Born: 350 BC
Born In: Marseille, France
Pytheas was a Greek geographer and explorer from the Greek colony of Massalia (modern-day Marseille). He made a voyage to northwestern Europe in about 325 BC and traveled all the way around Great Britain. He wrote the first account of Scandinavia, but his description of it has not survived. He is often referred to as the first known explorer in the modern sense of the word. Pytheas was known to have visited the Arctic, polar ice, and the Germanic tribes, and is the first person on record to do so. Born in Massalia, he was commissioned by merchants in his native city to find a route to the tin mines of southern Britain, where the trade was controlled by the Carthaginians. The Greeks looked to break the monopoly and thus sought a reliable route to the tin mines. Pytheas successfully circumnavigated a considerable portion of Great Britain and described the land in his now-lost memoir. In this works, he also described another land called the "Island of Thule." Now often considered to be an island in antiquity, Thule was sometimes identified as Iceland or Greenland, giving rise to the belief that Pytheas might have reached as far as Iceland. As astute astronomer, he was among the first ones to have suggested that the tides are affected by the moon.