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PILLARS OF HERCULES, SEA OF DARKNESS

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Author Topic: PILLARS OF HERCULES, SEA OF DARKNESS  (Read 3130 times)
Bianca
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« on: August 19, 2007, 05:36:58 pm »








As for Libya, we know that it is washed on all sides by the sea except where it joins Asia, as was first demonstrated, so far as our knowledge goes, by the Egyptian king Neco, who, after calling off the construction of the canal between the Nile and the Arabian Gulf, sent out a fleet manned by a Phoenician crew with orders to sail west-about and return to Egypt and the Mediterranean by way of the Straits of Gibraltar. The Phoenicians sailed from the Arabian Gulf into the southern ocean, and every autumn put in at some convenient spot on the Libyan coast, sowed a patch of ground, and waited for next year's harvest. Then, having got their grain, they put to sea again, and after two full years rounded the Pillars of Hercules in the course of the third, and returned to Egypt. These men made a statement - which I do not myself believe, though others may - to the effect that as they sailed on a westerly course round the southern end of Libya, they had the sun on their right - to northward of them. This is how Libya was first discovered to be surrounded by sea....

There is no reason to doubt that this voyage took place. What Herodotus, and the Greek geographers that succeeded him, found difficult to accept was the sheer size of Africa. The consensus of opinion, made orthodox by Ptolemy, was that Africa extended little beyond 17° south latitude. Herodotus appears to have believed the same, hence his disbelief of the assertion that the sun was on the Phoenician voyagers' right.

Most pre-Ptolemaic Greek geographers did accept that Africa was bounded on all sides by the sea, except where it joined Asia. Ptolemy, however, supposed that not far below the Horn of Africa, the continent trended to the east, eventually joining the Chinese mainland and making of the Indian Ocean a landlocked sea. He may have been influ­enced in this by the pas­sage from De Caelo, where Aristotle    sug­gests that the presence of elephants in both Asia and Africa might indi­cate that the two conti­nents   were contiguous. Ptolemy compounded his error by postulating the exist­ence of a huge "Southern Conti­nent," a Terra Australis, to the south of Africa. This imaginary continent did not finally disappear from European maps until the early 18th century.
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