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The Edges of the Earth in Ancient Thought Reprint Edition

3 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0691037882
ISBN-10: 0691037884
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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

For the ancient Greeks and Romans, geography was as much a form of narrative fiction as a scientific description of terrains or peoples. In an interesting, suggestive, and thoroughly documented study, Romm (classics, Bard Coll.) traces the development of geography from early accounts in Homer and Herodotus through the various texts emerging from the conquests of Alexander the Great, such as those by Strabo and Pliny, to the Romans. He explores the symbolic landscapes, realms of wonders, and other literary conventions that formed the backdrop for these texts. He also looks at the perceptions of other ancient peoples, from the Ethiopians in the South and Hyperboreans in the North to the Indians in the East. A handy, readable, and valuable contribution. For educated readers.
- T.L. Cooksey, Armstrong State Coll., Savannah, Ga.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"An immensely engaging and erudite work, packed full of provocative insights.... Romm successfully sorts out for us some of the most complex traditions of ancient geographic literature; and he deserves high marks for doing it in such an intelligent, original, and attractive manner."--T. Corey Brennan, Bryn Mawr Classical Review

"Romm's incisive and brilliant analysis of Greco-Roman ideas of earth's geography is grounded in a linguistic interpretation of Greek conceptions of space and boundary. . . . His work captures the imagination as few others have and will provide material for the study of the classical legacy in the shaping of the modern scientific mind for many years to come."--Helen Liebel-Weckowicz, Classical Bulletin

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 247 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press; Reprint edition (September 19, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691037884
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691037882
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,228,323 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

James Romm was born in 1958 in New York. After receiving his B.A. in Classics from Yale, he went on to earn a Ph.D. from Princeton in 1988. He has taught Greek language, literature and history at Bard College since 1990.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
James S. Romm, professor of classics at Bard College, undertakes a decidedly sophisticated literary turn to analyze the manner in which the ancients perceived the far reaches of the Earth. He finds that they approached geography as much as a form of narrative fiction as a description of terrains or peoples grounded in fact and analysis. That, in itself, is a fascinating conclusion and suggests that many of the tales we are familiar with, such as Atlantis, the Hyperboreans, and the like should be taken more as creative writing than factual reporting.

Ancient geographers--although that term is a bit of mischaracterization--elieved that their own country was the center of a disk-like world. A disk-like Earth, surrounded by an Ocean with islands full of wonders and monstrosities, explained the world. As one traveled farther and farther away from Mediterranean culture, those inculcated in that culture believed, the world becomes stranger and in going to the farthest ended humans were reported to behave inhumanely.

This belief evolved over time and while such writers as Herodotus enjoyed the outrageous story and his histories are filled with the, he took care to note that such and story was related to him and sometimes discounted it in his discussion. In addition, he also criticized others for their uncritical recitation of wild stories for lands far away. Over time others did the same, and the move toward greater concern over the reporting on lands and peoples far away emerged. This was especially the case in the era of Alexander the Great and thereafter as geographical knowledge based on the ground truth provided by expeditions became more reliable; that coupled with the concerns of Alexander himself that hard data be collected to aid in his efforts at conquest.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Ricky Hunter on November 30, 2000
Format: Paperback
The most fascinating aspect of reading The Edges of the Earth in Ancient Thought by James S. Romm is to learn that for the ancients, geography was more of a literary device than a budding science. In a way, it was more complex than that as the lines between literature and science were often blurred. It is interesting to note that the idea of the edge of the earth was most often used to create a moral lesson and what a better well to draw a taste of moral water from than the area where the least information is available. It was a blank slate of sorts for the ancient historians, geographers, philosophers and various other writers to create their own messages for their own purposes. And in that the variety lies the pleasure in this short, readable look at the times of ancient Rome and Greece.
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4 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Marcia S. Carvalho on October 21, 1997
Format: Paperback
It's a very interesting book for geographers. We could understand very well about myths - places, people - and fantasies about other lands emerging from the Ancient writers. Read it !
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