previous next

Sicily is triangular in shape; and for this reason it was at first called "Trinacria," though later the name was changed to the more euphonious "Thrinacis." Its shape is defined by three capes: Pelorias, which with Caenys and Columna Rheginorum forms the strait, and Pachynus, which lies out towards the east and is washed by the Sicilian Sea, thus facing towards the Peloponnesus and the sea-passage to Crete, and, third, Lilybaeum, the cape that is next to Libya, thus facing at the same time towards Libya and the winter sunset.1 As for the sides which are marked off by the three capes, two of them are moderately concave, whereas the third, the one that reaches from Lilybaeum to Pelorias, is convex; and this last is the longest, being one thousand seven hundred stadia in length, as Poseidonius states, though he adds twenty stadia more. Of the other two sides, the one from Lilybaeum to Pachynus is longer than the other, and the one next to the strait and Italy, from Pelorias to Pachynus, is shortest, being about one thousand one hundred and thirty stadia long. And the distance round the island by sea, as declared by Poseidonius, is four thousand stadia. But in the Chorography the distances given are longer, marked off in sections and given in miles: from Pelorias to Mylae, twenty-five miles; the same from Mylae to Tyndaris; then to Agathyrnum thirty, and the same to Alaesa, and again the same to Cephaloedium, these being small towns; and eighteen to the River Himera,2 which flows through the middle of Sicily; then to Panormus thirty-five, and thirty-two to the Emporium of the Aegestes,3 and the rest of the way, to Lilybaeum, thirty-eight. Thence, on doubling Lilybaeum, to the adjacent side, to the Heracleium seventy-five miles, and to the Emporium of the Acragantini4 twenty, and another twenty5 to Camarina; and then to Pachynus fifty. Thence again along the third side: to Syracuse thirty-six, and to Catana sixty; then to Tauromenium thirty-three; and then to Messene thirty.6 On foot, however, the distance from Pachynus to Pelorias is one hundred and sixty-eight miles, and from Messene to Lilybaeum by the Valerian Way two hundred and thirty-five. But some writers have spoken in a more general way, as, for example, Ephorus: "At any rate, the voyage round the island takes five days and nights." Further, Poseidonius, in marking off the boundaries of the island by means of the "climata,"7 puts Pelorias towards the north, Lilybaeum towards the south, and Pachynus towards the east. But since the "climata" are each divided off into parallelograms, necessarily the triangles that are inscribed (particularly those which are scalene and of which no side fits on any one of the sides of the parallelogram) cannot, because of their slant, be fitted to the "climata."8 However this may be, one might fairly say, in the case of the "climata" of Sicily, which is situated south of Italy, that Pelorias is the most northerly of the three corners; and therefore the side that joins Pelorias to Pachynus will lie out9 towards the east, thus facing towards the north, and also will form the side that is on the strait. But this side must take a slight turn toward the winter sunrise,10 for the shore bends aside in this direction as one proceeds from Catana to Syracuse and Pachynus. Now the distance from Pachynus across to the mouth of the Alpheius11 is four thousand stadia; but when Artemidorus says that it is four thousand six hundred stadia from Pachynus to Taenarum12 and one thousand one hundred and thirty from the Alpheius to the Pamisus, he seems to me to afford us reason for suspecting that his statement is not in agreement with that of the man who says that the distance to the Alpheius from Pachynus is four thousand stadia. Again, the side that extends from Pachynus to Lilybaeum, which is considerably farther west than Pelorias, should itself also be made to slant considerably from its southernmost point13 towards the west, and should face at the same time towards the east and towards the south,14 one part being washed by the Sicilian Sea and the other by the Libyan Sea that reaches from Carthaginia to the Syrtes. The shortest passage from Lilybaeum across to Libya in neighborhood of Carthage is one thousand five hundred stadia;15 and on this passage, it is said, some man of sharp vision, from a look-out, used to report to the men in Lilybaeum the number of ships that were putting to sea from Carthage.16 Again, the side that extends from Lilybaeum to Pelorias necessarily slants towards the east, and faces towards the region that is between the west and the north,17 having Italy on the north and on the west the Tyrrhenian Sea and the Islands of Aeolus. [2]

The cities along the side that forms the Strait are, first, Messene, and then Tauromenium, Catana, and Syracuse; but those that were between Catana and Syracuse have disappeared—Naxus18 and Megara;19 and on this coast are the outlets of the Symaethus and all rivers that flow down from Aetna and have good harbors at their mouths; and here too is the promontory of Xiphonia. According to Ephorus these were the earliest Greek cities to be founded in Sicily, that is, in the tenth generation after the Trojan war; for before that time men were so afraid of the bands of Tyrrhenian pirates and the savagery of the barbarians in this region that they would not so much as sail thither for trafficking; but though Theocles, the Athenian, borne out of his course by the winds to Sicily, clearly perceived both the weakness of the peoples and the excellence of the soil, yet, when he went back, he could not persuade the Athenians, and hence took as partners a considerable number of Euboean Chalcidians and some Ionians and also some Dorians (most of whom were Megarians) and made the voyage; so the Chalcidians founded Naxus, whereas the Dorians founded Megara, which in earlier times had been called Hybla. The cities no longer exist, it is true, but the name of Hybla still endures, because of the excellence of the Hyblaean honey. [3]

As for the cities that still endure along the aforementioned side: Messene is situated in a gulf of Pelorias, which bends considerably towards the east and forms an armpit, so to speak; but though the distance across to Messene from Rhegium is only sixty stadia, it is much less from Columna. Messene was founded by the Messenians of the Peloponnesus, who named it after themselves, changing its name; for formerly it was called Zancle, on account of the crookedness of the coast (anything crooked was called "zanclion"),20 having been founded formerly by the Naxians who lived near Catana. But the Mamertini, a tribe of the Campani, joined the colony later on. Now the Romans used it as a base of operations for their Sicilian war against the Carthaginians; and afterwards Pompeius Sextus,when at war with Augustus Caesar, kept his fleet together there, and when ejected from the island also made his escape thence. And in the ship-channel, only a short distance off the city, is to be seem Charybdis,21 a monstrous deep, into which the ships are easily drawn by the refluent currents of the strait and plunged prow-foremost along with a mighty eddying of the whirlpool; and when the ships are gulped down and broken to pieces, the wreckage is swept along to the Tauromenian shore, which, from this occurrence, is called Copria.22 The Mamertini prevailed to such an extent among the Messenii that they got control of the city; and the people are by all called mamertini rather than Messenii; and further, since the country is exceedingly productive of wine, the wine is called, not Messenian, but Mamertine, and it rivals the best of the Italian wines. The city is fairly populous, though Catana is still more so, and in fact has received Romans as inhabitants; but Tauromenium is less populous than either. Catana, moreover, was founded by the same Naxians, whereas Tauromenium was founded by the Zanclaeans of Hybla; but Catana lost its original inhabitants when Hiero, tyrant of Syracuse, established a different set of colonists there and called it Aetna instead of Catana.23 And Pindar too calls him the founder of Aetna when he say: "Attend to what I say to thee, O Father, whose name is that of the holy sacrifices,24 founder of Aetna." But at the death of Hiero25 the Catanaeans came back, ejected the inhabitants, and demolished the tomb of the tyrant.26 And the Aetnaeans, on withdrawing, took up their abode in a hilly district of Aetna called Innesa, and called the place, which is eighty stadia from Catana, Aetna, and declared Hiero its founder. Now the city of Aetna is situated in the interior about over Catana, and shares most in the devastation caused by the action of the craters;27 in fact the streams of lava rush down very nearly as far as the territory of Catana; and here is the scene of the act of filial piety, so often recounted, of Amphinomus and Anapias, who lifted their parents on their shoulders and saved them from the doom that was rushing upon them. According to Poseidonius, when the mountain is in action, the fields of the Catanaeans are covered with ash-dust to a great depth. Now although the ash is an affliction at the time, it benefits the country in later times, for it renders it fertile and suited to the vine, the rest of the country not being equally productive of good wine; further, the roots produced by the fields that have been covered with ash-dust make the sheep so fat, it is said, that they choke; and this is why blood is drawn from their ears every four or five days28—a thing of which I have spoken before29 as occurring near Erytheia. But when the lava changes to a solid, it turns the surface of the earth into stone to a considerable depth, so that quarrying is necessary on the part of any who wish to uncover the original surface; for when the mass of rock in the craters melts and then is thrown up, the liquid that is poured out over the top is black mud and flows down the mountain, and then, solidifying, becomes millstone, keeping the same color it had when in a liquid state. And ash is also produced when the stones are burnt, as from wood; therefore, just as wood-ashes nourish rue, so the ashes of Aetna, it is reasonable to suppose, have some quality that is peculiarly suited to the vine. [4]

Syracuse was founded by Archias, who sailed from Corinth about the same time that Naxus and Megara were colonized. It is said that Archias went to Delphi at the same time as Myscellus, and when they were consulting the oracle, the god asked them whether they chose wealth or health; now Archias chose wealth, and Myscellus30 health; accordingly, the god granted to the former to found Syracuse, and to the latter Croton. And it actually came to pass that the Crotoniates took up their abode in a city that was exceedingly healthful, as I have related,31 and that Syracuse fell into such exceptional wealth that the name of the Syracusans was spread abroad in a proverb applied to the excessively extravagant—"the tithe of the Syracusans would not be sufficient for them." And when Archias, the story continues, was on his voyage to Sicily, he left Chersicrates, of the race of the Heracleidae, with a part of the expedition to help colonize what is now called Corcyra, but was formerly called Scheria; Chersicrates, however, ejected the Liburnians, who held possession of the island, and colonized it with new settlers, whereas Archias landed at Zephyrium,32 found that some Dorians who had quit the company of the founders of Megara and were on their way back home had arrived there from Sicily, took them up and in common with them founded Syracuse. And the city grew, both on account of the fertility of the soil and on account of the natural excellence of its harbors. Furthermore, the men of Syracuse proved to have the gift of leadership, with the result that when the Syracusans were ruled by tyrants they lorded it over the rest, and when set free themselves they set free those who were oppressed by the barbarians. As for these barbarians, some were native inhabitants, whereas others came over from the mainland. The Greeks would permit none of them to lay hold of the seaboard, but were not strong enough to keep them altogether away from the interior; indeed, to this day the Siceli, the Sicani, the Morgetes, and certain others have continued to live in the island, among whom there used to be Iberians, who, according to Ephorus, were said to be the first barbarian settlers of Sicily. Morgantium, it is reasonable to suppose, was settled by the Morgetes; it used to be a city, but now it does not exist. When the Carthaginians came over they did not cease to abuse both these people and the Greeks, but the Syracusans nevertheless held out. But the Romans later on ejected the Carthaginians and took Syracuse by siege. And in our own time, because Pompeius abused, not only the other cities, but Syracuse in particular, Augustus Caesar sent a colony and restored a considerable part of the old settlement; for in olden times it was a city of five towns,33 with a wall of one hundred and eighty stadia. Now it was not at all necessary to fill out the whole of this circuit, but it was necessary, he thought, to build up in a better way only the part that was settled—the part adjacent to the Island of Ortygia which had a sufficient circuit to make a notable city. Ortygia is connected with the mainland, near which it lies, by a bridge, and has the fountain of Arethusa, which sends forth a river that empties immediately into the sea.

People tell the mythical story that the river Arethusa is the Alpheius, which latter, they say, rises in the Peloponnesus, flows underground through the sea as far as Arethusa, and then empties thence once more into the sea. And the kind of evidence they adduce is as follows: a certain cup, they think, was thrown out into the river at Olympia and was discharged into the fountain; and again, the fountain was discolored as the result of the sacrifices of oxen at Olympia. Pindar follows these reports when he says: "O resting-place34 august of Alpheius, Ortygia,35 scion of famous Syracuse." And in agreement with Pindar Timaeus the historian also declares the same thing. Now if the Alpheius fell into a pit before joining the sea, there would be some plausibility in the view that the stream extends underground from Olympia as far as Sicily, thereby preserving its potable water unmixed with the sea; but since the mouth of the river empties into the sea in full view, and since near this mouth, on the transit, there is no mouth36 visible that swallows up the stream of the river (though even so the water could not remain fresh; yet it might, the greater part of it at least, if it sank into the underground channel),37 the thing is absolutely impossible. For the water of Arethusa bears testimony against it, since it is potable; and that the stream of the river should hold together through so long a transit without being diffused with the seawater, that is, until it falls into the fancied underground passage, is utterly mythical. Indeed, we can scarcely believe this in the case of the Rhodanus, although its stream does hold together when it passes through a lake,38 keeping its course visible; in this case, however, the distance is short and the lake does not rise in waves, whereas in case of the sea in question, where there are prodigious storms and surging waves, the tale is foreign to all plausibility. And the citing of the story of the cup only magnifies the falsehood, for a cup does not of itself readily follow the current of any stream, to say nothing of a stream that flows so great a distance and through such passages.

Now there are many rivers in many parts of the world that flow underground, but not for such a distance; and even if this is possible, the stories aforesaid, at least, are impossible, and those concerning the river Inachus are like a myth: "For it flows from the heights of Pindus," says Sophocles, "and from Lacmus,39 from the land of the Perrhaebians, into the lands of the Amphilochians and Acarnanians, and mingles with the waters of Acheloüs," and, a little below, he adds, "whence it cleaves the waves to Argos and comes to the people of Lyrceium." Marvellous tales of this sort are stretched still further by those who make the Inopus cross over from the Nile to Delos. And Zoïlus40 the rhetorician says in his Eulogy of the Tenedians that the Alpheius rises in Tenedos—the man who finds fault with Homer as a writer of myths! And Ibycus says that the Asopus in Sicyon rises in Phrygia. But the statement of Hecataeus is better, when he says that the lnachus among the Amphilochians, which flows from Lacmus, as does also the Aeas, is different from the river of Argos, and that it was named by Amphilochus, the man who called the city Argos Amphilochicum.41 Now Hecataeus says that this river does empty into the Acheloüs, but that the Aeas42 flows towards the west into Apollonia.

On either side of the island of Ortygia is a large harbor; the larger of the two is eighty stadia in circuit. Caesar restored this city and also Catana; and so, in the same way, Centoripa, because it contributed much to the overthrow of Pompeius. Centoripa lies above Catana, bordering on the Aetnaean mountains, and on the Symaethus River, which flows into the territory of Catana. [5]

Of the remaining sides of Sicily, that which extends from Pachynus to Lilybaeum has been utterly deserted, although it preserves traces of the old settlements, among which was Camarina, a colony of the Syracusans; Acragas, however, which belongs to the Geloans, and its seaport, and also Lilybaeum still endure. For since this region was most exposed to attack on the part of Carthaginia, most of it was ruined by the long wars that arose one after another. The last and longest side is not populous either, but still it is fairly well peopled; in fact, Alaesa, Tyndaris, the Emporium of the Aegestes, and Cephaloedis43 are all cities, and Panormus has also a Roman settlement. Aegestaea was founded, it is said, by those who crossed over with Philoctetes to the territory of Croton, as I have stated in my account of Italy;44 they were sent to Sicily by him along with Aegestes the Trojan. [6]

In the interior is Enna, where is the temple of Demeter, with only a few inhabitants; it is situated on a hill, and is wholly surrounded by broad plateaus that are tillable. It suffered most at the hands of Eunus45 and his runaway slaves, who were besieged there and only with difficulty were dislodged by the Romans. The inhabitants of Catana and Tauromenium and also several other peoples suffered this same fate.

Eryx, a lofty hill,46 is also inhabited. It has a temple of Aphrodite that is held in exceptional honor, and in early times was full of female temple-slaves, who had been dedicated in fulfillment of vows not only by the people of Sicily but also by many people from abroad; but at the present time, just as the settlement itself,47 so the temple is in want of men, and the multitude of temple-slaves has disappeared. In Rome, also, there is a reproduction of this goddess, I mean the temple before the Colline Gate48 which is called that of Venus Erycina and is remarkable for its shrine and surrounding colonnade.

But the rest of the settlements49 as well as most of the interior have come into the possession of shepherds; for I do not know of any settled population still living in either Himera, or Gela, or Callipolis or Selinus or Euboea or several other places. Of these cities Himera was founded by the Zanclaeans of Mylae, Callipolis by the Naxians, Selinus by the Megarians of the Sicilian Megara, and Euboea by the Leontines.50 Many of the barbarian cities, also, have been wiped out; for example Camici,51 the royal residence of Cocalus,52 at which Minos is said to have been murdered by treachery. The Romans, therefore, taking notice that the country was deserted, took possession of the mountains and most of the plains and then gave them over to horseherds, cowherds, and shepherds; and by these herdsmen the island was many times put in great danger, because, although at first they only turned to brigandage in a sporadic way, later they both assembled in great numbers and plundered the settlements, as, for example, when Eunus and his men took possession of Enna. And recently, in my own time, a certain Selurus, called the "son of Aetna," was sent up to Rome because he had put himself at the head of an army and for a long time had overrun the regions round about Aetna with frequent raids; I saw him torn to pieces by wild beasts at an appointed combat of gladiators in the Forum; for he was placed on a lofty scaffold, as though on Aetna, and the scaffold was made suddenly to break up and collapse, and he himself was carried down with it into cages of wildbeasts—fragile cages that had been prepared beneath the scaffold for that purpose. [7]

As for the fertility of the country, why should I speak of it, since it is on the lips of all men, who declare that it is no whit inferior to that of Italy? And in the matter of grain, honey, saffron, and certain other products, one might call it even superior. There is, furthermore, its propinquity; for the island is a part of Italy, as it were, and readily and without great labor supplies Rome with everything it has, as though from the fields of Italy. And in fact it is called the storehouse of Rome, for everything it produces is brought hither except a few things that are consumed at home, and not the fruits only, but also cattle, hides, wool, and the like. Poseidonius says that Syracuse and Eryx are each situated like an acropolis by the sea, whereas Enna lies midway between the two above the encircling plains.

The whole of the territory of Leontini, also, which likewise belonged to the Naxians of Sicily, has been devastated; for although they always shared with the Syracusans in their misfortunes, it was not always so with their good fortunes.53 [8]

Near Centoripa is the town of Aetna, which was mentioned a little above, whose people entertain and conduct those who ascend the mountain; for the mountain-summit begins here. The upper districts are bare and ash-like and full of snow during the winter, whereas the lower are divided up by forests and plantations of every sort. The topmost parts of the mountain appear to undergo many changes because of the way the fire distributes itself, for at one time the fire concentrates in one crater, but at another time divides, while at one time the mountain sends forth lava, at another, flames and fiery smoke, and at still other times it also emits red-hot masses; and the inevitable result of these disturbances is that not only the underground passages, but also the orifices, sometimes rather numerous, which appear on the surface of the mountain all round, undergo changes at the same time. Be this as it may, those who recently made the ascent gave me the following account: They found at the top a level plain, about twenty stadia in circuit, enclosed by a rim of ashes the height of a house-wall, so that any who wished to proceed into the plain had to leap down from the wall; they saw in the center of the plain a mound54 of the color of ashes, in this respect being like the surface of the plain as seen from above, and above the mound a perpendicular cloud rising straight up to a height of about two hundred feet, motionless (for it was a windless day) and resembling smoke; and two of the men had the hardihood to proceed into the plain, but because the sand they were walking on got hotter and deeper, they turned back, and so were unable to tell those who were observing from a distance anything more than what was already apparent. But they believed, from such a view as they had, that many of the current stories are mythical, and particularly those which some tell about Empedocles, that he leaped down into the crater and left behind, as a trace of the fate he suffered, one of the brazen sandals which he wore; for it was found, they say, a short distance outside the rim of the crater, as though it had been thrown up by the force of the fire. Indeed, the place is neither to be approached nor to be seen, according to my informants; and further, they surmised that nothing could be thrown down into it either, owing to the contrary blasts of the winds arising from the depths, and also owing to the heat, which, it is reasonable to suppose, meets one long before one comes near the mouth of the crater; but even if something should be thrown down into it, it would be destroyed before it could be thrown up in anything like the shape it had when first received; and although it is not unreasonable to assume that at times the blasts of the fire die down when at times the fuel is deficient, yet surely this would not last long enough to make possible the approach of man against so great a force. Aetna dominates more especially the seaboard in the region of the Strait and the territory of Catana, but also that in the region of the Tyrrhenian Sea and the Liparaean Islands. Now although by night a brilliant light shines from the summit, by day it is covered with smoke and haze. [9]

Over against Aetna rise the Nebrodes Mountains,55 which, though lower than Aetna, exceed it considerably in breadth. The whole island is hollow down beneath the ground, and full of streams and of fire, as is the case with the Tyrrhenian Sea, as far as the Cumaean country, as I have said before.56 At all events, the island has at many places springs of hot waters which spout up, of which those of Selinus and those of Himera are brackish, whereas those of Aegesta are potable. Near Acragas are lakes which, though they have the taste of seawater, are different in nature; for even people who cannot swim do not sink, but float on the surface like wood. The territory of the Palici has craters57 that spout up water in a dome-like jet and receive it back again into the same recess. The cavern near Mataurus58 contains an immense gallery through which a river flows invisible for a considerable distance, and then emerges to the surface, as is the case with the Orontes in Syria,59 which sinks into the chasm (called Charybdis) between Apameia and Antiocheia and rises again forty stadia away. Similar, too, are the cases both of the Tigris60 in Mesopotamia and of the Nile in Libya, only a short distance from their sources. And the water in the territory of Stymphalus61 first flows underground for two hundred stadia and then issues forth in Argeia as the Erasinus River; and again, the water near the Arcadian Asea is first forced below the surface and then, much later, emerges as both the Eurotas and the Alpheius; and hence the belief in a certain fabulous utterance, that if two wreaths be dedicated separately to each of the two rivers and thrown into the common stream, each will reappear, in accordance with the dedication, in the appropriate river. And I have already mentioned what is told about the Timavus River.62 [10]

Phenomena akin both to these and to those in Sicily are to be seen about the Liparaean Islands and Lipara itself. The islands are seven in number, but the largest is Lipara (a colony of the Cnidians), which, Thermessa excepted, lies nearest to Sicily. It was formerly called Meligunis; and it not only commanded a fleet, but for a long time resisted the incursions of the Tyrrheni, for it held in obedience all the Liparaean Islands, as they are now called, though by some they are called the Islands of Aeolus. Furthermore, it often adorned the temple of Apollo at Delphi with dedications from the first fruits of victory. It has also a fruitful soil, and a mine of styptic earth63 that brings in revenues,64 and hot springs, and fire blasts. Between Lipara and Sicily is Thermessa, which is now called Hiera of Hephaestus;65 the whole island is rocky, desert, and fiery, and it has three fire blasts, rising from three openings which one might call craters. From the largest the flames carry up also red-hot masses, which have already choked up a considerable part of the Strait. From observation it has been believed that the flames, both here and on Aetna, are stimulated along with the winds and that when the winds cease the flames cease too. And this is not unreasonable, for the winds are begotten by the evaporations of the sea and after they have taken their beginning are fed thereby; and therefore it is not permissible for any who have any sort of insight into such matters to marvel if the fire too is kindled by a cognate fuel or disturbance. According to Polybius, one of the three craters has partially fallen in, whereas the others remain whole; and the largest has a circular rim five stadia in circuit, but it gradually contracts to a diameter of fifty feet; and the altitude of this crater above the level of the sea is a stadium, so that the crater is visible on windless days.66 But if all this is to be believed, perhaps one should also believe the mythical story about Empedocles.67 Now if the south wind is about to blow, Polybius continues, a cloud-like mist pours down all round the island, so that not even Sicily is visible in the distance; and when the north wind is about to blow, pure flames rise aloft from the aforesaid crater and louder rumblings are sent forth; but the west wind holds a middle position, so to speak, between the two; but though the two other craters are like the first in kind, they fall short in the violence of their spoutings; accordingly, both the difference in the rumblings, and the place whence the spoutings and the flames and the fiery smoke begin, signify beforehand the wind that is going to blow again three days afterward;68 at all events, certain of the men in Liparae, when the weather made sailing impossible, predicted, he says, the wind that was to blow, and they were not mistaken; from this fact, then, it is clear that that saying of the Poet which is regarded as most mythical of all was not idly spoken, but that he hinted at the truth when he called Aeolus "steward of the winds."69 However, I have already discussed these matters sufficiently.70 It is the close attention of the Poet to vivid description, one might call it, . . . for both71 are equally present in rhetorical composition and vivid description; at any rate, pleasure is common to both. But I shall return to the topic which follows that at which I digressed. [11]

Of Lipara, then, and Thermessa I have already spoken. As for Strongyle,72 it is so called from its shape, and it too is fiery; it falls short in the violence of its flame, but excels in the brightness of its light; and this is where Aeolus lived, it is said. The fourth island is Didyme,73 and it too is named after its shape. Of the remaining islands, Ericussa74 and Phoenicussa75 have been so called from their plants, and are given over to pasturage of flocks. The seventh is Euonymus,76 which is farthest out in the high sea and is desert; it is so named because it is more to the left than the others, to those who sail from Lipara to Sicily.77 Again, many times flames have been observed running over the surface of the sea round about the islands when some passage had been opened up from the cavities down in the depths of the earth and the fire had forced its way to the outside. Poseidonius says that within his own recollection,78 one morning at daybreak about the time of the summer solstice, the sea between Hiera and Euonymus was seen raised to an enormous height, and by a sustained blast remained puffed up for a considerable time, and then subsided; and when those who had the hardihood to sail up to it saw dead fish driven by the current, and some of the men were stricken ill because of the heat and stench, they took flight; one of the boats, however, approaching more closely, lost some of its occupants and barely escaped to Lipara with the rest, who would at times become senseless like epileptics, and then afterwards would recur to their proper reasoning faculties; and many days later mud was seen forming on the surface of the sea, and in many places flames, smoke, and murky fire broke forth, but later the scum hardened and became as hard as mill-stone; and the governor of Sicily, Titus Flaminius,79 reported the event to the Senate, and the Senate sent a deputation to offer propitiatory sacrifices, both in the islet80 and in Liparae, to the gods both of the underworld and of the Sea. Now, according to the Chorographer,81 the distance from Ericodes to Phoenicodes82 is ten miles, and thence to Didyme thirty, and thence to the northern part of Lipara twenty-nine, and thence to Sicily nineteen, but from Strongyle sixteen. Off Pachynus lie Melita,83 whence come the little dogs called Melitaean, and Gaudos, both eighty-eight miles distant from the Cape. Cossura84 lies off Lilybaeum, and off Aspis,85 a Carthaginian city whose Latin name is Clupea; it lies midway between the two, and is the aforesaid distance86 from either. Aegimurus,87 also, and other small islands lie off Sicily and Libya. So much for the islands.

1 South-west.

2 C. Müller (see Map V at the end of the Loeb volume) assumes that Strabo exchanged the Chorographer's distances between (1) Alaesa and Cephaloedium, and (2) Cephaloedium and the River Himera (see C. Müller, Ind. Var. Lect., p. 977).

3 In Latin, Emporium Segestanorum.

4 In Latin, Emporium Agrigentinorum.

5 This distance is in fact more than sixty miles. C. Müller assumes in the Map (l.c.) that the copyist left out the interval from Emporium to Gela and put down an extra distance of twenty miles therefor. But elsewhere (Ind. Var. Lect., l.c.), he believes (more plausibly) that two intervals were omitted and assigns twenty stadia to each, viz., Emporium to the Harbor of Phintias, and thence to Calvisiana.

6 Note in connection with the next sentence that the text does not give the distance from Messene to Pelorias, which is about nine miles.

7 On the "climata" (belts of latitude), see Strab. 1.1.12 and footnote 2.

8 Though the works of Poseidonius are lost, it is obvious that he properly fixed the position of the three vertices of the triangle according to the method of his time by the "climata," i.e., he fixed their north-and-south positions (cp. "latitude") and their east-and-west position (cp. "longitude"). Strabo rightly, but rather captiously, remarks that Poseidonius cannot by means of the "climata" mark off the boundaries of Sicily, since the triangle is merely inscribed in the parallelogram and no side of it coincides with any side of the parallelogram; in other words, the result of Poseidonius is too indefinite.

9 That is, will point.

10 South-east.

11 In the Peloponnesus; now the Ruphis.

12 Cape Matapan.

13 i.e., of the side; hence from Pachynus.

14 That is, a line at right angles to the side would point south-east.

15 Cp. Strab. 17.3.16.

16 Lilybaeum when held by the Carthaginians (250 B.C.) was besieged by the Romans. Pliny 7.21 says that Varro gave the man's name as Strabo; and quotes Cicero as authority for the tradition that the man was wont, in the Punic War, looking from the Lilybaean promontory, a distance of 135 miles, to tell the number of ships that put out from the harbor of Carthage. But, assuming the possibility of seeing small ships at a distance of 135 miles, the observer would have to be at an altitude of a little more than two miles!

17 That is, a line at right angles to the side point towards the north-west.

18 Founded about 734 B.C. and destroyed by Dionysius in 403 B.C. (see Diod. Sic. 14.14), but it is placed by the commentators and maps between Tauromenium and Catana.

19 Founded about the same time as Naxus and destroyed about 214 B.C.

20 The noun "zanclon" (corresponding to the adjective "zanclion") was a native Sicilian word, according to Thuc. 6.4.

21 Cp. 1. 2. 36.

22 "Dunghill."

23 476 B.C.

24 The Greek here for "sacrifices" is "hieron."

25 467 B.C.

26 461 B.C.

27 Groskurd, Müller-Dübner, Forbiger, Tardieu, and Tozer (Selections, p. 174) supply as subject of "shares" a pronoun referring to Catana, assuming that Aetna, the subject of the sentence, is the mountain, not the city.

28 One of the later manuscripts reads "forty or fifty days."

29 3. 5. 4. (q.v.).

30 See 6. 1. 12.

31 6. 1. 12.

32 Cape Bruzzano.

33 Nesos (the island Ortygia), Achradine, Tyche, Epipolai, and Neapolis.

34 Or more literally, "place to breathe again."

35 Pind. Nem. 1.1-2. Pindar further characterizes Ortygia (line 3) as "the bed of Artemis."

36 That is, whirlpool.

37 The last clause is suspected; see critical note.

38 Lake Lemenna, now the Lake of Geneva (see 4. 1. 11 and 4. 6. 6).

39 More often spelled Lacmon; one of the heights of Pindus.

40 Zoïlus (about 400-320 B.C.), the grammarian and rhetorician, of Amphipolis in Macedonia, is chiefly known for the bitterness of his attacks on Homer, which gained him the surname of "Homeromastix" ("scourge of Homer").

41 Cp. 7. 7. 7.

42 Cp. 7. 5. 8.

43 Another name of Cephaloedium (6. 2. 1).

44 6. 1. 3.

45 Eunus was a native of Apameia in Syria, but became a slave of a certain Antigenes at Enna, and about 136 B.C. became the leader of the Sicilian slaves in the First Servile War. For a full account of his amazing activities as juggler, diviner, leader, and self-appointed king, as also of his great following see Diod. Sic. 34.2. 5-18

46 Now Mt. San Giuliano. But Eryx is at the north-western angle of Sicily, near the sea, not in the interior and for this reason some editors consider the passage out of place.

47 Also called Eryx. Hamilcar Barca transferred most of the inhabitants to Drepanum (at the foot of the mountain) in 260 B.C. After that time the city was of no consequence, but the sacred precinct, with its strong walls, remained a strategic position of great importance.

48 The temple of Venus Erycina on the Capitol was dedicated by Q. Fabius Maximus in 215 B.C., whereas the one here referred to, outside the Colline Gate, was dedicated by L. Portius Licinus in 181 B.C.

49 i.e., the rest of the settlements on "the remaining sides" (mentioned at the beginning of section 5), as the subsequent clause shows.

50 A number of the editors transfer to this point the sentence "The whole . . . fortunes," at the end of section 7 below.

51 Camici (or Camicus) is supposed to have been on the site of what is Camastro.

52 The mythical king who harbored Daedalus when he fled from Minos.

53 See footnote on Leontines, section 6.

54 "This is the small cone of eruption, in the center of the wide semicircular crater" (Tozer, Selections, p. 175), which the poem of Aetna (line 182), ascribed to Lucilius Junior, describes as follows: "penitusque exaestuat ultra."

55 Now the Nebrodici.

56 5. 4. 9.

57 Strabo refers to what is now the Lago di Naftia, a small volcanic lake near the Eryces River and Leotini, and not far from the sea.

58 The form "Mataurus" seems to be corrupt. At any rate, it probably should be identified with Mazara (now Mazzara), near which there is now a small river flowing through a rocky district.

59 Cp. 16. 2. 7.

60 So Pliny N.H. 6.31

61 Strabo refers to the lake of Stymphalus in Arcadia in the Peloponnesus. For a full description see Frazer's note on Paus. 8.22.1

62 5. 1. 8.

63 Styptic earth (= Latin alumen) is discussed at length by Pliny 35.52. It was not our alum, but an iron sulphate, or a mixture of an iron and an aluminium sulphate, used in dyeing and in medicine.

64 Diod. Sic. 5.10 says: "This island" (Lipara) "has the far-famed mines of styptic earth, from which the Liparaeans and Romans get great revenues."

65 i.e., "Sacred" Isle of Hephaestus. The isle is now called Vulcanello. It is supposed to be the island that rose from the sea about 183 B. C. (See Nissen, Italische Landeskunde I.251).

66 i.e., from the sea.

67 See 6. 2. 8.

68 So Pliny 3.14

69 Hom. Od. 10.21

70 1. 2. 7-18, but especially sections 15-18. Since Polybius, as well as Strabo, discussed this subject at length, the sentence "However, . . . sufficiently" might belong to the long excerpt from Polybius (cp. 1. 2. 15-18). Here follows a sentence which, as it stands in the manuscripts, is incoherent, and seems to be beyond restoration. But for the fact that it is somewhat similar to an accredited passage found elsewhere (1. 2. 17), one would hardly hesitate to regard it as a marginal note and follow Meineke in ejecting it from the text.

71 Perhaps (1) pleasure and (2) the excitement of amazement (see 1. 2. 17), as Groskurd thinks, or (1) the truthful element and (2) the mythical element (see also 1. 2. 19).

72 i.e., "Round," the Stromboli of today.

73 i.e., "Double." It is formed by two volcanic cones; the Salina of today.

74 i.e., "Heather" (cp. the botanical term "Ericaceae"); now called Alicudi.

75 i.e., "Palm" (cp. the botanical term "Phoenicaceae"); or perhaps "Rye-grass" (Lolium perenne), the sense in which Theophrastus Hist. Plant. 2. 6.11 uses the Greek word "phoenix"; now called Felicudi.

76 i.e., "Left"; now called Panaria.

77 This would not be true if one sailed the shortest way to Sicily, but Strabo obviously has in mind the voyage from the city of Lipara to Cape Pelorias.

78 Poseidonius was born about 130 B.C.

79 This Titus Flaminius, who must have lived "within the recollection" of Poseidonius, is otherwise unknown. If the text is correct, he was governor of Sicily about 90 B.C. Cp. Nissen, op. cit. II.251. But Du Theil, Corais and C. Müller emend to Titus "Flamininus," who was governor in 123 B.C., trying to connect this eruption with that which is generally put at 126 B.C. (cp. Pliny 2. 88 [89]).

80 The islet just created.

81 See footnote 3 in Vol. II, p. 358.

82 i.e., Ericussa and Phoenicussa.

83 Now Malta.

84 Now Pantellaria.

85 So called from the resemblance of the hill (see 17. 3. 16), where it is situated, to a shield (aspis, Lat. clupeus).

86 Eighty-eight miles.

87 Now Al Djamur.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

load focus English (H.C. Hamilton, Esq., W. Falconer, M.A., 1903)
load focus Greek (1877)
hide Places (automatically extracted)
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.
90 BC (1)
734 BC (1)
476 BC (1)
467 BC (1)
461 BC (1)
403 BC (1)
260 BC (1)
250 BC (1)
215 BC (1)
214 BC (1)
183 BC (1)
181 BC (1)
136 BC (1)
130 BC (1)
126 BC (1)
123 BC (1)
hide References (14 total)
  • Cross-references in notes from this page (13):
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 14.14
    • Homer, Odyssey, 10.21
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 8.22.1
    • Pindar, Nemean, 1
    • Thucydides, Histories, 6.4
    • Strabo, Geography, 17.3.16
    • Strabo, Geography, 1.1.12
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 2.88
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 35.5
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 3.1
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 6.31
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 7.2
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 5.10
  • Cross-references in general dictionaries to this page (1):
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: