2. The few facts known then by voyagers, whose journeys rarely exceeded the limits of their tribe or of the valley in which they dwelt, would not permit of their establishing a spherical Earth. In what way could they arrive at the conclusion that the Earth is a ball? Men would not have been able to support this assertion; and, in supposing it inhabited on its entire surface, how would they have supposed it possible to live in opposite hemispheres, the head down and feet up? The fact would have appeared less possible when the rotational movement of the globe should have been explained. When one sees in our day, when the law of gravitation is known, people relatively enlightened, unable to give an account of this phenomenon, is it astonishing that men in the early ages had not even suspected it?
The Earth to them was a flat surface, circular as a millstone, extending out of sight in the far horizon, hence arose the saying yet in use: “Going to the end of the world.” Its limits, its thickness, its interior, its inferior surface that which was beneath them, was unknown to them.*
* Hindu mythology taught that the sun was “divested in the evening of its light, and traversed the sky during the night with an obscured face. Greek mythology represented the car of Apollo as drawn by four horses. Anaximander of Miletus maintained in concord with Plutarch, that the sun was a chariot tilled with a very brilliant fire, which escaped through a circular opening. Epicurus gave as his opinion that the sun was lighted in the morning, and extinguished at night in the waters of the ocean. Others thought that it was made of pumice-stone heated to a state of incandescence. Anaxagoras regarded it as a heated iron of the magnitude of the Peloponnesus. Strange to relate, the ancients were so invincibly determined to consider the apparent size of this body as real, that they persecuted this rash philosopher for having attributed such magnitude to the torch of day, that Pericles was obliged to exercise all the power of his authority to save him from condemnation to death, and commute the latter to a sentence of exile.” (Flammarion: “Studies and Lectures upon Astronomy,” p. 6.) If they held such ideas in the fifth century, before the Christian Era, in the most flourishing times of Greece, we cannot be astonished at those entertained by men in earlier times on the system of the universe.