Ancient Cassiterides

Topics: Iberian Peninsula, Tin, Portugal Pages: 2 (553 words) Published: January 7, 2012
Ancient geography
The Cassiterides, meaning Tin Islands (from the Greek word for tin: Κασσίτερος/Kassiteros), are an ancient geographical name of islands that were regarded as situated somewhere near the west coasts of Europe. The traditional assumption, ignoring Strabo, is that Cassiterides refer to Great Britain, based on the significant tin deposits in Cornwall.

Herodotus (430 BC) had only dimly heard of the Cassiterides, "from which we are said to have our tin," but did not discount the islands as legendary.[3] Later writers — Posidonius, Diodorus Siculus,[4] Strabo[5] and others — call them smallish islands off ("some way off," Strabo says) the northwest coast of the Iberian Peninsula, which contained tin mines or, according to Strabo, tin and lead mines. A passage in Diodorus derives the name rather from their nearness to the tin districts of Northwest Iberia. Ptolemy and Dionysios Periegetes mentioned them — the former as ten small islands in Northwest Iberia far off the coast and arranged symbolically as a ring, and the latter in connection with the mythical Hesperides. Probably written in the first century BC, the verse Circumnavigation of the World, whose anonymous author is called the "Pseudo-Scymnus," places two tin islands on the upper part of the Adriatic Sea and mentioned the marketplace Osor on the island of Cres, where extraordinary high-quality tin could be bought.[6][7] Pliny the Elder, on the other hand, represents the Cassiterides as fronting Celtiberia. At a time when geographical knowledge of the West was still scanty, and when the secrets of the tin-trade were still successfully guarded by the seamen of Gades and others who dealt in the metal, the Greeks knew only that tin came to them by sea from the far West, and the idea of tin-producing islands easily arose. Later, when the West was better explored, it was found that tin actually came from two regions: Northwest Iberia and Cornwall. Diodorus reports: "For there are many mines of...
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