Strabo, Geography (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Str.].
<<Str. 11.10 Str. 11.11 (Greek English(2)) >>Str. 11.12

CHAPTER XI. 11.11.1

SOME parts of Bactria lie along Aria to the north, but the greater part stretches beyond (Aria) to the east. It is an extensive country, and produces everything except oil.

The Greeks who occasioned its revolt became so powerful by means of the fertility and advantages of the country, that they became masters of Ariana and India, according to Apollodorus of Artamita. Their chiefs, particularly Menander, (if he really crossed the Hypanis to the east and reached Isamus,) [Note] conquered more nations than Alexander. These

-- 253 --

conquests were achieved partly by Menander, partly by De metrius, son of Euthydemus, king of the Bactrians. They got possession not only of Pattalene, [Note] but of the kingdoms of Saraostus, and Sigerdis, which constitute the remainder of the coast. Apollodorus in short says that Bactriana is the ornament of all Ariana. They extended their empire even as far as the Seres and Phryni. 11.11.2

Their cities were Bactra, which they call also Zariaspa, (a river of the same name flows through it, and empties itself into the Oxus,) and Darapsa, [Note] and many others. Among these was Eucratidia, which had its name from Eucratidas, the king. When the Greeks got possession of the country, they divided it into satrapies; that of Aspionus and Turiva [Note] the Parthians took from Eucratidas. They possessed Sogdiana also, situated above Bactriana to the east, between the river Oxus (which bounds Bactriana and Sogdiana) and the Iaxartes; the latter river separates the Sogdii and the nomades. 11.11.3

Anciently the Sogdiani and Bactriani did not differ much from the nomades in their mode of life and manners, yet the manners of the Bactriani were a little more civilized. Onesicritus however does not give the most favourable account of this people. Those who are disabled by disease or old age are thrown alive to be devoured by dogs kept expressly for this purpose, and whom in the language of the country they call entombers. [Note] The places on the exterior of the walls of the capital of the Bactrians are clean, but the interior is for the most part full of human bones. Alexander abolished this custom. Something of the same kind is related of the Caspii also, who, when their parents have attained the age of 70 years, confine them, and let them die of hunger. This custom, although Scythian in character, is more tolerable than that of the Bactrians, and is similar to the domestic law of the Cei; [Note] the custom however of the Bactrians is much more according to Scythian manners. We may be justly at a loss

-- 254 --

to conjecture, [Note] if Alexander found such customs prevailing there, what were the customs which probably were observed by them in the time of the first kings of Persia, and of the princes who preceded them. 11.11.4

Alexander, it is said, founded eight cities in Bactriana and Sogdiana; some he razed, among which were Cariatæ in Bactriana, where Callisthenes was seized and imprisoned; Maracanda in Sogdiana, and Cyra, the last of the places founded by Cyrus, situated upon the river Iaxartes, and the boundary of the Persian empire. This also, although it was attached to Cyrus, he razed on account of its frequent revolts.

Alexander took also, it is said, by means of treachery, strong fortified rocks; one of which belonged to Sisimithres in Bactriana, where Oxyartes kept his daughter Roxana; another to Oxus in Sogdiana, or, according to some writers, to Ariamazas. The stronghold of Sisimithres is described by historians to have been fifteen stadia in height, and eighty stadia in circuit. On the summit is a level ground, which is fertile and capable of maintaining 500 men. Here Alexander was entertained with sumptuous hospitality, and here he espoused Roxana the daughter of Oxyartes. The height of the fortress in Sogdiana is double the height of this. It was near these places that he destroyed the city of the Branchidæ, whom Xerxes settled there, and who had voluntarily accompanied him from their own country. They had delivered up to the Persians the riches of the god at Didymi, and the treasure there deposited. Alexander destroyed their city in abhorrence of their treachery and sacrilege. 11.11.5

Aristobulus calls the river, which runs through Sogdiana, Polytimetus, a name imposed by the Macedonians, as they imposed many others, some of which were altogether new, others were deflections [Note] from the native appellations. This river after watering the country flows through a desert and sandy soil, and is absorbed in the sand, like the Arius, which flows through the territory of the Arii.

It is said that on digging near the river Ochus a spring of oil was discovered. It is probable, that as certain nitrous, astringent, bituminous, and sulphurous fluids permeate the earth, greasy fluids may be found, but the rarity of their occurrence makes their existence almost doubtful.

-- 255 --

The course of the Ochus, according to some writers, is through Bactriana, according to others parallel to it. Some allege that, taking a more southerly direction, it is distinct from the Oxus to its mouths, but that they both discharge themselves (separately) into the Caspian in Hyrcania. Others again say that it is distinct, at its commencement, from the Oxus, but that it (afterwards) unites with the latter river, having in many places a breadth of six or seven stadia.

The Iaxartes is distinct from the Oxus from its commencement to its termination, and empties itself into the same sea. Their mouths, according to Patrocles, are about 80 parasangs distant from each other. The Persian parasang some say contains 60, others 30 or 40, stadia.

When I was sailing up the Nile, schœni of different measures were used in passing from one city to another, so that the same number of schœni gave in some places a longer, in others a shorter, length to the voyage. This mode of computation has been handed down from an early period, and is continued to the present time. 11.11.6

In proceeding from Hyrcania towards the rising sun as far as Sogdiana, the nations beyond (within?) the Taurus were known first to the Persians, and afterwards to the Macedonians and Parthians. The nations lying in a straight line [Note] above these people are supposed to be Scythian, from their resemblance to that nation. But we are not acquainted with any expeditions which have been undertaken against them, nor against the most northerly tribes of the nomades. Alexander proposed to conduct his army against them, when he was in pursuit of Bessus and Spitamenes, but when Bessus was taken prisoner, and Spitamenes put to death by the Barbarians, he desisted from executing his intention.

It is not generally admitted, that persons have passed round by sea from India to Hyrcania, but Patrocles asserts that it may be done. 11.11.7

It is said that the termination of Taurus, which is called Imaus, approaches close to the Indian Sea, and neither advances towards nor recedes from the East more than India itself. But on passing to the northern side, the sea contracts (throughout the whole coast) the length and breadth of India, so as to shorten on the East the portion of Asia we are now

-- 256 --

describing, comprehended between the Taurus and the Northern Ocean, which forms the Caspian Sea.

The greatest length of this portion, reckoned from the Hyrcanian Sea to the (Eastern) Ocean opposite Imaus, is about 30,000 stadia, [Note] the route being along the mountainous tract of Taurus; the breadth is less than 10,000 stadia. [Note] We have said before, that [Note] from the bay of Issus to the eastern sea along the coast of India is about 40,000 stadia, and to Issus from the western extremities at the pillars 30,000 stadia. The recess of the bay of Issus is little, if at all, more to the east than Amisus; from Amisus to Hyrcania is about 10,000 stadia in a line parallel to that which we have described as drawn from the bay of Issus to India. There remains therefore for the portion now delineated the above-mentioned length towards the east, namely, 30,000 stadia. [Note]






-- 257 --

Again, since the breadth of the longest part of the habitable earth, which has the shape of a chlamys, (or a military cloak,) is about 30,000 stadia, this distance would be near the meridian line drawn through the Hyrcanian and the Persian Seas, for the length of the habitable earth is 70,000 stadia. If therefore from Hyrcania to Artemita [Note] in Babylonia are 8000 stadia according to Apollodorus of Artemita, and thence to the mouth of the Persian Sea 8000, and again 8000, or a little short of that number, to the places on the same parallel with the extremities of æthiopia, there would remain, to complete the breadth as I have described it, of the habitable earth, the number of stadia [Note] which I have mentioned, reckoning from the recess of the Hyrcanian Sea to its mouth. This segment of the earth being truncated towards the eastern parts, its figure would resemble a cook's knife, for the mountainous range being prolonged in a straight line, answers to the edge, while the shape of the coast from the mouth of the Hyrcanian Sea to Tamarus on the other side terminates in a circular truncated line.

-- 258 --

8. We must mention some of the extraordinary circum stances which are related of those tribes which are perfectly barbarous, living about Mount Caucasus, and the other mountainous districts.

What Euripides expresses in the following lines is said to be a custom among them; they lament the birth of the new-born on account of the many evils to which they are exposed; but the dead, and one at rest from his troubles, is carried forth from his home with joy and gratulation.

Other tribes do not put to death even the greatest offenders, but only banish them from their territories together with their children; which is contrary to the custom of the Derbices, who punish even slight offences with death. The Derbices worship the earth. They neither sacrifice, nor eat the female of any animal. Persons who attain the age of above seventy years are put to death by them, and their nearest relations eat their flesh. Old women are strangled, and then buried. Those who die under seventy years of age are not eaten, but are only buried.

The Siginni in general practise Persian customs. They have small horses with shaggy hair, but which are not able to carry a rider. Four of these horses are harnessed together, driven by women, who are trained to this employment from childhood. The best driver marries whom she pleases. Some, they say, make it their study to appear with heads as long as possible, and with foreheads projecting over their chins.

The Tapyrii have a custom for the men to dress in black, and wear their hair long, and the women to dress in white, and wear their hair short. [They live between the Derbices and Hyrcani.] [Note] He who is esteemed the bravest marries whom he likes.

The Caspii starve to death those who are above seventy years old, by exposing them in a desert place. The exposed are observed at a distance; if they are dragged from their resting-place by birds, they are then pronounced happy; but if by wild beasts, or dogs, less fortunate; but if by none of these, ill-fated.

-- 259 --

Strabo, Geography (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Str.].
<<Str. 11.10 Str. 11.11 (Greek English(2)) >>Str. 11.12

Powered by PhiloLogic