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Greek 12-wind rose, credited to Timosthenes Greek 12-wind rose.svg
Greek 12-wind rose, credited to Timosthenes

Timosthenes of Rhodes (Greek: Τιμοσθένης) (fl. 270 BCE) was a Greek navigator, geographer and admiral in Ptolemaic navy. He is credited with inventing the system of twelve winds that became known as the Greek 12-wind rose.


In the 280s–270s BCE, Timosthenes served as the admiral and chief pilot of the Ptolemaic navy of King Ptolemy II Philadelphus of Egypt. He wrote a periplus (a book of sailing directions) in ten books (now lost), and was much admired and cited by other geographers such as Eratosthenes and Strabo. [1] Indeed, Marcian of Heraclea went so far as to accuse Eratosthenes' Geographica of being nothing but the wholesale plagiarism of Timosthenes work. [2] Strabo says only that Eratosthenes preferred Timosthenes "above any other writer, though he often decides even against him." [3]

According to the later Greek geographer Agathemerus (fl.250 CE), Timosthenes of Rhodes developed a system of twelve winds by adding four winds to the classical eight, introducing the complete 12-point Classical compass winds of Classical Antiquity. [4] Timosthenes was arguably the first of the Greek geographers to use the winds for geographic orientation, rather than merely as meteorological phenomena.

Strabo reports that Timosthenes wrote a "Pythian mood" (nomos) for a musical contest at the Pythian games at Delphi. Timosthenes's strain (melos), accompanied by flute and cithara, celebrated the contest between Apollo and the serpent Python. [5]

Mount Timosthenes in Antarctica is named after him.

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  1. e.g. Strabo (vol. II), Aczel (2001) Riddle of the Compass, New York: Harcourt, p.42-44
  2. E.H. Bunbury,(1879) A History of Ancient Geography among the Greeks and Romans: from the earliest ages till the fall of the Roman Empire. New York: Murray (p.588)
  3. Strabo (Bk. 2, c.1, s.40:p.139)
  4. Agathemerus Geographia, Lib.1, (Ch.2 p.178)
  5. Strabo (vol. II, Bk. 9.c.3.s9, p.120)