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The Extraordinary Voyage of Pytheas the Greek Hardcover – 15 Oct 2001

3.9 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Hardcover, 15 Oct 2001
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Allen Lane; First Edition. edition (15 Oct. 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0713995092
  • ISBN-13: 978-0713995091
  • Product Dimensions: 14.5 x 2.2 x 22.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 678,746 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description

About the Author

Barry Cunliffe is Professor of European Archaeology at the University of Oxford. His most recent book is FACING THE OCEAN: THE ATLANTIC AND ITS PEOPLES.


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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I had no idea who Pytheas was before reading this book, and had never heard of his fascinating foray into the waters of northern Europe in the fourth century BC. Little is apparently known of his character, but details of his voyage have been preserved in the writings of later Greek and Roman scholars. Barry Cunliffe has done a seminal job of reconstructing the possible route of Pytheas' journey while providing, en route, fascinating insights into the political and economic world of the Mediterranean, and accounts of settlements, shipping, and the trade in tin and amber in the northern reaches of Europe. The author writes with admirable directness and a deep enthusiasm for the subject. He manages to capture the sense of wonder and discovery that Pytheas must have felt as he journeyed into uncharted waters, but without romanticing the lives of the people who lived there. In an age when we are used to reading accounts of journeys away from Europe to more exotic places, it is fascinating to read an account that makes one realise how mysterious Britain and the northern shores of Europe seemed to the civilised inhabitants of the warm waters of the Mediterranean.
In addition to the clarity of Cunliffe's writing, a special word should be said about the maps that grace the book. These maps complement the text perfectly, providing just enough detail to make sense of some of the geographical references referred to by the author. The maps are drawn in a deceptively simple style, complete with busy oceans, approximate coastlines, and relevant pictorial details in the corners. To indulge in the wilder flights of imagination Cunliffe warns against, the reader is tempted to imagine that Pytheas himself might have been able to recognise and make sense of these cartographical sketches.
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Format: Hardcover
The story about the adventurous Greek who travelled beyond the borders of the known world is a story that easily captures the imagination. It is therefore a very exciting subject that Barry Cunliffe has chosen for his book. So it is not surprising that it indeed is a very good and interesting book, well worth reading. However I find it a bit disappointing that it is mostly about the world Pytheas lived in, what is known about the countries he travelled in and seafaring and navigation in the ancient world. The background information seems like a larger part of the book than the actual voyage. So there is not much about his actual journey. This can of course be explained by the lack of sources and Cunliffe has indeed read the available sources thoroughly and discusses them in detail. He also accounts for the archaeological remains in the areas and vividly describes what Pytheas might have seen and experienced during his voyage.
It is a book packed with facts and knowledge about northern Europe, trading, seafaring, travelling and navigation during the fourth century BC. But the best parts, in my opinion, are when Cunliffe seems to leave the facts behind and allows himself to speculate about where Pytheas might have landed, what he might have seen and done during his extraordinary voyage.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
After a deep study at this book, I got a very realistic image of how the west known world looked like during the fifth BC and first AD centuries. Following the paths of Pytheas the Massaliot, Barry Cunliffe gives us the opportunity to be his travelmates. Moreover, he goes much further by describing the "barbarians" life and by investigating their relationships with the well known ancient world. Finally, thanks to Barry Cunliffe, one of the most remarkable scientific explorers of the ancient world, Pytheas, is revived out of the obscurity he was the last two milleniums.
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Format: Hardcover
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.
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