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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.
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(Vol. IV) Strabo

 p341  Book IX, Chapter 3

1 (416) After Boeotia and Orchomenus one comes to Phocis; it stretches towards the north alongside Boeotia, nearly from sea to sea; it did so in early times, at least, for in those times Daphnus belonged to Phocis, splitting Locris into two parts and being placed by geographers midway between the Opuntian Gulf and the coast of the Epicnemidians. The country now belongs to the Locrians (the town has been rased to the ground), so that even here Phocis  p343 no longer extends as far as the Euboean Sea, though it does border on the Crisaean Gulf. For Crisa itself belongs to Phocis, being situated by the sea itself, and so do Cirrha and Anticyra and the places which lie in the interior and contiguous to them near Parnassus — I mean Delphi, Cirphis, and Daulis — and Parnassus itself which belongs to Phocis and forms its boundary on its western side. In the same way as Phocis lies alongside Boeotia, so also Locris lies alongside Phocis on either side; for Locris is double, being divided into two parts by Parnassus, the part on the western side lying alongside Parnassus and occupying a part of it, and extending to the Crisaean Gulf, whereas the part on the side towards the east ends at the Euboean Sea. The Westerners​169 are called Locrians and Ozolae; and they have the star Hesperus engraved on their public seal. The other division of inhabitants is itself also divided, in a way, into two parts: the Opuntians, named after their metropolis, whose territory borders on Phocis and Boeotia, and the Epicnemidians, named after a mountain called Cnemis, who are next to the Oetaeans and Malians. In the middle between both, I mean the Westerners and the other division, is Parnassus, extending lengthwise into the northerly part of the country, 417from the region of Delphi as far as the junction of the Oetaean and the Aetolian mountains, and the country of the Dorians which lies in the middle between them. For again, just as Locris, being double, lies alongside Phocis, so also the country of  p345 the Oetaeans together with Aetolia and with certain places of the Dorian Tetrapolis, which lie in the middle between them, lie alongside either part of Locris and alongside Parnassus and the country of the Dorians. Immediately above these are the Thessalians, the northerly Aetolians, the Acarnanians, and some of the Epeirote and Macedonian tribes. As I was saying before,​170 one should think of the aforementioned countries as ribbon-like stretches, so to speak, extending parallel to one another from the west towards the east. The whole of Parnassus is esteemed as sacred, since it has caves and other places that are held in honour and deemed holy. Of these the best known and most beautiful is Corycium, a cave of the nymphs bearing the same name as that in Cilicia. Of the sides of Parnassus, the western is occupied by the Ozolian Locrians and by some of the Dorians and by the Aetolians who live near the Aetolian mountain called Corax; whereas the other side is occupied by Phocians and by the majority of the Dorians, who occupy the Tetrapolis, which in a general way lies round Parnassus, but widens out in its parts that face the east. Now the long sides of each of the aforementioned countries and ribbon-like  p347 stretches are all parallel, one side being towards the north and the other towards the south; but as for the remaining sides, the western are not parallel to the eastern; neither are the two coastlines, where the countries of these tribes end, I mean that of the Crisaean Gulf as far as Actium and that facing Euboea as far as Thessaloniceia, parallel to one another. But one should conceive of the geometrical figures of these regions as though several lines were drawn in a triangle parallel to the base, for the figures thus marked off will be parallel to one another, and they will have their opposite long sides parallel, but as for the short sides this is no longer the case. This, then, is my rough sketch of the country that remains to be traversed and is next in order. Let me now describe each separate part in order, beginning with Phocis.

2 Of Phocis two cities are the most famous, Delphi and Elateia. Delphi, because of the temple of the Pythian Apollo, and because of the oracle, which is ancient, since Agamemnon is said by the  p349 poet to have had an oracle given him from there; for the minstrel is introduced as singing "the quarrel of Odysseus and Achilles, son of Peleus, how once they strove . . . , and Agamemnon, lord of men, rejoiced at heart . . . , 418for thus Phoebus Apollo, in giving response to him at Pytho, had told him that it should be."​171 Delphi, I say, is famous because of these things, but Elateia, because it is the largest of all the cities there, and has the most advantageous position, because it is situated in the narrow passes and because he who holds this city holds the passes leading into Phocis and Boeotia. For, first, there are the Oetaean Mountains; and then those of the Locrians and Phocians, which are not everywhere passable to invaders from Thessaly, but have passes, both narrow and separated from one another, which are guarded by the adjacent cities; and the result is, that when these cities are captured, their captors master the passes also. But since the fame of the temple at Delphi has the priority of age, and since at the same time the position of its places suggests a natural beginning (for these are the most westerly parts of Phocis), I should begin my description there.

3 As I have already said, Parnassus is situated on the western boundaries of Phocis. Of this mountain, then, the side towards the west is occupied by the Ozolian Locrians, whereas the southern is occupied by Delphi, a rocky place, theatre-like, having the  p351 oracle and the city on its summit, and filling a circuit of sixteen stadia. Situated above Delphi is Lycoreia, on which place, above the temple, the Delphians were established in earlier times. But now they live close to the temple, round the Castalian fountain. Situated in front of the city, toward the south, is Cirphis, a precipitous mountain, which leaves in the intervening space a ravine, through which flows the Pleistus River. Below Cirphis lies Cirrha, an ancient city, situated by the sea; and from it there is an ascent to Delphi of about eighty stadia. It is situated opposite Sicyon. In front of Cirrha lies the fertile Crisaean Plain; for again one comes next in order to another city, Crisa, from which the Crisaean Gulf is named. Then to Anticyra, bearing the same name as the city on the Maliac Gulf near Oeta. And, in truth, they say that it is in the latter region that the hellebore of fine quality is produced, though that produced in the former is better prepared, and on this account many people resort thither to be purged and cured; for in the Phocian Anticyra, they add, grows a sesame-like medicinal plant with which the Oetaean hellebore is prepared.

4 Now Anticyra still endures, but Cirrha and Crisa have been destroyed, the former earlier, by the Crisaeans, and Crisa itself later, by Eurylochus the Thessalian, at the time of the Crisaean War.​172 For the Crisaeans, already prosperous because of the duties levied on importations from Sicily and Italy,  p353 419proceeded to impose harsh taxes on those who came to visit the temple,​173 even contrary to the decrees of the Amphictyons. And the same thing also happened in the case of the Amphissians, who belonged to the Ozolian Locrians. For these too, coming over, not only restored Crisa and proceeded to put under cultivation again the plain which had been consecrated by the Amphictyons, but were worse in their dealings with foreigners than the Crisaeans of old had been. Accordingly, the Amphictyons punished these too, and gave the territory back to the god. The temple, too, has been much neglected, though in earlier times it was held in exceedingly great honour. Clear proofs of this are the treasure-houses, built both by peoples and by potentates, in which they deposited not only money which they had dedicated to the god, but also works of the best artists; and also the Pythian Games, and the great number of the recorded oracles.

5 They say that the seat of the oracle is a cave that is hollowed out deep down in the earth, with a rather narrow mouth, from which arises breath that inspires a divine frenzy; and that over the mouth is placed a high tripod, mounting which the Pythian priestess receives the breath and then utters oracles in both verse and prose, though the latter too are put into verse by poets who are in the service of the temple. They say that the first to become Pythian priestess was Phemonoê; and that both the prophetess and the city were so called​174 from the word pythésthai,"​175 though the first syllable was  p355 lengthened, as in āthanatos, ākamatos, and diākonos.​176 Now the following is the idea which leads to the founding of cities and to the holding of common sanctuaries in high esteem: men came together by cities and by tribes, because they naturally tend to hold things in common, and at the same time because of their need of one another; and they met at the sacred places that were common to them for the same reasons, holding festivals and general assemblies; for everything of this kind tends to friendship, beginning with eating at the same table, drinking libations together, and lodging under the same roof; and the greater the number of the sojourners and the greater the number of the places whence they came, the greater was thought to be the use of their coming together.

6 Now although the greatest share of honour was paid to this temple because of its oracle, since of all oracles in the world it had the repute of being the most truthful, yet the position of the place added something. For it is almost in the centre of Greece taken as a whole, between the country inside the Isthmus and that outside it; and it was also believed to be in the centre of the inhabited world, and people called it the navel of the earth, in addition fabricating a myth, which is told by Pindar, that the two eagles (some say crows) which had been set free by Zeus met there, 420one coming from the west and the other from the east. There is also a kind of navel to be seen in the temple; it is draped with fillets, and on it are the two likenesses of the birds of the myth.

7 Such being the advantages of the site of Delphi, the people easily came together there, and  p357 especially those who lived near it. And indeed the Amphictyonic League was organised from the latter, both to deliberate concerning common affairs and to keep the superintendence of the temple more in common, because much money and many votive offerings were deposited there, requiring great vigilance and holiness. Now the facts of olden times are unknown, but among the names recorded Acrisius is reputed to have been the first to administer the Amphictyony and to determine the cities that were to have a part in the council and to give a vote to each city, to one city separately or to another jointly with a second or with several, and also to proclaim the Amphictyonic Rights — all the rights that cities have in their dealings with cities. Later there were several other administrations, until this organisation, like that of the Achaeans,​177 was dissolved. Now the first cities which came together are said to have been twelve, and each sent a Pylagoras,​178 the assembly convening twice a year, in spring and in late autumn; but later still more cities were added. They called the assembly Pylaea, both that of spring and that of late autumn, since they convened at Pylae, which is also called Thermopylae; and the Pylagorae sacrificed to Demeter. Now although at the outset only the people who lived near by had a share both in these things and in the oracle, later the people living at a distance also came and consulted the oracle and sent gifts and built treasure-houses, as, for instance, Croesus, and his father Alyattes, and some of the Italiotes,​179 and the Sicilians.

8 But wealth inspires envy, and is therefore  p359 difficult to guard, even if it is sacred. At present, certainly, the temple at Delphi is very poor, at least so far as money is concerned; but as for the votive offerings, although some of them have been carried off, most of them still remain. In earlier times the temple was very wealthy, as Homer states: "nor yet all the things which the stone threshold of the archer Phoebus Apollo enclosed in rocky Pytho."​180 The treasure-houses​181 clearly indicate its wealth, and also the plundering done by the Phocians, which kindled the Phocian War, or Sacred War, as it is called. Now this plundering took place in the time of Philip, the son of Amyntas, although writers have a notion of another and earlier plundering, in ancient times, 421in which the wealth mentioned by Homer was carried out of the temple. For, they add, not so much as a trace of it was saved down to those later times in which Onomarchus and his army, and Phaÿllus and his army,​182 robbed the temple; but the wealth then carried away was more recent than that mentioned by Homer; for there were deposited in treasure-houses offerings dedicated from spoils of war, preserving inscriptions on which were included the names of those who dedicated them; for instance, Gyges, Croesus, the Sybarites, and the Spinetae​183 who lived near the Adriatic, and so with the rest. And it would not  p361 be reasonable to suppose that the treasures of olden times were mixed up with these, as indeed is clearly indicated by other places that were ransacked by these men. Some, however, taking "aphetor"​184 to mean "treasure-house," and "threshold of the aphetor" to mean "under­ground repository of the treasure-house," say that that wealth was buried in the temple, and that Onomarchus and his army attempted to dig it up by night, but since great earthquakes took place they fled outside the temple and stopped their digging, and that their experience inspired all others with fear of making a similar attempt.

9 Of the temples, the one "with wings" must be placed among the myths; the second is said to be the work of Trophonius and Agamedes; and the present temple was built by the Amphictyons. In the sacred precinct is to be seen the tomb of Neoptolemus, which was made in accordance with an oracle, Machaereus, a Delphian, having slain him because, according to the myth, he was asking the god for redress for the murder of his father;​185 but according to all probability it was because he had attacked the temple. Branchus, who presided over the temple at Didyma, is called a descendant of Machaereus.

10 As for the contests at Delphi, there was one in early times between citharoedes, who sang a paean in honour of the god; it was instituted by the Delphians. But after the Crisaean war, in the time of Eurylochus,​186 the Amphictyons instituted equestrian and gymnastic contests in which the prize was a crown, and called them Pythian Games.  p363 And to the citharoedes​187 they added both flute-players and citharists who played without singing, who were to render a certain melody which is called the Pythian Nome. There are five parts of it: angkrousis, ampeira, katakeleusmos, iambi and dactyli, and syringes. Now the melody was composed by Timosthenes, the admiral of the second Ptolemy, who also compiled The Harbours, a work in ten books;​188 and through this melody he means to celebrate the contest between Apollo and the dragon, setting forth the prelude as anakrousis, the first onset of the contest as ampeira, the contest itself as katakeleusmos, the triumph following the victory as iambus and dactylus, the rhythms being in two measures, one of which, the dactyl, is appropriate to hymns of praise, 422whereas the other, the iamb, is suited to reproaches (compare the word "iambize"), and the expiration of the dragon as syringes, since with syringes189 players imitated the dragon as breathing its last in hissings.190

11 Ephorus, whom I am using more than any other authority because, as Polybius, a noteworthy writer, testifies, he exercises great care in such matters, seems to me sometimes to do the opposite  p365 of what he intended, and at the outset promised, to do. At any rate, after censuring those who love to insert myths in the text of their histories, and after praising the truth, he adds to his account of this oracle a kind of solemn promise, saying that he regards the truth as best in all cases, but particularly on this subject; for it is absurd, he says, if we always follow such a method in dealing with every other subject, and yet, when speaking of the oracle which is the most truthful of all, go on to use the accounts that are so untrustworthy and false. Yet, though he says this, he adds forthwith that historians take it for granted that Apollo, with Themis, devised the oracle because he wished to help our race; and then, speaking of the helpfulness of it, he says that Apollo challenged men to gentleness and inculcated self control by giving out oracles to some, commanding them to do certain things and forbidding them to do other things, and by absolutely refusing admittance to other consultants. Men believe that Apollo directs all this, he says, some believing that the god himself assumes a bodily form, others that he transmits to human beings a knowledge of his own will.

12 A little further on, when discussing who the Delphians were, he says that in olden times certain Parnassians who were called indigenous inhabited Parnassus; and that at this time Apollo, visiting the land, civilised the people by introducing cultivated fruits and cultured modes of life; and that when he set out from Athens to Delphi he went by the road  p367 which the Athenians now take when they conduct the Pythias;​191 and that when he arrived at the land of the Panopaeans he destroyed Tityus, a violent and lawless man who ruled there; and that the Parnassians joined him and informed him of another cruel man named Python and known as the Dragon, and that when Apollo shot at him with his arrows the Parnassians shouted "Hie Paean"​192 to encourage him (the origin, Ephorus adds, of the singing of the Paean which has been handed down as a custom for armies just before the clash of battle); and that the tent of Python was burnt by the Delphians at that time, just as they still burn it to this day in remembrance of what took place at that time. But what could be more mythical than Apollo shooting with arrows and punishing Tityuses and Pythons, 423and travelling from Athens to Delphi and visiting the whole earth? But if Ephorus did not take these stories for myths, by what right did he call the mythological Themis a woman, and the mythological Dragon a human being — unless he wished to confound the two types, history and myth? Similar to these statements are also those concerning the Aetolians; for after saying that from all time their country had been unravaged, he at one time says that Aeolians took up their abode there, having ejected the barbarians who were in possession of it, and at another time that Aetolus together with the  p369 Epeii from Elis took up their abode there, but that these were destroyed by the Aeolians, and that these latter were destroyed by Alcmaeon and Diomedes. But I return to the Phocians.

13 On the sea-coast after Anticyra, one comes first to a town called Opisthomarathus; then to a cape called Pharygium, where there is an anchoring-place; then to the harbour that is last, which, from the fact in the case, is called Mychus;​193 and it lies below Helicon and Ascrê. And the oracle of Abae is not far from this region, nor Ambrysus, nor Medeon,​194 which bears the same name as the Boeotian Medeon. Still farther in the interior, after Delphi, approximately towards the east, is a town Daulis, where Tereus the Thracian is said to have held sway (the scene of the mythical story of Philomela and Procnê is laid there, though Thucydides​195 says at Megara). The place got its name from the thickets, for they call thickets "dauli." Now Homer called it Daulis, but later writers call it Daulia. And "Cyparissus," in the words "held Cyparissus,"​196 is  p371 interpreted by writers in two ways, by some as bearing the same name as the tree,​197 and by others, by a slight change in the spelling, as a village below Lycoreia.198

14 Panopeus, the Phanoteus of to‑day, borders on the region of Lebadeia, and is the native land of Epeius. And the scene of the myth of Tityus is laid here. Homer says that the Phaeacians "led" Rhadamanthys into Euboea "to see Tityus, son of the Earth."​199 And a cave called Elarium is to be seen in the island, named after Elara the mother of Tityus; and also a hero-temple of Tityus, and certain honours which are paid to him. Near Lebadeia, also, is Trachin, a Phocian town, which bears the same name as the Oetaean city; and its inhabitants are called Trachinians.

15 Anemoreia​200 has been named from a circumstance connected with it: squalls of wind sweep down upon it from Catopterius,​201 as it is called, a beetling cliff extending from Parnassus. This place was a boundary between Delphi and the Phocians when the Lacedaemonians caused the Delphians to revolt from the common organisation of the Phocians,​202 and permitted them to form a separate State of their own. 424Some, however, call the place Anemoleia. And then one comes to Hyampolis (later called Hya by some), to which,  p373 as I have said,​203 the Hyantes were banished from Boeotia. This city is very far inland, near Parapotamii, and is not the same as Hyampeia on Parnassus; also far inland is Elateia, the largest city of the Phocians, which is unknown by Homer, for it is more recent than the Homeric age, and it is advantageously situated in that it commands the passes from Thessaly. Demosthenes​204 clearly indicates the natural advantage of its position when he speaks of the commotion that suddenly took place at Athens when a messenger came to the Prytanes with the report that Elateia had been captured.205

16 Parapotamii is a settlement on the Cephissus River near Phanoteus and Chaeroneia and Elateia. Theopompus says that this place is distant from Chaeroneia about forty stadia and marks the boundary of the territories of the Ambryseans, the Panopeans and the Daulians; and that it lies on a moderately high hill at the pass which leads from Boeotia into Phocis, between the mountains Parnassus and Hadylius, between which is left a tract of about five stadia divided by the Cephissus River, which affords a narrow pass on each side. The river, he continues, has its beginnings in the Phocian city Lilaea (just as Homer says, "and those who held Lilaea, at the fountains of Cephissus")​206 and empties into Lake Copais; and the mountain Hadylius extends over a  p375 distance of sixty stadia as far as the mountain Acontius,​207 where Orchomenus is situated. And Hesiod, too, describes at considerable length the river and the course of its flow, saying that it flows through the whole of Phocis in a winding and serpentine course; "like a dragon it goes in tortuous courses out past Panopeus and through strong Glechon and through Orchomenus."​208 The narrow pass in the neighbourhood of Parapotamii, or Parapotamia (for the name is spelled both ways), was an object of contention in the Phocian war, since the enemy had here their only entrance into Phocis. There are, besides the Phocian Cephissus, the one at Athens, the one in Salamis, a fourth and a fifth in Sicyon and in Scyros, and a sixth in Argos, which has its sources in Mt. Lyrceius; and at Apollonia near Epidamnus there is a fountain near the gymnasium which is called Cephissus.

17 Daphnus is now rased to the ground. It was at one time a city of Phocis, bordering on the Euboean Sea; it divided the Epicnemidian Locrians into two parts, one part in the direction of Boeotia, and the other facing Phocis, which at that time reached from sea to sea. 425And evidence of this  p377 is the Schedieium in Daphnus, which, they say, is the tomb of Schedius; but as I have said,​209 Daphnus "split"​210 Locris on either side, so that the Epicnemidian and Opuntian Locrians nowhere bordered on one another; but in later times the place was included within the boundaries of the Opuntians. Concerning Phocis, however, I have said enough.

The Loeb Editor's Notes:

169 In Greek, the "Hesperioi."

170 9.2.1.

171 Odyssey 8.75.

172 About 595 B.C.

173 Of Apollo at Delphi.

174 i.e. "Pȳthia" and "Pȳtho."

175 "To inquire of the oracle." Other mythologers more plausibly derived the two names from the verb pȳthesthai, "to rot" (note the length of the vowel), because the serpent Python, slain by Apollo, "rotted" at the place.

176 But in "diakonos" it is the second syllable that is long; and Homer does not use the word. For his uses of the first two with long a see (e.g.Iliad 6.108 and 5.4.

177 See 8.7.3.

178 i.e. Pylae-assemblyman.

179 Greeks living in Italy.

180 Iliad 9.404.

181 See vol. II, page 314, note 2.

182 352 B.C. Both were Phocian generals. For an account of their robberies see Diodorus Siculus 16.31‑61.

183 See 5.1.7.

184 The Greek word translated "archer" in the above citation from Homer.

185 Achilles.

186 On the time, compare 9.3.4 and footnote.

187 The citharoedes sang to the accompaniment of the cithara, and their contests must have had no connection with those of the flute-players and the citharists, whose performance (of the Pythian Nome) was a purely instrumental affair.

188 If the text of this sentence is correct, Strabo must be referring to the melody played as the Pythian Nome in his own time or in that of some authority whom he is quoting, earlier compositions perhaps having been superseded by that of Timosthenes (fl. about 270 B.C.). But since the invention of the Pythian Nome has been ascribed to Sacadas (Pollux 4.78), who was victorious with the flute at the Pythian Games about three hundred years before the time of Timosthenes (Pausanias 6.14.9 and 10.7.4), Guhrauer (Jahrb. für Class. Philol., Suppl. 8, 1875‑1876, pp311‑351) makes a strong argument for a lacuna in the Greek text, and for making Strabo say that the melody was composed by Sacadas and later merely described by Timosthenes in one of his numerous works. Cp. also H. Riemann, Handb. der Musikgeschichte 1919, vol. I, pp63‑65.

189 "Pipes."

190 "Pipings."

191 A sacred mission despatched from Athens to Pytho (Delphi). See 9.2.11.

192 A shout addressed to Apollo in his capacity as Paean (Healer).

193 Inmost recess.

194 On the site of Medeon see Frazer's Pausanias, note on 36.6.

195 But Thucydides (2.29) says: "In that country (Daulia) Itys suffered at the hands of Philomela and Procnê." Eustathius (note on Iliad 2.520) repeats without correction Strabo's erroneous reference.

196 Iliad 2.519.

197 Cyparissus is the word for cypress tree.

198 As the text stands, the meaning is obscure. The scholiast on Ven. A, Iliad 2.519, says that Cyparissus was named after Cyparissus the brother of Orchomenus, or after the cypress trees that grew in it; and the scholiast on Ven. B ibid., "Cyparissus, the present Apollonias, named after u371x Cyparissus." Pausanias (10.36.3) says: "In earlier times the name of the city was Cyparissus, and Homer, in his list of the Phocians, purposely used this name, though the city was even then called Anticyra" (see Frazer, note ad loc.). On the position of Lycoreia, see 9.3.3.

199 Od. 7.324.

200 "Wind-swept."

201 "The Look-out."

202 About 457 B.C. (see Thucydides 1.107‑108).

203 9.2.3. Cf. 10.3.4.

204 On the Crown, 168.

205 By Philip in 338 B.C.

206 Iliad 2.523.

207 Cf. 9.2.42.

208 A fragment otherwise unknown. (Frag. 37, Rzach).

209 9.3.1.

210 The Greek word for "split" is "schidzo," which Strabo connects etymologically with "Schedius" (see Iliad 2.517).

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