Strabo, Geography (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Str.].
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To what we cited before concerning the temple of Ammon and Egypt, Eratosthenes adds, that to judge from appearances, Mount Casius [Note] was formerly covered by sea, and the whole district now known as Gerra lay under shoal water touching the bay of the Erythræan Sea, [Note] but was left dry on the union [Note] of the [Mediterranean] Sea [with the ocean]. A certain amphibology lurks here under this description of the district lying under shoal water and touching the bay of the Erythræan Sea; for to touch [Note] both means to be close to, and also to be in actual contact with, so that when applied to water it would signify that one flows into the other. I understand him to mean, that so long as the strait by the Pillars of Hercules remained closed, these marshes covered with shoal- water extended as far as the Arabian Gulf, but on that passage being forced open, the Mediterranean, discharging itself by the strait, became lower, and the land was left dry.

On the other hand, Hipparchus understands by the term touching, that the Mediterranean, being over-full, flowed into the Erythræan Sea, and he inquires how it could happen, that as the Mediterranean flowed out by this new vent at the Pillars of Hercules, the Erythræan Sea, which was all one with it, did not flow away too, and thus become lower, but has always retained the same level? and since Eratosthenes supposes the whole exterior sea to be confluent, it follows that the Western Ocean [Note] and the Erythræan Sea are all one; and thus [remarks Hipparchus] as a necessary consequence, the sea beyond the Pillars of Hercules, the Erythræan Sea, and that also which is confluent with it, [Note] have all the same level.

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14. But, Eratosthenes would reply, I never said that, in con- sequence of the repletion of the Mediterranean, it actually flowed into the Erythræan Sea, but only that it approached very near thereto: besides, it does not follow, that in one and the self-same sea, the level of its surface must be all the same; to instance the Mediterranean itself, no one, surely, will say it is of the same height at Lechæum [Note] and at Cenchrea. [Note] This answer Hipparchus anticipated in his Critique; and being aware of the opinion of Eratosthenes, was justified in attacking his arguments. But he ought not to have taken it for granted, that when Eratosthenes said the exterior sea was all one, he necessarily implied that its level was every where the same. 1.3.15

Hipparchus rejects as false the [account] of the inscription on the dolphins by the delegates from Cyrene, but the reason he assigns for this is insufficient, viz. that though Cyrene was built in times of which we have record, no one mentions the oracle, [Note] as being situated on the sea-shore. But what matters it that no historian has recorded this, when amongst the other proofs from which we infer that this place was formerly on the sea-shore, we number this of the dolphins which were set up, and the inscription, by the delegates from Cyrene? [Note] Hipparchus agrees that if the bottom of the sea were raised up, it would lift the water with it, and might therefore overflow the land as far as the locality of the oracle, or more than 3000 stadia from the shore; but he will not allow that the rising would be sufficient to overflow the Island of Pharos and the major portion of Egypt, since [he says] the elevation would not be sufficient to submerge these. He alleges that if before the opening of the passage at the Pillars of Hercules, the Mediterranean had been swollen to such an extent as Eratosthenes affirms, the whole of Libya, and the greater part of Europe and Asia, must long ago have been buried beneath its

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waves. Besides, he adds, in this case the Euxine would in certain places have been connected with the Adriatic, since in the vicinity of the Euxine, [near to its source,) [Note] the Ister is divided in its course, and flows into either sea, owing to the peculiarities of the ground. [Note] To this we object, that the Ister does not take its rise at all in the vicinity of the Euxine, but, on the contrary, beyond the mountains of the Adriatic; neither does it flow into both the seas, but into the Euxine alone, and only becomes divided just above its mouths. This latter, however, was an error into which he fell in common with many of his predecessors. They supposed that there was another river in addition to the former Ister, bearing the same name, which emptied itself into the Adriatic, and from which the country of Istria, through which it flowed, gained that appellation. It was by this river they believed Jason returned on his voyage from Colchis. 1.3.16

In order to lessen surprise at such changes as we have mentioned as causes of the inundations and other similar phenomena which are supposed to have produced Sicily, the islands of æolus, [Note] and the Pitllecussæ, it may be as well to compare with these others of a similar nature, which either now are, or else have been observed in other localities. A large array of such facts placed at once before the eye would serve to allay our astonishment; while that which is uncommon startles our perception, and manifests our general ignorance of the occurrences which take place in nature and physical existence. For instance, supposing any one should narrate the circumstances concerning Thera and the Therasian Islands, situated in the strait between Crete and the Cyrenaic, [Note] Thera being itself the metropolis of Cyrene; or those [in connexion

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with] Egypt, and many parts of Greece. For midway between Thera and Therasia flames rushed forth from the sea for the space of four days; causing the whole of it to boil and be all on fire; and after a little an island twelve stadia in circumference, composed of the burning mass, was thrown up, as if raised by machinery. After the cessation of this phenomenon, the Rhodians, then masters of the sea, were the first who dared to sail to the place, and they built there on the island a temple to the Asphalian [Note] Neptune. Posidonius remarks, that during an earthquake which occurred in Phœnicia, a city situated above Sidon was swallowed up, and that nearly two-thirds of Sidon also fell, but not suddenly, and therefore with no great loss of life. That the same occurred, though in a lighter form, throughout nearly the whole of Syria, and was felt even in some of the Cyclades and the Island of Eubœa, [Note] so that the fountains of Arethusa, a spring in Chalcis, were completely obstructed, and after some time forced for themselves another opening, and the whole island ceased not to experience shocks until a chasm was rent open in the earth in the plain of Lelanto, [Note] from which poured a river of burning mud.

Strabo, Geography (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Str.].
<<Str. 1.3.11 Str. 1.3.15 (Greek English(2)) >>Str. 1.3.18

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