previous next


But now, in conformity with the plan which I originally proposed, the remaining portions of this gulf must be described. As for its seas, we have already made mention of them.

(13.) The Hellespont has no islands belonging to Europe that are worthy of mention. In the Euxine there are, at a distance of a mile and a half from the European shore, and of fourteen from the mouth of the Strait, the two Cyanæan1 islands, by some called the Symplegades2, and stated in fabulous story to have run the one against the other; the reason being the circumstance that they are separated by so short an interval, that while to those who enter the Euxine opposite to them they appear to be two distinct islands, but if viewed in a somewhat oblique direction they have the appearance of becoming gradually united into one. On this side of the Ister there is the single island3 of the Apolloniates, eighty miles from the Thracian Bosporus; it was from this place that M. Lucullus brought the Capitoline4 Apollo. Those islands which are to be found between the mouths of the Ister we have already mentioned5. Before the Borysthenes is Achillea6 previously referred to, known also by the names of Leuce and Macaron7. Researches which have been made at the present day place this island at a distance of 140 miles from the Borysthenes, of 120 from Tyra, and of fifty from the island of Peuce. It is about ten miles in circumference. The remaining islands in the Gulf of Carcinites are Cephalonnesos, Rhosphodusa, and Macra. Before we leave the Euxine, we must not omit to notice the opinion expressed by many writers that all the interior8 seas take their rise in this one as the principal source, and not at the Straits of Gades. The reason they give for this supposition is not an improbable one—the fact that the tide is always running out of the Euxine and that there is never any ebb.

We must now leave the Euxine to describe the outer portions9 of Europe. After passing the Riphæan mountains we have now to follow the shores of the Northern Ocean on the left, until we arrive at Gades. In this direction a great number of islands10 are said to exist that have no name; among which there is one which lies opposite to Scythia, mentioned under the name of Raunonia11, and said to be at a distance of the day's sail from the mainland; and upon which, according to Timæus, amber is thrown up by the waves in the spring season. As to the remaining parts of these shores, they are only known from reports of doubtful authority. With reference to the Septentrional12 or Northern Ocean; Hecatæus calls it, after we have passed the mouth of the river Parapanisus, where it washes the Scythian shores, the Amalchian sea, the word 'Amalchian' signifying in the language of these races, frozen. Philemon again says that it is called Morimarusa or the "Dead Sea" by the Cimbri, as far as the Promontory of Rubeas, beyond which it has the name of the Cronian13 Sea. Xenophon of Lampsacus tells us that at a distance of three days' sail from the shores of Scythia, there is an island of immense size called Baltia14, which by Pytheas is called Basilia15. Some islands16 called Oönæ are said to be here, the inhabitants of which live on the eggs of birds and oats; and others again upon which human beings are produced with the feet of horses, thence called Hippopodes. Some other islands are also mentioned as those of the Panotii, the people of which have ears of such extraordinary size as to cover the rest of the body, which is otherwise left naked.

Leaving these however, we come to the nation of the Ingævones17, the first in Germany; at which we begin to have some information upon which more implicit reliance can be placed. In their country is an immense mountain called Sevo18, not less than those of the Riphæan range, and which forms an immense gulf along the shore as far as the Promontory of the Cimbri. This gulf, which has the name of the 'Codanian,' is filled with islands; the most famous among which is Scandinavia19, of a magnitude as yet unascertained: the only portion of it at all known is inhabited by the nation of the Hilleviones, who dwell in 500 villages, and call it a second world: it is generally supposed that the island of Eningia20 is of not less magnitude. Some writers state that these regions, as far as the river Vistula, are inhabited by the Sarmati, the Venedi21, the Sciri, and the Hirri22, and that there is a gulf there known by the name of Cylipenus23, at the mouth of which is the island of Latris, after which comes another gulf, that of Lagnus, which borders on the Cimbri. The Cimbrian Promontory, running out into the sea for a great distance, forms a peninsula which bears the name of Cartris24. Passing this coast, there are three and twenty islands which have been made known by the Roman arms25: the most famous of which is Burcana26, called by our people Fabaria, from the resemblance borne27 by a fruit which grows there spontaneously. There are those also called Glæsaria28 by our soldiers, from their amber; but by the barbarians they are known as Austeravia and Actania.

1 These islands, or rather rocks, are now known as Fanari, and lie at the entrance of the Straits of Constantinople.

2 From σὺν and πληγὴ, "a striking together." Tournefort has explained the ancient story of these islands running together, by remarking that each of them consists of one craggy island, but that when the sea is disturbed the water covers the lower parts, so as to make the different points of each resemble isolated rocks. They are united to the mainland by a kind of isthmus, and appear as islands only when it is inundated in stormy weather.

3 Upon which the city of Apollonia (now Sizeboli), mentioned in C. 18 of the present Book, was situate.

4 So called because it was dedicated by Lucullus in the Capitol. It was thirty cubits in height.

5 In C. 24 of the present Book.

6 Mentioned in the last Chapter as the "Island of Achilles."

7 From the Greek μακαρῶν," (The island) of the Blest." It was also called the "Island of the Heroes."

8 Meaning all the inland or Mediterranean seas.

9 As the whole of Pliny's description of the northern shores of Europe is replete with difficulties and obscurities, we cannot do better than transcribe the learned remarks of M. Parisot, the Geographical Editor of Ajasson's Edition, in reference to this subject. He says, "Before entering on the discussion of this portion of Pliny's geography, let us here observe, once for all, that we shall not remark as worthy of our notice all those ridiculous hypotheses which could only take their rise in ignorance, precipitation, or a love of the marvellous. We shall decline then to recognize the Doffrefelds in the mountains of Sevo, the North Cape in the Promontory of Rubeas, and the Sea of Greenland in the Cronian Sea. The absurdity of these suppositions is proved by—I. The impossibility of the ancients ever making their way to these distant coasts without the aid of large vessels, the compass, and others of those appliances, aided by which European skill finds the greatest difficulty in navigating those distant seas. II. The immense lacune which would be found to exist in the descriptions of these distant seas and shores: for not a word do we find about those numerous archipelagos which are found scattered throughout the North Sea, not a word about Iceland, nor about the numberless seas and fiords on the coast of Norway. III. The absence of all remarks upon the local phænomena of these spots. The North Cape belongs to the second polar climate, the longest day there being two months and a half. Is it likely that navigators would have omitted to mention this remarkable phænomenon, well known to the Romans by virtue of their astronomical theories, but one with which practically they had never made themselves acquainted?—The only geographers who here merit our notice are those who are of opinion that in some of the coasts or islands here mentioned Pliny describes the Scandinavian Peninsula, and in others the Coast of Finland. The first question then is, to what point Pliny first carries us? It is evident that from the Black Sea he transports himself on a sudden to the shores of the Baltic, thus passing over at a single leap a considerable space filled with nations and unknown deserts. The question then is, what line has he followed? Supposing our author had had before his eyes a modern map, the imaginary line which he would have drawn in making this transition would have been from Odessa to the Kurisch- Haff. In this direction the breadth across Europe is contracted to a space, between the two seas, not more than 268 leagues in length. A very simple mode of reasoning will conclusively prove that Pliny has deviated little if anything from this route. If he fails to state in precise terms upon what point of the shores of the Baltic he alights after leaving the Riphæan mountains, his enumeration of the rivers which discharge themselves into that sea, and with which he concludes his account of Germany, will supply us with the requisite information, at all events in great part. In following his description of the coast, we find mention made of the following rivers, the Guttalus, the Vistula, the Elbe, the Weser, the Ems, the Rhine, and the Meuse. The five last mentioned follow in their natural order, from east to west, as was to be expected in a description starting from the east of Europe for its western extremity and the shores of Cadiz. We have a right to conclude then that the Guttalus was to the east of the Vistula. As we shall now endeavour to show, this river was no other than the Alle, a tributary of the Pregel, which the Romans probably, in advancing from west to east, considered as the principal stream, from the circumstance that they met with it, before coming to the larger river. The Pregel after being increased by the waters of the Alle or Guttalus falls into the Frisch-Haff, about one degree further west than the Kurisch-Haff. It may however be here remarked, Why not find a river more to the east, the Niemen, for instance, or the Duna, to be represented by the Guttalus? The Niemen in especial would suit in every respect equally well, because it discharges itself into the Kurisch-Haff. This conjecture however is incapable of support, when we reflect that the ancients were undoubtedly acquainted with some points of the coast to the east of the mouth of the Guttalus, but which, according to the system followed by our author, would form part of the Continent of Asia. These points are, 1st. The Cape Lytarinis (mentioned by Pliny, B. vi. c. 4). 2ndly. The mouth of the river Carambucis (similarly mentioned by him), and 3rdly, a little to the east of Cape Lytarmis, the mouth of the Tanais. The name of Cape Lytarmis suggests to us Lithuania, and probably represents Domess-Ness in Courland; the Carambucis can be no other than the Niemen; while the Tanais, upon which so many authors, ancient and modern, have exhausted their conjectures, from confounding it with the Southern Tanais which falls into the Sea of Azof, is evidently the same as the Dwina or Western Duna. This is established incontrovertibly both by its geographical position (the mouth of the Dwina being only fifty leagues to the east of Domess-Ness) and the identity evidently of the names Dwina and Tanais. Long since, Leibnitz was the first to remark the presence of the radical T. n, or D. n, either with or without a vowel, in the names of the great rivers of Eastern Europe; Danapris or Dnieper, Danaster or Dniester, Danube (in German Donau, in Hungarian Duna), Tanais or Don, for example; all which rivers however discharge themselves into the Black Sea. There can be little doubt then of the identity of the Duna with the Tanais, it being the only body of water in these vast countries which bears a name resembling the initial Tan, or Tn, and at the same time belongs to the basin of the Baltic. We are aware, it is true, that the White Sea receives a river Dwina, which is commonly called the Northern Dwina, but there can be no real necessity to be at the trouble of combating the opinion that this river is identical with the Northern Tanais. As the result then of our investigations, it is at the eastern extremity of the Frisch-Haff and near the mouth of the Pregel, that we would place the point at which Pliny sets out. As for the Riphæan mountains, they have never existed anywhere but in the head of the geographers from whom our author drew his materials. From the mountains of Ural and Poias, which Pliny could not possibly have in view, seeing that they lie in a meridian as eastern as the Caspian Sea, the traveller has to proceed 600 leagues to the south-west without meeting with any chains of mountains or indeed considerable elevations."

10 It is pretty clear that he refers to the numerous islands scattered over the face of the Baltic Sea, such as Dago, Oesel, Gothland, and Aland.

11 The old reading here was Bannomanna, which Dupinet would translate by the modern Bornholm. Parisot considers that the modern Runa, a calcareous rock covered with vegetable earth, in the vicinity of Domess- Ness, is the place indicated.

12 It has been suggested by Brotier that Pliny here refers to the Icy Sea, but it is more probable that he refers to the north-eastern part of the Baltic, which was looked upon by the ancients as forming part of the open sea.

13 With reference to these divisions of land and sea, a subject which is involved in the greatest obscurity, Parisot states it as his opinion that the Amalchian or Icy Sea is that portion of the Baltic which extends from Cape Rutt to Cape Grinea, while on the other hand the Cronian Sea comprehends all the gulfs which lie to the east of Cape Rutt, such as the Haff, the gulfs of Stettin and Danzic, the Frisch-Haff, and the Kurisch-Haff. He also thinks that the name of 'Cronian' originally belonged only to that portion of the Baltic which washes the coast of Courland, but that travellers gradually applied the term to the whole of the sea. He is also of opinion that the word "Cronium" owes its origin to the Teutonic and Danish adjective groen or "green." The extreme verdure which characterizes the islands of the Danish archipelago has given to the piece of water which separates the islands of Falster and Moen the name of Groensund, and it is far from improbable that the same epithet was given to the Pomeranian and Prussian Seas, which the Romans would be not unlikely to call 'Gronium' or 'Cronium fretum,' or 'Cronium mare.' In the name 'Parapanisus' he also discovers a resemblance to that of modern Pomerania.

14 Upon this Parisot remarks that on leaving Cape Rutt, at a distance of about twenty-five leagues in a straight line, we come to the island of Funen or Fyen, commonly called Fionia, the most considerable of the Danish archipelago next to Zealand, and which lying between the two Belts, the Greater and the Smaller, may very probably from that circumstance have obtained the name of Baltia. Brotier takes Baltia to be no other than Nova Zembla—so conflicting are the opinions of commentators!

15 Parisot suggests that under this name may possibly lie concealed that of the modern island of Zealand or Seeland, and that it may have borne on the side of it next to the Belt the name of Baltseeland, easily corrupted by the Greeks into Basilia.

16 Brotier takes these to be the islands of Aloo, and Bieloi or Ostrow, at the mouth of the river Paropanisus, which he considers to be the same as the Obi. Parisot on the other hand is of opinion that islands of the Baltic are here referred to; that from the resemblance of the name Oönæ to the Greek ὠὸν, "an egg," the story that the natives subsisted on the eggs of birds was formed; that not improbably the group of the Hippopodes resembled the shape of a horse-shoe, from which the story men- tioned by Pliny took its rise; and that the Fanesii (or, as the reading here has it, the Panotii, "all-ears") wore their hair very short, from which circumstance their ears appeared to be of a larger size than usual.

17 Tacitus speaks of three great groups of the German tribes, the Ingævones forming the first thereof, and consisting of those which dwelt on the margin of the ocean, the Hermiones in the interior, and the Istævones in the east and south of Germany. We shall presently find that Pliny adds two groups, the Vandili as the fourth, and the Peucini and Basternæ as the fifth. This classification however is thought to originate in a mistake, for Zeuss has satisfactorily shown that the Vandili belonged to the Hermiones, and that Peucini and Basternæ are only names of individual tribes and not of groups of tribes.

18 Brotier and other geographers are of opinion that by this name the chain of the Doffrefeld mountains is meant; but this cannot be the case if we suppose with Parisot that Pliny here returns south from the Scandinavian islands and takes his departure from Cape Rutt in the territory of the Ingævones. Still, it is quite impossible to say what mountains he would designate under the name of Sevo. Parisot suggests that it is a form of the compound word "seevohner," "inhabitants of the sea," and that it is a general name for the elevated lands along the margin of the sea-shore.

19 Parisot supposes that under this name the isle of Funen is meant, but it is more generally thought that Norway and Sweden are thus designated, as that peninsula was generally looked upon as an island by the ancients. The Codanian Gulf was the sea to the east of the Cimbrian Chersonesus or Jutland, filled with the islands which belong to the modern kingdom of Denmark. It was therefore the southern part of the Baltic.

20 By Eningia Hardouin thinks that the country of modern Finland is meant. Poinsinet thinks that under the name are included Ingria, Livonia, and Courland; while Parisot seems inclined to be of opinion that under this name the island of Zealand is meant, a village of which, about three-fourths of a league from the western coast, according to him, still bears the name of Heinïnge.

21 Parisot is of opinion that the Venedi, also called Vinidæ and Vindili, were of Sclavish origin, and situate on the shores of the Baltic. He remarks that this people, in the fifth century, founded in Pomerania, when quitted by the Goths, a kingdom, the chiefs of which styled themselves the Konjucs of Vinland. Their name is also to be found in Venden, a Russian town in the government of Riga, in Windenburg in Courland, and in Wenden in the circle of the Grand Duchy of Mecklenburg Schwerin.

22 Parisot remarks that these two peoples were probably only tribes of the Venedi.

23 Parisot feels convinced that Pliny is speaking here of the Gulf of Travemunde, the island of Femeren, and then of the gulf which extends from that island to Kiel, where the Eider separates Holstein from Jutland. On the other hand, Hardouin thinks that by the Gulf of Cylipenus the Gulf of Riga is meant, and that Latris is the modern island of Oësel. But, as Parisot justly remarks, to put this construction on Pliny's language is to invert the order in which he has hitherto proceeded, evidently from east to west.

24 The modern Cape of Skagen on the north of Jutland.

25 When Drusus held the command in Germany, as we learn from Strabo, B. vii.

26 It is generally agreed that this is the modern island of Borkhum, at the mouth of the river Amaiius or Ems.

27 To a bean, from which (faba) the island had its name of Fabaria. In confirmation of this Hardouin states, that in his time there was a tower still standing there which was called by the natives Het boon huys, "the bean house."

28 From the word gles or glas, which primarily means 'glass,' and then figuratively "amber." Probably Œland and Gothland. They will be found again mentioned in the Thirtieth Chapter of the present Book. See p. 351.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

load focus Latin (Karl Friedrich Theodor Mayhoff, 1906)
hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

hide References (23 total)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: