Strabo, Geography (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Str.].
<<Str. 9.4.11 Str. 9.5.1 (Greek English(2)) >>Str. 9.5.7


It was at these straits that Leonidas and his companions, together with a small body of persons from the neighbourhood, resisted the numerous forces of the Persians, until the Barbarians, making a circuit of the mountains along narrow paths, surrounded and cut them to pieces. Their place of burial, the Polyandrium, is still to be seen there, and the celebrated inscription sculptured on the Lacedæmonian pillar; Stranger, go tell Lacedæmon that we lie here in obedience to her laws. 9.4.17

There is also a large harbour here and a temple of Ceres, in which the Amphictyons at the time of every Pylæan assembly offered sacrifice. From the harbour to the Heracleian Trachin are 40 stadia by land, but by sea to Cenæum [Note] it is 70 stadia. The Spercheius empties itself immediately without the Pylæ. To Pylæ from the Euripus are 530 stadia. And here Locris terminates. The parts without the Pylæ towards the east, and the Maliac Gulf, belong to the Thessalians; those towards the west, to the ætolians and Acarnanians. The Athamanes are extinct. 9.4.18

The Thessalians form the largest and most ancient community. One part of them has been mentioned by Homer, and the rest by many other writers. Homer constantly mentions the ætolians under one name; he places cities, and not nations dependent upon them, if we except the Curetes, whom we must place in the division of ætolians.

We must begin our account with the Thessalians, omitting very ancient and fabulous stories, and what is not generally admitted, (as we have done in other instances,) but propose to mention what appears suited to our purpose.

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CHAPTER V. 9.5.1

THE sea-coast, extending from Thermopylæ to the mouths of the Peneius, [Note] and the extremities of Pelion, looking towards the east, and the northern extremities of Eubœa, is that of Thessaly. The parts opposite Eubœa and Thermopylæ are occupied by Malienses, and by Achæan Phthiotæ; those towards Pelion by the Magnetes. This may be called the eastern and maritime side of Thessaly. From either side from Pelion, and the Peneius, towards the inland parts are Macedonians, who extend as far as Pæonia, (Pindus?) and the Epeirotic nations. From Thermopylæ, the ætæan and ætolian mountains, which approach close to the Dorians, and Parnassus, are parallel to the Macedonians. The side towards the Macedonians may be called the northern side; the other, the southern. There remains the western side, enclosed by ætolians and Acarnanians, by Amphilochians and Athamanes, who are Epirotæ; by the territory of the Molotti, formerly said to be that of the æthices, and, in short, by the country about Pindus. Thessaly, [Note] in the interior, is a plain country for the most part, and has no mountains, except Pelion and Ossa. These mountains rise to a considerable height, but do not encompass a large tract of country, but terminate in the plains. 9.5.2

These are the middle parts of Thessaly, a district of very fertile country, except that part of it which is overflowed by rivers. The Peneius flows through the middle of the country, and receiving many rivers, frequently overflows. Formerly, according to report, the plain was a lake; it is enclosed on all sides inland by mountains, and the sea-coast is more elevated than the plains. When a chasm was formed, at the place now called Tempe, by shocks of an earthquake, and Ossa was riven from Olympus, the Peneius flowed out through it to the sea, and drained this tract of country. Still there remained the large lake Nessonis, and the lake Bœbeis; which is of less extent than the Nessonis, and nearer to the sea-coast.

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3. Such then is Thessaly, which is divided into four parts, Phthiotis, Hestiæotis, Thessaliotis, and Pelasgiotis.

Phthiotis comprises the southern parts, extending along Œta from the Maliac and (or) Pylaïc Gulf [Note] as far as Dolopia and Pindus, increasing in breadth to Pharsalia and the Thessalian plains.

Hestiæotis comprises the western parts and those between Pindus and Upper Macedonia; the rest is occupied by the inhabitants of the plains below Hestiæotis, who are called Pelasgiotæ, and approach close to the Lower Macedonians; by the [Thessalians] also, who possess the country next in order, as far as the coast of Magnesia.

The names of many cities might here be enumerated, which are celebrated on other accounts, but particularly as being mentioned by Homer; few of them, however, but most of all Larisa, preserve their ancient importance. 9.5.4

The poet having divided the whole of the country, which we call Thessaly, into ten [Note] parts and dynasties, and having taken in addition some portion of the Œtæan and Locrian territory, and of that also which is now assigned to the Macedonians, shows (what commonly happened to every country) the changes which, entirely or in part, they undergo according to the power possessed by their respective governors. 9.5.5

The poet first enumerates the Thessalians subject to Achilles, who occupied the southern side, and adjoined Œta, and the Locri Epicnemidii; All who dwelt in Pelasgic Argos; they who occupied Alus, Alope, and Trachin; they who possessed Phthia, and Hellas, abounding with beautiful women, were called Myrmidones, Hellenes, and Achæi. [Note] He joins together with these the people under the command of Phoenix, and makes them compose one common expedition. The poet nowhere mentions the Dolopian forces in the battles near Ilium, neither does he introduce their leader Phoenix, as undertaking, like Nestor, dangerous enterprises. But Phoenix is mentioned by others, as by Pindar,

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Who led a brave band of Dolopian slingers,
Who were to aid the javelins of the Danai, tamers of horses.
The words of the poet are to be understood according to the figure of the grammarians, by which something is suppressed, for it would be ridiculous for the king to engage in the expe- dition, (I live at the extremity of Phthia, chief of the Dolopians, [Note])
Il. ix. 480.
and his subjects not to accompany him. For [thus] he would not appear to be a comrade of Achilles in the expedition, but only as the commander of a small body of men, and a speaker, and if so, a counsellor. The verses seem to imply this meaning, for they are to this effect, To be an eloquent speaker, and to achieve great deeds. [Note]

From this it appears that Homer considered the forces under Achilles and Phœnix as constituting one body; but the places mentioned as being under the authority of Achilles, are subjects of controversy.

Some have understood Pelasgic Argos to be a Thessalian city, formerly situated near Larisa, but now no longer in existence. Others do not understand a city to be meant by this name, but the Thessalian plain, and to have been so called by Abas, who established a colony there from Argos.

Strabo, Geography (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Str.].
<<Str. 9.4.11 Str. 9.5.1 (Greek English(2)) >>Str. 9.5.7

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