Lionel Casson, Who Wrote of Ancient Maritime History, Dies at 94





Lionel Casson, who melded his mastery of classical literature with the findings of underwater archaeology in scholarly but accessible books about the history of ancient seafaring, from the primitive dory to the vast armadas of the Roman Empire, died July 18 in Manhattan. He was 94.

The cause was pneumonia, his daughter Andrea Casson said.

Drawing from an array of sources — the writings of the historian Thucydides and the speeches of Demosthenes; cargo manifests kept by unknown captains; images of ships on sculptures; the dating and typing of timbers taken from sunken vessels — Dr. Casson’s gracefully written books traced the trade routes that bound the ancient world and described the early evolution of shipbuilding and naval warfare.

A particularly useful source for Dr. Casson were amphorae, the earthenware freight containers of antiquity that carried products like honey, olive oil, wine, frankincense and myrrh from port to port. Markings preserved on many amphorae identified not only the point of embarkation but the year and the month.


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