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BAETIS (Βαῖτις, Strab., &c., Βέτίς, Agathem.), or BAETES (Guadalquivir, a corruption of the Arabic Wad-el-Kebir, the Great River), was the name of the chief river of Hispania Baetica, running through the whole province from E. to W., and draining the great basin between the mountains Marianus (Sierra Morena) on the N., and Ilipula (Sierra Nevada) on the S. Its native name was CERTIS (Liv. 28.22), or PERCES (Ρέρκης; Steph. B. sub voce Βαῖτις). The ancient Greeks seem to have given it the name which has such various applications to this part of Spain, Tartessus. (Stesich. ap. Strab. iii. p.148; Ταρτησσοῦ ποταμοῦ παρὰ παλὰς ἀπείρονας ἀρλυρορίζους.) Pausanias calls it Ταρτήσσιος ποταμός, and adds, that those of later times called it Baetis (6.19.3; see also Eustath. ad Dion. Perieg. 337; Avien. Or. Marit. 284; comp. TARTESSUS). The name Baetis is most probably of Phoenician origin; but no very satisfactory etymology has been proposed.

Strabo (3.139) observes that the Baetis has its origin from the same parts as the TAGUS and the ANAS that is, in the E. of Spain, and flows in the same general direction, namely, to the W.; but that it resembles the Anas still more closely, for the two rivers have their sources near each other, and, flowing first to the W. and afterwards turning to the S., fall into the sea on the same coast, namely, the SW. coast. In magnitude, he says, the Baetis is between the other two, that is, greater than the Anas, but less than the Tagus; referring to its volume, rot its length, for it is shorter than the Anas. Pausanias calls it the greatest of the rivers of Iberia, probably following ancient accounts, when little was known of Central Spain and the Tagus (6.19.3.). Agathemerus mentions it as one of the rivers which are great at the mouth (2.10, p. 235, Gronov. p. 48, Hudson).

The sources of the river lie in the mountain which runs N. and S. between the Sierra Morena and the Sierra Nevada, forming the E. boundary of the basin of the Baetis, and called by the ancients Orospeda. Its true source is in that part of Orospeda called ARGENTARIUS (Sierra Cazorla), near Castulo, 15 miles ESE. of the town which still bears its ancient name of UBEDA. (Strab. iii. pp. 148, 162.) Not far from its source it receives two affluents, much larger than itself, first, on the left, the Guadiana Menor (i. e. Lesser Guadiana), which flows from the Sierra Nevada, and enters the Baetis above Ubeda; and, further down, on the right, the Guadalimar, from. the NE. According to Polybius (ap. Strab. p. 148) the sources both of the Anas and the Baetis were in Celtiberia, at [p. 1.368]the distance of 900 stadia (90 geog. miles); the former statement implying, as Strabo observes, a further extension of the Celtiberi to the S. than is usually assigned to them. It might be supposed that Polybius referred to the chief affluent of the Baetis, the Guadalimar, which has one of its sources near that of the Anas, in the same mountain; but this supposition is excluded by the distance he gives. Pliny (3.1. s. 3) makes a very precise statement; that the Baetis rises in the province of Tarraconensis, not, as some said, near the town of Mentisa [MENTESA], but in the Tugiensis Saltus, near the source of the Tader (Segura), which waters the territory of Carthago Nova. Turning westward, he adds, it enters the province, to which it gives its name, in the district of Ossigitania [OSSIGI]. So also Strabo (p. 162) says, that it flows out of ORETANIA into Baetica. Small at first, says Pliny, it receives many rivers, from which it takes both their waters and their fame ; and, flowing smoothly through its pleasant bed, it has many towns both on the right and on the left. Of its tributaries besides the two already mentioned the most important were, on the right side, flowing from the N., the MENOBA (Guadiamar), near its mouth; and, on the left, the SINGULIS (Xenil). Of the numerous cities on its banks, the most important were CORDUBA (Cordova), about 1200 stadia from the sea; ILIPA; and HISPALIS (Sevilla), nearly 500 stadia from the sea. From a little above the first of these it was navigable by river boats ποταμίοις σκάφεσι), from the second by small vessels (ὁλκάσιν ἐλάττοσι), and from the third by large ones (ὁλκάσιν ἀζιολόγοις: Strab. iii. p.142). The country through which it flows, the fairest portion of the romantic Andalucia, was famed of old for its beauty, fertility, and wealth. It is well described by Strabo (l.c.). The river runs near the N. edge of its own basin, at the foot of Marianus, the spurs of which were full of mineral treasures, chiefly silver, which was most abundant in the parts near Ilipa and Sisapon; while copper and gold were found near Cotinae; and tin in the river itself. (Eustath. ad Dion. Perieg. 337.) On its left, or S. side, extended the great plain of Andalucia, rising up towards the Sierra Nevada, abounding in the finest fruits, trees, and arable culture. The banks of the river, and the islands in it, were cultivated to the highest pitch (ἐζείργασται περιττῶς. The wool of the country was famed among the Romans for its excellence and the brilliancy of its colour. (Mart. 8.28, 9.62, 12.100; Juv. 12.40.)

The length of the Baetis was reckoned at 3000 stadia. (Marcian. Heracl. Peripl. p. 40; Aethic. Ister, Cosmograph. p. 17; it is, in fact, about 300 miles). In its lower course, some distance below Hispalis, it is described as forming a lake, out of which it flowed in two arms, enclosing an island 100 stadia or more in breadth, in which some placed the ancient city of TARTESSUS (Strab. iii. p.140; Mela, 3.1; Paus., Eustath., Avien. ll. cc.; Ptol. 1.12.11, 14.9, 2.4.5.) There has since been a considerable alteration. The upper, or W. mouth, which fell into the Ocean near Asta (Ptol.), still remains, but the E. branch, the mouth of which was near Gades (Cadiz), no longer reaches the sea, but joins the other arm near its mouth, forming, with it and an intermediate arm, two islands, Isla Mayor and Isla Menor. Strabo (iii. p.174) and other writers refer to the circumstances of the tides extending to a considerable distance up the river.

Respecting a town of the same name, mentioned only by Strabo (ii. p.141), see HISPALIS


hide References (7 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (7):
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 3.1
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 28, 22
    • Martial, Epigrammata, 8.28
    • Martial, Epigrammata, 9.62
    • Claudius Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos, 1.12
    • Claudius Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos, 1.14
    • Claudius Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos, 2.4
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