Gulf of Gabès
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The Gulf of Gabes (or Cabès, Cabes, Gaps;[2]Arabic: خليج قابس‎‎, romanizedḫalīǧ Qābis), also known as Lesser Syrtis (from Ancient Greek: Μικρά Σύρτις, romanizedMikrá Sýrtis; Latin: Syrtis Minor), contrasting with the Greater Syrtis in Libya, is a gulf on Tunisia's east coast in the Mediterranean Sea, off North Africa. The gulf roughly spans the coast from Sfax to Djerba. At the head of the gulf is the city of Gabès (Ghannouche) where the tides have a large range of up to 2.1 m at spring tides.[3] Both Gabès and Sfax are major ports on the gulf, supporting sponge and tuna fisheries, with Gabès being the economic and administrative center.
Gulf of Gabès
Lesser Syrtis

Satellite image of the Gulf of Gabès
Gulf of Gabès
Location in Tunisia
34°00′N 10°25′E
Native nameخليج قابس‎  (Tunisian Arabic)
Ocean/sea sourcesMediterranean
Basin countriesTunisia
Max. length50 km (31 mi)
Max. width70 km (43 mi)
The Latin name Syrtis Minor is used by Pliny the Elder,[4] quoting an earlier description in Polybius1.39.2, who uses the equivalent Ancient Greek: ἡ μικρά Σύρτις (elsewhere also Σύρτις ἡ μικρά, Σύρτις ἡ μικροτέρα, ἡ μικροτέρα Σύρτις).
An alternative name was Λωτοφαγῖτις σύρτιςLōtophagîtis sýrtis "Syrtis of the lotus-eaters", reported by Strabo.[5] (Compare Syrtis Major, the ancient name of the Gulf of Sidra.)
Syrtis is referred to in the New Testament of the Bible[6] where the Apostle Paul relates being sent in chains to Rome to stand trial before Caesar Nero. The crew of his ship was worried about being driven by a storm into Syrtis,[7] and took precautions to prevent it, resulting, eventually, in being shipwrecked on the island of Malta in the Mediterranean Sea.
Strabo refers to Tacape (the modern Gabès) as an important entrepot of the Lesser Syrtis.
In Book IV of the Histories, Herodotus describes a violent ritual that took place in the region:
During a festival dedicated to the goddess Athena, their young women divided into two camps and then set to fighting each other with blows from stones and wooden clubs, thereby enacting, as they say, a ceremonial that was instituted by their ancestors in honor of the indigenous deity whom we call Athena. Some of them who die from the wounds are called false virgins.
A modern counterpart to this festival of violence, involving two opposing gangs near the Shatt al-Jerid annually engaging in combat with stones and clubs was described in Une fete de printemps au Jerid (1942) by G. Payre.[8]
Most sources[3][9] consider the Gulf of Gabès as just being within the line between the northwest tip of Djerba (Jerba) Island on the southeast and Ras Yonga (Point Yonga) on the northwest. Ras Yonga is just north of the island of Jazīrat Khunayyis and its marshes[9] and some 52 kilometres (32 mi) southwest of Sfax. The geographer Strabo indicated that the entrance to the gulf was located at the islands of Cercinna (Kerkennah) and Meninx (Djerba).[5] Following Strabo gives a larger area with the line being from just north of Sfax to Djerba Island. That larger area would include part of the Kerkennah Islands and the coast around Sfax. The centroid for the smaller gulf is at 33°59′29″N 10°24′09″E, and the distance across is 68.5 kilometres (42.6 mi), with a depth of 51.0 kilometres (31.7 mi). The larger gulf is 150 kilometres (93 mi) across[10] with a depth of 90 kilometres (56 mi), and the centroid is at 34°04′48″N​10°28′36″E​.
The entire Gulf of Gabes, both larger and smaller versions, is underlain by the continental shelf of the African Plate,[11] and is nowhere deeper than 200 meters.[12] During the Permian Period and Triassic Period, carbonate minerals and evaporites were deposited in the Gulf of Gabes which now form salt domes and diapirs.[13] In addition carbon and hydrocarbons primarily from vegetation were deposited. These now form the basis for the oil and gas industry in the gulf. Among the important oil and gas fields in the gulf are the Ashtart Field[3][14] and the Chergui Field.[15] The Ashtart Oil Terminal lies just outside the gulf at 34°17′N 11°23′E where tankers can easily tranship the oil.[16]
  1. ^ GoogleEarth
  2. ^ see e.g.: Cabès in John Bostock, Henry Thomas Riley (eds.), The natural history of Pliny, Volume 1, 1855, chapter 4, "The Syrtes", p. 391, fn. 7; Cabes in the "Atlas" article in Copley, John Singleton (chairman) (1835) The Penny Cyclopædia of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, Volume III, Athanaric-Bassano C. Knight, London, page 32, OCLC 2041456; Gaps in Charles Anthon, A classical dictionary: containing an account of the principal proper names mentioned in ancient authors, 1842, p. 1279.
  3. ^ a b c National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (2002) Section 8: Tunisia–Cap Serrat to Ras Ajdir" Sailing Directions (Enroute) for Western Mediterranean (tenth edition) National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, Bethesda, Maryland, page 102
  4. ^ Naturalis Historia Book V, Chapter 4 — The Syrtes
  5. ^ a b Συνεχὴς δ’ἐστὶν ἡ μικρά σύρτις, ἣν καὶ Λωτοφαγῖτιν σύρτιν λέγουσιν. StraboGeographica Book XVII, Chapter III, Sections 16-18 pages 288-289
  6. ^ Acts 27:10-19
  7. ^ For usage see Deissmann, Adolf (1912) St. Paul: a study in social and religious history Hodder and Stoughton, London, page 268 footnote 1, OCLC 1240027
  8. ^ Brent D. Shaw. (2011). Sacred Violence. [Online]. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Available from: Cambridge Books Online doi​:​10.1017/CBO9780511762079 [Accessed 20 April 2016]. page 23
  9. ^ a b British Naval Intelligence Division (1945) Tunisia London, pages 65-66, OCLC 13589103
  10. ^ It is 150 km from the northwestern point of Djerba Island to the coast just above Sfax, but only 81 km to the island, which comports with the distances from Pliny the Elder, above.
  11. ^ International Court of Justice (1984) Case concerning the continental shelf (Tunisia/Libya) International Court of Justice, The Hague, Netherlands, OCLC 11315850
  12. ^ Tawadros, Edward E. (2001) Geology of Egypt and Libya A.A. Balkema, Rotterdam, Netherlands, page 4, ISBN 90-5809-331-X
  13. ^ Tawadros, Edward E. (2001) Geology of Egypt and Libya A.A. Balkema, Rotterdam, Netherlands, page 6, ISBN 90-5809-331-X
  14. ^ Tawadros, Edward E. (2001) Geology of Egypt and Libya A.A. Balkema, Rotterdam, Netherlands, page 383, ISBN 90-5809-331-X
  15. ^ Dean, Lucy (2006) The Middle East and North Africa 2007 Routledge, London, page 1094, ISBN 1-85743-390-4
  16. ^ National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (2002) Section 8: Tunisia–Cap Serrat to Ras Ajdir"Sailing Directions (Enroute) for Western Mediterranean (tenth edition) National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, Bethesda, Maryland, page 101
External links
Port Gabes, photograph from Panoramio
Last edited on 20 February 2021, at 20:28
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