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Himilco was a Carthaginian navigator and explorer who lived during the height of Carthaginian power in the late 6th or early 5th century BCE.

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 Natural History (2.169a) by the Roman scholar Pliny the Elder.[1] Himilco was quoted three times by Rufus Festus Avienus, who wrote Ora Maritima, a poetical account of the geography in the 4th century CE.[2]

We know next to nothing of Himilco himself. Himilco sailed north along the Atlantic coast of present-day Spain, Portugal, England[3] and France, he reached northwestern France, as well as the territory of the Oestrimini tribe living in Portugal probably to trade for tin to be used for making bronze and for other precious metals. Records of the voyages of the Carthaginian Himilco take note of the islands of Albion and Ierne. Avienus asserts that the outward journey to the Oestriminis took the Carthaginians four months.[4] Himilco was not (according to Avienus) the first to sail the northern Atlantic Ocean; according to Avienus, Himilco followed the trade route used by the Tartessians of southern Iberia.[citation needed]

Himilco described his journeys as quite harrowing, repeatedly reporting sea monsters and seaweed,[5] likely in order to deter Greek rivals from competing on their new trade routes. Carthaginian accounts of monsters became one source of the myths discouraging sailing in the Atlantic.[6]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Pliny the Elder, Natural History 2.169a
  2. ^ Avienus, Rufius Festus and Murphy, J. P. (1977) Ora maritima: or, description of the seacoast from Brittany round to Massilia. Ares Publisher, ISBN 0-89005-175-5
  3. ^ http://britannia.com/celtic/scotland/timeline/index.html
  4. ^ Himilco
  5. ^ Avienus, V. 113-128
  6. ^ Roller, Duane W. (2006). Through the pillars of Herakles: Greco-Roman exploration of the Atlantic. Taylor & Francis, pp. 27-28. ISBN 0-415-37287-9


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