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    Re: Should I question Pliny?
    From: Frank Reed
    Date: 2009 Sep 4, 16:37 -0700

    John,
    
    It seems you're not the first to wonder at Pliny's credulity regarding 
    Taprobane. From the works of William Robertson published in about 1797, "An 
    Historical Disquisition concerning the knowledge which the ancients had of 
    India" (see Google Books):
      "[Pliny] informs us, that ambassadors were sent by a King of that island 
    [Taprobane] to the Emperor Claudius, from whom the Romans learned several 
    things concerning it which were formerly unknown, particularly that there 
    were five hundred towns in the island, and that in the centre of it there was 
    a lake three hundred and seventy-five miles in circumference. These 
    ambassadors were astonished at the sight of the Great Bear and the Pleiades, 
    being constellations which did not appear in their sky ; and were still more 
    amazed when they beheld their shadows point towards the north, and the sun 
    rise on their left hand, and set on their right. They affirmed, too, that in 
    their country the moon was never seen until the eighth day after the change, 
    and continued to be visible only to the sixteenth. It is surprising to find 
    an author so intelligent as Pliny relating all these circumstances without 
    animadversion, and particularly that he does not take notice, that what the 
    ambassadors reported concerning the appearance of the moon could not take 
    place in any region of the earth."
    
    Later:
    "Ptolemy, though so near to the age of Pliny, seems to have been altogether 
    unacquainted with his description of Taprobane, or with the embassy to the 
    Emperor Claudius. He places that island opposite to Cape Comorin, at no great 
    distance from the continent, and delineates it as stretching from north to 
    south no less than fifteen degrees, two of which he supposes to be south of 
    the equator"
    
    There is more in the book.
    
    My guess would be that those ambassadors were impostors. It was not an 
    uncommon game until rather recently. One could travel among the potentates 
    and royalty of the civilized world treated like an honored guest, wined and 
    dined and entertained. And all it took were some good costumes, some 
    knowledge of an exotic language, real or invented, and one gullible minor 
    king to get the ball rolling and write a letter of recommendation. A smaller 
    scale scam of this sort occurred in Britain just twenty years after the above 
    writings by Robertson were published: Mary Baker, a.k.a. Princess Caraboo 
    (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Princess_Caraboo).
    
    Another possibility is that the ambassadors were actually penguins since 
    they're about the only inhabitants of Earth who would not be able to see the 
    Pleiades! But beware: the penguins are psychotic (that's a line from a movie 
    set on an island in the Indian Ocean, though presumably not Taprobane, 
    starring the voice-acting of a modern-day ambassadorial impostor of a 
    different sort).
    
    -FER
    
    
    
    
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