Strabo, Geography (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Str.].
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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. 2.4.2

Polybius asks, How is it possible that a private individual, and one too in narrow circumstances, could ever have performed such vast expeditions by sea and land? And how could Eratosthenes, who hesitates whether he may rely on his statements in general, place such entire confidence in what that writer narrates concerning Britain, Gades, and Iberia? says he, it would have been better had Eratosthenes trusted to the Messenian [Note] rather than to this writer. The former

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merely pretends to have sailed into one [unknown] country, viz. Panchæa, but the latter, that he has visited the whole of the north of Europe as far as the ends of the earth; which statement, even had it been made by Mercury, we should not have believed. Nevertheless Eratosthenes, who terms Euhemerus a Bergæan, gives credit to Pytheas, although even Dicæarchus would not believe him.

This argument, although even Dicæarchus would not believe him, is ridiculous, just as if Eratosthenes ought to take for his standard a writer whom Polybius is himself for ever complaining of. [Note]

The ignorance of Eratosthenes respecting the western and northern portions of Europe, we have before remarked. But both he and Dicæarchus must be pardoned for this, as neither of them were personally familiar with those localities. But how can one excuse Polybius and Posidonius? especially Polybius, who treats as mere hearsay what Eratosthenes and Dicæarchus report concerning the distances of various places; and many other matters, about which, though he blames them, he is not himself free from error. Dicæarchus states that there are 10,000 stadia from the Peloponnesus to the Pillars, and something above this number from the Peloponnesus to the recess of the Adriatic. [Note] He supposes 3000 stadia between the Peloponnesus and the Strait of Sicily; thus there would remain 7000 between the Strait of Sicily and the Pillars. [Note]

I will not inquire, says Polybius, whether the statement concerning the 3000 stadia is correct or not, but 7000 stadia

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is not the correct measure [from the Strait of Messina to the Pillars of Hercules], whether taken along the sea-shore, or right across the sea. The coast closely resembles an obtuse angle, one side reaching to the Strait of Sicily, the other to the Pillars, the vertex being Narbonne. Now let a triangle be constructed, having for its base a right line drawn through the sea, and its sides forming the aforementioned angle. The side reaching from the Strait of Sicily to Narbonne is above 11,200 stadia, while the other is below 8000. Now the greatest distance from Europe to Libya, across the Tyrrhenian Sea, [Note] is not above 3000 stadia, and across the Sea of Sardinia [Note] it is less still. But supposing that it too is 3000 stadia add to this 2000 stadia, the depth of the bay at Narbonne as a perpendicular from the vertex to the base of the obtuse- angled triangle. It will, then, be clear even to the geometrical powers of a child, that the entire coast from the Strait of Sicily to the Pillars, does not exceed by more than 500 stadia the right line drawn across the sea; adding to these the 3000 stadia from the Peloponnesus to the Strait of Sicily, the whole taken together will give a straight line [Note] above double the length assigned by Dicæarchus; and, according to his system, you must add in addition to these the stadia at the recess of the Adriatic. 2.4.3

True, dear Polybius, (one might say,) this error [of Dicæarchus] is manifested by the proof which you yourself have given when you inform us that from the Peloponnesus to Leucas [Note] there are 700 stadia; from thence to Corcyra [Note] the same number; and the same number again from Corcyra to the Ceraunian Mountains; [Note] and from the Ceraunian Mountains to Iapygia, [Note] following the coast of Illyria on the right, 6150 stadia. [Note] But the statement of Dicæarchus, that the

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distance from the Strait of Sicily to the Pillars is 7000 stadia, and also your view of the matter, are both of them equally incorrect. For almost every one is agreed that the distance measured straight across the sea is 12,000 stadia, and this coincides with the received calculation of the length of the inhabited earth, which is estimated at above 70,000 stadia; the western portion of this from the Gulf of Issus [Note] to the extreme western point of Iberia is little less than 30,000 stadia, and is thus calculated: from the Gulf of Issus to Rhodes 5000 stadia; from thence to Cape Salmonium, [Note] which forms the eastern extremity of Crete, 1000; the length of Crete to Criu-metopon [Note] above 2000; thence to Cape Pachynus [Note] in Sicily 4500, and from Pachynus to the Strait of Sicily above 1000 stadia; the run from the Strait to the Pillars 12,000 and lastly, from the Pillars to the extremity of the said promontory [Note] of Iberia, about 3000 stadia. [Note]

In addition to this, the perpendicular [Note] is not correct, supposing it true that Narbonne lies under almost the same parallel as Marseilles, and that this latter place is under the same parallel as Byzantium; which is the opinion of Hipparchus. Now the line drawn across the sea lies under the same parallel as the Strait [of the Pillars] and Rhodes; and the distance from Rhodes to Byzantium, which both lie under the same meridian, is estimated at about 5000 stadia; to which the above-mentioned perpendicular ought to be equal. But since they say that from the recess of the Galatic Gulf, the greatest distance across the sea from Europe to Libya is 5000 stadia, it seems to me that either there is some error in this statement, or that at this point Libya must incline very much to the north, and so come under the same parallel as the Pillars. Polybius is likewise mistaken in telling us that this said perpendicular terminates close to Sardinia; for instead of being lose to Sardinia, it is far west thereof, having almost the whole of the sea of Liguria [Note] between it and that

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island. Besides this he makes the length of the sea-coast too great; but this [error] is not so considerable [as the two preceding]. 2.4.4

After this Polybius proceeds to set right the mistakes of' Eratosthenes. In this he is sometimes successful; at others his corrections are for the worse. For example, Eratosthenes gives 300 stadia from Ithaca to Corcyra; Polybius makes it above 900. From Epidamnus to Thessa- lonica Eratosthenes allows 900 stadia; Polybius says above 2000. In these instances he is correct. But where Era- tosthenes states that from Marseilles to the Pillars there are 7000 stadia, and from the Pyrenees [to the same place] 6000, and Polybius alters this to more than 9000 from Mar- seilles, and little less than 8000 from the Pyrenees, [Note] he is quite mistaken, and not so near to the truth as Eratos- thenes. For all are now agreed that, barring the indirect- ness of the roads, the whole length of Iberia is not more than 6000 stadia [Note] from the Pyrenees to its western limits; notwithstanding Polybius gives 8000 stadia for the length of the river Tagus, from its source to its outlets, and this in a straight line without any reference to its sinuosities, which in fact never enter into the geographical estimate, although the sources of the Tagus are above 1000 stadia from the Pyrenees. His remark is quite correct, that Eratosthenes knew little about Iberia, and on this account sometimes makes conflicting statements concerning it. He tells us, for example, that the portion of this country situated on the sea- coast as far as Gades is inhabited by Galatæ, [Note] who possess western Europe as far as Gades; nevertheless, in his account of Iberia he seems quite to have forgotten this, and makes no mention of these Galatæ whatever. 2.4.5

Again, however, Polybius makes an incorrect assertion, in stating that the whole length of Europe is unequal to that of Africa and Asia taken together. He tells us "that the en-

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trance at the Pillars corresponds in direction to the equinoctial west, and that the Don flows from the summer rising, [Note] consequently the length of Europe is less than that of Asia and Africa taken together by the space between the summer rising and the equinoctial rising, [Note] since Asia occupies the eastern portion of the northern semicircle. Now, in addition to the obscurity which Polybius throws over subjects which might have been simply stated, it is false that the river Don flows from the summer rising. For all who are acquainted with these localities inform us that this river flows from the north into the Mæotis, so that the mouth of the river lies under the same meridian as that of the Mæotis; and so in fact does the whole river as far as is known. [Note] 2.4.6

Equally unworthy of credit is the statement of those who tell us, that the Don rises in the vicinity of the Danube, and flows from the west; they do not remember that between these are the Dniester, the Dnieper, and the Bog, all great rivers, which flow [into the Euxine Sea]; one runs parallel to the Danube, the other two to the Don. Now if at the present day we are ignorant of the sources both of the Dniester, and also of the Dnieper and Bog, the regions farther north must certainly be still less known. It is therefore a fictitious and idle assertion, that the Don crosses these rivers, and then turns northward on its way to discharge itself into the Mæbtis, it being well known that the outlets to this river are in the most northern and eastern portions of the lake. [Note]

No less idle is the statement which has also been advanced. that the Don, after crossing the Caucasus, flows northward and then turns towards the Mæotis. [Note] No one, however, [with the exception of Polybius,] made this river flow from the east If such were its course, our best geographers would never

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have told us that its direction was contrary to that of the Nile, and, so to speak, diametrically opposite thereto, as if the course of both rivers lay under the same meridian. 2.4.7

Further, the length of the inhabited earth is measured on a line parallel with the equator, as it is in this direction that its greatest length lies: in the same way with respect to each of the continents, we must take their length as it lies between two meridians. The measure of these lengths consists of a certain number of stadia, which we obtain either by going over the places themselves, or roads or ways parallel thereto. Polybius abandons this method, and adopts the new way of taking the segment of the northern semicircle comprised between the summer rising and the equinoctial rising. But no one ought to calculate by variable rules or measures in determining the length of fixed distances: nor yet should he make use of the phenomena of the heavens, which appear different when observed from different points, for distances which have their length determined by themselves and remain unchanged. The length of a country never varies, but depends upon itself; whereas, the equinoctial rising and setting, and the summer and winter rising and setting, depend not on themselves, but on our position [with respect to them]. As we shift from place to place, the equinoctial rising and setting, and the winter and summer rising and setting, shift with us; but the length of a continent always- remains the same. To make the Don and the Nile the bounds of -these continents, is nothing out of the way, but it is something strange to employ for this purpose the equinoctial rising and the summer rising. 2.4.8

Of the many promontories formed by Europe, a better description is given by Polybius than by Eratosthenes; but even his is not sufficient. Eratosthenes only names three; one at the Pillars of Hercules, where Iberia is situated; a second at the Strait of Sicily, and containing Italy; the third terminated by the Cape of Malea, [Note] comprising all the countries situated between the Adriatic, the Euxine, and the Don. The two former of these Polybius describes in the same manner

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as Eratosthenes, but the third, which is equally terminated by the Cape of Malea [Note] and Cape Sunium, [Note] [he makes to] comprehend the whole of Greece, Illyria, and some portion of Thrace. [He supposes] a fourth, containing the Thracian Chersonesus and the countries contiguous to the Strait, [Note] betwixt Sestos and Abydos. This is occupied by the Thracians. Also a fifth, about the Kimmerian Bosphorus and the mouth of the Mæotis. Let us allow [to Polybius] his two former [promontories], they are clearly distinguished by unmistakeable bays; the first by the bay between Calpé [Note] and the Sacred Promontory [Note] where Gades [Note] is situated, as also by the sea between the Pillars and Sicily; the second [Note] by the latter sea and the Adriatic, [Note] although it may be objected that the extremity of Iapygia, [Note] being a promontory in itself, causes Italy to have a double cape. But as for the remaining [pro- montories of Polybius], they are plainly much more irregular, and composed of many parts, and require some other division- So likewise his plan of dividing [Europe] into six parts, similar to that of the promontories, is liable to objection.

However, we will set to rights each of these errors separately, as we meet with them, as well as the other blunders into which he has fallen in his description of Europe, and the journey round Africa. For the present we think that we have sufficiently dwelt on those of our predecessors whom we have thought proper to introduce as testimonies in our behalf, that both in the matter of correction and addition we had ample cause to undertake the present work.

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Strabo, Geography (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Str.].
<<Str. 2.3 Str. 2.4 (Greek English(2)) >>Str. 2.5

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