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II.5.1‑17

This webpage reproduces a section of
The Geography

of
Strabo

published in Vol. I
of the Loeb Classical Library edition,
1917

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
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III.1

(Vol. I) Strabo
Geography

p467 Book II Chapter 5 (end)

18 (121) I now resume my first sketch of the inhabited world and say that our inhabited world, being girt by the sea, admits into itself from the exterior sea along the ocean many gulfs, of which four are very large. Of these four gulfs the northern one is called the Caspian Sea (though some call it the Hyrcanian Sea); the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Gulf pour inland from the Southern Sea, the one about opposite the Caspian Sea and the other about opposite the Pontus; and the fourth, which far exceeds the others in size, is formed by the sea which is called the Interior Sea, or Our Sea; it takes its beginning in the west at the strait at the Pillars of Heracles, and extends lengthwise towards the regions of the east, but with varying breadth, and finally divides itself and ends in two sea-like gulfs, the one on the left hand, which we call the Euxine Pontus, and the other consisting of the Egyptian, the Pamphylian, and the Issican Seas. All these aforesaid gulfs have narrow inlets from the Exterior Sea, particularly the Arabian Gulf and that at the Pillars, whereas the others are not so narrow. The land that surrounds these gulfs is divided into three parts, as I have said. Now Europe has the most irregular shape of all three; Libya has the most regular shape; while Asia occupies a sort of middle p469position between the other two in this respect. 122And the cause of their irregularity or their lack of it lies in the coastline of the Interior Sea, whereas the coastline of the Exterior Sea, with the exception of that of the aforesaid gulfs, is regular and, as I have said, like a chlamys; but I must leave out of view the other slight irregularities, for a little thing is nothing when we are dealing with great things. And further, since in the study of geography we inquire not merely into the shapes and dimensions of countries, but also, as I have said, into their positions with reference to each other, herein, too, the coast-line of the Interior Sea offers for our consideration more varied detail than that of the Exterior Sea. And far greater in extent here than there is the known portion, and the temperate portion, and the portion inhabited by well-governed cities and nations. Again, we wish to know about those parts of the world where tradition places more deeds of action, political constitutions, arts, and everything else that contributes to practical wisdom; and our needs draw us to those places with which commercial and social intercourse is attainable; and these are the places that are under government, or rather under good government. Now, as I have said, our Interior Sea has a great advantage in all these respects; and so with it I must begin my description.

19 I have already stated that the strait at the Pillars forms the beginning to this gulf; and the narrowest part of the strait is said to be about seventy stadia; but after you sail through the narrows, which are one hundred and twenty stadia in length, the coasts take a divergent course all at p471once, though the one on the left diverges more; and then the gulf assumes the aspect of a great sea. It is bounded on the right side by the coastline of Libya as far as Carthage, and on the other side, first, by Iberia and also by Celtica in the regions of Narbo and Massilia, and next by Liguria, and finally by Italy as far as the Strait of Sicily. The eastern side of this sea is formed by Sicily and the straits on either side of Sicily; the one between Italy and Sicily is seven stadia in width and the one between Sicily and Carthage is fifteen hundred stadia. But the line from the Pillars to the seven-stadia strait is a part of the line to Rhodes and the Taurus Range; it cuts the aforesaid sea approximately in the middle; and it is said to be twelve thousand stadia in length. This, then, is the length of the sea, while its greatest breadth is as much as five thousand stadia, the distance from the galatic Gulf between Massilia and Narbo to the opposite coast of Libya. The entire portion of this sea along the coast of Libya they call the Libyan Sea, and the portion that lies along the opposite coast they call, in order, the Iberian Sea, the Ligurian Sea, the Sardinian Sea, and finally, to Sicily, the Tyrrhenian Sea. There are numerous islands along the coast of the Tyrrhenian Sea as far as Liguria, 123and largest of all are Sardinia and Corsica, except Sicily; but Sicily is the largest and best of all the islands in our part of the world. p473Far behind these in size are Pandateria and Pontia, which lie in the open sea, and, lying near the land, Aethalia, Planasia, Pithecussa, Prochyta, Capreae, Leucosia, and others like them. But on the other side of the Ligurian Sea the islands off the rest of the coast up to the Pillars are not numerous, among which are the Gymnesiae and Ebysus; and those off the coasts of Libya and Sicily are not numerous, either, among which are Cossura, Aegimurus, and the Liparian Islands, which some call the Islands of Aeolus.

20 Beyond Sicily and the straits on both sides of it other seas join with the former sea. The first is the sea in front of the Syrtes and Cyrenaea and the two Syrtes themselves, and the second is the sea formerly called the Ausonian Sea, but now the Sicilian Sea, which is confluent with and a continuation of the first sea. Now the sea in front of the Syrtes and Cyrenaea is called the Libyan Sea, and it ends at the Egyptian Sea. Of the Syrtes, the lesser is about one thousand six hundred stadia in circumference; and the islands Meninx and Cercina lie at either side of its mouth. As for the Greater Syrtes, Eratosthenes says that its circuit is five thousand stadia, and its breadth eighteen hundred stadia, reckoning from the Hesperides to Automala and to the common boundary between Cyrenaea and the rest of Libya in that region; but others have estimated its circuit at four thousand stadia, and its breadth at fifteen hundred stadia, as much as the breadth of its mouth is. The Sicilian Sea lies in front of Sicily and Italy toward the regions of the p475east, and, besides, in front of the strait that lies between them — in front of the territory of Rhegium as far as Locri, and of the territory of Messina as far as Syracuse and Pachynum. Toward the regions of the east it stretches on to the headlands of Crete, and its waters also wash round most of the Peloponnesus and fill what is called the Gulf of Corinth. On the north it stretches to the Iapygian Cape and the mouth of the Ionian Gulf and to the southern parts of Epirus as far as the Ambracian Gulf and the coast that adjoins it and, with the Peloponnesus, forms the Corinthian Gulf. But the Ionian Gulf is part of what is now called the Adriatic Sea. The right side of this sea is formed by Illyria, and the left by Italy up to its head at Aquileia. It reaches up towards the north-west in a narrow and long course; and its length is about six thousand stadia, while its greatest breadth is twelve hundred stadia. There are numerous islands in this sea: off the Illyrian coast 124the Apsyrtides, and Cyrictica, and the Liburnides, and also Issa, Tragurium, Black Corcyra, and Pharos; and off the Italian coast the Diomedeae. The stretch of the Sicilian Sea from Pachynum to Crete, they say, measures four thousand five hundred stadia, and just as much the stretch to Taenarum in Laconia; and the stretch from the Iapygian Cape to the head of the Gulf of Corinth is less than three thousand stadia, while that from Iapygia to Libya is more than four thousand. The islands of this sea are: Corcyra and the Sybota off the coast of Epirus; and next to p477them, off the Gulf of Corinth, Cephallenia, Ithaca, Zacynthus, and the Echinades.

21 Adjoining the Sicilian Sea are the Cretan, the Saronic, and the Myrtoan Seas. The Myrtoan Sea is between Crete, Argeia182 and Attica; its greatest breadth, measured from Attica, is about one thousand two hundred stadia, and its length is less than double its breadth. In this sea are the islands of Cythera, Calauria, Aegina and its neighbouring isles, Salamis, and some of the Cyclades. Next beyond the Myrtoan Sea comes immediately the Aegean Sea, with the Gulf of Melas and the Hellespont; and also the Icarian and Carpathian Seas, extending to Rhodes, Crete, Carpathus, and the first regions of Asia. In the Aegean are the Cyclades,183 the Sporades, and the islands that lie off Caria, Ionia, and Aeolis up to the Troad — I mean Cos, Samos, Chios, Lesbos, and Tenedos; so also those that lie off Greece as far as Macedonia and Thrace the next country beyond Macedonia — namely, Euboea, Scyros, Peparethos, Lemnos, Thasos, Imbros, Samothrace, and a number of others, concerning which I shall speak in my detailed description. The length of this sea is about four thousand stadia or slightly more, and its breadth is about two thousand stadia. It is surrounded by the aforesaid regions of Asia, and by the coast-line from Sunium to the Thermaic Gulf as you sail towards the north, p479and by the Macedonian Gulfs up to the Thracian Chersonese.

22 Along this Chersonese lies the strait, seven stadia in breadth, between Sestus and Abydus, through which the Aegean Sea and the Hellespont empty northwards into another sea which they call the Propontis; and the Propontis empties into another sea termed the "Euxine"184 Pontus. This latter is a double sea, so to speak: for two promontories jut out at about the middle of it, one from Europe and the northern parts, and the other, opposite to it, from Asia, thus contracting the passage between them and forming two large seas. The promontory of Europe is called Criumetopon,185 and that of Asia, Carambis;186 125and they are about two thousand five hundred stadia distant from each other. Now the western sea has a length of three thousand eight hundred stadia, reckoning from Byzantium to the mouths of the Borysthenes, and a breadth of two thousand eight hundred stadia; in this sea the island of Leuce is situated. The eastern sea is oblong and ends in a narrow head at Dioscurias; it has a length of five thousand stadia or a little more, and a breadth of about three thousand stadia. The circumference of the whole sea is approximately twenty-five thousand stadia. Some compare the shape of this circumference to that of a bent Scythian bow,187 p481likening the bow-string to the regions on what is called the right-hand side of the Pontus (that is, the ship-course along the coast from the outlet to the head at Dioscurias; for with the exception of the promontory of Carambis the whole shore has but small recesses and projections, so that it is like a straight line; and the rest they liken to the horn of the bow with its double curve, the upper curve being rounded off, while the lower curve is straighter; and thus they say the left coast forms two gulfs, of which the western is much more rounded than the other.

23 North of the eastern gulf lies Lake Maeotis, which has a circumference of nine thousand stadia or even a little more. It empties into the Pontus at what is called the Cimmerian Bosporus, and the Pontus empties into the Propontis at the Thracian Bosporus; for they give the name of Thracian Bosporus to the outlet at Byzantium, which is four stadia.188 The Propontis is said to be fifteen hundred stadia long, reckoning from the Troad to Byzantium; and its breadth is approximately the same. In it lie the island of Cyzicus and the little islands in its neighbourhood.

24 Such, then, is the nature and such the size of the arm of the Aegean Sea that extends towards the north. Again: the arm that begins at Rhodes and forms the Egyptian, the Pamphylian, and the Issican Seas, stretches towards the east as far as Issus in Cilicia for a distance of five thousand stadia along Lycia, Pamphylia, and the whole coastline of Cilicia. Thence, Syria, Phoenicia, and Egypt encircle the sea p483on the south and west as far as Alexandria. And Cyprus must lie both in the Issican and the Pamphylian Gulfs, since it borders on the Egyptian Sea. The sea-passage from Rhodes to Alexandria is, with the north wind, approximately four thousand stadia, while the coasting-voyage is double that distance. Eratosthenes says that this is merely the assumption made by navigators in regard to the length of the sea-passage, some saying it is four thousand stadia, others not hesitating to say it is even five thousand stadia, 126but that he himself, by means of the shadow-catching sun-dial, has discovered to be three thousand seven hundred and fifty stadia. Now the part of this sea that is next to Cilicia and Pamphylia, and the side called the right-hand side of the Pontic Sea, and the Propontis, and the sea-board next beyond as far as Pamphylia, form a great peninsula and a great isthmus belonging thereto that stretches from the sea at Tarsus to the city of Amisus, and to Themiscyra, the Plain of the Amazons. For the country within this line, as far as Caria and Ionia and the peoples that live on this side of the Halys River, is all washed by the Aegean or else by the above-mentioned parts thereof on both sides of the peninsula. And indeed we call this peninsula by the special name of Asia, the same name that is given to the whole continent.

25 In short, the head of the Greater Syrtis is the most southerly point of our Mediterranean Sea, and next to this Alexandria in Egypt and the mouths of the Nile; the most northerly point is the mouth of the Borysthenes, though if we add Lake Maeotis to the sea (and indeed it is a part of it, in a sense) the mouth of the Tanaïs is the most northerly point; p485the most westerly point is the strait at the Pillars; and the most easterly point is the above-mentioned head of the Pontus at Dioscurias; and Eratosthenes is wrong in saying that the Issican Gulf is the most easterly, for it lies on the same meridian with Amisus and Themiscyra — or, if you like, you may add in the territory of Sidene on to Pharnacia. From these regions the voyage to Dioscurias is, I might say, more than three thousand stadia eastward, as will become clearer when I describe that region in detail.189 Such, then, is the nature of our Mediterranean Sea.

26 I must also give a general description of the countries that surround this sea, beginning at the same points at which I began to describe the sea itself. Now as you sail into the strait at the Pillars, Libya lies on your right hand as far as the stream of the Nile, and on your left hand across the strait lies Europe as far as the Tanaïs. And both Europe and Libya end at Asia. But I must begin with Europe, because it is both varied in form and admirably adapted by nature for the development of excellence in men and governments, and also because it has contributed most of its own store of good things to the other continents; for the whole of it is inhabitable with the exception of a small region that is uninhabited on account of the cold. This uninhabited part borders on the country of the Wagon-Dwellers in the region of the Tanaïs, Lake Maeotis, and the Borysthenes. Of the inhabitable part of Europe, the cold mountainous regions furnish by nature only a wretched existence to their inhabitants, yet even the regions of poverty and piracy become p487civilised as soon as they get good administrators. 127Take the case of the Greeks: though occupying mountains and rocks, they used to live happily, because they took forethought for good government, for the arts, and in general for the science of living. The Romans, too, took over many nations that were naturally savage owing to the regions they inhabited, because those regions were either rocky or without harbours or cold or for some other reason ill-suited to habitation by many, and thus not only brought into communication with each other peoples who had been isolated, but also taught the more savage how to live under forms of government. But all of Europe that is level and has a temperate climate has nature to coöperate with her toward these results; for while in a country that is blessed by nature everything tends to peace, in a disagreeable country everything tends to make men warlike and courageous; and so both kinds of country receive benefits from each other, for the latter helps with arms, the former with products of the soil, with arts, and with character-building. But the harm that they receive from each other, if they are not mutually helpful, is also apparent; and the might of those who are accustomed to carry arms will have some advantage unless it be controlled by the majority. However, this continent has a natural advantage to meet this condition also; for the whole of it is diversified with plains and mountains, so that throughout its entire extent the agricultural and civilised element dwells side by side with the warlike element; but of the two elements the one that is peace-loving is more numerous and therefore keeps control over the whole body; and the leading p489nations, too — formerly the Greeks and later the Macedonians and the Romans — have taken hold and helped. And for this reason Europe is most independent of other countries as regards both peace and war; for the warlike population which she possesses is abundant and also that which tills her soils and holds her cities secure. She excels also in this respect, that she produces the fruits that are best and that are necessary for life, and all the useful metals, while she imports from abroad spices and precious stones — things that make the life of persons who have only a scarcity of them fully as happy as that of persons who have them in abundance. So, also, Europe offers an abundance of various kinds of cattle, but a scarcity of wild animals. Such, in a general way, is the nature of this continent.

27 If, however, we look at the separate parts of it, the first of all its countries, beginning from the west, is Iberia, which in shape is like an ox-hide, whose "neck" parts, so to speak, fall over into the neighbouring Celtica; and these are the parts that lie towards the east, and within these parts the eastern side of Iberia is cut off by a mountain, the so‑called Pyrenees, 128but all the rest is surrounded by the sea; on the south, as far as the Pillars, it is surrounded by our Sea, and on the other side, as far as the northern headlands of the Pyrenees, by the Atlantic. The greatest length of this country is about six thousand stadia; and breadth, five thousand.

28 Next to Iberia towards the east lies Celtica, which extends to the River Rhine. On its northern p491side it is washed by the whole British Channel (for the whole island of Britain lies over against and parallel to the whole of Celtica and stretches lengthwise about five thousand stadia); on its eastern side it is bounded by the River Rhine, whose stream runs parallel to the Pyrenees; and on its southern side it is bounded, on the stretch that begins at the Rhine, by the Alps, and by our sea itself in the region where the so‑called Galatic Gulf190 widens out — the region in which Massilia and Narbo are situated, very famous cities. Opposite this gulf, and facing in the opposite direction, lies another gulf191 that is also called Galatic Gulf; and it looks toward the north and Britain; and it is between these two gulfs that Celtica has its least breadth; for it is contracted into an isthmus of less than three thousand, but more than two thousand, stadia. Between these two gulfs a mountain range, the so‑called Cemmenus Mountain,192 runs at right angles to the Pyrenees and comes to an end in the very centre of the plains of Celtica. As for the Alps (which are extremely high mountains that form the arc of a circle), their convex side is turned towards the plains of Celtica just mentioned and the Cemmenus Mountain, while their concave side is turned toward Liguria and Italy. Many tribes occupy these mountains, all Celtic except the Ligurians; but while these Ligurians belong to a different race, still they are similar to the Celts in their modes of life. They live in the part of the Alps that joins the Apennines, and they occupy a part of the Apennines also. The Apennines form a mountain range running through the p493whole length of Italy from the north to the south and ending at the Strait of Sicily.

29 The first parts of Italy are the plains that lie at the foot of the Alps and extend as far as the head of the Adriatic and the regions near it, but the rest of Italy is a narrow and long promontory in the form of a peninsula, through which, as I have said, the Apennines extend lengthwise for about seven thousand stadia, but with varying breadth. The seas that make Italy a peninsula are the Tyrrhenian (which begins at the Ligurian Sea), the Ausonian, and the Adriatic.

30 After Italy and Celtica come the remaining, or eastern, countries of Europe, which are cut in two by the River Ister. This river flows from the west towards the east and the Euxine Sea; it leaves on its left the whole of Germany (which begins at the Rhine), all the country of the Getans, and the country of the Tyregetans, Bastarnians, and Sarmatians 129as far as the River Tanaïs and Lake Maeotis; and it leaves on its right the whole of Thrace, Illyria, and, lastly and finally, Greece. The islands which I have already mentioned193 lie off Europe; outside the Pillars: Gades, the Cassiterides, and the Britannic islands; and inside the Pillars: the Gymnesiae and other little islands194 of the Phoenicians,195 and those off Massilia and Liguria, and the islands of Italy up to the Islands of Aeolus and to Sicily, and all the islands round about Epirus and Greece and as far as Macedonia and the Thracian Chersonese.

p495 31 After the Tanaïs and Lake Maeotis come the regions of Asia — the Cis-Tauran regions which are contiguous to the Tanaïs and Lake Maeotis, and following upon these regions come the Trans-Tauran regions. For since Asia is divided in two by the Taurus Range, which stretches from the capes of Pamphylia to the eastern sea at India and farther Scythia, the Greeks gave the name of Cis-Tauran to that part of the continent which looks towards the north, and the name of Trans-Tauran to that part which looks towards the south; accordingly, the parts of Asia that are contiguous to lake Maeotis and the Tanaïs belong to the Cis-Tauran regions. The first of these regions are those that lie between the Caspian Sea and the Euxine Pontus, and they come to an end, in one direction, at the Tanaïs and the ocean, that is, both at the exterior ocean and at that part of it which forms the Hyrcanian Sea, and, in the other direction, at the isthmus, at the point where the distance from the head of the Pontus to the Caspian Sea is least. Then come those Cis-Tauran regions that are north of Hyrcania, which reach all the way to the sea at India and farther Scythia, and to Mt. Imaeus. These regions inhabited, partly, by the Maeotic Sarmatians, and by the Sarmatians that dwell between the Hyrcanian Sea and the Pontus as far as the Caucasus and the countries of the Iberians and the Albanians, and by Scythians, Achaeans, Zygians, and Heniochians; and, partly, beyond the Hyrcanian Sea, by Scythians, Hyrcanians, Parthians, Bactrians, Sogdianians, and also by the inhabitants of the regions that lie beyond India on the north. And to the south of the Hyrcanian Sea, in part, and of the whole of the p497isthmus between this sea and the Pontus lie the greater part of Armenia, Colchis, the whole of Cappadocia up to the Euxine and to the Tibaranian tribes, and also the so‑called Cis-Halys country, which embraces, first next to the Pontus and to the Propontis, Paphlagonia, Bithynia, Mysia, the so‑called "Phrygia on the Hellespont" (of which the Troad is a part); and, secondly, next to the Aegean and to the sea that forms its continuation, Aeolis, Ionia, Caria, Lycia; and, thirdly, in the interior, Phrygia 130(of which both the so‑called "Galatia of the Gallo-Grecians" and "Phrygia Epictetus"196 form a part), Lycaonia, and Lydia.

32 Following immediately upon the Cis-Tauran peoples come the peoples that inhabit the mountains:197 the Paropamisadae, the tribes of the Parthians, of the Medes, of the Armenians, and of the Cilicians, and the Cataonians and the Pisidians. Next after the mountaineers come the Trans-Tauran regions. The first of them is India,198 which is the greatest of all nations and the happiest in lot, a nation whose confines reach both to the eastern sea and to the southern sea of the Atlantic. In this southern sea, off the coast of India, lies an island, Taprobane,199 which is not less than Britain. Then, if we turn from India toward the western regions and keep the mountains on our right, we come to a vast country, which owing to the poverty of the soil, furnishes only a wretched livelihood to men who are wholly barbarians and belong to different races. They call this country Aria, and it extends from the mountains p499as far as Gedrosia and Carmania. Next after Aria, toward the sea, are Persia, Susiana, Babylonia (countries which reach down to the Persian Sea),200 and the small tribes that dwell on the frontiers of those countries; while the peoples who live near the mountains or in the mountains themselves are the Parthians, the Medes, the Armenians and the tribe adjoining them, and the Mesopotamians. After Mesopotamia come the countries this side of the Euphrates. These are: the whole of Arabia Felix (which is bounded by the whole extent of the Arabian Gulf and by the Persian Gulf), and all the country occupied by the Tent-Dwellers and by the Sheikh-governed tribes (which reaches to the Euphrates and Syria). Then come the peoples who live on the other side of the Arabian Gulf and as far as the Nile, namely, the Ethiopians and the Arabs, and the Egyptians who live next to them, and the Syrians, and the Cilicians (including the so‑called "Trachiotae"),201 and finally the Pamphylians.

33 After Asia comes Libya, which is a continuation of Egypt and Ethiopia. Its shore that lies opposite to us runs in a straight line almost to the Pillars, beginning at Alexandria, except for the Syrtes and perhaps other moderate bends of gulfs and projections of the promontories that form these gulfs; but its coastline on the ocean from Ethiopia to a certain point is approximately parallel to the former line, and then it draws in on the south and forms a sharp promontory, which projects slightly outside the Pillars and thus gives to Libya approximately p501the shape of a trapezium. And Libya is — as the others show, and indeed as Cnaeus Piso, who was once the prefect of that country, told me — like a leopard's skin; for it is spotted with inhabited places that are surrounded by waterless and desert land. The Egyptians call such inhabited places "auases."202 But though Libya is thus peculiar, it has some other peculiarities, which give it a threefold division. 131In the first place, most of its coastline that lies opposite to us is extremely fertile, and especially Cyrenaea and the country about Carthage up to Maurusia and to the Pillars of Heracles; secondly, even its coastline on the ocean affords only moderate sustenance, and thirdly, its interior region, which produces silphium, affords only a wretched sustenance, being, for the most part, a rocky and sandy desert; and the same is also true of the straight prolongation of this region through Ethiopia, the Troglodyte Country, Arabia, and Gedrosia where the Fish-Eaters live. The most of the peoples of Libya are unknown to us; for not much of it is visited by armies, nor yet by men of outside tribes; and not only do very few of the natives from far inland ever visit us, but what they tell is not trustworthy or complete either. But still the following is based on what they say. They call the most southerly peoples Ethiopians; those who live next north of the Ethiopians they call, in the main, Garamantians, Pharusians, and Nigritans; those who live still north of these latter, Gaetulans; those who live near the sea, or even on the seacoast, next to Egypt and as far as Cyrenaea, Marmaridans; while they call those beyond Cyrenaea and the Syrtes, Psyllians, Nasamonians, and certain of the Gaetulans, p503and then Asbystians and Byzacians, whose territory reaches to that of Carthage. The territory of Carthage is large, and beyond it comes that of the Nomads;203 the best known of these are called, some of them, Masylians, and others Masaesylians. And last of all come the Maurusians. The whole country from Carthage to the Pillars is fertile, though full of wild beasts, as is also the whole of the interior of Libya. So it is not unlikely that some of these peoples were also called Nomads for the reason that in early times they were not able to cultivate the soil on account of the multitude of wild animals. But the Nomads of to‑day not only excel in the skill of hunting (and the Romans take a hand in this with them because of their fondness for fights with wild animals), but they have mastered farming as well as the chase. This, then, is what I have to say about the continents.

34 It remains for me to speak about the "climata" (which is likewise a subject that involves only a general sketch), taking my beginning at those lines which I have called "elements"204 — I mean the two lines that mark off the greatest length and breadth of the inhabited world, but more particularly the breadth-line. Astronomers, of course, must treat this subject more at length, just as Hipparchus has treated it. For, as he himself says, he recorded the different aspects of the celestial bodies for all the different regions of the earth 132that are found in our Fourth205 — I mean the regions between the equator and the north pole. The geographer, however, need not busy himself with what lies outside of our p505inhabited world; and even in the case of the parts of the inhabited world the man of affairs need not be taught the nature and number of the different aspects of the celestial bodies, because this is dry reading for him. But it will be sufficient for me to set forth the significant and simplest differences noted by Hipparchus, taking as a hypothesis, just as he does, that the magnitude of the earth is two hundred and fifty-two thousand stadia, the figure rendered by Eratosthenes also. For the variation from this reckoning will not be large, so far as the celestial phenomena are concerned, in the distances between the inhabited places. If, then, we cut the greatest circle of the earth into three hundred and sixty sections, each of these sections will have seven hundred stadia. Now it is this that Hipparchus uses as a measure for the distances to be fixed on the aforesaid meridian through Meroë. So he begins with the inhabitants of the equator, and after that, proceeding along the said meridian to the inhabited places, one after another, with an interval each time of seven hundred stadia, he tries to give the celestial phenomena for each place; but for me the equator is not the place to begin. For if these regions are inhabitable, as some think, they constitute a peculiar kind of inhabited country, stretching as a narrow strip through the centre of the country that is uninhabitable on account of the heat, and not forming a part of our inhabited world. But the geographer takes into his purview only this our inhabited world; and its limits are marked off on the south by the parallel through the Cinnamon-producing Country and on the north by the parallel through Ierne; and, keeping in mind the scope of my geography, I am neither required to p507enumerate all the many inhabited places that the said intervening distance suggests to me, nor to fix all the celestial phenomena; but I must begin with the southern parts, as Hipparchus does.

35 Now Hipparchus says that the people who live on the parallel that runs through the Cinnamon-producing Country (this parallel is three thousand stadia south of Meroë and from it the equator is distant eight thousand eight hundred stadia), have their home very nearly midway between the equator and the summer tropic which passes through Syene; for Syene is five thousand stadia distant from Meroë. The Cinnamon-producing Country are the first to whom the Little Bear is wholly inside the arctic circle and always visible; for the bright star at the tip of the tail, the most southerly in the constellation, is situated on the very circumference of the arctic circle, so that it touches the horizon.206 The Arabian Gulf lies approximately parallel to the meridian in question, to the east of it; 133and where this gulf pours outside into the exterior sea is the Cinnamon-producing Country, where in ancient times they used to hunt the elephant. But this parallel207 passes outside the inhabited world, running, on the one side,208 to the south of Taprobane, or else to its farthermost inhabitants, and, on the other side, to the most southerly regions of Libya.

36 In the regions of Meroë, and of the Ptolemaïs p509in the country of the Troglodytes, the longest day has thirteen equinoctial209 hours; and this inhabited country is approximately midway between the equator and the parallel that runs through Alexandria (the stretch to the equator being eighteen hundred stadia more).210 And the parallel through Meroë passes, on the one side, through unknown regions, and, on the other, through the capes of India. At Syene, at Berenice on the Arabian Gulf, and in the country of the Troglodytes, the sun stands in the zenith at the time of the summer solstice, and the longest day has thirteen and one half equinoctial hours; and almost the whole of the Great Bear is also visible in the arctic circle, and one of the stars in the square. And the parallel through Syene passes, on the one side, through the country of the Fish-Eaters in Gedrosia, and through India, and, on the other side, through the regions that are almost five thousand stadia south of Cyrene.

37 In all the regions that lie between the tropic and the equator the shadows fall in both directions, that is, toward the north and toward the north; but, beginning at the regions of Syene and the summer tropic, the shadows fall toward the north at noon; and the inhabitants of the former region are called Amphiscians,211 and of the latter, Heteroscians. There is still another distinctive characteristic of the regions beneath the tropic, which I have mentioned before in speaking of the zones,212 namely, the soil itself is very p511sandy, silphium-producing, and dry, whereas the regions to the south of it are well-watered and very fruitful.

38 In the region approximately four hundred stadia farther south than the parallel through Alexandria and Cyrene, where the longest day has fourteen equinoctial hours, Arcturus stands in the zenith, though he declines a little toward the south. At Alexandria the relation of the index of the sun-dial to the shadow on the day of the equinox is five to three.213 But the region in question is thirteen hundred stadia farther south than Carthage — if it be true that at Carthage the relation of the index to the shadow on the day of the equinox is as eleven to seven.214 But our parallel through Alexandria passes, in one direction, through Cyrene and the regions nine hundred stadia south of Carthage and central Maurusia, and, in the other direction, it passes through Egypt, Coelesyria, Upper Syria, 134Babylonia, Susiana, Persia, Carmania, Upper Gedrosia, and India.215

39 At the Ptolemaïs in Phoenicia, at Sidon, and at Tyre, and the regions thereabouts, the longest day has fourteen and one quarter equinoctial hours; and these regions are about sixteen hundred stadia farther north than Alexandria and about seven hundred stadia p513farther north than Carthage. But in the Peloponnesus, in the regions about the centre of Rhodes, about Xanthus of Lycia or a little south of Xanthus, and also in the regions four hundred stadia south of Syracuse, — here, I say, the longest day has fourteen and one half equinoctial hours. These regions are three thousand six hundred and forty stadia distant in latitude from Alexandria; and, according to Eratosthenes, this parallel runs through Caria, Lycaonia, Cataonia, Media, the Caspian Gates, and the parts of India along the Caucasus.

40 At the Alexandria in the Troad and the regions thereabouts, at Amphipolis, at the Apollonia in Epirus, and in the regions south of Rome but north of Neapolis, the longest day has fifteen equinoctial hours. This parallel is about seven thousand stadia north of the parallel through the Alexandria in Egypt, and more than twenty-eight thousand eight hundred stadia distant from the equator, and three thousand four hundred stadia distant from the parallel through Rhodes, and one thousand five hundred stadia south of Byzantium, Nicaea, Massilia, and the regions thereabouts; and a little north of it lies the parallel through Lysimachia, which, says Eratosthenes, passes through Mysia, Paphlagonia, Sinope, and the regions thereabouts, Hyrcania, and Bactra.

41 At Byzantium and the regions thereabouts the longest day has fifteen and one quarter equinoctial hours, and the ratio of the index of the sun-dial to the shadow at the time of summer solstice is that of one hundred and twenty to forty-two minus one fifth. These regions are about four thousand nine p515hundred stadia distant from the parallel through the centre of Rhodes and about thirty thousand three hundred stadia distant from the equator.216 If you sail into the Pontus and proceed about fourteen hundred stadia toward the north, the longest day becomes fifteen and one half equinoctial hours. These regions are equidistant from the pole and from the equator, and there the arctic circle is in the zenith; and the star on the neck of Cassiopeia lies on the arctic circle, while the star on the right elbow of Perseus is a little north of it.

42 In the regions about three thousand eight hundred stadia north of Byzantium217 the longest day has sixteen equinoctial hours; and therefore Cassiopeia moves within the arctic circle. 135These are the regions about the Borysthenes and the southern parts of Lake Maeotis, and they are about thirty-four thousand one hundred stadia distant from the equator. There the northern part of the horizon is dimly illuminated by the sun throughout almost the entire night in the summer-time, the sun's light making a reverse movement from west back to east.218 For the summer tropic is seven-twelfths of a zodiacal sign219 distant from the horizon; and accordingly the sun at midnight is just that distance below the horizon. And in our own regions also, when the sun is so far as that from the horizon before sunrise and after sunset, it illumines the skies in the east and in the west. And in those regions in the winter-days the sun attains an elevation of at most nine cubits.220 p517Eratosthenes says that these regions are a little more than twenty-three thousand stadia from Meroë, since the distance from Meroë to the parallel through the Hellespont is eighteen thousand stadia, and thence to the Borysthenes, five thousand. In the regions about six thousand three hundred stadia distant from Byzantium221 north of Lake Maeotis, in the winter-days, the sun attains an elevation of at most six cubits, and there the longest day has seventeen equinoctial hours.

43 Since the regions beyond already lie near territory rendered uninhabitable by the cold, they are without value to the geographer. But if any one wishes to learn about these regions also, and about all the other astronomical matters that are treated by Hipparchus, but omitted by me as being already too clearly treated to be discussed in the present treatise, let him get them from Hipparchus. And what Poseidonius says about the Periscians and Amphiscians and Heteroscians222 is too clear to be repeated here; nevertheless, I must mention these terms at sufficient length to explain the idea and to show wherein it is useful for geography and wherein useless. Now since the point in question concerns the shadows cast by the sun, and since, on the evidence of our senses, the sun moves along a circle parallel to the revolution of the universe, it follows that, wherever each revolution of the universe produces a day and a night (because at one time the sun moves beneath the earth and at another time above the earth), the people are thought of as either Amphiscians or Heteroscians, — as Amphiscians, all p519whose shadows at noon sometimes fall toward the north, namely, when the sun strikes from the south the index (which is perpendicular to the horizontal surface beneath), and, at other times, fall in the opposite direction, namely, when the sun revolves round to the opposite side (this is the result for only those who live between the tropics), but as Heteroscians, all whose shadows either always fall toward the north, as is the case with us, or always toward the south, as is the case with the inhabitants of the other temperate zone. 136And this is the result for every man whose arctic circle is smaller than the tropic circle.223 But wherever the arctic circle is the same as, or greater than, the tropic,224 there the Periscians begin and they extend to the people who live beneath the pole.For since, in those regions, the sun moves above the earth throughout the whole revolution of the universe, it is clear that the shadow will move in a circle round the index of the sun-dial; and that is the reason why Poseidonius called them Periscians, although they are non-existent as far as geography is concerned; for all those regions uninhabitable on account of the cold, as I have already stated in my criticism of Pytheas. Therefore I need not concern myself, either, with the extent of this uninhabited region, apart from assuming that those regions which have the tropic-arctic circle225 lie beneath the circle described by p521the pole of the zodiac226 in the diurnal revolution of the universe — that is, on the hypothesis that the distance between the equator and the tropic is four-sixtieths of the greatest circle.


The Editor's Notes:

182 Argolis.

183 Strabo has just said that "some of the Cyclades" belong to the Myrtoan Sea. He elsewhere places "many of the Sporades" in the Carpathian Sea (10.5.14); and Samos, Cos, and others in the Icarian Sea (10.5.13). He now, apparently, makes the Aegean comprehend all these islands and many others besides. But the text is corrupt.

184 On the term "Euxine" see 7.3.6.

185 Cape Karadje, in Crimea.

186 Cape Kerembe, in Paphlagonia.

187 The Scythian bow consisted of a central bar of elastic wood to whose ends were fitted the curved horns of an ibex or goat, the horns being tipped with metal and joined by a bow-string of ox-hide or sheep's hide. At the junction of the bar with each horn the curvature of the horn was concave but, at the tip, the horn had a convex curvature.

Thayer's Note: See also J. C. Rolfe's note, with illustration, on Ammian XXII.8.10.

188 That is, in breadth; but compare 7.6.1.

189 Compare 12.3.17.

190 Gulf of Lyon.

191 Gulf of Gascogne.

192 Cevennes.

193 §§ 19‑21 (above).

194 That is, the Pityussae, which, with the Gymnesiae, form the Balearic Isles.

195 See 3.5.1.

196 "Phrygia Annex"; the name given to lesser Phrygia by the Kings of Pergamus.

197 Compare 11.1.4.

198 For the full description of India, see 15.1.1 ff.

199 Ceylon.

200 That is, the Persian Gulf.

201 That is, the inhabitants of "Rugged Cilicia." Compare 12.6.1.

202 That is, "oases."

203 Numidians.

204 See 2.5.16.

205 See 2.5.5.

206 The arctic circle as referred to by Strabo was a variable celestial circle, and may be represented by a system of concentric circles, each one of which is tangent to the horizon of the observer and has for its centre the visible celestial pole and for its radius the altitude of that pole above the horizon. At the equator, of course, the observer has no arctic circles — that is, they are non-existent for him at that point. As he proceeds toward the north pole his arctic circle expands, so that at the Cinnamon-producing Country the Little Bear is comprehended within his circle, and at Syene almost the whole of the Great Bear, and so on. The same general principle would apply to observations made by an observer in a journey from the equator to the south pole.

207 That is, through the Cinnamon-producing Country.

208 That is, on the east.

209 On the "equinoctial hour," see footnote 4, page 283.

210 That is, the distance from Meroë to the equator is 11,800 stadia, and to Alexandria, 10,000.

211 See § 43 (following), and also 2.2.3.

212 2.2.3.

213 Computation on the basis of this ratio gives Alexandria's latitude as 30° 57′ 50ʺ, and its distance from the equator as 21,675 stadia. Of course figures based on such a ratio are only approximate. Hippocrates gives 21,800. Let a vertical line AB represent the index. Then let BC be the horizontal shadow. The angle BAC is the latitude of the point B and may be solved by trigonometry.

214 The latitude of Carthage, therefore, would be 32° 28′ 16ʺ, which corresponds to a distance of 22,730 stadia from the equator.

215 To fix a parallel of latitude by the countries through which it runs seems loose indeed, but Strabo not infrequently does so. On Coelesyria see 16.2.16; 16.2.21; and 16.3.1. By Upper Syria Strabo must mean Assyria.

216 That is, a latitude of 43° 17′ 9ʺ.

217 Which corresponds to 48° 42′ 51ʺ.

218 Compare 2.1.18.

219 That is, seven-twelfths of 30°, or 17° 30′.

220 The astronomical cubit of the ancients was two degrees.

221 Corresponding to 52° 17′ 9ʺ.

222 See 2.2.3 and 2.5.37.

223 From the equator to 66° every man is either Amphiscian or Heteroscian.

224 From 66° to 90°.

225 Strabo places the tropic of Cancer at 24° (4/60 or 24/360 of the greatest circle); and he places the beginning of the frigid zone at 66°. The radius of the tropic, therefore, is constant, and is 66°, while the radius of the arctic circle is a variable, and is 66° only when the observer stands at the beginning of the frigid zone. Accordingly, when the observer is within the frigid zone the radius is greater than 66°, and less than 66° when he is this side of it. By "the tropic-arctic circle" Strabo refers to the case where the arctic circle becomes equal to the tropic circle, namely, at latitude 66°.

226 That is, the pole of the ecliptic, which daily appears to describe a circle in the heavens about the pole of the equator. The projection of this circle upon the earth marks off the frigid zone, and is practically what we mean to‑day by the term "arctic circle."


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