1) a Roman colony in Greece, in 31 B.C. the site of the decisive naval battle in the war between the Roman emperor Octavian and the combined forces of Mark Antony and Cleopatra, queen of Egypt
2) Old Monongahela: rye whiskey from the Monongahela River valley in Pennsylvania
an elaborate maze, like the one said to have been built to imprison the minotaur, a mythical half-man, half-bull, of Crete
the Greek philosopher (c. 360-270 B.C.) who founded the school of Skepticism
Dante Alighieri (1265-1321), the Italian poet who wrote the Inferno
The bierd that never alights:
the Huma or Bird of Paradise, a creature from Persian mythology that was thought by Europeans to never land
being like the Titans, powerful gods thought by the Greeks to have preceded Zeus and the other gods of Mount Olympus
The carved Hercules:
the Farnese Hercules, a statue excavated from Pompeii
Johann Peter Eckermann (1792-1854) a German poet who was a friend, follower, and biographer of the better-known poet Goethe
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832), an influential German writer whose works include Faust
Roman triumphal arch:
a freestanding archway built as a monument
Michelangelo (1475-1564), the Italian artist
God the Father in human form:
that is, on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel
scholars do not know the source of this name, but the story recalls one in Plutarch's Moralia in which an elephant falls in love with a flower-girl and caresses her breasts with its trunk.
a sea of flame (so called after the Baltic Sea)
the Old Testament prophet who predicted that the entire world would come under the control of the Hebrew God
Ptolemy IV Philopator, a pharaoh of Egypt who reigned from 221-205 B.C.
probably Juba I (85-46 B.C.) of Numidia, an area encompassing modern-day Algeria and part of Tunisia
Free-Mason: having to do with Freemasonry, a fraternal society with many symbols and rituals
Thou shalt see my back parts:
In Exodus 33:23, God tells Moses, "Thou shalt see my back parts: but my face shall not be seen."
running in a loop, as if in a Roman circus
a ruler of Paurava, in the modern-day state of Punjab, India, in the fourth century B.C.
remants of old English, spoken by the Anglo-Saxons who invaded and ruled England during the middle ages
The time of the Commonwealth:
1649 to 1660, the period after the English Civil War when the British Isles had no monarch
An Esau and Jacob:
twin brothers in the Bible
like humans (i.e., belly to belly)
the narrow strait in Turkey that connects the Aegean Sea to the Sea of Marmara
En bon point:
pasha, a military or civil official in Turkey
the biblical King Solomon, who according to I Kings 11:3, had 700 official wives and 300 concubines
the sultan, the ruler of the Ottoman Empire
Eugène François Vidocq (1775-1857), a French private investigator who started life as a criminal and wrote about the young women he had seduced
the American pioneer (1734-1820). He lived the end of his life in the then-wild French territory of Missouri, but with many of his children and grandchildren around
a 50-book digest of Roman laws compiled for Emperor Justinian I in the 6th century.
Chinese Society for the Suppression of Meddling...:
a joke from Melville
an important commentary on British property law written by Sir Edward Coke (1552-1634)
the national personification of Great Britain, similar to Uncle Sam in the U.S. At the time of Moby-Dick's publication, Ireland was under British control and was reeling from the Irish Potato Famine, in which one million people died due to a blight on potatoes and the government's unwillingness to help
an early personification of the United States, similar to Uncle Sam. At the time of Moby-Dick's publication, the U.S. had recently defeated Mexico in a war over the right to admit Texas as a U.S. state.
De balena vero sufficit...:
"The king owns the head of a whale; the queen owns the tail." This is a quote from the writings of English jurist Henry de Bracton (c. 1210-1268)
Commentaries on the Laws of England, by Sir William Blackstone, published 1765-1769
The Duke of Wellington:
Arthur Wellesley (1769-1852), who led the U.K. forces that defeated Napoleon at Waterloo, and later served as Prime Minister. Wellington was also the Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports
The three kingdomes:
England, Scotland, and Ireland. Wellesley briefly came out of retirement in 1848 to organize a military force to protect London from a potential popular uprising
probably Edmund Plowden (1518-1585), an English legal scholar
a court of law of England
the English author and polemicist (1600-1669)
Ordinary revenue: the English monarch's income from crown lands, trade tariffs, dues and other sources
Sir T. Browne, V .E.:
Pseudodoxia Epidemica, or Vulgar Errors, a book by Thomas Browne (1605-1682), an English author and polymath
this means "white sperm whale" in French.
Joshua Coffin recovered 362 ounces of ambergris in the anus of a female sperm whale killed on the coast of Guinea (West Africa)
a city in Saudi Arabia believed by Muslims to be holy.
St. Peter's in Rome:
St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City, the home church of the Catholic Pope
Pills heavily advertised by Dr. Benjamin Brandreth and known as a laxative
a Swiss alchemist, physician, and astrologer (1493-1541) considered the father of pharmacology
a hospital for women giving birth. "Lying-in" is a term for a lengthy period of bedrest (weeks or months) before or after childbirth.
a large public bath complex in Rome built by Emperor Constantine I in the fourth century A.D.
having to do with Paracelsus (1493-1541), the Swiss alchemist who is considered the father of modern pharmacology
marble quarried in the Berkshire Mountains in western Massachusetts
Louis le Gros:
Louis VI of France (1081-1137). "Le Gros" means "the Fat."
a wine-producing region in the north of France
inch-thick slices of blubber that fan out like pages of a book.
a person from Hydra, an island in Greece
Constantine Kanaris (c. 1793-1877), a naval officer during the Greek war for independence from Turkey. In 1822 he began using fire ships against the Turks: stealthily attaching a small ship to a Turkish flagship and setting it on fire
Virginia's Dismal Swamp:
the Great Dismal Swamp of southeastern Virginia
Rome's accursed Campagna:
a low-lying area surrounding Rome, Italy, that was uninhabited from the Middle Ages until the 19th century
Man of Sorrows:
a figure in Isaiah 53:3 thought by Christians to represent the crucified Christ
the Old Testament book Proverbs, credited to King Solomon. According to tradition, he also wrote Ecclesiastes and Song of Songs.
"All is vanity":
This is from Ecclesiastes 1:2.
William Cowper (1731-1800), an English poet and writer of hymn
Edward Young (1683-1765), an English poet
Blaise Pascal (1623-1662), a French mathemetician and religious philosopher
Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778), a French philosopher
François Rabelais (1494-1553), a French satirist
"The man that wandereth...":
this is from Proverbs 21:16
A Catskill eagle:
an eagle from the Catskill Mountains in upstate New York
a lamp that, when rubbed, releases a magical genie that must obey the person holding the lamp
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego:
Three men who, in a story in the Old Testament book of Daniel (3:12-30), refuse a king's order to worship a golden idol. They are punished by being thrown into a furnace, but they survive without harm. The king then orders his people to worship their God.
a river in Turkey that once contained gold sands
from Quito, Ecuador, where the coin was minted
a prideful angel who was cast out of heaven and became Satan
The sign of storms:
Libra, the sign of the autumnal equinox and, usually, stormy weather
a constellation best visible near the Equator, in the month of December
Belshazzar's awful writing:
an ominous message to a biblical king: "Thou art weighed in the balance and art found wanting."
in the early 19th century, a vice district in Boston, Massachusetts
in the early 19th century, a vice district in Manhattan
a ruined city in India, once famous for its wealth
Nathaniel Bowditch (1773-1838), founder of modern navigation techniques
a textbook used widely in U.S. schools
that is, his almanac
collecting souls like blackberries
"Jenny, get your hoe-cake done":
the title of a popular banjo song of the time. Hoecake is a cornmeal flatbread.
the Tudor dynasty, which ruled England from 1485 to 1603
the House of Bourbon, a dynasty that ruled France, Spain, and other European countries at various periods since 1555
in Greek mythology, the sirens were seductive women who called out to sailors and caused their ships to wreck on the nearby rocks
Anglo-Saxon, that is, British
having to do with transcending the physical plane and existing in a spiritual one
the Solomon Islands in Melanesia
The hair-hung sword that so affrighted Damocles:
in an ancient Greek legend, Damocles was a man who envied a king and was granted a day to switch places with him. He was enjoying a feast till he noticed a sword hanging directly above his head, supported by a single strand of horsehair.
The Icy Glen:
a park near Stockbridge, Massachusetts that features moss-covered rocks
an ancient, freestanding column in Alexandria, Egypt, built not by Pompey (a leader of the Roman Republic in the first century B.C.) but in honor of the Emperor Diocletian, who ruled Rome in the third century A.D.
Great knobbed blocks on a Gothic spire:
decorations used in the construction of Gothic-style churches in the late middle ages
the time of French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821)
this means "yoke teeth," a reference to its double-rooted teeth, common to marine mammals
a man who, according to the Old Testament, lived to be 969 years old
a son of Noah who, according to the Bible, lived to be 500 years old
the biblical King Solomon
Joannes Leo Africanus (c. 1488-c. 1554), a Muslim charged by the Pope to write a guide and description of Africa
the northern African coast
Mohammed (c. 570-632), the main prophet of Islam
the biblical Jonah
Ulisse Aldrovandi (1522-1605), an Italian naturalist
Banks and Solander, Cooke's naturalists:
Joseph Banks (1743-1820), an English naturalist, and Daniel Solander (1733-1782), a Swedish botanist, who traveled with Captain James Cook (1728-1779), the British explorer, on his first voyage to Australia
a well-known meat market in London
a state on the west coast of India
an ancient Assyrian queen
an ancient ruler of the Indian state of Punjab, defeated by Alexander the Great
a military commander from ancient Carthage (modern-day Tunisia) who crossed the Alps with elephants
hidden away like the Buddhist ruler of Tibet, which at the time was closed to Europeans
a thick, circular piece of glass set in a deck to act as a skylight to chambers below
Multum in parvo:
Latin for "much in little"
a town in Yorkshire, England, known for its knife industry
a name for any blacksmith
in Greek mythology, the Titan who created men out of clay
a dome without a skylight
in this case, lantern, though a "thief-catcher" is also a type of prisoner restraint
the Roman emperor's bodyguards and police force
The auction of the Roman Empire:
in 193 A.D., the Praetorian Guard assassinated the emperor Pertinax and sold the throne to Didius Julianus
The resurrection fellow:
Jesus Christ. According I Thessalonians 4:16, on Judgment Day Christ will descend from heaven to the sound of the trumpet of God, and dead Christians will be resurrected
burial sites for unknown or indigent people
contemplative, like a Zoroastrian priest
The Bottle Conjuror:
in this case, alcohol. A conjurer is a magician. Historically, the "Great Bottle Conjurer" was a performer who, in 1749 in London, England, claimed to be able to fit himself into an ordinary quart bottle. After a theater full of people paid to see his act, they learned it was a scam and destroyed the theater
Mother Carey's chicken:
a seabird called a storm-petrel known to follow ships at sea and hide from storms on a ship's leeward side
"Ego non baptizo te in nominee patris, sed in nominee diaboli":
I baptize you not in the name of the Father, but in the name of the devil.
The cursed Bastile:
the Bastille prison in Paris, France, stormed in 1789 at the start of the French Revolutiion
the Niger River in west Africa. Its course is shaped like a boomerang, which confused European explorers and mapmakers of the time
the Dead Sea between modern-day Israel and Jordan. The Greeks called this salt lake Lake Asphaltites because of the asphalt that naturally comes to the surface of the water
ghosts of Gomorra:
Bible. Old Testament one of two ancient cities near the Dead Sea, the other being Sodom, that were destroyed by God as a punishment for the wickedness of their inhabitants (Genesis 19:24)
a landmark visible from sea
Roman triplets who, in the seventh century B.C., were made to fight a set of enemy triplets to determine the outcome of a war. Two of the Horatii died, but the remaining one killed all three of his opponents
the two timbers that support the bowsprit at the front of the ship
St. Elmo's Lights:
St. Elmo's fire, an electric glow seen on ships during storms, and considered supernatural by superstitious sailors
(Corpus sancti) corpusants:
other names for St. Elmo's fire; from the Latin for "holy body"
Mene, Mene, Tekel Upharsin:
the writing on the wall in the biblical book of Daniel. Translation: "Your rule is over; you have been weighed in the balance and found wanting; your kingdom will be divided"
an ancient Roman town in Italy that was destroyed by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 A.D.
Log and line:
a device for measuring a ship's speed. A "log"—a triangular piece of wood—attached to a knotted rope is thrown into the water, and then watched to see how many knots run out on the rope within a set time period
All Herod's murdered Innocents:
the male babies of Bethlehem killed by King Herod at the time of Christ's birth
wood from a Tsuga tree, formerly called "hemlock," from Aroostook County in Maine
strapped to. A crupper is a strap that runs under a horse's tail and keeps its saddle from shifting forward
decorated with ornamental knots called Turks' heads
Middle aisle of a church!:
that is, where the coffin is placed during funerals
the biblical Jacob's favorite wife. He was tricked into marrying her older sister, Leah, and worked seven years for the right to marry Rachel, too
Rachel, weeping for her children:
after King Herod's slaughter of the innocents, recounted in Matthew 2:16-18, the sound of weeping was heard, and it was said to be the long-dead Rachel—the matriarch of the Jewish people—weeping for the dead children
True as the circumference to its center:
the circumference of a circle depends entirely on where its center is
The unsetting polar star:
the North Star, used for navigation in the Northern Hemisphere because of its fixed place in the sky
a vessel used to grind spices into powder, secured to a table by means of a clamp. Some 19th-century mortars had handles for this purpose
Lucius Tarquinius Priscus, the fifth King of Rome, who ruled from 616 B.C. to 578 B.C. According to tradition, when he first arrived in Rome, an eagle stole his cap and then replaced it
Miriam and Martha:
No specific identification is found for these names. From context, they seem to be referencing children at home.
absolute tyranny. Most West African slaves were shipped to the Americas from an area on the coast of the Bay of Guinea
a weathervane of feathers or other light material attached to a masthead
Luff a point:
one point of the compass, or 11.25 degrees
the English Channel
in 1 Maccabees, a book of scripture included in the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox bibles, the Greek King Antiochus V shows his elephants grape and mulberry juice before battle, to incite them to fight
All the angels that fell from heaven:
some Christians believe that one-third of heaven's angels have been cast out, and roam the earth
a single small hill or mountain that rises out of a surrounding plain
a plaid woolen scarf worn by Scottish Highlanders over one shoulder
an optical illusion that makes objects on the horizon appear longer and higher up than they are
And I only ...:
In Job 1:15-19, Job hears that his livestock and children are dead from a series of messengers and speaks these words.
a figure in Greek mythology punished for various sins by being bound to a winged wheel of fire