Strabo, Geography (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Str.].
<<Str. 1.2.34 Str. 1.2.36 (Greek English(2)) >>Str. 1.2.38

1.2.35

There are many who would make the Erembi a tribe of the Ethiopians, or of the Cephenes, or again of the Pygmies, and a thousand other fancies. These ought to be regarded with little trust; since their opinion is not only incredible, but they evidently labour under a certain confusion as to the

-- 68 --

different characters of history and fable. In the same category must be reckoned those who place the Sidonians and Phœnicians in the Persian Gulf, or somewhere else in the Ocean, and make the wanderings of Menelaus to have happened there. Not the least cause for mistrusting these writers is the manner in which they contradict each other. One half would have us believe that the Sidonians are a colony from the people whom they describe as located on the shores of the [Indian] Ocean, and who they say were called Phoenicians from the colour of the Erythræan Sea, while the others declare the opposite. [Note]

Some again would transport Ethiopia into our Phœnicia, and make Joppa the scene of the adventures of Andromeda; [Note] and this not from any ignorance of the topography of those places, but by a kind of mythic fiction similar to those of Hesiod and other writers censured by Apollodorus, who, however, couples Homer with them, without, as it appears, any cause. He cites as instances what Homer relates of the Euxine and Egypt, and accuses him of ignorance for pretending to speak the actual truth, and then recounting fable, all the while ignorantly mistaking it for fact. Will anyone then accuse Hesiod of ignorance on account of his Hemicynes, [Note] his Macro- cephali, [Note] and his Pygmies; or Homer for his like fables, and amongst others the Pygmies themselves; or Alcman [Note] for describing the Steganopodes; [Note] or æschylus for his Cyno- cephali, [Note] Sternophthalmi, [Note] and Monommati; [Note] when amongst prose writers, and in works bearing the appearance of veritable history, we frequently meet with similar narrations, and that without any admission of their having inserted such myths. Indeed it becomes immediately evident that they have woven together a tissue of myths not through ignorance

-- 69 --

of the real facts, but merely to amuse by a deceptive narration of the impossible and marvellous. If they appear to do this in ignorance, it is because they can romance more frequently and with greater plausibility on those things which are uncertain and unknown. This Theopompus plainly confesses in the announcement of his intention to relate the fables in his history in a better style than Herodotus, Ctesias, Hellanicus, and those who had written on the affairs of India. 1.2.36

Homer has described to us the phenomena of the ocean under the form of a myth; this [art] is very desirable in a poet; the idea of his Charybdis was taken from the ebb and flow of the tide, and was by no means a pure invention of his own, but derived from what he knew concerning the Strait of Sicily. [Note] And although he states that the ebb and flow occurred thrice during the four and twenty hours, instead of twice, (Each day she thrice disgorges, and each day
Thrice swallows it,") [Note]
Odyssey xii. 105.
we must suppose that he said this not through any ignorance of the fact, but for tragic effect, and to excite the fear which Circe endeavours to infuse into her arguments to deter Ulysses from departing, even at a little expense of truth. The following is the language Circe makes use of in her speech to him: Each day she thrice disgorges, and each day
Thrice swallows it. Ah! well-forewarn'd beware
What time she swallows, that thou come not nigh,
For not himself, Neptune, could snatch thee thence. [Note]
Odyssey xii. 105.
And yet when Ulysses was ingulfed in the eddy he was not lost. He tells us himself, 'It was the time when she absorb'd profound
The briny flood, but by a wave upborne,
I seized the branches fast of the wild fig,
To which bat-like I clung. [Note]
Odyssey xii. 431.

-- 70 --

And then having waited for the timbers of the wreck he seized hold of them, and thus saved himself. Circe, therefore, had exaggerated both the peril, and also the fact of its vomiting forth thrice a day instead of twice. However, this latter is a hyperbole which every one makes use of; thus we say thrice- happy and thrice-miserable.

So the poet, Thrice-happy Greeks! [Note]
Odyssey v. 306.
Again, O delightful, thrice-wished for! [Note]
Iliad viii. 488.
And again, O thrice and four times. [Note]
Iliad iii. 363.
Any one, too, might conclude from the passage itself that Homer even here hinted at the truth, for the long time which the remains of the wreck lay under water, which Ulysses, who was all the while hanging suspended to the branches, so anxiously desired to rise, accords much better with the ebb and flow taking place but twice during the night and day instead of thrice. Therefore hard
I clench'd the boughs, till she disgorged again
Both keel and mast. Not undesired by me
They came, though late; for at what hour the judge,
After decision made of numerous strifes
Between young candidates for honour, leaves
The forum, for refreshment's sake at home,
Then was it that the mast and keel emerged. [Note]
Odyssey xii. 437.

Every word of this indicates a considerable length of time, especially when he prolongs it to the evening, not merely saying at that time when the judge has risen, but having adjudicated on a vast number of cases, and therefore detained longer than usual. Otherwise his account of the return of the wreck would not have appeared likely, if he had brought it back again with the return of the wave, before it had been first carried a long way off.



Strabo, Geography (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Str.].
<<Str. 1.2.34 Str. 1.2.36 (Greek English(2)) >>Str. 1.2.38

Powered by PhiloLogic