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VII, Fragments

This webpage reproduces a section of
The Geography


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

The text is in the public domain.

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and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
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(Vol. IV) Strabo

 p3  Book VIII, Chapter 1

1 332I began my description by going over all the western parts of Europe comprised between the inner and the outer sea;1 and now that I have encompassed in my survey all the barbarian tribes in Europe as far as the Tanaïs and also a small part of Greece, Macedonia,2 I now shall give an account of the remainder of the geography of Greece. This subject was first treated by Homer; and then, after him, by several others, some of whom have written special treatises entitled Harbours, or Coasting Voyages, or General Descriptions of the Earth, or the like; and in these is comprised also the description of Greece. Others have set forth the topography of the continents in separate parts of their general histories, for instance, Ephorus and Polybius. Still others have inserted certain things on this subject in their treatises on physics and mathematics, for instance, Poseidonius and Hipparchus. Now although the statements of the others are easy to pass judgment upon, yet those of Homer require critical inquiry, since he speaks poetically, and not of things as they now are, but of things as they were in antiquity, which for the most part have been  p5 obscured by time. Be this as it may, as far as I can I must undertake the inquiry; and I shall begin where I left off. My account ended, on the west and the north, with the tribes of the Epeirotes and of the Illyrians, and, on the east, with those of the Macedonians as far as Byzantium. After the Epeirotes and the Illyrians, then, come the following peoples of the Greeks: the Acarnanians, the Aetolians, and the Ozolian Locrians; and, next, the Phocians and Boeotians; and opposite these, across the arm of the sea, is the Peloponnesus, which with these encloses the Corinthian Gulf, 333and not only shapes the gulf but also is shaped by it; and after Macedonia, the Thessalians (extending as far as the Malians) and the countries of the rest of the peoples outside the Isthmus,3 as also of those inside.

2 There have been many tribes in Greece, but those which go back to the earliest times are only as many in number as the Greek dialects which we have learned to distinguish. But though the dialects themselves are four in number,4 we may say that the Ionic is the same as the ancient Attic, for the Attic people of ancient times were called Ionians, and from that stock sprang those Ionians who colonised Asia and used what is now called the Ionic speech; and we may say that the Doric dialect is the same as the Aeolic, for all the Greeks outside the Isthmus, except the Athenians and the Megarians and the Dorians who live about Parnassus, are to this day still called Aeolians. And it is reasonable to suppose that the Dorians too, since they were few in number and lived in a most  p7 rugged country, have, because of their lack of intercourse with others, changed their speech and their other customs to the extent that they are no longer a part of the same tribe as before. And this was precisely the case with the Athenians; that is, they lived in a country that was both thin-soiled and rugged, and for this reason, according to Thucydides,5 their country remained free from devastation, and they were regarded as an indigenous people, who always occupied the same country, since no one drove them out of their country or even desired to possess it. This, therefore, as one may suppose, was precisely the cause of their becoming different both in speech and in customs, albeit they were few in number. And just as the Aeolic element predominated in the parts outside the Isthmus, so too the people inside the Isthmus were in earlier times Aeolians; and then they became mixed with other peoples, since, in the first place, Ionians from Attica seized the Aegialus,6 and, secondly, the Heracleidae brought back the Dorians, who founded both Megara and many of the cities of the Peloponnesus. The Ionians, however, were soon driven out again by the Achaeans, an Aeolic tribe; and so there were left in the Peloponnesus only the two tribes, the Aeolian and the Dorian. Now all the peoples who had less intercourse with the Dorians — as was the case with the Arcadians and with the Eleians, since the former were wholly mountaineers and had no share in the allotments7 of territory, while the latter were regarded as sacred to the Olympian Zeus and hence  p9 have long lived to themselves in peace, especially because they belonged to the Aeolic stock and had admitted the army which came back with Oxylus8 about the time of the return of the Heracleidae — these peoples, I say, spoke the Aeolic dialect, whereas the rest used a sort of mixture of the two, some leaning more to the Aeolic and some less. And, I might almost say, even now the people of each city speaks a different dialect, although, because of the predominance which has been gained by the Dorians, one and all are reputed to speak the Doric. 334Such, then, are the tribes of the Greeks, and such in general terms is their ethnographical division. Let me now take them separately, following the appropriate order, and tell about them.

3 Ephorus says that, if one begins with the western parts, Acarnania is the beginning of Greece; for, he adds, Acarnania is the first to border on the tribes of the Epeirotes. But just as Ephorus, using the sea-coast as his measuring-line, begins with Acarnania (for he decides in favour of the sea as a kind of guide in his description of places, because otherwise he might have represented parts that border on the land of the Macedonians and the Thessalians as the beginning), so it is proper that I too, following the natural character of the regions, should make the sea my counsellor. Now this sea, issuing forth out of the Sicilian Sea, on one side stretches to the Corinthian Gulf, and on the other forms a large peninsula, the Peloponnesus, which is closed by a narrow isthmus. Thus Greece consists of two  p11 very large bodies of land, the part inside the Isthmus, and the part outside, which extends through Pylae9 as far as the outlet of the Peneius (this latter is the Thessalian part of Greece);10 but the part inside the Isthmus is both larger and more famous. I might almost say that the Peloponnesus is the acropolis of Greece as a whole;11 for, apart from the splendour and power of the tribes that have lived in it, the very topography of Greece, diversified as it is by gulfs, many capes, and, what are the most significant, large peninsulas that follow one another in succession, suggests such hegemony for it. The first of the peninsulas is the Peloponnesus which is closed by an isthmus forty stadia in width. The second includes the first; and its isthmus extends in width from Pagae in Megaris to Nisaea, the naval station of the Megarians, the distance across being one hundred and twenty stadia from sea to sea. The third likewise includes the second; and its isthmus extends in width from the recess of the Crisaean Gulf as far as Thermopylae — the imaginary straight line, about five hundred and eight stadia in length, enclosing within the peninsula the whole of Boeotia and cutting obliquely Phocis and the country of the Epicnemidians.12 The fourth is the peninsula whose isthmus extends from the Ambracian Gulf through Oeta13 and Trachinia to the Maliac  p13 Gulf and Thermopylae — the isthmus being about eight hundred stadia in width. But there is another isthmus, more than one thousand stadia in width, extending from the same Ambracian Gulf through the countries of the Thessalians and the Macedonians to the recess of the Thermaean Gulf. So then, the succession of the peninsulas suggests a kind of order, and not a bad one, for me to follow in my description; and I should begin with the smallest, but most famous, of them.

The Editor's Notes:

1 The Mediterranean and Atlantic.

2 See Book 7, Frag. 9, in Vol. III.

3 i.e. north of the Isthmus.

4 See 14.5.26.

5 1.2 and 2.36.

6 The Peloponnesian Achaea.

7 Cp. 8.5.6.

8 Cp. 8.3.33.

9 Thermopylae.

10 That is, from Pylae to the outlet of the Peneius.

11 Groskurd, Kramer and Curtius think that something like the following has fallen out of theMSS.: "and that Greece is the acropolis of the whole world."

12 The Epicnemidian Locrians.

13 Now the Katavothra Mountain. It forms a boundary between the valleys of the Spercheius and Cephissus Rivers.

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Page updated: 6 Sep 07