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X.4

This webpage reproduces a section of
The Geography

of
Strabo

published in Vol. V
of the Loeb Classical Library edition,
1928

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!


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XI.1

(Vol. V) Strabo
Geography

p161 Book X, Chapter 5

1 (484) The islands near Crete are Thera, the metropolis of the Cyrenaeans, a colony of the Lacedaemonians, and, near Thera, Anaphê, where is the temple of the Aegletan Apollo. Callimachus speaks in one place as follows, "Aegletan Anaphê, neighbour to Laconian Thera,"1 and in another, mentioning only Thera, "mother of my fatherland, famed for its horses."2 Thera is a long island, being two hundred stadia in perimeter; it lies opposite Dia,3 an island near the Cnossian Heracleium,4 but it is seven hundred stadia distant from Crete. Near it are both Anaphê and Therasia. One hundred stadia distant from the latter is the little island Ios, where, according to some writers, the poet Homer was buried. From Ios towards the west one comes of Sicinos and Lagusa and Pholegandros, which last Aratus calls "Iron" Island, because of its ruggedness. Near these is Cimolos, whence comes the Cimolian earth.5 From Cimolos Siphnos is visible, in reference to which island, because of its worthlessness, people say "Siphnian knuckle-bone."6 And still nearer both to Cimolos and to Crete is Melos, which is more notable than these and is seven hundred stadia from the Hermionic promontory, the Scyllaeum, and almost the same distance p163from the Dictynnaeum. The Athenians once sent an expedition to Melos and slaughtered most of the inhabitants from youth upwards.7 485 Now these islands are indeed in the Cretan Sea, but Delos itself and the Cyclades in its neighbourhood and the Sporades which lie close to these, to which belong the aforesaid islands in the neighbourhood of Crete, are rather in the Aegaean Sea.

2 Now the city which belongs to Delos, as also the temple of Apollo, and the Letöum,8 are situated in a plain; and above the city lies Cynthus, a bare and rugged mountain; and a river named Inopus flows through the island — not a large river, for the island itself is small. From olden times, beginning with the times of the heroes, Delos has been revered because of its gods, for the myth is told that there Leto was delivered of her travail by the birth of Apollo and Artemis: "for aforetime," says Pindar,9 "it10 was tossed by the billows, by the blasts of all manner of winds,11 but when the daughter of Coeüs12 in the frenzied pangs of childbirth set foot upon it, then did four pillars, resting on adamant, rise perpendicular from the roots of the earth, and p165on their capitals sustain the rock. And there she gave birth to, and beheld, her blessed offspring." The neighbouring islands, called the Cyclades, made it famous, since in its honour they would send at public expense sacred envoys, sacrifices, and choruses composed of virgins, and would celebrate great general festivals there.13

3 Now at first the Cyclades are said to have been only twelve in number, but later several others were added. At any rate, Artemidorus enumerates fifteen, after saying of Helena that it stretches parallel to the coast from Thoricus to Sunium and is a long island, about sixty stadia in length; for it is from Helena, he says, that the Cyclades, as they are called, begin; and he names Ceos, the island nearest to Helena, and, after this island, Cythnos and Seriphos and Melos and Siphnos and Cimolos and Prepesinthos and Oliaros, and, in addition to these, Paros, Naxos, Syros, Myconos, Tenos, Andros, and Gyaros. Now I consider all of these among the twelve except Prepesinthos, Oliaros, and Gyaros. When our ship anchored at one of these, Gyaros, I saw a small village that was settled by fishermen; and when we sailed away we took on board one of the fishermen, who had been chosen to go from there to Caesar as ambassador (Caesar was at Corinth, on his way14 to celebrate the Triumph after the victory at Actium).15 While on the voyage he told enquirers that he had been sent as ambassador to request a reduction in their tribute; for, he said, they were paying one hundred and fifty drachmas 486 when they could only with difficulty pay p167one hundred. Aratus also points out the poverty of the island in his Catalepton:16 "O Leto, shortly thou wilt pass by me, who am like either iron Pholegandros or worthless Gyaros."

4 Now although Delos had become so famous, yet the rasing of Corinth to the ground by the Romans17 increased its fame still more; for the importers changed their business to Delos because they were attracted both by the immunity which the temple enjoyed and by the convenient situation of the harbour; for it is happily situated for those who are sailing from Italy and Greece to Asia. The general festival is a kind of commercial affair, and it was frequented by Romans more than by any other people, even when Corinth was still in existence.18 And when the Athenians took the island they at the same time took good care of the importers as well as of the religious rites. But when the generals of Mithridates, and the tyrant19 who caused it to revolt, visited Delos, they completely ruined it, and when the Romans again got the island, after the king withdrew to his homeland, it was desolate; and it has remained in an impoverished condition until the present time. It is now held by the Athenians.

5 Rheneia is a desert isle within four stadia from Delos, and there the Delians bury their dead;20 for it is unlawful to bury, or even burn, a corpse in Delos itself, and it is unlawful even to keep a dog there. In earlier times it was called Ortygia.

p169 6 Ceos was at first a Tetrapolis, but only two cities are left, Iulis and Carthaea, into which the remaining two were incorporated, Poeëessa into Carthaea and Coressia into Iulis. Both Simonides the melic poet and his nephew Bacchylides were natives of Iulis, and also after their time Erasistratus the physician, and Ariston the peripatetic philosopher and emulator of Bion the Borysthenite. It is reputed that there was once a law among these people (it is mentioned by Menander, "Phanias, the law of the Ceians is good, that he who is unable to live well should not live wretchedly"), which appears to have ordered those who were over sixty years of age to drink hemlock, in order that the food might be sufficient for the rest. And it is said that once, when they were being besieged by the Athenians, they voted, setting a definite age, that the oldest among them should be put to death, but the Athenians raised the siege. The city lies on a mountain, about twenty-five stadia distant from the sea; and its seaport is the place 487 on which Coressia was situated, which has not as great a population as even a village. Near Coressia, and also near Poeëessa, is a temple of Sminthian Apollo; and between the temple and the ruins of Poeëessa is the temple of Nedusian Athena, founded by Nestor when he was on his return from Troy. There is also a River Elixus in the neighbourhood of Coressia.

7 After Ceos one comes to Naxos and Andros, notable islands, and to Paros. Archilochus the poet was a native of Paros. Thasos was founded by the Parians, as also Parium, a city on the Propontis. p171Now the altar in this city is said to be a spectacle worth seeing, its sides being a stadium in length; and so is the Parian stone, as it is called, in Paros, the best for sculpture in marble.

8 And there is Syros (the first syllable is pronounced long), where Pherecydes21 the son of Babys was born. The Athenian Pherecydes is later than he.22 The poet seems to mention this island, though he calls it Syria: "There is an island called Syria, above Ortygia."23

9 And there is Myconos, beneath which, according to the myth, lie the last of the giants that were destroyed by Heracles. Whence the proverb, "all beneath Myconos alone," applied to those who bring under one title even those things which are by nature separate. And further, some call bald men Myconians, from the fact that baldness is prevalent in the island.

10 And there is Seriphos, the scene of the mythical story of Dictys, who with his net drew to land the chest in which were enclosed Perseus and his mother Danaê, who had been sunk in the sea by Acrisius the father of Danaê; for Perseus was reared there, it is said, and when he brought the Gorgon's head there, he showed it to the Seriphians and turned them all into stone. This he did to avenge his mother, because Polydectes the king, with their co‑operation, intended to marry his mother against p173her will. The island is so rocky that comedians say that it was made thus by the Gorgon.

11 Tenos has no large city, but it has the temple of Poseidon, a great temple in a sacred precinct outside the city, a spectacle worth seeing. In it have been built great banquet-halls — an indication of the multitude of neighbours who congregate there and take part with the inhabitants of Tenos in celebrating the Poseidonian festival.

12 And there is Amorgos, one of the Sporades, the home of Simonides the iambic poet; and also Lebinthos, and Leros: "And thus saith Phocylides, 'the Lerians are bad, not one, but every one, all except Procles; and Procles is a Lerian.' "24 488 For the natives of the island were reproached with being unprincipled.

13 Near by are both Patmos and the Corassiae; these are situated to the west of Icaria, and Icaria to the west of Samos. Now Icaria is deserted, though it has pastures, which are used by the Samians. But although it is such an isle as it is, still it is famous, and after it is named the sea that lies in front of it, in which are itself and Samos and Cos and the islands just mentioned — the Corassiae and Patmos and Leros. Famous, also, is the mountain in it, Cerceteus, more famous than the Ampelus,25 which is situated about the city of Samians.26 The Icarian Sea connects with the Carpathian Sea on the south, and the Carpathian with the Aegyptian, and on the west with the Cretan and the Libyan.

p175 14 In the Carpathian Sea, also, are many of the Sporades, and in particular between Cos and Rhodes and Crete. Among these are Astypalaea, Telos, Chalcia, and those which Homer names in the Catalogue: "And those who held the islands Nisyros and Crapathos and Casos and Cos, the city of Eurypylus, and the Calydnian Islands";27 for, excepting Cos and Rhodes, which I shall discuss later,28 I place them all among the Sporades, and in fact, even though they are near Asia and not Europe, I make mention of them here because my argument has somehow impelled me to include the Sporades with Crete and the Cyclades. But in my geographical description of Asia I shall add a description of such islands that lie close to it as are worthy of note, Cyprus, Rhodes, Cos, and those that lie on the seaboard next thereafter, Samos, Chios, Lesbos, and Tenedos. But now I shall traverse the remainder of the Sporades that are worth mentioning.

15 Now Astypalaea lies far out in the high sea, and has a city. Telos extends alongside Cnidia, is long, high, narrow, has a perimeter of about one hundred and forty stadia, and has an anchoring-place. Chalcia is eighty stadia distant from Telos, four hundred from Carpathos, about twice as far from Astypalaea, and has also a settlement of the same name and a temple of Apollo and a harbour.

p177 16 Nisyros lies to the north of Telos, and is about sixty stadia distant both from it and from Cos. It is round and high and rocky, the rock being that of which millstones are made; at any rate, the neighbouring peoples well supplied with millstones from there. It has also a city of the same name and a harbour and hot springs and a temple of Poseidon. Its perimeter is eighty stadia. 489 Close to it are also isles called Isles of the Nisyrians. They say that Nisyros is a fragment of Cos, and they add the myth that Poseidon, when he was pursuing one of the giants, Polybotes, broke off a fragment of Cos with his trident and hurled it upon him, and the missile became an island, Nisyros, with the giant lying beneath it. But some say that he lies beneath Cos.

17 Carpathos, which the poet calls Crapathos, is high, and has a circuit of two hundred stadia. At first it was a Tetrapolis, and it had a renown which is worth noting; and it was from this fact that the sea got the name Carpathian. One of the cities was called Nisyros, the same name as that of the island of the Nisyrians. It lies opposite Leucê Actê in Libya, which is about one thousand stadia distant from Alexandreia and about four thousand from Carpathos.

18 Casos is seventy stadia from Carpathos, and two hundred and fifty from Cape Samonium in Crete. It has a circuit of eighty stadia. In it there is also a city of the same name, and round it are several islands called Islands of the Casians.

19 They say that the poet calls the Sporades "Calydnian Islands," one of which, they say, is Calymna. But it is reasonable to suppose that, as p179the islands which are near, and subject to, Nisyros and Casos are called "Islands of the Nisyrians" and "Islands of the Casians," so also those which lie round Calymna were called "Islands of the Calymnians" — Calymna at that time, perhaps, being called Calydna. But some say that there are only two Calydnian islands, Leros and Calymna, the two mentioned by the poet. The Scepsian29 says that the name of the island was used in the plural, "Calymnae," like "Athenae" and "Thebae"; but, he adds, the words of the poet should be interpreted as a case of hyperbaton, for he does not say, "Calydnian Islands," but "those who held the islands Nisyros and Crapathos and Casos and Cos, the city of Eurypylus, and Calydnae." Now all the honey produced in the islands is, for the most part, good, and rivals that of Attica, but the honey produced in the islands in question is exceptionally good, and in particular the Calymnian.


The Editor's Notes:

1 Frag. 113 (Schneider).

2 Frag. 112 (Schneider).

3 i.e. almost due north of Dia.

4 Heracleium was the seaport of Cnossus (10.4.7).

5 A hydrous silicate of aluminium, now called "cimolite."

6 i.e. the phrase is a proverb applied to worthless people or things.

7 416 B.C. (see Thucydides 5.115‑116).

8 Temple of Leto.

9 Frag. 58 (Bergk).

10 Delos.

11 There was a tradition that Delos was a floating isle until Leto set foot on it.

12 Leto.

13 i.e. in honour of Apollo and Leto (see Thucydides 3.104).

14 i.e. back to Rome.

15 31 B.C.

16 i.e. Trifles.

17 146 B.C.

18 As many as ten thousand slaves were sold there in one day (14.5.2).

19 Aristion, through the aid of Mithridates, made himself tyrant of Athens in 88 B.C. (cf. 9.1.20).

20 This began in 426 B.C., when "all the sepulchres of the dead in Delos were removed" to Rheneia (Thucydides 3.104).

21 Fl. about 560 B.C.

22 Pherecydes of Leros (fl. in the first half of the fifth century B.C.), often called "the Athenian," wrote, among other things, a work in ten books on the mythology and antiquities of Attica.

23 Od. 15.403.

24 Frag. 1 (Bergk).

25 See 14.1.15.

26 But both of these mountains are in Samos (Pliny, in 5.37, spells the former "Cercetius"). Hence the sentence seems to be a gloss that has crept in from the margin of the text.

27 Iliad 2.676. Cf. the interpretation of this passage in 10.5.19.

28 14.2.5‑1319.

29 Demetrius of Scepsis.


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Page updated: 21 Sep 12