Periplus of Pseudo-Scylax
The Periplus of Pseudo-Scylax (or Pseudo-Skylax, often abbreviated as Ps.-Scylax or Ps.-Skylax) is an ancient Greek periplus (periplous, 'circumnavigation') often included among the ranks of 'minor' Greek geographers. It probably dates from the mid-4th century BC, specifically the 330s, and was probably written at or near Athens.
The name of Scylax (or Skylax) applied to the text in the medieval manuscript may be a pseudepigraphical appeal to authority: Herodotus mentions a Scylax of Caryanda, a Greek navigator who in the late sixth century BC explored the coast of the Indian Ocean on behalf of the Persians. Many details in the work, however, reflect fourth-century BC knowledge of the world; since, therefore, it cannot be by the sixth-century Scylax, it and its author are habitually referred to as Pseudo-Scylax.
There remains one primary manuscript, Parisinus suppl. gr. (Supplément grec) 443 (also known as the Pithou MS after its sometime owner), which dates to the thirteenth century AD and is the original of those upon which the first printed edition of 1600 was based. Two later copies of this manuscript, which is notoriously corrupt, add nothing of substance. The principal manuscript was inaccessible to scholars for over two centuries until the 1830s, when it was bought by what is now the Bibliothèque Nationale de France.
Pseudo-Scylax's narrative simulates a clockwise circumnavigation of the Mediterranean and Black Sea, starting in the Iberia and ending in West Africa, beyond the Pillars of Hercules (Straits of Gibraltar). The NW African section is sometimes claimed to have been sourced from the Periplus of Hanno the Navigator, but a close comparison makes the differences between the two texts more apparent. Rather than the record of a voyage, or a compilation of eye-witness accounts of voyages, the work is probably an attempt at a quasi-scientific geographical account of the parts of the world accessible to Greeks in the 4th century BC. It can plausibly be associated with philosophical and scientific activities at Athens under Plato's successors in the Academy; the author was perhaps also in contact with Plato's successors at the Academy in Athens, and with Aristotle and Theophrastos, in the years leading up to the foundation of Aristotle's school, the Peripatos or Lyceum. One of the aims of the work seems to be to calculate a total sailing length for the coasts of the Mediterranean and Black Sea, a geographical undertaking in which Aristotle and his pupil Dikaiarchos of Messana went further, perhaps explicitly building upon the work of our unknown author.
"The Periplus of Scylax" was first published in Augsburg in 1600 by David Hoeschel along with other minor Greek geographers. In Amsterdam, the periplus was published by Gerardus Vossius in 1639 and then by John Hudson in his Geographi Graeci Minores. In Paris, the periplus was published in 1826 by Gail and in Berlin it was published in 1831 by R. H. Klausen. The Greek text of Fabricius (2nd edition 1878; below) was in some respects superior to that of Müller (1855), but the latter has until recently been regarded as standard. Further revision of the Greek text, however, has been undertaken by Counillon (2004) and Shipley (2011).
- Herodotus. Histories, 4.44.
- Jacob Gronovius, ‘Scylacis Periplus maris Mediterranei’, in Geographia Antiqua (Leiden, 1697)
- Karl Müller, in Geographi graeci minores (Greek-Latin Edition, Paris, 1882.
- Rudolf Klausen, Hecataeii Milesii fragmenta; Scylacis Caryandensis Periplus (Berlin, 1831)
- Antoine-Jean Letronne, in Fragments des poèmes géographiques (Paris, 1840)
- ‘B. Fabricius’ (pseudonym of H. T. Dittrich), Anonymi vulgo Scylacis Caryandensis periplum maris interni, 2nd edition (Leipzig, 1878)
- Patrick Counillon, Pseudo-Skylax, Le Périple du Pont-Euxin (Bordeaux, 2004).
- Graham Shipley, Pseudo-Skylax's Periplous: The Circumnavigation of the Inhabited World. Text, Translation and Commentary (Exeter: Bristol Phoenix Press/The Exeter Press), 2011. ISBN 978-1-904675-82-2 hardback, 978-1-904675-83-9 paperback. For details see http://www.exeterpress.co.uk/en-gb/Book/537/Pseudo-Skylax's_Periplous.html
- D. Graham J. Shipley, ‘Pseudo-Skylax and the natural philosophers’, Journal of Hellenic Studies, vol. 132 (2012). Pre-print published in FirstView by Cambridge University Press on 6 Sept. 2012. http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0075426912000092