Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Rome and the rest of the World - the Americas



In the last post in this series, here's one of those 'out there' conspiracy theories, X-Files or Lost stories. The question is, did the Romans - or the Greeks or the Phoenicians for that matter - ever make landfall in the Americas? It seems pretty incredible and very unlikely, but first lets consider the idea with a little logic. For a start, the Classical World already knew the earth was in the shape of a sphere...and by 240BC the planet's circumference had already been calculated. In other words, just like Columbus, classical ocean going seafarers knew that they could reach the same points on the globe sailing east or west, and could reasonably calculate just how far these opposing routes might be. We also know that the Phoenicians, Greeks and Romans all knew where the Canary and Cape Verde Islands were - and some of Pliny's descriptions also suggest the Azores - so some exploration of the central Atlantic had been undertaken by the 1st-century AD. But did they take the next step? Did Roman-era sailors press onwards from the coast of Africa? Well, it's possible. Some 4000-miles west of the Canary Islands in the harbour of Rio De Janeiro divers recovered several amphorae during the 1970s. This is one of those stories that has never been properly followed up with sound archaeology - and although the amphorae sighted may date from the 2nd-century BC, the supposed Roman shipwreck has never been properly explored and excavated. However, even if this 'wreck' has so easily been dismissed by the mainstream as unlikely to be Roman, the possibility that some of Europe's classical sailors reached the Americas cannot be entirely ignored. After all, the Vikings managed it 1000-years later in much smaller ships...and so did Columbus, again with vessels smaller and no more sophisticated than those of the classical age. So you never know, this subject shouldn't be considered properly explored just yet.

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