Strabo, Geography (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Str.].
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CHAPTER III. 2.3.1

POLYBIUS supposes six zones: two situated between the poles and the arctic circles; two between the arctic circles and the tropics; and two between the tropics which are divided by the equator. However, it appears to me that the

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division into five zones accords best both with the order of external nature and geography. With external nature, as respects the celestial phenomena, and the temperature of the atmosphere. With respect to the celestial phenomena, as the Periscii and Amphiscii are thereby divided in the best pos- sible manner, and it also forms an excellent line of separation in regard to those who behold the stars from an opposite point of view. [Note] With respect to the temperature of the atmosphere, inasmuch as looked at in connexion with the sun, there are three main divisions, which influence in a remarkable degree both plants, animals, and every other animated thing, existing either in the air, or exposed to it, namely, excess of heat, want of heat, and a moderate supply of heat. In the division into [five] zones, each of these is correctly distinguished. The two frigid zones indicate the want of heat, being alike in the temperature of their atmosphere; the temperate zones possess a moderate heat, and the remaining, or torrid zone, is remarkable for its excess of heat.

The propriety of this division in regard to geography is equally apparent; the object of this science being to determine the limits of that one of the temperate zones which we in- habit. To the east and west, it is true, the boundaries are formed by the sea, but to the north and south they are indicated by the atmosphere; which in the middle is of a grate- ful temperature both to animals and plants, but on either side is rendered intemperate either through excess or defect of heat. To manifest this threefold difference, the division of tile globe into five zones becomes necessary. In fact, the division of the globe, by means of the equator, into two hemispheres, the one northern, wherein we dwell, and the other southern, points to this threefold division, for the regions next the equator and torrid zone are uninhabitable on account of the heat, those next the poles on account of the cold, but those in the middle are mild, and fitted for the habitation of man.

Posidonius, in placing two zones under the tropics, pays no regard to the reasons which influenced the division into five zones, nor is his division equally appropriate. It is no more than if he were to form his division into zones merely according to the [countries inhabited] by different nations, calling one

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the Ethiopian, another the Scythian and Keltic, [Note] and a third the Intermediate zone. 2.3.2

Polybius, indeed, is wrong in bounding certain of his zones by the arctic circles, [Note] namely, the two which lie under them, and the two between these and the tropics. The impropriety of using shifting points to mark the limits of those which are fixed has been remarked before; and we have likewise objected to the plan of making the tropics the boundary of the torrid zone. However, in dividing the torrid zone into two parts [Polybius] seems to have been influenced by no inconsiderable reason, the same which led us to regard the whole earth as properly divided by the equator into two hemispheres, north and south. We at once see that by means of this division the torrid zone is divided into two parts, thus establishing a kind of uniformity; each hemi- sphere consisting of three entire zones, respectively similar to each other. Thus this partition [Note] will admit of a division into six zones, but the other does not allow of it at all. Supposing you cut the earth into two portions by a line drawn through the poles, you can find no sufficient cause for dividing the eastern and western hemispheres into six zones; on the other hand, five would be preferable. For since both the portions of the torrid zone, divided by the equator, are similar and contiguous to each other, it would seem out of place and superfluous to separate them; whereas the temperate and frigid zones respectively resemble each other, although lying apart. Wherefore, supposing the whole earth to consist of these two hemispheres, it is sufficient to divide them into five zones. If there be a temperate region under the equator, as Eratosthenes asserts, and is admitted by Polybius, (who adds, that it is the most elevated part of the earth, [Note] and consequently subject to the drenching rains occa-

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sioned by the monsoons bringing up from the north innumerable clouds, which discharge themselves on the highest lands,) it would be better to suppose this a third narrow temperate zone, than to extend the two temperate zones within the circles of the tropics. This supposition is supported by the statements of Posidonius, that the course of the sun, whether in the ecliptic, or from east to west, appears most rapid in tie region [of which we are speaking], because the rotations of that luminary are performed with a speed increased in proportion to the greater size of the circle. [Note] 2.3.3

Posidonius blames Polybius for asserting that the region of the earth, situated under the equator, is the highest, since a spherical body being equal all round, no part can be described as high; and as to mountainous districts, there are none under the equator, it is on the contrary a flat country, about the same level as the sea; as for the rains which swell the Nile, they descend from the mountains of Ethiopia. Although advancing this, he afterwards seems to adopt the other opinion, for he says that he fancies there may be mountains under the equator, around which the clouds assembling from both of the temperate zones, produce violent rains. Here is one manifest contradiction; again, in stating that the land under the equator is mountainous, another contradiction ap- pears. For they say that the ocean is confluent, how then can they place mountains in the midst of it? unless they mean to say that there are islands. However, whether such be the fact does not lie within the province of geography to determine, the inquiry would better be left to him who makes the ocean in particular his study. 2.3.4

Posidonius, in speaking of those who have sailed round Africa, tells us that Herodotus was of opinion that some of those sent out by Darius actually performed this enterprise; [Note] and

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that Heraclides of Pontus, in a certain dialogue, introduces one of the Magi presenting himself to Gelon, [Note] and declaring that he had performed this voyage; but he remarks that this wants proof. He also narrates how a certain Eudoxus of Cyzicus, [Note] sent with sacrifices and oblations to the Corean games, [Note] travelled into Egypt in the reign of Euergetes II.; [Note] and being a learned man, and much interested in the peculiarities of different countries, he made interest with the king and his ministers on the subject, but especially for exploring the Nile. It chanced that a certain Indian was brought to the king by the [coast]-guard of the Arabian Gulf. They reported that they had found him in a ship, alone, and half dead: but that they neither knew who he was, nor where he came from, as he spoke a language they could not understand. He was placed in the hands of preceptors appointed to teach him the Greek language. On acquiring which, he related how he had started from the coasts of India, but lost his course, and reached Egypt alone, all his companions having perished with hunger; but that if he were restored to his country he would point out to those sent with him by the king, the route by sea to India. Eudoxus was of the number thus sent. He set sail with a good supply of presents, and brought back with him in exchange aromatics and precious stones, some of which the Indians collect from amongst the pebbles of the rivers, others they dig out of the earth, where they have been formed by the moisture, as crystals are formed with us. [Note]

[He fancied that he had made his fortune], however, he was greatly deceived, for Euergetes took possession of the whole treasure. On the death of that prince, his widow, Cleopatra, [Note] assumed the reins of government, and Eudoxus was again despatched with a richer cargo than before. On

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his journey back, he was carried by the winds above Ethiopia, and being thrown on certain [unknown] regions, he conciliated the inhabitants by presents of grain, wine, and cakes of pressed figs, articles which they were without; receiving in exchange a supply of water, and guides for the journey. He also wrote down several words of their language, and having found the end of a prow, with a horse carved on it, which he was told formed part of the wreck of a vessel coming from the west, he took it with him, and proceeded on his homeward course. He arrived safely in Egypt, where no longer Cleopatra, but her son, [Note] ruled; but he was again stripped of every thing on the accusation of having appropriated to his own uses a large portion of the merchandise sent out.

However, he carried the prow into the market-place, and exhibited it to the pilots, who recognised it as being come from Gades. [Note] The merchants [of that place] employing large vessels, but the lesser traders small ships, which they style horses, from the figures of that animal borne on the prow, and in which they go out fishing around Maurusia, [Note] as far as the Lixus. [Note] Some of the pilots professed to recognise the prow as that of a vessel which had sailed beyond the river Lixus, but had not returned. [Note]

From this Eudoxus drew the conclusion, that it was possible to circumnavigate Libya; he therefore returned home, and having collected together the whole of his substance, set out on his travels. First he visited Dicæarchia, [Note] and then Marseilles, and afterwards traversed the whole coast as far as Gades. Declaring his enterprise everywhere as he journeyed, he gathered money sufficient to equip a great ship, and two boats, resembling those used by pirates. On board these he placed singing girls, physicians, and artisans of various kinds,

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and launching into open sea, was carried towards India by steady westerly winds. [Note] However, they who accompanied him becoming wearied with the voyage, steered their course towards land, but much against his will, as he dreaded the force of the ebb and flow. What he feared actually occurred. The ship grounded, but gently, so that it did not break up at once, but fell to pieces gradually, the goods and much of the timber of the ship being saved. With these he built a third vessel, closely resembling a ship of fifty oars, and continuing his voyage, came amongst a people who spoke the same lan- guage as that some words of which he had on a former occasion committed to writing. He further discovered, that they were men of the same stock as those other Ethiopians, and also resembled those of the kingdom of Bogus. [Note] However, he abandoned his [intended] voyage to India, and returned home. On his voyage back he observed an uninhabited island. well watered and wooded, and carefully noted its position. Having reached Maurusia in safety, lie disposed of his ves- sels, and travelled by land to the court of Bogus. He recom- mended that sovereign to undertake an expedition thither.

This, however, was prevented on account of the fear of the [king's] advisers, lest the district should chance to expose then to treachery, by making known a route by which foreigners might come to attack them. Eudoxus, however, became aware, that although it was given out that he was himself to be sent on this proposed expedition, the real intent was to aban- don him on some desert island. He therefore fled to the Roman territory, and passed thence into Iberia. Again, he equipped two vessels, one round and the other long, furnished with fifty oars, the latter framed for voyaging in the high seas. the other for coasting along the shores. He placed on board agricultural implements, seed, and builders, and hastened on the same voyage, determined, if it should prove too long, to winter on the island he had before observed, sow his seed.

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and leaving reaped the harvest, complete the expedition lie had intended from the beginning. 2.3.5

Thus far, says Posidonius, I have followed the history of Eudoxus. What happened afterwards is probably known to the people of Gades and Iberia; but, says he, all these things only demonstrate more clearly the fact, that the in- habited earth is entirely surrounded by the ocean. By no continent fettered in,
But boundless in its flow, and free from soil.
Posidonius is certainly a most strange writer; he considers that the voyage of the Magus, [Note] related by Heraclides, wants sufficient evidence, and also the account given by Herodotus of those sent out [to explore] by Darius. But this Bergæan [Note] nonsense, either the coinage of his own brain, or of some other story-teller, in whom he trusts, he pretends to be worthy of our belief. But in the first place, what is there credible in this tale of the Indian missing his way? The Arabian Gulf, which resembles a river, is narrow, and in length is from 5000 to 10,000 stadia up to its mouth, where it is narrowest of all. It is not likely that the Indians in their voyage out would have entered this Gulf by mistake. The extreme narrowness of the mouth must have warned them of their error. And if they entered it voluntarily, then there was no excuse for introducing the pretext of mistake and uncertain winds. And how did they suffer all of themselves but one to perish through hunger? And how was it that this surviver was able to manage the ship, which could not have been a small one either, fitted as it was for traversing such vast seas? What must have been his aptitude in learning the language of the country, and thus being able to persuade the king of his competence, as leader of the expedition? And how came it that Euergetes was in want of such guides, so many being already acquainted with this sea? How was it that he who was sent by the inhabitants of Cyzicus to carry libations and sacrifices, should forsake his city and sail for India? How was it that so great an affair was

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intrusted to him? And how came it that on his return, after being deprived of every thing contrary to expectation, and disgraced, a yet larger cargo of goods was intrusted to him? And when he had again returned into Ethiopia, what cause induced him to write down the words, or to inquire whence came the portion of the prow of the boat? For to learn that it was a ship of some sailing from the west, would have been no information to him, as he himself would have to sail from the west on his voyage back. When, on his return to Alexandria, he was detected in having appropriated to himself much of the merchandise, how came it that he was not punished, but allowed to go about interrogating the pilots, and exhibiting his bit of prow? And that one of these fellows actually recognised the relic, is it not delicious! Eudoxus too believed it, this is still richer; and inspired by the hope, hastens home, and then starts on a voyage beyond the Pillars of Hercules! But he could never have left Alexandria without a passport, still less after having stolen the royal property. To set sail on the sly was impossible, as the port and every other exit was kept by a numerous guard, which still exists, as we very well know who have lived in Alexandria for a long time, although it is not so strict since the Romans have had possession, but under the kings the guards were infinitely more alert. But allowing that he reached Gades, that he there constructed ships, and sailed thence with quite a royal fleet, when his vessel was shattered, by what means was he able to construct a third boat in a desert land? And when, being again on his voyage, he found that the Ethiopians of the West spoke the same language as those of the East, how came it that he, so proud of his travelling propensities, forgot the completion of his voyage, when he must have had so good an expectation that there was but little now left unexplored, but relinquishing these prospects, set his mind on the expedition being undertaken by Bogus? How did he become acquainted with the snare spread for him by that king? And what advantage would have accrued to Bogus by making away with the man, rather than by dismissing him? When Eudoxus learned the plot against himself, what means had he to escape to safer quarters? It is true that not one of these situations was actually impossible, but still they were difficult circumstances, such as one rarely escapes from by any prosperous fortune. How-

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ever, he always came off with good luck, notwithstanding he was never out of danger. Besides this, how did it happen, that having escaped from Bogus, he was not afraid to sail round Africa a second time, with all the requisites for taking up his abode on the island? All this too closely resembles the false- hoods of Pytheas, Euhemerus, and Antiphanes. They however may be pardoned; for their only aim was that of the juggler. But who can forgive a demonstrator and philosopher, and one too striving to be at the head of their order? it is really too bad! 2.3.6

However, he is right in attributing to earthquakes and other similar causes, which we also have enumerated, the risings, slips, and changes which at various periods come over the earth. He did well, too, in citing the opinion of Plato, that the tradition concerning the Island of Atlantis might be received as something more than a mere fiction, it having been related by Solon on the authority of the Egyptian priests, that this island, almost as large as a continent, was formerly in existence, although now it had disappeared. Posidonius thinks it better to quote this than to say, He who brought it into existence can also cause it to disappear, as the poet did the wall of the Achivi. [Note] He (Posidonius) is also of opinion that the emigration of the Cimbrians and other kindred races from their native territory, was gradual, and occasioned by the inundation of the sea, and by no means a sudden movement. [Note] He supposes that the length of the inhabited earth is about 70,000 stadia, being the half of the whole circle on which it is taken; so that, says he, starting from the west, one might, aided by a continual east wind, reach India in so many thousand stadia. 2.3.7

Next he undertakes to find fault with those who gave

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to the continents their present division, instead of marking them out by lines drawn parallel to the equator, by which means the different animals, plants, and temperatures would have been distinguished, according as they approached the frigid or the torrid zones; so that each continent would have formed a kind of zone. Afterwards, however, he overturns and gives up altogether this view, bestowing every commendation on the existing system, and thus making his argument altogether worthless and of no avail. In fact, the various arrangements [of a country] are not the result of premeditation, any more than the diversities of nations or languages; they all depend on circumstances and chance. Arts, forms of government, and modes of life, arising from certain [internal] springs, flourish under whatever climate they may be situated; climate, however, has its influence, and therefore while some peculiarites are due to the nature of the country, others are the result of institutions and education. It is not owing to the nature of the country, but rather to their education, that the Athenians cultivate eloquence, while the Lacedæmonians do not; nor yet the Thebans, who are nearer still. Neither are the Babylonians and Egyptians philosophers by nature, but by reason of their institutions and education. In like manner the excellence of horses, oxen, and other animals, results not alone from the places where they dwell, but also, from their breeding. Posidonius confounds all these distinctions.

In praising the division of the continents as it now stands, he advances as an argument the difference between the Indians and the Ethiopians of Libya, the former being more robust, and less dried by the heat of the climate. It is on this account that Homer, who includes them all under the title of Ethiopians, describes them as being separated into two divisions, These eastward situate, those toward the west. [Note]
Odyssey i, 23.
[Crates], to support his hypothesis, supposes another inhabited earth, of which Horner certainly knew nothing; and says that the passage ought to be read thus, towards the descending sun, viz. when having passed the meridian, it begins to decline.

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2.3.8

First, then, the Ethiopians next Egypt are actually separated into two divisions; one part being in Asia, the other in Libya, otherwise there is no distinction between them. But it was not on this account that Homer divided the Ethiopians, nor yet because he was acquainted with the physical superiority of the Indians, (for it is not probable that Homer had the slightest idea of the Indians, since, according to the assertion of Eudoxus, Euergetes was both ignorant of India, and of the voyage thither,) but his division rather resulted from the cause we formerly mentioned. We have shown that as for the alteration of Crates, it makes no difference whether it be read so or not. Posidonius, however, says that it does make a difference, and would be better altered into towards the descending [sun]. But in what can this be said to differ from towards the west, since the whole section of the hemisphere west of the meridian is styled the west, not only the mere semicircle of the horizon. This is manifested by the following expression of Aratus, Where the extremities of the west and east blend together. [Note]
Phænom. v. 61.
However, if the reading of Posidonius be preferable to that of Crates, any one may likewise claim for it a superiority over that of Aristarchus. So much for Posidonius. There are, however, many particulars relating to Geography, which we shall bring under discussion; others relating to Physics, which must be examined elsewhere, or altogether disregarded; for he is much too fond of imitating Aristotle's propensity for diving into causes, a subject which we [Stoics] scrupulously avoid, simply because of the extreme darkness in which all causes are enveloped.



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