portion begins at the Caspian Sea, at which the first portion ends. The same sea is also called Hyrcanian. But I must first describe this sea and the tribes which live about it.
This sea is the gulf which extends from the ocean2
towards the south; it is rather narrow at its entrance, but it widens out as it advances inland, and especially in the region of its recess, where its width is approximately five thousand stadia. The length of the voyage from its entrance to its recess might be slightly more than that, since its entrance is approximately on the borders of the uninhabited world. Eratosthenes says that the circuit of this sea was known to the Greeks; that the part along the coast of the Albanians and the Cadusians is five thousand four hundred stadia; and that the part along the coast of the Anariaci and Mardi and Hyrcani to the mouth of the Oxus River is four thousand eight hundred, and thence to the Iaxartes, two thousand four hundred. But we must understand in a more general sense the accounts of this portion and the regions that lie so far removed, particularly in the matter of distances.
On the right, as one sails into the Caspian Sea, are those Scythians, or Sarmatians,3
who live in the country contiguous to Europe between the Tanaïs River and this sea; the greater part of them are nomads, of whom I have already spoken.4
On the left are the eastern Scythians, also nomads, who extend as far as the Eastern Sea and India. Now all the peoples towards the north were by the ancient Greek historians given the general name "Scythians" or "Celtoscythians"; but the writers of still earlier times, making distinctions between them, called those who lived above the Euxine and the Ister and the Adriatic "Hyperboreans," "Sauromatians," and "Arimaspians," and they called those who lived across the Caspian Sea in part "Sacians" and in part "Massagetans," but they were unable to give any accurate account of them, although they reported a war between Cyrus5
and the Massagetans. However, neither have the historians given an accurate and truthful account of these peoples, nor has much credit been given to the ancient history of the Persians or Medes or Syrians, on account of the credulity of the historians and their fondness for myths.
For, seeing that those who were professedly writers of myths enjoyed repute, they thought that they too would make their writings pleasing if they told in the guise of history what they had never seen, nor even heard—or at least not from persons who knew the facts—with this object alone in view, to tell what afforded their hearers pleasure and amazement. One could more easily believe Hesiod and Homer in their stories of the heroes than Ctesias, Herodotus, Hellanicus,6
and other writers of this kind.
Neither is it easy to believe most of those who have written the history of Alexander; for these toy with facts, both because of the glory of Alexander and because his expedition reached the ends of Asia, far away from us; and statements about things that are far away are hard to refute. But the supremacy of the Romans and that of the Parthians has disclosed considerably more knowledge than that which had previously come down to us by tradition; for those who write about those distant regions tell a more trustworthy story than their predecessors, both of the places and of the tribes among which the activities took place, for they have looked into the matter more closely.