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Bill Thayer

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This webpage reproduces a section of
The Geography


published in Vol. III
of the Loeb Classical Library edition,

The text is in the public domain.

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(Vol. III) Strabo

 p173  Book VII, Chapter 3

1 (294) As for the southern part of Germany beyond the Albis, the portion which is just contiguous to that river is occupied by the Suevi; then immediately adjoining this is the land of the Getae, which, though narrow at first, 295stretching as it does along the Ister on its southern side and on the opposite side along the mountain-side of the Hercynian Forest  p175 (for the land of the Getae also embraces a part of the mountains), afterwards broadens out towards the north as far as the Tyregetae; but I cannot tell the precise boundaries. It is because of men's ignorance of these regions that any heed has been given to those who created the mythical "Rhipaean Mountains"51 and "Hyperboreans,"52 and also to all those false statements made by Pytheas the Massalian regarding the country along the ocean, wherein he uses as a screen his scientific knowledge of astronomy and mathematics.53 So then, those men should be disregarded; in fact, if even Sophocles, when in his role as a tragic poet he speaks of Oreithyia,54 tells how she was snatched up by "Boreas" and carried "over the whole sea to the ends of the earth and to the sources of night55 and to the unfoldings of heaven56 and to the ancient garden of Phoebus,"57 his story can have no bearing on the present inquiry, but should be disregarded, just as it is disregarded by Socrates in the Phaedrus.58 But let us confine our narrative to what we have learned from history, both ancient and modern.

2 Now the Greeks used to suppose that the Getae were Thracians; and the Getae lived on either side the Ister, as did also the Mysi, these also being Thracians and identical with the people who are now called Moesi; from these Mysi sprang also the Mysi who now live between the Lydians and the  p177 Phrygians and Trojans. And the Phrygians themselves are Brigians, a Thracian tribe, as are also the Mygdonians, the Bebricians, the Medobithynians,59 the Bithynians, and the Thynians, and, I think, also the Mariandynians. These peoples, to be sure, have all utterly quitted Europe, but the Mysi have remained there. And Poseidonius seems to me to be correct in his conjecture that Homer designates the Mysi in Europe (I mean those in Thrace) when he says, "But back he turned his shining eyes, and looked far away towards the land of the horse-tending Thracians, and of the Mysi, hand-to‑hand fighters"60 for surely, if one should take Homer to mean the Mysi in Asia, the statement would not hang together. Indeed, when Zeus turns his eyes away from the Trojans towards the land of the Thracians, it would be the act of a man who confuses the continents and does not understand the poet's phraseology to connect with Thrace the land of the Asiatic Mysi, who are not "far away," but have a common boundary with the Troad and are situated behind it and on either side of it, and are separated from Thrace by the broad Hellespont; for "back he turned" generally61 means "to the rear," and he who transfers his gaze from the Trojans to the people who are either in the rear of the Trojans 296or  p179 on their flanks, does indeed transfer his gaze rather far, but not at all "to the rear."62 Again, the appended phrase63 is testimony to this very view, because the poet connected with the Mysi the "Hippemolgi" and "Galactophagi" and "Abii," who are indeed the wagon-dwelling Scythians and Sarmatians. For at the present time these tribes, as well as the Bastarnian tribes, are mingled with the Thracians (more indeed with those outside the Ister, but also with those inside). And mingled with them are also the Celtic tribes — the Boii, the Scordisci, and the Taurisci. However, the Scordisci are by some called "Scordistae"; and the Taurisci are called also "Ligurisci"64 and "Tauristae."65

3 Poseidonius goes on to say of the Mysians that in accordance with their religion they abstain from eating any living thing, and therefore from their flocks as well; and that they use as food honey and milk and cheese, living a peaceable life, and for this reason are called both "god-fearing" and "capnobatae";66 and there are some of the Thracians who live apart from woman-kind; these are called "Ctistae,"67 and because of the honour in which they are held, have been dedicated to the gods and live with freedom from every fear;  p181 accordingly, Homer speaks collectively of all these peoples as "proud Hippemolgi, Galactophagi and Abii, men most just," but he calls them "Abii" more especially for this reason, that they live apart from women, since he thinks that a life which is bereft of woman is only half-complete (just as he thinks the "house of Protesilaüs" is only "half complete," because it is so bereft);68 and he speaks of the Mysians as "hand-to‑hand fighters" because they were indomitable, as is the case with all brave warriors; and Poseidonius adds that in the Thirteenth Book69 one should read "Moesi, hand-to‑hand fighters" instead of "Mysi, hand-to‑hand fighters."

4 However, it is perhaps superfluous to disturb the reading that has had approval for so many years; for it is much more credible that the people were called Mysi at first and that later their name was changed to what it is now. And as for the term "Abii," one might interpret it as meaning those who are "without hearths" and "live on wagons" quite as well as those who are "bereft"; for since, in general, injustices arise only in connection with contracts and a too high regard for property, so it is reasonable that those who, like the Abii, live cheaply, on slight resources, should have been called "most just." In fact, the philosophers who put justice next to self-restraint strive above all things for frugality and personal independence; and consequently extreme self-restraint diverts some of them to the Cynical mode of life. But as for the statement that they live "bereft of women," the poet suggests nothing of the sort, and particularly in the country of the Thracians and  p183 of those of their number who are Getae. And see the statement of Menander about them, which, as one may reasonably suppose, was not invented by him but taken from history: 297"All the Thracians, and most of all we Getae (for I too boast that I am of this stock) are not very continent;"70 and a little below he sets down the proofs of their incontinence in their relations with women: "For every man of us marries ten or eleven women, and some, twelve or more; but if anyone meets death before he has married more than four or five, he is lamented among the people there as a wretch without bride and nuptial song." Indeed, these facts are confirmed by the other writers as well. Further, it is not reasonable to suppose that the same people regard as wretched a life without many women, and yet at the same time regard as pious and just a life that is wholly bereft of women.a And of course to regard as "both god-fearing and capnobatae" those who are without women is very much opposed to the common notions on that subject; for all agree in regarding the women as the chief founders of religion, and it is the women who provoke the men to the more attentive worship of the gods, to festivals, and to supplications, and it is a rare thing for a man who lives by himself to be found addicted to these things. See again what the same poet says when he introduces as speaker the man who is vexed by the money spent by the women in connection with  p185 the sacrifices: "The gods are the undoing of us, especially us married men, for we must always be celebrating some festival;"71 and again when he introduces the Woman-hater, who complains about these very things: "we used to sacrifice five times a day, and seven female attendants would beat the cymbals all round us, while others would cry out to the gods."72 So, then, the interpretation that the wifeless men of the Getae are in a special way reverential towards the gods is clearly contrary to reason, whereas the interpretation that zeal for religion is strong in this tribe, and that because of their reverence for the gods the people abstain from eating any living thing, is one which, both from what Poseidonius and from what the histories in general tell us, should not be disbelieved.

5 In fact, it is said that a certain man of the Getae, Zamolxis by name, had been a slave to Pythagoras, and had learned some things about the heavenly bodies from him,73 as also certain other things from the Egyptians, for in his wanderings he had gone even as far as Egypt; and when he came on back to his home-land he was eagerly courted by the rulers and the people of the tribe, because he could make predictions from the celestial signs; and at last he persuaded the king to take him as a partner in the government, on the ground that he was competent to report the will of the gods; and although at the outset he was only made a priest of the god who was most honoured in their country, 298yet afterwards he was even addressed as  p187 god, and having taken possession of a certain cavernous place that was inaccessible to anyone else he spent his life there, only rarely meeting with any people outside except the king and his own attendants; and the king cooperated with him, because he saw that the people paid much more attention to himself than before, in the belief that the decrees which he promulgated were in accordance with the counsel of the gods. This custom persisted even down to our own time, because some man of that character was always to be found, who, though in fact only a counsellor to the king, was called god among the Getae. And the people took up the notion that the mountain74 was sacred and they so call it, but its name is Cogaeonum,75 like that of the river which flows past it. So, too, at the time when Byrebistas,76 against whom already77 the Deified Caesar had prepared to make an expedition, was reigning over the Getae, the office in question was held by Decaeneus, and somehow or other the Pythagorean doctrine of abstention from eating any living thing still survived as taught by Zamolxis.

6 Now although such difficulties as these might fairly be raised concerning what is found in the text of Homer about the Mysians and the "proud Hippemolgi," yet what Apollodorus states in the preface to the Second Book of his work On Ships78 can by no means be asserted; for he approves the declaration of Eratosthenes, that although both  p189 Homer and the other early authors knew the Greek places, they were decidedly unacquainted with those that were far away, since they had no experience either in making long journeys by land or in making voyages by sea. And in support of this Apollodorus says that Homer calls Aulis "rocky"79 (and so it is), and Eteonus "place of many ridges,"80 and Thisbe "haunt of doves,"81 and Haliartus "grassy,"82 but, he says, neither Homer nor the others knew the places that were far away. At any rate, he says, although about forty rivers flow into the Pontus, Homer mentions not a single one of those that are the most famous, as, for example, the Ister, the Tanaïs, the Borysthenes, the Hypanis, the Phasis, the Thermodon, the Halys;83 and, besides, he does not mention the Scythians, but invents certain "proud Hippemolgi" and "Galactophagi" and "Abii"; and as for the Paphlagonians of the interior, he reports what he has learned from those who have approached the regions afoot, but he is ignorant of the seaboard,84 and naturally so, for at that time this sea was not navigable, and was called Axine85 because of its wintry storms and the ferocity of the tribes that lived around it, and particularly the Scythians, in that they sacrificed strangers, ate their flesh, and used their skulls as drinking-cups; 299but later it was called "Euxine,"86 when the Ionians founded cities on the seaboard. And, likewise, Homer is also ignorant of the facts about Egypt and Libya, as, for example, about the risings of the Nile and the silting up of the sea,87  p191 things which he nowhere mentions; neither does he mention the isthmus between the Erythraean88 and the Egyptian89 Seas, nor the regions of Arabia and Ethiopia and the ocean, unless one should give heed to Zeno the philosopher when he writes, "And I came to the Ethiopians and Sidonians and Arabians."90 But this ignorance in Homer's case is not amazing, for those who have lived later than he have been ignorant of many things and have invented marvellous tales: Hesiod, when he speaks of "men who are half-dog,"91 of "long-headed men," and of "Pygmies"; and Alcman, when he speaks of "web-footed men"; and Aeschylus, when he speaks of "dog-headed men," of "men with eyes in their breasts", and of "one-eyed men" (in his Prometheus it is said);92 and a host of other tales. From these men he proceeds against the historians who speak of the "Rhipaean Mountains,"93 and of "Mt. Ogyium,"94 and of the settlement of the Gorgons and Hesperides, and of the "Land of Meropis"95 in Theopompus,96 and the "City of Cimmeris" in Hecataeus,97 and the "Land of Panchaea"98 in  p193 Euhemerus,99 and in Aristotle "the river-stones, which are formed of sand but are melted by the rains."100 And in Libya, Apollodorus continues, there is a "City of Dionysus" which it is impossible for the same man ever to find twice. He censures also those who speak of the Homeric wanderings of Odysseus as having been in the neighbourhood of Sicily; for in that case, says he, one should go on and say that, although the wanderings took place there, the poet, for the sake of mythology, placed them out in Oceanus.101 And, he adds, the writers in general can be pardoned, but Callimachus102 cannot be pardoned at all, because he makes a pretence of being a scholar;103 for he calls Gaudos104 the "Isle of Calypso" and Corcyra "Scheria." And others he charges with falsifying about "Gerena,"105 and "Acacesium,"106 and "Demus"107 in Ithaca, and about "Pelethronium"108 in Pelion, and about Glaucopium109 in Athens. To these criticisms Apollodorus adds some petty ones of like sort and then stops, but he  p195 borrowed most of them from Eratosthenes, and as I have remarked before110 they are wrong. For while one must concede to Eratosthenes and Apollodorus that the later writers have shown themselves better acquainted with such matters than the men of early times, yet to proceed beyond all moderation as they do, and particularly in the case of Homer, is a thing for which, as it seems to me, one might justly rebuke them and make the reverse statement: that where they are ignorant themselves, there they reproach the poet with ignorance. 300However, what remains to be said on this subject meets with appropriate mention in my detailed descriptions of the several countries,111 as also in my general description.112

7 Just now I was discussing the Thracians, and the "Mysians, hand-to‑hand fighters, and the proud Hippemolgi, Galactophagi, and Abii, men most just,"113 because I wished to make a comparison between the statements made by Poseidonius and myself and those made by the two men in question. Take first the fact that the argument which they have attempted is contrary to the proposition which they set out to prove; for although they set out to prove that the men of earlier times were more ignorant of regions remote from Greece than the men of more recent times, they showed the reverse, not only in regard to regions remote, but also in regard to places in Greece itself. However, as I was saying, let me put off everything else and look to what is now before me: they114 say that the poet through ignorance fails to mention the Scythians, or their savage dealings with strangers, in that  p197 they sacrifice them, eat their flesh, and use their skulls as drinking-cups, although it was on account of the Scythians that the Pontus was called "Axine," but that he invents certain "proud Hippemolgi, Galactophagi, and Abii, men most just" — people that exist nowhere on earth. How, then, could they call the sea "Axine" if they did not know about the ferocity or about the people who were most ferocious? And these, of course, are the Scythians. And were the people who lived beyond the Mysians and Thracians and Getae not also "Hippemolgi,"115 not also "Galactophagi"116 and "Abii"?117 In fact, even now118 there are Wagon-dwellers and Nomads, so called, who live off their herds, and on milk and cheese, and particularly on cheese made from mare's milk, and know nothing about storing up food or about peddling merchandise either, except the exchange of wares for wares. How, then, could the poet be ignorant of the Scythians if he called certain people "Hippemolgi and Galactophagi"? For that the people of his time were wont to call the Scythians "Hippemolgi," Hesiod, too, is witness in the words cited by Eratosthenes: "The Ethiopians, the Ligurians, and also the Scythians, Hippemolgi."119 Now wherein is it to be wondered at that, because of the widespread injustice connected with contracts in our country, Homer called "most just" and "proud" those who by no means spend their lives on contracts and money-getting but actually possess all things in common except sword and drinking-cup, and above all things have their  p199 wives and their children in common, in the Platonic way?120 Aeschylus, too, is clearly pleading the cause of the poet when he says about the Scythians: 301"But the Scythians, law-abiding, eaters of cheese made of mare's milk."121 And this assumption even now still persists among the Greeks; for we regard the Scythians the most straightforward of men and the least prone to mischief, as also far more frugal and independent of others than we are. And yet our mode of life has spread its change for the worse to almost all peoples, introducing amongst them luxury and sensual pleasures and, to satisfy these vices, base artifices that lead to innumerable acts of greed. So then, much wickedness of this sort has fallen on the barbarian peoples also, on the Nomads as well as the rest; for as the result of taking up a seafaring life they not only have become morally worse, indulging in the practice of piracy and of slaying strangers, but also, because of their intercourse with many peoples, have partaken of the luxury and the peddling habits of those peoples. But though these things seem to conduce strongly to gentleness of manner, they corrupt morals and introduce cunning instead of the straightforwardness which I just now mentioned.

8 Those, however, who lived before our times, and particularly those who lived near the time of Homer, were — and among the Greeks were assumed to be — some such people as Homer describes. And see what Herodotus says concerning that king of the Scythians against whom Dareius made his expedition, and the message which the king sent  p201 back to him.122 See also what Chrysippus123 says concerning the kings of the Bosporus, the house of Leuco.124 And not only the Persian letters125 are full of references to that straightforwardness of which I am speaking but also the memoirs written by the Egyptians, Babylonians, and Indians. And it was on this account that Anacharsis,126 Abaris,127 and other men of the sort were in fair repute among the Greeks, because they displayed a nature characterized by complacency, frugality, and justice. But why should I speak of the men of olden times? For when Alexander, the son of Philip, on his expedition against the Thracians beyond the Haemus,128 invaded the country of the Triballians129 and saw that it extended as far as the Ister and the island of Peuce130 in the Ister, and that the parts on the far side were held by the Getae, he went as far as that,131 it is said, but could not disembark upon the island because of scarcity of boats (for Syrmus, the king of the Triballi had taken refuge there and resisted his attempts); he did, however, cross over to the country of the Getae, took their city, and  p203 returned with all speed to his home-land, after receiving gifts from the tribes in question and from Syrmus. And Ptolemaeus,132 the son of Lagus,133 says that on this expedition the Celti who lived about the Adriatic joined Alexander for the sake of establishing friendship and hospitality, 302and that the king received them kindly and asked them when drinking what it was that they most feared, thinking they would say himself, but that they replied they feared no one, unless it were that Heaven might fall on them, although indeed they added that they put above everything else the friendship of such a man as he. And the following are signs of the straightforwardness of the barbarians: first, the fact that Syrmus refused to consent to the debarkation upon the island and yet sent gifts and made a compact of friendship; and, secondly, that the Celti said that they feared no one, and yet valued above everything else the friendship of great men. Again, Dromichaetes was king of the Getae in the time of the successors of Alexander. Now he, when he captured Lysimachus134 alive, who had made an expedition against him, first pointed out the poverty both of himself and of his tribe and likewise their independence of others, and then bade him not to carry on war with people of that sort but rather to deal with them as friends; and after saying this he first entertained him as a guest, and made a compact of friendship, and then released him.  p205 Moreover, Plato in his Republic thinks that those who would have a well-governed city should flee as far as possible from the sea, as being a thing that teaches wickedness, and should not live near it.135

9 Ephorus, in the fourth book of his history, the book entitled Europe (for he made the circuit136 of Europe as far as the Scythians), says towards the end that the modes of life both of the Sauromatae and of the other Scythians are unlike, for, whereas some are so cruel that they even eat human beings, others abstain from eating any living creature whatever. Now the other writers, he says, tell only about their savagery, because they know that the terrible and the marvellous are startling, but one should tell the opposite facts too and make them patterns of conduct, and he himself, therefore, will tell only about those who follow "most just" habits, for there are some of the Scythian Nomads who feed only on mare's milk,137 and excel all men in justice; and they are mentioned by the poets: by Homer, when he says that Zeus espies the land "of the Galactophagi and Abii, men most just," and by Hesiod, in what is called his Circuit of the Earth,138 when he says that Phineus is carried by the Storm Winds "to the land of the Galactophagi, who have their dwellings in wagons." Then Ephorus reasons out  p207 the cause as follows: since they are frugal in their ways of living and not money-getters, they not only are orderly towards one another, because they have all things in common, their wives, children, the whole of their kin and everything, 303but also remain invincible and unconquered by outsiders, because they have nothing to be enslaved for. And he cites Choerilus139 also, who, in his The Crossing of the Pontoon-Bridge which was constructed by Dareius,140 says, "the sheep-tending Sacae, of Scythian stock; but they used to live in wheat-producing Asia; however, they were colonists from the Nomads, law-abiding people." And when he calls Anacharsis "wise," Ephorus says that he belongs to this race, and that he was considered also one of Seven Wise Men because of his perfect self-control and good sense. And he goes on to tell the inventions of Anacharsis — the bellows, the two-fluked anchor and the potter's wheel. These things I tell knowing full well that Ephorus himself does not tell the whole truth about everything; and particularly in his account of Anacharsis (for how could the wheel be his invention, if Homer, who lived in earlier times, knew of it? "As when a potter his wheel that fits in his hands,"141 and so on); but as for those  p209 other things, I tell them because I wish to make my point clear that there actually was a common report, which was believed by the men of both early and of later times, that a part of the Nomads, I mean those who had settled the farthest away from the rest of mankind, were "galactophagi," "abii," and "most just," and that they were not an invention of Homer.

10 It is but fair, too, to ask Apollodorus to account for the Mysians that are mentioned in the verses of Homer, whether he thinks that these too are inventions142 (when the poet says, "and the Mysians, hand-to‑hand fighters and the proud Hippemolgi"), or takes the poet to mean the Mysians in Asia. Now if he takes the poet to mean those in Asia, he will misinterpret him, as I have said before,143 but if he calls them an invention, meaning that there were no Mysians in Thrace, he will contradict the facts; for at any rate, even in our own times, Aelius Catus144 transplanted from the country on the far side of the Ister into Thrace145 fifty thousand persons from among the Getae, a tribe with the same tongue as the Thracians.146 And they live there in Thrace now and are called "Moesi" — whether it be that their people of earlier times were so called and that in Asia the name was changed to "Mysi,"147 or (what is more apposite to history and the declaration of the poet) that in earlier times their people in Thrace were called "Mysi." Enough, however, on this subject. I shall now go back to the next topic in the general description.

 p211  11 As for the Getae, then, their early history must be left untold, but that which pertains to our own times is about as follows: Boerebistas148 a Getan, on setting himself in authority over the tribe, restored the people, who had been reduced to an evil plight by numerous wars, and raised them to such a height through training, sobriety, and obedience to his commands 304that within only a few years he had established a great empire and subordinated to the Getae most of the neighbouring peoples. And he began to be formidable even to the Romans, because he would cross the Ister with impunity and plunder Thrace as far as Macedonia and the Illyrian country; and he not only laid waste the country of the Celti who were intermingled149 with the Thracians and the Illyrians, but actually caused the complete disappearance of the Boii150 who were under the rule of Critasirus,151 and also of the Taurisci.152 To help him secure the complete obedience of his tribe he had as his coadjutor Decaeneus,153 a wizard, a man who not only had wandered through Egypt, but also had thoroughly learned certain prognostics through which he would pretend to tell the divine will; and within a short time he was set up as god (as I said when relating the story of Zamolxis).154 The following is an indication of their complete obedience: they were persuaded to cut down their vines and to live without wine. However, certain men rose up against Boerebistas and he was deposed before the Romans sent an expedition against him;155 and those who  p213 succeeded him divided the empire into several parts. In fact, only recently, when Augustus Caesar sent an expedition against them, the number of parts into which the empire had been divided was five, though at the time of the insurrection it had been four. Such divisions, to be sure, are only temporary and vary with the times.

12 But there is also another division of the country which has endured from early times, for some of the people are called Daci, whereas others are called Getae — Getae, those who incline towards the Pontus and the east, and Daci, those who incline in the opposite direction towards Germany and the sources of the Ister. The Daci, I think, were called Daï in early times; whence the slave names "Geta" and "Daüs"156 which prevailed among the Attic people; for this is more probable than that "Daüs" is from those Scythians who are called "Daae,"157 for they live far away in the neighbourhood of Hyrcania, and it is not reasonable to suppose that slaves were brought into Attica from there; for the Attic people were wont either to call their slaves by the same names as those of the nations from which they were brought (as "Lydus" or "Syrus"), or addressed them by names that were prevalent in their countries (as "Manes" or else "Midas" for the Phrygian, or "Tibius" for the Paphlagonian). But though the tribe was raised to such a height by Boerebistas, it has been completely humbled by its own seditions and by the Romans; nevertheless, they are capable, even to‑day, of sending forth an army of forty thousand men.

 p215  13 The Marisus River flows through their country into the Danuvius,158 on which the Romans used to convey their equipment for war; the "Danuvius" I say, for so they used to call the upper part of the river from near its sources on to the cataracts, I mean the part which in the main flows through the country, of the Daci, 305although they give the name "Ister" to the lower part, from the cataracts on to the Pontus, the part which flows past the country of the Getae. The language of the Daci is the same as that of the Getae. Among the Greeks, however, the Getae are better known because the migrations they make to either side of the Ister are continuous, and because they are intermingled with the Thracians and Mysians. And also the tribe of the Triballi, likewise Thracian, has had this same experience, for it has admitted migrations into this country, because the neighbouring peoples force them159 to emigrate into the country of those who are weaker; that is, the Scythians and Bastarnians and Sauromatians on the far side of the river often prevail to the extent that they actually cross over to attack those whom they have already driven out, and some of them remain there, either in the islands or in Thrace, whereas those160 on the other side are generally overpowered by the Illyrians. Be that as it may, although the Getae and Daci once attained to very great power, so that they actually could send forth an expedition of two hundred thousand men, they now find themselves reduced to as few as forty thousand, and they have come close to the point of yielding obedience to the Romans, though as yet  p217 they are not absolutely submissive, because of the hopes which they base on the Germans, who are enemies to the Romans.

14 In the intervening space, facing that part of the Pontic Sea which extends from the Ister to the Tyras,161 lies the Desert of the Getae, wholly flat and waterless, in which Dareius the son of Hystaspis was caught162 on the occasion when he crossed the Ister to attack the Scythians and ran the risk of perishing from thirst, army and all; however, he belatedly realised his error and turned back. And, later on, Lysimachus, in his expedition against the Getae and King Dromichaetes, not only ran the risk but actually was captured alive; but he again came off safely, because he found the barbarian kind-hearted, as I said before.163

15 Near the outlets of the Ister River is a great island called Peuce;164 and when the Bastarnians took possession of it they received the appellation of Peucini. There are still other islands which are much smaller; some of these are farther inland than Peuce, while others are near the sea, for the river has seven mouths. The largest of these mouths is what is called the Sacred Mouth,165 on  p219 which one can sail inland a hundred and twenty stadia to Peuce. It was at the lower part of Peuce that Dareius made his pontoon-bridge,166 although the bridge could have been constructed at the upper part also. The Sacred Mouth is the first mouth on the left as one sails167 into the Pontus; the others come in order thereafter as one sails along the coast towards the Tyras; and the distance from it to the seventh mouth is about three hundred stadia. Accordingly, small islands are formed between the mouths. Now the three mouths that come next in order after the Sacred Mouth are small, but the remaining mouths are much smaller than it, but larger than any one of the three. According to Ephorus, however, the Ister has only five mouths. Thence to the Tyras, a navigable river, the distance is nine hundred stadia. 306And in the interval are two large lakes — one of them opening into the sea, so that it can also be used as a harbour, but the other mouthless.

16 At the mouth168 of the Tyras is what is called the Tower of Neoptolemus,169 and also what is called the village of Hermonax.170 And on sailing inland one hundred and forty stadia one comes to two cities, one on each side, Niconia171 on the right and Ophiussa172 on the left. But the people who live near the river speak of a city one hundred and twenty stadia inland.173 Again, at a distance of five  p221 hundred stadia from the mouth is the island called Leuce,174 which lies in the high sea and is sacred to Achilles.

17 Then comes the Borysthenes River,175 which is navigable for a distance of six hundred stadia; and, near it, another river, the Hypanis,176 and off the mouth of the Borysthenes, an island177 with a harbour. On sailing up the Borysthenes two hundred stadia one comes to a city of the same name as the river, but the same city is also called Olbia;178 it is a great trading centre and was founded by Milesians. Now the whole country that lies above the said seaboard between the Borysthenes and the Ister consists, first, of the Desert of the Getae;179 then the country of the Tyregetans;180 and after it the country of the Iazygian Sarmatians and that of the people called the Basileians181 and that of the Urgi,182 who in general are nomads, though a few are interested also in farming; these people, it is said, dwell also along the Ister, often on both sides. In the interior dwell, first, those Bastarnians whose country borders on that of the Tyregetans and Germans — they also being, one might say, of Germanic stock; and they are divided up into several tribes, for a part of them are called Atmoni and Sidoni, while those who took  p223 possession of Peuce, the island in the Ister, are called "Peucini," whereas the "Roxolani" (the most northerly of them all) roam the plains between the Tanaïs and the Borysthenes.183 In fact, the whole country towards the north from Germany as far as the Caspian Sea is, so far as we know it, a plain, but whether any people dwell beyond the Roxolani we do not know. Now the Roxolani, under the leadership of Tasius, carried on war even with the generals of Mithridates Eupator;184 they came for the purpose of assisting Palacus,185 the son of Scilurus, as his allies, and they had the reputation of being warlike; yet all barbarian races and light-armed peoples are weak when matched against a well-ordered and well-armed phalanx. At any rate, those people, about fifty thousand strong, could not hold out against the six thousand men arrayed with Diophantus, the general of Mithridates, and most of them were destroyed. They use helmets and corselets made of raw ox-hides, carry wicker shields, and have for weapons spears, bow, and sword; and most of the other barbarians are armed in this way. 307As for the Nomads, their tents, made of felt, are fastened on the wagons in which they spend their lives; and round about the tents are the herds which afford the milk, cheese, and meat on which they live; and they follow the grazing herds, from time to time moving to other places that have grass, living only in the marsh-meadows about Lake Maeotis in winter, but also in the plains in summer.

18 The whole of the country has severe winters  p225 as far as the regions by the sea that are between the Borysthenes and the mouth of Lake Maeotis; but of the regions themselves that are by the sea the most northerly are the mouth of the Maeotis and, still more northerly, the mouth of the Borysthenes, and the recess of the Gulf of Tamyraces,186 or Carcinites, which is the isthmus of the Great Chersonesus.187 The coldness of these regions, albeit the people live in plains, is evident, for they do not breed asses, an animal that is very sensitive to cold; and as for their cattle, some are born without horns, while the horns of others are filed off, for this part of the animal is sensitive to cold; and the horses are small, whereas the sheep are large; and bronze water-jars burst188 and their contents freeze solid. But the severity of the frosts is most clearly evidenced by what takes place in the region of the mouth of Lake Maeotis: the waterway from Panticapaeum189 across to Phanagoria190 is traversed by wagons, so that it is both ice and roadway. And fish that become caught in the ice are obtained by digging191 with an implement called the "gangame,"192 and particularly the antacaei,193 which are about the  p227 size of dolphins.194 It is said of Neoptolemus, the general of Mithridates, that in the same strait he overcame the barbarians in a naval engagement in summer and in a cavalry engagement in winter.195 And it is further said that the vine in the Bosporus region is buried during the winter, the people heaping quantities of earth upon it. And it is said that the heat too becomes severe, perhaps because the bodies of the people are unaccustomed to it, or perhaps because no winds blow on the plains at that time, or else because the air, by reason of its density, becomes superheated (like the effect of the parhelia196 in the clouds). It appears that Ateas,197 who waged war with Philip198 the son of Amyntas, ruled over most of the barbarians in this part of the world.

19 After the island199 that lies off the Borysthenes, and next towards the rising sun, one sails to the cape200 of the Race Course of Achilles, which, though a treeless place, is called Alsos201 and is sacred to Achilles. Then comes the Race Course of Achilles, a peninsula202 that lies flat on the sea; it is a ribbon-like stretch of land, as much as one thousand stadia  p229 in length, extending towards the east; its maximum breadth is only two stadia, and its minimum only four plethra,203 and it is only sixty stadia distant from the mainland that lies on either side of the neck. It is sandy,204 and water may be had by digging. 308The neck of the isthmus is near the centre of the peninsula and is about forty stadia wide. It terminates in a cape called Tamyrace,205 which has a mooring-place that faces the mainland. And after this cape comes the Carcinites Gulf. It is a very large gulf, reaching up towards the north as far as one thousand stadia; some say, however, that the distance to its recess is three times as much. The people there are called Taphrians. The gulf is also called Tamyrace, the same name as that of the cape.

The Editor's Notes:

51 Cp. Pliny 4.26.

Thayer's Note: Several references thruout Book IV.

52 Cp. 1.3.22.

53 Cp. 1.4.3‑5, 2.3.5 and 2.4.1‑2.

54 The daughter of Erechtheus, a mythical Attic king. The passage here quoted is a fragment (Nauck, Fragmenta, 870) of a play now lost. Cp. Antigone, 981 ff.

55 The west.

56 The east.

57 The south, apparently; and thus Boreas would have carried her to the four ends of the earth. The home of Boreas (North Wind), according to the poets, was in the Haemus (Balkan), or Rhipaean, Mountains, on the "Sarpedonian Rock."

58 Plat. Phaedrus 229.

59 The correct spelling of the word is "Maedobithynians."

60 Iliad 13.3‑5.

61 The other meaning of the word in question (πάλιν) is "again." Aristarchus, the great Homeric scholar (fl. about 155 B.C.), quoted by Hesychius (s.v.), says that "generally the poet uses πάλιν in the place-sense and not, as we do, in the time-sense."

62 i.e. "to the rear" of himself.

63 "And of the proud Hippemolgi (mare-milkers), Galactophagi (curd-eaters), and Abii (a resourceless folk), men most just" (Iliad 1‑3.5‑6). Cp. 1.1.6.

64 "Ligurisci" is almost certainly corrupt. Meineke is probably right in emending to "Teurisci."

65 Cp. "Teuristae," 7.2.2.

66 Scholars have suggested various emendations to "capnobatae," but there is no variation in the spelling of the word in any of the manuscripts, either here or in section 4 below. Its literal meaning is "smoke-treaders" (cp. ἀεροβάτης, ἀεροβάτῳ Aristophanes, Clouds 225, 1503), and it seems to allude in some way to the smoke of sacrifice and the more or less ethereal existence of the people, or else (see Herodotus 1.202 and 4.75) to the custom of generating an intoxicating vapour by throwing hemp-seed upon red-hot stones. Berkel and Wakefield would emend, respectively to "capnopatae" and "capnobotae" ("smoke-eaters," i.e. people who live on food of no value).

67 Literally, "creators" or "founders." But, like "capnobatae," the force of the word here is unknown.

68 Iliad 2.701.

69 Iliad 13.5.

70 This and the succeeding fragment are otherwise unknown (Kock, Com. Attic. Frag. 547‑548).

71 A fragment from some play now lost (Kock, fr. 601).

72 A fragment from the Misogynes (Woman-Hater). Kock, fr. 326.

73 For another version of the story of Zamolxis, see Herodotus (4.94‑96), who doubts whether such a man ever existed, but says that he was reputed to have been, for a time, a slave of Pythagoras in Samos.

74 The "cavernous place" previously referred to.

75 Some scholars identify this mountain with what is now Mt. Gogany (near Mika); others, with Mt. Kaszon (on the borders of Transylvania and Moldavia). The former is more likely.

76 Strabo also spells the name "Boerebistas" (7.3.11, 12).

77 Cp. 7.3.11.

78 Or rather On the Catalogue of Ships (1.2.24).

79 Iliad 2.496.

80 Iliad 2.497.

81 Iliad 2.502.

82 Iliad 2.503.

83 Now, respectively, the Danube, Don, Dnieper, Bog, Rion, Termeh, and Kizil-Irmak.

84 Cp. 12.3.26.

85 That is "Inhospitable."

86 "Hospitable," euphemistically.

87 Cp. 1.2.29.

88 Red.

89 Mediterranean.

90 Odyssey 4.84. Zeno emended the Homeric text to read as above (see 1.2.34).

91 Cp. 1.2.35.

92 Aeschylus refers to "one-eyed" men in Prometheus Bound (l. 804). The other epithets (See Nauck, Frs. 431, 441) were taken from plays now lost.

93 Cp. 7.3.1.

94 "Mt. Ogyium" is otherwise unknown. The reading is probably corrupt.

95 Aelian (Var. Hist., 3.18) says that Theopompus the historian related a conversation between King Midas and Silenus in which Silenus reported a race called "Meropians" who inhabited a continent larger than Asia, Europe, and Africa combined.

96 Theopompus (b. about 380 B.C.) write, among other works, two histories, (1) the Hellenica, in twelve books, being a continuation of Thucydides and covering the period from 411 to 394 B.C., and (2) the Philippica, in fifty-eight books, being a history of the life and times of Philip of Macedon (360‑336 B.C.). Only a few fragments of these works remain.

97 Hecataeus (b. about 540 B.C.) wrote both a geographical and an historical treatise. Only fragments remain.

98 Cp. 2.4.2.

99 Euhemerus (fl. about 310 B.C.) wrote a work on Sacred History (cp. 1.3.1).

100 Such words as these have not been found in the extant works of Aristotle.

101 Cp. 1.2.17‑19.

102 Callimachus of Cyrene (fl. about 250 B.C.) is said to have written about 800 works, in prose and verse. Only 6 hymns, 64 epigrams and some fragments are extant.

103 Cp. 1.2.37.

104 See footnote 2 on 1.2.37.

105 Cp. 8.3.729 and the Odyssey (the "Gerenian" Nestor).

106 Strabo alludes to the wrong interpretation which some put upon ἀκάκητα, the epithet of Hermes (Iliad 16.185), making it refer to a cavern in "Arcadia, called "Acacesium," near Mt. Cyllene, where Hermes was born. Hesiod (Theog. 614) gives the same epithet to Prometheus, who, according to the scholiast, was so called from "Mt. Acacesium" in Arcadia, where he was much revered.

107 Iliad 3.201. The critics in question maintained that "demus" ("deme," "people") was the name of a place in Ithaca.

108 "Pelethronium" is not found in Homer or Hesiod. According to some it was a city of Thessaly; others, a mountain (or a part of Mt. Pelion) in Thessaly; and others, the cave where Cheiron trained Achilles.

109 "Glaucopium" is not found in Homer or Hesiod. According to Eustathius it was applied by the ancients to the citadel of Athens, or to the temple of Athene, and was derived from Athene "Glaucopis" ("Flashing-eyed"); but Stephanus Byzantinus derives the word from Glaucopus, son of Alalcomeneus.

110 1.2.24.

111 For example, 12.3.26‑27.

112 The first and second books, passim.

113 See 7.3.2 and the footnote.

114 Eratosthenes and Apollodorus.

115 "Mare-milkers."

116 "Curd-eaters."

117 "A resourceless folk."

118 Cp. the similar words quoted from Ephorus, 7.3.9.

119 A fragment otherwise unknown (fr. 232; Rzach, fr. 55).

120 Republic, 457D, 458C‑D, 460B‑D, 540, and 543.

121 From a play now lost (Nauck, fr. 198).

122 Cp. 7.3.14. Dareius sent a message to King Idanthyrsus in which he reproached the latter for fleeing and not fighting. Idanthyrsus replied that he was not fleeing because of fear, but was merely doing what he was wont to do in time of peace; and if Dareius insisted on a fight, he might search out and violate the ancestral tombs, and thus come to realize whether or no the Scythians would fight; "and in reply to your assertion that you are my master, I say 'howl on' " (Herodotus, 4.127).

123 Chrysippus of Soli (fl. about 230 B.C.), the Stoic philosopher, was a prolific writer, but with the exception of a few fragments his works are lost. The present reference is obviously to his treatise on Modes of Life, which is quoted by Plutarch (De Stoicorum Repugnantiis, 20.3 = 1043B).

124 Leuco, who succeeded his father Satyrus I, reigned from 393 to 353 B.C. (see 7.4.4).

125 i.e. the letters of Persian kings, such as those quoted by Herodotus.

126 Anacharsis was a Scythian prince and philosopher, one of the "Seven Sages," a traveller, long a resident of Athens (about 590 B.C.), a friend of Solon, and (according to Ephorus) and inventor (7.3.9). See Herodotus, 4.76.

127 Abaris was called the "Hyperborean" priest and prophet of Apollo, and is said to have visited Athens in the eighth century, or perhaps much later. According to the legend, he healed the sick, travelled round the world, without once eating, on a golden arrow given him by Apollo, and delivered Sparta from a plague.

128 The Balkan Mountains.

129 A Thracian tribe.

130 See 7.3.15 and footnote.

131 i.e. as far as the island.

132 Ptolemaeus Soter, "whom the Macedonians believed to be the son of Philip" of Macedon (Pausanias 1.6), was founder of the Egyptian dynasty and reigned 323‑285 B.C.

133 Lagus married Arsinoë, a concubine of Philip.

Thayer's Note: That she was a concubine of Philip is by no means certain, resting on the sole testimony of Curtius plus a deduction. For careful details on Ptolemy's parents, see Chris Bennett's pages Lagus and Arsinoe.

134 Lysimachus, one of Alexander's generals and successors, obtained Thrace as his portion in the division of the provinces after Alexander's death (323 B.C.), assuming the title of king 306 B.C. He was taken captive, and released, by Dromichaetes 291 B.C.

135 Corais and Groskurd point out that the reference should have been, not to the Republic, but to the Laws (4.704‑705), where Plato discusses the proper place for founding a city; cp. Aristotle's Politics (7.6) on the same subject.

136 In his description, not literally.

137 Cp. the similar statement in 7.3.7.

138 This poem seems to have comprised the third book of the Megalae Eoeae (now lost). See Pauly-Wissowa, s.v. "Hesiodus," p1206.

139 Not, apparently, the tragic poet, contemporary of Aeschylus, but the epic poet of Samos (fl. towards the end of the fifth century B.C.), who wrote, among other poems, an epic poem (exact title uncertain) based on the Persian Wars. The Crossing of the Pontoon-Bridge was probably a sub-title of the epic. The same Choerilus is cited in 14.5.9.

140 In his campaign against the Scythians, including the Getae, as described by Herodotus (4.83‑93); see 7.3.15.

141 Iliad 18.600.

142 Cp. 7.3.6.

143 7.3.2.

144 Perhaps as governor of Macedonia. He was consul with C. Sentius 4 A.D.

145 Lower Moesia.

146 Cp. 7.3.2.

147 See 7.3.4.

148 Also spelled Byrebistas (see 7.3.5 and footnote).

149 See 7.3.2 and 7.5.1.

150 Also a Celtic tribe (7.3.2).

151 7.5.2.

152 Also under the rule of Critasirus (7.5.2).

153 See 7.3.5.

154 7.3.5.

155 Cp. 7.3.5.

156 In Latin, "Davus."

157 Cp. 11.7.1, 8.2, 9.2.

158 On the various names of the river, see Pauly-Wissowa, s.v. "Danuvius."

159 The Getae.

160 Getae.

161 The Dniester.

162 As in a trap. Cp. the experience of Milo in 6.1.12 where the same Greek word is used.

163 7.3.8.

164 Literally, "Pine" Island. The term "Peuce" was applied also to what is now the St. George branch of the delta, which branch was the southern boundary of the island.

165 Strabo seems to mean by "Sacred Mouth" what is now the Dunavez branch of the delta, which turns off from the St. George branch into a lagoon called Lake Ragim, which opens into the sea at the Portidje mouth; for (1) the length of the Dunavez to the lake is about 120 stadia, and (2) what is known about the alluvial deposits and topographical changes in the delta clearly indicates that the lake once had a wide and deep opening into the sea. Ptolemaeus (3.10.2), in giving the names of the mouths, refers to what is now the St. George branch as "Sacred Mouth or Peuce," thus making the two identical; but Strabo forces a distinction by referring to the inland voyage of 120 stadia, since the branch (Peuce) is a boundary of the island (Peuce). Cp. M. Besnier, Lexique de Géographie Ancienne, s.v. "Peuce," and Pauly-Wissowa, s.v. "Danuvius," pp2117‑20.

166 Cp. 7.3.9.

167 From the Sea of Marmara through the Bosporus.

168 Strabo and Ptolemaeus (3.10.7) agree in placing the "mouth of the Tyras" at the outlet of the lake (into the Pontus), not at what was the outlet proper (into the lake), nor yet at the narrowest part of the lake where the city of Tyras (now Akkerman) was situated.

169 According to Forbiger (Strabo, Vol. II, p89, footnote) this tower was "recently" (about 1850) discovered at the end of the west coast of the lake. Cp. the Towers of Caepio (3.1.9), Pelorus (3.5.5), and Pharos (17.1.6).

170 The exact site of the village is unknown, but Strabo certainly places it at the mouth. Ptolemaeus (3.10.7), places it 10 miles (in latitude) farther south than the mouth.

171 Niconia was situated on the lake near what is now Ovidiopol.

172 According to Pliny (4.26), the earlier name of Tyras was Ophiussa; but this is doubtful.

173 Tyras, on the site of what is now Akkerman.

174 "White" Island (now Ilan-Adassi); known as "Isle of the Blest" (Pliny 4.27); where the shade of Achilles was united to that of Helen.

175 The Dnieper.

176 The Bog.

177 Now Berezan (see C. Müller, Ptolemaeus, Didot edition, note on 3.10.9, p471).

178 Now in ruins, near Nickolaiev.

179 Now Bessarabia.

180 The city and territory of Tyras.

181 Called by Herodotus (4.20, 22, 56, 57, 59) the "Basileian ('Royal') Scythians," but by Ptolemaeus (5.9.16) the "Basileian Sarmatians."

182 The "Urgi" are otherwise unknown. In the margin of Manuscript A, first hand, are these words: "Ungri" (cp. 'Hungarians') "now, though the same are also called Turci" (cp. 'Turks'). But the editors in general regard "Urgi" as corrupt, and conjecture either "Georgi" (literally, "Farmers"; cp. 7.4.6 and Herodotus 4.18) or "Agathyrsi" (cp. Herodotus 4.125).

183 The Dnieper.

184 King of Pontus 120‑63 B.C.

185 A prince in the Tauric Chersonese (now the Crimea); cp. 7.4.3.

186 Now Karkinit Bay.

187 The Tauric Chersonese, now the Crimea.

188 See 2.1.16.

189 Now Kertch.

190 Near what is now Taman.

191 Strabo seems to mean that the fish were imbedded in the ice, and not that "the ice was first broken, and the fish extracted from the water beneath with a net" (Tozer, Selections from Strabo, p196).

192 A pronged instrument like a trident. Tozer (loc. cit.) takes "gangame" to mean here "a small round net;" but see Stephanus, Thesaurus, and especially Hesychius (s.v.).

193 A kind of sturgeon (see Herodotus 4.53), being one of the fish from the roe of which the Russian caviar is now prepared.

194 This sentence is transposed by Meineke to a position after the sentence that follows, but see footnote on "Carcinites," 7.4.1.

195 Cp. 2.1.16.

196 Aristotle (Meteorologica 3.2.6 and 3.6.5) refers to, and explains, the phenomena of the "parhelia" ("mock-suns") in the Bosporus region.

197 According to Lucian (Macrob. 10) Anteas (sic) fell in the war with Philip when about ninety years of age. The Roman writers spell the name "Atheas."

198 359‑336 B.C.; the father of Alexander the Great.

199 See 7.3.17.

200 Now Cape Tendra.

201 i.e., "a grove"; the word usually means a sacred precinct planted with trees, but is often used of any sacred precinct.

202 The western part (now an island) of this peninsula is called "Tendra," and the eastern, "Zharylgatch" (or "Djarilgatch"). According to ancient legends Achilles pursued Iphigenia to this peninsula and there practised for his races.

203 The plethron was one-sixth of a stadium, or 100 feet.

204 We would call it a "sand-bank."

205 Now Cape Czile.

Thayer's Note:

a One of the very many examples of captious and argumentative statements put forth by Strabo. Just as in today's Catholic Church marriage and many children are held in high regard but so is virginity and the celibacy of priests and religious, it is on the contrary quite reasonable to suppose the coexistence of polygamy and certain persons who live without women; and in fact, among the tribes of central Asia we commonly find, held in honor, transvestite and/or ritually homosexual shamans (the "wifeless men of the Getae" who are "in a special way reverential towards the gods", that the geographer finds "contrary to reason").

About the only thing that can be said is that we tread on very shaky ground when we attempt to generalize human behavior; and it is as bad for Strabo to make rationalizing statements about things he hasn't seen as it is for poets to invent lies — worse, since the appearance of reason provides a cloak that poetry makes no pretence of donning: or, to borrow the acerbic language Strabo attributes to Apollodorus a few pages later (VI.3.6), "the writers in general can be pardoned, but Callimachus cannot be pardoned at all, because he makes a pretence of being a scholar".

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