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Circumafrican expedition

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    Posted: 19-Dec-2004 at 20:47
I read relatively recently somewhere (it might've been Harold Lamb's Hannibal) that an Egyptian pharaoh commissioned a fleet of ships to sail around the whole of Africa and back to Egypt. Is this true? What's the story behind it?
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  Quote Tobodai Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20-Dec-2004 at 18:04
its not true, but Ive heard it as well though I dotn remember who its credited too.  trading expeditions via naval force where common in Egypt, especially in the red sea but I dont know about say, going the other direction.
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  Quote J.M.Finegold Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20-Dec-2004 at 19:37
I believe it was Ptolemy ... or perhaps Ramesses... I got my pharaos mixed up - I'll get back to you on this one.  It was planned, but it never started.  He did however make expeditions to the far west point of Africa and traded extensively with these people, although it was shortlived as the next pharaoh would not be so strong willed (which makes me believe that it was a New Kingdom pharaoh - however, I'll get back to you).
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  Quote cattus Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20-Dec-2004 at 20:50
I wouldnt think it would be too early. The Egyptians from what i understand didnt even know the beginnings of their great Nile.
What an exciting expedition for an egyptian to go around Afrika!
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  Quote J.M.Finegold Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21-Dec-2004 at 00:11
Originally posted by Catt

I wouldnt think it would be too early. The Egyptians from what i understand didnt even know the beginnings of their great Nile.
What an exciting expedition for an egyptian to go around Afrika!


It's known that a Persian went around Africa - unless I got the Saudi peninsula and Africa mixed up.  I think it was referred to in Herodotus, but we all know how good he is with getting his facts straight
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  Quote pytheas Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21-Dec-2004 at 01:51

Okay guys, I ran across the same mention of a Pharaoh contracting a fleet of ships to sail from the Egyptian Red Sea, and find access back into the Mediteranean Sea.  Through fairly throrough research, I have discovered more details on this topic.  Let's paint you a picture:

It's the 7th Century BC, Egypt.  Pharaohs of the time began easing their import trade restrictions with their neighbors--the Phoenicians and Greeks, both of whom were becoming maritime experts.  The exact dates of the voyage in question were during the reign of the Pharaoh Necho (610-593 BC).  Here is an excerpt I pulled from a prime tertiary source, which in turn quotes Herodotus:

"Africa, except where it borders Asia, is clearly surrounded by water.  Necho, pharaoh of Egypt, was the first we know of to demonstrate this.  When he left off digging the canal between the Nile and the Red Sea, he sent out a naval expedition manned by Phoenicians...Each autumn they put in at wgatever point of Africa they happened to be sailing by, sowed the soil, stayed there until harvest time, reaped the grain, and sailed on; so that two years went by and in the third they [entered] the Pillars of Hercules (Straits of Girbralter) and made it back to Egypt.  And they reported things I cannot believe, though others might, namely, that the sun was on their right side as the sailed around the southern stint of their voyage."

Of course, Herodotus' main objection is in the last three lines of the above quote.  Anyone who has ever been on the south side of the equator knows that if they are walking west, the sun will be on their right.  Herodotus, had only ever observed the sun from the angle and latitude of the Mediteranean and thus his issue is resolved.  Below please find a brief list of references on this topic.  Most classicists that know anything about ancient maritime exploration would agree that this is an actual event in history.  I would tend to agree....

1.) Casson, Lionel.  The Ancient Mariners, 2nd edition.  Princeton University Press.  pg. 119-126.  1991

2.)  Carpenter,Rhys.  Beyond the Pillars of Heracles--The classical world seen through the eyes of its discoverers.  Deacorte Press, 1966.

Other explorers of interest in the period are Pytheas the Greek, Cyzicus, Hanno of Carthage and Himilco of Carthage.  Some might even argue that the Legend of Jason and the Argonaughts is based on factual events that ocurred in the Black Sea during the Greek Dark Age.

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  Quote pytheas Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21-Dec-2004 at 02:01
Also, in the same time period the main Phoenician city state of Tyre produced a Queen Dido (whom famous British vocalist is named for) escaped persecution at the hands of rival members of the royal hosue.  She and her fleet sailed west, first to Cyprus, then onto the North African coast (near modern Tripoli), where they founded the city Carthage.  Thus began a long period of Carthaginian/Punic exploration along the west coast of Africa.  Of course there were already many colonies and trading posts established by the Phoenicians in Iberia (Spain/Portugal), Sicily, Cyprus, Ebiza, and so on.  After the fall of Tyre to the Assyrians, Carthage gained more political-economic power, which in turn led to a military conflict with first the Greeks and later and more catostrphically with the Romans.
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  Quote pytheas Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21-Dec-2004 at 02:02

By the way I have more references on the subject of ancient mariners, so let me know if you want more....

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  Quote J.M.Finegold Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21-Dec-2004 at 14:45
Correction on one my posts:

The Persians sailed around Arabia, not Africa.


---

Do you have anything concerning the Carthiginian exploration of the Americas?  Considering the facts about the triremes and all other ships of the same kind, this would be impossible - however, I may be wrong...
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  Quote pytheas Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22-Dec-2004 at 02:09
I've not found any CREDIBLE sources that offer valid scientific or historic evidence to support arguements that Phoenicians EVER reached the New World.  It isn't out of the relm of reality that either Phoenicians/Carthaginians reached as far as Britanny (NW France), and possibly as far afield as the Casstrides islands (ancient name of Britian that translates to the 'tin islands'), in particular Cornwall.  I would highly doubt they either needed to or ever attempted to sail any further.  My main reason was that it was not economically gainful to venture further than the sources of tin and secondary sources of gold, silver, and copper.  The most important natural resource in this period was TIN, which is the primary ingredient in forging bronze.  This was the main reason for Phoenician colonization in Iberia, where silver and tin were plentiful in both the south central and northwestern parts of that penninsula.  The search and procurement of tin was the economic force that led Mediteranean civilization along its course until the advent of iron.
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  Quote pytheas Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22-Dec-2004 at 02:13
Look up Barry Cunliffe's Facing the Ocean, I think that a lot of your questions can be answered there.  He is a British archaeologist that is world-renowned for his research of the Iron Age and trade networks throughout the Atlantic and Mediteranean.  he is also well known for his excavations of hill-forts (oppida) in both England and Britanny (France).  If you have further questions, Dux, let me know, I can try to direct you to further readings... 
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  Quote Berosus Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22-Dec-2004 at 17:44
Triremes aren't seaworthy on the open Atlantic.  All those holes in the sides for the oars make them too easy to capsize in a storm.  Look at how many ships the Romans lost to bad weather in the Punic Wars!

I agree with Pytheas that the Phoenicians/Carthaginians probably made it to Britain, but the only account I trust of anyone going farther in such a vessel is that of the original Pytheas.  He talked about reaching a place called Ultima Thule, which was either Iceland or Norway.  I'm inclined to believe it was Norway, because it was inhabited; we have no evidence of anyone living on Iceland before some Irish monks arrived.

The part I find funny about the adventure of Pytheas is that while he was sailing up the coast of Britain, every time he spotted a new tribe he would drop anchor and go meet them.  When he got home, he announced that his greatest discovery was two fermented drinks that were popular in the British Isles:  beer and mead.  You know what you would call it if you went on that kind of fact-finding journey in the UK today?  A pub crawl!
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  Quote pytheas Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22-Dec-2004 at 19:03

I am of the mind that Pytheas made it at least to the Orkneys and possibly the Shetlands and would have been roughly on the way to either Norway or Iceland from N. Britian.  I would argue that Ultima Thule was not a land as much as a latitude, which both Norway and Iceland share.  I'd further say that Pytheas made it to Iceland and then returned to complete his circumnavigation of Britain only AFTER returning from a stint along the west coast of Norway and quite possibly as far as the Baltic, considering the references to amber and an island linked with the procurement of the natural resource of the coast of Jutland (modern Denmark).  There is no definitive documentation that lends support to how Pytheas found his way back to Massalia, nor how he left the Mediteranean in the first place.  We do have passed down to us through secondary and tertiary resources some of the stadia measurments along his trip of along the west coast of France and Britain.  The stadia measured the angle of the sun through anyltical observation and measurement of the shadow drwn by the stadia rod, in other words measured the latitude of the oberserver's exact location.  I suppose, we could start a new strand to further discuss Pytheas, but he sort of fits into the overall subject of Atlantic maritime exploration of classical cultures beyond the straits of Gibralter. 

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  Quote Infidel Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24-Dec-2004 at 16:37
Well, the first europeans to sail around Africa were the portuguese, with Vasco da Gama reaching India in 1499/1500, establishing a strong lusitanian foothold (with a few successful vice-roys like Afonso de Albuquerque) and taking over the spice trade for the next century or so.
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  Quote pytheas Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25-Dec-2004 at 01:03
All due respect Infidel, that's not the subject at hand.  Why must we bring in the Europeans.  Its like giving the Phoenicians or spacemen credit for building the pyrimids...
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  Quote Infidel Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25-Dec-2004 at 08:26
Sorry Pytheas. My mistake.
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  Quote conon394 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28-Dec-2004 at 13:54

Berosus

The Romans: A; lost fleets of Quinqueremes (or Penteres), not Triremes. B; The Romans fleet losses were likely the result of the corvus  making the ships unseaworthy, and the fact that they (the Romans) were really not very good sailors. The Carthaginians, Athenians, and Rhodians for example, operated fleets all over the Med without (to my knowledge) ever suffering the kind of storm related losses the Romans did in the Punic Wars. C; the Romans did use traditional warships (fives or larger) in the Atlantic. Caesar used them to invade Briton and in battles against the Gauls. D: Viking ships were both open decked and had oar-ports but were certainly sea-worthy in the Atlantic.



Edited by conon394
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  Quote J.M.Finegold Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29-Dec-2004 at 11:30
Not only that, but the Vikins didn't sail the open Atlantic.  They "island hopped" from Iceland to Greenland to the Canadian coastline.
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