Herodotus, the Greek historian of the fifth century B.C., tells in his History of an expedition made by Phoenicians at the orders of the Egyptian pharaoh, Necho. He mentions its importance but fails to give the names of any of those who took part. About a century later another expedition set sail under a Phoenician called Hanno, and one of its members wrote an exciting account of the voyage.
The journey began about 500 B.C., when Hanno sailed from his home in Carthage as the leader of a fleet of nearly 70 galleys carrying 30,000 men and women. The object of the expedition was to set up new colonies along the west coast of Africa. The fleet sailed westwards through the Straits of Gibraltar, into the Atlantic, and then turned southwards. A number of colonies were formed, but often attempts to land on the African coast were unsuccessful, for the would-be settlers were met by ‘wild men, clad in the skins of beasts who cast stones and drove us off, preventing us from landing’. They sailed on, recording many strange sights including a huge mountain of fire’, possibly Mount Cameroon, and also fierce, shaggy-haired creatures which interpreters on board their ships called ‘Gorillas’. Supplies ran low as Hanno’s fleet neared the Equator and he was forced to turn and head for home.