1st Edition

Pytheas of Massalia Texts, Translation, and Commentary

By Lionel Scott Copyright 2022
    224 Pages 5 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    224 Pages 5 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Pytheas of Massalia (Marseille), mariner, explorer, geographer and astronomer, made a pioneering voyage into the then unknown Atlantic around 325 BC, reaching Britain and the Baltic; this book collects and translates the references to him and his book (which is lost), and discusses and explains them.

    The Greeks of Pytheas' time knew virtually nothing of northern Europe beyond the often-fantastical stories of traders, and Pytheas was the first person to provide factual, first-hand information on this region. His journey covered Iberia, France, Britain, from where he travelled so far north that he encountered ice floes; he then reached the Baltic. It was he who recorded Thule, and his astronomy enabled him to locate it on the Arctic Circle. Two thirds of our references to Pytheas come from Pliny and Strabo; their methods of work, as well as the perils of manuscript transmission, are explored in this volume. Scott also includes discussions and appendices on these areas to enable the scope of available references to be understood as a whole. There are some details of Pytheas' voyage that are lost, but the book offers balanced reasons for proposing how we may reasonably fill them in.

    The breadth of Pytheas' achievements and the areas and topics his work covers mean that he has a wide range of appeal within classical studies and ancient history. This volume provides an invaluable resource to undergraduate and postgraduate students of early geography and astronomy, and Greece’s knowledge of and relationship to the rest of Europe in this period.

    List of maps



    Abbreviations, citations

    Distances and timings


    Introduction: Pytheas and his book

    The background to Pytheas' voyage

    1 Massilia, trading city

    2 Knowledge of the north; tin and amber

    3 Early voyages

    4 The astronomy background

    5 Carthage and passage through Gibraltar

    6 Pytheas sets off

    The Fragments

    F1 Aetius III 17.3

    F2 Cleomedes I 4 197-231

    F3 Cosmas Indopleustes 2.80

    F4 Diodorus Siculus 5.21.3-4

    F5 Diodorus Siculus 5.22.1-4

    F6 Diodorus Siculus 5.23.1, 4

    F7 Geminos 6.7-9

    F8 Hipparchos Commentary on the Phaenomena of Aratos and Eudoxos 1.4.1

    F9 Marcianus of Heracleia Epitome of the Periplus of the Inner Sea by Menippos 1.2Menippus

    F10 Martianus Capella De Nuptiis Philologiae et Mercurii 6.595

    F11 Martianus Capella De Nuptiis Philologiae et Mercurii 6.608-9

    F12 Mela 3.47-50

    F13 Mela 3.54-7

    F14 Pliny NH 1.2, 1.4, 1.37

    F15 Pliny NH 2.186-7

    F16 Pliny NH 2.217

    F17 Pliny NH 4.94-7

    F18 Pliny NH 4.102

    F19 Pliny NH 4.103-4

    F20 Pliny NH 6.219

    F21 Pliny NH 37.35-6

    F22 Schol in Ap Rh 4.761-5a

    F23 Steph Byz sv ᾿Ωστίωνες ≈ Aelius Herodianus De Pros Cath 3.1.19

    F24 Strabo 1.4.2

    F25 Strabo 1.4.3-4

    F26 Strabo 1.4.5

    F27 Strabo 2.1.12

    F28 Strabo 2.1.18

    F29 Strabo 2.3.5

    F30 Strabo 2.4.1-2 = Polyb 34.5.1-13

    F31 Strabo 2.5.7-8

    F32 Strabo 2.5.41

    F33 Strabo 2.5.43

    F34 Strabo 3.2.11

    F35 Strabo 3.4.4

    F36 Strabo 4.2.1

    F37 Strabo 4.4.1

    F38 Strabo 4.5.5

    F39 Strabo 7.3.1


    Appendix 1 The alleged Massiliot Periplus

    Appendix 2 Pytheas' contributions to astronomy

    Appendix 3 The word for 'hour'

    Appendix 4 Pytheas' amber island(s), with a Note on Germany and Scythia

    Appendix 5 The Ost- tribe(s)

    Appendix 6 Thule and the frozen sea

    Appendix 7 Strabo's view of western Europe




    List of passages cited



    Dr Lionel Scott is a classically educated retired barrister, whose publications include Were There Polis Navies in Archaic Greece?, BAR Int Series 899 (2000) 93-115, and Historical Commentary on Herodotus Book VI (2005).

    "Because of the way it challenges some accepted deductions about Pytheas and his voyage, and because it is very well produced, Scott’s edition is a welcome addition to the studies on the Greek explorer." - Bryn Mawr Classical Review