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 Polybius asks, ‘How is it possible that a private individual, and one too in narrow circumstances, could ever have performed such vast expeditions by sea and land? And how could Eratosthenes, who hesitates whether he may rely on his statements in general, place such entire confidence in what that writer narrates concerning Britain, Gades, and Iberia?’ says he, ‘it would have been better had Eratosthenes trusted to the Messenian1 rather than to this writer. The former merely pretends to have sailed into one [unknown] country, viz. Panchæa, but the latter, that he has visited the whole of the north of Europe as far as the ends of the earth; which statement, even had it been made by Mercury, we should not have believed. Nevertheless Eratosthenes, who terms Euhemerus a Bergæan, gives credit to Pytheas, although even Dicæarchus would not believe him.’ This argument, ‘although even Dicæarchus would not believe him,’ is ridiculous, just as if Eratosthenes ought to take for his standard a writer whom Polybius is himself for ever complaining of.2 The ignorance of Eratosthenes respecting the western and northern portions of Europe, we have before remarked. But both he and Dicæarchus must be pardoned for this, as neither of them were personally familiar with those localities. But how can one excuse Polybius and Posidonius? especially Polybius, who treats as mere hearsay what Eratosthenes and Dicæarchus report concerning the distances of various places; and many other matters, about which, though he blames them, he is not himself free from error. Dicæarchus states that there are 10,000 stadia from the Peloponnesus to the Pillars, and something above this number from the Peloponnesus to the recess of the Adriatic.3 He supposes 3000 stadia between the Peloponnesus and the Strait of Sicily; thus there would remain 7000 between the Strait of Sicily and the Pillars.4 ‘I will not inquire,’ says Polybius, ‘whether the statement concerning the 3000 stadia is correct or not, but 7000 stadia is not the correct measure [from the Strait of Messina to the Pillars of Hercules], whether taken along the sea-shore, or right across the sea. The coast closely resembles an obtuse angle, one side reaching to the Strait of Sicily, the other to the Pillars, the vertex being Narbonne. Now let a triangle be constructed, having for its base a right line drawn through the sea, and its sides forming the aforementioned angle. The side reaching from the Strait of Sicily to Narbonne is above 11,200 stadia, while the other is below 8000. Now the greatest distance from Europe to Libya, across the Tyrrhenian Sea,5 is not above 3000 stadia, and across the Sea of Sardinia6 it is less still. But supposing that it too is 3000 stadia add to this 2000 stadia, the depth of the bay at Narbonne as a perpendicular from the vertex to the base of the obtuse- angled triangle. It will, then, be clear even to the geometrical powers of a child, that the entire coast from the Strait of Sicily to the Pillars, does not exceed by more than 500 stadia the right line drawn across the sea; adding to these the 3000 stadia from the Peloponnesus to the Strait of Sicily, the whole taken together will give a straight line7 above double the length assigned by Dicæarchus; and, according to his system, you must add in addition to these the stadia at the recess of the Adriatic.’
1 Evemerus, or Euhemerus, a Sicilian author of the time of Alexander the Great and his immediate successors, and a native of Messina. He is said to have sailed down the Red Sea and round the southern coasts of Asia to a very great distance, until he came to an island called Panchæa. After his return from this voyage, he wrote a work entitled ῾ιερὰ ᾿ανα- γραφή, which consisted of at least nine books. The title of this ‘Sacred History,’ as we may call it, was taken from the ἀναγραφαί, or the inscriptions on columns and walls, which existed in great numbers in the temples of Greece; and Euhemerus chose it, because he pretended to have derived his information from public documents of that kind, which he had discovered in his travels, especially in the island of Panchæa. The work contained accounts of the several gods, whom Euhemerus represented as having originally been men who had distinguished themselves either as warriors, kings, inventors, or benefactors of mankind, and who, after their death, were worshipped as gods by the grateful people. This book, which seems to have been written in a popular style, must have been very attractive; for all the fables of mythology were dressed up in it as so many true narratives; and many of the subsequent historians adopted his mode of dealing with myths, or at least followed in his track, as we find to be the case with Polybius and Dionysius. Vide Smith.
2 Every one will observe, that this criticism of Strabo is entirely gratuitous and captious. Polybius cites Dicæarchus as a most credulous writer, but states that even he would not believe Pytheas: how then could so distinguished a writer as Eratosthenes put faith in his nonsense?
3 On the contrary, the distance in a right line from Cape Tenarum, off the Peloponnesus, to the recess of the Adriatic Gulf, is only about half the distance from the Peloponnesus to the Pillars of Hercules. This mistake of Dicæarchus is a proof of the very slight acquaintance the Greeks could have had with the western portions of the Mediterranean in his time, about 320 years before the Christian era.
4 Literally, ‘He assigns 3000 to the interval which stretches towards the Pillars as far as the Strait, and 7000 from the Strait to the Pillars.’ The distance from Cape Tenarum to the Strait of Messina is in proportion to the distance from the Strait of Messina to Gibraltar, about 3 to 10, not 3 to 7 as given by Dicæarchus.
5 That part of the Mediterranean which lies on the coast of Italy, from the mouth of the Arno to Naples.
6 The sea which washes the western coast of Sardinia.
7 Viz. from the Peloponnesus to the Pillars of Hercules.
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