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OPO´NE (᾿οπώνη; Ὀπώνη ἐμπόριον, Ptol. 4.7.11; Peripl. Mar. Erythr. p. 9), the modern Hafoon or Afún, was a town situated upon the eastern coast of Africa, immediately N. of the region called Azania (Khazáyin), lat. 9° N. The author of the Periplus, in his account of this coast, says that Opone stood at the commencement of the highland called by the ancients Mount Elephas. He further defines its position by adding that since there was only an open roadstead at the Aromatum Emporium--the cape Guardafui or Jerdaffoon of modern charts--ships in bad weather ran down to Tabae for shelter,--the promontory now known as Ras Bannah, where stood the town called by Ptolemy (1.17.8, 4.7.1 I) Πανῶν κώμη, the Bannah of the Arabians. From thence a voyage of 400 stadia round a sharply projecting peninsula terminated at the emporium of Opone. Here ended to S. the Regio Aromata of the ancients.

Opone was evidently a place of some commercial importance. The region in which it stood was from remotest ages the seat of the spice trade of Libya., Throughout the range of Mount Elephas the valleys that slope seawards produce frankincense, while inland the cassia or cinnamon of the ancients attained perfection. But the Greeks, until a comparatively late period, were unacquainted with this coast, and derived from the Arabians its distinctive local appellations. Opone, which doubtless occupied the site, probably, therefore, represents also the Arabic name of a town called Afún or Hafoon, i. e. Afaon, fragrant gums and spices; which, again, is nearly equivalent to the Greek designation of the spice-land of Eastern Libya--Aromata. And this' derivation is rendered the more probable, when taken in connection with the neighbouring bluff or headland of Guardafui or Jerdaffoon, since Afún enters into the composition of both names, and Jerd or Guard resembles the Punic word Kartha, a headland. Thus Jerd-Affoon is the promontory of Opone. Ptolemy (4.7.11) places Opone too far S. of cape Jerdaffoon. The author of the Periplus more correctly sets it a degree further N., six days' voyage from a river which runs at the southern base of Wady Halfa, or Mount Elephas. The characteristics of the entire tract, of which Opone formed one extremity, are those of an elevated ridge lying between two seas,--the Red Sea and the ocean,--and which, from its elevation and exposure to the NE. monsoon, is humid ann fertile,affording a marked contrast to the generally sterile and arid shore above and below the highland of Elephas. S. of Opone there is no trace of ancient commerce. The articles of export from this emporium were, according to the author of the Periplus, cinnamon, distinguished as “native,” aroma, fragrant gums generally, moth, or cinnamon of inferior quality ; slaves of a superior kind (Δουλικὰ κρείσσονα), principally for the Aegyptian market; and tortoise-shell of a superior quality and in great abundance. (See Vincent, Commerce and Navigation of the Ancients, vol. ii. p. 152--157.)


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  • Cross-references from this page (2):
    • Claudius Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos, 1.17
    • Claudius Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos, 4.7
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