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 The Lake Sirbonis1 is of great extent. Some say that it is 1000 stadia in circumference. It stretches along the coast, to the distance of a little more than 200 stadia. It is deep, and the water is exceedingly heavy, so that no person can dive into it; if any one wades into it up to the waist, and attempts to move forward, he is immediately lifted out of the water2 It abounds with asphaltus, which rises, not however at any regular seasons, in bubbles, like boiling water, from the middle of the deepest part. The surface is convex, and presents the appearance of a hillock. Together with the asphaltus, there ascends a great quantity of sooty vapour, not perceptible to the eye, which tarnishes copper, silver, and everything bright—even gold. The neighbouring people know by the tarnishing of their vessels that the asphaltus is beginning to rise, and they prepare to collect it by means of rafts composed of reeds. The asphaltus is a clod of earth, liquefied by heat; the air forces it to the surface, where it spreads itself. It is again changed into so firm and solid a mass by cold water, such as the water of the lake, that it requires cutting or chopping (for use). It floats upon the water, which, as I have described, does not admit of diving or immersion, but lifts up the person who goes into it. Those who go on rafts for the asphaltus cut it in pieces, and take away as much as they are able to carry.
1 Strabo here commits the singular error of confounding the Lake Asphaltites, or the Dead Sea, with the Lake Sirbonis. Letronne attempts to explain the origin of the error. According to Josephus, the Peræa, or that part of Judæa which is on the eastern side of the Jordan, between the lake of Tiberias and the Dead Sea, contained a district (the exact position of which is not well known, but which, according to Josephus, could not be far from the Lake Asphaltites) called Silbonitis. The resemblance of this name to Sirbonis probably misled our author.
2 Specific gravity 1ċ211, a degree of density scarcely to be met with in any other natural water. Marcet's Analysis. Philos. Trans. part ii. page 298. 1807.
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