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expanded their trading area throughout the             It was not until the Greek philosopher Plato wrote of
         Mediterranean as far as the Gibraltar Strait. There they   Atlantis around 400 BC that the term ‘Pillars of
         were confronted by the Straits.                        Hercules’ was first mentioned. He placed Atlantis to
         Stories of the horrific seas, fiendish weather and devilish   the west of the pillars, but even so their exact
         serpents, probably the concentration of whales, to be   geographical position had not been precisely
         found in the Straits were told back in the east by these   determined.
         early maritime explorers who actually managed to pass   Along came the Romans. They adapted the original
         through them to establish trading posts at Gades (Cádiz)   Greek poem by Peisander and the pillars become
         about 850 BC and further north along the Atlantic coast   fixed. According to Roman mythology, during his
         of Portugal. The tales were an unmistakable warning to   journey, Hercules had to cross the Atlas Mountains.
         rival traders not to pass through the Strait and interrupt   Rather than climb them, Hercules stamped his foot
         their trade with the Tartessians in Spain and the Celts in   creating the Straits and a channel between the
         Portugal.                                              Mediterranean and the Atlantic. They then fixed the
         Around 600 BC an ancient Greek poet called Peisander   two pillars as Calpe (Gibraltar) and Mons Abila
         wrote of the twelve labours of the Greek mythical hero   (present-day Monte Hacho, a rather insignificant hill
         Hercules. The tenth task was to steal the cattle of the   overlooking Ceuta). Later scholars decided that the
         giant Geryon who lived on an island called Erytheia in   much more imposing Jebel Musa was more likely to
         the mythical Hesperides in the far west of the         be the southern pillar. The argument, which is the
         Mediterranean. The more literal Greeks interpreted     southern pillar of Hercules, continues to this day.
         Hesperides as being the land of Tartessos in the area of   Whether the question will ever be decided is a
         present-day Huelva and Cádiz. Another Greek poet, one   matter for conjecture. However, the history of the
         hundred years after Peisander, called the westernmost   pillars continues to this day. In 2018, the monumental
         point of Hercules’ journey, ‘the gates of Gades’, probably   sculpture representing the northernmost pillar, set on
         a reference to the Phoenician trading post at present-  a plinth at Jew’s Gate on Gibraltar, was moved
         day Cádiz. The tales initiated a cult following. Young men   sideways about 20 metres, off the plinth and into the
         set off to emulate Hercules and, incidentally, become   car park alongside. The monument was moved
         competitors for the trade west of the Straits, probably   because its weight had been causing the ceiling of
         the desired result of the author, nothing if not canny   the public conveniences below the plinth to crack
         those Greeks.                                          and was threatening to fall through the roof – not a
                                                                problem the Phoenicians would have had to consider.

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