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Book II. Chapter I. 14. Taprobane

Let us then transport ourselves to the land opposite the Cinnamon Country, and lying to the east under the same parallel of latitude; we shall there find the country named Taprobane. This Taprobane is universally believed to be a large island situated in the high seas, and lying to the south opposite India. Its length in the direction of Ethiopia is above 5000 stadia, as they say. There are brought from thence to the Indian markets, ivory, tortoise-shells, and other wares in large quantities. Now if this island is broad in proportion to its length, we cannot suppose that the whole distance, inclusive of the space which separates it from India, is less than 3000 stadia, which is equal to the distance of the (southern) extremity of the habitable earth from Meroe, since the (southern) extremities of India and Meroe are under the same parallel. It is likely there are more than 3000 stadia, but taking this number, if we add thereto the 30,000 stadia, which Deimachus states there are between (the southern extremity of India) and the country of the Bactrians and Sogdians, we shall find both of these nations lie beyond the temperate zone and habitable earth. Who will venture to affirm such to be the case, hearing, as they must, the statement made both by ancients and moderns of the genial climate and fertility of northern India, Hyrcania, Aria, Margiana, and Bactriana also. These countries are all equally close to the northern side of the Taurus, Bactriana being contiguous to that part of the chain which forms the boundary of India. A country blessed with such advantages must be very far from uninhabitable. It is said that in Hyrcania each vine produces a metrete(1) of wine, and each fig tree 60 medimni(2) of fruit. That the grains of wheat which fall from the husk on to the earth spring up the year following; that bee-hives are in the trees, and the leaves flow with honey. The same may be met with in the part of Media called Matiana, and also in Sacasena and Araxena, countries of Armenia. In these three it is not so much to be wondered at, since they lie more to the south than Hyrcania, and surpass the rest of the country in the beauty of their climate; but in Hyrcania it is more remarkable. It is said that in Margiana you may frequently meet with a vine whose stock would require two men with outstretched arms to clasp it, and clusters of grapes two cubits long. Aria is described as similarly fertile, the wine being still richer, and keeping perfectly for three generations in unpitched casks. Bactriana, which adjoins Aria, abounds in the same productions, if we except olives.

(1) This was the principal Greek liquid measure, and as 3-4ths of the medimnus, the chief dry measure. The Attic metretes was half as large again as the Roman Amphora quadrantal, and contained a little less than 7 gallons. Smith.
(2) The medimnus contained nearly 12 imperial gallons, or 1-1/2 bushel. This was the Attic medimnus; the Aeginetan and Ptolemaic was half as much again, or in the ratio of 3:2 to the Attic. Smith.


Book II. Chapter I. 24. Introduction.

It is in this general kind of description of the third section that Eratosthenes supposes 10,000 stadia from the Caspian Gates to the Euphrates. This he again divides according to former admeasurements which he found preserved. Starting from the point where the Euphrates passes near to Thapsacus, he computes from thence to the place where Alexander crossed the Tigris 2400 stadia. The route thence through Gaugamela,(1) the Lycus,(2) Arbela,(3) and Ecbatana,(4) whither Darius fled from Gaugamela to the Caspian Gates, makes up the 10,000 stadia, which is only 300 stadia too much. Such is the measure of the northern side given by Eratosthenes, which he could not have supposed to be parallel to the mountains, nor yet to the line drawn from the Pillars of Hercules through Athens and Rhodes. For Thapsacus is far removed from the mountains, and the route from Thapsacus to the Caspian Gates(5) only falls in with the mountains at that point.(6) Such is the boundary on the northern side.

(1) Karmelis.
(2) The Altun-Suyi, or River of Gold.
(3) Erbil.
(4) Hamedan.
(5) The Caspian Gates are now known as the Strait of Firouz Koh.
(6) Viz. at the Gates of the Caspian.


Excerpt from Book II. Chapter V. 17. Introduction.

The natural advantages (of a place) should always be mentioned, since they are permanent. Advantages which are adventitious are liable to change, although the majority of those which have continued for any length of time should not be passed over, nor even those which, although but recent, have yet acquired some note and celebrity. For those which continue, come to be regarded by posterity not as works of art, but as the natural advantages of the place, these therefore it is evident we must notice. True it is, that to many a city we may apply the reflection of Demosthenes* on Olynthus and its neigbouring towns: “So completely have they vanished, that no one who should now visit their sites could say that they had ever been inhabited!”

*Demosthenes, Philipp. III. – Demosthenes is here alluding to the cities which different Grecian colonies had founded in the maritime districts of Thrace. The principal of these was the opulent and populous city of Olynthus, which, together with others, was taken, and razed to its foundations, by Philip of Macedon. Olynthus thus has become famous through the three orations of Demosthenes, urging the Athenians to its succour.


Excerpt from Book V. Chapter III. 5. Italy.

…Next in order comes Antium, which city is likewise destitute of any port; it is situated on rocks, and about 260 stadia distant from Ostia. At the present day it is devoted to the leisure and recreation of statesmen from their political duties, whenever they can find time, and is in consequence covered with sumptuous mansions suited to such rusticating. The inhabitants of Antium had formerly a marine, and even after they were under subjection to the Romans, took part with Tyrrhenian pirates. Of this, first, Alexander sent to complain; after him Demetrius, having taken many of these pirates, sent them to the Romans, saying that he would surrender them their persons on account of their affinity to the Greeks, and remarking at the same time, that it seemed to him a great impropriety, that those who held sway over the whole of Italy should send out pirates, and that they who had consecrated in their forum a temple to the honour of the Dioscuri, whom all denominated the Saviours, should likewise send to commit acts of piracy on Greece, which was the father-land of these divinities. Hereupon the Romans put a stop this occupation (piracy).

Excerpt from Book VI. Chapter I. 5. Italy. The Bruttii. Grecian Cities.

(On Alexander of Epirus.)

…Contiguous to it is Terina, which Hannibal destroyed, when he found he could no longer retain it; at the time when he took refuge in the country of the Brutti. Next in order comes Cosentia, the metropolis of the Brutti. A little above it is Pandosia, which is strongly fortified, before which Alexander the Molossian king was overthrown. This prince was led astray by the oracle of Dodona, which commanded him to avoid Acheron and Pandosia; for places with names like these being pointed out in Thesprotia, caused him to lose his life(1) here. The position has three summits, and the river Acheron flows by it. He was also mistaken in another oracle.

“O Pandosia, thou three-topp’d hill,
Hereafter many people thou shalt kill;”

For he thought that it foreshadowed the destruction of his enemies and not of his own people. They say that Pandosia(2) was formerly the residence of the OEnotrian kings.

(1) About B.C. 330.
(2) Commentators generally agree that this is the Pandosia memorable for the defeat and death of Alexander, king of Epirus. The early Calabrian antiquaries placed it at Castel Franco. D’Anville, in his map, lays it down near Lao and Cirella. Modern investigators have sought its ruins near Mendocino, between Cosenza and the sea, a hill with three summits having been remarked there, which answers to the fatal height pointed out by the oracle, together with a rivulet, Maresanto or Arconti; which last name recalls the Acheron denounced by another prediction, as so inauspicious to the Molossian king. Scylax, in his Periplus, seems to place Pandosia, together with Clampetia and Terina, near the western coast.


Excerpt from Book VI. Chapter III. 4. Italy. Iapygia. Tarentum.

(On Alexander of Epirus.)

At one time, when the government of the Tarentines had assumed a democratic form, they rose to great importance; for they possessed the greatest fleet of any state in those parts, and could bring into the field an army of 30,000 foot and 3000 horse, exclusive of a select body of 1000 cavalry called Hipparchi. They likewise encouraged the Pythagorean philosophy, and Archytas, who for a long time presided over the government of their state, gave it his special support. But at a later period their luxury, which was produced by their prosperity, increased to that degree that their general holidays or festivals exceeded in number the days of the year; and hence arose an inefficient government, and as one proof of their unstatesmanlike acts we may adduce their employment of foreign generals; for they sent for Alexander, king of the Molossi, to come and assist them against the Messapii and Leucani. They had before that employed Archidamus, the son of Agesilaus; afterwards they called in Cleonymus and Agathocles, and later, when they rose against the Romans, Pyrrhus. They were not able even to retain the respect of those whom they had invited, but rather merited their disgust. Alexander (of Epirus) was so displeased with them that he endeavoured to remove the seat of the general council of the Greek states in Italy, which was accustomed to assemble at Heraclea, a city of the Tarentines, to a city of the Thurii; and he commanded that some place on the river Acalandrus, commodious for their meetings, should be properly fortified for their reception. And indeed they say the misfortune of that prince was chiefly due to a want of good feeling on their part.


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