Did ancient people believe that Earth was flat ?

Nov 2016
18
Holy Terra
Everybody know that Eratosthenes calculated the Earth circumference in 240 B.C. Aristotle was also a proponent of the round Earth.
I've heard that people believed Earth was flat at Homer's time, but that seems to be based on indirect inference from mythological sources.
So my question is: there are sources that prove people believed Earth was flat at some point in history ? Also taking into account other geographical areas like China and India.
 

paranoid marvin

Ad Honorem
Aug 2015
2,359
uk
Well i guesd the nearest comparison is the moon, and that is clearly round; so i would have tjought they may have thought the Earth round too.
 
Oct 2016
226
Greece
Actually it is Pythagoras (570 BC) who is credited as the first Greek to think the earth was spherical. The Pythagoreans found conclusive evidence in favour of a spherical earth after it was discovered that the moon shines by reflecting light, and the right explanation for eclipses was found. The earth’s shadow on the moon’s surface suggested that the shape of our planet was spherical.
 

caldrail

Ad Honorem
Feb 2012
5,306
The idea of a spherical Earth does appear quite early on - human beings are intelligent as much as they were then. The concept of a flat earth is an extension of ignorance and superstition. Sailors often believed the earth was flat because they feared sailing off the edge, to them a cogent reason for the disappearance of vessels that otherwise could not be explained. Explorers on the other hand tend to not dwell on such potentials and enjoy pushing the frontier, and for that matter, many of them believed in a spherical Earth anyway.

Columbus for instance. Whilst he gets the credit for finding America (he didn't, he arrived in the west Indies, and thought he had reached Asia), note that the official story has him plotting his course in secret. Against what? A proposed map? Or the rutter of someone who had already found western shores? I strongly suspect the latter - his behaviour in the story suggests he is referring to a secret document to guide him, and note his unshakeable belief that he will reach Asia.
 

Code Blue

Ad Honorem
Feb 2015
4,246
Caribbean
Everybody know that Eratosthenes calculated the Earth circumference in 240 B.C. Aristotle was also a proponent of the round Earth.
I've heard that people believed Earth was flat at Homer's time, but that seems to be based on indirect inference from mythological sources.
So my question is: there are sources that prove people believed Earth was flat at some point in history ? Also taking into account other geographical areas like China and India.
It is my understanding that the majority opinion didn't switch from flat to sphere until recently. The impression one would get from several major religious works, like The Holy Bible, is that the Earth is flat.

There was quite a robust debate in the 1800's, which produced books like Samuel Robotham's - Zetetic Astronomy: Earth Not a Globe (1849);
Zetetic Astronomy, Earth Not A Globe Index

and which generated experiments like the Bedford Level (1838)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bedford_Level_experiment
 

Code Blue

Ad Honorem
Feb 2015
4,246
Caribbean
The idea of a spherical Earth does appear quite early on - human beings are intelligent as much as they were then. The concept of a flat earth is an extension of ignorance and superstition.
I wonder how you would substantiate that. I thought the idea that the Earth is flat would derive observation. When was the first on-the-ground scientific experiment that demonstrated a curve?
 
Last edited:

Aupmanyav

Ad Honorem
Jun 2014
5,739
New Delhi, India
"Indian peoples possessed an advanced knowledge of astronomy (prior to c. ninth century BCE).

Yajnavalkya, the 9th–8th century BCE author of the Shatapatha Brahmana recognized that the Earth is spherical and expounded a heliocentric concept. He was one of the first philosophers in recorded history

He wrote, "The sun strings these worlds - the earth, the planets, the atmosphere - to himself on a thread."
Shatapatha Brahmana, 8.7.3.10"
https://www.quora.com/When-did-ancient-Indians-learn-that-the-earth-is-round-and-it-rotates-around-the-sun

"Linguistically, the Shatapatha Brahmana belongs to the later part of the Brāhmaṇa period of Vedic Sanskrit (i.e. roughly the 8th to 6th centuries BCE, Iron Age India). Michael Witzel dates this text to the 7th-6th centuries BCE. Jan N. Bremmer dates it to around 700 BCE. According to Julius Eggeling (who translated the Vājasaneyi mādhyandina recension to English), the final version of the text was committed in 300 BCE, although some of its portions are "far older, transmitted orally from unknown antiquity".
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shatapatha_Brahmana

"10. And, again, as to why he lays down the Vikarnî. When, on that (former) occasion, they make the horse smell (the pile of bricks of) the (first) layer 1, then yonder sun strings these worlds to himself on a thread. Now that thread is the same as the wind; and that wind is the same as this Vikarnî: thus when he lays down the latter, then yonder sun strings to himself these worlds on a thread."
Satapatha Brahmana Part IV (SBE43): Eighth Kâ<I>n</I><I>d</I>a: VIII, 7, 3. Third Brâhma<I>n</I>a