Strabo, Geography (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Str.].
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2.1.4

Hipparchus tries to invalidate this view of Eratosthenes, by sneering at the proofs on which it rests. Patrocles, he says, merits little credit, being contradicted by the two writers

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Deimachus and Megasthenes, who say that the distance [Note] taken from the southern ocean, is in some places 20,000, in others 30,000 stadia; that in this assertion they are supported by the ancient charts, and he considers it absurd to require us to put implicit faith in Patrocles alone, when there is so much testimony against him; or that the ancient charts should be corrected; but rather that they should be left as they are until we have something more certain on the subject. 2.1.5

This argument, I think, is in many instances unfounded. Eratosthenes availed himself of the statements of many writers, although Hipparchus alleges he was solely led by Patrocles. Who then are the authors of the statement that the southern extremity of India is under the same parallel as Meroe; and who are they who estimate [Note] the distance from Meroe to the parallel passing through Athens? Or who, again, were those who asserted that the whole breadth occupied by the mountains [Note] was equal to the distance from Cilicia to Amisus? Or who made known that, travelling from Amisus, the course lay in a straight line due east through Colchis, the [sea of] Hyrcania, so on to Bactria, and beyond this to the eastern ocean, [Note] the mountains being always on the right hand; and that this same line carried west in a straight line, traverses the Propontis and the Hellespont? These things Eratosthenes advances on the testimony of men who had been on the spot, and from the study of those numerous memoirs which he had for reference in that noble library [Note] which Hipparchus himself acknowledges to be gigantic. 2.1.6

Besides, the credibility of Patrocles can be proved by a variety of evidence—the princes [Note] who confided to him so important trusts—the authors who follow his statements—and those, too, who criticise them, whose names Hipparchus has recorded. Since whenever these are refuted, the credit of Patrocles is by so much advanced. Nor does Patrocles appear to state any thing improbable when he says that the army

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of Alexander took but a very hasty view of every thing [in India], but Alexander himself a more exact one, causing the whole country to be described by men well acquainted with it. Which description he says was afterwards put into his hands by Xenocles the treasurer. 2.1.7

Again, in the second volume of his Commentaries, Hipparchus accuses Eratosthenes of himself throwing discredit on the statement of Patrocles, on account of his differing with Megasthenes, as to the length of India on its northern side; [Note] Megasthenes stating the length at 16,000 stadia, and Patrocles at 1000 less. Being biassed by a certain Itinerary, Eratosthenes was led to reject them both on account of this discrepancy, and to follow the Itinerary. If then merely the difference of 1000 stadia is sufficient to cause the authority of Patrocles to be rejected, how much more should this be the case when we find a difference of 8000 stadia between his statement and that of two writers who agree perfectly in theirs, that the breadth of India is 20,000 stadia, while he gives only 12,000! 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

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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.



Strabo, Geography (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Str.].
<<Str. 2.1.1 Str. 2.1.6 (Greek English(2)) >>Str. 2.1.11

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