Ancient history of diving

This article has only been translated partially. Gradual improvements will come with time. Much of the relevant information (sources) is in english, though. Be carefull with Google Translate, as it can sometimes give interesting results.


This article has been written in an attempt to sched some light on diving in ancient times. To maintain quality, critical translations with facing original text have been sought when possible, or else other credible sources have been used. The translations are, typically, 19th century english because of copyright limitations. The reader is also reminded of the fact that the word “diver” has many meanings. It could describe a person who jumps into water (instead of bottom diving) or it could be allegoric. Further, ancient greek seems to have many words for diving.

The following websites have proven most usefull and are extensively referenced to:,,, Perseus-project, references of Wikipedia articles. The website Lacus Curtius by Bill Thayer also contains many interesting references and ideas to check. Websites featuring rock paintings (Bradshaw foundation), Assyrian texts ( and and Egyptian hieroglyphs ( have proven very helpful, too. Some academic publications of interest are Ragheb, A. A. (2011). Notes on Diving in Ancient Egypt; Frost, F. (1968). Scyllias: Diving in Antiquity; Emilio Rodríguez-Álvarez. The Hidden Divers: Sponge harvesting in the archaeological record of the Mediterranean Basin and The Archaeology of Sponges: Middle Range Theory and Divers in Ancient Greece. Reading some of these articles may require registration of a free account at, or Because this article is introductory in nature, a roadmap to interesting litterature, extensive use of links to Wikipedia has been made in order to clarify context. Writer’s own experience and knowledge in diving has been used in places to provide the reader with some insight. Some hypotheses are presented and a multitude of open questions. We are happy to receive corrections and complementations to this text.

This text is not intended as a cohesive story but as an introduction to the world of ancient documens and as a glimpse into the lives of ancient divers, about which not much is known.

ps. Those craving for a book may find “The History of Underwater Exploration” by Robert F. Marx interesting although much of the book discusses modern diving, relatively speaking.

Table of contents

  1. Preface
  2. Stone age, 6500—3950 (Sahara, Denmark)
  3. Mesopotamy, pearls 4500—2400
  4. Egypt, pearls and fishing, 3200—2181
  5. Oldest known litterature
    1. Mesopotamy / Gilgamesh, 2800—2004
    2. Mesopotamy / The code of Hammurabi, 1790
    3. Mesopotamy / Fishing is a big business
    4. Ancient Greece / Ilias (Iliad), 1183—650
    5. Rhodos / Sea law, On goods thrown overboard, 800
  6. Assyrians DID NOT have SCUBA equipment, as is reasoned here, 700 [untranslated]
  7. Ancient Greece; Skyllias and Hydna as combat divers, 480 [untranslated]
  8. Tomb of a diver, 470
  9. Peloponnesian wars, 425—421
  10. Platon (Plato), Those who dive in wells, 428/427 or 424/423 — 348/347
  11. Diogenes writes, that Seleucus tells that in his book “Diver” Croton writes that… before the time of Socrates [470/469—399]…
  12. Socrates tries to understand a challenging book on philosophy
  13. Aristippus; the task of dolphins, 435—356
  14. Ancient Greek diving vocabulary
  15. Aristoteles (Aristotle) and his students, divers’ tools, ear problems, 3846—322 [untranslated]
  16. Phaenias the Eresian mentions the profession (lat.) ‘solenista’, 332
  17. Pearl hunting 4th century BCE.
  18. Siege of Tyre (Alexander the Great), 331 [untranslated]
  19. Theophrastus writes about pearls in his book on precious stones, 4th century BC.
  20. Perseus panics in Pella, How divers can be made to keep a secret, 168
  21. Urinatores, divers of the Roman empire [untranslated]
  22. Siege of Numantia, 134—133
  23. Roman civil war, Oricum, clearance divers of Pompeius (Pompey), 49
  24. Roman civil war, Caesars troops, Hirtius, Mutina, underwater message delivery (wetnotes), 43
  25. The fishing trip of Antonius (Antony) and Cleopatra, 41—40
  26. Isidore of Charax, description of Parthia, oysters from a depth of 20 fathoms or 36 meters, 0
  27. Natural history by Plinius (Pliny), 23—79 [untranslated]
  28. Oppian, Fishing, 100—200 [untranslated]
  29. Athenaeus writes about the good in life and references ancient long since lost books and happens to mention diving, too 200—300 [untranslated]
  30. Codex Iuris Civilis, Callistratus, sea law, 529—534
  31. Referenced websites

6500—4400 BCE. Stone age. Swimming is a key skill for a diver.

We can assume that diving developed gradually. People first ventured to collect food from the intertidal zone and were probably beckoned to wade in search of more. Eventually, someone ducked to reach something from the bottom. Our hypothesis is that as this became more common, freediving was born. That such activities were taking place can be seen from the kitchen middens of the mesolithic Ertebølle culture in Denmark, for example. Another path to freediving would have been seine net fishing, a more advanced technology, as hinted by some egyptian tomb paintings. Obviously, the development of freediving, especially to greater depths, is related to the development of swimming. It is hard to believe that people who could not swim, would have jumped off boats equipped with weights and ropes — a diving technology used for millennia in Mesopotamia. Hence, the first freedivers may very well have been hunter—gatherers of the mesolithic era.

The oldest record of swimming can be found in rockpaintings. On the sandstone plateau of Gilf Gebir (south-western Egypt) in Sahara a cave decorated with cave paintings has been found. This cave, Cave of Swimmers, contains neolithic rockpaintings from 6500—4400 BCE. (1) that seem to depict swimming. This theory has been disputed however, citing the dryness of the Sahara desert and claiming that the people depicted float in a mythical river of the underworld towards something (especially because the swimmers seem to be in a row). (2) It is strange then that one swimmer actually face in the opposite direction on the wall. Proof of lakes in Sahara has also been found (Mount Uweinat and 3: New Scientist: Northern Darfur Mega-Lake) around 200 kilometers south. These facts, combined with countless anatomically correct depictations of giraffes and other animals, would seem to prove that the area has been lusher and lakes have existed before desertification took place. It is possible then that the rockpaintings depict actual swimming (or even diving as some swimmers are out of horizontal position?). If these paintings do not depict swimming but a mythical journey in the river of the dead (or something like that) then at least they show weightlessness or floating. Hands do not point backwards as one would expect from someone just levitating. Hands do not point to the sides like wings of a bird either. Is it not common to depict flying with people spreading their arms, as if imitating birds? The position however that these figures have taken is exactly a swimmers pose. The knees are bent and hands have been stretched far to the front. Based on the reasoning above we believe that these paintings depict actual swimming, or the models at least, have been actual swimmers. Freediving would not be a big leap then.


  1. The ‘Cave of Beasts'(Gilf Kebir, SW Egypt) and its chronological and cultural affiliation: Approaches and preliminary results of the Wadi Sura project; International Colloquium: The Signs of Which Times? Chronological and Palaeoenvironmental Issues in the Rock Art of Northern Africa, Royal Academy for Overseas Sciences, Brussels, 3-5 June, 2010pp. 197-216; Frank Förster*, Heiko riemer* & Rudolph Kuper*
  2. Bradshaw Foundation has a large exhibition of rock paintings.
  3. New Scientist: Northern Darfur Mega-Lake

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Note: One can find a picture on-line, depicting mermaids, that is allegedly from the Cave of Swimmers. The publishers of the picture were not the most credible ones and when investigating the issue further it became clear that these pictures could be found neither at The British Museum nor in Bradshaw foundations collections. We posted a question then in the Cavers of Facebook group which has 20.000 members world-wide to reach people who have actually visited the cave. It was soon confirmed that no mermaid paintings exist in the cave and that it is a cunning image manipulation.

In the Near East region there is however an ancient god probably related to agriculture that got a fish tail because of its name and some confusion. Some Mesopotamian reliefs depict people with fish skin cloaks too (as will be seen later on). These, of course, may or may not be related to Greek myths about mermaids. The fish tails etc. should be seen as allegoric and as related to fishing.

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Gathering oysters (or diving?) in Denmark 5300—3950 BCE.

Some websites claim that the oldest archaeological proof of diving dates back to 5400 BCE. when the scandinavian Ertebølle-culture (Kjøkken-møddinger in some sources) had spread across the shores of Denmark and southern Sweden. Such a claim cannot be made, however (1). Archaeological digs have proven that the Ertebølle culture (and a couple of others) have consumed a vast amount of subtidal oysters (Osterea Edulis) and also intertidal oysters (Cardium Edule, Vardium Lamarcii). The subtidal oyster beds remain submerged even during low tide, but they could be in shallow water and they could be exposed during the greatest low tides in the spring and in the autumn. Oyster beds have existed near the excavations, but because they have been destroyed their exact locations and depths are not known. Hence, it is impossible to say whether those oysters were collected by wading in shallow water or by freediving.

In any case it is clear that subtidal oysters were collected for food during the mesolithic stone age in Denmark (2).


  1. Nicky Milner, “Oysters cockles and kitchenmiddens – Consuming shellfish on Danish middens”, pdf:ResearchGate.
  2. Igor Gutiérrez-Zugasti, Søren H. Andersen et-al., Shell midden research in Atlantic Europe: State of the art, research problems and perspectives for the future, Quaternary International, Volume 239, Issues 1–2, 1 July 2011, Pages 70-85.

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Fishing and pearl hunting in Mesopotamy and in Egypt

Mother-of-pearl oysters in Mesopotamy 4500—2400— BCE.

In Mesopotamia, archaeologists have discovered shells (1) that can only have been collected by diving and that are dated to 4500 BCE.

Another discovery, the Standard of Ur (2), dated to 2600—2400 BCE., contains mother-of-pearl, lapis lazuli and red sandstone. Mother-of-pearl oysters live quite deep. Read more about pearl hunting.

Standard of Ur: Helmisimpukkaa, lasuurikiveä ja punaista kalkkikiveä.

Sumerian language has a word for diving: ñiñri: to dive; to sink, founder (reduplicated ñiri5, ‘to seek refuge’).


  1. Robert F. Marx. The history of underwater exploration, page 7. Published 1990. url:
  2. Wikipedia: Standard of Ur
  3. John A. Halloran. Sumerian Lexicon, version 3. url:

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Egypt 3200—2181 BCE.

Theban VI dynasty in Egypt (1) used a lot of shell ornaments around 3200 BCE.

The old kingdom. Cowry shells, Cypraeidae, were collected during low tide along the east coast of Africa because of a high demand of them (2). They were used both as amulets and as decoration and as money. Murex shells, on the other hand, were used for making dye. Mother-of-pearl oysters have been collected both for decoration purposes and for the pearls. Oysters have been hunted and sea urchins have been traded too. Trade of products from the seabed of the Red sea was extensive (3) during the old kingdom (2686—2181 BCE.):

Although the Red Sea trade in shells, sea urchins and coral formed a secondary focus for ancient Egyptian expeditions to, or trade with, the Red Sea, it still represented a fairly signifcant aspect of Old Kingdom commerce and society.

As a result of the trade in shells there was a lot of unused shells. This “waste” was even used in the bricks of a fortification. One can assume that at least someone has made a living (or at least made some profit) collecting shells. Wading and freediving would then have been obvious ways to get more shells to sell.

Traditional seine net fishing (Oppian 100-200 jaa.) (video) also mandated some freediving (4,5), albeit to shallow depths. One had to check whether there was any fish in the net and if the net got entangled in the bottom it had to be freed. When enough fish had been driven into the net, the net could be drawn on land. All this required frequent dives and the Nile crocodile was a constant threat. Paintings depicting fishing scenes have survived (4):

A wall painting depicting seine net fishing can be found in The tomb of Anktifi (2100 BCE.). Attention is drawn to the men in the center as they are bigger than the others on land and thus stand in water. One is diving to see the catch while the other one has resurfaced. Another picture of diving can be found in the tomb of Djar in Deir el-Bahar (11th dynasty). In that picture there is a diver completely submerged and arranging the bottom weights of the net or perhaps freeing it from obstructions (5). Read more in Notes on diving in ancient Egypt, Ashraf Abdel-Raouf Ragheb, International Journal of Nautical Archaeology (5).
Picture published with explicit written permission.
Copyright Thierry Benderitter


  1. Robert F. Marx. The history of underwater exploration, page 7. Published in 1990. url:
  2. Cowrie shells and their imitations as Ornamental Amulets in Egypt and the Near East, Polish Archaeology in the Mediterranean 23/2, Special Studies: Beyond ornamentation.  Jewelry as an Aspect of Material Culture in the Ancient Near East , edited by A. Golani , Z. Wygnańska, 2014
  3. Ras Budran and the Old Kingdom trade in Red Sea shells and other exotica, British Museum Studies in Ancient Egypt and Sudan 18 (2012): 107–45, Gregory Mumford
  4. Osirisnet: Tombs of Ancient Egypt, online, url:
  5. Ragheb, A. A. (2011), Notes on Diving in Ancient Egypt. International Journal of Nautical Archaeology, 40: 424-427. doi:10.1111/j.1095-9270.2011.00322.x, online:

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Oldest known litterature

2800—2004 BCE. Epic of Gilgamesh, table XI

According to Wikipedia, Gilgamesh [<Bilgamesh = “Ancestor/Elder was a young man”] was a historical king of the Sumerian city-state Uruk and a hero of mesopotamian mythology. It is estimated that Gilgamesh lived round 2800—2500 BCE. The earliest mentions of him are from 2112—2004 BCE. The oldest of these is the story on Gilgamesh, Enkidu and the nether world (3). Enkidu, friend of Gilgamesh, visits the nether world and on return he tells about the sorrow and misery of the dead (Version A).

The conversation between Gilgamesh and Enkidu may contain the first hint at diving:
[comments and explanation from scholars would be really welcome here]
Did you see him hit by a ship’s board {(1 ms. adds:) when diving (?)}? How does he fare?
“Alas, my mother!” the man cries to her, as he pulls out the ship’s board ……, he …… cross beam …… crumbs.

Gilgamesh then embarked to seek immortality (A version from Me-Turan; Segment B; 69-71). Later this and a number of other writings were combined as the Epic of Gilgamesh.

The cuneiform writings of the tablets (4), and the Epic of Gilgamesh, represent oldest known litterature. A story about a dive into Apsu (1,2) is included. It tells how Gilgamesh attaches stones to his feet to dive and then removes those in order to resurface (variable weight apnea). Gilgamesh’s method is the same that is used today in pearl hunting in the same geographic area. It is apparent that the writer of the tablet knew about variable weight apnea. The story does not have a happy ending though, as a snake snatches the plant and gains eternal youth instead of Gilgamesh.

Translation (1): “Utanapishtim spoke to Gilgamesh, saying: “Gilgamesh, you came here exhausted and worn out. What can I give you so you can return to your land? I will disclose to you a thing that is hidden, Gilgamesh, a… I will tell you. There is a plant… like a boxthorn, whose thorns will prick your hand like a rose. If your hands reach that plant you will become a young man again.” Hearing this, Gilgamesh opened a conduit(!) (to the Apsu) and attached heavy stones to his feet. They dragged him down, to the Apsu they pulled him. He took the plant, though it pricked his hand, and cut the heavy stones from his feet, letting the waves(?) throw him onto its shores.

Tablet XI. Photograph by Mike Peel ( [CC BY-SA 4.0 (]


  1. The Epic of Gilgamesh, translated by Maureen Gallery Kovacs, Stanford University Press, Stanford, California, 1989
  2. Maier, John R., “Gilgamesh and the Great Goddess of Uruk” (2018). SUNY Brockport eBooks. 4. (selityksiä)
  3. Gilgameš, Enkidu and the nether world (table XII, translation) and (translitteration)

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1790 BCE. Code of Hammurabi. Paragraphs relating to marine traffic.

The code of Hammurab (1) (1790 BCE.) rules:

  • §234 A boatman must be paid 2 shekels in silver for building a 60 GUR boat.
  • §235 Boats come with a one year guarantee.
  • §236 If a man hires his boat to a boatman, and the boatman is careless and sinks or wrecks the boat, then the boatman must replace the boat to the owner.
  • §237 If a man hires a boatman and a boat to transport grain, wool, oil, dates or any other type of freight, and the boatman is careless and sinks the boat or wrecks its cargo, then the boatman must replace the boat and whatever portion of the cargo he wrecked.
  • §238 If a boatman is careless and sinks a boat and refloats it, he has to pay up to half of the boats worth in silver to the owner of the boat.
  • §239 A boatmans salary is 6 GUR of grain per year.
  • §240 If a boat underway collides with a ferryboat or with an anchored ship sinking it, the owner of the boat that was sunk must declare [under oath?] what he lost, and the boatman responsible must compensate for the losses.

Two conclusions can be drawn from the text: Firstly, sunk boats have been refloated, although it is not clear from what depth. Second, if a boatman sinks a boat worth his ten year salary, and is bound by law to compensate for any losses, he will do whatever is possible to recover the boat and as much as possible of its freight. He might even hire divers to do it, especially as the epic of Gilgamesh already mentions variable weight freediving to collect something from the bottom of the sea. Not forgetting the standard of Ur, in the decoration of which mother-of-pearl oysters have been used, oysters that live quite deep, one could argue that diving probably took place to greater than vading depths.


  1. Hammurabi, Robert Francis Harper. The code of Hammurabi King of Babylon [2250 BC]. Chicago/London. 1904.

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1300 BCE. Fishing is a big business (and who wouldn’t want to wear a fish?)

As diving is closely related to fishing (and seafaring in general), a mythical Abgail/Apkallu relief from 1300 BCE. is of interest to us. A wealthy looking bearded man wearing a fish skin and some tools(?) is portrayed in a relief in the city of Nimrod (founded 1300 BCE.). According to myth, there were seven ancient wizards, Apkallus, but in this particular image

  • the person portrayed is wealthy and important; a king, a priest, a wizard or a symbolic figure… [the elaborately plated beard, plentiful decoration, ending up in a relief]
  • a cloak made of fish skin is an obvious and powerful symbol of fishing. An important man like him would not wear a fish without a significant reason.
  • there are two knives(?) on the belt
  • the man is carrying something in his left hand; either a tool or a symbolic object.
  • > is it a curved knife? Why doesn’t it feature two knobs, one for each hand in either end, then? The handle seems impractical for a cutting tool.
  • > is it a scaler (a tool to remove fish scale)? The handle would be quite large and of strange shape.
  • > is it a basket for collecting oysters? Maybe?
  • > is it a freediving weight? Maybe? A diver would need two kilograms or more.
  • where ordinary people see a bracelet, a diver sees weights, although this guess is probably wrong: the clothing is elaborate and expensive.
  • is this image verifiably related to fishing? Does it feature a tool/tools used by fishermen and divers? I do not know.
Abgal, Nimrud, Assyria, 1300BCE.
Plate 6 fish god (A second series of the monuments of Nineveh) 1853 (cropped) ; Public Domain

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1183—650 BCE. Ilias (Iliad), ancient Greece

The Epic of Ilias (1), or The Iliad, is written in verse and it was intended to be memorised by poets and conveyed as oral tradition before writing had developed. It describes the power stuggle between the Greeks and the Tojans and the Trojan war. One specific event mentioned has been dated to the year 1183 BCE.

Diving for oysters is mentioned in the epic. Even if one would not trust the epic to be a historical description of events, it nonetheless mentions diving, and this mentioning took place around or before 750—650 BCE. when the epic was written down.

Diving was used in allegorical sense, as is exemplified by verse 470: “Dropp’d downright, with a diver’s plunge, and died.” Verse 511 on the other hand mentions sponges from the sea: “Then all around with a wet sponge he wiped“.

Ilias, verses 906-915:
Patrocles sees how Kebriones suffers a fatal blow and plunges down from his chariot. Patrocles then throws a mocking comment (old english translation):

He diver-like, from his exalted stand [906]
Behind the steeds pitch’d headlong, and expired;
O’er whom, Patroclus of equestrian fame!
Thou didst exult with taunting speech severe.

Ye Gods, with what agility he dives! [910]
Ah! it were well if in the fishy deep
This man were occupied; he might no few
With oysters satisfy, although the waves
Were churlish, plunging headlong from his bark
As easily as from his chariot here.[915]
So then—in Troy, it seems, are divers too!


  1. Homeros, “Ilias”, english translation by William Cowper (1731-1800), published on-line by Ted Garvin, Melissa Er-Raqabi, Fred Robinson and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team (, url:

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Rhodean sea law, 9th century BCE.

Rhodos had a large commercial fleet on Mediterranean around the years 1000—600 BCE. It is possible that it had been created by Foenikian immigrants. Trading took place as far as in Spain. The Rhodean sea law is dated to around 800 BCE. Law writing started on Greek mainlaind too, at that time (1). The law has not been preserved in its entity, but Roman law texts (1) contain fragments relating to cargo thrown overboard to save the ship. The history of the law is not entirely known (2), but it is clear that extensive trade over seas required some legislation, especially as shipwrecks happened and merchandise had occasionally to be thrown overboard to avoid harm. We can assume that the remaining fragments reflect the original law from about 800 BCE. A partial translation of the latin law text (3) can be found below.

Sed si navis, quae in tempestate iactu mercium unius mercatoris levata est,
But if a ship, from which someones merchandise is thrown overboard during a storm,

in alio loco summersa est et aliquorum mercatorum merces per urinatores extractae sunt data mercede,
sinks somewhere else, and divers recover the merchandise of others,

rationem haberi debere eius, cuius merces in navigatione levandae navis causa iactae sunt,
the owner of the merchandise thrown into the sea [to save the ship] has the right to compensation

ab his, qui postea sua per urinatores servaverunt, Sabinus aeque respondit.

Eorum vero, qui ita servaverunt, invicem rationem haberi non debere ab eo, qui in navigatione iactum fecit,

si quaedam ex his mercibus per urinatores extractae sunt:
if divers recover some of his merchandise:

eorum enim merces non possunt videri servandae navis causa iactae esse, quae perit.


  1. Website with its references.
  2. Dealing with the Abyss: The Nature and Purpose of the Rhodian Sea-Law on Jettison (Lex Rhodia de iactu, D 14.2) and the Making of Justinian’s Digest
  3. Lex Rhodia de iactu in The Roman law library (referenced by Arts and Humanities Community Resource)

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800-700 BCE. — Assyrian swimmers

Joskus esimerkkinä muinaisesta sukeltamisesta käytetään 8. tai 7. vuosisadalta ennen ajanlaskun alkua olevaan Assyrialaista reliefiä, jossa sotilas “sukeltaa”. Pieni vilkaisu “nahkasäkin” kokoon paljastaa, että upotakseen sukeltaja tarvitsisi aika lailla painoa, kilon per ilmalitra. Toki sitä saattaisi aseistuksesta ja haarniskoinnista löytyä. Kuitenkin, jos säkistä hengitettäisiin ja puhallettaisiin kuplat ulos, niin säkki tyhjenisi ja sukeltaja vajoaisi jo sukelluksen alkuvaiheessa joen pohjaan raskaine varusteineen. Jos uloshengitysilma olisi puhallettu takaisin säkkiin niin ilma olisi riittänyt vain hetken ennen happipitoisuuden vaarallista laskemista. Lisäksi ilman puhaltaminen säkkiin voisi osoittautua vaikeaksi. Reliefissä ei kuvata sukeltamista, vaan uimista kellukkeen kanssa, kuten Redditissä myrmekochordia asiantuntevasti kertoo. Itse asiassa kuvasta on rajattu pois vieressä uiva hevonen, sekään tuskin sukelsi.

Detailed analysis

  • Kertahengitystilavuus (Wikipedia) levossa pinnalla on noin 0,5 litraa ilmaa (ja hengitystilavuus noin 6-7L/min), mutta voimakkaasti hengitettäessä jopa 4 litraa/kerta, eli kahdeksankertainen. Nykyaikaisella harrastussukeltajalla kuivapukuineen ja varusteineen ilmaa kuluu noin 20 litraa (10x2L) minuutissa, erittäin kevyellä märkäpuvulla ja erittäin rentoutuneena ehkä 10 litraa, rasituksessa ehkä 30 litraa. Assyrialaista sotisopaa kypärineen tuskin voi sanoa kevyeksi, joten oletetaan nyt 20L/min.
  • Let us first assume that the swimmer or diver exhales into the water hengittäessään säkistä tai ruukusta 20L/min (10-30L/min). Voidakseen sukeltaa, on henkilöllä oltava pari kiloa painoja keuhkoja varten ja lisäksi kilo ilmasäiliön tilavuuslitraa kohden. Jos painoja on vähemmän, sukeltaja kelluu. Jos painoja on enemmän, sukeltaja uppoaa.
  • If it is a sack, it will lose volume in the pace of breathing 20L/min (10-30) and buoyancy lost will be in the region of 20kg/min (10-30). Jos säkillä sukelletaan neutraalina (painottomana) aivan pinnan tuntumassa, alkaa sukeltaja ensimmäisen henkäyksen jälkeen vajota, ellei kompensoi sitä uimalla ylöspäin, mutta muutaman henkäyksen jälkeen uiminen ei enää auta, vaan sukeltaja vajoaa väistämättä kiihtyvällä vauhdilla pohjaan säkin tyhjentyessä ja myös syvyyden myötä kasvavan paineen vaikutuksesta painuessa kokoon.
  • If it is a ceramic vase, alkaa sinne muodostua alipaine (paine on suorassa suhteessa ilman määrään jos astian tilavuus ja lämpötila pysyvät vakioina) ja hengittäminen käy nopeasti mahdottomaksi. Mitä suurempi ruukku on, sitä kauemmin siitä pystyy hengittämään paineen laskiessa hitaammin, mutta ruukun ongelmaksi muodostuu joka tapauksessa muodon aiheuttama veden vastus, joka vähentää saavutettua etua. The maximum underpressure achievable can be found in litterature, and one can also recall that a 60cm snorkel already presents a significant challenge (0,06 ATM underpressure). How many breaths could one take? One? Two? Jäisikö sukellus lopulta lyhyemmäksi kuin ilman ruukkua? As a hypothesis we present then, that the air jug would only be a hindrance to the diver. This hypothesis could be tested.
  • It is obvious then, that one has to exhale back to the air container. Tästä on toki myös se etu, ettei sukeltaja kupli ja tule huomatuksi. Kelluvuusongelmat ratkeavat sukeltajan+ilmasäiliön tilavuuden pysyessä vakiona ja alipaineen kasvaminen ei toteudu.
  • Jos sukeltaja kuitenkin hengittää samaa ilmaa yhä uudelleen, oxygen is inevitably consumed, ja tajunta hämärtyy vähitellen. Exhaled air contains only 16% oxygen whereas fresh air has 21%. Although 16% is still enough to maintain consciousness, the oxygen percentage continues to drop. Voidaan siis arvata, että 20L säiliöstä voisi hengittää ainakin noin minuutin tai kymmenen henkäystä olettaen ilman kunnollisen sekoittumisen (mistä ei ole mitään varmuutta). Tämä vaatisi kuitenkin ehdottomasti kokeellisen varmistuksen. Lisäksi säkin tai ruukun myötä kasvava veden vastus ulosmittaisi hyötyä. Voisiko siis tällä tavalla saada edes pienen hyödyn? Kuinka vaikeaa ilman puhaltaminen takaisin olisi, vai olisiko se edes mahdollista? This remains to be experimentally verified.

Itse reliefissä huomiota herättää väitettyjen “sukeltajien” painojen puute sekä rinnalla uivat hevoset. Ne tuskin sukelsivat. Vaikka toisaalta Antoniuksen ja Cleopatran kalaretkestä tehdyssä maalauksessa oli sukeltajalla samanlainen säkki, kyseessä saattaa olla maalarin mielikuvitus tai väärinymmärrys. Tai sitten ei. Kokeelliselle arkeologialle on siis tarvetta.

Mutta jos tämä reliefi kuvaa sukeltajaa, eikä vain sitä miten sotilas miekkoineen, panssareineen ja muine taisteluvarusteineen saadaan kellumaan vedessä, niin miksi tässä kuvassa (British museum) “sukeltajien” seurana joessa on hevosia? Päätelmä: Kuvassa on joukko-osasto, jolle on opetettu kellukkeiden käyttö vesien ylittämiseen, ei sukeltajat.

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480 BCE. — Skyllias and Hydna (Cyana) as combat divers

Herodotos (485-420 eaa.) kertoo Kirjassa (1) VIII Urania s. 495 (vuonna 1859 julkaistu käännös) Persian kuningas Xerxes I:n laivaston sabotoinnista ennen Salamiin meritaistelua vuonna 480 eaa:
Kun persialaiset olivat ottamassa lukua laivoistaan, oli heidän leirissään Scyllias Scyonesta, aikansa paras sukeltaja; Pelion-vuoren edustalla tapahtuneessa haaksirikossa hän oli pelastanut suurimman osan persialaisten aarteista, ja saanut aimo osuuden itselleen; Scyllias oli jo pitkään pohtinut kreikkalaisten puolelle loikkaamisesta, mutta aiemmin siihen ei ollut ollut mahdollisuutta. En voi varmuudella vahvistaa miten hän karkasi kreikkalaisten puolelle, mutta kerrottua tarinaa epäilen; sillä sanotaan että hän hyppäsi mereen Aphetaen luona, eikä noussut ennen Artemisiumia, joka on 80 stadiumin päässä. Monet muutkin hänestä kerrotut asiat ovat hyvin todennäköisesti valheellisia, ja jotkut tosia. Jos sallitte, kerron mielipiteenäni, että hän saapui Artemisiumiin veneellä. Heti saavuttuaan hän kertoi komentajille haaksirikosta ja kuinka se oli tapahtunut ja persialaisten suunnittelemasta harhautuksesta.

Scyllias tunnetaan monella nimellä. Apollonideksen (2) vuosisatoja myöhemmin tekemässä muistokirjoituksessa (3) nimi on latinalaisemmalta kuulostavassa muodossa Scyllus. Pausanias taas käyttää nimeä Scyllis. Tiedetään myös että Androtius maalasi Scylliaasta kuvan – ja muuta Androtiuksesta ei tiedetäkään.

Pausanias (100 jaa.) kertoo Kreikan kuvauksessa, kirja X Phocis & Locis, luku XIX (4): “Gorgiaksen patsaan vieressä on Amphictyonien uhrilahja, joka esittää Scyllistä Scionesta, josta tarina kertoo että hän sukelsi jokaisen meren syvimpiin syvyyksiin; ja hän opetti tyttärensä Hydnan myös sukeltamaan. Kun myrsky oli yllättänyt Xerxeksen laivaston Pelion-vuoren edustalla, he täydensivät tuhon raahaamalla kaleerien ankkurit ja kiinnitysköydet pois veden alla. Tästä palveluksesta Amphictyonit pystyttivät patsaat Scyllikselle ja tämän tyttärelle. Mutta tyttären patsas joutui osaksi tarinaa, jossa Nero vei patsaita Roomaan.

Kääntäjä oli vielä lisännyt huomionarvoisen kommentin: Of womankind it is only chaste maidens that can dive into the sea. Oudolla kommentilla lienee tekemistä naisen anatomiaan liittyvien uskomusten kanssa, ja siihen että sukeltaminen voisi viedä neitsyyden?

Joillakin nettisivuilla mainitaan Scylliksen olleen myös kuvanveistäjä. Tätä eivät Herodotos ja Pausanias kuitenkaan mainitse. Sen sijaan Pausanias kertoo Kreikan kuvauksessaan (II:XV, II:XXII, II:XXXII, III:XVII, V:I, V:XVII, VI:XIX) Daedaluksen oppilaista kuvanveistäjistä Dipoenus ja Scyllis, ja heidän oppilaistaan ja oppilaiden oppilaistaan. Tämä Scyllis tosin eli Sicyonissa 580 eaa. eli sata vuotta ennen sukeltaja-Scyllistä.

Livius mainitsee Rooman historiassa (Ab urbe condita)(5) kirjassa XLIV kappaleessa 10.3. Androbiuksen maalanneen kuvan Scylliaasta.


  1. Herodotos (485-420 eaa.), Henry Cary (1804-1870), “Herodotus; a new and literal version from the text of Baehr, with a geographical and general index by Henry Cary”, 1867, kirja VIII Urania, url:
  2. Apollonides, “Epigrams”, 1st century CE., url:
  3. “The Greek Anthology with an english translation by W. R. Paton in five volumes III”, Book IX The declamatory and descriptive epigrams, published by William Heineman, London, 1917.
  4. Pausanias, “Description of Greece Translated with a commentary by J. G. Frazer In six volumes Vol I”, Book Tenths, Phocis, XIX, url:
  5. Livius, “Ad urbe condita”, book XLIV, ch. 10.3, url:

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470 BCE. — “Tomb of the diver”

A fresco painted on the inside of the stone lid of the Tomb of the diver, Tomba del tuffatore, depicts a young man plunging head first into blue-green water from a pillar or from a platform. Out of thousands of Greek tombs from 700—400 BCE. this is the only one with a fresco depicting humans. Diver is an almost nonexistent motif in Greek art, hence this picture is unique. Tomb paintings were common in Etruscan Italy at that time, but only one of them pictures a diver (Tomb of Hunting and Fishing)(2). That painting could have contributed to the fresco in the Tomb of the diver. The tomb is located in southern Italy in the Greek city of Poseidonia (lat. Paestum) aptly named after god of the sea. It is believed that the skeleton is that of a young man. A jug and the remains of a lyre have been found in the tomb and the other paintings depict a party (a symposium).

Tomb of Diver, Poseidonia
By Unknown – Self-photographed by Michael Johanning (talk · contribs), 2001, Public Domain,
Etruskihauta, Tomb of Hunting and Fishing
Le Musée absolu, Phaidon, 10-2012 [Public domain]


  1. Holloway, R. (2006). The Tomb of the Diver. American Journal of Archaeology,110(3), 365-388. Retrieved from
  2. Tomb of Hunting and Fishing, Monterozzi necropolis, Tarquinia, Italy, 530-520 BCE, Le Musée absolu, Phaidon, 10-2012, url:,_Monterozzi_necropolis,_Tarquinia,_Italy.jpg

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Divers in the Peloponnesian war around 425—421 BCE.

Thukydides, 432 BCE., History of the Peloponnesian war, book IV, chapter XII (1): Divers smuggled food to the Lakedaimonians (Spartans) who were on an island under siege by the Athenians: ” Divers also swam in under water from the harbour, dragging by a cord in skins poppyseed mixed with honey, and bruised linseed; these at first escaped notice, but afterwards a look-out was kept for them. In short, both sides tried every possible contrivance, the one to throw in provisions, and the other to prevent their introduction.”

Thukydides, 432 BCE., History of the Peloponnesian war, book VII, chapter XXI (2): “The Athenians brought up to them a ship of ten thousand talents burden furnished with wooden turrets and screens, and fastened ropes round the piles from their boats, wrenched them up and broke them, or dived down and sawed them in two. Meanwhile the Syracusans plied them with missiles from the docks, to which they replied from their large vessel; until at last most of the piles were removed by the Athenians. But the most awkward part of the stockade was the part out of sight: some of the piles which had been driven in did not appear above water, so that it was dangerous to sail up, for fear of running the ships upon them, just as upon a reef, through not seeing them. However divers went down and sawed off even these for reward; although the Syracusans drove in others. Indeed there was no end to the contrivances to which they resorted against each other, as might be expected between two hostile armies confronting each other at such a short distance: and skirmishes and all kinds of other attempts were of constant occurrence. “


  1. Thukydides (431 BC), “The History of the Peloponnesian War”, nook IV, chapter XII, translated by Richard Crawley, url:
  2. Thukydides (431 BC), “The History of the Peloponnesian War”, nook VII, chapter XXI, translated by Richard Crawley, url:

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Platon (Plato), 4th century BCE.

Platon’s Protagoras: about confidence, bravery and diving into wells

Platon (Plato) (428/427 or 424/423 – 348/347 BCE.), in the older books of his Dialogues, writes about Protagoras” (1). Platon writes about knowledge, confidence, bravery and foolishness. Two types of confidence exist, that based on knowledge and that which is without ground. While the former may lead to bravery, the latter is just stupid. People who dive in wells, presumably to maintain them, are taken as an example.

Tell me then; who are they who have confidence when diving into a well?
– I should say, the divers.
And the reason of this is that they have knowledge?
– Yes, that is the reason.
And who have confidence when fighting on horseback—the skilled horseman or the unskilled?
– The skilled. […] And that is true of all other things, he said, if that is your point: those who have knowledge are more confident than those who have no knowledge, and they are more confident after they have learned than before.

And have you not seen persons utterly ignorant, I said, of these things, and yet confident about them?
– Yes, he said, I have seen such persons far too confident.
And are not these confident persons also courageous?
– In that case, he replied, courage would be a base thing, for the men of whom we are speaking are surely madmen.
Then who are the courageous? Are they not the confident?
– Yes, he said; to that statement I adhere.

And those, I said, who are thus confident without knowledge are really not courageous, but mad; and in that case the wisest are also the most confident, and being the most confident are also the bravest, and upon that view again wisdom will be courage.
– Nay, Socrates, he replied, you are mistaken in your remembrance of what was said by me. When you asked me, I certainly did say that the courageous are the confident; but I was never asked whether the confident are the courageous; if you had asked me, I should have answered ‘Not all of them’: and what I did answer you have not proved to be false, although you proceeded to show that those who have knowledge are more courageous than they were before they had knowledge, and more courageous than others who have no knowledge, and were then led on to think that courage is the same as wisdom.


  1. Platon, (dialogs) “Protagoras”, translated by B. Jowett, url:

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Platon’s Laches, about bravery

Platon again writes about knowledge, confidence and stupidity:

SOCRATES: And he who descends into a well, and dives, and holds out in this or any similar action, having no knowledge of diving, or the like, is, as you would say, more courageous than those who have this knowledge?
LACHES: Why, Socrates, what else can a man say?
SOCRATES: Nothing, if that be what he thinks.
LACHES: But that is what I do think.
SOCRATES: And yet men who thus run risks and endure are foolish, Laches, in comparison of those who do the same things, having the skill to do them.


  1. Platon, (dialogs:) “Laches”, translated by Benjamin Jowett, url:

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Platon’s Sophist, some sorts of diving

Platon‘s Sophist: Can the concept of hunting be subdivided?
STRANGER: And there is no reason why the art of hunting should not be further divided.
THEAETETUS: How would you make the division?
STRANGER: Into the hunting of living and of lifeless prey.
THEAETETUS: Yes, if both kinds exist.
STRANGER: Of course they exist; but the hunting after lifeless things having no special name, except some sorts of diving, and other small matters, may be omitted; the hunting after living things may be called animal hunting.
STRANGER: And animal hunting may be truly said to have two divisions, land-animal hunting, which has many kinds and names, and water-animal hunting, or the hunting after animals who swim?


  1. Platon, “Sophist”, translated by Benjamin Jowett, url:

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Croton’s book Diver

In Life of Heraclitus [535—475 BCE.] (1,2) (Note: Heraclitus is not the same person as Heracleitos in book V) Diogenes Laërtius [200-250?] writes: “Seleucus [50…250?], the grammarian, however, says that a man of the name of Croton, in his Diver [Kατακολυμβητής], relates that it was a person of the name of Crates who first brought this book into Greece; and that he said that he wanted some Delian diver [κολυμβητής] who would not be drowned in it.” [Possibly in the long lost book “On Things Believed Falsely”? None of Seleucus’s books are known to have survived.]

It is noteworthy that two different words for diver are used. One as the book’s name [Kατακολυμβητής] and another [κολυμβητής] when referencing actual divers from the island of Delos. The former is prefixed with “down” while the latter is not. Is the former one allegoric or not?


  1. Diogenes Laërtius (535-475). The lives and opinions of eminent philosophers”, (book V, Heraclides), literally translated by C. D. Yonge. Published by G. Bell and sons, ltd, London, 1915, url:
  2. Diogenes Laërtius. Lives of eminent philosophers with an english translation by R. D. Hicks in two volumes. II. Chapter IX:11-13. pp. 418-419. Harvard university press. London. 1959. url:

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470/469—399 BCE. Sokrates: It takes a Delian diver to really understand what Heracleitus tries to tell in his book

Diogenes Laërtius (3rd century CE.) wrote biographies of ancient greek philosophers. In his book Lives of eminent philosophers (1) he writes about the Life of Sokrates, page. 153, as follows: “And they say that Euripides gave him a small work of Heracleitus to read, and asked him afterwards what he thought of it, and he replied, ‘What I have understood is good; and so, I think, what I have not understood is; only the book requires a Delian diver to get at the meaning of it.’ “


  1. Diogenes Laërtius. Lives of eminent philosophers with an english translation by R. D. Hicks in two volumes. I. p.153. Harvard university press. London. 1959. url:

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435—356 eaa. Aristippus: Duty of a dolphin

In the chapter Life of Aristippus [435—356 eaa.] Diogenes Laërtius writes (1): “A man was one day boasting of his skill as a diver; “Are you not ashamed,” said Aristippus, “to pride yourself on your performance of the duty of a dolphin?”


  1. Diogenes Laërtius. Lives of eminent philosophers with an english translation by R. D. Hicks in two volumes. I. p.203. Harvard university press. London. 1959. url:

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Ancient greek swimming and diving vocabulary

Ancient greek seems to have words both for divefishing and sponge diving. In Halieutica (1) the word δύπτης (duptes) is used to describe a dive fisher (as is mentioned by Rodriquez-Alvarez in his research paper – without the letter p) while the word σπογγοτομος (spongotomos, sponge cutter) is used to describe a sponge diver. The translation mentios three other words for sponge divers. The word σπογγοκολυμβητής = σπογγος + κολυμβητής eli “spongokolymbeetees” or swimmer for sponges, on the other hand, is used in (2) Julius Pollus, Onomasticon, VII:137. Platon’s dialogs (Protagoras) mention those who dive in wells, κολυμβωσιν (1). In Life of Heraclituksen the word κατακολυμβητής, down diver [allegoric?] is used. Read more here (4). More words can be found here (5). A more in-depth study of vocabulary and analysing nuances and telling apart literal and allegoric use of words would require a classical philologists. The undersigned is not capable of such analysis.


  1. Oppian, Colluthus, Tryphiodorus with an English translation by A. W. Mair. Published by William Heinemann ltd, London. 192. Halieutica, On Fishing. url: (446, 508)
  2. Julius Pollus. “Julii Pollucis Onomasticon cum annotationibus interpretum. Curavit Guilielmus Dindorfius. Vol I. I-V.”, chapter VII:137. In libraria Kuehniana. Published 1824. url:
  3. J. Adam, A. M. Adam. Platonis Protagoras with introduction notes and appendices. Cambridge university press. 1921. p. 174, Notes on Plato’s Protagoras, XXXIV, 350A/20, url:
  4. E. Pottier. Daremberg & Saglio, Dictionnaire des Antiquités Grecques et Romaines, Librairie Hachette et Cie., Paris, 1877‑1919. url:
  5. Gregory R. Crane, Perseus digital library, English-to-Greek Word Search Results, Tufts university, url:

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Sponge diving (at least) 400 BCE.

Kreikkalainen ruukku, jossa kuvataan sukeltaja lähdössä nostamaan pesusieniä, n.510-490 eaa. British Museum.
Huomaa pinta-avustajan pitämä köysi.
Lähde: The Archaeology of Sponges: Middle Range Theory and Divers in Ancient Greece – Scientific Figure on ResearchGate. Available from: [accessed 19 Jun, 2019]

Aristoteles (384-322 eaa.) raportoi pesusienten sukeltamisesta useaan otteeseen. Eri tyyppisiä sieniä käytettiin paitsi peseytymiseen (ks. Ilias), myös vesipulloina, haarniskan pehmikkeenä (1) ja hunajaan kastettuna lapsille (2). Aristoteles viittaa lyhyesti myös haavojen hoitoon (5). Työ oli ilmeisen haastavaa, sillä Aristoteleen mukaan pesusienten laatu on parasta syvässä vedessä lähellä rannikkoa (3), eli oli sukellettava syvälle. Lisäksi vedessä saattoi piillä vaaroja: Aristoteles kertoo (4): “Milloin Anthias-kala (koruahven) havaitaan, ei lähistöllä ole vaarallisia olioita, ja pesusienten sukeltajat voivat sukeltaa turvallisesti. He kutsuvat näitä merkkikaloja Pyhiksi Kaloiksi“. Sukeltajat käyttivät myös apuvälineitä. Aristoteles kirjoittaa (6): “Jotkut sukeltajat ottavat mukaansa mereen hengityslaitteen, jonka avulla he voivat hengittää ilmaa pinnalta ollen pitkään veden alla. Luonto on antanut norsulle jotakin tämän tapaista varustaen sen pitkällä kärsällä.” Vertaillessaan Delfiinejä ja sukeltajia, tulee Aristoteles puolestaan maininneeksi että syvlitä vapaasukelluksilta noustaan (luonnollisesti) delfiinin tapaan mahdollisimman nopeaan (7). Pesusienten sukeltamisesta ovat myöhemmin raportoineet myös Plinius Vanhempi (8) (23-79 jaa.) sekä Oppian (9)(2. vuosisata). Athenaeus (10)(3. vuosisata) keskittyi referoiden ja lainaten lähinnä helmiin ja kulinarismiin, mutta sukeltamista sekin. Lue näistä lisää alempaa.

Aristoteleen maininta sukeltajien hengityslaitteesta on mielenkiintoinen. Viittaako hän alassuin veteen laskettuun ilma-astiaan vai snorkkeliin? Jos Aristoteles viittaa snorkkeliin (mikä on norsun kärsästä saatuna assosiaationa uskottavampi kuin ilmapata), voidaan tarkastella kahta vaihtoehtoa. Joko kyseessä on ollut suora putki, kenties putkilokasvin runko, tai sitten kyseessä on ollut käsityötuote – snorkkeli U-mutkalla. Suoran putken mahdolliset rakennustarpeet esittelee Emilio Rodríguez-Álvarez tieteellisessä artikkelissaan. Tosin ainoa hyötykäyttö suoralle snorkkelille olisi selkäuinnissa ja siten taistelusukeltamisessa. Teknologiana se olisi kuitenkin ollut käytössä jo vaikkapa Scylliksellä ja Hydnalla. Kaikki muu sukeltaminen edellyttää pohjan katselua ja siten U-putkea. Sellainen (ja paljon muutakin) toki osattiin valmistaa Aristoteleen aikana, koska vain parisataa vuotta Aristoteleen jälkeen oli olemassa Antikytheran mekaaninen tähtitieteellinen laskukone, joka sentään on aika lailla snorkkelia monimutkaisempi laite (myös vielä vanhempia Arkimedeen aikaisia laskulaitteita tunnetaan).

Aristoteleen oppilaat (Peripateettinen koulukunta) ilmeisesti kirjoittivat seuraavina vuosisatoina Aristoteleen opetuksiin pohjaavan ja hänen teoskokoelmaansa luettavan luonnontieteellisen teoksen Ongelmat (Problemata). Teoksesta löytyy kappale korvat (11)(Problemata, XXXII, 960b, kappale 5), ja kuinka ollakaan, sukeltajien korvaongelmiahan siellä käsitellään.

Problemata, kirja XXXII, Korviin liittyvät kysymykset

Käännetty englanninkielisestä käännöksestä, joten suomenkielinen käännös ei ole aivan tarkka.

1. Ensimmäinen kappale käsittelee korvien punastumista; ei liity sukeltamiseen.

2. K: Miksi sukeltajien korvat puhkeavat meressä?
V: Johtuuko se siitä, että veden täyttämä korva kokee rajua painetta pidättämänsä ilman vuoksi? Jos näin olisi, miksi hengenpidätys ei maalla riko korvia? Vai johtuuko se siitä, että periksi antamaton kohde rikkoontuu helpommin kuin periksi antava, ja helpommin kovan kuin pehmeän kohteen vaikutuksesta? Se mikä on täytetty ilmalla, on periksiantamattomampaa, ja korvat on täytetty hengitysilmalla; ja niinpä vesi ilmaa kovempana puhkaisee korvat.

3. Miksi sukeltajat sitovat pesusienet korviensa ympäri?
Johtuuko se siitä, ettei meri raivoisasti syöksy korviin ja puhko tärykalvoja? Sillä eiväthän korvat pesusieniä käytettäessä täyty niinkuin ilman niitä.

[todennäköisempi syy oli estää veden pääsy korvaan sukelluksen aikana sekä korvatulehdukset, etenkin jos tärykalvoihin oli tehty reiät paineen tasauksen helpottamiseksi. Korvien kastuminen estettiin pesusienellä, joka pehmeänä joustaa eikä aiheuta painevammaa.]

4. Miksi korvavaikku on kitkerän makuista?

5. Miksi sukeltajat halkaisevat korvansa ja sieraimensa?
Siksikö, että hengitysilma kulkisi helpommin? Koska sillä tällä tapaa ilma näkyy poistuvan; koska sukeltajien hengitysvaikeutena on saada hengitysilma ulos, ja he ovat helpottuneita onnistuessaan, ikäänkuin ilman oksentamisessa; onkin outoa miksi he eivät onnistu hengittämisessä sen jäähdyttävän vaikutuksen takia; se vaikuttaisi olevan tärkeämpää; eikö olekin luonnollisempaa, että rasituksen tulisi olla suurempi henkeä pidättäessä, sillä silloin sukeltajat ovat turvonneita ja paisuneita? Mutta ilma näyttää poistuvan ulos itsestään; ja seuraavaksi on pohdittava, meneekö se itsestään sisäänkin? Selvästi se menee; sillä sukeltaja voi hengittää yhtä helposti kun alas lähetetään pata; sillä se ei täyty vedestä, vaan pitää ilman, koska se painetaan suoraan alas; koska muuten vesi syöksyisi sisään.

10. Miksi on niin, että jos korvaan menee vettä, sinne kaadetaan oliiviöljyä, vaikka vesi ei pääse toisen nesteen läpi ulos ulos korvasta?
Onko se sen takia, että öljy kelluu veden pinnalla, ja öljyn tarttuvan vaikutuksen takia vesi tarttuu öljyyn kun öljy tulee ulos? Vai onko se sen takia, että korva liukastuisi, ja vesi sen takia tulisi ulos? Sillä liukas öljy toimii voiteluaineena.

11. Mistä johtuu, että sukeltajien tärykalvot puhkeavat epätodennäköisemmin, jos korviin kaataa ennalta oliiviöljyä?
Pitääkö aiemmin kerrottu syy korvien puhkeamiseen edelleen paikkansa, mutta korvaan kaadettu öljy aiheuttaa sen, että myöhemmin korvaan tunkeutuva merivesi liukuu pehmeästi öljyn pintaa pitkin, niinkuin se liukuu niiden pintaa pitkin, jotka voitelevat itseään? Pehmeästi liukuva merivesi ei tee rajua iskua korvan sisäosiin, eikä siten puhkaise tärykalvoa.

Kannattaa huomata myös kirjassa XXIII: 30:Miksi merivesi on lähellä pintaa kuumempaa ja suolaisempaa kuin syvemmällä – samoin kaivoissa – vaikka suolaisen veden pitäisi raskaampana olla pohjalla? Aurinko haihduttaa makean veden ja suola jää.” Tai XXIV: 11:Miksi ilmakuplat eivät ole märkiä?
[On siis tehty havaintoja veden suolaisuudesta ja lämpötilasta syvällä]

Lue lisää pesusienten sukeltamisesta muinaisessa Kreikassa: E. Rodríguez-Álvarez: The Archaeology of Sponges: Middle Range Theory and Divers in Ancient Greece sekä The Hidden Divers: Sponge harvesting in the archaeological record of the Mediterranean Basin.

Kannattaa huomata myös kirjassa XXIII: 30:Miksi merivesi on lähellä pintaa kuumempaa ja suolaisempaa kuin syvemmällä – samoin kaivoissa – vaikka suolaisen veden pitäisi raskaampana olla pohjalla? Aurinko haihduttaa makean veden ja suola jää.” Tai XXIV: 11:Miksi ilmakuplat eivät ole märkiä?
[On siis tehty havaintoja veden suolaisuudesta ja lämpötilasta syvällä]


  1. Aristoteles, Historia animalium, kirja V, kappale 16, 548b:1
  2. The history of underwater exploration, Robert F. Marx, sivu 7.
  3. Aristoteles, Historia animalium, kirja V, kappale 16, 548b:20-30
  4. Aristoteles, Historia animalium, kirja IX, kappale 37, 620b:34
  5. Aristoteles, Historia animalium, kirja IX, kappale 44, 630a:7
  6. Aristoteles, Parts of animals, kirja II, kappale XVI
  7. Aristoteles, Historia animalium, kirja IX, kappale 48, 631a:30
  8. Plinius Vanhempi, Historia Naturalis, useita kohtia, lue lisää alempaa.
  9. Oppian, Halieutica (kalastus), lisää, lue lisää alempaa
  10. Athenaeus, Oppineiden pidot (Deipnosophistae), lue lisää alempaa.
  11. Aristoteles/Peripateettinen koulukunta, Problemata, XXXII, 960b, kappale 5
  12. E. Rodríguez-Álvarez, The Archaeology of Sponges: Middle Range Theory and Divers in Ancient Greece sekä The Hidden Divers: Sponge harvesting in the archaeological record of the Mediterranean Basin,, url:

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Phaenias the Eresian mentions the profession ‘solenista’ (lat.), 332 BCE.

Book III, chapter 40 of Athenaeus mentions: “And the people who collect this sort of oyster [subtidal; can be found down to -60m] are called Solenistæ, as Phænias the Eresian [ 332 BCE.] relates in his book which is entitled, The Killing of Tyrants by way of Punishment.”

Not a single work of Phaenias has been preserved.

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Pearl hunting, 4th century BCE.

Athenaeus explains: “Chares of Mitylene [belonging to the court of Alexander the Great], in the seventh book of his Histories of Alexander…”: “There is caught in the Indian sea, and also off the coast of Armenia, and Persia, and Susiana, and Babylonia, a fish very like an oyster; and it is large and oblong, containing within the shell flesh which is plentiful and white, and very fragrant, from which the men pick out white bones which they call the pearl. And they make of them necklaces and chains for the hands and feet, of which the Persians are very fond, as are the Medes and all Asiatics, esteeming them as much more valuable than golden ornaments.”

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331 eaa. — Taistelusukeltamista Tyren edustalla ja suuri myytti

Aleksanteri Suuri Colimphassa.
Public Domain.

Diving bells through the centuries (1), Bevan j. kertoo Aleksanteri Suuren sukelluksesta sukelluskellolla “Colimpha” vuonna 332:

Alexander the Great is credited with the first recorded bell dive in 332 BC. Legend has it that he descended in a bell called Colimpha at the Siege of Tyre. Aristotle described how his pupil, Alexander the Great, peered out of his bell to observe underwater sheep and dogs and even one gigantic creature that took three days to pass by! But before we credit Alexander the Great with being the first saturation diver as well, we have to consider that his bell was probably an atmospheric observation bell since it was referred to as a glass case, covered with asses skins and provided with a door made fast with chains. Another version describes the bell as constructed of wood, fitted with glass windows and a lid impregnated with resin, wax and other substances to make it water tight. Whilst the accuracy of any of the accounts is questionable, it may at least be reasonable to presume that Alexander the Great made some sort of a dive in some sort of a bell.

Tässä vielä yksi vanha teos (2), noin vuodelta 1338-1410, joka kertoo Colimphan tarua. Kuvakaappaus alla.

Yllä mainitusta poikeiten ei Aristoteleen teksteistä kuitenkaan löydy mainintaa Aleksanterista sukeltamassa (eikä tunneta yhtään (3) Aleksanterin Aristoteleelle lähettämää kirjettäkään). Myöskään Aleksanterin luonnetta kuvaavan vertailevan elämänkerran Parallel lives – Alexander (4) kirjoittanut Plutarchos ei mainitse sanallakaan sukeltamista saati mitään “Colimphaa”. Arrian Nikomedialaisen kirjoittama kohtuullisen uskottavana pidetty Aleksanterin elämänkerta, Anabasis of Alexander (5), ei sekään mainitse sukelluskellosukellusta. Näillä perustein Colimphaa voidaan pitää villin mielikuvituksen tuotteena, vaikka jonkinlaisia ilma-astioita pesusienisukelluksessa toki käytettiinkin. Vedenalaiset omenapuut ja valaan nielemäksi tulemiset eivät anna kovin uskottavaa kuvaa. Oleellisempaa on kuitenkin se, että näkemys ja unelma sukelluskellosta oli kolmannella vuosisadalla jaa. jo olemassa, vaikka mielikuvitus hieman laukkasikin (6) (itse Colimphaa tuskin puoli vuosituhatta aiemmin oli) .

Sukeltamista Tyren piirityksessä vuonna 331 eaa. toki käytettiin: Anabassis of Alexander (5), kirja II luku XXI: “These stones Alexander determined to drag out of the sea; but this was a work accomplished with great difficulty, since it was performed from ships and not from the firm earth; especially as the Tyrians, covering their ships with mail, brought them alongside the anchors of the triremes, and cutting the cables of the anchors underneath, made anchoring impossible for the enemy’s ships. But Alexander covered many thirty-oared vessels with mail in the same way, and placed them athwart in front of the anchors, so that the assault of the ships was repelled by them. But, notwithstanding this, divers under the sea secretly cut their cables. The Macedonians then used chains to their anchors instead of cables, and let them down so that the divers could do no more harm.”


  1. J. Bevan. Diving bells through the centuries. Rubicon Foundation archive,.url:
  2. Marco Polo. Jehan de Grise [illustrator], Romance of Alexander. 1338-1410. Bodleian library. url:
  3. Paul Halsall. The History Sourcebook: The Need for Source Criticism: A Letter from Alexander to Aristotle? 1998-1999. url:
  4. Plutarchos. Parallel lives – Alexander. url:
  5. Arrian Nikomedian. Anabasis of Alexander. url:
  6. Maddy (full name not known). Maddy’s ramblings: Alexander’s ventures underwater. 2018. url:

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Theophrastus writes about pearls in his book on precious stones, 4th century BCE.”

Theophrastus [371—287] speaks in his treatise on Precious Stones, and says, ‘But among the stones which are much admired is that which is called the pearl [Margaritae, Uniones], being transparent in its character; and they make very expensive necklaces of them. They are found in an oyster which is something like the pinna, only less. And in size the pearl resembles a large fish’s eye.’ “

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Perseus panics in Pellassa (Macedonian divers), 168 BCE.

Livius, in his History of Rome (1), recounts that as consul Quintus Marcius Philippus attaced Macedonia, king Perseus ordered the treasure of Pella to be thrown in the sea. [Philippus was consul during 186 and 169; Perseus flew to Pella in 168 and lost the third Macednian war]

Translation: “Perseus, having at length recovered his spirits, after the panic with which he had been seized, began to wish that obedience had not been paid to the orders which he had given in his fright, to throw the treasures at Pella into the sea, and to burn the naval arsenals at Thessalonica. Andronicus, indeed, whom he had sent to Thessalonica, deferred the execution of his order, leaving him time for repentance, which accordingly took place; but Nicias, less provident, threw into the sea what treasure he found at Pella: his error, however, turned to be not without remedy, inasmuch as the greatest part of that treasure was brought up again by divers. Nevertheless, Perseus was so very much ashamed of his terror on the occasion, that he caused the divers to be privately put to death, together with Andronicus and Nicias, that there might be no living witness of such dastardly conduct.

It must be noted that the Romans won the war and this is their version of what happened. The defeated enemy king is portrayed as an unfair indecisive coward. How surprising! A version by Perseus himself might be different, but none exists. What if the divers acted without permission?


  1. Titus Livius [59BC—17AD]. The History of Rome. Translated from the Original with Notes and Illustrations by George Baker. Book XLIV (44). Chapter X. University of Adelaide. url: also

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Urinatores – Rooman valtakunnan sukeltajat

Latinan sukellussanastoa

Adolf V. Strengin latinalais-suomalainen sanakirja (2) kertoo: urinator, oris m. [< urinari ‘sukeltaa’] sukeltaja. Latinan kielessä sana urinari tarkoittaa siis sukeltamista ja urinator (miespuolista) sukeltajaa. Pliniuksen teksteissä esiintyy vielä sana “sukeltava” eli urinans sekä urinantes. Feminiinimuodolla urinatrix löytyy lähinnä modenin luokittelun mukaisia lintuja; myrskysukeltajaa, myrskyliitäjää jne. Yllättäen löytyy (ks. Athenaeus) vielä tarkempia ammattitermejä kuten Solenista, tietyn simpukkalajin kerääjä/sukeltaja.

Sukeltajien työnkuva on ollut moninainen

  • Kuten Assyriasta, Egyptistä ja Kreikasta tiedämme, merestä piti sukeltaa helmisimpukkaa, ostereita ruuaksi sekä pesusieniä peseytymiseen ja haavojen tai kauneuden hoitoon tai pehmikkeeksi. Joitakin liian itsevarmoja kaloja pyydettiin myös käsin (painamalla piikikäs evä alas). Oli jopa oma ammattinimikkeensä, solenista, tiettyjen simpukoiden kerääjille (ks. kappale Athenaeus). Nimikkeen olemassaolo kertoo että toiminta on joskus ollut laajaa. Kaikkea tätä toimintaa voitaneen kutsua yhteisellä termillä sukelluskalastuksesksi.
  • Lisäksi tehtiin myös etsintää ja nostoa: Uponneiden laivojen rahtia tai mereen heitettyä/pudonnutta tavaraa haluttiin pelastaa kuten Lex Rhodia de Iactu kertoo ja siitä saatiin määrätty korvaus suhteessa lastin arvoon. Tätä toimintaa oli satamakaupungeissa ja jokivarsilla, kuten Roomankin Tiberin satamassa.
  • Kuten jäljempänäkin ilmenee, sodassa sukeltajia puolestaan käytettiin ruuan salakuljettamiseen piiritettyyn kaupunkiin tai esteiden rakentamiseen tai purkamiseen veden alla tai laivojen ankkuriköysien katkaisuun, jopa vetoköysien kiinnitykseen laivan pohjaan laivan varastamiseksi viholliselta. Sukeltajat veivät piiritystilanteissa myös viestejä lyijylevyyn kirjoitettuna. Laivojen jumittuneita ankkureita piti joskus myös irroitella pohjasta sukeltaen.
  • Ei myöskään sovi unohtaa kreikkalaisessa kirjallisuudessa mainittuja kaivosukeltajia, jotka korjasivat kaivoja. Samoin satamarakenteita rakennettaessa (1) piti toki tarkistaa ennalta onko pohja soveltuva paalutukseen. Tarkastus- ja korjaussukeltajia lienee siis myös ollut.

Näinollen sukeltajat voitaneen jakaa sukelluskalastajiin, etsintä- ja nostosukeltajiin, vedenalaisrakenteiden tarkastajiin ja rakentajiin ja korjaajiin sekä taistelusukeltajiin. Varusteisiin kuuluivat laskeutumispainot, pintaköydet, ilmapadat eli sukelluskellot, snorkkelit, pesusienet korvilla, suolavettä sietävät pronssiveitset, sekä oliiviöljy. Viestin vientiin voitiin käyttää lyijylevyjä.

Sukeltajista kertovat kaiverrukset

Sukeltajat mainitaan myös kuudessa kaiverruksessa (3) (hakusana: urinat*). Sukeltajilla, viljan rahtaajilla, mittaajilla, kauppiailla sekä kalastajilla näkyy olleen paljon yhteistä. Ainakin muistomerkkejä on pystytetty yhdessä suojelijalle jos toisellekin (patrono)(ja keisarille) erilaisista ansioista. Valitettavasti monet kaiverrukset ovat kärsineet vahinkoja, ja niiden lukeminen on kohtuullisen vaikeaa. Tarkkaa käännöstä ei tässä edes yritetä.

  • Ostium: corpus urinatorum Ostiensium, Ostian satamakaupungin sukeltajien kilta. Vuosilta 151-150. Ostian satamakaupunki. AE 1982, 00131, EDCS-08600067
  • Ostium: Mittaajien,(?; corpus mensorum), viljantuojien (corpus frumentariorum) ja sukeltajien (corpus urinatorum) kiltojen patruunalle. […]patrono / corporum mensorum / frumentariorum / et urinatorum decurioni adlecto / Africae Hippone Regio / corpus mercatorum / frumentariorum / q(uin)q(uennali) perpetuo[…]. EDCS-05700302 CIL 14, 00303
  • Rooma: Tiberin jokivarren kalastajien ja sukeltajien kiltojen pystyttämä muistomerkki: Ti(berio) Claudio Esquil(ina) Severo / decuriali lictori patrono / corporis piscatorum et / urinator(um) q(uin)q(uennali) III eiusdem corporis / ob merita eius / quod hic primus statuas duas una / Antonini Aug(usti) domini n(ostri) aliam Iul(iae) / Augustae dominae nostr(ae) s(ua) p(ecunia) p(osuerit) / una cum Claudio Pontiano filio / suo eq(uite) Rom(ano) et hoc amplius eidem / corpori donaverit HS X mil(ia) n(ummum) / ut ex usuris eorum quodannis / natali suo XVII K(alendas) Febr(uarias) / sportulae viritim dividantur / praesertim cum navigatio sca/pharum diligentia eius adquisita / et confirmata sit ex decreto / ordinis corporis piscatorum / et urinatorum totius alv(ei) Tiber(is) / quibus ex s(enatus) c(onsulto) coire licet s(ua) p(ecunia) p(osuerunt) // Dedic(ata) XVI K(alendas) Sept(embres) Nummio Albino et Fulvio Aemiliano co(n)s(ulibus) / praesentibus / Iuventio Corneliano et / Iulio Felicissimo / patronis / quinquennalib(us) / Claudio Quintiano et / Plutio Aquilino / curatorib(us) / Aelio Augustale et / Antonio Vitale et / Claudio Crispo. EDCS-18100688 CIL 06, 01872
  • Rooma: Kalastajat ja sukeltajat… piscat(ori) urinat(ori) q(uin)q(uennali) III et q(uin)q(uennali) p(er)p(etuo) / patrono dignissimo. CIL 06, 29700 EDCS-ID: EDCS-17201682
  • Rooma: Kalastajien ja sukeltajien kilta (HUOM! yksikössä) […]corpus piscator]um urinatorum[…]. CIL 06, 29702 EDCS-17201684
  • Rooma: Kalastajien ja sukeltajien kilta (HUOM! yksikössä) laittoi omat rahansa likoon[…]corpus piscatorum et urinatorum sua pecunia posuit[…] CIL 06, 40638 EDCS-00900360

Tiberio Claudio Esquilina Severo, decuriali lictori patrono,
corporis piscatorum et urinatorum quinquennali III eiusdem corporis,
ob merita eius,
quod hic primus statuas duas una Antonini Augusti domini nostri aliam Iuliae Augustae dominae nostrae
sua pecunia posuerit una cum Claudio Pontiano filio suo equite Romano et hoc amplius eidem corpori donaverit
HS X milia nummum ut ex usuris eorum quodannis natali suo XVII Kalendas Februarias sportulae viritim dividantur praesertim
cum navigatio scapharum diligentia eius adquisita et confirmata sit

ex decreto ordinis corporis piscatorum et urinatorum totius alvei Tiberis
quibus ex senatus consulto coire licet
sua pecunia posuerunt
Dedicata XVI Kalendas Septembres Nummio Albino et Fulvio Aemiliano consulibus praesentibus Iuventio Corneliano et Iulio Felicissimo patronis quinquennalibus Claudio Quintiano et Plutio Aquilino curatoribus Aelio Augustale et Antonio Vitale et Claudio Crispo

Flavius Vegetiuksen (4) väitetään mainintsevan keisari Claudiuksen aikana ensimmäisen vuosisadan jaa. alkupuoliskolla olleen taistelusukeltajia. Mainintaa en vielä ole onnistunut löytämään, mutta Dio Cassiuksen Rooman historia kertoo asian perinpohjaisesti.


  1. Alexandra Witze. Seawater is the secret to long-lasting Roman concrete. Nature news. 2017. url:
  2. Adolf Streng. Latinalais-Suomalainen sanakirja.
  3. Manfred Clauss, Wolfgang A. Slaby, Anne Kolb, Barbara Woitas. Epigraph Datenbank Clauss / Slaby EDCS. url:
  4. Flavius Vegetius Renatus et alii scriptores antiqui, De Rei Militari, kirja IV, kappaleet 31-46 [TARKISTAMATON LÄHDE]

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Roman conquest of Hispania, the siege of Numantia, 134—133 BCE.

The city of Numantia is under siege but divers can smuggle food into the city. Scipio decides to build a barrier from logs with attached spear heads and knives. The river is said to be flowing fast. How did the divers manage it? Did they dive with the flow or against it along the shores where the current was slower? Did they dive during the night and did they use snorkels (not much cargo can be carried when diving on breath hold)? Aristoteles (Aristotle) wrote about snorkels (or devices similar to the elephants snout) centuries earlier.

Appian, Bellum Hispanicum XV:91 (1): Thus Scipio was the first general, as I think, to throw a wall around a city which did not shun a battle in the open field. However, the river Durius, which took its course through the fortifications, was very useful to the Numantines for bringing provisions and sending men back and forth, some diving and others concealing themselves in small boats, some making their way with sail-boats when a strong wind was blowing, or with oars aided by the current. As he was not able to span it on account of its breadth and swiftness, Scipio built two towers in place of a bridge. To each of these towers he moored large timbers with ropes and set them floating across the river. The timbers were stuck full of knives and spear-heads, which were kept constantly in motion by the force of the stream dashing against them, so that the enemy were prevented from passing covertly, either by swimming, or diving, or sailing in boats. Thus was accomplished what Scipio especially desired, namely, that nobody could have any dealings with them, nobody could come in, and they could have no knowledge of what was going on outside. Thus they would be in want of provisions and apparatus of every kind.


  1. Appian. Bellum Hispanicum, ch. XV:91. url:

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Divers of Pompeius (Pompey) remove a barrier from the mouth of the harbour of Oricum. Around 49 BCE.

Cassius Dio’s History of Rome, Volume II, Book 42, Chapter 12 (1): Caesar’s troops are chasing Pompeius (Pompey) fleet on its way to Egypt. During the trip Pompeius attacks Oricum and uses divers to remove barriers (sunken ships) from the mouth of the harbour. [-12-] Gnaeus Pompey first sailed about with the Egyptian fleet and overran Epirus, so-called, almost capturing Oricum. The commander of the place, Marcus Acilius,[73] had blocked up the entrance to the harbor by boats crammed with stones and about the mouth of it had raised towers on both sides, on the land, and on ships of burden. Pompey, however, had submarine divers scatter the stones that were in the vessels and when the latter had been lightened he dragged them out of the way, freed the passage, and next, after putting heavy-armed troops ashore on each half of the breakwater, he sailed in. He burned all the boats and most of the city […]


  1. Cassius Dio Cocceianus. History of Rome, Volume II, Book 42, Chapter 12. url:

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Caesar’s troops defeat Antonius’s troops at Mutina: Wetnotes (and other things). 43 BCE.

Dio’s History of Rome, Volume III, Book 46, Chapter 35: Decimus is surrounded by troops of Antonius (Antony). Allies send Decimus a message that help is underway. The message is delivered on a lead scroll carried to him by divers by night. Uninterrupted communication ensues.

Later he was entirely shut in by a wall; and Caesar, fearing he might be captured by storm or capitulate through lack of provisions, compelled Hirtius to join a relief party. […] by reason of the river, however, near Mutina and the guard beside it they found themselves unable to proceed farther. They wished, notwithstanding, even so to make known their presence to Decimus, that he might not in undue season make terms, and at first they tried sending signals from the tallest trees. But since he did not understand, they scratched a few words on a thin sheet of lead, and rolling it up like a piece of paper gave it to a diver to carry across under water by night. Thus Decimus learned at the same time of their presence and their promise of assistance, and sent them a reply in the same fashion, after which they continued uninterruptedly to communicate all their plans to each other.

Dio’s History of Rome, Volume V, Book 75, Chapter 12: Many, therefore, were the exploits and sufferings of the Byzantines, since for the entire space of three years they were besieged by the armaments of practically the whole world. A few of their experiences will be mentioned that seem almost marvelous. They captured, by making an opportune attack, some boats that sailed by and captured also some of the triremes that were in their opponents’ roadstead. This they did by having divers cut their anchors under water, after which they drove nails into the ship’s bottom and with cords attached thereto and running from friendly territory they would draw the vessel towards them. Hence one might see the ships approaching shore by themselves, with no oarsman nor wind to urge them forward.


  1. Cassius Dio Cocceianus. Rooman historia, Osa III, kirja 46, kappale 35. url:
  2. Cassius Dio Cocceianus. Rooman historia, Osa V, kirja 75, kappale 12. url:

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The fishing trip of Antonius and Cleopatra. 40—41 BCE.

Diving was not only used to make a living or to wage war. At least one practical joke is known to history. The biography of Antonius, chapter 29 (1), written by Plutarchos, tells as follows:

Now, to recount the greater part of his boyish pranks would be great nonsense. One instance will suffice. He was fishing once, and had bad luck, and was vexed at it because Cleopatra was there to see. He therefore ordered his fishermen to dive down and secretly fasten to his hook some fish that had been previously caught, and pulled up two or three of them. But the Egyptian saw through the trick, and pretending to admire her lover’s skill, told her friends about it, and invited them to be spectators of it on the following day. [4] So great numbers of them got into the fishing boats, and when Antony had let down his line, she ordered one of her own attendants to get the start of him by swimming to his hook and fastening on it a salted Pontic herring. Antony thought he had caught something, and pulled it up, whereupon there was great laughter, as was natural, and Cleopatra said: ‘Imperator, hand over thy fishing-rod to the fishermen of Pharos and Canopus; thy sport is the hunting of cities, realms, and continents.’


  1. Plutarchos, edited by Bernadotte Perrin. Antonius. Chapter 29. url:

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Oyster hunting from a depth of 20 fathoms (36m). 1st century BCE.

Isidore of Charax (1) in his description of Parthia says there is a certain island in the Persian Gulf where many pearls are found; and that round about the island there are rafts made of reeds, from which men dive into the sea to a depth of 20 fathoms and bring up double-shelled oysters. They say that when there are frequent thunderstorms and heavy rains, the oyster produces the most young, and they get the most, the best and the largest pearls; and in the winter the shells are accustomed to sink into holes in the bottom, but in the summer they swim about all night with their shells open, but they close in the daytime. And when they cling to stones and rocks in the waves they take root and then, remaining fixed, produce the pearls. These are engendered and nourished by something that adheres to their flesh. It grows in the mouth of the oyster and has claws and brings in food. It is like a small crab and is called “Guardian of the oyster.” Its flesh penetrates through the center of the shell like a root; the pearl being engendered close to it, grows through the solid portion of the shell and keeps growing as long as it continues to adhere to the shell. But when the flesh gets under the excrescence and cuts its way onward, it gently separates the pearl from the shell and then, when the pearl is surrounded by flesh, it is no longer nourished in such manner as to grow further, but the flesh makes it smoother, more transparent and more pure. And when the oyster lives at the bottom, it produces the clearest and largest pearls; but those that float on the surface, because they are affected by the rays of the sun, produce smaller pearls, of poorer color. The pearl divers run into danger when they thrust their hands straight into the open oyster, for it closes up and their fingers are often cut off, and sometimes they perish on the spot; but those who take them by thrusting their hands under from one side, easily pull the shells off from the rocks.


  1. Isidore of Charax, “Parthian stations by Isidore of Charax. An account of the overland trade route between the Levant and India in the first century BC. The Greek text with a translation and commentary by Wilfred H. Schoff.”, (Journey around Parthia; 20. (A fragment quoted from Athenæs, III, 46.) ) Transcribed from the Original London Edition, 1914, url:

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Pliniuksen (23–79 jaa.) luonnonhistoria

Kirjasarjassaan Historia Nauralis tulee Plinius Vanhempi maininneeksi sukeltamisen useamman kerran.

  • Kirjassa II luvussa XLII:42 pilvien syntyä ja rakennetta selitettäessa mainitaan miten sukeltajat näkevät auringon missä tahansa syvyydessä.
  • Kirjassa II luvun CVI lopussa (rivi 235) plinius kertoo sukeltajan suustaan sylkemän öljyn helpottavan näkemistä: “omne oleo tranquillari (kaiken rauhoittuvan öljyn avulla), et ob id (ja sen takia) urinantes ore spargere (sukeltajien pirskottavan sitä suustaan) quoniam (koska) mitiget naturam asperam lucemque deportet (~helpottaa näkemistä)”
  • Kirjan IX luvussa XLVIII:48 kappaleessa 91 Plinius kertoo miten mustekala (lat. polypus eng. octopus) käy merihätään joutuneen tai sukeltajan kimppuun ja hukuttaa tämän.
  • Kirjan IX luvussa LXX:70 (tai tässä) Plinius kertoo miten haiparvet ovat vaaraksi pesusienten sukeltajille: “The number of dog-fish [camcularum =? canicularum] … beset the men… with grave danger…”. Edelleen sukeltajien (urinantes) ylle levittäytyy eläin kuin pilvi, ja estää pintaan nousun, ellei sitä hätyytä pois terävällä keihäällä. Plinius ei tunne sellaista eläintä ja laittaa tarinan pimeänpelon piikkiin. [Caniculus tarkoittaa pikku koiraa, joten Dog-fish on kelvollinen käännös, mutta mikä laji se lienee? Small-spotted catshark on liian pieni ollakseen vaaraksi; onko kyseessä joku parveileva Dog-fish?]. Plinius kertoo pitkällisesti sukeltajien kamppailusta meripedon kanssa (mutta kuten myös Frost artikkelissaan Oppian kirjoituksista toteaa, auki jää kysymys siitä, mikä Välimeressä elävä otus voisi tällaisen riesan oikeasti aiheuttaa, vain onko kyseessä kirjan myynnin edistäminen):
Divers have fierce fights with the dog-fish ; these attack their loins 
and heels and all the white parts of the body. The 
one safety lies in going for them and frightening 
them by taking the offensive: for a dog-fish is as 
much afraid of a man as a man is of it, and so they 
are on equal terms in deep water. When they come 
to the surface, then the man is in critical danger, as 
the policy of taking the offensive is not available 
while he is trying to get out of the water, and his 
only safety is in his comrades. These haul on the 
rope tied to his shoulders ; this, as he carries on the 
duel, he shakes with his left hand to give a signal 
of danger, while his right hand grasps his dagger 
and is occupied in fighting. Most of the time they 
haul gently, but when he gets near the boat, unless 
with a quick heave they suddenly snatch him out 
of the water, they have to look on while he is made 
away with. And often when divers have already 
begun to be hauled up they are snatched out of 
their comrades' hands, unless they have themselves 
supplemented the aid of those hauling by curling up 
into a ball. Others of the crew of course thrust 
out harpoons, but the vast beast is crafty enough to 
go under the vessel and so carry on the battle in 
safety. Consequently divers devote their whole atten- 
tion to keeping a watch against this disaster ; the most 
reliable token of safety is to have seen some flat-fish, 
which are never found where these noxious creatures 
are on account of which divers call them the holy fish.
  • Kirjan XIX luvussa XIX:19 kreikkalaisen Epicuroksen keksimästä (viihtymiseen tarkoitetusta) puutarhasta sekä roomalaisesta kasvimaasta kertoessaan Plinius toteaa miten kasvimaasta saa köyhäkin elannon. Sitten hän ironisesti toteaa kuinka paljon parempi onkaan sukeltaa meren syövereihin hakemaan kaiken maailman ostereita (ostrearum) [helmien takia] haaksirikonkin uhalla. Myös lintujen pyytäminen kaukomailta tai villipetojen metsästäminen henkensä uhalla saavat sanan raippaa kasvimaan eduksi.


  1. Plinius Maior. Historia naturalis. Kirja II Luku XLII:42. url:
  2. Plinius Maior. Historia naturalis. Kirja II Luku CVI lopussa (rivi 235). url:
  3. Plinius Maior. Historia naturalis. Kirja IX Luku XLVIII:48 kappale 91. url:
  4. Plinius Maior. Kirja IX Luku LXX:70. url:
  5. Plinius Maior. Historia naturalis. Kirja XIX luvussa XIX (19) . url:

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100—200 jaa. Oppian, Halieutica (Ἁλιευτικά, Halieutiká, kalastus):

Oppian oli Marcus Aureliuksen aikainen toisella vuosisadalla jaa. elänyt kreikkalais-roomalainen runoilija, jonka teos kalastuksesta kertoo pesusienten sukeltajien vaarallisesta työstä. Erityisesti on huomattava maininta öljyn (ilmeisesti oliiviöljyn perustuen Aristoteleen nimissä julkaistuihin teoksiin) sylkemisestä pois suusta. Myös painon ja turvaköyden käyttö, köysimerkit sekä meripeto herättävät huomion.

446-449-451 (1) ( Sukelluskalastusta käsin pyytämällä: Moreover, a diver, skilled in the works of the sea, without any snare attacks and captures some fishes with his hands alone, traversing the path of the sea as if it were dry land: to wit, the Sargue which trembles with terror and the craven Sciaena. The Sargues in their fear cower and crowd together in the depths of the sea and they lie in piles athwart one another, while their backs bristle with spines  erect, even as farmers fence all round with close-net stakes the hedge that runs about a vineyard: a great trouble for robbers; and none could enter in, since the stakes bar the way. Even so no one would readily touch the Sargues nor lay a hand upon them, for their dark spines bristle about them with close-set jutting points. But the skilful man should dive speedily under the hidden places of the sea and observe the Sargues all round — where lies the head and where the tail — and putting his hand over their heads he should gently stroke their spines above and press and bend them down. The Sargues remain just as they were, clustered together and unmoving, trusting in their sharp defences. Then the man takes two of them, one in either hand, and comes to the surface again, having accomplished a deed of utmost cunning. […]
508 (601-623) (2): Pesusienten sukellus on kamala työ.
510 (624-649) (3): Jos Pyhä Kala on lähettyvillä, ei meressä ole vaaroja, ja mereen uskaltaa sukeltaa huoletta. Miehen vyötärön ylle kiedotaan pitkä köysi. Vasemmalla kädellä hän pitää kiinni lyijypainosta [mielenkiintoista että kyseessä on lyijypaino eikä kivi; Halieuticassa on lukuisia kertomuksia lyijyn ja pronssin käytöstä kalastuksessa] ja oikeassa kädessä on terävä vesuri sekä suussa vaaleaa öljyä. Kun hän hyppää veteen, painot vievät hänet pohjalle, ja hän sylkee ulos suustaan öljyn, joka kimaltelee vedessä. [Rodriguez-Alvarez mainitsee myös rautakautiset pronssiveitset 6. vuosisadalta eaa. mahdollisina sukeltajan työvälineinä: vanhempi ja “huonompi” metalliseos kesti merivettä kuitenkin paremmin.]
512 (650-669) (4): Sukeltaja näkee kivillä kasvavat pesusienet, menee niiden luokse, leikkaa irti, ja viivyttelemättä ravistaa köyttä, jotta toverit voivat vetää hänet nopeasti pintaan – ajatuksen nopeudella. Jos aikaa kuluu liikaa, sukeltajalle käy huonosti. Jos sukeltaja saadaan ylös, on se ilon ja säälin paikka, sillä niin velttona ja voimattomana sukeltaja vedetään pintaan. Monesti syvään veteen mennyt pesusienen sukeltaja ei enää palaa kohdattuaan ison ja kamalan meripedon. Toistuvasti hän ravistaa köyttään pyytäen tovereitaan vetämään hänet ylös. Ja meren hirviö ja sukeltajan toverit vetävät hänen kahteen osaan revittyä ruumistaan. Kalastajat palaavat rantaan surren onnettoman toverinsa jäänteitä.

Jää hieman epäselväksi mitä vesipetoa Oppian tarkoittaa. Frostin tulkinta pienestä myynnin edistämisestä onkin varsin uskottava, vaikka toki välimeressä esiintyy valkohaita ja makrillihaita… Arkeologisissa löydöissä on kyllä kuvia vesipedoista ja miehestä käyrän veitsen kanssa taistelemassa petoa vastaan: Researchgate: Fig. 28. Caeretan hydria, ca. 520-510 B.C. Myös Rodriguez-Alvarez käsitteli tutkimuksessaan (sivut 5-6) tätä kysymystä.

Myös sukeltajan sääliminen ryydyttävän sukelluksen jälkeen vaikuttaa hieman liioittellulta. Tarinassa toki puhutaan myös verenvuodosta eli painevammoja lienee saatu, mikä on uskottavaa, sillä pesusienet kuitenkin kasvavat alueella 4-40m, missä syvyys jo aiheuttaa fysiologisia haasteita.


  1. Oppian, fl. 2nd cent; Colluthus, of Lycopolis; Tryphiodorus; Mair, A. W. (Alexander William), “Oppian, Colluthus, Tryphiodorus, with an English translation by A.W. Mair”; online: (->451)
  2. Oppian, fl. 2nd cent; Colluthus, of Lycopolis; Tryphiodorus; Mair, A. W. (Alexander William), “Oppian, Colluthus, Tryphiodorus, with an English translation by A.W. Mair”; online:
  3. Oppian, fl. 2nd cent; Colluthus, of Lycopolis; Tryphiodorus; Mair, A. W. (Alexander William), “Oppian, Colluthus, Tryphiodorus, with an English translation by A.W. Mair”; online:
  4. Oppian, fl. 2nd cent; Colluthus, of Lycopolis; Tryphiodorus; Mair, A. W. (Alexander William), “Oppian, Colluthus, Tryphiodorus, with an English translation by A.W. Mair”; online:
  5. Frost, F. (1968). Scyllias: Diving in Antiquity. Greece and Rome,15(2), 180-185. doi:10.1017/S0017383500017551, url:

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Oppineiden pidot, Athenaeus, 200—300 jaa., viittauksia menneeseen

Egyptissä syntyneen ja Roomassa vaikuttaneen Athenaeuksen kolmannella vuosisadalla jaa. (200-300) kirjoittamassa kirjassa Deipnosophistae (1,2), Oppineiden pidot, kerrotaan pidoista, joissa keskustellaan viinin nauttimisen ohella oppineesti monen moisista asioista seksistä kulinarismiin. Teoksessa on arvokasta sen monet lainaukset ja viittaukset vanhempaan kirjallisuuteen, joka ei aina ole säilynyt. Teoksessa kerrotaan lukemattomia kertoja ostereista, joita on monia erilaisia, mutta jotka muinoin kaikki tunnettiin yhdellä nimellä (kr. ὄστρειον), mainitaan eräs ammattikunta (lat. solenista) sekä viitataan myös sukeltamiseen — suoraan tai välillisesti, sillä jotkut osterit tai helmisimpukat elävät aika syvällä. Merestä sukellettavista pesusienistä Athenaeus kirjoittaa vähemmän mainiten lähinnä parfyymin pyyhkimisen pois kasvoilta ja istuinten täyttämisen (pesusienen kuvitellun eroottisen vaikutuksen vuoksi).

  • Kirjan I, kappaleessa 22 Athenaeus kommentoi Iliaksen XVI kirjassa mainittua osterien sukeltamista: “However, they did eat not only fish, but oysters; though this sort of food is neither very wholesome nor very nice, but the oysters lie at the bottom of the sea, and one cannot get at them by any other means, except by diving to the bottom.
  • Kirjassa III kappaleessa 40: “And the people who collect this sort of oyster [elää suurimman laskuveden syvyydestä -60 metriin] are called Solenistæ, as Phænias the Eresian [ 332 eaa.] relates in his book which is entitled, The Killing of Tyrants by way of Punishment “
  • Kirjassa III kappaleessa 45 siteerataan helmisimpukoista kertovia teoksia (englanninkielinen käännös):
    • Theophrastus [371—287] speaks in his treatise on Precious Stones, and says, ‘But among the stones which are much admired is that which is called the pearl [Margaritae, Uniones], being transparent in its character; and they make very expensive necklaces of them. They are found in an oyster which is something like the pinna, only less. And in size the pearl resembles a large fish’s eye.’ “
    • Androsthenes, too, in his Voyage along the Coast of India…” [Androsthenes of Thasos?]… “And they have the purple-fish, and a great multitude of other kinds of oysters. There is also one kind which is peculiar to those seas, which the natives call the berberi, from which the precious stone called the pearl comes. And this pearl is very expensive in Asia, being sold in Persia and the inland countries for its weight in gold. And the appearance of the oyster which contains it is much the same as that of the cteis oyster, only its shell is not indented, but smooth and shaggy. And it has not two ears as the cteis oyster has, but only one. The stone is engendered in the flesh of the oyster, just as the measles are in pork. And it is of a very golden colour, so as mot easily to be distinguished from gold when it is put by the side of it; but some pearls are of a silvery appearance, and some are completely white like the eyes of fish.”
    • Chares of Mitylene [belonging to the court of Alexander the Great], in the seventh book of his Histories of Alexander…”: “There is caught in the Indian sea, and also off the coast of Armenia, and Persia, and Susiana, and Babylonia, a fish very like an oyster; and it is large and oblong, containing within the shell flesh which is plentiful and white, and very fragrant, from which the men pick out white bones which they call the pearl. And they make of them necklaces and chains for the hands and feet, of which the Persians are very fond, as are the Medes and all Asiatics, esteeming them as much more valuable than golden ornaments.”
  • Kirjassa V, kappaleessa 13: Plutarchoksen mukaan parodisti Matron kertoo uskottavasti Atticalaisista pidoista ja Xenocleen hyvästä tarjoilusta. Ote runomittaisesta tekstistä: “But me the solid meats did rather please; / Rich oysters guarded in their solid shell, / While to Phœnician-brine I said farewell; / And threw away the urchin’s tasteless meat” ja myöhemmin ” Then the sea thrushes young and fierce, who dive / Mid the deep rocks and tear their prey alive.”
  • Kirjassa VII kappaleessa 17 muistetaan Aristoteles: ” But Aristotle, in his treatise on the Habits of Animals, says—’They say that wherever the anthias is found, there there is no beast or fish of prey ever seen; and accordingly the collectors of sponge use him as a guide, and dive boldly wherever he is found, and call him the sacred fish.’ “
  • Kirjassa VII, kappaleessa 47 toistetaan myyttejä Glaucuksesta: But Mnaseas [3.vuosisadan eaa. loppupuoli], in the third book of his history of the Affairs of Europe, calls him the son of Anthedon and Alcyone; and says that he was a sailor and an excellent diver, and that he was surnamed Pontius. Glaucus saavutti kuolemattomuuden syömällä maagista yrttiä, mikä kovasti muistuttaa Gilgameshin epäonnista sukellusta nuoruuden vesikasvin perään! Olipa myytin alkuperä mikä tahansa, niin se on myytti taitavasta sukeltajasta. Glauguksesta on juttua Ovidiuksen Metamorfooseissa.
  • Kirjassa XIV kappaleessa 39 mainitaan ostereiden syömisen lisäksi jopa kuorien käyttö soittimena.


  1. Athenaeus (of Naucratis). The Deipnosophists. Or Banquet Of The Learned Of Athenaeus. London. Henry G. Bohn, York Street, Covent Garden. 1854. url:
  2. Athenaeus (of Naucratis). The deipnosophists. url

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Codex Iuris Civilis, 529-534

Corpus Iuris Civilis is a legal corpus in three volumes. It was published in 529—534 CE. on the order of emperor Justitianus. The first volume (Codex Justitianus; 529) comprises old laws still considered to be relevant and thus kept. The second volume (Digesta; 533) is a selection of writings from important jurists now made into law. In it we can find (book 14; 2nd chapter; 4th paragraph) some interesting legal consideration of liability in various situations (1). The consideration is based on the ancient Rhodian sea law.


  1. Codex Iuris Civilis, Digesta, kirja 14. “DOMINI NOSTRI SACRATISSIMI PRINCIPIS IUSTINIANI IURIS ENUCLEATI EX OMNI VETERE IURE COLLECTI DIGESTORUM SEU PANDECTARUM liber quartus decimus”. Luku “14.2.0. De lege Rodia [Rhodia] de iactu“. Kappale 14.2.4 Callistratus libro secundo quaestionum. v.533. url:

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(c) Ralf Strandell, 2019

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