Strabo, Geography (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Str.].
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These calculations are nearly synonymous with those furnished by Hipparchus, who tells us, that supposing the size of the globe as stated by Eratosthenes to be correct, we can then subtract from it the extent of the inhabited earth, since in noting the celestial appearances [as they are seen] in different countries, it is not of much importance whether we make use of this measure, or that furnished by later writers. Now as the whole circle of the equator according to Eratosthenes contains 252,000 stadia, the quarter of this would be 63,000, that is, the space from the equator to the pole contains fifteen of the sixty divisions [Note] into which the equator itself is divided. There are four [divisions] between the equator and the summer tropic or parallel passing through Syene. The distances for each locality are calculated by the astronomical observations.

It is evident that Syene is under the tropic, from the fact that during the summer solstice the gnomon at mid-day casts no shadow there. As for the meridian of Syene, it follows very nearly the course of the Nile from Meroe to Alexandria, a distance of about 10,000 stadia. Syene itself is situated about mid-way between these places, consequently from thence to Meroe is a distance of 5000 stadia. Advancing 3000 stadia southward in a right line, we come to lands unfitted for habitation on account of the heat. Consequently the parallel which bounds these places, and which is the same as that of the Cinnamon Country, is to be regarded as the boundary and commencement of the habitable earth on the south. If, then, 3000 stadia be added to the 5000 between Syene and Meroe, there will be altogether 8000 stadia [from Syene] to the [southern] extremity of the habitable earth. But from Syene to the equator there are 16,800 stadia, (for such is the amount of the four-sixtieths, each sixtieth being equivalent to 4200 stadia,) and consequently from the [southern] boundaries of the habitable earth to the equator there are 8800 stadia, and from Alexandria 21,800. [Note]
Again, every one is

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agreed that the voyage from Alexandria to Rhodes, and thence by Caria and Ionia to the Troad, Byzantium, and the Dnieper, is in a straight line with the course of the Nile. [Note]

Taking therefore these distances, which have been ascertained by voyages, we have only to find out how far beyond the Dnieper the land is habitable, (being careful always to continue in the same straight line,) and we shall arrive at a knowledge of the northern boundaries of our earth.

Beyond the Dnieper dwell the Roxolani, [Note] the last of the Scythians with which we are acquainted; they are nevertheless more south than the farthest nations [Note] we know of beyond Britain. Beyond these Roxolani the country is uninhabitable on account of the severity of the climate. The Sauromate [Note] who live around the M├Žotis, and the other Scythians [Note] as far as the Scythians of the East, dwell farther south.

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It is true that Pytheas of Marseilles affirms that the farthest country north of the British islands is Thule; for which place he says the summer tropic and the arctic circle is all one. But he records no other particulars concerning it; [he does not say] whether Thule is an island, or whether it continues habitable up to the point where the summer tropic becomes one with the arctic circle. [Note] For myself, I fancy that the northern boundaries of the habitable earth are greatly south of this. Modern writers tell us of nothing beyond Ierne, which lies just north of Britain, where the people live miserably and like savages on account of the severity of the cold. It is here in my opinion the bounds of the habitable earth ought to be fixed.

If on the one hand the parallels of Byzantium and Marseilles are the same, as Hipparchus asserts on the faith of Pytheas, (for he [Note] says that at Byzantium the gnomon indicates the same amount of shadow as Pytheas gives for Marseilles,) and at the same time the parallel of the Dnieper is distant from Byzantium about 3800 stadia, it follows, if we take into consideration the distance between Marseilles and Britain, that the circle which passes over the Dnieper traverses Britain as well. [Note] But the truth is that Pytheas, who so frequently misleads people, deceives in this instance too.

It is generally admitted that a line drawn from the Pillars of Hercules, and passing over the Strait [of Messina], Athens, and Rhodes, would lie under the same parallel of latitude. [Note]

It is likewise admitted, that the line in passing from the Pillars to the Strait of Sicily divides the Mediterranean through the

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midst. [Note] Navigators tell us that the greatest distance from Keltica to Libya, starting from the bottom of the Galatic Bay, is 5000 stadia, and that this is likewise the greatest breadth of the Mediterranean. Consequently from the said line to the bottom of the bay is 2500 stadia; but to Marseilles the distance is rather less, in consequence of that city being more to the south than the bottom of the bay. [Note] But since from Rhodes to Byzantium is about 4900 [Note] stadia, it follows that Byzantium must be far north of Marseilles. [Note] The distance from this latter city to Britain is about the same as from Byzantium to the Dnieper. [Note] How far it may be from Britain to the island of Ierne is not known. As to whether beyond it there may still be habitable lands, it is not our business to inquire, as we stated before. It is sufficient for our science to determine this in the same manner that we did the southern boundaries. We there fixed the bounds of the habitable earth at 3000 stadia south of Meroe (not that these were its exact limits, but because they were sufficiently near); so in this instance they should be placed about the same number of stadia north of Britain, certainly not more than 4000. [Note]

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It would not serve any political purpose to be well acquainted with these distant places and the people who inhabit them; especially if they are islands whose inhabitants can neither injure us, nor yet benefit us by their commerce. The Romans might easily have conquered Britain, but they did not care to do so, as they perceived there was nothing to fear from the inhabitants, (they not being powerful enough to attack us,) and that they would gain nothing by occupying the land. Even now it appears that we gain more by the customs they pay, than we could raise by tribute, after deducting the wages of the soldiers necessary for guarding the island and exacting the taxes. And the other islands adjacent to this would be still more unproductive.

Strabo, Geography (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Str.].
<<Str. 2.5.6 Str. 2.5.8 (Greek English(2)) >>Str. 2.5.10

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