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This webpage reproduces a section of
The Geography


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

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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(Vol. V) Strabo

 p183  Book XI, Chapter 1

1 490 Asia is adjacent to Europe, bordering thereon along the Tanaïs1 River. I must therefore describe this country next, first dividing it, for the sake of clearness, by means of certain natural boundaries. That is, I must do for Asia precisely what Eratosthenes did for the inhabited world as a whole.2

2 The Taurus forms a partition approximately through the middle of this continent, extending from the west towards the east, leaving one portion of it on the north and the other on the south. Of these portions, the Greeks call the one the "Cis‑Tauran" Asia and the other "Trans-Tauran." I have said this before,3 but let me repeat it by way of reminder.

3 Now the mountain has in many places as great a breadth as three thousand stadia, and a length as great as that of Asia itself, that is, about forty-five thousand stadia, reckoning from the coast opposite Rhodes to the eastern extremities of India and Scythia.

4 It has been divided into many parts with many names, determined by boundaries that circumscribe areas both large and small. But since certain tribes are comprised within the vast width of the mountain,  p185 some rather insignificant, but others extremely well known 491 (as, for instance, the Parthians, the Medes, the Armenians, a part of the Cappadocians, the Cilicians, and the Pisidians), those which lie for the most part in its northerly parts must be assigned there,4 and those in its southern parts to the southern,5 while those which are situated in the middle of the mountains should, because of the likeness of their climate, be assigned to the north, for the climate in the middle is cold, whereas that in the south is hot. Further, almost all the rivers that rise in the Taurus flow in contrary directions, that is, some into the northern region and others into the southern (they do so at first, at least, although later some of them bend towards the east or west), and they therefore are naturally helpful in our use of these mountains as boundaries in the two‑fold division of Asia — just as the sea inside the Pillars,6 which for the most part is approximately in a straight line with these mountains, has proved convenient in the forming of two continents, Europe and Libya, it being the noteworthy boundary between the two.

5 As we pass from Europe to Asia in our geography, the northern division is the first of the two divisions to which we come; and therefore we must begin with this. Of this division the first portion is that in the region of the Tanaïs River, which I have taken as the boundary between Europe and Asia. This portion forms, in a way, a peninsula, for it is surrounded on the west by the Tanaïs River  p187 and Lake Maeotis as far as the Bosporus7 and that part of the coast of the Euxine Sea which terminates at Colchis; and then on the north by the Ocean as far as the mouth of the Caspian Sea;8 and then on the east by this same sea as far as the boundary between Albania and Armenia, where empty the rivers Cyrus and Araxes, the Araxes flowing through Armenia and the Cyrus through Iberia and Albania; and lastly, on the south by the tract of country which extends from the outlet of the Cyrus River to Colchis, which is about three thousand stadia from sea to sea, across the territory of the Albanians and the Iberians, and therefore is described as an isthmus. But those writers who have reduced the width of the isthmus as much as Cleitarchus9 has, who says that it is subject to inundation from either sea, should not be considered even worthy of mention. Poseidonius states that the isthmus is fifteen hundred stadia across, as wide as the isthmus from Pelusium to the Red Sea.10 "And in my opinion," he says, "the isthmus from Lake Maeotis to the Ocean does not differ much therefrom."

6 But I do not know how anyone can trust him concerning things that are uncertain if he has nothing plausible to say about them, when he reasons so illogically about things that are obvious; and this too, although he was a friend of Pompey, who made an expedition against the Iberians and the Albanians, 492 from sea to sea on either side, both the Caspian and the Colchian11 Seas. At any rate, it is  p189 said that Pompey, upon arriving at Rhodes on his expedition against the pirates (immediately thereafter he was to set out against both Mithridates and the tribes which extended as far as the Caspian Sea), happened to attend one of the lectures of Poseidonius, and that when he went out he asked Poseidonius whether he had any orders to give, and that Poseidonius replied: "Ever bravest be, and pre‑eminent o'er others." Add to this that among other works he wrote also the history of Pompey. So for this reason he should have been more regardful of the truth.

7 The second portion would be that beyond the Hyrcanian Sea, which we call the Caspian Sea, as far as the Scythians near India. The third portion would consist of the part which is adjacent to the isthmus above mentioned and of those parts of the region inside Taurus12 and nearest Europe which come next after this isthmus and the Caspian Gates, I mean Media and Armenia and Cappadocia and the intervening regions. The fourth portion is the land inside13 the Halys River, and all the region in the Taurus itself and outside thereof which falls within the limits of the peninsula which is formed by the isthmus that separates the Pontic and the Cilician Seas. As for the other countries, I mean the Trans-Tauran, I place among them not only India, but also Ariana as far as the tribes that extend to the Persian Sea and the Arabian Gulf and the Nile and the Egyptian and Issic Seas.

The Editor's Notes:

1 The Don.

2 See 2.1.1.

3 i.e. "Asia this side Taurus and Asia outside Taurus." (Cp. 2.5.31.)

4 i.e. to the Cis‑Tauran Asia.

5 i.e. Trans-Tauran.

6 i.e. the Mediterranean (see 2.1.1).

7 The Cimmerian Bosporus.

8 Strabo thought that the Caspian (Hyrcanian) Sea was an inlet of the Northern Sea (2.5.14).

9 See Dictionary in Vol. II.

10 Cf. 17.1.21.

11 The Euxine.

12 Cis‑Tauran.

13 i.e. "west of."

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Page updated: 21 Sep 12