Many conjectures have been hazarded as to who the Erembi were: they who suppose the Arabs are intended, seem to deserve the most credit. Our Zeno reads the passage thus:— “ I came to the Ethiopians, the Sidonians, and the Arabians.
” But there is no occasion to tamper with the text, which is of great antiquity; it is a far preferable course to suppose a change in the name itself, which is of frequent and ordinary occurrence in every nation: and in fact certain grammarians establish this view by a comparison of the radical letters. Posidonius seems to me to adopt the better plan after all, in looking for the etymology of names in nations of one stock and community; thus between the Armenians, Syrians, and Arabians there is a strong affinity both in regard to dialect, mode of life, peculiarities of physical conformation, and above all in the contiguity of the countries. Mesopotamia, which is a motley of the three nations, is a proof of this; for the similarity amongst these three is very remarkable. And though in consequence of the various latitudes there may be some difference between those who dwell in the north1 and those of the the south,2 and again between each of these and the inhabitants of the middle region,3 still the same characteristics are dominant in all. Also the Assyrians and Arians have a great affinity both to these people and to each other. And [Posidonius] believes there is a similarity in the names of these different nations. Those whom we call Syrians style themselves Armenians and Arammæans, names greatly like those of the Armenians, Arabs, and Erembi. Perhaps this [last] term is that by which the Greeks anciently designated the Arabs; the etymon of the word certainly strengthens the idea. Many deduce the etymology of the Erembi from ἔραν ἐμ<*>αίνειν, (to go into the earth,) which [they say] was altered by the people of a later generation into the more intelligible name of Troglodytes,4 by which are intended those Arabs who dwell on that side of the Arabian Gulf next to Egypt and Ethiopia. It is probable then that the poet describes Menelaus as having visited these people in the same way that he says he visited the Ethiopians; for they are likewise near to the Thebaid; and he mentions them not on account of any commerce or gain, (for of these there was not much,) but probably to enhance the length of the journey and his meed of praise: for such distant travelling was highly thought of. For example,—
“ Discover'd various cities, and the mind”
And manners learn'd of men in lands remote.5Odyssey i. 3.
Hesiod, in his Catalogue,7 writes, “And the daughter of Arabus, whom gracious Hermes and Thronia, descended from king Belus, brought forth.” Thus, too, says Stesichorus. Whence it seems that at that time the country was from him named Arabia, though it is not likely this was the case in the heroic period.8
“ After numerous toils”
And perilous wanderings o'er the stormy deep,
In the eighth year at last I brought them home.6Odyssey iv. 81.