For a description of the physical world that Rome stood astride at the height of Empire the primary source is Strabo, whose great work Geographica was a 17 book magnum opus that attempted to describe the world as it was known to the Greeks and Romans.
It was a massive undertaking, one that drew upon his own extensive travels and upon all available written sources. I am always pleased to learn that I have walked "in the footsteps" of the famous, and certainly Strabo and I have looked out across the same harbor at Alexandria where he devoted a considerable bit of time researching at the Great Library.
Like all ancient writers he tossed in a lot of nonsense and rumor. It was intended to be not just a geography text but something along the lines of a political source book for others to consult. It was to be a reference work for generals, diplomats, provincial governors, perhaps for merchants engaged in long distance trade.
It contains many delicious scraps of history that spilled over from a sadly lost history also written by Strabo. All in all a delightful read. He knew about fossils and volcanoes. He gossiped about the theft of Alexander the Great's body. He knew where you could mine gold and silver, he talked about places where tuna fish grew as fat as pigs by eating acorns washed out to sea. Oh, he got a lot of things wrong - he believed for instance that Britain was worthless and that there was nothing beyond Ireland - but taken as a whole it was an impressive view of the world.
Strabo saw a lot. He attained the impossible dream of later scholars, free run of the Great Library. He saw Rome at its pinnacle. He probably knew Caesar Augustus himself. And yet.....he probably saw it all imperfectly. Because Strabo was cross eyed.
Yes, the name Strabo is actually a nick name. It means "squint eyed" which can be anything from a droopy eye lid to crossed eyes to anything else that would have been noticeable. The term lives on in the modern era of course. Strabismus, the common sort of "lazy eye" that occurs in children and can cause them if untreated to be cross eyed later in life.
I was surprised to find that Strabo is a name that turns up elsewhere in ancient sources. Reading up on the late Roman empire I ran across a Theodoric Strabo. This was a presumably cross eyed Gothic chieftain who was a rival to his kinsman the more famous Theodoric who became de facto Emperor of the West in the sixth century AD. Theodoric Strabo met his end by falling off a horse, possibly onto a spear. Sharper eyesight might have helped there.
We have something of an aversion to people whose eyes look different. We say they are shifty, or looking "askance". So it is odd, very odd indeed that as our American politics start to fire up for another Presidential election the front runners - as of March 2015 mind you - could both be described as "Strabo". Behold:
Clinton Strabo. After a fall a couple of years ago she developed double vision and had to wear these heavy glasses to correct it. And to be bipartisan I also present:
Walker Strabo. The governor of my adopted state of Wisconsin. His sleepy look has lulled a series of political foes into serious and entirely unwarranted over confidence.