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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!

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(Vol. VII) Strabo

 p299  Book XVI, Chapter 3

1 (765) Above Judaea and Coelê-Syria, as far as Babylonia and the river-country of the Euphrates towards the south, lies the whole of Arabia, with the exception of the Scenitae in Mesopotamia. Now I have already spoken of Mesopotamia and the tribes that occupy it;124 but as for the parts on the far side of the Euphrates, those near its outlets are occupied by Babylonians and the tribe of the  p301 Chaldaeans, of whom I have already spoken;125 and of those parts that follow after Mesopotamia as far as Coelê-Syria, the part that lies near the river, as well as Mesopotamia, is occupied by Arabian Scenitae, who are divided off into small sovereignties and live in tracts that are barren for want of water. These people till the land either little or none, but they keep herds of all kinds, particularly of camels. Above these people lies an extensive desert; but the parts lying still farther south than their country are held by the people who inhabit Arabia Felix, as it is called. The northern side of Arabia Felix is formed by the above-mentioned desert, the eastern by the Persian Gulf, the western by the Arabian Gulf, and the southern by the great sea that lies outside both gulfs, which as a whole is called Erythra.126

2 Now the Persian Gulf is also called the Persian Sea; and Eratosthenes describes it as follows: its mouth, he says, is so narrow that from Harmozi, the promontory of Carmania, one can see the promontory at Macae in Arabia; and from its mouth the coast on the right, being circular, inclines at first, from Carmania, slightly towards the east, and then towards the north, and, after this, towards the west as far as Teredon and the outlet of the Euphrates; and it comprises the coast of the Carmanians and in part that 766 of the Persians and Susians and Babylonians, a distance of about ten thousand stadia. I have already spoken of these peoples.127 And thence next to its mouth it extends another ten thousand stadia, as stated, Eratosthenes says, by  p303 Androsthenes the Thasian, who made the voyage, not only with Nearchus but also on his own account; so that it is clear from this that this sea is but little short of the Euxine in size; and Eratosthenes says that Androsthenes, who sailed round the gulf with a fleet, states that in making the coasting voyage, with the continent on the right, one sees next after Teredon the island Icarus and a temple sacred to Apollo in it and an oracle of Tauropolus.128

3 After sailing along the coast of Arabia for a distance of two thousand four hundred stadia, one comes to Gerrha,129 a city situated on a deep gulf; it is inhabited by Chaldaeans, exiles from Babylon; the soil contains salt and the people live in houses made of salt; and since flakes of salt continually scale off, owing to the scorching heat of the rays of the sun, and fall away, the people frequently sprinkle the houses with water and thus keep the walls firm. The city is two hundred stadia distant from the sea; and the Gerrhaeans traffic by land, for the most part, in the Arabian merchandise and aromatics, though Aristobulus says, on the contrary, that the Gerrhaeans import most of their cargoes on rafts to Babylonia, and thence sail up the Euphrates with them, and then convey them by land to all parts of the country.

4 On sailing farther, one comes to other islands, I mean Tyre and Aradus, which have temples like those of the Phoenicians. It is asserted, at least by the inhabitants of the islands, that the islands and cities of the Phoenicians which bear the same name are their own colonies. These islands are  p305 distant a ten days' sail from Teredon and a one day's sail from the promontory near the mouth of the gulf at Macae.

5 Both Nearchus and Orthagoras state that the island Ogyris lies in the high sea at a distance of two thousand stadia from Carmania, and that on it is to be seen the grave of Erythras, a large mound planted with wild palm trees; and that Erythras reigned as king over that region and left the sea named after himself.130 Nearchus says that these things were pointed out to them by Mithropastes, the son of Aristes, which latter was satrap of Phrygia; and that the former was banished by Dareius, took up his residence in the island, joined them when they landed in the Persian Gulf, and sought through them to be restored to his homeland.

6 Along the whole of the coast of the Red Sea, down in the deep, grow trees like the laurel and the olive, which at the ebb tides are wholly visible above the water but at the full tides are sometimes wholly covered;131 and while this is the case, the land that lies above the sea has no trees, and therefore the peculiarity is all the greater. 767 Such are the statements of Eratosthenes concerning the Persian Sea, which, as I was saying, forms the eastern side of Arabia Felix.

7 Nearchus says that they were met by Mithropastes, in company with Mazenes; that Mazenes was ruler of an island in the Persian Gulf; that the island was called Oaracta; that Mithropastes took refuge, and obtained hospitality, in this island upon  p307 his departure from Ogyris; that, furthermore, Mithropastes had a conference with Mazenes for the purpose of being recommended by him to the Macedonians in the fleet; and that Mazenes became guide in their voyage. Nearchus goes on to say that there is an island at the beginning of the Persian Gulf where quantities of valuable pearls are to be found; and that in other islands there are pebbles of transparent and brilliant stones; and that in the islands off the mouth of the Euphrates there are trees which smell like frankincense, and that juice flows from their roots when they are broken in pieces. And he speaks of the large size of the crabs and sea-urchins, which is a common thing in the whole of the exterior sea; for, he adds, some are larger than hats132 and others as large as a vessel holding two cotylae;133 and he says that he saw a whale stranded on the beach that was fifty cubits134 in length.

The Editor's Notes:

124 16.1.26 ff.

125 16.1.6.

126 i.e. "Red" Sea.

127 15.2.14 ff.

128 i.e. Artemis Tauropolus.

129 Now Adjer.

130 i.e. the "Erythraean" (Red) Sea.

131 Coral Reefs, apparently.

132 The Greek word implies the broad-brimmed felt hat worn by the Macedonians.

133 i.e. nearly a pint.

134 About 100 feet.

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Page updated: 25 Sep 12