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Humanists and Travellers, Gorgons and Gorillas: Hanno the Navigator's 'Periplus' and Early Modern Geography (1530-1630)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)793-820
Issue number4
Early online date16 May 2018
Publication statusPublished - 4 Jul 2019


King's Authors


This article is concerned with early modern interpretations of Hanno the Navigator's Periplus, an ancient travel account of a Carthaginian voyage down the coasts of Africa. The early modern period saw a rise in interest in geographical knowledge, and the ways in which different authors used Hanno's voyage reflects their understanding of the role of geography in conceptualising the world. In these discussions, writers had to negotiate between the confusing portrayals of the voyage in the received classical tradition and new reports brought by voyages of exploration. Here, I will discuss how these syntheses between humanist methods and contemporary travellers' accounts were shaped by the economic and political concerns tied to the first wave of European overseas expansion. Amid this climate, ancient geographical knowledge found pragmatic applications in contemporary issues of navigation, commerce and claims of territorial possession, as well as shaping European perceptions of ‘self’ and ‘the other’. This paper thus seeks to situate humanist practices and classical knowledge within the wider context of overseas voyages and early modern political and economic developments.

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