How Did The Ancients Know The World Wasn’t Flat?

Despite the efforts of some conspiracy theorists around the globe, we know that the Earth is round. It wasn’t just a theory at one point, though, as it was widely accepted by many that the world was flat in various ancient cultures. It wasn’t until the likes of Plato and Aristotle came around and showed that the Earth was round, and since then has been recognized as scientific fact.

There were varying theories about the Earth’s flatness, with some saying that the Earth floated in the ocean as if it were a log. Others said that the Earth was a circle within a large square that sat completely stationary in space while the Sun revolved around us. It’s strange to think about these theories now, especially as humans have not only looked into but have gone into space, seeing the full scope.

During the 4th century, it became more widely accepted that the Earth was round, but how did these ancient cultures finally accept this? For generations, they believed that the Earth was flat and nobody had been into space. Did they just trust those they felt were the smartest people and ran with the idea? 

For many, they didn’t have to simply trust the scientists as they were able to see it for themselves when they were navigating. The curvature of the Earth is seen point blank when you’re traveling by air, but those in that time were typically traveling by sea and were able to see objects that were once close by disappear over the horizon.

To the naked eye of someone that hasn’t traveled by sea or air, it can be easy to see why the Earth could be considered flat. Your vision can only see so far, and it appears that the world simply ends at one point when looking out to the edge. Over time, we proved that this wasn’t the “edge” of the world, though, but rather your eyes being able to see far enough to process curvature from a distance.

There was one man who was instrumental in proving that the Earth was round. Not only did he do this, but he was able to measure the circumference of the Earth in one of the most impressive scientific processes known to mankind. We’re talking about Eratosthenes, whose experiment showed that the Earth was just over 40,000 kilometers in circumference.

Eratosthenes conducted his experiment using shadows and found that at noon during the summer solstice, there was no shadow on his stick in the city of Syene, Libya. He then measured out the distance between Syene and Alexandria by foot and found that at the same time of day, the shadow appeared at a seven-degree angle in Alexandria.

This allowed Eratosthenes to conclude that the Earth was a 360-degree sphere and that the difference in latitude between the two cities was seven degrees. Though this was pretty concrete evidence of a round Earth, it would still take some more time before it became widely accepted. Eventually, as we worked out way toward the AD, a vast majority of people around the world knew that the Earth was round.

It wasn’t until the late 19th century that there were some people who became more vocal about their belief that the Earth is flat. Much of this had to do with religious beliefs and an increase in extremist views. Religious people were becoming more contentious toward those who followed science, which is something that we still see today, perhaps more than ever.

For many modern scientists, it has been very discouraging to see the increase in people who believe that the Earth is flat. It took centuries to not only discover that it was round but to have people find out for themselves and know that it’s true. It doesn’t help that many prominent celebrities have pushed the flat earth narrative, including basketball star Kyrie Irving and reality television star Tila Tequila.

However, we know (and have known) that the Earth is round. The empirical evidence is all around us, from the changing amount of sunlight that we get on a daily basis, to using airplanes to see multiple sunsets in one day. So why are flat earthers so adamant about their belief? Where’s the advantage? For many, it simply comes down to thinking that the “government” or other “powers that be” are lying to them about everything, and the concept of a flat Earth is the easiest straw to grasp in hopes of being a contrarian.

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