& History >
History > Old
Civilizations > Phoenicia
Phoenician Sea and Land Voyages & Routes
The "Periplus" of Hanno: Account of King Hanno of Carthage's Sea Voyage Along the African Atlantic Coast
"Record of the voyage of King Hanno of Carthage round the lands of Libya which lie beyond the Pillars of Hercules. It has been engraved on tablets hung up in the Temple of Chronos.
"The Carthaginians decided that Hanno should go past the Pillars and found Carthaginian cities. He set sail with sixty pentekontas carrying thirty thousand men and women with provisions and other necessities. After passing the Pillars of Hercules and sailing for two days beyond them we founded the first city, which was named Thymiaterion. Around it was a large plain. Next we went on in a westerly direction and arrived at the Libyan promontory of Soloeis, which is covered with trees; having set up a shrine to Poseidon, we set sail again towards the rising sun for half a day, after which we arrived at a lagoon close to the sea covered with many tall reeds. Elephants and large numbers of other animals were feeding on them. Leaving this lagoon and sailing for another day, we founded the coastal cities named Carian Wall, Gytte, Acra, Melitta and Arambys.
"Leaving this place we arrived at the great river Lixos which comes from Libya. On the banks nomads, the Lixites, were feeding their flocks. We stayed for some time with these people and made friends with them. Upstream from them lived the unfriendly Ethiopians whose land is full of wild beasts and broken up by high mountains where they say the Lixos rises. They also say that about these mountains dwell the strange-looking Troglodytes. The Lixites claim that they can run faster than horses. Taking Lixite interpreters with us we sailed alongside the desert in a southerly direction for two days, then towards the rising sun for one more day. We then found at the far end of an inlet a little island five stades in circumference. We named it Cerne and left settlers there. judging by our journey we reckoned that it must be opposite Carthage, since we had to sail the same distance from Carthage to the Pillars of Hercules as from the Pillars of Hercules to Cerne. From there, sailing up a big river named the Chretes, we arrived at a lake in which there were three islands, all larger than Cerne. Leaving these islands, we sailed for one day and came to the end of the lake, which was overshadowed by high mountains full of savages dressed in animal skins that threw stones at us and thus prevented us from landing. From there we entered another river, which was big and wide, full of crocodiles and hippopotamuses. Then we retraced our journey back to Cerne.
"From there we sailed south along a coast entirely inhabited by Ethiopians, who fled at our approach. Their language was incomprehensible even to the Lixites, whom we had with us. On the last day we disembarked by some high mountains covered with trees with sweet-smelling multicoloured wood. We sailed round these mountains for two days and arrived in a huge bay on the other side of which was a plain; there we saw fires breaking out at intervals on all sides at night, both great and small. Having renewed our water supplies, we continued our voyage along the coast for five days, after which we arrived at a huge inlet, which the interpreters called the Horn of the West. There was a big island in this gulf and in the island was a lagoon with another island. Having disembarked there, we could see nothing but forest by day ; but at night many fires were seen and we heard the sound of flutes and the beating of drums and tambourines, which made a great noise. We were struck with terror and our soothsayers bade us leave the island.
"We left in haste and sailed along by a burning land full of perfumes. Streams of fire rose from it and plunged into the sea. The land was unapproachable because of the heat. Terror-stricken, we hastened away. During four days' sailing we saw at night that the land was covered with fire. In the middle was a high flame, higher than the others, which seemed to reach the stars. By day we realised that it was a very high mountain, named the Chariot of the Gods. Leaving this place, we sailed along the burning coast for three days and came to the gulf named the Horn of the South. At the end of it was an island like the first one, with a lake in which was another island full of savages. The greater parts of these were women. They had hairy bodies and the interpreters called them Gorillas. We pursued some of the males but we could not catch a single one because they were good climbers and they defended themselves fiercely. However, we managed to take three women. They bit and scratched their captors, whom they did not want to follow. We killed them and removed the skins to take back to Carthage. We sailed no further, being short of supplies."
On close examination, a map of the Mediterranean shows that there are few stretches of sea which must be navigated without coastal reference points. In fact, since commercial crafts were able to sail at a speed of around two to three knots, they could cover more than 50 nautical miles a day and therefore, apart from some exceptionally wide crossings, they would always come within sight of the coasts. The longest voyages without coastal reference points were across the Channel of Sardinia, and the Balearic Sea, from the African Coast to the Balearic Islands, or from these islands to the Western coast of Sardinia. All other usual Phoenician routes were along the coasts, as must also have been the case for the great crossing from East to West and vice-versa. As far as the maximum speed is concerned, among the crossing for which we have reliable information, Polybius recounts (I, 46-47) that the captain of a Carthaginian warship, a certain Hannibal known as the "Rhodian", managed to complete the crossing from Carthage to Lylibaeum, present-day Marsala, in 24 hours. He therefore covered a distance of around 125 nautical miles at an average of more than five knots an hour.
Trade ships sailed almost axclusively between the months of March and October, that is in favourable weather conditions. Special ceremonies, whose aim was to auspicate maritime traffic, heralded their departure. In the Mediterranean, the absence of steady winds -- such as the Trades -- created considerable problems for long voyages, given the particular kind of sails in use: the fact that winds were variable often caused ships to be held up for days at a time. At the same time however, trade could take place in all directions, irrespective of seasonal factors, and was not compelled to follow longer and often time-wasting alternative routes.
Warships, on the other hand, sailed all year round, carrying out the necessary tasks of patrolling the coasts and policing against piracy, and of course taking appropriate military action in the case of war. Conditioned as they were by the weather, such operations were often fatal in outcome. During the first war between Carthage and Rome, for instance, Carthaginian losses caused by storms and consequent shipwrecks amounted to 700 vessels - including warships and commercial crafts employed as troops and supply transporters - whereas casualties in the Roman navy were as a many as thousand.
Voyages of discovery for trading purposes by the Phoenicians and Carthaginians in search of precious metals or new, more profitable markets were widely reported in contemporary sources. One of the most memorable was described by Herodotus. Thus towards the end of the 7th century B.C., the Phoenicians were instructed by Pharaoh Necho to circumnavigate the African continent from East to West on a voyage lasting three years.
The voyage by a Carthaginian Himilico in the 5th century B.C., along the Atlantic coast of Europe as far as Brittany or even perhaps the Cassiterides Islands (Britain and Ireland) in search of tin. He was also attempting to open up an alternative trade route for this metal, to replace the continental route across France to the Gulf of Lions and Marseilles. Some archaeological evidence confirms the presence, albeit temporary, of the Carthaginians in the Azores, whereas ancient authors tell legendary tales concerning the Phoenicians' voyages to regions beyond the Atlantic.
|Information supplied by: "http://phoenicia.org|