(Syrʹtis) [from a root meaning “drag”].
The Greek name of two gulfs located within the large indentation on the coast of northern Africa. The western gulf (between Tunis and Tripoli) was called Syrtis Minor (now the Gulf of Gabès). Just to the E was Syrtis Major, the modern Gulf of Sidra. Ancient sailors dreaded both gulfs because of their treacherous sandbanks, which were constantly being shifted by the tides. Regarding vessels that became involved in the shoals, Strabo, a geographer of the first century C.E., reported, “The safe escape of a boat is rare.”—Geography, 17, III, 20.
When the apostle Paul was being taken to Rome as a prisoner, the ship on which he traveled was seized S of Crete by a northeasterly gale. The crew, therefore, feared that the ship would be run aground on the “Syrtis,” evidently the quicksands or sandbanks of the Gulf of Sidra.—Ac 27:14-17.