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Bill Thayer

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This webpage reproduces a note in
Notes and Queries,
No. 23 (Saturday, April 6, 1850), pp361‑362.

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
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 p361  Periplus of Hanno the Carthaginian.​a

I am not sufficiently Quixotic to attempt a defence of the Carthaginians on the western coast of Africa, or any where else, but I submit that the accusation brought against them by Mr. S. Bannister, formerly Attorney-General of New South Wales, is not sustained by the only record we possess of Hanno's colonising expedition. That gentleman, in his learned Records of British Enterprise beyond Sea, just published, says, in a note, p. xlvii:—

"The first nomade tribe they reached was friendly, and furnished Hanno with interpreters. At length they discovered a nation whose language was unknown to the interpreters. These strangers they attempted to seize; and, upon their resistance, they took three of the women, whom they put to death, and carried their skins to Carthage" (Geogr. Graeci Minores, Paris 1820, p115.).

Hanno obtained interpreters from a people who dwelt on the banks of a large river, called the Lixus, and supposed to be the modern St. Cyprian. Having sailed thence for several days, and touched at different places, planting a colony in one of them, he came to a mountainous country inhabited by savages, who wore skins of wild beasts, δέρματα θήρεια ἐνημμένων. At a distance of twelve days' sail, he came to some Ethiopians, who could not endure the Carthaginians, and who spoke unintelligibly even to the Lixite interpreters. These are the people whose women, Mr. Bannister says, they killed. Hanno sailed from this inhospitable coast fifteen days, and came to a gulf which he calls Νότου Κέρα or South Horn.

"Here," says the Dr. Hawkesworth, of Carthage, "in the gulf, was an island, like the former, containing a lake, and in this another island, full of wild men; but the women were much more numerous, with hairy bodies (δασεῖαι τοῖς σώμασιν), whom the interpreters called γορίλλας. We pursued the men, who, flying to precipices, defended themselves with stones, and could not be taken. Three women, who bit scratched their leaders, would not follow them. Having killed them, we brought their skins to Carthage."

He does not so much as intimate that the creatures who so defended themselves with stones, or those whose bodies were covered with hair, spoke any language. Nothing but the words ἄνθρωποι ἄγριοι and γυναῖκες can lead us to believe that they were human beings at all; while the description of the behaviour of the men, and the bodies of the women, is not repugnant to the supposition that they were large apes, baboons, or orang-outangs, common to this part of Africa. At all events, the voyagers do not say that they flayed a people having the faculty of speech.

It is not, however, improbable that the Carthaginians were severe taskmasters of the people whom they subdued. Such I understand those to have been who opened the British tin mines, and who, according to Diodorus Siculus, excessively overworked the wretches who toiled for them, "wasting their bodies under­ground, and dying,  p362 many a one, through extremity of suffering, while others perished under the lashes of the overseers." (Bibl. Hist. l. V c. 38.)

R. T. Hampson.

Thayer's Note:

a The full text of what's left of Hanno's Periple ("Circumnavigation") is online, annotated in detail; our gorillas appear in § 18, the very last section.

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Page updated: 18 Oct 14