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HERCY´NIA SILVA (Hercynius Saltus, Liv. 5.34; Hercynium jugum, Plin. Nat. 4.28; Ἑρκυνία ὕλη, Ἑρκύνιον ὄρος, Ἑρκύνιος δρυμός, τὰ Ἑρκύνια), a range of mountains in Germany, the extent and situation of which are described very differently by the writers of different ages. Some of the earlier authors place the Hercynian forest-near the Pyrenees (Schol. ad Dionys. Perieg. 286), while others assign to it a place near the northern ocean (Diod. 5.21; Eustath. ad Dion. Perieg. 285; Senec. Med. 712) or in the country of the Celts (Schol. ad Apollon. Rhod. 4.640). The earliest mention of it occurs in Aristotle (Meteor. 1.13: Ἀρκύνια ὄρη), who speaks of it generally as a range of mountains in the north of Europe; but the first author that affords any more detailed information is Julius Caesar (Caes. Gal. 6.24, 25), according to whom its breadth was nine days' journey and its length sixty. It commenced on the frontiers of the Helvetii, Nemetes, and Ranraci, and extending in an eastern direction parallel to the Danube reached the country of the Daci and Anartes; it then turned northward, traversing the countries of many nations. He therefore makes the mountains commence on the east bank of the Rhine, and leaves its eastern termination undefined. On the whole, Pomponius Mela (3.3) and Strabo (iv. p.292) agree with this description, according to which the Hercynia Silva would be a general name for almost all the mountains of Southern and Central Germany, that is, from the sources of the Danube to Transylvania, comprising the Schwarzwald, Odenwald, Spessart, Rhön, Thüringer Wald, the Harz mountain (which seems to have retained a trace of the ancient name), Rauhe Alp, Steigerwald, and the Fichtel-, Erz-, and Riesengebirge. At a later period, when the mountains of Germany had become better known to the Romans, the name Hercynia Silva was applied to the more limited range of mountains extending around Bohemia, and extending through Moravia into Hungary. (Tac. Germ. 28, 30; Plin. Nat. 4.25, 28.) Ptolemy (2.11.7) applies the name only to the range connecting the Sudetes with the Carpathian mountains. Caesar (Caes. Gal. 6.26, foll.) gives a full account of some of the more interesting animals that were found in those extensive forests. At the time when they became better known, the separate parts of the mountain chain were designated by separate names, as Abnoba, Rauraci Montes, Alpii Montes, Bacenis Silva, Melibocus, Sudeti Montes, Gabreta Silva, Asciburgius Mons, and Sarmatici Montes. The name Hercynia, which some regard as a name of Celtic origin, is probably connected with the old German Hart, Hard, and Harz, signifying a woody mountain.


hide References (8 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (8):
    • Caesar, Gallic War, 6.25
    • Caesar, Gallic War, 6.24
    • Caesar, Gallic War, 6.26
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 4.25
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 4.28
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 5, 34
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 5.21
    • Claudius Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos, 2.11
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