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The Functions of Geography through the Ages

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As the interaction between human society and nature changed through the ages, the function of the geography also changed. The development of the geography in the society is the movement from the unrecorded pre-geography, through the formal pre-geography to the formal geography (Unwin, 1992). The geographical knowledge should have certain utility and should be worth to be preserved. The geography starts from the informal explorations and discoveries in the prehistoric peoples. It formed the basis of the pre-geographical knowledge in the Greek and Roman times (Unwin, 1992). Three main traditions can be identified in Greek geographical works.

The first tradition is to describe the different regions and people living there.   The second tradition is the measurement of the earth. This direction is closely connected with the astronomy. The third tradition is connected with theology and is concerned with answering the question of the reason for human existence on the earth (Unwin, 1992). Hecataeus of Miletus created the first description of the earth. The histories of Herodotus, where he described different regions of the ancient world and its traditions, is one of the examples of the pre-geographical works.

The first conceptions of the form of the earth were presented in the works of Thales of Miletus, Anaximander, and Pythagoras. The works of Thales of Miletus,   Anaximander, Aristotle, and Plato gave the first ideas of creating the world (Unwin, 1992). Classical formal geography started from the works of Strabo, Pliny, and Ptolemy. Strabo and Pliny tended to the topographical approach in geography. Strabo’ s Geography and Natural history of Pliny describe different regions and tribes known by Ellen. Strabo also treated geography as a useful instrument for the administration and conquering of the territories.

Ptolemy, in contrast, treated geography as a description of the lands (called chorography) and measurement of the earth. He paid attention to the construction of the globe, projection of the world on the plane surface and division of the world on the regions (Unwin, 1992).

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