A new book by Italian physicist and philologist Lucio Russo presents the controversial claim that the ancient Greeks discovered America long before Christopher Columbus set foot on American soil in 1492.
Russo, who currently teaches probability at Tor Vergata University of Rome, says the main reason why researchers think America wasn’t known to ancient Greeks is not due to lack of proof, but to scientific dogma. Once a perspective has been accepted virtually world-wide and written with certainty into the history books it is very hard to convince the ‘establishment’ to accept an alternative perspective.
The book presents a wealth of evidence pointing to the ancient Greeks as the first discoverers. The Greeks were, among other things, the only civilization that was able to understand that the Earth was round—an understanding that was later lost.
But if it was the Greeks that discovered America, how did people come to forget this continent? The error, according to the author, is mainly due to Ptolemy, who developed a world map finding a midpoint between the claims made by various ancient sources.
The key problem is the identification of the Fortunate Islands, which the ancient Greeks sometimes referred to, as the Canary Islands (near the West coast of Africa). But the Greeks were actually referring to the Antilles, according to Russo. The misunderstanding was due to the Romans and other post-Greek people’s disbelief and incapability of navigating the oceans. Ptolemy missed the latitude of Canary Islands by 15 degrees latitude, making them to appear on the point of the map were the Antilles would expected to be.
Scientists and philologists have, according to Russo, welcomed the new perspective with enthusiasm, while geographers and historians have had a harder time digesting the possibility that Columbus’s epic journey had all been done before.