Map of Taprobana
Taprobane and Phebol
Taprobane, however, [or Ceilon] beyond the Indies, which is obliquely situated towards the habitable part of the globe, and the island called Phebol, which is situated towards the Arabic gulf, are not inferior in magnitude to the Britanic islands.
[The editor quotes the investigations of Captain Horsbourgh, who concludes: ”I should suppose that no other than Madagascar will apply to Aristotle’s description of the large island called by him Phebol.”
De Mundo (On the World)
Sed ne Taprobane quidem, quamvis extra orbem a natura relegata, nostris vitiis caret: aurum argentumque et ibi in pretio, marmor testudinis simile, margaritae gemmaeque in honore; multo praestantior est totus luxuriae nostra cumulus. ipsorum opes maiores esse dicebant, sed apud nos opulentiae maiorem usum: servom nemini, non in diem aut interdiu somnum, aedificia modice ab humo exstantia, annonam numquam augeri, non fora litesve esse, coli Herculem, eligi regem a populo senecta clementiaque liberos non habentem, et si poste agignat, abdicarine fiat hereditarium regnum.
But even Ceylon, although banished by Nature beyond the confines of the world, is not without the vices that belong to us: gold and silver are valued there also, and a kind of marble resembling tortoise-shell and pearls and precious stones are held in honour; in fact the whole mass of luxury is there carried to a far higher pitch than ours. They told us that there was greater wealth in their own country than in ours, but that we made more use of our riches: with them nobody kept a slave, everybody got up at sunrise and nobody took a siesta in the middle of the day; their buildings were of only moderate height; the price of corn was never inflated; there were no lawcourts and no litigation; the deity worshipped was Hercules; the king was elected by the people on the grounds of age and gentleness of disposition, and as having no children, and if he afterwards had a child, he was deposed, to prevent the monarchy from becoming hereditary.
The Natural History. Volume 2: Books 3 – 7
Harris Rackham [1868–1944], translator
Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1942
Loeb Classical Library
Isle au-delà des Indes: aujourd’hui Ceylan.
Le Rabelais moderne, ou les Œuvres de Rabelais mises à la portée de la plupart des lecteurs
François-Marie de Marsy [1714-1763], editor
Amsterdam: J.-F. Bernard, 1752
C’est-à-dire l’île de Ceylan a vu la Laponie, toujours à l’aide des voiles et des cordages.
Œuvres de Rabelais (Edition Variorum). Tome Cinquième
Charles Esmangart [1736-1793], editor
Paris: Chez Dalibon, 1823
Taprobana ha vue Lappia
C’est-a-dire, l’île de Ceylan a vue la Laponie, par le secour des cordages et des voiles de vaisseaux.
Œuvres de F. Rabelais. Nouvelle edition augmentée de plusieurs extraits des chroniques admirables du puissant roi Gargantua… et accompagnée de notes explicatives…
L. Jacob (pseud. of Paul Lacroix) [1806–1884], editor
Paris: Charpentier, 1840
Ceylan, dans la nomenclature géographique du XVIe siècle.
Oeuvres. Tome Cinquieme: Tiers Livre. Édition critique
Abel Lefranc [1863-1952], editor
Paris: Librairie Ancienne Honoré Champion, 1931
Taprobane (Ceylan ou Sumatra)
Le Tiers Livre. Edition critique
Jean Céard, editor
Librarie Général Français, 1995
Taprobana (also Taprobane) was the historical name for an island in the Indian Ocean. The name was first reported to Europeans by the Greek geographer Megasthenes around 290 BCE, and was later adopted by Claudius Ptolemy in his own geographical treatise to identify a relatively large island south of continental Asia. Though the exact place to which the name referred remains uncertain, the likely possibilities include: Sri Lanka, as in Ptolemy’s map and climes; Sumatra, as in the birthplace of Henry the Black; a phantom island
It is mentioned in the first strophe of the Portuguese epic poem Os Lusíadas by Luís de Camões (c. 1524 – 1580). ‘Taprobana’ may be the Greek rendition of ‘Tamraparni’ or ‘Thambapanni’ (copper-coloured), the descriptive name of one of the ancient ports of Sri Lanka, Kudiramalai. It might also be a hidden reference to Tribhuvana, the great Hindu Triad. This could mean that Luís de Camões was implying that the Portuguese were going beyond the Earth, the Atmosphere, and the Sky in their epic quest, Os Lusíadas, as noted by Dalila Pereira da Costa.
In the fifteenth century, Niccolò de’ Conti mistakenly identified Taprobana with a much smaller island, probably Sumatra. Taprobana is also mentioned in Tommaso Campanella’s Civitas Solis, written in 1602.
According to Western legend, the inhabitants had a single giant foot which they used to protect themselves from the sun