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RHO´DANUS (Ῥοδανός: Rhône). The Rhone rises in Switzerland, in a glacier west of the pass of St. Gothard and south of the Gallenstock, a mountain above 12,000 feet high. It has a general course, first SW., then W. by S. as far as Martigny, the Octodurus of Caesar (Caes. Gal. 3.1). The course from Martigny to the Lake of Geneva forms nearly a right angle with the course of the river above Martigny. The length of the valley through which the Rhone flows to the Lake of Geneva is above 90 miles. This long valley called Wallis, or the Vallais, is bounded by the highest Alpine ranges: on the north by the Bernese Alps, which contain the largest continuous mass of snow and ice in the Swiss mountains, and on the south by the Lepontian and Pennine Alps. The Lake of Geneva, the Lacus Lemannus of the Romans [LEMANUS], which receives the Rhone at its eastern extremity, is more than 1200 feet above the surface of the Mediterranean.

The Lake of Geneva lies in the form of a crescent between Switzerland and Savoy. The convex part of the crescent which forms the north side is above 50 miles in length; the concave or southern side is less than 50 miles in length. The widest part, which is about the middle, is 8 or 9 miles. The greatest depth, which is near some high cliffs on the south coast, is stated variously by different authorities, some making it as much as 1000 feet. The Rhone enters the lake at the east end a muddy stream, and the water flows out clear at the western extremity past Geneva, an ancient city of the Allobroges. [GENEVA]

Below Geneva the Rhone runs in a rapid course and in a SW. direction past Fort l'Ecluse. Fort l'Ecluse is at the point described by Caesar (Caes. Gal. 1.9) where the Jura overhangs the course of the Rhone. [HELVETII] The river then runs south past Seyssel, and making a bend turns north again, and flowing in an irregular western course to Lyon (Lugdunum) is joined there by the Saône, the ancient Arar [ARAR; LUGDUNUM]. The length of the course of the Rhone from the Lahe of Geneva to Lyon is about 130 miles. The Saône, as Caesar says, is a slow river, but the current is seen very plainly under the bridges in Lyon. The Rhone is a rapid stream, and violent when it is swelled by the rains and the waters from the Alpine regions.

From Lyon the Rhone flows in a general southern course. The direct distance is about 150 miles from Lyon to Arles (Arelate) where the river divides into two large branches which include the isle of Carmague. The whole course of the Rhone from the ice-fields of Switzerland to the low shores of the Mediterranean is above 500 miles.

The valley of the Rhone below Lyon is narrow on the west bank as far as the junction of the Ardèche, and it is bounded by high, bare, and rocky heights. Some of the hill slopes are planted with vines. All the rivers which flow into the Rhone from the highlands on the west are small: they are the Ardèche, Cèze, Gardon (Vardo), and some smaller streams. The left bank of the Rhone from [p. 2.712]Lyon downwards is generally flat, but there are several parts where the rocks rise right above the water, and in these places the railway from Lyon to Marseille is cut in the rocks close to the river. At St. Andeol, a small town on the west bank above the Ardèche, the plain country begins on the west side of the Rhone. On the east side the hills are seen in the distance. From one of the middle-age towers built on the amphitheatre of Aries, there is a view of the great plain which lies all round that city to the north, west, and east, and stretches southward to the coast of the Mediterranean. The two large affluents of the Rhone on the east side are the Isère (Isara) and the Duransce (Druentia).

The Rhone was earlier known to the Greeks and Romans than any other of the large rivers of Western Europe. The oldest notices of this river must have come from the Phocaeans and the Greeks of Massilia. What Avienus has collected from some source (Or. Marit. 623--690) is unintelligible. Pliny (3.4) very absurdly derives the name Rhodanus from a town which he names Rhoda; but the name Rhodanus is older than any city, and, like the names of other European rivers, it is one of the oldest memorials that we have of the languages of the West. Polybius (3.47) supposed that the Rhone rose further east than it does, but he knew that it flowed down a long valley (αὐλών) to the west, though he does not mention the Lake of Geneva. Ptolemy (2.10), the latest of the classical geographers, had no exact notion of the sources of the Rhone, though the Romans long before his time must have known where to look for them. He makes the sources of the Arar come from the Alps, by which the Jura is meant, and in this statement and what he says of the course of the Arar and Dubis he may have followed Strabo (iv. p.186), as it has been supposed. The blunders about the sources of this river are singular. Mela (3.3) mentions the Danubius and Rhodanus among the rivers of Germany; and in another passage he says that it rises not far from the sources of the Ister and the Rhenus (2.5).

There is much difference in the statements about the number of the mouths of the Rhone. Timaeus, quoted by Strabo (p. 183), says that there were five outlets, for which Polybius reproves Timaeus, and says there were only two. Polybius (3.41) names the eastern branch the Massaliotic. Artemidorus, as cited by Strabo, made five mouths. Strabo does not state how many he supposed that there were. He says that above the mouths of the Rhone, not far from the sea, is a lake called Stomalimne, which some make one of the outlets of the Rhone, and those particularly do who enumerate seven outlets of the river. But he shows that this was a mistaken opinion. Caesar built ships at Arelate when he was going to besiege Massilia, and he brought them down the river to that city, and by the eastern branch, as we may assume.

The Rhone was navigated by the people on its banks at the time when Hannibal with his army came to cross it, and much earlier. Polybius is the earliest extant writer who has given us any precise information about this river. Hannibal (B.C. 218) crossed it at a point above the division of the stream, and of course higher than Aries, for we assume that the bifurcation was not higher than that city in his time, if it ever was. (Plb. 3.43.) He probably crossed the river at Beaucaire and below :the junction of the Gardon. He then marched :northwards on the east side of the river to the Insula. [INSULA ALLOBROGUM.] Much has been written on this passage of Polybius and on Livy (xxi.), who also describes the same passage. (The March of Hannibal from the Rhone to the Alps, by H. L. Long, Esq., 1831; Ukert, Gallien, p. 561, &c.; and the modern writers quoted by each.)

Pliny (3.4) enumerates three mouths of the Rhone. He calls the two smaller “Libyca” (if the reading is right): one of these is the Hispaniense os, which we may assume to be the nearest to Spain; the other is Metapinum, and the third and largest is the Massaliot. Some modern maps represent three mouths of the river. Ptolemy (2.10) mentions only a western and an eastern mouth, and he makes a mistake in placing the Fossae Marianae [FOSSAE MARIANAE] west of the western mouth. The channels of the Rhone below Arles may have been changed in some parts, even in historical periods, and the bed of the river above Aries has not always been where it is now. But there is no evidence for any great changes in the river's course since the time when Polybius wrote, though it is certain that the alluvium brought down the river must have enlarged the Delta of the Rhone.

The canal of Marius, which was on the east side of the eastern outlet of the Rhone, is described under FOSSA MARIANA; and the stony plain is described under LAPIDEI CAMPI


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