Strabo, Geography (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Str.].
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He points out as a most interesting subject for disquisition the fact of our finding, often quite inland, two or three thousand stadia from the sea, vast numbers of muscle, oyster, and scallop-shells, and salt-water lakes. [Note] He gives as an

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instance, that about the temple of Ammon, [Note] and along the road to it for the space of 3000 stadia, there are yet found a vast amount of oyster shells, many salt-beds, and salt springs bubbling up, besides which are pointed out numerous fragments of wreck which they say have been cast up through some opening, and dolphins placed on pedestals with the inscription, Of the delegates from Cyrene. Herein he agrees with the opinion of Strato the natural philosopher, and Xanthus of Lydia. Xanthus mentioned that in the reign of Artaxerxes there was so great a drought, that every river, lake, and well was dried up: and that in many places he had seen a long way from the sea fossil shells, some like cockles, others resembling scallop shells, also salt lakes in Armenia, Matiana, [Note] and Lower Phrygia, which induced him to believe that sea had formerly been where the land now was. Strato, who went more deeply into the causes of these phenomena, was of opinion that formerly there was no exit to the Euxine as now at Byzantium, but that the rivers running into it had forced a way through, and thus let the waters escape into the Propontis, and thence to the Hellespont. [Note] And that a like change had occurred in the Mediterranean. For the sea being overflowed by the rivers, had opened for itself a passage by the Pillars of Hercules, and thus, much that was formerly covered by water, had been left dry. [Note] He gives as the cause of this, that anciently the levels of the Mediterranean and Atlantic were not the same, and states that a bank of earth, the remains of the ancient separation of the two seas, is still stretched under water from Europe to Africa. He adds, that the Euxine is the most shallow, and the seas of Crete, Sicily, and Sardinia much deeper, which is occasioned by the number of large

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rivers flowing into the Euxine both from the north and east, and so filling it up with mud, whilst the others preserve their depth. This is the cause of the remarkable sweetness of the Euxine Sea, and of the currents which regularly set towards the deepest part. He gives it as his opinion, that should the rivers continue to flow in the same direction, the Euxine will in time be filled up [by the deposits], since already the left side of the sea is little else than shallows, as also Salmydessus, [Note] and the shoals at the mouth of the Ister, and the desert of Scythia, [Note] which the sailors call the Breasts. Probably too the temple of Ammon was originally close to the sea, though now, by the continual deposit of the waters, it is quite inland: and he conjectures that it was owing to its being so near the sea that it became so celebrated and illustrious, and that it never would have enjoyed the credit it now possesses had it always been equally remote from the sea. Egypt too [he says] was formerly covered by sea as far as the marshes near Pelusium, [Note] Mount Casius, [Note] and the Lake Sirbonis. [Note] Even at the present time, when salt is being dug in Egypt, the beds are found under layers of sand and mingled with fossil shells, as if this district had formerly been under water, and as if the whole region about Casium and Gerrha [Note] had been shallows reaching to the Arabian Gulf. The sea afterwards receding left the land uncovered, and the Lake Sirbonis remained, which having afterwards forced itself a passage, became a marsh. In like manner the borders of the Lake Mœris resemble a sea-beach rather than the banks of a river. Every one will admit that formerly at various periods a great portion of the mainland has been covered and again left bare by the sea. Likewise that the land now covered by the sea is not all on the same level, any more than that whereon we dwell; which is now

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uncovered and has experienced so many changes, as Eratosthenes has observed. Consequently in the reasoning of Xanthus there does not appear to be any thing out of place. 1.3.5

In regard to Strato, however, we must remark that, leaving out of the question the many arguments he has properly stated, some of those which he has brought forward are quite inadmissible. For first he is inaccurate in stating that the beds of the interior and the exterior seas have not the same level, and that the depth of those two seas is different: whereas the cause why the sea is at one time raised, at another depressed, that it inundates certain places and again retreats, is not that the beds have different levels, some higher and some lower, but simply this, that the same beds are at one time raised, at another depressed, causing the sea to rise or subside with them; for having risen they cause an inundation, and when they subside the waters return to their former places. For if it is so, an inundation will of course accompany every sudden increase of the waters of the sea, [as in the spring-tides,] or the periodical swelling of rivers, in the one instance the waters being brought together from distant parts of the ocean, in the other, their volume being increased. But the risings of rivers are not violent and sudden, nor do the tides continue any length of time, nor occur irregularly; nor yet along the coasts of our sea do they cause inundations, nor any where else. Consequently we must seek for an explanation of the cause either in the stratum composing the bed of the sea, or in that which is overflowed; we prefer to look for it in the former, since by reason of its humidity it is more liable to shiftings and sudden changes of position, and we shall find that in these matters the wind is the great agent after all. But, I repeat it, the immediate cause of these phenomena, is not in the fact of one part of the bed of the ocean being higher or lower than another, but in the upheaving or depression of the strata on which the waters rest. Strato's hypothesis evidently originated in the belief that that which occurs in rivers is also the case in regard to the sea; viz. that there is a flow of water from the higher places. Otherwise he would not have attempted to account for the current he observed at the Strait of Byzantium in the manner he does, attributing it to the bed of the Euxine being

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higher than that of the Propontis and adjoining ocean, and even attempting to explain the cause thereof: viz. that the bed of the Euxine is filled up and choked by the deposit of the rivers which flow into it; and its waters in consequence driven out into the neighbouring sea. The same theory he would apply in respect to the Mediterranean and Atlantic, alleging that the bed of the former is higher than that of the latter, in consequence of the number of rivers which flow into it, and the alluvium they carry along with them. In that case there ought to be a like influx at the Pillars and Calpe, [Note] as there is at Byzantium. But I waive this objection, as it might be asserted that the influx was the same in both places, but owing to the interference of the ebb and flow of the sea, became imperceptible.

Strabo, Geography (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Str.].
<<Str. 1.3.3 Str. 1.3.5 (Greek English(2)) >>Str. 1.3.7

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