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Bill Thayer

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This webpage reproduces a section of
The Geography


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

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
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(Vol. V) Strabo

 p249  Book XI, Chapter 7

1 (508) Those nomads, however, who live along the coast on the left as one sails into the Caspian Sea are by the writers of to‑day called Däae, I mean, those who are surnamed Aparni; then, in front of them, intervenes a desert country; and next comes Hyrcania, where the Caspian resembles an open sea to the point where it borders on the Median and Armenian mountains. The shape of these mountains is crescent-like along the foot-hills, which end at the sea and form the recess of the gulf. This side of the mountains, beginning at the sea, is inhabited as far as their heights for a short stretch by a part of the Albanians and the Armenians, but for the most part by Gelae, Cadusii, Amardi, Vitii, and Anariacae. They say that some of the Parrhasii took up their abode with the Anariacae, who, they say, are now called Parsii; and that the Aenianes built a walled city in the Vitian territory, which, they say, is called Aeniana; and that Greek armour, brazen vessels, and burial-places are to be seen there; and that there is also a city Anariacê there, in which, they  p251 say, is to be seen an oracle for sleepers,​12 and some other tribes that are more inclined to brigandage and war than to farming; but this is due to the ruggedness of the region. However, the greater part of the seaboard round the mountainous country is occupied by Cadusii, for a stretch of almost five thousand stadia, according to Patrocles,​3 who considers this sea almost equal to the Pontic Sea. Now these regions have poor soil.

2 But Hyrcania is exceedingly fertile, extensive, and in general level; it is distinguished by notable cities, among which are Talabrocê, Samarianê, Carta, and the royal residence Tapê, which, they say, is situated slightly above the sea and at a distance of one thousand four hundred stadia from the Caspian Gates. And because of its particular kind of prosperity writers go on to relate evidences thereof: the vine produces one metretes​4 of wine, and the fig‑tree sixty medimni;​5 509 the grain grows up from the seed that falls from the stalk; bees have their hives in the trees, and honey drips from the leaves; and this is also the case in Matianê in Media, and in Sacasenê and Araxenê in Armenia.​6 However, neither the country itself nor the sea that is named after it has received proper attention, the sea being both without vessels and unused. There  p253 are islands in this sea which could afford a livelihood, and, according to some writers, contain gold ore. The cause of this lack of attention was the fact that the first governors of the Hyrcanians, I mean the Medes and Persians, as also the last, I mean the Parthians, who were inferior to the former, were barbarians, and also the fact that the whole of the neighbouring country was full of brigands and nomads and deserted regions. The Macedonians did indeed rule over the country for a short time, but they were so occupied with wars that they could not attend to their remote possessions. According to Aristobulus, Hyrcania, which is a wooded country, has the oak, but does not produce the torch-pine​7 or fir​8 or stone-pine,​9 though India abounds in these trees. Nesaea, also, belongs to Hyrcania, though some writers set it down as an independent district.10

3 Hyrcania is traversed by the rivers Ochus and Oxus to their outlets into the sea; and of these, the Ochus flows also through Nesaea, but some say that the Ochus empties into the Oxus. Aristobulus​11 declares that the Oxus is the largest of the rivers he has seen in Asia, except those in India. And he further says that it is navigable (both he and Eratosthenes taking this statement from Patrocles)​12 and that large quantities of Indian wares are brought down on it to the Hyrcanian Sea, and thence on that sea are transported to Albania and brought down on the Cyrus River and through the region that comes next after it to the Euxine. The Ochus is not mentioned at all by the ancient writers. Apollodorus,​13 however,  p255 who wrote the Parthica, names it continually, implying that it flows very close to the country of the Parthians.

4 Many false notions were also added to the account of this sea because​14 of Alexander's love of glory; for, since it was agreed by all that the Tanaïs separated Asia from Europe, and that the region between the sea and the Tanaïs, being a considerable part of Asia, had not fallen under the power of the Macedonians, it was resolved to manipulate the account of Alexander's expedition so that in fame at least he might be credited with having conquered those parts of Asia too. They therefore united Lake Maeotis, which receives the Tanaïs, with the Caspian Sea, calling this too a lake and asserting that both were connected with one another by an under­ground passage and that each was a part of the other. Polycleitus goes on to adduce proofs in connection with his belief that the sea is a lake 510 (for instance, he says that it produces serpents, and that its water is sweetish); and that it is no other than Maeotis he judges from the fact that the Tanaïs empties into it. From the same Indian mountains, where the Ochus and the Oxus and several other rivers rise, flows also the Iaxartes, which, like those rivers, empties into the Caspian Sea and is the most northerly of them all. This river, accordingly, they named Tanaïs; and in addition to so naming it they gave as proof that it was the Tanaïs mentioned by Polycleitus that the country on the far side of this river produces the fir‑tree and that the Scythians in that region use arrows made of fir‑wood; and they say that this is also evidence that the country on the  p257 far side belongs to Europe and not to Asia, for, they add, Upper and Eastern Asia does not produce the fir‑tree. But Eratosthenes says that the fir‑tree grows also in India and that Alexander built his fleet out of fir‑wood from there. Eratosthenes tries to reconcile many other differences of this kind, but as for me, let what I have said about them suffice.

5 This too, among the marvellous things recorded of Hyrcania, is related by Eudoxus​15 and others: that there are some cliffs facing the sea with caverns underneath, and between these and the sea, below the cliffs, is a low‑lying shore; and that rivers flowing from the precipices above rush forward with so great force that when they reach the cliffs they hurl their waters out into the sea without wetting the shore, so that even armies can pass underneath sheltered by the stream above; and the natives often come down to the place for the sake of feasting and sacrifice, and sometimes they recline in the caverns down below and sometimes they enjoy themselves basking in the sunlight beneath the stream itself, different people enjoying themselves in different ways, having in sight at the same time on either side both the sea and the shore, which latter, because of the moisture, is grassy and abloom with flowers.

The Editor's Notes:

1 i.e. people received oracles in their dreams while sleeping in the temple (cf. 16.2.35).

2 See critical note.

The critical note to the Greek text, after δείκνυται μαντεῖον ἐγκοιμωμένων, reads:

ἐγκοιμωμένων, for ἓν κοιμωμένων; so the later editors.

3 See Dictionary in Vol. I.

4 A little less than nine gallons.

5 The medimnus was about a bushel and a half.

Thayer's Note: But see Diodorus, XVII.75, where the figure is ten medimni.

6 Cf. 2.1.14.

7 Pinus maritima.

8 Pinus picea.

9 Pinus pinea.

10 Cf. 11.13.7.

11 This Aristobulus accompanied Alexander on his expedition and wrote a work of unknown title.

12 See Dictionary in Vol. I.

13 Of Artemita.

14 See 11.5.5.

15 Eudoxus of Cnidus (see Dictionary in Vol. I).

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Page updated: 18 Sep 12