Home  »  The Marvellous Adventures of Sir John Maundevile Kt  »  Of the evil Customs used in the Isle of Lamary. And how the Earth and the Sea be of round Form and Shape, by Proof of the Star that is clept Antarctic, that is fixed in the South

Sir John Mandeville. Marvellous Adventures. 1895.

Chapter XVII

Of the evil Customs used in the Isle of Lamary. And how the Earth and the Sea be of round Form and Shape, by Proof of the Star that is clept Antarctic, that is fixed in the South

FROM that Country go Men by the Sea Ocean, and by many divers Isles and by many Countries that were too long to tell of.

And a 52 Days’ Journey from this Land that I have spoken of, there is another Land, that is full great, that Men call Lamary. In that Land is full great Heat. And the Custom there is such, that Men and Women go all naked. And they scorn when they see any strange Folk going clothed. And they say, that God made Adam and Eve all naked, and that no Man should be ashamed of what is after Nature. And they say, that they that be clothed be Folk of another World, or they be Folk that trow not in God. And they say, that they believe in God that formed the World, and that made Adam and Eve and all other Things. And they wed there no Wives, for all the Women there be common and they deny no Man. And they say they sin if they refuse any Man; and so God commanded to Adam and Eve and to All that come of Him, when He said, “Crescite et multiplicamini, et replete Terram,” (“Increase and multiply, and replenish the Earth.”). And therefore may no Man in that Country say, “This is my Wife”; nor no Woman may say, “This my Husband.” And when they have Children, they may give them to what Man they will that hath companied with them. And also all the Land is common; for all that a Man holdeth one Year, another Man hath it another Year; and every Man taketh what Part that it liketh him. And also all the Goods of the Land, Corn and all other Things, be common: for nothing there is kept enclosed, nor nothing there is under Lock, and every Man there taketh what he will without any Contradiction, and one Man there is as rich as another.

But in that Country there is a cursed Custom, for they eat more gladly Man’s Flesh than any other Flesh; and yet is that Country abundant of Flesh, of Fish, of Corn, of Gold and Silver, and of all other Goods. Thither go Merchants and bring with them Children to sell to them of the Country, and they buy them. And if they be fat they eat them anon. And if they be lean they feed them till they be fat, and then they eat them. And they say, that it is the best Flesh and the sweetest of all the World.

In that Land, and in many other beyond that, no Man may see the Star Transmontane (or Polar Star,) that is clept the Star of the Sea, that is unmovable and that is toward the North, that we call the Lode-star. But Men see another Star, the contrary (or opposite) to it, that is toward the South, that is clept Antarctic. And right as the Ship-men here take their Advice and govern them by the Lode-star, right so do Ship-men beyond these Parts govern them by the Star of the South, the which Star appeareth not to us. And this Star that is toward the North, that we call the Lode-star, appeareth not to them. For which Cause Men may well perceive, that the Land and the Sea be of round Shape and Form; for the Part of the Firmament showeth in one Country that sheweth not in another Country. And Men may well prove by Experience and subtle Compassing of Wit, that if a Man found Passages by Ships that would go to search the World, he might go by Ship all about the World and above and beneath.

The which Thing I prove thus after what I have seen. For I have been toward the Parts of Brabant, and beheld by the Astrolabe that the Star that is clept the Transmontane is 53 Degrees high; and more further in Germany and Bohemia it hath 58 Degrees; and more further toward the Septentrional (or Northern) Parts it is 62 Degrees of Height and certain Minutes; for I myself have measured it by the Astrolabe. Now shall ye know, that over against the Transmontane is the tother Star that is clept Antarctic, as I have said before. And those 2 Stars move never, and on them turneth all the Firmament right as doth a Wheel that turneth on his Axle-tree. So that those Stars bear the Firmament in 2 equal Parts, so that it hath as much above as it hath beneath. After this, I have gone toward the Meridional Parts, that is, toward the South, and I have found that in Lybia Men see first the Star Antarctic. And so the more further I have gone in those Countries, the more high I have found that Star; so that toward the High Lybia it is 18 Degrees of Height and certain Minutes (of the which 60 Minutes make a Degree). After going by Sea and by Land toward this Country of which I have spoken, and to other Isles and Lands beyond that Country, I have found the Star Antarctic 33 Degrees of Height and some Minutes. And if I had had Company and Shipping to go more beyond, I trow well, as certain, that we should have seen all the Roundness of the Firmament all about. For, as I have said to you before, the Half of the Firmament is between those 2 Stars, the which Half-part I have seen. And of the tother Half-part I have seen, toward the North under the Transmontane, 62 Degrees and 10 Minutes, and toward the Meridional Part I have seen under the Antarctic, 33 Degrees and 16 Minutes. And then, the Half-part of the Firmament holdeth in all but 180 Degrees. And of those 180, I have seen 62 on that one Part and 33 on that other Part; in all, 95 Degrees and nigh the Half-part of a Degree. And so, there faileth not but that I have seen all the Firmament, save 84 Degrees and the Half-part of a Degree, and that is not the 4th Part of the Firmament; for the 4th Part of the Roundness of the Firmament holds 90 Degrees, so there faileth but 5 Degrees and an Half of the 4th Part. And so I have seen 3 Parts of all the Roundness of the Firmament and more yet by 5 Degrees and a Half. By the which I say to you certainly that Men may environ all the Earth of all the World, as well underneath as above, and return again to their Country, if that they had Company and Shipping and Conduct. And always they should find Men, Lands and Isles, as well as in this Country. For wit ye well, that they that be toward the Antarctic, be straight, Feet against Feet, to them that dwell under the Transmontane; as well as we and they that dwell under us be Feet against Feet. For all the Parts of Sea and of Land have their Opposites, habitable or passable, and also they of this Half and the beyond Half.

And wit well, that, after what I can perceive and comprehend, the Lands of Prester John, Emperor of Ind, be under us. For in going from Scotland or from England toward Jerusalem Men go upward always. For our Land is in the low Part of the Earth toward the West, and the Land of Prester John is in the low Part of the Earth toward the East. And they have there the Day when we have the Night; and also, on the contrary, they have the Night when we have the Day. For the Earth and the Sea be of round Form and Shape, as I have said before; and as men go upward to one Side, so Men go downward to another Side.

Also ye have heard me say that Jerusalem is in the Midst of the World. And that may Men prove, and shew there by a Spear, that is fixed into the Earth, that sheweth no Shadow on any Side upon the Hour of Midday, when it is Equinox. And that it should be in the Midst of the World, David witnesseth in the Psalter, where he saith, “Deus operatus est Salutem in Medio Terræ,” (“God working Salvation in the Midst of the Earth.”). They, then, that depart from the Parts of the West to go toward Jerusalem, as many Days’ Journeys as they go upward to go thither, in so many Days’ Journeys may they go from Jerusalem unto other Confines of the Superficiality of the Earth beyond. And when Men go beyond those Journeys toward Ind and to the foreign Isles, they are environing the Roundness of the Earth and of the Sea under our Country on this Half.

And therefore hath a Thing befallen, as I have heard recounted many times when I was young, how a worthy Man departed some-time from our Countries to go search the World. And so, he passed Ind and the Isles beyond Ind, where be more than 5000 Isles. And so long he went by Sea and Land, and so environed the World by many Seasons, that he found an Isle where he heard Folk speak his own Language, calling on Oxen at the Plough, such Words as Men speak to Beasts in his own Country; whereof he had great Marvel, for he knew not how it might be. But I say, that he had gone so long by Land and by Sea, that he had environed all the Earth; and environing, that is to say, going about, he was come again unto his own Borders; and if he would have passed further, he had found his Country and Things well-known. But he turned again from thence, from whence he was come. And so he lost much painful Labour, as he himself said a great while after, when that he was come Home. For it befell after, that he went unto Norway. And there a Tempest of the Sea took him, and he arrived in an Isle. And, when he was in that Isle, he knew well that it was the Isle, where he had heard speak his own Language before and the calling of the Oxen at the Plough; and that was a possible Thing.

But now it seemeth to simple Men unlearned, that Men may not go under the Earth, and also that Men should fall toward the Heaven from under. But that may not be, any more than we may fall toward Heaven from the Earth where we be. For on whatever Part of the Earth that Men dwell, either above or beneath, it seemeth always to them, that they go more up-right than any other Folk. And right as it seemeth to us that they be under us, right so it seemeth to them that we be under them. For if a Man might fall from the Earth unto the Firmament, by greater Reason the Earth and the Sea that be so great and so heavy should fall to the Firmament: but that may not be, and therefore saith our Lord God, “Non timeas Me, qui suspendi Terram ex Nihilo,” (“Have no Dread of Me, that hanged the Earth from Nought.)

And albeit that it be a possible Thing that Men may so environ all the World, nevertheless, of a 1000 Persons, not one might happen to return to his Country. For, for the Greatness of the Earth and of the Sea, Men may go by a 1000 and a 1000 other Ways, so that no Man could return perfectly toward the Parts that he came from, but if it were by Adventure and Hap, or by the Grace of God. For the Earth is full large and full great, and holds in Roundness and Environment about, by above and by beneath, 20425 Miles, after the Opinion of the old wise Astronomers; and their Sayings I reprove nought. But, after my little Wit, it seemeth me, saving their Reverence, that it is more.

And to have better Understanding I say thus. Be there imagined a Figure that hath a great Compass. And, about the Point of the great Compass that is clept the Centre, be made another little Compass. Then after, be the great Compass divided by Lines in many Parts, and let all the Lines meet at the Centre. So, that in as many Parts as the great Compass shall be parted, in so many shall be parted the little Compass that is about the Centre, albeit that the Spaces be less. Now then, let the great Compass represent the Firmament, and the little compass represent the Earth. Now then, the Firmament is divided by Astronomers into 12 Signs, and every Sign is divided into 30 Degrees; that is, 360 Degrees that the Firmament hath above. Also, be the Earth divided into as many Parts as the Firmament, and let every Part answer to a Degree of the Firmament. And wit well, that, after the Authors of Astronomy, 700 Furlongs of the Earth answer to a Degree of the Firmament, and those be 87 Miles and 4 Furlongs. Now be that multiplied by 360 Times, and then they be 31,500 Miles of 8 Furlongs, after the Miles of our Country. So much hath the Earth in Roundness and in going round about, after mine Opinion and mine Understanding.

And ye shall understand, that after the Opinion of old wise Philosophers and Astronomers, neither our Country nor Ireland nor Wales nor Scotland nor Norway nor the other Isles coasting to them be in the Superficiality counted above the Earth, as it sheweth by all the Books of Astronomy. For the Superficiality of the Earth is parted in 7 Parts for the 7 Planets, and those Parts be clept Climates. And our Parts be not of the 7 Climates, for they be descending toward the West. And also these Isles of Ind which be evenly over against us be not reckoned in the Climates. For they be over against us that be in the low Country. And the 7 Climates environing stretch them round the World.