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The Extraordinary Voyage of Pytheas the Greek (Anglais) Relié – 4 janvier 2002


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Barry Cunliffe is professor of European archaeology at Oxford University. His books include The Ancient Celts and Facing the Ocean: The Atlantic and Its Peoples.
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Couverture | Copyright | Table des matières | Extrait | Index | Quatrième de couverture
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30 internautes sur 33 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Compensates for unmet expectations.......... 20 septembre 2002
Par nto62 - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
Perhaps, Barry Cunliffe didn't name this book "What Little is Known About the Extraordinary Voyage of Pytheas the Greek" because then the title might compete for length with the content. Granted, Pytheas' journey occured some 2,300 years ago so source material is spotty. However, I couldn't help but be a little disappointed in the lack of narrative one expects given the title Cunliffe did bestow on his effort.
To Cunliffe's credit, he admits as much and attempts to draw the reader in through an archaeological perspective of the people and places Pytheas might have encountered. And, since Pytheas' own writings are long since lost, Cunliffe spends much time on the works of his near contemporaries; portions of which are still surviving.
A lack of source material is something with which all books of ancient history must contend. Nevertheless, Cunliffe's enthusiasm for his subject is palpable and this brings it's own level of enjoyment to the reader. Cunliffe is careful to separate theory from fact and though this is, in itself, the prime reason that a narrative never really appears, one has to admire his integrity.
Bottom line, The Extraordinary Voyage of Pytheas the Greek is an analytical, clinical, dissection of what little is known of a Greek wanderer who stretched the envelope of the known world. It is short, informative, and, in the end, worthy of the reader's time.
14 internautes sur 15 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Good introduction but apt to wander 3 septembre 2002
Par ilmk - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
It is extraordinary that as accomplished a historian as Barry Cunliffe should choose to embark on a historical trail where the evidence is minimal, given the usual rigidity of historians to rely on hard evidence to construct their histories. It is also quite refreshing and the opening preface has an almost amused tone in its admission. In fact, the author makes it clear that much of our evidence for Pytheas can be seen in attributes of his commentating style and quotations by Diodorus or Strabo can thus be deduced as originally his. A little tenuous, but plausible.
Cunliffe begins his deconstruction of the Pytheas myth by clearly explaining the origins and timouchoi government of Massilia (Marseille) as a Greek colony of Phocaea. Explanations of the seafaring wealth of the city give way to an expounding of the use of amphorae in archaeological works to understand trading patterns of the ancient world.
One comment is a little debatable, as Cunliffe implies that the elite Hallstatt of Western Europe had a prestige goods economy created (or at the least, exacerbated) for them by the trade flowing out of the Mediterranean, which, perhaps too neatly, fits the historian's view of the ancient Greek world model of civiliser and barbarian.
There is a good precis of the effects of the Celtic migrations of the 5th - 3rd centuries B.C. and a chronological set of mini-biographies on the Greek philsophers of Miletus, - Anaximander and Thales being prominent - Herodotus, Pythagoras, Aristotle et al, which serves to place the current Greek view of the world, both geographical and sociological. These, and additional references to Avienus and the periplus document used by mariners, all build to a world where the unsailed Ocean gives rise to both myth and philsophical imaginings.
A world that Pytheas was born into.
The book then digresses somewhat. Having admitted at the start of this work that there was very little sources to discuss, Cunliffe feels he has license to talk about the British experience. On the evidence of the aforementioned stylistic comparability, Cunliffe launches into a discouse on trade routes to Cornwall (justified as a potential route taken by Pytheas as it mentions tidal flow which Pytheas was interested in - though we aren't really given evidence to prove that). Nevertheless, the author is now pernitted to debate the location of various ancient sites in order to predict the Pythean route. Once he tenously advances his theory Cunliffe digresses into the origins of tin, from a geological explanation to the finished traded article. He cycles through industrialization, marketing infrastructures and a more general discussion on the social structure of the time. There is an effort to remember the title of the book, with the odd `If Pytheas had visited here, then he'd've found such and such'. But, given the admission at the start that this was liable to happen, one cannot complain too much. As a result we get a long detour on the history of Cornwall with an interesting side discussion on the origins of the name Britain.
Yet, by page 100, Cunliffe is back on the book title's implied content as we route westwards towards Ireland (there is a lengthy chapter on Ultima Thule - Iceland?), dragging further astronomical musing in, - given sailing and astronomy are inextricably linked in the ancient world, not unexpected - boat construction and other items as we route around Scotland down the Amber coasts until the final leg back to Massilia.
The final chapter deals with various ancient sources such as Dicaearchus, Avienus, Timeaus, Eratosthenes, Strabo and Polybius. Cunliffe discusses the press (most of it critical) that Pytheas gets and this is an excellent discussion. In some respects, it might have been better if it came at the beginning rather than the end.
So, an intriguing book that unbashedly states it's liable to wander off the subject matter (and does) yet introduces us to an explorer who has come down to use through tantalising excerpts from later commentators, yet, by the very end, we get a sense of affinity with a man who set off to discover the world was more the the Mediterranean.
16 internautes sur 18 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Periplus 28 octobre 2002
Par Holy Olio - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
Barry Cunliffe has made other contributions, but this one pertains to ancient navigation and was therefore of great interest to me. Other takes on Pytheas' voyage include the rather uninformed view that his trip was entirely mythical (I've seen the same said of Marco Polo's sojourn).

Like the much briefer _Periplus of Hanno_, accounts based on those of Pytheas have survived to reveal a much different picture of navigation in ancient times. The prejudice that no one sailed out of sight of ancient coastlines accounts for the rejection such accounts often get.

Try a web search for _Periplus of Hanno_ along with "Livio Stecchini" for more information. Stecchini was neither a nationalist, nor a nut, as one alleged scholar on the web claimed.

Related reading:

-:- Pytheas of Massalia: On the Ocean: Text, Translation and Commentary by by Christina Horst Roseman (0890055459)

-:- North to Thule: An Imagined Narrative of the Famous Lost Sea Voyage of Pytheas of Massalia in the 4th Century B.C. by John Frye and Harriet Frye (0802713939)
6 internautes sur 6 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Travels of an ancient mariner 18 novembre 2003
Par Atheen - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
The Extraordinary Voyage of Pytheas the Greek is a wonderful examination of life along the Atlantic seaboard of Europe during the Greco-Roman period. Essentially it's a much more readable version of Cunliffe's book Facing the Ocean, and the reader of the latter will find familiar passages throughout the volume. While the focus and time period of Facing the Ocean is much broader than that of The ExtraordinaryVoyage, the narrower time period of the latter makes the ancient world come more alive for the reader.
On the Ocean, written by the fourth century B.C. explorer Pytheas of Massalia (modern day Marseille in France) is itself lost to modern day scholarship, but it does exist in short excerpts found in the works of later authors. Professor Cunliffe is both an archaeologist as well as an historian of the period and is able to use his understanding of the cultural remains of the period and of the region in which Pytheas traveled to verify many of the traditions surrounding the great adventurer's voyage. In essence, he uses both Pytheas and his travels to create the structure and theme of his own work on life and trade along the Atlantic coasts during the fourth century.
For those with a general knowledge of Greco-Roman history, this book adds detail to the image of the ancient world. Many of the more general texts of the period, while discussing the colonization period of ancient Greece, fail to really give more than a gloss-over of the cultural phenomenon that restructured the Mediterranean world and led to the more widely known events of the Roman Republic and Imperial periods, with its cast of characters made popular in literary form from Shakespeare's Anthony and Cleopatra and Julius Caesar to Ridley Scott's Gladiator. The book takes the reader to the ends of the earth from the point of view of the contemporary Mediterranean world and provides a personality whose adventures match those of the great explorers of the fourteenth and fifteenth century A.D.
The book is brief and concise, and would be understandable to most readers from junior high level and beyond with an interest in history. The bibliography contains a number of references that would provide further reading sources. Most of these are a little old, 1893-1994, and some are in French or German, but several of the general sources are more recent and in English.
4 internautes sur 4 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
A lively account of Western European trade and travel in 300 b.c. 17 février 2009
Par Graham - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié Achat vérifié
Prof. Cunliffe uses the travels of Pytheas to Britain and beyond as a framework for a lively discussion of the general state of geographic knowledge and above all trade in Western Europe in the 3rd century b.c. He explains how there was a continual flow of manufactured goods from the South being exchanged for prized tin and amber from the North. Some of this was probably through long chains of intermediaries, but Pytheas reported that tin traders took their pack horses from the Channel to the Rhone in only thirty days, so it is not too surprising that occasional brave individuals were able to make the same journey. Pytheas himself seems to have traveled almost like a modern back-packer, tagging along with traveling merchants rather than leading an expedition of his own.

Cunliffe is Professor of European Archaeology at Oxford, so he knows the archeological record well and he discusses various sites that are representative of the areas Pytheas visited. He also carefully evaluates and explains the potential biases and distortions in the surviving commentaries on Pytheas's travels. For example, some later scholars refused point-blank to accept that humans could survive in such cold climates.

I was initially surprised by the claimed extent of Pytheas's travels, but by the end I was convinced that Pytheas did indeed reach the far North (almost certainly Iceland) and record its short summer nights and high latitude for future geographers.

An amazing tale, well told. Despite being scholarly, Cunliffe's account is consistently well written, entertaining and enlightening.
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