Pytheas : biography

The standard texts have Berrice today, as well as Bergos for Vergos in the same list of islands. The Scandiae islands are more of a problem, as they could be Scandinavia, but other islands had that name as well. Moreover Procopius saysDe Bello Gothico, Chapter 15. that the earlier name of Scandinavia was Thule and that it was the home of the Goths. The fact that Pytheas returned from the vicinity of the Baltic favors Procopius’s view. The fact that Pytheas lived centuries before the colonization of Iceland and Greenland by European agriculturalists makes them less likely candidates, as Thule was populated and its soil was tilled.

Concerning the people of Thule Strabo says of Pytheas, but grudgingly:Geographica . … he might possibly seem to have made adequate use of the facts as regards the people who live close to the frozen zone, when he says that, … the people live on millet and other herbs, and on fruits and roots; and where there are grain and honey, the people get their beverage, also, from them. As for the grain, he says, – since they have no pure sunshine – they pound it out in large storehouses, after first gathering in the ears thither; for the threshing floors become useless because of this lack of sunshine and because of the rains.

What he seems to be describing is an agricultural country that uses barns for threshing grain rather than the Mediterranean outside floor of sun-baked mud and manufactures a drink, possibly mead.Nelson points out that this passage in Strabo contains "ambiguity": he could mean either one drink made from grain and honey, in which case it would have to be mead unless one classified it as a combination of mead and beer, or two drinks, mead and beer. Strabo uses the singular pōma for "beverage" but the neuter singular does not exclude a type of which there are two specifics. Some mead also is and was made with hops and is strained briefly through grain (see mead) The issue remains. See