previous next

Strabo

the geographer. Little is known of Strabo's personal history, and that which is known is collected from short notices in his own work. Strabo was a native of Amasia or Amasea, a town on the Iris, now the Jekil Irmak, and in the kingdom of Pontus : in his geography he has given a description of his native place (lib. xii. p. 56], ed. Casaub.). Of his parentage on his father's side he says nothing. On his mother's side he was descended from a distinguished Greek family, which was closely connected with the Pontic kings, Mithridates, Euergetes, and Mithridates Eupator ; and the fortunes of this family of course followed that of all these kings of Pontus. Dorylaeus, a distinguished general (τακτικός) and a friend of Mithridates Euergetes, was the great-grandfather of Strabo's mother (pp. 477, 557). Mithridates Euergetes was murdered in Sinope, while his friend Dorylaeus was in Crete looking for mercenary troops, upon which Dorylaeus gave up all thoughts of returning home, and went to Cnossus, where he was employed as commander in a war against the people of Gortyna, which he quickly brought to a close. This success brought him distinction : he married a Macedonian woman, Sterope, who bore him a daughter and two sons, Lagetas and Stratarchas. Dorylaeus died in Crete. Dorylaeus, the friend of Euergetes, had a brother Philetaerus, who remained in Pontus; and Philetaerus had also a son named Dorylaeus, who rose to high military rank under Mithridates the Great, and served against the Romans. He was also for a time chief-priest at Comana Pontica. At the wish of Mithridates the Great, Lagetas and Stratarchas with their sister returned to Pontus. Strabo saw Stratarchas in his extreme old age. Lagetas had a daughter, who was, says Strabo, " the mother of my mother." The relations of Strabo on his father's side, and on the side of his mother's father, may not have been pure Greek : indeed, there is little doubt that the Greeks of Amasia were intermingled with Cappadocians. The family of Strabo lost its importance with the death of Mithridates the Great; and though some of the members of it had joined the Roman party, as in the case of the father of Strabo's mother, yet he did not even obtain what Lucullus had promised him for his services. The jealousy of Cn. Pompeius, the successor of Lucullus, made him refuse every thing to the friends of Lucullus. Moaphernes, the uncle of Strabo's mother, and probably her father's brother, was governor of Colchis under Mithridates the Great, and his fortunes were ruined with those of the king.

The period of Strabo is generally well known from his own work. He lived during the reign of Augustus, and at least during the first five years of the reign of Tiberius, for he speaks of the great earthquake of Sardis, which happened in the time of Tiberius (p. 626; Tac. Ann. 2.47). The year of his birth is not ascertained; but it has been fixed by some writers by a conjecture founded on several passages in the geography, about B. C. 66. In B. C. 29 Strabo was at Gyaros, and on his voyage to Corinth. Octavianus Caesar was then at Corinth, and on his road to Italy to celebrate the triumph of his victory at Actium (p. 485). Strabo was probably on his way to Italy and Rome, where he spent several years. In B. C. 24, Strabo was with his friend Aelius Gallus in Egypt, and travelled as far as Syene (p. 816). It is assumed that he must have been a man of mature years when he first visited Rome, but there is nothing which justifies the conjecture of making him eight and thirty at the time of this visit, in order to establish B. C. 66 as the year of his birth. A passage in which Strabo says (p. 568) that he saw P. Servilius Isauricus, has given rise to some discussion. This Servilius defeated the Isauri. whence he got the name Isauricus, between B. C. 77 and 75; and he died at Rome in B. C. 44, at the age of ninety. If Strabo saw this Isauricus, when did he see him ? As the question cannot be satisfactorily answered, it has been assumed that Strabo confounded Isauricus with some other distinguished Roman whom he saw in Asia in his youth, or that he has confounded him with the son P. Servilius Casca, who was also called Isauricus. But it is clear that Strabo means to say that he saw the Isauricus who got his name from the conquest of the Isaurians. The assumed date, B. C. 66, for the birth of Strabo, is too early. He was certainly writing as late as A. D. 18; and perhaps we may with Clinton place his birth not later than B. C. 54. But Strabo was a pupil of Tyrannio the grammarian (p. 548), and Tyrannio was made prisoner by Lucullus in B. C. 71, and carried to Rome, probably not later than B. C. 66, and perhaps earlier. Strabo therefore was a hearer of Tyrannio at Rome.

The name Strabo (squint-eyed) is originally Greek, though it was also used by the Romans, and applied as a cognomen, among others, to the father of Pompeius Magnus. How the geographer got this name we are not informed.

Groskurd infers that Strabo died about A. D. 24 Strabo (lib. xii. p. 576) says that Cyzicus was still a free state; but in A. D. 25, Cyzicus lost its privilege as a Libera Civitas (amisere libertatem ; Tac. Ann. 4.36; D. C. 54.7). Accordingly, Groskurd concludes that Strabo was dead in A. D. 25; but this is not a necessary conclusion. We can only conclude that the passage about Cyzicus was written before A. D. 25. In the seventeenth and last book (p. 828, &c.) he mentions the death of Juba II. as a recent occurrence, and he also mentions the fact of Juba being succeeded by his son Ptolemaeus. Juba died in A. D. 21. The conclusion that Strabo died in A. D. 24 is unsupported by any evidence. We only know that he died after A. D. 21. Groskurd's reckoning makes Strabo attain the age of near ninety. In fact he may have lived after A. D. 25, and may have been more than ninety when he died; but as the year of his birth is unknown, we cannot fix the limit of his age.

As to the time at which he wrote his work, we know nothing more than can be collected from particular passages, and we cannot with certainty infer from a particular passage in a book being written after a given time, that the whole book was written after such time; but Groskurd does make such inferences. At the close of the sixth book (p. 288) Strabo speaks of Caesar Germanicus as still living. Germanicus died in Syria in A. D. 20 (19); and Groskurd concludes that the sixth book was written in A. D. 19. The true conclusion is that this passage was written before A. D. 19. It has been shown that Strabo was writing after A. D. 19, and yet the passage at the end of the sixth book stands as he wrote it, though Germanicus was dead when he wrote the passage about Juba II. in the seventeenth book. This shows that the inference from particular passages should be the strict logical inference and no more. A passage in the fourth book (p. 206) certainly was written in A. D. 19, for Strabo there states that the Carni and Taurisci had quietly paid tribute for thirty-three years; and both these tribes were reduced to subjection by Tiberius and Drusus in B. C. 14. Groskurd concludes thus : " if Strabo wrote his fourth book in his eighty-fifth year, and if we allow him two years for the composition of the first three books, he will have commenced his work in the eighty-third year of his age; and since he finished it in his eighty-eighth or ninth year, we may allow for the composition of the whole work six or seven years." This conclusion as to the age when Strabo began his work depends on the date of his birth, which is unknown; and the conclusion as to the times at which he wrote particular books is not certain.

Strabo had a good education. Tyrannio of Amisus in Pontus, a professor of grammatic, is mentioned by Strabo as his teacher (p. 548); but if Tyannio went to Rome soon after the capture of Amisus, Strabo must have heard him at Rome ; and if he did not hear him at Rome as a youth, he must have heard him when he was of mature years. This question about Tyrannio is not clear. See Clinton, Fast. Hellen. B. C. 58. Strabo also received instruction in grammatic and rhetoric from Aristodemus, at Nysa in Caria (p. 650); and he afterwards studied philosophy under Xenarchus of Seleucia in Cilicia (p. 670), but Strabo does not say that he heard him in Cilicia. Xenarchus finally taught at Rome, where he died. Boethus of Sidon, afterwards a Stoical philosopher, was the companion of Strabo in his Aristotelian studies (p. 757). Strabo seems to have had only moderate mathematical and astronomical knowledge, and certainly he did not possess all the knowledge of his times. He was well acquainted with history and the mythological traditions of his nation; and also with the Greek poets, and particularly with Homer. He must have had competent means to obtain a good education, and as he travelled a great deal and apparently had no professional or other occupation, we may conclude that his father left him some property. It does not appear where he was living while he wrote his work, but wherever it was, he had opportunities of being acquainted with the chief public events that took place in the Roman empire.

The philosophical sect to which Strabo belonged was the Stoical, as appears plainly enough front many passages in his Geography. He wrote an historical work, intitled Ἱστορικὰ Ψ̔πομνἠματα, which he mentions himself, and it is also cited by Plutarch (Lucullus, 28, Sulla, 26), who calls him Strabo the philosopher. This work, in forty-three books, began where the history of Polybius ended, and was probably continued to the battle of Actium (Groskurd, Transl. of Strabo, i. p. 21).


Works


Geography

Strabo was a great traveller, and much of his geographical information is the result of his own observation. In a passage in the second book of his Geography (p. 117) he says, " I shall accordingly describe partly the lands and seas which I have travelled through myself, partly what I have found credible in those who have given me information orally or by writing. Westwards I have travelled from Armenia to the parts of Tyrrhenia adjacent to Sardinia; towards the south from the Euxine to the borders of Ethiopia. And perhaps there is not one among those who have written geographies who has visited more places than I have between these limits; for those who have gone further to the west have not gone so far to the east; and others who have gone further towards the east, have not advanced so far to the west : and the case is the same with the regions between the northern and the southern limits." He expressly mentions in his work having seen the following countries and places : Egypt, Corinth, the island Gyarus; Populonium, near Elba; Comana in Cappadocia; Ephesus; Mylasa, Amasia, Nysa, and Hierapolis in Phrygia. It follows, from this enumeration, that he must have seen a great number of other places. The meagre and incorrect description which he gives of many districts and towns may perhaps be taken as evidence that he derived his knowledge of them only from books; whereas on the contrary, the fulness and accuracy of his description, in other cases, may be good evidence that he had visited them.

It is certain that he saw very little of Greece : he visited Corinth, Argos, Athens, Megara, and the neighbourhood of those places, but this was all. He saw no more of the Peloponnesus than he would see in going to Argos, and he did not know that the remains of Mycenae still existed (p. 372). It seems probable that he merely passed through Greece on his way to Brundusium, by which route he probably reached Rome. Populonium and Luna were the limit of his travels to the north in Italy. It was probably in Rome that he obtained his information about the countries which lie north of the Alps, Gallia, Germany, and also Britain, and Spain. During his visit to Egypt he staid some time in Alexandria, and he went up the river to Syene and Philae, the southern limits of Egypt. That he did not remain in Egypt, we may safely assume; but it is not clear by what route he left it, and the conjectures upon this matter are merely guesses.

The oldest writings of the Greeks, the Homeric poems, contain geographical description blended with history and fable. In the early period of Greek literature, geography was nothing more than local description, and the description was made for other purposes than geography : it was subservient to poetry. The Ionian school may be considered as having made a step towards geographical science by the attention which they paid to celestial phaenomena, but they did nothing directly for geography. The history of Herodotus is the earliest extant work in which geographical description is blended with an historical subject. But Herodotus still retains marks of the characteristic early literature of Greece : his history is an epic poem; his general geography still bears the mythical stamp. That which gives so much real value to his work is his own personal observation, and the truthfulness of his description. He is the first extant writer who has treated on physical geography, and on the causes now in operation by which the earth's surface is continually undergoing change. The connection of geography and history henceforth subsisted, as we see in the extant Greek and Roman historians, and in the Anabasis of Arrian, which is founded on works that are now lost. The first systematic writer on geography was Eratosthenes, who preceded Strabo by about three centuries. The work of Eratosthenes was not confined to political and topographical description : of the three books, into which the work was distributed, it is said that the third only contained particular description, and the first two contained a history of geography, a criticism of the sources of' which the author availed himself, and matters pertaining to physical and mathematical geography : the whole was accompanied by a new map of the world. Though this work was severely criticised by Hipparchus, it does not appear that the Greeks had any other systematic treatise on geography before that of Strabo. But the materials for a geographical writer had been greatly increased between the time of Eratosthenes and Strabo, and those materials were partly furnished by historical writers, and adventurers by sea and land : the conquests of the Romans also had opened countries which were almost unknown to the contemporaries of Eratosthenes.

There is no ground for viewing the Geography of Strabo as a new edition of that of Eratosthenes, though it is clear from his own work that the treatise of Eratosthenes furnished the foundation for his new undertaking, and also furnished him with many materials, which however he had to examine, to correct, and to add to. Strabo's work, according to his own expression, was not intended for the use of all persons; and indeed no complete geographical work can be adapted to those who have not the necessary elementary knowledge. His work was intended for all who had a good education, and particularly for those who were engaged in the higher departments of administration ; it was designed to be a work which would give such persons that geographical and historical information about each country which a person engaged in matters political cannot do without. Consistently with this view, his plan does not comprehend minute description, except when the place or the object is of great interest or importance ; nor is his description limited to the physical characteristics of each country; it comprehends the important political events of which each country has been the theatre, a notice of the chief cities and the great men who have illustrated them; in short, whatever was most characteristic and interesting in every country. His work forms a striking contrast with the geography of Ptolemaeus, and the dry list of names, occasionally relieved by something added to them, in the geographical portion of the Natural History of Plinius. It is in short a book intended for reading, and it may be read; a kind of historical geography.

Straho's work has a particular value to us of the present day, owing to his method of handling the subject : he has preserved a great number of historical facts for which we have no other evidence than his work. His language is generally clear, except in those passages where the text has been corrupted; it is appropriate to the matter, simple and without affectation.

It is objected to Strabo that he has undervalued Herodotus, and puts him on the same footing as Ctesias. The work of Herodotus was perhaps hardly appreciated, as it deserved to be, by any writer of antiquity; and it is a well grounded complaint against Strabo that he could not or did not choose to discriminate between the stories which Herodotus tells simply as stories which he heard, and that which is the result of the personal observation of Herodotus. There are many parts of the geography of Strabo, particularly his description of Greece, for which he could have derived excellent materials from Herodotus. Strabo has maintained the notion, which had prevailed from the time of Alexander the Great, that the Caspian sea was connected with the northern ocean. Herodotus states it to be a lake, without expressing any doubt on the matter; but how he got this information, it is impossible to conjecture. Strabo did not consider such a fable worth mentioning. We might reasonably expect him to give some evidence, such as he had, of its supposed connection with the northern ocean. He rejects the evidence of Pytheas of Marseille, as to the northern regions of Europe, and treats him as no better than a liar, a circumstance in some measure due to Strabo's attachment to his own system; but an unprejudiced critic should have discovered truth even when it is mixed with fable. Strabo's authorities are nearly exclusively Greek. He had a contempt for the Roman writers generally; and certainly simply as geographers there was not one among them who could be called by that name. But the campaigns of the Romans and their historical writings and memoirs would have furnished him with many valuable geographical facts both for his Asiatic and European Geography. He made some use of Caesar's writings for his description of Gallia, the Alps, and Britain, and he used other materials also, as we see from his brief notice of the voyage of Publius Crassus to the Cassiterides (p. 176). But with this exception, and the writings of Asinius Pollio, Fabius Pictor, and an anonymous chorographer, he drew little from Roman sources. The conjecture that he was imperfectly acquainted with the Latin language, will not sufficiently account for this, even if we suppose that he did not learn it till he visited Rome; for he might easily have learned Latin enough during his residence in Italy to read a Roman author, and if he did choose to do that, he could have found plenty of Greeks and Romans to help him. That he could not have wanted the means of procuring information, we may safely assume, for Strabo could not have travelled so much if he were a poor man. He certainly did not take pains to make the most of the Roman materials which he might have found in Rome.

The imperfect descriptions in many parts of Strabo's work are probably to be attributed more to system than to want of information. He purposely omitted many things and many places as not being comprehended within his notion of what would be useful for the class of persons for whom he wrote. It was probably also his object to bring his work within a certain compass, so as not to damage its circulation by its magnitude, for as books were to be copied, and as a man wrote in order to have readers, an object which Strabo clearly admits, the reduction of works within reasonable limits was at that time, even more than now, necessary, in order to ensure their circulation.

The use that Strabo has made of Homer, is another objection to his work. Like many other Greeks, Strabo viewed the old national poet as the representative of all knowledge; and considered with respect to his own time, the Homeric poems are the representation of all that was then known, at least of history and geography. But the way in which Strabo, particularly in his first book, labours to give a meaning to what the poet has said, is highly uncritical. That which Homer darkly knew or half guessed, has no value except as an index of the state of geographical knowledge at that time, and was entirely useless in the age of Strabo. Though the Homeric poems show a great acquaintance with the topography of Greece and the islands of the Archipelago, they could not with any propriety be made the basis of a geographical description of those parts, as Strabo has made them; and there were many materials, though scattered and incomplete, which Strabo should have used in preference to the Homeric poems, and which he either did not look for or purposely neglected. Thus his description sometimes becomes rather a commentary on Homer than an independent description, bared on the actual state of knowledge. In fact he did not conceive his object with that clearness, which is necessary to give to a work a distinctive character; and though his work is doubtless much more entertaining than that of Eratosthenes was, and more nearly approaches to the character of a true geographical system than the meagre determinations of Ptolemaeus, it does not fulfil all the conditions of a general systematic geography.

It is another defect in Strabo's work that the science of astronomy was not properly applied by him. The determination of the earth's figure, and the determination of position by the measures of latitude and longitude are the essential foundations of geographical description. The physical description of the earth's surface, which is the proper object of geography, requires the determination of position, in order to give it precision. Though Strabo had some mathematical and astronomical knowledge, he undervalued these sciences as helps to geography, and he did not consider the exact division of the earth into climates, in the sense in which Hipparchus used the term, and the statement of the latitudes and longitudes of places, which in many cases were pretty well determined, as essential to his geographical description. He is also frequently very incomplete and unsatisfactory in his notice of the physical character and the natural phaenomena of the countries which he describes, which defects and others in his work are probably in a great measure due to the circumstance that the notion of a geographical description was by no means well settled then; and indeed the same remark applies in some degree to the works of the present day. The true medium between a pure description of the earth's surface as a natural phaenomenon and the earth's surface as the scene of human activity, both past and present, cannot be determined by any general rule, but must be left to the tact and judgment of a writer who is thoroughly master of his matter, and who sees by a kind of intuition what must be admitted within his work and what may be properly omitted.

Description of the
Geography

The first two books of Strabo are an introduction to his Geography, and much the most difficult part of the work. A good commentary upon them would in fact be a criticism on all ancient geography up to Strabo's time. He began the first book with showing the importance of geographical knowledge and its uses. He then passes to Homer, whom he considers the earliest of geographers, and defends against many of the objections of Eratosthenes. In this book he points out some errors of Eratosthenes, and makes various remarks on the causes which operate to change the earth's surface. He concludes with some corrections of the errors of Eratosthenes, as to the extent and division of the inhabited part of the earth.

The second book is mainly occupied with mathematical geography. It contains a criticism of the map of the world by Eratosthenes, and of his division of the habitable earth into portions (σφραγῖδες) ; an examination of the doctrines of Posidonius, particularly the division into six zones adopted by him and by Polybius; with remarks on the supposed circumnavigation of Libya by Eudoxus, and on some errors of Polybius. He also gives his own views on the form and magnitude of the earth, and of the extent of the habitable part of it; and remarks upon the delineation of the earth, on spheres and surfaces, and on a map of the world. He also gives a general sketch of the earth's habitable surface, with reference to seas, countries, and nations ; and concludes with explaining the doctrine of climates and of the shadows projected by objects in consequence of the sun's varying position with respect to them.

In the third book he begins his description : he devotes eight books to Europe; six to Asia ; and the seventeenth and last to Egypt and Libya. The third book comprises the description of Iberia, and Spain and Portugal, for which his principal authorities are Artemidorus, Polybius, and Posidonius, all of whom had visited Iberia. Artemidorus was also an authority for his knowledge of the sea-coast in general, both that of the Mediterranean, and that of the Ocean. At the end of this book he speaks of the Cassiterides.

The fourth book treats of Gallia according to its four-fold division under Augustus, of Britain, the description of which is meagre, of Ierne or Ireland, of Thule, and of the Alps. His principal authorities are the same as for the third book, with the addition of C. Julius Caesar, who is his only authority for Britain, with the exception of some little matter from Pytheas. Polybius is his authority for the description of the Alps. But it is plain that he also obtained matter for his fourth book from oral communications during his residence in Italy.

In the fifth and sixth books Strabo describes Italy and the adjacent islands; and his description begins with North Italy, or Gallia Cisalpina, and the country of the Ligures, for which Polybius is his chief authority, though with respect to this and other parts of Italy he derived much information from his own personal observation. Eratosthenes, Artemidorus, Ephorus, Fabius Pictor, Caecilius, the Sicilian, and an anonymous chorographer are his main written authorities for the description of Italy. The anonymous chorographer is supposed to be a Roman, because he gives distances in Roman miles and not in Greek stadia. Some critics have conjectured that this chorographer is M. Vipsanius Agrippa, but this work of Agrippa, says Groskurd, was not completed and published until after his death, and in B. C. 12, and consequently much too late for Strabo to have made use of it between B. C. 29 and 26, at Rome. The translator here assumes that he has fixed Strabo's residence at Rome during this period, whereas it cannot be proved, and if it could, the argument would not even then be conclusive. It is a better objection to the supposition of this chorographer being Agrippa, "that Strabo made use of this work only for Italy, perhaps also southern Gaul, and for no other country, and yet it extended over the whole Roman empire." The fifth book concludes with a description of Campania, partly from his own knowledge and partly from Antiochus of Syracusae and others.

In the sixth book he describes Southern Italy and Sicily, with the adjacent islands; and adds at the end a short sketch of the extent and actual condition of the Roman Empire.

In the seventh book he treats of the nations of northern and eastern Europe, including those north of the Ister, and, south of the Ister, Illyricum, Pannonia, Dalmatia, the coast of Thrace on the Pontus, and Epirus, with some notices of Macedonia and Thrace. That part of the book which treated of Macedonia and Thrace is lost; and all that we have in place of it is a meagre epitome. Strabo does not state his authorities for what he says of the Germans; but for the other northern nations he had the work of Posidonius. For the tracts south of the Ister he had the lost work of Aristotle on the constitution of states, Polybius, Posidonius, Theopompus, and Ephorus.

The eighth, ninth, and tenth books comprehend the description of Hellas and the Islands, and, as already observed, Homer is the basis of his description. The treatment of the subject in these three books differs considerably from that in the rest of the work : it is chiefly antiquarian and mythological. Heeren maintains that Strabo visited all Hellas and the islands of the Archipelago, but it is not easy to prove this from his work, and the defects of his description are better evidence for the opinion that he saw very little of the Peloponnesus and of Greece north of the Isthmus.

The eleventh book begins with the description of Asia, which is considered as separated from Europe by the Tanais or Don. Strabo follows Eratosthenes in dividing Asia into two large masses, a northern and a southern mass; a natural division determined by the direction of the mountain range of Taurus from west to east. The first or northern division, that on this side Taurus, comprehends four parts, of which the first comprises the country between the Tanais, the Maeotis, the Pontus, and the Caspian; the second comprises the tracts east of the Caspian, and Taurus itself; the third comprises the countries south of the Caucasus, Media, Armenia, and Cappadocia; and the fourth Asia Minor, from the Halys. The first three parts are described in the eleventh book, and the fourth, with Cappadocia and Pontus, in the twelfth, thirteenth, and fourteenth books. For the first part, comprised in the eleventh book, Strabo might, and probably did obtain much oral information in his native country; some little he derived from Herodotus, and still more from Artemidorus, Eratosthenes, and the historians of the Mithridatic wars, among whom was Theophanes, the friend of Pompeius Magnus. (Plutarch, Pompeius, 100.37, 42 Metrodorus of Scepsis, Hypsicrates of Amisus, and Clitarchus, were also his authorities. For the second part he had Patrocles, and Aristobulus, who described the campaigns of Alexander, Eratosthenes, Herodotus, and Posidonius; and for the third the historians of the Mithridatic War.

With the twelfth book begins the description of Asia Minor, and treats of the northern part. Strabo had not seen all this tract himself, and the. chief part of his knowledge was derived from oral information and the Greek historians. The description of Asia Minor is continued in the thirteenth book, but is confined to some districts of the north-western coast and the island of Lesbus. He devotes, as we might expect, a large space to the Troad, which he had doubtless visited, and he avails himself of Homer and the researches of Demetrius of Scepsis. This book contains much mythological and historical matter for which there were ample materials in Ephorus, Hellanicus, Charon, Menecrates, and many other Greek writers. His dissertation on the Leleges, Cilicians, and Pelasgi, who once inhabited the coast of Aeolis and of Ionia, is chiefly from Menecrates and Demetrius of Scepsis.

The fourteenth book contains the description of the other parts of Asia Minor, Ionia, Caria, the islands Samos, Chios, Rhodos, the countries Lycia, Pamphylia, and Cilicia, and the island Cyprus. In addition to the authorities which he had for the thirteenth book, he adds for this book also Pherecydes of Syros, for the Milesian colonies Anaximenes of Lampsacus, and Herodotus, Thucydides, Ephorus, Artemidorus, Eratosthenes, and Posidonius.

The fifteenth and sixteenth books contain the description of the second great division of Asia,the southern, or the part on that side of Taurus. The fifteenth book contains the description of India and Persia, which Strabo never visited. His description of India is very imperfect as a geographical description, but it contains much valuable matter, particularly about the people, which he derived from the historians of Alexander and of the campaigns of Seleucus in India. Patrocles, Aristobulus, and Nearchus, the two last of whom we know how to estimate by the aid of Arrian, he judiciously made his chief authorities. He also used Megasthenes, Onesicritus, Deimachus, and Clitarchus, but he did not put confidence in them. For East Persia, or Ariana, Eratosthenes is his chief authority; for West Persia, or Persia Proper, he had Aristobulus and Polycletus of Larissa, who wrote a history of Alexander; and he derived something from Herodotus.

In the sixteenth book he treats of Assyria, with Babylonia and Mesopotamia, Syria with Phoenicia and Palestine, the Persian Gulf, the Red Sea, and the coast of Ethiopia, and Arabia. His chief authorities for Assyria, Babylonia, and Mesopotamia, were some of the historians of Alexander, and Eratosthenes, Posidonius, and Herodotus : for the other parts, Eratosthenes, Posidonius, and Artemidorus. His description of Arabia and the adjacent coast of Libya is founded on Eratosthenes and Artemidorus, but Artemidorus derived materials for his description of the Red Sea from Agatharchides of Cnidos. Strabo also obtained oral information about Arabia from his friends Aelius Gallus and the Stoic Athenodorus.

In the seventeenth and last book Strabo describes Egypt, Ethiopia, and the north coast of Libya. He had seen all Egypt as far as the first cataracts, and his description of this country and of its ancient monuments is one of the most complete parts of his work. Besides the information that he could collect in Alexandria, he had Eratosthenes, Eudorus, Aristo, Polybius. and Posidonius. For the Ammonium he had the historians of Alexander, whom Arrian afterwards used; and for Ethiopia the authority of Petronius, who had carried on war there, and also Agatharchides and Herodotus. As to the country of the Libyans and the tribes Strabo says little that is new; but he made use of Eratosthenes, Artemidorus, Posidonius, and Iphicrates, who wrote a work on the plants and animals of Libya.


Historical Work

Strabo's historical work is mentioned by Josephus (Jewish Antiq. 14.7) and by Plutarch. His geographical work is only mentioned by Marcianus of Heraclea, at the commencement of his Periplus, Athenaeus, and by Harpocration. in his Lexicon of the Ten Orators (Λέχαιον, Λευκάς). It was largely used by Stephanus of Byzantium, in the fifth century. It is not quoted by Pausanias, which is not surprising; but it is somewhat singular that Plinius does not refer to it in his Natural History, a circumstance which justifies the conclusion that he was not acquainted with the work. Copies of the geography were probably dear, which will explain its not being much in circulation, though the expense alone would not have prevented Plinius from getting it. "How much happier are we," exclaims Groskurd, with true Philhellenic enthusiasm, " to whom the old Greek authors are now offered in unlimited abundance and in threesilver-groschen-little-volumes (dreisilbergroschenbändchen)."

If, then, there were few copies of Strabo, it is something of an accident that the work exists at all; and it seems probable that the extant MSS. may all owe their origin to some one that existed in the middle ages. This inference appears to follow from the fact of the great corruption of Strabo's text, and the general agreement of all MSS. which have hitherto been collated in their lacunae and errors, for slight discrepancies in MSS. naturally result from copying, especially when the copyist is not a critic. The great lacuna at the end of the seventh book is found in all the MSS.; but there must have been some MSS. on which was framed the Epitome which occupies the place of the original text, now deficient. The valuable MS. now at Paris (Cod. Par. 1393 ; in Falconer's edition, Par. 3) was brought from Asia in 1732, by the Abbe Sevin.


Epitomes

An Epitome or Chrestomatheia of Strabo was made by an unknown author, probably about A. D. 980. It is printed in the second volume of Hudson's Minor Geographers, and in the editions of Falconer and Koray. This epitome, which has all the faults inherent in an epitome, and some that are not unavoidable, extends to the whole work, and is of some use, as it has been made from a MS. different from any that exist. Another epitome, still in MS., was made by the monk Maximus Planudes about 1350; and excerpts from the first ten books made by Pletho, the teacher of Cardinal Bessarion, are still in MS. The excerpts were collated by Siebenkees, and used in the Siebenkees- Tzschucke edition.


Editions

The first edition of Strabo was by Aldus, Venice, 1516; and this text was followed in the editions of Hopper and Heresbach, Basle, 1549, and of Xylander (Holzmann), Basle, 1571, with a new Latin version. The next edition of the text was by Casaubon, who used several MSS., but it is uncertain if they exist. There are two editions of the text by Casaubon, Geneva, 1587, and Paris, 1620, fol., accompanied by a Latin translation and a commentary. Casaubon, who was only twenty-eight years of age when he edited this work, did a great deal for Strabo, though he could have done more, if he had taken more time about it. His commentary is pretty complete for the first books, but it gradually becomes more meagre as he approached the end of his labours. The edition of 1620 does not differ materially from that of 1587, and it is that which is generally referred to by the page. No new edition of Strabo appeared for a long time, and the critics were contented with making occasional corrections of certain passages and incidental remarks. The conjectures of Thomas Tyrwhitt, London, 1783, are valuable.

The reprint of Casaubon's edition by Almeloveen, Amsterdam, 1707, is useful for the collection of the notes of various critics. A new edition of Strabo was commenced by Brequigny, but only three books appeared, Paris, 1763. He left behind him a French translation with notes in Latin, which was used by the French translators of Strabo.

The seventh edition of Strabo, that of Falconer, Oxford, 1807, 2 vols. fol., was begun after the edition of Siebenkees, but finished before it. It is a reprint from Almeloveen, and contains no improvement of the text, though there were means for doing this, in the collection of five MSS. by Villebrune, and in other resources. This edition contains the collation of the Eton MS., that of the Escurial, and two Medicean MSS.; also the conjectures of Tyrwhitt, and some remarks of Villebrune and Falconer. There are seventeen maps intended for the illustration of Strabo.

The eighth edition of Strabo was commenced by Professor J. P. Siebenkees, Leipzig, 1811. He only lived to complete the first six books in 2 vols. 8vo.; and the work was finished by Professor Tzschucke in 1811. Siebenkees did his part very ill; but the edition improved greatly after Tzschucke commenced his labours. He made, however, few corrections, having a religious respect for the readings of the MS., and his text differs little from that of the edition of Casaubon. Friedemann added as a continuation and seventh part of this work the commentary of Casaubon, and a very complete critical apparatus.

The ninth edition of Strabo was by the learned Greek of Chios, Adamantios Koray, which appeared at Paris, 1815-1818, 4 vols. 8vo. This was really the first critical edition of Strabo that was worthy of the name, though he is perhaps justly blamed for being sometimes too bold in substituting the conjectures of others or his own for MSS. readings which ought not to be rejected. The first volume contains a map to illustrate the geographical system of Strabo, by Gosselin.

The tenth edition, which is not yet completed, is by Gustavus Kramer, and is by far the most valuable that has yet appeared. The two volumes which have been published (Berlin, 1844 and 1847) contain books i.--xii. The text of this edition is founded on a new collation of MSS., and is furnished with a critical commentary.


Translations

The first Latin translation of Strabo appeared forty-five years before the Greek text of Aldus. Guarini of Verona translated the first ten books, and Gregorio of Tiferno the remainder. The next version, that of Xylander, is much superior, and is printed in both editions of Casaubon, in that of Almeloveen, and in the Siebenkees-Tzschucke edition, with some corrections. Strabo was well translated into Italian from a MS. by Bonaccioli, Venice, 1552 or 1562. A German translation by A.J. Penzel appeared at Lemgo, 1775, &c., 4 vols.; but it is said to have little merit.

A French translation of Strabo appeared at Paris, 1805-1819, in five quarto volumes, with the title " Géographie de Strabon, traduite du Grec en Francais," and accompanied by copious critical and other notes. It was translated by La Porte du Theil and Koray, with the exception of Du Theil's share, which was left unfinished by his death in 1815, and which was completed by Letronne, who translated the sixteenth and seventeenth books. Gosselin added the geographical explanations, and five maps to illustrate the systems of Eratosthenes, Hipparchus, Polybius, and Strabo, with respect to the inhabited portion of the earth. The notes of Du Theil are sometimes exceedingly diffuse.

An Italian translation by Ambrosoli was published at Milan, 1828, 4 vols. 8vo. and 4to.

The best translation of Strabo is the new German version by C. J. Groskurd, 3 vols. 8vo., Berlin and Stettin, 1831-1833. The fourth volume, Berlin, 1834, contains a very complete Index, which is adapted to the second edition of Casaubon and all subsequent editions, except the small Tauchnitz edition, the only one that has not the paging of Casaubon's edition in the margin. The translation of Groskurd is made from the corrected text of Strabo, and he has availed himself of the labours of all his predecessors. In addition to this he has bestowed great pains on his version, which is a most valuable addition to the literature of his country : those who occupy themselves with the history of geography, and with ancient geography in particular, may now ascertain the meaning of Strabo, so far as it is possible to ascertain it. The author has added many valuable notes at the bottom of the page. To say that such a work cannot be free from error, is not to disparage it. A comparison of many parts with the original has convinced the writer of this article of the fidelity, diligence, and sound knowledge of the learned translator. The translation is not dedicated to a king or any great person, for we presume that the author had not imperial or royal patronage, like the French translators of Strabo. It is dedicated to nobody,--to the Manes of Strabo. The preface and introduction contain a dissertation on Strabo, his life and writings, which, with Heeren's Essay, " De Fontibus Geographicorum Strabonis," Göttingen 1823, and the Geography of Strabo, is the chief authority for this article.

[G.L]

hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
25 AD (4)
19 AD (4)
66 BC (4)
24 AD (2)
21 AD (2)
29 BC (2)
18 AD (1)
77 BC (1)
71 BC (1)
58 BC (1)
54 BC (1)
44 BC (1)
24 BC (1)
14 BC (1)
December (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: