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Coffee!! Flat Earth Award

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Satan trapped in the ice at the centre of Earth, Wiki Commons

I wonder if, some time, we could give out a flat earth award for people who heedlessly state that “In the Middle Ages, people thought the Earth was flat.”

Maybe we could call it the Eratosthenes Award, after the 3rd century BCE Greek who estimated the circumference of Earth:

He knew the approximate distance between Syene [Aswan] and Alexandria, as measured by camel-powered trade caravans. He then measured the angle of the shadow in Alexandria on the solstice. By taking the angle of the shadow (7̊12′) and dividing it into the 360 degrees of a circle (360 divided by 7.2 yields 50), Eratosthenes could then multiply the distance between Alexandria and Syene by 50 to determine the circumference.

Remarkably, Eratosthenes (approx 276-194 BCE) determined the circumference to be 25,000 miles, just 100 miles over the actual circumference at the equator (24,901 miles). While Eratosthenes made mathematical errors in his caculations, these fortunately canceled each other out and yielded an amazingly accurate answer. – Geography about.com

Now, the spherical nature of Earth became so much a part of popular culture that when Dante (1265-1321 CE) wrote the most famous poem of the period, the Divine Comedy, he put Hell inside Earth – a convenient location for the worst place in the universe because Earth was considered second worst – the heaviest place, to which everything fell.

I can’t decide what the award should be, but maybe someone will donate toward a work of historical fiction – a bodice ripper, perhaps, with lots of castles and shining armour. Fact-based books would be wasted on the recipient.

Denyse, I have enjoyed reading your articles for a long time and have never commented. But, I must weigh in on the "BCE" and "CE" business. Please don't use those. BC and AD are perfectly good and have been used for a long time. Everyone knows what they mean. The BCE and CE labels have a strong anti-Christian flavor to them. Thanks, Randall Bensch, Oklahoma U. S. rbensch

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