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Book XXXIII

This webpage reproduces a Bookof
The Histories

of
Polybius

published in Vol. VI
of the Loeb Classical Library edition,
1922 thru 1927

The text is in the public domain.

This text has not yet been proofread.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!


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Book XXXV

(Vol. VI) Polybius
The Histories

p293 Fragments of Book XXXIV

I. Some General Remarks. The Subject of this Book.

(From Strabo VII.1.1, C 332)

1 1 Those who in a general history have dealt separately with the geography of the continents 2 like Ephorus and Polybius.

(Id., X.3.5, C 465)

3 Polybius says that in regard to Greece Eudoxus has given a good and Ephorus a very good account of the foundation of cities, genealogies, migrations, 4 and the planters of colonies; "but I," he adds, "will describe the actual situation of places and give the actual distances, that being the most essential thing in geography." 6 But yet it is you, Polybius, who introduce the popular misstatements of distances not only outside Greece, but in Greece itself.

(From Geminus, Elements of Astronomy, C 16)

7 Polybius the historian has composed a book with the title On the parts of the globe under the Celestial Equator, that is to say in the middle of the torrid zone. 8 He says that the region is inhabited, p295and has a more temperate climate than that of those who inhabit extremities of the torrid zone. On the one hand he cites the accounts given by those who have actually visited the region, and can testify to the fact, and on the other he argues from the nature of the sun's movements. 9 For at the solstices the sun remains a long time near the tropic circles both in approaching them and receding from them, so that we actually see it stay in their neighbourhood for about forty days; for which reason the length of the day remains almost the same for about forty days. 10 So owing to the length of its stay over the climates lying under the tropic circles, that region is burnt up and is uninhabitable owing to the excessive heat. But from the equinoctial circle or equator the sun recedes rapidly, so that the length of the day rapidly increases or decreases after the equinoxes. 11 It is reasonable then to suppose that the climates situated under the equator are more temperate, as the sun does not prolong his stay near the extreme point but rapidly recedes from it. For all those who live between the two tropic circles are equally exposed to the passage of the sun; but he remains longer over those who live under the actual tropics. 13 So for this reason the region under the equator in the middle of the torrid zone has a more temperate climate than those at the extremities of the torrid zone, which lie under the tropic circles.

(From Strabo II.3.1, C 96)

14 Polybius makes the zones six in number, two lying p297under the arctic circles, two between these and the tropic circles, and two between the latter and the equinoctial circle or equator.

(Id. II.3.2, C 97)

15 Polybius is mistaken in making some zones determined by the arctic circles, two immediately under them, and two between them and the tropic circles.

(Id.)

16 But if, as Eratosthenes says, the zone under the equator is temperate, agreeing in this with Polybius — the latter adds that it is very high and therefore has a rainfall, the clouds from the north during the etesian winds being arrested by the heights in large masses — it is much better to assume that this is a third narrow temperate zone, than to introduce here the two zones under the tropic circles.

(Id.)

17 Poseidonius is against the statement of Polybius that the region under the equator is very high.

(From Achilles, Introduction to the Phaenomena, C 31)

18 Those after Aratus are not at all agreed about the number of the zones. Some, like Polybius and Poseidonius, say they are six, dividing the torrid zone into two.

II. On the Voyage of Ulysses, especially in the neighbourhood of Sicily

(Strabo I.2.9, C30)

2 1 It is not like Homer to build an empty narrative p299full of marvels on no basis of truth. 2 For naturally the fact is that one makes falsehood more credible if one mixes a little truth with it, 3 as Polybius also says when he undertakes to deal with the wanderings of Ulysses.

(Id. I.2.15‑17, C 23‑25)

4 Polybius is right in his notion about the wanderings of Ulysses. 5 For he says that Aeolus, the man who gave sailing directions for the seas near the Straits, which have a current setting both ways and are difficult to pass owing to the tides, was supposed to be the dispenser of the winds and a king, just as Danaus, who first showed them how to make the reservoirs in Argos, and Atreus who discovered that the motion of the sun was contrary to that of the heavens, and seers and those who practised divination from sacrifices, were styled kings, and the Egyptian priests, and the Chaldaeans and the Magi, who were distinguished from other men by some special science, enjoyed in early times peculiar precedence and honour, and just as each of the gods is honoured as the author of some useful invention. 9 Having thus prepared his way, he does not allow us to treat Aeolus and the whole of the wanderings of Ulysses as mythical, but he says, that while some mythical elements have been added, as in the case of the Trojan war, the main statements about Sicily correspond to those of the other writers who treat of the local history of Italy and Sicily. 11 Neither does he applaud the dictum of Eratosthenes that we may find out where Ulysses travelled when we find the cobbler who sewed the bag of the winds. 12 And it is, he says, quite in accordance with the facts about the p301Scyllaean rock and the method of fishing for sword-fish, when he says about Scylla —

13 Her heads, with which the ravening monster dives

In quest of dolphins, dog-fish, or of prey

More bulky.1

14 For when the tunnies swimming in shoals along the Italian coast are carried out of their course and are unable to approach the Sicilian coast they fall a prey to larger animals, such as dolphins, sharks, and other marine monsters. 15 By preying on them the sword-fish (galeotae), also called xiphiae and sea-dogs, are fattened. 16 For in this case and in that of the rising of the Nile and other waters, the same thing happens as in the case of forest fires. The wild animals collect to escape from the fire or the water and are devoured by the more powerful ones.

3 1 After saying this he describes the method of fishing the sword-fish as practised near the Scyllaean rock. 2 There is a single signaller for the whole fleet of small sculling boats. 3 In each boat, whenever the signaller announces the appearance of the sword-fish, one man rows and another stands on the prow holding a harpoon. The fish swims with the third part of his body out of the water. 4 When the boat gets near it the man strikes it from close quarters and then pulls out of its body the shaft of the spear, leaving the point, which is barbed and is on purpose loosely fixed into the shaft, having a long line attached to it. They give the wounded fish line until he is tired out by his struggles and his effort to escape. 6 Then they land him or pull him p303into the boat, unless he is exceedingly heavy. 7 If the shaft happens to fall into the sea, it is not lost, for it is composed of oak and pinewood, so that when the oaken part of it sinks owing to its weight the rest remains on the surface and can be easily picked up. 8 Sometimes the rower is wounded through the boat owing to the length of the fish's sword, and the fact that in his force and in the method of hunting him he is like a wild board.

9 From all this, he says, one may conjecture that according to Homer Ulysses is wandering near Sicily, since he attributes to Scylla that method of fishing which is especially practised by the natives near the Scyllaean rock, 10 and also because what he says about Charybdis resembles what happens in the straits. 11 And as for "thrice she disgorges,"2 12 it is rather an error in the text for "twice" than an error of fact. And what happens in the island of Meninx is in agreement with the description of the Lotus-eaters.

4 1 And if there is anything that does not correspond with reality, we must set it down to change or error or poetic license, a combination of history, disposition, and myth. 2 Now the end aimed at by history is truth, and so we find the poet in the Catalogue of Ships mentioning the peculiar features of each place, calling one town "rocky," another "on the border," another "with many doves," another "by the sea"; 3 and the end aimed at by disposition is vividness, as in his battle scenes, while the aim of myth is to please or astonish. 4 But to invent everything neither produces illusion nor is it p305like Homer; for all consider his poems to be philosophical works, and refuse to follow the advice of Eratosthenes who tells us not to judge the poems by their meaning or seek for history in them. 5 Polybius says, too, that to understand

Nine days by cruel storms I thence was borne3

of a short voyage is more likely, as cruel winds do not carry us strange, than to understand that he sailed out into the ocean as if fair winds blew all the time. 6 And reckoning the distance from Cape Malea to the Pillars of Hercules as twenty-two thousand stades, he says if this were traversed in nine days at a uniform pace it would mean that each day he made 2500 stades. 7 Now, who his ever heard of anyone sailing from Lycia or Rhodes to Alexandria in two days, the distance here being 4000 stades? 8 And to those who object that Ulysses, though he came thrice to Sicily, did not once pass the Straits of Messina, he replies that every one after him also avoided this route. This, then, is what he says.

III. Polybius's Criticism of previous Geographical Writers

(Id. II.4.1‑3, C 104)

5 1 Polybius in his account of the geography of Europe says that he dismisses older authors, but that he will examine those who find fault with them, Dicaearchus and Eratosthenes, the latest author who has dealt with geography, 2 and Pytheas who has p307led many people into error by saying that he traversed the whole of Britain on foot, giving the island a circumference of forty thousand stades, 3 and telling us also about Thule, those regions in which there was no longer any proper land nor sea nor air, but a sort of mixture of all three of the consistency of a jelly-fish in which one can neither walk nor sail, holding everything together, so to speak. 4 He says he himself saw this jellyfish-like substance but the rest he derives from hearsay. That is the account that Pytheas gives, and he tells us that he came back thence and starting again followed the whole shore of the ocean from Cadiz to the river Tanaïs. Polybius, then, says that it is in itself incredible that a private man and a poor man should have traverse such vast distances in a ship or on foot, but that Eratosthenes, while doubting if one should believe this, still believes in the account of Britain and the neighbourhood of Gades and the rest of Spain. But Polybius says it is far better to believe the Messenian Euhemerus4 than Pytheas, for Euhemerus says that he sailed only to one country, Panchaia, but Pytheas says that he personally visited the whole northern coast of Europe as far as the ends of the world, a thing we would not even believe of Hermes himself if he told us so. 10 Eratosthenes, however, he says, calls Euhemerus a Bergaean,5 but believes Pytheas whom not even Dicaearchus believed. 11 Now to say "whom not even Dicaearchus believed" is ridiculous, as if we p309should take him as a standard, an author in whom Polybius himself detects so many errors. 12 I have spoken above of Eratosthenes' mistaken notion of the west and north of Europe. 13 But while we should excuse him and Dicaearchus who had never seen these districts, how can we excuse Polybius and Poseidonius? 14 Who but Polybius is it who calls the statement they make about distances in this case and in many others popular misstatements, but he is not even correct when he confutes them. 6 1 As for Dicaearchus at least he says that the distance from the Peloponnesus to the Pillars of Hercules is 10,000 stades, and that the distance to the Adriatic is more. The distance as far as the Straits in going to the Pillars he estimates at 3000, so that the remainder from the Straits to the Pillars amounts to 7000. Here Polybius says that he leaves it out of consideration whether Dicaearchus is right or not in his estimate of 3000 stades, but that he is not right in that of 7000, whether we follow the coast or go straight across the sea. For the coast-line resembles an obtuse angle, the two sides resting on the apex being at Narbo, so that a triangle is formed the base of which is the straight line across the sea and the two sides those forming the above angle. Of these sides the one reaching from the Straits to Narbo measures more than 10,200 stades, and the other a little less than 8000 stades. 6 Now the longest distance from Europe to Africa across the Tyrrhenian Sea is not more than 3000 stades; across the Sardinian Sea p311it is somewhat shorter, but let us, he says, call it there also 3000 stades, and besides this let us assume that the depth of the Gulf of Narbo, or let us say of a perpendicular from the apex to the base of the obtuse angle is 2000 stades. 8 Then, he says, it is evident from a schoolboy's geometry that the whole coast-line from the Straits to the Pillars is longer by very nearly 500 stades than the strange line across the sea. 9 Then if we add to this the 3000 stades from the Peloponnesus to the Straits, the whole distance along this strange line will be more than double the estimate of Dicaearchus, and according to him we must reckon the distance to the head of the Adriatic as even more than this.

11 But one feels inclined to say, "my dear Polybius, the falsity of all this is clearly demonstrated when tested by your own statements, which are that it is 700 stades from the Peloponnesus to Leucas, the same distance from Leucas to Corcyra, and again the same from Corcyra to the Ceraunian Mountains, and the length of the whole Illyrian coast on the right as far as Iapydia from the Ceraunian mountains onwards 6150 stades. So that both the above statements are false, both that of Dicaearchus that it is 7000 stades from the Straits to the Pillars and the one which you think you have proved. 14 For almost every one is agreed that the direct distance by sea amounts to 12,000 stades.

How, then, can we avoid thinking that Eratosthenes in the nonsense he tells has surpassed even Antiphanes of Berga and rendered it impossible for any subsequent writer to excel him in absurdity?

p313 (Strabo II.4.4, C106)

7 1 Next Polybius corrects Eratosthenes, in some cases rightly but in others making worse mistakes himself. 2 For while Eratosthenes says it is 300 stades from Ithaca to Corcyra, Polybius says it is more than 900, and while Eratosthenes gives the distance from Epidamnus to Thessalonica as 900 stades, Polybius says it is above 2000. In these two cases he is right, but when, Eratosthenes having said that it is 7000 stades from Marseilles to the Pillars and 6000 from the Pyrenees to the Pillars, Polybius makes a worse mistake in giving these distances as 9000 and nearly 8000 respectively, Eratosthenes' statement being nearer the truth. For it is now generally agreed that the width of the whole of Spain from the Pyrenees to its western coast is as the crow flies not more than 6000 stades. 5 But Polybius says that the length of the Tagus alone from its source to its mouth is 8000 stades, not I suppose reckoning its windings — for that is not correct in geography — but meaning in a strange line. 6 And yet the distance of the source of the Tagus from the Pyrenees is more than 1000 stades. Again, he is right in saying that Eratosthenes is mistaken about Spain, and that in some cases his statements about it are evidently contradictory. 7 Eratosthenes indeed says that the further side of Spain as far as Gades is surrounded by Gaulish inhabitants, in which case if the Gauls inhabit the outer side of Europe as far as Gades, why forgetting this does he in his detailed description of Spain never mention Gauls? 8 And when he states that the length of Europe is less than that of Africa and Asia combined he makes a false comparison. p315For he says that the Strait between the Pillars lies due west while the Tanaïs flows from south-east.

(Id. II.4.8, C 108)

11 There are several peninsulas jutting out from Europe, and Polybius has given a better description of them than Eratosthenes, but not an adequate one. 12 The latter says there are three, that which runs down to the Pillars and is occupied by Spain, that running down to the Straits and occupied by Italy, and thirdly that terminated by Cape Malea and comprising all the peoples between the Adriatic and the Euxine and Tanaïs. 13 Polybius agrees about the two first, but makes the third that reaching to Malea and Sunium, occupied by the whole of Greece, by Illyria and parts of Thrace, the fourth being the Thracian Chersonese, on which is the Strait between Sestus and Abydus, inhabited by Thracians, and the fifth that of the Cimmerian Bosporus and the mouth of the Palus Maeotis.

IV. On Lusitania

(From Athenaeus VII. 302e)

8 1 Polybius of Megalopolis in the Thirty-Fourth Book of his Histories, in speaking of that portion of Iberia called Lusitania, says that there are oak-trees planted deep in the sea, on the fruit of which the tunnies feed and get fat. 2 So that we should not be wrong in calling the tunnies sea-hogs.

(Strabo III.2.7, C145)

3 Polybius says that these acorns are carried as far as Latium and washed up, unless indeed, he adds, Sardinia too and that neighbourhood produce them.

(Athenaeus VIII. 330C)

4 Polybius, in the Thirty-Fourth Book of his Histories speaking of the natural wealth of Lusitania (a district of Iberia, or, as the Romans now call it, Spain), tells us that owing to the favourable climate both men and animals are very prolific, and the land is constantly productive. 5 For roses, white violets, asparagus, and similar plants only cease flowering for three months, and as for the sea-fish, in quantity, excellence, and beauty it is far superior to that in our own sea. 6 The Sicilian medimnus of barley costs one drachma and that of wheat nine Alexandrian obols, the metreta of wine costs a drachma and a fair-sized kid or hare one obol. Lambs are three or four obols apiece, a fat pig weighing a hundred minae costs five drachmae and a sheep two. A talent's weight of figs can be had for three obols, a calf for five drachmae and a ploughing ox for ten. The flesh of wild animals is scarcely thought worth pricing, but is given away for nothing or exchanged.

V. On Spain

(Strabo III.1.6, C 139)

9 1 The inhabitants are known as Turdetani and Turduli, some considering them to be the same and others different. 2 Among the latter is Polybius, who says that the Turduli are next to the Turdetani on the north.

(Id. III.2.15, C 151)

3 The fertility of their country results in the Turdetani p319as well as the Celts, owing to their proximity, or as Polybius says, owing to their kinship, having a quiet and orderly character.

(Id. III.5.5, C 170)

4 Dicaearchus, Eratosthenes, and Polybius and most Greeks place the Pillars at the Straits.

(Id. III.5.7, C 172)

5 Polybius says there is a spring in the temple of Hercules at Gades, a few steps leading down to the water, which is drinkable. It behaves in a contrary manner to the tide of the sea, disappearing at high tide and filling again at low water. The reason of this, he says, is that the air which comes from the depths to the surface of the earth is prevented, when the spring is covered by the sea as the tide advances, from finding its natural outlet, and is driven back to the interior, thus stopping up the passage of the spring and causing the flow of water to cease; 7 but when the spring is uncovered again the air resumes its direct course and sets free the veins of the spring so that it bubbles up in abundance.

(Id. III.2.10, C 147)

8 Polybius, in speaking of the silver mines near New Carthage, says they are very extensive and are distant about twenty stades from the town, extending in a circle for four hundred stades. 9 Here forty thousand miners lived who at that period produced for the Roman government a daily sum of twenty-five thousand drachmae. 10 I say nothing of the working of the mines in other respects — for it is a long story — but the lumps of silver ore which are washed down by the streams are crushed, he says, p321and passed through sieves into water. The deposit is then again crushed and while the water is running off undergoes a third crushing. 11 This is done five times in all and the fifth deposit, after the lead has been drained off, produces pure silver.

(Id. III.2.11, C 148)

12 Polybius says that this river (the Baetis) and the Anas flow from Celtiberia, being distant from each other about nine hundred stades.

(Id. III.4.13, C 62; Athenaeus I.16C)

13 Polybius in enumerating the tribes and cities of the Paccaei and Celtiberians counts among the other cities Segesama and Intercatia.

Thayer's Note: The following fragment was overlooked by the Loeb editor:

(Strabo, III.4.13, C 62)

13a Polybius says that Tiberius Gracchus destroyed three hundred cities in Celtiberia.

(Athenaeus I.16C)

14 The construction and splendour of the house of Menelaus as described by Homer recalls Polybius's description of the house of a Spanish king, 15 who, he says, vied with the Phaeacians in luxury, except that the bowls in the middle of the house which were made of gold and silver were full of beer.

VI. On Gaul

(Id. VIII. 332A)

10 1 Polybius, in the Thirty-Fourth Book of his Histories says that after the Pyrenees as far as the river Narbo there is a plain traversed by the rivers Illeberis and Roscynus which pass towns of the same name inhabited by Celts. 2 In this plain are found the so‑called underground fish. 3 The plain has a light soil and a great deal of agrostis grows there. Under the plants, when the soil consists p323of sand to the depth of two or three cubits, the flood water of the rivers penetrates, 4 and together with the water in flood-time certain fish descending in search of food — for they are very fond of the roots of the agrostis — make all the plain full of subterranean fish which they catch by digging them up.

(Strabo IV.1.8, C 183)

5 As regards the mouths of the Rhone Polybius finds fault with Timaeus. It has not, he says, five mouths, but only two.

(Id. IV.2.1, C 190)

6 The Loire falls into the sea between the Pictones and the Namnitae. There was formerly a trading port called Corbilo on this river, which Polybius mentions in talking of the fictions of Pytheas. 7 He says that none of the Massaliots who met Scipio and were questioned by him had any particular information to give him about Britain, nor had the people from Narbo, or those from Corbilo, the finest cities in those parts, and yet Pytheas has boldly made so many false statements about it.

(Id. IV.6.10, C 207)

8 Polybius says there is a peculiar animal in the Alps, like a deer in form except its neck and coat, which are like a boar's. 9 Under its chin it has a hard growth about a span long and with hairs at the end, about as thick as a colt's tail.

(Id. IV.6.12, C 208)

10 Polybius says that in his time a gold mine was discovered not far from Aquileia in the country of the Noric Taurisci, so easy to work that when the p325earth on the surface was scraped off to the depth of two feet the diggers found gold at once. 11 The deposit was not deeper than fifteen feet. 12 The gold consisted partly of nuggets as big as a bean or lupine, which were pure gold when the eighth part only had been smelted off, and partly of stuff which required a good deal of smelting but was very rich. 13 After the Italians had been working it together with the natives for two months, the price of gold throughout Italy at once fell by one-third. 14 But the Taurisci, when aware of this, expelled the other workers and made a monopoly of it.

(Id.)

15 Polybius also in talking of the size and height of the Alps compares with them the greatest mountains in Greece, Taygetus, Lycaeum, Parnassus, Olympus, Pelion and Ossa, and Haemus, Rhodope, and Dunax in Thrace. 16 He says that each of these can be ascended by a pedestrian in about one day and that the circuit of each may be made in the same time, but it takes at least five days to ascend the Alps, and the length of that part of the chain which rises from the plain is two thousand two hundred stades. 18 He only mentions four passes, one through Liguria nearest the Tyrrhenian Sea, that through the country of the Taurini, which Hannibal crossed, that through the country of the Salassi, and that through Rhaetia, all very steep. 19 He says there are several lakes in the mountains, three of them very large, Benacus (Garda) being five hundred stades long and thirty in breadth, the river Mincius flowing from it. 20 Next comes Larius (Como), four hundred stades in length but narrower than the p327last, the Adda flowing from it. 21 The third is Verbanus (Maggiore), three hundred stades long and thirty broad, from which a large river, the Ticinus, flows. All these streams fall into the Po.

VII. On Italy

(Athenaeus I. 31d)

11 1 Polybius says that the wine made in Capua from trellised vines is particularly good and no other can be compared with it.

(Strabo V.1.3, C 211)

2 Polybius says the coast from Iapygia to the straits measures by road three thousand stades and is washed by the Sicilian sea. By sea the distance is less than five hundred stades.

(Strabo V.2.5, C 222)

3 The extreme length of the coast of Etruria they say from Luna to Ostia is 2500 stades, the extreme breadth near the hills is less than half this. It is more than 400 stades from Luna to Pisa, from Pisa to Volaterra 280 stades and from there to Populonia 270. From Populonia to Cosa it is nearly 800 or as some say 600. Polybius is wrong in giving the whole length as 1330 stades.

(Steph. Byzantius)

4 Aethale, an island off Etruria. Polybius in his Thirty-Fourth Book says that Lemnos was called Aethaleia.

(Strabo V.4.3,C 242)

5 They call the bay which is formed by the two capes, Misenum and the temple of Minerva, the p329"Crater." Above this coast lies the whole of Campania, the most fertile of all plains. 6 Antiochus says this region was inhabited by the Opici, who were also called Ausones. 7 Polybius, however, evidently regards them as two nations, for he says that this region near the Crater is inhabited by Opici and Ausones.

(Id. VI.3.10, C 285)

8 Polybius says that from Iapygia the road has milestones. It is 560 miles to Sila (?), and from there to Aquileia 178.

(Id. VI.1.4, C 261)

9 After these capes comes the Lacinium, the temple of Juno, once very rich and full of numerous offerings. 10 The distances are not stated exactly. Polybius, however, speaking roughly, gives the distance from the Straits to the Lacinium as 1300 stades 11 and from thence to the headland of Iapygia as 700.

(Id. VI.2.10, C 276)

12 Of the three craters of the Holy Island of Vulcan Polybius says one has partly collapsed, but the others are entire. 13 The edge of the largest is circular and is five stades in circumference. It gradually contracts to a diameter of fifty feet. 14 At this spot the height straight down to the sea is one stade, so that in calm weather the sea is visible. 15 When the south wind is going to blow, a thick haze gathers all round the island so that not even Sicily is visible; but when the north wind is going to blow clear flames spring up to some height from the crater I was speaking of and louder rumblings than usual issue from it. The signs foretelling a west wind are half way between the two. 17 The other craters are similar, but the p331force of their discharge is less. 18 And he states that from the difference of the rumblings, and from the direction from which the discharges and the smoke and flame come, one can foretell from what quarter the wind will blow even three days later. 19 At least some of the people in Lipara, he says, when wind-bound, foretold what wind would blow and were not wrong. 20 So that what seems to us Homer's most mythical statement, when he calls Aeolus the dispenser of the winds, was not quite an idle tale, but darkly hinted at the truth.

VIII. On Thrace, Macedonia, and Greece

(Strabo VII.5.9, C 317)

12 1 Among other improbable things Theopompus states that the Ionian Sea and the Adriatic have an underground connexion, Chian and Thasian pottery being found in the Naro, and again that the two seas are visible from a certain mountain, and that the Liburnian islands have a circumference of as much as 500 stades, and that one of the mouths of the Danube falls into the Adriatic. 2 These and some assertions of Eratosthenes are mere vulgar errors, as Polybius says in speaking of the latter and other writers.

(Id. VII.7.4, C 322)

2aFrom Apollonia the Via Egnatia runs east to Macedonia. It has been measured and marked with milestones as far as Cypsela and the river Hebrus, the distance being 535 miles. 3 If we reckon the mile, as most people do, at 8 stades, this makes 4280 stades, but if like Polybius we add to the 8 stades 2 plethra, p333i.e. the third of a stade, we must add 678 stades, the third of the number of miles. 5 Travellers starting from Apollonia and from Epidamnus strike this road at an equal distance from their point of departure. 6 The whole road is called Via Egnatia, but the first section passing through the town of Lychnidus and through Pylon, the point on the road which separates Illyria from Macedonia, derives its name from Candavia, a mountain of Illyria. 7 Thence it passes along Mt. Barnus through Heraclia Lyncestis, and Eordea to Edessa and Pella and finally Thessalonica. 8 The length of this part is according to Polybius 267 miles.

(Strabo, epit. VII.57)

9 From Perinthus to Byzantium the distance is 630 stades, from the Hebrus and Cypsela to Byzantium as far as the Cyanean rocks it is 3100 according to Artemidorus, and the whole distance from the Ionian gulf at Apollonia to Byzantium is 7320 stades, 10 Polybius adding a further 180 stades, as he reckons the mile at 8⅓ stades.a

(Id. VIII.2.1, C 335)º

11 The circumference of the Peloponnesus sailing from cape to cape is 4000 stades according to Polybius.

(Id. VIII.8.5, C 335)

12 Polybius says that the distance due north from Cape Malea to the Danube is about 1000 stades, but Artemidorus corrects him, and no wonder. According to him the distance from the Danube to Malea is 6500 stades. The reason of the discrepancy is that Polybius does not reckon the distance in a straight line, but by the route some general chanced to follow.

p335 IX. On Asia

(Id. XIV.2.29, C 663)

13 1 Artemidorus agrees with Eratosthenes in his estimate of the direct distance from the Euphrates to India. Polybius says that we should mainly rely on Artemidorus for information about India.

X. On Alexandria

(Id. XVII.1.12, C 797)

14 1 Polybius at least, who visited the city, was disgusted with its condition at the time. 2 He says it is inhabited by three classes of people, first the native Egyptians, an acute and civilized race; 3 secondly by the mercenaries, a numerous, rough, and uncultivated set, it being an ancient practice there to maintain a foreign armed force which owing to the weakness of the kings had learnt rather to rule than to obey; 4 thirdly there were the Alexandrians themselves, a people not genuinely civilized for the same reason, but still superior to the mercenaries, 5 for though they are mongrels they came from a Greek stock and had not forgotten Greek customs.b 6 But when this population had been nearly annihilated, chiefly by Euergetes Physcon, in whose reign Polybius came to Alexandria — for this king being frequently troubled by seditions exposed the populace to the onslaught of the soldiers and destroyed them — the city fell into such a state that afterwards Homer's line was really true —

To Egypt is a long and dangerous road.6

p337 B. Latin Fragments

(Pliny, Nat. Hist. IV.121)c

15 1 Polybius states that the breadth of Europe from Italy to the Ocean is 1150 miles, the true distance not having been determined at that date. For, as I said, the length of Italy as far as the Alps is 1120 miles and thence through Lyons to the British harbour of the Morini, which seems to be the distance measured by Polybius, 1169 miles.

(Ibid., Nat. Hist. VI.206)d

2 Polybius says that the distance from the straits of Gades to the mouth of the Palus Maeotis is 3437 miles, from the same point in a direct line east to Sicily 1250 miles, thence to Crete 375 miles, thence to Rhodes 187 miles, thence to the Chelidonian islands the same, thence to Cyprus 225 miles, and thence to Seleucia Pieria in Syria 115 miles, the whole amounting to 2340 miles.

(Ibid., Nat. Hist. IV.119)

3 Not far at the very point of Baetica, twenty-five miles from the mouth of the strait is the island of Gades, 12 miles long and 3 miles broad according to Polybius. It is distant from the continent at the nearest point less than 700 feet, the distance of most of it being more than 7 miles.

(Ibid., Nat. Hist. III.75)

4 The sea beyond Sicily as far as the Salentini is called by Polybius the Ausonian Sea.

(Ibid., Nat. Hist. IV.77)

5 Between the two Bospori, the Thracian and Cimmerian, the distance according to Polybius is 500 miles.

(Pliny, Nat. Hist. V.40)e

6 Agrippa gives the total length of Africa from the Atlantic and including lower Egypt as 3050 miles. Polybius and Eratosthenes, who are considered the most careful authorities, make it 1100 miles from the ocean to Carthage and 1628 miles from Carthage to Canopus, the most westerly mouth of the Nile.

(Ibid. V.9)

7 When Scipio Aemilianus was in command in Africa Polybius the historian went round in a squadron furnished by the general for the purpose of exploring that continent, and tells us that from Mt. Atlas to the west as far as the river Anatis for 496 miles there are woods full of those wild beasts that Africa produces.

(Ibid. V.26)

8 To the lesser Syrtis from Carthage it is according to Polybius 300 miles, the Syrtis itself being 100 miles from the shore and 300 miles in circumference.

(Ibid. VI.199)

9 Polybius states that Cerne is an island at the extremity of Mauretania over against Mt. Atlas, 8 miles distant from the shore.

(Ibid. VIII.31)º

16 1 The size of the elephants' tusks is chiefly to be observed in the temples, but still in the extreme parts of Africa which border on Aethiopia they are used in houses as door-posts, and palings round houses and stables are constructed of tusks, as Polybius tells us on the authority of the African prince Gulusa.

(Ibid. VIII.47)

2 Polybius, who accompanied Scipio Aemilianus, tells us that lions in their old age attack men, as they no longer have sufficient strength to pursue beasts. Then they haunt the neighbourhood of towns, and for this reason he and Scipio saw several hanging crucified, to deter the others from hurting men for fear of a similar penalty.

(Ibid. XXXI.131)

3 Trogus tells us that near Lycia very soft small sponges are produced at the bottom of the sea in the places where sponges have been plucked. Polybius says that if they are hung above a sick man, his nights are quieter.


The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 Od. XII.95‑97.

2 Od. XII.105.

3 Od. IX.82.

4 The celebrated rationalist, who pretended that he had discovered in an island called Panchaia evidence for jsstms regarding the gods.

5 i.e. as great a liar as Antiphanes of Berga, a traveller who told many marvellous tales.

6 Homer, Od. IV.185.


Thayer's Notes:

a This can't be right. If Polybius makes a mile 8⅓ stades instead of 8 stades, one would expect him to add here not 180 stades, but 305 stades.

It seems clear to me that the Greek text as printed by Loeb (ἑπτακισχίλιοι τριακόσιοι εἴκοσι) must be emended to τετρακισχίλιοι τριακόσιοι εἴκοσι, 4320 stades: Polybius's additional stades would then be exactly 180 as stated.

Confirming this, the straight-line distance from Apollonia (40N25 19E20) to Byzantium (41N00 29E00) is in fact about 820 km = 554 Roman miles, or 4432 stades by the usual reckoning, and 4617 by Polybius' count, for a difference of 185 stades.

b For a detailed modern discussion of the population of Alexandria, see Bevan, The House of Ptolemy, pp97 ff.

c The text of Pliny linked here, which is that established by Mayhoff, has slightly different figures.

d The text of Pliny linked here, which is that established by Mayhoff, differs by 100 miles in the distance to Cyprus, and thus also in the total.

e The text of Pliny linked here, which is that established by Mayhoff, has slightly different figures.


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