Fri. Apr 26th, 2019

Canaries in Greco-Roman literature? - The province

Canaries in Greco-Roman literature? - The province

Since Antiquity there are different works where we have been able to learn a part of Greco-Roman culture thanks to literary legends and poems starring ancient gods and heroes. The curious thing is that in some of them mention is made of some regions located in the Atlantic, which occupied an important place since it was covered by a narrative and supernatural mysticism, where there was talk of a place that was at the end of the world reserved for those just and fortunate people.

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It is true that, for historians, these islands that are spoken of may belong to any of the islands of Macaronesia or simply to the fantasy of those classic authors who were carried away by the stories of travelers. But they do not deny that the Phoenician navigators of the Mediterranean in their colonization and commercialization stage could have come to know the Canary Islands due to their proximity to Africa, since they practiced coastal navigation and it was normal that from the African coasts (Morocco area and Mauritania) could be contemplated on the horizon the nearest islands, Lanzarote and Fuerteventura or Cape Verde.

How many times have we heard of the tragedy of Troy inspired by the work of Homer's Odyssey? Well, in that story, there is a fragment that speaks of the Champs Elysees, a region that is in the Atlantic Ocean, composed of a mild climate and some -sophs of Céfiro- that could refer to the trade winds.

"The immortals will send him to the Elisia plain, to the end of the earth, where the blond Radamanthus is, where the life of men is more comfortable, there is no snowfall and the winter is not long, nor is there rain, but Ocean leaves I always pass to the puffs of Cephiro that blows soundly to refresh the men ". Homer, The Odyssey (8th century BC).

A century later, the Greek author Hesiod would speak of the Garden of the Hesperides in his work Theogony. The Roman geographer Pomponio Mela recovers this narrative and places it in his work Cartografía where he talks about an island with a great mountain. It can be him Teide?

"In view of these burned parts are the islands, which claim to have possessed the Hesperides. sandy there is Mount Atlante, standing up closed and crowded on a large skirt, [€] and the more it rises, the thinner, which to rise above the clouds above what the eye can reach. It is said that he not only touches the sky and the stars with his summit, but he has them lying down. The Fortunada Islands are opposed to this mountain. "Pomponio Mela, Cartography (1st century AD).

One of the most famous and well-known myths is that of Atlantis collected by the philosopher Plato in his two works, Timaeus and Critias, from the 4th century BC. For the priest and historian of the eighteenth century José de Viera y Clavijo, argued that the origin of the Canary Islands and its population was the myth of Atlantis, a topic that was debated by Grancan historian Gregorio Chil y Naranjo who did not agree with this literary theory. It is supposed that this myth spoke of a large island of continental characteristics connected with other islands that were sunk, and the islands of Macaronesia (Canary Islands, Cape Verde, Madeira, Wild Islands and Azores) are the remains of that great civilization.

The last myth that I have come to speak about and perhaps the most famous of all is that of Hesiod, author that I mentioned earlier, on the theme of the Garden of the Hesperides. In his work Los Trabajos y los Días we know the first time we speak of the Fortunate Islands, a myth that is part of the culture and imagination of all Canaries today. Illustrious figures such as Leonardo Torriani, Abreu Galindo and Alonso de Espinosa have helped history and literature maintain this myth.

"There they live, with a heart free of care, in the islands of the Fortunate, on the edges of the volatile Ocean, happy heroes to whom the fertile land gives three times a year sweet and flourishing fruit." Hesiod, The Works and Days (7th century BC).

Literature has a component of fantasy and fiction. In the same way that the origin of Rome has two famous narratives such as that of Rómulo and Remo or that of the surviving Trojan Aeneas, the Canary Islands also has its place in that fantastic literature of the classical stage.

The chroniclers of antiquity who have helped historians to know if the civilizations of the Mediterranean knew the Canarian archipelago are: Pliny the Elder in his work "Natural History" where he speaks of the Fortunae Insulae composed of six islands; Arnobio de Sica in his book "Pugna contra los gentiles" in which a passage with the name Canarias Insulas appears where he places it at the end of the world; Hannon the Navigator and his journey along the coasts of the African Atlantic; the expedition of the king of Mauritania Juba II that describes the islands and is the person who gives the name to one of them as Canaria.


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