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CALPE (Κάλπη: Κάλπις, Philostr. Vit. Apoll. 5.1; Gibraltar), the ancient name of the precipitous rock, at the S. extremity of the Spanish coast, and at the E. end of the Fretum Gaditanum (Straits of Gibraltar), which formed the northern of the two hills called by the ancients the Pillars of Hercules; the southern pillar, on the African coast, being Abyla. [ABYLA, HERCULIS COLUMNAE]. Calpe is described by Strabo (iii. p.139) as a mountain at the point where the Inner Sea joins the Outer, on the right hand of those sailing outwards, belonging to the Iberians called Bastetani or Bastuli, not large in circuit, but lofty and precipitous, so that from a distance it appears like an island (an appearance due also to the flatness of the isthmus which unites it to the mainland). He places it at distances of 750 or 800 stadia from Gadeira (Cadiz) on the W., and from Malaca (Malaya) on the E., and 2200 stadia from Carthago Nova (iii. pp. 156, 168, comp. i. p. 51, ii. p. 108, iii. pp. 148, 170; Philostr. l.c.; Marcian. Heracl. p. 37; Ptol. 2.4.6). Mela (1.5.3, 2.6.8) adds that it was hollowed out into a great concavity on the W. side, so as to be almost pierced through; but whether this description refers to the general form of the rock, or to the numerous caves which exist in it, is not clear from Mela's words. Pliny mentions it as the outmost mountain of Spain, and the W. headland of that great gulf of the Mediterranean, of which the S. point of Italy forms the E. headland (3.1. s. 1, 3).

The name has been a fertile subject of conjecture. According to the practice of finding a significant Greek word in the most foreign names, some derived it from κάλπη, an urn, to which the form of the rock was fancied to bear some resemblance (Schol. ad Juv. Sat. 14.279; Avien. Or. Mar. 348, 349). More worthy of notice, though evidently confused, are the statements of Eustathius (ad Dion. Perieg. 64) and Avienus (l.c. 344--347). The former says that, of the two pillars of Hercules, that in Europe was called Calpe in the barbarian tongue, but Alybe (Ἀλύβη) by the Greeks; and that in Libya Abenna by the barbarians (comp. Philostr. l.c.) and Cynegetice (Κυνηγετυική) in Greek, or, as he says lower down Abyle or Abylyx (Ἀβύλην Ἀβύλυκα). Avienus, confining the name Abila to the rock on the African shore, interprets the word to mean in Punic, a lofty mountain. Probably the words Abila, Abyla, Alyba, Calpe, were originally identical; the chief difference of form being in the presence or absence of the guttural; and it seems most likely that the root is Phoenician, though some would make it Iberian, and connect it with the well-known Celtic root Alp. (Salmas. ad Solin. p. 203; Tzsch. ad Mel. 2.6.8; Wernsdorf, ad Avien. l.c.). Whatever may be the origin of the name of Calpe, it is probably the same word which we find used in reference to the S. of Spain in the various forms, Carp-e, Cart-eia, Tart-essus, as will appear under CARTEIA, where also will be found a discussion of Strabo's important statement respecting a city of the name of Calpe.

The rock is too proudly familiar to English readers to need much description. It is composed of grey limestone and marble; its length from N. to S. is about 3 miles; its circumference about 7; and its highest point about 1500 feet above the sea. It divides the Mediterranean from the Bay of Gibraltar or Algesiras, which opens up from the Straits, having 5 miles for its greatest width, and 8 for its greatest depth. At the head of this bay was the ancient city of CARTEIA.

The modern name is a corruption of Jebel-Tarik, i. e. the hill of Tarik, a name derived from the Moorish conqueror who landed here, April 30, 711. (Ford, Handbook of Spain, p. 107; Carter, Journey from Gibraltar to Malaya; Col. James, Hist. of the Herculean Straits.)


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    • Claudius Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos, 2.4
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