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(plural, peripli), an ancient Greek literary genre presenting an account of a coastal sea voyage. Peripli are usually divided into two types: travel descriptions and manuals for the use of navigators.
Among peripli of the first group are the periplus about a voyage along the western coast of Africa compiled by the Carthaginian Hanno (seventh-sixth centuries B.C.) and a nonextant periplus (second half of sixth century B.C.) used by Avienus (fourth century A.D.) in his description of the coasts of Spain, Britain, and Gaul. A description of a journey from the Indus River to the Euphrates written by the naval commander Near chus dates from the fourth century B.C.; it was used by Strabo (first century B.C.-first century A.D.) and Arrian (second century A.D.). The works of these two authors also attest to the existence of a Black Sea periplus and of a route to the Atlantic.
The second type of periplus described special features and dangers of a particular route, locations of convenient harbors, and distances between points. The earliest known periplus of this type, dating from approximately the mid-fourth century B.C., is ascribed to the Greek explorer Scylax (Pseudo-Scylax). It describes the coasts of the Mediterranean and Black seas. Another example is the Red Sea periplus, compiled circa 110 B.C.; fragments of it are found in works by Diodorus Siculus (first century B.C.) and Photius (ninth century A.D.). Also belonging to this type of periplus is a detailed description of a voyage from Egypt to India compiled in the first century A.D. Most peripli have not been preserved.
EDITIONSMüller, C. Geographi Graeci Minores, vol. 2. Paris, 1861.
Müller, C. Fragmenta historicorum graecorum, vol. 1. Paris, 1841.