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Myos Hormos

Coordinates: 26°9′24″N 34°14′30″E / 26.15667°N 34.24167°E / 26.15667; 34.24167
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Myos Hormos
Myos Hormos is located in Egypt
Myos Hormos
Shown within Egypt
LocationAl-Qusayr, Red Sea Governorate, Egypt
RegionUpper Egypt
Coordinates26°9′24″N 34°14′30″E / 26.15667°N 34.24167°E / 26.15667; 34.24167
BuilderPtolemaic dynasty
Founded3rd century BC
AbandonedAfter the 4th century AD
PeriodsPtolemaic Kingdom to Roman Empire

Myos Hormos (Ancient Greek: Μυὸς Ὅρμος) was a Red Sea port founded by the Ptolemy II Philadelphus upon a headland of similar name, around the 3rd century BC.[1] Later, it was renamed to Aphrodites Hormos (Ancient Greek: Ἀφροδίτης ὅρμος) but the elder appellation is more generally retained.[1]

Following excavations carried out recently by David Peacock and Lucy Blue of the University of Southampton, it is thought to have been located on the present-day site of Quseir al-Quadim (old Quseir), eight kilometres north of the modern town of El Qoseir in Egypt.[2]


The Myos Hormos may mean the "Harbour of the Mouse", but most probably meant the "Harbour of the Mussel" (μύειν, to close, e.g. the shell), since on the neighbouring coast the pearl mussel was collected in large quantities.[1][3]

Also, it seems to have obtained the name of Aphrodite (technically meaning foam of the sea), from the abundance of sea-sponge found in its bay.[1]


Ptolemy II Philadelphus selected it for the principal harbour of the trade with India, in preference to Arsinoe, since Arsinoe was at the head of the Red Sea and there was a tedious and difficult navigation down the Heroopolite Gulf. Vessels from Myos Hormos traded with Africa, Arabia, and India.[1]

in hieroglyphs
Era: Middle Kingdom
(2055–1650 BC)
sbA sbA sbA
niwt niwt
in hieroglyphs
Era: Ptolemaic dynasty
(305–30 BC)

After the Ptolemies, it was with Berenice (further south on the Red Sea coast) one of the two main ports in Roman Egypt for trade with India, Africa and probably China.[7]

Some of its main destinations were the Indus delta, Muziris and the Kathiawar peninsula in India. The coastal trade from Myos Hormos and Berenice along the coast of the Indian Ocean is described in the anonymous 1st century AD handbook Periplus of the Erythraean Sea.

first comes Egypt's port of Myos Hormos, and beyond it, after a sail of 1800 stades to the right, Berenice. The ports of both are bays on the Red Sea on the edge of Egypt.[8]

It was one of the main trading centers on the Red Sea.[9]

According to Strabo (II.5.12), by the time of Augustus, up to 120 ships were setting sail every year from Myos Hormos to India:

At any rate, when Gallus was prefect of Egypt, I accompanied him and ascended the Nile as far as Syene and the frontiers of Ethiopia, and I learned that as many as one hundred and twenty vessels were sailing from Myos Hormos to India, whereas formerly, under the Ptolemies, only a very few ventured to undertake the voyage and to carry on traffic in Indian merchandise.

— Strabo II.5.12. [1]

The port of Myos Hormos was connected to the Nile valley and Memphis by a Roman road, built in the 1st century.

After the 4th century the port was abandoned, because of the Roman Empire crisis and the end of the trade between Rome and India.

Only in the 17th century the port started to regain some importance, mainly because of holy travel from Cairo to Mecca. Myos Hormos is now the city of old Qusair.[10]

The trade route from Rome to India, showing Myos Hormos


  1. ^ a b c d e Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), MYOS-HORMOS
  2. ^ "Cane (Qana')". Maritime Incense Route. Retrieved 7 Dec 2008.
  3. ^ Strabo, Geography, 17.1.45
  4. ^ Gauthier, Henri (1929). Dictionnaire des Noms Géographiques Contenus dans les Textes Hiéroglyphiques Vol. 6. pp. 64, 87. Gauthier makes note of a mistake in the same word in Budge's dictionary.
  5. ^ Wallis Budge, E. A. (1920). An Egyptian hieroglyphic dictionary: with an index of English words, king list and geological list with indexes, list of hieroglyphic characters, coptic and semitic alphabets, etc. Vol II. John Murray. p. 1059.
  6. ^ Gauthier (1929) pp. 64, 87
  7. ^ http://nabataea.net/isearoute.html Roman sea routes in the Indian Ocean
  8. ^ Lionel Casson, Ramsay MacMullen (1989). The Periplus Maris Erythraei: Text with Introduction, Translation, and Commentary. Princeton University Press p. 51.
  9. ^ Dario Nappo (2010). 'On the location of Leuke Kome' Journal of Roman Archaeology Vol. 23, pp. 335-348.
  10. ^ Articles and photos of Myos Hormos and actual Old Qusair (in Italian)


  • G.W.B. Huntingford. The Ethnology and History of the Area Covered by the Periplus in Huntingford ed., "Periplus of the Erythraean Sea" (London, 1980).

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