The Rose of the Winds

iCaptain rosa dei venti maestrale grecale tramontana ponente levante ostro scirocco libeccio

Tramontana, Grecale, Levante, Scirocco, Mezzogiorno, Libeccio, Ponente and Mistral: the name of the eight winds of the rose is known to most but often we get confused about the direction and ignore the etymology of the names, it will seem strange or obvious but the two things are connected to each other , learned the etymology no longer forgets the direction.

Let’s start from the beginning: we are around the year 1000 A.D. and the maritime republics are asserting themselves on the economic domination of the Mediterranean, we are sailing more and more east and south of Sicily sailing to Greece, Turkey, Syria, Morocco etc. etc.

In the Maritime Navigation many definitions were born by custom and so also the rose of the winds: in sailing the sailors needed to indicate the direction of origin of the winds and exploit them in the gaits especially aft to reach Destination.

The precise geographical location to give to the rose is not certain, it is thought to be south of the Island of Malta, Centered on the Island of Zante or Crete; let us say that a more precise location that takes into account the current political boundaries could be that of zante Island.

Let’s start by saying that the plane of the horizon is divided into 4 90-degree wide quadrants each in the Directions N-E-S-W (clockwise every 90 degrees), the winds that blew from these areas were associated with the direction of the Sun at the Rising (Sun) or the Sunset (Sol that Pone) hence the names Levate for the wind coming from E, Ponente for the one coming from the West.

For the wind coming from N it was used to indicate the direction of the mountains (Ultra Montes) from here Tramontana, for that coming from S the direction of the sun in the middle of the day from which Half Day or Ostro (“Auster” son of Astreo and Eos) associated with the myth of Auster bearer of rains and heat from the far south.

In the middle of each quadrant (45 degrees) you have the winds blowing from NE-SE-SW-NW; these winds were associated with the name of the regions from which they breathed and therefore: Grecale from NE (direction of the Greek peninsula), Scirocco da SE (from the Syrian coast), Libeccio da SW (from the Libyan coast), Mistral from NW (from the Master city that was represented by Venice).

Other interpretations may be possible as, depending on the historical epoch, the first nautical charts of the Mediterranean placed the rose in different areas.

Now we hope that the names remain well in mind but we are discounted the question but this rose for what do we use it for?

Well the rose remains a pure convention that serves to indicate the direction of origin of a wind and is used as it is all over the world; for example, if I am in Fiumicino and there is a wind from NE, then a Greek, does not mean that the wind comes from Greece but simply from the NE direction.

Another practical use of the rose is to use on the compasses where in addition to the main directions we will find, based on the accuracy of the same the division of the capable directions.

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