previous next


The country of the Volaterrani1 is washed by the sea. Their city is situated in a deep hollow on the top of a high hill. The wall of the city is built round its summit, which is flat and precipitous on every side. From its base, the ascent upward is fifteen stadia, steep and difficult. Here certain of the Tyrrhenians and of those proscribed by Sulla,2 took their stand, and having organized four bands, sustained a siege for two years, and at last secured articles of truce before surrendering the place. Poplonium is situated on a lofty promontory, which projects into the sea, and forms a cher- sonesus. It likewise sustained a siege about the same time. This little place is now deserted, with the exception of the temples and a few houses; the sea-port, which is situated at the root of the mountain, is better inhabited, having both a small harbour and ship-sheds. This appears to me the only one of the ancient Tyrrhenian cities situated on the sea; the reason being that this territory affords no harbours. The founders [of the cities] therefore either avoided the sea altogether, or threw up fortifications in order that they might not become the ready prey of those who might sail against them. On the summit [of the cape] there is a look-out for thunnies.3 From this city there is an indistinct and distant view of Sardinia. Cyrnus,4 however, is nearer, being distant from Sardinia about 60 stadia. While Æthalia5 is much nearer to the continent than either, being distant therefrom only 3006 stadia, and the same number from Cyrnus. Poplonium is the best starting- place to any of the three mentioned islands. We ourselves observed them from the height of Poplonium, in which place we saw certain mines which had been abandoned, we also saw the craftsmen who work the iron brought from Æthalia; for they cannot reduce it into bars in the furnaces on the island, and it is therefore transferred direct from the mines to the continent. There is another remarkable circumstance, that the exhausted mines of the island in course of time are again refilled similarly to what they say takes place at the platamones7 in Rhodes, the marble-quarries in Paros, and the salt-mines in India, mentioned by Clitarchus. Eratosthenes was therefore incorrect in saying that from the mainland you could neither see Cyrnus nor Sardinia; and so was Artemidorus in his assertion, that both these places lay in the high sea at a distance of 1200 stadia. For whatever others might, I certainly could never have seen them at such a distance, however carefully I had looked, particularly Cyrnus. Æthalia has a harbour named Argoiis,8 derived, as they say, from the [ship] Argo, Jason having sailed hither, seeking the abode of Circe as Medea wished to see that goddess; and that from the sweat scraped off by the Argonauts and hardened, are formed the variegated pebbles now seen on the beach.9 This and similar traditions prove what we before stated, that Homer did not invent them all himself, but, hearing the numerous current stories, he merely transferred the scenes to other localities and exaggerated the distances: as he makes Ulysses wander over the ocean, so does he narrate of Jason, as he too had been renowned for his travels: and the same he likewise relates of Menelaus. This is what we have to say of Æthalia.

1 Volterra.

2 Eighty-one years B. C.

3 This was a regular business. A man was posted on a high place, from which he could see the shoals coming, and make a sign to the fishermen.

4 Corsica.

5 The island of Elba.

6 The French translation has 200 in text, while it states in a note that all manuscripts give 300, and continues to discuss the real distance at some length. Kramer says, in a note, that MS. Vatic. No. 482, has 200.

7 πλαταμῶνας is here adopted is preference to any attempt at translation. It is probable they were quarries of the cream-coloured limestone of the island.

8 Porto Ferrajo.

9 Gosselin supposes that the crystals of iron, abundant in the island of Elba, are here alluded to.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

load focus Greek (1877)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
1200 AD (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: