Rawlinson, H. G. Intercourse between India and the western world from the earliest times to the fall of Rome

(Cambridge :  University Press,  1916.)



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India and the Ro7nan Empire      13:

little or nothing of the coast beyond the mouth
of the Ganges. Ptolemy goes a great deal further,
though, possibly because he had to depend upon
the reports of illiterate seamen, his statements
are often very confused and vague. He mixes
up Java and Sumatra ; he says nothing of the
Straits of Malacca, and he thinks that the Chinese
coast, instead of trending northward, bends south¬
ward to meet the shores of Africa !

Before we find fault with a system which
led to such extraordinary results, we should
remember the difficulties with which Ptolemy
had to contend. He was dependent for his
information upon ignorant sailors, who often
misspelt hopelessly the very names of the ports
at which they touched. He had only their word
for the direction in which they sailed from port
to port, and this was often entirely wrong ; and
for distance, as he himself confesses, he had to
be content with calculating from the average
run of a ship per day, with deductions to allow
for irregularities of the coast, and other disturbing
factors. The result of attempting to plot a map
upon such data may be seen from the charts
of Ptolemy. It led to the strangest contortions
of the coast of India itself. Ptolemy seems to
be quite unaware of the southward trend of the
great peninsula ; he thinks that Barygaza is very
little to the north of Cape Kory, while Palura
is actually to the south of it! In fact he pictures
the coast of India, and of the country beyond,

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