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BORY´STHENES (Βορυσθένης), BORU´STHIENES (Inscr. ap. Gruter. pp. 297, 453), after-wards DANAPRIS (Δάναπρις: Dnieper, Dnyepr, or Dnepr), the chief river of Scythia, according to the early writers, or, according to the later nomenclature, of Sarmatia Europaea, and, next to the Ister (Danube), the largest of the rivers flowing into the Euxine, was known to the Greeks from a very early period, probably about the middle of the seventh century B.C. (Eudoc. p. 294; Tzetz. ad Hes. pp. 24, 25, Gaisf.; Hermann, Opusc. vol. ii. p. 300; Ukert, Geogr. &c. vol. iii. pt. ii. p. 17.) By means of the constant intercourse kept up with the Greek colonies on the north coast of the Euxine, and through the narratives of travellers, it was more familiar to the Greeks than even the Ister itself; and Aristotle reproaches the Athenians for spending whole days in the market place, listening to the wonderful stories of voyagers who had returned from the Phasis and the Borysthenes (ap. Ath. i. p. 6; comp. Ukert, pp. 36, 449). Herodotus, who had himself seen it, and who regarded it as the greatest and most valuable river of the earth (4.17, 18, 53) after the Nile, describes it as falling into the Pontus (Black Sea) in the middle of the coast of Scythia; and, as known as far up as the district called GERRHUS forty days' sail from its mouth (4.53: respecting the difficulty which some have found in the number, see Baehr's note; but it should be observed that, as the main object of Herodotus is not to describe how far it was navigable, but how far it was known, he might be supposed to use the word πλόος in a loose sense, only, in 100.71, he distinctly says that the river is navigable, προσπλωτός, as far as the Gerrhi). Above this its course was unknown; but below Gerrhus it flowed from N. to S. through a country which was supposed to be desert, as far as the agricultural Scythians, who dwelt along its lower course through a distance of ten (or eleven) days' sail from its mouth. [p. 1.421]Near the sea its waters mingled with those of the HYPANIS (Boug), that is, as the historian properly explains, the two rivers fell into a small lake (ἕλος), a term fairly applicable to the land-locked gulf still called. the Lake of Dnieprovskoi, just as the Sea of Azov also was called a lake. The headland between the two rivers was called the Promontory of Hippolaüs (Ἱππόλεω ἄκρη), and upon it stood the temple of the Mother of the Gods, and beyond the temple, on the banks of the Hypanis, the celebrated Greek colony of the Borystheneitae [OLBIA]. Though not to be compared with the Nile. for the benefits it conferred on the people living on its shores, Herodotus regarded the Borysthenes as surpassing, in these respects, all other rivers; for the pastures on its banks were most rich and beautiful, and the cultivated land most fertile; its fish were most abundant and excellent; it was most sweet to drink, and its stream was clear, while the neighbouring rivers were turbid; and at its mouth there were large salting-pits, and plenty of great fish for salting. (Comp. Scymn. Fr. 66, foll., ed. Hudson, 840, foll., ed. Meineke; Dio Chrysost. Or. xxxi. p. 75; Eustath. ad Dion. Perieg. 311; Plin. Nat. 9.15. s. 17.) The only tributary which Herodotus mentions is the PANTICAPES falling into the Borysthenes on its eastern side (4.54). He considered the Gerrhus as a branch thrown off by the Borysthenes (4.56; GERRHUS). The account of Herodotus is, as usual, closely followed by Mela (2.1.6).

As to the sources of the river, Herodotus declares that neither he nor any other Greek knew where they were; and that the Nile and the Borysthenes were the only rivers whose sources were unknown; and the sources were still unknown to Strabo (ii. p.107, vii. p. 289). Pliny says that it takes its rise among the Neuri (4.12. s. 26; comp. Solin. 15; Mart. Cap. vi.; Amm. Marc. 22.8.40). Ptolemy (3.5.16) assigns to the river two sources; the northern-most being SW. of M. Budinus, in 52° long. and 53° lat., by which he evidently means that which is still regarded as the source of the river, and which lies among the swamps of the Alansk hills N. of Smolensk: the other branch flows from the lake Amadocas, which he places in 53° 30′ long., and 50° 20′ lat. Some geographers suppose that this branch was the Beresina, which, being regarded by the Greeks as the principal stream, gave its name to the whole river, in the Hellenized form Βορυσθένης; but this view can hardly be reconciled with the relative positions as laid. down by Ptolemy, unless there be an error in the numbers.

The statement of Herodotus, that the river was navigable for 40 days' sail from its mouth, is repeated by Scymnus of Chios and other late writers (Scymn. Fr. 70, ed. Hudson, 843, ed. Meineke; Anon. Peripl. Pont. p. 8); but Strabo makes its navigable course only 600 stadia, or 60 geographical miles (vii. p. 306). The discrepancy may be partially removed by supposing the former statement to refer to the whole navigation of the river, which extends from Smolensk to the mouth, with an interruption caused by a series of thirteen cataracts near Kidack, below Kieff. and the latter to the uninterrupted navigation below these cataracts; but still the difficulty remains, that the space last mentioned is 260 miles long; nor does it seem likely that Herodotus was acquainted with the river above the cataracts.

The mouth of the river is placed by Strabo at the N, extremity of the Euxine, on the same meridian with Byzantium, at a distance of 3800 stadia from that city, and 5000 stadia from the Hellespont: opposite to the mouth is an island with a harbour (Strab. i. p.63, ii. pp. 71, 107, 125, 7.289, 306). Pliny gives 120 M. P. as the distance between its mouth and that of the Tyras (Dniester), and mentions the lake into which it falls (4.12. s. 26; see above). Ptolemy places its mouths, in the plural, in 57° 30′ long. and 48° 30′ lat. (3.5.6). He also gives a list of the towns on its banks ( § 28). Dionysius Periegetes (311) states that the river falls into the Euxine in front of the promontory of Criu-Metopon, and (542) that the island of Leuce lay opposite to its mouth. [LEUCE]

In addition to the statements of Herodotus respecting the virtues of the river, the later writers tell us that its banks were well wooded (Dio Chrysost. l.c.; Amm. Marc. l.c.); and that it was remarkable for the blue colour which it assumed in the summer, and for the lightness of its water, which floated on the top of the water of the Hypanis, except when the wind was S., and then the Hypanis was uppermost. (Ath. ii. p. 42; Aristot. Probl. 23.9; Plin. Nat. 31.5. s. 31.)

The later writers call it by the name of Danapris, and sometimes confound it with the Ister (Anon. Per. Pont. Eux. pp. 148, 150, 151, 166; Gronov. pp. 7, 8, 9, 16, Hudson): indeed they make a confusion among all the rivers from the Danube to the Tanaïs, which proves that their knowledge of the N. shore of the Euxine was inferior to that possessed in the classical period. (Ukert, Geogr. vol. iii. p. 191.) A few minor particulars may be found in the following writers (Marcian. Herac. p. 55; Priscian. Perieg. 304, 558; Avien. Descript. Orb. 721). Respecting the town of the same name, and the people Borystheneitae, see OLBIA


hide References (4 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (4):
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 31.5
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 9.15
    • Ammianus Marcellinus, Rerum Gestarum, 22.8.40
    • Claudius Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos, 3.5
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