Strabo, Geography (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Str.].
<<Str. 7.3.3 Str. 7.3.5 (Greek English(2)) >>Str. 7.3.8


Nevertheless it would perhaps be superfluous to change the text [of Homer], which has stood the test of so many years. For it appears more probable to suppose that the people were anciently called Mysians, but that their name is now altered. Further, any one would suppose that the Abii [Note] were no more so named from being unmarried than from their being houseless, [Note] or their dwelling in waggons.

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In fact, as injustice is ordinarily committed in matters relative to bonds for money and the acquisition of wealth, it would be natural that the people living so frugally on such small property should be called [by Homer] the justest of mankind: and the more so as the philosophers who place justice next to moderation, aim at independence of others and frugality as amongst the most desirable objects of attainment; from which however some, having passed the bounds of moderation, have wandered into a cynical mode of life. [Note] But [the words of the poet] sanction no such assertion of the Thracians, and the Getæ in particular, that they live without wives. But see what Menander says of these people, not out of his own imagination, as it should seem, but deriving it from history. All the Thracians truly, and especially above all others we Getæ, (for I myself glory in being descended from this race,) are not very chaste. And a little after he gives examples of their rage for women. For there is no one among us who marries fewer than ten or eleven wives, and some have twelve, or even more. [Note] If any one loses his life who has only married four or five wives, he is lamented by us as unfortunate, and one deprived of the pleasures of Hymen. Such a one would be accounted as unmarried amongst them. These things are likewise confirmed by the evidence of other historians. And it is not likely that the same people should regard as an unhappy life that which is passed without the enjoyment of many women, and at the same time regard as a dignified and holy life that which is passed in celibacy without any women. But that those living without wives should be considered holy, and termed Capnobatæ, is entirely opposed to our received opinions; for all agree in regarding women as the authors of devotion to the gods, and it is they

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who induce the men by their example to a more attentive worship of the gods, and to the observance of feast-days and supplications; for scarcely is there found a man living by himself who pays any regard to such matters. And again attend to the words of the same poet when he speaks in one of his characters, bringing in a man disgusted with the expenses [Note] of the sacrifices of the women. The gods weary us indeed, but especially our married men, who are always obliged to celebrate some feast. And his Misogynes, complaining of the same things, exclaims, We sacrificed five times a day, while seven female slaves ranged in a circle played on the cymbals, and others raised their suppliant cries. It would therefore seem absurd to suppose that only those among the Getæ who remained without wives were considered pious, but that the care of worshipping the Supreme Being is great among this nation is not to be doubted, after what Posidonius has related, and they even abstain from animal food from religious motives, as likewise on account of the testimony of other historians. 7.3.5

For it is said that one of the nation of the Getæ, named Zamolxis, [Note] had served Pythagoras, and had acquired with this philosopher some astronomical knowledge, in addition to what he had learned from the Egyptians, amongst whom he had travelled. He returned to his own country, and was highly esteemed both by the chief rulers and the people, on account of his predictions of astronomical phenomena, and eventually persuaded the king to unite him in the government, as an organ of the will of the gods. At first he was chosen a priest of the divinity most revered by the Getæ, but afterwards was esteemed as a god, and having retired into a district of caverns, inaccessible and unfrequented by other

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men, he there passed his life, rarely communicating with any- body except the king and his ministers. The king himself assisted him to play his part, seeing that his subjects obeyed him more readily than formerly, as promulgating his ordinances with the counsel of the gods. This custom even continues to our time; for there is always found some one of this character who assists the king in his counsels, and is styled a god by the Getæ. The mountain likewise [where Zamolxis retired] is held sacred, and is thus distinguished, being named Cogæonus, [Note] as well as the river which flows by it; and at the time when Byrebistus, against whom divus Cæsar prepared an expedition, reigned over the Getæ, Decæneus held that honour: likewise the Pythagorean precept to abstain from animal food, which was originally introduced by Zamolxis, is still observed to a great extent. 7.3.6

Any one may well entertain such questions as these touching the localities mentioned by the poet [Homer], and with regard to the Mysians and the illustrious Hippemolgi: but what Apollodorus has advanced in his preface to the Catalogue of Ships in the Second Book [of the Iliad] is by no means to be adopted. For he praises the opinions of Eratosthenes, who says that Homer and the rest of the ancients were well versed in every thing that related to Greece, but were in a state of considerable ignorance as to places at a distance, in consequence of the impossibility of' their making long journeys by land or voyages by sea. In support of this he asserts, [Note] that Homer designated Aulis as 'rocky,' as indeed it is; Eteonus as 'mountainous and woody,' Thisbe as 'abounding in doves,' Haliartus as ' grassy;' but that neither Homer nor the others were familiar with localities far off; for although there are forty rivers which discharge themselves into the Black Sea, [Note] he makes no mention whatever even of the most considerable, as the Danube, [Note] the Don, [Note] the Dnieper, [Note] the Bog, [Note] the Phasz, [Note] the Termeh, [Note] the Kisil-Irmak, [Note] nor does

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he even allude to the Scythians, but makes up fables about certain illustrious Hippemolgi, Galactophagi, and Abii. He had become acquainted with the Paphlagonians of the interior from the relations of such as had penetrated into those regions on foot, but he was perfectly unacquainted with the sea-coasts of the country; which indeed was likely enough, for that sea was in his time closed to navigation, and known by the name of Pontus Axenus [or the Inhospitable] on account of the severity of the storms to which it was subject, as well as of the savage disposition of the nations who inhabited its shores, but more especially of the Scythian hordes, [Note] who made a practice of sacrificing strangers, devouring their flesh, and using their skulls for drinking-cups; although at a subsequent period, when the Ionians had established cities along its shores, it was called by the name of Pontus Euxinus [or the Hospitable]. He was likewise in ignorance as to the natural peculiarities of Egypt and Libya, [Note] as the risings of the Nile, and the alluvial deposits, which he no where notices, nor yet the isthmus [of Suez] which separates the Red Sea from the Egyptian Sea; [Note] nor yet does he relate any particulars of Arabia, Ethiopia, or the Ocean, unless we should agree with the philosopher Zeno in altering the Homeric line as follows, I came to the Ethiopians, the Sidonians, and the Arabians. [Note] Indeed we ought not to be surprised at meeting with this in Homer, for those who have lived at a more recent period than he did, have been ignorant of many things, and have told strange tales. Hesiod has talked of Hemicynes, [Note] Megalocephali, and Pygmies; Alcman of Steganopodes;æschylus of Cynocephali, Sternophthalmi, and Monommati, (they say it is in his Prometheus,) and ten thousand other absurdities. From these he proceeds to censure the writers who talk of

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the Riphæan Mountains [Note] and Mount Ogyium, [Note] and the dwelling of the Gorgons [Note] and the Hesperides, [Note] the land of Meropis [Note] mentioned by Theopompus, Cimmeris, [Note] a city mentioned in Hecatæus, the land of Panchæa [Note] mentioned by Euhemerus, and the river-stones formed of sand mentioned by Aristotle, [Note] which were dissolved by rain-showers. Further, that there exists in Africa a city of Bacchus which no one can find twice. He likewise reproves those who assert that the wanderings of Ulysses mentioned in Homer were in the neighbourhood of Sicily, for again, if we should say that the wanderings did take place in those parts, we should have to confess that the poet transferred them to the ocean for the sake of making his account the more romantic. Some allowance might be made for others, but no manner of excuse can be put forward for Callimachus, who pretends to the character of a critic, and yet supposes that Gaudus was the island of Calypso, and identifies Scheria with Corcyra. [Note] Other writers he blames for misstatements as to Gerena, [Note] Acacesium, [Note] and

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the Demus [Note] in Ithaca, Pelethronium [Note] in Pelium, and the Glaucopium at Athens. [Note] With these and a few similar trifling observations, most of which he has drawn from Eratosthenes, whose inaccuracy we have before shown, he breaks off. However, we frankly acknowledge, both with respect to him [Apollodorus] and Eratosthenes, that the moderns are better informed on geography than the ancients: but to strain the subject beyond measure, as they do, especially when they inculpate Homer, seems to me as if it gave a fair occasion to any one to find fault, and to say by way of recrimination, that they reproach the poet for the very things of which they themselves are ignorant. As for the rest of their observations, particular mention is made of some of them in the places where they occur, and of others in the General Introduction.

Strabo, Geography (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Str.].
<<Str. 7.3.3 Str. 7.3.5 (Greek English(2)) >>Str. 7.3.8

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