First Person Perspective in Ancient Sea Travel
by Peter Kirby (September 21, 2003)

In an article printed in Perspectives on Luke-Acts (see the brief bibliography at the end), Vernon K. Robbins states: "Sea voyage narratives in Greek and Roman literature, however, become a distinct genre. One of the features of this genre is the presence of first person plural narration. . . . The author has employed first person plural narration for the sea voyages, because it was conventional generic style within Hellenistic literature." (pp. 216-217)

This essay will survey the texts mentioned by Robbins in "By Land and By Sea: The We-Passages and Ancient Sea Voyages" and then consider the extent to which they establish precedent for a literary device of narrating sea voyages in the first person plural such as is found in the Acts of the Apostles (16:10-17, 20:5-15, 21:1-18, and 27:1-28:16). In the Acts of the Apostles, the first person is used in the prefaces and in three or four relatively brief sections, where there is no explanation given (such as speaking through a character) for the shift from third person to first person, such that many have supposed that the author of Acts is claiming to be present on the scene (but which Robbins interprets as generic style for the subject of sea travel).

Robbins introduces the first texts in his essay with these words: "There is a natural propensity for portraying sea voyages through the medium of first person narration. This style for narrating voyages extends as far back as the most ancient Mediterranean literature known to us. Two Egyptian tales, The story of Sinuhe (1800 B.C.) and The Journey of Wen-Amon to Phoenicia (11 cent. B.C.), recount sea voyages through first person singular narration. Also Utnapishtim, in the Akkadian Epic of Gilgamesh, recounts his voyage upon the waters in first person singular. In the Egyptian and Mesopotamian accounts the narrator uses first person singular 'I,' even when others are present with him on the voyage. Homer's Odyssey, in contrast, contains the earliest example among Mediterranean literature of a sea voyage that employs first person plural narration." (p. 217)

I will number the texts that are discussed as I go along.

1. The story of Sinuhe



This servant arrived south,
I touched on the ways of Horus,
And the commander there who was organising patrols
Sent a message to the Residence to inform them
Then his Majesty sent the good overseer of foragers of the King's House
Followed by ships laden with the gifts of before the king
For the Syrians who came along with me to bring me to the ways of Horus
I pronounced each of them by his name
All the cupbearers were busy at their tasks
I received and the captain loaded for me,
And there was kneading and straining beside me until I reached the landing of Itj(tawy)

Note that the first person is used throughout the document.

2. The Journey of Wen-Amon to Phoenicia

Source: Goedicke, Hans. The Report of Wenamun, John Hopkins University Press: Baltimore, 1975.

V. K. Robbins writes: "Two Egyptian tales, The Story of Sinuhe (1800 B.C.) and The Journey of Wen-Amon to Phoenicia (11 cent. B.C.), recount sea voyages through first person singular narration." (p. 217)

The beginning of the text reads:


[1] "Year 5, fourth month of the Third Season, day 16: The day on which the Elder of the Portal Wenamun of the Temple of Amun, [2] [Lord of the Thrones] of the Two Lands, departed in order to obtain the lumber contract for the great and august [river] bark of Amun-Re, King of gods, [3] [whose name is] 'Amun, strong of leadership.' The day I arrived at Tanis [4] [at the place where Smen]des and Tanetamun were, I gave to them the dispatches of Amun-Re, King of gods, and they [5] had them read before them. They said 'Yes!!' to the saying of Amun-Re, King of gods, [6] our [Lord]. I began the fourth month, while I was in the Residence of Tanis, when Smendes and [7] Tanetamun dispatched me with the ship's master Mengebet, and I embarked for [8] the Great Syrian Sea. Within the month I reached Dor, a harbor of [9] Zeker. Beder, its chief, brought to me 50 loaves (of bread), 1 flagon of wine, [10] 1 haunch of beef. One man of my ship ran away stealing [11] . . . vessels of gold worth 5 deben, 4 jars of silver worth 20 deben, bagged silver 11 deben. [12] [Total of what he stole]: 5 deben gold, 31 deben silver. When I got up that morning, I went [13] to the place where the chief was. I said to him: 'I was robbed in your harbor and since you are the chief of this land and since [14] you are its (investigating) judge--retrieve my money! Indeed, as for the money, it belongs to Amun-Re, [15] King of gods, the Lord of those of the Two Lands; it belongs to Smendes, it belongs to Herihor, my lord, and to other [16] Great ones of Egypt. Yours it is. It is for W-r-t (?), it is for M-k-m-r. It is [17] for Zeker-bacl, the ruler of Byblos!' He said to me: 'To your importance! To your excellence! But look! I do not [18] understand that statement you said to me! If the thief belongs to my country, who boarded [19] your ship and stole your money--then I will replace it to you from my storeroom until one [20] has found your thief with his name. Alas--as for the thief who robbed you--yours is he, (as) he belongs [21] to your ship! Spend some days here and visit me! I will search for him!' I spent 9 days, while being moored [22] <in> his harbor. And then I went and visited him. And I said to him, 'Lo, you have not found my money! [23] [O, that I could contend] with the ship captains and with the seafarers!' But he said to me: 'Calm down! [If you wish to f]ind yo[ur money, hea]rken to my [words! Do what I tell] you and do not [25] "[do . . . When you are] where you want to be, then take possession of their bundles and take possession of [their contents] [26] . . . and they will set out and search for their thief, who [stole your money]. [27] [And after you leave] the harbor, lo, you should [sail into open water and avoid] [28] Tyre!' And I went clear of Tyre by taking the light [of the stars as the only guidance until reaching [29] the realm of] Zeker-bacl, the ruler of Byblos. [And after we had moored, I searched] [30] the ship, and I found 30 deben of silver in it. I took possession of it. [When I had disembarked from the boat, I said to its owners: 'Lo, as for] [31] your silver, it will remain with me until you have found [my silver and also the thief], [32] who stole it. Although you have not stolen, I shall confiscate it, except you [yourself compensate] me concerning [the money!'] [33] And when they had finally gone, I got myself shelter in a tavern at the shore of the harbor [of the Sea] of Byblos and [I set up a shrine [34] for] Amun-of-the-road and placed his things inside it."

Note that the first person is used throughout the document.

3. Epic of Gilgamesh


Note that the first person is not used just for the time in the boat.

4. The Shipwrecked Sailor


There is an Egyptian account in which the narrator uses the first personal plural, in The Shipwrecked Sailor (Papyrus Leningrad 1115) that can be found online.


The wise servant said, "Let thy heart be satisfied, O my lord, for that we have come back to the country; after we have been long on board, and rowed much, the prow has at last touched land. All the people rejoice and embrace us one after another. Moreover, we have come back in good health, and not a man is lacking; although we have been to the ends of Wawat [Nubia], and gone through the land of Senmut [Kush], we have returned in peace, and our land---behold, we have come back to it. Hear me, my lord; I have no other refuge. Wash thee, and turn the water over thy fingers; then go and tell the tale to the majesty."

"But as we approached the land, the wind arose, and threw up waves eight cubits high."

"A storm came upon us while we were on the sea. Hardly could we reach to the shore when the wind waxed yet greater, and the waves rose even eight cubits."

"When we shall come, in our return, to the house of Pharaoh, in the second month, according to all that the serpent has said, we shall approach unto the palace."

The rest of the document is in the first person singular. The passages in which "we" is used concern the trip undertaken by all on a ship, particularly when the storm at sea is recounted.

5. The Odyssey


V. K. Robbins writes of the Odyssey: "However, first person plural narration becomes a formulaic means for launching the ship, sailing for a number of days, and beaching the ship at the end of a voyage." (p. 217)

Barrett writes: "Thus Dr Robbins quotes Odyssey 9.39-41: 'From Ilios the wind bore me and brought me to the Cicones, to Ismarus. There I sacked the city and slew the men.' A little later, however, we read (9.62-3): 'From there we sailed on, grieved at heart, glad to have escaped death, though we had lost our dear comrades.' I do not draw, with Dr Robbins, the conclusion that 'first person plural narration becomes a formulaic means for launching the ship, sailing for a number of days, and beaching the ship at the end of the voyage' (p. 3; p. 217). It is simply that in any vehicle larger than a bicycle there may well be a number of passengers who become, for a time, a community. 'I left Durham on the 14.55, and we reached London on time.' So we did." (p. 53)

The narration of the Odyssey takes the form of a tale told by Odysseus and thus naturally uses the first person to relate events at which Odysseus was present.

6. The Aeneid


V. K. Robbins writes: "The same technique is used by Vergil (70-19 B.C.) in books 2-3 of the Aeneid. Since the structure of the Aeneid imitates the Odyssey, Vergil's use of first person narration results directly from Homeric influence." (p. 218)

Colin Hemer writes: "The Odyssey and the Aeneid certainly use a technique of flashback first-person narration, but this is part of the larger structure of the poems, and not confined to the limits of a voyage motif." (p. 84)

Joseph A. Fitzmyer writes: "Similarly, examples drawn from Homer's Odyssey prove little, since they are not examples of the first person plural introduced into a narrative when a sea voyage is involved. Rather, Odysseus is engaged in telling a story to King Alcinous and the Phaeacians at a banquet about his personal experiences, which happen to include a sea voyage. In modern usage it would all be set in quotation marks, and this is quite different ffrom use of 'we' in Acts. Robbins makes much of the Homeric shift from the first singular to the first plural, 'a formulaic means for launching the ship, sailing for a number of days, and beaching the ship at the end of a voyage.' But he does not tell us that the first plural is also used in the account of the capture of wives and the looting of the city of Cicones (Od. 9.41), or about how the evil doom of Zeus 'attended us ill-fated men' (Od. 9.52-53). There is, moreover, a constant shift back and forth between the first singular and the first plural even in the story being recounted in direct discourse about Odysseus' sea voyage. Robbins has simply concentrated on the first plural and has not sufficiently attended to the use of the first singular. The same has to be said about the passage cited by him from Virgil's Aeneid 3.1-9. It is part of the story being recounted by Aeneas at Dido's banquet, and his story moves back and forth from the first singular to the first plural; and the latter is not restricted to sea voyage accounts." (p. 20)

7. Alcaeus 6

Source: Robbins, ibid. and Edmonds, J. M. Lyra Graeca, Harvard University Press: Cambridge, 1928.

Alcaeus 6 is quoted (p. 219):


This wave again comes [like?] the one before:
it will give us much labour to bale out,
when it enters the vessel's [...]
[...] let us fortify the [...] with all speed,
and run into a secure harbour.

And let not unmanly hesitance take hold of any one [of us]:
a great [...] is clear before us.
Remember our [toils] of yesterday:
now let each prove himself a steadfast man.

And let us not disgrace [by cowardice]
our noble fathers lying under the earth . . . .

8. Alcaeus 326

Robbins writes: "Alcaeus 326 alternates between first person singular and plural as the poet captures the anxiety that attends the injury inflicted on a ship in a storm:" (p. 219)


I cannot tell where the wind lies;
one wave rolls from this side,
one form that, and we in their midst
are borne along with our black vessel

Toiling in a tempest passing great.
The bilge is up over the masthold,
all the sail lets the daylight through already,
and there are great rents along it,

And the wooldings are slackening,
the rudders . . . both feet stay [entangled]
in the sheets: that alone it is that [saves] me;
the cargo . . . is carried away above . . . .

The first person is used throughout in these short poems.

9. Theognis

Source: David A. Campbell, Greek Lyric Poetry, not checked.

Robbins: "Theognis (fl. 544-541 B.C.) continues this imagery and style of narration in the section of his lyric poetry that treats the city-state metaphorically as a ship on a turbulent sea:" (p. 219)


Now we are borne along with white sails, casting about on the open sea near Melos through the dark night; The crew does not want to bale; and the sea casts over us on both sides of the ship . . . (671-674).

10. A footnote refers to Nemea 4.36-8 of Pindar.



The laws of song and the hurrying hours prevent me from telling a long story, [35] and I am drawn, by a magic charm on my heart, to touch on the new-moon festival. Nevertheless, although the deep salt sea holds you around the middle, strain against treacherous plots. We will be seen arriving in the light far above our enemies. But another man, with an envious glance, [40] broods in the darkness over an empty thought that falls to the ground. As for me, I know that whatever excellence ruling destiny gave me, time will creep forward and bring it to its appointed perfection.

Source: Bowra, C. M. The Odes of Pindar, Penguin Books: Baltimore, 1969.


I am kept from telling the whole long tale
By the rules of song and the hurrying hours;
[35] But magic pulls at my heart
To touch on the new moon's feast.
Nevertheless, though the deep salt sea
Holds you by the waist, strain against its strategems.
When we come to the struggle in the light of day
We shall be seen far to outdo our enemies;
While another with envious eyes
[40] Rocks in the dark his unballasted thought
And runs it aground. Whatever prowess
King Fate has given to me,
I know well that oncoming time
Will acomplish what has to be.

V. K. Robbins writes: "Pindar (518-438 B.C.) used sea voyage imagery metaphorically to describe the process of writing an ode; see Gogo Lieberg, 'Seefahrt und Werk,' GIF, XXI (1969), 209-13. Nemea 4.36-8 is especially interesting for its use of first person plural; for analysis of this passage, see Jacques Peron, Les images maritimes de Pindare, pp. 90-100." (p. 219)

This passage uses second person singular in referring to sea imagery and uses first person plural for describing the struggle to outdo enemies in battle.

11. Seven Against Thebes


Quoted by Robbins from Studies on the Seven Against Thebes of Aeschylus (p. 63):


Both in fair weather and in the many blows of the surging
sea the city has not shipped water.
The bastion is water-tight
and we have bulwarked her ports with champions
who in single-handed fight have redeemed their pledge

Robbins writes: "The attack on the city is like a storm that threatens to destroy a ship at sea. With disciplined effort and gradual abatement of the storm, the ship is successfully kept afloat." (p. 220)

Here is the fuller passage (Plumptre, pp. 76-77).


Enter Messenger.
Mess. Be of good cheer, ye maidens, mother-reared;
Our city has escapted the yoke of bondage,
The boasts of mighty men are fallen low,
And this our city in calm waters floats,
And, though by waves lashed, springs not any leak.
Our fortress still holds out, and we did guard
The gates with champions who redeemed their pledge.
In the six gateways almost all goes well;
But the seventh gate did King Apollo choose,
Seventh mighty chief, avenging Laios' want
Of counsel on the sons of Oedipus.
Chor. What new disaster happpens to our city?

The first person plural is not limited to the floating city metaphor.

12. The Libation-Bearers

Source: Plumptre, E. H. The Tragedies of Aeschylos, Routledge: New York, 1897.

Robbins quotes "sea voyage imagery in a speech by Electra in The Libation-Bearers" of Aeschylus (p. 220):


But the gods whom we invoke, know
by what storms we are tossed like sailors.
Yet, if it is our fate to win safety,
from a little seed may spring a mighty stock (201-203).

Robbins writes: "The difficult situation faced by Electra and her companions calls forth the danger of sailing on the sea. Mortals have little choice but to turn their petitions to heaven and hope for a successful outcome. First person plural narration attends this imagery in epic, lyric, and tragic poetry. During later centuries, this literature is copied, quoted, and read, and its influence is found in widespread sectors of the Hellenistic and Roman civilization." (p. 220)

According to Plumptre, these lines belong to the chorus (pp. 259-260):


Well, on the Gods we call, on those who know
In what storms we, like sailors, now are tossed;
But if deliverance may indeed be ours,
From a small seed a mighty trunk may grow.

This is a shift from first person singular to first person plural, if attributed to Electra. It is no shift of person at all if attributed to the chorus.

13. The Menippean Satires of Varro.

Robbins writes: "In his Menippean Satires, Varro (116-27 B.C.) provides evidence that first person style persists in voyage imagery during the first century B.C. Fragments 276 and 473, preserved by Nonius Marcellus (early 4th cent. A.D.), read respectively:"

276: Here at the crossroads we boarded a swampboat,
which the barge boys pulled along through the
sedge with a rope.

473: Wherever we wanted to go, the wind blew against us.

Joseph A. Fitzmyer writes: "But how much can one really draw from Varro's Menippean Satires (nos. 276, 473), when they are only one- or two-line epigrams? Those quoted deal, indeed, with boating, but there are other epigrams using the first plural that deal with dining (nos. 102, 103)." (p. 21)

14. Fragment 418 from book 2 of a two-book satire Periplous known to Varro according to Nonius.

Robbins quotes Buecheler, Petronii Sarturae, p. 208: ". . . lest we wander, that there were many bypaths, and that the way was quite safe but slow going."

I don't have an English translation, other than what is provided by Robbins.

15. Dio Chrysostom 7.2.

Source: Cohoon, J. W. Dio Chrysostom, Harvard University Press: Cambridge, 1932.

V. K. Robbins writes: "By the first century A.D., sea voyages, interrupted by storms, were an established part of Mediterranean literature outside of epic. And first person narration of voyages appears to be not only fashionable but preferred. Dio Chrysostom (A.D. 40-after 112), from whom portions of 78 discourses are extant, most frequently recounts tales in third person narration. But in the seventh discourse, when a sea voyage, which ends in a shipwreck and a journey, is accounted, he uses first person narration ... Dio's use of first person narration for this tale of voyage and adventure suggests that he was responding to the genre itself. The style had established itself within the cultural milieu, and writers found it natural to respond to this convention." (p. 221)

Here is the passage (Cohoon, pp. 287-293):


I shall now relate a personal experience of mine; not merely something I have heard from others. Perhaps, indeed, it is quite natural for an old man to be garrulous and reluctant to drop any subject that occurs to him, and possibly this is just as true of the wanderer as of the old man. The reason, I dare say, is that both have had many experiences that they find considerable pleasure in recalling. Anyhow I shall describe the character and manner of life of some people that I met in practically the centre of Greece.

It chanced that at the close of the summer season I was crossing from Chios with some fishermen in a very small boat, when such a storm arose that we had great difficulty in reaching the Hollows of Euboea in safety. The crew ran their boat up a rough beach under the cliffs, where it was wrecked, and then went off to a company of purple-fishers whose vessel was anchored in the shelter of the spur of rocks near by, and they planned to stay there and work along with them. So I was left alone, and not knowing of any town in which to seek shelter, I wandered aimlessly along the shore on the chance that I might find some boat sailing by or riding at anchor. I had gone on a considerable distance without seeing anybody when I chanced upon a deer that had just fallen over the cliff and lay in the wash of the breakers, lapped by the waves and still breathing. And soon I thought I heard the barking of dogs above, but not clearly, owing to the roar of the sea. On going forward and gaining an elevated position with great difficulty, I saw the dogs baffled, running to and fro, and inferred that their quarry, being hard pressed by them, had jumped over the cliff. Then, soon after, I saw a man, a hunter, to judge by his appearance and dress; he wore a beard on his healthy face, and not simply hair at the back of his head in mean and base fashion, as Homer says the Euboeans did when they went against Troy, mocking and ridiculing them, it seems to me, because, while the other Greeks there made a good appearance, they had hair on only half the head.

Now this man hailed me, saying, "Stranger, have you seen a deer running anywhere hereabouts?" And I replied, "Yonder it is this minute, in the surf," and I took him and showed it to him. So he dragged it out of the sea, ripped off the skin with his knife while I lent a helping hand as best I could. Then, after cutting off the hind quarters, he was about to carry them away along with the hide, when he invited me to come along and dine upon the venison with him, adding that his dwelling was not far away. "And then in the morning," he continued, "after you have rested with us, you shall come back to the sea, since the present is no weather for sailing. Yet do not worry about that," he continued, "I should be content to have the wind die down when the peaks of the Euboean mountains are so capped with clouds as you see them now." And at the same time he asked me whence I came, how I had landed there, and whether the boat had not been wrecked. "It was a very small one," I replied, "belonging to some fishermen who were crossing over, and I, their only passenger, sailed with them on urgent business, but all the same it ran aground and was wrecked." "Well, it could not easily have been otherwise," he replied; "for see, how wild and rugged the part of the island is that faces the sea. These are what they call the Hollows of Euboea, where a ship is doomed if it is driven ashore, and rarely are any of those aboard saved, unless, of course, like you they sail in a very light craft. But come and have no fear. To-day you shall rest after your trying experience, but to-morrow we shall do our best to get you out safely, now that we have come to know you. You look to me like a man from the city, not a sailor or worker on the land, nay, you seem to be suffering from some grievous infirmity of body, to judge by your leanness."

I followed him gladly without fear of any treachery, since I had nothing but a shabby cloak. Now I had often found in other situations like this--for I was continually roaming about--and I certainly did in this one, that poverty is in reality a sacred and inviolable thing and no one wrongs you; yes, much less than they wrong those who carry the herald's wand. And so I followed without misgiving on this occasion. And it was about five miles to his place.

As we proceeded on our way he told me of his circumstances and how he lived with his wife and children. "There are two of us, stranger," he said, "who live in the same place. Each is married to a sister of the other, and we have children by them, sons and daughters. We live by the chase for the most part and work but a small bit of land. You see, the place does not belong to us: we did not inherit it or get it by our own efforts. ..."

Rather than responding to a genre, Dio Chrysostom seems to be using pronouns in the expected way: first person narration because Dio Chrysostom is relating "a personal experience of mine" and first person plural where companions are with him, whether on sea or on land.

Colin Hemer writes: "In the former passage the writer sails with some fishermen, and 'we' reverts to 'I' when his companions leave him: in the latter the plural continues while he travels by land with a companion." (p. 85)

Joseph A. Fitzmyer writes: "Similarly, one may query the relevance of the example cited from the seventh discourse of Dio Chrysostom. According to Robbins, there is recounted 'a sea voyage, which ends in a shipwreck and a journey . . . ,' in which 'first person narration' is used. But the whole discourse begins, 'I shall now relate a personal experience of mine, not merely something I have heard from others' (7.1). The author then recounts a trip in a small boat, a storm encountered, and the beaching of the boat--all in either the first singular or the third plural. Then, in the passage cited by Robbins (7.10) the author says, 'As we proceeded on our way. . . .' The narration has nothing to do with a sea voyage; it is an overland journey, recounted in the first plural. Is any of this relevant to the narrative style of Acts in which the We-Sections occur?" (p. 21)

16. Petronius, chapter 114.


Source: Firebraugh, W. C. The Satyricon of Petronius Arbiter, Liveright: New York, 1943.

V. K. Robbins writes: "Within sea voyage accounts, the shipwreck became an increasingly attractive feature. Petronius (1st cent. A.D.) exhibits this interest in shipwreck accounts and also shows the natural propensity for first person narration in them. It only seemed proper to recount the dangerous episode with first person plural." (p. 221)

Firebraugh translates the passage as follows (pp. 199-200):


We were still discussing this and other matters when the sea grew rough, and clouds, gathering from every quarter, obscured with darkness the light of day. The panic-stricken sailors ran to their stations and took in sail before the squall was upon them, but the gale did not drive the waves in any one direction and the helmsman lost his bearings and did not know what course to steer. At one moment the wind would set towards Sicily, but the next, the North Wind, prevailing on the Italian coast, would drive the unlucky vessel hither and yon; and, what was more dangerous than all the rain-squalls, a pall of such black density blotted out the light that the helmsman could not even see as far forward as the bow.

Susan Marie Praeder writes: "In Clit. Leuc. 2.31.6 and Sat. 114 there are no shifts to first person narration; these sea voyages are parts of first person novels." (p. 213)

The whole work is set in the first person, and the first person plural is not limited to the sea voyages. Indeed, the first person plural here is used in reference to the previous discussion before the storm, and the third person referring to the "panic-stricken sailors" (which Robbins omits in an ellipsis) is found in the middle of the story of the storm. The first person singular is used shortly after the quotation above, when Lycas implores "me," Encolpius.

17. Josephus, Life 3.14-16.


V. K. Robbins writes: "Even the Jewish historian Josephus mentions a sea voyage and a shipwreck in his biography. And little surprise it is that he shifts from first person singular to first person plural as he recounts it."

Colin Hemer writes: "In ostensibly autobiographical literature, whether fact (Jos. Vita 3.15) or fantastic fiction (Lucian VH 1.5-6), the whole is structured on a first person narrative, which becomes plural not only at the outset of a voyage but wherever the writer is identified with a group." (pp. 84-85)

Stanley Porter writes: "Robbins's only other example comes from Josephus's Life 3.14-16, but this example hardly proves his case, since it contains an expected and legitimate alternation between first-person singular and plural within the context of an acknowledged historical account: 'I reached Rome ... for our ship foundered ...'" (p. 23)

18. Ovid, Tristia 1.2.31-34.


Source: Riley, Henry T. The fasti, Tristia, Pontic epistles, Ibis, and Halieuticon of Ovid, G. Bell: New York, 1899.

V. K. Robbins writes: "By the first century A.D. the sea voyage, threatened by shipwreck, had established itself as a distinct genre. An essential feature of this genre was first person narration. The status of the genre provided the possibility for authors to employ the situation of a sea voyage to interpret many situations in life. Thus Ovid, in Tristia 1.2.31-34 (composed A.D. 8-9), compares his life in exile to a sea voyage threatened by shipwreck. ... Being in exile is like being thrown on a ship that starts on a voyage. One is dependent upon the crew for the outcome, but even the crew cannot predict the fortune of the journey. Together they face the peril of the sea, and when the wind becomes a storm and the waves begin to threaten, every occupant of the ship faces the same jeopardy. Together they experience the confusion, the fear, and the hope that all is not lost." (pp. 221-222)

The whole poem reads as follows (Riley, pp. 252-256):



The poet, setting out on his exile by the order of Augustus, is overtaken by a storm at sea: he prays the Gods to show him mercy, and not to combine with Caesar in his destruction. He cites many reasons for the extension of their beneficence to him. He then describes the tempest, and prays the Deities for his safe arrival at Tomi.

Gods of the sea and skies (for what resource have I but prayers?) abstain from rending asunder the joints of our shattered bark; and second not, I pray, the wrath of the mighty Caesar. Ofttimes, as one God harasses us, does another Deity bring us assistance. Mulciber was arrayed against Troy; Apollo was for Troy; Venus was friendly to the Trojans; Pallas hostile. The daughter of Saturn, more favourable to Turnus, hated Aeneas; yet was he safe under the tutelage of Venus. Ofttimes did the fierce Neptune attack Ulysses; as oft did Minerva rescue him from her uncle. And what forbids, far inferior though I be to these, that a Deity should aid me, when a Deity is enraged? Wretched man that I am; in vain I waste my unavailing words: the heavy billows dash against my very lips as I speak. The raging South wind, too, sweeps away my words, and does not allow my prayers to reach the Gods to whom they are addressed. The same winds, for the reason that I may not be afflicted on one point only, bear away the sails and my prayers, whither I know not.

Ah, wretched me! What mountains of water are heaped aloft! You would think that this very instant they would reach the highest stars. What abysses yawn as the sea recedes! You would suppose that this very instant they would extend to black Tartarus. On whichever side you look, there is nothing but sea and sky; the one swelling with billows, the other lowering with clouds. Between the two, the winds rage in fearful hurricane. The waves of the ocean know not which master to obey. For at one moment, Eurus gathers strength from the glowing East, at another instant comes Zephyrus, sent from the evening West. At one time, the icy Boreas comes raging from the dry North; at another, the South wind wages battle with adverse front. The steersman is at fault: and he knows not what to avoid, or what course to take. Skill itself is at a loss amid these multiplied evils.

In truth, we are on the verge of destruction, and there is no hope of safety, but a fallacious one; as I speak, the sea dashes o'er my face. The waves will overwhelm this breath of mine, and in my throat, as it utters vain entreaties, shall I receive the waters that are to bring my doom.

But meantime, my affectionate wife is bewailing nothing else but that I am an exile: this one portion alone of my misery does she know and lament. She is not aware how my body is tossed on the boundless ocean; she knows not that I am driven to and fro by the winds; she knows not that death is impending o'er me. 'Tis well, ye Gods, that I suffered her not to embark with me: so that death might not have to be twice endured by wretched me! But now, although I perish, since she is safe from danger, doubtless I shall still survive in her, one half of myself.

Ah, wretched me! how the clouds glisten with the instantaneous flash. How dreadful the peal that re-echoes from the sky of heaven. The timbers of our sides are struck by the waves, with blows no lighter than when the tremendous charge of the balista beats against the walls. The wave that now is coming on, o'ertops all the others; 'tis the one that comes after the ninth and before the eleventh.

I fear not death; 'tis the dreadful kind of death; take away the shipwreck; then death will be a gain to me. 'Tis something for one, either dying a natural death, or by the sword, to lay his breathless corpse in the firm ground, and to impart his wishes to his kindred, and to hope for a sepulchre, and not to be food for the fishes of the sea.

Suppose that I am worthy of such a death as this; I am not the only person that is carried here. Why does my punishment involve the innocent?

Oh, ye Gods above, and ye azure Deities, in whose tutelage is the ocean! Do you, each of your number, desist from your threatenings. Suffer, that, in my wretchedness, I may take to the appointed destination that life which the most lenient wrath of Caesar has granted me. If you wish me to endure a punishment which I have merited, still, in my own thinking, my fault is not deserving of death. If Caesar had wished now to send me to the Stygian waves, in that, he had not needed your aid. He has a power over my life, amenable to the envy of none; and that which he has given, when he shall please, he will take away. Only do you, ye Gods, whom I assuredly think that I have injured by no misdeeds, be content with my present misfortunes.

And yet, even if you all wished to preserve unhappy me, it is not possible that one who is utterly undone can be in safety. Although the sea be calmed, and I avail myself of favouring winds; although you should spare me: shall I, any the less, be an exile? I am not ploughing the wide ocean for the exchange of my merchandize, greedy of acquiring wealth without limit. I seek not Athens, which once, when studious, I sought: I seek not the cities of Asia, nor spots which once I visited. Nor yet do I wish, that carried to the famed city of Alexander, I should behold thy luxuries, thou revelling Nilus. The object, for which I desire favouring winds (who could credit it?) is the Sarmatian land, to which my prayers now tend. I am bound to reach the barbarous shores of Pontus, situate on the left hand; and what I lament is, that my flight from my country is so tardy. In my prayers do I make my travel of short duration, that I may see the people of Tomi situate in some obscure corner of the globe. If so it is, that you favour me, restrain the waves thus overwhelming, and let your powers be propitious to my bark: if rather you hate me, bring me to the appointed land. A part of my punishment is in the situation of the spot. What do I here? Speed on my canvass, ye raging winds. Why do my sails e'en look on the Italian shores? Caesar willed this not to be: why do ye detain him, whom Caesar drives afar? Let the Pontic land behold my face. He both orders this, and I am deserving of it; and I deem it neither just nor righteous for those accusations to be defended, on which he has condemned me. But if the deeds of mortals never escape the Gods, you are aware that wilful crime is no part of my fault. So it was: and ye know it. If my ignorance has carried me away, and if my mind was foolish, but not imbued with crime; if though but one of the least, I have been devoted to that house; if the public edicts of Augustus have been sufficient for me for my own guidance: if, in this Prince, I have pronounced the age to be blessed: and if, in my reverence, have offered frankincense for Caesar and the Caesars: if such have been my feelings: then pardon me, ye Gods; but if not, then let the wave, falling from on high, overwhelm my head.

Am I deceived? Or are the clouds, pregnant with storms, beginning to disappear, and does the wrath of the sea now change in aspect, diminish? This is no chance; but when invoked on these terms, you, whom it is not possible to deceive, bring me this assistance.

Colin Hemer writes: "The example from Ovid's personal lament in exile (Trist. 1.2.31-34) depends on one first plural verb form, but ignores the commonplace of Latin verse by which 'we' stands freely for 'I' metri gratia. A glance at the poem shows the use of the first plural in lines 16, 38, 67 and 70, all in non-maritime contexts, whereas the nautical imagery of 75-84 happens to contain only the singular, and 17-18 mixes the numbers, but the meaning in every case is 'I'." (p. 85)

19. Lucian, A True Story 1.5-6.

Source: Fowler, H. W. and F. G. Fowler. The Works of Lucian of Samosata, vol. 2, Clarendon Press: Oxford, 1905.

V. K. Robbins writes: "In the second century A.D., Lucian (A.D. 125-180) wrote a sea voyage parody entitled A True Story. If Ovid's use of a sea voyage to interpret his exile leaves any doubt with regard to the status of this genre, Lucian's parody gives even firmer evidence. In his work Lucian recounts a fantastic voyage with tongue in cheek. His parody reveals the essential features of the sea voyage genre. He narrates the voyage as Odysseus, Aeneas, Dio Chrysostom and Josephus narrate theirs. He begins in first person singular and shifts to first person plural at the embarkation. ... Even though Lucian made light of sea voyage accounts by presenting one of the most fantastic voyages imaginable, the sea voyage genre had a firm place within the literature of the culture." (p. 222)

Robbins quotes from the beginning just after the preface, which reads as follows in the Fowler translation (pp. 137-139):


Starting on a certain date from the Pillars of Heracles, I sailed with a fair wind into the Atlantic. The motives of my voyage were a certain intellectual restlessness, a passion for novelty, a curiosity about the limits of the ocean and the peoples who might dwell beyond it. This being my design, I provisioned and watered my ship on a generous scale. My crew amounted to fifty, all men whose interests, as well as their years, corresponded with my own. I had further provided a good supply of arms, secured the best navigator to be had for money, and had the ship—-a sloop-—specially strengthened for a long and arduous voyage.

For a day and a night we were carried quietly along by the breeze, with land still in sight. But with the next day's dawn the wind rose to a gale, with a heavy sea and a dark sky; we found ourselves unable to take in sail. We surrendered ourselves to the elements, let her run, and were storm-driven for more than eleven weeks. On the eightieth day the sun came out quite suddenly, and we found ourselves close to a lofty wooded island, round which the waves were murmuring gently, the sea having almost fallen by this time. We brought her to land, disembarked, and after our long tossing lay a considerable time idle on shore; we at last made a start, however, and leaving thirty of our number to guard the ship I took the other twenty on a tour of inspection.

We had advanced half a mile inland through woods, when we came upon a brazen pillar, inscribed in Greek characters-—which however were worn and dim-—'Heracles and Dionysus reached this point.' Not far off were two footprints on rock; one might have been an acre in area, the other being smaller; and I conjecture that the latter was Dionysus's, and the other Heracles's; we did obeisance, and proceeded. Before we had gone far, we found ourselves on a river which ran wine; it was very like Chian; the stream full and copious, even navigable in parts. This evidence of Dionysus's sojourn was enough to convince us that the inscription on the pillar was authentic. Resolving to find the source, I followed the river up, and discovered, instead of a fountain, a number of huge vines covered with grapes; from the root of each there issued a trickle of perfectly clear wine, the joining of which made the river. It was well stocked with great fish, resembling wine both in colour and taste; catching and eating some, we at once found ourselves intoxicated; and indeed when opened the fish were full of wine-lees; presently it occurred to us to mix them with ordinary water fish, thus diluting, the strength of our spirituous food.

We now crossed the river by a ford, and came to some vines of a most extraordinary kind. Out of the ground came a thick well-grown stem; but the upper part was a woman, complete from the loins upward. They were like our painters' representations of Daphne in the act of turning into a tree just as Apollo overtakes her. From the finger-tips sprang vine twigs, all loaded with grapes; the hair of their heads was tendrils, leaves, and grape-clusters. They greeted us and welcomed our approach, talking Lydian, Indian, and Greek, most of them the last. They went so far as to kiss us on the mouth; and whoever was kissed staggered like a drunken man. But they would not permit us to pluck their fruit, meeting the attempt with cries of pain. Some of them made further amorous advances; and two of my comrades who yielded to these solicitations found it impossible to extricate themselves again from their embraces; the man became one plant with the vine, striking root beside it; his fingers turned to vine twigs, the tendrils were all round him, and embryo grape-clusters were already visible on him.

We left them there and hurried back to the ship, where we told our tale, including our friends' experiment in viticulture. Then after taking some casks ashore and filling them with wine and water we bivouacked near the beach, and next morning set sail before a gentle breeze. But about midday, when we were out of sight of the island, a waterspout suddenly came upon us, which swept the ship round and up to a height of some three hundred and fifty miles above the earth. She did not fall back into the sea, but was suspended aloft, and at the same time carried along by a wind which struck and filled the sails.

The whole story is in the first person, and the first person plural is used so as to include the narrator's companions, whether travelling on land, on sea, or on air.

20. Achilles Tatius, Adventures of Leucippe and Clitophon, 2.31.6, 3.1.1, 4.9.6.

V. K. Robbins writes: "Achilles Tatius (A.D. second century) includes a sea voyage in the Adventures of Leucippe and Clitophon, and the appeal of the account is strengthened by first person narration." (p. 222)

Colin Hemer writes: "The same is true [that the first person narration is not limited to a voyage motif] of a more specific sample from a very different genre, the Hellenistic romance, where Achilles Tatius' hero Clitophon tells his story as a first person narration within a first person framework. In 2.31.6 and 3.1.1 'we' denotes Clitophon and Leucippe and their companions, and continues the pronoun used of the same party travelling by land in 2.31.4-5, which is not cited by Robbins. 4.9.6 is in direct speech, part of a lament in which Clitophon apostrophises his supposedly dead love and recalls their shared experiences." (p. 84)

21. Heliodorus, Ethiopian Story, 5.17.

Source: Underdowne, Thomas. An Aethiopian history of Heliodorus, Simpkin: London, 1924 [1587].

V. K. Robbins writes: "This style continues in the third century (A.D. 220-250) in Heliodorus' Ethiopian Story about Theagenes and Chariclea. The author has established third person style of narration up to this point, so he leads the voyage with this style. ... But after only a few lines, Heliodorus turns the narrative over to Calasiris for a personal account of the voyage." (p. 222)

Susan Marie Praeder writes: "The shift to first person narration in Aeth. 5.17 coincides with the return of direct discourse. The first person sea voyage in 5.17 continues the first person report of 5.1-3, and the third person passage in 5.17 summarizes 5.1-3." (p. 213)

22. Periplus of the Erythraean Sea.

Source: Huntingford, G. W. B. The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea, Hakluyt: London, 1980.

V. K. Robbins writes: "A similar manual tradition emerges in the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea (A.D. 50-95). This document is a third person description of the harbors, cities and peoples along the coastline of the Indian Ocean. Even in this account, however, the propensity for first person plural is exhibited. When the author is describing a dangerous section of the coastline, he automatically slips into first person plural style. ... Thus, even in third person manual periploi, first person is likely to intrude." (p. 224)

The passage quoted by Robbins is in chapter 20:


Immediately after this place and contiguous with it is the land of Arabia, for most of its length stretching along the Erythraean Sea. Different tribes inhabit it, differing in speech <from each other>, some partly, others completely. Likewise along the sea occur the enclosures of the Ikthuophagoi; and higher up <inland> are villages and nomadic encampments inhabited by scoundrelly people who speak two languages; and those who stray from the middle course and fall into their hands are either plundered, or, if they survive from shipwrecks, are carried into slavery. For this reason they are continually being made prisoners by the chiefs and kings of Arabia. They are caled Kanraïtai. Thus, on the whole, this voyage along the coast of the Arabian mainland is dangerous, the country being without harbours, with bad anchorages and a foul shore, unapproachable by reason of rocks, and in every way formidable. For this reason, on coming near it we hold to the middle course, and press on all the more as far as the Burnt Island, after which are continuous regions of civilized people with nomadic herds of cattle and camels.

Stanley Porter writes: "The Periplus, like a number of geographical texts, displays an unstudied and unsystematic use of person, the kind of thing to be expected from a non-literary document. For example, in 20 and 57, the Periplus uses first person plural as a substitute for the impersonal third-person singular in describing the course one (or 'we') would sail in a particular circumstance--not an actual voyage but a recommended course." (Paul in Acts, p. 21)

23. Arrian, Periplus of the Euxine Sea.

V. K. Robbins writes: "Arrian, however, is credited with a Periplus of the Euxine Sea. Because the author formulated the account as a letter to Hadrian, he was able to recount the voyage in first person plural." (p. 225)

There is no shift from third person to first person here.

24. Caesar, Gallic Wars 5.11.


V. K. Robbins writes: "While Arrian perpetuated the third person historiographical style as employed by Xenophon, Ceasar (1st cent. B.C.) allowed first person plural comments within a third person narrative style. Most frequently, in the Gallic Wars, first person plural emerges in accounts of battle. But in at least one voyage account the author allows first person plural to intrude. ... In Caesar's account, therefore, an autobiographical feature is allowed within historiography, especially in battles and a voyage. Is it too much to suggest that this becomes a characteristic typology for historiography in the 1st century B.C. and A.D., and that the writer of Luke-Acts construes his narrative in relation to this typology?" (p. 225)

Stanley Porter writes: "He does cite Caesar's Gallic Wars (Bellum Gallicum) 5.11-13 as evidencing a shift from third-person to first-person technique, but this is a in a passage that has nothing to do with a sea voyage; in fact, it is not even in narrative, but recounts meteorological observations, as Barrett has pointed out." (pp. 22-23)

C. K. Barrett writes: "Thus Dr Robbins refers (p. 10; p. 225) to Julius Caesar, and claims that he 'allowed first person plural comments within a third person narrative style . . . in at least one voyage account the author allows first person plural to intrude.' He then cites Gallic War 5.11 and concludes that 'an autobiographical feature is allowed within historiography, especially in battles and a voyage. Is it too much to suggest that this becomes a characteristic typology for historiography in the first century BC and AD, and that the writer of Luke-Acts construes his narrative in relation to this typology?' (ibid.). Examination of the passage cited does nothing to justify this conclusion. In the first place, the passage does not describe a voyage. In the second, though the opening words quoted by Dr Robbins come from 5.11, the 'we' is in 5.13, though this is not indicated. In fact, thirdly, the 'we' does not occur in narrative at all. 5.11 is narrative; Dr Robbins translates, 'When the ships had been beached and the camp thoroughly well entrenched, Caesar left the same forces as before to guard the ships . . .' Narrative: and we note that the beaching of the ships (subductis navibus) is not expressed in the first person plural. 5.13 contains geographical and meteorological observations. Caesar mentions Mona, and says that there are also other islands. It is of these (de quibus insulis), not of Mona only, that some have written that 'at the winter solstice night lasts for thirty days. Of this we found nothing by our inquiries, except that by careful measurements, made by the water clock (ex aqua), we saw that the nights were shorter than on the continent'. Caesar's customary third person of narrative would have been out of place here." (pp. 53-54)

25. The Voyage of Hanno




V. K. Robbins writes: "In Acts the narration shifts from third person to first person plural, and the narrator is not the main actor. A precise parallel exists in the Voyage of Hanno the Carthaginian. This document exists in Greek and was written down between 350-125 B.C. It reflects the convergence of the historiographical tradition and sea voyage tradition as it appears in Acts. Some interpreters suggest it was translated from Punic into Greek under the influence of the historian Polybius; others suggest the influence of Herodotus. This three page account begins with third person narration and shifts into first person narration ... First person plural narration continues to the end of the document, where, on account of the lack of further supplies, they return to Carthage." (pp. 225-226)

Colin Hemer writes: "The two opening sentences are in the third person, and the remainder of the document is in the first person plural. But paragraph 1 is a formal heading, recording briefly the explorer's commissioning. His report begins at paragraph 2, and is all in the 'we'-form, not as a literary device for a fiction, but because he reports on the actual adventures of his party. Paragraph 1 should be printed as a prefatory paragraph, as it is by K. Mueller, not as part of a continuous undifferentiated narrative, as it is by Robbins." (pp. 82-83)

C. K. Barrett writes: "Dr Robbins goes on to cite The Voyage of Hanno the Carthaginian, a document of uncertain date, probably translated into Greek from Punic . . . In fact, the whole document apart from a very short opening paragraph is in the first person. It is represented as Hanno's account, which he set up in the holy place of Kronos. The opening paragraph then proceeds with the official Carthaginian decision: 'The Carthaginians decided that Hanno should sail beyond the Pillars of Hercules and found cities of the Liby-Phoenicians. And he sailed with sixty fifty-oared ships and a multitude of men and women, in number sixty thousand, and food and other supplies.' After this Hanno tells in natural terms the story of what 'we did'. Thus we have first the Carthaginian resolution, then Hanno's narrative." (p. 54)

Stanley Porter writes: "Hanno's voyage, cited by Pervo and relied upon heavily by Robbins as one of his three most important examples, is more straightforward than their presentations of it might lead one to believe. The use of third person at the beginning of the document (εδοξε...πλειν...και επλευσε is reflective of the conventions of the scientific preface that Alexander has studied in detail. In her description, she shows that these prefaces can be isolated from the ensuing text, and that these prefaces have their own style and literary characteristics, often the use of the third-person or first-person singular. This describes Hanno's account quite accurately. The preface (1), which consists of a declaration by the Carthaginians regarding the sailing task of Hanno, is followed by a description of the voyage that the author undertook (2-18), conveyed throughout the rest of the work, as one might expect, in the first person plural (επλευσαμεν. Müller's edition understands the text that way and prints it as such, with a break between the preface and body of the text. This has implications for Robbins's analysis, however. If this were a valid parallel, just as this account in Hanno purports to be the record of an actual voyage by the narrator, are we to take the 'we' passages in Acts as the same kind of record? This is not what Robbins apparently has in mind. And neither are the literary proportions in Hanno's account at all comparable with what we find in Acts, where there are several smaller first person plural sections embedded within an essentially third-person narrative, not a first person plural narrative prefaced by a short third-person programmatic description." (pp. 21-22)

The entire document, apart from the preface, is written in the first person. Rhys Carpenter prints the first two sentences as part of one section (Beyond the Pillars of Heracles, pp. 83-84). W. H. Schoff also prints these two sentences as one item, marked in italic font. Müller also regards it as a preface, and these scholars made this literary identification without knowledge of a thesis such as that of Robbins. Moreover, as seen from the quotes below, scholars are generally agreed on the literary function of the first person, which is found throughout the entire document to the very end, excepting the first two sentences: it reflects the experience of those who made the voyage, as is evident from the way in which the details correspond to the facts of the geography of the west African shores.

M. Cary writes: "On his return to Carthage Hanno posted up a brief account of his adventures in the temple of Moloch, and this record by the explorer's own hand has survived in a Greek translation, which was probably made in the first instance at the instigation of another African explorer, the historian Polybius." (The Ancient Explorers, p. 63)

E. H. Bunbury states of the Periplus Hannoni: "it bears the unquestionable impress of being an authentic record of a real voyage; and even the geographical data will be found, on a careful examination, to be for the most part easily reconciled with existing facts. Their simplicity and clearness, when considered alone, will indeed be found to present a striking contrast to the confusion in which they are involved, in the hands of later geographers." (A History of Ancient Geography, vol. 1, pp. 321-322)

Lionel Casson writes: "It is the one voyage of discovery made by the ancients that we know of first hand, for we have the exact words of a report submitted by the commander, Hanno of Carthage. He had it inscribed in bronze and set up in his home town, and years later an inquisitive Greek made a copy which has come down to us." (Travel in the Ancient World, pp. 62-63)

H. F. Tozer writes: "The Hanno here spoken of has been with some probability identified with the son of that Hamilcar who invaded Sicily in 480 B.C., and was defeated and slain at the battle of Himera; and on this supposition we may fix the date of his expedition approximately at 470 B.C. After his return to Carthage he composed a brief account of his voyage, which was inscribed on a bronze or marble tablet, and dedicated in the temple of Cronos (Moloch) in that city; and by great good fortune a Greek version of this has come down to us, under the title of the Periplus or Coasting Survey of Hanno." (A History of Ancient Geography, p. 104)

26. Episodes from the Third Syrian War

Source: not available.

V. K. Robbins writes: "Another parallel to the style of narration in Acts is present in a four-column papyrus dated ca. 246 B.C., which is best entitled Episodes from the Third Syrian War. I.1-II.11 contains third person narration. In II.12 the narration shifts to first person plural as a sea voyage is recounted." (p. 226)

Robbins provides this translation: ". . . Arzibazos, the satrap in Cilicia, intended to send [the captured money] to Ephesus for Laodice's group, but when the people of Soli and the satraps immediately agreed among themselves, and the associates of Pythagoras and Aristocles vigorously helped, and all were good men, it happened that the money was kept and both the city and the citadel became ours. But when Arzibazos escaped and reached the passes of the Tauros and some of the inhabitants cut him off at the entrance, he went back to Antioch. Then we [made ready] the things on the ships, and, when the first watch began, we embarked in as many ships as the harbor of Seleucia (at Orontes) was likely to hold and sailed to a port called Poseidon and we anchored ourselves at the eighth hour. Then, getting away from there in the morning, we went to Seleucia. And the priests and rulers and other citizens and officers and soldiers, crowned with wreaths, met us . . . (2.6-25)." (p. 226)

Colin Hemer writes: "Robbins says that column I line 1 to II.11 contains third person narration, which shifts to first person plural in II.12 as a sea voyage is narrated. But there is a difficulty in assessing the context: the first half of every line in the first column is lost, and no continuous sense can be reconstructed. Yet the surviving part of line 18 contains a first plural (παρ ημων comparable with καθ' ημας in II.13 (not 12), to which Robbins attaches special significance. The real transition comes in II.16, where L. Mitteis and U. Wilcken restore an emphatic ημεις δε. The point throughout is that this is a narrative of conflict between 'us' and 'them', the Ptolemies and the Seleucids, narrated by a participant on the Ptolemaic side. Where the 'enemy' are at sea (II.2-3), their voyage is recounted in the third person, but Robbins' citation only begins at II.5, and misses the interaction of first and third persons which can be traced throughout the document, so far as columns I, III and IV are preserved, alike in land and sea episodes of the campaign." (p. 83)

Susan Marie Praeder writes: "Commentaries on the fragmentary report from the Third Syrian War clearly state that first person and third person narration are signs of authorial participation and nonparticipation, respectively. The Egyptian author is a participant in the first person section and a nonparticipant in the third person section. There is a sea voyage in the first person section, but there is also a sea voyage in the preceding third person section." (p. 212)

Stanley Porter writes: "Regarding the Episodes from the Third Syrian War (Robbins's title), this is a fragmentary papyrus containing a narrative account of several episodes in the conflict in c. 246 BC between the Ptolemies and the Seleucids. It appears that Robbins has moved beyond the evidence--the four column text is so fragmentary that one must work from a text missing the first half of every line of the first and third columns (the third is worse than the first), and thus without a continuous sense. It appears that 'we' is used for the Ptolemies, whose spokesman is narrating the account, and 'they' is used for the Seleucids. It is true that for the most part the 'we' portion is located on the sea and the 'they' portion on the land, but this is not maintained consistently, since at one place 'they' is used of what happened by sea (col. 2, lines 2-3). The pronouns are apparently used to designate the participants, not to indicate the literary location or convention." (p. 23)

27. The Antiochene Acts of the Martyrdom of Ignatius

Source: Lightfoot, J. B. The Apostolic Fathers, Part 2, Vol. 2, Macmillan: New York, 1889.

V. K. Robbins writes: "In second and third century Christianity, two documents of the Acts-genre contain first person plural in relation to sea voyages. Undoubtedly the first century Acts of the Apostles has influenced these documents. It is informative, however, to observe first person plural narration in the midst of sea voyage material. In the Antiochene Acts of the Martyrdom of Ignatius, third person narration shifts unannounced to first person plural as the author gives a summary of the voyage ... In these three texts and the book of Acts, third person narration is established as the style for recounting the events that occur. However, when a sea voyage begins the narration shifts, without explanation, to first person plural." (pp. 226-227)

Here is the complete document as given by Lightfoot.


1. Not long after Trajan had succeeded to the empire of the Romans, Ignatius the disciple of the Apostle John, a man of apostolic character in all ways, governed the Church of the Antiochenes. He had with difficulty weathered the past storm of the many persecutions in the time of Domitian, and, like a good pilot, by the helm of prayer and fasting, by the assiduity of his teaching, and by his spiritual earnestness, had withstood the surge of the enemy's power, fearful lest he should lose any of the faint-hearted or over-simple. Thus while he rejoiced at the tranquility of the Church, when the persecution abated for a while, he was vexed within himself, thinking that he had not yet attained true love towards Christ or the complete rank of a disciple: for he considered that the confession made by martyrdom would attach him more closely to the Lord. Therefore remaining a few years longer with the Church, and like a lamp of God illuminating the mind of every one by his exposition of the scriptures, he attained the fulfilment of his prayer.

2. It so happened that after these things Trajan in the ninth year of his reign, beign elated with his victory over the Scythians and Dacians and many other nations, and considering that the godly society of the Christians was still lacking to him to complete the subjection, unless they chose to submit to the service of the devils together with all the nations, threatened [to subject them to] persecution and would have compelled all those who were leading a pious life either to offer sacrifice or to die. At that time therefore the brave soldier of Christ, being afraid for the Church of the Antiochenes, was taken of his own free will before Trajan who was staying at that moement in Antioch, making reader to march against Armenia and the Parthians.

And when he stood face to face with Trajan [the king]; Who art thou, said Trajan, thou wretch of a devil, that art so ready to transgress our orders, whilst thou seducest others also, that they may come to a bad end? Ignatius said; No man calleth one that beareth God a wretch of a devil; for the devils stand aloof from the servants of God. But if, because I am troublesome to these, thou callest me a wretch toward the devils, I agree with thee: for having Christ a heavenly king, I counfound the devices of these. Trajan said; And who is he that beareth God? Ignatius answered, He that hath Christ in his breast. Trajan said; Dost thou not think then that we too have gods in our heart, seeing that we employ them as allies against our enemies? Ignatius said; Thu art deceived, when thou callest the devils of the nations gods. For there is one God who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all things that are therein, and one Christ Jesus His only-begotten Son, whose friendship I would fain enjoy. Trajan said; Speakest thou of him that was crucified under Pontius Pilate? Ignatius said; I speak of Him that nailed on the cross sin and its author, and sentenced every malice of the devils to be trampled under foot of those that carry Him in their heart. Trajan said; Dost thou then carry Christ within thyself? Ignatius said; Yes, for it is written, 'I will dwell in them and will walk about in them.' Trajan gave sentence; It is our order that Ignatius who saith that he beareth about the crucified in himself shall be put in chains by the soldiers and taken to mighty Rome, there to be made food for wild beasts, as a spectacle and a diversion for the people. The holy martyr, when he heard this sentence, shouted aloud with joy: I thank thee, Lord and Master, that Thou hast vouchsafed to honour me by perfecting my love towards Thee, in that Thou hast bound me with chains of iron to Thine Apostle Paul. Having said this and having invested himself in his chains with gladness, after praying over the Church and commending it with tears to the Lord, like a choice ram the leader of a goodly flock, he was hurried away by the brutal cruelty of the soldiers to be carried off to Rome as fod for bloodthirsty brutes.

3. So then with much eagerness and joy, in longing desire for the Lord's passion, he went down from Antioch to Seleucia, and from thence he set sail. And having put in at the city of the Smyrnaeans after much stress of weather, he disembarked with much joy and hastened to see the holy Polycarp, bishop of the Smyrnaeans, his fellow-student; for in old times they had been disciples of John. And being entertained by him on landing, and having communicated with him his spiritual gifts, and glorying in his bonds, he entreated them to aid him in his purpose--asking this in the first place of every church collectively (for the cities and churches of Asia welcomed the saint through their bishops and presbyters and deacons, all men flocking to him, in the hope that they might receive a portion of some spiritual gift), but especially of the holy Polycarp, that by means of the wild beasts disappearing the sooner from the world, he might appear in the presence of Christ.

4. And these things he so spake and so testified, carrying his love towards Christ to such a pitch, as if he would storm heaven by his good confession and by the fervour of those who joined with him in prayer over his combat, while at the same time he recompensed those churches which came to meet him in the person of their rulers, by sending out letters of thanks to them shedding upon them the dew of spiritual grace with prayer and exhortation. Therefore when he saw that they all were kindly disposed towards him, being afraid lest haply the affection of the brotherhood might uproot his zeal for the Lord, when a goodly door of martyrdom was thus opened to him, he writes to the Church of the Romans in the words which are here subjoined.

[Here follows the Epistle to the Romans.]

5. Having therefore by his letter appeased, as he desired, those of the brethren in Rome who were averse, this done he set sail from Smyrna (for the Christ-bearer was hurried forward by the soldiers to be in time for the sports in the great city, that given to wild beasts in the sight of the Roman people he might by such a combat obtain the crown of righteousness); and thence he put in at Troas. Then departing thence he landed at Neapolis; and passing through Philippi he journeyed by land across Macedonia and the part of Epirus which lies by Epidamnus. And here on the sea coast he took ship and sailed across the Hadriatic sea, and thence entering the Tyrrhene and passing by islands and cities, the holy man when he came in view of Puteoli was eager himself to disembark, desiring to tread in the footsteps of the Apostle [Paul]; but forasmuch as a stiff breeze springing up prevented it, the ship being driven by a stern wind, he commended the love of the brethren in that place, and so sailed by. Thus in one single day and night, meeting with favourable winds, we ourselves were carried forward against our will, mourning over the separation which must soon come between ourselves and this righteous man; while he had his wish fulfilled, for he was eager to depart from the world quickly, that he might hasten to join the Lord whom he loved. Wherefore, as he landed at the harbour of the Romans just when the unholy sports were drawing to a close, the soldiers were vexed at the slow pace, while the bishop gladly obeyed them as they hurried him forward.

6. So we set out thence at break of day, leaving the place called Portus; and, as the doings of the holy martyr had already been rumoured abroad, we were met by the brethren, who were filled at once with fear and with joy--with joy because they were vouchsafed this meeting with the God-bearer, with fear because so good a man was on his way to execution. And some of them he also charged to hold their peace, when in the fervour of their zeal they said that they would stay the people from seeking the death of the righteous man. For having recognized these at once by the Spirit and having saluted all of them, he asked them to show him genuine love, and discoursed at greater length than in his epistle, and persuaded them not to grudge one who was hastening to meet his Lord; and then, all the brethren falling on their knees, he mad entreaty to the Son of God for the churches, for the staying of the persecution, and for the love of the brethren one to another, and was led away promptly to the amphitheatre. Then forthwith he was put into the arena in obedience to the pervious orders of Caesar, just as the sports were drawing to a close (for the day called the Thirteenth in the Roman tongue was, as they thought, a high day, on which they eagerly flocked together), whereupon he was thrown by these godless men to savage brutes, and os the desire of the holy martyr Ignatius was fulfilled forthwith (according to the saying of Scirpture The desire of the righteous man is acceptable), that he might not be burdensome to any of the brethren by the collection of his reliques, according as he had already in his epistle expressed his desire that his own martyrdom might be. For only the tougher parts of his holy reliques were left, and these were carried back to Antioch and laid in a sarcophagus, being left to the holy Church a priceless treasure by the Divine grace manifested in the martyr.

7. Now these things happened on the 13th before the Kalends of January, when Sura, and Senecio for the second time, were consuls among the Romans.

Having with tears beheld these things with our own eyes, and having watched all night long in the house, and having often and again entreated the Lord with supplication on our knees to confirm the faith of us weak men after what had passed, when we had fallen asleep for a while, some of us suddenly beheld the blessed Ignatius standing by and embracing us, while by others again he was seen praying over us, and by others dripping with sweat, as if he were come from a hard struggle and were standing and the Lord's side with much boldness and unutterable glory. And being filled with joy at this sight, and comparing the visions of our dreams, after singing hymns to God the giver of good things and lauding the holy man, we have signified unto you both the day and the time, that we may gather ourselves toghether at the season of the martyrdom and hold communion with the athlete and valiant martyr of Christ, who trampled the devil under foot and accomplished the race of his Christian devotion, in Christ Jesus our Lord, through whom and with whom is the glory and the power unto the Father with the Holy Spirit for ever and ever. Amen.

J. B. Lightfoot writes: "It has been seen then, that these Acts have no claim to be regarded as an authentic narrative. But the possibility remains that they may have embodied some earlier document and thus may preserve a residuum of genuine tradition. Such a residuum, if it exists at all, will naturally be looked for in those portions which profess to be related by eye-witnesses, and in which the first person plural is employed. ... Still I should be disposed to believe, that the martyrologist had incorporated into the latter portion of his narrative a contemporary letter of the martyr's companions containing an account of the journey from Philippi and the death, though freely interpolating and altering it, where he was so disposed." (pp. 389-390)

Colin Hemer writes: "This is much the most difficult and elusive case. There is certainly an abrupt and unmarked shift to the first person plural in mid course. J. B. Lightfoot (pp. 383-391) is severe on the evident historical flaws of this account which seems to be composite and very late. But it is precisely where the 'we-section', allied to an eyewitness profession and to its intrinsic plausibility and lack of demonstrable blunders apparent elsewhere, which leads him to entertain the possibility that this part contains authentic tradition. In any case the document as a whole does not further Robbins' thesis. As it is probably both late and composite, it is at best uncertain material for arguing literary intention. Moreover, as it stands, the preceding part of the voyage (where this document contradicts the authentic letters) is rendered in the third person, and the 'we-passage' (which has better credentials) begins at sea but is largely devoted to leave-taking in Rome. The martyr is distinguished from those ostensibly present with him." (pp. 83-84)

Stanley Porter writes: "Robbins concludes his list of parallels considered significant with an example from the Antiochene Acts of Ignatius (Acta Martyrii Ignatii). However, this text is of questionable relevance to the entire discussion, since it is significantly later in date of composition than the book of Acts and composite in origin. One interesting correlation with the book of Acts, however, is the apparent random beginning and ending of the 'we' section during a sea voyage, and the extension of it beyond the end of the sea voyage. Lightfoot sees this as a method by which Ignatius is singled out from his companions, including the narrator, possibly, though not necessarily, including authentic tradition regarding Ignatius. This, of course, does nothing to support Robbins's hypothesis regarding the use of 'we' to indicate a convention for telling of sea voyages." (p. 24)

C. K. Barrett writes: "Dr Robbins finds a further example in the Antiochene Acts of the Martyrdom of Ignatius, 'where third person narration shifts unannounced to first person plural in relation to a sea voyage' (p. 12). 'Third person narration is established as the style for recounting the events which occur . . . However, when a sea voyage begins the narration shifts, without explanation, to first person plural (p. 12; cf. p. 227). If the whole story is read it appears at once that this is not correct. The first person does not begin where the voyage does. 'He went down from Antioch to Seleucia, and from thence he set sail (κατελθων . . . ειχετο του πλοος. And having put in at the city of the Smyrnaeans after much stress of weather, he disembarked . . . he set sail from Smyrna . . . he put in at Troas . . . he took ship and sailed across the Hadriatic sea . . .' It is after this that the first person is introduced, not because the author is giving a summary of the voyage but for a reason that is not difficult to see. The ship is approaching Puteoli; Ignatius wishes to land there in order to follow as closely as possible in the steps of Paul, but unfavourable weather prevents this. Later the weather improved. 'Thus in one single day and night, meeting with favourable winds, we ourselves were carried forward against our will, mourning over the separation which must soon come between ourselves and this righteous man [Ignatius]; while he had his wish fulfilled, for he was eager to depart from the world quickly, that he might hasten to join the Lord whom he loved' (§ 5). That is, we (Ignatius's companions) would have welcomed delay in Puteoli, for it would have postponed our loss of our master; he (Ignatius) rejoiced in the quicker journey, because it brought nearer the day of martyrdom for which he longed. There is no sea voyage formula here." (pp. 54-55)

Rather than being a response to a sea voyage genre, the first person plural in these acts is a claim to presence at the events, whether such a claim is true or false: the document says that "we" have "beheld these things with our own eyes." If this is considered to be an example in favor of any theory on the Acts of the Apostles, it would be the theory that the author of Luke-Acts has incorporated an earlier first person source. Since the author of the "we passages" in the Antiochene Acts claims to have been present at the events, and narrates in the first person in passages with no connection to seafaring adventure, this clearly cannot be used as evidence for the use of a first person literary device due to the subject of a sea voyage.

28. The Acts of Peter and the Twelve


V. K. Robbins writes: "Yet another text holds interest for this study, although it does not represent an exact parallel to the narrative style of Acts. In The Acts of Peter and the Twelve Apostles, Nag Hammadi codex VI.1, the narrative alternates between first person and third person narration. Unfortunately, the first part of the text has been destroyed, so that it is impossible to know if the document began with first person or third person narrative style. The extant portion begins with a scene in which Peter and the apostles covenant with one another to take a special voyage on the sea. Immediately after this scene, they go down to the sea and begin their venture. First person plural narration governs the composition of these two episodes. ... For the purposes of this study, it would be informative to know if The Acts of Peter and the Twelve Apostles began, as well as concluded, with third person narration. There is a possibility that it began with third person narrative style, adopted first person narrative style in the context of the sea voyage, then returned to third person style at the end of the account. Without further evidence, it is impossible to know. It does seem fair to conclude that this document, probably written during the latter part of the second century, has been influenced both by the sea voyage material in the canonical book of Acts and by first person narrative style in romance literature. Among the apocryphal Acts material, it attracts special interest because of the coincidence of first plural narration with a sea voyage. During the second and third centuries, however, first person narrative style influenced the apocryphal material beyond the context of sea voyages." (pp. 227-228)

V. K Robbins states: "In conclusion there are three texts, in addition to the book of Acts, where third person narrative style shifts to first person plural when a sea voyage is initiated. In a fourth text, The Acts of Peter and the Twelve Apostles, the narration shifts freely among first person plural, first person singular, and third person narration." (p. 228)

The first clear break to third person narration is 5,2 where it is said that "Peter answered," whereas earlier the text says "I, Peter" (1,30). The first person narration is found again in 6,8. Here it is not during a voyage but while having been on land for a long time that the first person is used. A partition hypothesis has been suggested by Krause (as noted by R McL. Wilson and Douglas M. Parrot in The Coptic Gnostic Library, vol. 11, p. 200). While the mysteries of this text await further study, it does not provide an example of generic first person narration during travel over sea, given that the first person is found in other portions of the text.

29. Summary of Anabasis


Source: Brownson, Carleton L. Xenophon, vols. 2-3, Harvard University Press: Cambridge, 1921-1922.

V. K. Robbins writes: "If we think it would be impossible for an author who did not paticipate in the events to compose in this style, we need to entertain one more piece of information. Xenophon, as we recall, used third person narration throughout the Anabasis, even for scenes in which he depicts himself as a participant. A later copyist of the Anabasis, obviously not a participant in the events, wrote a concluding summary which he attached to the narrative. ... This copyist, and many writers, entered into the narrative as a participant even though later analysts can see that the style of narration does not comply with the rest of the document. Perhaps we should suggest that Luke participated in the sea voyages precisely in this way." (pp. 241-242)

The passage appended to the Anabasis reads as follows (in the Loeb translation):


The governors of all the King's territories that we traversed were as follows: Artimas of Lydia, Artacamas of Phrygia, Mithridates of Lycaonia and Cappadocia, Syennesis of Cilicia, Dernes of Phoenicia and Arabia, Belesys of Syria and Assyria, Rhoparas of Babylon, Arbacas of Media, Tiribazus of the Phasians and Hesperites; then the Carduchians, Chalybians, Chaldaeans, Macronians, Colchians, Mossynoecians, Coetians, and Tibarenians, who were independent; and then Corylas governor of Paphlagonia, Pharnabazus of the Bithynians, and Seuthes of the Thracians in Europe. The length of the entire journey, upward and downward, was two hundred and fifteen stages, on thousand, one hundred and fifty parasangs, or thirty-four thousand, two hundred and fifty-five stadia; and the length in time, upward and downward, a year and three months.

Susan Marie Praeder writes: "The one first person reference in the summary of Anabasis 7 is not necessarily a reflection of the editor's sense of participation. He seems to be speaking for Xenophon and his fellow third person participants." (p. 214)

There is no shift made by any one writer here. The concluding summary is by a separate hand, so this cannot be used as an example of an author making an unexplained change of person. Xenophon was present at the events, and the later scribe is attempting to speak for Xenophon. The scribe simply has not understood the conventions for ancient historiography and supposes that Xenophon might have written this appendage in the first person. Furthermore, it is not the position of Robbins, so far as I know, that ancient documents change person inexplicably--it is Robbins's thesis that these changes, in some cases, are in response to a sea voyage genre. Yet this addition refers to overland travel.


It is possible that an exercise in literary criticism about the effect of language used to tell the tale of a sea voyage, undertaken by Robbins, has been misappropriated by other critics as an essay on the authorship of Acts. Burton Mack writes, "Even after one sees that the 'we' passages are limited to the journeys in which travel is by sea, and learns that the author was merely following a normal convention for just such description, as Vernon Robbins has taught us (1978), the impression is still strong that the author knew what he knew because he had been there." (Who Wrote the New Testament?, pp. 230-231) Robert Price says that Vernon Robbins "adequately accounts for the 'we' passages in Acts as a convention of ancient sea-voyage narratives" (Journal of Higher Criticism 1/1). The impression that other scholars have gotten is that the essay was written by Robbins with an eye to undermining the idea that the first person narration is a claim to participation by the author of Acts.

It is also possible that this essay will be misunderstood, because it is not an essay on the authorship of Acts. This essay has been undertaken as an examination of the ancient evidence that could be used to support a hypothesis that first person narrative was a literary device used in a sea voyage genre, along the lines that Robbins draws with such a statement as this: "The we-passages fit the genre of sea voyage narratives. Such accounts would be expected to contain first person narration, whether or not the author was an actual participant in the voyage. Without first person narration the account would limp. By the first century A.D., a sea voyage recounted in third person narration would be considered out of vogue, especially if a shipwreck or other amazing events were recounted." (p. 228)

But Susan Marie Praeder indicates numerous third person sea voyages (p. 211):


Agamemnon 392a-578 (Seneca, 4 B.C./A.D. 1-65), Aeneid 1; 5; 10.606-18, Aesopica 30, 68, 78, 207, 391 (Babrius and Phaedrus, first and second centuries A.D.), Annales 2. 23-24 (Tacitus, first-second centuries A.D.), Antiquitates Romanae 1.49-53 (Dionysius of Halicarnassus, first century B.C.), Argonautica 2.531-647, 1090-1121; 4.1223-1392 (Apollonius of Rhodes, third century B.C.), Argonautica 1.498-692, 4.637-710 (Valerius Flaccus, first century A.D.), Bellum Civile 5.403-721 (Lucan, A.D. 39-65), Bibliotheca 3.40 (Diodorus Siculus, first century B.C.), Chaereas and Callirhoe 1.11, 3.3-4, 8.2-6 (Chariton, first century A.D.), Convivium Septem Sapientium 160c-162c (Plutarch, first-second centuries A.D.), Daphnis and Chloe 2.20-29 (Longus, second century A.D.), De Vita Pythagorica 3.13-17 (Iamblichus, ca. A.D. 250-325), Ephesiaca 1.10-14, 2.11.10-11, Epodes 10 (Horace, 65-8 B.C.), Geographia 2.3.4-5 (Strabo, first century B.C.-first century A.D.), Historiae 1.23-24, 8.118-19 (Herodotus, fifth century B.C.), Historiae 1.36.10-37.10 (Polybius, second century B.C.), Homeric Hymns 7,33 (before the Hellenistic period), Indica 18-42 (Arrian), Iphigenia Taurica 1284-1499 (Euripides), Metamorphoses 11.410-748, 15.622-744 (Ovid), Navigium 1-9 (Lucian), Odyssey 2.413-3.12, 5.262-493, 13.1-125, 23.310-43, Posthomerica 14.346-658 (Quintus of Smyrna, fourth century A.D.), Punica 15.149-79, 17.201-91 (Silius Italicus, ca. A.D. 26-101), Satires 12 (Juvenal, first-second centuries A.D.), Thebaid 5.335-485 (Statius, ca. A.D. 45-96), Vita Apollonii 3.52-58, 4.11-17, 5.18 (Philostratus, second-third centuries A.D.).

And an examination of the first person sea voyages shows the actual relationship (or non-relationship) between first person narration and maritime adventure. Praeder writes: "The reasons of first person narration in sea voyages in ancient literature are found in the literary frameworks of the sea voyages, other literary forms, and references to participating authors and characters. The sea voyages in Clit. Leuc. 2.31-3.5, Orationes (Aelius Aristides and Dio Chrysostom), Satyricon, Verae Historiae, and Vita are set in first person narration because they are parts of first person works. The person of narration in the sea voyages conforms to the person of narration in their larger literary frameworks. Throughout these works first person narration refers to factual participation by authors or to fictional participation by characters. The sea voyages in Aen. 3, Aethiopica, Clit. Leuc. 5.7, 9-10, 15-17; 8.16, Eph. 3.2.11-15, Met. 3.511-733, and Od. 3.276-302; 7.240-97; 9-12 are fictional reports in direct discourse. First person narration is required by the direct discourse form and because the reporters participated in the sea voyages. In Epistulae, Epistulae ad Familiares, Noctes Atticae, and Periplus Ponti Euxini the sea voyages are personal reports. The first person narrators represent the principal participants Chion, Cicero, Aulus Gellius, and Arrian. In Agamemnon (Aeschylus) and Helen the sea voyages are in messenger speeches. The first person narrators, the messengers, are peripheral participants in the sea voyages." (p. 211)

Joseph A. Fitzmyer writes: "The use of the first plural on board ship may be more naturally explained as an expression of the sociological character of such an experience. Robbins himself acknowledges this. But the question rises whether that sociological experience is ever so recounted by those who have not been part of it--or, at least, who want to give the impression that they have been part of it, sea voyage, shipwreck, or what have you." (p. 22) While Robbins may be right about the literary effect of "we" and "us" as indicating a sense of camaraderie during a sea voyage, it would be wrong to draw the conclusion that the narrator of the story is not claiming to be among the "we" who took the voyage.

Now that we have surveyed the material to which Robbins refers, we can reach some conclusions about maritime narrative and the use of the first person plural. The Shipwrecked Sailor, the Odyssey, the Aeneid, Dio Chrysostom, Josephus, and Lucian illustrate the change from first person singular to first person plural during travel on a ship. Since sea voyages are always undertaken with others, it is not unexpected for the narrator, if already speaking in the first person, to use the first person plural. The interesting feature of Acts, which prompted the search of other ancient literature for parallels, is that the first person plural is used in a generally third person narrative. As Colin Hemer states, "Of course such narratives are often first person accounts, because they recall personal experience, and plural because they recall communal experience. The same tendency is as true of colloquial Engilsh as of literary Greek (or Latin), but it is no proof of the existence of a literary style appropriate to what was not personal experience." (p. 82) Robbins suggests that the first person plural intrudes in the narratives of sea voyages found in the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea, Caesar, Hanno, the Third Syrian War, and Antiochene Acts of the Martyrdom of Ignatius, as well as possibly in the Acts of Peter and the Twelve and the concluding summary of Anabasis. The difficulties in interpreting these texts as representing a generic style of first person plural in seafaring stories have been indicated above. The line in the Periplus is not a story but a recommendation, Caesar's account is not even a sea voyage, the entirety of Hanno's account is in the first person excepting the preface, the fragmentary Third Syrian War correctly uses pronouns for different perspectives, the Antiochene Acts may incorporate an older text framed as a first person account, the first person is not limited to seafaring in the Acts of Peter and the Twelve, and the scribal gloss of the Anabasis is about an overland journey. Careful analysis shows what one would expect on common sense grounds: the first person is used to indicate presence at the events narrated. There are no known examples of a simply generic first person plural (where the person speaking is not present but rather employing an expected style) in an ancient sea voyage story, and this suggests strongly that an ancient author would not have slipped into the first person plural in response to a supposed demand of a sea travel genre. There is no precedent, and, thus, there is no such literary device.

    Brief Bibliography
  1. Barrett, C. K. 1987. "Paul Shipwrecked," in Scripture: Meaning and Method (ed. B. P. Thompson; Hull University Press), pp. 51-64.
  2. Fitzmyer, Joseph. 1989. Luke the Theologian (New York: Paulist Press), pp. 16-23.
  3. Hemer, Colin. 1985. "First Person Narrative in Acts 27-28," in Tyndale Bulletin 36 (ed. M. J. Harris; Nottingham: Inter-Varsity Press), pp. 79-109.
  4. Porter, Stanley. 2001. Paul in Acts (Peabody, MS: Hendrickson), pp. 20-24.
  5. Praeder, Susan M. 1987. "The Problem of First Person Narration in Acts," in Novum Testamentum 29 (Leiden: E.J. Brill), pp. 193-218.
  6. Robbins, Vernon K. 1978. "By Land and By Sea: The We-Passages and Ancient Sea Voyages," in Perspectives on Luke-Acts (ed. C. H. Talbert; Perspectives in Religious Studies; Special Series No. 5; Macon, GA: Mercer University Press), pp. 215-242.