Robert Kerr's General History and Collection of Voyages and Travels, Volume 18
by William Stevenson
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Printed by A. & B. Spottiswoode, New-Street-Square.

[Transcriber's Note: The errata listed after the Table of Contents are marked in the text thus: [has->have]]


The curiosity of that man must be very feeble and sluggish, and his appetite for information very weak or depraved, who, when he compares the map of the world, as it was known to the ancients, with the map of the world as it is at present known, does not feel himself powerfully excited to inquire into the causes which have progressively brought almost every speck of its surface completely within our knowledge and access. To develop and explain these causes is one of the objects of the present work; but this object cannot be attained, without pointing out in what manner Geography was at first fixed on the basis of science, and has subsequently, at various periods, been extended and improved, in proportion as those branches of physical knowledge which could lend it any assistance, have advanced towards perfection. We shall thus, we trust, be enabled to place before our readers a clear, but rapid view of the surface of the globe, gradually exhibiting a larger portion of known regions, and explored seas, till at last we introduce them to the full knowledge of the nineteenth century. In the course of this part of our work, decisive and instructive illustrations will frequently occur of the truth of these most important facts,—that one branch of science can scarcely advance, without advancing some other branches, which in their turn, repay the assistance they have received; and that, generally speaking, the progress of intellect and morals is powerfully impelled by every impulse given to physical science, and can go on steadily and with full and permanent effect, only by the intercourse of civilised nations with those that are ignorant and barbarous.

But our work embraces another topic; the progress of commercial enterprise from the earliest period to the present time. That an extensive and interesting field is thus opened to us will be evident, when we contrast the state of the wants and habits of the people of Britain, as they are depicted by Caesar, with the wants and habits even of our lowest and poorest classes. In Caesar's time, a very few of the comforts of life,—scarcely one of its meanest luxuries,—derived from the neighbouring shore of Gaul, were occasionally enjoyed by British Princes: in our time, the daily meal of the pauper who obtains his precarious and scanty pittance by begging, is supplied by a navigation of some thousand miles, from countries in opposite parts of the globe; of whose existence Caesar had not even the remotest idea. In the time of Caesar, there was perhaps no country, the commerce of which was so confined:—in our time, the commerce of Britain lays the whole world under contribution, and surpasses in extent and magnitude the commerce of any other nation.

The progress of discovery and of commercial intercourse are intimately and almost necessarily connected; where commerce does not in the first instance prompt man to discover new countries, it is sure, if these countries are not totally worthless, to lead him thoroughly to explore them. The arrangement of this work, in carrying on, at the same time, a view of the progress of discovery, and of commercial enterprise, is, therefore, that very arrangement which the nature of the subject suggests. The most important and permanent effects of the progress of discovery and commerce, on the wealth, the power, the political relations, the manners and habits, and the general interests and character of nations, will either appear on the very surface of our work, or, where the facts themselves do not expose them to view, they will be distinctly noticed.

A larger proportion of the volume is devoted to the progress of discovery and enterprise among the ancients, than among the moderns; or,—to express ourselves more accurately,—the period that terminates with the discovery of America, and especially that which comprehends the commerce of the Phoeniceans, of the Egyptians under the Ptolemies, of the Greeks, and of the Romans, is illustrated with more ample and minute details, than the period which has elapsed since the new world was discovered. To most readers, the nations of antiquity are known by their wars alone; we wished to exhibit them in their commercial character and relations. Besides, the materials for the history of discovery within the modern period are neither so scattered, nor so difficult of access, as those which relate to the first period. After the discovery of America, the grand outline of the terraqueous part of the globe may be said to have been traced; subsequent discoveries only giving it more boldness or accuracy, or filling up the intervening parts. The same observation may in some degree be applied, to the corresponding periods of the history of commerce. Influenced by these considerations, we have therefore exhibited the infancy and youth of discovery and commerce, while they were struggling with their own ignorance and inexperience, in the strongest and fullest light.

At the conclusion of the work is given a select Catalogue of Voyages and Travels, which it is hoped will be found generally useful, not only in directing reading and inquiry, but also in the formation of a library.

This Historical Sketch has been drawn up with reference to, and in order to complete Kerr's Collection of Voyages and Travels, and was undertaken by the present Editor in consequence of the death of Mr. Kerr. But though drawn up with this object, it is strictly and entirely an independent and separate work.

Kerr's Collection contains a great variety of very curious and interesting early Voyages and Travels, of rare occurrence, or only to be found in expensive and voluminous Collections; and is, moreover, especially distinguished by a correct and full account of all Captain Cook's Voyages.

To the end of this volume is appended a Tabular View of the Contents of this Collection; and it is believed that this Tabular View, when examined and compared with the Catalogue, will enable those who wish to add to this Collection such Voyages and Travels as it does not embrace, especially those of very recent date, all that are deserving of purchase and perusal.


March 30, 1824.



Historical Sketch of the Progress of Discovery and of Commercial Enterprise, from the earliest records to the time of Herodotus


From the age of Herodotus to the death of Alexander the Great


From the Death of Alexander the Great to the time of Ptolemy the Geographer; with a digression on the Inland Trade between India and the Shores of the Mediterranean, through Arabia, from the earliest ages


From the time of Ptolemy to the close of the Fifteenth Century


From the close of the Fifteenth to the beginning of the Nineteenth Century


Preliminary Observations on the Plan and Arrangement pursued in drawing up the Catalogue

Instructions for Travellers

Collections and Histories of Voyages and Travels

Voyages and Travels round the World

Travels, comprizing different Quarters of the Globe

Voyages and Travels in the Arctic Seas and Countries







INDEX to the Catalogue

—— —— Historical Sketch

—— —— XVII. Volumes of Voyages and Travels

CONTENTS of the XVII. Volumes

* * * * *


Page 13. line 2. for has read have. 6. for near read nearly 28. 36. for could sail read could formerly sail. 86. 6. for Egypt read India. 87. 22. for Leucke read Leuke. 102. 5. for principal read principle. 213. 9. for work read worm. 281. 28. for Ebor read Ebn. 282. 20. for Ebor read Ebn. 5O7. 22. for as read than.




The earliest traces of navigation and commerce are necessarily involved in much obscurity, and are, besides, few and faint. It is impossible to assign to them any clear and definite chronology; and they are, with a few exceptions, utterly uncircumstantial. Nevertheless, in a work like this, they ought not to be passed over without some notice; but the notice we shall bestow upon them will not be that either of the chronologist or antiquarian, but of a more popular, appropriate, and useful description.

The intercourse of one nation with another first took place in that part of the world to which a knowledge of the original habitation of mankind, and of the advantages for sea and land commerce which that habitation enjoyed, would naturally lead us to assign it. On the shores of the Mediterranean, or at no great distance from that sea, among the Israelites, the Phoenicians, and the Egyptians, we must look for the earliest traces of navigation and commerce; and, in the only authentic history of the remotest period of the world, as well as amidst the scanty and fabulous materials supplied by profane writers, these nations are uniformly represented as the most ancient navigators and traders.

The slightest inspection of the map of this portion of the globe will teach us that Palestine, Phoenicia, and Egypt were admirably situated for commerce both by sea and land. It is, indeed, true that the Phoenicians, by the conquests of Joshua, were expelled from the greatest part of their territory, and obliged to confine themselves to a narrow slip of ground between Mount Lebanon and the Mediterranean; but even this confined territory presented opportunities and advantages for commerce of no mean importance: they had a safe coast,—at least one good harbour; and the vicinity of Lebanon, and other mountains, enabled them to obtain, with little difficulty and expence, a large supply of excellent materials for shipbuilding. There are, moreover, circumstances which warrant the supposition, that, like Holland in modern times, they were rather the carriers of other nations, than extensively engaged in the commerce of their own productions or manufactures. On the north and east lay Syria, an extensive country, covered with a deep rich soil, producing an abundant variety of valuable articles. With this country, and much beyond it, to the east, the means and opportunities of communication and commerce were easy, by the employment of the camel; while, on the other hand, the caravans that carried on the commerce of Asia and Africa necessarily passed through Phoenicia, or the adjacent parts of Palestine.

Egypt, in some respects, was still more advantageously situated for commerce than Phoenicia: the trade of the west of Asia, and of the shores of the Mediterranean lay open to it by means of that sea, and by the Nile and the Red Sea a commercial intercourse with Arabia, Persia, and India seemed almost to be forced upon their notice and adoption. It is certain, however, that in the earliest periods of their history, the Egyptians were decidedly averse to the sea, and to maritime affairs, both warlike and commercial. It would be vain and unprofitable to explain the fabulous cause assigned for this aversion: we may, however, briefly and, incidentally remark that as Osiris particularly instructed his subjects in cultivating the ground; and as Typhon coincides exactly in orthography and meaning with a word still used in the East, to signify a sudden and violent storm, it is probable that by Typhon murdering his brother Osiris, the Egyptians meant the damage done to their cultivated lands by storms of wind causing inundations.

As the situation of Palestine for commerce was equally favourable with that of Phoenicia, it is unnecessary to dilate upon it. That the Jews did not engage more extensively in trade either by sea or land must be attributed to the peculiar nature of their government, laws, and religion.

Having thus briefly pointed out the advantages enjoyed by the Phoenicians, Egyptians, and Jews for commercial intercourse, we shall now proceed to notice the few particulars with which history supplies us regarding the navigation and commerce of each, during the earliest periods.

I. There is good reason to believe that most of the maritime adventures and enterprises which have rendered the Phoenicians so famous in antiquity, ought to be fixed between the death of Jacob, and the establishment of monarchy among the Israelites; that is, between the years 1700 and 1095 before Christ; but even before this, there are authentic notices of Phoenician commerce and navigation. In the days of Abraham they were considered as a very powerful people: and express mention is made of their maritime trade in the last words of Jacob to his children. Moses informs us that Tarshish (wherever it was situated) was visited by the Phoenicians. When this people were deprived of a great portion of their territory by the Israelites under Joshua, they still retained the city of Sidon; and from it their maritime expeditions proceeded. The order of time in which they took place, as well as their object and result, are very imperfectly known; it seems certain, however, that they either regularly traded with, or formed colonies or establishments for the purpose of trade at first in Cyprus and Rhodes, and subsequently in Greece, Sicily, Sardinia, Gaul, and the southern part of Spain. About 1250 years before Christ, the Phoenician ships ventured beyond the Straits, entered the Atlantic, and founded Cadiz. It is probable, also, that nearly about the same period they formed establishments on the western coast of Africa. We have the express authority of Homer, that at the Trojan war the Phoenicians furnished other nations with many articles that could contribute to luxury and magnificence; and Scripture informs us, that the ships of Hyram, king of Tyre, brought gold to Solomon from Ophir. That they traded to Britain for tin at so early a period as that which we are now considering, will appear very doubtful, if the metal mentioned by Moses, (Numbers, chap. xxxi. verse 22.) was really tin, and if Homer is accurate in his statement that this metal was used at the siege of Troy; for, certainly, at neither of these periods had the Phoenicians ventured so far from their own country.

Hitherto we have spoken of Sidon as the great mart of Phoenician commerce; at what period Tyre was built and superseded Sidon is not known. In the time of Homer, Tyre is not even mentioned: but very soon afterwards it is represented by Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the other prophets, as a city of unrivalled trade and wealth. Ezekiel, who prophesied about the year 595 B.C. has given a most picturesque description of the wealth of Tyre, all of which must have proceeded from her commerce, and consequently points out and proves its great extent and importance. The fir-trees of Senir, the cedars of Lebanon, the oaks of Bashan, the ivory of the Indies, the fine linen of Egypt, and the hyacinth and purple of the isles of Elishah, are enumerated among the articles used for their ships. Silver, tin, lead, and vessels of brass; slaves, horses, and mules; carpets, ivory, and ebony; pearls and silk; wheat, balm, honey, oil and gums; wine, and wool, and iron, are enumerated as brought into the port of Tyre by sea, or to its fairs by land, from Syria, Damascus, Greece, Arabia, and other places, the exact site of which is not known.[1] Within the short period of fifteen or twenty years after this description was written, Tyre was besieged by Nebuchadnezzar; and after an obstinate and very protracted resistance, it was taken and destroyed. The inhabitants, however, were enabled to retire during the siege, with the greatest part of their property, to an island near the shore, where they built New Tyre, which soon surpassed the old city both in commerce and shipping.

A short time previous to the era generally assigned to the destruction of old Tyre, the Phoenicians are said to have performed a voyage, which, if authentic, may justly be regarded as the most important that the annals of this people record: we allude to the circumnavigation of Africa. As this voyage has given rise to much discussion, we may be excused for deviating from the cursory and condensed character of this part of our work, in order to investigate its probable authenticity. All that we know regarding it is delivered to us by Herodotus; according to this historian, soon after Nechos, king of Egypt, had finished the canal that united the Nile and the Arabian Gulf, he sent some Phoenicians from the borders of the Red Sea, with orders to keep always along the coast of Africa, and to return by the pillars of Hercules into the northern ocean. Accordingly the Phoenicians embarked on the Erythrean Sea, and navigated in the southern ocean. When autumn arrived, they landed on the part of Libya which they had reached, and sowed corn; here they remained till harvest, reaped the corn, and then re-embarked. In this manner they sailed for two years; in the third they passed the pillars of Hercules, and returned to Egypt. They related that in sailing round Libya, the sun was on their right hand. This relation, continues Herodotus, seems incredible to me, but perhaps it will not appear so to others. Before proceeding to an enquiry into the authenticity of this maritime enterprize, it may be proper to explain what is meant by the sun appearing on the right hand of the Phoenician navigators. The apparent motion of the heavens being from east to west, the west was regarded by the ancients as the foremost part of the world; the north, of course, was deemed the right, and the south the left of the world.

The principal circumstance attending this narrative, which is supposed to destroy or greatly weaken its credibility, is the short period of time in which this navigation was accomplished: it is maintained, that even at present, it would certainly require eighteen months to coast Africa from the Red Sea to the straits of Gibraltar; and "allowing nine months for each interval on shore, between the sowing and reaping, the Phoenicians could not have been more than eighteen months at sea."

To this objection it may be replied, in the first place, that between the tropics (within which space nearly the whole of the navigation was performed) nine months is much too long a time to allow for each interval on shore, between the sowing and the reaping: and, secondly, that though the period occupied by the whole voyage, and some of the circumstances attending it, may be inaccurately stated, the voyage itself ought not to be wholly discredited on these accounts.

The very circumstance which the historian rejects as incredible, is one of the strongest arguments possible in favour of the tradition; though this alone is not decisive, for the Phoenicians might have sailed far enough to the south to have observed the sun to the north, even if they had not accomplished the navigation of Africa. The strongest argument, however, in our opinion, in support of the actual accomplishment of this circumnavigation, has been unaccountably overlooked, in all the various discussion to which the subject has given rise. It is evident that in most voyages, false and exaggerated accounts may be given of the countries visited or seen, and of the circumstances attendant upon the voyage; whereas, with respect to this voyage, one most important and decisive particular lay within reach of the observation of those who witnessed the departure and arrival of the ships. If they sailed from the Red Sea, and returned by the Mediterranean, they must have circumnavigated Africa. It is obvious that if such a voyage was not performed, the story must have originated with Herodotus, with those from whom he received his information, or with those who were engaged in the expedition, supposing it actually to have been engaged in, but not to have accomplished the circumnavigation of Africa. The character of Herodotus secures him from the imputation; and by none is he charged with it:—Necho lived about six hundred and sixteen years before Christ; consequently little more than two hundred years before Herodotus; moreover, the communication and commerce of the Greeks with Egypt, was begun in the time of Psammeticus, the immediate predecessor of Necho, and was encouraged in a very particular manner by Amasis (who died in 525), who married a Greek, and was visited by Solon. From these circumstances, it is improbable that Herodotus, who was evidently not disposed to believe the account of the appearance of the sun, should not have had it in his power to obtain good evidence, whether a ship that had sailed from the Red Sea, had returned by the Mediterranean: if such evidence were acquired, it is obvious, as has been already remarked, that the third source of fabrication is utterly destroyed. Dr. Vincent is strongly opposed to the authenticity of this voyage, chiefly on the grounds that such ships as the ancients had, were by no means sufficiently strong, nor their seamen sufficiently skilful and experienced, to have successfully encountered a navigation, which the Portuguese did not accomplish without great danger and difficulty, and that the alleged circumnavigation produced no consequences.

It may be incidentally remarked that the incredulity of Herodotus with regard to the appearance of the sun to the north of the zenith, is not easily reconcileable with what we shall afterwards shew was the extent of his knowledge of the interior of Egypt. He certainly had visited, or had received communications from those who had visited Ethiopia as far south as eleven degrees north latitude. Under this parallel the sun appears for a considerable part of the year to the north. How, then, it may be asked, could Herodotus be incredulous of this phenomenon having been observed by the Phoenician circumnavigators. This difficulty can be solved by supposing either that if he himself had visited this part of Africa, it was at a season of the year when the sun was in that quarter of the heavens in which he was accustomed to see it; or, if he received his information from the inhabitants of this district, that they, not regarding the periodical appearance of the sun to the north of the zenith as extraordinary, did not think it necessary to mention it. It certainly cannot be supposed that if Herodotus had either seen himself, or heard from others, that the sun in Ethiopia sometimes appeared to the north of the zenith, he would have stated in such decided terms, when narrating the circumnavigation of the Phoenicians, that such a phenomenon appeared to him altogether incredible.

Before we return to the immediate subject of this part of our work, we may be allowed to deviate from strict chronological order, for the purpose of mentioning two striking and important facts, which naturally led to the belief of the practicability of circumnavigating Africa, long before that enterprise was actually accomplished by the Portuguese.

We are informed by Strabo, on the authority of Posidonius, that Eudoxus of Cyzicus, who lived about one hundred and fifty years before Christ, was induced to conceive the practicability of circumnavigating Africa, from the following circumstance. As Eudoxus was returning from India to the Red Sea, he was driven by adverse winds on the coast of Ethiopia: there he saw the figure of a horse sculptured on a piece of wood, which he knew to be a part of the prow of a ship. The natives informed him that it had belonged to a vessel, which had arrived among them from the west. Eudoxus brought it with him to Egypt, and subjected it to the inspection of several pilots: they pronounced it to be the prow of a small kind of vessel used by the inhabitants of Gadez, to fish on the coast of Mauritania, as far as the river Lixius: some of the pilots recognised it as belonging to a particular vessel, which, with several others, had attempted to advance beyond the Lixius, but had never afterwards been heard of. We are further informed on the same authority, that Eudoxus, hence conceiving it practicable to sail round Africa, made the attempt, and actually sailed from Gadez to a part of Ethiopia, the inhabitants of which spoke the same language as those among whom he had formerly been. From some cause not assigned, he proceeded no farther: subsequently, however, he made a second attempt, but how far he advanced, and what was the result, we are not informed.

The second fact to which we allude is related in the Commentary of Abu Sird, on the Travels of a Mahommedan in India and China, in the ninth century of the Christian era. The travels and commentary are already given in the first volume of this work; but the importance of the fact will, we trust, plead our excuse for repeating the passage which contains it.

"In our times, discovery has been made of a thing quite new: nobody imagined that the sea which extends from the Indies to China, had any communication with the sea of Syria, nor could any one take it into his head. Now behold what has come to pass in our days, according to what we have heard. In the Sea of Rum, or the Mediterranean, they found the wreck of an Arabian ship which had been shattered by tempest; for all her men perishing, and she being dashed to pieces by the waves, the remains of her were driven by wind and weather into the Sea of Chozars, and from thence to the canal of the Mediterranean sea, and at last were thrown on the Sea of Syria. This evinces that the sea surrounds all the country of China, and of Sila,—the uttermost parts of Turkestan, and the country of the Chozars, and then it enters at the strait, till it washes the shore of Syria. The proof of this is deduced from the built of the ship we are speaking of; for none but the ships of Sarif are so put together, that the planks are not nailed, or bolted, but joined together in an extraordinary manner, as if they were sewn; whereas the planking of all the ships of the Mediterranean Sea, and of the coast of Syria, is nailed and not joined together in the same way."

When we entered on this digression, we had brought the historical sketch of the discoveries and commerce of the Phoenicians down to the period of the destruction of Old Tyre, or about six hundred years before Christ. We shall now resume it, and add such particulars on these subjects as relate to the period that intervened between that event and the capture of New Tyre by Alexander the Great. These are few in number; for though New Tyre exceeded, according to all accounts, the old city in splendour, riches, and commercial prosperity, yet antient authors have not left us any precise accounts of their discoveries, such as can justly be fixed within the period to which we have alluded. They seem to have advanced farther than they had previously done along the west coast of Africa, and further along the north coast of Spain: the discovery of the Cassiterides also, and their trade to these islands for tin, (which we have shewn could hardly have taken place so early as is generally supposed,) must also have occurred, either immediately before, or soon after, the building of New Tyre. It is generally believed, that the Cassiterides were the Scilly Islands, off the coast of Cornwall. Strabo and Ptolemy indeed place them off the coast of Spain; but Diodorus Siculus and Pliny give them a situation, which, considering the vague and erroneous ideas the antients possessed of the geography of this part of the world, corresponds pretty nearly with the southern part of Britain. According to Strabo, the Phoenicians first brought tin from the Cassiterides, which they sold to the Greeks, but kept (as was usual with them) the trade entirely to themselves, and were utterly silent respecting the place from which they brought it. The Greeks gave these islands the name of Cassiterides, or the Tin Country; a plain proof of what we before advanced, that tin was known, and generally used, previous to the discovery of these islands by the Phoenicians.

There is scarcely any circumstance connected with the maritime history of the Phoenicians, more remarkable than their jealousy of foreigners interfering with their trade, to which we have just alluded. It seems to have been a regular plan, if not a fixed law with them, if at any time their ships observed that a strange ship kept them company, or endeavoured to trace their track, to outsail her if practicable; or, where this could not be done, to depart during the night from their proper course. The Carthaginians, a colony of the Phoenicians, adopted this, among other maritime regulations of the parent state, and even carried it to a greater extent. In proof of this, a striking fact may be mentioned: the master of a Carthaginian ship observing a Roman vessel following his course, purposely ran his vessel aground, and thus wrecked his own ship, as well as the one that followed him. This act was deemed by the Carthaginian government so patriotic, that he was amply rewarded for it, as well as recompensed for the loss of his vessel.

The circumstances attending the destruction of New Tyre by Alexander the Great are well known. The Tyrians united with the Persians against Alexander, for the purpose of preventing the invasion of Persia; this having incensed the conqueror, still further enraged by their refusal to admit him within their walls, he resolved upon the destruction of this commercial city. For seven months, the natural strength of the place, and the resources and bravery of the inhabitants, enabled them to hold out; but at length it was taken, burnt to the ground, and all the inhabitants, except such as had escaped by sea, were either put to death or sold as slaves.

Little is known respecting the structure and equipment of the ships which the Phoenicians employed in their commercial navigation. According to the apocryphal authority of Sanconiatho, Ousous, one of the most ancient of the Phoenician heroes, took a tree which was half burnt, cut off its branches, and was the first who ventured to expose himself on the waters. This tradition, however, probably owes its rise to the prevalent belief among the ancients, that to the Phoenicians was to be ascribed the invention of every thing that related to the rude navigation and commerce of the earliest ages of the world: under this idea, the art of casting accounts, keeping registers, and every thing, in short, that belongs to a factory, is attributed to their invention.[2] With respect to their vessels,— "Originally they had only rafts, or simple boats; they used oars to conduct these weak and light vessels. As navigation extended itself, and became more frequent, they perfected the construction of ships, and made them of a much larger capacity. They were not long in discovering the use that might be drawn from the wind, to hasten and facilitate the course of a ship, and they found out the art of aiding it by means of masts and sails." Such is the account given by Goguet; but it is evident that this is entirely conjectural history: and we may remark, by the bye, that a work otherwise highly distinguished by clear and philosophical views, and enriched by considerable learning and research, in many places descends to fanciful conjecture.

All that we certainly know respecting the ships of the Phoenicians, is, that they had two kinds; one for the purposes of commerce, and the other for naval expeditions; and in this respect they were imitated by all the other nations of antiquity. Their merchant-ships were called Gauloi. According to Festus's definition of this term, the gauloi were nearly round; but it is evident that this term must be taken with considerable restriction; a vessel round, or nearly so, could not possibly be navigated. It is most probable that this description refers entirely to the shape of the bottom or hold of the vessel; and that merchant ships were built in this manner, in order that they might carry more goods; whereas the ships for warfare were sharp in the bottom. Of other particulars respecting the construction and equipment of the ships of the Phoenicians, we are ignorant: they probably resembled in most things those of Greece and Rome; and these, of which antient historians speak more fully, will be described afterwards.

The Phoenicians naturally paid attention to astronomy, so far at least as might be serviceable to them in their navigation; and while other nations were applying it merely to the purposes of agriculture and chronology, by means of it they were guided through the "trackless ocean," in their maritime enterprises. The Great Bear seems to have been known and used as a guide by navigators, even before the Phoenicians were celebrated as a sea-faring people; but this constellation affords a very imperfect and uncertain rule for the direction of a ship's course: the extreme stars that compose it are more than forty degrees distant from the pole, and even its centre star is not sufficiently near it. The Phoenicians, experiencing the imperfection of this guide, seem first to have discovered, or at least to have applied to maritime purposes, the constellation of the Lesser Bear. But it is probable, that at the period when they first applied this constellation, which is supposed to be about 1250 years before Christ, they did not fix on the star at the extremity of the tail of Ursa Minor, which is what we call the Pole Star; for by a Memoir of the Academy of Sciences (1733. p. 440.) it is shewn, that it would at that period be too distant to serve the purpose of guiding their track.[3]

II. The gleanings in antient history respecting the maritime and commercial enterprises, and the discoveries and settlements of the Egyptians, during the very early ages, to which we are at present confining ourselves, are few and unimportant compared with those of the Phoenicians, and consequently will not detain us long.

We have already noticed the advantageous situation of Egypt for navigation and commerce: in some respects it was preferable to that of Phoenicia; for besides the immediate vicinity of the Mediterranean, a sea, the shores of which were so near to each other that they almost prevented the possibility of the ancients, rude and ignorant as they were of all that related to navigation and the management of ships, deviating long or far from their route; besides the advantages of a climate equally free from the clouded skies, long nights and tempestuous weather of more northern regions, and from the irresistible hurricanes of those within the tropics—besides these favourable circumstances, which, the Egyptians enjoyed in common with the Phoenicians, they had, running far into their territory, a river easily navigable, and at no great distance from this river, and bounding their country, a sea almost equally favourable for navigation and commerce as the Mediterranean. Their advantages for land journies were also numerous and great; though the vicinity of the deserts seemed at first sight to have raised an effectual bar to those countries which they divided from Egypt, yet Providence had wisely and benevolently removed the difficulty arising from this source, and had even rendered intercommunication, where deserts intervened, more expeditious, and not more difficult, than in those regions where they did not occur, by the creation of the camel, a most benevolent compensation to the Egyptians for their vicinity to the extensive deserts of Africa.

Notwithstanding the advantageous situation of the Egyptians for navigation, they were extremely averse, as we nave already remarked, during the earliest periods of their history, to engage in sea affairs, either for the purposes of war or commerce; nor did they indeed, at any time, enter with spirit, or on a large scale, into maritime enterprises.

The superstitious and fabulous reasons assigned for this antipathy of the Egyptians to the sea [has->have] been noticed before; perhaps some other causes contributed to it, as well as the one alluded to. Egypt is nearly destitute of timber proper for ship-building: its sea-coasts are unhealthy, and do not appear to have been inhabited [near->nearly] so early as the higher country: its harbours are few, of intricate navigation, and frequently changing their depth and direction; and lastly, the advantages which the Nile presents for intercourse and traffic precluded the necessity of applying to sea navigation and commerce.

Some authors are of opinion that the ancient Egyptians did not engage in navigation and commerce till the era of the Ptolemies; but this is undoubtedly a mistake, since traces of their commercial intercommunication with other nations may be found at a very early period of history. It is probable, however, that for a long time they themselves did not engage in commerce, but were merely visited by traders from foreign countries; for at this era it was a maxim with them, never to leave their own country. The low opinion they entertained of commerce may be gathered from Herodotus, who mentions, that the men disdained to meddle with it, but left it entirely to the women.

The earliest account we possess of traffic with Egypt, is to be found in the Old Testament, where we are informed, that the Midianites and Ismaelites traded thither as early as the time of Jacob.

Sesostris, who is generally supposed to have lived about 1650 years before Christ, is by most writers described as the king who first overcame the dislike of the Egyptians to the sea. That this monarch engaged in many enterprises both by sea and land, not only for conquest, but also for purposes of trade and colonization, there can be no doubt; though it is impossible either to trace his various routes, or to estimate the extent of his conquests or discoveries. The concurrent testimony of Diodorus and Herodotus assign to him a large fleet in the Red Sea; and according to other historians, he had also a fleet in the Mediterranean. In order the more effectually to banish the prejudices of the Egyptians against the sea, he is said to have instituted a marine class among his subjects. By these measures he seems to have acquired the sovereignty and the commerce of the greater part of the shores of the Red Sea; along which his ships continued their route, till, according to Herodotus, they were prevented from advancing by shoals and places difficult to navigate; a description which aptly applies to the navigation of this sea.

His expeditions and conquests in other parts of the globe do not fall within our object: one however must be noticed; we allude to the settlement of the Egyptians at Colchos. Herodotus is doubtful whether this was a colony planted by Sesostris, or whether part of his army remained behind on the banks of the Phasis, when he invaded this part of Asia. We allude to this colony, because with it were found, at the time of the Argonautic expedition, proofs of the attention which Sesostris had paid to geography, and of the benefits which that science derived from him. "Tradition," Gibbon observes, "has affirmed, with some colour of reason, that Egypt planted on the Phasis a learned and polite colony, which manufactured linen, built navies, and invented geographical maps." All the information we possess respecting these maps is derived from Apollonius Rhodius, and his scholiast: the substance of it is as follows: according to this poet,—Phineas, king of Colchos, predicted to the Argonauts the events which would accompany their return. Argus, one of the Argonauts, explained that prediction to his companions, and told them, that the route which they must keep was described on tables, or rather on columns, which an Egyptian conqueror had before left in the city of Oca, the capital of Colchis; on these columns, the whole extent of the roads, and the limits of the land and sea were marked out. An ingenious, and by no means an improbable inference, has been drawn from this circumstance: that if Sesostris left such columns in a part so remote from Egypt, it is to be supposed that they were more numerous in Egypt itself. In short, though on a point like this it is impossible to gain clear and undoubted testimony, we are, upon the whole, strongly disposed to coincide in opinion with Gibbon, that tradition has some colour of reason for affirming that the Egyptian colony at Phasis possessed geographical maps.

After the death of Sesostris, the Egyptians seem to have relapsed into their former dislike to the sea: they indeed sent colonies into Greece, and other parts; but these colonists kept up no relation with the mother country. Their commerce was carried on, as it had been before the time of Sesostris, by foreigners. The Old Testament informs us, that in the time of Solomon many horses were brought from Egypt: and, from the same authority, as well as from Herodotus and Homer, we learn that the Phoenicians carried on a regular and lucrative traffic with this country; and, indeed, for a long time, about this period, they were the only nation to whom the ports of Egypt were open. Of the navigation and commerce of the Red Sea they were equally negligent; so that while none of their ships were seen on it, it was covered with the fleets of the Syrians, Phoenicians, and other nations.

Bocchoris, who lived about seven hundred years before Christ, is represented by historians as having imitated the maxims of Sesostris, with respect to maritime affairs and commerce. Some of his laws on these subjects are still extant; and they display his knowledge of, and attention to, the improvement of his kingdom. By some of his immediate successors the ancient maxims of the Egyptians, which led them to avoid intercourse with strangers, were gradually done away; but it is to Psammeticus, historians ascribe the most decisive measures for rooting out this antipathy. In his reign the ports of Egypt were first opened to foreign ships generally. He seems particularly to have encouraged commercial intercourse with the Greeks; though afterwards, either from some particular cause of jealousy or dislike to this nation, or from the still operating antipathy of the Egyptians to foreigners, the Greeks were not permitted to enter any port except Naucratis, which they had been suffered to build for the residence of their merchants and convenience of their trade. This city lay on the Canopic branch of the Nile; and if a vessel entered any other mouth of this river, the master was obliged to return to the Canopic branch; or, if the wind did not permit this, to unlade his vessel, and send his merchandize to Naucratis by the country boats.

From the time of Psammeticus, when the Greeks were allowed to settle in Egypt, frequent intercourse and correspondence was kept up between them and their countrymen in Greece; and from this circumstance the Egyptian history may henceforth be more firmly depended upon. It has already been remarked, that as the alleged circumnavigation of Africa by the Phoenicians took place during the reign of Necho, the successor of Psammeticus, the grounds for its authenticity are much stronger than if it had occurred previously to the intercourse of the Greeks with Egypt.

The employment of Phoenician mariners by Necho, to circumnavigate Africa, bespeaks a monarch bent on maritime and commercial enterprise; and there are other transactions of his reign which confirm this character. It is said that Sesostris attempted to unite by a canal the Mediterranean and the Red Sea, but that he did not succeed in his attempt: Necho also made the attempt with as little success. He next turned his thoughts to the navigation and commerce of the Mediterranean and Red Sea, in each of which he had large fleets.

The superstitious antipathy of the Egyptians having been thus broken through, and the recurrence of this antipathy secured against, by the advantages they derived from navigation and commerce, the Egyptian monarchs seem, as long as Egypt continued free, to have directed their attention and resources, with considerable zeal and success, to maritime affairs. Their strength by sea, as well as their experience, may be estimated by an event during the reign of Apries, the grandson of Necho: this monarch was engaged in war with the Sidonians, Tyrians and Cypriots; he took the city of Sidon by storm, and defeated both the Phoenicians and Cypriots in a sea fight. In fact, during his reign the Egyptians had the command of the Mediterranean Sea. It is probable, that if they had continued long after this time an independent state, they would have been still more celebrated and successful in their maritime and commercial affairs; but in the year 525 before Christ, about seventy years after the reign of Apries, Egypt was conquered by the Persians.

Notwithstanding, therefore, this temporary dereliction of their antipathy to the sea, and intercourse with foreigners, the Egyptians can scarcely be regarded as a nation distinguished for their maritime and commercial enterprises; and they certainly by no means, either by sea or land, took advantages of those favourable circumstances by which their country seemed to be marked out for the attainment of an extensive and lucrative commerce. It is well remarked by Dr. Vincent, that "while Egypt was under the power of its native sovereigns Tyre, Sidon, Arabia, Cyprus, Greece, Sicily, and Carthage, were all enriched by the trade carried on in its ports, and the articles of commerce which could be obtained there, and there only; the Egyptians themselves were hardly known in the Mediterranean as the exporters of their own commodities; they were the Chinese of the ancient world, and the ships of all nations, except their own, laded in their harbours." As soon, however, as it passed from the power of its native sovereigns, and became subject successively to the Persians, Macedonians, and Romans, it furnished large fleets, and, as we shall afterwards notice, under the Greeks, Alexandria became one of the principal commercial cities in the world. The Greek inhabitants of Egypt were the carriers of the Mediterranean, as well as the agents, factors, and importers of oriential produce. The cities which had risen under the former system sank into insignificance; and so wise was the new policy, and so deeply had it taken root, that the Romans, upon the subjection of Egypt, found it more expedient to leave Alexandria in possession of its privileges, than to alter the course of trade, or to occupy it themselves.

We possess scarcely any notices respecting the construction and equipment of the Egyptian ships. According to Herodotus, they were made of thorns twisted together, and their sails of rush mats: they were built in a particular manner, quite different from those of other nations, and rigged also in a singular manner; so that they seem to have been the mockery of the other maritime states in the Mediterranean. But this description can hardly apply to the Egyptian ships, after they had become powerful at sea, though the expressions of Herodotus seem to have reference to the Egyptian ships of his age. There can be no doubt that the vessels that navigated the Nile, were very rude and singular in their construction; and most probably the description given by the historian ought to be regarded as exclusively confined to them. They were built of the Egyptian thorn, which seems to have been very extensively cultivated, especially in the vicinity of Acanthus: planks of small dimensions were cut from this tree, which were fastened together, or rather laid over one another, like tiles, with a great number of wooden pins: they used no ribs in the construction of their vessels: on the inside, papyrus was employed for the purpose of stopping up the crevices, or securing the joints. There was but one rudder; whereas the ships of the Greeks and Romans had generally two; this passed quite through the keel. The mast was made of Egyptian thorn, and the sail of papyrus. Indeed, these two plants appear to have been the entire materials used in the construction and rigging of their ships. They were towed up the Nile, as they were not fit to stem its stream, except when a strong favourable wind blew. Their mode of navigating these vessels down the river was singular; they fastened a hurdle of tamarisk with a rope to the prow of the vessel; which hurdle they strengthened with bands of reeds, and let it down into the water; they also hung a stone, pierced through the middle, and of a considerable weight, by another rope, to the poop. By this means, the stream bearing on the hurdle, carried down the boat with great expedition; the stone at the same time balancing and keeping it steady. Of these vessels they had great numbers on the river; some very large.

III. The Jews were still more averse than the Egyptians to intercourse with foreigners, and maritime and commercial enterprises; indeed, their country was comparatively ill-situated for maritime commerce. Josephus is not, however, quite correct, in stating that Judea was not situated on the sea, and that the people of that country did not carry on any trade, but that their whole thoughts were turned to agriculture. The words of Jacob, on his death-bed, are expressly against this opinion: in blessing his twelve sons, he says of Zebulon, "he shall dwell at the haven of the sea, and he shall be for an haven of ships;" and we know that the tribe of Zebulon was extended to the sea shore, and to the gates of Sidon.

It is not likely, that being in the immediate vicinity of this commercial city, the Jews would not be stimulated to follow its example, and endeavour to draw wealth from the same sources. Indeed, the Old Testament expressly speaks of Joppa as the port of Judea and Jerusalem, into which foreign articles, and especially many of the materials used by Solomon in the building of the temple, were imported.

On the conquest of the Amalekites and Edomites by King David, the Jews gained possession of some ports in the Red Sea; and during his reign, and that of Solomon, the Jews certainly employed the ships of their ally, Hiram king of Tyre, extensively in foreign commerce. Indeed, the commerce of the Phoenicians from the Red Sea, appears to have been carried on principally, if not entirely, from the harbours in that sea belonging to the Jews, though there is no ground for believing that the Jews themselves had any fleet on it, or were at all engaged in its commerce. These short notices are all that history supplies us with, on the subject of the navigation and commerce of the Jews. From the Old Testament we may, however, collect materials, by which we may estimate the progress they had made in geography. About 500 years before Christ, they do not appear to have extended their knowledge of the globe beyond Mount Caucasus to the north, the entrance of the Red Sea to the south, and the Mediterranean Archipelago to the west, besides Egypt, Asia Minor, Armenia, Syria, Arabia, and perhaps a small part of Abyssinia.

Having thus given a sketch of the progress of discovery, and of commercial enterprize by sea and land, among those nations who were the most early in directing their attention to these points, we shall next proceed to an account of the navigation and commercial enterprizes of the Greeks and Romans; and as in this part of our work we shall follow a more strictly chronological arrangement, the navigation and commercial enterprizes of the Carthaginians will be incidentally noticed in the order of time to which they belong. Before, however, we proceed to this subject, it may be proper to enter more particularly and fully than we have hitherto done, into a description of the construction and equipment of the ancient ships, since, so far as relates to the ships of the Greeks and Romans, we possess much more ample materials for such a description, than history supplies us with respecting the ships of the other nations of antiquity.

The traditionary story of the Phoenicians, that one of their heroes was the first man who had the courage to expose himself upon the waters, in a half burnt tree, stript of its branches, has already been noticed. It is probable, however, that the first vessels had not even so much resemblance to our present boats: indeed, conjecture, as well as history, warrant us in believing that rafts were the most ancient mode of conveyance on the water; and even in the time of Pliny they were extensively employed, especially in the navigation of rivers. Boats formed of slender rods or hurdles, and covered with skins, seem also to have preceded the canoe, or vessel mode of a single piece of timber. It is probable that a considerable time would elapse before the means of constructing boats of planks were discovered, since the bending of the planks for that purpose is not a very obvious art. The Greeks ascribe this invention to a native of Lydia; but at what period he lived, is not known. Among some nations, leather was almost the only material used in the construction of ships; and even in the time of Caesar, the Veneti, a people of Brittany, distinguished as a maritime and commercial tribe, made their sails of hides, and their tackle of thongs. In early ages, also, the Greeks used the common rushes of their country, and the Carthaginians, the spartum, or broom of Spain.

But it is to the ships of Greece and Rome, when they were constructed with more skill, and better adapted to navigation, that we are to pay attention; and of those, only to such as were used for commercial purposes. The latter were rounder and more capacious than ships used for war; they were principally impelled by sails; whereas the ships of war, though not wholly without sails, were chiefly rowed. Another difference between them was, that ships of war commonly had an helmet engraven on the top of their masts, and ships for trade had a basket suspended on the top of their mast as a sign. There seems to have been great variety in the construction of the latter, according to the particular trade in which they were to be engaged; and each ship of burden had its boat attached to it. The name of the ship, or rather of its tutelary deity, was inscribed on the stern: various forms of gods, animals, plants, &c. were also painted on other parts. The inhabitants of Phoeacia, or Corsica, are represented as the first who used pitch to fill up the seams, and preserve the timber; sometimes wax was used for this purpose, or rather it was mixed with the paint, to prevent its being defaced by the sun, winds, or water. The principal instruments used in navigation were the rudder, anchor, sounding line, cables, oars, sails, and masts.

It is evident from ancient authors, that the ships of the Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, and other people of antiquity, had frequently more than one rudder; but it is not easy to perceive in what way more than one could be applied to the same end for which the rudder of modern ships is used. Small vessels had only one. Homer in his Odyssey mentions only one, which was fastened, and perhaps strengthened, so as to withstand the winds and waves on each side, with hurdles, made of sallow or osier; at the same period the ships of the Phoenicians had two rudders. When there were two, one was fixed at each end; this, however, seems to have been the case only where, as was not uncommon, the ships had two prows, so that either end could go foremost. With respect to vessels of four rudders, as two are described as being fixed to the sides, it is probable that these resembled in their construction and object the pieces of wood attached to the sides of small Dutch vessels and barges on the Thames, and generally all vessels that are flat-bottomed, for the purpose of preventing them from making much lee way, when they are working against the wind.

The first anchors were not made of iron, but of stone, or even of wood; these were loaded with lead. According to Diodorus, the Phoenicians, in their first voyages to Spain, having obtained more silver than their ships could safely hold, employed some of it, instead of lead, for their anchors. Very anciently the anchor had only one fluke. Anacharsis is said to have invented an anchor with two. Sometimes baskets full of stones, and sacks filled with sand, were employed as anchors. Every ship had two anchors, one of which was never used, except in cases of great danger: it was larger than the other, and was called the sacred anchor. At the period of the Argonautic expedition, it does not appear that anchors of any kind but stone were known; though the scholiast upon Apollonius Rhodius, quite at variance with the testimony of this author, mentions anchors of iron with two flukes. It has been supposed that anchors were not used by the Grecian fleet at the siege of Troy, because "the Greek word which is used to mean an anchor, properly so called, is not used in any of the poems of Homer." It is certain that iron anchors were not then known; but it is equally certain that large stones were used as anchors.

Homer is entirely silent respecting any implement that would serve the purpose of a sounding line; but it is expressly mention by Herodotus as common in his time: it was commonly made of lead or brass, and attached, not to a cord, but an iron, chain.

In very ancient times the cables were made of leather thongs, afterwards of rushes, the osier, the Egyptian byblus, and other materials. The Veneti used iron cables; hence we see that what is generally deemed an invention entirely modern, was known to a savage nation in Gaul, in the time of Caesar. This nation was so celebrated for the building and equipment of their vessels, which were, from all accounts, better able to withstand the fury of the ocean than the ships even of the Greeks and Romans, that Caesar gave orders for the building of vessels, on the Loire, similar to those of the Veneti, large, flat-bottomed, and high at the head and stern. Yet these vessels, built on such an excellent model, and supplied with chain-cables, had no sails but what were made of leather; and these sails were never furled, but only bound to the mast. Besides cables, the ancients had other ropes to fasten ships in the harbours: the usual mode was to erect stones for this purpose, which were bored through.

In the time of Homer, the ships of the ancients had only one bank of oars; afterwards two, three, four, five, and even nine and ten banks of oars are said not to have been uncommon: but it is not easy to understand in what manner so many oars could have been used: we shall not enter on this question, which is still unresolved. The Romans had seldom any vessels with more than five banks of oars. Such vessels as were intended for lightness, had only one bank of oars; this was particularly the case with the vessels of the Liburnians, a piratical tribe on the Adriatic.

The sails, in very ancient times, were made of leather; afterwards of rushes. In the days of Agricola, the Roman sails were made of flax: towards the end of the first century, hemp was in common use among them for sails, ropes, and new for hunting. At first there was only one sail in a ship, but afterwards there appear to have been several: they were usually white, as this colour was deemed fortunate; sometimes, however, they were coloured.

At the time of the Trojan war, the Greek ships had only one mast, which was lowered upon the deck when the ship was in harbour: near the top of the mast a ribband was fastened to point out the direction of the wind. In later times there seem to have been several masts, though this is denied by some authors.

It remains now to speak of the materials of which the ships were built, their size, and their crews.

The species of wood principally employed in the construction of the Grecian ships were alder, poplar, and fir: cedar, pine, and cypress, were also used. The Veneti, already mentioned as celebrated for their ships, built them of oak; but theirs are the only vessels of antiquity that seem to have been constructed of this kind of wood. The timber was so little seasoned, that a considerable number of ships are recorded as having been completely built and equipped in thirty days, after the timber was cut down in the forest. In the time of the Trojan war, no iron was used in the building of ships; the planks were fastened to the ribs with cords.

In the most ancient accounts of the Grecian ships, the only mode by which we can form a conjecture of their size, is from the number of men they were capable of holding. At the siege of Troy, Homer describes the ships of the Beotians as the largest; and they carried, he says, one hundred and twenty men. As Thucydides informs us that at this period soldiers served as rowers, the number mentioned by Homer must comprehend all the ship could conveniently accommodate. In general the Roman trading vessels were very small. Cicero represents those that could hold two thousand amphorae, or about sixty tons, as very large; there were, however, occasionally enormous ships built: one of the most remarkable for size was that of Ptolemy; it was four hundred and twenty feet long, and if it were broad and deep in proportion, its burden must have been upwards of seven thousand tons, more than three times the burden of one of our first rates; but it is probable that it was both flat bottomed and narrow. Of the general smallness of the Greek and Roman ships, we need no other proof, than that they were accustomed to draw them on land when in port, and during the winter; and that they were often conveyed for a considerable space over land. They were sometimes made in such a manner that they could easily and quickly be taken to pieces, and put together again. Thucydides asserts that the ships which carried the Greeks to Troy were not covered; but in this he is contradicted by Homer.

The principal officer in ships intended for trade was the pilot: he was expected to know the right management of the sails, rudder, &c. the wind, and celestial bodies, the harbours, rocks, quick-sands, and course to be steered. The Greeks were far behind the Phoenicians in many parts of nautical knowledge: we have seen that the latter at an early period changed the Greater for the Lesser Bear, for the direction of their course; whereas the Greeks steered by the Greater Bear. In very early periods it was the practice to steer all day by the course of the sun, and at night to anchor near the shore. Several stars were observed by the pilot for the purpose of foretelling the weather, the principal of which were Arcturus, the Dog Star, Orion, Castor and Pollux, &c. In the time of Homer, the Greeks knew only the four cardinal winds; they were a long time ignorant of the art of subdividing the intermediate parts of the horizon, and of determining a number of rhombs sufficient to serve the purposes of a navigation of small extent. Even so late as the date of the Periphes of the Erythraean Sea, which Dr. Vincent has fixed about the tenth year of Nero's reign, only eight points of the compass are mentioned; these are the same as are marked upon the temple of the winds at Athens. The utmost length to which the ancients arrived in subdividing the compass, was by adding two intermediate winds between each of the cardinal winds. We have noticed these particulars relative to the winds and the constellations, in order to illustrate the duty which the pilot had to perform, and the difficulty and responsibility of his office, at a period when navigators possessed such a small portion of experience and knowledge.

Besides the chief pilot, there was a subordinate one, whose duty it was to keep a look out at the prow, to manage and direct the sails and rowers, and to assist the principal pilot by his advice: the directions of the subordinate pilot were conveyed to the rowers by another officer, who seems to have answered to the boatswain of our men of war. The rowers were enabled to pull all at once, or to keep time, by a person who sung and played to them while they were employed. During the night, or in difficult navigations, the charge of the sounding lead, or of the long poles, which were used either for the same purpose, or to push the ship off, when she got a-ground, was committed to a particular officer. There were, besides, men whose duty it was to serve out the victuals, to keep the ship's accounts, &c.

The usual day's sail of a ship of the ancients was five hundred stadia, or fifty miles; and the course run over, when they sailed night and day, double that space.

We have confined ourselves, in this account of the ships of the ancients, principally to those particulars that are connected with the construction, equipment, &c. of those employed for commercial purposes, and shall now proceed to a historical sketch of the progress of discovery among the Greeks, from the earliest records to the era of Herodotus, the father of geographical knowledge.

The first maritime expedition of the Greeks, of which we have a particular narration, and certainly one of the most celebrated in ancient times, is the Argonautic expedition. As we purpose to go into some length on the subject of this expedition, it may be proper to defend ourselves from the charge of occupying too much space, and giving too much attention to an enterprize generally deemed fabulous, and so obscured by fable and uncertainty, as to be little capable of illustration, and little conducive to the improvement of geographical knowledge. This defence we shall borrow from a name deservedly high among those who have successfully illustrated ancient geography, for the happy and successful mutual adaptation of great learning and sound judgment, and not less worthy of respect and imitation for his candour and liberality: we allude to Dr. Vincent, the illustrator of the Voyage of Nearchus, and the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea.

"The reality of the Argonautic expedition, (he observes in the Preliminary Disquisition to the latter work), has been questioned; but if the primordial history of every nation but one is tinctured with the fabulous, and if from among the rest a choice is necessary to be made, it must be allowed that the traditions of Greece are less inconsistent than those of the more distant regions of the earth. Oriental learning is now employed in unravelling the mythology of India, and recommending it as containing the seeds of primaeval history; but hitherto we have seen nothing that should induce us to relinquish the authority we have been used to respect, or to make us prefer the fables of the Hindoos or Guebres, to the fables of the Greeks. Whatever difficulties may occur in the return of the Argonauts, their voyage to Colchis is consistent: it contains more real geography than has yet been discovered in any record of the Bramins or the Zendevesta, and is truth itself, both geographical and historical, when compared with the portentous expedition of Ram to Ceylon."

In discussing the subject of the Argonautic expedition, we shall successively consider its probable era—its supposed object—the voyage to Colchis, and the various tracks by which the Argonauts are said to have returned.

I. Archbishop Usher fixes the era of this expedition at about 1280 years before Christ: Sir Isaac Newton, on the other hand, fixes it much later, about 937 years before Christ. His opinion is grounded principally on a supposition, that the Greek sphere was invented by two of the Argonauts, who delineated the expedition under the name of Argo, one of the constellations. And as the equinoctial colure passed through the middle of Aries, when that sphere was constructed, he infers, by calculations of their retrograde motion from their place then till the year A.D. 1690, that the expedition took place in 937 before Christ. To this, however, there seem to be insurmountable objections, which it is surprising did not occur to this great man. The chief star in Argo is only 37 degrees from the south pole; and the greatest part of the constellation is much nearer. The course of the Argonauts from Greece to Colchis, necessarily lay between 39 and 45 degrees of north latitude. It will be evident to any person acquainted with astronomy, that within these latitudes no star of the first magnitude, or such as would attract observation, especially in those times, could be visible. But, what is still more decisive against the whole of Sir Isaac Newton's hypothesis, he takes for granted that the sphere was invented by the Argonauts: if this indeed could be proved, it would be easy to fix the era of the Argonautic expedition; but till such proof is given, all that can be fairly inferred from an inspection of this sphere is, that it was constructed 937 years before Christ. We have dwelt upon this point, because, thinking that the Argonautic expedition was not nearly so late as Newton supposes, we hence regard it as, proportionally to its antiquity, more creditable to the Greeks, and a stronger proof of their advancement in maritime skill and enterprize.

II. Its alleged object was the Golden Fleece: what that actually was can only be conjectured;—that no commercial advantages would tempt the people of that age is obvious, when we reflect on their habits and manners;—that the precious metals would be a powerful attraction, and would be regarded as cheaply acquired by the most hazardous enterprizes, is equally obvious. If Sir Walter Raleigh, sound as he was for his era in the science of political economy, was so far ignorant of the real wealth of nations, as to be disappointed when he did not find El Dorado in America, though that country contained much more certain and abundant sources of wealth,—can we be surprized if the Greeks, at the time of the Argonautic expedition, could be stimulated to such an enterprize, only by the hope of obtaining the precious metals? It may, indeed, be contended that plunder was their object; but it does not seem likely that they would have ventured to such a distance from Greece, or on a navigation which they knew to be difficult and dangerous, as well as long, for the sake of plunder, when there were means and opportunities for it so much nearer home. We must equally reject the opinion of Suidas, that the Golden Fleece was a parchment book, made of sheep-skin, which contained the whole secret of transmuting all metals into gold; and the opinion of Varro, that the Argonauts went to obtain skins and other rich furs, which Colchis furnished in abundance. And the remarks which we have made, also apply against the opinion of Eustathius, that the voyage of the Argonauts was at once a commercial and maritime expedition, to open the commerce of the Euxine Sea, and to establish forts on its shore.

Having rendered it probable, from general considerations, that the object was the obtaining of the precious metals, we shall next proceed to strengthen this opinion, by showing that they were the produce of the country near the Black Sea. The gold mines to the south of Trebizond, which are still worked with sufficient profit, were a subject of national dispute between Justinian and Chozroes; and, as Gibbon remarks, "it is not unreasonable to believe that a vein of precious metal may be equally diffused through the circle of the hills." On what account these mines were shadowed out under the appellation of a Golden Fleece, it is not easy to explain. Pliny, and some other writers, suppose that the rivers impregnated with particles of gold were carefully strained through sheeps-skins, or fleeces; but these are not the materials that would be used for such a purpose: it is more probable that, if fleeces were used, they were set across some of the narrow parts of the streams, in order to stop and collect the particles of gold.

III. It is said that there was an ancient law in Greece, which forbad any ship to be navigated with more than fifty men, and that Jason was the first who offended against this law. There can be little doubt, from all the accounts of the ancients, that Jason's ship was larger than the Greeks at that period were accustomed to. Diodorus and Pliny represent it as the first ship of war which went out of the ports of Greece; that it was comparatively large, well built and equipped, and well navigated in all respects, must be inferred from its having accomplished such a voyage at that era.

In their course to the Euxine Sea, they visited Lemnos, Samothrace, Troas, Cyzicum, Bithynia, and Thrace; these wanderings must have been the result of their ignorance of the navigation of those seas. From Thrace they directed their course, without further wanderings, to the Euxine Sea. At the distance of four or five leagues from the entrance to the sea, are the Cyanean rocks; the Argonauts passed between them not without difficulty and danger; before this expedition, the passage was deemed impracticable, and many fables were told regarding them: their true situation and form were first explored by the Argonauts. They now safely entered the Euxine Sea, where they seem to have been driven about for some time, till they discovered Mount Caucasus; this served as a land mark for their entrance into the Phasis, when they anchored near OEa, the capital of Colchis.

IV. The course of the Argonauts to Colchis is well ascertained; and the accessions to the geographical knowledge of that age, which we derive from the accounts given of that course, are considerable. But with respect to the route they followed on their return, there is much contradiction and fable. All authors agree that they did not return by the same route which they pursued in their outward voyage. According to Hesiod, they passed from the Euxine into the Eastern Ocean; but being prevented from returning by the same route, in consequence of the fleet of Colchis blockading the Bosphorus, they were obliged to sail round Ethiopia, and to cross Lybia by land, drawing their vessels after them. In this manner they arrived at the Gulph of Syrtis, in the Mediterranean. Other ancient writers conduct the Argonauts back by the Nile, which they supposed to communicate with the Eastern Ocean; while, by others, they are represented as having sailed up the Danube to the Po or the Rhine.

Amidst such obscure and evidently fictitious accounts, it may appear useless to offer any conjecture; but there is one route by which the Argonauts are supposed to have returned, in favour of which some probability may be urged. All writers agree in opinion that they did not return by the route they followed on going to the Euxine; if this be true, the least absurd and improbable mode of getting back into the Mediterranean is to be preferred: of those routes already mentioned, all are eminently absurd and impossible. Perhaps the one we are about to describe, may, in the opinion of some, be deemed equally so; but to us it appears to have some plausibility. The tradition to which we allude is, that the Argonauts sailed up some sea or river from the Euxine, till they reached the Baltic Sea, and that they returned by the Northern Ocean through the straits of Hercules, into the Mediterranean. The existence of an ocean from the east end of the Gulf of Finland to the Caspian or the Euxine Sea, was firmly believed by Pliny, and the same opinion prevailed in the eleventh century; for Adam of Bremen says, people [could sail->could formerly sail] from the Baltic down to Greece. Now the whole of that tract of country is flat and level, and from the sands near Koningsberg, through the calcareous loam of Poland and the Ukraine, evidently alluvial and of comparatively recent formation.

If the Trojan war happened, according to the Arundelian Marbles, 1209 years before Christ, this event must have been subsequent to the Argonautic expedition only about fifty years: yet, in this short space of time, the Greeks had made great advances in the art of ship building, and in navigation. The equipment of the Argonautic expedition was regarded, at the period it took place, as something almost miraculous; yet the ships sent against Troy seem to have excited little astonishment, though, considering the state of Greece at that period, they were very numerous.

It is foreign to our purpose to regard this expedition in any other light than as it is illustrative of the maritime skill and attainments of Greece at this era, and so far connected with our present subject. The number of ships employed, according to Homer, amounted to 1186: Thucydides states them at 1200; and Euripides, Virgil, and some other authors, reduce their number to 1000. The ships of the Boeotians were the largest; they carried 120 men each; those of the Philoctetae were the smallest, each carrying only fifty men. Agamemnon had 160 ships; the Athenians fifty; Menelaus, king of Sparta, sixty; but some of his ships seem to have been furnished by his allies; whereas all the Athenian vessels belonged to Athens alone. We have already mentioned that Thucydides is contradicted by Homer, in his assertion that the Greek ships, at the siege of Troy, had no decks; perhaps, however, they were only half-decked, as it would appear, from the descriptions of them, that the fore-part was open to the keel: they had a mainsail, and were rowed by oars. Greece is so admirably situated for maritime and commercial enterprize, that it must have been very early sensible of its advantages in these respects. The inhabitants of the isle of Egina are represented as the first people in Greece who were distinguished for their intelligence and success in maritime traffic: soon after the return of the Heraclidae they possessed considerable commerce, and for a long time they are said to have held the empire of the adjoining sea. Their naval power and commerce were not utterly annihilated till the time of Pericles.

The Corinthians, who are not mentioned by Homer as having engaged in the Trojan war, seem, however, not long afterwards, to have embarked with great spirit and success in maritime commerce; their situation was particularly favourable for it, and equally well situated to be the transit of the land trade of Greece. Corinth had two ports, one upon each sea. The Corinthians are said to have first built vessels with three banks of oars, instead of galleys.

Although the Athenians brought a considerable force against Troy, yet they did not engage in maritime commerce till long after the period of which we are at present treating.

Of the knowledge which the Greeks possessed at this time, on the subject of geography, we must draw our most accurate and fullest account from the writings of Homer and Hesiod. The former represents the shield of Achilles as depicting the countries of the globe; on it the earth was figured as a disk surrounded by the ocean; the centre of Greece was represented as the centre of the world; the disk included the Mediterranean Sea, much contracted on the west, and the Egean and part of the Euxine Seas. The Mediterranean was so much contracted on this side, that Ithaca, and the neighbouring continent, or at the farthest, the straits which separate Sicily from Italy, were its limits. Sicily itself was just known only as the land of wonders and fables, though the fable of the Cyclops, who lived in it, evidently must nave been derived from some obscure report of its volcano. The fables Homer relates respecting countries to the west of Sicily, cannot even be regarded as having any connection with, or resemblance to the truth. Beyond the Euxine also, in the other direction, all is fable. Colchis seems to have been known, though not so accurately as the recent Argonautic expedition might have led us to suppose it would have been. The west coast of Asia Minor, the scene of his great poem, is of course completely within his knowledge; the Phoenicians and Egyptians are particularly described, the former for their purple stuffs, gold and silver works, maritime science and commercial skill, and cunning; the latter for their river Egyptos, and their knowledge of medicine. To the west of Egypt he places Lybia, where he says the lambs are born with horns, and the sheep bring forth three times a year.

In the Odyssey he conducts Neptune into Ethiopia; and the account he gives seems to warrant the belief, that by the Ethiopians he meant not merely the Ethiopians of Africa, but the inhabitants of India: we know that the ancients, even so late as the time of Strabo and Ptolemy, considered all those nations as Ethiopians who lived upon the southern ocean from east to west; or, as Ptolemy expresses it, that under the zodiac, from east to west, inhabit the inhabitants black of colour. Homer represents these two nations as respectively the last of men, one of them on the east and the other on the west. From his description of the gardens of Alcinous, it may even be inferred that he had received some information respecting the climate of the tropical regions; for this description appears to us rather borrowed from report, than entirely the produce of imagination.

Close to the gates a spacious garden lies, From storms defended and inclement skies. Four acres was th' allotted space of ground, Fenc'd with a green enclosure all around, Tall thriving trees confess'd the fruitful mould; The red'ning apple ripens here to gold. Here the blue fig with luscious juice o'erflows, With deeper red the full pomegranate glows, The branch here bends beneath the weighty pear, And verdant olives flourish round the year. The balmy spirit of the western gale Eternal breathes on fruits untaught to fail: Each dropping pear a following pear supplies, On apples apples, figs on figs arise: The same mild season gives the blooms to blow, The buds to harden, and the fruits to grow; Here order'd vines in equal ranks appear, With all th' united labours of the year; Some to unload the fertile branches run, Some dry the black'ning clusters in the sun, Others to tread the liquid harvest join, The groaning presses foam with floods of wine. Here are the vines in early flow'r descry'd, Here grapes discolour'd on the sunny side, And there in autumn's richest purple dy'd. Beds of all various herbs, for ever green, In beauteous order terminate the scene.

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