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Author Topic: PILLARS OF HERCULES, SEA OF DARKNESS  (Read 3115 times)
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« on: August 19, 2007, 05:35:47 pm »

Leaving aside Aristotle's estimate of the earth's cir­cumference, which is about twice too large, it is easy to see why Columbus seized upon this passage. Aristo­tle, the supreme authority for the Middle Ages, sug­gests that Asia may stretch right around the globe, perhaps joining Africa, or at least that both are washed by the same sea. Hence one could easily reach Asia by setting off westward, across the all-encompassing sea.

This, at least, was the theory. It was buttressed by many more classical references, as well as by medieval legends of islands to the west and even by odd sight­ings of worked wood cast up on the beaches of the Atlantic islands. But still to be overcome was a tremendous psychological barrier, the ancient belief that nothing lay beyond the Pillars of Hercules. This belief was enshrined in the motto ne plus ultra, "there is nothing beyond," a phrase echoed in al-Mas'udi's account of the statues "which point as if to say: 'There is no way beyond me....'"

For the classical world, the Columnae Herculis, the Pillars of Hercules, were not actual pillars - or light­houses - but two mountainous points on either side of the Strait of Gibraltar, Calpe and Abyla: the Rock of Gibraltar and the mountainous point of al-Mina, where the city of Ceuta now stands on the ruins of Phoenician Abyla.

The Phoenicians sailed through the Pillars of Her­cules around 1100 BC and founded their first Atlantic port, Gadir ("Fortified Place") where the city of Cádiz now stands. Somewhere in the hinterland lay the fabulous region - or perhaps city - known to the clas­sical world as Tartessos and in the Bible as Tarshish. The Phoenicians established a rich trade with the eastern Mediterranean world in gold and silver from the rich mines of Tartessos. They also opened an Atlantic sea-route to the Cassiterides, the "Tin Islands," probably somewhere in Britain, and to the Baltic, where they traded for amber. Tin was a vital component in the making of bronze; amber was used for ornament. The Phoenicians had a virtual monopoly of both, and they jealously guarded it, sink­ing any rival ships that ventured into the western. Mediterranean. They regarded their trade routes as state secrets, and clas­sical sources" cite at least one   Phoenician  trading vessel that ran aground rather than let a rival learn its course.

The Phoenicians and their successors, the Carthaginians, established trading colonies along the coast of north and west Africa. Anticipating Portugal’s Prince Henry  Navigator by some 2000 years, they also made a num­ber of efforts to circumnavigate Africa. One of these, sponsored by the Egyptian Pharaoh Necho II, took place about 600 BC. Herodotus, who calls Africa "Libya" and the Red Sea "the Arabian Gulf," is our only source of information about this voyage. Here is how he describes it.
« Last Edit: August 20, 2007, 12:19:21 pm by Bianca2001 » Report Spam   Logged

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