Strabo, Geography (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Str.].
<<Str. 5.1.1 Str. 5.1.3 (Greek English(2)) >>Str. 5.1.7


It is not easy to describe the whole of Italy under any one geometrical figure; although some say that it is a promontory of triangular form, extending towards the south and winter rising, with its apex towards the Strait of Sicily, and

-- 314 --

its base formed by the Alps. . . . . . [No one can allow this definition either for the base or one of the sides,] although it is correct for the other side which terminates at the Strait, and is washed by the Tyrrhenian Sea. But a triangle, properly so called, is a rectilinear figure, whereas in this instance both the base and the sides are curved. So that, if I agree, I must add that the base and the sides are of a curved figure, and it must be conceded to me that the eastern side deviates, as well; otherwise they have not been sufficiently exact in describing as one side that which extends from the head of the Adriatic to the Strait [of Sicily]. For we designate as a side a line without any angle; now a line without any angle is one which does not incline to either side, or but very little; whereas the line from Ariminum [Note] to the Iapygian promontory, [Note] and that from the Strait [of Sicily] to the same promontory, incline very considerably. The same I consider to be the case with regard to the lines drawn from the head of the Adriatic and Iapygia, for meeting about the neighbourhood of Ariminum and Ravenna, they form an angle, or if not an angle, at least a strongly defined curve. Consequently, if the coast from the head [of the Adriatic] to Iapygia be considered as one side, it cannot be described as a right line; neither can the remainder of the line from hence to the Strait [of Sicily], though it may be considered another side, be said to form a right line. Thus the figure [of Italy] may be said to be rather quadrilateral than trilateral, and can never without impropriety be called a triangle. It is better to confess that you cannot define exactly ungeometrical figures. 5.1.3

[Italy], however, may be described in the following manner. The roots of the Alps are curved, and in the form of a gulf, the head turned towards Italy; the middle of the gulf in the country of the Salassi, and its extremities turned, the one towards Ocra and the head of the Adriatic, the other towards the coast of Liguria as far as Genoa, a mercantile city of the Ligurians, where the Apennines fall in with the Alps. Immediately under [the Alps] there is a considerable plain, of about an equal extent of 2100 stadia both in breadth and length; its southern side is closed by the coast of the Heneti [Note] and the Apennines, which extend to Ariminum and

-- 315 --

Ancona; for these mountains, commencing at Liguria, enter Tyrrhenia, leaving but a narrow sea-coast; they afterwards retire by degrees into the interior, and having reached the territory of Pisa, turn towards the east in the direction of the Adriatic as far as the country about Ariminum and Ancona, where they approach the sea-coast of the Heneti at right angles. Cisalpine Keltica is enclosed within these limits, and the length of the coast joined to that of the mountains is 6300 stadia; its breadth rather less than 2000. The remainder of Italy is long and narrow, and terminates in two promontories, one [Note] extending to the Strait of Sicily, the other [Note] to Iapygia. It is embraced on one side by the Adriatic, [Note] on the other by the Tyrrhenian Sea. [Note] The form and size of the Adriatic resembles that portion of Italy bounded by the Apennines and the two seas, and extending as far as Iapygia and the isthmus which separates the Gulf of Taranto from that of Posidonium. [Note] The greatest breadth of both is about 1300 stadia, and the length not much less than 6000. The remainder of the country is possessed by the Bruttii, and certain of the Leucani. Polybius tells us, that traversing the sea-coast on foot from Iapygia [Note] to the Strait [of Sicily] there are 3000 stadia, the coast being washed by the Sea of Sicily; but that going by water it is 500 stadia less. The Apennines, after approaching the country about Ariminum and Ancona, and determining the breadth of Italy at this point from sea to sea, change their direction and divide the whole country throughout its length. As far as the Peucetii and Leucani they do not recede much from the Adriatic, but on arriving at the Leucani they decline considerably towards the other sea, [Note] and traversing the remainder of the distance through the Leucani and Bruttii, terminate at Leucopetra, [Note] in Reggio. Such is a general description of the whole of present Italy. We will now endeavour to undertake a description of its various parts. And, first, of those situated below the Alps.

-- 316 --


This is a superb plain variegated with fruitful hills. The Po divides it almost through its midst, one side being denominated Cispadana, and the other Transpadana. Cispadana comprehends that part next the Apennines and Liguria, and Transpadana the remainder. The former [division] is inhabited by Ligurian and Keltic nations, the former inhabiting the mountains and the latter the plains; and the latter [division] by Kelts and Heneti. These Kelts are of the same race as the Transalpine Kelts. Concerning the Heneti there are two traditions, some saying that they are a colony of those Kelts of the same name who dwell by the ocean. [Note] Others say that they are descended from the Veneti of Paphlagonia, who took refuge here with Antenor after the Trojan war; and they give as a proof of this the attention these people bestow on rearing horses; which, though now entirely abandoned, was formerly in great esteem among them, resulting from the ancient rage for breeding mules, which Homer thus mentions: From the Eneti for forest mules renowned. [Note]
Iliad ii. 857.
It was here that Dionysius, the tyrant of Sicily, kept his stud of race-horses. And, in consequence, the Henetian horses were much esteemed in Greece, and their breed in great repute for a long period.

Strabo, Geography (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Str.].
<<Str. 5.1.1 Str. 5.1.3 (Greek English(2)) >>Str. 5.1.7

Powered by PhiloLogic