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was acquired more by land than by sea d); and the Romans, from their peculiar disinclination to naval affairs, may be said to have neglected totally the latter, though a more easy and expe
ditious method of discovery. The progress , ? howewer, of their victorious armies contributed
greatly to extend discovery by land , and even opened the navigation of new and unknown
seas. Previous to the Roman conquests, the i civilized nations of antiquity had no commu; E: nication with those countries in Europe, which o now form its moft. opulent and powerful king
doms. The interior parts of Spain and Gaul were little known. Britain, separated from the rest
of the world, had never been visited, except i by its neighbours the Gauls, and by a few.
Carthaginian merchants. The name of Germany had scarcely been heard of. Into all these countries the arms of the Romans penetrated. They entirely subdued Spain and Gaul; the conquered
the greatest and most fertile part of Britain; 1. they advanced into Germany, as far as the
banks of the river Elbe. In Africa, they acquired a considerable knowledge of the provinces, which stretch along the Mediterranean sea, from Egypt westward to the streights of Gades. In Afia , they not only subjected to their power most of the provinces which composed the Persian and Macedonian empires , but , after their vie Stories over Mithridates and Tigranes, they
) See NOTE, VII.
seem to have made a more accurate survey of the countries contiguous to the Euxine and Caspian feas, and to have carried on a more extensive trade than that of the Greeks with the opulent and commercial nations, then seated around the Euxine sea.
Imperfe&tion of geographical knowledge among the ancients
From this succinct survey of discovery and navigation, which I have traced from the earliest dawn of historical knowledge to the full establishment of the Roman dominion, their progress appears to have been wonderfully flow. It seems neither adequate to what we might have expected from the activity and enterprise of the human mind , nor to what might have been performed by the power of the great empires which successively governed the world. If we reject accounts that are fabulous and obscure; if we adhere steadily to the light and information of authentic history, withhout subftituting in its place the conjectures of fancy, or the dreams of etymologists , we must conclude , that the knowledge which the ancients had acquired of the habitable globe was extremely confined. In Europe, the extensive provinces in the eastern part of Germany were little known to them. They were almost totally unacquainted with the vast countries which are now subject to the kings of Denmark , Sweden, Prussia, Poland, and the
Ruffian empire. The more barren- regions, that ftretch within the arctic circle, were quite unexplored. In Africa, their researches did not extend far beyond the provinces which border on the Mediterranean, and those situated on the western shore of the Arabian Gulf. In Afia , they were unacquainted , as I formerly observed, with all the fertile and opulent countries beyond the Ganges, which furnish the most valuable commodities that , in modern times, have been the great object of the Eurepean commerce with India; nor do they seem to have ever penetrated into those immense regions occupied by the wandering tribes , which they called by the general name of Sarmatians or Scythians, and now pofseffed by Tartars of various denominations, and by the Afiatic subjects of Ruflia.
A semarkable proof of this But there is one opinion, that universally prevailed among the ancients, which conveys a more striking idea of the small progress they had made in the knowledge of the habitable globe, than can be derived from any detail of their discoveries. They fuppofed the earth to be divided into five regions, which they diftinguished by the name of zones. Two of thefe, which were nearest the poles, they termed the frigid zones , and believed that the extreme cold which reigned perpetually there, rendered them
vided into . They fuppon any detail
uninhabitable. Another , feated under the line, and extending on either side towards the trout pics, they called the torrid zone , and ima- ; gined it to be so burnt up with unremitting heat, as to be equally destitute of inhabitants. On the two other zones, which occupied the remainder of the earth, they bestowed the appellation of temperate, and taught that these, being the only regions in which life could fubfift, were allotted to man for his habitation. This wild opinion was not a conceit of the uninformed vulgar, or a fanciful fiction of the poets, but a liftem adopted by the most enlightened philofophers, the most accurate historians and geographers in Greece and Rome. According to this theory, a vast portion of the habitable earth was pronounced to be unfit for sustaining the human species. Those fertile and populous regions within the torrid zone, which are now known not only to yield their own inhabitants the necessaries and comforts of life, with most luxuriant profusion, but to communicate their superfluous stores to the rest of the world, were supposed to be the mansion of perpetual sterility and defolation. As all the parts of the globe, which the ancients had discovered , lay within the northern temperate zone, their opinion that the other temperate zone was filled with inhabitants, was founded on reasoning and conjecture, not on discovery. They even believed that, hy the intolerable heat of the torrid zone, such an
insuperable barrier was placed between the two temperate region of the earth, as would prevent for ever any intercourse between their respective inhabitants. Thus this extravagant theory not only proves that the ancients were unacquainted with the true state of the globe, but it tended to render their ignorance perpetual, by representing all attempts towards opening a communication with the remote regions of the earth , as utterly impracticable e).
But, however imperfect or inaccurate the geographical knowledge which the Greeks and Ro. mans had acquired may appear, in respect of the present improved state of that science, their progress in dscovery will seem considerable , and the extent to which they carried navigation and commerce must be reckoned great, when compared with the ignorance of early times. As long as the Roman empire retained such vigour as to preserve its authority over the conquered nations , and to keep them united, it was an object of public police, as well as of private curiosity, to examine and describe the countries which composed this great body. Even when the other sciences began to decline, geography, enriched with new observations, and receiving some accession from the experience of every age, and the reports of every traveller, con. tinued to improve.
-) See NOTE VIII,