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XV.3

This webpage reproduces a section of
The Geography

of
Strabo

published in Vol. VII
of the Loeb Classical Library edition,
1932

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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XVI.2

(Vol. VII) Strabo
Geography

p193 Book XVI, Chapter 1

1 (736) The country of the Assyrians borders on Persis and Susiana. This name1 is given to Babylonia and to much of the country all round, which latter, in part, is also called Aturia, in which are Ninus, Apolloniatis, the Elymaei, the Paraetacae, the Chalonitis in the neighbourhood of Mt. Zagrus, the plains in the neighbourhood of Ninus, and also Dolomenê and Calachenê and Chazenê and Adiabenê, and the tribes of Mesopotamia in the neighbourhood of the Gordyaeans, and the Mygdonians in the neighbourhood of Nisibis, as far as the Zeugma2 of the Euphrates, as also much of the country on the far side of the Euphrates, which is occupied by Arabians, and those people who in a special sense of the term are called by the men of to‑day Syrians, 737 who extend as far as the Cilicians and the Phoenicians and the Judaeans and the sea that is opposite the Aegyptian Sea and the Gulf of Issus.

2 It seems that the name of the Syrians extended not only from Babylonia to the Gulf of Issus, but also in ancient times from this gulf to the Euxine. At any rate, both tribes of the Cappadocians, both those near the Taurus and those near the Pontus, have to the present time been called "White p195Syrians,"3 as though some Syrians were black, these being the Syrians who live outside the Taurus; and when I say "Taurus," I am extending the name as far as the Amanus. When those who have written histories of the Syrian empire say that the Medes were overthrown by the Persians and the Syrians by the Medes, they mean by the Syrians no other people than those who built the royal palaces in Babylon and Ninus; and, of these Syrians, Ninus was the man who founded Ninus in Aturia, and his wife, Semiramis, was the woman who succeeded her husband and founded Babylon. These two gained the mastery of Asia; and as for Semiramis, apart from her works at Babylon, many others are also to be seen throughout almost the whole of that continent, I mean the mounds called the Mounds of Semiramis, and walls, and the construction of fortifications with aqueducts therein, and of reservoirs for drinking-water, and of ladder-like ascents of mountains, and of channels in rivers and lakes, and of roads and bridges. And they left to their successors their empire until the time of the empires of Sardanapalus and Arbaces. But later the empire passed over to the Medes.

3 Now the city Ninus4 was wiped out immediately after the overthrow of the Syrians.5 It was much greater than Babylon, and was situated in the plain of Aturia. Aturia borders on the region of Arbela, with the Lycus River lying between them. Now Arbela, which lies opposite to Babylonia, belongs to that country; and in the country on the p197far side of the Lycus River lie the plains of Aturia, which surround Ninus. In Aturia is a village Gaugamela, where Dareius was conquered and lost his empire. Now this is a famous place, as is also its name, which, being interpreted, means "Camel's House." Dareius, the son of Hystaspes, so named it, having given it as an estate for the maintenance of the camel which helped most on the toilsome journey through the deserts of Scythia with the burdens containing sustenance and support for the king. However, the Macedonians, seeing that this was a cheap village, but that Arbela was a notable settlement (founded, as it is said, by Arbelus, the son of Athmoneus), announced that the battle and victory took place near Arbela and so transmitted their account to the historians.

4 After Arbela and Mt. Nicatorium6 (a name applied to it by Alexander after his victory in the neighbourhood of Arbela), one comes to the Caprus River, which lies at the same distance from Arbela as the Lycus. 738 The country is called Artacenê.7 Near Arbela lies the city Demetrias; and then one comes to the fountain of naphtha, and to the fires, and to the temple of Anea,8 and to Sandracae, and that royal palace of Dareius the son of Hystaspes, and to Cyparisson, and to the crossing of the Caprus River, where, at last, one is close to Seleuceia and Babylon.

5 Babylon, too, lies in a plain; and the circuit of its wall is three hundred and eighty-five stadia. The thickness of its wall is thirty-two feet; the p199height thereof between the towers is fifty cubits;9 that of the towers is sixty cubits; and the passage on top of the wall is such that four-horse chariots can easily pass one another; and it is on this account that this and the hanging garden are called one of the Seven Wonders of the World. The garden is quadrangular in shape, and each side is four plethra in length. It consists of arched vaults, which are situated, one after another, on checkered, cube-like foundations. The checkered foundations, which are hollowed out, are covered so deep with earth that they admit of the largest of trees, having been constructed of baked brick and asphalt — the foundations themselves and the vaults and the arches. The ascent to the uppermost terrace-roofs is made by a stairway; and alongside these stairs there were screws, through which the water was continually conducted up into the garden from the Euphrates by those appointed for this purpose. For the river, a stadium in width, flows through the middle of the city; and the garden is on the bank of the river. Here too is the tomb of Belus, now in ruins, having been demolished by Xerxes, as it is said. It was a quadrangular pyramid of baked brick, not only being a stadium in height, but also having sides a stadium in length. Alexander intended to repair this pyramid; but it would have been a large task and would have required a long time (for merely the clearing away of the mound was a task for ten thousand men for two months), so that he could not finish what he had attempted; for immediately the king was overtaken by disease and death. None of his successors p201cared for this matter; and even what was left of the city was neglected and thrown into ruins, partly by the Persians and partly by time and by the indifference of the Macedonians to things of this kind, and in particular after Seleucus Nicator had fortified Seleuceia on the Tigris near Babylon, at a distance of about three hundred stadia therefrom. For not only he, but also all his successors, were strongly interested in Seleuceia and transferred the royal residence to it. What is more, Seleuceia at the present time has become larger than Babylon, whereas the greater part of Babylon is so deserted that one would not hesitate to say with one of the comic poets said in reference to the Megalopolitans in Arcadia: "The Great City10 is a great desert."11 739 On account of the scarcity of timber their buildings are finished with beams and pillars of palm-wood. They wind ropes of twisted reed round the pillars; and then they plaster them and paint them with colours, though they coat the doors with asphalt. Both these and the private homes are built high, all being vaulted on account of the lack of timber; for, with the exception of the palm tree, most of the country is bare of trees and bears shrubs only. The palm is most abundant in Babylonia, and is found in abundance in Susa and on the coast of Persis and in Carmania. They do not use tiles much on their houses, for they get no rain; and this is likewise the case both in Susa and Sitacenê.

6 In Babylonia a settlement is set apart for the p203local philosophers, the Chaldaeans, as they are called, who are concerned mostly with astronomy; but some of these, who are not approved of by the others, profess to be genethlialogists.12 There is also a tribe of the Chaldaeans, and a territory inhabited by them, in the neighbourhood of the Arabians and of the Persian Sea, as it is called. There are also several tribes of the Chaldaean astronomers. For example, some are called Orcheni, others Borsippeni, and several others by different names, as though divided into different sects which hold to various different dogmas about the same subjects. And the mathematicians make mention of some of these men; as, for example, Cidenasa and Naburianus and Sudinus. Seleucus of Seleuceia is also a Chaldaean, as are also several other noteworthy men.

7 Borsippa is a city sacred to Artemis and Apollo; and it manufactures linen in great quantities. It abounds in bats, much larger in size than those in other places; and these bats are caught and salted for food.

8 The country of the Babylonians is surrounded on the east by the Susians and Elymaeans and Paraetacenians, and on the south by the Persian Gulf and the Chaldaeans as far as the Mesenian13 Arabians, and on the west by the Arabians called Scenitae,14 as far as Adiabenê and Gordyaea, and on the north by the Armenians and the Medes as far as the Zagrus and the tribes about that river.

p205 9 The country is traversed by several rivers, though the largest are the Euphrates and the Tigris. Next to the Indian rivers these two, among those in the southern parts of Asia, are said to hold the second place. And they are navigable inland: from Tigris to Opis and the present Seleuceia15 (the village Opis is an emporium of the places situated round it) and the Euphrates to Babylon, a distance of more than three thousand stadia. 740 Now the Persians, wishing on purpose to prevent voyaging up these rivers, for fear of attacks from without, had constructed artificial cataracts, but Alexander, when he went against them, destroyed as many of them as he could, and in particular those to Opis. He also paid careful attention to the canals; for the Euphrates rises to flood-tide at the beginning of summer, beginning first to rise in the spring when the snows in Armenia melt; so that of necessity it forms lakes and deluges the ploughed lands, unless the excess of the stream, or the surface water, is distributed by means of trenches and canals, as is the case with the Nile in Aegypt. Now this is the origin of the canals; but there is need of much labour to keep them up, for the soil is so deep and soft and yielding that it is easily swept out by the streams, and the plains are laid bare, and the canals are easily filled, and their mouths choked, by the silt; and thus it results again that the overflow of the waters, emptying into the plains near the sea, forms lakes and marshes and reed-beds, which last supply reeds from p207which all kinds of reed-vessels are woven. Some of these vessels, when smeared all over with asphalt, can hold water, whereas the others are used in their bare state. They also make reed-sails, which are similar to rush-mats or wicker-work.

10 Now it is impossible, perhaps, altogether to prevent overflows of this kind, but it is the part of good rulers to afford all possible aid. The aid required is this: to prevent most of the overflowing by means of dams, and to prevent the filling up effected by the silt, on the contrary, by keeping the canals cleared and the mouths opened up, Now the clearing of the canals is easy, but the building of dams requires the work of many hands; for, since the earth readily gives in and is soft, it does not support the silt that is brought upon it, but yields to the silt, and draws it on, along with itself, and makes the mouth hard to dam. Indeed there is also need of quick work in order to close the canals quickly and to prevent all the water from emptying out of them. For when they dry up in the summer, they dry up the river too; and when the river is lowered it cannot supply the sluices with water at the time needed, since the water is needed most in summer, when the country is fiery hot and scorched; and it makes no difference whether the crops are submerged by the abundance of water, or are destroyed by thirst for water. At the same time, also, the voyages inland, with their many advantages, were always being thwarted by the two above-mentioned causes, and it was impossible to correct the trouble unless the mouths of the canals were quickly opened up and quickly closed, and p209unless the canals were regulated so that the water in them neither was excessive nor failed.

11 741 Aristobulus says that Alexander himself, when he was sailing up the river and piloting the boat, inspected canals and with his multitude of followers cleared them; and that he likewise stopped up some of the mouths and opened others; and when he noticed that one canal, the one which stretched most directly towards the marshes and lakes that lay in front of Arabia, had a mouth most difficult to deal with and could not easily be stopped up because of the yielding and soft nature of the soil, he opened up another mouth, a new one, at a distance of thirty stadia from it, having selected a place with a rocky bottom, and that he diverted the stream to that place; and that in doing this he was taking forethought at the same time that Arabia should not be made utterly difficult to enter by the lakes or even by the marshes, since, on account of the abundance of water, that country was already taking the form of an island. For of course Alexander, he says, intended to acquire possession of that country, and had already prepared fleets and bases of operations, having built some of his boats in Phoenicia and Cypros, boats that were constructed with bolts and could be taken to pieces, which were conveyed by a seven days' journey to Thapsacus and then down the river to Babylon, and having built others in Babylonia, from the cypress trees in the groves and the parks; for there is a scarcity of timber in Babylonia, although there is a moderately good supply of timber in the countries of the Cossaei and certain other tribes. Now Alexander alleged p211as cause of the war, Aristobulus says, that the Arabians were the only people on earth who did not send ambassadors to him, but in truth was reaching out to be lord of all; and when he learned that they worshipped two gods only, Zeus and Dionysus, the gods who supply the most requisite needs of life, he took it for granted that they would worship him as a third if he mastered them and allowed them to keep the ancestral independence which they had had before. Accordingly, he adds, Alexander busied himself thus with the canals, and also inspected thoroughly the tombs of the kings and potentates, most of which are situated among the lakes.

12 Eratosthenes, when he mentions the lakes near Arabia, says that when the water is deprived of exits it opens upon underground passages and through these flows underground as far as the country of Coelê-Syria, and that it is pressed up into the region of Rhinocolura and Mt. Casius and forms the lakes and the pits there; but I do not know whether or not his statement is plausible; for the side-outflows of the Euphrates which form the lakes near Arabia and the marshes are near the Persian Sea, but the isthmus which separates them is neither large nor rocky, so that it was more likely 742 that the water forced its way into the sea in this region, whether underground or on the surface, than that it traversed a distance of more than six thousand stadia, through a country so waterless and dry, and that too when mountains intervene, I mean Mt. Libanus and Mt. Antilibanus and Mt. Casius.16 Such, then, are the accounts of Aristobulus and Eratosthenes.

13 Polycleitus, however, says that the Euphrates does not overflow; for, he says, it flows through large plains; and as for the mountains, some stand at a distance of two thousand stadia from it, but the Cossaean mountains at a distance of scarcely one thousand, which latter are not very high, are not covered very deeply with snow, and do not cause the snow to melt quickly in great quantities; for, he says, the heights of the mountains lie in the region above Ecbatana towards the north, but, in the region towards the south, they split, broaden out, and become much lower, and at the same time most of their waters are received by the Tigris and thus overflow the plains. Now this last assertion is obviously absurd, for the Tigris flows down into the same plains as the Euphrates, and the above-mentioned heights of the mountains have different altitudes, the northern heights being more elevated in some places, whereas the southern broaden out in some places; but the quantity of snow is not determined merely by the heights, but also by their latitudes; and the same mountain has more snow in its northern parts than in its southern, and the snow continues longer in the former than the latter. Now the Tigris receives from the southernmost parts of Armenia, which are p215near Babylonia, the water of the melted snows, which is not much, since it comes from the southern side, and this river would therefore be flooded less than the Euphrates; but the Euphrates receives the water from both parts, and not merely from one mountain, but from many, as I made clear in my description of Armenia,17 where I added the length of that river, giving first the length of its course in Greater Armenia and Lesser Armenia, and secondly its length from Lesser Armenia and Cappadocia through the Taurus as far as Thapsacus, where it forms the boundary between Lower Syria and Mesopotamia, and, thirdly, the rest of its length as far as Babylon and the outlet, a length, all told, of thirty-six thousand stadia. So much, then, for the canals.

14 The country produces larger crops of barley than any other country18 (bearing three hundredfold, they say), and its other needs are supplied by the palm tree; for this tree yields bread, wine, vinegar, honey, and meal; and all kinds of woven articles are supplied by that tree; and the bronze-smiths use the stones of the fruit instead of charcoal; and when soaked in water these stones are used as food for oxen and sheep which are being fattened. There is said to be a Persian song wherein are enumerated three hundred and sixty uses of the palm tree; and, as for oil, 743 the people use mostly that of sesame, but this plant is rare in all other places.

15 Link to a page in English Babylon produces also great quantities of asphalt, concerning which Eratosthenes states that the liquid kind, which is called naphtha, is found in Susis, but the dry kind, which can be solidified, in p217Babylonia; and that there is a fountain of this latter asphalt near the Euphrates River; and that when this river is at its flood at the time of the melting of the snows, the fountain of asphalt is also filled and overflows into the river; and that there large clods of asphalt are formed which are suitable for buildings constructed of baked bricks. Other writers say that the liquid kind also is found in Babylonia. Now writers state in particular the great usefulness of the dry kind in the construction of buildings, but they say also that boats are woven with reeds and, when plastered with asphalt, are impervious to water. The liquid kind, which they call naphtha, is of a singular nature; for it the naphtha is brought near fire it catches the fire; and if you smear a body with it and bring it near to the fire, the body bursts into flames; and it is impossible to quench these flames with water (for they burn more violently), unless a great amount is used, though they can be smothered and quenched with mud, vinegar, alum, and bird-lime. It is said that Alexander, for an experiment, poured some naphtha on a boy in a bath and brought a lamp near him; and that the boy, enveloped in flames, would have been nearly burned to death if the bystanders had not, by pouring on him a very great quantity of water, prevailed over the fire and saved his life.b Poseidonius says of the springs of naphtha in Babylonia, that some send forth white naphtha and others black; and that some of these, I mean those that send forth white naphtha, consist of liquid sulphur (and it is these that attract the flames), whereas the others send forth black naphtha, liquid asphalt, which is burnt in lamps instead of oil.

p219 16 And in ancient times Babylon was the metropolis of Assyria; but now Seleuceia is the metropolis, I mean the Seleuceia on the Tigris, as it is called. Near by is situated a village called Ctesiphon, a large village. This village the kings of the Parthians were wont to make their winter residence, thus sparing the Seleuceians, in order that the Seleuceians might not be oppressed by having the Scythian folk or soldiery quartered amongst them. Because of the Parthian power, therefore, Ctesiphon is a city rather than a village; its size is such that it lodges a great number of people, and it has been equipped with buildings by the Parthians themselves; and it has been provided by the Parthians with wares for sale and with the arts that are pleasing to the Parthians; for the Parthian kings are accustomed to spend the winter there because of the salubrity of the air, but the summer at Ecbatana and in Hyrcania because of the prevalence of their ancient renown. And as we call the country Babylonia, so also we call the men from there Babylonians, that is, not after the city, but after the country; 744 but we do not call men after Seleuceia, if they are from there, as for example, Diogenes the Stoic philosopher.19

17 And there is also Artemita, a noteworthy city, which is five hundred stadia distant from Seleuceia, being situated almost directly towards the east, as is also Sitacenê. For Sitacenê too, both extensive and fertile, lies between Babylon and Susis, so that the whole of the journey for people travelling from Babylon to Susa is through Sitacenê towards the p221east; and the journey for people travelling from Susa into the interior of Persis through Uxia, and for people travelling from Persis into the middle of Carmania, is also towards the east. Now Carmania in encircled on the north by Persis, which is a large country; and bordering on this country are Paraetacenê and Cossaea as far as the Caspian Gates, which is inhabited by mountainous and predatory tribes. And bordering on Susis is Elymaïs, most of which is rugged and inhabited by brigands; and bordering Elymaïs are Media and the region of the Zagrus.

18 Now the Cossaeans, like the neighbouring mountaineers, are for the most part bowmen, and are always out of foraging expeditions; for they have a country that is small and barren, so that they must needs live at the expense of the other tribes. And they are of necessity a powerful people, for they are all fighters; at any rate, thirteen thousand Cossaeans joined the Elymaeans in battle, when the latter were warring against both the Babylonians and the Susians. But the Paraetaceni are more interested in agriculture than the Cossaeans; but still even they themselves do not abstain from brigandage. The Elymaeans possess a larger and more diversified country than the Paraetaceni. Now all of it that is fertile is inhabited by farmers, whereas the mountainous part of it is a nursery of soldiers, mostly bowmen; and since the latter part is extensive, it can furnish so large a military force that their king, since he possesses great power, refuses to be subject to the king of p223the Parthians like the other tribes; and their king was likewise disposed towards20 the Macedonians, who ruled Syria in later times. Now when Antiochus the Great attempted to rob the temple of Belus, the neighbouring barbarians, all by themselves, attacked and slew him. In later times the king of Parthia, though warned by what had happened to Antiochus, hearing that the temples in that country contained great wealth, and seeing that inhabitants were disobedient subjects, made an invasion with a great force, and took both the temple of Athena and that of Artemis, the latter called Azara, and carried off treasures valued at ten thousand talents. And Seleuceia near the Hedyphon River, a large city, was also taken. In earlier times Seleuceia was called Solocê. There are three entrances into the country that have been supplied by nature: one from Media and the region of the Zagrus through Massabaticê; another from Susis through Gabianê 745 (these, both Gabianê and Massabaticê, are provinces of Elymaea), and the third from Persis. And Corbianê is also a province of Elymaïs. And the countries of the Sagapeni and the Silaceni, small domains, border on that of these people. Such is the size and such is the nature of the tribes situated above Babylonia towards the east. But, as I have said, Media and Armenia are situated on the north; and Adiabenê and Mesopotamia are situated on the west.

p225 19 Now as for Adiabenê, the most of it consists of plains; and though it too is a part of Babylonia, still it has a ruler of its own; and in some places it borders also on Armenia. For the Medes and the Armenians, and third the Babylonians, the three greatest of the tribes in that part of the world, were so constituted from the beginning, and continued to be, that at times opportune for each they would attack one another and in turn become reconciled. And this continued down to the supremacy of the Parthians. Now the Parthians rule over the Medes and the Babylonians, but they have never once ruled over the Armenians; indeed, the Armenians have been attacked many times, but they could not be overcome by force, since Tigranes opposed all attacks mightily, as I have stated in my description of Armenia.21 Such, then, is Adiabenê; and the Adiabeni are also called Saccopodes;22 but I shall describe Mesopotamia and the tribes on the south, after briefly going over the accounts given of the customs of Assyria.

20 Now in general their customs are like those of the Persians, but it is a custom peculiar to them to appoint three wise men as rulers of each tribe, who present in public the marriageable girls, and sell them by auction to the bridegrooms, always selling first those who are the more highly prized. Thus marriages are contracted; and every time they have intercourse with one another, they arise and go out, each apart from the other, to offer incense; and in the morning they bathe themselves before p227they touch any vessel; for just as ablution is customary after touching a corpse, so also it is customary after intercourse. And in accordance with a certain oracle all the Babylonian women have a custom of having intercourse with a foreigner, the women going to a temple of Aphrodite with a great retinue and crowd; and each woman is wreathed with a cord round her head. The man who approaches a woman takes her far away from the sacred precinct, and then has intercourse with her; and the money is considered sacred to Aphrodite. They have three tribunals: that of those who are already freed from military service, and that of the most famous, and that of the old men, 746 apart from that appointed by the king. It is the duty of this last to give girls in marriage and to pass judgment in cases of adultery; and the duty of another to pass judgment in cases of theft, and of a third to pass judgment in cases of assault. They place the sick where three roads meet and question those who pass by, on the chance that some one has a cure for the malady; and no one of those who pass by is so base as not to suggest some cure when he falls in with them if he has any in mind. Their clothing consists of a linen tunic reaching to the feet, an upper garment made of wool, and a white cloak; and they wear their hair long, and use a shoe that is like a buskin. They wear also a seal, and carry a staff that is not plain but has a design on it, having on top an apple or rose of lily or something of the kind; and they anoint themselves with sesame; and they bewail the dead, like the Egyptians and many other nations; and they bury their dead in honey, first besmearing p229them in wax. But three of their tribes have no grain; and these live in marshes and are fish-eaters, living a life similar to that of the inhabitants of Gedrosia.

21 Mesopotamia23 has its name from what is the fact in the case. As I have said,24 it lies between the Euphrates and the Tigris; and the Tigris washes its eastern side only, whereas at Euphrates washes its western and southern sides; and on the north is the Taurus, which separates Armenia from Mesopotamia. Now the greatest distance by which the two rivers are separated is that towards the mountains; and this distance might be the same as that stated by Eratosthenes — I mean that from Thapsacus, where was the old bridge of the Euphrates, to the crossing of the Tigris, where Alexander crossed it — two thousand four hundred stadia; but the shortest distance between the two rivers is somewhere in the neighbourhood of Seleuceia and Babylon, slightly more than two hundred stadia. The Tigris flows through the middle of Lake Thopitis, as it is called, in the direction of its breadth; and, after traversing it to the opposite shore, it sinks underground with upward blasts and a loud noise; and having flowed for a considerable distance invisible, it rises again not far away from Gordyaea; and it traverses the lake so impetuously, as Eratosthenes says, that, although the lake elsewhere is briny and without fish, yet in this part it is fresh, runs like a river, and is full of fish.

22 Mesopotamia contracts in shape, projecting to a considerable length; and the shape of it somewhat resembles that of a boat; and the greatest part of its periphery is formed by the Euphrates. The p231distance from Thapsacus to Babylon, as Eratosthenes states, is four thousand eight hundred stadia; and that from the Zeugma25 at Commagenê, where Mesopotamia begins, 747 to Thapsacus, is not less than two thousand stadia.

23 The country alongside the mountains is quite fertile; the parts of it near the Euphrates and the Zeugma, both the present Zeugma at Commagenê and the old Zeugma at Thapsacus, are occupied by the Mygdones, who were so named by the Macedonians. In their country lies Nisibis, which is also called Mygdonian Antiocheia; it lies at the foot of Mt. Masius, and so do Tigranocerta and the regions of Carrhae and Nicephorium, and Chordiraza and Sinnaca, in which last Crassus was slain, being treacherously captured by Surena, the Parthian general.26

24 Near the Tigris lie the places belonging to the Gordyaeans, whom the ancients called Carduchians; and their cities are named Sareisa and Satalca and Pinaca, a very powerful fortress, with three citadels, each enclosed by a separate fortification of its own, so that they constitute, as it were, a triple city. But still it not only was held in subjection by the king of the Armenians, but the Romans took it by force, although the Gordyaeans had an exceptional repute as master-builders and as experts in the construction of siege engines; and it was for this reason that Tigranes used them in such work. But also the rest of Mesopotamia became subject to the Romans. Pompey assigned to Tigranes p233most of the places in this country, I mean all that are worth mentioning; for the country is rich in pasturage, and so rich in plants that it also produces the evergreens and a spice-plant called amomum; and it is a feeding-ground for lions; and it also produces naphtha and the stone called gangitis,27 which is avoided by reptiles.

25 Gordys, the son of Triptolemus, is said to have taken up his abode in Gordyenê, and later also the Eretrians, who were carried off by the Persians. Of Triptolemus, however, I shall soon give a clear account in my description of the Syrians.28

26 The parts of Mesopotamia which incline towards the south and are farther from the mountains, which are waterless and barren, are occupied by the Arabian Scenitae, a tribe of brigands and shepherds, who readily move from one place to another when pasture and booty fail them. Accordingly, the people who live alongside the mountains are harassed not only by the Scenitae, but also by the Armenians, who are situated above them and, through their might, oppress them; and at last they are subject for the most part to the Armenians or else to the Parthians, for the Parthians too are situated on the sides of the country and possess both Media and Babylonia.

27 Between the Euphrates and the Tigris there flows another river, called Basileius; and in the neighbourhood of Anthemusia still another, 748 called Aborras. The road for people travelling from Syria to Seleuceia and Babylon runs through the country of the Scenitae,29 now called Malians by some writers, and through their desert. Such travellers cross the p235Euphrates near Anthemusia, a place in Mesopotamia; and above the river, at a distance of four schoeni, lies Bambycê, which is also called Edessa and Hierapolis,30 where the Syrian goddess Atargatis is worshipped; for after they cross the river, the road runs through the desert to Scenae, a noteworthy city situated on a canal towards the borders of Babylonia. The journey from the crossing of the river to Scenae requires twenty-five days. And on that road are camel-drivers who keep halting-places, which sometimes are well supplied with reservoirs, generally cisterns, though sometimes the camel-drivers use waters brought in from other places. The Scenitae are peaceful, and moderate towards travellers in the exaction of tribute, and on this account merchants avoid the land along the river and risk a journey through the desert, leaving the river on the right for approximately a three days' journey. For the chieftains who live along the river on both sides occupy country which, though not rich in resources, is less resourceless than that of others, and are each invested with their own particular domains and exact a tribute of no moderate amount. For it is hard among so many peoples, and that too among peoples that are self-willed, for a common standard of tribute to be set that is advantageous to the merchant. Scenae is eighteen schoeni distant from Seleuceia.

28 The Euphrates and the land beyond it constitute the boundary of the Parthian empire. But the parts this side the river are held by the Romans and the chieftains of the Arabians as far as Babylonia, some of these chieftains preferring to give ear to the p237Parthians and others to the Romans, to whom they are neighbours; less so31 the nomad Scenitae who are near the river, but more so those that are far away and near Arabia Felix. The Parthians were also in former times eager for friendship with the Romans, but they defended themselves against Crassus, who began war with them;32 and then, having begun the battle themselves, met with equal reverses when they sent Pacorus against Asia.33 But Antony, using the Armenian34 as counsellor, was betrayed and fared badly in his war. Phraates,35 his successor, was so eager for friendship with Caesar Augustus that he even sent him the trophies which the Parthians had set up as memorials of their defeat of the Romans. And, having called Titius to a conference, who was at that time praefect of Syria, he put in his hands as hostages four of his legitimate sons, Seraspadanes and Rhodaspes and Phraates and Bonones, and two wives and four sons of these,36 for fear of seditions and attempts upon his life; for he knew that no person could prevail against him 749 unless that person supported some member of the house of Arsaces, because of the fact that the Parthians were extremely fond of his house. Accordingly, he got rid of his children, p239seeking thus to deprive evil-doers of that hope. Now all his surviving children are cared for in royal style, at public expense, in Rome, and the remaining kings37 have also continued to send ambassadors and to go into conferences.38


The Editor's Notes:

1 i.e. "Assyria."

2 Bridge.

3 Cf. 12.3.9.

4 Nineveh.

5 608 B.C.

6 "Mount of Victory."

7 Probably an error for Adiabenê (see 16.1.8 and 16.1.18).

8 Apparently the same as the goddess Anaïtis (cf. 11.8.4 and 15.3.15).

9 Cp. the account of Herodotus (1.178), who gives much larger dimensions.

10 "Megalopolis" means "Great City."

11 Strabo makes the same quotation in 8.8.1.

12 i.e. to be astrologers, or to know how to cast nativities.

13 Cf. "Mesenê" in 2.1.31.

14 "Tent-dwellers."

15 Bruno Meissner (Klio, Beitrage zur Altern Geschichte, XIX. 1925, p103), comparing 2.1.26, understands Strabo to mean that Opis and "the present Seleuceia" are identical (see critical note).

The critical note to the Greek text (Ὦπιν καὶ τὴν νῦν Σελεύκειαν) reads:

Meissner would omit καί. But according to Strabo's usage Σελεύκειαν might be appositional with Ὦπιν with the καί quite as well as without it.

16 Eratosthenes' reference to "Rhinocolura" in connection with "Mt. Casius," shows that he meant the Mt. Casius near Aegypt and not the Syrian Mt. Casius. Eratosthenes, like other writers (Polybius 5.80, Diodorus Siculus 1.30, and Josephus 13.13), extended the name "Coelê-Syria," which was properly applied only to the country between Mts. Libanus and Antilibanus, to include that part of Syria which borders on Aegypt and Arabia. Hence, quite apart from the truth or falsity of Eratosthenes' statement, he was clearly misinterpreted by Strabo.

17 See 11.12.3 and 11.14.2.

18 Cf. 11.4.3, 15.3.11, and Herodotus 1.193.

19 i.e. Diogenes was known as "Diogenes the Babylonian" (as in Cicero, de Nat. Deorum 1.5), not as "Diogenes the Seleuceian."

20 Kramer suggests that the Greek for "the Persians and" has fallen out of the MSS. here (see critical note).

The critical note to the Greek text (ὁμοίως δὲ καὶ πρὸς τοὺς Μακεδόνας) reads:

Kramer conj. that the words καὶ πρὸς τοὺς Πέρσας have fallen out after ὁμοίως δέ.

21 See 11.14.15.

22 i.e. "Sack-feet." But the name is suspected (see critical note).

The critical note to the Greek text (καλοῦνται δ᾽ οἱ Ἀδιαβηνοὶ καὶ Σακκόποδες) reads:

The words καλοῦνται . . . Σακκόποδες (Σακόποδες F) are suspected by Kramer and ejected by Meineke.

23 i.e. "a country between rivers."

24 11.14.2.

25 Bridge.

26 51 B.C.

27 This stone is called gagetes (i.e. jet) by Pliny (10.3 and 36.19).

28 16.2.5.

29 Tent-dwellers.

30 Holy City.

31 i.e. less inclined to give ear to the Romans.

32 54 B.C.

33 Pacorus (son of King Orodes) and Labienus overran Syria and part of Asia Minor, but were defeated (39 B.C.) by Ventidius, a legate of Antony. Pacorus again invaded Syria (38 B.C.), but was again defeated and fell in battle (see 16.2.8).

34 Artavasdes, king of the Armenians (see 11.13.4).

35 Phraates IV, who succeeded his father Orodes as king and commenced his reign by murdering his father, his thirty brothers, and his own son.

36 Cf. 6.4.2.

37 i.e. his successors.

38 i.e. with Roman praefects.


Thayer's Notes:

a Cidenas was a Babylonian, one of the most important astronomers of Antiquity. For his work, and a bit also about Nabû-Rîmannu (Strabo's "Naburianus"), see Kidinnu at Livius.Org.

b A more circumstantial account is given by Plutarch, Life of Alexander, 5.35.


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