Thule ( / ˈ θj uː l iː / ; Greek : Θούλη, Thoúlē ; Latin : Thule, Tile ) [1] was a far-northern location in classical European literature and cartography. Though often considered to be an island in antiquity, modern interpretations of what was meant by Thule often identify it as Norway , [2] [3] an identification supported by modern calculations. [4] Other interpretations include Orkney , Shetland , and Scandinavia . In the Late Middle Ages and Renaissance, Thule was often identified as Iceland or Greenland .

The Greek explorer Pytheas is the first to have written of Thule, doing so in his now lost work , On the Ocean , after his travels between 330-320 BC. He supposedly was sent out by the Greek city of Massalia to see where their trade-goods were coming from. [8] Descriptions of some of his discoveries have survived in the works of later, often skeptical, authors. Polybius in his Histories (c. 140 BC), Book XXXIV, cites Pytheas as one:

who has led many people into error by saying that he traversed the whole of Britain on foot, giving the island a circumference of forty thousand stadia , and telling us also about Thule, those regions in which there was no longer any proper land nor sea nor air, but a sort of mixture of all three of the consistency of a jellyfish in which one can neither walk nor sail, holding everything together, so to speak. [9]

Copyright © 1998. John N. Harris, M.A.(CMNS). Last Updated on February 25, 2011. Links last updated on April 1, 2009.

Thule ( / ˈ θj uː l iː / ; Greek : Θούλη, Thoúlē ; Latin : Thule, Tile ) [1] was a far-northern location in classical European literature and cartography. Though often considered to be an island in antiquity, modern interpretations of what was meant by Thule often identify it as Norway , [2] [3] an identification supported by modern calculations. [4] Other interpretations include Orkney , Shetland , and Scandinavia . In the Late Middle Ages and Renaissance, Thule was often identified as Iceland or Greenland .

The Greek explorer Pytheas is the first to have written of Thule, doing so in his now lost work , On the Ocean , after his travels between 330-320 BC. He supposedly was sent out by the Greek city of Massalia to see where their trade-goods were coming from. [8] Descriptions of some of his discoveries have survived in the works of later, often skeptical, authors. Polybius in his Histories (c. 140 BC), Book XXXIV, cites Pytheas as one:

who has led many people into error by saying that he traversed the whole of Britain on foot, giving the island a circumference of forty thousand stadia , and telling us also about Thule, those regions in which there was no longer any proper land nor sea nor air, but a sort of mixture of all three of the consistency of a jellyfish in which one can neither walk nor sail, holding everything together, so to speak. [9]

University of Illinois Press on JSTOR


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