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sun to the north

The Greek historian Herodotus, writing in about 440 BC about Africa, describes a great sea voyage which took place early in the previous century. He inserts a detail which he himself disbelieves, but which proves his story true. It is probably the earliest recorded mention of a simple geographical phenomenon - that in the southern hemisphere the sun lies to the north:

'As for Africa, we know that it is washed on all sides by the sea except where it joins Asia. This was demonstrated by the Egyptian king Necho, who sent out a fleet manned by a Phoenician crew with orders to sail all round Africa and return to Egypt through the Straits of Gibraltar. The Phoenicians sailed from the Red Sea into the southern ocean. Every autumn they settled on the coast, sowed a patch of ground, and waited for the next year's harvest. Then, having got in their grain, they put to sea again. During the third year they came through the Straits of Gibraltar and returned to Egypt. These men made a statement which I do not myself believe, though others may, to the effect that as they sailed on a westerly course round the southern end of Africa, they had the sun on their right - to the north. This is how Africa was first discovered to be surrounded by sea.'

Herodotus The Histories, translated Aubrey de Sélincourt, Penguin 1954, 1972, page 283

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