Strabo, Geography (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Str.].
<<Str. 11.4.6 Str. 11.5.2 (Greek English(2)) >>Str. 11.6.1


THE Amazons are said to live among the mountains above Albania. Theophanes, who accompanied Pompey in his wars, and was in the country of the Albanians, says that Gelæ and Legæ, [Note] Scythian tribes, live between the Amazons and the Albanians, and that the river Mermadalis [Note] takes its course in the country lying in the middle between these people and the Amazons. But other writers, and among these Metrodorus of Scepsis, and Hypsicrates, who were themselves acquainted with these places, say that the Amazons bordered upon the Gargarenses [Note] on the north, at the foot of the Caucasian mountains, which are called Ceraunia.

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When at home they are occupied in performing with their own hands the work of ploughing, planting, pasturing cattle, and particularly in training horses. The strongest among them spend much of their time in hunting on horseback, and practise warlike exercises. All of them from infancy have the right breast seared, in order that they may use the arm with ease for all manner of purposes, and particularly for throwing the javelin. They employ the bow also, and sagaris, (a kind of sword,) and wear a buckler. They make helmets, and coverings for the body, and girdles, of the skins of wild animals. They pass two months of the spring on a neighbouring mountain, which is the boundary between them and the Gargarenses. The latter also ascend the mountain according to some ancient custom for the purpose of performing common sacrifices, and of having intercourse with the women with a view to offspring, in secret and in darkness, the man with the first woman he meets. When the women are pregnant they are sent away. The female children that may be born are retained by the Amazons themselves, but the males are taken to the Gargarenses to be brought up. The children are distributed among families, in which the master treats them as his own, it being impossible to ascertain the contrary. 11.5.2

The Mermodas, [Note] descending like a torrent from the mountains through the country of the Amazons, the Siracene, and the intervening desert, discharges itself into the Mæotis. [Note]

It is said that the Gargarenses ascended together with the Amazons from Themiscyra to these places, that they then separated, and with the assistance of some Thracians and Eubœans, who had wandered as far as this country, made war against the Amazons, and at length, upon its termination, entered into a compact on the conditions above mentioned, namely, that there should be a companionship only with respect to

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offspring, and that they should live each independent of the other. 11.5.3

There is a peculiarity in the history of the Amazons. In other histories the fabulous and the historical parts are kept distinct. For what is ancient, false, and marvellous is called fable. But history has truth for its object, whether it be old or new, and it either rejects or rarely admits the marvellous. But, with regard to the Amazons, the same facts are related both by modern and by ancient writers; they are marvellous and exceed belief. For who can believe that an army of women, or a city, or a nation, could ever subsist without men? and not only subsist, but make inroads upon the territory of other people, and obtain possession not only of the places near them, and advance even as far as the present Ionia, but even despatch an expedition across the sea to Attica? This is as much as to say that the men of those days were women, and the women men. But even now the same things are told of the Amazons, and the peculiarity of their history is increased by the credit which is given to ancient, in preference to modern, accounts. 11.5.4

They are said to have founded cities, and to have given their names to them, as Ephesus, Smyrna, Cyme, Myrina, besides leaving sepulchres and other memorials. Themiscyra, the plains about the Thermodon, and the mountains lying above, are mentioned by all writers as once belonging to the Amazons, from whence, they say, they were driven out. Where they are at present few writers undertake to point out, nor do they advance proofs or probability for what they state; as in the case of Thalestria, queen of the Amazons, with whom Alexander is said to have had intercourse in Hyrcania with the hope of having offspring. Writers are not agreed on this point, and among many who have paid the greatest regard to truth none mention the circumstance, nor do writers of the highest credit mention anything of the kind, nor do those who record it relate the same facts. Cleitarchus says that Thalestria set out from the Caspian Gates and Thermodon to meet Alexander. Now from the Caspian Gates to Thermodon are more than 6000 stadia. 11.5.5

Stories circulated for the purpose of exalting the fame [of eminent persons] are not received with equal favour by all; the object of the inventors was flattery rather than truth;

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they transferred, for example, the Caucasus to the mountains of India, and to the eastern sea, which approaches close to them, from the mountains situated above Colchis, and the Euxine Sea. These are the mountains to which the Greeks give the name of Caucasus, and are distant more than 30,000 stadia from India. Here they lay the scene of Prometheus and his chains, for these were the farthest places towards the east with which the people of those times were acquainted. The expeditions of Bacchus and of Hercules against the Indi indicate a mythological story of later date, for Hercules is said to have released Prometheus a thousand years after he was first chained to the rock. It was more glorious too for Alexander to subjugate Asia as far as the mountains of India, than to the recess only of the Euxine Sea and the Caucasus The celebrity, and the name of the mountain, together with the persuasion that Jason and his companions had accomplished the most distant of all expeditions when they had arrived in the neighbourhood of the Caucasus, and the tradition that Prometheus had been chained on Caucasus at the extremity of the earth, induced writers to suppose that they should gratify the king by transferring the name of the mountain to India.

Strabo, Geography (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Str.].
<<Str. 11.4.6 Str. 11.5.2 (Greek English(2)) >>Str. 11.6.1

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