Strabo, Geography (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Str.].
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Having in this manner but imperfectly traced the outlines of his second section, the third section, for various reasons, is still less exact. The first cause has been already explained, viz. that the line from the Caspian Gates to Carmania is not clearly defined, as the side of the section is common both to the third and second sections. Secondly, on account of the Persian Gulf interrupting the continuity of

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the southern side, as he himself tells us, he has been obliged to take the measured road running through Susa and Persepolis to the boundaries of Carmania and Persia, and suppose it straight. [Note] This road, which he calls the southern side, is a little more than 9000 stadia. He does not, however, tell us, that it runs parallel to the northern side. It is also clear that the Euphrates, which he makes the western boundary, is any thing but a straight line. On leaving the mountains it flows south, but soon shifts its course to the east; it then again pursues a southerly direction till it reaches the sea. In fact, Eratosthenes himself acknowledges the indirect course of this river, when he compares the shape of Mesopotamia, which is formed by the junction of the Tigris and Euphrates, to the cushion on a rower's bench. The western side bounded by the Euphrates is not entirely measured; for he tells us that he does not know the extent of the portion between Armenia and the northern mountains, [Note] as it has not been measured. By reason of these hinderances he states that he has been only able to give a very superficial view of the third section, and that his estimate of the distances is borrowed from various Itineraries, some of them, according to his own description, anonymous. Hipparchus therefore must be considered guilty of unfairness, for criticising with geometrical precision a work of this general nature. We ought rather to be grateful to a person who gives us any description at all of the character of such [unknown] places. But when he urges his geometrical objections not against any real statement of Eratosthenes, but merely against imaginary hypotheses of his own creation, he shows too plainly the contradictory bent of his mind. 2.1.24

It is in this general kind of description of the third section that Eratosthenes supposes 10,000 stadia from the Caspian Gates to the Euphrates. This he again divides according to former admeasurements which he found preserved. Starting from the point where the Euphrates passes near to Thapsacus, he computes from thence to the place where Alexander crossed the Tigris 2400 stadia. The route

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thence through Gaugamela, [Note] the Lycus, [Note] Arbela, [Note] and Ecbatana, [Note] whither Darius fled from Gaugamela to the Caspian Gates, makes up the 10,000 stadia, which is only 300 stadia too much. Such is the measure of the northern side given by Eratosthenes, which he could not have supposed to be parallel to the mountains, nor yet to the line drawn from the Pillars of Hercules through Athens and Rhodes. For Thapsacus is far removed from the mountains, and the route from Thapsacus to the Caspian Gates only falls in with the mountains at that point. [Note] Such is the boundary on the northern side. 2.1.25

Thus, says Eratosthenes, we have given you a description of the northern side; as for the southern, we cannot take its measure along the sea, on account of the Persian Gulf, which intercepts [its continuity], but from Babylon through Susa and Persepolis to the confines of Persia and Carmania there are 9200 stadia. This he calls the southern side, but he does not say it is parallel to the northern. The difference of length between the northern and southern sides is caused, he tells us, by the Euphrates, which after running south some distance shifts its course almost due east. 2.1.26

Of the two remaining sides, he describes the western first, but whether we are to regard it as one single straight line, or two, seems to be undecided. He says,—From Thapsacus to Babylon, following the course of the Euphrates, there are 4800 stadia; from thence to the mouth of the Euphrates [Note] and the city of Teredon, 3000 [Note] more; from Thapsacus northward to the Gates of Armenia, having been measured, is stated to be 1100 stadia, but the distance through Gordyæa and Armenia, not having yet been measured, is not given. The eastern side, which stretches lengthwise through Persia from the Red Sea towards Media and the north, does not appear to be less than 8000 stadia, and measured from certain headlands above 9000, the rest of the distance through Parætacena and Media to the Caspian Gates being 3000 stadia. The rivers Tigris and Euphrates flowing from Armenia towards the south, after having passed the

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Gordytæan mountains, and having formed a great circle which embraces the vast country of Mesopotamia, turn towards the rising of the sun in winter and the south, particularly the Euphrates, which, continually approaching nearer and nearer to the Tigris, passes by the rampart of Semiramis, [Note] and at about 200 stadia from the village of Opis, [Note] thence it flows through Babylon, and so discharges itself into the Persian Gulf. Thus the figure of Mesopotamia and Babylon resembles the cushion of a rower's bench.—Such are the words of Eratosthenes.

Strabo, Geography (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Str.].
<<Str. 2.1.21 Str. 2.1.24 (Greek English(2)) >>Str. 2.1.29

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