Strabo, Geography (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Str.].
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He then goes on to describe the manner in which they catch the sword-fish at Scyllæum. One look-out directs the whole body of fishers, who are in a vast number of small boats, each furnished with two oars, and two men to each boat. One man rows, the other stands on the prow, spear in hand, while the look-out has to signal the appearance of a sword-fish. (This fish, when swimming, has about a third of its body above water.) As it passes the boat, the fisher darts the spear from his hand, and when this is withdrawn, it leaves the sharp point with which it is furnished sticking in the flesh

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of the fish: this point is barbed, and loosely fixed to the spear for the purpose; it has a long end fastened to it; this they pay out to the wounded fish, till it is exhausted with its struggling and endeavours at escape. Afterwards they trail it to the shore, or, unless it is too large and full-grown, haul it into the boat. If the spear should fall into the sea, it is not lost, for it is jointed of oak and pine, so that when the oak sinks on account of its weight, it causes the other end to rise, and thus is easily recovered. It sometimes happens that the rower is wounded, even through the boat, and such is the size of the sword with which the galeote is armed, such the strength of the fish, and the method of the capture, that [in danger] it is not surpassed by the chase of the wild boar. From these facts (he says) we may conclude that Ulysses' wanderings were close to Sicily, since Homer describes Scylla [Note] as engaging in a pur- suit exactly similar to that which is carried on at Scyllæum. As to Charybdis, he describes just what takes place at the Strait of Messina: Each day she thrice disgorges, [Note]
Odyssey xii. 105.
instead of twice, being only a mistake, either of the scribe or the historian. 1.2.17

The customs of the inhabitants of Meninx [Note] closely correspond to the description of the Lotophagi. If any thing does not correspond, it should be attributed to change, or to misconception, or to poetical licence, which is made up of history, rhetoric, and fiction. Truth is the aim of the historical portion, as for instance in the Catalogue of Ships, [Note] where the poet informs us of the peculiarities of each place, that one is rocky, another the furthest city, that this abounds in doves. and that is maritime. A lively interest is the end of the rhetorical, as when he points to us the combat; and of the fiction, pleasure and astonishment. A mere fabrication would neither be persuasive nor Homeric; and we know that his poem

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is generally considered a scientific treatise, notwithstanding what Eratosthenes may say, when he bids us not to judge poems by the standard of intellect, nor yet look to them for history.

It is most probable that the line Nine days by cruel storms thence was I borne
Athwart the fishy deep, [Note]
Odyssey ix. 82.
should be understood of merely a short distance, (for cruel storms do not blow in a right course,) and not of being carried beyond the ocean, as if impelled by favourable winds. And, says Polybius, allowing the distance from Malea [Note] to the Pillars to be 22,500 stadia, and supposing the rate of passage was the same throughout the nine days, the voyage must have been accomplished at the speed of 2500 stadia per diem: now who has ever recorded that the passage from Lycia or Rhodes to Alexandria, a distance of 4000 stadia, has been made in two days? To those who demand how it was that Ulysses, though he journeyed thrice to Sicily, never once navigated the Strait, we reply that, long after his time, voyagers always sedulously avoided that route. 1.2.18

Such are the sentiments of Polybius; and in many respects they are correct enough; but when he discusses the voyage beyond the ocean, and enters on minute calculations of the proportion borne by the distance to the number of days, he is greatly mistaken. He alleges perpetually the words of the poet, Nine days by cruel storms thence was I borne;
but at the same time he takes no notice of this expression, which is his as well, And now borne sea-ward from the river stream
Of the Oceanus; [Note]
Odyss. xii. l.
and this, In the island of Ogygia, the centre of the sea, [Note]
Odyssey i. 50.

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and that the daughter of Atlas [Note] dwells there. And the following concerning the Phæacians, Remote amid the billowy deep, we hold
Our dwelling, utmost of all human kind,
And free from mixture with a foreign race. [Note]
Odyssey vi. 204.

These passages clearly refer to the Atlantic Ocean, [Note] but though so plainly expressed, Polybius slily manages to overlook them. Here he is altogether wrong, though quite correct about the wandering of Ulysses having taken place round Sicily and Italy, a fact which Homer establishes himself. Otherwise, what poet or writer could have persuaded the Neapolitans to assert that they possessed the tomb of Parthe- nope [Note] the Siren, or the inhabitants of Cumæ, Dicæarchia, [Note] and Vesuvius [to bear their testimony] to Pyriphlegethon, the Marsh of Acherusia, [Note] to the oracle of the dead which was near Aornus, [Note] and to Baius and Misenus, [Note] the companions of Ulysses. The same is the case with the Sirenussæ, and the Strait of Messina, and Scylla, and Charybdis, and æolus, all which things should neither be examined into too rigorously, nor yet [despised] as groundless and without foundation, alike remote from truth and historic value.

Strabo, Geography (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Str.].
<<Str. 1.2.14 Str. 1.2.17 (Greek English(2)) >>Str. 1.2.20

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