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ASIA is contiguous to Europe, approaching close to it at the Tanaïs or Don.

I am to describe this country next, after dividing it, for the sake of perspicuity, by certain natural boundaries. What Eratosthenes has done with respect to the whole habitable earth, this I propose to do with respect to Asia. [2]

The Taurus, extending from west to east, embraces the middle of this continent, like a girdle, leaving one portion to the north, another to the south. The Greeks call the former Asia Within the Taurus,1 the latter, Asia Without the Taurus. We have said this before, but it is repeated now to assist the memory. [3]

The Taurus has in many places a breadth of 3000 stadia; its length equals that of Asia, namely 45,000 stadia,2 reckoning from the continent opposite to Rhodes to the eastern extremities of India and Scythia. [4]

It is divided into many parts, which are circumscribed by boundaries of greater or less extent, and distinguished by various names.

But as such an extended range of mountains must comprise nations some of which are little known, and others with whom we are well acquainted, as Parthians,3 Medes, Armenians, some of the Cappadocians, Cilicians, and Pisidians; those which approach near the northern parts must be assigned to the north, (northern Asia,) those approximating the southern parts, to the south, (southern Asia,) and those situated in the middle of the mountains must be placed on account of the similarity of the temperature of the air, for it is cold to the north, while the air of the south is warm.

The currents of almost all the rivers which flow from the Taurus are in a direction contrary to each other, some running to the north, others to the south, at least at the commencement of their course, although afterwards some bend towards the east or west. They naturally suggest the adoption of this chain of mountains as a boundary in the division of Asia into two portions; in the same manner that the sea within the Pillars, which for the most part runs in the same line with these mountains, conveniently forms two continents, Europe and Africa, and is a remarkable boundary to both. [5]

In passing in our geographical description from Europe to Asia, the first parts of the country which present themselves are those in the northern division, and we shall therefore begin with these.

Of these parts the first are those about the Tanaïs, (or Don,) which we have assumed as the boundary of Europe and Asia. These have a kind of peninsular form, for they are surrounded on the west by the river Tanaïs (or Don) and the Palus Maotis4 as far as the Cimmerian Bosporus,5 and that part of the coast of the Euxine which terminates at Colchis; on the north by the Ocean, as far as the mouth of the Caspian Sea; on the east by the same sea, as far as the confines of Albania and Armenia, where the rivers Cyrus6 and Araxes7 empty themselves; the latter flowing through Armenia, and the Cyrus through Iberia8 and Albania;9 on the south is the tract of country extending from the mouth of the Cyrus as far as Colchis, and comprising about 3000 stadia from sea to sea, across the territory of the Albani, and Iberes,10 so as to represent an isthmus.11

Those writers do not deserve attention who contract the isthmus as much as Cleitarchus, according to whom it is subject to inundations of the sea from either side. According to Posidonius the isthmus is 1500 stadia in extent, that is, as large as the isthmus from Pelusium to the Red Sea. And I think, says he, that the isthmus between the Palus Mæotis and the Ocean is not very different from this in extent. [6]

I know not how any one can rely upon his authority respecting what is uncertain, when he has nothing probable to advance on the subject; for he reasons so falsely respecting things which are evident, and this too when he enjoyed the friendship of Pompey, who had carried on war against the Iberes and Albani, and was acquainted with both the Caspian and Colchian12 Seas on each side of the isthmus. It is related, that when Pompey13 was at Rhodes, on his expedi- tion against the pirates, (he was soon afterwards to carry on war against Mithridates and the nations as far as the Caspian Sea,) he accidentally heard a philosophical lecture of Posidonius; and on his departure he asked Posidonius if he had any commands; to which he replied,

“ To stand the first in worth, as in command.14

Il. vi. 208. Pope.
Add to this, that he wrote the history of Pompey. For these reasons he ought to have paid a greater regard to truth. [7]

The second portion is that above the Hyrcanian,15 which we also call the Caspian Sea, extending as far as the Scythians near the Indians.

The third portion is continuous with the above-mention- ed isthmus, and consists of the country following next in order to the isthmus and the Caspian Gates,16 and approaching nearest the parts within the Taurus, and to Europe; these are Media, Armenia, Cappadocia, and the intervening country.17

The fourth portion consists of the tract within the Halys,18 and the parts upon and without the Taurus, which coincide with the peninsula formed by the isthmus,19 which separates the Euxine and the Cilician Seas. Among the other countries beyond the Taurus we place Indica and Ariana,20 as far as the nations which extend to the Persian Sea, the Arabian Gulf, and the Nile, and to the Ægyptian and the Issic seas.

1 B. ii. c. v. § 31.


The following are the measurements of our author:
From Rhodes to Issus5,000
From Issus to the Caspian Gates10,000
From the Caspian Gates to the sources of the Indus14,000
From the Indus to the mouth of the Ganges13.500
From thence to Thin2,500

3 Strabo calls the Parthians, Parthyæi; and Parthia, Pathyæa.

4 The Sea of Azoff.

5 The Straits of Kertch or Zabache.

6 The Kur or Kour.

7 Eraskh or Aras.

8 Georgia.

9 Shirvan.

10 See b. ii. c. v. § 31.

11 To understand how this part of Asia formed a peninsula, according to the ideas of our author, we must bear in mind, that (1) he supposed the source of the Don to have been situated in the neighbourhood of the Northern Ocean; (2) he imagined the Caspian Sea to communicate with the same Ocean. Thus all the territory comprehended between the Don and the Caspian formed a sort of peninsula, united to the continent by an isthmus which separated the Euxine from the Caspian and on which was situated Colchis, Iberia, and Albania. The 3000 stadia assigned to the breadth of this isthmus appears to be measured by stadia of 1111 1/2 to a de- gree. Gossellin.

12 The Euxine.

13 Pompey appears to have visited this philosopher twice on this occa- sion, B. C. 62, and B. C. 67, on the termination of his eastern campaigns.

14 Il. vi. 208. Pope.

15 In many authors these names are used indifferently, the one for the other; they are however distinguished by Pliny, (iv. 13,) who states that this sea begins to be called the Caspian after you have passed the river Cyrus, (Kur,) and that the Caspii live near it; and in vi. 16, that it is called the Hyrcanian Sea, from the Hyreani who live along its shores. The western side should therefore in strictness be called the Caspian; the eastern, the Hyrcanian. Smith, art. Caspium Mare.

16 A narrow pass leading from North Western Asia into the N. E provinces of Persia. Their exact position was at the division of Parthia from Media, about a day's journey from the Median town of Rhagæ. (Arrian. iii. 19.) According to Isodorus Charax, they were immediately below Mt. Caspius. As in the case of the people called Caspii, there seem to have been two mountains Caspius, one near the Armenian frontier, the other near the Parthian. It was through the pass of the Caspiæ Pyle that Alexander the Great pursued Darius. (Arrian. Anab. iii. 19; Curt. vi. 14; Amm. Marc. xxiii. 6.) It was one of the most important places in ancient geography, and from it many of the meridians were measured. The exact place corresponding with the Caspie Pylæ is probably a spot between Hark-a-Koh, and Siah-Koh, about 6 parasangs from Rey, the name of the entrance of which is called Dereh. Smith, art. Caspiæ Pylæ.

17 Du Theil justly remarks on the obscurity of this passage. His translation or paraphrase is as follows: "La troisième contiendra ce qui touche à l' isthme dont nous avons parlé; et, par suite, ceux des pays qui, au sud de cet isthme et des Pyles Caspiennes, mais toujours en decà, on, au moins, dans le sein même du Taurus, se succédant de l' est à l' ouest, se rapprochent le plus de l' Europe. In B. ii. c. v. § 31, Strabo assigns Colchis to the third portion, but in this book to the first.

18 The Kizil Ermak.

19 B. i. c. iii. § 2.

20 A district of wide extent in Central Asia, comprehending nearly the whole of ancient Persia; and bounded on the N. by the provinces of Bactriana, Margiana, and Hyrcania; on the E. by the Indus; on the S. by the Indian Ocean and the eastern portion of the Persian Gulf; and on the W. by Media and the mountains S. of the Caspian Sea. Its exact limits are laid down with little accuracy in ancient authors, and it seems to have been often confounded (as in Pliny, b. vi. c. 23, 25) with the small province of Aria. It comprehended the provinces of Gedrosia, Drangiana, Arachosia, Paropamisus mountains, Aria, Parthia, and Carmania. Smith, art. Ariana. See b. xv. c. ii. § 7, 8.

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