Sunday, November 10, 2019

The Fallacy of Deep Sea Sailing in 600 B.C. and Before

Unknown to most people, the ancient maritime world was very structured. That is, there were maritime logs (manuscripts or books) regarding sailing ports, anchorages, coves, etc., along every known coast. These logs showed up in what was called a “Periplus,” which was a manuscript document that listed the ports and coastal landmarks, in order and with approximate intervening distances, that the captain of a vessel could expect to find along a shore (George Kish, A Source Book in Geography, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 1978, p21).
In that sense the periplus was a type of log. It served the same purpose as the later Roman itineria of road stops; however, the Greek navigators added various notes, which if they were professional geographers (as many were) became part of their own additions to Greek geography. The form of the periplus was at least as old as the earliest Greek historian, the Ionian Hecataeus of Miletus. In fact, the works of Herodotus and Thucydides, contain passages that appear to have been based on peripli (Yuval Shahar, Josephus Geographicus: The Classical Context of Geography in Josephus, Mohr Siebeck, p40). Mohr Siebeck 2004, 2004, p40).
    These various works were written in Greek describing navigation and trading opportunities from Roman Egyptian ports like Berenice along the coast of the Red Sea, and others along northeast Africa and the Sindh and Southwestern India, which were all known sailing routes. The text has been ascribed to different dates between the 1st and 3rd centuries A.D., but a mid-1st century date is now the most commonly accepted. While the author of the Erythraean Sea Periplus, is unknown, it is a clear first hand description by someone familiar with the area and is nearly unique in providing accurate insights into what the ancient European world knew about the lands around the Indian Ocean.
    Earlier, in the 6th century BC, Darius the Great of Persia sent reconnaissance missions to the Red Sea, improving and extending navigation by locating many hazardous rocks and currents. In the late 4th century BC, Alexander the Great sent Greek naval expeditions down the Red Sea to the Indian Ocean. Greek navigators continued to explore and compile data on the Red Sea. Agatharchides (Agatharchus) of Cnidus in Turkey, collected information about the sea in the 2nd century BC, and the "Periplus of the Red Sea,” contains a detailed description of the Red Sea's ports and sea routes (Carl Peters, The Eldorado of the Ancients, Pearson and Bell, London, 1902, pp312-319,347).
    The Periplus also describes how Hippalus, a Greek navigator and merchant, first discovered the direct route from the Red Sea to India, which was a favored route of Roman trade starting with the reign of Augustus, when the Roman Empire gained control over the Mediterranean, Egypt, and the northern Red Sea. The route had been used by previous states but grew in the volume of traffic under the Romans. From Indian ports goods from China were introduced to the Roman world. Contact between Rome and China depended on the Red Sea, but the route was broken by the Aksumite (Ethiopa) Empire around the 3rd century AD.
    However, the Erythraean Sea Periplus is not the only surviving Periplus or sea log of routes and conditions. There are several, and combined they list all the routes and maritime trafficking or sailing ventures of the ancient world.
The course of Himilco the Navigator who sailed north to Brittany, Britain, and Ireland to trade in tin

• The Carthaginians had the Periplus of Himilco (Hamilcar) the Navigator, parts of which are preserved in works of Pliny the Elder and Rufus Festus Avienus. This periplus was an account of Himilco (Phoenician: Chimilkât) who lived in the height of Carthaginian (Phoenician) power in the 5th century BC. He was the first known mariner from the Mediterranean Sea to reach the northwestern shores of Europe. He sailed north along the Atlantic coast of present-day Spain, Portugal, England and France. Following the trade route used by the Tartessians (Andalusia, Spain) of southern Iberia, he reached northwestern France to trade tin, in which he lists the islands of Albion (Great Britain) and Lerne (Ireland).
• The Periplus of Hanno the Navigator, a Carthaginian (Phoenician) colonist and trader who explored the coast of Africa from present-day Morocco southward at least as far as Senegal (the furthest western point of the African continent) in the sixth or fifth century BC.
• The Periplus of Scylax of Caryanda, a Persian, who allegedly sailed down the Indus River and then to Suez on the initiative of Darius I. This voyage is mentioned by Herodotus, and his periplus is quoted by Hecataeus of Miletus, Aristotle, Strabo and Avienus.
• The Massaliote Periplus, a Greek description of trade routes along the coasts of Atlantic Europe, possibly dates to the sixth century BC, also preserved in Avienius.
• Pytheas of Massilia, (Marseille, France), fourth century BC, On the Ocean (Περί του Ωκεανού), has not survived; only excerpts remain, quoted or paraphrased by later authors, including Strabo, Diodorus Siculus, Pliny the Elder and in Avienus' Ora maritima.
The Periplus of Pseudo-Scylax, generally is thought to date to the fourth or third century BC.
• The Pleriplus of Nearchus surveyed the area between the Indus and the Persian Gulf under orders from Alexander the Great. He was a source for Strabo and Arrian, among others.
On the Red Sea by Agatharchides. Fragments were preserved in Diodorus Siculus and Photius.
• The Periplus of Scymnus of Chios is dated to around 110 BC.
• The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea, was written by a Romanized Alexandrian in the first century AD. It provides a shoreline itinerary of the Red (Erythraean) Sea, with the manuscript describing the coast of India as far as the Ganges River and the east coast of The Periplus Ponti Euxini Africa (called Azania). The unknown author claims that Hippalus, a mariner, was knowledgeable about the "monsoon winds" that shorten the round-trip from India to the Red Sea. Also according to the manuscript, the Horn of Africa was called, "the Cape of Spices," and modern day Yemen was known as the "Frankincense Country."
The Euxini Sea (Black Sea) was a large trading area; besides some larger cities, the small red dots represent numerous ancient trading ports

• The Periplus Ponti Euxini, a description of trade routes along the coasts of the Black Sea, written by Arrian of Nicomedia in the early second century, 130-131 A.D. It was written for the Emperor Hadrian in Rome, who was particularly interested in geographical research and had visited in person a large portion of his extensive dominions. It contained an accurate topographical survey of the coasts of Euxini Sea, showing distances between cities and the locations that would provide safe harbor for ships in a storm.
    It is well known that Persian sailors had from very early times their own sailing guide books which were called Rahnāmag in Middle Persian, (later Rahnāmeh رهنامه in Persian). A Rahnameh listed the ports and coastal landmarks and distances along the shores.
    These lost but much-cited sailing directions go back at least until the 12th century. In some, the Indian Ocean was described as "a hard sea to get out of" and warned of the "circumambient sea (Atlantic between Portugal and England), whence all return was impossible.”
    The point of all of this is to show that records were kept, as any good mariner would, of their sailing routes, the lay of the land, safe anchorages and ports. These periplus records were extremely important for they allowed a captain (navigator) who was unfamiliar with a coastal or sea route where safety lie and how to recognize the topography of the shore and the terrain encountered. If the Phoenicians had been the world sailors so many want to claim, their writings would show that through the lists within their periplus—but they do not. There is no record of routes, coast, shores, etc., beyond the narrow coastline from Gibraltar north to France and England, or south to North Africa. Which should end this tendency of theorists to invent ways to get the Mulekites and other mariner voyages from the Americas that never took place in league with the Phoenicians, or any other group of people or nothing of the kind showed up in any of the extensive logs religiously kept by early mariners.

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