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Himilco (Phoenician Chimilkât, also known as Himilco I), a Carthaginian navigator and explorer, lived during the height of Carthaginian power, the 5th century BC.

Himilco is the first known explorer from the Mediterranean Sea to reach the northwestern shores of Europe. His lost account of his adventures is quoted by Roman writers. The oldest reference to Himilco's voyage is a brief mention in Pliny's Natural History (2.169a) by the Roman scholar Pliny the Elder.[1] Himilco was quoted three times by Rufus Festus Avienus, who wrote a poetical account of the geography in the 4th century AD.

We know next to nothing of Himilco himself. Himilco sailed north along the Atlantic coast of present-day Spain, Portugal and France. He reached northwestern France, the territory of the Oestrumnides tribe living in Brittany, probably to trade for tin to be used for making bronze and for other precious metals. Himilco was not (according to Avienus) the first to sail the northern Atlantic ocean; according to Avenius, Himilco followed the trade route used by the Tartessians of southern Iberia. Near Tartessus, the Carthaginians had the trading port city of Gadir (Phoenician גדר "walled city") so it makes sense that Himilco would explore along the coast nearby.

Himilco described his journeys as quite harrowing, repeatedly reporting sea monsters and seaweed, likely in order to deter Greek rivals from competing on their new trade routes. Avienus' accounts of monsters became one source of the myths discouraging sailing in the Atlantic.

See also

References

  1. ^ Pliny the Elder, Natural History 2.169a
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