Ancient Roman Shipwrecks?

A few weeks ago, surveyors were examining the Mediterranean Sea in preparation for a new gas pipeline. In the process, they discovered two ancient shipwrecks in deep waters. Did ancient sailors risk the open seas?

Do shipwrecks indicate ancient Roman sailors risked the open seas?

Do shipwrecks indicate ancient Roman sailors risked the open seas?
Description: Fresco of a Roman Ship (2nd/3rd Century AD)
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Ancient Roman Shipwrecks?

We talk a lot about┬ápre-Columbian trans-oceanic contact here at Guerrilla Explorer. Over the years, scholars have speculated that various civilizations traveled to America long before Christopher Columbus and even the Vikings. Other scholars have argued for travel going the other way, most notably Topa Inca Yupanqui’s legendary expedition in 1480.

So, these ancient shipwrecks take on additional interest in our eyes. If ancient Roman merchants were willing to travel outside of coastal routes, then it’s certainly possible a few of them might’ve decided to test the ocean itself.

The shipwrecks in question date back to the third century. They were found between Corfu and Italy under 0.7 to 0.9 miles of seawater. This is rather unusual as most shipwrecks from that era are discovered under just 100 to 130 feet of water.

“There are many Roman shipwrecks, but these are in deep waters. They were not sailing close to the coast. The conventional theory was that, as these were small vessels up to 25 meters (80 feet) long, they did not have the capacity to navigate far from the coast, so that if there was a wreck they would be close enough to the coast to save the crew.” ~ Angeliki Simossi, Head of Greece’s Underwater Antiquities Department

Now, its possible these ships were pushed off-shore in a storm. Plus, undersea currents might’ve caused the wreckage to shift over time. Also, these ships could’ve been helmed by unusually brave (or foolhardy) captains who were more prone to test limits. However, other ancient wrecks have been found far from land over the last decade or two, leading some scholars to question “the coast hugging theory.”

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

Unfortunately, Greece has yet to release the exact location of the shipwrecks. Thus, it’s impossible to draw too many conclusions. According to Simossi, the ships had not been “sailing close to the coast.” But it remains to be seen how far away they actually got from coastal routes.

“In antiquity, ships didn’t sail around with depth finders and keep track of how deep they were. It was more how far they were on the surface in relation to land. After 30 meters of depth the boat’s safe, so if it’s 30 meters (100 feet) or 3,000 meters it’s a little irrelevant.” ~ Jeffrey Royal, Director of RPM Nautical Foundation

So, for now, we’ll wait for more information. But if these ships were found far off-shore, it’ll add a little bit of hope to the theory that ancient mariners ventured further into the seas than we once believed. Maybe, just maybe, a few of them set sail many centuries ago and headed into the ocean, hoping to discover a New World.

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