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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

 p303  Book XI, Chapter 13

1 (522) Media is divided into two parts. One part of it is called Greater Media, of which the metropolis is Ecbatana, a large city containing the royal residence of the Median empire (the Parthians continue to use this as a royal residence even now, and their kings spend at least their summers there, for Media is a cold country; but their winter residence is at Seleuceia, on the Tigris near Babylon). The other part is Atropatian Media, 523 which got its name from the commander​1 Atropates, who prevented also this country, which was a part of greater Media, from becoming subject to the Macedonians. Furthermore, after he was proclaimed king, he organised this country into a separate state by itself, and his succession of descendants is preserved to this day, and his successors have contracted marriages with the kings of the Armenians and Syrians and, in later times, with the kings of the Parthians.

2 This country lies east of Armenia and Matianê, west of Greater Media, and north of both; and it lies adjacent to the region round the recess of the Hyrcanian Sea and to Matianê on the south. It is no small country, considering its power, as Apollonides​2 says, since it can furnish as many as ten thousand horsemen and forty thousand foot-soldiers. It has a harbour, Capauta,​3 in which salts effloresce and solidify. These salts cause itching and are  p305 painful, but this effect is relieved by olive‑oil; and the water restores weathered garments, if perchance through ignorance one should dip them in it to wash them. They have powerful neighbours in the Armenians and the Parthians, by whom they are often plundered. But still they hold out against them and get back what has been taken away from them, as, for example, they got back Symbacê from the Armenians when the latter became subject to the Romans; and they themselves have attained to friendship with Caesar. But they are also paying court to the Parthians at the same time.

3 Their royal summer palace is situated in a plain at Gazaca, and their winter palace in a fortress called Vera, which was besieged by Antony on his expedition against the Parthians. This fortress is distant from the Araxes, which forms the boundary between Armenia and Atropatenê, two thousand four hundred stadia, according to Dellius, the friend of Antony, who wrote an account of Antony's expedition against the Parthians, on which he accompanied Antony and was himself a commander. All regions of this country are fertile except the part towards the north, which is mountainous and rugged and cold, the abode of the mountaineers called Cadusii, Amardi, Tapyri, Cyrtii and other such peoples, who are migrants and predatory; for the Zagrus and Niphates mountains keep these tribes scattered; and the Cyrtii in Persis, and the Mardi (for the Amardi are also thus called), and those in Armenia who to this day are called by the same name, are of the same character.

 p307  4 The Cadusii, however, are but little short of the Ariani in the number of their foot-soldiers; and their javelin-throwers are excellent; and in rugged places foot-soldiers instead of horsemen do the fighting. 524 It was not the nature of the country that made the expedition difficult for Antony, but his guide Artavasdes, the king of the Armenians, whom, though plotting against him, Antony rashly made his counsellor and master of decisions respecting the war. Antony indeed punished him, but too late, when the latter had been proved guilty of numerous wrongs against the Romans, not only he himself, but also that other guide, who made the journey from the Zeugma on the Euphrates to the borders of Atropatenê eight thousand stadia long, more than twice the direct journey, guiding the army over mountains and roadless regions and circuitous routes.

5 In ancient times Greater Armenia ruled the whole of Asia, after it broke up the empire of the Syrians, but later, in the time of Astyages, it was deprived of that great authority by Cyrus and the Persians, although it continued to preserve much of its ancient dignity; and Ecbatana was winter residence​4 for the Persian kings, and likewise for the Macedonians who, after overthrowing the Persians, occupied Syria; and still to‑day it affords the kings of the Parthians the same advantages and security.

6 Greater Media is bounded on the east by Parthia and the mountains of the Cossaei, a predatory people, who once supplied the Elymaei, with  p309 whom they were allies in the war against the Susians and Babylonians, with thirteen thousand bowmen. Nearchus​5 says that there were four predatory tribes and that of these the Mardi were situated next to the Persians; the Uxii and Elymaei next to the Mardi and the Susians; and the Cossaei next to the Medians; and that whereas all four exacted tribute from the kings, the Cossaei also received gifts at the times when the king, after spending the summer in Ecbatana, went down into Babylonia; but that Alexander put an end to their great audacity when he attacked them in the winter time. So then, Greater Media is bounded on the east by these tribes, and also by the Paraetaceni, who border on the Persians and are themselves likewise mountaineers and predatory; on the north by the Cadusii who live above the Hyrcanian Sea, and by the other tribes which I have just described; on the south by Apolloniatis, which the ancients called Sitacenê, and by the mountain Zagrus, at the place where Massabaticê is situated, which belongs to Media, though some say that it belongs to Elymaea; and on the west by the Atropatii and certain of the Armenians. There are also some Greek cities in Media, founded by the Macedonians, among which are Laodicea, Apameia and the city​6 near Rhagae, and Rhaga​7 itself, which was founded by Nicator.​8 By him it was named Europus, but by the Parthians Arsacia; it lies about five hundred stadia to the south of the Caspian Gates, 525 according to Apollodorus of Artemita.

 p311  7 Now most of the country is high and cold; and such, also, are the mountains which lie above Ecbatana and those in the neighbourhood of Rhagae and the Caspian Gates, and in general the northerly regions extending thence to Matianê and Armenia; but the region below the Caspian Gates, consisting of low‑lying lands and hollows, is very fertile and productive of everything but the olive; and even if the olive is produced anyway, it is dry and yields no oil. This, as well as Armenia, is an exceptionally good "horse-pasturing"​9 country; and a certain meadow there is called "Horse-pasturing," and those who travel from Persis and Babylon to the Caspian Gates pass through it; and in the time of the Persians it is said that fifty thousand mares were pastured in it and that these herds belonged to the kings. As for the Nesaean horses, which the kings used because they were the best and the largest, some writers say that the breed came from here, while others say from Armenia. They are characteristically different in form, as are also the Parthian horses, as they are now called, as compared with the Helladic and the other horses in our country. Further, we call the grass that makes the best food for horses by the special name "Medic," from the fact that it abounds there. The country also produces silphium; whence the "Medic" juice, as it is called, which in general is inferior to the "Cyrenaic" juice, but sometimes is even superior to it, either owing to regional differences, or because of a variation in the species of the plant, or even owing to the people who extract and prepare  p313 the juice in such a way as to conserve its strength for storage and for use.

8 Such is the nature of the country. As for its size, its length and breadth are approximately equal. The greatest breadth of Media seems to be that from the pass that leads over the Zagrus, which is called Medic Gate, to the Caspian Gates through Sigrianê, four thousand one hundred stadia. The reports on the tributes paid agree with the size and the power of the country; for Cappadocia paid the Persians yearly, in addition to the silver tax, fifteen hundred horses, two thousand mules, and fifty thousand sheep, whereas Media paid almost twice as much as this.

9 As for customs, most of theirs and of those of the Armenians are the same, because their countries are similar. The Medes, however, are said to have been the originators of customs for the Armenians, and also, still earlier, for the Persians, who were their masters and their successors in the supreme authority over Asia. For example, their "Persian" stolê,​10 as it is now called, and the court they pay to their kings, and their ornaments, and the divine reverence paid by subjects to kings, 526 came to the Persians from the Medes. And that this is true is particularly clear from their dress; for tiara,​11 citaris,​12 pilus,​13 tunics with sleeves reaching to the hands, and  p315 trousers, are indeed suitable things to wear in cold and northerly regions, such as the Medes wear, but by no means in southerly regions; and most of the settlements possessed by the Persians were on the Red Sea, farther south than the country of the Babylonians and the Susians. But after the overthrow of the Medes the Persians acquired in addition certain parts of the country that reached to Media. However, the customs even of the conquered looked to the conquerors so august and appropriate to royal pomp that they submitted to wear feminine robes instead of going naked or lightly clad, and to cover their bodies all over with clothes.

10 Some say that Medeia introduced this kind of dress when she, along with Jason, held dominion in this region, even concealing her face whenever she went out in public in place of the king; and that the Jasonian hero‑chapels, which are much revered by the barbarians, are memorials of Jason (and above the Caspian Gates on the left is a large mountain called Jasonium), whereas the dress and the name of the country are memorials of Medeia. It is said also that Medus her son succeeded to the empire and left his own name to the country. In agreement with this are the Jasonia of Armenia and the name of that country​14 and several other things which I shall discuss.

11 This, too, is a Medic support — to choose the bravest man as king; not, however, among all Medes, but only among the mountaineers. More general is the custom for the kings to have many  p317 wives; this is the custom of the mountaineers of the Medes, and all Medes, and they are not permitted to have less than five; likewise, the women are said to account it an honourable thing to have as many husbands as possible and to consider less than five a calamity.​15 But though the rest of Media is extremely fertile, the northerly mountainous part has poor soil; at any rate, the people live on the fruits of trees, making cakes out of apples that are sliced and dried, and bread from roasted almonds; and they squeeze out a wine from certain roots; and they use the meat of wild animals, but do not breed tame animals. Thus much I add concerning the Medes. As for the institutions in common use throughout the whole of Media, since they prove to have been the same as those of the Persians because of the conquest of the Persians, I shall discuss them in my account of the latter.

The Editor's Notes:

1 In the battle of Arbela, 331 B.C.

2 Vol. III, p234, foot-note 2.

3 Now Lake Urmi (see 11.14.8 and note on "Blue").

4 Apparently an error of the copyist for "summer residence" or "royal residence" (cf. § 1 above and §6 below).

5 See Dictionary in Vol. I.

6 Heracleia (see 11.9.1).

7 The name is spelled both in plural and in singular.

8 Seleucus Nicator, King of Syria 312‑280 B.C.

9 "Hippobotos," a Homeric epithet of Argos (e.g. Od. 4.99).

10 i.e. robe (cf. Lat. "stola").

11 The royal tiara was high and erect and encircled with a diadem, while that of the people was soft and fell over on one side.

12 A kind of Persian head-dress. Aristophanes (Birds 497) compares a cock's comb to it.

13 A felt skull‑cap, like a fez.

14 See 11.4.8.

15 So the Greek of all MSS.; but the editors since Du Theil regard the Greek text as corrupt, assuming that the women in question did not have plural husbands. Accordingly, some emend the text to make it say, "for their husbands to have as many wives as possible and consider less than five a calamity" (see critical note).

The critical note to the Greek text, after τὰς γυναῖκάς φασιν ἐν καλῷ τίθεσθαι ὅτι πλείστους νέμειν ἄνδρας, reads:

ὅτι πλείστας νέμειν τοὺς ἄνδρας Groskurd, and so Meineke, omitting the τούς; Kramer conj. ὅτι πλείστας ἔχοντας νέμειν ἄνδρας (see Kramer's note, and C. Müller's Ind. Var. Lect. p1018).

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