Skylax or Scylax of Caryanda was a renowned Greek explorer and writer of the late 6th and early 5th centuries BCE.
His own writings are lost, though occasionally cited or quoted by later Greek and Roman authors. The Periplous preserved under his name is not, in fact, by him but is a geographical study (rather than a travelogue) written in about the early 330s by an unknown author working in the ambit of the post-Platonic Academy and/or the Aristotelian Peripatos (Lyceum) at Athens; it is known as the Periplus of Pseudo-Scylax.
Exploration and literary works
In about 515 BCE, Scylax was sent by King Darius I of Persia to follow the course of the Indus River and discover where it led. Scylax and his companions set out from the city of Caspatyrus in Gandhara (which would mean he entered the Indus close to its confluence with the Kabul River, near to what is now Peshawar in Pakistan). Scylax sailed down the river until he found it reached the sea. He then sailed west across Indian Ocean until he arrived at the Red Sea, which he also explored. He travelled as far as the Red Sea's western end at Suez, before returning to report to Darius I. His entire journey took thirty months.
Such, at least, is the prima facie narrative based on Herodotos. Recently, however, Dmitri Panchenko has argued persuasively, on the basis of apparent references to Scylax's work in the late Greek author Philostratos, that Scylax in fact travelled across North India, made his way down the Ganges, and arrived at Taprobane (Sri Lanka). He has also calculated the likely date of Scylax's departure for India as July 518 BCE.
Scylax was famous in the ancient world. He is mentioned by Strabo as an "ancient writer." According to the Suda, he also wrote (perhaps "in the decades around 480 B.C.") a life of his contemporary, Heraclides of Mylasa (τὰ κατὰ Ἡρακλείδην τὸν Μυλασσῶν βασιλέα), who is mentioned in Herodotus 5.121.
- Herodotus, Histories, 4.44
- Aristotle, Politics, 7.13.2
- Suda, s.v. Σκύλαξ
- Lendering, Jona (n.d.). "Scylax of Caryanda"
- Panchenko, D. V., ‘Scylax’ circumnavigation of India and its interpretation in early Greek geography, ethnography and cosmography, I’, Hyperboreus, 4. 2 (1998), 211–42; id., ‘Scylax in Philostratus’ Life of Apollonius of Tyana’, Hyperboreus, 8. 1 (2002), 5–12; id., ‘Scylax’ circumnavigation of India and its interpretation in early Greek geography, ethnography and cosmography, II’, Hyperboreus, 9. 2 (2003), 274–94.
- Strabo, Geography 14. 2. 20 (Σκύλαξ ὁ παλαιὸς συγγραφεύς). Scylax was mentioned 12. 4. 8 and 13. 1. 4
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