On the whole, however, it is not proper to place the works of Homer in the common catalogue of other poets, without challenging for him a superiority both in respect of his other [excellences] and also for the geography on which our attention is now engaged. If any one were to do no more than merely read through the Triptolemus of Sophocles, or the prologue to the Bacchæ of Euripides, and then compare them with the care taken by Homer in his geographical descriptions, he would at once perceive both the difference and superiority of the latter, for wherever there is necessity for arrangement in the localities he has immortalized, he is careful to preserve it as well in regard to Greece, as to foreign countries. “ They
On the Olympian summit thought to fix
Huge Ossa, and on Ossa's towering head
Pelion with all his forests.1
” “ And Juno starting from the Olympian height
O'erflew Pieria and the lovely plains
Of broad Emathia;2 soaring thence she swept
The snow-clad summit of the Thracian hills3
Steed-famed, nor printed, as she pass'd, the soil,
From Athos4 the foaming billows borne.5
” In the Catalogue he does not describe his cities in regular order, because here there was no necessity, but both the people and foreign countries he arranges correctly. ‘Having wandered to Cyprus, and Phœnice, and the Egyptians, I came to the Ethiopians, and Sidonians, and Erembi, and Libya.’6 Hipparchus has drawn attention to this. But the two tragedians where there was great necessity for proper arrangement, one7 where he introduces Bacchus visiting the nations, the other8 Triptolemus sowing the earth, have brought in juxta-position places far remote, and separated those which were near. ‘And having left the wealthy lands of the Lydians and Phrygians, and the sunny plains of the Persians and the Bactrian walls, and having come over the stormy land of the Medes, and the Happy Arabia.’9 And the Triptolemus is just as inaccurate. Further, in respect to the winds and climates, Homer shows the wide extent of his geographical knowledge, for in his topographical descriptions he not unfrequently informs us of both these matters. Thus,
“ My abode”
Is sun-burnt Ithaca.
Flat on the deep she lies, farthest removed
Toward the west, while situate apart,
Her sister islands face the rising day.10Odyssey ix. 25.
“ It has a two-fold entrance,”
One towards the north, the other south.11Odyssey xiii. 109, 111.
Ignorance of such matters he reckons no less than confusion.
“ Which I alike despise, speed they their course”
With right-hand flight towards the ruddy east,
Or leftward down into the shades of eve.12Iliad xii. 239.
Where the poet has said properly enough,
“ Alas! my friends, for neither west”
Know we, nor east; where rises or where sets
The all-enlightening sun.13Odyssey x. 190.
Eratosthenes ill-naturedly misrepresents him as saying in an absolute sense, that the west wind blows from Thrace; whereas he is not speaking in an absolute sense at all, but merely of the meeting of contrary winds near the bay of Melas,15 on the Thracian sea, itself a part of the Ægæan. For where Thrace forms a kind of promontory, where it borders on Macedonia,16 it takes a turn to the south-west, and projects into the ocean, and from this point it seems to the inhabitants of Thasos, Lemnos, Imbros, Samothracia,17 and the surrounding sea, that the west winds blow.18 So in regard to Attica, they seem to come from the rocks of Sciros,19 and this is the reason why all the westerly winds, the north-west more particularly, are called the Scirones. Of this Eratosthenes was not aware, though he suspected as much, for it was he who described this bending of the land [towards the south-west] which we have mentioned. But he interprets our poet in an absolute sense, and then taxes him with ignorance, because, says he, ‘Zephyr blows from the west, and off Spain, and Thrace does not extend so far.’ Does he then think that Homer was not aware that Zephyr came from the west, notwithstanding the careful manner in which he distinguishes its position when he writes as follows:
“ As when two adverse winds, blowing from Thrace,”
Boreas and Zephyrus,14Iliad ix.5.
Or was he ignorant that Thrace did not extend beyond the Pæonian and Thessalian mountains.21 To be sure he was well acquainted with the position of the countries adjoining Thrace in that direction, and does he not mention by name both the maritime and inland districts, and tells us of the Magnetæ,22 the Malians,23 and other Grecian [territories], all in order, as far as Thesprotis;24 also of the Dolopes25 bordering on Pæo- nia, and the Sellæ who inhabit the territory around Dodona26 as far as the [river] Achelous,27 but he never mentions Thrace, as being beyond these. He has evidently a predilection for the sea which is nearest to him, and with which he is most familiar, as where he says,
“ The east, the south, the heavy-blowing Zephyr,”
And the cold north-wind clear.20Odyssey v. 295.
“ Commotion shook”
The whole assembly, such as heaves the flood
Of the Icarian deep.28Iliad ii. 144.