[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. VII
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. VII) Strabo

 p129  Book XV, Chapter 2

1 (720) After India one comes to Ariana, the first portion of the country subject to the Persians after​117 the Indus River and of the upper satrapies situated outside the Taurus. Ariana is bounded on the south and on the north by the same sea and the same mountains as India, as also by the same river, the Indus, which flows between itself and India; and from this river it extends towards the west as far as the line drawn from the Caspian Gates to Carmania, so that its shape is quadrilateral. Now the southern side begins at the outlets of the Indus and at Patalenê, and ends at Carmania and the mouth of the Persian Gulf, where it has a promontory that projects considerably towards the south; and then it takes a bend into the gulf in the direction of Persis. Ariana is inhabited first by the Arbies, whose name is like that of the River Arbis, which forms the boundary between them and the next tribe, the Oreitae; and the Arbies have a seaboard about one thousand stadia in length, as Nearchus says; but this too is a portion of India. Then one comes to the Oreitae, an autonomous tribe. The coasting voyage along the country of this tribe is one thousand eight hundred stadia in length, and the next, along that of the Ichthyophagi, seven  p131 thousand four hundred, and that along the country of the Carmanians as far as Persis, three thousand seven hundred, so that the total voyage is twelve thousand nine hundred stadia.

2 The country of the Ichthyophagi​118 is on the sea-level; and most of it is without trees, except palms and a kind of thorn and the tamarisk; and there is a scarcity both of water and of foods produced by cultivation; and both the people and their cattle use fish for food and drink waters supplied by rains and wells; and the meat of their cattle smells like fish; and they build their dwellings mostly with the bones of whales and with oyster-shells, using the ribs of whales as beams and supports, and the jawbones as doorposts; and they use the vertebral bones of whales as mortars, in which they pound the fish after roasting them in the sun; and then they make bread of this, mixing a small amount of flour with it, 721 for they have grinding-mills, although they have no iron. And this is indeed not so surprising, for they could import grinding-mills from other places; but how do they cut them anew when worn smooth? Why, with the same stones, they say, with which they sharpen arrows and javelins that have been hardened in fire. As for fish, they bake some in covered earthen vessels, but for the most part eat them raw; and they catch them, among other ways, with nets made of palm-bark.

3 Above the country of the Ichthyophagi is  p133 situated Gedrosia, a country less torrid than India, but more torrid than the rest of Asia; and since it is in lack of fruits and water, except in summer, it is not much better than the country of the Ichthyophagi. But it produces spices, in particular nard plants and myrrh trees, so that Alexander's army on their march used these for tent-coverings and bedding, at the same time enjoying thereby sweet odours and a more salubrious atmosphere; and they made their return from India in the summer on purpose, for at that time Gedrosia has rains, and the rivers and the wells are filled, though in winter they fail, and the rains fall in the upper regions towards the north and near the mountains; and when the rivers are filled the plains near the sea are watered and the wells are full. And the king sent persons before him into the desert country to dig wells and to prepare stations for himself and his fleet.

4 For he divided his forces into three parts, and himself set out with one division through Gedrosia. He kept away from the sea no more than five hundred stadia at most, in order that he might at the same time equip the seaboard for the reception of his fleet; and he often closely approached the sea, although its shores were hard to traverse and rugged. The second division he sent forward through the interior under the command of Craterus, who at the same time was to subdue Ariana and also to advance to the same region whither Alexander was directing his march. The fleet he gave over to Nearchus and  p135 Onesicritus, the latter his master pilot, giving them orders to take an appropriate position, and to follow, and sail alongside, his line of march.

5 Moreover, Nearchus says that when now the king was completing his journey he himself began the voyage, in the autumn, at the time of the rising of the Pleiad in the west; and that the winds were not yet favourable, and that the barbarians attacked them and tried to drive them out; for, he adds, the barbarians took courage when the king departed and acted like freemen. Craterus set out from the Hydaspes and went through the country of the Arachoti and of the Drangae into Carmania. 722 But Alexander was in great distress throughout the whole journey, since he was marching through a wretched country; and from a distance, likewise, he could procure additional supplies only in small quantities and at rare intervals, so that his army was famished; and the beasts of burden fagged out, and the baggage was left behind on the roads and in the camps; but they were saved by the date palms, eating not only the fruit but also the cabbage at the top. They say that Alexander, although aware of the difficulties, conceived an ambition, in view of the prevailing opinion that Semiramis escaped in flight from India with only about twenty men and Cyrus with seven, to see whether he himself could safely lead that large army of his through the same country and win this victory too.119

6 In addition to the resourcelessness of the country, the heat of the sun was grievous, as also the depth and the heat of the sands; and in some places there were sand-hills so high that, in addition to the difficulty of lifting one's legs, as out of a pit,  p137 there were also ascents and descents to be made. And it was necessary also, on account of the wells, to make long marches of two hundred or three hundred stadia, and sometimes even six hundred, travelling mostly by night. But they would encamp at a distance from the wells, often at a distance of thirty stadia, in order that the soldiers might not, to satisfy their thirst, drink too much water; for many would plunge into the wells, armour and all, and drink as submerged men would; and then, after expiring, would swell up and float on the surface and corrupt the wells, which were shallow; and others, exhausted by reason of thirst, would lie down in the middle of the road in the open sun, and then trembling, along with a jerking of hands and legs, they would die like persons seized with chills or ague. And in some cases soldiers would turn aside from the main road and fall asleep, being overcome by sleep and fatigue. And some, falling behind the army, perished by wandering from the roads and by reason of heat and lack of everything, though others arrived safely, but only after suffering many hardships; and a torrential stream, coming on by night, overwhelmed both a large number of persons and numerous articles; and much of the royal equipment was also swept away; and when the guides ignorantly turned aside so far into the interior that the sea was no longer visible, the king, perceiving their error, set out at once to seek for the shore; and when he found it, and by digging discovered potable water, he sent for the army, and thereafter kept close to shore for seven days, with a good supply of water; and then he withdrew again into the interior.

 p139  7 There was a kind of plant like the laurel which caused any beast of burden which tasted of it to die with epilepsy, along with foaming at the mouth. And there was a prickly plant, the fruit of which strewed the ground, 723 like cucumbers, and was full of juice; and if drops of this juice struck an eye of any creature, they always blinded it. Further, many were choked by eating unripe dates. And there was also danger from the snakes; for herbs grew on the sand-hills, and beneath these herbs the snakes had crept unnoticed; and they killed every person they struck. It was said that among the Oreitae the arrows, which were made of wood and hardened in fire, were besmeared with deadly poisons; and that Ptolemaeus was wounded and in danger of losing his life; and that when Alexander was asleep someone stood beside him and showed him a root, branch and all, which he bade Alexander to crush and apply to the wound; and that when Alexander awoke from his sleep he remembered the vision, sought for, and found, the root, which grew in abundance; and that he made use of it, both he himself and the others; and that when the barbarians saw that the antidote had been discovered they surrendered to the king. But it is reasonable to suppose that someone who knew of the antidote informed the king, and that the fabulous element was added for the sake of flattery. Having arrived at the royal seat of the Gedrosii on the sixtieth day after leaving the Orae,​120 Alexander gave his multitudinous army only a short rest and then set out for Carmania.

8 Such, then, on the southern side of Ariana, is about the geographical position of the seaboard and  p141 of the lands of the Gedrosii and Oreitae, which lands are situated next above the seaboard.​121 It​122 is a large country, and even Gedrosia​123 reaches up into the interior as far as the Drangae, the Arachoti, and the Paropamisadae, concerning whom Eratosthenes has spoken as follows (for I am unable to give any better description). He says that Ariana is bounded on the east by the Indus River, on the south by the great sea, on the north by the Paropamisus mountain and the mountains that follow it as far as the Caspian Gates, and that its parts on the west are marked by the same boundaries by which Parthia is separated from Media and Carmania from Paraetacenê and Persis. He says that the breadth of the country is the length of the Indus from the Paropamisus mountain to the outlets, a distance of twelve thousand stadia (though some say thirteen thousand); and that its length from the Caspian Gates, as recorded in the work entitled Asiatic Stathmi,​124 is stated in two ways: that is, as far as Alexandreia in the country of the Arii, from the Caspian Gates through the country of the Parthians, there is one and the same road; and then, from there, one road leads in a straight line through Bactriana and over the mountain pass into Ortospana to the meeting of the three roads from Bactra, which city is in the country of the Paropamisadae; whereas the other turns off slightly from Aria towards the south to Prophthasia in Drangiana, and the remainder of it leads back to the boundaries of India and to the  p143 Indus; so that this road which leads through the country of the Drangae and Arachoti is longer, its entire length being fifteen thousand three hundred stadia. But if one should subtract one thousand three hundred, 724 one would have as the remainder the length of the country in a straight line, fourteen thousand stadia; for the length of the seacoast is not much less,​125 although some writers increase the total, putting down, in addition to the ten thousand stadia, Carmania with six thousand more; for they obviously reckon the length either along with the gulfs or along the part of the Carmanian seacoast that is inside the Persian Gulf; and the name of Ariana is further extended to a part of Persia and of Media, as also to the Bactrians and Sogdians on the north; for these speak approximately the same language, with but slight variations.

9 The geographical position of the tribes is as follows: along the Indus are the Paropamisadae, above whom lies the Paropamisus mountain: then, towards the south, the Arachoti: then next, towards the south, the Gedroseni, with the other tribes that occupy the seaboard; and the Indus lies, latitudinally, alongside all these places; and of these places, in part, some that lie along the Indus are held by Indians, although they formerly belonged to the Persians. Alexander took these away from the Arians and established settlements of his own, but Seleucus Nicator gave them to Sandrocottus, upon terms of intermarriage and of receiving in exchange five hundred elephants. Alongside the Paropamisadae,º on the west, are situated the Arii, and alongside the Arochoti and Gedrosii the Drangae; but the Arii  p145 are situated alongside the Drangae on the north as well as on the west, almost surrounding a small part of their country. Bactriana lies to the north alongside both Aria and the Paropamisadae, through whose country Alexander passed over the Caucasus on his march to Bactra. Towards the west, next to the Arii, are situated the Parthians and the region round the Caspian Gates; and to the south of these lies the desert of Carmania; and then follows the rest of Carmania and Gedrosia.

10 One would understand still better the accounts of the aforesaid mountainous country if one inquired further into the route which Alexander took in his pursuit of Bessus from the Parthian territory towards Bactriana; for he came into Ariana, and then amongst the Drangae, where he put to death the son of Parmenio,​126 whom he caught in a plot; and he also sent persons to Ecbatana to put to death the father of Philotas, as an accomplice in the plot. It is said that these persons, riding on dromedaries, completed in eleven days a journey of thirty days, or even forty, and accomplished their undertaking. The Drangae, who otherwise are imitators of the Persians in their mode of life, have only scanty supplies of wine, but they have tin in their country. Then, from the Drangae, Alexander went to the Evergetae,​127 who were so named by Cyrus,​128 to the Arachoti; 725 and then, at the setting of the Pleiad, through the country of the Paropamisadae, a country which is mountainous, and at that time was covered with snow, so that it was hard to travel. However, numerous villages, well supplied with everything  p147 except oil, received them and alleviated their troubles; and they had the mountain summits on their left. Now the southern parts of the Paropamisus mountain belong to India and Ariana; but as for the parts on the north, those towards the west belong to the Bactrians, whereas those towards the east belong to the barbarians who border on the Bactrians. He spent the winter here, with India above him to the right, and founded a city, and then passed over the top of the mountain into Bactriana, through roads that were bare of everything except a few terebinth trees of the shrub kind; and was so in lack of food that it was necessary to eat the flesh of the beasts of burden, and, for lack of wood, even to eat it raw. But the silphium, which grew in abundance there,​129 was helpful in the digestion of the raw food. On the fifteenth day after founding the city and leaving his winter quarters, he came to Adrapsa,​130 a city in Bactriana.

11 Somewhere in the neighbourhood of these parts of the country that borders on India lies Chaarenê; and this, of all the countries subject to the Parthians, lies closest to India. It is distant from Ariana,​131 through the land of the Arachoti and the above-mentioned mountainous country, nineteen thousand stadia.​132 Craterus traversed this country, at the same time subduing all who refused to submit, and went by the quickest route, being eager to join  p149 the king; and indeed both forces of infantry gathered together in Carmania at about the same time. And a little later Nearchus sailed with his fleet into the Persian Gulf, having often suffered distress because of his wanderings and hardships and the huge whales.

12 Now it is reasonable to suppose that those who made the journey by sea have prated in many cases to the point of exaggeration; but nevertheless their statements show indirectly at the same time the trouble with which they were afflicted — that underlying their real hardships there was apprehension rather than peril. But what disturbed them most was the spouting whales, which, by their spoutings, would emit such massive streams of water and mist all at once that the sailors could not see a thing that lay before them. But the pilots of the voyage informed the sailors, who were frightened at this and did not see the cause of it, that it was caused by creatures in the sea, and that one could get rid of them by sounding trumpets and making loud noises; and consequently Nearchus led his fleet towards the tumultuous spoutings of the whales, where they impeded his progress, and at the same time frightened them with trumpets; and the whales first dived, and then showed up at the sterns of the ships, thus affording the spectacle of a naval combat, but immediately made off.

13 Those who now sail to India, however, also speak of the size of these creatures and of their manner of appearance, but do not speak of them either as appearing in large groups or as often making attacks, though they do speak of them as being scared away and got rid of by shouts and  p151 trumpets. 726 They say that these creatures do not approach the land, but that the bones of those that have died, when bared of flesh, are readily thrown ashore by the waves, and supply the Ichthyophagi with the above-mentioned material for the construction of their huts.​133 According to Nearchus, the size of the whales is twenty-three fathoms.​134 Nearchus says that he found to be false a thing confidently believed by the sailors in the fleet — I mean their belief that there was an island in the passage which caused the disappearance of all who moored near it; for he says that, although a certain light boat on a voyage was no longer to be seen after it approached the island, and although certain men sent in quest of the lost people sailed out past the island and would not venture to disembark upon it, but called the people with loud outcry, and, when no one answered their cry, came on back, yet he himself, though one and all charged their disappearance to the island, sailed thither, moored there, disembarked with a part of those who sailed with him, and went all over it; but that he found no trace of the people sought, gave up his search, came on back, and informed his people that the charge against the island was false (for otherwise both he himself and those who disembarked with him would have met with the same destruction), but that the disappearance of the light boat took place in some other way, since countless other ways were possible.

14 Carmania is last on the seaboard that begins at the Indus, though it is much more to the north than the outlet of the Indus. The first promontory of Carmania, however, extends out towards the  p153 south into the great sea; and Carmania, after forming, along with the cape that extends from Arabia Felix, which is in full view, the mouth of the Persian Gulf, bends towards the Persian Gulf until it borders on Persis. Carmania is a large country and, in the interior, extends between Gedrosia and Persis, although it deviates more towards the north than Gedrosia. This is plainly indicated by its fruitfulness; for it produces all manner of fruits, is full of large trees except the olive, and is also watered by rivers. Gedrosia differs but little from the country of the Ichthyophagi, and therefore often suffers crop failures; and on this account they keep the annual crop in storage, dealing it out for several years. Onesicritus speaks of a river in Carmania that brings down gold-dust; and he says that there are also mines of silver and copper and ruddle, and also that there are two mountains, one consisting of arsenic​135 and the other of salt. Carmania also has a desert which borders at once​136 upon Parthia and Paraetecenê. And it has farm crops similar to those of the Persians, the vine among all the rest. It is from this vine that "the Carmanian," as we here call it, originated — a vine which often has clusters of even two cubits,​137 these clusters being thick with large grapes; 727 and it is reasonable to suppose that this vine is more flourishing there than here. Because of scarcity of horses most of the Carmanians use asses, even for war; and they sacrifice an ass to Ares, the only god they worship, and they are a warlike people. No one marries before he has cut  p155 off the head of an enemy and brought it to the king; and the king stores the skull in the royal palace; and he then minces the tongue, mixes it with flour, tastes it himself, and gives it to the man who brought it to him, to be eaten by himself and family; and that king is held in the highest repute to whom the most heads have been brought. Nearchus states that the language and most of the customs of the Carmanians are like those of the Medes and Persians. The voyage across the mouth of the Persian Gulf requires no more than one day.

The Editor's Notes:

117 i.e. "to the west of."

118 Fish-eaters.

119 See 15.1.5.

120 "Orae" seems surely to be a variant spelling of "Oreitae," as Groskurd points out.

121 Strabo refers to his description in §§ 1‑3 (above).

122 Ariana, not Gedrosia, as some think.

123 Merely a portion of Ariana.

124 i.e. the various Halting-places in Asia. The same records have already been referred to in 15.1.11. The author of this work appears to have been a certain Amyntas, who accompanied Alexander on his expedition (see Athenaeus 11.500D, 12.529E, 2.67A, and Aelian 17.17).

125 The length given in § 1 (above) is 12,900.

126 i.e. Philotas.

127 i.e. "Benefactors."

128 Cyrus the Elder — in return for their kindly services when he marched through the desert of Carmania (Arrian 3.27, 37).

129 Strabo seems to refer to the juice of the "terebinth" above-mentioned.

130 "Adrapsa" is probably an error for "Gadrapsa" (see vol. V, p280, note 3).

131 An error, apparently, for Aria.

132 This figure, as given in the MSS., is preposterous. But a slight emendation yields "ten, or nine, thousand stadia," which is more nearly correct.

133 15.2.2.

134 i.e. about 140 feet in length.

135 So the Greek word, but of course Strabo means yellow orpiment (arsenic trisulphide).

136 i.e. at its north-western corner.

137 In circumference, surely.

Thayer's Note: καὶ δὶπηχυν ἔχει πολλάκις τὸν βότρυν. In a similar passage (II.1.14) on nearby Margiana, Strabo writes τὸν μυθμένα φασὶν εὑρίσκεσθαι τῆς ἀμπέλου πολλάκις δυεῖν ἀνδρῶν ὀργυιαῖς περιπληπτόν τὸν δὲ βότρυν δίπηχυν, which Prof. Jones translates ". . . and that the cluster of grapes is two cubits long", with no footnote; in yet another passage on Margiana (XI.10.2) Strabo writes εὐάμπελος δὲ καὶ αὕτη ἡ γῆ· φασί γοῦν τὸν πυθμένα εὑρίσκεσθαι πολλάκις δυσὶν ἀνδράσι περιπλητόν, τὸν δὲ βότρυν δίπηχυν., which Prof. Jones translates ". . . and that the bunches of grapes are two cubits.", this time footnoting it ". . . apparently in length, not in circumference."

[image ALT: Valid HTML 4.01.]

Page updated: 25 Sep 12