Hecataeus was born in Miletus on the Ionian coast of Asia Minor in around 550 BCE. The city was an intellectual powerhouse at the time, and an earlier resident, Anaximander, had already produced a world map schematically similar to the version of Hecataeus. Both maps show a disc-shaped world with a circumambient ocean. But Hecataeus introduced refinements. Arabia and India are, for the first time, correctly depicted as peninsulas, possibly because by this time, Miletus was under Persian rule, supplying access to more detailed intelligence about the empire’s eastern perimeters. However, the Caspian Sea is shown as a great gulf of the peripheral ocean, congruent with the Bay of Bengal, and Africa (or ‘Libya’) continues to suffer sub-Saharan truncation. The straits of Gibraltar are obviously known to Hecataeus, from Greek or Carthaginian voyagers, and the littorals of the Mediterranean and Black Sea are delineated with considerable accuracy.
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