Thule

Thule

Overview
Thule (ˈ;
Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

: Θούλη, Thoulē), also spelled Thula, Thila, or Thyïlea, is, in classical Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

an literature and maps, a region in the far north. Though often considered to be an island in antiquity, modern interpretations of what was meant by Thule often identify it as Norway
Norway
Norway , officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a Nordic unitary constitutional monarchy whose territory comprises the western portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula, Jan Mayen, and the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard and Bouvet Island. Norway has a total area of and a population of about 4.9 million...

. Other interpretations include the Orkney Islands
Orkney Islands
Orkney also known as the Orkney Islands , is an archipelago in northern Scotland, situated north of the coast of Caithness...

, Shetland Islands
Shetland Islands
Shetland is a subarctic archipelago of Scotland that lies north and east of mainland Great Britain. The islands lie some to the northeast of Orkney and southeast of the Faroe Islands and form part of the division between the Atlantic Ocean to the west and the North Sea to the east. The total...

, and Scandinavia
Scandinavia
Scandinavia is a cultural, historical and ethno-linguistic region in northern Europe that includes the three kingdoms of Denmark, Norway and Sweden, characterized by their common ethno-cultural heritage and language. Modern Norway and Sweden proper are situated on the Scandinavian Peninsula,...

. In the Late Middle Ages and Renaissance, Thule was often identified as Iceland
Iceland
Iceland , described as the Republic of Iceland, is a Nordic and European island country in the North Atlantic Ocean, on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Iceland also refers to the main island of the country, which contains almost all the population and almost all the land area. The country has a population...

 or Greenland
Greenland
Greenland is an autonomous country within the Kingdom of Denmark, located between the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans, east of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. Though physiographically a part of the continent of North America, Greenland has been politically and culturally associated with Europe for...

.
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Thule (ˈ;
Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

: Θούλη, Thoulē), also spelled Thula, Thila, or Thyïlea, is, in classical Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

an literature and maps, a region in the far north. Though often considered to be an island in antiquity, modern interpretations of what was meant by Thule often identify it as Norway
Norway
Norway , officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a Nordic unitary constitutional monarchy whose territory comprises the western portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula, Jan Mayen, and the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard and Bouvet Island. Norway has a total area of and a population of about 4.9 million...

. Other interpretations include the Orkney Islands
Orkney Islands
Orkney also known as the Orkney Islands , is an archipelago in northern Scotland, situated north of the coast of Caithness...

, Shetland Islands
Shetland Islands
Shetland is a subarctic archipelago of Scotland that lies north and east of mainland Great Britain. The islands lie some to the northeast of Orkney and southeast of the Faroe Islands and form part of the division between the Atlantic Ocean to the west and the North Sea to the east. The total...

, and Scandinavia
Scandinavia
Scandinavia is a cultural, historical and ethno-linguistic region in northern Europe that includes the three kingdoms of Denmark, Norway and Sweden, characterized by their common ethno-cultural heritage and language. Modern Norway and Sweden proper are situated on the Scandinavian Peninsula,...

. In the Late Middle Ages and Renaissance, Thule was often identified as Iceland
Iceland
Iceland , described as the Republic of Iceland, is a Nordic and European island country in the North Atlantic Ocean, on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Iceland also refers to the main island of the country, which contains almost all the population and almost all the land area. The country has a population...

 or Greenland
Greenland
Greenland is an autonomous country within the Kingdom of Denmark, located between the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans, east of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. Though physiographically a part of the continent of North America, Greenland has been politically and culturally associated with Europe for...

. Another suggested location is Saaremaa
Saaremaa
Saaremaa is the largest island in Estonia, measuring 2,673 km². The main island of Saare County, it is located in the Baltic Sea, south of Hiiumaa island, and belongs to the West Estonian Archipelago...

 in the Baltic Sea
Baltic Sea
The Baltic Sea is a brackish mediterranean sea located in Northern Europe, from 53°N to 66°N latitude and from 20°E to 26°E longitude. It is bounded by the Scandinavian Peninsula, the mainland of Europe, and the Danish islands. It drains into the Kattegat by way of the Øresund, the Great Belt and...

.

The term ultima Thule in medieval geographies denotes any distant place located beyond the "borders of the known world". Sometimes it is used as a proper noun (Ultima Thule) as the Latin name for Greenland when Thule is used for Iceland.

Ancient geography


The Greek
Greeks
The Greeks, also known as the Hellenes , are a nation and ethnic group native to Greece, Cyprus and neighboring regions. They also form a significant diaspora, with Greek communities established around the world....

 explorer Pytheas
Pytheas
Pytheas of Massalia or Massilia , was a Greek geographer and explorer from the Greek colony, Massalia . He made a voyage of exploration to northwestern Europe at about 325 BC. He travelled around and visited a considerable part of Great Britain...

 is the first to have written of Thule, doing so in his now lost work, On the Ocean, after his travels between 330 BC and 320 BC. He supposedly was sent out by the Greek city of Massalia to see where their trade-goods were coming from. Descriptions of some of his discoveries have survived in the works of later, often skeptical, authors. Polybius
Polybius
Polybius , Greek ) was a Greek historian of the Hellenistic Period noted for his work, The Histories, which covered the period of 220–146 BC in detail. The work describes in part the rise of the Roman Republic and its gradual domination over Greece...

 in his Histories (c. 140 BC
140 BC
Year 140 BC was a year of the pre-Julian Roman calendar. At the time it was known as the Year of the Consulship of Sapiens and Caepio...

), Book XXXIV, cites Pytheas as one "who has led many people into error by saying that he traversed the whole of Britain on foot, giving the island a circumference of forty thousand stades, and telling us also about Thule, those regions in which there was no longer any proper land nor sea nor air, but a sort of mixture of all three of the consistency of a jellyfish in which one can neither walk nor sail, holding everything together, so to speak."

Strabo
Strabo
Strabo, also written Strabon was a Greek historian, geographer and philosopher.-Life:Strabo was born to an affluent family from Amaseia in Pontus , a city which he said was situated the approximate equivalent of 75 km from the Black Sea...

 in his Geography (c. 30
30
Year 30 was a common year starting on Sunday of the Julian calendar. At the time, it was known as the Year of the Consulship of Vinicius and Longinus...

), Book I, Chapter 4, mentions Thule in describing Eratosthenes
Eratosthenes
Eratosthenes of Cyrene was a Greek mathematician, poet, athlete, geographer, astronomer, and music theorist.He was the first person to use the word "geography" and invented the discipline of geography as we understand it...

' calculation of "the breadth of the inhabited world" and notes that Pytheas says it "is a six days' sail north of Britain, and is near the frozen sea." But he then doubts this claim, writing that Pytheas has "been found, upon scrutiny, to be an arch falsifier, but the men who have seen Britain and Ierne (Ireland
Ireland
Ireland is an island to the northwest of continental Europe. It is the third-largest island in Europe and the twentieth-largest island on Earth...

) do not mention Thule, though they speak of other islands, small ones, about Britain." Strabo adds the following in Book II, Chapter 5:

Now Pytheas of Massilia tells us that Thule, the most northerly of the Britannic Islands, is farthest north, and that there the circle of the summer tropic is the same as the Arctic Circle. But from the other writers I learn nothing on the subject—neither that there exists a certain island by the name of Thule, nor whether the northern regions are inhabitable up to the point where the summer tropic becomes the Arctic Circle
Arctic Circle
The Arctic Circle is one of the five major circles of latitude that mark maps of the Earth. For Epoch 2011, it is the parallel of latitude that runs north of the Equator....

.


Strabo ultimately concludes, in Book IV, Chapter 5, "Concerning Thule, our historical information is still more uncertain, on account of its outside position; for Thule, of all the countries that are named, is set farthest north."

Nearly a half century later, in 77
77
Year 77 was a common year starting on Wednesday of the Julian calendar. At the time, it was known as the Year of the Consulship of Augustus and Vespasianus...

, Pliny the Elder
Pliny the Elder
Gaius Plinius Secundus , better known as Pliny the Elder, was a Roman author, naturalist, and natural philosopher, as well as naval and army commander of the early Roman Empire, and personal friend of the emperor Vespasian...

 published his Natural History in which he also cites Pytheas' claim (in Book II, Chapter 75) that Thule is a six-day sail north of Britain. Then, when discussing the islands around Britain in Book IV, Chapter 16, he writes: "The farthest of all, which are known and spoke of, is Thule; in which there be no nights at all, as we have declared, about mid-summer, namely when the Sun passes through the sign Cancer; and contrariwise no days in mid-winter: and each of these times they suppose, do last six months, all day, or all night." Finally, in refining the island's location, he places it along the most northerly parallel of those he describes, writing in Book VI, Chapter 34,: "Last of all is the Scythian parallel, from the Rhiphean hills into Thule: wherein (as we said) it is day and night continually by turns (for six months)."

The Roman geographer Pomponius Mela
Pomponius Mela
Pomponius Mela, who wrote around AD 43, was the earliest Roman geographer. He was born in Tingentera and died c. AD 45.His short work occupies less than one hundred pages of ordinary print. It is laconic in style and deficient in method, but of pure Latinity, and occasionally relieved by pleasing...

 placed Thule north of Scythia
Scythia
In antiquity, Scythian or Scyths were terms used by the Greeks to refer to certain Iranian groups of horse-riding nomadic pastoralists who dwelt on the Pontic-Caspian steppe...

.

Other late classical writers and post-classical writers such as Orosius (384-420 A.D) and the Irish monk Dicuil
Dicuil
Dicuil, Irish monk and geographer, born in the second half of the 8th century.-Background:The exact dates of Dicuil's birth and death unknown...

 (late 8th and early 9th century), describe Thule as being North and West of both Ireland and Britain. Dicuil described Thule as being beyond islands that seem to be the Faroes, strongly suggesting Iceland. In the writings of the historian Procopius
Procopius
Procopius of Caesarea was a prominent Byzantine scholar from Palestine. Accompanying the general Belisarius in the wars of the Emperor Justinian I, he became the principal historian of the 6th century, writing the Wars of Justinian, the Buildings of Justinian and the celebrated Secret History...

, from the first half of the 6th century, Thule is a large island in the north inhabited by twenty-five tribes. It is believed that Procopius is really talking about a part of Scandinavia, since several tribes are easily identified, including the Geat
Geat
Geats , and sometimes Goths) were a North Germanic tribe inhabiting what is now Götaland in modern Sweden...

s (Gautoi) in present-day Sweden and the Saami
Sami people
The Sami people, also spelled Sámi, or Saami, are the arctic indigenous people inhabiting Sápmi, which today encompasses parts of far northern Sweden, Norway, Finland, the Kola Peninsula of Russia, and the border area between south and middle Sweden and Norway. The Sámi are Europe’s northernmost...

 (Scrithiphini). He also writes that when the Heruls returned, they passed the Varni
Varni
The Varni , Varini , Varinnae , Wærne/Werne and Warnii probably refer to a little known Germanic tribe. The name would have meant the "defenders". They lived in northern Germany...

 and the Danes and then crossed the sea to Thule, where they settled beside the Geats.

Ancient literature


Virgil
Virgil
Publius Vergilius Maro, usually called Virgil or Vergil in English , was an ancient Roman poet of the Augustan period. He is known for three major works of Latin literature, the Eclogues , the Georgics, and the epic Aeneid...

 coined the term Ultima Thule (Georgics
Georgics
The Georgics is a poem in four books, likely published in 29 BC. It is the second major work by the Latin poet Virgil, following his Eclogues and preceding the Aeneid. It is a poem that draws on many prior sources and influenced many later authors from antiquity to the present...

, 1. 30) meaning furthest land as a symbolic reference to denote a far-off land or an unattainable goal.

The 1st century BC Greek astronomer Geminus
Geminus
Geminus of Rhodes , was a Greek astronomer and mathematician, who flourished in the 1st century BC. An astronomy work of his, the Introduction to the Phenomena, still survives; it was intended as an introductory astronomy book for students. He also wrote a work on mathematics, of which only...

 of Rhodes claimed that the etymology of Thule came from an archaic word for the polar night
Polar night
The polar night occurs when the night lasts for more than 24 hours. This occurs only inside the polar circles. The opposite phenomenon, the polar day, or midnight sun, occurs when the sun stays above the horizon for more than 24 hours.-Description:...

 phenomenon – "the place where the sun goes to rest". Dionysius Periegetes
Dionysius Periegetes
Dionysius Periegetes was the author of a description of the habitable world in Greek hexameter verse written in a terse and elegant style...

 in his De situ habitabilis orbis also touched upon this subject as did Martianus Capella
Martianus Capella
Martianus Minneus Felix Capella was a pagan writer of Late Antiquity, one of the earliest developers of the system of the seven liberal arts that structured early medieval education...

. Avienus in his 'Ora Maritima' added that during the summer on Thule night lasted only two hours, a clear reference to the midnight sun.

Cleomedes
Cleomedes
Cleomedes was a Greek astronomer who is known chiefly for his book On the Circular Motions of the Celestial Bodies.-Placing his work chronologically:...

 referenced Pytheas' journey to Thule, but added no new information.

A novel
Novel
A novel is a book of long narrative in literary prose. The genre has historical roots both in the fields of the medieval and early modern romance and in the tradition of the novella. The latter supplied the present generic term in the late 18th century....

 in Greek by Antonius Diogenes
Antonius Diogenes
Antonius Diogenes was the author of a Greek romance, whom scholars have placed in the 2nd century CE. His age was unknown even to Photius, who has preserved an outline of his romance. It consisted of twenty-four books, was written in the form of a dialogue about travels, and bore the title of The...

 entitled The Wonders Beyond Thule appeared c. AD 150 or earlier. Gerald N. Sandy, in the introduction to his translation of Photius' ninth-century summary of the work,
surmises that Thule was "probably Iceland."

The Latin grammarian Gaius Julius Solinus
Gaius Julius Solinus
Gaius Julius Solinus, Latin grammarian and compiler, probably flourished in the early third century. Historical scholar Theodor Mommsen dates him to the middle of the third century....

 in the 3rd century AD, wrote in his Polyhistor that Thule was a 5 days sail from Orkney:

The 4th century Virgilian commentator Servius also believed that Thule sat close by to the Orkney Islands:

Early in the fifth century AD Claudian
Claudian
Claudian was a Roman poet, who worked for Emperor Honorius and the latter's general Stilicho.A Greek-speaking citizen of Alexandria and probably not a Christian convert, Claudian arrived in Rome before 395. He made his mark with a eulogy of his two young patrons, Probinus and Olybrius, thereby...

, in his poem, On the Fourth Consulship of the Emperor Honorius, Book VIII, rhapsodizes on the conquests of the emperor Theodosius I
Theodosius I
Theodosius I , also known as Theodosius the Great, was Roman Emperor from 379 to 395. Theodosius was the last emperor to rule over both the eastern and the western halves of the Roman Empire. During his reign, the Goths secured control of Illyricum after the Gothic War, establishing their homeland...

, declaring that the "Orcades
Orkney Islands
Orkney also known as the Orkney Islands , is an archipelago in northern Scotland, situated north of the coast of Caithness...

 [Orkney Islands] ran red with Saxon slaughter; Thule was warm with the blood of Picts; ice-bound Hibernia
Hibernia
Hibernia is the Classical Latin name for the island of Ireland. The name Hibernia was taken from Greek geographical accounts. During his exploration of northwest Europe , Pytheas of Massilia called the island Ierne . In his book Geographia Hibernia is the Classical Latin name for the island of...

 [Ireland] wept for the heaps of slain Scots." This implies that Thule was Scotland
Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

. But in Against Rufinias, the Second Poem, Claudian writes of "Thule lying icebound beneath the pole-star." Jordanes
Jordanes
Jordanes, also written Jordanis or Jornandes, was a 6th century Roman bureaucrat, who turned his hand to history later in life....

 in his Getica also wrote that Thule sat under the pole-star.

Over time the known world came to be viewed as bounded in the east by India and in the west by Thule, as expressed in the Consolation of Philosophy
Consolation of Philosophy
Consolation of Philosophy is a philosophical work by Boethius, written around the year 524. It has been described as the single most important and influential work in the West on Medieval and early Renaissance Christianity, and is also the last great Western work that can be called Classical.-...

(c. AD 524) by Boethius.
For though the earth, as far as India's shore, tremble before the laws you give, though Thule bow to your service on earth's farthest bounds, yet if thou canst not drive away black cares, if thou canst not put to flight complaints, then is no true power thine.


The Roman historian Tacitus
Tacitus
Publius Cornelius Tacitus was a senator and a historian of the Roman Empire. The surviving portions of his two major works—the Annals and the Histories—examine the reigns of the Roman Emperors Tiberius, Claudius, Nero and those who reigned in the Year of the Four Emperors...

, in his book chronicling the life of his father-in-law, Agricola
Gnaeus Julius Agricola
Gnaeus Julius Agricola was a Roman general responsible for much of the Roman conquest of Britain. His biography, the De vita et moribus Iulii Agricolae, was the first published work of his son-in-law, the historian Tacitus, and is the source for most of what is known about him.Born to a noted...

, describes how the Romans knew that Britain (which Agricola was commander of) was an island. He writes of a Roman ship that circumnavigated Britain, and discovered the Orkney Islands and says the ship's crew even sighted Thule. However their orders were not to explore there, as winter was at hand.

Seneca the Younger
Seneca the Younger
Lucius Annaeus Seneca was a Roman Stoic philosopher, statesman, dramatist, and in one work humorist, of the Silver Age of Latin literature. He was tutor and later advisor to emperor Nero...

 writes of a day when new lands will be discovered past Thule. This was later quoted widely in the context of Christopher Columbus
Christopher Columbus
Christopher Columbus was an explorer, colonizer, and navigator, born in the Republic of Genoa, in northwestern Italy. Under the auspices of the Catholic Monarchs of Spain, he completed four voyages across the Atlantic Ocean that led to general European awareness of the American continents in the...

' discovery of America.

Inhabitants of Thule


The inhabitants or people of Thule are described in most detail by Strabo
Strabo
Strabo, also written Strabon was a Greek historian, geographer and philosopher.-Life:Strabo was born to an affluent family from Amaseia in Pontus , a city which he said was situated the approximate equivalent of 75 km from the Black Sea...

 in his Geographica
Géographica
Géographica is the French-language magazine of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society , published under the Society's French name, the Société géographique royale du Canada . Introduced in 1997, Géographica is not a stand-alone publication, but is published as an irregular supplement to La...

, having preserved fragments of the account of Pytheas
Pytheas
Pytheas of Massalia or Massilia , was a Greek geographer and explorer from the Greek colony, Massalia . He made a voyage of exploration to northwestern Europe at about 325 BC. He travelled around and visited a considerable part of Great Britain...

 who was an alleged eye-witness in the 4th century BC:
Solinus in his Polyhistor repeated these descriptions, noting that the people of Thule had a fertile land where they grew a good production of corn and fruits.

Claudian believed that the inhabitants of Thule were Picts
Picts
The Picts were a group of Late Iron Age and Early Mediaeval people living in what is now eastern and northern Scotland. There is an association with the distribution of brochs, place names beginning 'Pit-', for instance Pitlochry, and Pictish stones. They are recorded from before the Roman conquest...

. This is supported by a physical description of the inhabitants of Thule by the Roman poet Silius Italicus
Silius Italicus
Silius Italicus, in full Tiberius Catius Asconius Silius Italicus , was a Roman consul, orator, and Latin epic poet of the 1st century CE,...

, who wrote that the people of Thule were blue painted:
The Picts
Picts
The Picts were a group of Late Iron Age and Early Mediaeval people living in what is now eastern and northern Scotland. There is an association with the distribution of brochs, place names beginning 'Pit-', for instance Pitlochry, and Pictish stones. They are recorded from before the Roman conquest...

 are often said to have derived their name from Latin pingere "to paint"; pictus, "painted".

Eustathius of Thessalonica
Eustathius of Thessalonica
Archbishop Eustathius of Thessalonica was a Greek bishop and scholar. He is most noted for his contemporary account of the sack of Thessalonike by the Normans in 1185, for his orations and for his commentaries on Homer, which incorporate many remarks by much earlier researchers.- Life :After being...

 in his 12th century commentary on the Iliad
Iliad
The Iliad is an epic poem in dactylic hexameters, traditionally attributed to Homer. Set during the Trojan War, the ten-year siege of the city of Troy by a coalition of Greek states, it tells of the battles and events during the weeks of a quarrel between King Agamemnon and the warrior Achilles...

, wrote that the inhabitants of Thule were at war with a dwarf-like stature tribe only 20 fingers in height. The American classical scholar Charles Anthon
Charles Anthon
Charles Anthon was an American classical scholar.-Life:After graduating with honors at Columbia College in 1815, he began the study of law, and in 1819 was admitted to the bar, but never practiced...

 believed this legend may have been rooted in history (although exaggerated), if the dwarf or pygmy tribe were interpreted as being a smaller aboriginal tribe of Britain the people on Thule had encountered.

Middle Ages to Nineteenth Century


During the Middle Ages
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

 the name was used first of all to denote Iceland, such as by Dicuil
Dicuil
Dicuil, Irish monk and geographer, born in the second half of the 8th century.-Background:The exact dates of Dicuil's birth and death unknown...

, by the Anglo-Saxon
Anglo-Saxon
Anglo-Saxon may refer to:* Anglo-Saxons, a group that invaded Britain** Old English, their language** Anglo-Saxon England, their history, one of various ships* White Anglo-Saxon Protestant, an ethnicity* Anglo-Saxon economy, modern macroeconomic term...

 monk Venerable Bede in De ratione temporum, by the Landnámabók
Landnámabók
Landnámabók , often shortened to Landnáma, is a medieval Icelandic written work describing in considerable detail the settlement of Iceland by the Norse in the 9th and 10th centuries AD.-Landnáma:...

, by the anonymous Historia Norwegie and by the German bishop Adam of Bremen
Adam of Bremen
Adam of Bremen was a German medieval chronicler. He lived and worked in the second half of the eleventh century. He is most famous for his chronicle Gesta Hammaburgensis Ecclesiae Pontificum .-Background:Little is known of his life other than hints from his own chronicles...

 in his Deeds of Bishops of the Hamburg Church, where they cite ancient writers' use of Thule but also new knowledge since the end of antiquity. All these authors also understood that other islands were situated to the north of Britain.

Petrarch
Petrarch
Francesco Petrarca , known in English as Petrarch, was an Italian scholar, poet and one of the earliest humanists. Petrarch is often called the "Father of Humanism"...

 in the 14th century wrote in his Epistolae familiares
Epistolae familiares
Epistolae familiares was originally called by Petrarch Epistolarum mearum ad diversos liber , which was shortened later to the current title....

 (or Familiar Letters) that Thule lay in the unknown regions of the far north-west.

A madrigal by Thomas Weelkes
Thomas Weelkes
Thomas Weelkes was an English composer and organist. He became organist of Winchester College in 1598, moving to Chichester Cathedral. His works are chiefly vocal, and include madrigals, anthems and services.-Life:Weelkes was baptised in the little village church of Elsted in Sussex on 25...

 entitled Thule from 1600, describes it thus:

Thule, the period of cosmography,
Doth vaunt of Hecla, whose sulphureous fire
Doth melt the frozen clime and thaw the sky;
Trinacrian Etna's flames ascend not higher...

Note: Hekla is an Icelandic volcano.
Thule is referred to in Goethe
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was a German writer, pictorial artist, biologist, theoretical physicist, and polymath. He is considered the supreme genius of modern German literature. His works span the fields of poetry, drama, prose, philosophy, and science. His Faust has been called the greatest long...

's poem "Der König in Thule
Der König in Thule
Der König in Thule, "The King in Thule", is a poem by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, written in 1774. It was later used by the poet as a brief passage of his masterwork, the tragedy Faust .-History:...

" (1774), famously set to music by Franz Schubert
Franz Schubert
Franz Peter Schubert was an Austrian composer.Although he died at an early age, Schubert was tremendously prolific. He wrote some 600 Lieder, nine symphonies , liturgical music, operas, some incidental music, and a large body of chamber and solo piano music...

 (D 367, 1816), and in the collection Ultima Thule (1880) by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was an American poet and educator whose works include "Paul Revere's Ride", The Song of Hiawatha, and Evangeline...

.

Edgar Allan Poe
Edgar Allan Poe
Edgar Allan Poe was an American author, poet, editor and literary critic, considered part of the American Romantic Movement. Best known for his tales of mystery and the macabre, Poe was one of the earliest American practitioners of the short story and is considered the inventor of the detective...

's poem "Dream-Land" (1844) begins with the following stanza:

By a route obscure and lonely,
Haunted by ill angels only,
Where an Eidolon, named Night,
On a black throne reigns upright,
I have reached these lands but newly
From an ultimate dim Thule –
From a wild weird clime, that lieth, sublime,
Out of Space – out of Time.


Modern use


A municipality in northern Greenland (Avannaa
Avannaa
Avannaa/Nordgrønland was one of the three counties of Greenland, until 31 December 2008...

) was formerly named
Geographical renaming
Geographical renaming is the changing of the name of a geographical feature or area. This can range from the uncontroversial change of a street name to a highly disputed change to the name of a country. Some names are changed locally but the new names are not recognised by other countries,...

 Thule after the mythical place
Mythical place
Places which appear in mythology, folklore or religious texts or tradition, but which are not probably genuine places, include:...

. The Thule People
Thule people
The Thule or proto-Inuit were the ancestors of all modern Inuit. They developed in coastal Alaska by AD 1000 and expanded eastwards across Canada, reaching Greenland by the 13th century. In the process, they replaced people of the earlier Dorset culture that had previously inhabited the region...

, a paleo-Eskimo
Paleo-Eskimo
The Paleo-Eskimo were the peoples who inhabited the Arctic region from Chukotka in present-day Russia across North America to Greenland prior to the rise of the modern Inuit and/or Eskimo and related cultures...

 culture and a predecessor of modern Inuit
Inuit
The Inuit are a group of culturally similar indigenous peoples inhabiting the Arctic regions of Canada , Denmark , Russia and the United States . Inuit means “the people” in the Inuktitut language...

 Greenlanders, were named after the Thule region. In 1953, Thule became Thule Air Base
Thule Air Base
Thule Air Base or Thule Air Base/Pituffik Airport , is the United States Air Force's northernmost base, located north of the Arctic Circle and from the North Pole on the northwest side of the island of Greenland. It is approximately east of the North Magnetic Pole.-Overview:Thule Air Base is the...

, operated by United States Air Force
United States Air Force
The United States Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the American uniformed services. Initially part of the United States Army, the USAF was formed as a separate branch of the military on September 18, 1947 under the National Security Act of...

. The population was forced to resettle to Qaanaaq
Qaanaaq
Qaanaaq is the main town in the northern part of the Qaasuitsup municipality in northwestern Greenland. It is one of the northernmost towns in the world. The inhabitants of Qaanaaq speak the West Greenlandic language and many also speak Inuktun. The town has a population of 626 as of 2010...

, 67 miles to the north (76°31′50.21"N 68°42′36.13"W only 840 NM
Nautical mile
The nautical mile is a unit of length that is about one minute of arc of latitude along any meridian, but is approximately one minute of arc of longitude only at the equator...

 from the North Pole
North Pole
The North Pole, also known as the Geographic North Pole or Terrestrial North Pole, is, subject to the caveats explained below, defined as the point in the northern hemisphere where the Earth's axis of rotation meets its surface...

).

Southern Thule
Southern Thule
Southern Thule is a collection of the three southernmost islands in the South Sandwich Islands: Bellingshausen, Cook, and Thule . Southern Thule is British territory, though claimed by Argentina. The island group is barren, windswept, bitterly cold, and uninhabited. It has an extenzive EEZ rich...

 is a collection of the three southernmost islands in the South Sandwich Islands  in the South Atlantic Ocean, one of which is called Thule Island
Thule Island
Thule Island, also called Morrell Island, is one of the southernmost of the South Sandwich Islands, part of the grouping known as Southern Thule. It is named, on account of its remote location, after the mythical land of Thule, said by ancient geographers to lie at the extreme end of the earth...

. The island group is overseas territory of the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 and uninhabited.

The Scottish Gaelic
Scottish Gaelic language
Scottish Gaelic is a Celtic language native to Scotland. A member of the Goidelic branch of the Celtic languages, Scottish Gaelic, like Modern Irish and Manx, developed out of Middle Irish, and thus descends ultimately from Primitive Irish....

 for Iceland
Iceland
Iceland , described as the Republic of Iceland, is a Nordic and European island country in the North Atlantic Ocean, on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Iceland also refers to the main island of the country, which contains almost all the population and almost all the land area. The country has a population...

 is "Innis Tile", which means literally the "Isle of Thule". Ultima Thule was the title of the 1929 novel by Henry Handel Richardson
Henry Handel Richardson
Henry Handel Richardson, the pseudonym used by Ethel Florence Lindesay Richardson, was an Australian author. She took the name "Henry Handel" because at that time, many people did not take women's writing seriously, so she used a male name...

, set in colonial Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

.

Scientists of the Institut of Geodesy and Geoinformationtechnique of the Technical University of Berlin were testing the antique maps of Ptolemy
Ptolemy
Claudius Ptolemy , was a Roman citizen of Egypt who wrote in Greek. He was a mathematician, astronomer, geographer, astrologer, and poet of a single epigram in the Greek Anthology. He lived in Egypt under Roman rule, and is believed to have been born in the town of Ptolemais Hermiou in the...

 and recognized a pattern of calculation mistakes which occurred if one tried to convert the old coordinates from Ptolemy into modern carthographical maps. After correcting for the mistakes, the scientists mapped Ptolemy's Thule to the Norwegian
Norway
Norway , officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a Nordic unitary constitutional monarchy whose territory comprises the western portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula, Jan Mayen, and the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard and Bouvet Island. Norway has a total area of and a population of about 4.9 million...

 island Smøla
Smøla
Smøla is a municipality in Møre og Romsdal county, Norway. It is part of the Nordmøre region. The administrative centre of the municipality is the village of Hopen, other villages include Dyrnes, Råket, and Veiholmen.-General information:...

.

Additionally, Thule lends its name to the 69th element in the periodic table
Periodic table
The periodic table of the chemical elements is a tabular display of the 118 known chemical elements organized by selected properties of their atomic structures. Elements are presented by increasing atomic number, the number of protons in an atom's atomic nucleus...

, Thulium
Thulium
Thulium is a chemical element that has the symbol Tm and atomic number 69. Thulium is the second least abundant of the lanthanides . It is an easily workable metal with a bright silvery-gray luster...

.

Ultima Thule is also the name of a location in the Mammoth Cave system. It was formerly the terminus of the known-explorable southeastern (upstream) end of the passage called "Main Cave," before discoveries made in 1908 by Ed Bishop
Ed Bishop
Ed Bishop was an American film, television, stage and radio actor based in Britain.-Early life:Bishop served in the US Army from 8 October 1952 to 24 September 1954, working as a disc jockey with the Armed Forces Radio at St. Johns in Newfoundland...

 and Max Kaemper
Max Kaemper
Max Kämper was a German citizen and engineer.His 1908 survey and map of Mammoth Cave, Kentucky represent the first accurate instrumental survey of portions of the cave system...

 showed an area accessible beyond it, now the location of the Violet City Entrance. The Violet City Lantern tour offered at the cave passes through Ultima Thule near the conclusion of the route.

Nazi "Aryan" Thule


Nazi occultists believed in a historical Thule/Hyperborea as the ancient origin of the Aryan race
Aryan race
The Aryan race is a concept historically influential in Western culture in the period of the late 19th century and early 20th century. It derives from the idea that the original speakers of the Indo-European languages and their descendants up to the present day constitute a distinctive race or...

. Much of this fascination was due to rumours surrounding the Oera Linda Book "found" by Cornelis Over de Linden during the 19th Century. The Oera Linda Book was translated into German in 1933 and was favored by Heinrich Himmler
Heinrich Himmler
Heinrich Luitpold Himmler was Reichsführer of the SS, a military commander, and a leading member of the Nazi Party. As Chief of the German Police and the Minister of the Interior from 1943, Himmler oversaw all internal and external police and security forces, including the Gestapo...

. The book has since been thoroughly discredited.

The Traditionalist School
Traditionalist School
The term Traditionalist School is used by Mark Sedgwick and other authors to denote a school of thought, also known as Integral Traditionalism or Perennialism to denote an esoteric movement developed by authors such as French metaphysician René Guénon, German-Swiss...

 expositor Rene Guenon
René Guénon
René Guénon , also known as Shaykh `Abd al-Wahid Yahya was a French author and intellectual who remains an influential figure in the domain of metaphysics, having written on topics ranging from metaphysics, sacred science and traditional studies to symbolism and initiation.In his writings, he...

 believed in the existence of ancient Thule on "initiatic grounds alone". According to its emblem, the Thule Society
Thule Society
The Thule Society , originally the Studiengruppe für germanisches Altertum , was a German occultist and völkisch group in Munich, named after a mythical northern country from Greek legend...

 was founded on August 18, 1918. It had close links to the Deutsche Arbeiter Partei (DAP), later the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (NSDAP, the Nazi party). One of its three founding members was Lanz von Liebenfels
Lanz von Liebenfels
Adolf Josef Lanz aka Jörg Lanz, who called himself Lanz von Liebenfels was an Austrian publicist and journalist...

 (1874–1954). In his biography of Liebenfels (Der Mann, der Hitler die Ideen gab, Munich 1985), the Viennese psychologist and author Wilhelm Dahm wrote: "The Thule Gesellschaft name originated from mythical Thule, a Nordic equivalent of the vanished culture of Atlantis
Atlantis
Atlantis is a legendary island first mentioned in Plato's dialogues Timaeus and Critias, written about 360 BC....

. A race of giant supermen lived in Thule, linked into the Cosmos through magical powers. They had psychic and technological energies far exceeding the technical achievements of the 20th century. This knowledge was to be put to use to save the Fatherland and create a new race of Nordic Aryan Atlanteans. A new Messiah
Messiah
A messiah is a redeemer figure expected or foretold in one form or another by a religion. Slightly more widely, a messiah is any redeemer figure. Messianic beliefs or theories generally relate to eschatological improvement of the state of humanity or the world, in other words the World to...

 would come forward to lead the people to this goal." In his history of the SA
Sturmabteilung
The Sturmabteilung functioned as a paramilitary organization of the National Socialist German Workers' Party . It played a key role in Adolf Hitler's rise to power in the 1920s and 1930s...

 (Mit ruhig festem Schritt, 1998), Wilfred von Oven
Wilfred von Oven
Wilfred von Oven was between 1943 and the German capitulation in 1945 the personal Press adjutant of Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels....

, Joseph Goebbels
Joseph Goebbels
Paul Joseph Goebbels was a German politician and Reich Minister of Propaganda in Nazi Germany from 1933 to 1945. As one of Adolf Hitler's closest associates and most devout followers, he was known for his zealous oratory and anti-Semitism...

' press adjutant from 1943 to 1945, confirmed that Pytheas' Thule was the historical Thule for the Thule Gesellschaft.

See also


  • Agharta
  • Aristeas
    Aristeas
    Aristeas was a semi-legendary Greek poet and miracle-worker, a native of Proconnesus in Asia Minor, active ca. 7th century BCE. In book IV of The Histories, Herodotus reports...

  • Atlantis
    Atlantis
    Atlantis is a legendary island first mentioned in Plato's dialogues Timaeus and Critias, written about 360 BC....

  • Avalon
    Avalon
    Avalon is a legendary island featured in the Arthurian legend. It first appears in Geoffrey of Monmouth's 1136 pseudohistorical account Historia Regum Britanniae as the place where King Arthur's sword Excalibur was forged and later where Arthur was...

  • Baltia
    Baltia
    Baltia or Basilia is a legendary island in Roman mythology, said to be in northern Europe.-Sources:Pliny the Elder :Diodorus Siculus :...

  • Brittia
    Brittia
    Brittia according to Procopius was an island he considered to be known to the inhabitants of the Low Countries under Frankish rule , corresponding both to a real island used for burial and a mythological Isle of the Blessed, to which the souls of the dead are transported.Procopius's Brittia lies...

  • El Dorado
    El Dorado
    El Dorado is the name of a Muisca tribal chief who covered himself with gold dust and, as an initiation rite, dived into a highland lake.Later it became the name of a legendary "Lost City of Gold" that has fascinated – and so far eluded – explorers since the days of the Spanish Conquistadors...

  • Hyperborea
  • Iram of the Pillars
    Iram of the Pillars
    Iram of the Pillars , also called Aram, Iram, Irum, Irem, Erum, Wabar, Ubar, or the City of a Thousand Pillars, is a lost city on the Arabian Peninsula.-Introduction:Ubar, a name of a region or a name of a people, was mentioned in ancient records, and was spoken of in folk...

  • Mythical place
    Mythical place
    Places which appear in mythology, folklore or religious texts or tradition, but which are not probably genuine places, include:...

  • Phantom island
    Phantom island
    Phantom islands are islands that were believed to exist, and appeared on maps for a period of time during recorded history, but were later removed after they were proved to be nonexistent...

  • Shambhala
    Shambhala
    In Tibetan Buddhist tradition, Shambhala or Shangri-la is a mythical kingdom hidden somewhere in Inner Asia...

  • Southern Thule
    Southern Thule
    Southern Thule is a collection of the three southernmost islands in the South Sandwich Islands: Bellingshausen, Cook, and Thule . Southern Thule is British territory, though claimed by Argentina. The island group is barren, windswept, bitterly cold, and uninhabited. It has an extenzive EEZ rich...

  • Thule people
    Thule people
    The Thule or proto-Inuit were the ancestors of all modern Inuit. They developed in coastal Alaska by AD 1000 and expanded eastwards across Canada, reaching Greenland by the 13th century. In the process, they replaced people of the earlier Dorset culture that had previously inhabited the region...

  • Thule Society
    Thule Society
    The Thule Society , originally the Studiengruppe für germanisches Altertum , was a German occultist and völkisch group in Munich, named after a mythical northern country from Greek legend...

  • Utopia
    Utopia
    Utopia is an ideal community or society possessing a perfect socio-politico-legal system. The word was imported from Greek by Sir Thomas More for his 1516 book Utopia, describing a fictional island in the Atlantic Ocean. The term has been used to describe both intentional communities that attempt...



Films