Mer: Seeing the Seven Seas
The word “sea” refers to a large body of water that separates the continents from each other and is synonymous with the term “ocean”. The English language also uses the noun “mere” to mean lake, pond or pool and is also a synonym of “sea” and “ocean”. The French language uses “mer” in the same sense, in Castilian Spanish “mar” means sea and both came from the Latin word “mare” which also means sea. Although the term “mere” has fallen into disuse the derivative prefix “ mer-“ is still in common use particularly in reference to mermaid and mermen, those mythical aquatic beings, that give rise to many fantasy stories and contribute to the romanticising of the expression “the Seven Seas”.
The term “Seven Seas” conjures up images of vast expanses of water, regal ships and untold adventures. The early civilisations such as the Romans, the Persians, and the Hindus all had there own concept of the Seven Seas beings the bodies of water that existed near their parts of the world. These perceptions of the seven seas then were aptly depicted in Medieval European Literature and even a 9th Century Muslim author makes reference to seven bodies of water in his work. At that time, the world was thought to be a much smaller place, yet the idea of the Seven Seas grew as the world itself expanded.
Although, the phrase “the Seven Seas” can be traced back to origins in ancient Greece and Rome it is still a frequently used phrase and can be considered as any of these groupings: – The Medieval/ European group (The Black Sea, the Red Sea, the Persian Sea, the Arabian Sea, the Mediterranean Sea, the Aegean Sea and the Caspian Sea). – The Middle East to China route (The Persian Sea, the Gulf of Khambhat, the Bay of Bengal, the Strait of Malacca, the Singapore Strait, the Gulf of Thailand and the South China Sea). – The Modern set (The Atlantic Ocean, the Pacific Ocean, the Artic Ocean, the Indian Ocean, the Mediterranean Sea, the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico. As such, “To sail the Seven Seas” has come to mean “to travel the world” or any part thereof, via the sea or mere.