Great deeds in history do not, however, stand alone. High mountains, grand and imposing though they may seem to the distant beholder, are after all simply conspicuous parts of our common earth. The loftiest peaks descend gradually to foothills, upland plateaus, lower plains, and finally to the level of the all-uniting sea. Nothing is isolated in nature or in human achievement. Great discoverers are like mountainclimbers, who by the aid of material vantage-ground and human experience, ascend height upon height until at last they stand like stout Balboa, when, silent upon a peak in Darien, with eagle eye he stared at the Pacific.

The discovery of America was foreordained from the beginning of the old classic world, when geographical science first began to move, “but slowly, slowly, creeping on from point to point,” around the headlands of the Mediterranean Sea. Six hundred years B. c. the bold Phænician sailors, under Egyptian auspices, circumnavigated Africa, sailing from East to West around what we now call the Cape of Good Hope, and returning in three years past the pillars of Hercules, through the straits of Gibraltar. Five hundred

Five hundred years before Christ, Hanno, the Carthaginian, anticipated the Portuguese discovery of the Canary Islands and the west coast of Africa.

Pythagoras and the Greek philosophers taught that the world is round. Plato, inspired by current traditions, based perhaps on physical facts, wrote in his dialogues of the continent of Atlantis, which had been submerged in the western

Aristotle believed that the inhabited earth, oikoumené , was only one of several continents. He had the correct theory of the globe. Indeed, all modern discovery was anticipated in the following scientific statement: “In common speech,” says Aristotle, “we speak of our world (oikoumene) as divided into continents and islands. This is wrong. The oikoumené, as known to us, is really a single island, lying in the midst of the Atlantic. Probably there are other similar oikoumenai, some larger than ours, some smaller, separated from it by the sea."


In his treatise on the Heavens (ii, 14), Aristotle said " those persons who connect the region in the neighborhood of the Pillars of Hercules with that towards India, and who assert that in this way the sea is one, do not assert things very improbable.” Here is a full-orbed scientific idea which finally conquered and possessed the round world. Greek thought was prophetic. Greek history foreshadowed the history of Europe, which is simply a greater Hellas, as America is an imperial and transatlantic Magna Graecia. Nothing of Greece doth fade but suffers a sea-change into something rich and strange. All our modern discoveries, colonization, politics, art, education, civilization, Christendom, the Oikoumenê, the great globe itself, are simply Greek ideas enlarged by historic processes of development. We have been taught that Hebrew prophecy was history and Hebrew history was prophecy. There is a remarkable verse from Seneca, who has won eternal fame from Clio for these few words, once prophetic now historic:

“The word unto the prophet spoken
Was writ on tables yet unbroken;
The word by seers or sibyls told,
In groves of oak, or fanes of gold,
Still floats upon the morning wind,
Still whispers to the willing mind.

1“Greek speculation survived, though it missed reduction into practice. Strabo, who was master of all the geographical fact and theory of his time, was not likely to neglect Aristotle's memorable conjecture of more oikoumenai than one. With almost prophetic insight, he even improved on it. Besides a Terra Australis, such as Aristotle had indicated, he clearly foreshadowed the discovery of a Terra Occidentalis, occupying the same latitudes as the old oikoumene itself. "Possibly,' he says, 'the same temperate zone may contain two or more oikoumenai. It is even likely that such are to be found in the parallel of Athens.' Were this the case, the physical objection to the practicability of a westward voyage to India would probably cease: for the new oikoumenai might serve as stepping-stones to the westward explorer. This remarkable anticipation goes far to justify the words of an enthusiastic modern geographer, who declares that the nations of Europe from remote antiquity were gifted with a divine intuition which revealed to them another great world beyond their horizon, and whispered that this world was their natural patrimony. Aristotle had guessed at the plurality of oikoumenai : Strabo suggested the existence of another oikoumenê occupying the same latitudes as the old world, that is, the existence of America." (History of the New World Called America, vol. I, pp. 36–37, by Edward John Payne.) Strabo, i, 31, quoting Krates, speaks of the western voyage of Menelaos from Gades to India (Dr. A. Gudeman, Philological Association, J. H. U.)

Venient annis saecula seris,
Quibus Oceanus vincula rerum
Laxet, et ingens pateat tellus,
Tethysque novos detegat orbes,
Nec sit terris ultima Thule.

- Medea, 378-382.

In the Columbian library at Valladolid there is a copy of Seneca's tragedies published at Venice in 1510. Upon the margin of the verse from the Medea which has been quoted, Ferdinand, the son of Columbus, wrote in Latin, “ This prophecy was fulfilled by my father, Christopher Columbus, the admiral, in 1492."

Dante was the poet-prophet of the Middle Ages and the historian of ancient culture. In the twenty-sixth canto of the Inferno, the Italian poet, under the guidance of the Latin Virgil, meets Odysseus, the Grecian type of Columbus, the adventurous navigator, who had sailed every sea. To Dante Odysseus narrates how once he and his companions steered westward past the pillars of Hercules, out upon the ocean, seeking a new world.

O brothers, who amid a hundred thousand

Perils,' I said, 'have come unto the West,
Be ye unwilling to deny the knowledge,
Following the sun, of the unpeopled world.
Consider ye the seed from which ye sprang;
Ye were not made to live like unto brutes,
But for pursuit of virtue and knowledge.'
So eager did I render my companions
With this brief exhortation for the voyage,
That then I hardly could have held them back.”

They rowed away from the morning and made wings of their oars for a mad flight into another hemisphere. They came at last to a high mountain and a new land, but there arose a whirlwind and it smote upon the ship. Three times the vessel whirled about and then sank beneath the sea with all on board. Thus Odysseus and his companions came into the under world.

One century after the time of Dante there lived in the republic of Florence another poet-prophet, a contemporary of Savonarola and of Columbus. In a poem called the Greater Morning, Morgante Maggiore, this poet Pulci, who died five years before the discovery of America, made this remarkable prophecy, translated by Prescott in his “ Ferdinand and Isabella,” Vol. II, 117:

“his bark
The daring mariner shall urge far o'er
The Western wave, a smooth and level plain,
Albeit the earth is fashioned like a wheel.
Man was in ancient days of grosser mould,
And Hercules might blush to learn how far
Beyond the limits he had vainly set
The dullest sea-boat soon shall wing her way.
Men shall desery another hemisphere,
Since to one common centre all things tend;
So earth, by curious mystery divine,
Well balanced hangs amid the starry spheres.
At our Antipodes are cities, states
And thronged empires ne'er divined of yore."

- Pulci, Morgante Maggiore, Canto 25: 22.

Turning from the poet-prophets, let us briefly notice the relation of schoolmen, churchmen, and scientific men to Columbus. In the year 1267 a Franciscan friar at Oxford collected from classical, Arabian and Hebrew literature the chief arguments concerning the possibility of reaching Asia by sailing westward from Europe. This Franciscan was Roger Bacon, the scholastic forerunner of Lord Bacon and a pioneer of experimental methods in science and philosophy. In his Opus Majus the great schoolman of Oxford wrote the following extraordinary summary of the best scientific views of the world's geography: “Aristotle says that there is not

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much ocean between the western parts of Spain and the eastern parts of India. He thinks that more than a fourth part of the surface of the globe is habitable. Averrhoes confirms this. Seneca says that this sea might be crossed in a few days with a favorable wind. Pliny says that people have actually sailed from the Arabian Gulf to Cadiz. Now the Arabian Gulf is a whole year's voyage from the Indian sea, so that it is clear that the eastern extremity of Asia cannot be a long way from us. The sea between Spain and Asia at any rate cannot possibly cover three-fourths of the surface of the globe. Besides, it is written in the fourth Book of Esdras, that six parts of the earth are babitable, and the seventh is covered with water. Therefore I say that though the oikoumene of Ptolemy be confined within onefourth of the globe's surface, more of that surface is really habitable. Aristotle must have known more than other people, because by Alexander's favor he sent out two thousand men to enquire about these matters. So must Seneca; for the Emperor Nero sent out people to explore in the same way. From all this it follows that the habitable surface of the earth must be considerable, and that which is covered with water but small."

In the year 1410, nearly one hundred and fifty years after Roger Bacon penned this remarkable passage, a famous churchman, Cardinal D’Ailly, Bishop of Cambrai, wrote an encyclopædic work called the Imago Mundi, in which all this geographical information is carefully repeated from the learned Franciscan of Oxford. Cardinal D'Ailly was president of the ecclesiastical commission which condemned John Huss to the stake in the year 1415, but that book called the Imago Mundi kindled in Spain a beaconlight which shot across the western sea. The book was not published until the year 1490 but manuscript copies of it were widely known in the second half of the fifteenth century. Doubtless Columbus, who could read Latin, was an early student of the Cardinal's work. Indeed Columbus owned a printed copy

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