Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 10.djvu/566

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548
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

How the earth is supported was ever a perplexing question among ignorant nations. Thus, in the opinion of the old Greenlanders, as handed down from antiquity, the earth is upheld by pillars, which are so consumed by time that they often crack, and, were it not that they are sustained by the incantations of the magicians, the earth would long since have broken down.

It is hardly possible for us now to enter into that gross anthropomorphic state of mind by which, in primitive times, the phenomena of the universe were all represented in terms of human personality; nor can we even say how literally such views were held. But certainly

PSM V10 D566 The cosmography of cosmas.jpg
Fig. 9—The Cosmography of Cosmas.

some of the representations are funny and fantastic. Thus, "an ancient Egyptian papyrus in the Library of Paris gives a very curious hieroglyphical representation of the universe. The earth is here imaged under the form of a reclining figure, and is covered with leaves. The heavens are personified by a goddess, who forms the vault by her star-bespangled body, which is elongated in a very peculiar manner. Two boats, carrying one the rising sun and the other the setting sun, are represented as moving along the heavens over the body of the goddess. In the centre of the picture is the god Maon, a divine intelligence, which presides over the equilibrium of the universe."

Strabo, one of the greatest geographers of antiquity—born a. d. 19—held to the sphericity of the earth, but of course regarded it as the motionless centre of the universe. He considered the moon and stars as only meteors, nourished by the exhalations of the ocean, and firmly maintained that no part of the earth can be inhabited save that which was known to the ancients. The form of the habitable world he held to be like that of a cloak, measuring in length from east to west 70,000 stadia (about 8,000 miles), while its breadth is less than 30,000 stadia (3,600 miles). It is bounded by regions unin-