Ora maritima

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Ora maritima ("The Sea Coast") is a poem written by Avienius claimed to contain borrowings from the 6th-century BC Massiliote Periplus.[1][2] This poeticised periplus resulted in an anachronic, non-factual account of the coastal regions of the known world. His editor André Berthelot demonstrated that Avienius' land-measurements were derived from Roman itineraries but inverted some sequences. Berthelot remarked of some names on the Hispanic coast "The omission of Emporium, contrasting strangely with the names of Tarragon and Barcelona, may characterize the method of Avienius, who searches archaic documents and mingles his searches of them with his impressions as an official of the fourth century A.D." (Barthelmy, Introduction). Ora maritima was a work for the reader rather than the traveller, where the fourth century present intrudes largely in the mention of cities at the time abandoned[3] (see Oestriminis). More recent scholars have emended the too credulous reliance on Avienius' accuracy of his editor, the historian-archaeologist Adolf Schulten.[4] Another ancient chief text cited by Avienius is the Periplus of Himilco, the description of a Punic expedition through the coasts of western Europe which took place at the same time of the circumnavigation of Africa by Hanno (c. 500 BC).[5]

The Sea Coast
by Avienius
Original titleOra maritima
Genre(s)Geography and travel
Publication date4th-century

Ora maritima includes reference to the islands of Ierne and Albion, Ireland and Britain,[6] whose inhabitants reputedly traded with the Oestrymnides of Brittany.[2] The work was dedicated to Sextus Claudius Petronius Probus. It also mentions the presumably mythical city of Cypsela in the Catalonian coast.[Verse 521]

The whole text derives from a single manuscript source, used for the editio princeps published at Venice in 1488.[7]


  1. ^ Donnchadh Ó Corráin Chapter 1 "Prehistoric and Early Christian Ireland", in The Oxford Illustrated History of Ireland, R.L. Foster, ed. (Oxford University Press) 2000 ISBN 0-19-289323-8
  2. ^ a b "Avienus, Rufus Festus" The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Archaeology, Timothy Darvil, ed.. (Oxford University Press) 2002
  3. ^ F.J. Gonzalez Ponce, Avieno y el Periplo (Ejica 1995) compares Avienus' literary archaising to Claudian, whose enumeration of German tribes loyal to Stilicho included many purely literary references of tribes that had long ceased to exist.
  4. ^ Schulten, Avienus, (Barcelona/Berlin) 1922.
  5. ^ ...sicut ad extera Europae noscenda missus eodem tempore Himilco. Toer, H. F. (2008). A History of Ancient Geography. Read Books, p. 109. ISBN 1-4437-2492-0
  6. ^ Freeman, Philip (January 2010). Ireland and the Classical World. University of Texas Press. p. 28. ISBN 9780292781887. Retrieved 21 May 2019.
  7. ^ Avienus, Rufius Festus and Murphy, J. P. (1977) Ora maritima: or, description of the seacoast from Brittany round to Massilia. Ares Publishers, p. 100. ISBN 0-89005-175-5

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