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

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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.

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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.



Strabo, Geography (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Str.].
<<Str. 11.10.1 Str. 11.11.4 (Greek English(2)) >>Str. 11.11.5

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