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



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