Strabo, Geography (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Str.].
<<Str. 1.2.22 Str. 1.2.25 (Greek English(2)) >>Str. 1.2.27

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. 1.2.25

To refute Crates would require a lengthened argument, which here perhaps may be considered out of place. Aristarchus we commend for rejecting the hypothesis of Crates, which is open to many objections, and for referring the expression of the poet to our Ethiopia. But the remainder of his statement we must discuss. First, his minute examination of the reading is altogether fruitless, for whichever way it may have been written, his interpretation is equally applicable to both; for what difference is there whether you say thus—In our opinion there are two Ethiopias, one towards the east, the other to the west; or thus—For they are as well towards the east as the west? Secondly, He makes false assumptions. For admitting that the poet was ignorant of the isthmus, [Note] and that he alludes to the Ethiopia contiguous to Egypt, when he says, The Ethiopians separated into two divisions; [Note]
Odyssey i. 23.
what then? Are they not separated into two divisions, and could the poet have thus expressed himself if he had been in ignorance? Is not Egypt, nay, are not the Egyptians, sepa-

-- 50 --

rated into two divisions by the Nile from the Delta to Syene, [Note] These towards the west, those towards the east?
And what else is Egypt, with the exception of the island formed by the river and overflowed by its waters; does it not lie on either side of the river both east and west?

Ethiopia runs in the same direction as Egypt, and resembles it both in its position with respect to the Nile, and in its other geographical circumstances. It is narrow, long, and subject to inundation; beyond the reach of this inundation it is desolate and parched, and unfitted for the habitation of man; some districts lying to the east and some to the west of [the river]. How then can we deny that it is separated into two divisions? Shall the Nile, which is looked upon by some people as the proper boundary line between Asia and Libya, [Note] and which extends southward in length more than 10,000 stadia, embracing in its breadth islands which contain populations of above ten thousand men, the largest of these being Meroe, the seat of empire and metropolis of the Ethiopians, be regarded as too insignificant to divide Ethiopia into two parts? The greatest obstacle which they who object to the river being made the line of demarcation between the two continents are able to allege, is, that Egypt and Ethiopia are by this means divided, one part of each being assigned to Libya, and the other to Asia, or, if this will not suit, the continents cannot be divided at all, or at least not by the river.



Strabo, Geography (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Str.].
<<Str. 1.2.22 Str. 1.2.25 (Greek English(2)) >>Str. 1.2.27

Powered by PhiloLogic