(Τάναϊς Ptol. 3.5.14
. § § 1, 2, &c.), a famous river, which in the course of time was universally assumed as the boundary between Europe and Asia. (Strah. 7.310, 11.490; Mela, 1.3; Scyl. p. 30, &c.)
The older writers of antiquity thought that it rose from a large lake (Hdt. 4.57
; Ephor. ap. Anon. Per. P. Eux.
p. 4), which is really the case, its source being in the lake Ivan Ozero,
in the government of Toula;
whilst later writers held that it had its sources either in the Caucasus (Strah. 11.493; Amm. Marc. 22.8
), or in the Rhipaean mountains. (Mela, 1.19; Lucan 3.272
; Procop. B. G.
The last of these hypotheses was most generally accepted; but there was likewise a fourth which made it a branch of the Ister (Strab. l.c.
). Whilst Strabo, however, adduces these different opinions, he himself holds that its source was entirely unknown (2.107).
It is represented as flowing in so rapid a stream that it never froze. (Mela, l.c.;
cf. Nonnus, Dionys.
It flows first in a SE. and then in a SW. direction; and after receiving the Hyrgis (or Syrgis) as a tributary, empties itself into the Palus Maeotis (Sea of Azof
) by two mouths. (Hdt. 4.100
These mouths, which are at the most northern point of the Palus Maeotis, Strabo places at the distance of 60 stadia from one another (7.310), whilst Artemidorus (ap. Eustath. ad Dion.
14) makes them only 7 stadia distant.
At present, however, the Don
has 13 mouths. (Clarke, Trav.
i. p. 423.)
The etymology of the name is discussed by Plutarch (de Flum.
14) and Eustathius (l.c.
); but its true derivation is from the Scythian word Don
which occurs in the names of other rivers, as Danubius, Eridanus, &c. (Forbiger, Handb. des Alt. Geogr.
p. 325, n. 16.) The Tanais is frequently alluded to by the Latin poets. (Hor. Od. 3.10
. 1; Verg. G. 4.517
; Ov. Ex. Pont. 4.10
, 55, &c.) Clarke (Travels,
i. pp. 339, 448, note) would identify it with the Danaetz,
from the similarity of the name, an hypothesis also accepted by Lindner (Scythien,
p. 66); but there can scarcely be a doubt that it should be identified with the Don.