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

Gods Did It, generally.

To ancient seafaring people who traveled north/south, the explanation was generally that those countries were Just Like That, because their creator decided that’s how it ought to be.

Anonymous 0 Comments

how ancient are we talking? and as in most cases, if something is weird and hard to expalin, just slap religion on it and call it gods will.

Anonymous 0 Comments

There were actually quite few people who travelled that far (remember that the tropics have no seasons at all)

By the time europeans started travelling across the globe the round shape of the earth was already known

Anonymous 0 Comments

Even though our precise scientific understanding of the mechanisms involved wasn’t always there, we have known, since pre-recorded history that there was a link between the sun’s path across the sky and the seasons and used the former to predict the latter.

Additionally, we have known that the Earth was round and tilted since antiquity, so all of that has always been linked in our understanding of seasons (with the goal of mastering agriculture).

Understanding that, because of the tilt, the energy of the sun is dispersed over a wider area in one hemisphere and concentrated in another, and this causes the discrepancy in heat and seasons probably came later. Before that there really wasn’t a need to create an explanation. It simply was.

Anonymous 0 Comments

Who were these ancient people travelling between hemispheres often enough and quickly enough to note that seasons were the other way round? If they existed at all, surely the first thing they’d notice is the warm sun by the equator and colder, wetter weather the other way.

Anonymous 0 Comments

Scientists suspected the Earth was spherical as far back as the 5th century BC. By the 3rd century BC, [Eratosthenes](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earth%27s_circumference#Eratosthenes) had measured the circumference of the Earth within around 3% – we don’t actually know the exact length of the unit of measurement he used.

The less educated likely just did not know there were different seasons. You actually have to move a decent distance from the equator to really see the seasons start, and the equator is pretty far south on the globe – you’d need to get down towards Zimbabwe, Australia, or Bolivia area to start seeing the seasonal effects flip. Given that most people did not go more than a few dozen miles from home, unless they were sent there are part of an army, its likely very few knew there were different seasons.

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.

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

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

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.