Strabo, Geography (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Str.].
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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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CHAPTER V. 2.5.1

AFTER these criticisms on the writers who have preceded us, we must now confine our attention to the ful- filment of our promise. We start with a maxim we laid down at the commencement, that whoever undertakes to write a Chorography, should receive as axioms certain physical and mathematical propositions, and frame the rest of his work in accordance with, and in full reliance on, these principles. We have already stated [our opinion], that neither builder nor architect could build house or city properly and as it ought to be, unless acquainted with the climax of the place, its position in respect to celestial appearances, its shape, magnitude, degree of heat and cold, and similar facts; much less should he [be without such information] who undertakes to describe the situation of the various regions of the inhabited earth.

Represent to the mind on one and the same plane-surface Iberia and India with the intermediate countries, and define likewise the west, the east, and the south, which are common to every country. To a man already acquainted with the arrangement and motions of the heavens, and aware that in reality the surface of the earth is spherical, although here for the sake of illustration represented as a plane, this will give a sufficiently exact idea of the geographical [position of the various countries], but not to one who is unacquainted with those matters. The tourist travelling over vast plains like those of Babylon, or journeying by sea, may fancy that the whole country stretched before, behind, and on either side of him is a plane-surface; he may be unacquainted with the counter- indications of the celestial phenomena, and with the motions and appearance of the sun and stars, in respect to us. But such facts as these should ever be present to the mind of those who compose Geographies The traveller, whether by sea or land, is directed by certain common appearances, which answer equally for the direction both of the unlearned and of the man of the world. Ignorant of astronomy, and unacquainted with the varied aspect of the heavens, he be-

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holds the sun rise and set, and attain the meridian, but with- out considering how this takes place. Such knowledge could not aid the object he has in view, any more than to know whether the country he chances to be in may be under the same latitude as his own or not. Even should he bestow a slight attention to the subject, on all mathematical points he will adopt the opinions of the place; and every country has certain mistaken views of these matters. But it is not for any particular nation, nor for the man of the world who cares nothing for abstract mathematics, still less is it for the reaper or ditcher, that the geographer labours; but it is for him who is convinced that the earth is such as mathematicians declare it to be, and who admits every other fact resulting from this hypothesis. He requests that those who approach him shall have already settled this in their minds as a fact, that they may be able to lend their whole attention to other points. He will advance nothing which is not a consequence of these primary facts; therefore those who hear him, if they have a knowledge of mathematics, will readily be able to turn his instructions to account; for those who are destitute of this information he does not pretend to expound Geography.

Strabo, Geography (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Str.].
<<Str. 2.4.4 Str. 2.4.8 (Greek English(2)) >>Str. 2.5.3

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