Billeder på siden

may have been farther east, but not so far west; and the same with respect to north and south. However, in the main, both we and they have availed ourselves of the reports of others, from which to describe the form, size, and other peculiarities of the country.” He mentions having been in Egypt, the island Gyarus, Populonium near Elba, Comana in Cappadocia, Ephesus, Mylasa, Nysa, and Hierapolis in Phrygia. He visited Corinth, Argos, Athens, and Megara; but, on the whole, he does not appear to have seen more of Greece than in passing through it on his way to Brundusium, while proceeding to Rome. Populonium and Luna in Italy were the limit of his travels northwards. It is probable he obtained his information as to Spain, France, Britain, and Germany, while staying at Rome.

The first systematic writer on geography was ERATOSTHENES (see volume five, page 25), who died at the age of 80, about B.C. 196. His work consisted of three books.

There is no ground for considering the Geography of Strabo an improved edition of that of Eratosthenes. Strabo's work was intended for the information of persons in the higher departments of administration, and contains such geographical and historical information as those engaged in political employments cannot dispense with. Consistently with this object he avoids giving minute descriptions, except where the place is of real interest, but supplies some account of the important political events that had occurred in various countries, and sketches of the great men who had flourished or laboured in them. It is a lively, well-written book, intended to be read, and forms a striking contrast to the Geography of Ptolemy. His language is simple, appropriate to the matter, without affectation, and mostly clear and intelligible, except in those passages where the text has been corrupted. Like many other Greeks, Strabo looked upon Homer as the depository of all knowledge, but he frequently labours to interpret the poet's meaning in a manner highly uncritical. What Homer only partially knew or conjectured, Strabo has made the basis of his description, when he might have given an independent description, founded on the actual knowledge of his time: these observations apply especially to his books on Greece. He does not duly appreciate Herodotus; nor does he discriminate between the stories which Herodotus tells simply as stories he had heard, and the accounts he relates as derived from personal observation. He likewise rejects the evidence of Pytheas of Marseilles as to the northern regions of Europe, and on more than one occasion calls him a liar, although it is very certain that Pytheas coasted along the whole distance from Gadeira, now Cadiz, in Spain, to the river he calls Tanaïs, but which was probably the Elbe; however, from the extracts which have been preserved it seems that he did not give simply the results of his own observations, but added reports which he collected respecting distant countries, without always drawing a distinction between what he saw himself and what was derived from the report of others.

Strabo's authorities are for the most part Greek, and he seems to have neglected the Latin memoirs and historical narratives of the campaigns of the Romans, which might have furnished him with many valuable geographical facts for the countries as well of Asia as of Europe. He made some use of Cæsar's description of France, the Alps, and Britain; he alludes to the voyage of Publius Crassus in speaking of the Cassiterides, and also the writings of Asinius Pollio, Fabius Pictor, and an anonymous writer whom he calls the Chorographer; but he might have obtained much additional information if he had taken pains to avail himself of the materials he could have procured during his stay at Rome.

Strabo considered that mathematical and astronomical knowledge was indispensable to the science of geography; he says that without some such assistance it would be impossible to be accurately acquainted with the configuration of the earth; and that every one who undertakes to give an accurate description of a place, should describe its astronomical and geometrical relations, and explain its extent, distance, latitude, and climate. As the size of the earth, he says, has been demonstrated by other writers, we shall take for granted what they have advanced. We shall also assume that the earth is spheroidal, and that bodies have a tendency towards its centre. He likewise says, the convexity of the sea is a further proof that the earth is spheroidal to those who have sailed; for they


cannot perceive lights at a distance when placed at the same level as their eyes, but if raised on high, they at once become perceptible. He also observes,“ our gnomons are, among other things, evidence of the revolution of the heavenly bodies, and common sense at once shows us that if the depth of the earth were infinite, such a revolution could not take place." But Strabo did not consider the exact division of the earth into climates or zones, in the sense in which Hipparchus used the term, and the statement of the latitudes and longitudes of places, which in many instances were pretty well determined in his time, as essential to his geographical description.

With regard to the lost continent of Atlantis, Strabo is very cautious in criticising Poseidonius; he observes," he did well, too, in citing the opinion of Plato, that the tradition concerning the island of Atlantis might be received as something more than a mere fiction, it having been related by Solon, on the authority of the Egyptian priests, that this island, almost as large as a continent, was formerly in existence, although now it had disappeared," and remarks that Poseidonius thought it better to quote this than to say, He who brought it into existence can also cause it to disappear, as the poet did the wall of the Achivi.

The following is a short summary of the seventeen books from these sources.

The first two books may be considered as an independent treatise, and by themselves form a remarkable contrast with the rest of the work, in the manner of treating the subjects, and in the difficulties which they present both of language and matter.

In the ist book, the author enters into a long discussion on the merits of Homer, whom he considers to have been the earliest geographer, and defends him against the errors and misconceptions of Eratosthenes. He corrects some faults of Eratosthenes, and, in his inquiry concerning the natural changes of the earth's surface defends Eratosthenes against Hipparchus. In conclusion, he again corrects Eratosthenes as regards the magnitude and divisions of the inhabited world. The most remarkable passage in this book is that in which he conjectures the existence of the great Western Continents. The 2nd book is chiefly occupied with some accounts of mathematical geography, and the Author defends against Hipparchus the division of the inhabited world adopted by Eratosthenes into sections. Then follows a criticism of the division of the earth into six zones, as taught by Poseidonius and Polybius. The pretended circumnavigation of Africa by Eudoxus is referred to, as well as some geographical errors of Polybius. He makes observations of his own on the form and size of the earth in general, as well as of the inhabited portion of it, describing the method of representing it on a spherical or plane surface. A short outline is given of seas, countries, and nations; and he concludes with remarks on the system of climates, and on the shadows projected by the sun.

The 3rd book commences with Iberia, and the subject of Europe is continued to the end of the roth book. His references are the Periplus of Artemidorus, Polybius, and Poseidonius; all three of whom wrote as eye-witnesses. For descriptions and measurement of distances, Artemidorus is chiefly depended upon. The information possessed by Eratosthenes of these countries was meagre and uncertain. For the nations of southern Iberia, he adopts the account of Asclepiades of Myrlea, who had lived and been educated there. Some statements also are borrowed from Roman authors.

The 4th book contains Gallia, according to the four divisions then existing, viz. Gallia Narbonensis, Acquitanensis, Lugdunensis, and the Belgæ; also Britain, with Ierne, and Thule; and lastly, the Alps.

Here Eratosthenes and Ephorus are of little service. His chief guide is Julius Cæsar, whom he frequently quotes verbatim. Polybius is his guide for the Alps. Pytheas is the source of some scanty information respecting Ierne and Thule. Throughout his description he adds accounts obtained at Rome from travellers.

The 5th book commences with a general sketch of Italy, and refers principally to northern Italy. Dividing its history into ancient and modern, his chief reference for the former is Polybius, and for the latter we are indebted to the observations of the author himself, or to accounts received from others. Still the description of Upper Italy is poor and unsatisfactory, from the author not sufficiently availing himself of Roman resources. Then follows some account of Etruria with its neighbouring islands, Umbria, Samnium, Latium, and Rome, chiefly the result of the author's own researches and observations. The book concludes with some remarks on the inhabitants of the mountainous districts of Samnium and Campania.

The 6th book is a continuation of the same subject. Magna Græcia, Sicily, and the adjacent islands, are noticed, and the author concludes with a short discussion on the extent of the Roman Empire. Descriptions of some places are from his own observations; but the sources whence he takes his other account of Italy and the islands are the works of Polybius, Eratosthenes, Artemidorus, Ephorus, Fabius Pictor, Cæcilius (of Cale Acte in Sicily), and some others, besides an anonymous chorographer, supposed to be a Roman, from the circumstance of his distances being given, not in stadia, but in Roman miles.

The 7th book relates, first, to the people north of the Danube,—the Germans, Cimbri, Getæ, Dacians (particularly the European Scythians), and the Crimea; secondly, to the people south of the Danube, viz. those inhabiting Illyricum, Pannonia, Dalmatia, the eastern coast of Thrace to the Euxine, Epirus, Macedonia, Thrace, and the Hellespont. The latter part of this book is not preserved entire in any manuscript, but Kramer has, in his own opinion, succeeded in restoring from the epitomes left to us the greater part of what was wanting. Of Germany, Strabo had tolerable information, but he nowhere states whence it is derived; he may have been partly indebted to Asinius Pollio, whose work he had already examined for the Rhine. For the remaining northern countries, he had Poseidonius and the historians of the Mithridatic war. For the southern countries, he had a lost work of Aristotle on forms of government, Polybius, Poseidonius, and his chief disciples, Theopompus and Ephorus. Incidentally also he quotes Homer and his interpreters, and Philochorus.

The three following books are dedicated to the description of Greece, with the adjacent islands. The 8th comprises the Peloponnesus and its well-known seven provinces, Elis, Mes

« ForrigeFortsæt »