Strabo, Geography (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Str.].
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The greater part of Media consists of high ground, and is cold; such are the mountains above Ecbatana, and the places about Rhagæ and the Caspian Gates, and the northern parts in general extending thence as far as Matiane and Armenia.

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The country below the Caspian Gates consists of flat grounds and valleys. It is very fertile, and produces everything except the olive, or if it grows anywhere it does not yield oil, and is dry. The country is peculiarly adapted, as well as Armenia, for breeding horses. There is a meadow tract called Hippobotus, which is traversed by travellers on their way from Persia and Babylonia to the Caspian Gates. Here, it is said, fifty thousand mares were pastured in the time of the Persians, and were the king's stud. The Nesæan horses, the best and largest in the king's province, were of this breed, according to some writers, but according to others they came from Armenia. Their shape is peculiar, as is that of the Parthian horses, compared with those of Greece and others in our country.

The herbage which constitutes the chief food of the horses we call peculiarly by the name of Medic, from its growing in Media in great abundance. The country produces Silphium, [Note] from which is obtained the Medic juice, much inferior to the Cyrenaic, but sometimes it excels the latter, which may be accounted for by the difference of places, or from a change the plant may undergo, or from the mode of extracting and preparing the juice so as to continue good when laid by for use. 11.13.8

Such then is the nature of the country with respect to magnitude; its length and breadth are nearly equal. The greatest breadth (length?) [Note] however seems to be that reckoned from the pass across the Zagrus, which is called the Median Gate, to the Caspian Gates, through the country of Sigriana, 4100 stadia.

The account of the tribute paid agrees with the extent and wealth of the country. Cappadocia paid to the Persians yearly, in addition to a tribute in silver, 1500 horses, 2000 mules, and 50,000 sheep, and the Medes contributed nearly double this amount. 11.13.9

Many of their customs are the same as those of the Armenians, from the similarity of the countries which they inhabit. The Medes however were the first to communicate them to the Armenians, and still before that time to the Persians, who were their masters, and successors in the empire of Asia.

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The Persian stole, as it is now called, the pursuit of archery and horsemanship, the court paid to their kings, their attire, and veneration fitting for gods paid by the subjects to the prince,—these the Persians derived from the Medes. That this is the fact appears chiefly from their dress. A tiara, a citaris, a hat, [Note] tunics with sleeves reaching to the hands, and trowsers, are proper to be worn in cold and northerly places, such as those in Media, but they are not by any means adapted to inhabitants of the south. The Persians had their principal settlements on the Gulf of Persia, being situated more to the south than the Babylonians and the Susii. But after the overthrow of the Medes they gained possession of some tracts of country contiguous to Media. The custom however of the vanquished appeared to the conquerors to be so noble, and appropriate to royal state, that instead of nakedness or scanty clothing, they endured the use of the feminine stole, and were entirely covered with dress to the feet. 11.13.10

Some writers say that Medeia, when with Jason she ruled in these countries, introduced this kind of dress, and concealed her countenance as often as she appeared in public in place of the king; that the memorials of Jason are, the Jasonian heroa, [Note] held in great reverence by the Barbarians, (besides a great mountain above the Caspian Gates on the left hand, called Jasonium,) and that the memorials of Medeia are the kind of dress, and the name of the country. Medus, her son, is said to have been her successor in the kingdom, and the country to have been called after his name. In agreement with this are the Jasonia in Armenia, the name of the country, and many other circumstances which we shall mention. 11.13.11

It is a Median custom to elect the bravest person as king, but this does not generally prevail, being confined to the mountain tribes. The custom for the kings to have many wives is more general, it is found among all the mountaineers also, but they are not permitted to have less than five. In the same manner the women think it honourable for husbands to have as many wives as possible, and esteem it a misfortune if they have less than five.

While the rest of Media is very fertile, the northern and mountainous part is barren. The people subsist upon the produce of trees. They make cakes of apples, sliced and

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dried, and bread of roasted almonds; they express a wine from some kind of roots. They eat the flesh of wild animals, and do not breed any tame animals. So much then respect- ing the Medes. As to the laws and customs in common use throughout the whole of Media, as they are the same as those of the Persians in consequence of the establishment of the Persian empire, I shall speak of them when I give an account of the latter nation.


Strabo, Geography (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Str.].
<<Str. 11.13.3 Str. 11.13.9 (Greek English(2)) >>Str. 11.14.3

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