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Bill Thayer

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This webpage reproduces a section of
The Geography


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

The text is in the public domain.

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(Vol. I) Strabo

 p419  Book II Chapter 5 (beginning)

1 (109) Since the taking in hand of my proposed task naturally follows the criticisms of my predecessors, let me make a second beginning by saying that the person who attempts to write an account of the countries of the earth must take many of the physical and mathematical principles as hypotheses and elaborate his whole treatise with reference to their intent and authority. For, as I have already said,​150 no architect or engineer would be competent even to fix the site of a house or a city properly if he had no conception beforehand of "climata" and of the celestial phenomena, and of geometrical figures and magnitudes and heat and cold and other such things — much less a person who would fix positions for the whole of the inhabited world. For the mere drawing on one and the same plane surface of Iberia and India and the  p421 countries that lie between them and, in spite of its being a plane surface, the plotting the sun's position at its settings, risings, and in meridian, as though these positions were fixed for all the people of the world — merely this exercise gives to the man who has previously conceived of the arrangement and movement of the celestial bodies and grasped the fact that it is depicted for the moment as a plane surface for the convenience of the eye — merely this exercise, I say, gives to that man instruction that is truly geographical, but to the man not thus qualified it does not. Indeed, the case is not the same with us when we are dealing with geography as it is when we are travelling great plains (those of Babylonia, for example) or over the sea: then all that is in front of us and behind us and on either side of us is presented to our minds as a plane surface and offers no varying aspects with reference to the celestial bodies or the movements or the positions of the sun and the other stars relatively to us; but when we are dealing with geography the like parts must never present themselves to our minds in that way. The sailor on the open sea, or the man who travels through a level country, is guided by certain popular notions (and these notions impel not only the uneducated man but the man of affairs as well to act in the self-same way), because he is unfamiliar with the heavenly bodies and ignorant of the varying aspects of things with reference to them. 110For he sees the sun rise, pass the meridian, and set, but how it comes about he does not consider; for, indeed, such knowledge is not useful to him with reference to the task before him, any more than it is useful for him to know whether or not his  p423 body stands parallel to that of his neighbour. But perhaps he does consider these matters, and yet holds opinions opposed to the principles of mathematics — just as the natives of any given place do; for a man's place occasions such blunders. But the geographer does not write for the native of any particular place, nor yet does he write for the man of affairs of the kind who has paid no attention to the mathematical sciences properly so‑called; nor, to be sure, does he write for the harvest-hand or the ditch-digger, but for the man who can be persuaded that the earth as a whole is such as the mathematicians represent it to be, and also all that relates to such an hypothesis. And the geographer urges upon his students that they first master those principles and then consider the subsequent problems; for, he declares, he will speak only of the results which follow from those principles; and hence his students will the more unerringly make the application of his teachings if they listen as mathematicians; but he refuses to teach geography to persons not thus qualified.

2 Now as for the matters which he regards as fundamental principles of his science, the geographer must rely upon the geometricians who have measured the earth as a whole; and in their turn the geometricians must rely upon the astronomers; and again the astronomers upon the physicists. Physics is a kind of Arete;​151 by Aretai they mean those sciences that postulate nothing but depend upon themselves, and contain within themselves their own  p425 principles as well as the proofs thereof. Now what we are taught by the physicists is as follows: The universe and the heavens are sphere-shaped. The tendency of the bodies that have weight is towards the centre. And, having taken its position about this centre in the form of a sphere, the earth remains homocentric with the heavens, as does also the axis through it, which axis extends also through the centre of the heavens. The heavens revolve round both the earth and its axis from east to west; and along with the heavens revolve the fixed stars, with the same rapidity as the vault of the heavens. Now the fixed stars move along parallel circles, and the best known parallel circles are the equator, the two tropics, and the arctic circles; whereas the planets and the sun and the moon move along certain oblique circles whose positions lie in the zodiac. Now the astronomers first accept these principles, either in whole or in part, and then work out the subsequent problems, namely, the movements of the heavenly bodies, their revolutions, their eclipses, their sizes, their respective distances, and a host of other things. And, in the same way, the geometricians, in measuring the earth as a whole, adhere to the doctrines of the physicists and the astronomers, and, in their turn, the geographers adhere to those of the geometricians.

3 111Thus we must take as an hypothesis that the heavens have five zones, and that the earth also has five zones, and that the terrestrial zones have the same names as the celestial zones (I have already stated the reasons for this division into zones).​152 The limits of the zones can be defined by circles drawn on both sides of the equator and parallel to it,  p427 namely, by two circles which enclose the torrid zone, and by two others, following upon these, which form the two temperate zones next to the torrid zone and the two frigid zones next to the temperate zones. Beneath each of the celestial circles falls the corresponding terrestrial circle which bears the same name: and, in like manner, beneath the celestial zone, the terrestrial zone. Now they call "temperate" the zones that can be inhabited; the others they call uninhabitable, the one on account of the heat, and the other on account of the cold. They proceed in the same manner with reference to the tropic and the arctic circles (that is, in countries that admit of arctic circles):​153 they define their limits by giving the terrestrial circles the same names as the celestial — and thus they define all the terrestrial circles that fall beneath the several celestial circles. Since the celestial equator cuts the whole heavens in two, the earth also must of necessity be cut in two by the terrestrial equator. Of the two hemispheres — I refer to the two celestial as well as the two terrestrial hemispheres — one is called "the northern hemisphere" and the other "the southern hemisphere"; so also, since the torrid zone is cut in two by the same circle, the one part of it will be the northern and the other the southern. It is clear that, of the temperate zones also, the one will be northern and the other southern, each bearing the name of the hemisphere in which it lies. That hemisphere is called "northern hemisphere" which contains that temperate zone in which, as you look from the east to the west, the pole is on your right hand and the equator on your left, or in which, as you look towards  p429 the south, the west is on your right hand and the east on your left; and that hemisphere is called "southern hemisphere," in which the opposite is true; and hence it is clear that we are in one of the two hemispheres (that is, of course, in the north), and that it is impossible for us to be in both. "Between them are great rivers; first, Oceanus", and then the torrid zone. But neither is there an Oceanus in the centre of our whole inhabited world, cleaving the whole of it, nor, to be sure, is there a torrid spot in it; nor yet, indeed, is there a portion of it to be found whose "climata" are opposite to the "climata"​154 which I have given for the northern temperate zone.155

4 By accepting these principles, then, and also by making use of the sun-dial and the other helps given him by the astronomer — by means of which are found, for the several inhabited localities, both the circles that are parallel to the equator and the circles that cut the former at right angles, the latter being drawn through the poles — the geometrician can measure the inhabited portion of the earth by visiting it and the rest of the earth by his calculation of the intervals. In the same way he can find the distance from the equator to the pole, 112which is a fourth part of the earth's largest circle; and when he has this distance, he multiplies it by four; and this is the circumference of the earth. Accordingly, just as the man who measures the earth gets his principles from the astronomer and the astronomer his from the physicist, so, too, the geographer must in the  p431 same way first take his point of departure from the man who has measured the earth as a whole, having confidence in him and in those in whom he, in his turn, had confidence, and then explain, in the first instance, our inhabited world — its size, shape, and character, and its relations to the earth as a whole; for this is the peculiar task of the geographer. Then, secondly, he must discuss in a fitting manner the several parts of the inhabited world, both land and sea, noting in passing wherein the subject has been treated inadequately by those of our predecessors whom we have believed to be the best authorities on these matters.

5 Now let us take as hypothesis that the earth together with the sea is sphere-shaped and that the surface of the earth is one and the same with that of the high seas; for the elevations on the earth's surface would disappear from consideration, because they are small in comparison with the great size of the earth and admit of being overlooked; and so we use "sphere-shaped" for figures of this kind, not as though they were turned on a lathe, nor yet as the geometrician uses the sphere for demonstration, but as an aid to our conception of the earth — and that, too, a rather rough conception. Now let us conceive of a sphere with five zones, and let the equator be drawn as a circle upon that sphere, and let a third circle be drawn parallel thereto, bounding the frigid zone in the northern hemisphere, and let a third circle be drawn through the poles, cutting the other two circles at right angles. Then, since the northern hemisphere contains two-fourths of the earth, which are formed by the equator with the circle that passes through the poles, a quadrilateral area is  p433 cut off in each of the two fourths. The northern side of the quadrilateral is half of the parallel next to the pole; the southern side is half of the equator; and the two remaining sides are segments of the circle that runs through the poles, these segments lying opposite to each other and being equal in length. Now in one of these two quadrilaterals (it would seem to make no difference in which one) we say that our inhabited world lies, washed on all sides by the sea and like an island; for, as I have already said above,​156 the evidence of our senses and of reason prove this. But if anyone disbelieves the evidence of reason, it would make no difference, from the point of view of the geographer, whether we make the inhabited world an island, or merely admit what experience has taught us, namely, that it is possible to sail round the inhabited world on both sides, from the east as well as from the west,​157 with the exception of a few intermediate stretches. And, as to these stretches, it makes no difference whether they are bounded by sea or by uninhabited land; for the geographer undertakes to describe the known parts of the inhabited world, but he leaves out of consideration the unknown parts of it — just as he does what is outside of it. 113And it will suffice to fill out and complete the outline of what we term "the island" by joining with a straight line the extreme points reached on the coasting-voyages made on both sides of the inhabited world.

6 So let us presuppose that the island lies in the aforesaid quadrilateral. We must then take as its  p435 size the figure that is obvious to our sense, which is obtained by abstracting from the entire size of the earth our hemisphere, then from this area its half, and in turn from this half the quadrilateral in which we say the inhabited world lies and it is by an analogous process that we must form our conception of the shape of the island, accommodating the obvious shape to our hypotheses.​158 But since the segment of the northern hemisphere that lies between the equator and the circle drawn parallel to it next to the pole is a spinning-whorl​159 in shape, and since the circle that passes through the pole, by cutting the northern hemisphere in two, also cuts the spinning-whorl in two and thus forms the quadrilateral, it will be clear that the quadrilateral in which the Atlantic Sea lies is half of a spinning-whorl's surface; and that the inhabited world is a chlamys-shaped​160 island in this quadrilateral, since it is less in size than half of the quadrilateral. This latter fact is clear from geometry, and also from the great extent of the enveloping sea which covers the extremities of the continents both in the east and west and contracts them to a tapering shape; and, in the third place, it  p437 is clear from the maximum length and breadth. Now the length of the inhabited world is seventy thousand stadia, being for the most part limited by a sea which still cannot be navigated because of its vastness and desolation; the breadth is less than thirty thousand stadia, being bounded by the regions that are uninhabitable on account either of heat or cold. For merely the part of the quadrilateral that is uninhabitable on account of the heat — since it has a breadth of eight thousand eight hundred stadia and a maximum length of one hundred and twenty six thousand stadia, that is, half the length of the equator — is more than half the inhabited world, and the remainder of the quadrilateral would be still more than that.161

7 In essential accord with all this are the views of Hipparchus. He says that, having taken as hypothesis the measurement of the earth as stated by Eratosthenes, he must then abstract the inhabited world from the earth in his discussion; for it will not make much difference with respect to the celestial phenomena for the several inhabited places whether the measurement followed is that of Eratosthenes or that given by the later geographers. Since, then, according to Eratosthenes, the equator measures two hundred and fifty two thousand stadia, the fourth  p439 part of it would be sixty three thousand stadia; and this is the distance from the equator to the pole, namely, fifteen sixtieths of the sixty intervals into which the equator is divided.​162 And the distance from the equator to the summer tropic is four sixtieths; 114and the summer tropic is the parallel drawn through Syene. Now the several distances are computed from the standard measures that are obvious to our senses. The summer tropic, for instance, must pass through Syene, because there, at the time of the summer solstice, the index of the sun-dial does not cast a shadow at noon. And the meridian through Syene is drawn approximately along the course of the Nile from Meroë to Alexandria, and this distance is about ten thousand stadia; and Syene must lie in the centre of that distance; so that the distance from Syene to Meroë is five thousand stadia. And when you have proceeded about three thousand stadia in a straight line south of Meroë, the country is no longer inhabitable on account of the heat, and therefore the parallel though these regions, being the same as that through the Cinnamon-producing Country, must be put down as the limit and the beginning of our inhabited world on the South. Since, then, the distance from Syene to Meroë is five thousand stadia, to which we have added the other three thousand stadia, the total distance from Syene to the confines of the inhabited world would be eight thousand stadia. But the distance from Syene to the equator is sixteen thousand eight hundred stadia (for that is what the four sixtieths amounts to, since each sixtieth is estimated at four thousand two  p441 hundred stadia), and therefore we should have eight thousand eight hundred stadia left as the distance from the confines of the inhabited world to the equator, and from Alexandria twenty-one thousand eight hundred. Again, all agree that the route by sea from Alexandria to Rhodes is in a straight line with the course of the Nile, as also the route thence along the coast of Caria and Ionia to the Troad, Byzantium, and the Borysthenes. Taking, therefore, the distances that are already known and sailed over, geographers inquire as to the regions beyond the Borysthenes that lie in a straight course with this line — as to how far they are inhabitable, and how far the northern parts of the inhabited world have their boundaries. Now the Roxolanians, the most remote of the known Scythians, live beyond the Borysthenes, though they are farther south than the most remote peoples of whom we have knowledge north of Britain; and the regions beyond the Roxolanians become at once uninhabitable because of the cold; and farther south than the Roxolanians are the Sarmatians who dwell beyond Lake Maeotis, and also the Scythians as far as the Eastern Scythians.

8 Now Pytheas of Massilia tells us that Thule, the most northerly of the Britannic Islands, is farthest north, and that there the circle of the summer tropic is the same as the arctic circle.​163 But from the other writers I learn nothing on the subject — neither that there exists a certain island by the name of Thule, nor whether the northern regions are inhabitable up to the point where the summer tropic becomes the  p443 arctic circle. But in my opinion the northern limit of the inhabited world is much farther to the south than where the summer tropic becomes the arctic circle. 115For modern scientific writers are not able to speak of any country north of Ierne, which lies to the north of Britain and near thereto, and is the home of men who are complete savages and lead a miserable existence because of the cold; and therefore, in my opinion, the northern limit of our inhabited world is to be placed there. But if the parallel though Byzantium passes approximately through Massilia, as Hipparchus says on the testimony of Pytheas (Hipparchus says, namely, that in Byzantium the relation of the index to the shadow is the same as that which Pytheas gave for Massilia), and if the parallel through the mouth of the Borysthenes is about three thousand eight hundred stadia distant from that parallel, then, in view of the distance from Massilia to Britain,​164 the circle drawn through the mouth of the Borysthenes would fall somewhere in Britain. But Pytheas, who misleads people everywhere else, is, I think, wholly in error here too; for it has been admitted by many writers that all the line drawn from the Pillars to the regions of Strait of Sicily and of Athens, and of Rhodes, lies on the same parallel; and it is admitted that the part of that line from the Pillars to the strait runs approximately through the middle of the sea. And further, sailors say that the longest passage from Celtica to Libya, namely, that from the Galatic Gulf, is five thousand stadia, and that this is also the greatest width of the Mediterranean sea, and therefore the distance from  p445 the line in question to the head of the gulf would be two thousand five hundred stadia and less than that to Massilia; for Massilia is farther south than the head of the gulf. But the distance from Rhodes to Byzantium is about four thousand nine hundred stadia, and therefore the parallel through Byzantium would be much farther north than that through Massilia. And the distance from Massilia to Britain may possibly correspond to that from Byzantium to the mouth of the Borysthenes; but the distance that should be set down for the stretch from Britain to Ierne is no longer a known quantity, nor is it known whether there are still inhabitable regions farther on, nor need we concern ourselves about the question if we give heed to what Hesiod said above. For, so far as science is concerned, it is sufficient to assume that, just as it was appropriate in the case of the southern regions to fix a limit of the habitable world by proceeding three thousand stadia south of Meroë (not indeed as though this were a very accurate limit, but as one that at least approximates accuracy), so in this case too we must reckon not more than three thousand stadia north of Britain, or only a little more, say, four thousand stadia. And for governmental purposes​a there would be no advantage in knowing such countries and their inhabitants, and particularly if the people live in islands which are of such a nature that they can neither injure nor benefit us in any way because of their isolation. For although they could have held even Britain, the Romans scorned to do so, because they saw that there was nothing at all to fear from the Britons (for they are not strong enough to cross  p447 over and attack us), 116and that no corresponding advantage was to be gained by taking and holding their country. For it seems that at present more revenue is derived from the duty on their commerce than the tribute could bring in, if we deduct the expense involved in the maintenance of an army for the purpose of guarding the island and collecting the tribute; and the unprofitableness of an occupation would be still greater in the case of the other islands about Britain.

9 Now if to the distance from Rhodes to the mouth of the Borysthenes we add the distance of four thousand stadia from the mouth of the Borysthenes to the northern regions, the sum total amounts to twelve thousand seven hundred stadia, but the distance from Rhodes to the southern limit of the inhabited world is sixteen thousand six hundred stadia, and therefore the total breadth of the inhabited world would be less than thirty thousand stadia from south to north. Its length, however, is estimated at about seventy thousand stadia; and this is, from west to east, the distance from the capes of Iberia to the capes of India, measured partly by land journeys and partly by sea voyages. And that this length falls within the quadrilateral mentioned above is clear from the relation of the parallels to the equator; hence the length of the inhabited world is more than double its breadth. Its shape is described as about like that of a chlamys; for when we visit the several regions of the inhabited world, we discover a considerable contraction in its width at its extremities, and particularly at its western extremities.

10 We have now traced on a spherical surface the  p449 area in which we say the inhabited world is situated;​165 and the man who would most closely approximate the truth by constructed figures must needs take for the earth a globe like that of Crates, and lay off on it the quadrilateral, and within the quadrilateral put down the map of the inhabited world. But since the need of a large globe, so that the section in question (being a small fraction of the globe) may be large enough to receive distinctly the appropriate parts of the inhabited world and to present the proper appearance to observers, it is better for him to construct a globe of adequate size, if he can do so; and let it be no less than ten feet in diameter. But if he cannot construct a globe of adequate size or not much smaller, he should sketch his map on a plane surface of at least seven feet.​166 For it will make only a slight difference if we draw straight lines to represent the circles, that is, the parallels and meridians, by means of which we clearly indicate the "climata," the winds and the other differences, and also the positions of the parts of the earth with reference both to each other and to the heavenly bodies — drawing parallel lines for the parallels and perpendicular lines for the circles perpendicular to the parallels, 117for our imagination can easily transfer to the globular and spherical surface the figure or magnitude seen by the eye on a plane surface. And the same applies also, we say, to the oblique circles and their corresponding straight lines. Although the several meridians drawn through the pole all converge on the sphere toward one point, yet on our  p451 plane-surface chart it will not be a matter of importance merely to make the straight meridian lines converge slightly;​167 for there is no necessity for this in many cases, nor are the converging straight lines, when the lines of the sphere are transferred to the plane chart and drawn as straight lines, as easily understood as are the curved lines on the sphere.

11 And so in what I have to say hereafter I shall assume that our drawing has been made on a plane chart. Now I shall tell what part of the land and sea I have myself visited and concerning what part I have trusted to accounts given by others by word of mouth or in writing. I have travelled westward from Armenia as far as the regions of Tyrrhenia​168 opposite Sardinia, and southward from the Euxine Sea as far as the frontiers of Ethiopia. And you could not find another person among the writers on geography who has travelled over much more of the distances just mentioned than I; indeed, those who have travelled more than I in the western regions have not covered as much ground in the east, and those who have travelled more in the eastern countries are behind me in the western; and the same holds true in regard to the regions towards the south and north. However, the greater part of our material both they and I receive by hearsay and then form our ideas of shape and size and also other characteristics, qualitative and quantitative, precisely as the mind forms its ideas from sense impressions — for our senses report the shape, colour, and size of an apple, and also its smell, feel, and flavour; and from all this the mind forms the concept of apple. So, too, even  p453 in the case of large figures, while the senses perceive only the parts, the mind forms a concept of the whole from what the senses have perceived. And men who are eager to learn proceed in just that way: they trust as organs of sense those who have seen or wandered over any region, no matter what, some in this and some in that part of the earth, and they form in one diagram their mental image of the whole inhabited world. Why, generals, too, though they do everything themselves, are not present everywhere, but they carry out successfully most of their measures through others, trusting the reports of messengers and sending their orders around in conformity with the reports they hear. And he who claims that only those have knowledge who have actually seen abolishes the criterion of the sense of hearing, though this sense is much more important than sight for the purposes of science.

12 In particular the writers of the present time can give a better account​169 of the Britons, the Germans, 118the peoples both north and south of the Ister, the Getans, the Tyregetans, the Bastarnians, and, furthermore, the peoples in the regions of the Caucasus, such as the Albanians and the Iberians.​170 Information has been given us also concerning Hyrcania and Bactriana by the writers of Parthian histories (Apollodorus of Artemita and his school), in which they marked off those countries more definitely than many other writers. Again, since the Romans have recently invaded Arabia Felix with an army, of which Aelius Gallus, my friend and companion, was the commander, and since the merchants  p455 of Alexandria are already sailing with fleets by way of the Nile and of the Arabian Gulf as far as India, these regions also have become far better known to us of to‑day than to our predecessors. At any rate, when Gallus was prefect of Egypt, I accompanied him and ascended the Nile as far as Syene and the frontiers of Ethiopia, and I learned that as many as one hundred and twenty vessels were sailing from Myos Hormos to India, whereas formerly, under the Ptolemies, only a very few ventured to undertake the voyage and to carry on traffic in Indian merchandise.

13 Now my first and most important concern, both for the purposes of science and for the needs of the state, is this — to try to give, in the simplest possible way, the shape and size of that part of the earth which falls within our map, indicating at the same time what the nature of that part is and what portion it is of the whole earth; for this is the task proper of the geographer. But to give an accurate account of the whole earth and of the whole "spinning-whorl"​171 of the zone of which I was speaking is the function of another science — for instance, take the question whether the "spinning-whorl" is inhabited in its other fourth also. And, indeed, if it is inhabited, it is not inhabited by men such as exist in our fourth, and we should have to regard it as another inhabited world — which is a plausible theory. It is mine, however, to describe what is in this our own inhabited world.

14 As I have said, the shape of the inhabited world is somewhat like a chlamys,​171 whose greatest breadth is represented by the line that runs through  p457 the Nile, a line that begins at the parallel that runs through the Cinnamon-producing Country and the island of the fugitive Egyptians,​172 and ends at the parallel through Ierne; its length is represented by that line drawn perpendicular thereto which runs from the west through the Pillars and the Strait of Sicily to Rhodes and the Gulf of Issus, passes along the Taurus Range, which girdles Asia, and ends at the Eastern Sea between India and the country of those Scythians who live beyond Bactriana. Accordingly, we must conceive of a parallelogram in which the chlamys-shaped figure is inscribed in such a way that the greatest length of the chlamys coincides with, and is equal to, the greatest length of the parallelogram, and likewise its greatest breadth and the breadth of the parallelogram. Now this chlamys-shaped figure is the inhabited world; and, as I said, its breadth is fixed by the parallelogram's outermost lines, 119which separate its inhabited and its uninhabited territory in both directions.​173 And these sides were: in the north, the parallel through Ierne; in the torrid region, the parallel through the Cinnamon-producing Country; hence these lines, if produced both east and west as far as those parts of the inhabited world that rise opposite to​174 them, will form a parallelogram with the meridian-lines that unite them at their extremities. Now, that the inhabited world is situated in this parallelogram is clear from this fact that neither its greatest breadth nor its greatest length fall outside thereof; and  p459 that its shape is like a chlamys is apparent from the fact that the extremities of its length, being washed away by the sea, taper off on both sides​175 and thus diminish its width there; and this is apparent from the reports of those who have sailed around the eastern and western parts in both directions.​176 For these navigators declare that the island called Taprobane is considerably south of India, inhabited nevertheless, and that it "rises opposite to" the Island of the Egyptians and the Cinnamon-nearing Country; and that, indeed, the temperature of the atmosphere is much the same as that of these latter places; and the region about the outlet of the Hyrcanian Sea are farther north than outermost Scythia beyond India, and the regions about Ierne are farther north still. A similar report is also made concerning the country outside the Pillars, namely, the promontory of Iberia which they call the Sacred Cape is the most westerly point of the inhabited world; and this cape lies approximately on the line that passes through Gades, the Pillars, the Strait of Sicily, and Rhodes. At all these points, they say, the shadows cast by the sun-dial agree, and the winds that blow in either direction come from the same direction,​177 and the lengths of the longest days and nights are the same; for the longest day and the longest night have fourteen and a half equinoctial hours. Again, the constellation of the Cabeiri is sometimes seen along the coast near Gades. And Poseidonius says that from a tall house in a city about four hundred stadia distant from these regions  p461 he saw a star which he judged to be Canopus itself, so judging from the fact that those who had proceeded but a short distance south of Iberia were in agreement that they saw Canopus, and also from scientific observations made at Cnidus; for, says he, the observatory of Eudoxus at Cnidus is not much higher than the dwelling-houses, and from there, it is said, Eudoxus saw the star Canopus; and, adds Poseidonius, Cnidus lies on the parallel of Rhodes, on which lie both Gades and the coastline thereabouts.

15 Now as you sail to the regions of the south you come to Libya; of this country the westernmost coast extends only slightly beyond Gades; then this coast, forming a narrow promontory, recedes towards the southeast and gradually broadens out to the point 120where it reaches the land of the Western Ethiopians. They are the most remote people south of the territory of Carthage, and they reach the parallel that runs through the Cinnamon-producing Country. But if you sail in the opposite direction from the Sacred Cape until you come to the people called Artabrians, your voyage is northward, and you have Lusitania on your right hand. Then all the rest of your voyage is eastward, thus making an obtuse angle to your former course, until you reach the headlands of the Pyrenees that abut on the ocean. The westerly parts of Britain lie opposite these headlands towards the north; and in like manner the islands called Cassiterides,​178 situated in the open sea approximately in the latitude of Britain, lie opposite to, and north of, the Artabrians. Therefore it is clear how greatly the east and west ends of  p463 the inhabited world have been narrowed down by the surrounding sea.

16 Such being the general shape of the inhabited world, it is clearly helpful to assume two straight lines that intersect each other at right angles, one of which will run through the entire greatest length and the other through the entire greatest breadth of the inhabited world; and the first line will be one of the parallels, and the second line one of the meridians; then it will be helpful to conceive of lines parallel to these two lines on either side of them and by them to divide the land and the sea with which we happen to be conversant. For thereby the shape of the inhabited world will prove more clearly to be such as I have described it, being judged by the extent of the lines, which lines are of different measurements, both those of the length and those of the breadth; and thereby too the "climata" will be better represented, both in the east and in the west, and likewise in the south and in the north. But since these straight lines must be drawn through known places, two of them have already been so drawn, I mean the two central lines mentioned above, the one representing the length and the other the breadth; and the other lines will be easily found by the help of these two. For by using these lines as "elements,"​179 so to speak, we can correlate the regions that are parallel, and the other positions, both geographical and astronomical, of inhabited places.

17 It is the sea more than anything else that defines the contours of the land and gives it its  p465 shape, by forming gulfs, deep seas, straits, and likewise isthmuses, peninsulas, and promontories; but both the rivers and the mountains assist the seas herein. It is through such natural features that we gain a clear conception of continents, nations, favourable positions of cities, and all the other diversified details with which our geographical map is filled. And among these details are the multitude of islands scattered both in the open seas and along the whole seaboard. And since different places exhibit different good and bad attributes, as also 121the advantages and inconveniences that result therefrom, some due to nature and others resulting from human design, the geographer should mention those that are due to nature; for they are permanent, whereas the adventitious attributes undergo changes. And also of the latter attributes he should indicate such as can persist for a long time, or else such as can not persist for long and yet somehow possess a certain distinction and fame, which, by enduring to later times, make a work of man, even when it no longer exists, a kind of natural attribute of a place; hence it is clear that these latter attributes must also be mentioned. Indeed, it is possible to say concerning many cities what Demosthenes said​180 of Olynthus and the cities round about it,​181 which have so completely disappeared, he says, that a visitor could not know even whether they had ever been founded. But nevertheless men like to visit these places as well as others, because they are eager to see at least the traces of deeds so widely famed, just as they like to visit the tombs of illustrious men. So, also, I have mentioned  p467 customs and constitutions that no longer exist, for the reason that utility urges me in their case just as it does in the case of deeds of action; that is, either to incite emulation or signal avoidance of this or that.

The Editor's Notes:

150 Page 25.

151 That is, a kind of "supreme excellence." Plutarch says that the Stoics recognized three "supreme excellences" (Aretai) among the sciences — namely, physics, ethics, and logic; and that they regarded all three as the expedient arts for the exercise of philosophy in the acquirement of knowledge — which is wisdom.

152 See 2.3.1.

153 See 2.2.2 and footnote.

154 See footnote 2, page 22.

155 If such were the case, such a portion would have to fall within the southern hemisphere.

156 See page 17.

157 That is, one could circumnavigate the inhabited world by setting out in any one of four ways — either north or south, from either the Pillars or the eastern coast of India — were it not for the few intermediate stretches that prevent it. Compare page 17.

158 Strabo has assumed that the earth is sphere-shaped and that the inhabited world is an island within a certain spherical quadrilateral. Then, after conforming the inhabited world to the limits of the quadrilateral, which represents only the obvious, or apparent, size and shape, he proceeds by argument to define more accurately both the size and the shape within the limits of the quadrilateral.

159 Approximately a truncated cone.

160 That is, mantle-shaped — a common designation for the shape of the inhabited world in Strabo's time. The skirt of the chlamys was circular; and the collar was cut in a straight line, or else in a circle with a larger radius and a shorter arc than the skirt. If the comparison be fairly accurate, then according to Strabo's description of the inhabited world we must think of the ends of the chlamys (which represent the eastern and western extremities of the inhabited world) as tapering, and so much so that a line joining the corners of the skirt passes through the middle of the chlamys. (See Tarbell, Classical Philology, vol. I page 286.)º

161 The large quadrilateral in question is composed of (1) the inhabited world, (2) a strip one half the width of the torrid zone and 180° long, and (3) "the remainder." "The remainder" consists of two small quadrilaterals, one of which is east, the other west, of the inhabited world. By actual computation the strip of the torrid zone is more than half of the inhabited world, and "the remainder" is still more. Therefore the inhabited world covers less than half of the large quadrilateral in question. To illustrate the argument, draw a figure on a sphere as follows: Let AB be 180° of the equator; let CD be 180° of the parallel through the northern limit of the inhabited world; join A and C, and B and D; and then draw an arc of 180° parallel to the equator at 8,800 stadia north of the equator, and also two meridian-arcs from CD to AB through the eastern and western limits, respectively, of the inhabited world. Thus we have the large quadrilateral ACDB, and, within it, four small quadrilaterals, which constitute the three divisions above-mentioned.

162 Eratosthenes divided the circumference of the earth into sixty intervals, one interval being equal to 6°. Hipparchus seems to have been the first to divide the earth into three hundred and sixty degrees.

163 That is, at Thule the variable arctic circle has the fixed value of the summer tropic. Hence, according to Pytheas, the latitude of Thule would be the complement of that of the terrestrial tropic. Assuming that Pytheas placed the latter at 24° (as did Eratosthenes and Strabo), he placed Thule at 66°.

164 That is, 3,700 stadia.

165 That is, the quadrilateral.

166 In length apparently; thus the scale would suit 70,000 stadia, the length of the inhabited world.

167 That is, in view of the fact that no attempt is made to indicate curvature.

168 Tuscany.

169 That is, better than their predecessors. Compare 1.2.1.

170 The "Eastern Iberians." See page 227.

171 See 2.5.6.

172 The Sembritae, who revolted from Psammetichus in the seventh century B.C. and fled to an island of the Nile, north of Meroë. See Strabo 16.4.8 and 17.1.2. Herodotus speaks of them as "voluntary deserters" (2.30).

173 North and south.

174 That is, that "lie on the same parallel." See page 254.

175 See note on Chlamys, § 6 (preceding).

176 That is, north and south.

177 Strabo is referring to the periodic winds.

178 "Tin Islands"; now Scilly.

179 Or, as we would say, "axes of co-ordinates." (Strabo has in mind something similar to our system of co-ordinates in analytical geometry.)

180 Philippics 3.117.

181 Methone, Apollonia, and thirty-two other cities.

Thayer's Note:

a This is the earliest use known to me of the expression "close enough for government work".

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