All posts by Vago Damitio

Vago Damitio  (@vagodamitio) is the Editor-in-Chief for Vagobond. He jumped ship from a sinking dotcom in 2000 and decided to reclaim his most valuable commodity, time. He bought a VW bus for $100, moved into it and set out on a journey to show the world that it was possible to live life on your own terms. That journey took him from waking up under icy blankets in  the Pacific Northwest to waking up under palm tress in Southeast Asia. Three years later, his first book, Rough Living: Tips and Tales of a Vagabond was published. After diving into the Anthropology of Tourism and Electronic Anthropology at the University of Hawaii (with undeclared minors in film and surf) he hit the road again in 2008. Since that time,he's lived primarily in Morocco and Turkey, married a Moroccan girl he couchsurfed with, and become a proud father. He's been to more than 40 countries, founded a successful online travel magazine (this one!), and still doesn't have a boss. Life is good. You can also find him on Google+ and at Facebook
Hanno the Navigator - Finder of Gorillas

Extraordinary Carthaginian Vagabond – Hanno the Navigator

The voyage of Hanno the Navigator 500 BCIn the annals of great explorers, there is one name that is often overlooked – that of the Carthanginian Periplus of Hanno – later known to the Greeks as Hanno the Navigator . Neither a Greek nor a Roman, but a free man of Carthage and perhaps one of the great unheralded navigators the world has ever known.

While the exact dates of his explorations are not certain, historians agree that they took place sometime around the year 500 B.C.E. It was around this time that Hanno left the city of Carthage – for those wondering, Carthage was located approximately where Tunis, Tunisia now sits.

Hanno left Carthage with a fleet of sixty rowing ships for the purpose of colonizing the unknown territories of Northern and Western Africa. With him were an ungodly number of people which counted in somewhere around 30,000!!!! Hanno’s job was to take all of these people and get them set up in colonies in the great unknown areas.

Passing through the Pillars of Hercules (between modern day Gibraltar and Tangiers, Morocco) the fleet set out into the Atlantic Ocean and turned south.

They founded a city called Thumiaterion at approximately modern day Safi, Morocco. From there, having left a number of settlers, he continued Southward to the isle of Cerne – a place much disputed and lost to history but given the voyage of Hanno, probably either Tenerife and the Canary Islands or less likely, Cape Verde. Even more fanciful is the idea that Hanno reached Atlantis…but who knows?

From Cerne, Hanno sailed back to the mainland and found a large river. Judging by the descriptions of the animals and landscape, we can assume that he was in modern day Senegal or perhaps The Gambia.  He encountered not only elephants, reed filled lakes, crocodiles, and hippopotomai, but also hostile natives that drove he and his settlers back to Cerne.

From Cerne, again, Hanno went further south to find a land that was wonderful by day but lit by fires at night.  He rounded the cape of Hespera Keras and encountered a people steeped in mysticism and music. His own mystics (an essential party to any Carthaginian voyage advised leaving quickly) and so they went south again.  This time they reached modern day Guinnea-Bissau and the Isle of Orango upon which they mistook gorillas for a race of hairy men.

Hanno the Navigator - Finder of Gorillas

In its inmost recess was an island similar to that formerly described , which contains in like manner a lake with another island, inhabited by a rude description of people. The females were much more numerous than the males, and had rough skins: our interpreters called them Gorillae. We pursued but could take none of the males; they all escaped to the top of precipices, which they mounted with ease, and threw down stones; we took three of the females, but they made such violent struggles, biting and tearing their captors, that we killed them, and stripped off the skins, which we carried to Carthage: being out of provisions we could go no further.

This is as far as Hanno reached before returning to Carthage with Atlas lions and stories of wonder. He left seven colonies behind (all in modern day Morocco) and presumably returned with much lighter ships. It is no wonder that Hanno became king of the Carthaginians. History knows him as Hanno II of Carthage.
ship of carthageThe voyage of Hanno is much in dispute, in order to come to a greater understanding of it, I’ve referred to many books and online sources, none of which were more helpful than this article which details the fact, the fiction, and the speculation.   http://phoenicia.org/phoewestafrica.html

I too, am guilty of some speculation but in reading the accounts of Hanno the Navigator, the above description of his voyage feels the most right to me.  One thing that can’t be argued is that the voyage of Hanno was one of the great epic voyages of all time.

Can Hanno the Navigator even be classified as a vagabond? To my mind, the answer is yes – in that a vagabond is anyone who sets out on a voyage of discovery where the unknown is the biggest thing that is known.  But, like everything with Hanno – all is in dispute. We don’t even have an idea what he looked like.

great explorer Nearchus

Extraordinary Vagabonds – Nearchus the Voyager

great explorer NearchusMost famous for having been an Admiral of Alexander the Great, if Nearchus the Voyager had lived during a time when the great shadow of Alexander cast it’s light over all in the world, he would be remembered as one of the great explorers of history.

Nearchus was born on Crete sometime around 350 B.C., became a tutor of Alexander, and then later explored and charted all of the coast of Alexander’s Asia from the mouth of the Indus to the mouth of the Euphrates.  The reason for the expedition was to open up communication between India and Egypt,  but for Nearchus, the voyage was about traveling and obtaining knowledge of far off lands.

With 2000 men and Nearchus the Explorer scores of ships, Nearchus sailed down the Indus while exploring the delta and then set forth to explore unchartered seas. Before he was through he had explored unknown parts of the Arabian Coast, the Persian Gulf and had begun charting an expedition to the Red Sea.

He was the first Greek to visit Bahrain and one of the great captains of Maritime history. We know of him from the chronicles he wrote of his voyage. The book,  Indikê is now lost, but its contents are well-known from several sources, especially the Indikê by Arrian of Nicomedia and the Geography by Strabo of Amasia.

There was a lagoon at the mouths of the river, and the depressions near the bank were inhabited by natives in stifling cabins. These seeing the convoy sailing up were astounded, and lining along the shore stood ready to repel any who should attempt a landing. They carried thick spears, about six cubits long; these had no iron tip, but the same result was obtained by hardening the point with fire. They were in number about six hundred.

Nearchus observed these evidently standing firm and drawn up in order, and ordered the ships to hold back within range, so that their missiles might reach the shore; for the natives’ spears, which looked stalwart, were good for close fighting, but had no terrors against a volley. Then Nearchus took the lightest and lightest armed troops, such as were also the best swimmers, and bade them swim off as soon as the word was given. Their orders were that, as soon as any swimmer found bottom, he should await his mate, and not attack the natives till they had their formation three deep; but then they were to raise their battle cry and charge at the double.

On the word, those detailed for this service dived from the ships into the sea, and swam smartly, and took up their formation in orderly manner, and having made a phalanx, charged, raising, for their part, their battle cry to the god of War, and those on shipboard raised the cry along with them; and arrows and missiles from the engines were hurled against the natives.

They, astounded at the flash of the armor, and the swiftness of the charge, and attacked by showers of arrows and missiles, half naked as they were, never stopped to resist but gave way. Some were killed in flight; others were captured; but some escaped into the hills.

Those captured were hairy, not only their heads but the rest of their bodies; their nails were rather like beasts’ claws; they used their nails (according to report) as if they were iron tools; with these they tore asunder their fishes, and even the less solid kinds of wood; everything else they cleft with sharp stones; for iron they did not possess. For clothing they wore skins of animals, some even the thick skins of the larger fishes.

Nearchus met his end in the the battle of Ipsu (at least according to some historians) and so was not one of those who picked up the pieces of Alexander’s empire once the great man had perished – although, there are alternate histories which say that he did outlive Alexander and threw his support behind Heracles, the illegitimate son of Alexander. There is no way to determine which account is true.

Oddly, Nearchus is often confused with St. Nearchus, an Armenian Christian who became a Christian saint, despite the fact that the Greek Nearchus lived well before Christ.

Extraordinary Navigator

Eudoxus of Cyzicus – Extraordinary Navigator Lost at Sea

You know those great musicians who die when they are 27 and live in forever as the greatest even though the musicians who live into their 80′s probably are a whole lot better?

portrait of Eudoxus
While no portraits of Eudoxus of Cyzicus exist, he probably looked something like this Greek man who looks Turkish and is suing a Swedish yogurt company for using his image and saying he looks Turkish. They should have called the yogurt – Eudoxus of Yogurtus Cyzicus.

Eudoxus of Cyzicus wasn’t one of those guys. He was really one of the best, one of the greatest and though the facts are quite obvious and obviously speak for themselves, he has largely been forgotten by history. In fact, if you start a conversation about either Eudoxus or Cyzicus – you are likely to immediately asked Who? What? or Huh?

Who was he?  He was a 2nd century  (B.C.) Greek navigator who tried to circumnavigate Africa about 1700 years before anyone else tried again. By the way, he probably failed since he disappeared along with all of his ships and crew on his 2nd attempt. Of course, maybe he found paradise and decided not to return home.

Cyzicus, by the way is located near the present day Bandirma in Turkey and while there isn’t any evidence to say that it is where the scissors were invented – I like to think it might be true.  The ampitheatre there was considered as one of the seven wonders of the world and was the largest ever built – at least until a larger one was made. The monuments of this great city were carted off to build the Hagia Sophia and later Ottoman monuments. The site is now an uninhabited wet land.Extraordinary Navigator

His career included much more than just his disappearance, however. He made successful voyages to India from the Red Sea for the Egyptian Pharoah-King Ptolemy Euergetes II and loved to party down with the locals (okay, I just added that part in though it could be true.)

He sailed the monsoon system of the Indian Ocean 120 years before the baby Jesus let out his first wail and he was written about by Poseidenius as a hero of yore back when yore was considered to be pre-yore. The story goes that a shipwrecked Indian sailor found his way to Ptolemy’s court and offered to guide a ship to his homeland in turn for passage. Ptolemy thought about it for a second before saying “Get Eudoxus – that guy can sail anything. I think he’s in Cyzicus.”

Much to the surprise of everyone Eudoxus not only accepted the challenge but also came home with a load of herbs, teas, spices, and precious stones.  Needless to say, he was sent back. One story has it that he was in love with Ptolemy’s queen and she returned the feelings – of course, that is a story I just made up because it sounds rather nice. There is no historical record of it – but if it were true, you can imagine why he kept getting sent away on dangerous missions.

ancient navigation astrolabe toolWhile some early historians thought it was all a pack of lies (the whole voyage to India, not just the part I made up), modern scholars are pretty sure he really did make the trips. One reason is that during the 2nd century BC,  Greek and Indian ships plied their trade with one another in ports like the modern Turkish city of Aden. By the year 50 BC there were plenty of Greek and Roman ships sailing the Red Sea to the Indian Ocean.

Of course, if he kept returning to have the King’s queen swooning over him, it was necessary to have more dangerous missions placed before him. Ptolemy next said something like “Why don’t you go West and just keep going…” So, Eudoxus, not one to really understand a hint, got in his ships and went to Spain where he built more ships and set out to go around Africa – something else that no one else had done and something that he probably had no reason to suspect was even possible – so we have to think that maybe some of the herbs from India were smokable and of the sativa variety. Or maybe not.  Here’s a bit from Wikipedia – not the most reliable source but for this story, it probably is worth the weight in gold.

When Eudoxus was returning from his second voyage to India the wind forced him south of the Gulf of Aden and down the coast of Africa for some distance. Somewhere along the coast of East Africa, he found the remains of a ship. Due to its appearance and the story told by the natives, Eudoxus concluded that the ship was from Gades (today’s Cádiz in Spain) and had sailed south around Africa. This inspired him to attempt a circumnavigation of Africa.

Personally, I like the story with Ptolemy’s queen a bit better, but what we know for certain is that he shipwrecked somewhere South of Morocco, probably in modern Mauritania and then spent some time making repairs before once again heading back to Greece where he was told once again to get lost.

So, once again, he  set out to circumnavigate Africa and this time it is presumed that he was lost forever though some, such as Pliny, claim that Eudoxus went all the way around and came home. The truth is probably that he finally got the hint and went and found a queen of his own somewhere.