Strabo, Geography (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Str.].
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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.

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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. 1.2.37

Apollodorus, who agrees with Eratosthenes, throws much blame upon Callimachus for asserting, in spite of his

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character as a grammarian, that Gaudus [Note] and Corcyra [Note] were among the scenes of Ulysses' wandering, such an opinion being altogether in defiance of Homer's statement, and his description of the places as situated in the exterior ocean. [Note]

This criticism is just if we suppose the wandering to have never actually occurred, and to be merely the result of Homer's imagination; but if it did take place, although in other regions, Apollodorus ought plainly to have stated which they were, and thus set right the mistake of Callimachus. Since, however, after such evidence as we have produced, we cannot believe the whole account to be a fiction, and since no other more likely places have as yet been named, we hold that the grammarian is absolved from blame. 1.2.38

Demetrius of Skepsis is also wrong, and, in fact, the cause of some of the mistakes of Apollodorus. He eagerly objects to the statement of Neanthes of Cyzicus, that the Argonauts, when they sailed to the Phasis, [Note] founded at Cyzicus the temples of the Idæan Mother. [Note] Though their voyage is attested both by Homer and other writers, he denies that Homer had any knowledge whatever of the departure of Jason to the Phasis. In so doing, he not only contradicts the very words of Homer, but even his own assertions. The poet informs us that Achilles, having ravaged Lesbos [Note] and other districts, spared Lemnos [Note] and the adjoining islands, on account of his relationship with Jason and his son Euneos, [Note] who then had possession of the island. How should he know of a relationship, identity of race, or other connexion existing between Achilles and Jason, which, after all, was nothing else than that they were both Thessalians, one being of Iolcos, [Note] the other of the Achæan Pthiotis, [Note] and yet

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was not aware how it happened that Jason, who was a Thes- salian of Iolcos, should leave no descendants in the land of his nativity, but establish his son as ruler of Lemnos? Homer then was familiar with the history of Pelias and the daughters of Pelias, of Alcestis, who was the most charming of them all, and of her son Eumelus, whom Alcestis, praised
For beauty above all her sisters fair,
In Thessaly to king Admetus bore, [Note]
Iliad ii. 714.
and was yet ignorant of all that befell Jason, and Argo, and the Argonauts, matters on the actual occurrence of which all the world is agreed. The tale then of their voyage in the ocean from æeta, was a mere fiction, for which he had no authority in history.

Strabo, Geography (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Str.].
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