Nature Descriptions

Descriptions of nature have existed since antiquity. Even the Greeks described what they saw in the world and how they interpreted it. Some are remarkably up-to-date. Pythagoras of Samos declared around 600 BC that the earth had a spherical shape. Aristotle in his work Περὶ οὐρανοῦ (On the Heavens, Volume 2, Chapters 13 and 14) discussed the surface shape of the Earth and concluded that it must be spherical for three different reasons. The first measurement of the size of the globe, carried out by the Alexandrian scholar Eratosthenes, done by the simplest means, had an error of only 7%. The outstanding Roman work is certainly Naturalis historia by Gaius Plinius Secundus.

Much more interesting for us are the descriptions in connection with caves, mines and other underground structures. There it looks a bit more difficult, especially early works are more likely to belong to sagas and legends. Some of them seem to be a collection of legends and prejudices, one doubts that the authors really visited a cave themselves. Others stand out for their richness of detail and their influence on subsequent generations of explorers. The first such works were still written in Latin, usually a medieval Latin also known as Kitchen Latin, the medieval Esperanto. Later works are often in German, because many important universities and scholars were to be found in the German and in the Austro-Hungarian Empire.