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5.0 out of 5 stars
Not just Odysseus...., 15 Aug 2009
Pythias the Greek lived in Marseilles around 330BC. Marseilles was a trading port and Pythias no doubt had connections with the trading community if he wasn't a trader himself. Wine went north up the Rhone valley and Cornish tin came down the Garonne. There was a thriving trade around the Mediterranean and with the surrounding lands.
Pythias travelled around Brittany, across to Cornwall/Dorset and then circumnavigated Britain. There's strong evidence that he reached Iceland. On his way home he crossed the North Sea to the Netherlands. All the while he was making notes and more surprisingly measurements of the sun's shadows to calculate his latitude. His descriptions of places and his latitudinal calculations tally and add further evidence that this was a genuine account of a real voyage.
His book On the Ocean written in 320 BC has now been lost but as many as 18 ancient authors referred to it in their books. His book was obviously widely circulated.
Pythias's account must have caused some to doubt his honesty and startled many with his descriptions of lands well beyond most people's imaginations; an Iron Age Marco Polo.
Professor Barry Cunliffe has written a short and engaging account reconstructing Pythias's journey and setting it in its historical context. Professor Cunliffe's style is easy for a non-expert to read and his book gives a fascinating insight into the life of an adventurous traveller 2300 years ago.