Your Marine Surveyors in the Eastern Mediterranean…

Rod Heikell’s Comments on the dilemma Skylax versus Pseudo-Skylax

In addition to being the author of the most accurate coastal handbook of Turkish Waters, Rod Heikell has a solid background and ongoing interest in the philosophy of scientific progress. As expressed in my brief article about Skylax, this ancient voyager seems to be a milestone in the history of “handling science,” and Rod had noticed this article. During a wonderful evening in Gumusluk, Rod, Lou and myself had the opportunity to let our fantasies go around Skylax, Piri Reis and others who bothered to write down geographic observations several thousand years ago and enriched our lives today. Later Rod sent me two mails, which, until we shall know more, I copied below without comments, but with some emphasizing:

The first mail is of 25 October 2004:

“Dear Yusuf,
At odd moments I have been pursuing the Skylax story. I went to your web site and I think there is a fundamental error here over Skylax. You mention Pseudo-Skylax as a separate person, but I believe that the Periplus of Pseudo Skylax, which is the one that survives, is the same Skylax of Karyanda. It is called Pseudo Skylax I believe because it is not the original written by Skylax, but a later copy (as most of what we have from this time is).
I have contacted a few people in the antiquity departments of various universities for enlightenment. (…) The Periplus of Skylax (or Pseudo Skylax) by the way has nothing on his voyage to India, but is solely a pilot for the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. We only know Skylax went to India through Herodotus (as the earliest reference) and he could at times be a little inaccurate in as much as he reported things he heard as his own experiences.

Anyway thought you might be interested.”

and then on 28 October 2004 upon a reply from the University of Leeds:

“(…) the question of authorship and just who Skylax was is as murky as you get. Wonderful academic detective work: I love it.”

Anyway below is the reply from Graham Shipley on Skylax and Pseudo-Skylax:

There is a vast literature (in relation to the size of the text!) about the authorship of the work, which survives in only one medieval copy and a few later manuscripts that derive from it (if I remember right). There it is under the name of Skylax of Karyanda, who is mentioned by Herodotos in the 5th century BC and lived at the end of the 6th. But evidence from within the text proves that it must date from the mid-4th century BC, in which case we simply do not know the name of its author; hence the appellation ‘Pseudo-’. The question is, does any part of the text originate earlier, and is any part the work of the real Skylax or not? There are diametrically opposed views on this!

Independently, between 7 and 11 fragments (i.e. quotations or paraphrases in later authors) have been identified from the original Periplous of Skylax of Karyanda, some referring to India.

Does this help you? What is your interest in, and involvement with, Pseudo-Skylax?”

Those really interested in this subject may click here to get to a preliminary translation into English of the Periplus of Pseudo-Skylax by Prof. Graham Shipley.

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