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OCE´ANUS SEPTENTRIONA´LIS the northern portion of the waters of the all-encircling Ocean.

1. The name and divisions.

According to a fragment of Phavorinus the word Ὠκεανός is not Greek, but one borrowed from the barbarians (Spohn, de Nicephor. Blemm. Geogr. Lips. 1818, p. 23); but there seems reason for believing it to be connected with the Sanscrit roots “ogha” and “ogh.” (Humboldt, Cosmos, vol. ii. note 210, trans.) When the peoples living on the coasts of the Interior Sea passed,as Herodotus (4.152) significantly adds, “not without divine direction,” through the gate into the Ocean, and first saw its primeval waters, the origin as they believed of all waters, the sea that washed the shores of the remote North was long regarded as a miry, shallow, misty sea of darkness, lying under “the Bear,” who alone is never bathed in the Ocean; and hence the names Septentrionalis ( βόρειος ὠκεανός, Plut. Camill. 15; Agathem. 2.14; Tac. Germ. 1; Plin. in. 27; ἀρκτικὸς ὠκ., Agathem l.c.; ὑπὸ τὰς ἄριξτους ὠκ., Diod. 18.5) and Scythicus (Plin. Nat. 6.14); though this, according to Agathemerus (l.c.) is the E. division of the Northern Ocean, while the Mare Germanicum and Mare Britannicum formed the W. This sea appears with the epithets “Oceanus glacialis” (Juv. 3.1); “Mare congelatum” (Varro, R. R. 1.2.4; Plin. Nat. 4.27. s. 30); “concretum” (Plin. l.c.; πεπηγυῖα θαλ., Strab. i. p.63; πόντος πεπηγώς, Dionys. Per. 32; πέλαγος πεπηγός, Agathem l.c.); “pigrum” (Tac. Agr. 13, Germ. 45); “mortuum” (Plin. Nat. 4.27; Agathem. l.c.; Dionys. Per. 33). Its divisions were:--Mare Germanicum (Plin. Nat. 4.30; Ptol. 2.3.5), or M. Cimbricum ( “Cymbrica Tethys,” Claudian, de Bell. Get. 335), or the German Ocean, united by the Fretum Gallicum (Straits of Dover, Pas de Calais) with the M. Britannicum (Piin. 4.33: English Channel), and by the Codanus Sinus (Kattegattet. Ore Sund) and Lagnus Sinus (Store Belt, Lille Belt), with the M. Sarmaticum (Σαρματικὸς ὠκ., Ptol. 7.5. § § 2, 6) or Suevicum (Tac. Germ. 45: Öster Söen, or Baltic). A division of this latter was the Sinus Venedicus (Οὐενεδικὸς κόλπος, Ptol. 3.5.19: Gulf of Danzig). The M. Amalchium, according to Hecataeus (ap. Plin. in. 27), commences with the river Paropamisus; the Cimbri, according to Philemon (ap. Plin. l.c.), called it Morimarusa, which he interprets by M. mortuum; beyond was the sea called Cronium, or the sea into which the river Chronos (Niemen) flowed, or what is now called the Kurisches Haff, off Memel. (Schafarik, Slav. Alt. vol. i. p. 496.)

2. Progress of discovery.

The enterprise of the Phoenician navigators brought them into contact with those countries, in the N. of Europe, from whence tin was brought; but it was the trade in amber which must have been most effectual in opening up a knowledge of these coasts. This amber was brought by sea, at first, only from the W. Cimbrian coast, and reached the Mediterraneau chiefly by sea, being brought across the intervening countries by means of barter. The Massilians, who under Pytheas followed the Phoenicians, hardly went beyond the months of the Weser and the Elbe. The amber islands (Glessaria or Austrania) are placed by Pliny (4.27) decidedly W. of the Cimbrian promontory in the German Ocean; and the connection with the expedition of Germanicus sufficiently shows that an island in the Baltic is not meant. Moreover the effects of the ebb and flood tides in the estuaries which throw up amber, where, according to the expression of Servius, “Mare vicissim tum accedit tum recedit,” suits the coast [p. 2.461]between the Helder and the Cimbrian peninsula; but does not suit the Baltic, in which Timaeus places the island Baltia. (Plin. Nat. 37.11.) Abalus, a day's journey from an “aestuarium,” cannot therefore be the Kurische Nehrung. Pytheas probably sailed to the W. shores of Jutland. Tacitus (Germ. 45), not Pliny, is the first writer acquainted with the “glessum” of the Baltic shores, in the land of the Aestyans and the Venedi. The more active, direct communication with the Samland coast of the Baltic, and with the Aestyans by means *of the overland route through Pannonia by Carnuntum, which was opened by a Roman knight under Nero (Plin. l.c.), appears to have belonged to the later times of the Roman Caesars. The relation between the Prussian coast, and the Milesian colonies on the Euxine, are shown by the evidence of fine coins, probably struck more than 400 years B.C., which have been found in the Netz district. (Humboldt, Cosmos, vol. ii. note 171, trans.) A curious story is related by Cornelius Nepos (Fragm. 7.1, ed. Van Staveren ; comp. Mela, 3.5.8; Plin. Nat. 2.67) of a king of the Boii, others say of the Suevi, having given some shipwrecked dark-coloured men to Q. Metellus Celer when he was Proconsul of Gaul. These men, who are called Indians, were, if any credence is to be given to the story, most probably natives of Labrador or of Greenland, who had been driven on these coasts by the effect of currents such as are known now in these seas, and violent NW. winds. [E.B.J]

hide References (9 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (9):
    • Herodotus, Histories, 4.152
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 2.67
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 37.11
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 4.27
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 4.30
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 6.14
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 18.5
    • Claudius Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos, 2.3
    • Claudius Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos, 3.5
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