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15.3 The First Voyages of Exploration

At her zenith Carthage probably had the hitherto unheard-of population of a million. This population was largely industrial, and her woven goods were universally famous. As well as a coasting trade, she had a considerable land trade with Central Africa,[1] and she sold negro slaves, ivory, metals, precious stones and the like, to all the Mediterranean people; she worked Spanish copper mines, and her ships went out into the Atlantic and coasted along Portugal and France northward as far as the Cassiterides (the Scilly Isles, or Cornwall, in England) to get tin.

About 520 B.C. a certain Hanno made a voyage that is still one of the most notable in the world. This Hanno, if we may trust the Periplus of Hanno, the Greek translation of his account which still survives, followed the African coast southward from the Straits of Gibraltar as far as the confines of Liberia. He had sixty big ships, and his main task was to found or reinforce certain Carthaginian stations upon the Morocco coast. Then he pushed southward. He founded a settlement in the Rio de Oro (on Kerne or Herne Island), and sailed on past the Senegal River. The voyagers passed on for seven days beyond the Gambia, and landed at last upon some island. This they left in a panic, because, although the day was silent with the silence of the tropical forests, at night they heard the sound of flutes, drums, and gongs, and the sky was red with the blaze of the bush fires. The coast country for the rest of the voyage was one blaze of fire, from the burning of the bush. Streams of fire ran down the hills into the sea, and at length a blaze arose so loftily that it touched the skies. Three days further brought them to an island containing a lake (?Sherbro Island). In this lake was another island (?Macaulay Island), and on this were wild, hairy men and women, ?whom the interpreters called gorilla?. The Carthaginians, having caught some of the females of these ?gorillas? ? they were probably chimpanzees ? turned back and eventually deposited the skins of their captives ? who had proved impossibly violent guests to entertain on board ship?in the Temple of Juno.

A still more wonderful Phoenician sea voyage, long doubted, but now supported by some archaeological evidence, is related by Herodotus, who declares that the Pharaoh Necho of the XXVIth Dynasty commissioned some Phoenicians to attempt the circumnavigation of Africa, and that starting from the Gulf of Suez southward, they did finally come back through the Mediterranean to the Nile delta. They took nearly three years to complete their voyage. Each year they landed, and sowed and harvested a crop of wheat before going on.

[1]There were no domesticated camels in Africa until after the Persian conquest of Egypt. This must have greatly restricted the desert routes. (See Bunbury, History of Ancient Geography, note to Chap. VIII.) But the Sahara desert of 3,000 or 2,000 years ago was less parched and sterile than it is today. From rock engravings we may deduce the theory that the desert was crossed from oasis to oasis by riding oxen and by ox-carts; perhaps, also, on horses and asses. The camel as a beast of transport was seemingly not introduced into North Africa till the Arab invasions of the seventh century A.D. The fossil remains of camels are found in Algeria, and wild camels may have lingered in the wastes of the Sahara and Somaliland till the domesticated camel was introduced. The Nubian wild ass also seems to have extended its range to the Sahara —H. H. J.

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