Print Friendly, PDF & Email


Early names for the Hebrides vary, but as some of these are very far back in historical time, this is not surprising.

Ptolemaeus (Ptolemy)

Ptolemaeus (Ptolemy)

Claudius Ptolemy, the mathematician, geographer and astronomer, who was one of the first to mention the Hebridean Islands, said in the introduction to his Geography ‘Above Ireland are the isles called Ebouda five in number’ and further west of Ebouda are other islands: ‘Rhicina, Malois, Epidiou’.

The word ‘Hebouda’ first appeared in the writings of Pliny (BCE 23-79), where he mentioned that there were over 30 ‘Heboudae’ isles.

It is thought that the strange tilt to the east, which Ptolemy gave to Scotland (Thule) in his Geography (also known as Geographia or Cosmographia  or Geographike Hyphegesis a treatise on cartography of what was known about the world’s geography in the Roman Empire) was due to the joining together of the two parts of the map of Scotland in order to get them to fit on one page.  In the facsimile of Ptolemy’s map, which was published in May 1847 by A and C Black, Edinburgh, there are different spellings for Rhicina (Itiema), Malois (Maleos), and Epidiou (Epidium), which may have been the result of inaccurate copying.