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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.
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(Vol. II) Strabo

 p221  Book IV Chapter 3

1 (191) The country next in order after the Aquitanian division​83 and Narbonitis​84 reaches as far as the whole of the Rhenus, extending from the Liger River and also from the Rhodanus at the point where the Rhodanus, after it runs down from its source, touches Lugdunum. Now of this country the upper parts that are next to the sources of the rivers (the Rhenus and the Rhodanus), extending as far, approximately, as the centre of the plains, 192have been classified under  p223 Lugdunum;​85 whereas the remaining parts, including the parts along the ocean, have been classified under another division, I mean that division which is specifically assigned to the Belgae.​86 As for me, however, I shall point out the separate parts in a rather general way.87

2 Lugdunum itself, then, (a city founded at the foot of a hill at the confluence of the River Arar and the Rhodanus), is occupied by the Romans. And it is the most populous of all the cities of Celtica except Narbo; for not only do people use it as an emporium, but the Roman governors coin their money there, both the silver and the gold.​a Again, the temple that was dedicated to Caesar Augustus by all the Galatae in common is situated in front of this city at the junction of the rivers. And in it is a noteworthy altar, bearing an inscription of the names of the tribes, sixty in number; and also images from these tribes, one from each tribe, and also another large altar.​88 The city of Lugdunum presides over the tribe of the Segusiavi, which tribe is situated between the Rhodanus and the Dubis. The tribes that come next in order after the Segusiavi, I mean those which together stretch towards the Rhenus, are bounded partly by the Dubis and partly by the Arar. Now these rivers too, as I have said before,​89 first run down from the Alps, and then, falling into one stream, run down into the Rhodanus; and there is still another river, Sequana  p225 by name, which likewise has its sources in the Alps.​b It flows into the ocean, however, running parallel to the Rhenus, through a tribe of like name,​90 whose country joins the Rhenus in its eastern parts, but in the opposite parts, the Arar; and it is from their country that the finest of salted hog-meat is brought down and shipped to Rome. Now between the Dubis and the Arar dwells the tribe of the Aedui, with their city of Cabyllinum, on the Arar, and their garrison of Bibracte. (The Aedui were not only called kinsmen of the Romans,​91 but they were also the first of the peoples in that country to apply for their friendship and alliance.) But across the Arar dwell the Sequani, who, for a long time, in fact, had been at variance with the Romans as well as with the Aedui. This was because they often joined forces with the Germans in their attacks upon Italy; aye, and they demonstrated that theirs was no ordinary power: they made the Germans strong when they took part with them and weak when they stood aloof. As regards the Aedui, not only were the Sequani at variance with them for the same reasons, but their hostility was intensified by the strife about the river that separates them, since each tribe claimed that the Arar was its private property and that the transportation tolls belonged to itself. Now, however, everything is subject to the Romans.

3 As for the country that is on the Rhenus, the first of all the peoples who live there are the Elvetii,92  p227 in whose territory, on Mount Adula, are the sources of the river. Mount Adula is a part of the Alps, and from it flows also the River Addua,​93 in the opposite direction, that is, towards Cisalpine Celtica, and fills Lake Larius (near which the city of Comum has been founded), and then, flowing on from Lake Larius, contributes its waters to those of the Padus (matters about which I shall speak later on). The Rhenus, too, spreads into great marshes and a great lake, 193which lake is touched by the territory of both the Rhaeti and the Vindelici (certain of the peoples who live in the Alps and also beyond the Alps). Asinius says that the length of the river is six thousand stadia, but it is not. In fact, it could only slightly exceed the half of that in a straight line, while the addition of one thousand stadia would be quite sufficient for the windings. For not only is it swift, and on this account also hard to bridge, but after its descent from the mountains runs the rest of the way with even slope through the plains. How, then, could it remain swift and violent, if to the even slope of the river we added numerous long windings? He further says it has only two mouths, after first finding fault with those who say it has more than that. So then, both this river and the Sequana encircle somewhat of territory within their windings, but not so much as that. Both rivers flow from the southern parts towards the north; and in front of them lies Britain, which is near enough to the Rhenus for Cantium, which is the eastern cape of the island, to be visible from it, though it is slightly farther off from the Sequana. Here, too, the Deified  p229 Caesar established his navy-yard when he sailed to Britain.​94 The part of the Sequana that is navigated by those who receive the cargoes from the Arar is slightly longer than that of the Liger and that of the Garumna; but the distance from Lugdunum​95 to the Sequana is a thousand stadia, and that from the mouths of the Rhodanus to Lugdunum is less than double this distance. It is said also that the Elvetii, although rich in gold, none the less turned themselves to robbery upon seeing the opulence of the Cimbri; but that on their campaigns two of their tribes (there were three) were obliterated. But still the number of the descendants from what was left of them was shown by their war against the Deified Caesar, in which about four hundred thousand lives were destroyed, although Caesar allowed the rest of them, about eight thousand, to escape, so as not to abandon the country, destitute of inhabitants, to the Germans, whose territory bordered on theirs.

4 After the Elvetii, along the Rhenus, dwell the Sequani and the Mediomatrici, in whose territory are situated the Tribocchi, a Germanic tribe which crossed the river from their homeland. Mount Jura is in the territory of the Sequani; it marks the boundary between the Elvetii and the Sequani. So it is beyond the Elvetii and the Sequani, towards the west, that the Aedui and the Lingones dwell; and beyond the Mediomatrici, that the Leuci and a  p231 part of the Lingones dwell. But those tribes between the Liger and the Sequana Rivers that are on the far side of the Rhodanus and the Arar are situated side by side, towards the north, with both the Allobroges and the people round Lugdunum; and of these tribes the most conspicuous are those of the Arverni and the Carnutes, through both of whose territories the Liger runs on its way out to the ocean. The passage across to Britain from the rivers of Celtica is three hundred and twenty stadia; 194for if you put to sea on the ebb-tide at nightfall, you land upon the island about the eighth hour on the following day. After the Mediomatrici and the Tribocchi, along the Rhenus, dwell the Treveri, near whom the bridge has been built by the Roman officers who are now conducting the Germanic war.​96 The Ubii used to live opposite this region, across the Rhenus, though by their own consent they were transferred by Agrippa to the country this side the Rhenus. Next after the Treveri are the Nervii, who are also a Germanic tribe. Last come the Menapii, who dwell on both sides of the river near its mouths, in marshes and woods (not of tall timber, but dense and thorny). It is opposite to these that the Sugambri are situated, a Germanic people. But beyond this whole river-country are those Germans who are called the Suevi and excel all the others in power and numbers (the people driven out by the Suevi in our time have been fleeing for refuge to this side of the Rhenus). And other peoples, also, lord it in different places, and in their turn take up the tinders of war, but the foremost are always put down.97

 p233  5 West of the Treveri and the Nervii dwell the Senones and the Remi, and farther on, the Atrebatii and the Eburones; and after the Menapii, on the sea, are, in their order, the Morini, the Bellovaci, the Ambiani, the Suessiones, and the Caleti, as far as the outlet of the Sequana River. Both the country of the Morini and that of the Atrebatii and Eburones resemble that of the Menapii; for much of it, though not so much as the historians have said (four thousand stadia), is a forest, consisting of trees that are not tall; the forest is called Arduenna. At the time of hostile onsets they used to intertwine the withes of the brushwood, since the withes were thorny, and thus block the passage of the enemy.​98 In some places they also used to fix stakes in the ground — themselves, with their whole families, slinking away into the depths of the forest, for they had small islands in their marshes. Now although the refuge they took was safe for them in the rainy seasons, they were easily captured in the dry seasons. But as it is, all the peoples this side the Rhenus are living in a state of tranquillity and are submissive to the Romans. The Parisii live round about the Sequana River, having an island in the river and a city called Lucotocia; and so do the Meldi and the Lexovii — these latter beside the ocean. But the most noteworthy of all the tribes in this region of Celtica is that of the Remi; their metropolis, Duricortora, is most thickly settled and is the city that entertains the Roman governors.

The Editor's Notes:

83 Gallia Aquitanica.

84 Gallia Narbonensis.

85 Gallia Lugdunensis.

86 Gallia Belgica.

87 As Strabo has already said, it was not political divisions (here the divisions of Lugdunensis and Belgica), but physical and ethnic distinctions that geographers treated in detail, since the political divisions made by the Romans varied, and hence were only referred to in a summary way by the geographer (see 4.1.1).

88 C. Müller emends the Greek text to read "and also an image of Augustus"; Meineke, to read "and also a great statue," i.e. of Augustus.

89 4.1.11.

90 Strabo wrongly thought the Sequana ran through the country of the Sequani.

91 Caesar (De Bello Gallico 1.33) says "the Aedui were often called by the Senate brethren and kinsmen."

92 Usually spelled "Helvetii."

Thayer's Note: The difference between Helvetii and Elvetii, in Greek, is that — prepare to squint — between Ἑλουήττιοι and Ἐλουήττιοι, respectively, i.e. in the direction of the breathing; as far as I'm concerned, then, this is quibbling on the part of the translator; all the more so that in 4.6.11 below, he will forget, and render the same Ἐλουήττιοι (smooth breathing) as Helvetii.

93 But the Addua rises far to the east of Mt. Adula, in the Rhaetic Alps.

94 Strabo could not have meant by "Here" the mouth of the Sequana (which the mere Greek text seems to imply), much less that of the Rhenus, since Caesar sailed from Portus Itius (see 4.5.2 and Caesar De Bello Gallico 5.2) on his second expedition, and almost certainly from there on his first (De Bello Gallico 4.21); and Portus Itius was either Boulogne or Wissant — almost certainly the former. (See Holmes, Caesar's Conquest of Gaul, pp432‑438.)

95 An overland journey.

96 It is uncertain what campaign or bridge Strabo refers to, since the time of composition and of revision of Strabo's work has by no means been settled (see Vol. I, p36, footnote 2). One thinks of the campaigns of Drusus Germanicus (7.1.3), of Varus (7.1.4), or of Germanicus the Younger (7.1.4).

97 By the Romans, apparently.

98 Caesar (De Bello Gallico 2.17) describes this more fully, saying that they first cut into saplings and bent them over, and then intertwined them with brambles and thorns, thus making wall-like hedges that could neither be penetrated nor seen through.

Thayer's Notes:

a A sentence open to two very different interpretations; see Harold Mattingly, Roman Imperial Civilisation, p. xx.

b No. The sources of the Seine, to give it its modern name, are in the Côte d'Or in Burgundy, which can be considered the foothills of the Massif Central (loosely: Strabo's Cemmeni Mountains), but hardly of the Alps. The mistake is a very strange one and I even wonder how Strabo could have made it, since according to his own mental map, for the Seine to arise in the Alps, it would have to cross the Saône (the Arar that he has just mentioned).

Like many sources and springs in Gaul, the sources of the Seine were a place of sanctuary and worship, where modern archaeologists have found statues and other religious artifacts.

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Page updated: 21 Oct 13