Strabo, Geography (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Str.].
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CHAPTER V. 8.5.1

NEXT after the Messenian is the Laconian Gulf, situated between Tænarum and Maleæ, declining a little from the south to the east. Thyrides, a precipitous rock, beaten by the waves, is in the Messenian Gulf, and distant from Tænarum 100 stadia. Above is Taÿgetum, a lofty and perpendicular mountain, at a short distance from the sea, approaching on the northern side close to the Arcadian mountains, so as to leave between them a valley, where Messenia is continuous with Laconia.

At the foot of Taÿgetum, in the inland parts, lie Sparta and Amyclæ, [Note] where is the temple of Apollo, and Pharis. The site of Sparta is in rather a hollow, although it comprises mountains within it; no part of it, however, is marshy, although, anciently, the suburbs were so, which were called Limnæ. The temple of Bacchus, also in Limnnæ, was in a wet, situation, but now stands on a dry ground.

In the bay on the coast is Tænarum, a promontory projecting into the sea. [Note] Upon it, in a grove, is the temple of Neptune, and near the temple a cave, through which, according to the fable, Cerberus was brought up by Hercules from

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Hades. Thence to the promontory Phycus in Cyrenaica, is a passage across towards the south of 3000 stadia; and to Pachynus, towards the west, the promontory of Sicily, 4600, or, according to some writers, 4000 stadia; to Maleæ, towards the east, including the measurement of the bays, 670 stadia; to Onugnathus, [Note] a low peninsula a little within Maleæ, 520 stadia. (In front of Onugnathus, at the distance of 40 stadia, lies Cythera, [Note] an island with a good harbour, and a city of the same name, which was the private property of Eurycles, the commander of the Lacedæmonians in our time. It is surrounded by several small islands, some near it, others lying somewhat farther off.) To Corycus, a promontory of Crete, the nearest passage by sea is 250 stadia. [Note] 8.5.2

Next to Tænarum on the voyage to Onugnathus and to Maleæ [Note] is Amathus, (Psamathus,) a city; then follow Asine, and Gythium, [Note] the naval arsenal of Sparta, situated at an interval of 240 stadia. Its station for vessels, they say, is excavated by art. Farther on, between Gythium and Acræa, is the mouth of the Eurotas. [Note] To this place the voyage along the coast is about 240 stadia; then succeeds a marshy tract, and a village, Helos, which formerly was a city, according to Homer; They who occupied Amyclæ, and Helos, a small town on the sea-coast. [Note]
Il. ii. 584.
They say that it was founded by Helius the son of Perseus. There is a plain also call Leuce; then Cyparissia, [Note] a city upon a peninsula, with a harbour; then Onugnathus with a harbour; next Bœa, a city; then Maleæ. From these cities to Onugnathus are 150 stadia. There is also Asopus, [Note] a city in Laconia. 8.5.3

Among the places enumerated by Homer in the Catalogue of the Ships, Messa, they say, is no longer to be found; and that Messoa is not a part of Laconia, but a part of Sparta itself, as was the Limnæum near Thornax. Some understand

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Messē to be a contraction of Messene, for it is said that this was a part of Laconia. [They allege as examples from the poet, the words cri, and do, and maps, [Note] and this passage also; The horses were yoked by Automedon and Alcimus, [Note]
Il. xix. 392.
instead of Alcimedon. And the words of Hesiod, who uses βῖ for βιθν and βριαὸν; and Sophocles and Io, who have ῥᾳ for ῥᾴδιιν; and Epicharmus, λῖ for λίαν, and συρακὼ for συα- κουσαι; Empedocles also has ὂψ for ὄψις μία γίγνεται ἀμφτέρων ὄψ or ὄψις;) and Antimachus, δήμητρός τοι ελυσινίης ἱερὴ ὄψ, and ἄλφι for ἄλφιτον; Euphorion has ἧλ for ἧλος; Philetes has δμωίδες εἰς ταλάρκὸν ἄγουσιν ἔρι for ἔιον Aratus, εἰς ἄνεμον δὲ τὰ πηδά for τὰ πηδάλια; Simmias, Dodo for Dodona.] [Note]

Of the rest of the places mentioned by the poet, some are extinct; of others traces remain, and of others the names are changed, as Augeiæ into ægææ: [the city] of that name in Locris exists no longer. With respect to Las, the Dioscuri are said to have taken it by siege formerly, whence they had the name of Lapersæ, (Destroyers of Las,) and Sophocles says somewhere, by the two Lapersæ, by Eurotas, by the gods in Argos and Sparta. 8.5.4

Ephorus says that the Heracleidæ, Eurysthenes and Procles, having obtained possession of Laconia, divided it into six parts, and founded cities throughout the country, and assigned Amyclæ to him who betrayed to them Laconia, and who prevailed upon the person that occupied it to retire, on certain conditions, with the Achæi, into Ionia. Sparta they retained themselves as the royal seat of the kingdom. To the other cities they sent kings, permitting them to receive whatever strangers might be disposed to settle there, on account of the scarcity of inhabitants. Las was used as a naval station, because it had a convenient harbour; ægys, as a stronghold, from whence to attack surrounding enemies; Pheræa, as a place to deposit treasure, because it afforded security from [Note] attempts from without. * * * * that all the neighbouring people submitted to the Spartiatæ, but were to enjoy an equality of rights, and to have a share in the government and

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in the offices of state. They were called Heilotæ. But Agis, the son of Eurysthenes, deprived them of the equality of rights, and ordered them to pay tribute to Sparta. The rest submitted; but the Heleii, who occupied Helos, revolted, and were made prisoners in the course of the war; they were adjudged to be slaves, with the conditions, that the owner should not be allowed to give them their liberty, nor sell them beyond the boundaries of the country. This was called the war of the Heilotæ. [Note] The system of Heilote-slavery, which continued from that time to the establishment of the dominion of the Romans, was almost entirely the contrivance of Agis. They were a kind of public slaves, to whom the Lacedæmonians assigned habitations, and required from them peculiar services. 8.5.5

With respect to the government of the Lacones, and the changes which have taken place among them, many things, as being well known, may be passed over, but some it may be worth while to relate. It is said that the Achæan Phthiotæ, who, with Pelops, made an irruption into Peloponnesus, settled in Laconia, and were so much distinguished for their valour, that Peloponnesus, which for a long period up to this time had the name of Argos, was then called Achæan Argos; and not Peloponnesus alone had this name, but Laconia also was thus peculiarly designated. Some even understand the words of the poet, Where was Menelaus, was he not at Achæan Argos? [Note]
Od. iii. 249, 251.
as implying, was he not in Laconia? But about the time of the return of the Heracleidæ, when Philonomus betrayed the country to the Dorians, they removed from Laconia to the country of the Ionians, which at present is called Achaia. We shall speak of them in our description of Achaia.

Those who were in possession of Laconia, at first conducted themselves with moderation, but after they had intrusted to Lycurgus the formation of a political constitution, they acquired such a superiority over the other Greeks, that they alone obtained the sovereignty both by sea and land, and continued to be the chiefs of the Greeks, till the Thebans, and soon afterwards the Macedonians, deprived them of this ascendency.

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They did not however entirely submit even to these, but, preserving their independence, were continually disputing the sovereignty both with the other Greeks and with the Macedonian kings. After the overthrow of the latter by the Romans, the Lacones living under a bad government at that time, and under the power of tyrants, had given some slight offence to the generals whom the Romans sent into the province. They however recovered themselves, and were held in very great honour. They remained free, and performed no other services but those expected from allies. Lately however Eurycles [Note] excited some disturbances amongst them, having abused excessively, in the exercise of his authority, the friendship of Cæsar. The government soon came to an end by the death of Eurycles, and the son rejected all such friendships. The Eleuthero-Lacones [Note] however did obtain some regular form of government, when the surrounding people, and especially the Heilotæ, at the time that Sparta was governed by tyrants, were the first to attach themselves to the Romans.

Hellanicus says that Eurysthenes and Procles regulated the form of government, but Ephorus reproaches him with not mentioning Lycurgus at all, and with ascribing the acts of the latter to persons who had no concern in them; to Lycurgus only is a temple erected, and sacrifices are annually performed in his honour, but to Eurysthenes and Procles, although they were the founders of Sparta, yet not even these honours were paid to them, that their descendants should bear the respective appellations of Eurysthenidæ and Procleidæ. [Note] [The descendants of Agis, however, the son of Eurysthenes, were called Agides, and the descendants of Eurypon, the son of Procles, were called Eurypontiadæ. The former were legitimate princes; the others, having admitted strangers as settlers, reigned by their means; whence they were not regarded as original authors of the settlement, an honour usually conferred upon all founders of cities.]

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6. As to the nature of the places in Laconia and Messenia, we may take the description of Euripides; [Note] Laconia has much land capable of tillage, but difficult to be worked, for it is hollow, surrounded by mountains, rugged, and difficult of access to an enemy. Messenia he describes in this manner: It bears excellent fruit; is watered by innumerable streams; it affords the finest pasture to herds and flocks; it is not subject to the blasts of winter, nor too much heated by the coursers of the sun; and a little farther on, speaking of the division of the country by the Heracleidæ according to lot, the first was lord of the Lacænian land, a bad soil,
the second was Messene, whose excellence no language could express;
and Tyrtæus speaks of it in the same manner.

But we cannot admit that Laconia and Messenia are bounded, as Euripides says, by the Pamisus, [Note] which empties itself into the sea;
this river flows through the middle of Messenia, and does not touch any part of the present Laconia. Nor is he right, when he says that Mess nia is inaccessible to sailors, whereas it borders upon the sea, in the same manner as Laconia.

Nor does he give the right boundaries of Elis; after passing the liver is Elis, the neighbour of Jove;
and he adduces a proof unnecessarily. For if he means the present Eleian territory, which is on the confines of Messenia, this the Pamisus does not touch, any more than it touches Laconia, for, as has been said before, it flows through the middle of Messenia: or, if he meant the ancient Eleia, called the Hollow, this is a still greater deviation from the truth. For after crossing the Pamisus, there is a large tract of the Messenian country, then the whole district of [the Lepreatæ], and of the [Macistii], which is called Triphylia; then the Pisatis, and Olympia; then at the distance of 300 stadia is Elis. 8.5.7

As some persons write the epithet applied by Homer to Lacedæmon, κητώεσσαν, and others καιετάεσσαν, how are we to understand κητώεσσα, whether it is derived from Cetos, [Note] or

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whether it denotes large, which is most probable. Some understand καιετάεσσα to signify, abounding with calaminthus; others suppose, as the fissures occasioned by earthquakes are called Cæeti, that this is the origin of the epithet. Hence Cæietas also, the name of the prison among the Lacedæmonians, which is a sort of cave. Some however say, that such kind of hollows are rather called Coi, whence the expression of Homer, [Note] applied to wild beasts, φησὶν ὀρεσκῴοισιν, which live in mountain caves. Laconia however is subject to earthquakes, and some writers relate, that certain peaks of Taÿgetum have been broken off by the shocks. [Note]

Laconia contains also quarries of valuable marble. Those of the Tænarian marble in Tænarum [Note] are ancient, and certain persons, assisted by the wealth of the Romans, lately opened a large quarry in Taÿgetum. 8.5.8

It appears from Homer, that both the country and the city had the name of Lacedæmon; I mean the country together with Messenia. When he speaks of the bow and quiver of Ulysses, he says, A present from Iphitus Eurytides, a stranger, who met him in Lacedæmon, [Note]
Od. xxi. 13.
and adds, They met at Messene in the house of Ortilochus.
He means the country which was a part of Messenia. [Note] There was then no difference whether he said A stranger, whom he met at Lacedæmon, gave him, or, they met at Messene; for it is evident that Pheræ was the home of Ortilochus: they arrived at Pheræ, and went to the house of Diocles the son of Ortilochus, [Note]
Od. iii. 488.
namely, Telemachus and Pisistratus. Now Pheræ [Note] belongs to Messenia. But after saying, that Telemachus and his friend set out from Pheræ, and were driving their two horses the whole day, he adds,

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The sun was setting; they came to the hollow Lacedæmon (κητεσσαν), and drove their chariot to the palace of Menelaus. [Note] Here we must understand the city; and if we do not, the poet says, that they journeyed from Lacedæmon to Lacedæmon. It is otherwise improbable that the palace of Menelaus should not be at Sparta; and if it was not there, that Telemachus should say, for I am going to Sparta, and to Pylus, [Note]
Od. ii. 359.
for this seems to agree with the epithets applied to the country, [Note] unless indeed any one should allow this to be a poetical licence; for, if Messenia was a part of Laconia, it would be a contradiction that Messene should not be placed together with Laconia, or with Pylus, (which was under the command of Nestor,) nor by itself in the Catalogue of Ships, as though it had no part in the expedition.



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