Today is Columbus Day. Please honor the occasion by gathering around your family, talking to your friends and neighbors, and mentioning to your casual acquaintances that it isn’t true that people believed that the world was flat until Columbus proved them wrong! The ancients believed that the world is round and so did the people of the Middle Ages. Plato and Aristotle talk about the sphericity of the earth, as did the medieval theologians and scholars. For the easiest proof of that, just read Dante! Furthermore, the sailors and navigators of the Middle Ages knew the world was round, and the maps and navigation techniques of the time demonstrate that beyond all doubt. The Columbus myth came from Washington Irving, the 19th century American writer, who wrote a not very scholarly biography of the explorer. If you still don’t believe me, read this: Myth: “In the days of Christopher Columbus, everyone thought the world was flat.”
I continue to be astonished when I hear this scholarly howler repeated by people who should know better. Today, strike a blow for truth by pointing this out to everyone you can. Maybe we can begin the process of stamping out this urban legend.