Erythrean sea

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The Erythraean Sea (Greek: Ἐρυθρὰ Θάλασσα, Erythrà Thálassa) literally translates as the Red Sea. In modern times this sea is constrained to just the section of water on the eastern border of Egypt, Sudan, Eritrea and western boarder of both Saudi Arabia and Yemen. But more anciently, it included both the gulfs of Suez and Aqaba, the Gulf of Aden (itself being a linguistic derivative of 'red'[1]) and could even extend to include the entirety of the Indian Ocean. Anciently it included the modern Persian Gulf as it "bordered upon Babylonia"[2], the Gulf of Oman and the now Arabian Sea.

It was this sea which the biblical account of Moses and the Children of Israel crossed. Yet the ancient usage of the name "Red Sea" has left significant debate as 'where' is meant by the reference. One position is that the Hebrews crossed the modern Gulf of Suez en-route to the traditional Mount Sinai as named by Constantine's mother. The other is that they crossed the Gulf of Aqaba en-route to the ultra prominent Jabal al-Lawz (Arabic: جَبَل ٱللَّوْز, lit. "mountain of almonds") in Saudi Arabia, boasting its strangely burnt top and is parallel[3] to Jerusalem in the same longitudinal line as stated by Paul the Apostle.[4]


While the Greek population were all to aware that the sea named 'Red' was actually quite blue, the name is may be an eponym of King Erythras, for: "There was a man famous for his valor and wealth, by name Erythras, a Persian by birth, son of Myozaeus..... the glory of the Island ascribed to him by the popular voice because of these his deeds, that even down to our own time they have called that sea, infinite in extent, Erythraean Sea".[5]. But more probably and anciently a reference the the Elamite populations who colonized the Bahrein islands and spread to the Arabian peninsula, who accepted the epithet of 'red' or 'ruddy' to loosely describe their colouring: lit. "The Sea and Coasts of the Red People".[6]

Alternatively more modern scholars suggest that the name derives form the red-hued seasonal blooms of Trichodesmium erythraeum that can occur there.
  2. Berossus the Chaldean, Babylonika, from Alexander Polyhistor
  4. Gal. 4:25;
  5. Wilfred H. Schoff, Periplus of the Erythraean Sea, notes on §1.
  6. Wilfred H. Schoff, Periplus of the Erythraean Sea, notes on §1.