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 Posidonius, who himself divides the earth into zones, tells us that ‘five is the number best suited for the explanation of the celestial appearances, two of these are periscii,1 which reach from the poles to the point where the tropics serve for Arctic Circles; two more are heteroscii,2 which extend from the former to the inhabitants of the tropics, and one between the tropics, which is called amrphiscius,3 but for matters relative to the earth, it is convenient to suppose two other narrow zones placed under the tropics, and divided by then into two halves, over which [every year] for the space of a fortnight, the sun is vertical.’4 These zones are remarkable for being extremely arid and sandy, producing no vegetation with the exception of silphium,5 and a parched grain somewhat resembling wheat. This is caused by there being no mountains to attract the clouds and produce rain, nor any rivers flowing6 through the country. The consequence is that the various species7 are born with woolly hair, crumpled horns, protruding lips, and wide nostrils; their extremities being as, it were gnarled. Within these zones also dwell the Ichthyophagi.8 He further remarks, that these peculiarities are quite sufficient to distinguish the zones in question: those which are farther south having a more salubrious atmosphere, and being more fruitful and better supplied with water.
1 The polar circles, where the shadow, in the summer season, travels all round in the twenty-four hours.
2 Those who live north and south of the tropics, or in the temperate zones, and at noon have a shadow only falling one way.
3 Having at mid-day in alternate seasons the shadow falling north and south.
4 Viz. Posidonius allowed for each of these small zones a breadth of about 30′, or 350 stadia, of 700 to a degree.
5 A plant, the juice of which was used in food and medicine. Bentley supposes it to be the asa-fœtida, still much eaten as a relish in the East.
6 Posidonius was here mistaken; witness the Niger, the Senegal, the Gambia, &c.
7 The expression of Strabo is so concise as to leave it extremely doubtful whether or not he meant to include the human race in his statement. Looking at this passage, however, in connexion with another in the 15th Book, we are inclined to answer the question in the affirmative.
8 Or living on fish, a name given by the Greek geographers to various tribes of barbarians; but it seems most frequently to a people of Gedrosia on the coast of the Arabian Gulf. It is probably to these that Strabo refers.
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