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Climatic change as a topic in the classical Greek and Roman literature


A search was made of the classical Greek and Roman literature for references to climatic change, irrespective whether facts of observation or views. It was found that several scholars/scientists of the classical antiquity made pronouncements on the subject and their statements are either summarized or quoted verbatim in this paper. From the Greek literature we quote Plato, Aristotle and Theophrastus; Herodotus is also quoted for an indirect reference to the topic. From the Roman literature we cite the agricultural writer Columella and the scientist Pliny the Elder; actually, Columella quotes the distinguished writers on husbandry, the Sasernas, father and son.

Aristotle's statement is relevant to a degree to the ‘Mycenaean drought (~ 1200 B.C.)’ problem. The Columella-Saserna pronouncement relates to the astronomical theory of climatic change, while Theophrastus discusses man-made climatic changes.

Appendix I gives a statistics of storms, as gleaned from the classical literature, covering approximately the months April–October. Further, it lists some pointers to the relative coolness of the era 850/800–400/300 B.C. in some areas of the Mediterranean. Appendix II offers a few examples for the usefulness of the ancient literature from the point of view of environmental data or events.

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Now visiting with the Department of Meteorology, The University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland.

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Neumann, J. Climatic change as a topic in the classical Greek and Roman literature. Climatic Change 7, 441–454 (1985).

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  • Climatic Change
  • Environmental Data
  • Glean
  • Classical Literature
  • Classical Antiquity