Strabo, Geography (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Str.].
<<Str. 3.2.7 Str. 3.2.9 (Greek English(2)) >>Str. 3.2.11


Of the various riches of the aforenamed country, [Note] not the least is its wealth in metals: this every one will particularly esteem and admire. Of metals, in fact, the whole country of the Iberians is full, although it is not equally fertile and flourishing throughout, especially in those parts where the metals most abound. It is seldom that any place is blessed with both these advantages, and likewise seldom that the different kinds of metals abound in one small territory. Turdetania, however, and the surrounding districts surpass so entirely in this respect, that however you may wish, words cannot convey their excellence. Gold, silver, copper, and iron, equal in amount and of similar quality, not having been hitherto discovered in any other part of the world. [Note] Gold is not only dug from the mines, but likewise collected; sand containing gold being washed down by the rivers and torrents. It is frequently met with in arid districts, but here the gold is not visible to the sight, whereas in those which are overflowed the grains of gold are seen glittering. On this account they cause water to flow over the arid places in order to make the grains shine; they also dig pits, and make use of other contrivances for washing the sand, and separating the gold from it; so that at the present day more gold is procured by washing than by digging it from the mines. The Galatæ affirm that the mines along the Kemmenus mountains [Note] and their side of the Pyrenees are superior; but most people prefer those on this side. They say that sometimes amongst the

-- 220 --

grains of gold lumps have been found weighing half a pound, these they call palœ; they need but little refining. [Note] They also say that in splitting open stones they find small lumps, resembling paps. And that when they have melted the gold, and purified it by means of a kind of aluminous earth, the residue left is electrum. This, which contains a mixture of silver and gold, being again subjected to the fire, the silver is separated and the gold left [pure]; for this metal is easily dissipated and fat, [Note] and on this account gold is most easily melted by straw, the flame of which is soft, and bearing a similarity [to the gold], causes it easily to dissolve: whereas coal, besides wasting a great deal, melts it too much by reason of its vehemence, and carries it off [in vapour]. In the beds of the rivers the sand is either collected and washed in boats close by, or else a pit is dug to which the earth is carried and there washed. The furnaces for silver are constructed lofty, in order that the vapour, which is dense and pestilent, may be raised and carried off. Certain of the copper mines are called gold mines, which would seem to show that formerly gold was dug from them. 3.2.9

Posidonius, in praising the amount and excellence of the metals, cannot refrain from his accustomed rhetoric, and becomes quite enthusiastic in exaggeration. He tells us we are not to disbelieve the fable, that formerly the forests having been set on fire, the earth, which was loaded with silver and gold, melted, and threw up these metals to the surface, forasmuch as every mountain and wooded hill seemed to be heaped up with money by a lavish fortune. Altogether (he remarks) any one seeing these places, could only describe them as the inexhaustible treasuries of nature, or the unfailing ex- chequer of some potentate; for not only, he tells us, is this land rich itself, but riches abound beneath it. So that amongst these people the subterraneous regions should not be regarded as the realms of Pluto, but of Plutus. Such is the flourished style in which he speaks on this subject, that you would fancy

-- 221 --

his turgid language had been dug from a mine itself. Dis- coursing on the diligence of the miners, he applies to them the remark [of Demetrius] of Phalaris, who, speaking of the silver mines of Attica, said that the men there dug with as much energy as if they thought they could grub up Plutus himself. He compares with these the activity and diligence of the Turdetani, who are in the habit of cutting tortuous and deep tunnels, and draining the streams which they frequently encounter by means of Egyptian screws. [Note] As for the rest, [Note] they are quite different from the Attic miners, whose mining (he remarks) may be justly compared to that enigma, [Note] What I have taken up I have not kept, and what I have got I have thrown away. Whereas the Turdetanians make a good profit, since a fourth part of the ore which they extract from the copper mines is [pure] copper, while from the silver mines one person has taken as much as a Eubœan talent. He says that tin is not found upon the surface, as authors commonly relate, but that it is dug up; and that it is produced both in places among the barbarians who dwell beyond the Lusitanians and in the islands Cassiterides; and that from the Britannic Islands it is carried to Marseilles. Amongst the Artabri, [Note] who are the last of the Lusitanians towards the north and west, he tells us that the earth is powdered with silver, tin, and white gold, that is, mixed with silver, the earth having been brought down by the rivers: this the women scrape up with spades, and wash in sieves, woven after the fashion of baskets. Such is the

-- 222 --

substance of what [Posidonius] tells us concerning the mines [of Iberia].

Strabo, Geography (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Str.].
<<Str. 3.2.7 Str. 3.2.9 (Greek English(2)) >>Str. 3.2.11

Powered by PhiloLogic