previous next

CA´SPIUM MARE

CA´SPIUM MARE ( Κασπία Φάλαττα, Hdt. 1.203; Ptol. 5.9.7, 7.5.4; Strab. ii. p.71, xi. pp. 502, 506, &c.; τὸ Κάσπιον πέλαγος, Strab. xi. p.508), the largest of the inland seas of Asia, extending between lat. 48° and 37° N., and long. 48° and 55° E., and the shores of which were Scythia intra Imaum, Hyrcania, Atropatene, and Sarmatia Asiatica. It derived its name, according to Strabo, from the Caspii. [CASPII] It bore also the name of the MARE HYRCANIUM (Plin. Nat. 6.13; M. Hyrcanum, Prop. 2.23, 66; Sinus Hyrcanus, Mela, 3.5; Γρκανία Φάλαττα, Hecat. Fragm. ex Athen. ii.; Plb. 5.44; Strab. ii. p.68, xi. p. 507; Ptol. 5.13.6; Diod. 17.75.) In many authors these names are used indifferently the one for the other; they are, however, distinguished by Pliny (6.13), who states that this sea commences to be called the Caspian after you have passed the river Cyrus (Kúr), and that the Caspii live near it; and, in 6.16, that it is called the Hyrcanian Sea from the Hyrcani who live along its shore. The western side would, therefore, in strictness, be called the Caspian, the Eastern, the Hyrcanian. Of the size, form, and character of this inland sea, there was a great variety of opinions among the ancients; and it is not a little remarkable that the earliest account of it which we have in Herodotus (1.202, 203) is by far the most accurate. According to him, it took a vessel with oars 15 days to traverse its length, and 8 days to cross its broadest part. Herodotus maintained that it was a truly inland sea, having no connection with the external ocean. It seems clear, also, that Herodotus made its greatest length from S. to N. (which is its true direction), and not, as the later writers supposed, from W. to E. The real length of the sea is 740 miles from its most N. to its most S. point; its average breadth is about 210 miles.

In the earliest times (as would appear from a fragment of Hecataeus, p. 92, ed. Klausen) it was supposed that the Caspian Sea was connected with the Pontus Euxinus by means of the river Phasis, and still later through the Palus Maeotis (Strab. xi. p.509), a view which has also been taken by some modem writers and travellers. (Kant, Phys. Geogr. 1.1. p. 113, and 3.1. p. 112; F. Parrot's Reise z. Ararat, i. p. 24, Berl. 1834.) Aristotle (Meteor. 1.13.29, and 2.1.10) appears to have been acquainted with the true nature of this sea; yet the majority of writers certainly held opinions more or less erroneous. The prevalent one was that it was connected with the Northern Ocean, and even Strabo (xi. p.519) seems to have sanctioned this view (compare also Mela, 3.5; Plin. Nat. 6.13; Curt. 6.4), an error which perhaps arose from a statement of Eratosthenes. (Strab. xi. p.507.) Diodorus (18.5), however, described this sea correctly, and Ptolemy (7.5.4,) confirmed his view. It seems extremely probable that much of the confusion which appears to have existed in antiquity with regard to this sea may have arisen from indistinct accounts of the connection between it and the Oxiana Palus (Sea of Aral). There seems to be no doubt that these seas were originally connected by an arm of the Oxus (Gihon), and it is not unlikely that the Caspian and Aral Sea were considered by many as the basins of one and the same sea, following the indistinct and uncertain accounts which prevailed respecting them, and perhaps thereby originating the distinctive names of M. Hyrcanium and M. Caspium for the Eastern and Western Seas, which were strictly true of one only. (Malte-Brun, Gesch. d. Erdkunde, i. p. 71; Kephalides, Comm. de Mari Caspio, Gotting. 1814; Eichwald, Alte Geogr. d. Casp. Meeres, Berlin, 1838.)

[V]

hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: