The name Antarctica was found by the ancient Greeks. They were convinced that the earth was round and, in that way, consisted of a northern and a southern hemisphere. According to the philosopher, Aristotle (384-322 BC), nature was symmetrical. If there was a cold zone in the North of the world, then there must be a cold area on the other side as well. The North Pole is located under the constellation of the great bear (‘arktos’ in Greek). Antarctica means: opposite the bear.
A couple of centuries later this view of the world was readjusted. The geographer, Claudius Ptolemy (100-161 BC), made maps of heaven and earth. On these maps you can see that the Indian Ocean was bordered by a ‘Terra Incognita’ (an unknown land) at the 20th parallel. It wasn’t cold there. According to Ptolemy, a lot of rich and wealthy people lived there. And this was the reason why so many people wanted to explore this unknown land. However, there was just one problem: it was said that a hot belt of fire separated the northern and southern hemisphere.
In the Middle Ages the idea of a southern continent was considered nonsense. After all, the world was flat, so it was impossible to live on the ‘other side’. And according to them, Ptolemy’s theories were blasphemous. The belt of fire would make the southern hemisphere inaccessible, so how would people be able to live there? And if those people really did exist, how could they descend from Adam and Eve and be God’s creatures?