Strabo, Geography (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Str.].
<<Str. 1.2.21 Str. 1.2.24 (Greek English(2)) >>Str. 1.2.26

1.2.22

Persisting in his false views in relation to Homer, he goes on to say, He was ignorant that the Nile separated into many mouths, nay, he was not even acquainted with the name of the river, though Hesiod knew it well, for he even mentions it. [Note] In respect of the name, it is probable that it

-- 46 --

had not then been given to the river, and as to the mouths, if they were obscure and little known, will not every one excuse him for not being aware whether there were several or merely one? At that time, the river, its rising, and its mouths were considered, as they are at the present day, amongst the most remarkable, the most wonderful, and most worthy of recording of all the peculiarities of Egypt: who can suppose that those who told our poet of the country and river of Egypt, of Egyptian Thebes, and of Pharos, were unaware of the many embouchures of the Nile; or that being aware, they would not have described them, were it not that they were too generally known? But is it not inconceivable that Homer should describe Ethiopia, and the Sidonians, the Erembi, and the Exterior Sea, [Note]—should tell us that Ethiopia was divided into two parts, and yet nothing about those things which were nearer and better known? Certainly not, his not describing these things is no proof that he was not acquainted with them. He does not tell us of his own country, nor yet many other things. The most probable reason is, they were so generally known that they did not appear to him worth recording. [Note] 1.2.23

Again, they are entirely wrong when they allege as a mark of Homer's ignorance, that he describes the island of Pharos [Note] as entirely surrounded by the sea. On the contrary, it might be taken advantage of as a proof that our poet was not unacquainted with a single one of the points concerning Egypt which we have just been speaking of: and thus we

-- 47 --

demonstrate it:—Every one is prone to romance a little in narrating his travels, and Menelaus was no exception to the rule. He had been to Ethiopia, [Note] and there heard much discussion concerning the sources of the Nile, and the alluvium which it deposited, both along its course, and also at its mouths, and the large additions which it had thereby made to the main-land, so as fully to justify the remark of Herodotus [Note] that the whole of Egypt was a gift from the river; or if not the whole, at all events that part of it below the Delta, called Lower Egypt. He had heard too that Pharos was entirely surrounded by sea, and therefore misrepresented it as entirely surrounded by the sea, although it had long ago ceased so to be. Now the author of all this was Homer, and we therefore infer that he was not ignorant concerning either the sources or the mouths of the Nile. 1.2.24

They are again mistaken when they say that he was not aware of the isthmus between the sea of Egypt and the Arabian Gulf, and that his description is false, The Ethiopians, utmost of mankind,
These eastward situate, those toward the west. [Note]
Odyssey i. 23.
Nevertheless he is correct, and the criticism of the moderns is quite out of place: indeed, there is so little truth in the assertion that Homer was ignorant of this isthmus, that I will venture to affirm he was not only acquainted with it, but has also accurately defined it. But none of the grammarians, not

-- 48 --

even the chiefs of their number, Aristarchus and Crates, have understood the words of our poet on this subject. For they disagree as to the words which follow this expression of Homer, The Ethiopians, utmost of mankind,
These eastward situate, those towards the west, [Note]
Odyssey i. 23.
Aristarchus writing, These towards the west, and those towards the east,
and Crates, As well in the west as also in the east.
However, in regard to their hypotheses, it makes no difference whether the passage were written this way or that. One of them, in fact, takes what he considers the mathematical view of the case, and says that the torrid zone is occupied by the ocean, [Note] and that on each side of this there is a temperate zone, one inhabited by us and another opposite thereto. And as we call the Ethiopians, who are situated to the south, and dwell along the shores of the ocean, the most distant on the face of the inhabited globe; so he supposed that on the other side of the ocean, [Note] there were certain Ethiopians dwelling along the shores, who would in like manner be considered the most distant [Note] by the inhabitants of the other temperate zone; and thus that the Ethiopians were double, separated into two divisions by the ocean. He adds, as well in the west as also in the east, because as the celestial zodiac always corresponds to the terrestrial, and never exceeds in its obliquity the space occupied by the two Ethiopias, the sun's entire course must necessarily be within this space, and also his rising and setting, as it appears to different nations according to the sign which he may be in.

He (Crates) adopted this version, because he considered it the more astronomical. But it would have maintained his opinion of the division of the Ethiopians into two parts, and

-- 49 --

at the same time have been much more simple, had he said that the Ethiopians dwelt on either side of the ocean from the rising to the setting of the sun. In this case what difference does it make whether we follow his version, or adopt the reading of Aristarchus, These towards the west, and those towards the east?
which also means, that whether east or west, on either side of the ocean, Ethiopians dwell. But Aristarchus rejects this hypothesis. He says, The Ethiopians with whom we are acquainted, and who are farthest south from the Greeks, are those described by the poet as being separated into two divisions. But Ethiopia is not so separated as to form two countries, one situated towards the west, the other towards the east, but only one, that which lies south of the Greeks and adjoins Egypt; but of this the poet was ignorant, as well as of other matters enumerated by Apollodorus, which he has falsely stated concerning various places in his second book, containing the catalogue of the ships.



Strabo, Geography (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Str.].
<<Str. 1.2.21 Str. 1.2.24 (Greek English(2)) >>Str. 1.2.26

Powered by PhiloLogic