Asked in Roman EmpireIceland
Did the ancient Roman Empire even know that Iceland Greenland and the North Pole Existed did any Roman ever visit such places?
February 17, 2009 8:32AM
No. The Roman Empire was contained to the Mediterranean, the furthest they came in that direction was northern Britain. The Romans certainly sent explorers out far and wide. Roman Explorers sailed up the Baltic Sea as far as Finland and Estonia and reported back on what they found. It is recorded that after Claudius conquered Britain in 43AD ships were sent around the northern seas to check that Britain really was an island. During this journey the Roman navy conquered the Orkney Islands and conducted raids on the people living up there (the Caledonians or Picts). The ancient Greeks (e.g. Strabo) recorded that a place called Thule existed six days sailing north of Britain - this was what is known today as Iceland. The knowledge of the Greeks was handed down to the Romans who referred to Thule in many poems and stories. The Romans knew that the far north was frozen and full of ice, but they never went as far as the north pole. They didn't have compasses so would not have known about the magnetic effect of the poles. Sometimes a place called Ultima Thule is recorded which might refer to Greenland, but no Roman explorer ever went there. The short answer is - they knew about Iceland and they knew that the north pole was a frozen waste land, but they never went to either.