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Sunday, 1 July 2012

Hyperborea

In ancient Greek belief, Hiperborea is a term that designated the territory situated to the north of the Istros (Danube). Etiologically, this name would translate as “beyond the Boreas” (the northern wind in Greek belief). For the old Greeks, Boreas represented a divinity that lived in Thrace; therefore the hyperborean territory was “beyond Thrace”.

Hyperborea
Hyperborea
The oldest mention of the Hyperborea is found in Histories of Herodotus (Book IV, chapters 32-26). Besides Herodotus, who took a part of his writings from his predecessors: Hesiod, Homer and Aristae, all ancient writers mention that the Getae were a hyperborean people. Pindar, one of the most well known Greek poets, considers that Apollo, after rising with Neptune and Each the walls of Troy, came back to his homeland on the Istros, in Hyperborea (Olymp. VIII, 47). He is also the one that mentions the fact that hyperborean people on the Danube’s shores adored “Apollo as a god of light, their most important god. From Strabo we learn that “the first that described different parts of the world say that hyperborean people lived above the Pont Euxin (the Black Sea) and the Istros” (Geography. XI, 6, 2). We find this information also from Hecate of Abdera, who also informs us that the hyperborean people from the islands of the Northern Sea raised a great circular temple for a local Apollo, god of light and fire.
In his work named Stromata, Clement of Alexandria tells us that Zamolxis was a hyperborean (Stromata, IX. 213). From Oppian we find out that “the two rivers (Nile and Istros), which are opposite one another, on both sides of the loud sea, do not flow with waters as heady. The Istros breaks its splendid grips set on the Boreas and crosses Scythia violently, as big as it is, forwarding with great difficulty among the rocks and promontories beaten by waves”. (Oppian, Cynegetica – cf. 39/I, 655). In one of his poems, Ovidiu, who was exiled in Tomis (8-17 A.D.), laments being obligated to spend the rest of his life on a territory where the northern wind Boreas blows:
“Though when the sad winter shows its ugly face
And the earth turned white from the blizzard like marble,
When also Boreas unleashes and snow falls under the Ursa
These people seem crushed by the axis of the trembling columns […]”
(Ovidius, Laments and Letters from the Sea, p. 283)
An important Dacian city, considered by the geographer Ptolemy (Geogr. III. 10) was situated on the river Hierasus (Siret) and was named Piriboridava, name that suggests a hyperborean city. One of the afore mentioned information about Hyperborea is from Macrobius: Regiones quas praeterfuulunt Tanais et Ister, omnesque super Scythie locum quorum indigenas vetustat Hyperboreos vocavit (Comm. in Somnium Scipionis, II. 7).The regions crossed by the Don and the Danube… which antiquity names hyperborean”. Apollonius from Rhodes mentions that hyperborean people are Pelasgians that “live in the north of Thrace (Argonautica, II, 5, 675). Martial names the triumph of the emperor Titus Flavius Domitianus against the Dacians Hiperboreus triumphus and in other works Gigantes triumphus (Ep. VIII, 78): “Three times he went through the Sarmatian Istros’s vicious horns, three times bathing his horse in Getae snow, always modest, he refused the triumph he deserved and only brought the fame to have won against the Hyperborean people” (Ep. VIII, 50).
Historians and geographers of the Middle Ages located Hyperborea somewhere in the northern extremity of the continent, some even saying it was in the Arctic region. These locations are obviously exaggerated due to the fact that the northern half of Europe was covered in ice in the Holocene, ice age that began nearly 12.000 years ago and continues to the present.
Map by Abraham Ortelius, Amsterdam 1572: at the top left Oceanvs Hyperborevs separates Iceland from Greenland
The Holocene is a geological epoch which began at the end of the Pleistocene (around 12,000 14C years ago) and continues to the present. The Holocene is part of the Quaternary period.

Bibliography
  • Iscru G.D., Dacians, the mother nation of the space between the Carpathians, Danube and Balcans, Nicolae Bălcescu Publishing House and Book Store, București, 1995.
  •  Lovinescu Vasile, Hyperborean Dacia, Rosmarin Publishing House, București, 1996.
  •  Nour Andrei, The cult of Zamolxis. Dacian beliefs, rites and superstitions, Antet Publishing House, București, 2005.
by Mihai Dragnea 

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