In this episode, we explore the thrilling and terrifying journey of the Carthaginian explorer Hanno the Navigator south along the coast of West Africa, and examine the indirect way in which the details about his voyage have come down to us.
This map shows the likely route taken by Hanno as he sailed south towards Cameroon. Note the turn back that he tells us his fleet made after reaching the Senegal river. We can speculate that he might have been able to trade for gold with the tribes of Bambouk, and wanted to bring his valuable cargo to relative safety before venturing to explore further south.
This is the Palatinus Graecus 398, a 9th century Byzantine manuscript today located at the University of Heidelberg, in Germany, and is the oldest surviving account of Hanno’s journey that we have.
To get a picture of the historical distance involved between the Palatinus Graecus and Hanno’s voyage, try to imagine that some future civilization tried to reconstruct events surrounding the fall of Rome in the 5th century AD, and only had some 21st century texts to go from.