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Eth. CHA´LYBES (Χάλυβες, or Χάλυβοι, as Hecataeus named them). The Ten Thousand in their march westward from Cerasus [CERASUS] came to the country of the Mossynoeci, and passing through it they came to the country of the Chalybes: the Chalybes were few in number, and most of them got their living by making iron; they were subject to the Mossynoeci (Xen. Anab. 5.5. 1). After passing through the Chalybes, the Greeks came to the Tibareni, whose country was much more level; from which expression we may conclude that the country east of the Tibareni was more mountainous. The Greeks were two days in marching through the country of the Tibareni to Cotyora (Ordou?). The position of these Chalybes is thus fixed within certain limits. Festus Avienus (Descript. Orb. 5.956) places the Tibareni and Chalybes together; Strabo (p. 549) places the Chaldaei, who, he says, were originally called Chalybes, in that part of the country which lies above Pharnacia (Kerasunt), and thus their position is exactly fixed: Plutarch (Plut. Luc. 100.14) also calls them Chaldaei, and mentions them with the Tibareni. The tract along the coast, says Strabo, is narrow, and backed by mountains, which were full of iron ore, and covered with forests. The men on the coast were fishers; and those in the interior were chiefly iron makers: they had once silver mines.

The miners on this coast were known from the earliest recorded times; and Strabo conjectures that the Alybe of Homer (Hom. Il. 2.865) may be the country of these Chalybes, whence silver came. As the Greeks called iron or steel χάλυψ, it is possible that they got both the thing and the name from these rude miners. They were the workers of iron (σιδηροτέκτονες) whom the early Greek poets mention (Aesch. Prom. 717). Apollonius (Apollon. 2.1002) has embellished his poem with a description of these rough workmen “who endure heavy toil in the midst of black soot and smoke.” (Comp. Verg. G. 1.58.) The Chalybes of Herodotus (1.28) are enumerated by him between the Mariandyni and Paphlagones, from which we may perhaps conclude that he sup. posed, though incorrectly, that this was their geographical position; for he includes them in the empire of Croesus, which did not extend further than the Halys. Stephanus (s. v. Χάλυβες) places the Chalybes on the Thermodon, a position considerably west of that assigned to them by Strabo, whom however Stephanus follows in supposing that they may be represented by the Alybe of Homer. An authority for their position may have been Eudoxus, whom he cites.

Hamilton (Researches, &c. vol. i. p.275) visited in the neighbourhood of Unieh (Oenoe) some people who made iron. They find the ore on the hills in small nodular masses in a dark yellow clay which overlies a limestone rock. These people also burn charcoal for their own use. When they have exhausted one spot, they move to another. “All the iron is sent to Constantinople, where it is bought up by the government, and in great demand” (Hamilton). Though these people do not occupy the position of the Chalybes of Xenophon or of Strabo, they live the same laborious life as the Chalybes of antiquity; and these mountainous tracts have probably had their rude forges and smoky workmen for more than twenty-five centuries without interruption.

Before the Ten Thousand reached the Euxine they fell in with a people whom Xenophon (Xen. Anab. 4.7.15) calls Chalybes, the most warlike people that the Greeks encountered in their retreat. They had linen corslets, and were well armed. At their belt they carried a knife, with which they killed the enemies that they caught, and then cut off their heads. The Greeks came to a river Harpasus after marching through the territory of the Chalybes, who were separated from the Scythini by this river. The Harpasus is the Arpa Chai, the chief branch of the Araxes. Pliny (6.4), who was acquainted with the Chalybes of the Pontus, mentions also (6.10) the Armenochalybes, who seem to be the warlike Chalybes of Xenophon. The iron workers and the fighters may have been the same nation, but we have no evidence of this except the sameness of name.


hide References (7 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (7):
    • Herodotus, Histories, 1.28
    • Xenophon, Anabasis, 4.7.15
    • Xenophon, Anabasis, 5.5.1
    • Homer, Iliad, 2.865
    • Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica, 2.1002
    • Vergil, Georgics, 1.58
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 6.4
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