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

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

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

[image ALT: link to previous section]
XVI.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!


[image ALT: link to next section]
XVII.1

(Vol. VII) Strabo
Geography

p307 Book XVI, Chapter 4

1 (767) Arabia commences on the side of Babylonia with Maecenê. In front of Maecenê, on one side, lies the desert of the Arabians; and on another side lie the marshes opposite the Chaldaeans, which are formed by diversions of water from the Euphrates; and another side lies the Persian Sea. The country has foul air, is misty, and is subject both to rains and to scorching heat; but still its products are excellent. The vine grows in the marshes, as p309much earth being thrown on hurdles of reeds as the plant may require; so that the vine is often carried away, and then is pushed back again to its proper place by means of poles.

2 But I return to Eratosthenes, who next sets forth his opinions concerning Arabia. He says concerning the northerly, or desert, part of Arabia, which lies between Arabia Felix and Coelê-Syria and Judaea, extending as far as the recess of the Arabian Gulf, that from the City of Heroes,135 which forms a recess of the Arabian Gulf near the Nile, the distance in the direction of the Petra of the Nabataeans to Babylon is five thousand six hundred stadia, the whole of the journey being in the direction of the summer sunrise136 and through the adjacent countries of the Arabian tribes, I mean the Nabataeans and the Chaulotaeans and the Agraeans. Above these lies Arabia Felix, which extends for a distance of twelve thousand stadia towards the south, to the Atlantic Sea. The first people who occupy Arabia Felix, after the Syrians and Judaeans, are farmers. After these the soil is sandy and barren, producing a few palm-trees and a thorny tree137 and the tamarisk, and affording water by digging, as is the case in Gedrosia;138 and it is occupied by tent-dwellers and camel-herds. 768 The extreme parts towards the south, lying opposite to Aethiopia, are watered by summer rains and are sowed twice, like India;139 and the rivers there are used up in supplying plains and lakes. The country p311is in general fertile, and abounds in particular with places for making honey; and, with the exception of horses and mules and hogs, it has an abundance of domesticated animals; and, with the exception of geese and chickens, has all kinds of birds. The extreme part of the country above-mentioned is occupied by the four largest tribes; by the Minaeans, on the side towards the Red Sea, whose largest city is Carna or Carnana; next to these, by the Sabaeans, whose metropolis is Mariaba;140 third, by Cattabanians, whose territory extends down to the straits and the passage across the Arabian Gulf, and whose royal seat is called Tamna; and, farthest toward the east, the Chatramotitae, whose city is Sabata.141

3 All these cities are ruled by monarchs and are prosperous, being beautifully adorned with both temples and royal palaces. And the houses are like those of the Aegyptians in respect to the manner in which the timbers are joined together. The four jurisdictions cover more territory than the Aegyptian Delta; and no son of a king succeeds to the throne of his father, but the son of some notable man who is born first after the appointment of the king; for at the same time that some one is appointed to the throne, they register the pregnant wives of their notable men and place guards over them; and by law the wife's son who is born first is adopted and reared in a royal manner as future successor to the throne.

4 Cattabania produces frankincense,142 and Chatramotitis produces myrrh; and both these and the other aromatics are bartered to merchants. These p313arrive there in seventy days from Aelana143 (Aelana is a city on the other recess of the Arabian Gulf, the recess near Gaza144 called Aelanites, as I have said before),145 but the Gerrhaeans arrive at Chatramotitis in forty days. The part of the Arabian Gulf along the side of Arabia, beginning at the Aelanites recess, is, as recorded by Alexander's associates and by Anaxicrates, fourteen thousand stadia, though this figure is excessive; and the part opposite the Troglodytic country (which is on the right side as one sails from the City of Heroes), as far as Ptolemaïs and the country where elephants are captured, extends nine thousand stadia towards the south and slightly in the direction of the east; and thence, as far as the straits, four thousand five hundred stadia, in a direction more towards the east. 769 The straits are formed towards Aethiopia by a promontory called Deirê,146 and by a town bearing the same name, which is inhabited by the Ichthyophagi.147 And here, it is said, there is a pillar of Sesostris the Aegyptian, which tells in hieroglyphics of his passage across the gulf; for manifestly he was the first man to subdue the countries of the Aethiopians and the Troglodytes; and he then crossed into Arabia, and thence invaded the whole of Asia; and actually, for this reason, there are in many places palisades of Sesostris, as they are called, and reproductions of temples of Aegyptian gods. The straits at Deirê contract to a width of sixty stadia. However, it is not these that are called straits now, but a place farther along on the voyage, where the voyage across the gulf between p315the two continents is about two hundred stadia, and where are six islands, which follow one another in close succession, fill up the channel, and leave between them extremely narrow passages; through these merchandise is transported from one continent to the other; and for these the name "straits" is used. After the islands, the next voyage, following the sinuosities of the bays, along the myrrh-bearing country in the direction of south and east as far as the cinnamon-bearing country, is about five thousand stadia; and to the present time, it is said, no one has arrived beyond that country; and though there are not many cities on the coast, there are many in the interior that are beautifully settled. Such, then, is Eratosthenes' account of Arabia; but I must also add the accounts of the other writers.

5 Artemidorus says that the promontory on the Arabian side opposite to Deirê is called Acila; and that the males in the neighbourhood of Deirê have their sexual glands mutilated.148 As one sails from the City of Heroes along the Troglodytic country, one comes to a city Philotera, which was named after the sister of the second Ptolemy, having been founded by Satyrus, who had been sent for the purpose of investigating the Troglodytic country and the hunting of elephants. Then to another city, Arsinoê. Then to springs of hot water, salty and bitter, which flow down a high rock and empty into the sea. Near by, in a plain, is a mountain that is red as ruddle. Then one comes to Myus Harbour, which is also called Aphrodite's Harbour; it is a large harbour with a winding entrance, off which lie three islands; two of these are densely shaded with olive trees, while p317the third is less so and is full of guinea-fowls.149 Then, next, one comes to the Acathartus150 Gulf, which also, like Myus Harbour, lies opposite Thebaïs, and is really "acathartus,"º for it is roughened by reefs and submarine rocks, and, most of the time, by tempestuous winds. 770 And here, deep inland on the recess of the gulf, lies a city Berenicê.

6 After the gulf, one comes to the island Ophiodes,151 so called from the fact in the case; but it was freed from the serpents by the king, both because of their destruction of the people who landed there and on account of the topazes found there. Topaz is a transparent stone that sparkles with a golden lustre — so dimly in the day-time, however, that one cannot easily see it (for it is outshone by the rays of the sun), but those who collect it see it at night, place a vessel over it as a sign and dig it up in the day-time. There was an organisation of people who were appointed by the kings of Aegypt to keep guard over this stone and the collecting of it; and this organisation was supplied by them with provisions.

7 After this island one comes to many tribes of Ichthyophagi and Nomads. And then to the Harbour of Soteira,152 which was so called from the fact in the case by certain commanders who had been saved from great dangers. After this there is a great change in the coast and the gulf; for the coasting voyage is no longer rough, and in a way closely approaches Arabia; and the sea is as low, I p319might almost say, as two fathoms in depth; and the surface is covered, grass-like, with sea-weeds and rock-weeds that are visible below the surface — a thing still more in evidence at the strait, where, among the plants, even trees grow down below the water; and the strait has also a large number of sea-dogs. Then one comes to the Tauri, two mountains which from a distance present the outlines of the animals.153 Then to another mountain, which has a temple sacred to Isis, a reproduction154 built by Sesostris. Then to an island planted with olive trees and subject to inundation; and after this to Ptolemaïs, near the hunting-grounds for elephants, a city founded by Eumedes, who had been sent to the hunting-grounds by Philadelphius;155 Eumedes secretly enclosed a kind of peninsula with a ditch and wall, and then, by courteous treatment of those who tried to hinder the work, actually won them over as friends instead of foes.

8 In the interval there empties a branch of the Astaboras River, as it is called, which, having its source in a lake, empties a part of its waters,156 but for the most part joins the Nile. Then one comes to six islands called Latomiae;157 and then to the Sabaïtic mouth, as it is called, and to a fortress in the interior which was founded by Tosuches. And then to a harbour called Elaea and to the island of Strato. And then to a harbour called Saba and to a hunting-ground for elephants of the same name. The country deep in the interior is called Tenessis; p321and it is occupied by the Aegyptians who went there as exiles from Psammitichus. 771 They are called Sembritae, as being foreigners.158 They are governed by a queen, to whom also Meroê, an island in the Nile near that region, is subject; and above this island, at no great distance, is another island in the river, a settlement of these same exiles. The journey from Meroê to this sea,159 for a well-girded traveller, requires fifteen days. Near Meroê is the confluence of the Astaboras and the Astapus, as also of the Astasobas with the Nile.

9 Along these rivers live the Rhizophagi160 and the Heleii,161 who are so called because they cut roots from the adjacent marsh, crush them with stones, form them into cakes, and then heat the cakes in the sun's rays and use them for food. This region is the haunt of lions; and the beasts are driven out of this region by large gnats on the days of the rising of the dog-star. Near by are also the Spermophagi,162 who, when the seeds fail, live on nuts, preparing them for eating in the same manner as the Rhizophagi prepare roots. After Elaea one comes to the Lookouts of Demetrius and the Altars of Conon; and in the interior grows an abundance of Indian reeds; and the country is called the country of Coracius. Deep in the interior was a place called Endera, a settlement of naked people, who use bows made of reeds and arrows hardened by fire; and generally p323they shoot wild animals from trees, but sometimes from the ground; and they have in their country a great multitude of wild cattle; and they live on the flesh of these and the other wild animals, but when they take nothing in the chase they bake dried skins on hot coals and are satisfied with such food as that. It is their custom to propose contests in archery for boys who are in their teens. After the Altars of Conon one comes to the Melinus Harbour, above which lie a Fortress of Coraüs, as it is called, and a Hunting-ground of Coraüs and another fortress and several hunting-grounds. And then to the Harbour of Antiphilus, and, above this, to the Creophagi,163 of whom the males have their sexual glands mutilated and the women are excised in the Jewish fashion.164

10 Also above these, approximately towards the south, are the Cynamolgi,165 by the natives called Agrii, who have long hair and long beards and raise good-sized dogs. With these dogs they hunt Indian cattle which come in from the neighbouring territory, whether driven thither by wild beasts or by scarcity of pasturage. The time of their incursion is from the summer solstice to mid-winter. Next after the Harbour of Antiphilus one comes to the Grove of the Colobi,166 and to Berenicê, a Sabaean city, and to Sabae, a good-sized city; and then to the Grove of Eumenes. Above the grove lie a city Daraba and the hunting-ground for elephants called "The one p325near the well"; they are inhabited by the Elephantophagi,167 who engage in the chase of elephants. 772 When from trees they first see a herd of elephants moving through the forest they do not then attack them, but stealthily follow the herd and hamstring those that have wandered from the rear of the herd. Some, however, kill them with arrows dipped in the gall of serpents. But the shooting of the bow is performed by three persons; two of these step to the front and hold the bow, and the third draws the string. Others, noting the trees against which the elephants are wont to rest, approach them from the other side and cut the trunks of these trees low down. So when the elephant approaches and leans against it, the tree falls and the elephant falls too; and since the elephant is unable to arise, because its legs have only a continuous and unbending bone, they leap down from the trees and cut the animal to pieces.a The Nomads call the hunters "Acatharti."168

11 Above these is situated a tribe of no large size, that of the Struthophagi,169 in whose country there are birds of the size of deer, which, though unable to fly, run swiftly, like ostriches. Some hunt them with bows and arrows, whereas others, covered with the skins of birds, conceal the right hand in the neck of the skin and move it in the same way as the birds move their necks, and with the left hand they pour forth seeds from a bag suspended to the side, and with these seeds they bait the creatures and run them together into gullies, where men with cudgels, standing over them, slaughter them. And their skins are used both for clothing and for bed-covers. p327The Aethiopians called "Simi" carry on war with these people; they use as weapons the horns of gazelles.

12 Neighbouring this people are the Acridophagi,170 who are blacker than the rest and shorter in stature and the shortest-lived; for they rarely live beyond forty years, since their flesh is infested with parasites.171 They live on locusts, which are driven into this region in the spring-time by strong-blowing south-west and western winds. They cast smoking timber in the ravines, lighting it slightly (and thus easily catch the locusts),172 for when they fly above the smoke they are blinded and fall. The people pound them with salt, make them into cakes, and use them for food. Above these people lies a large uninhabited region, which has pastures in abundance. It was abandoned by reason of the multitude of scorpions and tarantulas, the tetragnathi,173 as they are called; these once prevailed and caused a complete desertion by the inhabitants.

13 After the Harbour of Eumenes, as far as Deirê and the straits opposite the six islands,174 the country is inhabited by the Ichthyophagi and the Creophagi 773 and the Colobi,175 who extend as far as the interior. In this region are several hunting-grounds for elephants, and insignificant cities, and islands lying off the coast. The greater part of the people p329are nomads; and those who till the soil are few in number. And in some parts of their country styrax176 grows in no small quantities. The Ichthyophagi collect the fish at the ebb-tides, throw them upon the rocks, and bake them in the sun; and then, when they have thoroughly baked them, they pile up the bones, tread the flesh with their feet and make it into cakes; and again they bake these cakes and use them for food. But in stormy weather, when they are unable to collect the fish, they pound the bones which they have piled up and mould them into cakes and use them for food; and they suck the bones when fresh. But some, who have shell-fish, fatten them by throwing them down into gullies and pools of sea-water, and then, throwing in minnows as food for them, use them for food when there is a scarcity of fish. They also have all kinds of places for hatching and feeding fish,177 from which they parcel them out. Some of the people who inhabit the part of the coast that is without water go inland every five days, families and all, with a shouting of paeans, to the water-reservoirs, throw themselves upon the ground face downwards, drink like cattle until their stomachs are filled out as tight as drums, and then return to the sea again. They live in caves, or in pens roofed over with beams and cross-beams, consisting of the bones of whales and small fish,178 as also with olive branches.

14 The Chelonophagi179 live under cover of turtle-shells, which are so large that they are used as boats; but some of these people, since the sea-weed is thrown ashore in great quantities and forms high and hill-like heaps, dig beneath these and dwell p331under them. They throw out their dead as food for the fish, the bodies being caught up by the flood-tides. Some of the islands, three of them, follow in succession: Tortoise Island, Seal Island, and Hawk Island, as it is called; and the whole of the coast has palm-trees, olive groves, and laurel groves, not only the part inside the straits, but also most of the part outside. And there is also an island called Philip's Island, opposite which, above the coast, lies the hunting-ground for elephants called the Hunting-ground of Pythangelus. Then one comes to Arsinoê, a city and harbour; and, after these, to Deirê; and above these lies a hunting-ground for elephants. The next country after Deirê produces aromatics, the first that produces myrrh (this country belongs to the Ichthyophagi and Creophagi), and it also produces both persea180 and the Aegyptian sycaminus.181 Above this country lies a hunting-ground for elephants, called the Hunting-ground of Lichas. In many places there are pools of rain-water; and when these dry up, the elephants, with their trunks and tusks, dig wells and find water. 774 On this coast, extending as far as the promontory of Pytholaüs, there are two lakes of fair size, one of which has salt water and is called a sea, whereas the other has fresh water, supports both hippopotamus and crocodiles, and has papyrus round its edges; and the ibis is also to be seen in the neighbourhood of this place. Beginning with those who live near the promontory of Pytholaüs, the people are wholly free from mutilation182 of the body. After these, one p333comes to the country that bears frankincense; and here is a promontory and a temple that has a grove of poplars. In the interior lie the river-land of Isis, as it is called, and another river-land called Neilus, both of which produce both myrrh and frankincense along their banks. Here, too, there is a kind of reservoir which is filled by waters from the mountains; and after this one comes to the Lookout of Leon and the Harbour of Pythangelus; and the next country has, among other things, pseudo-cassia. And one comes to several river-lands in succession that produce frankincense along the rivers, and to rivers that extend as far as the cinnamon-bearing country; and the river which bounds this country produces also the flowering rush in very great quantities. Then to another river and to the Daphnus Harbour and to the River-land of Apollo, as it is called, which produce, in addition to frankincense, both myrrh and cinnamon; but the cinnamon is more abundant in the neighbourhood of the places that are deep in the interior. Then to Elephas,183 the mountain, which juts out into the sea, and to a trench, and, next thereafter, to the large Harbour of Psygmus, and to a watering-place184 called the Watering-place of the Cynocephali,185 and to the last promontory of this coast, Notu-ceras.186 After rounding this promontory approximately towards the south, we no longer, he says, have any record of harbours or places, because the promontory is not known from here on, and the same is true of the coast next after it.

p335 15 One comes also to pillars and altars of Pytholaüs and Lichas and Pythangelus and Leon and Charimortus along the known coast, extending from Deirê as far as Notu-ceras, but the distance is unknown. The country abounds in elephants, and also in lions called ants,187 which have their genital organs reversed, and are golden in colour, but are less hairy than those in Arabia. It also produces fierce leopards and the rhinoceros. The latter, the rhinoceros, is but little short of the elephant in size, not, as Artemidorus says, "in length to the tail"188 (although he says that he saw the animal at Alexandria), but falls short, I might almost say, only about . . . in height,189 judging at least from the one I saw; nor does their colour resemble that of box-wood, but rather that of the elephant; and it is of the size of a bull; and its shape is most nearly like that of the wild boar, particularly in its foreparts, except its nose, which has a snub horn harder than any bone; and it uses its horn as a weapon, just as the wild boar uses its tusks; 775 and it also has two hard welts extending round from its chine to its belly, like the coils of serpents, one of which is on its withers and the other on its loins. Now I am giving this description from the one I saw; but Artemidorus goes on to explain that the creature is especially inclined to fight with the elephant for places of pasture, thrusting its forehead under the elephant and ripping up its stomach, unless it is prevented from so doing by the proboscis and tusks of the elephant.

p337 16 In this region, also, are found camelopards,190 though they are in no respect like leopards; for the dappled marking of their skin is more like that of a fawnskin, which latter is flecked with spots, and their hinder parts are so much lower than their front parts that they appear to be seated on their tail-parts, which have the height of an ox, although their forelegs are no shorter than those of camels; and their necks rise high and straight up, their heads reaching much higher up than those of camels. On account of this lack of symmetry the speed of the animal cannot, I think, be so great as stated by Artemidorus, who says that its speed is not to be surpassed. Furthermore, it is not a wild beast, but rather a domesticated animal, for it shows no signs of wildness. And in this country are also found, he says, sphinxes191 and cynocephali192 and cebi,193 which last have the face of a lion, and a body otherwise like that of a panther and with the size of a gazelle. The country also has bulls that are wild, carnivorous, and far surpass those in our part of the world in size and speed; and their colour is red. The crocuttas194 is a mixed progeny of wolf and dog, as Artemidorus says. But what Metrodorus of Scepsis says in his book on Habits is like a myth and should be disregarded. Artemidorus also speaks of serpents thirty cubits in length which overpower elephants and bulls; and his measurement is moderate, at least for serpents in this part of the world, for the Indian serpents are rather fabulous,195 as also those in Libya, which are said to grow grass on their backs.196

17 Now the Troglodytes live a nomadic life; and p339their several tribes are ruled by tyrants; and both wives and children are held in common except those of the tyrants; and the fine for anyone who corrupts the wife of a tyrant consists of a sheep. The women paint their eyelids carefully with stibi;197 and they wear shells for amulets round their necks. The Troglodytes go to war about pasturage, at first pushing their way through with their hands and then with stones, and also, when a wound is inflicted, with arrows and daggers; but the fighters are reconciled by the women, who advance into the midst of the combatants and ply them with entreaties. Their food consists of flesh and bones which are first chopped up together and wrapped in skins and then baked, or prepared in numerous other ways by the cooks (whom they call "unclean"), 776 so that they not only eat the flesh, but also the bones and the skin; and they also use the blood mixed with milk. As for beverages, most of the people drink a brew of buckthorn,198 but the tyrants drink a mixture of honey and water, the honey being pressed out of some kind of flower. They have winter when the Etesian winds blow (for they have rains); but the rest of the time is summer. They also go lightly clad, wear skins, and carry clubs; and they not only mutilate their bodies,199 but some of them are also circumcised, like the Aegyptians. The Aethiopian Megabari have iron knobs on their clubs, and also use spears and shields made of rawhide, but the rest of the Aethiopians use the bow and arrow and lances. Before burying their p341dead, some of the Troglodytes bind the neck of the corpses to the legs with twigs of the buckthorn, and then immediately, with merriment and laughter,200 throw stones upon them until the body is hidden from sight; and then they place a ram's horn on the barrow and go away. They travel by night, first fastening bells to the male cattle, so as to drive away the wild beasts with the noise; and they also use torches and bows to repel the wild beasts; and, for the sake of their flocks, they also keep watch during the night, singing a kind of song near the fire.

18 After saying all this about the Troglodytes and the neighbouring Aethiopians, Artemidorus returns to the Arabians; and first, beginning at Poseidium, he describes Arabians who border on the Arabian Gulf and live opposite the Troglodytes. He says that Poseidium lies farther in than the Aelanites Gulf; and that contiguous to Poseidium there is a grove of palm trees, which is well supplied with water and is highly valued because all the country around is hot and waterless and shadeless; and that here the fertility of the palms is wonderful; and that a man and a woman have charge of the grove, being appointed to that charge through hereditary right. They wear skins, and live on dates from the palm trees; but on account of the number of wild beasts they build huts in trees and sleep there. Then, next, one comes to the Island of Phocae,201 which was so named from the number of seals there. Near the island is a promontory, which extends to the Rock of the Nabataean Arabians, as they are called, and p343to the Palaestine country, whither Minaeans and Gerrhaeans and all the neighbouring peoples convey their loads of aromatics. Then one comes to another coast, which was formerly called the coast of the Maranitae, some of whom were farmers and others tent-dwellers, but is now called the coast of the Garindaeans, 777 who destroyed the Maranitae by treachery; for the Garindaeans attacked them while they were celebrating some quadrennial festival, and not only destroyed all the people at the festival but also overran and exterminated the rest of the tribe. Then to the Aelanites Gulf, and to Nabataea, a country with a large population and well supplied with pasturage. They also dwell on islands situated off the coast near by; and these Nabataeans formerly lived a peaceful life, but later, by means of rafts, went to plundering the vessels of people sailing from Aegypt. But they paid the penalty when a fleet went over and sacked their country. One comes next to a plain which is well supplied with trees and water and is full of all kinds of domestic animals — mules among others; and it has a multitude of wild camels, deer, and gazelles, as also numerous lions, leopards, and wolves.202 Off this plain lies an island called Dia. Then one comes to a gulf about five hundred stadia in extent, which is enclosed all round by mountains and a mouth that is difficult to enter; and round it live men who hunt the land animals. Then to three uninhabited islands, full of olive trees, not the kind in our country, but the indigenous kind, called Aethiopic, the sap of which has medicinal power. Next in order one comes to a stony beach, p345and after that to a stretch of coast about one thousand stadia in length which is rugged and difficult for vessels to pass, for lack of harbours and anchoring-places, since a rugged and lofty mountain stretches along it. Then one comes to foot-hills, which are rocky and extend to the sea; and these, especially at the time of the Etesian winds and the rains, present to sailors a danger that is beyond all help. Next is a gulf with scattered islands; and continuous with the gulf are three exceedingly high banks of black sand; and after these lies Charmothas Harbour, about one hundred stadia in circuit, with an entrance that is narrow and dangerous for all kinds of boats. A river flows into it; and there is an island in the middle of it which is well supplied with trees and fit for tillage. Then one comes to a rugged stretch of coast; and after that to certain gulfs and to a country of nomads who get their livelihood from camels; for they carry on war from the backs of camels, travel upon them, and subsist upon their milk and flesh. A river flows through their country that brings down gold-dust, but the inhabitants do not know how to work it. They are called Debae; and some of them are nomads, whereas others are also farmers. I am not giving most of the names of the tribes because of their insignificance and at the same time because of the oddity of the pronunciations. Next to the Debae are men more civilised than they; and the country these live in has a more temperate climate; for it is well watered, and well supplied with rains. Gold obtained by digging is found in their country — 778 not gold-dust, but gold nuggets, which do not require much purification; the smallest nuggets p347have the size of a fruit-stone, the medium that of a medlar, and the largest that of a walnut. They make collars with these nuggets, perforating them and stringing them alternately with transparent stones by means of thread; and they wear them round their necks and wrists. They also sell the gold at a cheap price to their neighbours, giving it in exchange for three times the quantity of brass and double the quantity of silver, because of their lack of experience in working gold and because of the scarcity of the things received in exchange, which are more important for the necessities of life.

19 Bordering upon these people is the very fertile country of the Sabaeans, a very large tribe, in whose country myrrh and frankincense and cinnamon are produced; and on the coast is found balsam, as also another kind of herb of very fragrant smell, which quickly loses its fragrance. There are also sweet-smelling palms, and reeds; and serpents a span in length, which are dark-red in colour, can leap even as far as a hare, and inflict an incurable bite. On account of the abundance of fruits the people are lazy and easy-going in their modes of life. Most of the populace sleep on the roots of trees which they have cut out of the ground.203 Those who live close to one another receive in continuous succession the loads of aromatics and deliver them to their next neighbours, as far as Syria and Mesopotamia; and when they are made drowsy by the sweet odours they overcome the drowsiness by inhaling p349the incense of asphalt and goats' beard. The city of the Sabaeans, Mariaba, is situated upon a well-wooded mountain; and it has a king who is authority in lawsuits and everything else; but it is not lawful for him to leave the palace, or, if he does, the rabble, in accordance with some oracle, stone him to death on the spot. Both he himself and those about him live in effeminate luxury; but the masses engage partly in farming and partly in the traffic in aromatics, both the local kinds and those from Aethiopia; to get the latter they sail across the straits in leathern boats. They have these aromatics in such abundance that they use cinnamon and cassia and the others instead of sticks and firewood. In the country of the Sabaeans is also found larimnum, a most fragrant incense. From their trafficking both the Sabaeans and the Gerrhaeans have become richest of all; and they have a vast equipment of both gold and silver articles, such as couches and tripods and bowls, together with drinking-vessels and very costly houses; for doors and walls and ceilings are variegated with ivory and gold and silver set with precious stones. This is Artemidorus' account of these peoples, but the rest of his statements are partly similar to those of Eratosthenes and partly quoted from the other historians.

20 779 For example, he says that some writers call the sea "Erythra"204 from the colour it presents as the result of reflection, whether from the rays of the sun when it is in the zenith, or from the mountains, p351which have been reddened by the scorching heat; for, he continues, conjecture runs both ways about the cause; but Ctesias the Cnidian reports a spring, consisting of red and ochre-coloured water, as emptying into the sea; and Agatharchides,º a fellow-citizen of Ctesias, reports from a certain Boxus, of Persian descent, that when a herd of horses had been driven out of the country by a passion-frenzied lioness as far as the sea and from there the herd had crossed over to a certain island, a certain Persian, Erythras by name, built a raft and was the first man to cross to the island; and that when he saw that it was beautifully adapted to habitation, he drove the herd back to Persis, sent forth colonists to that island and to the others and to the coast, and caused the sea to be named after himself; the other writers, he says, declare that Erythras was the son of Perseus, and that he ruled over this region. Some writers say that the distance from the straits of the Arabian Gulf to the extremity of the cinnamon-bearing country is five thousand stadia, without distinguishing clearly whether they mean towards the south or towards the east. It is said also that the emerald and the beryl are found in the gold mines. And there are also fragrant salts in the country of the Arabians, as Poseidonius says.

21 The first people above Syria who dwell in Arabia Felix are the Nabataeans and the Sabaeans. They overran Syria before they became subject to the Romans; but at present both they and the Syrians are subject to the Romans. The metropolis of the Nabataeans is Petra,205 as it is p353called; for it lies on a site which is otherwise smooth and level, but it is fortified all round by a rock, the outside parts of the site being precipitous and sheer, and the inside parts having springs in abundance, both for domestic purposes and for watering gardens. Outside the circuit of the rock most of the territory is desert, in particular towards Judaea. Here, too, is the shortest road to Hiericus,206 a journey of three or four days, as also to the grove of palm trees,207 a journey of five days. Petra is also ruled by some king from the royal family; and the king has as Administrator one of his companions, who is called "brother." It is exceedingly well-governed; at any rate, Athenodorus, a philosopher and companion of mine, who had been in the city of the Petraeans, used to describe their government with admiration, for he said that he found both many Romans and many other foreigners sojourning there, and that he saw that the foreigners often engaged in lawsuits, both with one another and with the natives, but that none of the natives prosecuted one another, and that they in every way kept peace with one another.

22 780 Many of the special characteristics of Arabia have been disclosed by the recent expedition of the Romans against the Arabians, which was made in my own time under Aelius Gallus as commander. He was sent by Augustus Caesar to explore the tribes and the places, not only in Arabia, but also in Aethiopia, since Caesar saw that the Troglodyte country which adjoins Aegypt neighbours upon Arabia, and also that the Arabian Gulf, which p355separates the Arabians from the Troglodytes, is extremely narrow. Accordingly he conceived the purpose of winning the Arabians over to himself or of subjugating them. Another consideration was the report, which had prevailed from all time, that they were very wealthy, and that they sold aromatics and the most valuable stones for gold and silver, but never expended with outsiders any part of what they received in exchange; for he expected either to deal with wealthy friends or to master wealthy enemies. He was encouraged also by the expectation of assistance from the Nabataeans, since they were friendly and promised to co-operate with him in every way.

23 Upon these considerations, therefore, Gallus set out on the expedition; but he was deceived by the Nabataean Administrator, Syllaeus, who, although he had promised to be guide on the march and to supply all needs and to co-operate with him, acted treacherously in all things, and pointed out neither a safe voyage along the coast nor a safe journey by land, misguiding him through places that had no roads and by circuitous routes and through regions destitute of everything, or along rocky shores that had no harbours or through waters that were shallow or full of submarine rocks; and particularly in places of that kind the flood-tides, as also the ebb-tides, caused very great distress. Now this was the first mistake of Gallus, to build long boats, since there was no naval war at hand, or even to be expected; for the Arabians are not very good warriors even on land, rather being hucksters and merchants, to say nothing of fighting at sea. But Gallus built not less than eighty boats, biremes and p357triremes and light boats, at Cleopatris,208 which is near the old canal which extends209 from the Nile. But when he realised that he had been thoroughly deceived, he built one hundred and thirty vessels of burden, on which he set sail with about ten thousand infantry, consisting of Romans in Aegypt, as also of Roman allies, among whom were five hundred Jews and one thousand Nabataeans under Syllaeus. After many experiences and hardships he arrived in fourteen days at Leucê Comê210 in the land of the Nabataeans, a large emporium, although he had lost many of his boats, some of these being lost, crews and all, on account of difficult sailing, but not on account of any enemy. This was caused by the treachery of Syllaeus, 781 who said that there was no way for an army to go to Leucê Comê by land; be yet camel-traders travel back and forth from Petra to this place in safety and ease, and in such numbers of men and camels that they differ in no respect from an army.

24 This came to pass because Obodas, the king, did not care much about public affairs, and particularly military affairs (this is a trait common to all the Arabian kings), and because he put everything in the power of Syllaeus; and because Syllaeus treacherously out-generalled Gallus in every way, and sought, as I think, to spy out the country and, along with the Romans, to destroy some of its cities and tribes, and then to establish himself lord of all, after the Romans were wiped out by hunger and fatigue and diseases and any other evils which he had treacherously contrived for them. However, Gallus put in at Leucê Comê, his army now being p359sorely tried both with scurvy and with lameness in the leg, which are native ailments, the former disclosing a kind of paralysis round the mouth and the latter around the legs, both being the result of the native water and herbs. At all events, he was forced to spend both the summer and the winter there, waiting for the sick to recover. Now the loads of aromatics are conveyed from Leucê Comê to Petra, and thence to Rhinocolura, which is in Phoenicia near Aegypt, and thence to the other peoples; but at the present time they are for the most part transported by the Nile to Alexandria; and they are landed from Arabia and India at Myus Harbour; and then they are conveyed by camels over to Coptus in Thebaïs, which is situated on a canal of the Nile, and then to Alexandria. Again Gallus moved his army from Leucê Comê and marched through regions of such a kind that water had to be carried by camels, because of the baseness of the guides; and therefore it took many days to arrive at the land of Aretas, a kinsman of Obodas. Now Aretas received him in a friendly way and offered him gifts, but the treason of Syllaeus made difficult the journey through that country too; at any rate, it took thirty days to traverse the country, which afforded only zeia,211 a few palm trees, and butter instead of oil, because they passed through parts that had no roads. The next country which he traversed belonged to nomads and most of it was p361truly desert; and it was called Ararenê; and its king was Sabos; and in passing through this country, through parts that had no roads, he spent fifty days, arriving at the city of the Negrani212 and at a country which was both peaceable and fertile. Now the king had fled and the city was seized at the first onset; and from there he arrived at the river in six days. Here the barbarians joined battle with the Romans, and about ten thousand of them fell, but only two Romans; 782 for they used their weapons in an inexperienced manner, being utterly unfit for war, using bows and spears and swords and slings, though most of them used a double-edged axe; and immediately afterwards he took the city called Asca, which had been forsaken by its king; and thence he went to a city called Athrula; and, having mastered it without a struggle, he placed a garrison in it, arranged for supplies of grain and dates for his march, advanced to a city called Marsiaba, which belonged to the tribe of the Rhammanitae, who were subject to Ilasarus. Now he assaulted and besieged this city for six days, but for want of water desisted. He was indeed only a two days' journey from the country that produced aromatics, as informed by his captives, but he had used up six months' time on his marches because of bad guidance, and he realised the fact when he turned back, when at last he had learned the plot against him and had gone back by other roads; p363for on the ninth day he arrived at Negrana, where the battle had taken place, and thence on the eleventh day at Hepta Phreata, as the place is called, from the fact that it has seven wells; and thence, at last, marching through a peaceable country, he arrived at a village called Chaalla, and again at another village called Malotha, which is situated near a river; and then through a desert country, which had only a few watering-places, as far as a village called Egra. The village is in the territory of Obodas; and it is situated on the sea. On his return he accomplished the whole journey within sixty days, although he had used up six months in his first journey. Thence he carried his army across the Myus Harbour within eleven days, and marched by land over to Coptus, and, with all who had been fortunate enough to survive, landed at Alexandria. The rest he had lost, not in wars, but from sickness and fatigue and hunger and bad roads; for only seven men perished in war. For these reasons, also this expedition did not profit us to a great extent in our knowledge of those regions, but still it made a slight contribution. But the man who was responsible for this failure, I mean Syllaeus, paid the penalty at Rome, since, although he pretend friendship, he was convicted, in addition to his rascality in this matter, of other offences too, and was beheaded.

25 Now writers divide the country that produces aromatics into four parts, as I have said before;213 p365and among the aromatics, they say that frankincense and myrrh are produced from trees214 and that cassia is produced also from marshes.215 Some say that most of the latter comes from India and that the best frankincense is produced near Persis. But, according to another division, Arabia Felix is split up into five kingdoms, one of which comprises the warriors, who fight for all; another, the farmers, who supply food to all the rest; another, those who engage in the mechanical arts; another, the myrrh-bearing country, 783 and another the frankincense-bearing country, although the same countries produce cassia, cinnamon, and nard. Occupations are not changed from one class to another, but each and all keep to those of their fathers. The greater part of their wine is made from the palm. Brothers are held in higher honour than children. The descendants of the royal family not only reign as kings, but also hold other offices, in accordance with seniority of birth; and property is held in common by all kinsmen, though the eldest is lord of all. One woman is also wife for all; and he who first enters the house before any other has intercourse with her, having first placed his staff before the door, for by custom each man must carry a staff; but she spends the night with the eldest. And therefore all children are brothers. They also have intercourse with their mothers; and the penalty for an adulterer is death; p367but only the person from another family is an adulterer.216 A daughter of one of the kings who was admired for her beauty had fifteen brothers, who were all in love with her, and therefore visited her unceasingly, one after another. At last, being tired out by their visits, she used the following device: she had staves made like theirs, and, when one of them left her, she always put a staff like his in front of the door, a little later another, then another — it being her aim that the one who was likely to visit her next might not have a staff similar to the one in front of the door; and so once, when all the brothers were together at the market-place, one of them, going to her door and seeing the staff in front of it, surmised that someone was with her; and, from the fact that he had left all his brothers in the market-place, he suspected that her visitor was an adulterer; but after running to his father and bringing him into the house, he was proved to have falsely accused his sister.

26 The Nabataeans are a sensible people, and are so much inclined to acquire possessions that they publicly fine anyone who has diminished his possessions and also confer honours on anyone who has increased them. Since they have but few slaves, they are served by their kinsfolk for the most part, or by one another, or by themselves; so that the custom extends even to their kings. They prepare common meals together in groups of thirteen persons; and they have two girl-singers for each banquet. The king holds many drinking-bouts in magnificent style, but no one drinks more than eleven cupfuls, p369each time using a different golden cup. The king is so democratic that, in addition to serving himself, he sometimes even serves the rest himself in his turn. He often renders an account of his kingship in the popular assembly; and sometimes his mode of life is examined. Their homes, through the use of stone, are costly; but, on account of peace, the cities are not walled. Most of the country is well supplied with fruits except the olive; they use sesame-oil instead. The sheep are white-fleeced and the oxen are large, 784 but the country produces no horses. Camels afford the service they require instead of horses. They go out without tunics, with girdles about their loins, and with slippers on their feet — even the kings, though in their case the colour is purple. Some things are imported wholly from other countries, but others not altogether so, especially in the case of those that are native products, as, for example, gold and silver and most of the aromatics, whereas brass and iron, as also purple garb, styrax, crocus, costaria, embossed works, paintings, and moulded works are not produced in their country. They have the same regard for the dead as for dung, as Heracleitus says: "Dead bodies more fit to be cast out than dung"; and therefore they bury even their kings beside dung-heaps. They worship the sun, building an altar on the top of the house, and pouring libations on it daily and burning frankincense.

27 When the poet says, "I came to Aethiopians and Sidonians and Erembians,"217 historians are p371entirely at loss to know, in the first place, in regard to the Sidonians, whether one should call them a certain people who dwelt in the Persian Gulf, from whom the Sidonians in our part of the world218 were colonists, just as they speak of Tyrians there, islanders, as also of Aradians, from whom they say those in our part of the world were colonists, or whether one should call them the Sidonians themselves; but, secondly, the inquiry about the Erembians is more doubtful, whether one should suspect that the Troglodytes are meant, as do those who force the etymology of "Erembi" from eran embainein,219 that is, go into the earth, or the Arabians. Now our220 Zeno alters the text thus: "and to Sidonians and Arabians"; but Poseidonius more plausibly writes, with only a slight alteration of the text, "and Sidonians and Arambians," on the ground that the poet so called the present Arabians, just as they were named by all others in his time. Poseidonius says that the Arabians consist of three tribes, that they are situated in succession, one after another, and that this indicates that they are homogeneous with one another, and that for this reason they were called by similar names — one tribe "Armenians," another "Aramaeans," and another "Arambians." And just as one may suppose that the Arabians were divided into three tribes, according to the differences in the latitudes, which ever vary more and more, so also one may suppose that they used several names p373instead of one. Neither are those who write "Eremni"221 plausible; for that name is more peculiarly applicable to the Aethiopians. The poet also mentions "Arimi,"222 by which, according to Poseidonius, we should interpret the poet as meaning, not some place in Syria or in Cilicia or in some other land, but Syria itself; 785 for the people in Syria are Aramaeans, though perhaps the Greeks called them Arimaeans or Arimi. The changes in names, and particularly in those of the barbarians, are numerous: for example, they called Dareius "Darieces," Parysatis "Pharziris," and Athara "Atargatis," though Ctesias calls her "Derceto." As for the blest lot of Arabia,223 one might make even Alexander a witness thereof, since he intended, as they say, even to make it his royal abode after his return from India. Now all his enterprises were broken up because of his sudden death; but, at any rate, this too was one of his enterprises, to see whether they would receive him voluntarily, and if they did not, to go to war with them; and accordingly, when he saw that they had not sent ambassadors to him, either before or after,224 he set about making preparations for war, as I have stated heretofore in this work.225


The Editor's Notes:

135 Heroönpolis.º

136 i.e. north-east (cf. Vol. I, p105, note 71.

137 Apparently the Mimosa Nilotica.

138 i.e. well-water (see 15.2.3).

139 See 15.1.20 and 17.3.11.

140 Now Marib.

141 Also spelled Sabattha; now Sawa.

142 The gum of the libanus tree.

143 Now Kasr-el‑Akaba.

144 Now Azzah.

145 16.2.30.

146 "Neck."

147 Fish-eaters.

148 See 16.2.37, and 16.4.9, 10.

149 Numida Meleagris.

150 i.e. "Foul."

151 i.e. "Snaky."

152 i.e. "Saviour" (some goddess).

153 "Tauri" means "Bulls."

154 i.e. of an Aegyptian temple.

155 Ptolemy Philadelphus.

156 i.e. into the gulf.

157 Quarries.

158 Cf. 17.1.2 and Herodotus 2.30.

159 i.e. the Red Sea, in the neighbourhood of Saba.

160 Root-eaters.

161 Marsh-men.

162 Seed-eaters.

163 Meat-eaters.

164 See 16.4.5.

165 Milkers of bitches.

166 "Colobi" means "persons" (who have their sexual glands) "mutilated." Cp. 16.2.37 and 16.4.5, 9.º Diodorus Siculus (3.32) says: "All the Troglodytes are circumcised like the Aegyptians except those who, from fact in the case, are called 'Colobi'; for these alone, who live this side the Strait, have all the part that is merely circumcised by the others cut off with razors in infancy."

167 Elephant-eaters.

168 i.e. "Unclean."

169 Bird-eaters.

170 Locust-eaters.

171 Literally "wild creatures."

172 This is obviously the meaning of certain Greek words lost from the MSS. (see critical note).

The critical note to the Greek text (καὶ ὑφάψαντες μικρὸν . . .) reads:

Here the MSS. have a lacuna of about ten letters.

173 i.e. four-jawed.

174 16.4.4.

175 i.e. "Mutilated" people (see 16.4.5).

176 The "styrax" (or "storax") shrub, or tree, produces a sweet-smelling gum or resin used in frankincense.

Thayer's Note: So the Loeb translator. Eagle-eyed reader Karen Boren points out that this should read just plain "incense" rather than "frankincense", which is a specific kind of incense, a pure exudation of the frankincense tree (Boswellia sacra); of which storax, an exudation of any of a number of trees of the genus Styrax, is not a component.

177 i.e. fish-ponds and the like.

178 Cf. 15.2.2.

179 Turtle-eaters.

180 A tree with such luscious fruit that Cambyses transplanted it to Persia (see Diodorus Siculus 1.34).

181 Mulberry tree.

182 See 16.4.5, 9.

183 Elephant.

184 A well, apparently.

185 i.e. the "Dog-headed" people.

186 i.e. Horn of the South.

187 See the description of "gold-mining ants" in 15.1.44.

188 i.e. from head to tail.

189 The measure of the difference in height is missing from the manuscripts. Artemidorus must have given it in terms of either cubit or span (see critical note).

The critical note to the Greek text (ἀλλὰ σχεδόν τι ὅσον . . .) reads:

Obviously some number of cubits (πῆχυς) or spans (σπιθαμή) has fallen out of the MSS.

190 i.e. camel-leopards.

Thayer's Note: a curious annotation; the giraffe is meant. The animal was well-known to the ancients, and camelopardalis (καμηλοπάρδαλις) was the standard name. The scientific binomial for it even today is Giraffa camelopardalis.

191 The Papio sphinx, a large baboon.

192 i.e. "Dog-heads" (the Papio hamadryas, a sacred baboon).

193 The Papio cebus (also referred to in 17.1.40).

194 Apparently a species of hyena.

195 See 2.1.9 and 15.1.28.

196 See 17.3.5.

197 Lat. stibium, i.e. the sesquisulphide of antimony, a dark pigment.

198 Rhamnus paliurus.

199 See 16.4.5 and Diodorus Siculus 3.32.

200 So Diodorus Siculus (3.33).

201 Seals.

202 Jackals, perhaps.

203 Surely a strange sort of bed — if the Greek text is correct. In 16.4.18, Strabo says that the Arabians, "on account of the number of wild beasts, build huts in trees and sleep there."

204 i.e. the Erythraean (Red) sea.

205 Rock.

206 Jericho.

207 See 16.4.18.

208 Also called Arsinoê (Suez); see 17.1.25.

209 i.e. to the gulf.

210 i.e. "White Village."

211 Or zea, a kind of coarse grain.

212 Negrana.

213 16.4.2.

214 Possibly the Greek for "and cinnamon is produced from bushes" has fallen out of the text here (see critical note).

The critical note to the Greek text (καὶ σμύρναν ἐκ δένδρων γίνεσθαί φασι) reads:

After φασι, Meyer (Bot. Erleut. zur Strabo's Geog. p130), would add the words κιννάμωμον δὲ ἐκ θάμνων.

215 i.e. as well as from bushes (but see critical note).

The critical note to the Greek text (καὶ ἐκ λιμνῶν) reads:

λιμνῶν, Corais emends to θάμνων; so Groskurd, Kramer and Meineke, who cite Theophrastus Hist. Plant. 9.5, Pliny Hist. Nat. 12.43, Celsus 5.23.1, 2, but not Arrian (Exped. 7.20.4), who (cited by C. Müller) says: ἤκουεν ἐκ μὲν τῶν λιμνῶν τὴν κασίαν γίνεσθαι αὐτοῖς, ἀπὸ δὲ τῶν δένδρων τὴν σμύρναν τε καὶ τὸν λιβανωτόν, ἐκ δὲ τῶν θάμνων τὸ κιννάμωμον τέμνεσθαι.

216 The Greek indicates merely the male adulterer.

217 Od. 4.84.

218 i.e. those on the Mediterranean.

219 See Vol. I, p153, and footnote 153.

220 i.e. of our Stoic School.

221 Black (people).

222 Iliad 2.783.

223 It was called "Arabia the Blest," "Arabia Felix."

224 i.e. his expedition to India.

225 16.1.11.


Thayer's Note:

a A delightful piece of nonsense; elephants do have knees. The Greeks and Romans, however, seem to have thought they did not — see for example Pliny, Nat. Hist. VIII.3 — which is all the more curious that elephants were first seen by the Romans in the 3c B.C. at the battle of Lake Trasimene, then in occasional gladiatorial games, starting at least as early as Pompey in 53 B.C. (Plutarch, Pompey, 52.4) and, after Strabo's time, from time to time under the Empire. At any rate, this opinion persisted for well over a thousand years in elephant-challenged Europe (again, despite the presence of one of these pachyderms at the court of Charlemagne, a gift of Haroun al‑Rachid), so that Dr. Browne felt it worth his time in 1646 to set matters straight (Pseudodoxia Epidemica, III.1).


[image ALT: Valid HTML 4.01.]

Page updated: 13 Sep 12