Strabo, Geography (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Str.].
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CHAPTER VI. 11.6.1

THE second portion of northern Asia begins from the Caspian Sea, where the first terminates. This sea is called also the Hyrcanian Sea. We must first speak of this sea, and of the nations that live near its shores.

It is a bay extending from the Ocean to the south. At its commencement it is very narrow; as it advances further inwards, and particularly towards the extremity, it widens to the extent of about 500 stadia. The voyage from the entrance

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to the extremity may exceed that a little, the entrance approaching very near the uninhabited regions.

Eratosthenes says that the navigation of this sea was known to the Greeks, that the part of the voyage along the coast of the Albanians and Cadusii [Note] comprised 5400 stadia; and the part along the country of the Anariaci, Mardi, [or Amardi,] and Hyrcani, as far as the mouth of the river Oxus, [Note] 4800 stadia, and thence to the Iaxartes [Note] 2400 stadia.

But with respect to the places situated in this portion of Asia, and to those lying so far removed from our own country, we must not understand the accounts of writers in too literal a sense, particularly with regard to distances. 11.6.2

Upon sailing into the Caspian, on the right hand, contiguous to the Europeans, Scythians and Sarmatians occupy the country between the Tanaïs and this sea; they are chiefly Normades, or shepherd tribes, of whom I have already spoken. On the left hand are the Eastern Scythian Nomades, who extend as far as the Eastern sea, and India.

The ancient Greek historians called all the nations towards the north by the common name of Scythians, and Kelto-Scy- thians. Writers still more ancient than these called the nations living above the Euxine, Danube, and Adriatic, Hyperboreans, Sauromatæ, and Arimaspi. [Note] But in speaking of the nations on the other side the Caspian Sea, they called some Sacæ, [Note] others Massagetæ. They were unable to give any exact account of them, although they relate the history of the war of Cyrus with the Massagetæ. Concerning these nations no one has ascertained the truth, and the ancient histories of Persia, Media, and Syria have not obtained much credit on account of the credulity of the writers and their love of fable. 11.6.3

For these authors, having observed that those who professedly were writers of fables obtained repute and success, supposed that they also should make their writings agreeable,

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if, under the form of history, they related what they had never seen nor heard, (not at least from eye-witnesses,) and had no other object than to please and surprise the reader. A person would more readily believe the stories of the heroes in Hesiod, Homer, and in the tragic poets, than Ctesias, Herodotus, Hellanicus, and writers of this kind. 11.6.4

We cannot easily credit the generality of the historians of Alexander, for they practise deception with a view to enhance the glory of Alexander; the expedition also was directed to the extremities of Asia, at a great distance from our country, and it is difficult to ascertain or detect the truth or falsehood of what is remote. The dominion of the Romans and of the Parthians has added very much to former discoveries, and the writers who speak of these people describe nations and places, where certain actions were performed, in a manner more likely to produce belief than preceding historians, for they had better opportunities of personal observation.

Strabo, Geography (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Str.].
<<Str. 11.5 Str. 11.6 (Greek English(2)) >>Str. 11.7

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