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THE ANCIENT SAILING SEASON

The Ancient Sailing Season

 
 Author(s)                

James Beresford
 Publisher BRILL
 Date 1972
 Pages 364
 Format pdf
 Size 6 Mb


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   It is the long-standing belief among classical scholars that seafaring on the ancient Mediterranean was highly seasonal in nature. This assumption underlies and permeates our present understanding of Graeco-Roman maritime activities and has gone ail-but unchallenged by historians and archaeologists. There has, after all, seemed little reason to question the handful of ancient texts relating to the seasonal limits of the maritime calendar, for while such literature is sparse, on cursory examination there appears to be broad agreement that the sailing season of antiquity was confined within a six- to eight-month period centered on the summer. By contrast, the wintertime was regarded as 'out-of-season' for Greek and Roman seafarers—the period of mare clausum, the 'closed sea'. A relatively recent study therefore noted: The duration and dates of the sailing season in the ancient Mediterranean are well known and have been fairly thoroughly discussed'. Throughout the following pages it will, however, be argued that, rather than presenting a single, unified picture of the Graeco-Roman sailing season, critical examination of the ancient texts instead reveals that the maritime calendars surviving from antiquity are far from compatible. Indeed, the literature deals with a wide variety of different types of vessels, sailing on very different regions of the Mediterranean Sea. Many of the surviving ancient texts are also separated by broad spans of time that encompassed considerable technological, political and economic change, all of which had profound implications for the length of the sailing season.

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