This text is part of:
Table of Contents:
 He points out as a most interesting subject for disquisition the fact of our finding, often quite inland, two or three thousand stadia from the sea, vast numbers of muscle, oyster, and scallop-shells, and salt-water lakes.1 He gives as an instance, that about the temple of Ammon,2 and along the road to it for the space of 3000 stadia, there are yet found a vast amount of oyster shells, many salt-beds, and salt springs bubbling up, besides which are pointed out numerous fragments of wreck which they say have been cast up through some opening, and dolphins placed on pedestals with the inscription, Of the delegates from Cyrene. Herein he agrees with the opinion of Strato the natural philosopher, and Xanthus of Lydia. Xanthus mentioned that in the reign of Artaxerxes there was so great a drought, that every river, lake, and well was dried up: and that in many places he had seen a long way from the sea fossil shells, some like cockles, others resembling scallop shells, also salt lakes in Armenia, Matiana,3 and Lower Phrygia, which induced him to believe that sea had formerly been where the land now was. Strato, who went more deeply into the causes of these phenomena, was of opinion that formerly there was no exit to the Euxine as now at Byzantium, but that the rivers running into it had forced a way through, and thus let the waters escape into the Propontis, and thence to the Hellespont.4 And that a like change had occurred in the Mediterranean. For the sea being overflowed by the rivers, had opened for itself a passage by the Pillars of Hercules, and thus, much that was formerly covered by water, had been left dry.5 He gives as the cause of this, that anciently the levels of the Mediterranean and Atlantic were not the same, and states that a bank of earth, the remains of the ancient separation of the two seas, is still stretched under water from Europe to Africa. He adds, that the Euxine is the most shallow, and the seas of Crete, Sicily, and Sardinia much deeper, which is occasioned by the number of large rivers flowing into the Euxine both from the north and east, and so filling it up with mud, whilst the others preserve their depth. This is the cause of the remarkable sweetness of the Euxine Sea, and of the currents which regularly set towards the deepest part. He gives it as his opinion, that should the rivers continue to flow in the same direction, the Euxine will in time be filled up [by the deposits], since already the left side of the sea is little else than shallows, as also Salmydessus,6 and the shoals at the mouth of the Ister, and the desert of Scythia,7 which the sailors call the Breasts. Probably too the temple of Ammon was originally close to the sea, though now, by the continual deposit of the waters, it is quite inland: and he conjectures that it was owing to its being so near the sea that it became so celebrated and illustrious, and that it never would have enjoyed the credit it now possesses had it always been equally remote from the sea. Egypt too [he says] was formerly covered by sea as far as the marshes near Pelusium,8 Mount Casius,9 and the Lake Sirbonis.10 Even at the present time, when salt is being dug in Egypt, the beds are found under layers of sand and mingled with fossil shells, as if this district had formerly been under water, and as if the whole region about Casium and Gerrha11 had been shallows reaching to the Arabian Gulf. The sea afterwards receding left the land uncovered, and the Lake Sirbonis remained, which having afterwards forced itself a passage, became a marsh. In like manner the borders of the Lake Mœris resemble a sea-beach rather than the banks of a river. Every one will admit that formerly at various periods a great portion of the mainland has been covered and again left bare by the sea. Likewise that the land now covered by the sea is not all on the same level, any more than that whereon we dwell; which is now uncovered and has experienced so many changes, as Eratosthenes has observed. Consequently in the reasoning of Xanthus there does not appear to be any thing out of place.
1 The word λιμνοθάλασσα frequently signifies a salt marsh. The French editors remark that it was a name given by the Greeks to lagoons mostly found in the vicinity of the sea, though entirely separated therefrom. Those which communicated with the sea were termed στομλἰμναι.
2 See book xvii. c. iii.
3 A country close upon the Euxine.
4 The Strait of the Dardanelles.
5 At the time of Diodorus Siculus, the people of the Isle of Samothracia preserved the tradition of an inundation caused by a sudden rising of the waters of the Mediterranean, which compelled the inhabitants to fly for refuge to the summits of the mountains; and long after, the fishermen's nets used to be caught by columns, which, prior to the catastrophe, had adorned their edifices. It is said that the inundation originated in a rupture of the chain of mountains which enclosed the valley which has since become the Thracian Bosphorus or Strait of Constantinople, through which the waters of the Black Sea flow into the Mediterranean.
6 Now Midjeh, in Roumelia, on the borders of the Black Sea. Strabo alludes rather to the banks surrounding Salmydessus than to the town itself.
7 The part of Bulgaria next the sea, between Varna and the Danube, now Dobrudzie.
10 Lake Sebaket-Bardoil.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.