14.14 Middle Passage

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The Middle Passage is historically touted as the Triangular trade route between Africa and the New World of North and South America, primarily in respect to the Atlantic slave trade. Consequently, the term “Middle Passage” is used to describe the passage that millions of African slaves made through the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. In reality, the “Middle Passage” was the original term for what is now known as the Northwest Passage, the sea route that connects the Atlantic Ocean and Pacific Ocean via Greenland. In short, ships accessing the Middle Passage would sail north from the Atlantic Ocean towards Greenland, through the Greenland Sea and the Arctic Ocean, down through the Bering Strait between Alaska and Russia into the Bering Sea, and finally into the North Pacific Ocean above Japan (or vice versa). Naturally, the northern sea route cut months off of global sea travel. Consequently, the Roman Empire used the Middle Passage to control the world by circumnavigating the globe in a fraction of the time than their respective enemies (e.g., Ming Dynasty, Persian Empire, etc.). Since the sea route was not widely known at the time, the Roman Empire launched surprise attacks on both sides of the globe, quickly retreating to their haven or heaven (i.e., Greenland). The American game of baseball is tribute to the attacks of the Roman Empire who would “strike” a number of countries on a diamond-like grid prior to their “home run” back to Greenland.

Roman Slave Trade
Prior to the invention of the steam engine, Greco-Roman ships were powered around the Mediterranean Sea by large sails and hundreds of oaring slaves. Although modern historical accounts differentiate between clipper ships and slave ships, the reality is that a combination of slave and sail power have been used in sailing since the birth of the Greco-Roman Empire. Because speed is a vital aspect in both commerce and war, ships could not rely solely on one form of power. A ship with no wind or sick slaves would become a sitting duck on the high seas, something no business or military could afford. Although sails were employed when favorable winds blew, rowing was vital, especially in battle were ships were required to make sharp turns when attacking enemy ships (i.e., tacking). As the Greco-Roman Empire outgrew the Mediterranean, slaves were used to power various explorations around the globe. Consequently, slave stables were built at strategic port locations in Africa, Asia, North America and South America. After the first leg of a given journey, exhausted slaves would be traded in for fresh slaves, hence the term “slave trade”. The new slaves would then be used until the next port where the process was once again repeated. Over time, the African slave populations at key Roman ports overtook the indigenous populations (e.g., Brazil, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, etc.).