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 Any one may well entertain such questions as these touching the localities mentioned by the poet [Homer], and with regard to the Mysians and the illustrious Hippemolgi: but what Apollodorus has advanced in his preface to the Catalogue of Ships in the Second Book [of the Iliad] is by no means to be adopted. For he praises the opinions of Eratosthenes, who says that Homer and the rest of the ancients were well versed in every thing that related to Greece, but were in a state of considerable ignorance as to places at a distance, in consequence of the impossibility of' their making long journeys by land or voyages by sea. In support of this he asserts,1 that Homer designated Aulis as 'rocky,' as indeed it is; Eteonus as 'mountainous and woody,' Thisbe as 'abounding in doves,' Haliartus as ' grassy;' but that neither Homer nor the others were familiar with localities far off; for although there are forty rivers which discharge themselves into the Black Sea,2 he makes no mention whatever even of the most considerable, as the Danube,3 the Don,4 the Dnieper,5 the Bog,6 the Phasz,7 the Termeh,8 the Kisil-Irmak,9 nor does he even allude to the Scythians, but makes up fables about certain illustrious Hippemolgi, Galactophagi, and Abii. He had become acquainted with the Paphlagonians of the interior from the relations of such as had penetrated into those regions on foot, but he was perfectly unacquainted with the sea-coasts of the country; which indeed was likely enough, for that sea was in his time closed to navigation, and known by the name of Pontus Axenus [or the Inhospitable] on account of the severity of the storms to which it was subject, as well as of the savage disposition of the nations who inhabited its shores, but more especially of the Scythian hordes,10 who made a practice of sacrificing strangers, devouring their flesh, and using their skulls for drinking-cups; although at a subsequent period, when the Ionians had established cities along its shores, it was called by the name of Pontus Euxinus [or the Hospitable]. He was likewise in ignorance as to the natural peculiarities of Egypt and Libya,11 as the risings of the Nile, and the alluvial deposits, which he no where notices, nor yet the isthmus [of Suez] which separates the Red Sea from the Egyptian Sea;12 nor yet does he relate any particulars of Arabia, Ethiopia, or the Ocean, unless we should agree with the philosopher Zeno in altering the Homeric line as follows, “‘I came to the Ethiopians, the Sidonians, and the Arabians.’13” Indeed we ought not to be surprised at meeting with this in Homer, for those who have lived at a more recent period than he did, have been ignorant of many things, and have told strange tales. Hesiod has talked of Hemicynes,14 Megalocephali, and Pygmies; Alcman of Steganopodes;Æschylus of Cynocephali, Sternophthalmi, and Monommati, (they say it is in his Prometheus,) and ten thousand other absurdities. From these he proceeds to censure the writers who talk of the Riphæan Mountains15 and Mount Ogyium,16 and the dwelling of the Gorgons17 and the Hesperides,18 the land of Meropis19 mentioned by Theopompus, Cimmeris,20 a city mentioned in Hecatæus, the land of Panchæa21 mentioned by Euhemerus, and the river-stones formed of sand mentioned by Aristotle,22 which were dissolved by rain-showers. Further, that there exists in Africa a city of Bacchus which no one can find twice. He likewise reproves those who assert that the wanderings of Ulysses mentioned in Homer were in the neighbourhood of Sicily, for again, if we should say that the wanderings did take place in those parts, we should have to confess that the poet transferred them to the ocean for the sake of making his account the more romantic. Some allowance might be made for others, but no manner of excuse can be put forward for Callimachus, who pretends to the character of a critic, and yet supposes that Gaudus was the island of Calypso, and identifies Scheria with Corcyra.23 Other writers he blames for misstatements as to Gerena,24 Acacesium,25 and the Demus26 in Ithaca, Pelethronium27 in Pelium, and the Glaucopium at Athens.28 With these and a few similar trifling observations, most of which he has drawn from Eratosthenes, whose inaccuracy we have before shown, he breaks off. However, we frankly acknowledge, both with respect to him [Apollodorus] and Eratosthenes, that the moderns are better informed on geography than the ancients: but to strain the subject beyond measure, as they do, especially when they inculpate Homer, seems to me as if it gave a fair occasion to any one to find fault, and to say by way of recrimination, that they reproach the poet for the very things of which they themselves are ignorant. As for the rest of their observations, particular mention is made of some of them in the places where they occur, and of others in the General Introduction.
1 See Strabo's former remarks on this identical subject, book i. chap. ii. § 3, page 25.
10 Gossellin observes, that these must have been the Scythians inhabiting the Taurica Chersonesus, now the Crimea. The people on the opposite or southern shore were less savage. The Ionians had made settlements amongst these as early as the sixth century B. C.
12 The Mediterranean.
13 Od. book iv. line 83. See Strabo's remarks on this reading of Zeno, book i. chap. ii. § 34, page 66.
14 See the notes on these various monsters, book i. chap. ii. § 35, p. 68.
15 The Riphæan Mountains were probably the chain of the Ural Mountains, which separate Russia from Siberia.
16 This mountain is unknown.
17 The Gorgons were Stheino, Euryalé, and Medusa, the daughters of Phorcys and Ceto. See also book i. chap. ii. § 8, page 29.
18 The Hesperides were the daughters of Night. They dwelt on an island on the western edge of the world. See also Apollodorus, book ii. chap. v. § 11.
19 Ælian, Var. Histor. book iii. chap. 18, says that Theopompus related an interview between Midas, king of Phrygia, and Silenus, in which Silenus reported the existence of an immense continent, larger than Asia, Europe, and Africa taken together, and that amongst others a race of men called Meropes occupied several extensive cities there.
20 Ephorus speaks of the Cimmerii who dwelt round the Lake Avernus. See Strabo, book v. chap. iv. § 5, page 263.
21 See Strabo, book ii. chap. iv. § 2, page 158.
22 A note in the French translation says that this place has not been identified in the works of Aristotle now remaining, and suggests that there may be some error in the text.
23 See what Strabo has said on this subject in book i. chap. ii. § 37, pp. 70, 71.
24 Strabo will speak further on the subject of Gerena in book viii. chap. iii. § 7, and § 29.
25 Reference is here made to the epithet a ἀκάκητα, which Homer applies to Mercury, Iliad xvi. 185. The grammarians explain it correctly as ‘free from evil,’ or ‘who neither does nor suffers wrong.’ However. there were some who interpreted it differently. They maintain that Mercury was so called from a cavern in Arcadia, called Acacesium, (see Schol. in Homer, edit. Villois. pag. 382,) which was situated near Cyllene, a mountain of Arcadia, where he was born. See Apollodor. Biblioth. lib. iii. cap. x. § 2. Hesiod, however, applies the same epithet to Prometheus, (Theogon. verse 613,) who, according to the scholiast, was thus designated from Acacesium, a mountain, not a cavern, of Arcadia, where he was greatly revered.
26 Homer, Iliad iii. verse 201, in speaking of Ulysses, says, ῝ος τοͅάθη ἐν δήμῳ ᾿ιθάκης. Some writers affirmed that the δῆμος was the name of a place in Ithaca, while others think it a word, and understand the passage ‘who was bred in the country of Ithaca.’ On comparing this passage with others, Iliad xvi. vss. 47, 514, and with a parallel expression of Hesiod, Theogon. verse 971, one is greatly astonished at the ignorance and eccentricity of those who sought to make a place Demus out of this passage of Homer.
27 According to some, Pelethronium was a city of Thessaly; according to others, it was a mountain there, or even a part of Mount Pelion.
28 There is no mention of any Glaucopium throughout the writings of Homer. Eustathius, on the Odyssey, book ii. page 1451, remarks that it was from the epithet γλαυκῶπις, blue-eyed or fierce-eyed, which he so often gives to Minerva, that the citadel at Athens was called the Glaucopium, while Stephen of Byzantium, on ᾿αλαλκομένιον, asserts that both the epithet γλαυκῶπις and the name of the citadel Glaucopium comes from Glaucopus, the son of Alalcomeneus.
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