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A description of Thrace, of the Pontic sea, and of the regions and peoples adjacent to the latter.
Now is a fitting time (I think), since the history of a great prince has opportunely brought us to these places, to give some account of the remote parts of Thrace, and of the topography of the Pontic sea, with clearness and accuracy, partly from my own observation and partly from reading. 1  Athos, 2 that lofty mountain in Macedonia through which the Medic ships once passed, 3 and Caphereus, the headland of Euboea 4 where Nauplius, [p. 215] Looking eastward. father of Palamedes, wrecked the Argive fleet, 5 although they face each other at a long distance apart, separate the Aegean and the Thessalian seas. 6 The Aegean gradually grows larger, and on the right, where it is of wide extent, is rich in islands through the Sporades and Cyclades, so-called because they are all grouped about Delos, famous as the cradle of the gods. 7 On the left, it washes Imbros and Tenedos, Lemnos and Thasos, and when the wind is strong, dashes violently upon Lesbos.  From there, with back-flowing current, 8 it laves the temple of Apollo Sminthius, 9 the Troad, and Ilium, famed for the death of heroes, and forms the bay of Melas, 10 facing the west wind, at the entrance of which is seen Abdera, the home of Protagoras and Democritus, and the bloodstained dwelling of the Thracian Diomedes, 11 and the vales through which the Hebrus 12 flows into it, and Maronea and Aenos, 13 a city which Aeneas began under unfavourable auspices, but presently abandoned it and hastened on to ancient Ausonia under the guidance of the gods.  After this, the Aegean gradually grows narrower and flows as if by a kind of natural union into the Pontus; and joining with a part of this it takes the [p. 217] form of the Greek letter φ. 14 Then it separates Hellespontus from the province of Rhodopa and flows past Cynossema, 15 where Hecuba is supposed to be buried, and Coela, Sestos and Callipolis.3 On the opposite side it washes the tombs of Achilles and Ajax, and Dardanus and Abydus, from which Xerxes built a bridge and crossed the sea on foot; then Lampsacus, which the Persian king gave to Themistocles as a gift, 16 and Parion, founded by Paris, the son of lasion.  Then swelling on both sides into the form of a half-circle and giving a view of widely separated lands, it laves with the spreading waters of the Propontis, 17 on the eastern side Cyzicus 18 and Dindyma, 19 where there is a sacred shrine of the Great Mother, 20 and Apamia and Cius, where Hylas was pursued and carried off by the nymph, 21 and Astacus, in a later age called after King Nicomedes. 22 Where it turns to the westward it beats upon the Cherronesus and Aegospotami, where Anaxagoras predicted a rain of stones from heaven, 23 and Lysimachia and the city which Hercules founded and dedicated to the name of his comrade Perinthus;  and in order to keep the form of the letter φ full and complete, in the [p. 219] very middle of the circle lies the oblong island of Proconesos, 24 and Besbicus. 25  After reaching the extreme end of this part, 26 it again contracts into a narrow strait, and flowing between Europe and Bithynia, passes by Chalcedon, Chrysopolis, 27 and some obscure stations.  Its left bank, however, is looked down upon by the port of Athyras and Selymbria, and Constantinople, the ancient Byzantium, a colony of the Athenians, 28 and the promontory Ceras, which bears a tower built high and giving light to ships 29 ; therefore a very cold wind which often blows from that quarter is called Ceratas.  After being broken in this fashion and coming to an end through the mingling of the two seas, it now grows quieter and spreads out into the form of a flat of water extending in width and length as far as the eye can reach. 30  The complete voyage around its shores, as one would encircle an island, is a distance of 23,000 31 stadia, as is asserted by Eratosthenes, Hecataeus, Ptolemy, and other very accurate investigators of such problems; and according to the testimony of all geographers it has the [p. 221] form of a drawn Scythian bow. 32  And where the sun rises from the eastern ocean it comes to an end in the marshes of the Maeotis 33 ; where it inclines towards the west it is bounded by Roman provinces; where it looks up to the Bears it breeds men of varying languages and habits; on the southern side it slopes downward 34 in a gentle curve.  Over this vast space are scattered cities of the Greeks, all of which, with a few exceptions, were founded at varying periods by the Milesians, who were themselves colonists of the Athenians. The Milesians in much earlier times were established among other Ionians in Asia by Nileus, the son of that Codrus who (they say) sacrificed himself for his country in the Dorian war. 35  Now the tips of the bow on both sides are represented by the two Bospori lying opposite to each other, the Thracian 36 and the Cimmerian; and they are called Bospori, as the poets say, because the daughter of Inachus, 37 when she was changed into a heifer, once crossed through them to the Ionian sea.  The right-hand curve of the Thracian Bosporus begins with the shore of Bithynia, which the men [p. 223] of old called Mygdonia, containing the provinces of Thynia and Mariandena, and also the Bebrycians, who were delivered from the cruelty of Amycus through the valour of Pollux; 38 and a remote station, a place where the menacing harpies fluttered about the seer Phineus and filled him with fear. 39 Along these shores, which curve into extensive bays, the rivers Sangarius and Phyllis, Lycus and Rheba pour into the sea; opposite them are the dark Symplegades, twin rocks rising on all sides into precipitous cliffs, which were wont in ages past to rush together and dash their huge mass upon each other with awful crash, and then to recoil with a swift spring and return to what they had struck. 40 If even a bird should fly between these swiftly separating and clashing rocks, no speed of wing could save it from being crushed to death.  But these cliffs, ever since the Argo, first of all ships, hastening to Colchis to carry off the golden fleece, had passed between them unharmed, have stood motionless with their force assuaged and so united that no one of those who now look upon them would believe that they had ever been separated, were it not that all the songs of the poets of old agree about the story. 41  Beyond one part of Bithynia extend the provinces of Pontus and Paphlagonia, in which are the great cities of Heraclea, Sinope, Polemonion and Amisos, as well as Ties and Amastris, all owing their origin to the activity of the Greeks; also Cerasus, [p. 225] from which Lucullus brought the fruits so-named. 42 There are also two islands, on which are situated the celebrated cities of Trapezus and Pityus.  Beyond these places is the Acherusian cave, which the natives call Mychopontion, 43 and the port of Acone, 44 besides the rivers Acheron (also called the Arcadius), Iris, Thybris, and hard by, the Parthenius, all of which flow with swift course into the sea. The next river to these is the Thermodon, flowing from Mount Armonius and gliding through the Themiscyraean groves, to which the Amazons were forced to migrate in days of yore for the following reason.  The Amazons of old, after having by constant losses worn out their neighbours, and devastated them by bloody raids, had higher aspirations; and considering their strength and feeling that it was too great merely for frequent attacks upon their neighbours, being carried away besides by the headstrong heat of covetousness, they broke through many nations and made war upon the Athenians. 45 But after a bitter contest they were scattered in all directions, and since the flanks of their cavalry were left unprotected, they all perished.  Upon the news of their destruction the remainder, who had been left at home as unfit for war, suffered extreme hardship; and in order to avoid the deadly attacks of their neighbours, who paid them like for like, they moved to a quieter abode on the Thermodon. Thereafter their descendants, who had greatly increased, returned, thanks to their numerous offspring, with a [p. 227] very powerful force, and in later times were a cause of terror to peoples of divers nationalities. 46  Not far from there the hill called Carambis lifts itself with gentle slope, rising towards the Great Bear of the north, and opposite this, at a distance of 2500 stadia, is Criumetopon, 47 a promontory of Taurica. From this point the whole seacoast, beginning at the river Halys, as if drawn in a straight line, has the form of the string joined to the two tips of the bow.  Bordering on these regions are the Dahae, the fiercest of all warriors, and the Chalybes, by whom iron was first mined and worked. Beyond these are open plains, inhabited by the Byzares, Sapires, Tibareni, Mossynoeci, Macrones and Philyres, peoples not known to us through any intercourse.  A short distance from these are the tombs of famous men, in which are buried Sthenelus, 48 Idmon, 49 and Tiphys; 50 the first of these was a companion of Hercules, mortally wounded in the war with the Amazons, the second the augur of the Argonauts, the third the careful steersman of that same craft.  After passing the places mentioned, one comes to the grotto of Aulion and the river Callichorus, 51 which owes its name to the fact that Bacchus, when he had after three years vanquished the peoples of India, returned to those regions, and on the green and shady banks of that river renewed the former orgies and dances; 52 some think that this kind of festival was also called trieterica. 53  Beyond these [p. 229] territories are the populous districts of the Camaritae, 54 and the Phasis in impetuous course borders on the Colchians, an ancient race of Egyptian origin. There, 55 among other cities, is Phasis, which gets its name from the river, and Dioscurias, well known even to this day, said to have been founded by Amphitus and Cercius of Sparta, the charioteers of Castor and Pollux, and founders of the nation of the Heniochi. 56  A short distance from these are the Achaei, who, after the end of an earlier war at Troy (not the one which was fought about Helen, as some writers have asserted), being carried out of their course by contrary winds to Pontus, and meeting enemies everywhere, were unable to find a place for a permanent home; and so they settled on the tops of mountains covered with perpetual snow, where, compelled by the rigorous climate, they became accustomed to make a dangerous living by robbery, and hence became later beyond all measure savage. About the Cercetae, who adjoin them, we have no information worth mentioning.  Behind these dwell the inhabitants of the Cimmercian Bosporus, where Milesian cities are, and Panticapaeum, the mother, so to speak, of all; this the river Hypanis washes, swollen with its own and tributary waters.  Next, at a considerable distance, are the Amazons, who extend to the Caspian Sea and live about the Tanaïs, 57 which rises among the crags of Caucasus, flows in a course [p. 231] with many windings, and after separating Europe from Asia vanishes in the standing pools of the Maeotis.  Near this is the river Ra, 58 on whose banks grows a plant of the same name, the root of which is used for many medicinal purposes. 59  Beyond the Tanais the Sauromatae have a territory of wide extent, through which flow the never - failing rivers Maraccus, Rombites, Theophanes and Totordanes. However, there is also another nation of the Sauromatae, an enormous distance away, extending along the shore which receives the river Corax and pours it far out into the Euxine Sea.  Nearby is the Maeotic Gulf 60 of wide circuit, from whose abundant springs a great body of water bursts through the narrows of Panticapes into the Pontus. On its right side are the islands Phanagorus and Hermonassa, founded by the industry of the Greeks.  Around these farthest and most distant marshes live numerous nations, differing in the variety of their languages and customs: the Ixomatae, Maeotae, Iazyges, Roxolani, Halani, Melanchlaenae, and with the Geloni, the Agathyrsi, in whose country an abundance of the stone called adamant 61 is found; and farther beyond are other peoples, who are wholly unknown, since they are the remotest of all men.  But near the left side of the Maeotis is the Cherronesus, 62 full of Greek colonies. Hence the inhabitants are quiet and [p. 233] peaceful, plying the plough and living on the products of the soil.  At no great distance from these are the Tauri, divided into various kingdoms, among whom the Arichi, the Sinchi, and the Napaei are terrible for their ruthless cruelty, and since long continued license has increased their savageness, they have given the sea the name of Inhospitable; but in irony 63 it is called by the contrary name of Pontus εὔξεινος, 64 just as we Greeks call a fool εὐήθης, and night εὐφρόνη, and the Furies εὐμενίδες. 65  For these peoples offer human victims to the gods and sacrifice strangers to Diana, whom they call Orsiloche, and affix the skulls of the slain to the walls of her temple, as a lasting memorial of their valorous deeds. 66  In this Tauric country is the island of Leuce, 67 entirely uninhabited and dedicated to Achilles. And if any happen to be carried to that island, after looking at the ancient remains, the temple, and the gifts consecrated to that hero, they return at evening to their ships; for it is said that no one can pass the night there except at the risk of his life. At that place there are also springs and white birds live there resembling halcyons, of whose origin and battles in the Hellespont I shall speak 68 at the appropriate [p. 235] time.  Now there are some cities in the Taurica, conspicuous among which are Eupatoria, Dandace, and Theodosia, with other smaller towns, which are not contaminated with human sacrifices.  So far the peak of the bow is thought to extend; the remainder of it, gently curved and lying under the Bear in the heavens, we shall now follow as far as the left side of the Thracian Bosporus, as the order demands, with this warning; that while the bows of all other races are bent with the staves curved, in those of the Scythians alone, or the Parthians, since a straight rounded 69 handle divides them in the middle, the ends are bent downwards on both sides and far apart, 70 presenting the form of a waning moon. 71  Well then, at the very beginning of this district, where the Riphaean mountains sink to the plain, dwell the Aremphaei, just men and known for their gentleness, through whose country flow the rivers Chronius and Visula. Near them are the Massagetae, Halani, and Sargetae, as well as several other obscure peoples whose names and customs are unknown to us.  Then at a considerable distance the Carcinitian gulf opens up, with a river of the same name, and the grove of Trivia, 72 sacred in those regions.  Next the Borysthenes, 73 rising in the mountains of the Nervii, rich in waters from its own springs, which are increased by many tributaries, and mingle with the sea in high-rolling [p. 237] waves. On its well-wooded banks are the cities of Borysthenes and Cephalonesus and the altars consecrated to Alexander the Great and Augustus Caesar.  Then, a long distance away, is a peninsula inhabited by the Sindi, people of low birth, who after the disaster to their masters in Asia 74 got possession of their wives and property. Next to these is a narrow strip of shore which the natives call ᾿αχιλλέως δρόμος, memorable in times past for the exercises of the Thessalian leader. 75 And next to it is the city Tyros, a colony of the Phoenicians, washed by the river Tyras. 76  Now in the middle space of the bow, which, as I have said, is widely rounded out and is fifteen days' journey for an active traveller, are the European Halani, the Costobocae, and innumerable Scythian tribes, which extend to lands which have no known limit. Of these, only a small part live on the fruits of the earth; all the rest roam over desert wastes, which never knew plough nor seeds, but are rough from neglect and subject to frosts; and they feed after the foul manner of wild beasts. Their dear ones, their dwellings, and their poor belongings they pack upon wains covered with the bark of trees, and when the fancy takes them they change their abode without trouble, wheeling their carts to the place which has attracted them.  But when we have come to another bend, abounding in harbours, which forms the last part of the curve of the bow, the island of Peuce juts forth, 77 and around this dwell the Trogodytae, the Peuci, and other lesser tribes. Here is Histros, once a [p. 239] powerful city, and Tomi, Apollonia, Anchialos, and Odessos, besides many other cities which lie along the Thracian coast.  But the river Danube, rising near Augst, 78 and the mountains near the Raetian frontier, extends over a wide tract, and after receiving sixty tributaries, nearly all of which are navigable, breaks through this Scythian shore into the sea through seven mouths. 79  The first of these, as their names are interpreted in the Greek tongue, is the aforesaid island of Peuce, 80 the second Naracustoma, the third Calonstoma, the fourth Pseudostoma; but the Borionstoma and Stenostoma are far smaller than the others; the seventh is muddy and black like a swamp.  Now the entire Pontus throughout its whole circuit is misty, 81 has sweeter 82 waters than the other seas, 83 and is full of shoals, since the air is often thickened and condensed from the evaporation of moisture, and is tempered by the great masses of water that flow into it; and, because the many rivers that pour into it from every side bring in mud and clods, it rises in shoals that are full of ridges.  And it is a well-known fact that fish from the remotest bounds of our sea 84 come in schools to this [p. 241] retreat for the purpose of spawning, in order that they may rear their young more healthfully in its sweet waters, and that in the refuge of the hollows, such as are very numerous there, they may be secure from voracious sea-beasts; for in the Pontus nothing of that kind has ever been seen, 85 except small and harmless dolphins.  But the part of that same Pontic gulf which is scourged by the north wind and by frosts is so completely bound in ice, that neither are the courses of the rivers believed to flow beneath the ice, nor can men or animals keep their footing on the treacherous and slippery surface, a defect which an unmixed sea never has, but only one which is mingled with water from rivers. But since I have been carried somewhat farther than I expected, let us hasten on to the rest of our story.  Another thing was added, 86 to crown the present joys, something long hoped for it is true, but delayed by an extensive complex of postponements. For it was announced by Agilo and Jovius, who was later quaestor, that the defenders of Aquileia, 87 through weariness of the long siege and having learned of the death of Constantius, had opened their gates, come out, and surrendered the instigators of the revolt; that these were burned alive (as was told above), 88 and all the rest obtained indulgence and pardon for their offences.
1 Ammianus' account is confused and in places inaccurate.
3 Under Xerxes; see Hdt. vii. 122.
4 Its mediæval name was Negroponte and the headland's Cappo d'Oro.
5 In order to avenge the death of his son, Nauplius kindled a beacon-fire on the cliff, which misled the Greek fleet and caused its almost utter destruction.
6 This is not accurate, but makes the Aegean too small and the Thessalian sea, more commonly called Mare Thracicum, too large; see Strabo, Mela, and Pliny.
7 Apollo and Diana.
8 Cf. Hor., Odes, i. 2, 13, retortis violenter undis.
10 The Bay of Saros, west of the Thracian Chersonese and the Hellespont.
11 According to the myth, he fed his horses on human flesh, and was slain by Hercules.
12 To-day the Maritza.
13 Modern Marogna. The identification of this town with the city founded by Aeneas in Thrace is doubtful, since Homer says that auxiliaries came from there to Ilium, and Apollodorus represents Heracles as landing there on his return from Troy; see Heyne, Excursus to Aen. iii. p. 416; and xxviii. 4, 13, below.
16 See Nepos, Them. 10, 3.
17 The Sea of Marmora.
18 On the southern side of the Propontis.
19 Named from Mt. Dindymus, in Phrygia, near Pessinus. There is another Mt. Dindymus, five miles north of Cyzicus, and, apparently, a town or village called Dindyma.
21 There is evidently a lacuna here. Lindenbrog suggested ubi Hylam insecuta rapuit nympha. Others refer Hyla to the river near Cius.
23 Cf. Pliny, N.H. ii. 149; Strabo, vii. 55 (iii. 377, L. C.L.). It was also famous as the scene of the last battle of the Peloponnesian war.
24 See § 4, above, and the note.
26 Here the reference clearly is to the whole of the Propontis.
27 Modern Scutari, opposite Constantinople.
28 According to the Eusebian Chronicle, Byzantium was founded by the Megarians in Olymp. 30, 2 (600 B.C.); so also Herodotus (iv. 144), who, however, gives the date as Olym. 26, 2 (616 B.C.). Justin (ix. 1, 2 f.) names the Spartans; Velleius (ii. 7, 7) the Milesians, who were descended from the Athenians. The founding was probably attributed to the Athenians from the time of Constantine from motives of pride
29 A pharos, or lighthouse
30 The Pontus, or Euxine Sea.
31 Polyb. iv. 39, 1, gives 20,000: Strabo, ii. 5, 22, 25,000; Pliny, N.H. iv. 77, says that Varro made it 21,000, and Nepos, 21,350.
32 The descriptions of the Scythian bow in the handbooks on antiquities vary, and are sometimes misleading, in particular the comparison with different forms of the Greek sigma. As represented in vases and other works of art, it has, as a general rule, the form of the following cut: Figure from Smith's Dict. of Ant.1 p. 126. It is well defined in the note on Strabo, ii. 5, 22, in L.C.L. i. 479, n. 4. When it was drawn, which is commonly taken to be the meaning of nervo coagmentati, the arms were bent down and the handle remained immovable; see also note on § 37, below.
33 The Palus Maeotis is on the northern side of the Euxine.
34 The directions are so uncertain that the meaning is not clear.
35 Cf. Hdt. v. 76; Val. Max. ii. 6, ext. 1.
36 At Constantinople.
37 Io; cf. Ovid, Metam. i, 586 ff. A more probable reason is that they were so narrow that an ox could swim across them. Amm. is wrong about the second curve, which extends to the Colchi, while the Cimmerian Bosporus (between the Euxine and the Palus Maeotis) is in the middle of the curve; of. Mela, i. 112, 114; Procop. viii. 6, 14 f.
38 Amycus mistreated his subjects and compelled strangers to box with him, until Pollux came with the Argonauts and slew him in fight.
39 Cf. Virg., Aen. iii. 212 ff.; Apollod. i. 9, 20; Val. Flacc., iv. 464 ff.; Hygin. Fab. 17.
40 Like the lightning, it was hardly necessary for them to strike the same object twice; the recoil was rather to be ready for the next thing that passed between them.
41 See Apollodorus, i. 9, p. 480, L.C.L.
42 That is cherries; cf. Pliny, N.H. xv. 102.
44 From which aconite is said to get its name.
45 In the days of Theseus. The war of the Greeks and the Amazons is a frequent subject in works of Greek art.
46 Cf. Justin, ii. 4.
48 Val. Flacc. v. 89 f.
49 Id. v. 2 ff.
50 Id. v. 15 ff.
51 “Of beautiful dances.”
52 Val. Flacc. v. 75.
53 As celebrated every third year; cf. Virg., Aen. iv. 302.
54 Bands of pirates, using small ships called camarae.
55 Cf. Hdt. ii. 103-4; Val. Flacc. v. 418 ff.
57 To-day the Don.
58 Now the Volga.
59 Rhubarb (Rheum rhaponticum, Linnaeus), the vegetable radix Pontica (Celsus, v. 23, 3); the drug is made from Chinese rhubarbs.
60 The Sea of Azov.
61 adamas, “untamable,” “unbreakable” is variously applied to a kind of steel, and to diamonds and like stones.
62 The Crimea. The colonies were from Miletus.
63 The principle is probably irony in some cases, but in the case of the Furies it appears to be euphemism. Sometimes we have neither; cf. Plutarch, De Curios. 12, who says that some of the Greeks call night εὐφρόνη (“kindly”), because it brings good and salutary resolves; others, because it invites gaiety or refreshes the body.
64 “Hospitable.” Cf. Ovid, Tristia, iv. 4, 55 f., frigida me cohibent Euxini litora Ponti, dictus ab antiquis Axenus (inhospitable) ille fuit.
66 See Strabo, vii. 3, 6; Mela, ii. 1, 13; Ovid, Ex Pont, iii. 2, 45 K. The story of Iphigenia.
67 The island is located more accurately by Mela (ii. 7, 98) at the mouth of the Dnieper; see §40, below.
68 This promise was not fulfilled, unless a lost book is referred to: see crit. note.
69 These apparently contradictory words have given a good deal of trouble, but the meaning is plain. The handle is straight laterally, but is rounded like a broomstick for example, or a hoe-handle, and for the same reason; see note on § 10, above.
70 That is, the Greek bow is bent in a continuous curve; in the Scythian, the two sides are bent, but not the handle.
71 I.e. in the “gibbous” stage; see xx. 3, 11, notes.
72 Diana; on the origin of the name, see Varro, L.L. vii. 16.
73 Modern Dnieper.
74 By a servile war; see Justin, ii. 5, 1-8.
75 “The racecourse of Achilles.”
76 See Mela, ii. 1, 55; Pliny, N.H. iv. 83.
77 At the mouth of the Danube.
78 According to Pliny, N.H. iv. 79, the Danube rises in Germania iugus montis Abnobae ex adverso Rauraci Galliae oppidi. For the seven months, cf. Val. Flacc. viii. 186, septem exit aquis, septem ostia pandit.
79 The earlier writers counted only five; Pliny and Ptolemy, six; Strabo, seven.
80 The name of the mouth itself is ἱερόν (στόμα). Stoma (στόμα) in each of the following names is the word meaning “mouth.” Naracu cannot be interpreted; those that follow are “beautiful,” “false,” “north” and “narrow.”
81 Cf. Mela, i. 19, 102, brevis, atrox, nebulosus, etc.
82 I.e. “fresher.”
83 Cf. Sail., Hist. iii. 65, Maur., mare Ponticum dulcius quam cetera; Val. Flacc. iv. 719 ff.
84 The Mediterranean.
85 Pliny, N.H. ix. 50
86 Continuing from the end of xxii. 7, p. 213.
87 Cf. xxi. 11, 2.
88 xxi. 12, 20.
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