An island believed to lie to the far north. The historian Procopiu, says that on the immense island Thule, in whose northern part the midnight sun can be seen, thirteen large tribes occupy its inhabitable parts, each tribe having its own king. Pytheas made Thule a six days' sail from Britain and said that the day and night were each six months long.
Pliny, Solinus, and Mela take it for Iceland. Others, like Camden, considered it to be Shetland, which is still called Thylens-el ("isle of Thyle").
Its etymology is unclear. Some say its origin is Syrian and that Phoenecian traders called it Gerizat Thule ("Isles of Darkness"), others that it comes from Gothic Tiule, meaning the "most remote land," possibly connected with the Greek telos, "the end."
Thule was the most northern point known to the ancient Romans.
“Where the Northern Ocean, in vast whirls,
Boils round the naked melancholy isles
Of farthest Thule.” Thomson: Autumn.
- Bartelink, Dr. G.J.M. (1988). Prisma van de mythologie. Utrecht: Het Spectrum.
- Cobham Brewer, E. (2001). The Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. Cassell reference.