt, Palestine (Judaea), Mesopotamia 63% 1049 (1149) Algeria 1158
1 Jun 113 Total Hispania, Aquitania, Gallia 76% 0753 (0853) Belarus 0947
3 Sep 118 Total Britania, Gallia, Dacia, Black Sea-Caspia 73% 0706 (0806) Azerbaijan 0925
Journal of Coastal Research, Vol. 34, No. 3, 2018
Astronomical and Geographical Information of Plutarch’s De Facie 655
some months. When the planet Saturn exits from the Taurus
constellation in July AD 58 (Figure 4b), the similar lengthy
preparations of the return journey followed, which brought him
(and his companion) back to the homeland. It is reasonable to
assume that this entire event lasted about 2–3 years. This
means that the stranger must have returned to Greece
approximately during AD 59–60.
Plutarch stresses that in this distant country, Greeks are
living who speak Greek. Also, he notes that Greeks are
Figure 2. The zone of totality (two parallel lines crossing Africa, Italy, and the Balkans) for the solar eclipse of AD 75 (top) and the solar eclipse of AD83
(bottom)(two parallellines crossing Africa, and the Middle East).Data about the eclipse in Rome is givenin the inset. The obscuration of the solar diskobserved by
various places is also given. The left oblique line defines the last external tangency of penumbral shadow cone with Earth’s limb; the right oblique line defines
areas in which the partial eclipse is seen, but the totality is seen here as the point that the total eclipse is fully developed.
Table 3. Saturn enters/exits Taurus constellation, first century AD.
Saturn Enters Taurus Saturn Exits Taurus
26 June 26 25 May 29
20 April 56 8 July 58
6 June 85 14 May 88
Journal of Coastal Research, Vol. 34, No. 3, 2018
656 Liritzis et al.
transported in these trips since the time of legendary Hercules
(Plutarch, 1960, 941C), rather a heroic figure that echoes heroic
epics and myths back in Late Helladic times (13th–11th
century BC). This means that the stranger, who was found in
Carthage, was of Greek origin. He returned home, and after
some time he got prepared and held the visit to Carthage. Thus,
if indeed he returned in AD 59–60, he reached Carthage
hypothetically at least 3–5 years later, as it took him enough
preparation time for this new trip from his home to Carthage,
knowing that he would remain long at Carthage. So, he reached
Carthage approximately around AD 62–65. According to the
narration of Sulla, the stranger stayed too long in Carthage to
find what he wanted. This time that he stayed in Carthage is
estimated at least 5–8 years before the meeting with Sulla,
which was around AD 67–73.
Thereafter, the total solar eclipse of AD 75 (5 January)
followed, which suits well with the events that took place
before and after this. It started shortly after noon and was
visible with 100% obscuration in Carthage and all over
Magna Grecia (but in Rome too, with a significant obscura-
tion of 89%). Sulla could well have seen it from Carthage with
total obscuration, as well as Lucius from Tyrrhenian. After
some months, in the spring of AD 75, it seems that Plutarch
visits Rome, being around 30 years old, a Roman citizen and
Principal (Magistratus) of Chaironea, and has become known
to Roman social circles. If this was his second time visiting
Rome, then indeed it had been a long time, for his first visit
was made around AD 69. Sulla offers the dinner to honor him
in the second visit to Rome. Many of the issues discussed
there are described in the volume by Plutarch entitled
Quaestiones convivales (Symposiaka). After the symposium,
Plutarch’s brother, Lambrias, Sulla, Lucius, and some others
are walking and meditating as a continuation of the scientific
dialogue preceding the symposium. The content of this
discussion concerns the Moon, and it is recorded in this work
of Plutarch. The later part of the dialogue about the journey
is subsequently discussed.
A detailed description of the great journey up to northern
Europe and the Atlantic is provided, giving information
regarding islands, coastal sites, distances covered, alluvial
deposits, and the itinerary that was followed. The mission of
settlers that arrived near the islands was described to
reanimate the Greek presence.
The Arrival Place in the Large Continent Beyond the
Atlantic Ocean
Concerning the place of arrival of the settlers to the large
continent, the information provided states (Plutarch, 1960,
941B, 941C):
That sea-coast of the mainland Greeks are settled on,
around a bay not smaller than the Maeotis, the entrance
of which lies almost in a straight line opposite the
entrance to the Caspian Sea. Those Greeks call and
consider themselves continental people, but islanders all
such as inhabit this land of ours, in as much as it is
surrounded on all sides by the sea. . .
It is known that the north entrance (mouth) of the Caspian
Sea, near the river Volga delta formation, has a latitude of
45853017.3700 N and a longitude of 48842050.3000 E (Figure 5a,b).
Barely on the same parallel of about 458in the American
continent in the coasts of the North Atlantic Ocean, the
entrance (mouth) of the Saint Lawrence Gulf occurs. In fact,
the coordinates of the opening (half distance) between Nova
Scotia islands and Newfoundland island is 45848046.8400 Nand
6080028.2400 W. The difference of about 50in latitude between
Figure 3. The planet Saturn’s orbit (diagonal arrowed line) through the Taurus constellation (bifurcated image) during the period of AD 56–58.
Journal of Coastal Research, Vol. 34, No. 3, 2018
Astronomical and Geographical Information of Plutarch’s De Facie 657
the Caspian and Saint Lawrence mouths is within the error
bar. Therefore, the place of arrival of the settlers to the great
continent was the Saint Lawrence Gulf. The presented figures
on the coordinates could not be measured with such accuracy
then, but in the present work, modern values are presented on
average location to ease elaboration of the obtained informa-
tion. The same logic is applied to any quantified parameter,
such as area, distance, and velocity, subsequently (see the
Plutarch’s dialogue, however, provides additional informa-
tion related with this place. It is a marine area that in fact is no
smaller than Maeotis Lake, that is, the Azov Sea, in the
northern part of the Black Sea (Figure 6). Indeed, the area of
the Azov Sea is estimated as equal to 39,000 km
and that of
Saint Lawrence Gulf is equal to 236,000 km
, according to
Google Maps ( (see Figure 6 and
Figure 5 [bottom] for a comparison).
Concerning the location of the great continent, i.e., America,
‘‘which is surrounded in circle by the great sea,’’ the destination
of the settlers, it is defined in relation to three islands of the
Cronian archipelago and the Ogygia island (Plutarch, 1969, p.
941A-B), the latter also mentioned by Homer (1995, 6.172 and
An isle, Ogygia, lies far out at sea, a run of five days off from
Britain as you sail westward; and three other islands equally
distant from it and from one another lie out from it in the
general direction of the summer sunset. In one of these,
according to the tale told by the natives, Cronus is confined by
Zeus, and his son, holding watch and ward over those islands
and the sea that they call the Cronian main, has been settled
Figure 4. (top) Planet Saturn’s entrance to the Taurus constellation (marked with by bifurcated image) in 20 April 20 AD 56; (bottom) planet Saturn’s exit of the
Taurus constellation in 8 July 8 AD 58. The planet Saturn is the spot in the orbital trend.
Journal of Coastal Research, Vol. 34, No. 3, 2018
658 Liritzis et al.
Figure 5. (top) The geographic latitude of the entrance (mouth) of the Caspian Sea, near the river Volga delta formation and the entrance (mouth) of Saint
Lawrence Gulf between Nova Scotia islands and Newfoundland island, is almost the same. (middle) Map of the Caspian Sea; (bottom) Map of Saint Lawrence
Journal of Coastal Research, Vol. 34, No. 3, 2018
Astronomical and Geographical Information of Plutarch’s De Facie 659
close beside him. Thegreat mainland, by whichthe great ocean
is encircled, while not so far from the other islands, is about five
thousand stades from Ogygia, the voyage being made by oar.. ..
In fact, Homeric Ogygia (Plutarch, 1960, 941A-B) is in a
distance ‘‘a route of five days from Britain to the west.’’
Unfortunately, it is not explained from which British port such
a journey is made, but closer islands to Britain (apart of
Ireland) are either NW or SW. Those are Iceland and Azores,
respectively. Azores are 2200 km (11,880 stadiums) away from
the southern edge of Britain (Celtic Sea). (Stade, or stadium,
was an ancient Greek unit of length, based on the length of a
typical sports stadium of the time. According to Herodotus, one
stadium was equal to 600 Greek feet [pous] and varies between
160–185 m in city-states and local ancient games [Olympic,
Pythian, Nemean, Isthmian]. The 185 m [Attic] is adopted
here.) Supposing that a sailing ship covered this distance in 5
days, its anticipated average velocity would be about 18 km/h
(9.7 knots). Also, Iceland is about 870 km (4700 stadiums) away
from the northern edge of Britain (Hebrides islands), hence for
a five days’ journey an average velocity of 7 km/h (3.77 knots) is
needed. (This Scottish land was known in ancient times. The
Greek historian Diodorus Siculus [II, 47, 9] mentions in that
place an island named Hyperborea [meaning ‘‘beyond the
North Wind’’]).
However, according to the text, the island of Ogygia should,
at the same time, lie about 925 km (5000 stadiums) from the
great continent. But this presumably does not hold for either
Azores or for Iceland. Both places are much more distant from
the American continent. The shortest distance of Iceland from
America (e.g., Newfoundland) is 2360 km (12,740 stadiums),
and that of Azores (e.g., Flores Island) is 2185 km (11,800
stadiums) from the southern edge of Newfoundland. In
contrast, the Bermuda Islands lie at that distance from the
American continent: east of the American coast, NE of Miami
by 1770 km and about 1350 km south of Halifax in Nova Scotia
of Canada. The nearest point of the land is the Hateras
promontory in northern Carolina, W-NW, a distance of about
1030 km. Of course, Bermuda Islands are west of Britain but
5219 km away (28,188 stadiums); obviously a trip there should
last much longer than 5 days (see, e.g., a discussion on the
grown speed of triremes, known since the early first millenni-
um BC, in Krivec [2016] and relevant citations therein).
Either way, there is no other island in the Atlantic Ocean that
can be traveled for 5 days from Britain but that is only 925 km
away from the American coasts.
From all of the previous information, it is difficult to identify
the Homeric Ogygia, but additional information in the text will
help in determining this issue. The reference reports for three
islands that remain in equal distance from Ogygia Island and
in equal distance between them. These three islands are located
to the point that the Sun sets during the summer, i.e.NW,in
the Cronian Sea. (In one of these islands, the myth accounts
that father god Zeus [Dias] has prisoned Cronus after the
Titanomachia [the war between Titans and Gods], and for this
reason the sea in which the issues take place, is known as
Cronian Sea. The oldest reference about the Cronian Sea and
its position in the North Atlantic Ocean is in the Orphica
Argonautica [1078–1081]). The mission of the settlers of those
islands was to reanimate the Greek presence there (Plutarch,
1960, 941 F).
At any rate, two possible interpretations exist about the
three islands of the Cronian Sea, which are equidistant
between them and are located NW in the North Atlantic Ocean.
First, if these three islands are equidistant, i.e.forman
equal-sided triangle, then these are Greenland, Baffin Island,
and Newfoundland (at the entrance of the Saint Lawrence
Gulf). The distance between Greenland and Baffin Island is
1167 km, between Baffin Island and Newfoundland is 1218 km,
and between Greenland and Newfoundland is 1166 km (i.e.
round up to ~1200 km) (Figure 7, upper). In such case, Ogygia
Island, which should be equidistant from these three islands,
ought to be at the center of this triangle, but no land is around
Second, if the three islands are equidistant on an isosceles
triangle, then the islands are Iceland, Greenland, and
Newfoundland (Figure 7, lower). The distance between the
southern edges of Iceland to the southern edge of Greenland is
~1270 km. Respectively, the distance between the southern
Figure 6. The map of the Black Sea and the Azov Sea (Maeotis Lake).
Journal of Coastal Research, Vol. 34, No. 3, 2018
660 Liritzis et al.
edges of Greenland to the northern edge of Newfoundland is
~1170 km. Thus, from all mentioned previously, Iceland to be
identified as Ogygia is excluded, for the latter should be
equidistant from these three islands of the Cronian Sea,
including Iceland. Consequently, via incongruous deduction,
Ogygia should lie in the islands of Azores.
Indeed, these three islands seem to be equidistant from
Azores (Figure 7, lower). The distance of the central island of
Azores (Terceira) from Iceland is 2750 km, from Greenland is
2590 km, and from Newfoundland is 2600 km, or all around
2600–2700 km. Also, the Saint Lawrence Gulf length is 1085
km, or ~5000 stadiums (from the northern edge of Newfound-
land Island to the American continent, in the alluvial St.
Lawrence River to Quebec). But, as referred to previously, the
southern edge of Newfoundland Island determined geograph-
ically is at the same geographical latitude with the northern
edge of Caspian Sea. Therefore, Newfoundland, which is the
place of exile of mythical Cronus and is the final destination of
Figure 7. Upper: The three islands, Greenland (marked with G), BaffinIsland (marked with B), and Newfoundland (marked with F), are equidistant,i.e. form an
equal-sided triangle. The common distance between them is around ~1200 km. At the center of this triangle, no land exists. Lower: The three islands, Iceland
(marked with I), Greenland (markedwith G), and Newfoundland (marked with F), are equidistant on an isosceles triangle.The common distance between Iceland
and Greenland, as well as between Greenland and Newfoundland, is approximately the same, around 1200–1300 km. The distance of the central island of Azores
(Terceira) from any one of these three islands is around 2600–2700 km.
Journal of Coastal Research, Vol. 34, No. 3, 2018
Astronomical and Geographical Information of Plutarch’s De Facie 661
those colonists, is just off the American coast about 1085 km, or
5000 stadiums. (In Greek mythology, Cronus, or Kronos was
the leader and youngest of the first generation of Titans, the
divine descendants of Uranus, the sky, and Gaia, the earth. He
overthrew his father and ruled during the mythological Golden
Age until he was overthrown by his own son Zeus and
imprisoned in Tartarus [in Greek mythology, a horrible pit of
torment in the afterlife, the darkest depths of the Under-
Additional nota bona about Newfoundland as the place of the
Greek colonists derives from the same text, metaphorically
quoting a golden ore. According to the text, ‘‘Kronos is sleeping
closed in a deep cave that looks like gold [. . ..]and even [. ...] the
foreigner who has returned from there carried several supplies
in golden cups [. . .]’’ (Plutarch, 1960, 941F–942B). Indeed, even
today there are many gold mines in this island (Figure 8).
Finally, the explanation as to why this trip is run slowly and
with difficulty, with the use of rowing boats, is given. The text
(Plutarch, 1960, 941B) refers clearly to the sea currents: ‘‘the
open sea is travelled slowly, and it is sludge due to many
currents. The sea currents that outflow through the large
continent create aluvial deposits and the sea is dense, earthy,
and considered coagulated.’’
It is clear that the sea currents imply the Gulf Stream
(Figure 9), which starts from the Gulf of Mexico and bifurcated
traverses through the northern Atlantic Ocean, reaching the
coats of Scandinavia, and then returns back to Canada passing
by the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Therefore, the sea currents of the
Atlantic Ocean were well known.
It ends up that the place of arrival of colonists was
Newfoundland in the entrance to the St. Lawrence Gulf
(Canada). There, according to the dialogue, Greeks were living
since old times, and by that time the Greek presence was
revived with the revisit by new colonists lead by Hercules
(though a legendary mention but implies some ancient relevant
traveling event). Since then, and every 30 years marked by the
planet Saturn entering Taurus’s constellation, a similar
journey is made with new colonists. It makes one wonder
why no other account is made on this trip every 30 years by any
other historic source, apart of Plutarch; however, he is famous
of being correct and not imaginative.
The Description of the Journey from the
Mediterranean Sea to the Large Continent
Although the text provides many details about the trip
preparation, the port of departure of the colonists is not
mentioned. Nevertheless, speaking on the return of the
stranger to his home, the text refers to the big island that he
was nostalgic to see again, implying his homeland (Plutarch,
1960, 942 A 5). (Regarding this sentence, in a parenthesis, the
view of ‘‘my own dwell’’ is puzzling. Europe is not an island,
hence, a vacuity is met and unknown if Plutarch or the later
copiers inserted this.) The five larger islands in the Mediter-
ranean Sea are Sicily, Sardinia, Cyprus, Corsica, and Crete.
Following Plutarch’s multiple signaling that in the distant
island of Cronus only Greeks were living who were transferred
there by sea every 30 years, then the said stranger was Greek.
Therefore, the named as great island—homeland of an ancient
Greek—it could well be one of these three islands; Sicily,
Cyprus, and Crete. The colonies of the Phoceans in Corsica and
Sardinia are no longer there because of the conquest of
Further the dialogue speaks about an offering to the gods and
large preparations that were time consuming. The selection of
the colonists/settlers and their transfer were made by draw.
More than one ship was loaded with all of the necessary
Figure 8. Mineral resources at the Island of Newfoundland pertaining to
gold, Cu-Zn, and copper mines (Cornerstone Capital Resources, Inc., 2017)
based upon the Geological Survey of Canada (2017).
Figure 9. The North Atlantic Ocean Sea Currents. Bold lines (mainly
northward) indicate the thermal currents, and the light lines (mainly
southward) indicate the cold currents (IFISC, 2017).
Journal of Coastal Research, Vol. 34, No. 3, 2018
662 Liritzis et al.
supplies for those people traveling by boat and rowing, for they
should stay abroad for long. Though these are large rowing
boats with heavy load, the speed should not be high.
The Trip: Departure and Arrival
The sea journey is not described, but it is apparent that they
travel toward Gibraltar and then out to the Atlantic Ocean. In
Figure 10, as a working hypothesis, the departure is set from
southern Crete, between Cyprus and Sicily. The sea path
follows the coastal side along southern Europe that reaches
Gibraltar, covering thus a distance of 4120 km in 31 days
nonstop, with an average speed of 3 knots (1 knot ~1852 m/h).
After a reasonable short stop at Tartessos, a large port in the
straits of Gibraltar (the legend reports of Pillars of Hercules),
the voyage continues to the north, profoundly near the Arctic
Zone (Figure 10). (The phrase ‘‘ Pillars of Hercules’’ was applied
in Antiquity to the promontories that flank the entrance to the
Strait of Gibraltar. According to Greek mythology, when
Hercules had to perform 12 labours, one of them [the 10
was to fetch the Cattle of Geryon of the far West and bring them
to Eurystheus. See also Strabo [1887, III, 5, 5] and Herodotus
[1932, IV, 8, 7]. Herodotus refers to Heracles’s labour and
specifically to the Cattle of Geryon that he brought back to
Eurystheus, which marked the westward extent of his travels.
Herodotus speaks about Erytheia Island near Gades/Ga
that lied beyond the Pillars of Hercules in the limits of the
Ocean [Xjeam ´
Now when they have put to sea the several voyagers meet
with various fortunes as one might expect; but those who
survive the voyage first put in at the islandic coasts nearby,
which are inhabited by Greeks and see the sun passes out of
sight for less than an hour over a period of thirty days, — and
this is night, though it has a darkness that is slight and twilight
glimmering from the west (Plutarch, 1960, 941 D).
These islandic coasts, according to the Liddell Scott dictio-
nary (Liddell and Scott, 1940), are ‘‘ islands lying across a
coast,’’ rather implying the European seaside. (Liddell–Scott
Lemma pq ´
ojeilai ¼lie, I am lying in front of something.
Moreover, infinitive jasirveˆ
ım[verb «jasalp|
_vx» catching up]
means enclose.) The ‘‘sun of the midnight’’ obviously refers to
the longer daylight during summer solstice in the arctic region
(Figure 11).
The geographical zones where the sun sets at about 1 hour in
the summer solstice (of 21–22 June) for AD 100 (NASA, 2017)
was confirmed (Solar Topo, 2017). This zone covers the region of
archipelago Vega off the Norwegian coasts, which contains
6500 islands, the larger being Vega (Figures 12 and 13). In
particular, in the northern part of this zone lies the town Eiden
of Vega Island at longitude 65831041.6000 N and longitude
11850036.6900 E. Here, the day length during summer solstice’s
period is 23 hours and 10 minutes. Hence, it is certified, at
least, that settlers had arrived at the area of the Vega
archipelago islands.
Therefore, the mission after 8850 km passing Gibraltar
reached the coasts of archipelagos Vega islands at around the
summer solstice; hence for 30 days (from the beginning of June
to first days of July) the sun sets for only 1 hour. Indeed, there
lie many islands close to the coast. With a speed of 3 knots
nonstop, the duration of this journey is estimated ~66 days.
Remember that this trip must have initiated in the spring of
AD 57, 1 year after the entrance of planet Cronus to the
constellation of Taurus due to time-consuming preparations.
Taking into account the total duration of the trip estimated to
be 3–4 months, the mission of settlers must have arrived at
Vega archipelago during summer solstice.
Plutarch informed us that at that area Greeks were living,
and the colonists stayed there for 90 days, accepting care
offered by local Greek inhabitants who considered them as
something ‘‘holy’’ (Plutarch, 1960, 941 D 10). This means that
they stayed there the whole summer till September–October
and that they departed from Norway near the autumn equinox,
whereat, according to the text (Plutarch, 1960, 941 E), they
traverse to the opposite side assisted by the winds. The waited
for 3 months, which resulted in (1) melting of icebergs during
the summer period for safe sail in the opposite coasts of
America, and (2) waiting for the appropriate winds to pass
quickly because the weather conditions in the Arctic Zone are
hard. The crossing to the North Atlantic Ocean with ships was
made via the aid of sea currents commencing from the Gulf
Stream and reaching Norway coats (Figure 9). Here the
Norwegian sea current grows coming from the west, whereas
at these coasts it turns to the north reaching Svalbard islands
(Figure 14). It is this current that is followed by migrated
codfish from Mexico to Scandinavia, and the Vega Archipelago
inhabitants are working with fishing codfish. This same
current turns southward following the Greenland seaside
(East Greenland current), passing by between Iceland and
Greenland heading on to America.
However, the Norwegian current has seasonal variations
(Lumpkin and Johnson, 2013) and in autumn, for example,
has increased speed (improved measurements and modeling
has not altered the trend of direction and intensity, though
many surface currents are resolved to be narrower and
Figure 10. Proposed sea route of departure from southern Crete, following
the coastal side along southern Europe that reaches Gibraltar and then up to
Britain, Norway. The continuation of this trip is shown in Figure 17.
Journal of Coastal Research, Vol. 34, No. 3, 2018
Astronomical and Geographical Information of Plutarch’s De Facie 663
stronger in the new climatology). In the Nordic Seas,
pathways and features such as the Lofoten Vortex are
definitely better resolved (e.g., AOML NOAA, 2017; Laur-
indo, Mariano, and Lumpkin, 2017). The near surface
velocities of the oceanic current, around a latitude of 658
and close to the archipelago Vega, increase during the
transitional period of autumn to winter, in relation to the
transitional period summer to autumn (see Figure 15).
Obviously for this reason, the colonists waited until autumn
to continue their journey faster, aided by these currents, in
this difficult and cold region of the planet.
It should also be mentioned that during the season of the
journey (summer to autumn), the sea-ice area is not expected to
have changed considerably between 13th century BC and First
century AD compared to modern era (see Figure 12 and Table 2
in Renssen et al. [2005]).
Ships from the northern coasts of Norway following the
Spitsbergen current to the Svalbard Islands (Figure 16a) enter
to the East Greenland current (Figure 16b). Sailing near the
southern coasts of Greenland, they approach the stream of the
Gulf of Labrador (Figure 16c), which leads them to the
northern coasts of Newfoundland Island, the final destination
of the colonists/settlers. The total interval from Norway to
Newfoundland is 6430 km (Figure 17), a duration of 48 days
taking in to account the velocity as 3 knots. But the favorable
current velocity estimated on average to 30 cm/s (1080 m/h)
adding to the ship’s velocity, leads to shortening the trip to
about 31 days.
It is worth mentioning that Vikings considered as the first
Europeans colonists embarked in Newfoundland around AD
1000, established a settlement there currently called the Gulf
of Meadows (L’Anse aux Meadows), and followed an almost
Figure 11. Concentric circles indicate places with hours of daylight on summer solstice (Brian B’s Climate Blog, 2017).
Journal of Coastal Research, Vol. 34, No. 3, 2018
664 Liritzis et al.
similar sea route coming from Norway, Iceland, and Greenland
(see the Saga of Erik the Red [Sephton, 1880] and the Saga of
the Greenlanders [Kunz, 2000]).
In conclusion, assuming that the preparations for this
journey are signaled on AD 20 April 56, when Saturn (Cronus)
enters the Taurus constellation, and lasted 1 year, this trip
started in the spring of AD 57 and reached Norway in the
summer solstice of the same year. They settled there until
autumn and then following the sea-current path of the North
Atlantic current arrived at the island of Newfoundland in the
Gulf of St. Lawrence (Canada) in October–November of AD 57.
Through the respective preparations for the return trip, the
return journey started in the autumn of AD 58, after the date
when Cronus pulls out of the Taurus constellation (AD 8 July
The Return Trip
At any rate, the path of the return trip could not be similar
with that one described earlier. The direction of the North
Atlantic Ocean currents is opposed to the direction sailing from
America to Europe, and hence an encumbrance on the
returning trip with ships. Therefore, with the same rationale
Figure 12. Archipelagos Vega off Norwegian coasts with daylight duration per latitude for AD 100 summer solstice. Dotted line indicates possible sea routes
following the currents.
Figure 13. The Vega archipelago in Norway (Vega Archipelago, 2017).
Figure 14. The major water pathways in the Nordic Seas. The warm
inflowing Atlantic water (NWASC) is moving northward, while the cold and
dense overflow waters are moving southward. The Norwegian Coastal
Current (NCC) is represented by the northward arrow (Raj et al., 2015).
Journal of Coastal Research, Vol. 34, No. 3, 2018
Astronomical and Geographical Information of Plutarch’s De Facie 665
of using sea currents and winds, following the favorable sea
currents, the return trip from Newfoundland headed on
southward in order to meet the Atlantic Gulf Stream (the
Slope Jet current) that commences from the Mexican Gulf
(Figure 18) and flows to the Atlantic Ocean.
They cover a distance of about 1184 km in order to meet the
Slope Jet current and a distance of about 1236 km southward
within the Slope Jet (Figure 18). During the autumn, the
velocity of these currents is ~20 cm/s and 40 cm/s, respectively,
that is, on average 30 cm/s (1080 m/h). For a ship velocity of 3
knots, this is augmented by the currents by about 1 km.
Consequently, the total distance of 2420 km is covered in about
12 days.
Sailing with this current, they go ahead to the central
Atlantic Ocean, where the Gulf Stream is split in 438N, 458W
(see also Figure 9, Figure 16c, and Figure 18): one toward
Ireland and Britain (North Atlantic Drift) and the other toward
Portugal and Gibraltar (Azores current). It is imperative that
Figure 15. Seasonal variation of near-surface sea-current velocities in the area of the Norwegian coastal current (Laurindo, Mariano, and Lumpkin, 2017;
Lumpkin and Johnson, 2013). The grayscale bar indicates the surface speed of currents (in cm/s). The highest speeds areshown with darker color. (AOML NOAA,
2017). We notice that the Norwegian current is faster in autumn (see darker colors). This current coming from the coasts of Norway is heading NW toward
Svalbard Islands (see upward, light arrow; see also Figure 14).
Journal of Coastal Research, Vol. 34, No. 3, 2018
666 Liritzis et al.
they must have known this and chose the one toward Azores
current, probably via some markers, most likely certain stars/
Figure 19 shows that from the Slope Jet branch, following a
southern direction, they meet Azores current in a distance of
245 km. This small distance is covered with a velocity of 3 knots
in about 3 days. But the Azores current extant to about 3482
km in the Atlantic Ocean going from west to the east (Figure
19), and it has a high velocity about 70 cm/s (2520 m/h) in
autumn. If the ship had a velocity of 3 knots and it is increased
by about 2.5 km/h because of the current speed, this distance is
made in about 11–12 days. Thus, the trip of 6147 km from
Newfoundland to Gibraltar lasted 25–30 days. Subsequently,
following the same path as in the departure in the Mediterra-
nean Sea (duration about 30 days), they arrived at the large
island, which was their return destination.
A critical phase in this return trip is the correct choice of the
direction along the sea currents of the Atlantic Ocean to drive
them toward Gibraltar but not Scandinavia. Specifically, the
selection of the right branching path of the Slope Jet current at
438N, 458W drives them E-SE and not northward. Recalling
from earlier literature (but later times, too) that the orientation
of ancient sailors was based on the solar orbit during the day
and bright stars and/or constellations during the night, it is of
interest to inspect the autumnal night sky in the aforesaid
geographical coordinates for AD 58 using the Starry Night
program (Starry Night User’s Guide, 2006). Arbitrarily 3
September is chosen, observing the sky night between the
sunset and the next day sunrise. Along the passing of time (in
hours), the following sky observations are made regarding
markers comprising bright stars and constellations and other
sky geometrical configurations.
At 2030 while the Sun is setting, the well-known summer
triangle appears, comprising the three brightest stars of three
constellations: Vega (Lyra), Deneb (Cygnus), and Altair
(Aquila, Eagle). In the NE, the bright star named Capella of
Auriga constellation rises.
At 2300 in the eastern sky, Aldebaran (of Taurus constella-
tion) rises. Consequently, these two bright stars (Capella and
Aldebaran) show the eastern direction, while the northern side
is marked by the always visible polar star (Polaris) of Ursus
At 0100, the bright stars of the Orion constellation start
rising from the east (i.e. Betelguese, Bellatrix, etc.) together
with the bright stars Castor and Pollux of the Gemini
constellation. At any rate, the summer triangle always
predominates in the skyscape (Figure 20 for 3 September
At 0200, more bright stars of the Orion constellation rise
from the east, e.g., Rigel that appears above the SE horizon,
and at the same time Procyon of the Canis Minor constellation,
which is the forerunner of the brightest star, Sirius, which rises
At 0400, Sirius of the Canis Major constellation has risen at
the low SE horizon while Vega starts to set, and Regulus of the
Leo constellation rises in the E-NE. It becomes evident that the
correct sea path should have direction toward Sirius and not
Regulus (Figure 21 for 3 September 0400).
Therefore, making use of celestial bodies well known to
Greeks since Mycenaean times, the Greek sailors could travel
safely and explore distant lands. Such practice has been
followed by latter generations; hence the previously described
marine journey, together with associated oceanographic details
in Plutarch’s De Facie (1960), acquires a solid base and is
proven correct.
Based on the working hypotheses, the assumptions are
elaborated against a speculative attribution. Taking on
literature and historical account and applying scientific tools
encourages the possible ‘‘ speculation’’ to be interpreted.
Obviously, the plausibility must be grounded to scientific facts;
albeit tangible evidence is missing, at any rate the supportive
arguments derive from an interdisciplinary approach. Ar-
chaeoastronomy is scientific, but oceanography, spherical
geometry, and astronomy are also scientific and support the
narration. Albeit coincidental and too good to be true, it still
provides a scientific, but not mainly speculative, vehicle to
unfold and decipher some ancient literature.
The total solar eclipse referred to in the text has been much
elaborated and attributed to AD 5 Jan 75. The archaeological
evidence from the locations/places determined by the research
and following Plutarch’s dialogue on Norway and St. Lawrence
is lacking, if any. It is worth noting, however, the reminiscent
ancient cultural elements in northern Europe from Greece and
the documented data regarding the possible trip from the late
Bronze age down to Classical times and Hellenistic/Roman
times, implying possible interactions via a long trade/explora-
tion paths.
The Norwegian linguist scholar Kjell Aartun (1997) is one,
according to whom mysterious letters and ship images of the
period from 1800 to 1000 BC had been carved in granite in the
Kongsberg region of Oslo. These letters, deciphered as Minoan
stone carvings, (petroglyphs) are to be found on both sides of
the Norwegian/Swedish border in the Norwegian county of
Oestfold and the Swedish county of Bohuslan. Kristiansen and
Larsson (2005) report the discovery of objects that could be
classified as archaeological findings that in the Bronze Age an
advanced culture had suddenly arisen in the southern
Scandinavian countries with clear influence from the countries
of the Aegean, first the Minoans, later also the Mycenaeans and
the classical Greeks. The researchers concluded that it was
most likely not only that the areas were visited by people from
the south but also that the population had visited the southern
countries over a period that lasted about 1000 years (northern
landers called hyperboreans are often quoted by ancient
Bioarchaeological research reported that the ancient Minoan
DNA was most similar to populations from western and
northern Europe. The population showed particular genetic
affinities with Bronze Age populations from Sardinia and
Iberia and Neolithic samples from Scandinavia and France.
Hughey et al. (2013) produced evidence of sharing of Minoan
haplotypes with modern and ancient populations. Genetic
affinity was shown for modern Cretans and Minoans with
Neolithic and modern European populations. The Minoan
mtDNA haplotypes resembled those of the European popula-
Journal of Coastal Research, Vol. 34, No. 3, 2018
Astronomical and Geographical Information of Plutarch’s De Facie 667
Figure 16. The surface speed of the North Atlantic currents in autumn. The grayscale bar indicates the surface speed of currents (in cm/s). The highestspeeds are
shown in with 60-100cm/s in scale. (top) Spitsbergen current:Ships from the northern coasts of Norwayfollowing the Spitsbergen current (thedirection of intense
black arrows) are heading to the Svalbard Islands (74–818N, 10–358E). (middle) East and West Greenland currents: From Svalbard Islands, they enter to the
Journal of Coastal Research, Vol. 34, No. 3, 2018
668 Liritzis et al.
tions and considerably Scandinavians with four out of the top
10 nearest neighbours to the Minoans applying Principal
Component Analysis. Indeed, enough Minoan genetic material
was found in Southern Scandinavia to support the theories of
Rise of Bronze Age Society by Kristiansen and Larsson (2005).
Trips to beyond the Hercules Pillars (Gibraltar) and north
Atlantic ocean trips are mentioned by several ancient sources,
especially about Pytheas (Diodorus Siculus [1933] of Sicily’s
history, Strabo [1887] Geographica Book II.4.1, II.4.2, Pliny’s
Natural History, Herodotus) (Pearson, 1954). In particular,
Pytheas Massiliensis (fourth century BC) was a Greek
geographer, astronomer, and explorer from the Greek colony
of Massalia. He was the first Greek to visit and to describe the
British Isles and the Atlantic coast of Europe. Though his
principal work, On the Ocean, is lost, something is known of his
ventures through the Greek historian Polybius (c. 200–c. 118
BC) (Encyclopædia Britannica, 2017). The descriptions of such
trips beyond Gibraltar may seem extraordinary, but as Sarton
(1993) quotes, Pytheas’s fate was comparable to that of Marco
Polo in later times; some of the things that they told were so
extraordinary, so contrary to common experience, that wise
and prudent men couldnot believe them and concluded that the
descriptions were fables.
First millennium BC trips in the sense of sailing around have
been reported by ancient Greek sources. For example, the
periplus is a manuscript document that lists the ports and
coastal landmarks (in order and with approximate intervening
distances) that the captain of a vessel could expect to find along
a shore (Kish, 1978). It served the same purpose as the later
Roman itinerarium of road stops; however, the Greek naviga-
tors added various notes, which if they were professional
geographers (as many were) became part of their own additions
to Greek geography. In that sense, the periplus was a type of
log. The form of the periplus is at least as old as the earliest
Greek historian, the Ionian Hecataeus of Miletus c. 550 BC–c.
476 BC (Herodotus, 1932, VI.137). The works of Herodotus and
Thucydides contain passages that appear to have been based
on peripli (Shahar, 2004).
Regarding the accuracies of estimated velocities in the
previous text, uncertainties are incurred that depend on the
conditions pertained (wind strength and direction, sea-current
speed and eddies, rowing sessions and rowing system, number
of complete/incomplete crew), and the speed could vary between
2–9 knots. Experimental trials on a Trireme evaluate maximum
and sustained speed of 14 knots (25 km/h) and 7.5 knots (14 km/
h), respectively (Cotterell and Kamminga, 1992, pp. 257–258).
Sea trials of the experimental trireme Olympias demonstrated
that 4–5 knots was normal in decent conditions (Hellenic Navy,
2017; Krivec, 2016, p. 1; Morrison, Coates, and Rankov, 2000, p.
263). When the information is taken as true, an average velocity
is estimated and then compared to speed from ancient sources
(Lipke, 2012, p. 14–15; Morrison et al., 2000, p. 263–264; Lipke,
1992; Shaw, 1993, p. 40; Taylor, 2012, p. 52; Tilley, 2012, p. 196).
Estimates may also be inferred from two historical sources.
One is by Xenophon (Anabasis 6.4.2), who mentions a long
day’s voyage of 236 km (127 nautical miles) from Byzantium to
Heraclea Pontica, which has been interpreted to mean two full-
crew rowing sessions of about 8 hours each with a meal break
(Morrison, Coates, and Rankov, 2000, p. 103; Wallinga, 2012, p.
152), yielding an average rowing speed of about 8 knots;
however, if the long day were interpreted as closer to 24 hours,
the speed estimate would be lower. The most frequently quoted
account (Cotterell and Kamminga, 1992, p. 257; Pain, 2007) is
from Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War (Crawley,
2004). It describes how during the Mytilene revolt of 427 BC,
two triremes were dispatched from Athens to Mytilene, a
distance of 345 km (185 nautical miles), on successive days. The
first was sent with orders to quell harshly the rebellion
(Crawley, 2004, 3.36.3) and with crew rowing slowly in light
of the orders (3.49.4). The second was sent to countermand the
orders and with crew rowing as fast as they could, without
stopping, taking turns sleeping, and encouraged by incentives
offered by Mytilenian representatives on board (Crawley, 2004,
About accurate measurements of distance, surveying, and
even more spherical (polar) triangles and latitude and
longitude, the achievements of first millennium BC ancient
Greek philosophers, mathematicians, and astronomers (Eu-
clides, Hipparchus, Menelaus of Alexandria, Eratosthenes,
East Greenland current above Iceland and then to the West Greenland current (the direction of intense black arrows). These currents sail near the Greenland
Island (64.178N, 51.728W)from east to west. (bottom) Gulf of Labrador current: Sailing near the southern coasts of Greenland Island, they approachthe stream of
the Gulf of Labrador (GL) (618N, 568W), which leads them (the direction of intense black arrows driving from north to south, near the Canadian coast) to the
northern coasts of Newfoundland Island (498N, 568W) (Laurindo, Mariano, and Lumpkin, 2017; Lumpkin and Johnson, 2013; see also, AOML NOAA, 2017;
Figure 17. The going and returning sea route of the colonists in the Atlantic
Ocean starting from the shores of Norway, reaching Newfoundland Island,
and then crossing again the Atlantic Ocean, reaching Gibraltar.
Journal of Coastal Research, Vol. 34, No. 3, 2018
Astronomical and Geographical Information of Plutarch’s De Facie 669
Ptolemy, to mention but a few) are well known, as well as
relevant knowledge from ancient Egypt and Babylonia (Brum-
melen, 2013; Lewis, 2001). Eratosthenes (c. 276 BC–c. 195/194
BC) was best known for being the first person to calculate the
circumference of the Earth, which he did by applying a
measuring system using stadia, a standard unit of measure
during that time period. His calculation was remarkably
accurate. He, among others, was also the first to calculate the
tilt of the Earth’s axis (again with remarkable accuracy) and
created the first map of the world, incorporating parallels and
meridians based on the available geographic knowledge of his
era (Roller, 2010).
Returning to the possibility and capacity of crossing open
seas along coasts and nearer lands, it is known that the
crossing of the north Atlantic has been made by Vikings much
later ca. AD 1000 (Nydal, 1989) and before Columbus, in a
favorable also climatic optimum during the Medieval warm
period (AD 950–1250) (Mann, 2002). Prominent peak visibil-
ity from the Viking Path has been investigated by using
Opentopomap and Freemaptool’s Horizonfinder. Many prom-
inent peaks are visible at great distances offshore all along
the assumed trial trip and following coasts, perfectly suited
for discovering new land. The longest unguided stretch is
between the Faroe’s island and Iceland and would take
roughly 10 hours under favorable conditions (182 km at 10
knots). If the high probability of mirages in arctic waters and
the fact that the longships had lengths comparable to
trieremes of c. 37 m and masts up to 16 m high (obtained
from plethora of art images and later constructions) is taken
into account, extending a visual range of 15 km in either
direction, it is quite possible that they could see land through
the entire journey with favorable conditions. The Greek
Figure 19. The surface speed of Azores current during the autumn. The
color bar indicates the surface speed of currents (in cm/s). The highest speeds
are in darker shades (Laurindo, Mariano, and Lumpkin, 2017; Lumpkin and
Johnson, 2013; see also, AOML NOAA, 2017; http://oceancurrents.rsmas. The ships from the Slope Jet
branch (see the direction of intense arrows in upper left corner) following a
southern direction encounter Azores current (AC, the direction of intense
dark arrows), which crosses the Atlantic Ocean from a west-to-east direction,
approaching the Gibraltar.
Figure 18. Left: The Atlantic Gulf Stream moves northern and passes south of Newfoundland Island (the direction of intense black arrows). Right: The zooming
of the southern direction of the Stream of the Gulf of Labrador (GL) that encounters the Gulf Stream (the branch of Slope Jet). The color bar indicates the surface
speed of currents (in cm/s). The highest speeds are shown in a darker shade (Laurindo, Mariano, and Lumpkin, 2017; Lumpkin and Johnson, 2013; see also,
AOML NOAA, 2017; The ships from Newfoundland Island (498N, 568W) are heading
south and entering in the Slope Jet current (the direction of intense wave of arrows in the right figure), which initially has a west-to-east direction. However, this
current is branched out at 438N, 458W. One branch is heading NE, and the other branch is heading SE.
Journal of Coastal Research, Vol. 34, No. 3, 2018
670 Liritzis et al.
colony referred to in the text is provisionally accepted
because the narration is supposedly followed (a working
The important point and aim of the present article is that
when science is applied, it provides a plausible answer. Other
opinions against the unfolded thesis are in favor of a skeptical
view, but naive rejection and negation of any workable and
elaborate treatment remain an option but overwhelmingly
most theoretically unfounded and naturally speculative.
The surprising and extraordinary significant knowledge in
the first millennium BC is in mathematics, engineering, and
astronomy, but maritime advancement is a commonly accepted
view by scholars, reinforcing the plausibility of exploration of
distant oceans and lands by ancient Greeks at least during the
first millennium BC; that is our thesis. The Greek maritime
network in the Mediterranean and beyond is being discussed
(Malkin, 2011), which illuminates the knowledge of the
construction of seagoing vessels and the organization of
maritime expeditions (G ¨unsenin, 2012). Thus, the lack of
tangible archaeological records precludes hitherto admitting
knowledge about the making of a sea journey far distant, the
scientific analysis of presented information by Plutarch may
withstand, as highly possible.
Here this written historical report is tried and tested and
finally coined scientific (and not mythical). It is based on
narrated sources (geographical, environmental, astronomical)
and is critically assessed; accreditation is given to proven
elements that validate the true against false information
provided. The distances and time of journey is tried based on
facts regarding speed of triremes and sea currents, provided in
the scientific literature.
In regard to questioning Plutach as a reliable source:
Plutarch never claimed to be writing history, which he
distinguished from biography (Kuiper, 2014). His aim was to
delight and edify the reader, and he did not conceal his own
sympathies, which were especially evident in his warm
admiration for the words and deeds of Spartan kings and
generals. Plutarch’s perennial charm and popularity arise in
part from his treatment of specific human problems in which he
avoids raising disquieting solutions. Historians and biogra-
phers in the 16th and 17th centuries followed Plutarch in
treating character on ethical principles.
In his Parallel Lives, the general scheme was to give the
birth, youth, and character, achievements, and circumstances
of death, interspersed with frequent ethical reflections;
however, the details varied with both the subject and the
available sources, which include anecdote mongers and writers
of memoirs as well as historians. This provides a sense about
Plutarch, and the fact is that international scholars cite
Plutarch in historical themes also, especially during the Roman
era (Scardigli, 1995).
Moreover, in Plutarch’s other books, one may find adequate
description of events and observations and does not miss
referring to the past sources. Even in his description of the
Moon’s face and more, he is accurate and questions phenomena
in a critical manner. For example, in his obsolescence of oracles,
he speaks of the emanating gases under Pythia’s tripod in
adyton (confined room) and avoids the holy miracle of god
Figure 20. The sky map at 438N, 458W on 3 September AD 58 at 0000. The
clearly observable bright stars are marked with a larger size lettering. The
summer triangle between the bright stars Vega-Altair-Deneb is drawn to
ease observation of the image.
Figure 21. The sky map at 438N, 458W on 3 September of AD 58 at 0400.
The clearly observable bright stars are marked with a larger size lettering.
The appearance of the Moon (26 days, Waning Crescent, with 10.3
magnitude) does not prevent observation of the bright stars. The brightest
star of the sky, Sirius, is well observable in the SE.
Journal of Coastal Research, Vol. 34, No. 3, 2018
Astronomical and Geographical Information of Plutarch’s De Facie 671
Apollo speaking through Pythia but promotes the common
sense that the priestess was speaking herself. Via this vapor
exhalation, the divinatory current aids prophetic faculty. At
any rate, although French archaeologists who excavated
Delphi refused to admit the existence of gases at the back of
the Temple, scientists in late 1990s proved the existence of
hydrocarbons emerging along with springs of ethene, ethylene,
and methane coming from active seismic faults with imposing
frenzy on Pythia (de Boer, Hale, and Chanton, 2001; Hale et al.,
2003). Thus, the priestesses of the oracle of Apollo at Delphi
were intoxicated on emitted gaseous fumes as a result of
geological processes. Hence, the historical/archaeological evi-
dence on which any gaseous vent hypothesis must rest is re-
That ancient Greeks made it to Scandinavia and the New
World at present is not supported by archaeology yet, but the
potentiality of such a hypothesis has been modeled by
arguments and the reaffirmation of astronomical, geographi-
cal, and oceanographical factors.
Plutarch’s dialogue about an ancient ceremonial trip to the
northern Atlantic Ocean region every 30 years has been
approached by astronomy, oceanography, and geography
theories. It has been shown that the meeting of the colleagues
and friends is chronologically determined, making use of a total
solar eclipse that was identified to be AD 75 (5 January), among
nine others during the first century AD, and the gathering
occurred a few months later (specified in the dialogue), say,
during the spring or summer. The stranger that told the story
to Sulla had returned from the great continent of the mission,
in which he had arrived there in AD 26 and returned in AD 56–
58, specifically after the entrance of the planet Saturn to the
Taurus constellation in April AD 56 (Plutarch, 1960).
Following the narration, the voyage to the arctic region was
reconstructed, andthe place where themission settled for three
summer months is hypothetically identified, somewhere in the
Vega Archipelago islands off Norway or some Norwegian
coastal site, where Greeks supposedly were living. There the
reported ‘‘midnight sun’’ refers to the high latitude of
Archipelago where night is less than 1 hour.
Following Norwegian Sea currents and the Gulf Stream, the
mission reached the great continent identified with North
America. Then, similar lengthy preparations made for the
return journey that brought him (and his companion) back to
the homeland approximately during AD 58–60 following the
next 30-year trip of AD 56. According to the present
investigation, he reached Carthage approximately around AD
62–65 and met with Sulla around AD 67–73.
The trip back home has been shown to follow the Gulf
Stream, the Slope Jet current, the Azores sea current, and
bright stars; the latter were well-known celestial objects since
prehistoric times by Greek Myceneans and Minoans and well
recorded and used in later times of Archaic, Classical, and
Hellenistic/ Roman times. These sky markers take them to the
E-SE direction that leads to Iberia and Gibraltar via the Azores
sea current to finally enter the Mediterranean Sea.
According to the text, this stranger should have been Greek,
and the colonists–settlers are also Greeks. The stranger served
God Saturn and had been taught astronomy, geometry, and
topics related to the study of nature. All information provided
has been reconstructed and simulated via modern scientific
Despite its eclectic mixture of rational inquiry and deliberate
fantasy, the particular dialogue investigated here, which refers
to the solar eclipse and details of the mysterious journey,
possesses an intrinsic unity that is essential to the evolution
and presentation of its scientific conclusion, mostly verified
with current knowledge. Its inherent geographical and
astronomical interest ultimately derives from the synthesis of
this descriptive narration, and the dialogue containsrich detail
and fertile ideas pertinent to geography, oceanography and
We thank Dr. R. Lumpkin (NOAA) and Dr. R. C. Laurindo
(Miami University) for providing comments on the new paper
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674 Liritzis et al.
... Justification clauses might be as simple as including "interdisciplinary" in the title or elaborating on the varied disciplines synthesized and integrated for the present work (Kolodny, Feldman, & Creanza, 2018;Leonhardt & Kronenberg, 2016;Liritzis, Preka-Papadema, Antonopoulos, Kalachanis, & Tzanis, 2017). However, this also may be because one of the "features" of interdisciplinarity includes reflecting on the choice of methodology (Szostak, steps 7-10, (Szostak et al., 2002)). ...
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There is an increasing drive towards interdisciplinarity in all fields of knowledge. The general schema is a necessary and ultimately useful one in generating new ideas and "big picture" conceptualizations of knowledge, yet an impediment to its large-scale adaptation by universities and the Academy is sometimes found within interdisciplinarians themselves. In this manuscript I outline several problems at the core of the "discipline of interdisciplinarity," many of the questionable arguments used by some proponents of the field to justify their identification and determination of what is interdisciplinary, outline numerous examples of historical interdisciplinarity, and finally propose a New Argument that seeks to encompass all fields of research-disciplinary or otherwise-in a generalized fashion. The New Argument summarized is that if human endeavours are analysable into disciplines, then so too are disciplines into their fundamental components. Observing the parallels between disciplines, they are: 1) the subject, 2) the measure, 3) the method, and 4) the cause. The work draws heavily upon Aristotle, and hopes to clarify the muddied waters of interdisciplinarian debate.
... Following our earlier paper , we elucidate some parts referring to earlier attempts to decipher on a geomythological approach. Literature on geomythology may be traced back to ancient times (Plutarch, Plato, Homer, Hesiod etc), yet later investigations have bestowned famous trips based on scientificaly based identification of places (Liritzis et al., 2017). Such a detailed attempt had been provided by the book of Mr. Sotiris Sofias 1 (Sofias, 2009) which referred to the voyage of Argonauts. ...
Full-text available
Following our earlier paper (Kalachanis et al., 2017), we elucidate some parts referring to earlier attempts to decipher on a geomythological approach. Literature on geomythology may be traced back to ancient times (Plutarch, Plato, Homer, Hesiod etc), yet later investigations have bestowned famous trips based on scientif-icaly based identification of places (Liritzis et al., 2017). Such a detailed attempt had been provided by the book of Mr. Sotiris Sofias 1 (Sofias, 2009) which referred to the voyage of Argonauts. The author has made known of three important elements 1. The 'Apsyrtides Islands', the small islands at the mouth of Ancient Fasis River (today's Rhion) was found for the first time by Mr. Sofias utilizing old maps and information of Georgian archaeologists. Mr. Sofias used a map of Poti in Georgia dated 1857, where the Apsyrtides islands, are depicted, which today do not exist, because the flow of the river was diverted in the beginning of the 20 century. This information is important as it gives a clear picture of the topography of the area. Our team had referred to the existence of islands in this area (based on the ancient text), pointing out that since then the topography of the area has changed. Mr. Sofias has proved this hypothesis. 2. The passage of Caucasus through an ancient diolkos 2 , proposed for the first time in 2009 by Mr. Sofias after many months of research with maps of the Embassy of Georgia in Athens, is the present Kluhori passage. This diolkos, referred by Orpheus as "Narrow Erytheia" was connecting the springs of two ancient rivers Cyaneos (present Kodori) and Psathis (Kuban). In his work, he gives details and maps. This information is extremely important as it proves that there really was a way of passing the Caucasus. In our own research we referred to the possible route of Argos through five Caucasus Rivers , without any reference to any diolkos. 1 Surveing Engineer/GIS expert, geographer, chartographer, 2 The Diolkos (Δίολκος, from the Greek διά, dia "across" and ὁλκός, holkos "portage machine") was a paved trackway which enabled boats to be moved overland. The shortcut allowed ancient vessels to avoid the long and dangerous circumnavigation.
... Following our earlier paper , we elucidate some parts referring to earlier attempts to decipher on a geomythological approach. Literature on geomythology may be traced back to ancient times (Plutarch, Plato, Homer, Hesiod etc), yet later investigations have bestowned famous trips based on scientificaly based identification of places (Liritzis et al., 2017). Such a detailed attempt had been provided by the book of Mr. Sotiris Sofias 1 (Sofias, 2009) which referred to the voyage of Argonauts. ...
Full-text available
Following our earlier paper (Kalachanis et al., 2017), we elucidate some parts referring to earlier attempts to decipher on a geomythological approach. Literature on geomythology may be traced back to ancient times (Plutarch, Plato, Homer, Hesiod etc), yet later investigations have bestowned famous trips based on scientif-icaly based identification of places (Liritzis et al., 2017). Such a detailed attempt had been provided by the book of Mr. Sotiris Sofias 1 (Sofias, 2009) which referred to the voyage of Argonauts. The author has made known of three important elements 1. The 'Apsyrtides Islands', the small islands at the mouth of Ancient Fasis River (today's Rhion) was found for the first time by Mr. Sofias utilizing old maps and information of Georgian archaeologists. Mr. Sofias used a map of Poti in Georgia dated 1857, where the Apsyrtides islands, are depicted, which today do not exist, because the flow of the river was diverted in the beginning of the 20 century. This information is important as it gives a clear picture of the topography of the area. Our team had referred to the existence of islands in this area (based on the ancient text), pointing out that since then the topography of the area has changed. Mr. Sofias has proved this hypothesis. 2. The passage of Caucasus through an ancient diolkos 2 , proposed for the first time in 2009 by Mr. Sofias after many months of research with maps of the Embassy of Georgia in Athens, is the present Kluhori passage. This diolkos, referred by Orpheus as "Narrow Erytheia" was connecting the springs of two ancient rivers Cyaneos (present Kodori) and Psathis (Kuban). In his work, he gives details and maps. This information is extremely important as it proves that there really was a way of passing the Caucasus. In our own research we referred to the possible route of Argos through five Caucasus Rivers , without any reference to any diolkos. 1 Surveing Engineer/GIS expert, geographer, chartographer, 2 The Diolkos (Δίολκος, from the Greek διά, dia "across" and ὁλκός, holkos "portage machine") was a paved trackway which enabled boats to be moved overland. The shortcut allowed ancient vessels to avoid the long and dangerous circumnavigation.
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Apollonian temples with oracular function related to the cult of Apollo's son Asclepius, as well as, Ascle-pius temples, (both) appear to align with the heliacal rising of the constellation of the Crow (raven) by the sunrise of the Autumn Equinox. Some show to align with Ophiuchus, too. Both constellations are related with the mythological circle of the deities as a dual entity. This astronomical phenomenon is supported by myth, archaeological finds, historical texts, artistic representations and astronomical academic tradition. The seventeen temples-altars chosen for survey cover a major chronological and geographical area. Ten temples are of Apollo and seven are of Asclepius: the Pythios Apollon in Gortyna and associated Lebena Asclepius temple (Crete), the Apollo Maleatas and associated Altar within the Asclepeiion of Epidaurus, and the Asclepius temple of Epidaurus (Peloponnese, mainland Greece), Apollo Deiradiotes and an Ascle-pius temple close to the town of Argos (Peloponnese, mainland Greece), the temple and oracle of Apollo Clarios and Apollo Temple at Notion (Ionian coast, Asia Minor, Turkey), the Temple of Apollon Lairbenos (Phrygia, Asia Minor, Turkey), the Asclepius Temple, Apollo Kyparissios and an Antonine Apollo temple at the island of Kos, and Asclepius Temple with Apollo Oikos at Messene (southern Peloponnese). Most of the Asclepius Temples (healing centers) are associated with temples (some oracular), altars or worship houses of Apollo. In our analytical work, Apollo and Asclepius function as complementary dualities who corroborate on religious prophecy and healing. On cult sites associated with ceremonial healing and curative practice, the alignment of the temples show the use of star markers in architectural planning: astronomical signs associated with myths of the actual gods, prevail. Through present study, we have shown that intangible and tangible cultural heritage are connected. The astronomical orientation of the temples is studied for their azimuth, angular altitude of the horizon and celestial declination, through applied remote sensing techniques, making use of Google Earth maps and associated astronomical tools.
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This work updates the methods of Lumpkin and Johnson (2013) to obtain an improved near-surface velocity climatology for the global ocean using observations from undrogued and 15-m drogued Global Drifter Program (GDP) drifters. The proposed procedure includes the correction of the slip bias of undrogued drifters, thus recovering about half of the GDP dataset; and a new approach for decomposing Lagrangian data into mean, seasonal and eddy components, which reduces the smoothing of spatial gradients inherent in data binning methods. The sensitivity of the results to method parameters, the method performance relative to other techniques, and the associated estimation errors, are evaluated using statistics calculated for a test dataset consisting of altimeter-derived geostrophic velocities subsampled at the drifter locations, and for the full altimeter-derived geostrophic velocity fields. It is demonstrated that (1) the correction of drifter slip bias produces statistically similar mean velocities for both drogued and undrogued drifter datasets at most latitudes and reduces differences between their variance estimates, (2) the proposed decomposition method produces pseudo-Eulerian mean fields with magnitudes and horizontal scales closer to time-averaged Eulerian observations than other methods, and (3) standard errors calculated for pseudo-Eulerian quantities underestimate the real errors by a factor of almost two. The improved decomposition method and the inclusion of undrogued drifters in the analysis allows resolving details of the time-mean circulation not well defined in the previous version of the climatology, such as the cross-stream structure of western boundary currents, recirculation cells, and zonally-elongated mid-ocean striations.
Plutarch's remarkable dialogue, Concerning the face which appears in the orb of the moon is a work familiar to classical scholars and historians of science interested in the development of astronomy, cosmology, catoptrics, and the historical relationship between philosophy and science. Its significance for the study of geographical thought is also considerable: in seeking to prove that the moon is an earth, the dialogue presents and explores important ideas regarding the nature of the geographical environment, the processes of environmental causation, and the adaptation of various forms of life to different natural conditions. The question of the moon's habitation is used as a starting point for a wide ranging discussion concerning the position of man in the cosmos. This lively and imaginative debate reveals that the main purpose of the dialogue is to review the concept of design in nature, and the discussion is generously illustrated with diverse and intriguing examples. The result serves to emphasize the importance of the design argument in stimulating enquiry into causal relationships within the geographical environment, while at the same time foreshadowing modern critiques of the inherent deficiencies of teleological explanations in nature.
This paper offers an investigation into the interface between science, in the form of astronomy, and culture, in the form of religion and the calendar. Early societies made use of a variety of mechanisms to mark time, based on the cycles of the sun, moon and stars, whether separately or in combination. In this paper I provide a survey of the use of one of these cycles, namely that of the stars, in one ancient culture, that of the Greeks. I show how gradually the night sky was mapped out with a number of distinct constellations, the number increasing over time. The Greeks used the first and last visible risings and settings of these stars at dawn and dusk as ‘event markers’, in order to signal the appropriate time for pivotal activities, especially in the agricultural sphere, such as ploughing, sowing and harvesting. At the same time, Greek societies used the moon as the basis for their civil and religious calendar, and within the lunar months were situated regular festivals of an agricultural nature. Agriculture is tied to the seasons and hence the sun, which the star cycle matches fairly well, but the moon runs on a different cycle which does not keep pace with the sun and stars. The increased refinement of the star calendars with a larger number of constellations might be a result of a desire to help synchronise the divergent seasonal and lunar timetables. Examples are provided to illustrate how particulars stars might have been associated with particular divinities and festivals.
Chronology is the foundation of every archaeological research. Every single object, a text, or even the greatest monuments must be understood within their period of time. In certain occasions ancient authors have given a clear statement of the date of a piece but, even in these cases, we find ourselves with the task of translating ancient dates to our modern calendar system. To do that the first option that learned individuals should know is the history of the calendar itself. The aim of this study is to review the chronological development of time reckoning and calculation systems or calendars in Ancient Egypt from the rather unknown predynastic time to the late antiquity. Scholars have been researching this same topic for many years and in fact there is a rich amount of Egyptian records from ostraka, papyri, as well as monumental inscriptions from all periods of Egyptian history that mention the application and use of calendars in Egypt. However, the opinion of the specialists is still very far from consensus and so there are different theories about how the Egyptian calendar worked and how exactly it was calculated. The three mayor theories are those regarding a Nile based calendar, a moon based calendar and a calendar based in the heliacal rising of Sirius, the so called “Egyptian civil calendar”. All these theories have been proposed and documented by research and in fact all can be proven by archaeological and historical evidence. A long lasting discussion regarding when each one of these calendars was in fact in use in Ancient Egypt can be enlightened by a new point of view that contemplates the development of all three systems throughout all Egyptian history succeeding one another as a “chain reaction” and making every system a step in a long evolution along the centuries.
Recent progress in high-precision calibrations of radiocarbon dates has led to evaluations of earlier research. This has been the case with dates from the Norse settlement at L'Anse aux Meadows which was discovered by Helge Ingstad in 1960. The most problematic feature of this series up to now was the use of sample material which partly derived from driftwood. The present paper concludes that charcoal from this site demonstrated no greater errors than normal from other settlement sites. With an assumed total systematic error of 30 ± 20 years, as a mean for various tree rings, the calibrated age range of L'Anse aux Meadows is AD 975–1020. This agrees well with the assumed historical age of ca AD 1000, a result which has also been recently corroborated by high-precision accelerator dating at the University of Toronto.