Hecataeus of Miletus

Did you ever wonder who was the first person known to have written about Fuengirola and did you stay awake in geography lessons at school? If yes to both read on.  Because this week Dr Quien has set his time travel coordinates to around 500 BC to meet Hecataus of Melita, the first known Greek historian, the father of modern geography and the first person known to have written about the location of Fuengirola.   

“Welcome to my report from Syalis, my time traveling signature white boat with a blue cover has remained on the beach at Los Boliches and traveled back in time to around 500 B.C.  Two things I should mention about my time travel technology, is that I have the augmented electronic abilities that allow me to speak in any language, like an advanced version of the ‘translate’ app on your phone.  The relevance of this to my role as a fake news reporter is that I am able to interview people from everywhere and anytime, which I will do occasionally through this series.  

My interview today is none other than Hecataeus of Melita, a serious historical character, the first known Greek historian and the ‘father’ of modern geography.  If history and geography bore you, don’t go, you’re not alone, but my man Hecataus is fun, and (to keep you awake)  we are going to learn a little about the meaning of some obscure 1980’s music. 

Having arrived in Syalis around 500, B.C. I walked the beach and crossed the rivers until I got to the location of the current castle where a single lookout tower built by the Phoenicians a couple of hundred years before still stood.   Hecataeus of Melita was on his journey and when I asked him for an interview, he invited me for a drink.  The night was a whirl as we drank copious amounts of the local white wine and ate wild boar with a range of vegetables in the old Phoenician quarter of town.   The Phoenicians left seventy five years ago, the whole of this part of Spain is under local rule with the protection of the Carthagens from Tunis in North Africa; the current dominant power in the Mediterranean.  Whilst the huge Carthagen trading ships and military escorts travel between the trading ports of Malaga and Cadiz, they have little need for the port of Syalis and mostly sail past it.  The infrastructure of the Phoenician town remains in use and the local tribes have built more wooden huts.  The town is not as colourful and industrious as it was; they still worship multiple deities and are a mix of cultures and races.  Cats are still in town and some wild dogs can be heard howling outside.      

As the night progressed, under the influence of the amazing local wine, Hecataeus explained the world to me and how it centered around the Carthagen sea.  He explained how they knew for certain the world was a flat disk because the North Star never moved.  Everything has an order and every person is ordained to play a role.  He told how his wealthy family had educated him to use the Greek alphabet that had been handed down to the Phoenicians and how he was writing a book of his journey.  He explained enthusiastically how the word Geo- is derived from the Greek word meaning ‘earth, ground or land’.  Another Greek word graph which means ‘to write’.  His plan was to write about his journeys and describe locations in relation to the ground that they occupy, from this he would make his new and exciting science of Geo-graphy that will be taught in academies across the entire Mediterranean.  While receiving possibly the first geography lesson in Spain and hearing about Egypt, Persia, Syria and places I didn’t know existed, we drank about 6 bottles of wine.  When it was all said, we agreed to get some rest and the next day he would walk along the river with me while I interviewed him for my news report.  

The next morning we both grossly overslept. It had been raining heavily and it was late afternoon when we left.  Neither of us were in fit condition for an interview, but he had to leave for The Pillars of Hercules (Gibraltar) so this is our last opportunity.  It had been raining and the river was in full flow.  We walked along the castle side of the river, past villas that had been converted to tribal huts.  Stones were rearranged by the tribal communities who lived beside the river.  Hecataeus did not speak much for the first hour of our walk, and gave short replies to my questions.  After a few kilometres we found a place to cross the freezing cold river and at the other side he emerged full of life and would not stop talking until we got back.  He told me everything, the secrets of the world, the location of treasures and the deepest wisdom of life.  It was very interesting, but due to my headache and his booming voice and the sound of the flowing river I could not really hear him properly.  He told me of another book he was writing about Greek Mythology.  The first lines of the book would be “I write what I deem true; for the stories of the Greeks are manifold and seem to me ridiculous.” He was particularly aiming his wroth at families who believed themselves descended from the gods.  

Much of what he talked about seemed abstract and about his opinions on the world in general.  As this was not the theme I had come to interview him about, when we were walking back along the North side of the river, I asked him his opinions on this location.  He enlightened me, he said, no one has yet understood the potential of this palace, look at that mountain and the huge south facing hills with soil, the water font at the base of the castle, underground springs, 5 rivers, flat planes with good soil, a natural harbour and shallow water for fish to breed.  He then explained another greek word, geo-politics, which results in the nice places like this becoming the property of larger more powerful ‘empires’.  As he said this, a bolt of lightning flashed across the sea, the early evening sky lit up, we exchanged looks that said without saying, ‘that was strange’.   He described the location as being strategic in the sea routes, it could support an army and had lookout points across the whole western coast of the world.  And that whilst it was only on a sea route now, the new invention of roads for armies, horses and carriages are being built all over the world and would one day make this an even more important location.  He went on, that in a world ruled by violence, strategic points would always be owned only by those who can defend them.  More lightning, darkness setting in and rain accompanied his chilling prophecy.  But then, his frown turned to a smile and he said, don’t worry, between the times of crises that a sick world will bring to this beautiful location, this special place will prosper for many thousands of years into the future; it really is an ideal location.  

We arrived back level with the tower (possibly the north east tower of the current Castle), below it the ragged hill and a boat on the river. As the boat drew closer we saw a hooded old man at the rudder, and then the lightning flashed.

When the Ferryman asked for a coin, Hecataeus refused to pay and with a dramatic gesture said, we will fix the price and I will pay when you get me to the other side.  As the rain came down a wild dog howled, Hecataeus became hesitant and ponderous.  He then asked me to translate a question to the ferryman; he wanted to know if the ferryman’s name was Charon, and if he were the son of Erebus and Nyx.  The ferryman assured him he was not, ‘tell him don’t worry Sir, we get a lot of Greeks on this crossing, I understand’.  In the rolling mist he got onboard, and said now there will be no turning back.  They set sail, I waved and watched him disembark safely and pay the Ferryman when they arrived on the other side.  As I walked back along the beach to my boat, crossing 2 rivers on the way, I set my brain sensor to find the most appropriate music, it came up with something from the 1980’s and jacked the volume….

To complete the story, you may like to do the same. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4qg2T9qQZ8A

If you want to know more about Hecataeus of Melita, there is more on Wikipedia

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hecataeus_of_Miletus

If you want to know more about Dr Quien and his amazing mission to travel through the past of the location of Fuengirola, you can find the introduction and previous instalments here

And if you are super interested in the Phonecian and Carthegian period, the Fuengirola Historian Dr Juan Antonio Martín Ruiz has written extensively on this subject;

https://universidadviu.academia.edu/JuanAntonioMart%C3%ADnRuiz

And finally if you want to be kept updated with future episodes and other revelations and inspirations from the past of the location of Fuengirola please like, comment and share my Facebook page at Fuengirola Revisited.

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