William Vincent.

The commerce and navigation of the ancients in the Indian Ocean online

. (page 27 of 49)
Online LibraryWilliam VincentThe commerce and navigation of the ancients in the Indian Ocean → online text (page 27 of 49)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

dissertation on Scylax, p. 4.7. language of the nation from whence the name

Alaxander was the discorerer of €tkc .east. it deiif ed as retdily as I can assign Cape It*

*" The reason for this conjecture has been nistcrre. Cape -Clear, or Christmas Sound, to

noticed upon the mention of Dagasfra ; and I the respective people who have bestowed these

§^9pcft .SikaU, Kdkali^ G6gaoa> Milsna, 4^clUtiom. .

Digitized by


re T»YO PHAGE 303:

That sometBing pasted upon the sea, and in all appearance from:
port to port, 'there seems to be ground for supposing; for Hy-
drAkes could not have been worthy of employment without some
sort of exfperience ; and there is a shadow of evidence that the-
pirates to the eastward of the Indus, who have been pirates in
all ages, accidentally vfeited the coast, either for the purpose of
intercepting the traffic, or of plundering the property of the in»-
habitants. But the whole testimony which' can be collected
amounts in ho degree to a proof of a navigation like that of
Nearchus from India to Persia ; and as this is the principal link
in the futtti-^ chain of con>municiition with Europe^ the merit of
examining it seems wholly due to him as the original under-
taken I am not ignorant of a mach longer voyage in this very
direction imputed to Scylax by Her6dotus^'% from Pactya (the
Pekeli*'^ of Rennell) into the gulph of Arabia; but whether
this voyiage was performed by the Persians," or that other round
tiieGape of Good Hope by the Phfiaicians from Egypt^ as re-
corded by him, is a point highly problematical ia the opinion
of every one who considers the structure of ancient vessels, and
their- whole method of navigation : I believe the record of both,
a& preserved by Her6dotui^ to be- evidence- that th^e Persians or
Egyptians knew, from.communicatioa with, the interior of the
respective countries, that they were bounded by the ocean, audi
afforded the means of navigation; but that the voyages were-
actually performed requires more evidence, more particular^, ,

<< There ia a strftiitg analogy between tHe Niebuhr, £ng. ed« Tol.'tn p* t^Si '

*« manners ascribed to the ancient Itthya- •*• H^rod.' lib. iv. p. 500.- *

<« phagi and those of these Arabs [on the *•« The pnmnce Pcck'eli, or PnckehV 6n

N eastern coast of the gnlph of Persia]], the Itidtks ; but Dod well supposes pBCtydyor

•• • . . They use Ihtle food but fish and dates ; Caspatyrus, to be on |Jie Ganges. SecDis-

•* they feed also their cattle upon fish/' Kttron Scylar.

Digitized by


304 FROM Jm PSrpy^ fO CAS^ JASJL

and a eleftfier cjet^l) of fyctSj ^ enaj^le ^s tp form ^ ja4gm«cit
Tiie b^Hi^ a^ertioa tl^^t |th|e i^ng 1)^ ]^eii donfe fxii^ load
Alexander tQ thji)^ if; f^^,ctififhbip^ } Iffut ibp Peosif^ y<^J!^ fff<>^
4uced no con^eqiioi^ce? .whjjteyer, ^ijcji Uve [email protected] navigatipij
led to nothing, vnlp^^ »re ^^poae t^ JPprt»giJiese jdiscgyer^
influenced by tlje fi^e^ios '"-, tJiat ^ p?^ge pjuud the Cape
was practicaWa.

Scyla^ <M?giit tQ feie a Qmp}^ W -^P f>^cp <rf his ^^iiyity^
Caryanda, pr at lea3it «i ir^UabiljMat j^f Asisi MffiOF > ^Wt ifie l^?ve
»x) remaim '"^ of his joumaJ, 9xnd no <Hhpr cyidence of hk f(^y^8l^
but tiie report of Her^dotus^ iffhioh as irery ideficieiiet jio cirp^ni-
stances to confinn i4s awn Huihority ; and coHatfral eyidfi^
there is none. In legard to the ciiscuinnayigatiQa of AMo9^
there is one paotipular muoii in^bted on by Larc^ber^ Qe^iu^ f^»
and oth^ conanientatois^ ir^cb », tl» a.j)ipefffmm^ of ^IN^ ^uci
ito die north ; a |>l^^£UknenoE dependent o» ey^y ^y^gBi;^\^
witiiin tl^c tropic?. "Ric reserve of Hef^d^tus ^^, in sayiiag li|?<i
others >may suppose tlus pi;oi^ali)Ie, though he doubts H hifM^
is a caiition wortliy of such a>n ihiskHaai^ and more p^rswasiv^
tSian die boldest assertion. . I must^ hoveevi^, notice a ^
)Culiarky in diis passage wfaioh seetn^i to ha^e icscaped ithe 4cnjr
itiny of <lKis commentators ; &a: he infomis us ia aaotiber place ^^^

Hthat the Portuguese navigators^ or the coun* sellers who had l^ea in ^e East^ ^ appeara

cil of Portugal or any of the learned of that from Ranuisb.

.country^ knew any thing of Her6dotU8, I ''^ The Sydaz, published in the Geog,

xpretend not tp j^dge ; but it if • rei^n^t^^^e . I^iqA^ by .9ud^PjD» i^ pn^v^d to ]^ a^ im*

coincidencet thajt the ^tf^ p^ti^ of Hiy6- .ppat^i^^ by Ppdwc;!!.

,ji)otws 1/!^ in. — — ;^74 «»« See Gespcr (le NjivigatioAibuj cftr% Cq-

^ fi4W« 4i?P0Tfry'of tiie C^^^ ^^ lumn,as H^rcuUs, Pr?el. I. 6.

:By Poet, to ^csseling'a Hi^c^ ;'7 Lib. ir^ p. o^^. Ed. Wcu

I^hc Court of" Portugal^ y ija^A^ Pji^fc f?' L^b. ii. p. 1 15.

Digitized by




that lie went up the Nile himself as far as Elephdntin^, in order
to ascertain some circumstances relative to the head of that
riTer, about which he thought himself imposed upon by a
secretary of the priests at Sais, Now is it not extraordinary,
that if he reached EJephdntinfe he should not have visited
Su^nfe***, the very place at which he represents his doubts to
exist ? Is it not strange, that though he Uved prior '** tx) the con-
struction of the well^* at Su6n^ he should mention nothing of

*'* The modern AsioutO) vliked by Po«
toclcf Norden^ Bruce, Sec. &c« Sunlne it
As-sooan with the article* IVAnTiQe^ Geog.

''* Bruce is of opinion that the well is coeval
with the city, i. i6a«

'" I know no testimony of the well at
Su^ne older than Strabo, lib, xvii. 817. but
conclude that older may be found. Pliny,
lib. ii. cap. 73, seems to intimate, that it was
dug by £rat6sthene8 at the time he was mea-
€uring an arc of the meridian. The follow*
ing observations are kindly communicated by
the Bishop of St. Asaph i

The well, besides that it was sunk perpen-
dicularly with the greatest accuracy, was> I
suppose, in shape an exact cylinder. Its
breadth must have been moderate, so that a
person, standing upon the brink, might safely
stoop enough over it to bring liis eye into the
axis of the cylinder, where it would be per-
pendicularly over the centre of the circular
surface of the water. The water must have
stood at a moderate height below tlie mouth of
the well, far enough below the mouth to be
sheltered from ilie action of the wind, that its
surface might be perfectly smooth and mo-
tionless ; and not so low, but that the whole of
its circular surface might be distinctly seen by
the observer on the brink. A well formed
in this manner would afford, as 1 apprchciul,
the most certain observation of ti;e &un's ap-

pulse to the zenith, that could be made witk
the naked eye ; for when the sun's centre veai
upon the zenith» his disc would be seen by re«
flection in the water, in the rery middle of the
well ; that i; as a circle perfectly concentric
with the circle of the water : and I believe^
there is nothing of which the naked eye can
judge with so much precision as the concen-
tricity of two circles, provided the circles be
neither very nearly equal, nor the inner circle
very small in proportion to the outer.

Plutarch says, that in his time the gnomon*
at Su6ne were no longer shadowless on the
solstitial day. This is very strange. Era-
tosthenes died, according to Blair's Tables, in
the year before Ciuist 194 ; and Plutarch
died in the year of Christ 1 19. The interval,
therefore, between them was only 314 years ;
and the change of the obliquity of the ecliptic
in this time (the only cause to which I can re-
fer the alteration) was no more than 2' 36".
A gnomon* therefore, at Sui^ne of tl»e length
of twelve inches, if it cast no shadow on the
day of the solstice, in the time of Eiatosthe-
nes, should have cast z shadow, in the time of
Plutarch, of the length only of tzs^swth?, /. e.
not quite rJ^th of an inch. The shadow of a
perpendicular column of the hti^ht of 100
fctt would have been ^?^lhs (;f an ii'ch. But I
can hardly think the ancients ever thought (if
constructing gnomons of such a si/e. \\'e read,
indeed, iu the Comedians, of sltiidows of ttn.

R' It

Digitized by



thfe situation of S\n^nh itsfelf Ulster tlife 1*opic ? H«rf i«bwlr
Uief e iti mminev^ he mus* himsdf have sam the pli^ii6tteima ke
J^rofesstes to doubt, or 'at least the «uii vertical r ctnol if his -mit
was at any other season, te it not remaricabie that lie shouiti net
have heard of this circumstance ? Elephantine » an tfeland^ dr
a city on an island, in the Nile, opposite to Sui^nfe **% and yet
HeWklotiis does not quite say he was actually at Su6n^. From
his mention that the Cataracts are four days' saal from the EJe-
ph^ntin^ he visited, may we not suspect that it was some island
lower down (for there are many), or that the island ^^ called
Elephdntinb by Pocock is not the Elephintinfe ef Herodotus i
and that the historian was not nearer Su6nfe than within three
days' sail ? for it is in reaUty less ^*^ than one day's sail (ht
journey by land from Su^nfe to the Cataracts. I mention these
particulars, in order to shew the great obscurity which attends
all the discoveries, whether real or pretended, in ages ante-
cedent to history ; and notwithstanding all that Mr. Gossellin

twelve, and even twenty feet long. These
seem to have been the shadows of gnomons :
but th^ were evening shadows, when the sun
was low, and people were going fo supper:
and this affords an argument that the gnomons
of the ancients were of a very moderate size ;
for in the latitude of 40^, at the season of the
equinoxes, the sun's altitude, one hour before
sunset, would be j 1^ 26' ; and a gnomon, of
the height of 2 feet f ths of an inch, would cast
a shadow on the horizontal plane precisely
ten feet long. Half an hour before sunset, a
gnomon of the height of one foot would cast
a shadow ten feet long. And in the same la-
titude, at the same season, a gnomon of the
height of six feet would cast a shadow of the
length of ten feet so early as eleven minutes
after three in the afternoon. I think the
•n»ll variation that took place, between the


time of Eratosthenes and that of Plutarcfi,
would be more easily discovered by the well
than by any gnomon the ancien^ can be sup«^
posed to have used.

•** Potock, B. ii. p. 117. Bruce.

*^ Bruce mentions the island, but does not
call it Elephantine. Vol. i. p. 150.

**♦ *« The distance from the gate of the
** town [AssoanJ to Termissi or Marada, the
** small villages on the Cataract, is exactly six
«* English miles.'* Bruce, voL i. p. 156.

Sec also a very curious account of the well
and the latitude of Su^ne, which Bruce fixes.
at 2^^ o' 45", and consequently not under the
tropic, p. 160 $ but more than half a degree
to the north. Bruce, however, allows for
the approximation of the ecliptic to the
equator. The circumference also of the sun^t
disc 10 to be taken into the account.

Digitized by



has produced, to prove an early state of navigation and geo-
graphy, previous to the knowledge of the Greeks, and founded
wpon better principles ; notwidistanding tlie erudition displayed
by Gesner in liis treatise ^* on the navigation of the Ph^nicians
in the Atlantic ; there is nothing appears sufficiently satisfactory
to estabUsh the authenticity of any one prior voyage, of equal
importance, upon a footing with this of Nearchus ; or any cer-
tainty to be obtained where the evidence is all affirmation, with-
out circumstances or proof. From a journal like the PeriplAs '**
of Hanno, a knowledge of the coast of Africa will enable us to
form some judgment of his progress ; but a bare assertion of the
performance of any voyage, without consequences attendant or
connected, without collateral or contemporary testimony, is too
shght a foundation to support any superstructure of importance.
I should think it time well employed to vindicate the honour of
Columbus against the usurpation of Vespucius; but I woul4
not bestow a moment in annulling the claim of Madock and his
Cambro-Britons to the discovery of America. The reader may
conceive that this vindication of Nearchus partakes more of the
partiality of an editor than the investigation of truth : but I
iippcal to tlie ancient geographical fragments still extant ; the
PcriplCls of Hanno, the survey of the Euxine sea by the real
Arrian, and that of the Erythr^an sea or Indian ocean by the
fictitious one ; and I say that all these, as well as the journal of
Nearchus, though they have, their errors, difficulties, or even
absurdities, still contain internal evidence. of veracity, and are
well worthy of examination ; while the expedition of the Ar-

'" Published with his edition of the works Dodwell ^rw as frequently on* the side of
of Orpheus. scepticism as others do on the side of ere*

'** DodwcU doubu the authenticity ; but duhty.

a R 2

Digitized by




gonauts ^'% of Py'theas or Scylax is merely a speculation c£

There is, however, another way of inquiry into the Hiscoveries
attributed to the eariiest times, which is, by examining the con>-
modities such discoveries would produce. Tin, the staple
of Britain, is mentioned in the most ancient authors neither
as a rare, nor a very precious metal ; this must have been intro-
duced to the nations on the Mediterranean, either by a trans-
port over land (such as is mentioned by Diodorus '*•), or through
the medium of a Ph^nician navigation : the existence of the
metal, therefore, in Greece and Asia is a proof that the inter-
course was estabhshed in some sense or other. The sudden in-
flux of gold into Jud^a*** is equally a proof of a commerce
extended into the Indian or Ethiopic ocean, beyond the limits
of the gulph of Arabia. The materials still found in Egypt,
that contributed to the preservation of the mummies, are some
of them supposed to be Oriental ; and if so, Egypt must have
had, even antecedent ^ to history, a communication with the

*'' Gesner,. in his Preface to the Argonaut-
ticks of Orpheus, is confident that there is no
expression that indicates they are posterior
to the age of Homer. If the fact is so, it must
be confessed that the mention or knowledge of
Ireland, which occurs in that work, is an ex«
tent of geographical science most surprising ;
for Homer's information went no farther than
Italy^ and even there it was only mytholo-

^^ Lib. V. p. 361. Ed. Wes.

Diod6rus here mentions tin found ia Spain,
but not in great quantities; and it is highly
probable that the grand source of that metal
was always in Britain.

^'' It iff not the business of this work to
follow up these several incidents \ but Sruce

has illustrated the commerce of Hiram, Solo*
mon, the Arabians and Egyptians on tlie Red
Sca> if not truly, at least vmy ingeniously.
When the haughty spirit which procured so
many cnennes to tliis ilfustrious traveller shall
be forgotten, neither his knowledge nor his
veracity will be longer impeached. There is
much scope for curious investigation upon the
whole of this subject, which Dr. Robertson
has not prosecuted to Its full extent. Sec
Ezekiel, chap, xxvii.

**• •* Several authors ^ agree in opinion,
** that the ancient Egyptians possessed them-
** selves of the trade of the East by the Red
** Sea ; and that they carried on a consider*
" able traf&c with the Indian nations before
«« the time of Scsosiris, who was contemporary

Digitized by




East^ either directly by commerce of their own, or indirectly
by means of inteniiediate nations, perhaps Arabian. In all
these cases, we have a right to assume tlie communication from
the view of its effects ; but the voyage "' of Scylax from India:
to Egypt, or that of the Ph^nicians from Egypt round the con-
tinent of Africa, have neither produce nor consequences -^ and
though this is only a negative proof of their nonentity, it is as
strong as the nature of the case will admit : if no second navi-
gator had doubled the Cape of Good Hope, the discovery of
Gama might have been deemed problematical • Were it possible
to ascribe these two voyages to the age of Heiodotus, his testi-
mony is such, tliat it ought to preponderate against every ai-gu-
ment of mere speculation : but he probably records only the
vanity of two nations, one the most proud of its empire, and
the other of its science ; both capable of attributing to them-
selves an action done, if it were possible to be done ; and of
this, the possibility Avas perhaps known from internal informal-

•* with Abraliam." Astle. Or. and Progress
of Wnting, p. 41 ; who quotes Roilini
p. 59, 60. and Univ. History, vol. i. p. 515.
and might have added Huet.

I pretend not to investigate any fact ante-
cedent to history ; but I can btlicvc the
Egyptians (from the increasing evideixc we
now have of thtir arts, through the means of
Pocock, Nordcn, and Bruce) to have been
capable of any enterprise. Navigation, how-
ever, does not appear as one of their purauits,
for we cannot imagine those who never appear
upon the Medit^-nanean, to have made any
great efforts upon the Indian ocean. All the
vessels we find in early ages on the Mediter-
ranean are either Greek or Phtnician. Ph^
nicians navigated the Red Sea for Solomon,
and not Egyptians, 2 Chronicle ix. 2i.; and
if the Egyptians had possessed a trade 00

that sea, they would not have juflfered rivals
to interfere. The passage round Africa is=not
attributed by Herodotus to Egyptians, but
Ph^nicians: but I decline all disquisition on
these matters previous to history ; and mean at
present only to maintain, that if we have th'e
real journal of Nearchus in Arrian, it is thrc
first authentic document of a voyage of im-
portance to navigation.

^^' It is not impossible that all these
assertions of circumnavigation arose from the
idea of the ancients, that the ocean sur-
rounded the earth like an island ; an idea in
some degree true : but unfortunately for one
of these assertionsj that of Patr6cks, who
maintained there was a passage from the In-
dian ocean into the' Caspian sea, it has turned
out that the Caspian is a lake. Sec Strabe,
lib. xi. p. 518.

Digitized by




tion. My own *** opinion is decidedly against the reality ^** of
both these voyages ; but whatever be my own judgment, it shall
be subject to the decision of those '^ who professedly consider
the question in its full extent ; it is here only incidental: but I
must still repeat, that it is the assertion of facts without cir-
cumstances, while the voyage ot Nearchus is detailed in all its
parts, and is the earliest"* authentic journal extant* But to
shew how easily cjircumnavigations are imputed to those who
never performed them, let us attend to Pliny, who makes Hanno
sail round Africa from Carthage, and Eudoxus from the Red
Sea to the Mediterranean. Now we have Hanno's journal, who
never passed the Senegal by his own account ; and we have the
history of Eudoxus in Strabo, lib. ii. p. 98. from Poseid6nius ;
and from him it appears, that if Eudoxus had performed this
voyage, it would have commenced from Gades. Eudoxus lived
in the reign of Ptolemy Euergetes, and Ptolemy L^thyms ; and
it appears that he did not perform the voyage, but was very
persevering, in seeking for patronage to enable him to undertake
it. Pliny quotes Cornelius Nepos. Strabo believes little of
Poseidonius's account See p. 102. Eudoxus is said to have
sailed down the coast of Africa with a west wind ! a certain
proof that he and his historians knew nothing of the trade wind.

33» Ricn n'^toit si pcu ar^rc chcz le« an-
ciens, commc on en jugc par PtoUmce, que le
rccit qu'on faiaott dc qudqucs navigations qui
auroient toiimc le continent de TAfriquc par le
midi. D*Anville, Geo. Anc. iii. €>S.

^" Micklc, in the opening of his Lusiad,
agrees with this, but adds, most unaccount-
ably, p. 2» " Though it is certain that Hanno
<« doubled the Cape of Good Hope." Now
the contrary is certain ; and no man could say
^his who had read Hanno's journal.

^ Gesner.

^' It is prior to the Peripli^s of Hanno, if
it is the same Hanno, contemporary with Aga-
thocles as generally supposed, for Agathodea
died anno 289 A.C. The Greek Peripliis of
Hanno which we have is of a late age, according
to Dodwell, and a copy or extract possibly
from the Carthaginian journal, as Arrian's is
from Nearchus 5 but by others, Hanno is sup-
posed to be much more ancient.

Digitized by



If Arrian had said the monsoons blew north and south, we.
might justly have said Nearchus never navigated the Indian
ocean. Bruce seems to be so involved in hypothesis, that he
contradicts Strabo and Ptolemy atrandom ; so misled by Vossiu3,
as to style Gadrosia, Ariana ; and so unacquainted with Arrian,
arto make Nearchus not only sail up the gulph of Persia, but
to complete his voyage to the head of the Red Sea. See Bruce,
p. 470, and 456, voL i. and Vossius ad Melam. Ariana.

If theh, after noticing these lapses in others, I am correicf
myself, this voyage of Nearchus is the first of general import-
ance to mankind ; if I am mistaken, it is still the first of which
any certain record is preserved^

This discussion may appear more appropriate to the conclu-
sion, than the progress of the enterprise ; but the fact is, that,
at this point, the great difficulty of the whole passage was sur-
mounted;^ the remaining part, up the Gulph of Persia, was-
neither exposed to the calamity of famine, nor hazardous from
the nature of the coast. We shall have some opportunities io
remark, that as there was commerce among the natives, there
were consequently pilots to be obtained ; and so satisfied was
Nearchus of the fiacility of his future charge, that he refused
being exonerated of the command.

The narrative itself also will, in some degree, be relieved from
a barren recital of distresses, and a dubious arrangement of
geography ; our classical guides will be more intelligible ; and
our modern conductors, Dalrymple, d'Anville, and Niebuhr,
more satisfactory. I have already mentioned d'Anville's disserta-
tion on the navigation of the Gulph of Persia ; and if I performed
no other service than introducing this work to the knowledge of
the English reader, it would be an undertaking of merit.

Digitized by


Digitized by


Digitized by


Digitized by








L Karmania.'^ll. Persis.-^UL Susis^ er Susiana : Ttgrh^ Euphrates^

Sulcus J 4nd Fasitigrii.

TTTTE are now to enter upon the navigation of the Gulph
^^ ' "oFPersia; comprehending the Coast of Karmania, Persis,
and Susiana ; and, fortunately for this part of the voyage, our
materials are as ample as could be desired. Mr. d'Anviile has s/
published a Memoir ' expressly upon the suh^ct^^hich 1 shall
use so freely as to preclude the necessity of specifying the pas-
sages immediately referred to, unless Where I am constrained to
dissent from his arrangement ; and this I shall always do with
the respect due both to his classical and geographical pre-
eminence : but our Enghsh navigators have, within these few
years, explored this gulph so successfully, as to leave Uttle moa-e

I Vol. xxx^ Memoirs of the Academy of Inscriptiont) Set*
S $

Digitized by




for the investigation of others. With these Mr. d'Anville was of
course unacquainted; and, for want of the information they
afford^ was necessarilj mist^lcen in fi»iig some points of im-
portance, more particularly at tlie head of the gulpli, and the
mouths of the Euphrates, the Tigris, and the Eul^us.

I have a variety of charts furnished by Mr. Dalrymple, ac-
companied with observations of liis own% and illustrated by
personal communication with him ; but especially four by Lieu-
tenant M'Cluer, a mo»t active and intelligent officer, which
render all that concerns hydrography ahnost as perspicuous as
we could hope to find it on any coast of Europe : two of these
comprehend the lower, and two the upper part of the gulph ;
the later publication in bolh instances is the more correct, and
in both instances agrees best with Arrian. This is no accidental
correspondence, for Nearchus, by adhering to the coast, is ne-
eesMiily naore minute than a luodera navigator who pursues, his

Online LibraryWilliam VincentThe commerce and navigation of the ancients in the Indian Ocean → online text (page 27 of 49)