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Translated by Charles Gaius Mierow
Chapter 1: Geographical Introduction.
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(4) Our ancestors, as Orosius relates, were of the opinion that the circle of the whole world was surrounded by the girdle of Ocean on three sides. Its three parts they called Asia, Europe, and Africa. Concerning this threefold division of the earth's extent there are almost innumerable writers, who not only explain the situations of cities and places, but also measure out the number of miles and paces to give more clearness. Moreover they locate the islands interspersed amid the waves, both the greater and also the lesser islands, called Cyclades or Sporades, as situated in the vast flood of the Great Sea.|
(5) But the impassable farther bounds of Ocean not only has no one attempted to describe, but no man has been allowed to reach; for by reason of obstructing seaweed and the failing of the winds it is plainly inaccessible and is unknown to any save to Him who made it.
(6) But the nearer border of this sea, which we call the circle of the world, surrounds its coasts like a wreath. This has become clearly known to men of inquiring mind, even to such as desired to write about it. For not only is the coast itself inhabited, but certain islands off in the sea are habitable. Thus there are to the East in the Indian Ocean, Hippodes, Iamnesia, Solis Perusta (which though not habitable, is yet of great length and breadth), besides Taprobane, a fair island wherein there are towns or estates and ten strongly fortified cities. But there is yet another, the lovely Silefantina, and Theros also.
(7) These, though not clearly described by any writer, are nevertheless well filled with inhabitants. This same Ocean has in its western region certain islands known to almost everyone by reason of the great number of those that journey to and fro. And there are two not far from the neighborhood of the Strait of Gades, one the Blessed Isle and another called the Fortunate. Although some reckon as islands of Ocean the twin promontories of Galicia and Lusitania, where are still to be seen the Temple of Hercules on one and the Monument of Scipio on the other, yet since they are joined to the extremity of the Galician country, they belong rather to the great land of Europe than to the islands of Ocean.
(8) However, it has other islands deeper within its own tides, which are called the Baleares; and yet another, Mevania, besides the Orcades, thirty-three in number, though not all inhabited.
(9) And at the farthest bound of its western expanse it has another island named Thule, of which the Mantuan Bard [Note 1] makes mention:
"And Farthest Thule shall serve thee.[Note 2]"
The same mighty sea has also in its arctic region, that is in the north, a great island named Scandza, from which my tale (by God's grace) shall take its beginning. For the race whose origin you ask to know burst forth like a swarm of bees from the midst of this island and came into the land of Europe. But how or in what wise we shall explain hereafter, if it be the Lord's will.
Note 1: Bard = Virgil
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Wreath of the blockade:This was regarded as the highest of all military distinctions, and was always the gift of the whole army or particular body of troops who had been delivered, or rescued from a position in which they had been completely shut in by the enemy. The grass was taken, according to Festus, from the place which the force had occupied while it was invested.