A GIS Approach to Finding the Metropolis of Rhapta

Ruben Post, Carl Hughes

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


The Periplus of the Erythrean Sea is a description of trade networks in the western Indian Ocean written as a guide for merchants (Casson 1989: 5). This text provides a description, varying in detail, of a multitude of regions, including the geographic features, settlements, ports, and peoples to be found in each. The original text, dating to approximately 30–40 CE, no longer survives, but a copy, believed to date to the tenth century, has been preserved and is currently housed in Heidelberg (Graf 1994: 143). The southernmost location mentioned in the text is the port of Rhapta, on the East African coast. This port is also mentioned in Ptolemy’s Geography, a second-century CE geographical account, in which it is termed a mētropolis and located “a short distance from the sea” (mikron apothen thalassēs), that is, the mouth of the Rhaptos river which flowed into the Indian Ocean (4.7.12). The exact location of Rhapta has been the subject of a lengthy historical debate owing to a lack in the text of any description of recognizable geographic features associated with, and the absence of any notable archaeological sites that can unequivocally be attributed to, the port (Hoyle 1967: 95; Horton 1990: 97; Kirwan 1986: 99).
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEarly Exchange between Africa and the Wider Indian Ocean World
EditorsGwyn Campbell
Place of PublicationNew York; London
PublisherPalgrave Macmillian
ISBN (Electronic)9783319338224
ISBN (Print)9783319338217, 9783319816111
Publication statusPublished - 2016

Publication series

NamePalgrave Series in Indian Ocean World Studies
PublisherPalgrave MacMillan


  • Western Indian Ocean
  • East African Coast


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