International journey guides of the traditional greeks


“… Large torrents of fire emptied into the sea, and the land was inaccessible because of the heat. Quickly and in fear, we sailed away from that place. Sailing on for four days, we saw the coast by night full of flames. In the middle was a big flame, taller than the others … By day, this turned out to be a very high mountain, which was called Chariot of the Gods.” Periplous of the African Coast (4th century BCE), Hanno the Navigator 

The reference to Chariot of the Gods demonstrates another feature of some periploi: insights into the language and history of the sites visited. “Our best guess here is that Hanno is referring to Mount Cameroon, largely because it is known locally as Seat of the Gods,” says Hanigan. “So, Chariot of the Gods, is likely an adaptation of that local name.”

As dramatic as Hanno’s report of the volcano might be, there was a tug-of-war in the ancient world about what a periplous should contain. For example, Markianos of Heraklea championed the removal of anything other than pure navigational information. 

For Hanigan though, the insights and perceptions beyond navigation are where the real value is. “This is the Greeks coming into contact with cultures that are fundamentally not like their own. As our world is changed by forces like migration and tourism, that’s one of the challenges of today.”


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