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MOSCHA PORTUS

MOSCHA PORTUS (Μόσχα λιμήν,).


1.

A harbour on the S. coast of Arabia, near the extreme east of the ADRAMITAE or more properly of the Ascitae, since the next named place is “Syagros extrema” (Σύαγρος ἄκρα), and the Ascitae extended from Syagros mons to the sea. (Ptol. 6.7. p. 153, comp. p. 154). Mr. Forster thinks there is no difficulty [p. 2.373]in identifying it with Kesem, the last seaport westward of Cape Fartask, his “Syagros extrema.” (Geogr. of Arabia, vol. ii. pp. 164. 178.) The position assigned it by D'Anville at the modern Muscat is certainly untenable. (Ib. pp. 167, 168, 224, 233, 234.)


2.

A second harbour of this name is mentioned by the author of the Periplus, on the east of the Syagros Promontorium, in the large bay named by Ptolemy Sachalites Sinus (Σαχαλίτης κόλπος), and east of the smaller one, named Omana Ὄμανα), by the author of the Periplus, who places this Moscha Portus 1100 stadia east of Syagros. He calls it a port appointed for the lading of the Sachalite incense (ὅρμος ἀποδεδειγμένος τοῦ Σαχαλίτου λιβάνου πρὸς ἐμβολήν, frequented by ships from Cane, and a wintering-place for late vessels from Limyrice and Barygaza, where they bartered fine linen, and corn, and oil for the native produce of this coast. Mr. Forster furnishes an ingenious etymological explanation of the recurrence of this name on the coast of the Sachalites Sinus. “The Arabic Moscha, like the Greek ἀσκός signifies a hide, or skin, or a bag of skin or leather blown up like a bladder. Now, Ptolemy informs us that the pearl divers who frequented his Sinus Sachalites (unquestionably the site of Arrian's Moscha Portus), were noted for the practice of swimming, or floating about the bay, supported by inflated hides or skins. What more natural than that the parts frequented by these divers should be named from this practice? . . . And hence, too, the name of the Ascitae of Ptolemy (‘floaters on skins’), the actual inhabitants of his Moscha Portus immediately west of his Suágros.” It is a remarkable fact mentioned by modern travellers, that this practice still prevails among the fishermen on this coast; for “as the natives have but few canoes, they generally substitute a single inflated skin, or two of these having a flat board across them. On this frail contrivance the fisherman seats himself, and either casts his small hand-net or plays his hook and line.” (Lieut. Wellsted, Travels in Arabia, vol. i. pp. 79, 80, cited by Forster, Arabia, vol. ii. p. 175, note*.) The identification of Arrian's Moscha with the modern Ausera, is complete. Arrian reckons 600 stadia from Syagros across the bay which he names Omana. This measurement tallies exactly with that of the Bay of Seger, in Commodore Owen's chart of this coast; and from the eastern extremity of this bay to Moscha Portus, Arrian assigns a distance of 500 stadia, which measures with nearly equal exactness the distance to Ras-al-Sair (the Ausara of Ptolemy), situated about 60 Roman miles to the east of the preceding headland. The identity of the Moscha Portus of Arrian with the Ausara of Ptolemy is thus further corroborated. “Arrian states his Moscha Portus to have been the emporium of the incense trade; and Pliny proves Ausara to have been a chief emporium of this trade, by his notice of the fact that one particular kind of incense bore the name of Ausaritis.” (Plin. Nat. 12.35; Forster, l.c. pp. 176, 177.) [G.W]

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