Monthly Archives: April 2017

Of Liscus & the Haedui, Ουελται, uelhedi, Welatabi

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The name of the tribe Veleti has historically presented a problem for those historians who insisted on a relatively late (6th century A.D.) appearance of the Slavs in Europe.  They are one of the first tribes to be mentioned as definitely Slavic.  In the Royal Frankish Annals under the year 789 we read:

“The Wilzi have always been hostile to the Franks and used to hate and harass their neighbors who were either subject to the Franks or allied with them and provoke them into war… Entering the country of the Wilzi [Charlemagne] ordered everything to be laid waste with fire and sword.  But that tribe, although warlike and confident in numbers, was not able to withstand the attack of the royal army for very long.  Therefore, as soon as he came to the city of Dragawit, who stands above the other kinglets of the Wilzi in age and lineage Dragawit at once with all his people came forth from the city, gave the hostages he was ordered to provide, and promised by oath to keep faith with the king and the Franks.  The other magnates and chieftains of the Slavs followed suit and submitted to the authority of the king.”

The same information is repeated by a number of other annalists (see here).

Similarly, Einhard in his Life of Charlemagne says of these events:

“After the insurrection [of duke Tasillo of the Bavarians who confronted Charlemagne at the River Lech in 787], [the king] declared war against the Slavs, whom we normally refer to as the Wilzi, but who are properly called Welatabi in their own language.  In that war the Saxons fought as auxiliaries alongside the other peoples who were ordered to march in the king’s army, but the obedience [of the Saxons] was insincere and lacking in complete commitment.  That war came about because they [the Slavs] were constatntly harassing and attacking the Abotrites, who had once allied themselves with the Franks.  They [the Slavs] were not inclined to listen to the commands [of Charlemagne]…” 

and also:

“A certain gulf [i.e., the Baltic] with an unknown length and a width no more than a hundred miles wide and in many places [much] narrower runs from the western ocean towards the east. Many peoples live around this sea.  In fact, the Danes and the Swedes, whom we call Northmen, live along the northern shore [of the sea].  The Slavs, Estonians and other peoples live along the southern shore.  The Welatabi were the most prominent of these peoples and it was against them that the  king now took up war.  He beat them and brought them under his control in the one and only campaign he personally waged [against them], that from that point on they never thought of refusing to obey his commands.”

Finally, we hear that:

“… [Charlemagne] subordinated and made tributary all the rough and uncivilized peoples inhabiting Germany between the Rhine and Vistula rivers, the ocean and the Danube.  They almost all speak a similar language, but are very different from each other in customs and appearance.  Among these peoples the Welatabi, Sorbs, Obotrites and Bohemians are of special importance, and he came into armed conflict with all of them.  Other peoples [living there], who far outnumbered them, simply surrendered.”

The problem is that the name Welatabi appears much earlier – already in Ptolemy’s Geography where we read of the Ουελται:

“Back from the Ocean, near the Venedicus bay, the Veltae dwell, above whom are the Ossi; then more toward the north, the Carbones and toward the east are the Careotae and the Sali; below whom are the Gelones…”

The gap between the 2nd century of Ptolemy and the late 8th century of the Royal Annals and (later yet) of Einhard seems rather wide.  So were the later Veleti the same as the Ουελται?

It turns out that there is another source attesting the existence of a tribe by that name.  This is the Cosmography of Pseudo-Aethicus.  It begins with the words:

“Lectionum pervigili cura comperimus, senatum populumque Romanum totius mundi dominos, domitores orbis et praesules…”

This text dates back to the late 4th century or 5th century and had initially been thought of as the Cosmography of Aethicus Ister (more on that work here) but later had been instead ascribed to Julius Honorius or Julius Orator.

This work was first published in 1575 by Josias Simmler:

And, thereafter reprinted a number of times usually as part of compilations of latin texts (in 1577, 1626, 1646).  In the 19th century it was analyzed, among others, by Pertz in 1853 and published by Alexander Riese in 1878 in his Geographi latino minores.

Riese observes that although the name appears as vel Haedui, a second hand seems to have corrected (?) the same to uelhedi.

The work appears, among others, in the Vienna Codex (Vindobonensis 181) and in the Codex of the Laurentian Library (Laurentianus 89?).

What is even more interesting is that the Haedui were a Gallic people whose name is normally written these days as Aedui. The Aedui were attacked by the Sequani with the help of Ariovistus at the Battle of Magetobriga but later joined the Gallic revolt. They are known for the only druid whose name is attested: Divitiacus or DIviciacus.  They are also known for a magister named Liscus who is mentioned in Caesar’s Civil War (Caes. Gal. 1.16-1.18) (in McDevitte’s translation):

“Meanwhile, Caesar kept daily importuning the Aedui for the corn which they had promised in the name of their state; for, in consequence of the coldness (Gaul, being as before said, situated toward the north), not only was the corn in the fields not ripe, but there was not in store a sufficiently large quantity even of fodder: besides he was unable to use the corn which he had conveyed in ships up the river Saone , because the Helvetii, from whom he was unwilling to retire had diverted their march from the Saone . The Aedui kept deferring from day to day, and saying that it was being collected-brought in-on the road.” When he saw that he was put off too long, and that the day was close at hand on which he ought to serve out the corn to his soldiers;-having called together their chiefs, of whom he had a great number in his camp, among them Divitiacus and Liscus who was invested with the chief magistracy (whom the Aedui style the Vergobretus, and who is elected annually and has power of life or death over his countrymen), he severely reprimands them, because he is not assisted by them on so urgent an occasion, when the enemy were so close at hand, and when [corn] could neither be bought nor taken from the fields, particularly as, in a great measure urged by their prayers, he had undertaken the war; much more bitterly, therefore does he complain of his being forsaken.”

“Then at length Liscus, moved by Caesar’s speech, discloses what he had hitherto kept secret:-that there are some whose influences with the people is very great, who, though private men, have more power than the magistrates themselves: that these by seditions and violent language are deterring the populace from contributing the corn which they ought to supply; [by telling them] that, if they can not any longer retain the supremacy of Gaul, it were better to submit to the government of Gauls than of Romans, nor ought they to doubt that, if the Romans should overpower the Helvetii, they would wrest their freedom from the Aedui together with the remainder of Gaul. By these very men, [said he], are our plans and whatever is done in the camp, disclosed to the enemy; that they could not be restrained by him: nay more, he was well aware, that though compelled by necessity, he had disclosed the matter to Caesar, at how great a risk he had done it; and for that reason, he had been silent as long as he could.” 

“Caesar perceived that by this speech of Liscus, Dumnorix, the brother of Divitiacus, was indicated; but, as he was unwilling that these matters should be discussed while so many were present, he speedily dismisses: the council, but detains Liscus: he inquires from him when alone, about those things which he had said in the meeting. He [Liscus] speaks more unreservedly and boldly. He [Caesar] makes inquiries on the same points privately of others, and discovered that it is all true; that “Dumnorix is the person, a man of the highest daring, in great favor with the people on account of his liberality, a man eager for a revolution: that for a great many years he has been in the habit of contracting for the customs and all the other taxes of the Aedui at a small cost, because when he bids, no one dares to bid against him. By these means he has both increased his own private property, and amassed great means for giving largesses; that he maintains constantly at his own expense and keeps about his own person a great number of cavalry, and that not only at home, but even among the neighboring states, he has great influence, and for the sake of strengthening this influence has given his mother in marriage among the Bituriges to a man the most noble and most influential there; that he has himself taken a wife from among the Helvetii, and has given his sister by the mother’s side and his female relations in marriage into other states; that he favors and wishes well to the Helvetii on account of this connection; and that he hates Caesar and the Romans, on his own account, because by their arrival his power was weakened, and his brother, Divitiacus, restored to his former position of influence and dignity: that, if any thing should happen to the Romans, he entertains the highest hope of gaining the sovereignty by means of the Helvetii, but that under the government of the Roman people he despairs not only of royalty, but even of that influence which he already has.” Caesar discovered too, on inquiring into the unsuccessful cavalry engagement which had taken place a few days before, that the commencement of that flight had been made by Dumnorix and his cavalry (for Dumnorix was in command of the cavalry which the Aedui had sent for aid to Caesar); that by their flight the rest of the cavalry were dismayed. “

Thus, we either found the original Veleti or at least found the source of Wincenty Kadlubek‘s inspiration for his stories about Caesar and Leszek.

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April 28, 2017

Pomponius Mela’s Chorography

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In addition, to the sources that explicitly mention the Slavs under that specific name (and to sources on the Veneti and on the Suevi) we wanted to showcase some sources on the various tribes in the area that may or may not include ancestors of the Slavs but that deal generally with the geographies of interest where Slavs may indeed be “hiding” under other names.  These sources generally relate to the ancient world predating the appearance of Slavs as Slavs (though not always as in Evagrius) but we think they give valuable information and hints.  We’ve previously discussed some Roman sources here.  We now continue with these interesting works starting with Pomponius Mela.

Although Pomponius Mela‘s (in his De Chorographia) does not mention the Slavs under that name, he does provide an extensive description of the world and being the first major Roman geographer (Strabo was Greek in origin) his work is of some interest.  We’ve mentioned it before (as, for example, here) but hadn’t really delved into the “Chorography”.  We now include all the possible sections of it that could even remotely relate to Slavs or their ancestors.  The translation (including the notes) is primarily that of Frank E. Romer, a professor at East Carolina University.  This translation is the first one apparently since Arthur Golding’s 1585 effort (!) which we also include but only for Germania and Sarmatia (after the Romer version).  The pictures are from a 1540 version of the same work (also in English it seems) from the British Library.

We highlighted interesting tribal names, place names and passages whether or not they have something to do with the Slavs.  Notice too the appearance of passages that probably came from Herodotus (for example, regarding the Neuri or Budini).

Book I
Around Our Sea – from the Pillars of Hercules to the End of Asia

1. A description of the known world is what I set out to give, a difficult task and one hardly suited to eloquence, since it consists chiefly in names of peoples and places and in their fairly puzzling arrangement. To trace this arrangement completely is a time-consuming, rather than a welcome, subject, but nevertheless a very worthwhile thing to consider and understand. It repays the effort of those who give it attention – at least by the very act of contemplating it, if not by the richness of this supplicant’s natural talent.

2. I should, however, say more elsewhere and with greater preciseness.  Now let me address the things that are most unambiguous, as they all certainly will be, even in a summary treatment. To start with, in fact, let me untangle what the shape of the whole is, what its greatest parts are, what the condition of its parts taken one at a time is, and how they are inhabited; then, back to the borders and coasts of all lands [a] as they exist to the interior and on the seacoast, [b] to the extent that the sea enters them and washes up around them, and [c] with those additions that, in the nature of the regions and their inhabitants, need to be recorded. So that this outline can be known and grasped more easily, its full extent will be revisited in a little more depth.

The Shape of the Whole

3. Whatever all this is, therefore, on which we have bestowed the name of world and sky, it is a single unity and embraces itself and all things with a single ambit. It differs in its parts. Where the sun rises is designated formally as east or sunrise; where it sinks, as west or sunset; where it begins its descent, south; in the opposite direction, north.

4. In the middle of this unity the uplifted earth is encircled on all sides by the sea. In the same way, the earth also is divided from east to west into two halves,3 which they term hemispheres, and it is differentiated by five horizontal zones. Heat makes the middle zone unlivable, and cold does so to the outermost ones. The remaining two habitable zones have the same annual seasons, but not at the same time. The Antichthones inhabit one, we the other. The chorography of the former zone is unknown because of the heat of the intervening expanse, and the chorography of the latter is now to be described.

The Three Continents

5. This zone stretches from east to west and, because it is situated this way, is somewhat longer than it is wide at its widest point. It is entirely surrounded by Ocean, and from Ocean it allows four seas to enter – one from the north, from the south two, a fourth from the west. Those other seas will be recounted in their own places.

6. This last one, at first narrow and not more than ten miles wide, breaks into the land mass and penetrates it. Then, spreading in length and width, it pushes back the shores, which recede to an impressive degree, but when those same shores almost come together at the opposite end, the sea is reduced to a space so constricted that the opening is less than a mile wide. From there it spreads out again, but very moderately, and again it proceeds into a space even more constricted than the previous one. After the sea is received by this space, its size increases greatly again, and it is connected to a huge swamp, but only by a tiny aperture. The whole sea, both where it comes in and as far as it reaches, is called by a single name, Our Sea [Mare Nostrum].

7. We call the narrows and the entranceway of the incoming water the Straight [Lat. fretum], but the Greeks call it the Channel [Grk. porthmos].  Wherever that sea extends, it gets different names in different places. Where it is constricted for the first time, it is called the Hellespont [Dardanelles]; then Propontis [Sea of Marmara] where it spreads out; where it compresses itself again, the Thracian Bosphorus [Karadeniz Bogazi/Bosporus]; where it widens again, the Pontus Euxinus [Black Sea].  Where it comes into contact with the swamp, it is called the Cimmerian Bosphorus [Kerchenskiy Proliv/Strait of Kerch]. The swamp itself is called Maeotis [Sea of Azov].

8. By this sea and by two famous rivers, the Tanals [Don] and the Nile, the whole earth is divided into three parts. The Tanais, descending from north to south, flows down almost into the middle of Maeotis, and from the opposite direction the Nile flows down into the sea. Those lands that lie from the Strait to those rivers, on the one side we call Africa, on the other Europe. Whatever is beyond those rivers is Asia.


9. Ocean, differing by name as by position, abuts Asia from three directions: the Eastern Ocean from the east, from the south the Indian, from the north the Scythian Ocean. Asia itself, reaching eastward with a huge and continuous coastline, empties its rivers on this end over a coast as wide as Europe, Africa, and the sea that extends between them. Then, after its coastline has advanced uninterrupted for some distance, it lets in the Arabian [Red] and the Persian Seas from what we call the Indian Ocean, and from the Scythian Ocean it lets in the Caspian. Therefore, being narrower where it lets them in, Asia expands again and becomes as wide as it had been. Then as soon as it arrives at its own limit and the boundaries it shares with other lands, the middle of the western edge is received by our waters; the rest of it goes by one horn to the Nile, by the other to the Tanais.

10. Asia’s coast descends in banks with the bed of the Nile River into the sea, and for a long time it stretches out its shores in conformity with that sea’s advance. Then the coastline directly confronts the sea as the sea approaches. The shoreline extends, for the first time, in a curve with a huge sweep. After that, it again curves obliquely back to the Bosphorus.  After repeatedly curving to the Pontic side, Asia stretches in a crosswise line as far as the entrance of the Maeotis, and, hugging the edge of the very Maeotis all the way to the Tanais, it becomes the riverbank where the Tanais is located.

11. We are told that the first humans in Asia, starting from the east, are the Indians, the Seres [Lat., Silk People], and the Scyths. The Seres inhabit more or less the middle of the eastern part.  The Indians and the Scyths inhabit the extremities, both peoples covering a broad expanse and spreading to the ocean not at this point only. For the Indians also look south and for a long time have been occupying the shore of the Indian Ocean with continuous nations, except insofar as the heat makes it uninhabitable. The Scyths look north too, and they possess the littoral of the Scythian Ocean all the way to the Caspian Gulf, except where they are forestalled by the cold.

12. Next to the Indians is Ariane, then Aria and Cedrosis and Persis up to the Persian Gulf. The Persian peoples surround this gulf; the Arabs surround the other one named earlier.  After these peoples, what remains up to Africa belongs to the Aethiopians. In the former place the Caspiani, next to the Scyths, surround the Caspian Gulf. Beyond them, the Amazons are said to be found, and beyond them, the Hyperboreans.

13. Many different nations inhabit the interior of the land. The Gandari, Pariani, Bactri, Sugdiani, Pharmacotrophi, Chomarae, Choamani, Propanisadae, and Dahae are found beyond the Scyths and the Scythian deserts. On the shores of the Caspian Gulf are found the Comari, Massagetae, Cadusi, Hyrcani, and Hiberi. Beyond the Amazons and Hyperboreans are found the Cimmerians, Cissianti, Achaei, Georgians, Moschi, Cercetae, Phoristae, and Arimphaei. Where its expanse protrudes into Our Seas are found the Matiani, Tibarani, and – better-known names – the Medes, Armenians, Commagenes, Murimeni, Eneti, Cappadocians, Gallo-Greeks, Lycaones, Phrygians, Isaurians, Lydians, and Syro-Cilicians.

14. Again, of these latter nations that face south, the same ones that hold the interior hold the shores all the way to the Persian Gulf. Beyond the Caspian Gulf are the Parthians and Assyrians, beyond the Persian Gulf are the Babylonians, and beyond the Aethiopians are the Aegyptians. The Aegyptians likewise possess the lands adjacent to the banks of the Nile River and Our Sea. Then Arabia, with its narrow coastline, is contiguous with the shores that follow. From there, as far as that bend we described above, is Syria. On that very bend is Cilicia, but, in addition, Lycia and Pamphylia, Caria, Ionia, Aeolis, and the Troad all the way up to the Hellespont. From there the Bithynians are found up to the Thracian Bosphorus. Around the Pontus are a number of peoples, with one boundary or another, but all with one name, the Pontici. Beside the Maeotic Lake are found the Maeotici; beside the Tanais, the Sauromatae.

15. For terminal points Europe has the Tanais, the Maeotis, and the Pontus in the east; in the west the Atlantic; to the north the Britannic Ocean. Its coastline is the form of the littoral from the TanaIs to the Hellespont. Europe is not only opposite to the facing shores of Asia but also similar to them [a] where it is a bank of the aforesaid river, [b] where it brings the bend of the Swamp back to the curve of the Pontus, and [c] where it lies beside Propontis and Hellespont with its shore.

16. From there to the Strait, now sweepingly receding, now protruding, the European littoral makes three very large gulfs and projects into the sea with the same number of long extensions. On the other side of the Strait, the Atlantic coast runs up quite irregularly to the west, particularly its middle portion. To the north it extends, practically speaking, as if in a straight line, except where once or twice it is pulled back in by means of a deep recess.

17. The sea that it takes in with its first gulf is called the Aegean. The one it takes in through the next opening is called the Ionian Sea, but its interior part is the Adriatic. Finally, the one that we regard as the Tuscan Sea, the Greeks regard as the Tyrrhenian Sea.

18. The first nation, from the Tanais more or less to the middle of the Pontic littoral, is Scythia (not the one already mentioned).  From here Thrace stretches into part of the Aegean, and Macedonia is joined to it. Then Greece protrudes and divides the Aegean from the Ionian Sea. Illyria occupies the coast of the Adriatic. Between the Adriatic itself and the Tuscan Sea Italy juts out. In the innermost part of the Tuscan Sea is Gaul; on the farther side is Spain.

19. Spain stretches, with differently situated coastlines, to the west and also for a long time to the north. Then Gaul again extends for a long way, and it reaches from our shores all the way up to this point. After Gaul the Germans reach as far as the Sarmatae, and they to Asia…


25. It has been stated earlier that the Atlantic is the ocean that girds the earth on the west. From here – for those traveling into Our Sea – Spain is on the left, Mauretania on the right. The former is the first part of Europe, the latter of Africa. The eastern end of the Mauretanian coast is the Mulucha [Moulouya] River. Its head (and starting point), however, is the promontory that the Greeks call Ampelusia [Cape Spartel]; the Africans call that promontory by another name, but one that means the same thing.

26. On it is the sacred Cave of Hercules, and beyond the cave is Tinge [Tangiers], a very old town founded, as they say, by Antaeus.  A proof of their claim exists, a huge shield cut from elephant hide, one that, because of its size, is not easy to wield if anyone today were to use it. The locals consider it as true that the shield was made by the famous giant [that is Antaeus].  They pass the story down, and for that reason they pay him cult in an exceptional way.

27. Next comes a very high mountain, facing the one that Spain raises up on the opposite shore. The one on this side they call Abila [Jabal Musa], the one on the far side Calpe [Gibraltar]; they call them together the Pillars of Hercules. Oral tradition goes on to give the story of the name: Hercules himself separated the mountains, which had once been joined in a continuous ridge, and Ocean, previously shut out by the mole of the mountains, was let into those places that it now inundates. On this side of the Strait, the sea already pours in over a rather broad area, and with its great rush it bends back rather far the lands it has cleared from its path.

28. Moreover, the region, not well known, and scarcely endowed with anything illustrious, is populated with small towns and gives passage to small rivers. It is of better quality in its soil than in its men; and it is obscure because of the inactivity of its people.

29. Nevertheless, of the things here that are not embarrassing to mention, there are tall mountains that spread – on purpose, as it were – in an unbroken line, and that are called the Seven Brothers [Ceuta] because of their number and likeness to one another, then the Tumuada [Martil] River, the small towns of Rusigada [Russadir/Melilla] and Siga [Takembrit]; and Portus Magnus [Lat., Great Port; Bettioua], so called because of its expanse. That river, which we called the Mulucha, is nowadays the boundary of tribes, but once it was the boundary of kingdoms, those of Bocchus and Jugurtha.


30. Numidia, which spreads from there to the banks of the Ampsacus [Kabir] River, is actually narrower in expanse than Mauretania, but it is both more widely cultivated and richer. Of the cities that it contains, the largest are Cirta [Constantine] and Iol [Chercell]. Cirta is far from the sea and is now a colony of the Sittiani, but once it was the home of kings, at its wealthiest when it belonged to Syphax.  Iol, on the seaside, was once unknown but is now famous because it was the royal residence of Juba and because it is referred to now as Caesarea.

31. On the near side of this city – it is situated more or less in the middle of the coast – are the towns of Cartinna [Tenes] and Arsinna, the garrison town of Quiza, Laturus Gulf [Gulf of Arzew], and the Sardabale River. On its far side is the common tomb of the royal family, then the cities of Icosium [Algiers] and Ruthisia and, flowing between them, the Aucus [Harrach] and Nabar [Hamiz], as well as other things, which it is no loss, either of fact or fame, to pass over in silence.

32. Farther inland, and quite far from shore, there reportedly exist and are found – amazingly, if their reality is credible – the spines of fishes, pieces of murex and oyster, rocks smoothed (as they are supposed to be) by waves and no different from rocks in the sea, anchors set in reefs, other indications of the same kind, and even traces, in fields that nourish nothing, of a sea that once poured right up to those locations.

Africa Provincia

33. The following region, from Point Metagonium [Cape Bougaroun] to the Altars of the Philaeni, usurps for itself the name of Africa.  In it are the towns of Hippo Regius [Annaba], Rusiccade [Skikda], and Thabraca [Tabarka].

34. Then three promontories – White Point [Cap Blanc], Point Apollo [Ras Si Ali Mekki], and Mercury Point [Cap Bon] – projecting an impressive distance into the sea, make two large gulfs. They call the one right after Hippo Diarrhytos [Bizerte] the Gulf of Hippo, because the town is located on its shoreline. In the other gulf are Castra Delia, Castra Cornelia, the Bagrada [Mejerda] River, Utica, and Carthage. Both Utica and Carthage are famous, and both were founded by Phoenicians. The former is marked by the death of Cato.  The latter is marked by its own fate: now it is a colony of the Roman people, but it was once their determined rival for imperial power.  In fact, Carthage is now wealthy again, but it remains more famous for the destruction of its ancestors’ claims than for the wealth of its present inhabitants. Hadrumetum [Sousse], Leptis [Lemta], Clupea [Kelibia], Habromacte, Phyre, and Neapolis [Nabeul], the most widely known cities vis-a-vis other obscure places, lie one after another from here to Syrtis.

35. Syrtis is a gulf almost one hundred miles wide where it receives the open sea and three hundred miles wide where it encloses the sea. It has no ports and is frightening and dangerous because of the shallowness of its frequent shoals and even more dangerous because of the reversing movements of the sea as it flows in and out.

36. On its shoreline a huge swamp receives the Triton River; the swamp itself is Lake Triton [Chott Jerid], that is, the lake of Minerva, who, as the locals think, was born there, whence it was given her epithet. They give some credibility to that legend, because they celebrate the day they think is her birthday with contests of virgins, who compete among themselves.

37. Farther on is the town of Oea [Tarabulus/Tripoli] and the Cinyps [Khane] River, which descends through the lushest fields; then a second Leptis and a second Syrtis, equal in name and nature to the first, but approximately twice as large both where it remains open and where it curves. Its first promontory is Borion [Grk., North Point; Ras Taiines], and, from there on, the shore (which the Lotus-Eaters are said to have occupied) reaches its farther promontory on a coast with no ports all the way to Phycon [Ras Sem].

38. The actual Altars have taken their name from the brothers Philaeni, who were sent from Carthage to meet certain Cyrenaeans in order to end by treaty a border war that had been waged for a long time with great losses on both sides.  Later the agreement failed, by which the representatives of the two sides were to be dispatched from both directions at a prearranged time, and by which the boundary was to be established right where the two sides met. They renewed from scratch the agreement that everything on the nearer side fell to their respective countrymen, and the brothers allowed themselves – an amazing deed and most worthy of memory! – to be buried alive on the spot.


39. From there to Catabathmos [Senke on the Gulf of Salfim] is the province of Cyrenaica, and in it are the famously reliable oracle of Ammon, the spring they call the Fountain of the Sun, and a particular cliff sacred to Auster [Lat., the Southwind]. When this cliff is touched by human hands, that wind springs up wildly and, whipping the sands like seas, rages the same way it does on water. The fountain boils up in the middle of the night, and then, gradually changing to lukewarm, at dawn it passes to cold; then, in proportion to the sun’s rising, it gets colder and actually becomes solid ice at midday; then it turns lukewarm again, it is steaming at sundown, and the more night advances, the hotter the spring gets. In the middle of the night, it is boiling hot again.

40. Along the shore are found Zephyr [Grk., West Wind] Point and Naustathmos [Grk., Anchorage; Ra’s el HilMl], Port Paraetonius [Marsa Matrfih], the cities of Hesperia, Apollonia [Susah], Ptolemais [Tulmaythah], and Arsinoe [Ttikrah]; and also Cyrene [Shahhat] itself, from which the region takes its name. The Catabathmos Valley, sloping down into Aegypt, is the boundary of Africa…


62. Syria holds a broad expanse of the littoral, as well as lands that extend rather broadly into the interior, and it is designated by different names in different places. For example, it is called Coele, Mesopotamia, Judaea, Commagene, and Sophene.

63. It is Palestine at the point where Syria abuts the Arabs, then Phoenicia, and then – where it reaches Cilicia-Antiochia, which was powerful long ago and for a long time, but which was most powerful by far when Semiramis held it under her royal sway. Her works certainly have many distinctive characteristics. Two in particular stand out: Babylon was built as a city of amazing size, and the Euphrates and Tigris were diverted into once dry regions.

64. In Palestine, however, is Gaza, a mighty and very well fortified city. This is why the Persians call it their treasury (and from that fact comes the name): when Cambyses headed for Aegypt under arms, he had brought here both riches and the money for war.  Ascalon [Ashqelon] is no less important a city.  Iope [Tel Aviv-Yafo] was founded, as they tell it, before the flood. Iope is where the locals claim that Cepheus was king, based on the proof that particular old altars – altars with the greatest taboo – continue to bear an inscription of that man and his brother Phineus. What is more, they even point out the huge bones of the sea-monster as a clear reminder of the event celebrated in song and legend, and as a clear reminder of Andromeda, who was saved by Perseus.


65. The Phoenicians are a clever branch of the human race and exceptional in regard to the obligations of war and peace, and they made Phoenicia famous. They devised the alphabet, literary pursuits, and other arts too; they figured out how to win access to the sea by ship, how to conduct battle with a navy, and how to rule over other peoples; and they developed the power of sovereignty and the art of battle.

66. In Phoenicia is Tyre [Sofir], once an island, but now tied to the mainland, because siegeworks were thrown up by Alexander, who at one time assailed it. Villages occupy the upper coast, along with still-wealthy Sidon [Saida], the most important of the maritime cities before it was captured by the Persians.

67. From it to Point Theuprosopon [Grk., Face of God; Cape Madonna/Ras es-Saq’a] there are two towns, Byblos [Jbail] and Botrys [Batrofin]. Farther on there were once three towns, each separated from the next by a single stade; now the place is called Tripolis [Grk., Three-Cities; Trablous] from the number of those towns. Then comes Simyra, a military post, and Marathos, a not obscure city.

68. From there on, Asia is no longer sideways to the sea but runs directly into it. Asia forms a tremendous gulf [Iskenderun Korfezi] with the unbent extension of its littoral. Wealthy peoples live around the gulf, and the location makes them rich, because the fertile district, perforated by frequent navigable riverbeds, exchanges and combines, in a ready traffic, the diverse riches of sea and land.

69. On the gulf is the remainder of Syria, to which the name of Antiochia applies, and on its shore are the cities Seleucia [Kabousi], Hypatos, Berytos [Beyrouth/ Beirut], Laodicea [Al Ladhiqiyah/Latakia], and Rhosos, as well as the rivers that go between these cities, the Lycos [Kelb], the Hypatos, and the Orontes [Asi]; then comes Mt. Amanus [Elma Dagi] and, right after it, Myriandros and the Cilicians.


70. In the gulf’s deepest recess, however, is the site of a great historical turning point long ago. This place observed and witnessed both the Persians routed by Alexander and Darius in flight. Now it is marked not even by the most insignificant city, but then it was famous because of its mighty city. The place was Issos, and that is why the gulf is called the Gulf of Issos. At a distance from there lies Point Hammodes, between the Pyramus [Ceyhan] and Cydnus [Tarsus] Rivers. The Pyramus, the river nearer to Issos, flows beside Mallos; the Cydnus, farther on, goes through Tarsus.

71. Next is a city once occupied by Rhodians and Argives, later occupied by pirates when Pompey allotted it to them; now called Pompeiopolis, then called Soloe.  Beside it, in a small mound, the funerary monument of the poet Aratus must be mentioned for this reason: because – no one knows why – rocks that are hurled on it burst apart. Not far from here the town of Corycos [Korghoz], which is tied to the continent by a narrow ridge, is surrounded by a harbor and by the open sea.

72. Above the town is the so-called Corycian Cave [tenet Deresi], a cave of unique nature, too extraordinary to be easily describable.  For in fact it gapes wide with a tremendous maw and makes an opening, right at the very top, into the mountain, which is located alongside the shore, and which is quite steep with a path of ten stades.  Then, going down deeply – the more impressive the farther down it goes – the cave is alive with hanging growth everywhere, and it is encircled completely by the shady embrace of its sides. The cave is so wonderful and beautiful that, at first sight, it boggles the minds of those who approach it, but it will not gratify them when they have steeled themselves to observe it better.

73. There is one descent into it, narrow, rough, a mile-and-a-half long, through lovely shadows and the shade of a forest that resonates with a tinge of rusticity, while streams continually flow from one direction or another. When the bottom is reached, again a second cave is opened up, but this one is now to be described for entirely other reasons. It terrifies those who enter with its miraculous roar of cymbals and the great uproar of things rustling around.

74. After that, it is visible for some time, but then-where it goes down farther – it becomes darker. It draws deep down anyone who dares, and it lets them in deep as if through a rabbit hole. There a mighty river rising from a mighty spring shows just a glimpse of itself, and, after it has drawn great force in its short channel, again it plunges down and disappears. Inside, there is a space too hair-raising for anyone to dare to go forward, and for that reason it remains unknown.

75. The whole cave, however, being narrow and truly sacred, both worthy of being inhabited by gods and believed to be so, reveals nothing that is not venerable, and it reveals itself as if with some kind of numinous power.

76. Farther on is another cave, which they call the Cave of Typhon, with a narrow mouth and a very tight squeeze, as those who have experienced it have reported. That is why the cave is permeated by an unending night and never easy to investigate. Because this cave was once the bedchamber of Typhon, however, and because now it instantly deprives of life anything and everything that goes down into it, it is worth recording for its nature and its legend.

77. Next, there are two promontories: Sarpedon [Incekum Burun], once the boundary of the kingdom of Sarpedon, and Anemurium [Anamur Burun], which separates Cilicia from Pamphylia. Between them lie Celenderis and Nagidos, colonies of the Samians, but Celenderis is the one nearer to Sarpedon.


78. In Pamphylia are the navigable Melas River, the town of Sida [Selimiye/Side], and a second river, the Eurymedon. Beside the latter river the great naval battle took place against the Phoenicians and Persians, as well as the great victory of Cimon, the Athenian general.  From a moderately high hill, Aspendos looks out on the sea where the battle was fought. Argives had founded Aspendos, but their neighbors came to possess it.

79. After that, there are two other very strong rivers, the Cestros [Ak] and the Catarhactes [Duiden]. The Cestros is easy to navigate, but the latter gets its name because it makes waterfalls. Between those rivers are the town of Perga [Perge] and the temple of Pergaean Diana, whom they name after the town. Across those same rivers are Mt. Sardemisos and Phaselis, which was founded by Mopsus and marks the boundary of Pamphylia.


80. Moving right along, Lycia, named for King Lycus, the son of Pandion, and, as they say, once unsafe because of the Chimaera’s fiery breath, terminates the tremendous gulf with the harbor of Sida and a spur of the Taurus range.

81. The Taurus range actually rises over an immense distance starting from the shores of the Eastern Ocean and reaches quite an elevation. Then, turning with its right flank to the north, its left to the south, the range goes straight west, and with its unbroken chain, where it separates the lands from one another, it is the boundary of great peoples wherever it drives its ridge. The range ends by extending into the sea. Even where it looks east, the Taurus is called by the same name as the whole (as just indicated). Then it is called Haemodes and Caucasus and Propanisus [Paropamisus]; after that, the Caspian Gates, the Niphates, the Armenian Gates; and, where now it abuts Our Seas, the Taurus again.

82. After the Taurus promontory come the Limyra River and the city that is its namesake. Except for Patara, the towns are as unresplendent as they are numerous. The temple of Apollo, once similar to Delphi in wealth and in oracular credibility, makes Patara well known. Farther on are the Xanthus River [Koca §ayi], the town of Xanthos, Mt. Cragus [San Dagh], and the city that bounds Lycia, Telmesos [Fethiye].


83. Caria follows, and peoples of uncertain origin inhabit it. Some writers hold the opinion that they are indigenous peoples, others that they are Pelasgians, still others that they are Cretans. The nation was once so enamored of weapons and fighting that they used to fight other peoples’ wars for pay. There are some forts here; then two promontories, Pedalion and Crya; and after the Calbis River, the town of Caunus, infamous for the ill health of its inhabitants.

84. From there to Halicarnassos [Bodrum] the following places are located: a few Rhodian colonies and two harbors, Gelos and the one called Thyssanusa after the city it surrounds. Between those harbors are the town of Larumna and the Hill of Pandion, which extends into the sea; then three gulfs, in order, Thymnias, Schoenus, and Bubassius. Thymnias’ promontory is Point Aphrodisium; Schoenus surrounds Hyla; Bubassius surrounds Cyrnos. Then comes Cnidus on the tip of a peninsula, and between it and the Ceramicus Gulf, located in a secluded place, is Euthana.

85. Halicarnassos is an Argive colony, and there is a reason, apart from its founders, why it is memorable: it produced the Mausoleum, that is, the funerary monument of King Mausolus, one of the Seven Wonders and the work of Artemisia.  Beyond Halicarnassos are the following places: the coast of Leuca; the cities of Myndos, Caruanda, and Neapolis; the Iasian and Basilic Gulfs. Bargylos is on the Iasian Gulf.


86. After the Basilic Gulf, Ionia winds around with several twists and turns. Beginning its first bend from Point Poseidon, it goes around the oracle of Apollo, who in the old days was called Branchidian but nowadays is called Didymaean Apollo. Then comes Miletus, once the lead- ing city of all Ionia because of its skill in war and in peace, and the birthplace of the astronomer Thales, the musician Timotheus, and the natural philosopher Anaximander; and whenever they talk of Ionia, Miletus is also justly renowned for the celebrated talents of its other citizens.  The city of Hippis is the outlet of the Maeander River, and Mt. Latmus is known for the legend of Endymion, deeply loved, as they report, by the Moon.

87. After that, bending in again, the coastline goes around the city of Priene and the mouth of the Gaesus River, and then, the bigger its circuit, the more it embraces. The Panionium [Grk., Pan-lonian Sanctuary] is there. It is a sacred district and, for that reason, is so designated because the Ionians tend it in common.

88. There, founded by fugitives, as they say (and the name agrees with the report), is Phygela. Ephesus is there, and the most renowned temple of Diana, which the Amazons, rulers of Asia, are reported to have dedicated. The Cayster River is there. Lebedos is there, and the shrine of Apollo, which Manto, Teiresias’ daughter, founded when she was fleeing the Epigoni, the conquerors of Thebes. Colophon is there, which Mopsus, son of that same Manto, founded.

89. By contrast, the promontory by which the gulf is defined projects like a peninsula, because with its other side it makes another gulf, which they call the Gulf of Smyrna [Izmir], and because it extends its remaining portions over a wider expanse after a narrow neck of land. On that isthmus, Teos to the south side and Clazomenae to the north are tied together by a common boundary where they press their backs together, and they look out on different seas with different coastlines. On the peninsula itself is Coryna. On the Gulf of Smyrna are the Hermus River and the city of Leuca; beyond is Phocaea, the last city of Ionia.


90. The next region became Aeolis from the time when it began to be cultivated by Aeolians. It was previously called Mysia, however, and where it adjoins the Hellespont, with the Trojans in possession, it was the Troad. They call the first of its cities Myrina after its founder Myrinus. Pelops established the following city when he returned from Greece after his victory over Oenomatis; the leader of the Amazons, Cyme, called it Cyme, once those who had dwelt there were driven out. Above it, the Caicus runs down between Elaea and Pitane, the city that bore Arcesilas, a very renowned head of the Academy when its doctrine was the suspension of judgment.

91. At that point, on a promontory, comes the town of Cyna. This promontory receives gulfs that are not detailed here; they are not small gulfs but long and gentle bends that gradually carry the shoreline all the way back to the foot of Mt. Ida [Kaz]. The mountain range is sprinkled at first with small cities, of which the most renowned is Cisthena. On the inner fold the plain, Thebe by name, contains the adjacent towns Adramytion, Astura, and Chrysa (in the same order as named), and it contains Antandrus on the other side.

92. A dual explanation of that last name is in circulation. Some claim that Ascanius, the son of Aeneas, was captured by the Pelasgians when he ruled there, and that he ransomed himself in exchange for that city. Others think that it was founded by people here, whom civil war had driven from the island of Andros. The latter want the name Antandrus to be accepted as meaning “in exchange for Andros,” the former as “in exchange for a man.”

93. The following stretch of coast reaches Gargara and Assos, colonies of the Aeolians. Then, not far from Troy, a second gulf, Achae6n Limen [Grk., Achaean Harbor], curves its shores, which are very renowned because of the city, the war, and the destruction. Here was the town of Sigeum, here the camp of the warring Achaeans. Descending to this place from Mt. Ida, the Scamander makes its outlet, and the Simois too, rivers more important because of tradition than because of their physical character.

94. The mountain itself, remembered on account of the old struggle for booty and because of the judgment of Paris, reveals the rising sun differently from the way it is usually viewed in other lands. In fact, for people watching from the very peak, more or less from the middle of the night on, scattered fires appear to shine. The nearer the light draws, the more those fires appear to come together and to fuse with one another, until, as a result of being gathered closer and closer together, fewer fires are burning, and until, at the end, they burn with a single flame.

95. After that light has blazed brilliantly, like a fire, for a long time, it compresses itself, becomes round, and turns into a huge sphere. For a long time that sphere appears sizable and tied to the earth. Then it decreases little by little, becoming brighter the more it decreases. Last of all, it dispels the night, and, turning into the sun now, it rises along with the day.

96. Outside the gulf is the Rhoetean coast, with the renowned cities of Rhoeteum and Dardania, but the coast is particularly important for the tomb of Ajax. From here the sea narrows down and no longer washes onto the mainland. Instead, it divides the land again, and it splits, by means of the narrow strait of the Hellespont, the shore that blocked its path. The sea causes the lands where it flows to be its sides again. Hellespont, Propontis, Pontus, and Maeotis.

97. Farther in are the Bithynians and the Mariandyni; on the coast are the Greek cities Abydos, Lampsacum, Parion, and Priapos. Abydos is famous because of the circulation of a great love story long ago. Lampsacum, as the Phocaeans call it, got its name from the fact that, when they inquired where it would be best for them to head out for, an oracular response told them to make their home on the very spot where daylight had first struck.

98. Then the sea widens as the Propontis, into which flows the Granicus, the river known for the very first battle between the Persians and Alexander. On the other side of the river, Cyzicum is located on the isthmus of a peninsula. We have learned that Cyzicus, its namesake, died in battle, slaughtered by the unthinking Minyans when they were invading the Colchians.*  Later on come Placia and Scylace, small Pelasgian colonies over which, from the back, hangs Mt. Olympus, or Mt. Mysius as the locals call it.

* note: The allusion is to the legend of Jason and the Argonauts, who sailed to Colchis to retrieve the Golden Fleece. The story of Jason, the Argonauts, and Medea is told at length by Apollonius Rhodius in his Argonautica, and that of Jason and Medea is reported selectively by Euripides in Medea and in more traditional form by Ovid at Met. 7.1-452.

99. The Rhyndacos River goes through those places that follow. All around it are generated monstrous snakes, remarkable not only because of their size but also because, after they have fled from the sun’s heat into the riverbed, they in fact emerge, open their mouths wide, and swallow birds that fly above them, even if they are flying high and fast. On the far side of the Rhyndacus are Dascylos and Myrlea, the city the Colophonians settled.

100. After that, there are two moderate-sized gulfs. One without a name embraces Cion, the most convenient trading town for Phrygia, which lies not too far away; the other one, the Gulf of Olbia, bears on its promontory a shrine of Neptune and in its bosom Astacos, a city founded by Megarians.

101. Next, the continents again lie rather close to one another, and the channel, where the sea narrows as it is about to enter the Pontus, separates Europe from Asia by five stades. This channel is the Thracian Bosphorus, as previously indicated.  In the very jaws of this Bosphorus is a town, and at its mouth is a temple. The name of the town is Calchedon, its principal founder Archias the Megarian.  The divinity of the temple is Jupiter, its founder Jason.

102. Here now the mighty Pontus opens out, and it extends to both the near and far sides in a long and straight line (except where there are promontories), even though the coast winds everywhere else. However, because the shoreline recedes less on the opposite side than it does to the left or the right, it curves around with soft points until it makes narrow angles on both ends and is rounded very much like the shape of the Scythian bow. The sea is brief, cruel, and cloudy; its stopping-off places are few and far between; it is surrounded by a shore that is neither soft nor sandy; it borders on the north winds; and it is billowy and tempestuous, because it is not deep. In the olden days the sea was called the Axenus [Grk., Unfriendly] Sea from the vicious disposition of the inhabitants, but later it was called the Euxinus [Grk., Friendly] Sea because of traffic with somewhat gentler nations.

103. On the Pontus, first off, the Mariandyni inhabit a city founded, as they say, by Argive Hercules. It is called Heraclea [Eregli], and that name adds credibility to the tradition. Next to it is the Acherusian Cave, which goes down, as they tell it, to the Manes, and they believe that Cerberus was hauled up from there.

104. After that comes the town of Tios, in fact a colony of the Milesians, but now belonging to the land and people of Paphlagonia. More or less in the middle of their littoral is Point Carambis [Kerempe Burun]. On its nearer side is the Parthenius River; the cities of Sesamus, Cromnos, and Cytorus (founded by Cytisorus, the son of Phrixus); then Cinolis, Collyris, and Armene, which marks the end of Paphlagonia.

105. Next, the Chalybes occupy two very renowned cities, Amisos and Sinope [Sinop], the latter being the birthplace of Diogenes the Cynic. As to rivers, they have the Halys [Kizil Irmak] and the Thermodon [Terme]. Beyond the Halys is the city of Lycastos; a plain lies beside the Thermodon. On that plain was the town of Themiscurum, and there was an encampment, too, of Amazons, which they call Amazonius for that reason.

106. The Tibareni, for whom the highest good lies in playing and laughing, extend to the Chalybae. Farther on, the Mossyni take shelter under wooden towers, completely mark their whole bodies with tattoos, eat in the open air, recline with the sexes mixed and without concealing it, and choose kings by vote. They keep their kings in chains and under the closest guard, and when the kings have earned blame for exercising some power wrongfully, the people punish them by depriving them of a whole day’s food. Otherwise, the people are rough, crude, and absolutely vicious to those who put in to shore there.

107. After them come the less savage Macrocephali [Grk., Long- Heads], Bechiri, and Buxeri, but even these peoples are of unruly disposition. Cities are rare; particularly renowned, though, are Cerasunta and Trapezos [Trabzon].

108. Next is that place where the stretch of coastline coming from the Bosphorus terminates, and from there the bend of the opposite shore, becoming more elevated on the gulf, forms the narrowest angle of the Pontus. Here are the Colchians; the Phasis [Rioni] bursts into the sea here; here is the town colonized by Themistagoras the Milesian; here are the grove and temple of Phrixus, who is well known from the old legend of the Golden Fleece.

109. Rising from here, the mountains stretch in a long ridge until they connect to the Riphaean [Grk., Gusty] Range.  These mountains, on one end, face the Euxine, the Maeotis, and the Tanais, and on the other they face the Caspian Sea. They are called the Ceraunians but are elsewhere called the Taurus Mountains, the Moschic, the Amazonian, the Caspian, the Coraxic, the Caucasus – called by as many different names as there are peoples beside them.

110. On the first bend, however, of the now curving shore, there is a town that Greek merchants founded, and they reportedly called it Cycnus because the voice of a swan [Grk. kyknos] had given a sign to them when, while being tossed around in a blinding storm, they did not know where land was. Wild, uncivilized nations living beside the vast sea occupy its remaining coastline: the Melanchlaeni, the Toretici, and six Colician peoples (the Coraxici, the Phthirophagi, the Heniochi, the Achaeans, the Cercetici, and, at this point, the Sindones, on the boundary of the Maeotis).

111. In the territory of the Heniochi, Dioscorias was founded by Castor and Pollux, who came to the Pontus with Jason; and Sindos, in the territory of the Sindones, was founded by the actual cultivators of the land.

112. Then a region, situated sideways to the sea and moderately wide, runs between the Pontus and the Swamp to the Cimmerian Bosphorus. The Coracanda, which drains in two riverbeds to the lake and to the sea, makes this region a peninsula. Four cities are located there: Hermonassa, Cepoe, Phanagorea, and, on the very shore, Cimmerium.

113. On the near side, the Maeotic Lake receives those who enter it. It spreads in all directions where it touches broad land, but it is surrounded by an uncurving shore nearer to the sea. Maeotis is enclosed, as it were, by a border except where it has its opening, and at the nearer end it is virtually similar to the Pontus in size.

114. The Maeotici cultivate the shore that curves from the Cimmerian Bosphorus all the way to the Tanais, as do the Thatae, the Sirachi, the Phicores, and – next to the mouth of the river – the Ixamatae. Among them, women practice the same skills as men, so much so that women are not free even from military service. Men serve in the infantry and fight with bows; women enter battle on horseback and do not fight with swords but kill their captives by dragging them off with lariats. Still, women do marry, but there is no predictable age at which to be considered marriageable: women remain virgins except for those who have killed an enemy.

115. The Tanais itself, falling from the Riphaean Mountains, rushes so precipitously that it alone endures both summery heat and wintry cold in close proximity, yet it runs down always the same, unchanged and fast-moving, even when neighboring rivers, the Maeotis, the Cimmerian Bosphorus, and certain parts of the Pon`tus are all frozen by winter’s cold.

116. The Sauromatae occupy its banks and the places that are contiguous with them. They are one nation but have as many peoples as they have names. First, the Maeotid Gynaecocratumenoe [Grk., Ruled By Women] – the kingdoms of the Amazons – occupy plains that are rich in pasture but barren and bare for other things. The Budini inhabit the city of Gelonos. Next to them the Thyssagetae and Turcae occupy endless forests and feed themselves by hunting.

117. The next region is deserted and rough, with uninterrupted cliffs over a wide stretch; it extends all the way to the Aremphaei. These people enjoy customs that are very much based on fair treatment; they have sacred groves for homes and berries as food; and both men and women keep their heads bare. Therefore these people are regarded as consecrated, and no one from nations as savage as those here profanes these people, which results in the custom that other people flee to them for asylum. Farther on, the Riphaean Mountains rise up, and beyond them lies the shore that faces Ocean.

Book II
Around Our Sea – from the End of Asia to the Pillars of Hercules

1. That is the boundary, as I have said, and the layout of Asia where it verges on Our Sea and the Tanais [Don]. If people travel by the Tanais into the Maeotis, Europe is situated to the right, but to the left if sailing upriver. In Europe, constantly falling snow makes those places contiguous with the Riphaean Mountains (which actually reach even this far) so impassable that, in addition, they prevent those who deliberately travel here from seeing anything. After that comes a region of very rich soil but quite uninhabitable because griffins, a savage and tena- cious breed of wild beasts, love – to an amazing degree – the gold that is mined from deep within the earth there, and because they guard it with an equally amazing hostility to those who set foot there.

2. The first human beings are Scyths, and first of the Scyths are the so-called one-eyed Arimaspoe; after them the Essedones are found all the way to Maeotis. The Buces [Nogaika] River cuts the Maeotis’ bend, and the Agathyrsi and Sauromatae surround it. The Hamaxobioe [Grk., Wagon Dwellers] are called that because they use their wagons as homes.  Then a strip, now running sideways to the Cimmerian Bosphorus, is enclosed both by the Pontus and by the Maeotis.

3. The Satarchae occupy the area that goes toward the Swamp; beside the Cimmerian Bosphorus are the Cimmerian towns of Murmecion, Panticapaeon [Kerch], Theodosia [Feodosiya], and Hermisium, while the Taurici live beside the Euxine Sea. Beyond them, a bay full of harbors and therefore called Calos Limen [Grk., Beautiful Harbor] is enclosed by two promontories. One promontory they call Criu Metopon [Grk., Ram’s Brow; Ay Todor], and it is equal and opposite to Point Carambis, which we have said is in Asia. The other one is Point Parthenion [Grk. Maidenshead]. The town of Cherronesus [Sevastopol] lies beside this promontory and was founded – if this is believable – by Diana. The town is particularly famous for a nymphaeum in the form of a cave, which was dedicated on its citadel to the nymphs.

4. Then the sea encroaches on the bank, and it follows all the way along the receding coastlines until it is five miles distant from the Maeotis, where it renders them into a peninsula [Krym/Crimea]. One of these coasts the Satarchae occupy, the Taurici the other. What lies between the Swamp and the bay is called Taphrae [Perekop]; the bay is called Carcinites [Karkinitskiy]. In it is the city of Carcine [Skadovsk], flanked by two rivers, the Gerrhos [Malochnaya] and the Hypacaris [Kuban], which make their outlet to the sea through a single mouth, although they flow down from different springs and from different directions. For the Gerrhos rolls along between the territory of the Basilidae and that of the Nomads, the Hypacaris right through that of the Nomads.

5. Then come the vast forests that these lands bear, as well as the Panticapes [Ingulets] River, which separates the Nomads and the Georgians. At that time the land, which pulls back for a long stretch, is tied to the shore by a slender base; subsequently, where it is moderately wide, the land fashions itself gradually into a point. Just as if it were collecting its long sides into a sword point, the land affects the appearance of a drawn sword. Achilles entered the Pontic Sea with a hostile fleet, and it is remembered that he celebrated his victory there with competitive games and that there he routinely exercised himself and his men when there was a respite from the fighting. Therefore the land is called Dromos Achilleos [Grk., Achilles’ Racecourse; Tendrovskaya Kosa].

6. Then the Borysthenes [Dnepr] River washes up on the territory of the nation that bears its name. The loveliest among Scythia‘s rivers, it flows down the most smoothly (the others are turbulent), and it is calmer than the others and absolutely delicious to drink. This river feeds the most prolific pastures and sustains big fish with the best flavor and no bones. The Borysthenes comes from a long way off and rises from unidentified springs. With its bed the river skims through a path of forty days’ hiking, is navigable over the same route, and debouches between the Greek towns of Borysthenida and Olbia.

7. The Hypanis [Yuzhny Bug/Southern Bug] River borders the territory of the Callipidae. It rises from a vast swamp, which the locals call its Mother, and for a long while flows down exactly as it was born.  Finally, not far from the sea, it takes in from a small spring (the name of which is Exampaeus) waters so bitter that from this point on the very river still con- tinues to flow but is now changed completely. The Asiaces [Tiligul], the next river, descends between the territories of the Callipidae and the Asiacae. The Tyra [Dnestr] separates the people here from the Istrians.  That river rises among the Neuri, and where it makes its outlet to the sea, it runs beside a town of the same name.

8. The river that separates the peoples of Scythia from their neighbors, however, begins – its sources in Germany are known – with a name different from the one with which it finishes. In fact, through immense lands belonging to great nations, it is for a long time the Danube; then with the local peoples using another name, it becomes the Ister.  After receiving several more rivers, it then becomes a mighty river. Of those rivers that debouch into Our Sea, the Ister is no smaller than the Nile and has the same number of mouths as that river, but it flows into the sea with three shallow mouths and four that are navigable.

9. The temperaments and cultures of the nations differ. The Essedones celebrate their parents’ funerals joyfully and with a festive gathering of family members. In the feast, they devour the actual corpses, once they have been ripped apart and stirred in with the innards of slaughtered cat- tle. After they have smoothed and polished them skillfully, the skulls are bound with gold, and they use them for drinking cups. These are, among them, the last rites of their religion.

10. The Agathyrsi tattoo their faces and limbs, each more or less in proportion to the prominence of their ancestors, but they all do so with the same marks and in such a way that they cannot be washed off. The Satarchae have no experience of gold and silver (the worst pestilences), and they conduct business by barter. They even inhabit caves and dugouts, with their homes sunk into the ground because of the savage and virtually unending winter; they cover their whole bodies and even their faces except where they look out.

11. The Taurians, well remembered for the arrival of Iphigenia and Orestes, are monstrous in character and have the monstrous reputation that they slaughter newcomers as sacrificial offerings. The Basilid nation began with Hercules and Echidna. Their character is regal, and only arrows serve them as weapons. The wandering Nomads follow the pastures of the flocks, and as long as those pastures last, they pass the time in a fixed abode. The Georgians cultivate and work the fields. The Asiacae do not know what stealing is, and for that reason they neither protect their own property nor touch anyone else’s.

12. To the interior the ritualistic behavior of the inhabitants is cruder and the territory less tilled. They love the bloodshed of war, and it is customary for warriors to drink blood from the very wounds of the first man they ever killed. The more a man kills, the more valued he is among them. Among the marks of shame, by contrast, surely the worst is to have no experience of shedding blood. Not even their peace treaties are without blood. The negotiators all cut themselves and sip the drawn blood after they have mixed everybody’s together. They think that drinking it is the surest guarantee of a lasting good faith.

13. At their banquets, the happiest and most frequent topic of conversation is to tell how many men each one has killed. Those who have reported the most chug from double cups. Among the carousers, that is a special honor. These people smooth out their drinking cups from the skulls of their greatest personal enemies, the same way the Essedones do from their parents’ skulls.

14. Among the Anthropophagi, even ordinary banquets are provided with human entrails. The Geloni cover them- selves and their horses with the skins of their enemies-their horses with the flesh from the rest of the body, themselves with the skin from the heads. The Melanchlaeni [Grk., Black-Robes] have coal black clothing, and from that they get their name. There is a preordained time for each of the Neuri at which, if they so desire, they metamorphose into wolves and back into who they were.

15. Mars is the god of all these peoples. To him they dedicate swords and sword belts instead of images and sacrifice human beings instead of animals. The lands cover a broad expanse, and because the rivers often overflow their banks, they are never barren of pasture. Yet in some places the lands are so completely infertile for any other growth that the inhabitants, who are short of wood, feed their fires with bones.


16. Thrace is next to these lands, and it extends far inland from its front on the Pontic end all the way to the Illyrians. Where it extends its lateral borders, Thrace is contiguous with the Ister and Our Sea. The region is favorable neither in its climate nor in its soil, and except where it is closer to the sea, it is infertile, cold, and quite intolerant of cultivated plants. It rarely ever sustains a fruit-bearing tree but rather commonly sustains the vine. The fruit of the vine, however, does not ripen and soften except where the cultivators have stopped the cold by heaping leaves around them. It nourishes men in more kindly fashion, but not for their physical appearance. Indeed, their bodily condition is rough and unbecoming but is especially conducive to fierceness and population size, since they are both numerous and merciless.

17. It lets few rivers go through to the sea, but the most famous ones it lets through are the Hebrus [Merica], the Nestos [Nestos/Mesta], and the Strymon [Struma]. The interior throws up mountains – Mt. Haemos [Stara Planina], Mt. Rhodope [Rodopi Planina/Despoto dagh], and Mt. Orbelos [Vihren/Belasitza], all very well known for the sacred rituals of Father Liber and for the gathering of maenads that Orpheus instituted.  Of these three, the Haemos rises so high that it gives views of both the Euxine and the Adriatic Seas from its very peak.

18. The Thracians inhabit the land, one people, although they are fur- nished with a variety of names and customs. Some Thracians – and certainly the Getae – are wild and absolutely prepared to die. A range of belief brings this readiness into being. Some individuals think that the souls of the dead will return; others think that even if they do not return, souls still are not obliterated but go to a happier place; still others think that souls do perish absolutely but that dying is better than living. Therefore childbirth is mourned among certain Thracians, and newborns are wept over. Funerals, in contrast, are festive and are celebrated, just like their sacred rites, with singing and gamboling.

19. Not even in the case of women does the mind shirk its duty. They consider it the greatest obligation to be killed over the corpses of their dead husbands and to be buried along with them.  Because individual men have several wives at once, their wives compete in a great contest to be the one to have this honor, and they compete before those who will make the decision. It suits their mores and is a special source of joy when there is a struggle to be supreme in this contest.

20. Other women raise the lament with their keening and raise their voices in the most bitter lamentations. But those who have a mind to console them bring their weapons and wealth to the funeral pyre, and these same individ- uals are prepared, as they say over and over again, either to bargain with or to fight with the destiny of the dead man in case it is up to them; when there is no room for fighting or money, < . . . >.

21. Virgins worthy of marriage are not given to their husbands by their parents. Instead, they either are publicly displayed as ready for marriage or else are put up for sale. The explanation for the choice of procedure rests on appearance and character. Upright, beautiful women are prized; men with money seek out all the others for a price. The use of wine is unknown to some Thracians, but a hilarity like drunkenness comes over them from the smoke at banquets when certain seeds are thrown onto the fires as they sit around them.

22. On the seacoast, Istropolis [Istriya] lies beside the Ister; next Callatis [Mangalia], colonized by the Milesians; then Tomoe [Constanta], the Carian Port [Shabla], and Point Tiristis [Kaliakra Burun]. The second angle of the Pontus receives those who go past this promontory-that is, the angle opposite to the one by the Phasis River and like it but fuller. Here was Bizone [Kavarna], which collapsed in an earthquake. Here are the port of Crunos and the cities of Dionysopolis [Balchik], Odessos [Varna], Messembria [Nesebir], and Anchialos [Pomoriye], as well as the great Apollonia [Sozopol] in the deepest part of the bay, right where the Pontus finishes its second bend with an angle.

23. From here the shoreline is straight except that more or less in the middle it extends into a promontory, which they call Thynias [Igneada Burun]. In contradistinction, the coast continues with its uncurved shores, and it supports the cities of Halmydesos [Midye], Philiae, and Phinopolis. That is as far as the Pontus goes.

24. After that come the Thracian Bosphorus and Propontis; on the Bosphorus is Byzantion [Istanbul], and on the Propontis, Selymbria [Silivri], Perinthos [Marmaraereglisi/Eregli], and Bytinis [Vize]. The rivers that flow among these places are the Erginos [Ergene] and Atyras [Karasu]. At that point comes the part of Thrace once ruled by Rhessus, then Samian Bisanthe [Tekirdag], and once-mighty Cypsela [ipsala]. Farther on is the place the Greeks call Macron Teichos [Grk., Long Wall], as well as Lysimachia, sitting at the base of the great peninsula.

25. The land that follows never runs to much width and is very constricted here between the Hellespont and the Aegaean. They call the narrow part Isthmos, its forward part Mastusia, and the whole Chersonessus [Gelibolu/Gallipoli], which is famous for many reasons.

26. On it is the river Aegos [Grk., Goat], remarkable because of the destruction of the Attic fleet.  Sestos [Nara] is there too, opposite Abydos [Maltepe], and is very well known for the love of Leander.  That is also the region where the Persian army dared to join by bridges lands that were separated by space and sea. An amazing and mighty deed! It crossed from Asia to Greece on foot and crossed the sea without sailing on it.  The bones of Protesilafis have been consecrated there with a shrine.  Here too is Port Coelus [Kilya], remarkable for the destruction of the Laconian fleet when the Athenians and Lacedaemonians clashed in naval battle.26 Here is Cynos Sema [Grk., Tomb of the Dog], the tomb of Hecuba, acquiring this humble name either from the figure of the dog into which she reportedly was changed or else from the misfortune into which she had fallen. Here is Madytos [Maydos/Eceabat] and here Eleus [Eski Hissarlik], which ends the Hellespont.

27. The long shore immediately thrusts along the Aegean Sea for a considerable distance, and in a great, gentle ambit from here to what is called Cape Sunium it goes around land that is swept back from its path. Those who sail this stretch and round Mastusia have to enter a gulf that flows onto the other side of the Thracian Chersonesus and is enclosed by a mountain ridge just like a valley. The gulf is called Melas [Grk., Black] after the river [Kavak] it takes in, and it embraces two cities, Alopeconnesus and Cardia [Karakdy], which is situated on the far side of the Isthmus.

28. Aenos [Enez], which was founded by Aeneas in exile, is an exceptional place. The Cicones are found around the Hebrus River, and on its far side is Doriscos, where they say Xerxes measured his troops by space, because he could not do so by number.  After that is Cape Serrhion [Maikri] and Zone [Tshoban], where even the groves, according to the story, followed the singing Orpheus.  At that point come the Sthenos River and Maronia lying on its banks.

29. The farther region bore Diomedes. He used to throw strangers to be eaten by his monstrous horses, and he was thrown, once and for all, to those same horses by Hercules.  What they call the Tower of Diomedes remains as evidence of the legend, and so too the city of Abdera, which his sister named after herself. That city, however, has something else to be remembered for, namely, that it gave birth to Democritus the natural philosopher, rather than that it was founded in this way.

30. Farther on, the Nestos River flows, and between it and the Strymon are the cities of Philippi, Apollonia, and Amphipolis; between the Strymon and Athos is the Tower of Calarnaea, the port of Capru Limen [Grk., Boar’s Harbor], and the cities of Acanthus [Hierissos] and Echinia; between Athos and Pallene are the cities of Cleonae and Olynthos. The Strymon, as we have said, is a river. It begins far away, where it is a rivulet, but becomes fuller now and then from waters that originate elsewhere. After the river forms a lake not far from the sea, it then rushes into the sea from a bed greater than the one it had come down with.

31. Mt. Athos is so tall that it is believed to be even higher than the place from which the rains fall. The idea gets credibility because ashes do not wash off the altars that it has on its peak but remain on the mound where they are left. The mountain, however, proceeds to the sea not by a spur, as some say, but with its whole long ridge.

32. Where it clings to the continent, it was excavated and then sailed across by Xerxes when he was invading Greece, and it is still tra- versable by a navigable strait. Small colonies of Pelasgians occupy the foot of the mountain. On its summit was the town of Acrothoon, where, as they tell it, the life of the inhabitants was longer by half than it was in other lands.

33. Pallene [Kassindra] has so much open land that it is the seat and territory of five cities; the whole peninsula extends into the sea even though it is quite narrow where it begins. Potidaea is located there, but where it is broader, Mende and Scione need mention. Mende was founded by the Eretrians, Scione by the Achaeans as they were returning after the capture of Troy.

Macedonia, Greece, and Illyricum

34. Then the Macedonian peoples inhabit a number of cities, of which Pelle is especially renowned. Its native sons create this reputation- Philip the conqueror of Greece and Alexander, too, the conqueror of Asia. On the coast, Megyberna Bay, between Points Deris and Canas- traeum, goes around both the port of Cophos and the cities of Torone and Myscella, as well as Megyberna [Grk. Mekyberna; Molivpyrgos] (whence the bay’s name).

35. Sane is next to Point Canastraeum; in the middle, where the land folds in, Megyberna Bay cuts moderately into the shoreline. However that may be, the huge Thermaic Gulf, with its long sides, extends well into the sea. The Axius River [Vardar/Axios] runs through Macedon into this gulf, and at this point so does the Peneus through Thessalian territory. Thessalonice [Thessaloniki/ Salonica] comes before reaching the Axius, and between these two places are Cassandria, Cydna, Aloros, and Itharis. From the Peneus to Point Sepias are Eurymenae, Meliboea, and Castanea, all equally famous except that Philoctetes, its native son, ennobles Meliboea.

36. The lands of the interior, famed for the names of its localities, pro- duce almost nothing that is not well known. Not far from here is Olympus; Pelion is here; so is Ossa-all mountains remembered for the fabled War of the Giants. Here is Pieria, both the mother of the Muses and their home. Here is the ground last tramped by the Greek Hercules, the defile of Mt. Oeta. Here is Tempe, well known for its sacred grove, and Libethra [Litokhoron], the fountain of songs.

37. At that point Greece now projects very much on a grand scale. As far as it borders on the Sea of Myrtos, Greece, extending from north to south, faces the sunrise over the Aegean’s waves and sunset over those of the Ionian Sea. Also, the land, quite wide at first and called Hellas, goes forward with a considerable coastline; then it is virtually cut more or less in half as both seas – but the Ionian Sea more – invade its lateral coastlines to the point that Hellas is four miles wide.

38. From there again, with the land mass widening both to the near and the far side and going farther down into the sea, Greece is not as wide as it had begun, but nevertheless it is of great size again and extends as a virtual peninsula. It is called the Peloponnesos, and at the same time, because of the bays and promontories, by which it is incised as if by veins, it is similar to the leaf of a plane tree, because it spreads rather widely from a slender stem.

39. After Macedonia, first comes Thessaly, and after it Magnesia, Phthiotis, Doris, Locris, Phocis, Boeotia, Atthis [Attica], and the Megarid; but most famous of all is Atthis. In the Peloponnesos are Argolis, Laconice, Messenia, Achaian Elis, and Arcadia; farther on are Aetolia, Acarnania, and Epiros, all the way to the Adriatic.

40. Of the places and cities that the sea does not wash up on, the following are the ones especially worth remembering: in Thessaly nowadays Larissa is best known, but in the old days lolcos was; in Magnesia, Antronia; in Phthiotis, Phthia; < … >; in Locris, Cynos and Calliaros; in Phocis, Delphi, Mt. Parnassos, and both the shrine and the oracle of Apollo; in Boeotia, Thebes and Mt. Cithaeron, which is celebrated in song and legend;

41. in Atthis, Eleusis, which is sacred to Ceres, and Athens, more famous than needs to be pointed out; in the Megarid, Megara, from which the region takes its name; likewise, in the Argolid, Argos, along with Mycenae and the temple of Juno, which is very famous for its antiquity and for its cult; in Laconice, Therapnae, Lacedaemon, Amyclae, and Mt. Taygetus; in Messenia, Messenia and Methone;

42. in Achaia – and – Elis, once the Pisa of Oinomais, Elis, still famous today, and the shrine of Olympian Jupiter, known mainly, in fact, for its ath- letic competition and unique inviolability but also for the actual statue that is the work of Phidias.

43. The Peloponnesian peoples ring Arcadia on all sides. In Arcadia are the cities of Psophis, Tegea, and Orchomenos, along with Mt. Pholo , Mt. Cyllene, Mt. Parthenius, and Mt. Maenalus and the Ery- manthus and Ladon Rivers; in Aetolia, the town of Naupactos; in Arcanania, that of Stratos; in Epirus, the temple of Jupiter Dodonaeus and likewise the sacred spring. Although this spring is cold, and although like all other springs it extinguishes burning torches that are immersed in it, it lights them up again when from afar they are moved, unlit, toward it.

44. When, however, one coasts along the shores, the course after Point Sepias lies beside Demetrias, Halos, Pteleon, and Echinos, to the Gulf of Pagasa. That gulf, embracing the city of Pagasa, takes in the Sperchios River and is remembered because the Minyans launched the Argo from there when they left for Colchis.

45. The following places must first be passed by those sailing from there to Sunium: the sizable Gulf of Malia and equally sizable Opuntian Gulf, and on these gulfs the monument to the Laconian war-dead; Thermopylae, Opoes, Scarphia, Cnemides, Alope, Anthedon, Larumna, and Aulis, the camp of Agamemnon’s fleet and the Greeks who swore allegiance against Troy; Marathon, the witness of numerous heroic acts right from Theseus on but especially known for the slaughter of the Persians;

46. Rhamnus, small but still renowned, because in it is the shrine of Amphiaratis and the Nemesis by Phidias; then Thoricos and Brauronia, once cities, now mere names. Sunium is a promontory and terminates the coast of Hellas that faces east.

47. From there the land mass rotates to face south and goes back up as far as Megara; the land lies now with its front to the sea, the same way it did previously with its side.  Piraeus, Athens’ port, is there, as well as the Scironian Rocks, infamous once upon a time (and even today) for Sciron’s savage hospitality.

48. Megara’s territory runs up to the Isthmos, which gets its name because the Aegean Sea, being at a remove of four miles from the Ionian Sea, ties the Peloponnesos to Hellas by a narrow neck of land. On it is the town of Cenchreae; a temple of Neptune, which is renowned because of the so-called Isthmian Games; and Corinth, a city once famous for its wealth, better known later for its destruction, and now a Roman colony. Corinth has a view of both seas from the peak of the acropolis they call Acrocorinth.

49. Bays and promontories mangle the coast of the Peloponnesos, as we have noted: from the east, Bucephalos, Chersonessus [Methana], and Scyllaeon; to the south, Malea, Taenaros [Matapan], Acritas, and Ichthys; to the west, Chelonates and Araxos. The Epidaurians and Troezenians live between the Isthmos and Scyllaeon. The Epidaurians are famous for the temple of Aesculapius, the Troezenians glorious for their loyalty to an alliance with Athens.45

50. The Saronic Gulf and the Gulfs of Schoenos and Pogon are located there, but on their shores are the towns of Epidaurus, Troezene, and Hermiona. Between Scyllaeon and Malea is the so-called Gulf of Argolis; between Malea and Taenaros, the Laconian Gulf; between Taenaros and Akritas, the Gulf of Asine; between Taenaros and Ichthys, the Gulf of Cyparissos.

51. On the Gulf of Argolis are the well-known Erasinus and Inachus Rivers and the well-known town of Lerne; on the Laconian Gulf are Gythium and the Eurotas; on Cape Taenaros itself is a temple and a cave of Neptune, similar in appearance and legend to what we called the Acherusian Cave on the Pontus; in the Gulf of Asine is the Pamisum River; on the Gulf of Cyparissos is the Alpheus River. A city located on the shore gave its name to these gulfs-Cyparissos to the latter, Asine to the former.

52. The Messenians and Pylians till the land, and Pylos actually lies beside the sea. Cyllene, Callipolis, and Patrae [Patrai/Patras] occupy that shore where the Chelonates and Araxos Rivers have their outlets, but Cyllene is distinguished because they think Mercury was born there. After that, the Rhion – that is the sea’s name there – cuts, by means of a narrow passage like a strait, into the side of the remaining shoreline and breaks in between the Aetolians and the Peloponnesians as far as the Isthmos.

53. There the Peloponnesian littoral starts to face north. On these shores are Aegion, Aegira, Olyros, and Sicyon, but on the opposite shores are Pagae, Creusis, Anticyra, Oeanthia, Cirrha [Itea], Calydon (somewhat better known by name), and Evenos beyond Rhion. In Acarnania, which is especially famous, are the town of Leucas and the Achelofis River [Asprop6tamo].

54. In Epiros nothing is better known than the Ambracian Gulf. The gulf, which lets in a great sea through its narrow jaws (less than a mile wide), makes it well known, as do the cities that line its shore-Actium, the Amphilochian Argives, and Ambracia [Arta], the royal seat of the Aeacids and of Pyrrhus in particular.  Beyond is Butroton, then the Ceraunian Mountains [Mali i pikes with Kara Burun], and after these places a bend toward the Adriatic.

55. The Adriatic Sea is formed by a great retraction of the littoral and in fact covers a considerable breadth, although it reaches considerably farther in. It is surrounded by Illyric peoples as far as Tergeste [Trieste] but then by the Gallic and Italic peoples. The Partheni and Dasaretae occupy its first places; the Taulantii, Encheleae, and Phaeaces occupy what follows.

56. After that come the Illyrii proper, then the Piraeans, Liburnians, and Istria.  The first city is Oricum [Eriko], the second Dyrrachium [Durazzo/Durres], where Epidamnus used to be. (The Romans changed the name, because travelers headed there thought of the name as an omen, as if they were going “to damnation.”)

57. Farther on are Apollonia [Polan], Salona [Solin], Iader [Zadar], Narona, Tragurium [Trogir], the Gulf of Pola, and Pola, which was once inhabited, as they tell it, by Colchians.  How much things change! Now Pola is a Roman colony.  Moreover, the rivers are the Aeas [Vijose], the Nar [Neretva], and the Danube (which here is called the Ister); but the Aeas comes after Apollonia, and the Nar comes between the Piraeans and the Liburnians, while the Ister runs through the territory of the Istrians.  Tergeste, located in the deepest part of the Adriatic Gulf, is the boundary of Illyricum.


58. About Italy a few things will be said, more because the order requires it than because it needs to be described. All its places are well known.  From the Alps it begins its extension into the sea, and as it proceeds it is elevated down the middle by the continuous ridge of the Apennines. Italy runs down solid for a long time between the Adriatic and Tuscan Seas (also known as the Upper and Lower Seas). But when it is far removed from its beginning, it divides into two horns, and it looks off toward the Sicilian Sea with one horn, toward the Ionian Sea with the other. Italy as a whole is narrow, and in some places much nar- rower than where it had begun.

59. Various peoples cultivate its interior. The Carni and Veneti cultivate the left part up to Gallia Togata; then come Italic peoples – Picentines, Frentani, Dauni, Apulians, Calabri, and Sallentines. To the right, at the foot of the Alps, are the Ligurians; at the foot of the Apennines, Etruria; after that, Latium, the Volsci, Campania, and, below Lucania, the Bruttii.

60. Of the cities that are inhabited far from the sea, the wealthiest are, to the left side, Antenor’s Patavium [Padova/Padua], Mutina [Modena], and Bononia [Bologna], colonies of the Romans; to the right, Capua, founded by the Tuscans, and Rome, long ago founded by shepherds, now a second book in itself if there is to be discussion on the topic.

61. On the shores, by contrast, Concordia is next after Tergeste. Between them flows the Timavus [Timavo], which rises from nine heads but debouches through a single mouth.  Then, not far from the sea, the Natiso [Natisone] River runs beside rich Aquileia. Farther on is Altinum [Altino].

62. The Padus [Po] occupies the upper coast over a considerable expanse. In fact, where it rises from the very roots of Mt. Vesulus [Monte Viso], it first gathers itself from small springs and is somewhat scant and meager. Then the river increases and is fed by other rivers so much that at the end it lets into the sea through seven mouths. One of these mouths they call the Great Padus.

63. Once it begins, the river rushes forward with such speed that for a long time it drives, with waves breaking, the same waters it began with and pre- serves its own bed even in the sea until the Ister River, flowing in with the same force from the opposite shore of Istria, meets it. Because of his phenomenon, for those sailing through that vicinity, where the rivers meet from both sides, a drink of fresh water is possible in the midst of salty sea.

64. The route from the Padus to Ancona crosses Ravenna, Ariminum [Rimini], Pisaurum [Pesaro], the colony of Fanum [Fano], the Metaurus River, and the Aesis River. And in fact, the terminus sits in the narrow joint – like a bent elbow [Grk. ankon] – of those two famous promontories that meet there from opposite sides, and thus it was called Ancon by the Greeks; Ancona lies between the Gallic and Italic peoples like a boundary stone.

65. The shores of Picenum welcome travelers beyond this point. On these shores are the cities of Numana [Umana], Potentia [Santa Maria di Potenza], Cluana, and Cupra [Cupramarittima] and, moreover, the strongholds of Firmum [Fermo], Adria [Atri], and Tru- entinum (the adjacent river [Tronto] is also its namesake). After that, the Frentani hold the mouths of the Matrinus and Aternus [Pescara] Rivers, as well as the cities of Buca [Termoli] and Histonium [Vasto]. The Daunians, however, have the Tifernus [Biferno] River and the towns of Cliternia [Campomarino], Larinum [Larino], and Teanum, as well as Mt. Garganus [Gargano].

66. A bay by the name of Urias [Lago di Varano], moderate in size but often harsh of access, is surrounded by the continuous Apulian shore. It is above both Sipontum [Santa Maria di Siponto]-or, as the Greeks said, Sipiuntum-and the river contiguous with Canusium [Canosa di Puglia], the Aufidus [Ufente] as they call it; after that are Barium [Bari], Gnatia [Torre d’Egnazia], and Rudiae [Rugge], renowned for Ennius; and at this point in Calabria are Brundisium [Brindisi], Valetium [Valeso], Lupiae [Lecce], and Mt. Hydrus, then the Sallentine Fields, the coast of Sallentum, and the Greek city Callipolis [Gallipoli].

67. The Adriatic reaches this far; so does one side of Italy. Its coastline breaks into two horns, in fact, as we have said.  It lets the sea enter between both horns, however, and divides it several times by slender promontories. The coast does not go around, then, with a uniform edge, and it receives the sea not spread out and wide open but in bays.

68. The first one is called the Gulf of Tarentum, between Point Sallentum and Point Lacinium [Capo Colonna], and on it are Tarentus [Taranto], Metapontum [Metaponto], Heraclea, Croto [Crotone], and Thurium. Second is the Bay of Scyllaceum [Gulf of Squillace], between Point Lacinium and Zephyr [Grk., West Wind] Point, and on this bay is Petelia [Strongoli], Carcinus, Scyllaceum [Squillace], and Mystiae. The third one, between Zephyr Point and Bruttium, passes around Bruttium, Consentia [Cosenza], Caulonia, and Locri. In Bruttium are Columna Rhegia, Rhegium [Reggio], Scylla, Taurianum, and Metaurum.

69. From here there is a bend to the Tuscan Sea and the second side of the same land. On this side of Italy are Medma, Hipponium (or Vibo), Temesa, Clampetia [San Lucido], Blanda, Buxentum, Velia, Palinurus [Capo Palinuro] (once the name of a Trojan helmsman, now the name of a place), the Gulf of Paestum [Gulf of Salerno], the town of Paestum, the Silerus [Sele] River, Picentia [Vicenza], Petrae (which the Sirens once inhabited), Point Minerva [Punta della Campanella]-all places in Lucania;

70. then the Bay of Puteoli [Bay of Naples], Syrren- tum [Sorrento], Herculaneum, a view of Mt. Vesuvius, Pompeii, Neapolis [Naples], Puteoli [Pozzuoli], the Lucrine Lake and Avernus, Baiae, Misenum [Miseno] (the name of a place now, but once the name of a Trojan soldier), Cumae, Liternum, the Volturnus River, the town of Volturnum [Volturno]-the lovely shores of Campania;

71. then Sinoessa, the Liris [Liri] River, Minturnae, Formiae [Formia], Fundi [Fondi], Tarracina [Terracina], Circeia (once the home of Circe), Antium [Anzio], Aphrodisium, Ardea, Laurentum, and Ostia on the near side of the Tiber.

72. Above it are Pyrgi, the Minio [Mignone] River, Castrum Novum [Torre Chiaruccia], Graviscae [Porto Clementino], Cosa, Tela- mon, Populonia [Porto Baratti], the Caecina [Cecina] River, and Pisae [Pisa]-Etruscan localities and rivers; after that comes what belongs to the Ligurians, Luna [Luni], Tigula, Genua [Genova/Genoa], Sabatia, and Albingaunum [Albenga]; then come the rivers Paulo [Paglione] and Varum [Var], both descending from the Alps, but the Varum some- what better known because it marks the boundary of Italy.

73. The Alps themselves spread over a considerable expanse from these shores and run in a long stretch, first to the north; then, after they have reached Germany, they go forth with an eastward thrust; and after dividing savage peoples from one another, they penetrate all the way to Thrace.


74. Gaul, which is divided by Lake Lemannus [Lake Leman/Lake Geneva] and the Cebennici [Cevennes] Mountains into two parts, and which abuts the Tuscan Sea on one side, the Ocean on the other, reaches all the way to the Pyrenees from the Varum River on this side and from the Rhenus [Rhein/Rhine] on the far side. The part located beside Our Sea – it was once Gallia Bracata, now it is Gallia Narbonensis – is more cultivated and more plentifully sown and therefore also more productive.

75. The wealthiest of the cities are Vasio [Vaison la Romaine] (belonging to the Vocontii), Vienne (the Allobroges), Avennio [Avignon] (the Cavares), Nemausus [Nimes] (the Arecomici), Tolosa [Toulouse] (the Tectosages), Arausio [Orange] (the veterans of Legion II), Arelate [Arles] (the veterans of Legion VI), and Beterrae [Biziers] (the veterans of Legion VII). The colony, however, of the Atacini and of the veterans of Legion X (who once brought help to these lands) leads the pack and is now an honored name, Martius Narbo [Narbonne].

76. On the littoral there are a number of places with names, but cities are rare, because harbors are rare. The whole strip is exposed to the south wind and to the southwest wind.  Nicaea [Nice] is immediately next to the Alps; so is the town of the Deciates and also Antipolis [Antibes].

77. Then comes Forum Iulii [Frejis], a colony of veterans from Legion VIII; and at that point after Athenopolis [Saint-Tropez], Olbia, Taurois [Le Brusc?], and Citharistes [Ceyreste] comes Lacydon, the Port of Massilia, on which is Massilia [Marseilles] itself. This last city originated with Phocaeans, was long ago founded among violent peoples, but now borders on peoples as different as they are peaceful. It is amazing how easily these Phocaeans took up a foreign abode in those days yet still maintain their own tradition.

78. Between it and the Rhodanus [Rhone], Maritima Avaticorum sits beside a marsh, and the Marian Canal empties part of its river into the sea by means of a navigable channel. In general, the shore, Litus Lapideum [Lat., Rocky Beach; the Crau] as they call it, is undistinguished. Here, they report, while Hercules was fighting Alebion and Dercynos, the sons of Neptune, and when his arrows had run out, he was helped by a rain of rocks at the hands of Jupiter, whom he had invoked. You would believe that it had rained rocks-so numerously and so widely do they lie scattered all over!

79. The Rhodanus rises not far from the sources of the Ister and the Rhenus. It is then received by Lake Lemannus, retains its force, keeps itself intact through the middle of the lake, and emerges as powerful as it arrived. Then, on the opposite side, heading to the west, the river divides the Gauls for some distance; and later, with its course drawn southward, it enters Gallia Narbonensis. At this point it is voluminous, and it is now and then even more voluminous from the entrance of other rivers; and it debouches between the Volcan and Cavaran peoples.

80. Farther on are the marshes of the Volci, the Ledum [Les] River, the fort of Latara, and Mesua Hill, which is surrounded almost com- pletely by the sea, an island except where it is tied to the continent by a narrow mound. Then, descending from the Cebennae [Cevennes] Mountains, the Arauris [Herault] flows beside Agatha [Agde], the Orbis [Orb] beside Beterrae.

81. The Atax [Aude], descending from the Pyrenees, is slight and shallow wherever it comes with its original waters. At this point it retains its otherwise huge bed but is never navigable except when it reaches Narbo. When it is swollen from winter storms, however, this river routinely rises so high that it actually cannot contain itself. Lake Rubraesus, relatively spacious but slight of access where it lets the sea in, becomes the river basin.

82. Farther on is Leucata (the name of the coast) and the spring of Salsula [Fontaine de Salses], which flows down with waters that are not sweet but saltier than the sea’s. Beside Salsula is a plain that is bright green from a slight and slender marsh grass but supported atop the swamp that passes under it. Its middle section makes that clear, since it is cut off from the surrounding parts, floats like an island, and allows itself to be driven and pulled.

83. What is more, indeed, where these surrounding parts are dug all the way through to the bottom, the sea is revealed because it rises up from below. As a result, Greek writers, and even our own, thought it right, either from ignorance of the truth or else from the pleasure of lying (even for sensible writers), to pass on to posterity the story that in this region a fish was pulled from deep within the earth, because after the fish had penetrated from the sea to this place, it was killed by a blow from its captors and brought up through those holes.

84. Next is the coast of the Sordones and the small Telis and Ticis Rivers (both quite violent when swollen), the colony of Ruscino [Castel Rousillon], and the village of Eliberrae [Elne], which is the slender vestige of a once-great city and its once – great wealth. Then, between spurs of the Pyrenees, come the saltless Port Venus and the district of Cervaria [Cerbere], the boundary of Gaul.


85. The Pyrenees, to begin with, extend from here to the Britannic Ocean. Then, after shifting direction, the range bursts into the lands of Spain, and excluded from its smaller division to the right, it protracts its continuous sides in an uninterrupted path until it reaches the western shores after going across the entire province in a single dividing line.

86. Spain actually is girt by the sea except where it is contiguous with Gaul, and it is especially narrow at the places of contact. Spain extends gradually into Our Sea and Ocean, and becoming increasingly wider the farther west it goes, it becomes widest right there.  Spain is also teeming with men, horses, iron, lead, copper, silver, and gold, and it is so fertile that wherever it changes and is barren for lack of water, it still supports flax or esparto.

87. It is, however, dis- tinguished by three names. Part of it is called Tarraconensis, part Baetica, and part Lusitania [Portugal]. Tarraconensis borders on the Gauls at one extreme, on Baetica and Lusitania at the other. Where it looks south, it thrusts its sides along Our Sea; where it looks north, along Ocean. The Anas [Guadiana] River separates the other two regions there, and thus Baetica faces both seas – the Atlantic to the west, Our Sea to the south – while Lusitania is situated only along the Atlantic, but with its lateral extension to the north, its front to the west.

88. The most renowned of the inland cities in Tarraconensis were Palantia [Palencia] and Numantia (nowadays it is Caesaraugusta [Saragossa]); in Lusitania, Emerita [Merida]; and in Baetica, Astigi [Ecija], Hispal [Seville], and Corduba [C6rdova].

89. If, however, you coast along the shores, right after Cervaria comes the cliff that thrusts the Pyrenees out into the sea, next the Ticis River near Rhoda, next Clodianum near Emporiae, and then Mt. Jupiter. They call its western face the Stairs of Hannibal, because out – croppings of cliffs rise up from below, stepwise, between small spaces.

90. Then, near Tarraco, are the small towns of Blande, Iluro [Mataro], Baetulo [Madalona], Barcino [Barcelona], Subur, and Tolobi; small rivers, the Baetulo [Besos] beside Mt. Jupiter, the Rubricatum [Llobre- gat] on the shore of Barcino, and the Maius between Subur and Tolobis. Tarraco [Tarragona] is the city on these shores that is wealthiest in maritime resources. The moderate Tulcis [Francoli] River runs beside it, and on the farther side, the mighty Hiberus [Ebro] runs beside Dertosa [Tortosa].

91. From there the sea winds its way into the land, and then as soon as it is let in with a great sweep, it is divided into two bays by the promontory they call Ferraria [Cabo de la Nao].

92. The first is called the Bay of Sucro. It is the larger one and admits the sea with quite a large mouth, but the farther one enters it, the narrower it gets. This bay takes in the unimportant Sorobis [Serpis], Turia, and Sucro [Jticar] Rivers. It includes some cities too, in fact, but the best-known are Valen- tia [Valencia] and that famous city, Saguntum, which is renowned for its loyalty as well as its troubles.

93. Next, the Bay of Ilice holds Allo [Allone], Lucentia [Alicante], and Ilice [Elche] (whence its name). Here now the land goes farther into the sea and makes Spain broader than it had been.

94. At the same time, though, from the places mentioned in this vicinity to the starting point of Baetica, nothing needs to be reported except Carthage [Cartagena], which the Carthaginian general Hasdrubal founded.  On Baetica’s coast there are obscure towns, of which mention is relevant only for proper sequence. There is Urci on the Bay of Urci, as they call it; outside the bay are Abdera [Adra], Suel, Ex, Maenoba, Malaca [Malaga], Salduba, Lacippo, and Barbesula.

95. Then the sea becomes very narrow, and mountains constitute the closest shores between Europe and Africa. The Pillars of Hercules, as we said at the beginning, Abila and Calpes, each jut into the sea in fact, but Calpes more so and almost totally. Calpes is hollowed out to an amazing degree, and on its western face its side opens more or less halfway. From there, for those who enter, the whole grotto is reason- ably passable for almost its whole width.

96. There is a bay beyond that point, and on it is Carteia. Carteia, some think, used to be Tartes- sos.  Tingentera, which Phoenicians who crossed from Africa still inhabit – and where we’re from too – is located there. Then Melaria, Bello, and Baesippo [Barbate] occupy the shore of the Strait all the way to Point Juno. At this stage that promontory runs to the west and to Ocean with a sidewise ridge, and it faces that promontory in Africa that we had said was called Ampelusia.  It terminates Europe where Our Seas are situated.


97. The island of Gades [Cidiz], which meets travelers as they exit the Strait, is a reminder to mention all the other islands before the narrative proceeds, as we promised at the beginning, to the shores of Ocean and the earth’s periphery. There are a few islands in Maeotis – it seems eas- iest to begin there – but they are not all under cultivation, since they do not produce even range grass generously. That is the reason the meat of huge fish is dried by the inhabitants in the sun and ground to a powder for use as flour.

98. There are a few islands in the Pontus also. Leuce is thrust up opposite the mouth of the Borysthenes. It is relatively small and, because Achilles is buried there, has the eponym of Achillea. Not far from the Colchians is Aria, which was dedicated to Mars, as told in legend, and which produced birds that hurled their feathers like spears- along with the greatest carnage of newcomers. There are six islands among the mouths of the Ister, of which Peuce [Piczina – note the Peucini] is the best known and most important. Thynias [Kefken Adasi], next to the land of the Mariandyni, has a city that they call Bithynis because Bithynians live there.

99. Opposite the Thracian Bosphorus, two islands that are small and scarcely removed from one another were once believed, and said, to crash together: they are called Cyaneae and Symplegades.  In the Propontis, only Proconnesos is inhabited.

100. Outside the Hellespont, of the islands adjacent to the Asiatic regions, the most renowned are Tenedos, opposite the coast of Sigeum, and – in the order listed – those islands that spread out near the spur of the Taurus Mountains, and which some authors thought were called the Macardn [Grk., (Islands) of the Blessed], either because they were moderately blessed in climate and soil, or because Macar had held them under his own sway and that of his descendants:

101. in the Troad, Lesbos and on it once the five towns of Antissa, Pyrrha, Eresos, Methymna, Mytilene; in lonia, Chios and Samos; in Caria, Coos [Kos/Cos]; in Lycia, Rhodes. On the latter islands there are individual cities of the same name, and on Rhodes in the past there were, as well, the three cities of Lindos, Camiros, and Ialysos.

102. Those islands that lie – unluckily for those sailing by-directly opposite the spur of the Taurus Range are called Chelidonian.  Cyprus runs in an east-west direction into the biggest gulf that Asia takes in, and it lies more or less in its center. It stretches in a straight ridge between Cilicia and Syria, and as an island that at one time held nine kingdoms and now sustains a number of cities (the most renowned being Salamis, Paphos, and Old Paphos, where they claim Venus first emerged from the sea), Cyprus is huge.

103. Arados [Rfiad] is a small island in Phoenicia, and the whole island is coast-to-coast town, but it is a crowded town, because it is legal to build apartment buildings.  Canopos is small and lies before the so-called Canopic mouth of the Nile. Menelafis’ helmsman Canopus died there accidentally, and he gave his name to the island, which then gave its name to that mouth.

104. Pharos is linked to Alexandria by a bridge now, but once upon a time, as transmitted in the Homeric epic, it was removed from those shores by a whole day’s sail. If that was the case, it seems possible to researchers that the Nile provided the cause for such a great change. As long as the river dredges silt from its bed, and especially during the period while the river is dredging it up, the Nile adds the silt to the shoreline, increases the land mass, and extends the area of the increasing land mass into the neighboring shallows.

105. In Africa, opposite the greater Bay of Syrtis, is Euteletos; opposite the promontories of the lesser Syrtis are Menis [Jerba] and Cercina [Kerkenah]; opposite the Gulf of Carthage are Chyarae, Thylae, and Aegatae, memorable for the bloody Roman defeat.

106. Several additional islands are located off the shores of Europe: in the Aegean Sea near Thrace are Thasos, Imbros, Samothrace, Scandile, Polyaegos, Sciathos, Halonessos, and-opposite Mt. Athos-Lemnos, where at one time only women are said to have lived, after all the men had been slaughtered. The Gulf of Pagasa looks on Scyron and encloses Cicynethon.

107. Euboea causes Point Geraestos and Point Caphereus to protrude southward and Point Cenaeum northward. Euboea is never wide and has a breadth of two miles where it is narrowest, but it is long and lies along the whole of Boeotia, separated from its coastline by a narrow strait.

108. They call that strait Euripos. It has a swift current and flows in alternating directions seven times a day  and seven times a night, with its waves changing direction too. It flows so unusually that it frustrates even the winds as well as ships with the wind to their backs. There are some towns on the island, namely, Styra, Eretria, Pyrrha, Nesos, and Oichalia, but the wealthiest cities are Carystos and Chalchis.

109. In Atthis, Helene is the isle known for the adultery of Helen, and Salamis is even better known for the destruction of the Persian fleet. In the vicinity of the Peloponnesos, but still at this point on the Aegean side, are Pityussa and Aegina; off the coast of Epidaurus, among other obscure islands, Calauria, famous for Demosthenes’ demise at Troizene;

110. in the Myrtoin Sea, Cythera opposite Malea, as well as Theganusa and the isles of Oinussae opposite Mt. Acritas; on the Ionian Sea, Prote, Asteria, Cephallania, Neritos, Same, Zacynthos, Dulichium, and, among those not obscure, Ithaca, which is mainly illustrious for the name of Ulysses; in Epiros, the Echinades group and another group formerly called the Plotae, now called the Strophades; opposite the Ambracian Gulf, Leucadia [Leucas] and, bordering on the Adriatic Sea, Corcyra [Kerkira/Corfu]. These islands lie near the coasts of Thrace and Greece.

111. By contrast, farther out to sea are Melos, Olearos, Aegina, Cothonius, Thyatira, Gyaros, Hippuris, Dionysia, Cyanos, Chalcis, Icaria, Pinara, Nyspiros, Lebinthos, Calymnia, and Syme. These islands are called the Sporades, because they are scattered, but Ceos, Sicinos, Siphnos, Seriphos, Rhenea, Paros, Myconos, Syros, Tenos, Naxos, Delos, and Andros are called the Cyclades, because they lie in a circle.

112. Beyond these islands, in the middle of the sea at this point, huge and once inhabited by a hundred cities, Crete extends Point Samonium to the east, to the west Criu Metopon [Grk., Ram’s Brow]. It is similar to Cyprus except bigger, and it is notorious for its many legends (the arrival of Europa, Pasiphae’s and Ariadne’s loves, the Minotaur’s savagery and his death, the works of Daedalus and his escape, Talus’ lookout and his death), but especially because the locals point out as the virtually unambiguous indication that Jupiter was buried there the tomb on which his name is engraved.

113. Its best-known cities are Gnossos, Gortyn, Lyctos, Lycastos, Olopyxos, Therapnae, Cydonea, Moratusa, and Dictynna. Among its hills, because we are told that Jupiter was born there, Mt. Ida’s tradition is preeminent.

114. Off the coast of Crete are the islands of Astypalaea, Naumachos, Zephyre, Chryse, and Cau- dos; those three that they nevertheless call by one name, Musagorus; and Carpathos, from which the Carpathian Sea gets its name. In the Adriatic are Apsoros, Dyscelados, Absyrtis, Issa, Titana, Hydria, Electrides, Black Corcyra [Korchula], Linguarum, Diomedia, Aestria, Asine, and Pharos, which lies beside the coast of Brundisium, just as that other Pharos lies beside Alexandria.

115. Sicily was long ago, as they report, part of the continent and tied to Bruttium, but it was severed at a later time by the strait that belongs to the Sea of Sicily. That strait is narrow and moves in two directions. With one current it flows through to the Tuscan Sea, with the other to the Ionian Sea. It is frightful, violent, and renowned for the savage names of Scylla and Charybdis. Scylla is a rock, Charybdis the sea. Both are deadly to those who are driven onto them. Sicily itself is huge, and running in different directions with its three promontories, it looks like the Greek letter called “delta.”

116. The promontory that looks toward Greece is called Point Pachynum [Capo Passero]; Lilybaeum [Capo Boeo/Capo Lilybeo], the one that looks toward Africa; and Pelorias [Punta del Faro], the one that turns toward Italy and is opposite Scylla. Its namesake is the helmsman Pelorus, who was buried there by Hannibal. When Hannibal, as a political refugee from Africa, was traveling through these regions to Syria, he had killed Pelorus because he thought Pelorus had betrayed him. His reason was that as he scanned the horizon from some distance, the shores seemed to him to be contin- uous, and the sea did not seem to be passable at all.

117. The shore that extends from Pelorias to Pachynum, bordering on the Ionian Sea, produces these illustrious places: Messana [Messina], Tauromenium [Taormina], Catina [Catania], Megaris [Agosta], Syracusae [Siracusa/Syracuse], and-a marvel in this last city-Arethusa. The Fountain of Arethusa is the one where objects reappear that are thrown into the Alpheus, a river – as we have said – that flows on the Peloponnesos. Because of this phenomenon, the fountain is believed not to be connected to the sea but to drive its bed this far and to rise again here after it has sunk below the surface of land and sea.

118. Between Pachynum and Lilybaeum are Agragas [Agrigento], Heraclea, and Thermae; between Lilybaeum and Pelorias are Panhormus [Palermo] and Himera. Farther inland, to be sure, are Leontini [Lentini], Centuripinum [Centuripe], Hybla, and several other cities. Henna [Enna] has special fame because of the temple of Ceres.

119. Of the mountains, Eryx [Erice] is mentioned mainly because of the sanctuary of Venus founded by Aeneas, Aetna because in olden times it bore the Cyclopes and nowadays burns with uninterrupted fire.  Of the rivers, the Himera needs to be mentioned, because it rises exactly in the middle of the island and descends in opposite directions. On both sides that river divides the island. It comes down to the Libyan Sea on one side, to the Tuscan Sea on the other.

120. Near Sicily, in the Sicilian Strait, is the island of Aeaee, which Calypso reportedly inhabited; toward Africa, Gaulos [Gozo], Melita [Malta], and Cossura [Pantelleria]; nearer Italy, Galata and those seven that they call the Isles of Aeolus [the Lipari Islands] – Osteodes [Ustica], Lipara [Lipari], Heraclea [Alicudi], Didyma [Salina], Phoenicusa [Filicudi], and the two like Aetna, Hiera [Vulcano] and Strongyle [Strom- boli], which burn with uninterrupted flame.

121. But to move on, Pithecusa [Ischia], Leucothea, Aenaria, Sidonia, Capreae [Capri], Prochyta [Procida], Pontiae [Ponza], Pandateria, Sinonia, and Palmaria [Palmarola] lie on the Italic coast on this side of the Tiber’s mouth.

122. Farther on there are some small islands, Dian- ium [Giannutri], Igilium [Giglio], Carbania, Urgo, Ilva [Elba], and Capraria [Capraia], as well as two large islands divided by a strait. Of these two, Corsica is nearer to the Etruscan coast. It is narrow between its lateral extensions but long, and it is cultivated by barbarians except around the colonies of Aleria and Mariana.

123. Sardinia, which also borders on the African Sea, is equal and squarish on all sides except that its western flank is narrower than its eastern, and it is nowhere any wider than Corsica is long. In other regards, Sardinia is fertile, has bet- ter soil than it does climate, and is almost as malarious1ol as it is pro- ductive. Of its peoples the most ancient are the Ilienses; of its cities, Caralis [Cagliari] and Sulci [San Antioco].

124. In Gaul, by contrast, the only islands fit to report are the Stoechades [Iles d’Hyeres], which are scattered from the coast of Liguria all the way to Massilia. The Balearic Isles, located in Spain across from the coast of Tarraco, are not far from one another and are designated by size; some are the Greater Balearic Isles [Mallorca], others the Lesser [Menorca]. The forts of Iamno [Ciudadela] and Mago [Mahon] are on the Lesser Balearic Isles; on the Greater Balearics are the colonies of Palma and Pollentia [Pollenca].

125. Near the promontory they call Ferraria in the Bay of Sucro, the isle of Ebusos [Ibiza] has a city by the same name. Only for grain is it unproductive; it is rather bountiful for other crops. The island is so free of all harmful animals that it does not produce even those wild animals that are gentle, nor does it sustain them if they are imported.

126. Facing Ebusos is Colubraria [Formentera], which it comes to mind to mention because, although the island is teem- ing with many a harmful breed of snake and is uninhabitable for that reason, it is still without danger and safe for anyone who enters within a space demarcated by a circle of dirt from Ebusos. Those same snakes that otherwise habitually attack people they meet stay far away from the sight of that dust – in terror – as if the sight were a kind of poison.

Book III
Around the World-the Circle of Ocean from the Pillars of Hercules

1. The coastline of Our Sea has been described now, and the islands it includes too.  What is left is the periphery, as we said at the outset,  that Ocean encircles. The huge and boundless sea is in motion, being stirred by great tides (that is what they call its movements). Sometimes it inun- dates fields; other times it strips them and runs back-not one field and another in turn, and not going back and forth between opposite coasts in alternating advances with full thrust, now on these fields, now on those. Instead, after it floods out from its center point equally onto all the shores of land and island, even though they lie in different direc- tions, Ocean gathers itself back into its center point from those shores and returns to its original condition. It always moves with so much force that it even drives back great rivers and either sweeps away the creatures of the earth or else strands marine life there.

2. It is, moreover, not quite understood [a] whether the world3 causes that process by its own breathing and restores all around the water that has been pulled back with its breath – if, as pleases the more learned, the world is a single animate being – or [b] whether there are certain caves sunk below the surface where the returned waters reside and whence they rise up copiously again, or [c] whether the moon is the explanation of such great movements. The tides certainly vary with the moon’s rising and setting, and we have ascertained that they ebb and flow, not regularly at the same moment, but as the moon waxes and wanes.

Iberian Peninsula

3. The Atlantic and the line of Baetica’s oceanfront receive those who travel this way and follow the right-hand coast.  This coastline is virtually straight as far as the Anas River, except where it draws back gradually once or twice. The Turduli and Bastuli are its inhabitants.

4. In the nearest bay is a harbor they call the Port of Gades and a woods they call Wild-Olive Grove; then a fort, Ebora, on the coast; and far from the coast the colony of Hasta [Mesa de Asta]. On the coast again there is an altar and a temple of Juno, and on the sea itself, the Monument of Caepio, which is set on a cliff rather than an island.

5. The Baetis [Guadalquivir] River, coming from the Tarraconensis region more or less through the middle of this one, runs down for a long time in a single stream, just as it originates. Later on, after it has made a large lake not far from the sea, a twin rises up as if from a new source, and the river flows on in separate beds as sizably as it had arrived in its single bed. Then a second bay curves all the way to the province’s boundary, and the small towns of Olintigi, Onoba [Huelva], and Laepa [Lepe] line it.

6. By contrast, on the other side of the Anas, where it faces the Atlantic Ocean, Lusitania at first goes on with a mighty thrust into the sea; then it stops and recedes farther than Baetica does.

7. Where it juts out, the coast spreads into three promontories, with the sea being received in two folds. The promontory beside the Anas is called Wedge Field [Cabo de Santa Maria], because it runs out from a wide base and gradually hones itself into a point; they call the second one Sacred Point [Cabo de Sao Vicente] and the one beyond it Great Point [Cabo da Roca]. On Wedge Field are Myrtili [Mertola], Balsa [Torre de Tavira], and Ossonoba [Faro]; on Sacred Point, Laccobriga [Lagos] and Port Hannibal [Portimao]; on Great Point, Ebora [Evora].

8. Bays lie between the promontories. Salacia is on the first one; on the second are Ulisippo [Lisboa/Lisbon] and the mouth of the Tagus [Tejo/Tajo], a river that generates jewels and gold. From these promontories to the part that has receded, a huge bend opens up, and on it are the Old Turduli and the towns of the Turduli as well as the Munda [Mondego] River, which flows broadly more or less halfway up the coast of the last promontory, and the Durius [Duero] River, which washes the foot of the same promontory.

9. The oceanfront there has a straight bank for a consider- able distance and then protrudes a little bit where it takes a moderate bend. At that time, drawn back again and again and lying in a straight line, the coast extends to the promontory we call Celtic Point [Punta de Narija].

10. Celtic peoples – except for the Grovi from the Durius to the bend – cultivate the whole coast here, and the rivers Avo [Ave], Celadus [Cavado], Nebis [Neyva], Minius [Mifio], and Limia (also known as the Oblivion) flow through their territory. The bend itself includes the city of Lambriaca [Lambre] and receives the Laeros [Lerez] and Ulla Rivers.

11. The Praetamarici inhabit the section that juts out, and through their territory run the Tamaris [Tambre] and Sars [Sar] Rivers, which arise not far away – the Tamaris next to Port Ebora, the Sars beside the Tower of Augustus, which has the famous inscription. The Supertamarici and the Neri, the last peoples on that stretch, inhabit the remainder. This is as far as its western shores reach.

12. From there the coast shifts northward with its entire flank from Celtic Point all the way to Scythian Point. The shoreline, uninterrupted except for moderate recesses and small promontories, is almost straight until it reaches the Cantabri.

13. On that shore, first of all, are the Artabri (actually a people of Celtic ancestry), then the Astyres. In the territory of the Artabri a bay admits the sea through a narrow mouth but encloses it with its not-so-narrow grasp; it rings the city of Adrobrica and the mouths of four rivers. Two mouths are little known even among locals; through the other two the Mearus and the lubia Rivers make their outlets. On the coast that belongs to the Astyres is the town of Noege, and on the peninsula sit the three so-called Altars of Sestius. These altars are dedicated in the name of Augustus, and they make famous a land previously undistinguished.

14. From what they call Salia River, though, the coast begins to recede gradually, and the breadth of still-wide Spain begins to contract more and more. The land narrows so much that where it abuts Gaul, its breadth is less by half than where it extends its western shore.

15. The Cantabri and Vardulli occupy this stretch; there are several peoples and rivers among the Cantabri, but their names cannot be couched in our language. The Saunium [Saja] descends through the territory of the <… > and of the Salaeni, the Namnasa [Nansa] down through the territory of the Autrigones and Orgenomescos, and the <… >. One nation, the Vardulli, spreading from here to the promontory of the Pyrenees, terminates the Spains.


16. Gaul’s second coast follows. At first its shoreline does not go out to sea at all, but after a while, proceeding almost as far beyond Spain as Spain had receded, it comes to lie opposite the lands of the Cantabri.  The coast then bends in a great curve and turns its flank so that it faces west. Then turning to face north, the coastline unfolds a second time in a long and straight stretch up to the banks of the Rhenus [Rhein/ Rhine].

17. The land is rich, primarily in grain and fodder, and it is lovely with its vast woods. It is conducive to good health and rarely populated with animals of a harmful kind, but it supports-with difficulty, and not everywhere-those plants that are intolerant of the cold.

18. The peoples are crude, superstitious, and sometimes even so monstrous that they used to believe that to the gods the best and most pleasing sacrificial victim was a human being. Traces of their savagery remain, even though it has been banned now. Nevertheless, after they have led their consecrated human victims to the altars, they still graze them slightly, although they do hold back from the ultimate bloodshed. And yet, they have both their own eloquence and their own teachers of wisdom, the Druids.

19. These men claim to know the size and shape of the earth and of the universe, the movements of the sky and of the stars, and what the gods intend. In secret, and for a long time (twenty years), they teach many things to the noblest males among their people, and they do it in a cave or in a hidden mountain defile. One of the precepts they teach – obviously to make them better for war- has leaked into common knowledge, namely, that their souls are eternal and that there is a second life for the dead. Therefore they cremate and bury with the dead things that are suitable for the living. Long ago, traders’ accounts and debt collection were deferred until they died, and some individuals happily threw themselves onto the pyres of their loved ones as if they were going to live with them!

20. The whole region they inhabit is Gallia Comata. Its peoples have three very distinguished names, and those peoples are separated by mighty rivers. In fact the Aquitani reach from the Pyrenees to the Garunna [Garonne] River, the Celts from there to the Sequana [Seine], and from there to the Rhenus, the Belgae. Of the Aquitani the most famous are the Ausci; of the Celts, the Haedui; of the Belgae, the Treveri. The wealthiest cites are Augusta [Trier] among the Treveri, Augustodunum [Autun] among the Haedui, and among the Aquitani, Eliumberrum [Auch].

21. The Garunna, which descends from the Pyrenees, flows shallow for a long time and is barely navigable except when swollen by winter rain or melted snow. But when it has been increased by the intrusions of the seething Ocean, and while those same waters are receding, the Garunna drives on its own waters and those of Ocean. The river, being considerably fuller, becomes wider the farther it advances, and at the end it is like a strait. It not only carries bigger ships but rises like the raging sea and violently buffets those who sail it, at least if the wind pushes one way and the current another.

22. In the river is the island named Antros, which the locals think floats on the surface and is raised up by the rising waves. The reasons they think so are [a] that while the adjacent shore seems more elevated, the river covers it when its level rises, whereas prior to flooding only this island is surrounded by water, and [b] that what the banks and hills had stood opposite (so that it was not seen) is completely visible at that time as if because of being on higher ground.

23. From the Garunna’s outlet begins the horizontal stretch of land that runs into the sea, as well as the shore that lies opposite the coast of the Cantabri and that bends from the Santoni all the way to the Ossismi (with other peoples living in between). Indeed, after the Ossismi, the oceanfront again faces back to the north, and it reaches to the farthest people of Gaul, the Morini. And it does not have anything more noteworthy than the port they call Gesoriacum [Boulogne].

24. The Rhenus, cascading down from the Alps, makes-more or less at its source-two lakes, Lake Venetus [Upper Bodensee/Upper Lake Constance] and Lake Acronus [Lower Bodensee/Lower Lake Constance]. Then solid for a long time and descending in a defined bank, not far from the sea it spreads in two directions. To the left the Rhenus actually remains a river until it reaches its outlet. On the right, however, the river is at first narrow and unchanged, but later its banks recede over a vast expanse. At this point it is no longer called a river but a huge lake – Lake Flevo – where it has flooded the fields. It surrounds an island of the same name [Vlieland], becomes narrower again, and again makes its outlet as a river.


25. Germany extends on the near side from the banks of the Rhenus as far as the Alps; on the south from the very Alps; on the east from the frontier with the Sarmatian peoples; and where it faces north, from the oceanfront.

26. The people who live there are extraordinary in courage, as in physique, and thanks to their natural ferocity they exercise both prodigiously – their minds by making war, their bodies by habitual hard work but above all by habitual exposure to the cold. They live naked before they reach puberty, and childhood is very long among them. The men dress in wool clothing or the bark of trees even during the harsh winter.

27. They have not only a tolerance for swimming but a fancy for it. They wage war with their neighbors, and they provoke the causes of those wars for sheer pleasure, not for the pleasure of rul- ing or enlarging what they possess (since they do not cultivate in earnest even what is already in their possession), but simply so that what lies around them may be laid waste.

28. They consider that right lies in might, so much so that not even brigandage shames them, pro- vided that they are good to their guests and compliant for their suppliants. They are so crude and uncivilized in their way of life that they even eat raw or fresh-killed meat, or else they eat meat that has been frozen in the actual hides of cattle and wild animals after they have softened the meat by working it with their own hands and feet.

29. The land itself is not easily passable, because of its many rivers; it is rugged on account of its numerous mountains; and to a large extent it is impassable with its forests and swamps. Of the swamps, the Suesia, the Metia, and the Melsyagum are the biggest. Of the forests, the Her- cynian and some others that have names do exist, but because it covers a distance of sixty days’ march, the Hercynian Forest is as much better known as it is bigger than the others.

30. Of the mountains, excepting those with names scarcely to be pronounced by a Roman mouth, the tallest are Mt. Taunus and Mt. Retico. Of the rivers that pass into the territories of other peoples, the most famous are the Danube and the Rhodanus [Rhone]; of those that go into the Rhenus, the Moenis [Main] and the Lupia [Lippe]; and of those that go into the Ocean, the Amissis [Ems], the Visurgis [Weser], and the Albis [Elbe].

31. On the other side of the Albis, the huge Codanus Bay [Baltic Sea] is filled with big and small islands. For this reason, where the sea is received within the fold of the bay, it never lies wide open and never really looks like a sea but is sprinkled around, rambling and scattered like rivers, with water flowing in every direction and crossing many times. Where the sea comes into contact with the mainland, the sea is contained by the banks of islands, banks that are not far offshore and that are virtually equidistant everywhere. There the sea runs a narrow course like a strait, then, curving, it promptly adapts to a long brow of land.

32. On the bay are the Cimbri and the Teutoni; farther on, the farthest people of Germany, the Hermiones.

Golding version on Germany

From hencefoorth to the Alpes, Germanie is bounded on the West, with the Rhyne, on the South, with the Alpes themselues, on the East, with the borders of the Nations of Sarmatia, and on the North, with the Oc∣cean Sea. The Inhabitants are huge of body, and hautie of minde, and according to the sauadgenesse that is bredde in them, doo inure both of them, as well their mindes to battell, as their bodies to the custome of paines taking. In the greatest colde that is, they goe naked, tyll they growe to mans estate, and childe-hood is verie long a∣mong them. The men goe cloathed in Mandilions, or in barkes of Trées: and be the winter neuer so sharpe, they not onelie can endure to swimme, but also haue a delight in it. They be at warre with their next borderers, and they picke quarrelles to them of pleasure, and not of desire to raigne, or to inlarge the thinges which they possesse, (for they doo not greatlie manure the grounds which they haue) but to make Countries about them waste. Force is their Lawe, insomuch that they be not ashamed euen of robberie and murther: onely they be good to Straungers, & mercifull to suppliaunts. They be so hard and carelesse of their fare, that they féede euen vpon rawe fleshe, either new killed, or softened by kneading it with their handes and féete, in the skinnes of the Cattell and wilde Beastes themselues, after it is stiffe for colde.

The Land is troublesome with the multitudes of Rivuers, combersome with the multitude of Mountaines, and for a great parte vntrauelable for Wooddes, Fennes, and Marishes. Of Fennes and Marishes, the greatest are Sulcia, Mesia, and Melsiagum. Of Wooddes, the greatest is Hercynia. There are some other also that beare name, but as Hercynia is the greatest, for it is thrée score dayes iourney ouer, so is it also the best knowne. The highest of the Mountaines, are Taurus and Rhetico, sauing those which it is scarcelie possible for the tongue of a Romane to vtter.

The notablest Riuers, of them that runne foorth into o∣ther Nations, are Danubius, and Rhodanus: of them that runne into the Rhyne, Maenus, and Lupia: of them that fall into the Occean, Amisius, Visurgis, and Albis. Uppon the Riuer Albis, is the great gulfe called Codanus, full of Ilandes, both great and small. The sharpe Sea which is receyued into the bosome of those shores, dooth no where beare any great breadth, nor any likenesse of a Sea, but is shed out wanderinglie and dispearsedlie, after the likenesse of Riuers, by waters that runne into it, and oftentimes runne cleane through it. Where it beateth vpon the shores, it is hemmed in with the bankes of Ilands not farre distant asunder, so as it is euerie where almost of a lyke scantling, narrowe, and resembling an arme of the Sea, bowing and bending from place to place with a long brew. In it are the Cimbrians, and Theutons, and beyond them the Hermions, which are the vttermost people of Germanie.


33. Sarmatia, wider to the interior than toward the sea, is separated by the Vistula [Wisla/Vistula] River from the places that follow, and where the river reaches in, it goes all the way to the Ister River. Its people are very close to the Parthians in dress and in weaponry, but the rougher the climate, the cruder their disposition.

34. They do not live in cities or even in fixed abodes. Insofar as pastures have lured them on, or insofar as an enemy’s flight or pursuit has forced them out, they live in camps all the time and drag their possessions and their wealth with them. They are warlike, free, unconquered, and so savage and cruel that women also go to war side by side with men; and so that women may be suited for action, their right breast is cauterized as soon as they are born. As a result, that breast, now exposed and ready to withstand blows, develops like a man’s chest.

35. Archery, horseback riding, and hunting are a girl’s pursuits; to kill the enemy is a woman’s military duty, so much so that not to have struck one down is considered a scandal, and virginity is the punishment for those women.

Golding version on Sarmatia 

Sarmatia being broader innermore, then at the Seas side, is deuided from the former Coūtries, by the riuer Visula, from whence it extendeth backe to the riuer Ister. The people in their behauiour and Armour, re∣semble much the Parthians. But as their Countrie is of sharper ayre, so be they of fiercer disposition. They abide not in Citties, no nor in any certaine dwelling places: but as pasturage prouoketh them, or as the enimie fléeing or pursuing, giueth them cause, so doo they euer conuey their goodes and Cattell with them, dwelling alwayes in Tents lyke warriers, frée & vnbridled, and so vnmeasurablie fierce and cruell, that euen their women goe to battell with the men, & to the intent they may be the fitter for the purpose, as soone as they be borne, their right pappes are seared, that the hand which is to be put foorth to seruice, maye be the more at libertie to strike, and their breast become the more manlike. To bend a bowe, to hunt, and to ride, are the tasks of Maidens. To encounter the enimie, is the wages of wo∣men growen: insomuch, that not to haue stricken an enimie, is counted a heinous crime, and for their punishment, they be enioyned to liue Maidens still.


36. After that, the Scythian peoples – almost all designated under one name as the Belcae – inhabit the Asian frontier except where winter remains continuous and the cold remains unbearable. On the Asiatic littoral, first of all, the Hyperboreans are located beyond the north wind, above the Riphaean Mountains, and under the very pole of the stars, where the sun rises, not every day as it does for us, but for the first time at the vernal equinox, and where it eventually sets at the autumnal equinox. Therefore, for six months daylight is completely uninter- rupted, and for the next six months night is completely uninterrupted.

37. The land is narrow, exposed to the sun, and spontaneously fruitful. Its inhabitants live in the most equitable way possible, and they live  longer and more happily than any mortals. To be sure, because they delight in their always festive leisure, they know no wars, no disputes, and they devote themselves primarily to the sacred rites of Apollo. According to tradition, they sent their firstfruits to Delos initially in the hands of their own virgins, and later they sent them through peoples who handed them on in succession to farther peoples.  They preserved that custom for a long time until it was profaned by the sacrilege of those peoples. The Hyperboreans inhabit groves and forests, and when a sense of having been satisfied by life (rather than boredom) has gripped them, they cheerfully wreathe themselves in flowers and actually throw themselves into the sea from a particular cliff. For them that is the finest death ritual.

38. The Caspian Sea first breaks into the land like a river, with a strait as small as it is long, and after it has entered by its straight channel, the sea is diffused into three bays.  Opposite its very mouth, it passes into the Bay of Hyrcania; on the left, into Scythian Bay; and on the right, into the one they call by the name of the whole, Caspian Bay. The sea as a whole is violent, savage, without harbors, exposed to storms everywhere, as well as crowded with sea-monsters more than any other sea is, and for all these reasons it is not fully navigable. To the right as you enter, the Scythian Nomads occupy the shores of the strait.

39. To the interior, beside Caspian Bay, are the Caspians and Amazons (at least the ones they call the Sauromatidae); alongside the Bay of Hyrcania are the Albani, the Moschi, and the Hyrcani; and on Scythian Bay are the Amardi, the Pestici, and, at this point near the strait, the Derbices. Many rivers, great and small, flow into that bay, but the famous one, the <… >, descends in a single bed from the Ceraunian Mountains and makes its outlet into the Caspian in two beds.

40. The Araxes [Araks], which cascades down from the side of the Taurus Range, slips along peacefully and quietly as long as it slices through the plains of Armenia, and it is not clear which way it is moving even if you watch it closely. When the Araxes goes down into rougher terrain, is squeezed to either side by cliffs, and is that much swifter because it is that much narrower, the river becomes as a result rough and choppy alongside the crags that block its path. Because of that it rolls on with a mighty crashing and roaring, so rapid that where it is about to drop precipitously onto lower-lying terrain, the Araxes does not even change its water’s direction but shoots the water straight out beyond its channel. The river propels itself in the air at a height of more than a iugerum, its waters suspended in midair without a riverbed.  Then, after it descends in a curve with its stream bent like a bow, the river becomes tranquil, and again silently and scarcely moving through the plains, it rolls out to the coastline there.

41. The Cyrus [Kura] and Cambyses [Yori] Rivers, produced from springs near the roots of Mt. Coraxicus, travel in different directions. Both flow down through the territories of the Hiberi and the Hyrcani for a long time with their beds very far apart. Later, after entering the same lake not far from the sea, they arrive at the Bay of Hyrcania in a single outlet.

42. The rivers laxartes [Syrdarya] and Oxos [Amudarya] go from the regions of the Sogdiani, through Scythia’s deserts, into Scythian Bay. The former is large at its source, but the latter becomes larger by the incursion of other rivers. The latter rushes for a consider- able distance from east to west, bends for the first time beside the Dahae, and, with its course turned to the north, opens its mouth between the Amardi and the Pestici.

43. The forests also bear other fierce animals, but they even bear tigers – Hyrcanian ones, to be sure – a savage breed of wild animal so swift that they easily, and typically, track a mounted rider, even one passing at a distance; and they do it not once only but several times, even when the trail is retraced each time right from where it began. The explanation comes from the fact that when that proverbial horseman runs off with stolen tiger cubs, and once he has let one of the several cubs go to thwart the fury of the adult animals as they near the city, these tigers pick up the abandoned cub and bring it back to their den. They go back again rather a lot and do the same thing until the fleeing thief reaches a more populous locale than the tigers dare to approach.

44. For quite some time it was unclear what lay beyond Caspian Bay, whether it was the same Ocean or a hostile, cold land that extended without a border and without end.

45. But in addition to the natural philosophers and Homer, who all said that the entire known world was surrounded by sea, there is Cornelius Nepos, who is more dependable as an authority because he is more modern. Nepos, however, adduces Quintus Metellus Celer as witness of the fact, and he records that Metellus reported it as follows. When Celer was proconsul of Gaul, certain Indians were presented to him as a gift by the king of the Boii. By asking what route they had followed to reach there, Celer learned that they had been snatched by storm from Indian waters, that they had traversed the intervening region, and that finally they had arrived on the shores of Germany. Ergo, the sea is continuous, but the rest of that same coast is frozen by the unremitting cold and is therefore deserted.


46. Next to these shores, which we have traced from the angle of Baetica all the way here, also lie many obscure islands that have no names. Of those islands not happily passed by, though, Gades is on the Strait. That island is separated from the continent by a narrow space, as if by a river, and has an almost straight bank where it lies nearer to the main- land. Where the island faces Ocean it reaches into the sea with two promontories, and the shoreline in between recedes. On one prong it supports a temple of Aegyptian Hercules famous for its founders, its cult, its age, and its wealth. The Tyrians founded the temple, and Hercules’ bones, buried there, show why the place is consecrated. The temple began its existence in the Trojan era, and time has fed its wealth.

47. In Lusitania are the isle of Erythia, which we are told was the home of Geryon, and other islands without fixed names. The fields of Erythia are so fertile that as soon as grain is planted, as soon as the seed falls to the ground and renews the crop, they produce at least seven harvests, sometimes even more. On the Celtic coast are a number of islands that, because they are all rich in lead, people call by one name, the Cassiterides [Grk., Tin Islands; Isles of Scilly].

48. In the Britannic Sea, opposite the coast of the Ossismi, the isle of Sena [Sein] belongs to a Gallic divinity and is famous for its oracle, whose priestesses, sanctified by their perpetual virginity, are reportedly nine in number. They call the priestesses Gallizenae and think that because they have been endowed with unique powers, they stir up the seas and the winds by their magic charms, that they turn into whatever animals they want, that they cure what is incurable among other peoples, that they know and predict the future, but that it is not revealed except to sea-voyagers and then only to those traveling to consult them.

49. Next, as to what kind of place Britain is and what kind of people it produces, information that is more certain and better established will be stated. The reason is that – lo and behold! – the greatest princeps is opening the long-closed island, and as conqueror of previously unsubdued and previously unknown peoples, the princeps brings with him the proof of his own accomplishments, since he will reveal in his triumph as much as he has laid claim to in war.

50. Moreover, just as we have thought until now, Britain projects between the west and the north in a wide angle and looks toward the mouths of the Rhenus. It then draws its sides back obliquely, facing Gaul with one side, Germany with the other; then returning with a continuous line of straight shore on its rear side, Britain again wedges itself into two different angles-being triangular and very much like Sicily. Britain is flat, huge, fertile, but more generously so for what feeds sheep than for what sustains humans.

51. It supports groves and meadows and colossal rivers that sometimes flow to the sea, some- times back again, with alternating currents, and certain other rivers that produce gems and pearls. It supports peoples and their kings, but all are uncivilized. The farther from the sea, the more ignorant they are of other kinds of wealth, being wealthy only in sheep and land, and- whether for beauty or for some other reason-they have their bodies dyed blue.

52. They produce, nevertheless, the causes of war and actual wars, and they take turns harassing one another constantly, mainly because they have a strong desire to rule and a strong drive to expand their holdings. They make war not only on horseback or on foot but also from two-horse chariots and cars armed in the Gallic fashion – they call them covinni – on which they use axles equipped with scythes.

53. On the far side of Britain, luverna [Ireland] is more or less equal in area, but it is oblong with equally extended lateral coastlines. Its cli- mate is hideous for ripening seeds, but the island is so luxuriant with grass – not only abundant but sweet-that sheep stuff themselves in a fraction of the day, and unless they are kept from the pasture, they burst from feeding too long. Its inhabitants are undisciplined and ignorant of all virtue, to a greater degree than any other nation, and they are very much inexperienced in piety.

54. The thirty Orcades [Orkney Islands] are separated by narrow spaces between them; the seven Haemodae [Denmark] extend opposite Germany in what we have called Codanus Bay; of the islands there, Scadinavia, which the Teutoni still hold, stands out as much for its size as for its fertility besides.

55. Because of the sea’s tidal ebb and flow, and because the distance between them is sometimes covered by waves and other times bare, what faces the Sarmatae sometimes seems to be islands and at other times seems to be one continuous land mass.

56. In addition to what is handed down in legend, I discover – in authors whom I am not embarrassed to follow – that on these islands are the Oeonae [Grk., Birds of Prey], who feed only on oats and the eggs of marsh birds, and that the Hippodes [Grk., Horsefeet], with their equine hooves, are also there, and the Panotii [Grk., All-Ears] too, who for clothing have big ears broad enough to go around their whole body (they are otherwise naked).

57. Thule is located near the coast of the Belcae, who are celebrated in Greek poetry and in our own. On it — because there the sun rises far from where it will set — nights are necessarily brief, but all winter long they are as dark as anywhere, and in summer, bright. All summer the sun moves higher in the sky at this time, and although it is not actually seen at night, the sun nevertheless illuminates adjacent places when its radiance is close by; but during the solstice there is no night, because at that time the sun is now more visible and shows not only its brilliance but most of itself too.

58. Talge [Cheleken], on the Caspian Sea, is fertile without being cultivated and is abundant in every root crop and fruit, but the local peoples consider it an abomination and a sacrilege to touch what grows there. They think that these things have been prepared for the gods and must be saved for the gods. Alongside those coasts that we have called deserted lie a number of equally deserted islands, which, being without names of their own, are called the Scythian Islands.

India and the East

59. The route curves from here to the Eastern Sea and to the earth’s east- ern rim. This coast, which is first impassable because of the snows and then uncultivated because of the monstrous savagery of the inhabi- tants, reaches from Scythian Point to Point Colis [Cape Comorin]. The Androphagoe and the Sacae are Scyths, and they are separated by a region that is uninhabitable because it is teeming with wild animals.

60. Next, monstrous beasts again render vast tracts unsafe all the way to Mt. Tabis, which overhangs the sea. At a distance from there the Taurus Range rises. The Seres [Lat., Silk People] are in between, a people full of justice and best known for the trade they conduct in absentia, by leav- ing their goods behind in a remote location…

Africa’s Atlantic Coast

100. From that point begins the oceanfront that faces west and is bathed by the Atlantic Ocean. The Aethiopians take up its first part, but no one takes up the middle, which is either parched, covered with sand, or infested with snakes. Islands that the Hesperides reportedly lived in are located off the coast of the parched region.

101. On the sandy part is Mt. Atlas, which rises abruptly.  It is, in fact, precipitous (with its deep- cut cliffs everywhere), inaccessible, and more impenetrable the higher it rises. Mt. Atlas rises right into the clouds since its peak is higher than can be seen, and it reportedly not only reaches the sky and the stars with its peak but even holds them up.

102. Opposite the sandy part, the Fortunate Isles [Canary Islands] abound in spontaneously generated plants; and with various ones always producing new fruit in rapid succession, the islands nourish people who want for nothing, and whose islands are more blissfully productive than others are.  One of the islands is primarily famous for the uniqueness of its two springs: those who have sipped the one laugh to death; the cure for those so affected is to drink from the other.

103. Next after the stretch that the wild beasts infest are the Himantopodes [Grk., Spindleshanks], hunched and rubber-legged, who reportedly slither rather than walk; then the Pharusii, who were well-off in the days when Hercules went to the Hesperides, but who are now squalid and, except for eating mutton, very poor.

104. Hereafter richer fields and lovely meadows abound in citron, terebinth, and ivory. Not even the coasts of the Nigritae and the Gaetuli, who are quite nomadic, are infertile. Those coasts are very famous for purple and murex – the most effective dyeing materials. Anything they have dyed is instantly recognizable anywhere.

105. The remainder is the outer coast of Mauretania and Africa’s extreme corner as it comes to its last point. The region is richly endowed, but less so, with those same sources of wealth.  As to the rest, it is even richer in soil and so fertile that it not only yields in extreme abundance the kinds of grain that are sown but also puts forth freely some kinds that are not sown.

106. Here Antaeus reportedly ruled as king.  A sign-and quite a famous one-of this legend is also visible, namely, the modest hill that looks like a man reclining on his back, which the locals report is the funeral mound of Antaeus.  As a consequence, when any part of the hill has become eroded, the rains regularly sprinkle the ground, and they keep coming until the erose sections are restored.

107. Some humans occupy the forests, but being less nomadic than those we have just mentioned, others live in cities. The wealthiest cities, albeit the wealthiest among small ones, are considered to be Gilda, Volubilis, and Banasa, all far from Ocean, but nearer to it Sala and Lixos [Larache], which is right on the Lixus [Lukkus] River. Farther on is the colony of Zilia, and the Zilia River, and the place we started from, Point Ampelusia, which now turns into Our Strait, which is the terminus both of this work and of the Atlantic coastline.

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April 26, 2017


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Recently, we’ve seen some of the dumbest postings from the world of genetic genealogy.  Apparently, Polish archaeologists/genealogists were able to assess that the male (Y) haplogroup of the so-called Mazovian Piasts appear to be from haplogroup R1b.  So what?  Well, the “expectation” was for the more typical (among Slavs) R1a and those people who don’t like the idea of Slavs or don’t want to be Slavs (the two are often connected), got overly excited since in their minds this suggests a German or Celtic origin of the Piast dynasty…  Although the Germans in WWII were desperate to find a Scandinavian source for the Piast dynasty (and failed), there is little doubt that the idea (which they did not even seem to contemplate) that the dynasty was Germanic would have tickled their fancy even more.

A number of commentators pointed out that this could be the case of contamination (apparently not) or infidelity (the Piasts examined were from the 16th century – the “original” ones from the 10th) and so forth.

But there is a more fundamental point here.  Haplogroup R1b is present in Central and Eastern Europe as well.  Of the Poles, somewhere around 12%-16% have R1b.  In fact, this is the second most common haplogroup in Poland.  It gets better, of the Czechs, some 20%-33% have R1b (and there was a hypothesis about a Moravian “connection” of the Piasts).  Even in “eastern” Russia R1b is present in about 6% of the male population (though there it trails not only R1a but also N and I).  So the question arises, are these not Slavs?  I guess, you’d have to take a very narrow view of what it means to be a Slav to believe that (R1a only and by all means not all of R1a!).  (We’ve written about this idiocy before here).

In addition, the truly “Germanic” haplogroup appears to be I1 which is present in a majority of males only in the Scandinavian countries.  While R1b is the second most popular Scandinavian haplogroup, on a country by country look even that is not necessarily true since in Norway, the second most common is R1a (after I).

(You might say the Norwegian “subclade” of R1a is different (mostly) than the “Slavic” one but there you get into the ridiculous puritanical view that while anything could be Germanic, only a very narrow subset of things could be Slavic.  For example, was the R1b subclade of the Piasts “typical” of Western Europe or of Poland?  In the former case, there may be an argument that the Piasts were newcomers from the West but in the latter all of this is a big so-what).

In fact, R1b is also the second most popular haplogroup in Turkey at 16%… The only thing that can be said of R1b with some certainty is that the percentages increase the further West you go.  But you have to really go west… While in Germany 44% of men have R1b (between 12%-15% have R1a), the percentages for France and Portugal are 60%, the percentage for Spain is 67% and Ireland sits on the top with 87%.

So, yes, genetic studies can be surprising but the findings of R1a, R1b, N, I or J are hardly surprising.

And this is before you even get to other questions such as:

  • suppose you have a hermetically sealed population of R1a and R1b males (plus some females…).  Suppose further that the R1a males had more (male) children than R1b males.  Over the course of 1,000 years the proportions of R1a and R1b in a given territory could have entirely flipped while the population has remained the “same”;
  • what about women? does it matter what mtDna they have!?;

A much simpler way to adjudge who is a Slav is simply to note that if one of your parents is a Slav then so are you.

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April 19, 2017

Evagrius and the Avars

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Evagrius Scholasticus (Greek: Εὐάγριος Σχολαστικός) was a Syrian scholar and intellectual living in the 6th century AD, and an aide to the patriarch Gregory of Antioch.  His one surviving work, Ecclesiastical History (Ἐκκλησιαστικὴ Ἱστορία), comprises a six-volume collection concerning the Church’s history from the First Council of Ephesus (A.D. 431) to Maurice’s reign during his life.

Although Evagrius does not mention Slavs, people have suspected that he included Slavs among at least some of the Avars that he does mention.  (Others have even thought that he means Slavs when he says Avars – at least in some instances).  Overall what can probably be said is that some Slavs partook of the invasions of Greece along with the Avars (as mentioned in the Chronicle of Monemvasia or the Miracles of Saint Demetrius) and so mention of Evagrius’ History is appropriate.  For good measure, given the confusion of the times, we throw in pieces that also mention Scythians (note that the Avars are also referred to as “Scythians” as in their trek west after having been beaten by the “Turks” – Book 5) or Massagetae.

The translation is rather ancient itself – by Walford from 1846.

Book 1, Chapter 17

During those times arose the celebrated war of Attila, king of the Scythians: the history of which has been written with great care and distinguished ability by Priscus the rhetorician, who details, in a very elegant narrative, his attacks on the eastern and western parts of the empire, how many and important cities he reduced, and the series of his achievements until he was removed from the world.

It was also in the reign of Theodosius that an extraordinary earthquake occurred, which threw all former ones into the shade, and extended, so to speak, over the whole world. Such was its violence, that many of the towers in different parts of the imperial city were overthrown, and the long wall, as it is termed, of the Chersonese, was laid in ruins; the earth opened and swallowed up many villages; and innumerable other calamities happened both by land and sea. Several fountains became dry, and, on the other hand, large bodies of water were formed on the surface, where none existed before: entire trees were torn up by the roots and hurled aloft, and mountains were suddenly formed by the accumulation of masses thrown up. The sea also cast up dead fish; many islands were submerged; and, again, ships were seen stranded by the retreat of the waters. At the same time Bithynia, the Hellespont, and cither Phrygia, suffered severely. This calamity prevailed for a considerable time, though the violence with which it commenced, did not continue, but abated by degrees until it entirely ceased.

Book 2, Chapter 14

About the same time, when the Scythian war was gathering against the Eastern Romans, an earthquake visited Thrace, the Hellespont, Ionia, and the islands called Cyclades; so severe as to cause a universal overthrow in Cnidus and Cos. Priscus also records the occurrence of excessive rains about Constantinople and Bithynia, which descended like torrents for three or four days; when hills were swept down to the plains, and villages carried away by the deluge: islands also were formed in the lake Boane, not far from Nicomedia, by the masses of rubbish brought down by the waters. This evil, however, was subsequent to the former.

Book 3, Chapter 2

In such a manner, then, had Zeno, from the commencement of his reign, depraved his course of life: while, however, his subjects, both in the East and the West, were greatly distressed; in the one quarter, by the general devastations of the Scenite barbarians; and in Thrace, by the inroads of the Huns, formerly known by the name of Massagetae, who crossed the Ister without opposition: while Zeno himself, in barbarian fashion, was making violent seizure on whatever escaped them.

Book 3, Chapter 25

Theodoric also, a Scythian, raised an insurrection, and having collected his forces in Thrace, marched against Zeno. After ravaging every place in his march as far as the mouth of the Pontus, he was near taking the imperial city, when some of his most intimate companions were secretly induced to enter into a plot against his life. When, however, he had learnt the disaffection of his followers, he commenced a retreat, and was very soon afterwards numbered with the departed, by a kind of death which I will mention, and which happened thus. A spear, with its thong prepared for immediate use, had been suspended before his tent in barbaric fashion. He had ordered a horse to be brought to him for the purpose of exercise, and being in the habit of not having any one to assist him in mounting, vaulted into his seat. The horse, a mettlesome and ungovernable animal, reared before Theodoric was fairly mounted, so that, in the contest, neither daring to rein back the horse, lest it should come down upon him, nor yet having gained a firm seat, he was whirled round in all directions, and dashed against the point of the spear, which thus struck him obliquely, and wounded his side. He was then conveyed to his couch, and after surviving a few days, died of the wound.

Book 3, Chapter 35

It will not be inconsistent, if, in accordance with the promise which I originally made, I insert in my narrative the other circumstances worthy of mention which occurred in the time of Anastasius.

Longinus, the kinsman of Zeno, on his arrival at his native country, as has been already detailed, openly commences war against the emperor: and after a numerous army had been raised from different quarters, in which Conon, formerly bishop of Apamea in Syria, was also present, who, as being an Isaurian, aided the Isaurians, an end was put to the war by the utter destruction of the Isaurian troops of Longinus. The heads of Longinus and Theodore were sent to the imperial city by John the Scythian; which the emperor displayed on poles at the place called Sycae, opposite Constantinople, an agreeable spectacle to the Byzantines, who had been hardly treated by Zeno and the Isaurians. The other Longinus, surnamed of Selinus, the main stay of the insurgent faction, and Indes, are sent alive to Anastasius by John, surnamed Hunchback ; a circumstance which especially gladdened the emperor and the Byzantines, by the display of the prisoners led in triumph along the streets and the hippodrome, with iron chains about their necks and hands. Thenceforward, also, the payment called Isaurica accrued to the imperial treasury, being gold previously paid to the Barbarians annually, to the amount of five thousand pounds.

Book 5, Chapter 1

In this manner did Justinian depart to the lowest region of retribution, after having filled every place with confusion and tumults, and having received at the close of his life the reward of his actions. His nephew Justin succeeds to the purple; having previously held the office of guardian of the palace, styled in the Latin language Curopalata. No one, except those who were immediately about his person, was aware of the demise of Justinian or the declaration of Justin, until the latter made his appearance in the hippodrome, by way of formally assuming the stated functions of royalty. Confining himself to this simple proceeding, he then returned to the palace.

His first edict was one dismissing the bishops to their respective sees, wherever they might be assembled, with a provision that they should maintain what was already established in religion, and abstain from novelties in matters of faith. This proceeding was to his honour. In his mode of life, however, he was dissolute, utterly abandoned to luxury and inordinate pleasures: and to such a degree was he inflamed with desire for the property of others, as to convert every thing into a means of unlawful gain; standing in no awe of the Deity even in the case of bishoprics, but making them a matter of public sale to any purchasers that offered. Possessed, as he was, alike by the vices of audacity and cowardice, he in the first place sends for his kinsman Justin, a man universally famous for military skill and his other distinctions, who was at that time stationed upon the Danube, and engaged in preventing the Avars from crossing that river.

These were one of those Scythian tribes who live in wagons, and inhabit the plains beyond the Caucasus. Having been worsted by their neighbours, the Turks, they had migrated in a mass to the Bosphorus; and, having subsequently left the shores of the Euxine—- where were many barbarian tribes, and where also cities, castles, and some harbours had been located by the Romans, being either settlements of veterans, or colonies sent out by the emperors—-they were pursuing their march, in continual conflict with the barbarians whom they encountered, until they reached the bank of the Danube; and thence they sent an embassy to Justinian.

From this quarter Justin was summoned, as having a claim to the fulfilment of the terms of the agreement between himself and the emperor. For, since both of them had been possessed of equal dignity, and the succession to the empire was in suspense between both, they had agreed, after much dispute, that whichever of the two should become possessed of the sovereignty, should confer the second place on the other; so that while ranking beneath the emperor, he should still take precedence of all others.

Book 5, Chapter 11

On being informed of these events, Justin, in whose mind no sober and considerate thoughts found place after so much inflation and pride, and who did not bear what had befallen him with resignation suited to a human being, falls into a state of frenzy, and becomes unconscious of all subsequent transactions.

Tiberius assumes the direction of affairs, a Thracian by birth, but holding the first place in the court of Justin. He had previously been sent out against the Avars by the emperor, who had raised a very large army for the purpose; and he would inevitably have been made prisoner, since his troops would not even face the barbarians, had not divine Providence unexpectedly delivered him, and preserved him for succession to the Roman ‘sovereignty; which, through the inconsiderate measures of Justin, was in danger of falling to ruin, together with the entire commonwealth, and of passing from such a height of power into the hands of barbarians.


Tiberius, accordingly, applying to a rightful purpose the wealth which had been amassed by improper means, made the necessary preparations for war. So numerous was the army of brave men, raised among the Transalpine nations, the Massagetae, and other Scythian tribes, by a choice levy in the countries on the Rhine, and on this side of the Alps, as well as in Paeonia, Mysia, Illyria, and Isauria, that he completed squadrons of excellent cavalry, to the amount of nearly one hundred and fifty thousand men, and repulsed Chosroes, who, immediately after the capture of Daras, had advanced in the course of the summer against Armenia, and was thence directing his movements upon Caesarea, which was the seat of government of Cappadocia and the capital of the cities in that quarter. In such contempt did Chosroes hold the Roman power, that, when the Caesar had sent an embassy to him, he did not deign to admit the ambassadors to an audience, but bid them follow him to Caesarea; at which place he said he would take the embassy into his consideration. When, however, he saw the Roman army in the front of him, under the command of Justinian, the brother of that Justin who had been miserably put to death by the Emperor Justin, in complete equipment, with the trumpets sending forth martial sounds, the standards uplifted for conflict, and the soldiery eager for slaughter, breathing forth fury, and at the same time maintaining perfect order, and, besides, so numerous and noble a body of cavalry as no monarch had ever imagined, he drew a deep groan, with many adjurations, at the unforeseen and unexpected sight, and was reluctant to begin the engagement. But while he is lingering and whiling away the time, and making a mere feint of fighting, Kurs, the Scythian, who was in command of the right wing, advances upon him; and since the Persians were unable to stand his charge, and were in a very signal manner abandoning their ground, he made an extensive slaughter of his opponents. He also attacks the rear, where both Chosroes and the whole army had placed their baggage, and captures all the royal stores and the entire baggage, under the very eyes of Chosroes; who endured the sight, deeming self-imposed constraint more tolerable than the onset of Kurs. The latter, having together with his troops made himself master of a great amount of money and spoil, and carrying off the beasts of burden with their loads, among which was the sacred fire of Chosroes to which divine honours were paid, makes a circuit of the Persian camp, singing songs of victory, and rejoins, about nightfall, his own army, who had already broken up from their position, without a commencement of battle on the part of either Chosroes or themselves, beyond a few slight skirmishes or single combats, such as usually take place.

Chosroes, having lighted many fires, made preparations for a night assault; and since the Romans had formed two camps, he attacks the division which lay northward, at the dead of night. On their giving way under this sudden and unexpected onset, he advances upon the neighbouring town of Melitene, which was undefended and deserted by its inhabitants, and having fired the whole place, prepared to cross the Euphrates. At the approach, however, of the united forces of the Romans, in alarm for his own safety, he mounted an elephant, and crossed alone; while great numbers of his army found a grave in the waters of the river : on learning whose fate he retreated.

Having paid this extreme penalty for his insolence towards the Roman power, Chosroes retires with the survivors to the eastern parts, in which quarter the terms of the truce had provided that no one should attack him. Nevertheless Justinian made an irruption into the Persian territory with his entire force, and passed the whole winter there, without any molestation. He withdrew about the summer solstice, without having sustained any loss whatever, and passed the summer near the border, surrounded by prosperity and glory.

Book 5, Chapter 20

He also engaged Tamchosroes and Adaarmanes, the principal Persian commanders, who had advanced against him with a considerable force: but the nature, manner, and place of these transactions I leave others to record, or shall perhaps myself make them the subject of a distinct work, since my present one professes to treat of matters of a very different kind. Tamchosroes, however, falls in battle, not by the bravery of the Roman soldiery, but merely through the piety and faith of their commander: and Adaarmanes, being worsted in the fight and having lost many of his men, flies with precipitation, and this too, although Alamundarus, the commander of the Scenite barbarians, played the traitor in declining to cross the Euphrates and support Maurice against the Scenites of the opposite party. For this people are invincible by any other than themselves, on account of the fleetness of their horses : when hemmed in, they cannot be captured; and they outstrip their enemies in retreat. Theodoric too, commander of the Scythian troops, did not so much as venture within range of the missiles, but fled with all his people.

Book 5, Chapter 24

By the aid of God, an account of the affairs of the Church, presenting a fair survey of the whole, has been preserved for us in what has been recorded by Eusebius Pamphili down to the time of Constantine, and thence forward as far as Theodosius the younger, by Theodoret, Sozomen, and Socrates, and in the matters which have been selected for my present work.

Primitive and profane history has been also preserved in a continuous narrative by those who have been zealous at the task; Moses being the first to compose history, as has been clearly shewn by those who have collected whatever bears upon the subject, in writing a true account of events from the beginning of the world, derived from what he learned in converse with God on Mount Sinai. Then follow the accounts which those who after him prepared the way for our religion have stored up in sacred scriptures. Josephus also composed an extensive history, in every way valuable. All the stories, whether fabulous or true, relating to the contests of the Greeks and ancient barbarians, both among themselves and against each other, and whatever else had been achieved since the period at which they record the first existence of mankind, have been written by Charax, Theopompus, Ephorus, and others too numerous to mention. The transactions of the Romans, embracing the history of the whole world and whatever else took place either with respect to their intestine divisions or their proceedings towards other nations, have been treated of by Dionysius of Halicarnassus, who has brought down his account from the times of what are called the Aborigines, to those of Pyrrhus of Epirus. The history is then taken up by Polybius of Megalopolis, who brings it down to the capture of Carthage. All these materials Appian has portioned out by a clear arrangement, separately grouping each series of transactions, though occurring at intervals of time. What events occurred subsequent to the before-mentioned periods, have been treated by Diodorus Siculus, as far as the time of Julius Caesar, and by Dion Cassius, who continued his account as far as Antoninus of Emesa. In a similar work of Herodian, the account extends as far as the death of Maximus; and in that of Nicostratus, the sophist of Trapezus, from Philip, the successor of Gordian, to Odenatus of Palmyra, and the ignominious expedition of Valerian against the Persians. Dexippus has also written at great length on the same subject, commencing with the Scythian wars, and terminating with the reign of Claudius, the successor of Gallierius: and he also included the military transactions of the Carpi and other barbarian tribes, in Greece, Thrace,and Ionia. Eusebius too, commencing from Octavian, Trajan, and Marcus, brought his account down to the death of Carus. The history of the same times has been partially written both by Arrian and Asinius Quadratus: that of the succeeding period by Zosimus, as far as Honorius and Arcadius: and events subsequent to their reign by Priscus the Rhetorician, and others. The whole of this range of history has been excellently epitomised by Eustathius of Epiphania, in two volumes, one extending to the capture of Troy, the other to the twelfth year of the reign of Anastasius. The occurrences subsequent to that period have been written by Procopius the rhetorician as far as the time of Justinian ; and the account has been thenceforward continued by Agathias the rhetorician, and John, my fellow-citizen and kinsman, as far as the flight of Chosroes the younger to the Romans, and his restoration to his kingdom: on which occasion Maurice was by no means tardy in his operations, but royally entertained the fugitive, and with the utmost speed restored him to his kingdom, at great cost and with numerous forces. These writers, however, have not yet published their history. With respect to these events, I also will detail in the sequel such matters as are suitable, with the favour of the higher power.

Book 6, Chapter 3
[AD 589]

Maurice sent out as commander of the forces of the East, first, John, a Scythian, who, after experiencing some reverses, with some alternations of success, achieved nothing worthy of mention; afterwards, Philippicus, who was allied to him by having married one of his two sisters. Having crossed the border and laid waste all before him, he amassed great booty, and killed many of the nobles of Nisibis and the other cities situated within the Tigris. He also gave battle to the Persians, and, after a severe conflict, attended with the loss of many distinguished men on the side of the enemy, he made numerous prisoners, and dismissed unharmed a battalion, which had retreated to an eminence and was fairly in his power, under a promise that they would urge their sovereign to send immediate proposals for peace. He also completed other measures during the continuance of his command, namely, in withdrawing his troops from superfluities and things tending to luxury, and in reducing them to discipline and subordination: the representation of which transactions must be fixed by writers, past or present, according as they may be or have been circumstanced with respect to hearsay or opinion— writers whose narrative, stumbling and limping through ignorance, or rendered affected by partiality, or blinded by antipathy, misses the mark of truth.

Book 6, Chapter 10
[A.D. 590]

Accordingly, the emperor remunerates the troops with largesses of money; and, withdrawing Germanus and others, brings them to trial. They were all condemned to death: but the emperor would not permit any infliction whatever; on the contrary, he bestowed rewards on them.

During the course of these transactions, the Avars twice made an inroad as far as the Long Wall, and captured Anchialus, Singidunum, and many towns and fortresses throughout the whole of Greece, enslaving the inhabitants, and laying every thing waste with fire and sword; in consequence of the greater part of the forces being engaged in the East. Accordingly, the emperor sends Andrew, the first of the imperial guards, on an attempt to induce the troops to receive their former officers.

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April 17, 2017


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We have previously brought up the Slavic svoboda as pondered by Jacob Grimm.  But there is more to say here.

People Got to Be Free

What does swoboda mean?  First, let’s note that the same word appears in all Slavic languages.  Some examples:

  • Belorussian свабода 
  • Bulgarian свобода
  • Croatian sloboda
  • Czech svoboda
  • Macedonian слобода
  • Russian слобода
  • Serb слобода
  • Slovak sloboda
  • Slovene svoboda
  • Ukrainian  свобода
  • Upper Lusatian swoboda
  • Polish swoboda
  • Old Polish słoboda, świeboda

According to Brueckner the root here is swobo- to which was added the Slavic ending -da as in  łagoda.  Why would Brueckner think this?  Well, the Swebi had a “b” in there and both Slavic and Germanic are Indo-European so it kind of makes sense…    

Except this is wrong.

And the clue resides in Brueckner’s own etymological dictionary just on the prior page where he discusses another word – swawola. It means “wantonness” (in the sense of “being hard to control”) or “frolicking”.

Here Brueckner says that swawola is composed of “two words“.  What are those two words?  Swa– meaning “one’s own”. And wola meaning “will”. Thus, swawolny means as much as “willful” or “wanton”.

Brueckner did not pick up on the fact that swoboda/swaboda is also composed of two words.  What are those words?

Well, the first is the same as in swawola – it is swo- or swa – (or, if you will, svo- or sva-) meaning, “one’s own”.

The second is more interesting.  -boda is derived from the act of “being”.  “To be” is być or biti.  However, the “t” may have come from an earlier “d” as in d>t – call that, appropriately, a “Slavic Grimm’s law.”  The “d” still comes up in places.  Just google пусть всегда будет солнце.


If you think this has something to do with the English “body” you are right.

From the Online Etymological Dictionary:

“body (n.) Old English bodig “trunk, chest” (of a man or animal); related to Old High German botah, of unknown origin. Not elsewhere in Germanic, and the word has died out in German (replaced by leib, originally “life,” and körper, from Latin). In English, extension to “person” is from late 13c. Meaning “main part” of anything was in late Old English, hence its use in reference to vehicles (1520s). Contrasted with soul since at least mid-13c. Meaning “corpse” (short for dead body) is from late 13c. Transferred to matter generally in Middle English (as in heavenly body, late 14c.). Body politic “the nation, the state” first recorded 1520s, legalese, with French word order. Body image was coined 1935. Body language is attested from 1967, perhaps from French langage corporel (1966). Phrase over my dead body attested by 1833.”

Although the likewise online English Wiktionary is a slightly less “authoritative” source, it’s worth quoting its current statement on the matter as well:

“From Middle English body, bodiȝ, from Old English bodiġ, bodeġ (body, trunk, chest, torso, height, stature), from Proto-Germanic *budagą, *budagaz (body, trunk”, also “grown), from Proto-Indo-European *bʰewdʰ- (to be awake, observe). Cognate with German Bottich (body, trunk)Bavarian Bottich (body, trunk) and Swabian Bottich (body, trunk).”

Swoboda means “one’s own body”.  That such a word boda was known to the Slavs can be seen from the name of the Goddess (?) Boda worshipped in Poland as seen here (Lada, Boda, Leli).

We note too that the Suevic name Marobodos is rather interesting in this context (adjudged “Celtic” with –bodus meaning See the ever helpful Wörterbuch der altgermanischen personen- und völkernamen by Moritz Schönfeld (the reference to Holder is to Alfred Holder’s Alt-celtischer Sprachschatz, volume 2, p. 434).

Incidentally, if Berlin is a Slavic word… why is Berli-bodus not Slavic exactly?  Or is it now that Berlin is not a Slavic name?

What’s funnier yet is that the scientific folk etymology would have boduus mean “raven” (apparently the closest explanation is the Irish Badhbh which actually means a (bad) war deity that appeared in the form of a crow. Here is another one:

So there you go.

Can you see it now?

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April 15, 2017


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This is what Jordanes says about the travel of the Goths from Gothiscandza:

“In search of suitable homes and pleasant places they came to the land of Scythia, called Oium in that tongue. Here they were delighted with the great richness of the country, and it is said that when half the army had been brought over, the bridge whereby they had crossed the river fell in utter ruin, nor could anyone thereafter pass to or fro. For the place is said to be surrounded by quaking bogs and an encircling abyss, so that by this double obstacle nature has made it inaccessible. And even to-day one may hear in that neighborhood the lowing of cattle and may find traces of men, if we are to believe the stories of travellers, although we must grant that they hear these things from afar.  This part of the Goths, which is said to have crossed the river and entered with Filimer into the country of Oium, came into possession of the desired land, and there they soon came upon the race of the Spali, joined battle with them and won the victory. Thence the victors hastened to the farthest part of Scythia, which is near the sea of Pontus; for so the story is generally told in their early songs, in almost historic fashion. Ablabius also, a famous chronicler of the Gothic race, confirms this in his most trustworthy account.”

It would seem then that the “race of the Spali” would be relevant in determining the place of entry of the Goths into “Scythia.”

Who were the Spali?

Based on some OCS texts, Max Vasmer claimed (Russisches etymologisches Wörterbuch, vol. 3) that the word Ispolini meant “giants” in… Slavic.  No evidence for this exists other than from Russia and some Bulgaria legends.  Undeterred, he then proceeded to link these Ispolini with the Spali of Jordanes.

Herwig Wolfram felt compelled to weigh in a typically vapid way observing that “[s]uch an unfriendly name is typically used to label foreigners, and thus the Spali were probably not Slavs.”  

The (German, of course) Ural-Altaische Jahrbücher (Otto Harrassowitz Verlag) went one better and had one of its authors claim that the name is Iranian and the Slavic negative association of that name must have come from some time when the Iranians ruled the Slavs.  (Presumably somewhere far in the East).

This approach would have us believe that:

  • Ispolini is a Slavic name
  • Ispolini means “giants”
  • Spali are Ispolini
  • Spali/Ispolini are not Slavs because being called a “giant” suggests an “otherness” or “unfriendliness”

All of this stands on the thinnest of legs.

Why would Ispolini or Spali be a Slavic word?  Because the name supposedly means “sleeping”.  It is true that in Slavic spali means “they slept” (third person plural past tense).  But it could also mean a bunch of other things:

  • s-pali as in z-pali meaning “[ones] from the fields” (S-Labi [ones] from the Elbe or S-parti “[ones] from Parthia) – in effect “Polans” (!)
  • spali as in “[he] will burn” – perhaps worshippers of fire (!)

Or you may choose to see in Spali a form of the Italian spalare (to shovel)…

Or perhaps from the German spalten as in “to divide”…

And what of the town of Spalathra (next to Castana – see Pliny Book 4, chapter 9) in the Greek province of Magnesia (current capital Volos – by reason of the efforts of the Bulgar Akamir apparently).  Or of Aspalatus?  Or the town of Hispalis (Seville)?

Ok but what of the “giant” connection?  That connection depends on the meaning.  If we go with the Slavic “sleeping” meaning, then the legend of the “sleeping giants” comes up.  However, in most versions of that legend the “sleeping giants” are simply anthropomorphized mountains.

Then there is the question of connecting Ispolini with Spali.  Spali may mean “they slept” but Ispolini is not Spali.  One might just as well argue that Ispolini meant any of the other meanings of spali or, independently, that the term refers to “island dwellers” (Yspa = Polish island (Ispania?)).

Now, if all of the above is accepted, the notion that these Slavic-named “giants” could not be Slavs themselves is rather silly.  What better way to inspire fear among your neighbors than to call yourselves “the giants”!?

So basically, we have no idea (and neither does anyone else) what this word means and where it comes from…

Ok, but where were these Spali?

Well, if you thought that the Goths actually were in Poland you might look to the Polish town of Spała.  In fact, this town’s name is not tied to any giants – sleeping or otherwise – but rather to the “burning” (see above) of lime which took place in the area.  The name also appears for the first time only at the turn of the 16th century.  (Interestingly, there was a town nearby called Winduga – Winduga – apparently – was a typical name of so-called river villages of river rafters (oryl or flis from the German Flößerei)).

Pliny in his Natural History makes, perhaps, an earlier reference to the Spali when he says (in Book 6, Chapter 7 – the same that also mentions the Serbi):

“…Some write, that the River Opharius runs through the Canteci and the Sapaei: and that the River Tanais traversed through the Phatarei, Herticei, Spondolici, Synthietae, Amassi, Issi, Catazeti, Tagori, Catoni, Neripi, Agandei, Mandreim Saturchei, and Spalei.”

aliqui flumen Ocharium labi per Canticos et Sapaeos, Tanain vero transisse Satharcheos Herticheos, Spondolicos, Synhietas, Anasos, Issos, Cataeetas, Tagoras, Caronos, Neripos, Agandaeos, Meandaraeos, Satharcheos Spalaeos.

(As noted above, Pliny also speaks of Spalathra in Greece).

Of course, the Tanais is the Don:

So the question arises, how could the first tribe in all of Scythia that the Goths encountered since leaving Gothiscandza be the tribe of the Spali on the Don?  And how could they then “hasten” to the “farthest part of Scythia, which is near the sea of Pontus” (Black Sea) when the Don is basically right there in the farthest part of Scythia?

If all of this were true, then the question would have to be asked whether Gothiscandza was really somewhere in the remote North or perhaps East.  This could help explain the reason why “Gothic” – although the oldest Germanic language known – is not the predecessor of any of the existing Germanic languages.  Perhaps someone should test for Gothic-Tocharian connections.

It would also help explain why the Goths seem to have started their conquests with Finnic peoples and the Spali before moving to attack the Veneti.

On this topic more generally see our earlier post:

What Language Did the Goths Speak?

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April 14, 2017

The Slavs of the Chronicle of Monemvasia

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Although we wanted to relate only the “Slavic” passages of the Chronicle of Monemvasia, the size of the Chronicle lent itself to a translation of it in toto so we went that way so as to, in addition to the Slav references, give more of the context.

The chronicle is extant in the following manuscripts:

  • Turin Codex (Codex Taurinensis Rev. 336)
  • Koutloumousion Codex (Codex Kutlumus 220/3293)
  • Iveron Codex (Codex Iviron 329 (aka Athous 4449))
  • Rome Codex (Codex Collegio greco (Rome))

A portion of the chronicle is very similar to the Scholion of Arethas of Caesarea which we discussed here which led to some suggesting that Arethas was the author.  The dating of the Chronicle is also uncertain with general “agreement” putting it at about the year 1000 A.D. give or take a few hundred years (earliest about 800 to latest in the 1500s – see below for detail).

The Chronicle was first published in print by Joseph Pasinus (Giuseppe Passini) in 1749.  This publication was based on the Turin Codex from the Royal Library of Turin.  It remained largely ignored until the Slavophobe Jacob Philip Fallmerayer cited it as evidence for the proposition that the Greeks had been exterminated by various invaders such that the denizens of 19th century Greece were not really Greeks (the next argument that followed naturally and that Fallmerayer’s theories helped usher, was that the “original” Greeks were not, therefore, like the current Greeks but rather were “Arians” of the Nordic type best represented by the Germans and associated northern peoples, of course).

That Fallmerayer himself looked more, ahem, swarthy than your typical Slav and came from a provincial backwater of Germany (Tyrol which soon became part of the Hapsburg lands) foreshadowed another provincial man’s backwater and personal complexes.  Though Falmerayer did manage to graffiti the Great Temple of Ramses II with the inscription of his name (as did others), thankfully the  overall damage he wrought was less significant than that caused by another confused denizen of the podunk Austrian borderland. (For Falmerayer’s views see Fragmente aus dem Orient, 2nd edition, edited by Georg Thomas published in Stuttgart in 1877).

In any event, with the world’s attention now focused (a bit) on this entire question, the Greek historian (and later a rather inept prime minister) Spirydon Lambros (also Lampros) in 1884 published a new edition of the Chronicle featuring three manuscripts – the two “new” ones that Lambros located came from two separate monasteries on Mount Athos (Koutloumousion and Iveron).  Another edition came out in 1909 in Athens and was produced by Nikos Athanasiou Bees.  Finally, in 1912 Lambros printed another version – this one based on yet another manuscript from the Collegio Greco in Rome.

The most striking feature of these manuscripts is that the Iveron Codex covers the earliest time, the Turin and Koutloumousion Codices also cover events from 1083 through 1350 or so whereas the Rome Codex contains only the additional information from the Turin and Koutloumousion Codices with no overlap with the Iveron Codex.  (Consequently, the Rome Codex is almost a different chronicle is of little relevance for our purposes here).  There is also some information in the Iveron that is not present in the Turin and Koutloumousion Codices.

More modern English language scholarship on the Chronicle comes from historian Peter (Panagiotis) Charanis’ article “The Chronicle of Monemvasia and the Question of the Slavonic Settlements in Greece” (Dumbarton Oaks Papers, volume 5. 1950) (available for free on JSTOR) and some follow up work from him and most recently (?) from Stanisław Turlej’s 2001 study .  Much of the information in this post is courtesy of Charanis’ article. (Separately, Paul Lemerle published a partial French translation of the Chronicle in 1963 and in 1979 an Italian version of the Chronicle was published by the Bulgarian historian Ivan Duičev and there have been a few additional articles/books discussing the work in other contexts).

Charanis’ view is that the Chronicle (as well as the Scholion of Arethas) is based on a now lost chronicle that was put together between 805 (the year of the rebuilding of Patras and its elevation to a metropolitan see) and 932 (year of the Scholium).  That lost chronicle itself was, according to Charanis, based on the writings of Menander, Evagrius, Theophyllact Simocatta and some other lost source.  Although Charanis’ article is most lucid, the introduction of this intervening chronicle seems unnecessary.  Instead, it is also possible that the writer of the Chronicle of Monemvasia (and the Scholion) used the above named sources directly.

Interestingly, the 19th century controversy raised by Fallmerayer about the nature of the present day Greeks (i.e., they are all Slavs or other assorted invaders) led to another controversy with a response by some Greek scholars denying any Slavic invasion of Greece proper (the references to Hellas being invaded in Evagrius, Menander being explained as made to the Byzantine Empire’s lands in the Balkans but not Greece itself.  For those scholars the Chronocle was, of course, very inconvenient.  Current scholarship seems to have settled on a more balanced view seeing an actual Slav settlement – but not in all of Greece or even all of the Peloponnesus (Fallmerayer who brought up the Chronicle in the first place seems to have missed this point) – while also pointing to a Greek (and other) resettlement of the area.

Charanis also brings up the fact that Max Vasmer in his 1941 study of Slav settlement in Greece tallied Slavic toponyms in the area showing the following numbers: Corinth 24, Argolis 18, Achaia 95, Elis 35, Triphylia 44, Arcadia 94, Missenia 43, Laconia 81.  Oddly Vasmer did not mention the Chronicle of Monemvasia or the Scholion of Arethas.  Hopefully, he was not trying to fit his data to the report of the Chronicle (Die Slaven in Griechenland (Abhandlungen der Presussischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, Jahrgang 1941) Philosophisch-historische Klasse, number 12, Berlin 1941).  Here is a map of Peloponnesus from Vasmer’s book (color scheme is ours):

Charanis claims that Vasmer’s study supports the Chronicle’s position that the Avars/Slavs primarily occupied western Peloponnesus.

(Of course, there is another question that is not on any mainstream scholar’s radar and that is the question of the possibility of Slavic settlements in the Peloponnesus prior to the events described in the Chronicle of Monemvasia. For example, if one were to view S-parta as a compound along the same lines as S-labi that would suggest a “Parthian” origin of the inhabitants (ironically, given the Battle of Thermopylae) – compare, Mount Parthenion whose name suggests that Sparta may be a compound.  For that matter, if you were interested in our Elbe <?> Laba post, compare ακρωτήρι, the Greek for “cape” with “Cape Arkona” (Cape Cape?).  Or compare Krak with Krk island off of Croatia but better yet with Kerkyra off or Epirus with the Karkisa (Carians) called KRK by the Phoenicians and krka by the Persians.  To top it off the Carians seem to have either defeated or (as per Herodotus) been the Leleges who now moved to Laconia and whose King – Lelex – whose great-granddaughter was Sparta who would, in turn, marry Lacedaemon 🙂 ).

In any event, here is the Chronicle of Monemvasia as per, mostly, the Iveron Codex.


“In the 6064th year from the Creation of the world, which was the 32th [actually 31st] year of the reign of Justinian the Great [557 A.D.], there came to Constantinople envoys of strange people, the so-called Avars.  Having never seen such a people, the whole city rushed to see them.  Their jackets were made of long hair, tied with ribbons and twisted.  The rest of their clothing was similar to the clothing worn by other Huns.”

“As Evagrius says in the fifth book of his Ecclesiastical History, they were a nomadic people from the lands beyond the Caucasus mountains and inhabited the plains beyond [these mountains].  Having suffered badly at the hands of the Turks, they escaped these neighbors of theirs, abandoned their land, crossed the Black Sea coast and reached the Bosphorus.  Moving on from there, they crossed the lands of many peoples, fought barbarians they met, until they came to the banks of the Danube [and] then sent messengers to Justinian and asked to be welcomed [within the Empire].  Having been graciously welcomed by the Emperor, they received from his permission to settle in the region of Moesia, in the city of Dorostolon which is now called Dristra[1].  [And] so from poor they became rich and they spread over a very wide space.  Showing themselves forgetful [of the graciousness of Justinian] and ungrateful, they began to subjugate the Byzantines, they took the inhabitants of Thracia and Macedonia as slaves [and] even attacked the capital [Constantinople] and ruthlessly devastated its surroundings.  They also occupied Sirmium[2] [in 581/582 A.D.], an illustrious city in Europe which – being now in Bulgaria, is called Strem [‘Strjamos’] – had earlier been under the control of the Gepids, [to/by?] whom it was given [by/to?] the Emperor Justin[3].  It was for this reason [occupation of Sirmium by the Avars] that the Byzantines concluded a humiliating treaty with them [the Avars], promising to pay them an annual tribute of eighty thousand gold solidi.  On this condition the Avars promised to keep the peace.”[4]

“When in the year 6,000 [582 A.D.] Maurice received the scepter, the Avars sent envoys to him demanding that the eighty gold pieces they were receiving from the Byzantines be increased by another twenty thousand.  The emperor who loved peace agreed to this as well.  But even this agreement did not last more than two years.  [Every] time their master, the khagan, came up with another pretext so as to find a reason for war and demanded excessive things, so as to [be able to] get out of the agreements whenever some of his [new] demands were not fulfilled.  So he, finding the Thracian city of Singidunum [Belgrade] defenseless, he occupied it and, also, Augusta and Viminacium [Stari Kostolac] – a large island on the Danube.  He also conquered Anchialos [Pomorie, Bulgaria] which today is called Messina in Macedonia[5], and he also subdued many other cities that were in Illyria.  Pillaging all he came up on the outskirts of Byzantium [Constantinople] and even threatened to destroy the Great Wall.  Some of them [the Avars] crossed the Strait of Abydos [Hellespont], looted the lands of Asia [meaning today’s Turkey] and then turned back again [towards Constantinople].  The emperor sent envoys to the khagan, the patrician Elpidius and Comentiolus [probably 584 A.D.], agreeing to increase the stipend [tribute].  On these conditions the barbarian agreed to keep the peace.   [But] left alone for a short time, he [then] broke the agreements and undertook a terrible war against the Scythian province [Scythia Minor] and Moesia and destroyed many fortresses.”

“During [yet] another invasion they [the Avars] occupied all of Thessaly,[6] all of Greece, Old Epirus, the Attica and [the island of] Euboea.” 

“Impetuously pushing forth also in the Peloponessus, they took it by force of arms.  Scattering and destroying the noble population and the Greek [noble and Hellenic nations?], they themselves settled in this territory.”

“Those who managed to escape their murderous hands were dispersed into one region or into another.  [The people of] the city of Patras moved to the region of Rhegium in Calabria, the inhabitants of Argos to the island called Orobe, the Corinthians moved to the island called Aegina.  At that time even the Laconians [Lacedaemonians] abandoned their homeland and some of them sailed to the island of Sicily and some still remain there [living] at a place called Demena[7] and preserving the Laconian dialect and changing their name to the Demenites rather than Lacedaemonites.  Others though, having found a place inaccessible by the sea coast, built a strong city [there] and called it Monemvasia as there was only one way for those arriving.  They settled in this city along with their bishop. The shepherds and farmers moved into the rough areas surrounding [this place] and came to be ultimately called Tsakoniae.”

“The Avars having occupied and settled in this way the Peloponnesus, remained there for two hundred and eighteen years, without being subject to the Emperor of the Byzantines nor to any other [ruler], that is from the year 6,096 [587 A.D.] from the Creation of the world – which was the eighth year of the reign of Maurice – until the year 6313 [805 A.D.] – which was the fourth year of the reign of Nicephoros the Elder whose son was Staurakios[8].

“Because only the eastern part of the Peloponnesus, from Corinth up to Malea remained – due to its rough and inaccessible nature – free from the Slavic people and to that area [there continued to be] sent by the Emperor of the Byzantines a governor [strategus] of Peloponnesus.  One of these governors, a native of Lesser Armenia, [a member] of the so-called Skleros [Skleroi] family, went to battle the people of the Slavs, reduced them in battle with his arms and completely annihilated them [and] then he permitted the original inhabitants to get back their homes.  Upon hearing of this, the aforementioned Emperor Nicephoros, full of joy, immediately ordered that the cities in that region be rebuilt and all the churches [too] that the barbarians had destroyed and that these barbarians be converted to Christianity.  He informed the Patras exiles – at the place where they fled to – of his order reestablishing them in their ancient seat together with their bishop who at the time was Athanasius [and] gave the city of Patras – which until then was an archbishopric – metropolitan rights.”

“And he rebuilt from bottom up their city and their holy churches of God when Tarasios was still Patriarch [Patriarch of Constantinople 784 – 806].   He built the foundations well as the city of Lacedaemon and placed there a diverse population [of] Caferoe [Cabaroe/ Cabeiroe/Kibyraeotae?], Thrakesioe [Thracians/Thracesians?], Armenians and others, gathered from various places and cities and also established [the city] as [the seat of] of a bishopric and arranged that it be under the jurisdiction of the metropolis of Patras,  to which he also assigned two other bishoprics, Modon and Koron [Methoni and Koroni both in Messenia].  By reason of this the barbarians having been with the help and by the grace of God catechized, were [then] baptized and joined the Christian faith, for the glory and grace of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, now and ever and ever, Amen.”

[1] note: modern day Silistra in northeastern Bulgaria]
[2] note: modern Sremska Mitrovica, Serbia]
[3] note: probably the reference is to the Gepids returning Sirmium to Justin II in 567 A.D. when the Gepids were being crushed by Lombards and Avars and offered to give up Sirmium for Byzantine help.  The Byzantines did in fact regain Sirmium at that point]
[4] note: Sirmium fell during the reign of Tiberius II Constantine who possibly agreed to pay three years’ worth of the 80,000 tribute to have the inhabitants spared.  Shortly afterwards he died and Maurice became the emperor]
[5] note: Anchialos is different from Messina – this is a chronicler error.  The Avars took Anchialos in 584 A.D.]
[6] note: ditto Book II of the Miracles of Saint Demetrius – to come]
[7] note: probably in northeastern Sicily – refered to in ninth and tenth century documents]
[8] note: both victims of the 811 Battle of Pliska against Krum who encased Nicephorus’s skull in silver, and used it as a cup for wine-drinking]

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April 10, 2017

Nedao in the Carpathians

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“They took up arms against the destruction that menaced all and joined battle with the Huns in Pannonia, near a river called Nedao.  They took up arms against the destruction that menaced all and joined battle with the Huns in Pannonia, near a river called Nedao. (261) There an encounter took place between the various nations Attila had held under his sway. Kingdoms with their peoples were divided, and out of one body were made many members not responding to a common impulse. Being deprived of their head, they madly strove against each other. They never found their equals ranged against them without harming each other by wounds mutually given. And so the bravest nations tore themselves to pieces. For then, I think, must have occurred a most remarkable spectacle, where one might see the Goths fighting with pikes, the Gepidae raging with the sword, the Rugi breaking off the spears in their own wounds, the Suavi fighting on foot, the Huns with bows, the Alani drawing up a battle-line of heavy-armed and the Heruli of light-armed warriors.” 

So writes Jordanes in his Getica.

But… where is the River Nedao?  It has been assumed that this must be a river somewhere in Pannonia.  After all Jordanes says so.  Since the Gepids established themselves in future Transylvania and since Attila’s court had been on the Tisa, these facts would also point towards somewhere in Hungary or Romania.

A hint may be that Nedao seems to be a Germanized version (Nedau) of a name that likely was Nedava (see for example Częstochowa > Tschenstochau and a million other examples of the same) .  Interestingly, there is a village called Niedów (the former German Nieda which the Nazis renamed Wolfsberg, presumably because Nieda did not sound German enough for their ears).  Nieda appears in written sources starting in 1346 (NMP 7, 390) as Nedaw and other versions of the name follow (Nede, NiedaNyde, also Nedin, Nidaw, Niede, Nida).

Slavia Occidentalis

And this from University of Leipzig’s Namenkundliche Informationen:

Which brings us to another matter.  The Hervarar saga (ok Heiðreks) speaks of the Battle of the Goths and Huns which lists the participants:

Ár kváðu Humla
Húnum ráða,
Gizur Gautum,
Gotum Angantý,
Valdarr Dönum,
en Völum Kíarr,
Alrekr inn frækni
enskri þjóðu.

This is supposed to have been near the (or “a”) Mirkwood (Myrkviðr) viðr “wood, forest” and nearby we have the River Witka (Wittig).  Now the Goths and the Huns were supposed to have fought in the Vistula forest as per Widsith:

þonne Hræda here      heardum sweordum
ymb Wistlawudu      wergan sceoldon
ealdne eþelstol      ætlan leodum.
Rædhere sohte ic ond Rondhere,      Rumstan ond Gislhere,
Wiþergield ond Freoþeric,      Wudgan ond Haman 

This area is not near the Vistula sources.  But it is cut through by the Lusatian Nysa/Neisse which empties into the Oder/Odra.  Moreover, it’s possible to mistake the Nysa/Neisse as the source of the Oder.  Why is this relevant?  Because the Oder seems to be a better candidate for what the ancient writers meant when they wrote of the Vistula than today’s Vistula is.

Further, the Neisse/Nysa springs in the Jizera Mountains.  Are they a better candidate for the Jassarfjollum than the Jeseník?
(note: King Alfred puts the Goths east of Moravia – and be eastan Maroara londe is Wisle lond.  and be eastan þæm sint Datia, þa þe iu wæron Gotan – but this may be the “new” Vistula, that is the current one.)

Note that the name Nida appears all over Europe… In Poland several rivers bear that name.  But we also find Nida in Prussia and the Baltics and, most interestingly, as a tributary of the Main, entering that river west of Frankfurt. 

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April 3, 2017

Laba the Elbe

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The river Elbe‘s etymology is not fully explained and probably never will be.  However, there are a number of plausible theories.

First and foremost is the “white” etymology which was touted by Hans Krahe or Julius Pokorny among others.  In this version the name means something like “white water.”  This etymology rests on an Indo-European or even pre-IE basis. (The idea is that “alb” means “white water” versus “dub” meaning “black water”).  The same etymology arguably applies to the Alps (as in the “white” mountains) though high mountains has also been proposed (from Celtic, though the higher the mounaints as in taller, the whiter they’d be so this becomes a bit of a conundrum).

Another theory has the name simply mean “river” based on the occurrence of the word in Celtic or Germanic languages.

The first and the second are not necessarily in conflict if, for example, one proposes that the Germanic/Nordic languages developed far in the north such that it made sense to call rivers “white” (after all, was there any other sort of river up there?).

The Slavic version of the name Laba is said to derive from the Nordic/Germanic:

  • Elbe > Labe

Kozierowski’s Atlas of Western Slav Geographical Names

It has been argued that Laba (Polish Łaba that is waba) is a late Czech innovation but we know that that is nonsense.  The name “Labe” appears already in Cosmas’ Chronicle at the beginning of the 12th century.

Earlier we have the Polabingi mentioned by Adam of Bremen (which also show the tendency of some writers to “create” -ingi endings for Slavic tribes (or Baltic, as in Jatwingi).

A Slavic word for a “boat” – łajba – may also come from this as already previously discussed.  Note that the Baltic > Slavic works the same way for that too:

  • Lithuanian aldija > ladja or лодья (lodya)

This is the same construct as with the proposed:

  • Aldoga > Ladoga
  • Elde > Lada

Or for that matter:

  • albus > łabędź [swan]


  • Arbeit > Rabota

Or countless others:

  • delve > dilbas/dulbis [Baltic] > dłubać

And assuming the Balts’ version of this corresponds closer to the Germanic version you can even explain the Baltic name:

  • baltais [Latvian for white] > ato [Czech for bog] but bołoto [Russian]

also the name for Lake Balaton suggesting that either the Balts or Slavs used to live in Pannonia.

At least that is the story.

That being said, there is no reason necessarily to suppose that Elbe needed to be the “first” version.  It is true that the earliest sources use elb/alb but could that itself be a “nordicization” of the underlying names?

Here we should note that there are plenty lab- lad- led- names in Indo-European, particularly, in Greek and related languages.

We have, after all, the Queen Leda – a lover of Zeus who appeared to Leda, appropriately for the topic du jour, in the form of a swan.  Interestingly, Leda’s children included Castor and Pollux with whom Lel and Polel had been wishfully (?) identified.  Both of the twins participated in Jason‘s Argonautic expedition to Colchis (for the proposed Colchian origin of the name of Poland see here), the same expedition which (as per Apollonius Rhodius’ Argonautica) later passed by the dragon (?) Ladon on the way back still alive after having been smitten by Heracles.  (Needless to say that some of these names appear similar to the Polish Gods Lada and Yassa).

Outside of mythology, we also have lips or labia which bear a striking similarity (in meaning and, arguably, in function) to the mouth of the Laba River.

We also have Ablabius or Ablavius – one “from” (ab) Laba?  (This Eastern Roman/Greek name also appears as the name of one of the sources for Cassiodorus’ Getica).  Thus in Indian languages we have abhi, abhi-tas.  In Slavic we have obok.  And in German we have ab.  As in ab und zu.  (Compare this to the Slavic od (earlier ot in a kind of a Slavic Lautverschiebung)).

Of course, the “z” is also present in Slavic to represent “from” (Interestingly, our suggestion that Z-łaby (or Słaby) could help explain the name of the Slavs had been made already in the 18th century!)

Uebi? Where is this from!?

In any event, in Germany/Netherlands there is also another River Leda.  In Spain we have the town of Liedena (next to Yesa).  Also, and curiously, Lada was the name for Anglo-Saxon legal “purging” rituals on which we will have more (see King Æthelred’s laws) (and, as mentioned the law of Genghis Khan was called Yassa).

There are at least two possibilities here.  One is that the Germanic languages have the capacity to originate/maintain both the Led- and the Eld- versions of names (but the Slavic only the latter!).  This is the same overreaching argument as in personal names – there we are told that the suffix –mir may be Slavic but it can also be Germanic.  But the suffixes -mar and –mer are exclusively Germanic.  In more recent times, we see the same argument applied to genetics.  The European versions of the haplogroup R1a may be “Slavic”.  But they also may be Germanic (or Celtic).  However, haplogroups R1b and I1 cannot be Slavic and are Germanic (or Celtic)… (What all of this, frankly, suggests is that the Germans are a mix of at least three different populations, bits and pieces of whose language and genes made their way into the common pot).  

Another possibility is that some of these names are simply not Germanic.  This would raise another question.  Which version is Germanic and which is not.  As between the Eld- and the Led-, we’d say that the Led- is the not Germanic version.  In that case, the question is whose language does it belong in?  And could it be Slavic, Baltic or something else altogether.

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April 2, 2017