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date: 26 November 2022

Africa (Libya), explorationlocked

Africa (Libya), explorationlocked

  • Joyce Reynolds


Africa was distinguished from Asia as the third continent by c.500 bce, with the Nile, later usually the Red Sea, as divider; but its interior and, even at the most extended period of knowledge, its coasts south of Cape Delgado on the east and Cape Yubi on the west, remained substantially unknown, locations of marvels and geographical features uncertainly identifiable (Ptol. Geog. 4). Some believed it circumnavigable (Hdt. 4. 42) and triangular in shape (Strabo 17. 3. 1), but no circumnavigation is satisfactorily attested (see hanno (1); eudoxus (3)), and there are modern scholars who think it impracticable for ancient ships; pure theorizing could account for the traditions. An inconsistent belief in a land bridge from Africa to Asia in fact prevailed (Ptol. 7. 3. 6).In Egypt, and to some extent in Cyrenaica, Greeks could supplement autopsy with local information, cf. Herodotus on the Nile valley (2. 29–31), the inland route therefrom, via oases, possibly to the Atlas (4. 181–3), and a Libyan foray perhaps reaching the Niger, more probably Chad (not the Nile as he supposed; 2. 32–3). Extended knowledge of the *Red Sea and NE coasts came from *Alexander (3) the Great's Indian expedition, more under Ptolemaic rule in Egypt, and still more in Roman times as a result of increasing trade with India (see especially, Peripl.


  • Near East

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