Short URL for this page:

[image ALT: Much of my site will be useless to you if you've got the images turned off!]
Bill Thayer

[image ALT: Cliccare qui per una pagina di aiuto in Italiano.]

[Link to a series of help pages]
[Link to the next level up]
[Link to my homepage]

[image ALT: link to previous section]

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!


[image ALT: link to next section]

(Vol. V) Strabo

 p351  Book XII, Chapter 2

1 (535) Melitenê is similar to Commagenê, for the whole of it is planted with fruit-trees, the only country in all Cappadocia of which this is true, so that it produces, not only the olive, but also the Monarite wine, which rivals the Greek wines. It is situated opposite to Sophenê; and the Euphrates River flows between it and Commagenê, which latter borders on it. On the far side of the river is a noteworthy fortress belonging to the Cappadocians, Tomisa by name. This was sold to the ruler of Sophenê for one hundred talents, but later was presented by Leucullus as a meed of valour to the ruler of Cappadocia who took the field with him in the war against Mithridates.

2 Cataonia is a broad hollow plain, and produces everything except evergreen-trees. It is surrounded on its southern side by mountains, among others by the Amanus, which is a branch of the Cilician Taurus, and by the Antitaurus, which branches off in the opposite direction; for the Amanus extends from Cataonia to Cilicia and the Syrian Sea towards the west and south, and in this intervening space it surrounds the whole of the Gulf of Issus and the intervening plains of the Cilicians which lie towards the Taurus. But the Antitaurus inclines to the north and takes a slightly easterly direction, and then terminates in the interior of the country.

3 In this Antitaurus are deep and narrow valleys, in which are situated Comana and the temple of Enyo,​1 whom the people there call "Ma." It is  p353 a considerable city; its inhabitants, however, consist mostly of the divinely inspired people and the temple-servants who live in it. Its inhabitants are Cataonians, who, though in a general way classed as subject to the king, are in most respects subject to the priest. The priest is master of the temple, and also of the temple-servants, who on my sojourn there were more than six thousand in number, men and women together. Also, considerable territory belongs to the temple, and the revenue is enjoyed by the priest. He is second in rank in Cappadocia after the king; and in general the priests belonged to the same family as the kings. It is thought that Orestes, with his sister Iphigeneia, brought these sacred rites here from the Tauric Scythia, the rite in honour of Artemis Tauropolus, and that here they also deposited the hair​2 of mourning; whence the city's name. 536 Now the Sarus River flows through this city and passes out through the gorges of the Taurus to the plains of the Cilicians and to the sea that lies below them.

4 But the Pyramus, a navigable river with its sources in the middle of the plain, flows through Cataonia. There is a notable pit in the earth through which one can see the water as it runs into a long hidden passage undoing and then rises to the surface. If one lets down a javelin from above into the pit,​3 the force of the water resists so strongly that the javelin can hardly be immersed in it. But  p355 although it flows in great volume because of its immense depth and breadth, yet, when it reaches the Taurus, it undergoes a remarkable contraction; and remarkable also is the cleft of the mountain through which the stream is carried; for, as in the case of rocks which have been broken and split into two parts, the projections on either side correspond so exactly to the cavities on the other that they could be fitted together, so it was in the case of the rocks I saw there, which, lying above the river on either side and reaching almost to the summit of the mountain at a distance of two or three plethra from each other, had cavities corresponding with the opposite projections. The whole intervening bed is rock, and it has a cleft through the middle which is deep and so extremely narrow that a dog or hare could leap across it. This cleft is the channel of the river, is full to the brim, and in breadth resembles a canal; but on account of the crookedness of its course and its great contraction in width and the depth of the gorge, a noise like thunder strikes the ears of travellers long before they reach it. In passing out through the mountains it brings down so much silt to the sea, partly from Cataonia and partly from the Cilician plains, that even an oracle is reported as having been given out in reference to it, as follows: "Men that are yet to be shall experience this at the time when the Pyramus of the silver eddies shall silt up its sacred sea‑beach and come to Cyprus."​4 Indeed,  p357 something similar to this takes place also in Egypt, since the Nile is always turning the sea into dry land by throwing out silt. Accordingly, Herodotus​5 calls Egypt "the gift of the Nile," while Homer​6 speaks of Pharos as "being out in the open sea," since in earlier times it was not, as now, connected with the mainland of Egypt.7

58 537 The third in rank is the priesthood of Zeus Daciëus,​9 which, though inferior to that of Enyo, is noteworthy. At this place there is a reservoir of salt water which has the circumference of a considerable lake; it is shut in by brows of hills so high and steep that people go down to it by ladder-like steps. The water, they say, neither increases nor anywhere has a visible outflow.

6 Neither the plain of the Cataonians nor the country Melitenê has a city, but they have strongholds on the mountains, I mean Azamora and Dastarcum; and round the latter flows the Carmalas River. It contains also a temple, that of the Cataonian Apollo, which is held in honour throughout the whole of Cappadocia, the Cappadocians having made it the model of temples of their own. Neither do the other prefectures, except two, contain cities; and of the remaining prefectures, Sargarausenê contains a small town Herpa, and also the Carmalas River, this too​10 emptying into the Cilician Sea. In the other prefectures are Argos, a lofty stronghold near the Taurus, and Nora, now called Neroassus, in which  p359 Eumenes held out against a siege for a long time. In my time it served as the treasury of Sisines, who made an attack upon the empire of the Cappadocians. To him also belonged Cadena, which had the royal palace and had the aspect of a city. Situated on the borders of Lycaonia is also a town called Garsauira. This too is said once to have been the metropolis of the country. In Morimenê, at Venasa, is the temple of the Venasian Zeus, which has a settlement of almost three thousand temple-servants and also a sacred territory that is very productive, affording the priest a yearly revenue of fifteen talents. He, too, is priest for life, as is the priest at Comana, and is second in rank after him.

7 Only two prefectures have cities, Tyanitis the city Tyana, which lies below the Taurus at the Cilician Gates, where for all is the easiest and most commonly used pass into Cilicia and Syria. It is called "Eusebeia near the Taurus"; and its territory is for the most part fertile and level. Tyana is situated upon a mound of Semiramis,​11 which is beautifully fortified. Not far from this city are Castabala and Cybistra, towns still nearer to the mountain. At Castabala is the temple of the Perasian Artemis, where the priestesses, it is said, walk with naked feet over hot embers without pain. And here, too, some tell us over and over the same story of Orestes and Tauropolus,​12 asserting that she was  p361 called "Perasian" because she was brought "from the other side."​13 So then, in the prefecture Tyanitis, one of the ten above mentioned is Tyana (I am not enumerating along with these prefectures those that were acquired later, I mean Castabala and Cybistra and the places in Cilicia Tracheia,​14 where is Elaeussa, a very fertile island, which was settled in a noteworthy manner by Archelaüs, who spent the greater part of his time there), whereas Mazaca, the metropolis of the tribe, is in the Cilician prefecture, as it is called. 538 This city, too, is called "Eusebeia," with the additional words "near the Argaeus," for it is situated below the Argaeus, the highest mountain of all, whose summit never fails to have snow upon it; and those who ascend it (those are few) say that in clear weather both seas, both the Pontus and the Issian Sea, are visible from it. Now in general Mazaca is not naturally a suitable place for the founding of a city, for it is without water and unfortified by nature; and, because of the neglect of the prefects, it is also without walls (perhaps intentionally so, in order that people inhabiting a plain, with hills above it that were advantageous and beyond range of missiles, might not, through too much reliance on the wall as a fortification, engage in plundering). Further, the districts all round are utterly barren and untilled, although they are level; but they are sandy and are rocky underneath. And, proceeding a little farther on, one comes to plains extending over many stadia that are volcanic and full of fire-pits; and therefore the necessaries of life must be  p363 brought from a distance. And further, that which seems to be an advantage is attended with peril, for although almost the whole of Cappadocia is without timber, the Argaeus has forests all round it, and therefore the working of timber is close at hand; but the region which lies below the forests also contains fires in many places and at the same time has an under­ground supply of cold water, although neither the fire nor the water emerges to the surface; and therefore most of the country is covered with grass. In some places, also, the ground is marshy, and at night flames rise therefrom. Now those who are acquainted with the country can work the timber, since they are on their guard, but the country is perilous for most people, and especially for cattle, since they fall into the hidden fire-pits.

8 There is also a river in the plain before the city; it is called Melas, is about forty stadia distant from the city, and has its sources in a district that is below the level of the city. For this reason, therefore, it is useless to the inhabitants, since its stream is not in a favourable position higher up, but spreads abroad into marshes and lakes, and in the summer-time vitiates the air round the city, and also makes the stone-quarry hard to work, though otherwise easy to work; for there are ledges of flat stones from which the Mazaceni obtain an abundant supply of stone for their buildings, but when the slabs are concealed by the waters they are hard to obtain. And these marshes, also, are everywhere volcanic. Ariarathes the king, since the Melas had an outlet into the Euphrates​15 by a certain narrow defile, dammed this and converted the neighbouring plain  p365 into a sea‑like lake, and there, shutting off certain isles — like the Cyclades — from the outside world, passed his time there in boyish diversions. 539 But the barrier broke all at once, the water streamed out again, and the Euphrates,​16 thus filled, swept away much of the soil of Cappadocia, and obliterated numerous settlements and plantations, and also damaged no little of the country of the Galatians who held Phrygia. In return for the damage the inhabitants, who gave over the decision of the matter to the Romans, exacted of him a fine of three hundred talents. The same was the case also in regard to Herpa; for there too he dammed the stream of the Carmalas River; and then, the mouth having broken open and the water having ruined certain districts in Cilicia in the neighbourhood of Mallus, he paid damages to those who had been wronged.

9 However, although the district of the Mazaceni is in many respects not naturally suitable for habitation, the kings seem to have preferred it, because of all places in the country this was nearest to the centre of the region which contained timber and stone for buildings, and at the same time provender, of which, being cattle-breeders, they needed a very large quantity, for in a way the city was for them a camp. And as for their security in general, both that of themselves and of their slaves, they got it from the defences in their strongholds, of which there are many, some belonging to the king and others to their friends. Mazaca is distant from Pontus​17 about eight hundred stadia to the south, from the Euphrates slightly less  p367 than double that distance, and from the Cilician Gates and the camp of Cyrus a journey of six days by way of Tyana. Tyana is situated at the middle of the journey and is three hundred stadia distant from Cybistra. The Mazaceni use the laws of Charondas, choosing also a Nomodus,​18 who, like the jurisconsults among the Romans, is the expounder of the laws. But Tigranes, the Armenian, put the people in bad plight when he overran Cappadocia, for he forced them, one and all, to migrate into Mesopotamia; and it was mostly with these that he settled Tigranocerta.​19 But later, after the capture of Tigranocerta, those who could returned home.

10 The size of the country is as follows: In breadth, from Pontus to the Taurus, about one thousand eight hundred stadia, and in length, from Lycaonia and Phrygia to the Euphrates towards the east and Armenia, about three thousand. It is an excellent country, not only in respect to fruits, but particularly in respect to grain and all kinds of cattle. Although it lies farther south than Pontus, it is colder. Bagadania, though level and farthest south of all (for it lies at the foot of the Taurus), produces hardly any fruit-bearing trees, although it is grazed by wild asses, both it and the greater part of the rest of the country, and particularly that round Garsauira and Lycaonia and Morimenê. 540 In Cappadocia is produced also the ruddle called "Sinopean," the best in the  p369 world, although the Iberian rivals it. It was named "Sinopean"​20 because the merchants were wont to bring it down thence to Sinope before the traffic of the Ephesians had penetrated as far as the people of Cappadocia. It is said that also slabs of crystal and of onyx stone were found by the miners of Archelaüs near the country of the Galatians. There was a certain place, also, which had white stone that was like ivory in colour and yielded pieces of the size of small whetstones; and from these pieces they made handles for their small swords. And there was another place which yielded such large lumps of transparent stone​21 that they were exported. The boundary of Pontus and Cappadocia is a mountain tract parallel to the Taurus, which has its beginning at the western extremities of Chammanenê, where is situated Dasmenda, a stronghold with sheer ascent, and extends to the eastern extremities of Laviansenê. Both Chammanenê and Laviansenê are prefectures in Cappadocia.

11 It came to pass, as soon as the Romans, after conquering Antiochus, began to administer the affairs of Asia and were forming friendships and alliances both with the tribes and with the kings, that in all other cases they gave this honour to the kings individually, but gave it to the king of Cappadocia and the tribe jointly. And when the royal family died out, the Romans, in accordance  p371 with their compact of friendship and alliance with the tribe, conceded to them the right to live under their own laws; but those who came on the embassy not only begged off from the freedom (for they said that they were unable to bear it), but requested that a king be appointed for them. The Romans, amazed that any people should be so tired of freedom,​22 — at any rate, they permitted them to choose by vote from their own number whomever they wished. And they chose Ariobarzanes; but in the course of the third generation his family died out; and Archelaüs was appointed king, though not related to the people, being appointed by Antony. So much for Greater Cappadocia. As for Cilicia Tracheia, which was added to Greater Cappadocia, it is better for me to describe it in my account of the whole of Cilicia.23

The Editor's Notes:

1 Goddess of war (Iliad 5.333).

2 In Greek, "Komê," the name of the city being "Κomana," or, translated into English, "Comana."

3 At the outlet, of course.

4 Cf. quotation of the same oracle in 1.3.7.

5 2.5.

6 Od. 4.354.

7 i.e. "has become, in a sense, a peninsula" (1.3.17).

8 See critical note.

The critical note to the Greek text reads:

§ 5 seems to belong after § 6, as Kramer points out. Meineke transposes it in his text.

9 At Morimenes (see next paragraph).

10 Like the Sarus (12.2.3).

11 Numerous mounds were ascribed to Semiramis (see 16.1.2).

12 i.e. Artemis Tauropolus (see 12.2.3).

13 "perathen."

14 Cf. 12.1.4.

15 "Euphrates" is obviously an error for "Halys."

16 Again an error for "Halys."

17 i.e. the country, not the sea.

18 "Law‑chanter."

19 Cf. 11.14.15.

20 See 3.2.6.

21 Apparently the lapis specularis, or a variety of mica, or isinglass, used for making window-panes.

22 Something seems to have fallen out of the text here.

23 14.5.1.

[image ALT: Valid HTML 4.01.]

Page updated: 2 Jun 20