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Bursting through, this sea makes a passage from the Scythian Ocean into the back of Asia,1 receiving various names from the nations which dwell upon its banks, the two most famous of which are the Caspian and the Hyrcanian races. Clitarchus is of opinion that the Caspian Sea is not less in area than the Euxine. Eratosthenes gives the measure of it on the south-east, along the coast of Cadusia2 and Albania, as five thousand four hundred stadia; thence, through the territories of the Anariaci, the Amardi, and the Hyrcani, to the mouth of the river Zonus he makes four thousand eight hundred stadia, and thence to the mouth of the Jaxartes3 two thousand four hundred; which makes in all a distance of one thousand five hundred and seventy-five miles. Artemidorus, however, makes this sum smaller by twenty-five miles. Agrippa bounds the Caspian Sea and the nations around it, including Armenia, on the east by the Ocean of the Seres,4 on the west by the chain of the Caucasus, on the south by that of Taurus, and on the north by the Scythian Ocean; and he states it, so far as its extent is known, to be four hundred and eighty miles in length, and two hundred and ninety in breadth. There are not wanting, however, some authors who state that its whole circumference, from the Straits,5 is two thousand five hundred miles.

Its waters make their way into this sea by a very narrow mouth,6 but of considerable length; and where it begins to enlarge, it curves obliquely with horns in the form of a crescent, just as though it would make a descent from its mouth into Lake Mæotis, resembling a sickle in shape, as M. Varro says. The first7 of its gulfs is called the Scythian Gulf; it is inhabited on both sides, by the Scythians, who hold communication with each other across the Straits,8 the Nomades being on one side, together with the Sauromatæ, divided into tribes with numerous names, and on the other, the Abzoæ, who are also divided into an equal number. At the entrance, on the right hand side,9 dwell the Udini, a Scythian tribe, at the very angle of the mouth. Then along10 the coast there are the Albani, the descendants of Jason, it is said; that part of the sea which lies in front of them, bears the name of ' Albanian.' This nation, which lies along the Caucasian chain, comes down, as we have previously stated,11 as far as the river Cyrus, which forms the boundary of Armenia and Iberia. Above the maritime coast of Albania and the nation of the Udini, the Sarmatæ, the Utidorsi, and the Aroteres stretch along its shores, and in their rear the Sauromatian Amazons, already spoken of12

The rivers which run through Albania in their course to the sea are the Casius13 and the Albanus,14 and then the Cambyses,15 which rises in the Caucasian mountains, and next to it the Cyrus, rising in those of the Coraxici, as already mentioned.16 Agrippa states that the whole of this coast, inaccessible from rocks of an immense height, is four hundred and twenty-five miles in length, beginning from the river Casius. After we pass the mouth of the Cyrus, it begins to be called the 'Caspian Sea;' the Caspii being a people who dwell upon its shores.

In this place it may be as well to correct an error into which many persons have fallen, and even those who lately took part with Corbulo in the Armenian war. The Gates of Iberia, which we have mentioned17 as the Caucasian, they have spoken of as being called the 'Caspian,' and the coloured plans which have been sent from those parts to Rome have that name written upon them. The menaced expedition, too, that was contemplated by the Emperor Nero, was said to be designed to extend as far as the Caspian Gates, where- as it was really intended for those which lead through Iberia into the territory of the Sarmatæ; there being hardly any possibility of approach to the Caspian Sea, by reason of the close juxtaposition of the mountains there. There are, however, other Caspian Gates, which join up to the Caspian tribes; but these can only be distinguished from a perusal of the narrative of those who took part in the expedition of Alexander the Great.

1 His meaning is, that the Scythian ocean communicates on the northern shores of Asia with the Caspian Sea. Hardouin remarks, that Patrocles, the commander of the Macedonian fleet, was the first to promulgate this notion, he having taken the mouth of the river Volga for a narrow passage, by means of which the Scythian or Northern Ocean made its way into the Caspian Sea.

2 The country of the Cadusii, in the mountainous district of Media Atropatene, on the south-west shores of the Caspian Sea, between the parallels of 390 and 370 north latitude. This district probably corresponds with the modern district of Gilan.

3 Now the Syr-Daria or Yellow River, and watering the barren steppes of the Kirghiz-Cossacks. It really discharges itself into the Sea of Aral, and not the Caspian.

4 The supposed Eastern Ocean of the ancients.

5 The imaginary passage by which it was supposed to communicate with the Scythian Ocean.

6 This being in reality the mouth of the Rha or Volga, as mentioned in Note 18, p. 24.

7 On the eastern side.

8 Across the mouths of the Volga.

9 On a promontory, on the right or eastern side of the mouth of the river Volga.

10 He here means the western shores of the Caspian, after leaving the mouth of the Volga.

11 In c. 11.

12 See the end of c. 14.

13 The Cæsius of Ptolemy, and the Koisou of modern times.

14 Probably the modern river Samour.

15 It is difficult to determine the exact locality of this river, but it would seem to have been near the Amardus, the modern Sefid-Rúd.

16 In c. 10.

17 See the beginning of c. 12, and the Note, p. 21.

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  • Commentary references to this page (1):
    • W. W. How, J. Wells, A Commentary on Herodotus, 4.24
  • Cross-references to this page (7):
    • Harper's, Interpres
    • Harper's, Sicīlis
    • A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890), INTERPRES
    • Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), BACTRA
    • Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), CARDU´CHI
    • Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), CHOARE´NE
    • Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), PA´RTHIA
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