Contributions of Greek Scholars in Geography

Here, I will share very interesting knowledge about Greek scholars and geographers, provide you with a piece of authentic information, and explain the contributions of Greek scholars in geography.

The Greek scholars’ contributions to geography laid the foundation for the development of geographical thought and provided a framework of concepts and models that guided Western thinking for many centuries.

greek scholars
greek scholars

Contributions of Greek Scholars in Geography

Geography, as a topic of study, has its origins in Greek learning. This is hardly unexpected given that Greece was one of the most prosperous civilizations in ancient times, extending from 500 BC to 200 BC, with its center in Greece and its surrounding territories.

The Greek period is appropriately referred to as the “Golden Age,” because all Greeks offered a conceptual framework that drove Western thinking for many years. It had the world’s most sophisticated economy.

Through models, conceptions, and paradigms that led Western academics for centuries, Greek philosophers of the time established the theoretical and intellectual foundation for philosophical thought.

A great number of notions and hypotheses in geographical philosophy appear to be influenced by the Greek tradition.

The origins of ancient Greek study may be discovered in the observations, measurements, and generalizations of Egyptian academics, the birthplace of science. To collect taxes, the Egyptians devised methods of measuring land.

This resulted in the discovery of a north-south line. Another significant addition is the skill of writing, as well as the fabrication of material on which they might write. The Greeks were likewise influenced by the Mesopotamians and Sumerians.

They learned the fundamentals of mathematics from them. The sexagesimal system, which held that there are 360 days in a year, was also used. The Sumerians divided the year into twelve months of 30 days each. This scholarship is also responsible for the concept of a circle having 360 degrees; they split the circle.

The observations conducted by the Babylonians and Assyrians on the movement and location of the celestial bodies gave rise to the study of astrology.

All of these developments, together with Greek scholars’ ambition to learn more and more rational and practical information about the earth’s surface as man’s home, provided the groundwork for geographical thought.

Major Greek Scholars

  • Homer
  • Thales of Miletus
  • Anaximander (610-546BC)
  • Hecataeus (550-476BC)
  • Herodotus (485-425BC)
  • Alexander, the Great
  • Eratosthenes
  • Hipparchus
  • Posidonius

contribution of Greek scholars Homer in geography

There are two lineages of geographical research in ancient Greek scholarship: the mathematical tradition and the literary tradition. Homer is often considered the “Father of Geography,” according to popular mythology. This is due to his massive works ‘Odyssey’ and ‘Illiad’, which established the literary tradition.

He called the four winds that came from various directions Boreas (North), Eurus (East), Notus (South), and Zephyrus (West).

contribution of Greek scholar Thales of Miletus to Geography

Thales was the first Greek genius, philosopher, and wanderer who was interested in basic geometric truths.

He suggested the six geometric propositions listed below:

  1. The diameter of the circle divides it into two equal sections.
  2. The angles at either end of an isosceles triangle’s base are equal.
  3. When two parallel lines are intersected diagonally by a straight line, the opposite angles are equal.
  4. The angle in a semicircle is a right angle.
  5. Similar triangles have proportionate sides.
  6. Two triangles are congruent if their two sides and one angle are equal. (Martin and James, 1972)
  7. He imagined the Earth as a disc floating on water.
  8. He was also the first to begin measuring the earth and locating objects on its surface, thereby creating the mathematical tradition. Not only that, but he laid the groundwork for empirical investigations in which an explanation can be tested using ground observations and measurements, a critique of previous unscientific explanations.

contribution of Greek scholar Anaximander to Geography

Anaximander is credited with introducing the Babylonian instrument Gnomon into Greek literature. A gnomon is a vertical pole positioned vertically above a flat surface on which the length and direction of the shadow produced by the vertical pole may be used to calculate the changing location of the sun and other celestial bodies.

He is even credited with creating a scaled-down global map. This map is based on information obtained from the Sumerians, who maintained a pictorial map repository. Surprisingly, the planet is encircled by an ocean on this map.

The origins of the mathematical tradition in geography are attributed to Thales and Anaximander.

contribution of Greek scholar Hecataeus to Geography

Hecataeus is credited with starting the literary tradition. He was a Greek scholar from Miletus in the sixth century BC (the centre of learning in those days). He was a pioneer scholar and one of the first Greek prose writers.

He was the first Greek scholar to organise and bring to Miletus information about the known globe. His work is known as “Ges-periodos,” which translates as “Earth Description.” It had become the first organised description of the known world by the end of the sixth century BC.

Ges-periodos refers to locations around the Mediterranean Sea that were referred to as perplus, which means coastal area. Hecataeus split his book “Ges-periods” into two halves, part A dealing with geographical knowledge about Europe and part B dealing with Libya. This work is a synthesis of the literary and topographical-ecological traditions.

Hecataeus introduced two techniques to the study of geography for the first time:

  • a) a nomothetic or law-seeking approach.
  • b) Idiographic strategy (descriptive).

Hecataeus created the globe map, although it was based on Anaximander’s map, which he had simply adjusted. He split it in two by drawing a line between the Hellespont, the Caspian Sea, and the Caucasus Mountains.

He named the northern section of Libya Europa and the southern half of Libya Africa and Asia.

contribution of Greek scholar Herodotus in geography

Herodotus was a great Greek scholar of the fifth century BC. It is hardly an exaggeration to argue that Herodotus was the father of history.

He is credited with coming up with the notion that history must be studied geographically and that all geography must be treated historically (James and Martin, 1981).

He is also recognised as the “Father of Ethnography” since he presented a detailed depiction of the cultural qualities of people unknown to Greeks.

His works were inspired by his personal observations while travelling. He made contributions in both physical and human geography.

Herodotus proposed the idea that Egypt is the gift of the river, emphasising that river silt and muck cause the creation of deltas.

He was the first to propose that winds migrate from cold to hot locations.

He attempted to calculate the age of the world using the rate of sedimentation, estimating that one foot of sediment is generated every 880 years.

Herodotus computed the planet’s age as 440 million years based on the entire sediment layers of 158 km thickness, although the actual age of the earth is 4.6 billion years.

contribution of greek scholar Eratosthenes to geography

Eratosthenes is known as the “Father of Geography.” He is credited with coining the term geography, which is derived from the Greek words ‘ge’ (the earth) and ‘graphy’ (to describe).

He is credited with defining geography as the “study of the planet as man’s habitat.”

His major contribution, for which he is widely recognised, is his measurement of the Earth’s circumference.

He measured the circumference of the earth using Thales’ theorem, which states that when two parallel lines are intersected diagonally by a straight line, the opposite angles are equal.

He has also created a globe map with accurate distances. His text, “Geographica,” made a significant contribution.

He also classified the earth into five climatic zones: one tropical zone, two temperate zones, and two frozen zones.

He also took several latitudes and longitudes. Eratosthenes is regarded as the father of “Geodesy” for this reason.

contribution of greek scholar Hippocrates in geography

Hippocrates discussed man-nature interaction in the context of climatic circumstances in his work On Airs, Waters, and Places.

Hipparchus pioneered the notion of pinpointing the exact location of every point on the earth’s surface.

He split the circle into 360 degrees using Assyrian arithmetic. He attempted to depict the three-dimensional earth on a flat surface.

He is credited with inventing two projections to do this: the stereographic and orthographic projections.

He even mentioned that these projections had limits in that they could only depict a hemisphere and not the entire planet.

Thus, the mathematical heritage of geography was fostered and developed. Hipparchus also made a significant contribution by inventing the Astrolabe, which was comparable to Anaximander’s Gnomon but easier to use.

The goal was to produce an accurate measurement of latitude at sea by monitoring the tilt of the polestar.


Posidonius is another great Greek scholar worth remembering. He recalculated the earth’s circumference and arrived at a value significantly lower than Eratosthenes’ (approximately 18000 miles).

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