Strabo, Geography (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Str.].
<<Str. 2.1.4 Str. 2.1.11 (Greek English(2)) >>Str. 2.1.14

2.1.8

We reply, that [Eratosthenes] did not object [to the statement of Patrocles] merely because it differed [from that of Megasthenes], but because the statement of this latter as to the stadia was confirmed by the Itinerary, an authority of no mean importance. There is nothing wonderful in this, that though a certain statement may be credible, another may be more credible; and that while in some instances we follow the former, in others we may dissent from it on finding a more trust-worthy guide. It is ridiculous to say that the greater the difference of one writer from others, the less he should be trusted. On the contrary, such a rule would be more applicable in regard to small differences; for in little particulars the ordinary observer and the man of great ability are equally liable to err. On the other hand, in great matters, the ordinary run of men are more like to be deceived than the man of superior talent, to whom consequently in such cases greater deference is paid. 2.1.9

Generally speaking, the men who hitherto have written on the affairs of India, were a set of liars. Deimachus holds the first place in the list, Megasthenes comes next, while

-- 109 --

Onesicritus and Nearchus, with others of the same class, manage to stammer out a few words [of truth]. Of this we became the more convinced whilst writing the history of Alexander. No faith whatever can be placed in Deimachus and Megasthenes. They coined the fables concerning men with ears large enough to sleep in, men without any mouths, without noses, with only one eye, with spider-legs, and with fingers bent backward. They renewed Homer's fable concerning the battles of the Cranes and Pygmies, and asserted the latter to be three spans high. They told of ants digging for gold, of Pans with wedge-shaped heads, of serpents swallowing down oxen and stags, horns and all; meantime, as Eratosthenes has observed, reciprocally accusing each other of falsehood. Both of these men were sent ambassadors to Palimbothra, [Note]—Megasthenes to Sandrocottus, Deimachus to Allitrochades his son; and such are the notes of their residence abroad, which, I know not why, they thought fit to leave. Patrocles certainly does not resemble them; nor do any other of the authorities consulted by Eratosthenes contain such absurdities. 2.1.10

[Note] If the meridian of Rhodes and Byzantium has been rightly determined to be the same, then that of Cilicia and Amisus has likewise been rightly determined; many observations having proved that the lines are parallel, and that they never impinge on each other. 2.1.11

In like manner, that the voyage from Amisus to Colchis, and the route to the Caspian, and thence on to Bactra, are both due east, is proved by the winds, the seasons, the fruits, and even the sun-risings. Frequently evidence such as this, and general agreement, are more to be relied on than the measurement taken by means of instruments. Hipparchus himself was not wholly indebted to instruments and geometrical calculations for his statement that the Pillars and Cilicia lie in a direct line due east. For

-- 110 --

that part of it included between the Pillars and the Strait of Sicily he rests entirely on the assertion of sailors. It is therefore incorrect to say that, because we cannot exactly determine the duration of the longest and shortest days, nor the degree of shadow of the gnomon throughout the mountainous region between Cilicia and India, that therefore we are unable to decide whether the line traced obliquely on the ancient charts should or should not be parallel, and consequently must leave it unreformed, keeping it oblique as the ancient charts have it. For in the first place, not to determine any thing is to leave it undetermined; and to leave a thing undetermined, is neither to take one view of the matter nor the other: but to agree to leave it as the ancients have, that is to take a view of the case. It would have been more consistent with his reasoning, if he had told us to leave Geography alone altogether, since we are similarly unable to determine the position of the Alps, the Pyrenees, and the mountains of Thrace, [Note] Illyria, [Note] and Germany. Wherefore should we give more credit to the ancient writers than to the modern, when we call to mind the numerous errors of their charts which have been pointed out by Eratosthenes, and which Hipparchus has not attempted to defend. 2.1.12

But the system of Hipparchus altogether teems with difficulties. Reflect for an instant on the following absurdity; after admitting that the southern extremity of India is under the same degree of latitude as Meroe, and that the distance from Meroe to the Strait of Byzantium is about 18,000 [Note] stadia, lie then makes the distance from the southern extremity of India to the mountains 30,000 stadia. Since Byzantium and Marseilles are under the same parallel of latitude, as Hipparchus tells us they are, on the authority of Pytheas, and since Byzantium and the Dnieper [Note] have also the same meridian, as Hipparchus equally assures us, if we take his assertion that there is a distance of 3700 [Note] stadia between Byzantium and the Dnieper, there will of course be a like difference between the latitude of Marseilles and the

-- 111 --

Dnieper. This would make the latitude of the Dnieper identical with that of Keltica next the Ocean; for on proceeding 3700 stadia [north of Marseilles], we reach the ocean. [Note]



Strabo, Geography (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Str.].
<<Str. 2.1.4 Str. 2.1.11 (Greek English(2)) >>Str. 2.1.14

Powered by PhiloLogic