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ibstubro's avatar

When the Earth was flat, was there documentation of anyone falling off?

Asked by ibstubro (11495 points ) March 22nd, 2014

Seriously.

When people believed the Earth was flat, exactly who did they believe had fallen off? Or, for that matter, who had been to “the ends of the Earth” and lived to tell about it?

Surely there was documentation at the time. Do we still retain that information, or has it been lost?

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27 Answers

ragingloli's avatar

The did not need no stinking evidence.
They had the bible.

gailcalled's avatar

Hic sunt leones (dragones). Ayone who got cloes to the edge was eaten by lions. (Or dragons if you prefer

gailcalled's avatar

edit: close

bolwerk's avatar

Speaking of documentation, when was there a widespread belief the Earth is flat? I know there is some scant Biblical “evidence,” but Eratosthenes estimated the width of the Earth fairly accurately in the centuries before J.C., and there was evidence before that.

I don’t doubt there is poetic hyperbole and even actual tall tales. Obviously, people disappeared at sea and never came back. But it doesn’t seem like an attitude that was ever dominant – though admittedly, I don’t know what sources say about it in the Middle Ages. Plato and Aristotle were accessible, at least in Latin translation, by the High Middle Ages (9C-11C, approximately), so I rather doubt the idea that Earth is round and even some evidence escaped notice.

NanoNano's avatar

It was more a view that there was an “edge” to the Earth that could not be crossed, not so much an idea of a pancake like Earth. Here’s an excerpt for you ibsturbo, from one of my many books, to give you an idea of the thinking of the day:

“When Christopher Columbus asked King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain to fund his voyages, the two monarchs set up a committee of the most celebrated scholars and geographers to enquire into the feasibility of the project. The negative conclusions of this committee which reported back in 1486 included comments from St. Augustine and from the Christian philosopher Lactantius who declared:

‘Is there anyone so foolish as to believe that there are antipodes with feet opposite to ours; people who walk with their heels upward and their heads hanging down? That there is a part of the world in which all things are topsy-turvy; where the trees grow with their branches downward, and where it rains, hails and snows upward? The idea of the roundness of the Earth was the cause of defending this fable of the antipodes; for these philosophers, having once erred, go on in their absurdities, defending one with another.’

Not surprisingly the report concluded that ‘the Western ocean is infinite and perhaps unnavigable. Centuries after the Creation, it is unlikely that anybody could find hitherto unknown lands of any value.”

-excerpted from The Next 500 Years by Adrian Berry

whitenoise's avatar

As far as I understand it, nobody of any maningfull educated intellect believed the world was flat.

The opposition Columbus got against his trip wasn’t because people thought he’d fall off the edge of the world… They didn’t know The Americas were there. Without the Americas, or another land mass with food and water, a trip around the world would be too long to survive in a sailing boat of that era.

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Symbeline's avatar

If there is such documentation…well, some documentation that is. I’m suddenly reminded about the moon landing and the theories about it being a hoax. Maybe the moon is flat, too.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

I studied history at university, and the idea the Earth is flat was never widely held.

It’s a simple matter of direct observation to know the Earth is round. When a ship, especially sailing ships of yore, approach a port, they rise over the horizon. The tops of their masts become visible before the main body of the ship. If the Earth were flat, the ship would start as a whole, small dot and grow larger. Seeing it rise over the horizon as it does is direct evidence it’s navigating over a curved surface.

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Darth_Algar's avatar

People correctly surmised thousands of years ago that the Earth was a sphere. The idea of a flat Earth was never widely held.

kritiper's avatar

Ships disappeared while at sea and people assumed, falsely, that they had fallen off the edge.

zenvelo's avatar

They looked it up on the world wide web, here.

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muppetish's avatar

[mod says] Remember that this question is posted in the General section, folks. Responses should be both on-topic and helpful.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@ibstubro If someone fell off there probably wouldn’t be documentation unless they were in a convoy and the next few people were really alert and turned away as fast as they could.

LostInParadise's avatar

According to Wikipedia, there is currently a Flat Earth Society, whose origin is fairly recent. You might want to get in touch with them. The article says that the idea of a flat Earth originated in ancient Egypt, but that by the time of the Greeks was replaced by belief in a spherical planet. Aristotle wrote of a spherical Earth and Eratosthenes, using some crude tools, gave a fairly accurate estimate of the Earth’s circumference. Had Columbus known of Eratosthenes’ work and taken it seriously, he might not have set out on his voyage.

trailsillustrated's avatar

” there are antipodes with feet opposite to ours; people who walk with their heels upward and their heads hanging down? That there is a part of the world in which all things are topsy-turvy; where the trees grow with their branches downward, and where it rains, hails and snows upward?” It’s called Australia, lol

filmfann's avatar

Xi walked to its edge and dropped the bottle off, if you’ll recall The Gods Must Be Crazy

I am unaware of any mention in the Bible that the Earth is flat, and I have read it nearly 5 times.

bolwerk's avatar

@filmfann: Revelation 7:1, among other scant implications that may or may not be metaphorical.

Matthew 4:8 actually might be a little more damning, since seeing “all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor” from the top of a mountain was an important part of the exposition and can’t be dismissed as merely figurative.

herculies's avatar

@filmfann ‘The Gods Must Be Crazy’ Love that movie… my favorite line, ‘Why did you hang the truck in a tree’

filmfann's avatar

@bolwerk I see those as metaphorical. I have heard politicians use the same expressions. Do you think they believe the Earth is flat? ya, I know… Depends on the politician…

bolwerk's avatar

@filmfann: I can’t really tell one way or another, and the authors were different anyway. But regardless of whether they are figurative, I think such passages have been used to demonstrate the Earth is flat.

ragingloli's avatar

They certainly used scripture to “demonstrate” geocentrism..
“There is talk of a new astrologer who wants to prove that the earth moves and goes round instead of the sky, sun and moon, just as if somebody moving in a carriage or ship might hold that he was sitting still and at rest while the earth and trees walked and moved. But that is how things are nowadays: when a man wishes to be clever he must needs invent something special, and the way he does it must needs be the best! That fool wants to turn the whole art of astronomy upside-down. However, as Holy Scripture tells us, so did Joshua bid the sun to stand still and not the earth”

Martin Luther, Table Talk, on Copernicus.

herculies's avatar

I wrote a paper in school (long ago) using math to show that to us, the earrth is flat. It was peer reviewed extensively… but nobody could disprove my math. Meant to be satirical.

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