Ptolemy's Map of the World cA.D 150. The Ptolemy world map is a map of the known world to Hellenistic society in the 2nd century AD. It was based on the description contained in Ptolemy's book Geographia, written c150. Perhaps the most significant contributions of Ptolemy's maps are the first uses of longitudinal and latitudinal lines. Taken from 'A Book of Discovery', published by T. C. & E. C. Jack Ltd. 1912. (Photo by The Print Collector/Print Collector/Getty Images) | Print Collector via Getty Images
1492 is one of the most important years in history. The world suddenly became "bigger" after the discover of the American continent and Europe wasn't the centre of the Earth anymore. However, an Italian physicist, philologist and historian of science, who teaches in a Rome's university, Lucio Russo, insists that ancient Greeks already knew this "new world" of America.
That's what he seems to claim in his book, “The Forgotten America: The Relationship Among Civilizations and an Error Made by Ptolemy.” He also appears to "blame" Ptolemy as well as "incredulous" Romans for ancient Greeks' loss of knowledge.
As Russo claims, there are many signs that there was a connection between ancient Europeans and native Americans. There are, among these indications, some pre-Colombian documents that managed to "survive" after the disastrous Spanish conquest.
What is wrong about those who "came from the East"
In a book about Maya's origin - as he mentions in Epoch Times - there are plenty of interesting evidence. The fathers of that civilization, according to the text, were “black people, white people, people of many faces, people of many languages,” and they came from the East. “And it isn’t clear how they crossed over the sea. They crossed over as if there were no sea,” says the text.
There are also many Mayan depictions and texts about men with beards. But Native Americans do not grow beards.
Furthermore, some artworks of the ancient Romans show pineapples, a fruit that originated in South America.
Russo, who currently teaches probability at Tor Vergata University of Rome, says the main reason why researchers think America wasn’t known to ancient Greeks is not due to lack of proof, but to scientific dogma.
For years, the theory that civilization evolves according to fixed stages has been dominant. For example, a civilization discovers fire, then invents the wheel, writing, and so on, all the way to modern technology and democracy. All civilizations are supposed to pass through these stages and they can be ranked according to their level of evolution.
But Russo presents a different scenario: inventions, like writing or breeding, didn’t develop independently in every different civilization, but filtered from one to another.
It is also untrue that science becomes better and better with time. There were, in fact, many instances of scientific and cultural decay, like the destruction of Carthage and the fall of Greek civilization, from which the Romans inherited only a small portion of their scientific knowledge. One of the skills they didn’t inherit was how to navigate the oceans.
You can get an idea of this by considering that “the size of the ships in the Hellenistic era was exceeded only in the era of Napoleon” and that Columbus based his trip on a partial recovery of Hellenistic math, according to the book. The Greeks were, among other things, at that time the only civilization that was able to understand that the Earth was round—an understanding that was later lost.
Even today we are in an epoch of “scientific crisis,” Russo told the Epoch Times. But it’s a crisis different from that of Roman times. The modern decay hides itself using technological advancements as a mask and consists in shrinking the availability of knowledge, now the property of a few people.
Ptolemy's mistake or how people "forgot" about America
The mistake, according to the author, is mainly due to Ptolemy, who developed a world map finding a midpoint between the claims made by various ancient sources.
The key problem is the identification of the Fortunate Islands, which the ancient Greeks sometimes referred to, as the Canary Islands (near the West coast of Africa). But the Greeks were actually referring to the Antilles, according to Russo. The misunderstanding was due to the Romans and other post-Greek people’s disbelief and incapability of navigating the oceans.
With philological and mathematical reasoning, Russo leads the reader to understand the meaning of all of Ptolemy’s errors—which are generally considered pretty huge—showing how the knowledge of the planet by ancient Greeks was instead very precise. Ptolemy missed the latitude of Canary Islands by 15 degrees latitude, making them to appear on the point of the map were the Antilles would expected to be. Of course America was not on his map.
According to Russo, the book prompted two kinds of extreme reactions. Scientists and philologists showed enthusiasm, while negative reactions came from historians and geographers, whom he said were often unable to understand some logical aspects of his works.
Russo thinks we have “a lot to learn” from the ancient Greeks. For example we should “try to limit excessive specialization,” because the most interesting things can be understood only by those who have a grasp of more than one aspect of human knowledge.
References: Epoch Times, HuffingtonPost
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