How did ancient people explain inverted seasons on the other side of the equator?

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In the southern hemisphere, seasons are inverted compared to the northern hemisphere. Before the current knowledge that this is caused by Earth’s tilt compared to its rotation around the sun, how did people explain this?

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16 Answers

Anonymous 0 Comments

There is some evidence of an Egyptian expedition that went well south of the equator and in fact, may have circumnavigated Africa in about 600 BCE.

Herodotus tells a story about Egyptian king Necho who ordered an expedition of Phoenician sailers to sail west through the Mediterranean and circumnavigate Africa. Their trip took three years, but produced a startling result.

During the return half the voyage, when they were sailing east, the sailers observed the sun was on the wrong side of the ship. They were used to the sun being on their right when sailing east, but it was reported to be on their left.

Herodotus, the writer who related the story, did not believe their story because he thought the sun would not so such a thing. Although if you are south of the equator, that’s exactly what they would see.

No one is certain the story is true, but the very fact which caused its reporter to doubt it may be evidence it was true.

Had they spent any time in the southern part of Africa, they might well have noticed the seasons were backwards from their northern experience.

Anonymous 0 Comments

The ancient Greeks thought as you traveled South, it kept getting hotter and hotter until life was unsustainable. If you traveled north, it got colder and colder until yet again life was unsustainable.

Anonymous 0 Comments

They didn’t. It’s worth noting that the ability to travel to the other side of the globe in a day (or eaven in a month) is a modern phenomenon. So even the relatively tiny number of people who do make such a trip probably won’t notice anything odd with the seasons.

Anonymous 0 Comments

Why would you explain something that didn’t happen in a place that doesn’t exist?

Anonymous 0 Comments

Ancient peoples? Ancient peoples did not travel to the other side of the planet and those that might have never made it back.

Anonymous 0 Comments

i suspect you are using the word ‘ancient’ incorrectly or you don’t comprehend how primitive the ancients were, ancients generally had rudimentary calendars at best, and those who had calendars likely had the technology to do so because they don’t do the ancient version of touching grass (being nomadic)

. travelling through the tropics is a long journey that was probably

done by a very miniscule amount of people who lived at that time, a journey taking several months at the minimum, if they’re speedrunning it, and any such observation probably wouldn’t go much further than “hot time year come quick? just me?”

Anonymous 0 Comments

First, you’d have to go a long way to actually see that effect. The seasonal difference *near* the equator isn’t as huge, and weather is often more dominated by seasonal rains than a direct “invert”.

Second, ancient travelers largely knew that the world was round and the tilt of the earth changed with the seasons.

Most ancient people did not really believe that the world was flat, etc.

Anonymous 0 Comments

Anything people don’t understand TODAY is gods and magic. 40% of US adults believe the earth is 6,000 years old, ghosts are real, and humans and dinosaurs used to live together Flintstones style. The ex-guy was asked, ‘are you the chosen one?’ He said ‘no… maybe.’ Put up 3 prime time ghost sitcoms, and take down restrictions on selling brain pills, and it will never stop.

Anonymous 0 Comments

In addition to everyone else noting that travel between the northern and southern hemispheres was rare and infrequent until well after the shape of the earth and the nature of axial tilt were well-understood, I think we also have to remember that much more of the southern hemisphere (proportionally) is tropical. Winters at the Cape of Good Hope are really quite mild compared to the ones in supermediterranean Europe.

Anonymous 0 Comments

Generally by the time people could travel so far across the ocean this effect could be noticed, they had a pretty sound foundation in astronomy. They would notice things like, “Whoa, I see different stars here” and reasoned that probably has something to do with why the seasons are different.

The Greeks figured out axial tilt somewhere around 480 BC. I’m having a hard time finding great information about sea routes at the time, but when I do look at ancient maritime routes most cultures stuck to their own continents. Leif Erikson’s landing in North America is somewhere around 1000 CE (That’s not across hemispheres, but is a similarly challenging distance to travel.) I can’t find anything about European contact with South America before the 1400s.

The more I look the harder it is to find that people had good contact with cultures this far away until the past 1,000 years, when astronomy was already sufficiently well-understood to explain it. You don’t have to come up with explanations for things you haven’t witnessed!

Keep in mind you have to move from VERY far north to VERY far south or vice versa to really see this. A ton of early human civilization happened in the “middle” or “north” without venturing between “north” and “south” regularly because it’s an incredible distance to travel without sea travel sophisticated enough to understand what you need to know to figure out why the seasons are different.