Primary Source Reading: Hanno: Carthaginian Explorer
Hanno the Navigator was a Carthaginian explorer of the sixth or fifth century BCE best known for his naval exploration of the western coast of Africa. The only source of his voyage is a Greek periplus. According to some modern analyses of his route, Hanno’s expedition might have reached as far south as the African nation of Gabon. Below is Hanno’s text in full. Modern names are supplied in brackets.
This is the story of the long voyage of Hanno king of the Carthaginians into Libyan lands beyond the Pillars of Heracles [Straits of Gibraltar], which he dedicated on a tablet in the temple of Kronos [Baal Hammon]:
I The Carthaginians decided that Hanno should sail beyond the Pillars of Heracles and found cities of Libyphoenicians [Carthaginians]. He set sail with sixty penteconters and about thirty thousand men and women, and provisions and other necessaries.
II After sailing beyond the Pillars for two days we founded the first city which we called Thymiaterion [Tangier]. Below it was a large plain.
III Sailing thence westward we came to Soloeis, a Libyan promontory covered with trees. There we founded a temple to Poseidon.
IV Journeying eastward for half a day we reached a lake not far from the sea, covered with a great growth of tall reeds, where elephants and many other wild animals fed.
V A day’s journey beyond this lake we founded cities on the coast called Karikon Teichos, Gytte, Akra, Melitta, and Arambys.
VI Passing on from there we came to the large river Lixos [the Draa in Morocco], flowing from Libya, beside which nomads called Lixitae [Berbers] pastured their flocks. We stayed some time with them and became friends.
VII Inland from there dwelt inhospitable Ethiopians in a land ridden with wild beasts and hemmed in by great mountains. They say that Lixos flows down from there and that among these mountains Troglodytes of strange appearance dwell, who according to the Lixitae can run more swiftly than horses.
VIII Taking interpreters from the Lixitae we sailed south along the desert [Sahara] shore for two days and then for one day eastward and found a small island five stades [c. 1 km] in circumference at the farther end of a gulf. We made a settlement there and called it Cerne. We judged from our journey that it was directly opposite Carthage, for the voyage from Carthage to the Pillars and from there to Cerne seemed alike.
IX From here sailing up a big river called Chretes [Senegal] we reached a lake, in which were three islands bigger than Cerne. Completing a day’s sail from here we came to the end of the lake, overhung by some very high mountains crowded with savages clad in skins of wild beasts, which stoned us and beat us off and prevented us from disembarking.
X Sailing from there we came to another big wide river, teeming with crocodiles and hippopotamuses. We turned again from there and came back to Cerne.
XI We sailed south for twelve days from there, clinging to the coast, which was all along occupied by Ethiopians who did not stay their ground, but fled from us. Their speech was unintelligible, even to our Lixitae.
XII On the last day we came to anchor by some high mountains clad with trees whose wood was sweet-smelling and mottled.
XIII Sailing round these for two days we reached an immense gulf, on either shore of which was a plain where by night we saw big and little fires flaming up at intervals everywhere [Grass fires?].
XIV Taking on water here, we sailed on for five days along the coast until we came to a great bay which our interpreters called the Horn of the West. In it was a large island and in the island a salt-water lake, within which was another island where we disembarked. By day we could see nothing but a forest, but by night we saw many fires burning and we heard the sound of flutes and of beating of cymbals and drums and a great din of voices. Fear came upon us and the soothsayers bade us leave the island.
XV We sailed thence in haste and skirted a fiery coast replete with burning incense. Great streams of fire and lava poured down into the sea and the land was unapproachable because of the heat.
XVI We left there hurriedly in fear and sailing for four days we saw the land by night full of flames. In the middle was a high flame taller than the rest, reaching, as it seemed, the stars. By day it was seen to be a very high mountain called the Chariot of the Gods [Mt. Cameroon?].
XVII Thence sailing for three days past fiery lava flows we reached a gulf called the Horn of the South.
XVIII At the farther end of this bay was an island, like the first, with a lake, within which was another island full, of savages. By far the greater number were women with shaggy bodies, whom our interpreters called Gorillas [Pygmies?]. Chasing them we were unable to catch any of the men, all of whom, being used to climbing precipices, got away, defending themselves by throwing stones. But we caught three women, who bit and mangled those who carried them off, being unwilling to follow them. We killed them, however, and flayed them and brought their skins back to Carthage. For we did not sail farther as our supplies gave out.