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Description of the Eastern Provinces.

After one passes the summits of Mount Taurus, which on the east rise to a lofty height, Cilicia spreads out in widely extended plains, a land abounding in products of every kind; and adjoining its right side is Isauria, equally blest with fruitful vines and abundant grain, being divided in the middle by the navigable river Calycadnus. [2] This province too, in addition to many towns, is adorned by two cities; Seleucia, the work of king Seleucus, and Claudiopolis, [p. 67] which Claudius Caesar 1 founded as a colony. For Isaura, which was formerly too powerful, was long ago overthrown as a dangerous rebel, and barely shows a few traces of its former glory. [3] Cilicia, however, which boasts of the river Cydnus, is ennobled by Tarsus, a fair city; this is said to have been founded by Perseus, son of Jupiter, and Danaë, or else by a wealthy and high-born man, Sandan by name, who came from Ethiopia. There is also Anazarbus, bearing the name of its founder, and Mobsuestia, the abode of that famous diviner Mobsus. He, wandering from his fellow-warriors the Argonauts when they were returning after carrying off the golden fleece, and being borne to the coast of Africa, met a sudden death. Thereafter his heroic remains, covered with Punic sod, have been for the most part effective in healing a variety of diseases. [4] These two provinces, crowded with bands of brigands, were long ago, during the war with the pirates, sent under the yoke by the proconsul Servilius 2 and made to pay tribute. And these regions indeed, lying, as it were, upon a promontory, are separated from the eastern continent by Mount Amanus. [5] But the frontier of the East, extending a long distance in a straight line, reaches from the banks of the Euphrates to the borders of the Nile, being bounded on the left by the Saracenic races and on the right exposed to the waves of the sea. Of this district Nicator Seleucus took possession and greatly increased it in power, when by right of succession he was holding the rule of Persia after the death of Alexander of Macedon; and he was a successful and efficient [p. 69] king, as his surname Nicator indicates. [6] For by taking advantage of the great number of men whom he ruled for a long time in peace, in place of their rustic dwellings he built cities of great strength and abundant wealth; and many of these, although they are now called by the Greek names which were imposed upon them by the will of their founder, nevertheless have not lost the old appellations in the Assyrian tongue which the original settlers gave them.

[7] And first after Osdroene, which, as has been said, I have omitted from this account, Commagene, now called Euphratensis, gradually lifts itself into eminence; 3 it is famous for the great cities of Hierapolis, the ancient Ninus, and Samosata.

[8] Next Syria spreads for a distance over a beautiful plain. This is famed for Antioch, a city know to all the world, and without a rival, so rich is it in imported and domestic commodities; likewise for Laodicia, Apamia, and also Seleucia, most flourishing cities from their very origin.

[9] After this comes Phoenicia, lying at the foot of Mount Libanus, 4 a region full of charm and beauty, adorned with many great cities; among these in attractiveness and the renown of their names Tyre, Sidon and Berytus are conspicuous, and equal to these are Emissa and Damascus, founded in days long past. [10] Now these provinces, encircled by the river Orontes, which, after flowing past the foot of that lofty mountain Cassius, empties into the Parthenian Sea, 5 were taken from the realms of the [p. 71] Armenians by Gnaeus Pompeius, after his defeat of Tigranes, 6 and brought under Roman sway.

[11] The last region of the Syrias is Palestine, extending over a great extent of territory and abounding in cultivated and well-kept lands; it also has some splendid cities, none of which yields to any of the others, but they rival one another, as it were, by plumb-line. 7 These are Caesarea, which Herodes 8 built in honour of the emperor Octavianus, 9 Eleutheropolis, and Neapolis, along with Ascalon and Gaza, built in a former age. [12] In these districts no navigable river is anywhere to be seen, but in numerous places natural warm springs gush forth, adapted to many medicinal uses. But these regions also met with a like fate, being formed into a province by Pompey, after he had defeated the Jews and taken Jerusalem, 10 but left to the jurisdiction of a governor.

[13] Adjacent to this region is Arabia, which on one side adjoins the country of the Nabataei, a land producing a rich variety of wares and studded with strong castles and fortresses, which the watchful care of the early inhabitants reared in suitable and readily defended defiles, to check the inroads of neighbouring tribes. This region also has, in addition to some towns, great cities, Bostra, Gerasa and Philadelphia, all strongly defended by mighty walls. It was given the name of a province, assigned a governor, and compelled to obey our laws by the emperor Trajan, 11 who, by frequent victories crushed the arrogance of its inhabitants when he was waging glorious war with Media and the Parthians.

[p. 73] [14] Cyprus, too, an island far removed from the mainland, and abounding in harbours, besides having numerous towns, is made famous by two cities, Salamis and Paphos, the one celebrated for its shrines of Jupiter, the other for its temple of Venus. This Cyprus is so fertile and so abounds in products of every kind, that without the need of any help from without, by its native resources alone it builds cargo ships from the very keel to the topmast sails, and equipping them completely entrusts them to the deep. [15] Nor am I loth to say that the Roman people in invading that island showed more greed than justice; for King Ptolemy, 12 our ally joined to us by a treaty, without any fault of his, merely because of the low state of our treasury was ordered to be proscribed, and in consequence committed suicide by drinking poison; whereupon the island was made tributary and its spoils, as though those of an enemy, were taken aboard our fleet and brought to Rome by Cato. 13 I shall now resume the thread of my narrative.

1 The Emperor Claudius, A.D. 41–54.

2 P. Servilius Isauricus, in 74 B.C.

3 Above the surrounding country.

4 Lebanon.

5 Near the Gulf of Issos, in south-eastern Cilicia.

6 In 64 B.C.

7 I.e. exactly.

8 Herod the Great.

9 Augustus.

10 In 63 B.C.

11 In A.D. 105.

12 Brother of Ptolemy Auletes, King of Egypt from 80 B.C.

13 Cato Uticensis in 58 B.C.

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load focus Introduction (John C. Rolfe, Ph.D., Litt.D., 1940)
load focus Introduction (John C. Rolfe, Ph.D., Litt.D., 1939)
load focus Introduction (John C. Rolfe, Ph.D., Litt.D., 1935)
load focus Latin (John C. Rolfe, Ph.D., Litt.D., 1935)
hide References (6 total)
  • Cross-references to this page (6):
    • Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), ANAZARBUS
    • Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), ARA´BIA
    • Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), BOSTRA
    • Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), ISAURA
    • Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), ISAU´RIA
    • Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), MOPSUE´STIA
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