Strabo, Geography (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Str.].
<<Str. 2.2.3 Str. 2.3.2 (Greek English(2)) >>Str. 2.3.5


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

-- 146 --

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

-- 147 --

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-

-- 148 --

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.

Strabo, Geography (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Str.].
<<Str. 2.2.3 Str. 2.3.2 (Greek English(2)) >>Str. 2.3.5

Powered by PhiloLogic