Strabo, Geography (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Str.].
<<Str. 4.5 Str. 4.6 (Greek English(2)) >>Str. 5.1


HAVING described Keltica beyond the Alps, [Note] and the nations who inhabit the country, we must now speak of the Alps themselves and their inhabitants, and afterwards of the whole of Italy; observing in our description such arrangement as the nature of the country shall point out.

The Alps do not commence at Monœci Portus, [Note] as some have asserted, but from the region whence the Apennines take their rise about Genoa, a mercantile city of the Ligurians, and at the marshes named Sabatorum Vada; [Note] for the Apen- nines take their rise near Genoa, and the Alps near Sabatorum Vada. The distance between Genoa and the Sabatorum Vada is about 260 stadia. About 370 stadia farther on is the little city of Albingaunum, [Note] inhabited by Ligurians who are called Ingauni. From thence to the Monœci Portus is 480 stadia. In the interval between is the very considerable city of Albium Intemelium, [Note] inhabited by the Intemelii. These names are sufficient to prove that the Alps commence at the Sabbatorum Vada. For the Alps were formerly called Albia and Alpionia, [Note] and at the present day the high mountain in the country of the Iapodes, [Note] next to Ocra and the Alps, is named Albius, showing that the Alps extend so far.

-- 301 --


Now since the Ligurians were divided into Ingauri and Intemelii, it was natural that their maritime colonies should be distinguished, one by the name of Albium Intemelium, Alpine as it were, and the other by the more concise form Albingaunum. [Note] To these two tribes of Ligurians already mentioned, Polybius adds those of the Oxybii and Deciates. [Note] The whole coast from Monœci Portus to Tyrrhenia is continuous, and without harbours excepting some small roads and anchorages. Above it rise the rugged precipices of the Alpine range, leaving but a narrow passage along the sea. This district, but particularly the mountains, is inhabited by Ligurians, principally subsisting on the produce of their herds, and milk, and a drink made of barley. There is plenty of wood here for the construction of ships; the trees grow to a vast size, some of them having been found eight feet in diameter. Much of the wood is veined, and not inferior to cedar-wood for cabinet work. This wood, together with the produce of their cattle, hides, and honey, they transport to the mart of Genoa, receiving in exchange for them the oil and wine of Italy; for the little [wine] which their country produces is harsh and tastes of pitch. Here are bred the horses and mules known as ginni, and here too are wrought the Ligurian tunics and saga. In their country likewise there is plenty of lingurium, called by some electrum. [Note] They use but few cavalry in war; their infantry are good, and excellent slingers. Some have thought that their brazen shields prove these people to be of Grecian origin. 4.6.3

The Monœci Portus is merely a roadstead, not capable of containing either many or large vessels. Here is a temple dedicated to Hercules Monœcus. [Note] The name seems to show it probable that the Massilian voyages along the coast extended as far as here. Monœci Portus is distant from Antipolis rather more than 200 stadia. The Salyes occupy the region from thence to Marseilles, or a little farther; they

-- 302 --

inhabit the Alps which lie above that city, and a portion of the sea-coast, where they intermingle with the Greeks. The ancient Greeks gave to the Salyes the name of Ligyes, [Note] and to the country which was in the possession of the Marseillese, that of Ligystica. [Note] The later Greeks named them Kelto- Ligyes, [Note] and assigned to them the whole of the plains extending as far as Luerion [Note] and the Rhone. They are divided into ten cantons, and are capable of raising troops not only of infantry, but of cavalry also. These people were the first of the Transalpine Kelts whom the Romans subdued after maintaining a lengthened war against them and the Ligurians. They closed [against the Romans] all the roads into Iberia along the sea-coast, and carried on a system of pillage both by sea and land. Their strength so increased that large armies were scarcely able to force a passage. And after a war of eighty years, the Romans were hardly able to obtain a breadth of twelve stadia for the purpose of making a public road. After this, however, the Romans subdued the whole of them, and established among them a regular form of government, and imposed a tribute. [Note] 4.6.4

After the Salyes, the Albienses, the Albiœci, [Note] and the Vocontii inhabit the northern portion of the mountains. The Vocontii extend as far as the Allobriges, and occupy vast valleys in the depths of the mountains, not inferior to those inhabited by the Allobriges. Both the Allobriges and Ligurians are subject to the pretors sent into the Narbonnaise, but the Vocontii are governed by their own laws, as we have said of the Volcæ of Nemausus. [Note] Of the Ligurians between the Var and Genoa, those along the sea are considered Italians; while the mountaineers are governed by a prefect of the equestrian order, as is the case in regard to other nations wholly barbarous.

-- 303 --


After the Vocontii, are the Iconii, the Tricorii, and the Medulli; who inhabit the loftiest ridges of the mountains, for they say that some of them have an almost perpendicular ascent of 100 stadia, and a similar descent to the frontiers of Italy. In these high-lands there is a great lake; there are also two springs not far distant from each other; one of these gives rise to the Durance, which flows like a torrent into the Rhone, and to the Durias, [Note] which flows in an opposite direction; for it mingles with the Po after having pursued its course through the country of the Salassi [Note] into Cisalpine Keltica. From the other source, but much lower down, rises the Po itself, large and rapid, which as it advances becomes still vaster, and at the same time more gentle. As it reaches the plains it increases in breadth, being augmented by numerous [other rivers], and thus it becomes less impetuous in its course, and its current is weakened. Having become the largest river in Europe, with the exception of the Danube, [Note] it discharges itself into the Adriatic Sea. The Medulli are situated considerably above the confluence of the Isère and the Rhone. 4.6.6

On the opposite side of the mountains, sloping towards Italy, dwell the Taurini, [Note] a Ligurian nation, together with certain other Ligurians. What is called the land of Ideonnus [Note] and Cottius belongs to these Ligurians. Beyond them and the Po are the Salassi; above whom in the summits [of the Alps] are the Kentrones, the Catoriges, the Veragri, the Nantuatæ, [Note] Lake Leman, [Note] traversed by the Rhone, and the

-- 304 --

sources of that river. Not far from these are the sources of the Rhine, and Mount Adulas, [Note] from whence the Rhine flows towards the north; likewise the Adda, [Note] which flows in an opposite direction, and discharges itself into Lake Larius, [Note] near to Como. Lying above Como, which is situated at the roots of the Alps, on one side are the Rhæti and Vennones towards the east, [Note] and on the other the Lepontii, the Tridentini, the Stoni, [Note] and numerous other small nations, poor and addicted to robbery, who in former times possessed Italy. At the present time some of them have been destroyed, and the others at length civilized, so that the passes over the mountains through their territories, which were formerly few and difficult, now run in every direction, secure from any danger of these people, and as accessible as art can make them. For Augustus Cæsar not only destroyed the robbers, but improved the character of the roads as far as practicable, although he could not every where overcome nature, on account of the rocks and immense precipices; some of which tower above the road, while others yawn beneath; so that departing ever so little [from the path], the traveller is in inevitable danger of falling down bottomless chasms. In some places the road is so narrow as to make both the foot traveller and his beasts of burden, who are unaccustomed to it, dizzy; but the animals of the district will carry their burdens quite securely. These things however are beyond remedy, as well as the violent descent of vast masses of congealed snow from above, capable of overwhelming a whole company at a time, and sweeping them into the chasms beneath. Numerous masses lie one upon the other, one hill of congealed snow being formed upon another, so that the uppermost mass is easily detached at any time from that below it, before being perfectly melted by the sun. 4.6.7

A great part of the country of the Salassi lies in a deep valley, formed by a chain of mountains which encloses the district on either side; a part of them however inhabit the [Note]

-- 305 --

overhanging ridges. The route of those who are desirous of passing from Italy over these mountains, lies through the aforesaid valley. Beyond this the road separates into two. The one which passes through the mountain peaks, known as the Pennine Alps, cannot be traversed by carriages; the other, which runs through the country of the Centrones, lies more to the west. [Note] The country of the Salassi contains gold mines, of which formerly, in the days of their power, they were masters, as well as of the passes. The river Doria Baltea [Note] afforded them great facility in obtaining the metal by [supplying them with water] for washing the gold, and they have emptied the main bed by the numerous trenches cut for drawing the water to different places. This operation, though advantageous in gold hunting, was injurious to the agriculturists below, as it deprived them of the irrigation of a river, which, by the height of its position, was capable of watering their plains. This gave rise to frequent wars between the two nations; when the Romans gained the dominion, the Salassi lost both their gold works and their country, but as they still possessed the mountains, they continued to sell water to the public contractors of the gold mines; with whom there were continual disputes on account of the avarice of the contractors, and thus the Roman generals sent into the country were ever able to find a pretext for commencing war. And, until very recently, the Salassi at one time waging war against the Romans, and at another making peace, took occasion to inflict numerous damages upon those who crossed over their mountains, by their system of plundering; and even exacted from Decimus Brutus, on his flight from Mutina, [Note] a drachm per man. Messala, likewise, having taken up his winter quarters in their vicinity, was obliged to pay them, both for his fire-wood, and for the elm-wood for making javelins for the exercise of his troops. In one instance they plundered the treasures of Cæsar, [Note] and rolled down huge

-- 306 --

masses of rock upon the soldiers under pretence of making roads, or building bridges over the rivers. Afterwards Augustus completely overthrew them, and carried them to Eporedia, [Note] a Roman colony which had been planted as a bulwark against the Salassi, although the inhabitants were able to do but little against them until the nation was destroyed; their numbers amounted to 36,000 persons, besides 8000 men capable of bearing arms. Terentius Varro, the general who defeated them, sold them all by public auction, as enemies taken in war. Three thousand Romans sent out by Augustus founded the city of Augusta, [Note] on the spot where Varro had encamped, and now the whole surrounding country, even to the summits of the mountains, is at peace. 4.6.8

Beyond, both the eastern parts of the mountains, and those likewise inclining to the south, are possessed by the Rhæti and Vindelici, who adjoin the Helvetii and Boii, and press upon their plains. The Rhæti extend as far as Italy above Verona and Como. The Rhætian wine, which is esteemed not inferior to the finest wines of Italy, is produced [from vines which grow] at the foot of the mountains. These people extend also as far as the districts through which the Rhine flows. The Lepontii and Camuni are of their nation. The Vindelici and Norici possess, for the most part, the opposite side of the mountains together with the Breuni and Genauni, who form part of the Illyrians. [Note] All these people were continually making incursions both into the neighbouring parts of Italy, and into [the countries] of the Helvetii,

-- 307 --

the Sequani, [Note] the Boii, and the Germans. [Note] But the Licattii, the Clautinatii, and the Vennones [Note] proved the boldest amongst the Vindelici; and the Rucantii and Cotuantii amongst the Rhæti. Both the Estiones and Brigantii belong to the Vindelici; their cities are Brigantium, Campodunum, and Damasia, which may be looked upon as the Acropolis of the Licattii. It is narrated, as an instance of the extreme brutality of these robbers towards the people of Italy, that when they have taken any village or city, they not only put to death all the men capable of bearing arms, but likewise all the male children, and do not even stop here, but murder every pregnant woman who, their diviners say, will bring forth a male infant. [Note]


After these come certain of the Norici, and the Carni, who inhabit the country about the Adriatic Gulf and Aquileia. The Taurisci belong to the Norici. Tiberius and his brother Drusus in one summer put a stop to their lawless incursions, so that now for three and thirty years [Note] they have lived quietly and paid their tribute regularly. Throughout the whole region of the Alps there are hilly districts capable of excellent cultivation, and well situated valleys; but the greater part, especially the summits of the mountains inhabited by the robbers, are barren and unfruitful, both on account of the frost and the ruggedness of the land. On account of the want of food and other necessaries the mountaineers have sometimes been obliged to spare the inhabitants of the plains, that they might have some people to supply them; for these they have given them in exchange, resin, pitch, torches,

-- 308 --

wax, cheese, and honey, of which they have plenty. In the Mount Apennine [Note] which lies above the Carni there is a lake which runs out into the Isar, which river, after receiving another river, the Aude, [Note] discharges itself into the Adriatic. From this lake there is also another river, the Atesinus, which flows into the Danube. [Note] The Danube itself rises in the mountains which are split into many branches and numerous summits. For from Liguria to here the summits of the Alps stretch along continuously, presenting the appearance of one mountain; but after this they rise and fall in turns, forming numerous ridges and peaks. The first of these is beyond the Rhine and the lake [Note] inclining towards the east, its ridge moderately elevated; here are the sources of the Danube near to the Suevi and the forest of Hercynia. [Note] The other branches extend towards Illyria and the Adriatic, such are the Mount Apennine, already mentioned, Tullum and Phligadia, [Note] the mountains lying above the Vindelici from whence proceed the Duras, [Note] the Clanis, [Note] and many other rivers which discharge themselves like torrents into the current of the Danube. 4.6.10

Near to these regions dwell the Iapodes, (a nation now mixed with the Illyrians, and Kelts,) close to them is [the Mount] Ocra. [Note] Formerly the Iapodes were numerous, in- habiting either side of the mountain, and were notorious for their predatory habits, but they have been entirely reduced and brought to subjection by Augustus Cæsar. Their cities are

-- 309 --

Metulum, [Note] Arupenum, [Note] Monetium, [Note] and Vendon. [Note] After these is the city of Segesta, [Note] [situated] in a plain. Near to it flows the river Save, [Note] which discharges itself into the Danube. This city lies in an advantageous position for carrying on war against the Dacians. [Note] Ocra forms the lowest portion of the Alps, where they approach the territory of the Carni, and through which they convey the merchandise of Aquileia in waggons to Pamportus. [Note] This route is not more than 400 stadia. From thence they convey it by the rivers as far as the Danube and surrounding districts, for a navigable river [Note] which flows out of Illyria, passes by Pamportus, and discharges itself into the Save, so that the merchandise may easily be carried down both to Segesta, and to the Pannonians, and Taurisci. [Note] It is near this city, [Note] that the Kulp [Note] falls into the Save. Both of these rivers are navigable, and flow down from the Alps. The Alps contain wild horses and cattle, and Polybius asserts that an animal of a singular form is found there; it resembles a stag except in the neck and hair, which are similar to those of a wild boar; under its chin it has a tuft of hair about a span long, and the thickness of the tail of a young horse. [Note] 4.6.11

One of the passages over the mountains from Italy into Transalpine and northern Keltica is that which passes through the country of the Salassi, and leads to Lugdunum. [Note] This [route] is divided into two ways, one practicable for carriages, but longer, which crosses the country of the Centrones, the other steep and narrow, but shorter; this crosses the Pennine [Alps]. Lugdunum is situated in the midst of the country, serving as an Acropolis, both on account of the confluence of

-- 310 --

the rivers, and of its being equally near to all parts. It was on this account that Agrippa cut all the roads from this [as a centre] one running through the mountains of the Cevennes to the Santones [Note] and Aquitaine, [Note] another towards the Rhine; a third towards the ocean by the country of the Bellovaci [Note] and Ambiani, [Note] and a fourth towards the Narbonnaise and the coast of Marseilles. [Note] The traveller, also, leaving Lugdunum and the country above on his left, may pass over the Pennine Alps themselves, the Rhone, or Lake Leman, into the plains of the Helvetii, whence there is a passage through Mount Jura into the country of the Sequani, and Lingones; here the road separates into two routes, one running to the Rhine, and the other [Note] to the ocean. 4.6.12

Polybius tells us that in his time the gold mines were so rich about Aquileia, but particularly in the countries of the Taurisci Norici, that if you dug but two feet below the surface you found gold, and that the diggings [generally] were not deeper than fifteen feet. In some instances the gold was found pure in lumps about the size of a bean or lupin, and which diminished in the fire only about one eighth; and in others, though requiring more fusion, was still very profitable. Certain Italians [Note] aiding the barbarians in working [the mines], in the space of two months the value of gold was diminished throughout the whole of Italy by one third. The Taurisci on discovering this drove out their fellow-labourers, and only sold the gold themselves. Now, however, the Romans possess all the gold mines. Here, too, as well as in Iberia, the rivers yield gold-dust as well as the diggings,

-- 311 --

though not in such large quantities. The same writer, speak- ing of the extent and height of the Alps, compares with them the largest mountains of Greece, such as Taygetum, [Note] Lycæum, [Note] Parnassus, [Note] Olympus, [Note] Pelion, [Note] Ossa, [Note] and of Thrace, as the Hæmus, Rhodope, and Dunax, saying that an active person might almost ascend any of these in a single day, and go round them in the same time, whereas five days would not be sufficient to ascend the Alps, while their length along the plains extends 2200 stadia. [Note] He only names four passes over the mountains, one through Liguria close to the Tyrrhenian Sea, [Note] a second through the country of the Taurini, [Note] by which Hannibal passed, a third through the country of the Salassi, [Note] and a fourth through that of the Rhæti, [Note] all of them precipitous. In these mountains, he says, there are numerous lakes; three large ones, the first of which is Benacus, [Note] 500 stadia in length and 130 in breadth, the river Mincio flows from it. The second is the Verbanus, [Note] 400 stadia [in length], and in breadth smaller than the preceding;

-- 312 --

the great river Ticino [Note] flows from this [lake]. The third is the Larius, [Note] its length is nearly 300 stadia, and its breadth 30, the river Adda flows from it. All these rivers flow into the Po. This is what we have to say concerning the Alpine mountains.

-- 313 --



The Fifth Book contains a description of Italy from the roots of the Alps to the Strait of Sicily, the Gulf of Taranto, and the region about Posidonium; likewise of Venetia, Liguria, Agro Piceno, Tuscany, Rome, Campania, Lucania, Apulia, and the islands lying in the sea between Genoa and Sicily.

Strabo, Geography (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Str.].
<<Str. 4.5 Str. 4.6 (Greek English(2)) >>Str. 5.1

Powered by PhiloLogic