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How The World Looked When Jesus Was Born, According to Roman Geographers

Yes, we do have world maps from the time Jesus was born. That’s mainly thanks to a geographer named Strabo, who was born at the edge of the Roman Empire, in what is now Turkey, about 64 BC. He was educated far beyond most men of the time, and left us a 17-volume description of the world as they knew it.

Here is what the world looked like to Strabo and his contemporaries: the globe was divided into five sections, with two cold bands on either end, two temperate bands, and one hot and "torrid" band at the very center. The inhabited world, a large island, was confined to a northern quarter of the globe and was surrounded by oceans. Or at least, that’s what was assumed: no one had ever circumnavigated the known world.

Strabo was pretty much correct in what was known, although that still left a lot of unknowns. In his world, Israel was a small and politically insignificant place that was nonetheless a crossroads between three continents. Read about Strabo’s view of the world at Atlas Obscura. 

(Image credit: Flickr user Paolo Porsia)


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