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RHIPAEI MONTES (τὰ Ῥιπαῖα ὄρη), a name applied by Grecian fancy to a mountain chain whose peaks rose to the N. of the known world. It is probably connected with the word π̔ιπαί, or the chill rushing blasts of Βορέας, the mountain wind or “tramontana” of the Greek Archipelago, which was conceived to issue from the caverns of this mountain range. Hence arose the notion of the happiness of those living beyond these mountains--the only place exempt from the northern blasts. In fact they appear in this form of Ῥιπαί, in Alcman (Fragm. p. 80, ed. Welcker), a lyric poet of the 7th century B.C., who is the first to mention them. The contemporary writers Damastes of Sigeum (ap. Steph. B. sub voce Ὑπερβόρεοι) and Hellanicus of Lesbos (ap. Clem. Alex. Strom. i. p. 305) agree in their statements in placing beyond the fabled tribes of the N. the Rhipaean mountains from which the north wind blows, and on the other side of these, on the sea-coast, the Hyperboreans. The legends connected with this imagined range of mountains lingered for a long period in Grecian literature, as may be seen from the statements of Hecataeus of Abdera (ap. Aelian. H. A. 11.1) and Aristotle (Aristot. Met. 1.13; comp. Soph. Oed. Col. 1248; Schol. ad loc.; Strab. vii. pp. 295, 299.) Herodotus knows nothing of the Rhipaean mountains or the Alps, though the positive geography of the N. begins with him. It would be an idle inquiry to identify the Rhipaean range with any actual chain. As the knowledge of the Greeks advanced, the geographical “mythus” was moved further and further to the N. till it reached the 48th degree of latitude N. of the Maeotic lake and the Caspian, between the Don, the Volga, and the Jaik, where Europe and Asia melt as it were into each other in wide plains or steppes. These “mountains of the winds” followed in the train of the meteorological “mythus” of the Hyperboreans which wandered with Heracles far to the W. Geographical discovery embodied the picture which the imagination had formed. Poseidonius (ap. Athen. 6.223d.) seems to have considered this range to be the Alps. The Roman poets, borrowing from the Greeks, made the Rhipaean chain the extreme limit to the N. (Verg. G. 1.240; Propert. 1.6. 3; Sil. It. 11.459); and Lucan (3.273) places the sources of the Tanais in this chain. (Comp. Mela, 1.19.18; Plin. Nat. 4.24; Amm. Marc. 22.8.38; Procop. B. G. 4.6; Sid. Apoll. 2.343; Jornand. Get. 16; Oros. 1.2.) In the earlier writers the form is Ripaei, but with Pliny and those who followed him the p becomes aspirated. In the geography of Ptolemy (3.5. § § 15, 19) and Marcian (Peripl. § 39, ed. Didot) the Rhipaean chain appears to be that gently rising ground which divides the rivers which flow into the Baltic from those which run to the Euxine.


hide References (6 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (6):
    • Vergil, Georgics, 1.240
    • Lucan, Civil War, 3.273
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 4.24
    • Ammianus Marcellinus, Rerum Gestarum, 22.8.38
    • Claudius Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos, 3.5
    • Athenaeus, of Naucratis, Deipnosophistae, 6
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