Strabo, Geography (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Str.].
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7.3.7

It has been our wish, while discoursing of the Thracians, and the bold
Close-fighting Mysian race, and where abide,
On milk sustain'd, and blest with length of days,
The Hippemolgi, justest of mankind, [Note]
Iliad xiii. 5

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to compare what we have advanced with the remarks of Posidonius and the other critics. Now, in the first place, they have universally proved the very contrary of the allegations which they had undertaken to maintain; for where they undertook to show that amongst the ancients there was a greater amount of ignorance as to places far from Greece than there was among the moderns, they have proved the very contrary, and that not only with regard to the countries more remote, but even with respect to Greece itself; but, as I have said before, let the other matters remain in abeyance while we consider carefully the subject now before us. Thus they say that it was through ignorance Homer and the ancients omitted to speak of the Scythians, and their cruelty to strangers, whom they sacrificed, devoured their flesh, and afterwards made use of their skulls as drinking-cups, for which barbarities the sea was termed the Axine, [Note] or inhospitable; but in place of these they imagined fables as to illustrious Hippemolgi, Galactophagi, and Abii, the most just of mankind, who never existed any where in this world. But how came it that they named the sea the Axenus, if they were so ignorant of the barbarism of that region, or of those savages who were the most barbarous on earth? But these undoubtedly are the Scythians! Or in the early times were not those who dwelt beyond the Mysians, and Thracians, and Getæ, Hippemolgi, (or milkers of mares,) Galactophagi, and Abii? Nay rather, they exist at this very day, being called Hamaxoeci and Nomades, living on the herd, milk and cheese, and especially on cheese made of mare's milk, and being ignorant how to lay up treasure or deal in merchandise, except the simple barter of one commodity for another. How then can it be said that the poet [Homer] knew nothing of the Scythians, since he doubtless designates some of them by the names of Hippemolgi and Galactophagi? And that the men of that

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time called these people Hippemolgi even Hesiod is a witness in the words which Eratosthenes has quoted: He went and saw the Ethiopians, the Ligurians, [Note] and the Scythians, milkers of mares. And when we consider the amount of fraud connected with trading speculations even amongst ourselves, what ground have we to wonder that Homer should have designated as the justest and most noble those who had but few commercial and monetary transactions, and with the exception of their swords and drinking-cups, possessed all things in common, and especially their wives and children, who were cared for by the whole community according to the system of Plato. æschylus too seems to plead the poet's cause, when he says, But the Scythians, governed by good laws, and feeding on cheese of mares' milk. And this is still the opinion entertained of them by the Greeks; for we esteem them the most sincere, the least deceitful of any people, and much more frugal and self-relying than ourselves. And yet the manner of life customary among us has spread almost every where, and brought about a change for the worse, effeminacy, luxury, and over-great refinement, inducing extortion in ten thousand different ways; and doubtless much of this corruption has penetrated even into the countries of the nomades, as well as those of the other barbarians; for having once learnt how to navigate the sea, they have become depraved, committing piracy and murdering strangers; and holding intercourse with many different nations, they have imitated both their extravagance and their dishonest traffic, which may indeed appear to promote civility of manners, but do doubtless corrupt the morals and lead to dissimulation, in place of the genuine sincerity we have before noticed. 7.3.8

Those however who lived before our time, and more especially those who lived near to the times of Homer, were such as he describes them, and so they were esteemed to be by the Greeks. Take for instance what Herodotus relates concerning the king [Note] of the Scythians, against whom Darius waged war, and especially the answer he sent [to the messen-

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ger of Darius]. Take again what Chrysippus relates of the kings of the Bosphorus, [Satyrus [Note] and] Leuco. The letters of the Persians are full of the sincerity I have described; so likewise are the memorials of the Egyptians, Babylonians, and Indians. It was on this account that both Anacharsis and Abaris, and certain others of the same class, gained so great a reputation among the Greeks; for we may well believe they displayed their national characteristics of affability of manner, simplicity, and love of justice. But what occasion is there for me to speak of such as belonged to the times of old? for Alexander [the Great], the son of Philip, in his campaign against the Thracians beyond Mount Hæmus, [Note] is said to have penetrated as far as this in an incursion into the country of the Triballi, and observed that they occupied the territory as far as the Danube and the island Peuce, [Note] which is in it, and that the Getæ possessed the country beyond that river; however, he was unable to pass into the island for want of a sufficient number of ships, and because Syrmus, the king of the Triballi, who had taken refuge in that place, resisted the undertaking: but Alexander crossed over into the country of the Getæ and took their city, after which he returned home in haste, carrying with him presents from those nations, and also from Syrmus. Ptolemy, the son of Lagus, relates that in this campaign the Kelts who dwell on the Adriatic [Note] came to Alexander for the purpose of making a treaty of friendship and mutual hospitality, and that the king received them in a friendly way, and asked them, while drinking, what might be the chief object of their dread, supposing that they would say it was he; but that they replied, it was no man, only they felt some alarm lest the heavens should on some occasion or other

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fall on them, but that they valued the friendship of such a man as him above every thing. These examples sufficiently manifest the open sincerity of the barbarians, both of the one who would not suffer Alexander to land on the island, but nevertheless sent presents and concluded a treaty of friendship with him, and also of those who asserted that they feared no man, but that they valued the friendship of great men above every price.

In like manner Dromichætes, who was king of the Getæ in the times of the successors of Alexander, having taken captive Lysimachus, who had come to wage war against him, showed him his poverty and that of his people, and likewise their great frugality, bade him not to make war on such, but rather seek them as friends; after which he received him as a guest, made a treaty of friendship, and suffered him to depart. [Note] [*And Plato, in his Republic, [Note] considers that the neighbourhood of the sea ought to be shunned as being productive of vice, and that those who would enjoy a well-governed city, should plant it very far from the sea, and not near it. [Note]]



Strabo, Geography (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Str.].
<<Str. 7.3.5 Str. 7.3.8 (Greek English(2)) >>Str. 7.3.10

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