x

Travel

Greeks Discovered Iceland 10 Centuries before the Vikings, Study Shows

February 24, 2021

PAMPLONA, SPAIN – “The Greeks not only reached India with Alexander the Great, but also discovered Iceland with the explorer Pytheas,” said Dr. Andrew Breeze, lecturer in the University of Navarra's Department of Philology, in a university news release dated February 18. Using methods of textual criticism, in an article in the latest issue of The Housman Society Journal, this expert in historical linguistics attempts to pinpoint the mythical island of Thule, discovered by the Greek explorer and geographer Pytheas some time before 300 BC. If Dr. Breeze's claim is true, the Greeks discovered Iceland a thousand years before the Vikings did.

He explains how Pytheas describes a voyage across the Atlantic from Massalia (Marseilles) to an island with ice floes near it, which he called 'Thule' and which took six days to reach from Britain. Although the original text by Pytheas has been lost, references to his voyage by later authors (Diodorus of Sicily, Strabo, Pliny) have inspired many others to try and locate Thule exactly, as the northernmost point of his odyssey. “For centuries there has been debate on where Thule is. Most people take it as Iceland; others, the Faroes; others again, Norway or the Shetlands,” Dr. Breeze explained.

‘Thymele’: The Vital Clue

In his research, which he has discussed with academics at British universities, who accept the hypothesis as plausible, the key to unlocking the mystery is in a linguistic crux. “It seems that the name which Pytheas gave the island has been corrupted with time, and become unintelligible. 'Thule' (or 'Thyle') is meaningless; but, if we add the letters M and E between the word's two syllables, the result is Thymele, and in Greek this means something: it signifies 'altar, altar-slab' and is common in the ancient language,” he argues.

In his article, Dr. Breeze maintains that “the name Thymele 'altar-slab' could have been given by Pytheas thanks to the landscape of Iceland, with cliffs of volcanic rock resembling the massive altars of Greek temples. Probably, when Pytheas and his men set eyes on Iceland for the first time, seeing clouds rise above it and perhaps columns of ash and smoke from volcanoes like Hekla, it reminded him of a temple altar.”

He adds that “in the ancient world an altar could be immense. The great altar of Pergamum was forty feet high, and others at Parium and Syracus were said to be six hundred feet long." He thus has no doubts that 'Thule' or Thymele was Iceland. “Greeks all over the world can now feel proud that their nation was the first to tread Icelandic soil,” he concludes.

Dr. Andrew Breeze is a lecturer in the Department of Philology, University of Navarra. He has been a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London since 1996 and of the Royal Historical Society since 1997. He has published various controversial books, and is a specialist in Celtic and other medieval languages.

RELATED

RAPA NUI — The causes are worthy, the course is daunting – almost 500 kilometers (about 300 miles) across a stretch of the Pacific Ocean in a large canoe.

Top Stories

Columnists

A pregnant woman was driving in the HOV lane near Dallas.

General News

FALMOUTH, MA – The police in Falmouth have identified the victim in an accident involving a car plunging into the ocean on February 20, NBC10 Boston reported.

General News

NEW YORK – Meropi Kyriacou, the new Principal of The Cathedral School in Manhattan, was honored as The National Herald’s Educator of the Year.

Video

Camels a Common Sight for World Cup Visitors (Photos + Video)

DOHA, Qatar — Two weeks into the first World Cup in the Middle East, fewer teams are at the tournament and some fans are starting to make long journeys home.

NEW YORK – In a festive atmosphere, The Hellenic Initiative (THI) held its 10th Anniversary Gala at Cipriani Wall Street in Manhattan, bringing together the Greek diaspora to raise $2,248,000 in support of worthy causes in Greece while also honoring Pfizer Chairman and CEO Dr.

NEW YORK — “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” kept the box-office crown for the fourth straight weekend, and the comic holiday thriller “Violent Night” debuted with $13.

Kylian Mbappé scored two goals and set up another for Olivier Giroud, giving France a 3-1 victory over Poland and a spot in the World Cup quarterfinals on Sunday.

ATHENS - Once again this year, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center (SNFCC) was festooned with thousands of festive lights, transforming it into a magical Christmas World, through an exclusive grant from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF)! It all starts with a big celebration on Thursday, December 1 at 19:00.

Enter your email address to subscribe

Provide your email address to subscribe. For e.g. abc@xyz.com

You may unsubscribe at any time using the link in our newsletter.