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Ōcěanus


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A circumambient ocean‐river, the final destination of all streams, predates Greek and Roman culture, appears in Homer and Hesiod, and was confirmed by geographical theory: the accessible land‐mass could cover only a small portion of the earth's surface. Phoenician contacts with the metalliferous and fertile Guadalquivir valley (Tartessus) took them into Atlantic waters early, and that Greeks followed quite soon is reflected in Herodotus' story of the voyage of Colaeus. Such pioneer navigators were a feature of the literary tradition about the Ocean from at least the 6th cent., and commercial exchanges certainly reached the Atlantic coasts of Gaul and southern Britain from the Classical period. Southward exploration to verify the circumnavigability of Africa, and northward to explore the seas around Europe were inconclusive, and the idea that the Caspian Sea was an inlet like the Red Sea, the Persian Gulf, and the Mediterranean itself, persisted. The Indian Ocean, despite its size and the tides that in the Atlantic were regarded as a distinctive and worrying feature of Ocean, was regarded as analogous to these other inlets rather than being a part of Ocean proper; but the crossing to Britain, conversely, was, for political purposes, represented as going beyond Ocean in its most awesome sense.

Subjects: Classical Studies.


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