Geography: Traveling the World Through the Pages of a Book

Published with Permission
Written by Rea Berg

“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.”—Saint Augustine

The ancient Greek, Strabo (c. 64 B.C.–24 A.D.), is credited with writing the first complete book of geography during the years that Augustus Caesar reigned as emperor of the vast Roman Empire. Because travel was difficult in the ancient world and the fact that most people, with the exception of merchants and sailors, rarely traveled far from the homes of their birth, knowledge of the world was extremely limited. However, with the reign of peace brought about under Augustus, Strabo changed all that when he traveled extensively in what was then the known world. He traveled throughout Asia Minor, into Egypt to the border of Ethiopia, into Tuscany, and to many other parts of Europe. In his Geographica, Strabo was the first to combine the knowledge of the land and topography of regions with anthropological information, which proved invaluable to all future students of history, philosophy, and science.

Strabo’s Geographica demonstrates the importance of travel in order to develop a broad and informed knowledge of the world, its peoples, customs, and beliefs. The notion that travel expands us in good ways is summed up in Mark Twain’s maxim: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness . . . .” While this is a worthy goal and often desirable in youth, when responsibilities are few and freedom is possible, travel is an option to any and all who simply open the pages of a good book. (more…)