Massaliote Periplus

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The Massaliote Periplus or Massaliot Periplus is a now-lost merchants' handbook possibly dating from as early as the 6th century BC describing the sea routes used by traders from Phoenicia and Tartessus in their journeys around Iron Age Europe. Massalia, however, was a Greek colony.

It was preserved by the Roman poet Avienus in his work Ora Maritima (The Maritime Shores) who wrote down parts of it much later, during the 4th century AD.

It contained an account of a sea voyage from Massilia (Marseilles) along the western Mediterranean.[1] It describes seaways running northwards from Cadiz in Spain along the coast of Atlantic Europe to Brittany, Ireland and Britain. The Periplus is the earliest work to describe the trade links between northern and southern Europe. That such a manual existed indicates the importance of these trade links. The trade in tin and other raw materials from the British Isles southwards is attested by archaeological evidence from this period and earlier and the riches to be won probably attracted numerous adventurers to explore and exploit the Atlantic coasts.

Pytheas of Massilia described a similar expedition in more detail a few centuries later, around 325 BC.


  1. "Avienus, Rufus Festus" The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Archaeology. Timothy Darvill. Oxford University Press, 2002.