Hanno the Navigator

Hanno the Navigator was a citizen of Carthage (an ancient city-state in northern Africa near modern Tunis, founded in 814–813 B.C.). The dates of his birth and death are obscure, but he is known to have flourished about 500 B.C. Around that time Hanno, with some sixty galleys filled with settlers, voyaged down the west coast of Africa to explore and set up a colony. Hanno sailed out beyond the Pillars of Hercules and established many African colonies along the western coast. However what Hanno did there, and whether or not steps were taken to establish a colony, appears to be lost to history, how and when Africa swallowed these settlers is hidden by the mists of time.

Some two thousand years before the epic voyage of Bartolomeu Dias, who rounded the southern extremity of the African continent in 1488, Hanno the Navigator sailed out of the Mediterranean and beyond the Pillars of Hercules—an astonishing and extraordinary act of faith and courage at a time when nothing was known about the world beyond the immediate horizon except that it was flat and that it was therefore exceedingly dangerous to venture to the edge. It was also known that the seas were inhabited throughout by the most terrifying monsters.

Exploration Map of Hanno 

The expedition, if it kept the coast in sight, would have passed with the Canary Islands off to starboard, though not necessarily in sight, the nearest of these islands being some 70 miles offshore. He seems to have reached at least as far as present-day Sierra Leone, a voyage of almost 3,000 miles from the entrance to the Mediterranean.

Hanno wrote an account of this voyage, inscribed on a clay tablet in the Phoenician language; he reported seeing crocodiles, hippopotamuses, and men dressed in animal skins. The tablet was hung in the temple of Bel (Ba’al Hammon) at Carthage on his return. Oskar Seyffert states that a Greek translation of this account, known as Hannonis Periplus, still survives, one of the oldest examples of geographical science available to us.

The full title translated from Greek is The Voyage of Hanno, commander of the Carthaginians, round the parts of Libya beyond the Pillars of Heracles, which he deposited in the Temple of Kronos. This was known to Pliny the Elder and Arrian, who mentions it at the end of his Anabasis of Alexander VIII (Indica):

"Moreover, Hanno the Libyan started out from Carthage and passed the Pillars of Heracles and sailed into the outer Ocean, with Libya on his port side, and he sailed on towards the east, five-and-thirty days all told. But when at last he turned southward, he fell in with every sort of difficulty, want of water, blazing heat, and fiery streams running into the sea."

This report was the object of criticism by some ancient writers, including the Pliny the Elder, and in modern times a whole literature of scholarship has grown up around it. The account is incoherent and at times certainly incorrect, and attempts to identify the various places mentioned on the basis of the sailing directions and distances almost all fail.

Some scholars resort to textual emendations, justified in some cases; but it is probable that what we have before us is a report deliberately edited so that the places could not be identified by the competitors of Carthage. From everything we know about Carthaginian practice, the resolute determination to keep all knowledge of and access to the western markets from the Greeks, it is incredible that they would have allowed the publication of an accurate description of the voyage for all to read. What we have is an official version of the real report made by Hanno which conceals or falsifies vital information while at the same time gratifying the pride of the Carthaginians in their achievements. The very purpose of the voyage, the consolidation of the route to the gold market, is not even mentioned.

Seafaring Lore & Legend by Peter D. Jeans;

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Written By Tripzibit on Apr 17, 2012 | 05:29

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