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Bill Thayer

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This webpage reproduces a section of
The Geography


published in Vol. II
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,
please let me know!


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(Vol. II) Strabo

 p213  Book IV Chapter 2

1 (189) Next, I must discuss the Aquitani, and the tribes which have been included within their boundaries,​68 namely, the fourteen Galatic tribes which inhabit the country between the Garumna and the Liger, some of which reach even to the river-land of the Rhone and to the plains of Narbonitis. For, speaking in a general way, the Aquitani differ from the Galatic race in the build of their bodies as well as in their speech; that is, they are more like the Iberians.​69 Their country is bounded by the Garumna River, since they live between this and the Pyrenees. There are more than twenty tribes of the Aquitani, but they are small and lacking in repute; the majority of the tribes live along the ocean, while the others reach up into the interior and to the summits​70 of the Cemmenus Mountains, as far as the Tectosages. But since a country of this size was only a small division, 190they​71 added to it the country which is between the Garumna and the Liger. These rivers are approximately parallel to the Pyrenees and form with the Pyrenees two parallelograms, since they are bounded on their other sides by the ocean and the Cemmenus Mountains. And the voyage on either of the rivers is, all told, two thousand stadia. The Garumna, after being increased by the waters of three rivers, discharges  p215 its waters into the region that is between those Bituriges that are surnamed "Vivisci" and the Santoni — both of them Galatic tribes; for the tribe of these Bituriges is the only tribe of different race that is situated among the Aquitani; and it does than pay tribute to them, though it has an emporium, Burdigala, which is situated on a lagoon that is formed by the outlets of the river. The Liger, however, discharges its waters between the Pictones and the Namnitae. Formerly there was an emporium on this river, called Corbilo, with respect to which Polybius, calling to mind the fabulous stories of Pytheas, has said: "Although no one of all the Massiliotes who conversed with Scipio​72 was able, when questioned by Scipio about Britain, to tell anything worth recording, nor yet any one of the people from Narbo or of those from Corbilo, though these were the best of all the cities in that country, still Pytheas had the hardihood to tell all those falsehoods about Britain." The city of the Santoni, however, is Mediolanium. Now the most of the ocean-coast of the Aquitani is sandy and thin-soiled, thus growing millet, but it is rather unproductive in respect of the other products. Here too is the gulf which, along with that Galatic Gulf which is within the coastline of Narbonitis, forms the isthmus (itself too, like the latter gulf, having the name "Galatic"). The gulf is held by the Tarbelli, in whose land the gold mines are most important of all; for in pits dug only to a slight depth they find slabs of gold as big as the hand can hold, which at times require but little refining; but the rest is gold  p217 dust and nuggets, the nuggets too requiring no great amount of working. The interior and mountainous country, however, has better soil: first, next to the Pyrenees, the country of the "Convenae" (that is, "assembled rabble"),​73 in which are the city of Lugdunum and the hot springs​a of the Onesii​74 — most beautiful springs of most potable waters; and, secondly, the country of the Auscii also has good soil.

2 Those tribes between the Garumna and the Liger that belong to Aquitania are, first, the Elui, whose territory begins at the Rhodanus, and then, after them, the Vellavii, who were once included within the boundaries of the Arverni, though they are now ranked as autonomous;​75 then the Arverni, the Lemovices, and the Petrocorii; and, next to these, the Nitiobriges, the Cadurci, and those Bituriges that are called "Cubi";​76 and, next to the ocean, both the Santoni and the Pictones, the former living along the Garumna, as I have said, 191the latter along the Liger; but the Ruteni and the Gabales closely approach Narbonitis. Now among the Petrocorii there are fine iron-works, and also among the Bituriges Cubi; among the Cadurci, linen  p219 factories; among the Ruteni, silver mines; and the Gabales, also, have silver mines. The Romans have given the "Latin right"​77 to certain of the Aquitani just as they have done in the case of the Auscii and the Convenae.

3 The Arverni are situated on the Liger; their metropolis is Nemossus,​78 a city situated on the Liger. This river, after flowing past Cenabum (the emporium of the Carnutes at about the middle of the voyage,​79 an emporium that is jointly peopled),​80 discharges its waters towards the ocean. As for their former power, the Arverni hold out as a great proof thereof the fact that they oftentimes warred against the Romans, at times with two hundred thousand men, and again, with double that number — with double that number, for example, when they, with Vercingetorix, struggled to a finish against the Deified Caesar; and, before that, also, with two hundred thousand against Maximus Aemilianus, and also, in like manner, against Dometius​81 Ahenobarbus. Now the struggles against Caesar took place near Gergovia (a city of the Arverni, situated on a high mountain), where Vercingetorix was born, and also near Alesia (a city of the Mandubii — a tribe which has a common boundary with the Arverni — and this city too is situated on a high hill, although it is surrounded by mountains and two rivers), in which not only the commander was captured but the war had its end. But the struggles against Maximus Aemilianus took place at the confluence of the Isar and the Rhodanus,  p221 where the Cemmenus Mountain approaches closely the Rhodanus; and against Dometius Ahenobarbus, at a place still lower down the Rhodanus, at the confluence of the Sulgas and the Rhodanus. Again, the Arverni not only had extended their empire as far as Narbo and the boundaries of Massiliotis, but they were also masters of the tribes as far as the Pyrenees, and as far as the ocean and the Rhenus. Luerius, the father of the Bituitus who warred against Maximus and Dometius, is said to have been so exceptionally rich and extravagant that once, when making a display of his opulence to his friends, he rode on a carriage through a plain, scattering gold and silver coins here and there, for his followers to pick up.82

The Editor's Notes:

68 For the purposes of administration.

69 Cp. 4.1.1.

70 Not "extremities" (cp. Τὰ ἄκρα 4.6.7).

71 The Romans.

72 It is not known to which member of the Cornelian gens Strabo refers; probably Africanus Major.

73 The "Convenae" seem to have been refugees from the army of Sertorius, whom Pompey generously assembled together in the territory in question; their city, to which Strabo refers in this passage, was called "Lugdunum Convenarum" (to‑day, St. Bertrand de Comminges).

Thayer's Note: The word convena is a very rare one, almost never met with apart from its connection with these people and their place; and in late Latin we find no adequate citation of it in Ducange,  s.v.

Prof. Jones does well to say the Convenae "seem to have been" refugees etc. The notion that they were refugees from Spain derives from a single ancient source, a brief passage in St. Jerome (Contra Vigilantium ap. Migne, PL XXIII.356C f., see my note elsewhere) in which, writing from the other end of the Mediterranean nearly five hundred years after Pompey, he is making a sort of off-the‑cuff pun for a polemical purpose. Pliny, writing much closer to Pompey's time, gives no clue (IV.108) that these Convenae meant "people gathered together".

Occitanian linguists Henri Gavel (1880‑1959) and following him Jean-Claude Dinguirard (1940‑1983) suggest, on phonological grounds, the derivation of "Convenae" from the name of a local tribe, *Komben‑. — "Le nom Comminges et la phonologie de la langue des Aquitains", Via Domitia, I.61 f. (1982). Comminges, however, by which name the area around the ancient Lugdunum has been called since the Middle Ages, was remote in Antiquity and even today is off the beaten path and sparsely inhabited: so that the existence of such an independent tribe two thousand years ago is likely to remain conjecture until the inevitable inscription eventually pops up.

74 A people otherwise unknown.

75 Literally "ranked according to themselves." A comparison of 4.1.5 (where Strabo speaks specifically of the "autonomy" of the Massiliotes), 4.1.12, 4.6.4, and the above passage, clearly indicates that the Volcae Arecomisci, the Vellavii, and the Vocontii, were granted a form of autonomy by the Romans — one of the special privileges of that rank being that they were "not subject to the orders of the praetors who are sent out from Rome" (4.1.12). Cp. also the government of Messenia under Melanthus (8.4.1).

76 As distinguished from the "Vivisci" (§ 1 above).

77 See § 1.12º above, and footnote.

Thayer's Note: That link will send you off to a circular set of references in the Loeb edition, but to no explanation. For an explanation, see the article Latinitas in Smith's Dictionary.

78 "Nemossus" is otherwise unknown. If the name is correct, it is apparently an earlier name for what was later called "Augustonemetum" (now Clermont-Ferrand), the city of the Arverni mentioned by Ptolemaeus (2.7.12).

79 From Augustonemetum to the outlets of the river.

80 By both natives and Romans.

81 More commonly spelled "Domitius."

82 According to the Greek text, "his followers" would naturally refer to "his friends." But Athenaeus (4.37) quotes Poseidonius, who was probably Strabo's authority for the incident, as saying, "Luerius, in his effort to win the favour of the crowds, rode on a carriage through the plains and scattered gold and silver to the hosts of the Celts which followed him." Corais, by a slight emendation (see critical note on opposite page), conjectures "crowds" for "friends," thus harmonizing the account with that of Athenaeus. The conjecture of A. Jacob, however, of "troops" for "friends" is more plausible, on textual as well as contextual grounds.

The critical note reads: For φιλοις, Corais conjectures ὄχλοις; A. Jacob, φύλοις.

Thayer's Note:

a Very likely the hot springs — over sixty of them — in and around the modern Bagnères-de-Luchon.

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Page updated: 25 Jun 20