Strabo, Geography (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Str.].
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CHAPTER 1. 8.1.1

AFTER having described as much of the western parts of Europe as is comprised within the interior and exterior seas, and surveyed all the barbarous nations which it contains, as far as the Don [Note] and a small part of Greece, [namely, Macedonia,] [Note] we propose to give an account of the remainder of the Helladic geography. Homer was the first writer on the subject of geography, and was followed by many others, some of whom composed particular treatises, and entitled them Harbours, Voyages, Circuits of the Earth, [Note] or gave them some name of this kind, and these comprised the description of the Helladic country. Some, as Ephorus and Polybius, included in their general history a separate topography of the continents; others, as Posidonius and Hipparchus, introduced matter relating to geography in their writings on physical and mathematical subjects.

It is easy to form an opinion of the other writers, but the poems of Homer require critical consideration, both because he speaks as a poet, and because he describes things not as

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they exist at present, but as they existed anciently, and the greater part of which have been rendered obscure by time.

We must however undertake this inquiry as far as we are able, beginning from the point where our description ended.

It ended with an account of the Epirotic and Illyrian nations on the west and north, and of Macedonia as far as Byzantium on the east.

After the Epirotæ and Illyrii follow the Acarnanes, [Note] the ætoli, the Locri-Ozolæ, then the Phocæenses and Bœoti, Grecian nations. Opposite to these on the other side of the strait is Peloponnesus, which comprises the Gulf of Corinth, [Note] interposed between, and determining the figure of the latter, from which it also receives its own. Next to Macedonia [Note] are the Thessalians, [Note] extending as far as the Malienses, [Note] and the other nations, situated on both sides of the isthmus. 8.1.2

There are many Greek tribes, but the chief people are equal in number to the Greek dialects with which we are acquainted, namely, four. Of these, the Ionic is the same as the ancient Attic; (for Iones was the former name of the inhabitants of Attica; from thence came the Iones who settled in Asia, [Note] and use the dialect now called Ionic;) the Doric was the same as the æolic dialect, for all the people on the other side of the isthmus except the Athenians, the Megareans, and the Dorians about Parnassus, are even now called æolians; it is probable that the Dorians, from their being a small nation, and occupying a most rugged country, and from want of intercourse [with the æolians], no longer resemble that people either in language or customs, and, although of the same race, have lost all appearance of affinity. It was the same with the Athenians, who inhabiting a rugged country with a light soil, escaped the ravages of invaders. As they always occupied the same territory, and no enemy attempted to expel them, nor had any desire to take possession of it themselves, on this account they were, according to Thucydides, regarded as Autochthones, or an indigenous race. This was

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probably the reason, although they were a small nation, why they remained a distinct people with a distinct dialect.

It was not in the parts only on the other side of the isthmus, that the æolian nation was powerful, but those on this side also were formerly æolians. They were afterwards intermixed first with Ionians who came from Attica, and got possession of ægialus, [Note] and secondly with Dorians, who under the conduct of the Heracleidæ founded Megara and many of the cities in the Peloponnesus. The Iones were soon expelled by the Achæi, an æolian tribe; and there remained in Peloponnesus the two nations, the æolic and the Doric. Those nations then that had little intercourse with the Dorians used the æolian dialect. (This was the case with the Arcadians and Eleians, the former of whom were altogether a mountain tribe, and did not share in the partition of the Peloponnesus; the latter were considered as dedicated to the service of the Olympian Jupiter, and lived for a long period in peace, principally because they were of æolian descent, and had admitted into their country the army of Oxylus, about the time of the return of the Heracleidæ. [Note]) The rest used a kind of dialect composed of both, some of them having more, others less, of the æolic dialect. Even at present the inhabitants of different cities use different dialects, but all seem to Dorize, or use the Doric dialect, on account of the ascendency of that nation.

Such then is the number of the Grecian nations, and thus in general are they distinguished from each other.

I shall resume my account of them, and describe each nation in their proper order. 8.1.3

According to Ephorus, Acarnania is the commencement of Greece on the west, for it is the first country which lies contiguous to the Epirotic nations. As this author follows the coast in his measurements, and begins from thence, considering the sea the most important guide of topographical description, (for otherwise he might have placed the beginning of Greece in Macedonia and Thessaly,) so ought I, observing

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the natural character of places, to keep in view the sea as a mark by which I should direct the course of my description.

The sea coming from Sicily spreads itself on one side towards the Corinthian Gulf, and on the other forms a large peninsula, the Peloponnesus, united to the main-land by a narrow isthmus.

The two largest bodies of country in Greece are that within the isthmus, and that without the isthmus, [extending to the mouths of the river Peneius]. That within the isthmas is however larger, and more celebrated. The Peloponnesus is, as it were, the acropolis or citadel of all Greece; and all Greece in a manner holds the chief or leading position in Europe. For independently of the fame and power of the nations which inhabited it, the position itself of the places in it suggests this superiority. One site succeeds another diversified with numerous most remarkable bays, and large peninsulas. The first of these peninsulas is the Peloponnesus, closed in by an isthmus of forty stadia in extent. The second comprehends the first, and has an isthmus reaching from Pagæ in Megaris to Nisæa, which is the naval arsenal of the Megareans; the passage across the isthmus from sea to sea is 120 stadia.

The third peninsula also comprises the latter. Its isthmus extends from the farthest recess of the Crissæan Gulf to Thermopylæ. The line supposed to be drawn between these is about 508 stadia in length, including within it the whole of Bœotia, and cutting Phocis and the country of the Epicnemidii obliquely. The fourth peninsula has the isthmus extending from the Ambracian Gulf through Mount Œta and Traclinia to the Maliac Gulf and Thermopylæ, about 800 stadia.

There is another isthmus of more than 1000 stadia reaching from the same Gulf of Ambracia, and passing through the country of the Thessalians and Macedonians to the recess of the Thermæan Gulf.

The succession of peninsulas furnishes a convenient order to be followed in describing the country.

We must begin from the smallest, as being also the most famous of these peninsulas. [Note]

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Strabo, Geography (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Str.].
<<Str. 7.fragments Str. 8.1 (Greek English(2)) >>Str. 8.2

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