Hippalus the Governor

Geographer, Explorer (2nd century BC – 1st century BC)

Hippalus was a navigator, cartographer, geographer and meteorologist who lived in the 2nd and 1st century BC. He is mostly known for his voyages in Arabia and India, as well as being a pioneer in meteorology. His travels greatly helped the Roman Empire expand its trade to the Eastern world. While he is mentioned in Ptolemy, Strabo and Pliny’s works, Hippalus’ position in history is not fully appreciated.

Hippalus travelled from Greece to Egypt and from there to India. As a meteorologist he made numerous important discoveries. The most significant one was the existence of the monsoons, periodic winds that blew in the Indian Ocean, which changed direction from north to south one half of the year and south to north the other half. These winds are termed Hippalian winds. Hippalus was the first to utilize these winds to cross the Indian Ocean on open sea, instead of next to the shore, as was typically done by sailors. Thus, his journey was much shorter in duration.

Soon after his discovery, ships started implementing the use of the monsoons as Hippalus had done, thus creating a new trading route between India and the Roman Empire. This secured a faster and safer route for the ships, free of pirates.

As a cartographer he drew maps of the shores of the Red Sea, as well as its ports. In the book Periplous of the Erythraean Sea, he is described as the first man who discovered the route from the Red Sea to the Indian peninsula via the Indian Ocean. He wrote books, none of which survives today.

His influence in the Romans and Greeks is evident from the fact that Ptolemy, one of the greatest astronomers of antiquity named the Indian Ocean Hippalian Sea in his writings. Today, a crater on the moon bares his name.

Bibliography:

Georgakopoulos, Konstantinos. Ancient Greek Scientists. Georgiades: Athens, 1996. Print.

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Hippalus the Governor

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