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


POLYBIUS, in his Chorography of Europe, tells us that it is not his intention to examine the writings of the ancient geographers, but the statements of those who have criticised them,

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such as Dicæarchus, Eratosthenes, (who was the last of those who [in his time] had laboured on geography,) and Pytheas, by whom many have been deceived. It is this last writer who states that he travelled all over Britain on foot, and that the island is above 40,000 stadia in circumference. It is likewise he who describes Thule and other neighbouring places, where, according to him, neither earth, water, nor air exist, separately, but a sort of concretion of all these, resembling marine sponge, in which the earth, the sea, and all things were suspended, thus forming, as it were, a link to unite the whole together. It can neither be travelled over nor sailed through. As for the substance, he affirms that he has beheld it with his own eyes; the rest, he reports on the authority of others. So much for the statements of Pytheas, who tells us, besides, that after he had returned thence, he traversed the whole coasts of Europe from Gades to the Don.

Strabo, Geography (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Str.].
<<Str. 2.3.6 Str. 2.3.8 (Greek English(2)) >>Str. 2.4.3

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