previous next


Leaving the Ister, we come to the towns of Cremniscos1, Æpolium, the mountains of Macrocremnus, and the famous river Tyra2, which gives name to a town on the spot where Ophiusa is said formerly to have stood. The Tyragetæ inhabit a large island3 situate in this river, which is distant from Pseudostomos, a mouth of the Ister, so called, 130 miles. We then come to the Axiacæ, who take their name from the river Axiaces4, and beyond them, the Crobyzi, the river Rhodes5, the Sagarian Gulf6, and the port of Ordesos7. At a distance of 120 miles from the Tyra is the river Borysthenes8, with a lake and a people of similar name, as also a town9 in the interior, at a distance of fifteen miles from the sea, the ancient names of which were Olbiopolis and Miletopolis. Again, on the shore is the port of the Achæi, and the island of Achilles10, famous for the tomb there of that hero, and, at a distance of 125 miles from it, a peninsula which stretches forth in the shape of a sword, in an oblique direction, and is called, from having been his place of exercise, Dromos Achilleos11: the length of this, according to Agrippa, is eighty miles. The Taurian Scythians and the Siraci12 occupy all this tract of country.

At this spot begins a well-wooded district13, which has given to the sea that washes its banks the name of the Hylæan Sea; its inhabitants are called Enœchadlæ14. Beyond them is the river Pantieapes15, which separates the Nomades16 and the Georgi, and after it the Acesinus17. Some authors say that the Panticapes flows into the Borysthenes below Olbia18. Others, who are more correct, say that it is the Hypanis19: so great is the mistake made by those who have placed it20 in Asia.

The sea runs in here and forms a large gulf21, until there is only an intervening space22 of five miles between it and the Lake Mæotis, its margin forming the sea-line of extensive tracts of land, and numerous nations; it is known as the Gulf of Carcinites. Here we find the river Pacyris23, the towns of Navarum and Carcine24, and behind it Lake Buges25, which discharges itself by a channel into the sea. This Buges is separated by a ridge of rocks26 from Coretus, a gulf in the Lake Mæotis; it receives the rivers Buges27, Gerrus28, and Hypacaris29, which approach it from regions that lie in various directions. For the Gerrus separates the Basilidæ from the Nomades, the Hypacaris flows through the Nomades and the Hylæi, by an artificial channel into Lake Buges, and by its natural one into the Gulf of Coretus: this region bears the name of Scythia Sindice.

At the river Carcinites, Scythia Taurica30 begins, which was once covered by the sea, where we now see level plains extended on every side: beyond this the land rises into mountains of great elevation. The peoples here are thirty in number, of which twenty-three dwell in the interior, six of the cities being inhabited by the Orgocyni, the Chara- ceni31, the Lagyrani, the Tractari, the Arsilachitæ, and the Caliordi. The Scythotauri possess the range of mountains: on the west they are bounded by the Chersonesus, and on the east by the Scythian Satarchæ32. On the shore, after we leave Carcinites, we find the following towns; Taphræ33, situate on the very isthmus of the peninsula, and then Heraclea Chersonesus34, to which its freedom has been granted35 by the Romans. This place was formerly called Megarice, being the most polished city throughout all these regions, in consequence of its strict preservation of Grecian manners and customs. A wall, five miles in length, surrounds it. Next to this comes the Promontory of Parthenium36, the city of the Tauri, Placia, the port of the Symboli37, and the Promontory of Criumetopon38, opposite to Carambis39, a promontory of Asia, which runs out in the middle of the Euxine, leaving an intervening space between them of 170 miles, which circumstance it is in especial that gives to this sea the form of a Scythian bow. After leaving this headland we come to a great number of harbours and lakes of the Tauri40. The town of Theodosia41 is distant from Criumetopon 125 miles, and from Chersonesus 165. Beyond it there were, in former times, the towns of Cytæ, Zephyrium, Acræ, Nymphæum, and Dia. Panticapæum42, a city of the Milesians, by far the strongest of them all, is still in existence; it lies at the entrance of the Bosporus, and is distant from Theodosia eighty-seven miles and a half, and from the town of Cimmerium, which lies on the other side of the Strait, as we have previously43 stated, two miles and a half. Such is the width here of the channel which separates Asia from Europe, and which too, from being generally quite frozen over, allows of a passage on foot. The width of the Cimmerian Bosporus44 is twelve miles and a half: it contains the towns of Hermisium45, Myrmecium, and, in the interior46 of it, the island of Alopece. From the spot called Taphræ47, at the extremity of the isthmus, to the mouth of the Bosporus, along the line of the Lake Mæotis, is a distance of 260 miles.

Leaving Taphræ, and going along the mainland, we find in the interior the Auchetæ48, in whose country the Hypanis has its rise, as also the Neurœ, in whose district the Borysthenes has its source, the Geloni49, the Thyssagetæ, the Budini, the Basilidæ, and the Agathyrsi50 with their azure-coloured hair. Above them are the Nomades, and then a nation of Anthropophagi or cannibals. On leaving Lake Buges, above the Lake Mæotis we come to the Sauromatæ and the Essedones51. Along the coast, as far as the river Tanais52, are the Mæotæ, from whom the lake derives its name, and the last of all, in the rear of them, the Arimaspi. We then come to the Riphæan53 mountains, and the region known by the name of Pterophoros54, because of the perpetual fall of snow there, the flakes of which resemble feathers; a part of the world which has been condemned by the decree of nature to lie immersed in thick darkness; suited for nothing but the generation of cold, and to be the asylum of the chilling blasts of the northern winds.

Behind these mountains, and beyond the region of the northern winds, there dwells, if we choose to believe it, a happy race, known as the Hyperborei55, a race that lives to an extreme old age, and which has been the subject of many marvellous stories56. At this spot are supposed to be the hinges upon which the world revolves, and the extreme limits of the revolutions of the stars. Here we find light for six months together, given by the sun in one continuous day, who does not, however, as some ignorant persons have asserted, conceal himself from the vernal equinox57 to autumn. On the contrary, to these people there is but one rising of the sun for the year, and that at the summer solstice, and but one setting, at the winter solstice. This region, warmed by the rays of the sun, is of a most delightful temperature, and exempt from every noxious blast. The abodes of the natives are the woods and groves; the gods receive their worship singly and in groups, while all discord and every kind of sickness are things utterly unknown. Death comes upon them only when satiated with life; after a career of feasting, in an old age sated with every luxury, they leap from a certain rock there into the sea; and this they deem the most desirable mode of ending existence. Some writers have placed these people, not in Europe, but at the very verge of the shores of Asia, because we find there a people called the Attacori58, who greatly resemble them and occupy a very similar locality. Other writers again have placed them midway between the two suns, at the spot where it sets to the Antipodes and rises to us; a thing however that cannot possibly be, in consequence of the vast tract of sea which there intervenes. Those writers who place them nowhere59 but under a day which lasts for six months, state that in the morning they sow, at mid-day they reap, at sunset they gather in the fruits of the trees, and during the night conceal themselves in caves. Nor are we at liberty to entertain any doubts as to the existence of this race; so many authors60 are there who assert that they were in the habit of sending their first-fruits to Delos to present them to Apollo, whom in especial they worship. Virgins used to carry them, who for many years were held in high veneration, and received the rites of hospitality from the nations that lay on the route; until at last, in consequence of repeated violations of good faith, the Hyperboreans came to the determination to deposit these offerings upon the frontiers of the people who adjoined them, and they in their turn were to convey them on to their neighbours, and so from one to the other, till they should have arrived at Delos. However, this custom, even, in time fell into disuse.

The length of Sarmatia, Scythia, and Taurica, and of the whole of the region which extends from the river Borysthenes, is, according to Agrippa, 980 miles, and its breadth 717. I am of opinion, however, that in this part of the earth all estimates of measurement are exceedingly doubtful.

1 Placed by Forbiger near Lake Burmasaka, or near Islama.

2 The Dniester. The mountains of Macrocremnus, or the "Great Heights," seem not to have been identified.

3 According to Hardouin, the modern name of this island is Tandra.

4 Now called the Teligul, east of the Tyra or Dniester.

5 Now called Sasik Beregen, according to Brotier.

6 The modern Gulf of Berezen, according to Brotier.

7 Probably the modern Okzakow.

8 The modern Dnieper. It also retains its ancient name of Borysthenes.

9 We learn from Strabo that the name of this town was Olbia, and that from being founded by the Milesians, it received the name of Miletopolis. According to Brotier, the modern Zapurouski occupies its site, between the mouths of the river Buzuluk.

10 This was adjacent to the strip of land called "Dromos Achilleos," or the 'race-course of Achilles.' It is identified by geographers with the little island of Zmievoi or Oulan Adassi, the 'Serpents Island.' It was said that it was to this spot that Thetis transported the body of Achilles. By some it was made the abode of the shades of the blest, where Achilles and other heroes of fable were the judges of the dead.

11 A narrow strip of land N.W. of the Crimea and south of the mouth of the Dnieper, running nearly due west and cast. It is now divided into two parts called Kosa Tendra and Kosa Djarilgatch. Achilles was said to have instituted games here.

12 According to Hardouin, the Siraci occupied a portion of the present Podolia and Ukraine, and the Tauri the modern Bessarabia.

13 According to Herodotus, this region, called Hylæa, lay to the east of the Borysthenes. It seems uncertain whether there are now any traces of this ancient woodland; some of the old maps however give the name of the "Black Forest" to this district. From the statements of modern travellers, the woody country does not commence till the river Don has been reached. The district of Hylæa has been identified by geographers with the great plain of Janboylouk in the steppe of the Nogai.

14 For Enœchadlæ, Hardouin suggests that we should read Inde Hylœ, "hence the inhabitants are called by the name of Hylæi."

15 The Panticapes is usually identified with the modern Somara, but perhaps without sufficient grounds. It is more probably the Kouskawoda.

16 The Nomades or wandering, from the Georgi or agricultural Scythians.

17 The Acesinus does not appear to have been identified by modern geographers.

18 Above called Olbiopolis or Miletopolis.

19 The Bog or Bong. Flowing parallel with the Borysthenes or Dnieper, it discharged itself into the Euxine at the town of Olbia, at no great distance from the mouth of the Borysthenes.

20 Probably meaning the mouth or point at which the river discharges itself into the sea.

21 The modern Gulf of Negropoli or Perekop, on the west side of the Chersonesus Taurica or Crimea.

22 Forming the present isthmus of Perekop, which divides the Sea of Perekop from the Sea of Azof.

23 Called by Herodotus Hypacyris, and by later writers Carcinites. It is generally supposed to be the same as the small stream now known as the Kalantchak.

24 Hardouin says that the city of Carcine has still retained its name, but changed its site. More modern geographers however are of opinion that nothing can be determined with certainty as to its site. Of the site also of Navarum nothing seems to be known.

25 Or Buces or Byce. This is really a gulf, almost enclosed, at the end of the Sea of Azof. Strabo gives a more full description of it under the name of the Sapra Limnè "the Putrid Lake," by which name it is still called, in Russian, Sibaché or Sivaché Moré. It is a vast lagoon, covered with water when an east wind blows the water of the Sea of Azof into it, but at other times a tract of slime and mud, sending forth pestilential vapours.

26 It is rather a ridge of sand, that almost separates it from the waters of the gulf.

27 This river has not been identified by modern geographers.

28 According to Herodotus the Gerrhus or Gerrus fell into the Hypacaris; which must be understood to be, not the Kalantchak, but the Outlook. It is probably now represented by the Moloschnijawoda, which forms a shallow lake or marsh at its mouth.

29 It is most probable that the Pacyris, mentioned above, the Hypacaris, and the Carcinites, were various names for the same river, generally supposed, as stated above, to be the small stream of Kalantchak.

30 Now the Crimea.

31 It does not appear that the site of any of these cities has been identified. Charax was a general name for a fortified town.

32 Mentioned again by Pliny in B. vi. c. 7. Solinus says that in order to repel avarice, the Satarchæ prohibited the use of gold and silver.

33 On the site of the modern Perekop, more commonly called Orkapi.

34 Or Chersonesus of the Heracleans. The town of Kosleve or Eupatoria is supposed to stand on its site.

35 After the conquest of Mithridates, when the whole of these regions fell into the hands of the Romans.

36 The modern Felenk-burun. So called from the Parthenos or Virgin Diana or Artemis, whose temple stood on its heights, in which human sacrifices were offered to the goddess.

37 Supposed to be the same as the now-famed port of Balaklava.

38 The modern Aia-burun, the great southern headland of the Crimea. According to Plutarch, it was called by the natives Brixaba, which, like the name Criumetopon, meant the "Rain's Head."

39 Now Kerempi, a promontory of Paphlagonia in Asia Minor. Strabo considers this promontory and that of Criumetopon as dividing the Euxine into two seas.

40 According to Strabo, the sea-line of the Tauric Chersonesus, after leaving the port of the Symboli, extended 125 miles, as far as Theodosia. Pliny would here seem to make it rather greater.

41 The modern Kaffa occupies its site. The sites of many of the places here mentioned appear not to be known at the present day.

42 The modern Kertsch, situate on a hill at the very mouth of the Cimmerian Bosporus, or Straits of Enikale or Kaffa, opposite the town of Phanagoria in Asia.

43 In C. 24 of the present Book. Clark identifies the town of Cimmerium with the modern Temruk, Forbiger with Eskikrimm. It is again mentioned in B. vi. c. 2.

44 He alludes here, not to the Strait so called, but to the Peninsula bordering upon it, upon which the modern town of Kertsch is situate, and which projects from the larger Peninsula of the Crimea, as a sort of excrescence on its eastern side.

45 Probably Hermes or Mercury was its tutelar divinity: its site appears to be unknown.

46 Probably meaning the Straits or passage connecting the Lake Mæotis with the Euxine. The fertile district of the Cimmerian Bosporus was at one time the granary of Greece, especially Athens, which imported thence annually 400,000 medimni of corn.

47 A town so called on the Isthmus of Perekop, from a τάφρος or trench, which was cut across the isthmus at this point.

48 Lomonossov, in his History of Russia, says that these people were the same as the Sclavoni: but that one meaning of the name 'Slavane' being "a boaster," the Greeks gave them the corresponding appellation of Auchetæ, from the word αὐχὴ, which signifies "boasting."

49 Of the Geloni, called by Virgil "picti," or "painted," nothing certain seems to be known: they are associated by Herodotus with the Budini, supposed to belong to the Slavic family by Schafarik. In B. iv. c. 108,109, of his History, Herodotus gives a very particular account of the Budini, who had a city built entirely of wood, the name of which was Gelonus. The same author also assigns to the Geloni a Greek origin.

50 The Agathyrsi are placed by Herodotus near the upper course of the river Maris, in the S.E. of Dacia or the modern Transylvania. Pliny however seems here to assign them a different locality.

51 Also called "Assedones" and "Issedones." It has been suggested by modern geographers that their locality must be assigned to the east of Ichim, on the steppe of the central horde of the Kirghiz, and that of the Arimaspi on the northern declivity of the chain of the Altaï.

52 Now the Don.

53 Most probably these mountains were a western branch of the Ura- lian chain.

54 From the Greek πτεροφορὸς, "wing-bearing" or "feather-bearing."

55 This legendary race was said to dwell in the regions beyond Boreas, or the northern wind, which issued from the Riphæan mountains, the name of which was derived from ριπαὶ or "hurricanes "issuing from a cavern, and which these heights warded off from the Hyperboreans and sent to more southern nations. Hence they never felt the northern blasts, and enjoyed a life of supreme happiness and undisturbed repose. "Here," says Humboldt, "are the first views of a natural science which explains the distribution of heat and the difference of climates by local causes—by the direction of the winds—the proximity of the sun, and the action of a moist or saline principle."—Asie Ceatrale, vol. i.

56 Pindar says, in the "Pytha," x. 56, "The Muse is no stranger to their manners. The dances of girls and the sweet melody of the lyre and pipe resound on every side, and wreathing their locks with the glistening bay, they feast joyously. For this sacred race there is no doom of sickness or of disease; but they live apart from toil and battles, undisturbed by the exacting Nemesis."

57 Hardouin remarks that Pomponius Mela, who asserts that the sun rises here at the vernal and sets at the autumnal equinox, is right in his position, and that Pliny is incorrect in his assertion. The same commentator thinks that Pliny can have hardly intended to censure Mela, to whose learning he had been so much indebted for his geographical information, by applying to him the epithet "imperitus," 'ignorant' or 'unskilled'; he therefore suggests that the proper reading here is, "ut non imperiti dixere," "as some by no means ignorant persons have asserted."

58 The Attacori are also mentioned in B. vi. c. 20.

59 Sillig omits the word "non" here, in which case the reading would be, "Those writers who place them anywhere but, &c.;" it is difficult to see with what meaning.

60 Herodotus, B. iv., states to this effect, and after him, Pomponius Mela, B. iii. c. 5.

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 Latin (Karl Friedrich Theodor Mayhoff, 1906)
hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

hide References (25 total)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: