|Strabo, Geography (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Str.].|
|<<Str. 1.1||Str. 1.1 (Greek English(2))||>>Str. 1.2|
[Note] IF the scientific investigation of any subject be the proper avocation of the philosopher, Geography, the science of which we propose to treat, is certainly entitled to a high place; and this is evident from many considerations. They who first ventured to handle the matter were distinguished men. Homer, Anaximander the Milesian, and Hecatæus, (his fellow-citizen according to Eratosthenes,) Democritus, Eudoxus, Dicæarchus, Ephorus, with many others, and after these Erastosthenes, Polybius, and Posidonius, all of them philosophers.
Nor is the great learning, through which alone this subject can be approached, possessed by any but a person acquainted with both human and divine things, [Note] and these attainments constitute what is called philosophy. In addition to its vast importance in regard to social life, and the art of government, Geography unfolds to us the celestial phenomena, acquaints us
with the occupants of the land and ocean, and the vegetation, fruits, and peculiarities of the various quarters of the earth, a knowledge of which marks him who cultivates it as a man earnest in the great problem of life and happiness.1.1.2
Admitting this, let us examine more in detail the points we have advanced.
And first, [we maintain,] that both we and our predecessors, amongst whom is Hipparchus, do justly regard Homer as the founder of geographical science, for he not only excelled all, ancient as well as modern, in the sublimity of his poetry, but also in his experience of social life. Thus it was that he not only exerted himself to become familiar with as many historic facts as possible, and transmit them to posterity, but also with the various regions of the inhabited land and sea, some intimately, others in a more general manner. For otherwise he would not have reached the utmost limits of the earth, traversing it in his imagination.1.1.3
First, he stated that the earth was entirely encompassed
by the ocean, as in truth it is; afterwards he described the
countries, specifying some by name, others more generally by
various indications, explicitly defining Libya, [Note] Ethiopia, the Sidonians, and the Erembi (by which latter are probably intended the Troglodyte Arabians); and alluding to those farther east and west as the lands washed by the ocean, for in ocean he believed both the sun and constellations to rise and
Now from the gently-swelling flood profound
Iliad vii. 421
The sun arising, with his earliest rays,
In his ascent to heaven smote on the fields. [Note]
And now the radiant sun in ocean sank,
Iliad viii. 485
Dragging night after him o'er all the earth. [Note]
He portrays the happiness of the people of the West, and
the salubrity of their climate, having no doubt heard of the
abundance of Iberia, [Note] which had attracted the arms of Hercules, [Note] afterwards of the Phoenicians, who acquired there an
extended rule, and finally of the Romans. There the airs of
Zephyr breathe, there the poet feigned the fields of Elysium,
when he tells us Menelaus was sent thither by the gods:—
Thee the gods
Odyssey iv. 563
Have destined to the blest Elysian isles,
Earth's utmost boundaries. Rhadamanthus there
For ever reigns, and there the human kind
Enjoy the easiest life; no snow is there,
No biting winter, and no drenching shower,
But Zephyr always gently from the sea
Breathes on them, to refresh the happy race. [Note]
The Isles of the Blest [Note] are on the extreme west of Maurusia, [Note] near where its shore runs parallel to the opposite coast of Spain; and it is clear he considered these regions also Blest, from their contiguity to the Islands.1.1.6
He tells us also, that the Ethiopians are far removed, and
bounded by the ocean: far removed,—
The Ethiopians, utmost of mankind,
Odyssey i. 23
These eastward situate, those toward the west. [Note]
Nor was he mistaken in calling them separated into two
divisions, as we shall presently show: and next to the ocean,—
For to the banks of the Oceanus,
Iliad i. 423
Where Ethiopia holds a feast to Jove,
He journey'd yesterday. [Note]
Only star of these denied
Iliad xviii. 489; Odyssey v. 275.
To slake his beams in Ocean's briny baths. [Note]
οἷος δ' ἄμμορός ἐστι λοετρῶν,
replacing οἴη by οἶς, with a view to make the adjective agree
with the Arctic Circle, which is masculine; instead of the Arctic Constellation, which is feminine. The expression of Heraclitus is far more preferable and Homeric, who thus figuratively describes the Arctic Circle as the Bear,—The Bear is the limit of the dawn and of the evening, and from the re- gion of the Bear we have fine weather. Now it is not the constellation of the Bear, but the Arctic Circle, which is the limit of the rising and the setting stars.
By the Bear, then, which he elsewhere calls the Wain, and describes as pursuing Orion, Homer means us to under- stand the Arctic Circle; and by the ocean, that horizon into which, and out of which, the stars rise and set. When he says that the Bear turns round and is deprived of the ocean, he was aware that the Arctic Circle [always] extended to the sign opposite the most northern point of the horizon. Adapting the words of the poet to this view, by that part of the earth nearest to the ocean we must understand the horizon, and by the Arctic Circle that which extends to the signs which seem to our senses to touch in succession the most northern point of the horizon. Thus, according to him, this portion of the earth is washed by the ocean. With the nations of the North he was well acquainted, although he does not mention them by name, and indeed at the present day there is no regular title by which they are all distinguished. He informs us of their mode of life, describing them as wanderers, noble milkers of mares, living on cheese, and without wealth. [Note]1.1.7
In the following speech of Juno, he states that the ocean
surrounds the earth.
For to the green earth's utmost bounds I go,
Iliad xiv. 200.
To visit there the parent of the gods,
Does he not here assert that ocean bounds all its extremities, and does it not surround these extremities? Again, in the
Hoplopœia, [Note] he places the ocean in a circle round the border
of Achilles' shield. Another proof of the extent of his knowledge, is his acquaintance with the ebb and flow of the sea,
calling it the ebbing ocean. [Note] Again,
Each day she thrice disgorges, and again
Odyss. xii. 105.
Thrice drinks, insatiate, the deluge down. [Note]
When down the smooth Oceanus impell'd
Odyssey xii. l.
By prosperous gales, my galley, once again,
Cleaving the billows of the spacious deep,
Had reach'd the ææan isle. [Note]
says, he speaks of an estuary or gulf, extending from the winter tropic towards the south pole. [Note] Now any one quitting this, might still be in the ocean; but for a person to leave the whole and still to be in the whole, is an impossibility. But Homer says, that leaving the flow of the river, the ship entered on the waves of the sea, which is the same as the ocean. If you take it otherwise you make him say, that departing from the ocean he came to the ocean. But this requires further discussion.1.1.8
Perception and experience alike inform us, that the earth we inhabit is an island: since wherever men have approached the termination of the land, the sea, which we designate ocean, has been met with: and reason assures us of the similarity of those places which our senses have not been permitted to survey. For in the east [Note] the land occupied by the Indians, and in the west by the Iberians and Maurusians, [Note] is wholly encompassed [by water], and so is the greater part on the south [Note] and north. [Note] And as to what remains as yet unexplored by us, because navigators, sailing from opposite points, have not hitherto fallen in with each other, it is not much, as any one may see who will compare the distances between those places with which we are already acquainted. Nor is it likely that the Atlantic Ocean is divided into two seas by narrow isthmuses so placed as to prevent circumnavigation: how much more probable that it is confluent and uninterrupted! Those who have returned from an attempt to circumnavigate
the earth, do not say they have been prevented from con- tinuing their voyage by any opposing continent, for the sea remained perfectly open, but through want of resolution, and the scarcity of provision. This theory too accords better with the ebb and flow of the ocean, for the phenomenon, both in the increase and diminution, is every where identical, or at all events has but little difference, as if produced by the agitation of one sea, and resulting from one cause.1.1.9
We must not credit Hipparchus, who combats this opinion, denying that the ocean is every where similarly affected; or that even if it were, it would not follow that the Atlantic flowed in a circle, and thus continually returned into itself. Seleucus, the Babylonian, is his authority for this assertion. For a further investigation of the ocean and its tides we refer to Posidonius and Athenodorus, who have fully discussed this subject: we will now only remark that this view agrees better with the uniformity of the phenomenon; and that the greater the amount of moisture surrounding the earth, the easier would the heavenly bodies be supplied with vapours from thence.1.1.10
Homer, besides the boundaries of the earth, which he fully describes, was likewise well acquainted with the Mediterranean. Starting from the Pillars, [Note] this sea is encompassed by Libya, Egypt, and Phoenicia, then by the coasts opposite Cyprus, the Solymi, [Note] Lycia, and Caria, and then by the shore which stretches between Mycale [Note] and Troas, and the adjacent islands, every one of which he mentions, as well as those of the Propontis [Note] and the Euxine, as far as Colchis, and the locality of Jason's expedition. Furthermore, he was acquainted with the Cimmerian Bosphorus, [Note] having known the Cimmerians, [Note] and that not merely by name, but as being familiar with themselves. About his time, or a little before, they had ravaged the whole country, from the Bos-
phorus to Ionia. Their climate he characterizes as dismal, in
the following lines:—
With clouds and darkness veil'd, on whom the sun
Odyssey xi. 15 and 19.
Deigns not to look with his beam-darting eye,
But sad night canopies the woeful race. [Note]
more at length, when we have occasion again to speak of Homer.
What we have already advanced is sufficient to prove that poet the father of geography. Those who followed in
his track are also well known as great men and true philosophers. The two immediately succeeding Homer, according
to Eratosthenes, were Anaximander, the disciple and fellow- citizen of Thales, and Hecatæus the Milesian. Anaximander
was the first to publish a geographical chart. Hecatæus left a work [on the same subject], which we can identify as his by means of his other writings.1.1.12
Many have testified to the amount of knowledge which this subject requires, and Hipparchus, in his Strictures on Eratosthenes, well observes, that no one can become really proficient in geography, either as a private individual or as a professor, without an acquaintance with astronomy, and a knowledge of eclipses. For instance, no one could tell whether Alexandria in Egypt were north or south of Babylon, nor yet the intervening distance, without observing the latitudes. [Note] Again, the only means we possess of becoming acquainted with the longitudes of different places is afforded by the eclipses of the sun and moon. Such are the very words of Hipparchus.1.1.13
Every one who undertakes to give an accurate description of a place, should be particular to add its astronomical and geometrical relations, explaining carefully its extent, distance, degrees of latitude, and climate. [Note] Even a builder before constructing a house, or an architect before laying out a city, would take these things into consideration; much more should he who examines the whole earth: for such things in a peculiar manner belong to him. In small distances a little deviation north or south does not signify, but when it is the whole circle of the earth, the north extends to the furthest confines of Scythia, [Note] or Keltica, [Note] and the south to the extremities of Ethiopia: there is a wide difference here. The case is the same should we inhabit India or Spain, one in the east, the other far west, and, as we are aware, the anti- podes [Note] to each other.1.1.14
The [motions] of the sun and stars, and the centripetal
force meet us on the very threshold of such subjects, and compel us to the study of astronomy, and the observation of such phenomena as each of us may notice; in which too, very considerable differences appear, according to the various points of observation. How could any one undertake to write accurately and with propriety on the differences of the various parts of the earth, who was ignorant of these matters? and although, if the undertaking were of a popular character, it might not be advisable to enter thoroughly into detail, still we should endeavour to include every thing which could be comprehended by the general reader.1.1.15
He who has thus elevated his mind, will he be satisfied
with any thing less than the whole world? If in his anxiety
accurately to portray the inhabited earth, he has dared to
survey heaven, and make use thereof for purposes of instruction, would it not seem childish were he to refrain from examining the whole earth, of which the inhabited is but a part,
its size, its features, and its position in the universe; whether
other portions are inhabited besides those on which we dwell,
and if so, their amount? What is the extent of the regions
not peopled? what their peculiarities, and the cause of their
remaining as they are? Thus it appears that the knowledge
of geography is connected with meteorology [Note] and geometry,
that it unites the things of earth to the things of heaven, as
though they were nearly allied, and not separated.
As far as heaven from earth. [Note]Iliad viii. 16
To the various subjects which it embraces let us add natural history, or the history of the animals, plants, and other different productions of the earth and sea, whether serviceable or useless, and my original statement will, I think, carry perfect conviction with it.
That he who should undertake this work would be a benefactor to mankind, reason and the voice of antiquity agree. The poets feign that they were the wisest heroes who travelled and wandered most in foreign climes: and to be familiar with many countries, and the disposition of the inhabitants, is, according to them, of vast importance. Nestor prides him-
So does Menelaus:—
Cyprus, Phœnicia, Sidon, and the shores
Odyssey iv. 83.
Of Egypt, roaming without hope I reach'd;
In distant Ethiopia thence arrived,
And Libya, where the lambs their foreheads show
With budding horns defended soon as yean'd. [Note]
There thrice within the year the flocks produce. [Note]Odyssey iv. 86.
the city with an hundred gates,Iliad ix. 383, et seq.
Whence twenty thousand chariots rush to war. [Note]
Such information greatly enlarges our sphere of knowledge, by informing us of the nature of the country, its botanical and zoological peculiarities. To these should be added its marine history; for we are in a certain sense amphibious, not exclusively connected with the land, but with the sea as well. Hercules, on account of his vast experience and observation, was described as skilled in mighty works. [Note]
All that we have previously stated is confirmed both by the testimony of antiquity and by reason. One consideration however appears to bear in a peculiar manner on the case in point; viz. the importance of geography in a political view. For the sea and the earth in which we dwell furnish theatres
for action; limited, for limited actions; vast, for grander
deeds; but that which contains them all, and is the scene of
the greatest undertakings, constitutes what we term the habitable earth; and they are the greatest generals who, subduing
nations and kingdoms under one sceptre, and one political
administration, have acquired dominion over land and sea. It is
clear then, that geography is essential to all the transactions of
the statesman, informing us, as it does, of the position of the
continents, seas, and oceans of the whole habitable earth. Information of especial interest to those who are concerned to
know the exact truth of such particulars, and whether the places
have been explored or not: for government will certainly be better administered where the size and position of the country, its
own peculiarities, and those of the surrounding districts, are
understood. Forasmuch as there are many sovereigns who rule
in different regions, and some stretch their dominion over others'
territories, and undertake the government of different nations
and kingdoms, and thus enlarge the extent of their dominion,
it is not possible that either themselves, nor yet writers on
geography, should be equally acquainted with the whole, but
to both there is a great deal more or less known. Indeed,
were the whole earth under one government and one administration, it is hardly possible that we should be informed of
every locality in an equal degree; for even then we should be
most acquainted with the places nearest us: and after all, it
is better that we should have a more perfect description of
these, since, on account of their proximity, there is greater
reed for it. We see there is no reason to be surprised that
there should be one chorographer [Note] for the Indians, another for
the Ethiopians, and a third for the Greeks and Romans.
What use would it be to the Indians if a geographer should
thus describe Bœotia to them, in the words of Homer:—
The dwellers on the rocks
Iliad ii. 496.
Of Aulis follow'd, with the hardy clans
Of Hyria, Schœnus, Scolus. [Note]
and their various territorial divisions would be useless, as it could lead to no advantage, which is the only criterion of the worth of such knowledge.1.1.17
Even if we descend to the consideration of such trivial matters as hunting, the case is still the same; for he will be most successful in the chase who is acquainted with the size and nature of the wood, and one familiar with the locality will be the most competent to superintend an encampment, an ambush, or a march. But it is in great undertakings that the truth shines out in all its brilliancy, for here, while the success resulting from knowledge is grand, the consequences of ignorance are disastrous. The fleet of Agamemnon, for instance, ravaging Mysia, as if it had been the Trojan territory, was compelled to a shameful retreat. Likewise the Persians and Libyans, [Note] supposing certain straits to be impassable, were very near falling into great perils, and have left behind them memorials of their ignorance; the former a monument to Salganeus on the Euripus, near Chalcis, whom the Persians slew, for, as they thought, falsely conducting their fleet from the Gulf of Malea [Note] to the Euripus; and the latter to the memory of Pelorus, who was executed on a like occasion. At the time of the expedition of Xerxes, the coasts of Greece were covered with wrecks, and the emigrations from æolia and Ionia furnish numerous instances of the same calamity. On the other hand, matters have come to a prosperous termination, when judiciously directed by a knowledge of the locality. Thus it was at the pass of Thermopylæ that Ephialtes is reported to have pointed out to the Persians a pathway over the mountains, and so placed the band of Leonidas at their mercy, and opened to the Barbarians a passage into Pylæ. But passing over ancient occurrences, we think that the late expeditions
of the Romans against the Parthians furnish an excellent ex- ample, where, as in those against the Germans and Kelts, the Barbarians, taking advantage of their situation, [carried on the war] in marshes, woods, and pathless deserts, deceiving the ignorant enemy as to the position of different places, and concealing the roads, and the means of obtaining food and necessaries.1.1.18
As we have said, this science has an especial reference to the occupations and requirements of statesmen, with whom also political and ethical philosophy is mainly concerned; and here is an evidence. We distinguish the different kinds of civil government by the office of their chief men, denominating one government a monarchy, or kingdom, another an aristocracy, a third a democracy; for so many we consider are the forms of government, and we designate them by these names, because from them they derive their primary characteristic. For the laws which emanate from the sovereign, from the aristocracy, and from the people all are different. The law is in fact a type of the form of government. It is on this account that some define right to be the interest of the strongest. If, therefore, political philosophy is advantageous to the ruler, and geography in the actual government of the country, this latter seems to possess some little superiority. This superiority is most observable in real service.1.1.19
But even the theoretical portion of geography is by no means contemptible. On the one hand, it embraces the arts, mathematics, and natural science; on the other, history and fable. Not that this latter can have any distinct advantage: for instance, if any one should relate to us the wanderings of Ulysses, Menelaus, and Jason, he would not seem to have added directly to our fund of practical knowledge thereby, (which is the only thing men of the world are interested in,) unless he should convey useful examples of what those wanderers were compelled to suffer, and at the same time afford matter of rational amusement to those who interest themselves in the places which gave birth to such fables. Practical men interest themselves in these pursuits, since they are at once commendable, and afford them pleasure; but yet not to any great extent. In this class, too, will be found those whose main object in life is pleasure and respectability: but these
by no means constitute the majority of mankind, who naturally prefer that which holds out some direct advantage. The geographer should therefore chiefly devote himself to what is practically important. He should follow the same rule in regard to history and the mathematics, selecting always that which is most useful, most intelligible, and most authentic.1.1.20
Geometry and astronomy, as we before remarked, seem absolutely indispensable in this science. This, in fact, is evident, that without some such assistance, it would be impossible to be accurately acquainted with the configuration of the earth; its climata, [Note] dimensions, and the like information.
As the size of the earth has been demonstrated by other
writers, we shall here take for granted and receive as accurate
what they have advanced. We shall also assume that the
earth is spheroidal, that its surface is likewise spheroidal, and
above all, that bodies have a tendency towards its centre,
which latter point is clear to the perception of the most average understanding. However we may show summarily that
the earth is spheroidal, from the consideration that all things
however distant tend to its centre, and that every body is attracted towards its centre of gravity; this is more distinctly
proved from observations of the sea and sky, for here the
evidence of the senses, and common observation, is alone requisite. The convexity of the sea is a further proof of this
to those who have sailed; for they cannot perceive lights at a
distance when placed at the same level as their eyes, but if
raised on high, they at once become perceptible to vision,
though at the same time further removed. So, when the eye
is raised, it sees what before was utterly imperceptible.
Homer speaks of this when he says,
Lifted up on the vast wave he quickly beheld afar. [Note]Odyssey v. 393.
that if the depth of the earth were infinite, [Note] such a revolution could not take place.1.1.21
Now there are some facts which we take to be established, viz. those with which every politician and general
should be familiar. For on no account should they be so
uninformed as to the heavens and the position of the earth, [Note]
that when they are in strange countries, where some of the
heavenly phenomena wear a different aspect to what they
have been accustomed, they should be in a consternation, and
Odyssey x. 190.
Know we, nor east, where rises or where sets
The all-enlightening sun. [Note]
if a man is neither properly acquainted with these things, nor with the variations of the horizon and arctic circle, and such similar elements of mathematics, how can he comprehend the matters treated of here? So for one who does not know a right line from a curve, nor yet a circle, nor a plane or spherical surface, nor the seven stars in the firmament composing the Great Bear, and such like, our work is entirely useless, at least for the present. Unless he first acquires such information, he is utterly incompetent to the study of geography. * So those who have written the works entitled On Ports, and Voyages Round the World, have performed their task imperfectly, since they have omitted to supply the requisite information from mathematics and astronomy.* [Note]1.1.22
The present undertaking is composed in a lucid style, suitable alike to the statesman and the general reader, after the fashion of my History. [Note] By a statesman we do not intend an illiterate person, but one who has gone through the course of a liberal and philosophical education. For a man who has bestowed no attention on virtue or intelligence, nor what constitutes them, must be incompetent either to blame or praise, still less to decide what actions are worthy to be placed on record.1.1.23
Having already compiled our Historical Memoirs, which, as we conceive, are a valuable addition both to political and moral philosophy, we have now determined to follow it up with the present work, which has been prepared on the same system as the former, and for the same class of readers, but more particularly for those who are in high stations of life. And as our former production contains only the most striking events in the lives of distinguished men, omitting trifling and unimportant incidents; so here it will be proper to dismiss small and doubtful particulars, and merely call attention to great and remarkable transactions, such in fact as are use-
fill, memorable, and entertaining. In the colossal works of the sculptor we do not descend into a minute examination of particulars, but look principally for perfection in the general ensemble. This is the only method of criticism applicable to the present work. Its proportions, so to speak, are colossal; it deals in the generalities and main outlines of things, except now and then, when some minor detail can be selected, calculated to be serviceable to the seeker after knowledge, or the man of business.
We now think we have demonstrated that our present undertaking is one that requires great care, and is well worthy of a philosopher.
|Strabo, Geography (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Str.].|
|<<Str. 1.1||Str. 1.1 (Greek English(2))||>>Str. 1.2|