), a town of the Rhamanitae, an Arabian tribe, mentioned by Strabo as the utmost limit of the Roman expedition under Aelius Gallus, the siege of which he was obliged to abandon after six days for want of water, and to commence his retreat.
The only direct clue afforded by Strabo to the position of the town is that it was two days distant from the Frankincense country; but the interest attaching to this expedition--which promises so much for the elucidation of the classical geography of Arabia, but has hitherto served only still further to perplex it--demands an investigation of its site in connection with the other places named in the only two remaining versions of the narrative.
It will be convenient to consider,--(I.) the texts of the classical authors. (II.)
The commentaries and glosses of modern writers on the subject. (III). To offer such remarks as may serve either to reconcile and harmonise conflicting views, or to indicate a more satisfactory result than has hitherto been arrived at.
In order to study brevity, the conclusions only will be stated; the arguments on which they are supported must be sought in the writings referred to. I. To commence with Strabo, a personal friend of the Roman general who commanded the expedition, and whose account, scanty and unsatisfactory as it is, has all the authority of a personal narrative, in which, however, it will be advisable to omit all incidents but such as directly bear on the geography. [Dictionary of Biography,
GALLUS, AELIUS.] After a voyage of 15 days from Cleopatris [ARSINOE
No. 1], the expedition arrived at Leuce Come (Λευκὴ κώμη
), a considerable seaport in the country of the Nabathaeans, under whose treacherous escort Gallus had placed his armament.
An epidemic among the troops obliged him to pass the summer and winter at this place. Setting out again in the spring, they traversed for many days a barren tract, through which they had to carry their water on camels.
This brought them to the territory of Aretas, a kinsman of Obodas, the chief sheikh of the Nabathaei at the time. They took thirty days to pass through this territory, owing to the obstructions placed in their way by their guide Syllaeus.
It produced spelt and a few palms. They next came to the nomad country named Ararena (Ἀραρηνή
), under a sheikh named Sabus.
This it [p. 2.283]
took them fifty days to traverse, through the fault of their guide; when they came to the city of the Agrani (Ἀγρανοί
), lying in a peaceful and fruitful country.
This they took; and after a march of six days, came to the river. Here, after a pitched battle, in which the Romans killed 10,000 Arabs, with the loss of only two men, they took the city called Asca (Ἄσκα
), then Athrulla (Ἄθρουλλα
), and proceeded to Marsyabae of the Rhamanitae, then governed by Ilasarus, from which, as already mentioned, they commenced their retreat by a much shorter route. Nine days brought them to Anagrana (Ἀνάγρανα
), where the battle had been fought; eleven more to the Seven Wells (Ἑπτὰ φρέατα
), so called from the fact; then to a village named Chaalla (Χάαλλα
), and another named Malotha (Μαλόθα
),--the latter situated on a river,--and through a desert with few watering-places to Nera or Negra Come (Νερὰ κώμη
), on the sea-shore, subject to Obodas.
This retreat was accomplished in sixty days; the advance had occupied six months. From Nera they sailed to Myos Hormus (Μυὸς ὅρμος
in eleven days. Thus far Strabo (xvi. p.782
). Pliny is much more brief.
He merely states that Gallus destroyed towns not mentioned by previous writers, Negra, Amnestrum, Nesca, Magusa, Tammacum, Labecia, the above-named Mariaba (i. e. the Mariaba of the Calingii, 3), and Caripeta, the remotest point which he reached. (Hist. Nat.
The only geographical point mentioned by Dio Cassius, who dwells chiefly on the sufferings of the army, is that the important city of Athlula (Ἀθλούλα
) was the limit of this disastrous expedition. (D. C. 53.29
The variations of commentators on this narrative may be estimated by these facts: Dean Vincent maintains that, “as Pliny says, that places which occur in the expedition of Gallus are not found in authors previous to his time, the same may be said of subsequent writers; for there is not one of them, ancient or modern, who will do more than afford matter for conjecture.” (Peripl.
300, 301.) Mr. Forster asserts, “Of the eight cities named by Pliny, the names of two most clearly prove them to be the same with two of those mentioned by Strabo; and that seven out of the eight stand, with moral certainty, and the eighth with good probability, identified with as many Arab towns, still actually in being.” (Geography of Arabia,
vol. ii. p. 310.) D'Anville and M. Fresnel (inf. cit.
) conduct the expedition to Hadramaut,
in the southern extremity of the peninsula; Gosselin does not extend it beyond the Hedjaz.
(Récherches sar la Géogra phie des Anciens,
tom. ii. p. 114.)
But these various theories require more distinct notice. 1. D'Anville, following Bochart (Chanaan,
1.44), identifies Leuce Come with the modern Hawr
on the Red Sea, a little north of the latitude of Medina,
justifying the identification by the coincidence of meaning between the native and the Greek names. Anagrana he fixes at Nageran or Negran (Nedjran
), a town in the NE. of Yemen;
consistently with which theory he makes the Marsyabae of Strabo identical with the Mariaba of the same geographer; though Strabo makes the latter the capital of the Sabaei, and assigns the former to the Rhamanitae. Finally, D'Anville places Chaalla at Khaülan (El-Chaulan
), in the NW. extremity of Yemen,
and, therefore, as he presumes, on the Roman line of retreat between Anagrana and the sea. (D'Anville Géographie ancienne abrégée,
tom. ii. pp. 216, 217, 223, 224). 2. Gosselin, as before noticed, maintains that the expedition did not pass beyond Arabia Deserta and the Hedjaz;
that the Negra of Pliny == the Negran of Ptolemy == the modern Nokra
or Maaden en-Nokra
(in the NW. of Nedjd
); that Pliny's Magusa == Mégarishuzzir
(which he marks in his map NW. of Negra, and due East of Moilah,
his Leuce (pp. 254, 255), perhaps identical with Dahr el-Maghair
in Ritter's map; that Tammacum in Pliny == Thaema in Ptolemy == the modern Tima (which he places nearly due north of Negra, between it and Magusa) == Teimâ
in Ritter, between Maaden en-Nokra
and Dahr el-Maghair;
that Labecia == Laba of Ptolemy, which he does not place; that Athrulla == Lathrippa [LATHRIPPA
] in Ptolemy == Medineh;
that Mariaba in Pliny == Marsyabae in Strabo,==Macoraba in Ptolemy == Mecca;
and lastly, that Caripeta, the extreme point according to Pliny, == Ararene in Strabo==modern Cariatain,
in the heart of El-Nedjd.
pp. 113-116.) 3. Dean Vincent's opinion on the difficulty of recovering any clue to the line of march has already been stated; but he ventures the following conjectures, partly in agreement, and partly in correction, of the preceding.
He adopts the Leuce Come of Gosselin, i. e. Moilah;
the Anagrana or Negra of D'Anville, i. e. Nedjran
and thinks that the country of the nomades, called Ararêné, has a resemblance to the territory of Medina
and that the space of fifty days employed in passing it, is some confirmation of the conjecture. Marsyabae, he thinks, could not be Mariaba of the Tank; but takes it as the general name for a capital,--in this case of the Minêans,--which he suggests may correspond with the Caripeta of Pliny, the Carna or Carana of Strabo, the capital of the Minêans, and the Carni-peta, or Carni-petra of modern geographers.
The fact that Strabo speaks of Carna as the capital of the Minaei, and places Marsyabae in the territory of the Rhamanitae, is disposed of by the double hypothesis, that if Ilasar is the king of this tribe, whether Calingii, Rhamanitae, or Elaescari, all three were comprehended under the title of Minêans. Of Nera, the termination of the expedition, he remarks, that it being in the country of Obodas, it must be within the limits of Petraea; but, as no modern representative offers, it should be placed as far below (south of) Leuce Come as the province will admit. (Vincent, Periplus of the Erythrean Sea,
vol. ii. pp. 290--311.) 4. M. Fresnel, long a resident in the country, thinks that the Marsyabae of Strabo must be identical with the Mariaba in Pliny's list of captured cities, the same writer's Baramalacum, and Ptolemy's Mariama; and that the Rhamanitae of Strabo are the Rhammei of Pliny, the Manitae of Ptolemy, one of the divisions of the Minaei, to which rather than to the other division, the charmaei, Mariaba Baramalacum should have been assigned.
In agreement with Vincent, he finds the Marsyabae of Strabo in the capital of the Minaei, i. e. the Carana of Strabo and the Carnan Regia of Ptolemy, which he however finds in the modern Al-Ckarn
in the Wady Doàn
in Kiepert's and Zimmerman's maps), six or seven days' journey north of Moukallah,
and in the heart of Hadramaut.
(Fresnel, in Journal Asiatique, Juillet,
1840, 3me série, tom. x. pp. 83--96, 177, &c.)
He fancied that he recovered the Caripeta of Pliny in the site of Khouraybah,
also in the vicinity of Moukallah
p. 196). 5. Desvergers prefers the identification [p. 2.284]
of Leuce Come with El-Haura,
proposed by D'Anville, to the Moilah
of Gosselin and Vincent.
In common with D'Anville and Vincent, he finds the town of Anagrana (which he writes “la ville des Négranes” ) in the modern Nedjrân,
and doubtingly fixes Marsyabae at Mâreb
The Manitae of Ptolemy he identifies with the Rhamanitae of Strabo,--suggesting an ingenious correction to Jamanitae = the people of Yemen
pp. 58, 59). 6. Jomard, one of the highest authorities on Arabian geography, has offered a few valuable remarks on the expedition of Gallus, with a view to determine the line of march.
He thinks the name Marsyabae an evident corruption for Mariaba, which he assumes to be “that of the Tank,” the capital of the Minaei, now Mâreb.
Negranes exactly corresponds with Nedjrân
nine days'journey NW. of Mâreb.
He fixes Leuce Come at Moilah,
and Negra or Nera opposite to Coseyr,
in the 26th degree of latitude. His argument for determining the value of a day's march is ingenious.
The whole distance from Mâreb
to the place indicated would be 350 leagues of 25 to a degree. From Mariaba to Negra was 60 days' march: Negrân,
therefore, which was nine days from Mariaba, is 9/60ths of the whole march, and Wady Nedjrân
is 52 leagues NW. of Mâreb.
The distance of the Seven Wells, eleven days from Negrân,
== 1/160ths of the march==117 leagues from Mariaba: and the same analogy might have been applied to Chaalla and the river Malothas, had Strabo indicated the distances of these two stations.
The troops, in order to reach the sea, on their retreat must have traversed the province of Asyr,
a district between Yemen
and the Hedjaz
(whose geography has been recently restored to us by M. Jomard), and one of the elevated plains which separate the mountain chain of Yemen
from that of the Hedjaz.
“The road,” he says, “is excellent, and a weak body of troops could defend it against a numerous army.” Having thus disposed of the line followed in the retreat, he briefly considers the advance:--“The country governed by Aretas, and the next mentioned, Ararene, correspond with Thamoud
and the southern part of the latter province approaching Nedjrân
has always been a well-peopled and cultivated district. Asca, on the river, and Athrulla, the lastnamed station before Mariaba, cannot be exactly determined, as the distances are not stated; and the line between Nedjrân
is still but little known.” (Jomard, ap. Mengin. Histoire de l'Egypte, *c., pp. 383--389.) 7. Mr. Forster has investigated the march with his usual diligence, and with the partial success and failure that must almost necessarily attach to the investigation of so difficult a subject. To take first the three main points, viz., Leuce Come, the point of departure; Marsyabae, the extreme limit; and Nera, the point at which they embarked on their return.
He accepts D'Anville's identification of Haûra
as Leuce Come, thinking the coincidence of name decisive; Marsyabae he finds in Sabbia,
the chief city of the province of Sabie,
a district on the northern confines of Yemen,
100 miles S. of Beishe,
the frontier and key of Yemen;
and Nera, in Yembo,
the sea-port of Medina.
The line of march on their advance he makes very circuitous, as Strabo intimates; conducting them first through the heart of Nedjd
to the province of El-Ahsa
on the Persian Gulf,
and then again through the same province in a SW. direction to Yemen.
On their retreat, he brings them direct to Nedjrán,
then due west to the sea, which they coast as far north as Yembo.
To be more particular: he thinks that “a difference in distance in the advance and retreat, commensurate, in some reasonable degree, with the recorded difference of time, i. e. as 3 to 1, must be found; that the caravan road from Haûra
into the heart of Nedjd,
was the line followed by Gallus (the very route, in fact, traversed by Captain Sadlier in 1819: Transactions of Lit. Soc. of Bombay,
vol. x. pp. 449--493), and thence by one of the great Nedjd
roads into Yemen,
the description of which in Burckhardt agrees in many minute particulars with the brief notices of Strabo.” He further finds nearly all the towns named by Pliny as taken by the Romans, on this line of march : Mariaba of the Calingii in Merab,
in the NE. extremity of Nedjd,
within the province of Hagar
--in the former of which names he finds the Ararena or Agarena of Strabo. Caripeta he identifies, as Gosselin had done, with Cariatain
; but he does not attempt to explain how Pliny could call this the extreme limit of the expedition,--“quo longissime processit.” The Tammacus of Pliny == the Agdami of Ptolemy the well-known town of Tayf.
Magusa (Ptolemy's Magulaba) presents itself in Korn el-Maghsal,
a place situated about half-way between Tayf
which last is with him, as with all preceding writers except Gosselin, the Anagrana of Strabo, the Negra of Pliny. “Labecia is the anagram, with the slightest possible inversion, of Al-Beishe;
” and this is called by the northern Bedouins “the key of Yemen,
” --the only pass, according to Burckhardt, for heavy-laden camels going from Mekka
“a very fertile district, extremely rich in date-trees.” The river at which the battle with the Arabs was fought is the modern Sancan,
“which, taking its rise in the Hedjaz
mountains near Korn el-Maghsal,
after a southern course of somewhat more than 100 miles, is lost in the sands of the Tehamah,
to the westward of the mountains of Asyr.
” The Asca of Strabo, the Nesca of Pliny, are “obviously identical with Sancan,
the present name of a town seated on the Sancan
river, near its termination in the sands.” Athrulla, next mentioned by Strabo, is again Labecia, i. e. Beishe;
and this hypothesis “implies a countermarch,” of which there is no hint in the authors. Lastly, “if Amnestus may be supposed to have its representative in lbn Maan
(the Manambis of Ptolemy), a town about half-way between Beishe
all the cities enumerated by Pliny occur on the route in question.”
As to the retreat of the army. From Marsyabae to Nedjrân,
a distance of from 140 to 160 miles, was accomplished in nine days; thence to the Seven Wells, eleven days from Nedjrân,
brings us to El-Hasba
(in Arabic “the Seven” ), a place about 150 miles due west of Nedjrân,
and then to Chaalla, the modern Chaulan
(according to Forster as well as D'Anville, the chief town of the province of the same name), and thence to Malotha, situated on a river, the same as that crossed on the advance, i.e. the Sancan.
The Malotha of Strabo is plainly identified, by its site, with the Tabala of Burckhardt, a town on the Sancan,
at this point, on the caravan road to Hedjaz,
a short day's march from El-Hasba.
From Malotha to Nera Come, i. e. through the Tehamah,
there are two routes described by Burckhardt; one along the coast, in which only one well is found between Djidda
--a distance of four days; another more eastern, somewhat mountainous, yielding plenty of water, five days' journey between the same two [p. 2.285]
towns. Now as Strabo describes the latter part of the retreat through a desert track containing only a few wells, it is obvious that the coast-road was that followed by the Romans as far as Yembo,
already identified with Nera Come; “the road-distance between Sabbia and Yembo (about 800 English miles) allowing, for the entire retreat, the reasonable average of little more than thirteen miles a-day.” (Forster, Geogr. of Arabia,
vol. ii. pp. 277--332.)
III. Amid these various and conflicting theories there is not perhaps one single point that can be regarded as positively established, beyond all question; but there are a few which may be safely regarded as untenable. 1. And first, with regard to Leuce Come, plausible as its identification with El-Haura
is rendered by the coincidence of name, there seem to be two inseparable objections to it; first, that the author of the Periplus places the harbour and castle of Leuce two or three days' sail from Myos Hormus (for Mr. Forster's gloss is quite inadmissible), while El-Haura
is considerably more than double that distance, under the most favourable circumstances; and secondly, that the same author, in perfect agreement with Strabo, places it in the country of the Nabathaei, which never could have extended so far south as Haura.
Mr. Forster attempts to obviate this objection by supposing that both Leuce Come and Nera were sea-ports of the Nabathaei beyond their own proper limits, and in the hostile territory of the Thamudites (l.c.
p. 284, note *).
But this hypothesis is clearly inconsistent with the author of the Periplus, who implies, and with Strabo, who asserts, that Leuce Come lay in the territory of the Nabathaei (ἧκεν εἰς Λευκὴν κώμην τῆς Ναβαταίων γῆς, ἐμπορεῖον μέγα
), a statement which is further confirmed by the fact that Nera Come, which all agree to have been south of Leuce, is also placed by Strabo in the territory of Obodas, the king of the Nabathaei (ἔστι δὲ τῆς Ὀβόδα
). Leuce cannot therefore be placed further south than Moilah,
as Gosselin, Vincent, and Jomard all agree; and Nera must be sought a little to the south of this, for Jomard has justly remarked that Strabo, in contrasting the time occupied in the advance and in .the retreat, evidently draws his comparison from a calculation of the same space (l.c.
p. 385). 2.
With regard to the site of Marsyabae, it may be remarked that its identification with Mariaba, the metropolis of the Sabaei, the modern Mâreb,
maintained by D'Anville, Fresnel, and Jomard, is inadmissible for the following reasons: first, that distinct mention having been made of the latter by Strabo, it is not to be supposed that he would immediately mention it with a modification of its name, and assign it to another tribe, the Rhamanitae; and it is an uncritical method of removing the difficulty suggested by M. Jomard without the authority of MSS.,--“il faut lire partout Mariaba;
le mot Marsiaba
est corrompu évidemment.” Secondly, whether the Mariaba Baramalacum of Pliny be identified with Strabo's Marsyabae or no, and whatever becomes of the plausible etymology of this epithet, suggested by Dean Vincent (quasi Bahr em-Malac==the royal reservoir
), the fact remains the same, that the Mariaba of the Sabaeans was abundantly supplied with water from numerous rivulets collected in its renowned Tank; and that therefore, as Gosselin remarks, drought was the last calamity to which the Romans would have been exposed in such a locality. 3.
With regard to Anagrana and Negra, on the. identity of which with the modern Nedjrân,
there is a singular agreement among all commentators, there seems to be an insuperable objection to that also, if Strabo, who it must be remembered had his information direct from Gallus himself, is a trustworthy guide ; for the Anagrana of the retreat (which is obviously also the Negra of Pliny), nine days distant from Marsyabae, was the place where the battle had been fought on their advance.
But he had said before that this battle was fought at the river; and there is no mention of a river nearer to Nedjrân
than the Sancan,
which is, according to Mr. Forster, 170 miles, or twelve days' journey, distant.
It is certainly strange that, of the writers who have commented on this expedition, all, with one exception, have overlooked the only indication furnished by the classical geographers of the direction
of the line of march,--clearly pointing to the west, and not to the south. The Mariaba taken by the Romans was, according to Pliny, that of the Calingii, whom he places in the vicinity of the Persian Gulf;
for he names two other towns of the same tribe, Pallon and Urannimal or Muranimal, which he places near the river by which the Euphrates is thought to debouche into the Persian Gulf
(6.28), opposite to the Bahrein
islands. (Forster, vol. ii. p. 312.)
This important fact is remarkably confirmed by the expedition having landed near the mouth of the Elanitic gulf of the Red Sea, and commencing their march through the territory of Obodas and his kinsman Aretas, two powerful sheikhs of the Nabathaei, who inhabited the northern part of the Arabian peninsula from the Euphrates to the peninsula of Mount Sinai [NABATHAEI], and there can be little doubt that the Mariaba of Pliny is correctly identified with the Merab,
still existing at the eastern base of the Nedjd
No. 3.] Whether this be the Marsyabae of Strabo, or whether future investigations in the eastern part of the peninsula, hitherto so imperfectly known, may not restore to us both this and other towns mentioned in the lists of Strabo and Pliny, it is impossible to determine.
At any rate, the very circuitous route through Nedjd
marked out by Mr. Forster, and again his line of the retreat, seem to involve difficulties and contradictions insurmountable, which this is not the place to discuss; and with regard to the supposed analogy of the modern names, it may be safely assumed that an equal amount of ingenuity might discover like analogies in any other parts of Arabia, even with the very scanty materials that we at present have at command.
In conclusion, it may be remarked that the observation of Strabo that the expedition had reached within two days' journey of the country of the Frankincense, is of no value whatever in determining the line of march, as there were two districts so designated, and there is abundant reason to doubt whether either in fact existed; and that the reports brought home by Gallus and preserved by Pliny, so far as they prove anything, clearly indicate profound ignorance of the nature and produce of Yemen,
which some authors suppose him to have traversed, for we are in a position to assert that so much of his statement concerning the Sabaei as relates to their wealth--“silvarum fertilitate odorifera, auri metallis” --is pure fiction.
The question of the confusion of the various Mariabas, and their cognate names, is discussed by Ritter with his usual ability. (Erdkunde von Arabien,
vol. i. pp. 276--284.)