previous next

Chalcedon lay on the Asiatic side of the Bosporus, at its southwest end.

The Cyanean Rocks were the gate of the Pontus (cf. their place in the ‘Peace of Callias’, vii. 151. n.). Their name, ‘the rocks of gloom,’ marks the early feeling of the Greeks towards the ‘inhospitable’ Pontus, while H.'s enthusiasm for the sea corresponds to the later name ‘Euxine’. They are called ‘wandering’ as early as Homer (Od. xii. 61). For their story cf. Pind. Pyth. 4. 371 and Apol. Rhod. ii. 318 (or Morris, Life and Death of Jason, Bk. VI); H. doubts its truth. There are twelve rocks, the largest of which is still called ‘Kyani’; they lie off the lighthouse on the extreme point of the European shore (Murray).

τὸ μῆκος. H.'s measurements in this chapter are (in stades): Length. Breadth. Pontus 11,100 3,300 (τῇ εὐρύτατος) Bosporus 120 4 Propontis 1,400 500 Hellespont 400 7

H. is strangely wrong on the length of the Black Sea; the E. B.9 gives it as 720 miles, i. e. about 6,280 stades; but this is at the longest part, from the Gulf of Burghaz to near Batûm. At the point measured by H. (86. 4) it is only about 650 miles. Various explanations are given of his mistake:

(1) Rawlinson thinks H. is calculating from his own experience, i. e. he took nine days and eight nights for a coasting voyage along the south of the Black Sea, and was told that his vessel made 1,300 stades a day; but this explanation will not do, for H. is clearly speaking of a direct voyage. Strabo (548) reckons such a coasting voyage in the Euxine at ‘about 8,000 stades’ only.

(2) Others think that a ‘long day's’ journey (86. 1) was really one of twenty-four hours (as modern ships reckon their ‘runs’); H., forgetting this, reckons in the ‘nights’ over again.

(3) The probable explanation, however, is much simpler. H. reckons a ‘long day’ and a long night; but it is obvious that in the same twenty-four hours a ‘long day’ presupposes a short night; hence the figure ‘600 stades’ for the night is exaggerated.

A normal twenty-four hours' run was 1,000 stades. For the whole subject of a ship's speed cf. vii. 183. 3 nn.

It may be noted that the famous Massiliot navigator, Pytheas, made the south coast of Britain nearly twice its real length.

εὖρος. The E. B.9 gives the breadth of the Pontus as 380 miles (about 3,310 stades), but this is in the wide west part. At the points further east measured by H., it is only about ‘270 miles’ (ib. = 2,350 stades). H. therefore is here again in excess, but much less so than as to the length; in the shorter voyage there was less room for miscalculation.

τέσσερες στάδιοι. The estimates for the breadth of the Bosporus at its narrowest part, which is about the centre (where the bridge was made, 87. 2), vary from 550 metres (about 600 yards; Réclus) to three-quarters of a mile (E. B.9): Murray's Guide agrees with H. (as does Strabo 125), giving 810 yards.

μῆκος. As the whole channel is meant, αὐχήν is added to explain. H. underestimates the length, which is about 20 miles (E. B.9), i. e. 175 stades. Perhaps in estimating the speed of a vessel sailing down the straits, he forgot to allow for the current.

Προποντίς. H. does not tell us at what points he measured the Propontis; the E. B.9 (s. v. Black Sea) gives it 110 and 43 geographical miles (i. e. about 1,100 and 430 stades). H. therefore is too large here also.

Ἑλλήσποντον. H.'s breadth for the Hellespont agrees with Murray's, who gives 1,400 yards; but Murray makes the length 33 miles, i. e. about 290 stades.

Rawlinson (ad loc.) has a useful table of the measurements of H., Strabo, and Pliny, compared with actual distances. He notes (1) that H.'s successors are hardly more accurate; (2) that as a rule his measurements are in excess, because he overestimates the speed of vessels; (3) that, as might be expected, he is most inaccurate as to the part most remote, i. e. the Pontus.

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.

hide References (2 total)
  • Commentary references from this page (2):
    • Homer, Odyssey, 12.61
    • Pindar, Pythian, 4
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: