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This page presents quotations from the Roman-era geographer Strabo which are referenced in the Atlantis section of this website.



1.2.27These arguments one might urge in reply to Aristarchus and his followers, and also others still more convincing, and thus set the poet free from the charge of gross ignorance. I maintain, for example, that in accordance with the opinion of the ancient Greeks - just as they embraced the inhabitants of the known countries of the north under the single designation "cythians" (or "Nomads," to use Homer's term) and just as later, when the inhabitants of the west also were discovered, they were called "Celts" and "Iberians," or by the compound words "Celtiberians" and "Celtiscythians," the several peoples being classed under one name through ignorance of the facts - I maintain, I say, that just so, in accordance with the opinion of the ancient Greeks, all the countries in the south which lie on Oceanus were called "Ethiopia." And there is the following testimony to this statement. Aeschylus, in his Prometheus Unbound, speaks thus: "The sacred flood of the Red Sea with its bed of scarlet sands, and the mere on the shore of Oceanus that dazzles with its gleam of brass and furnishes all nourishment to Ethiopians, where the Sun, who sees all things, gives rest to his tired steeds and refreshes his immortal body in warm outpourings of soft water." For since Oceanus renders this service and maintains this relation to the sun along the whole southern belt, Aeschylus obviously places the Ethiopians also along this whole belt. And Euripides, in his Phaëthon, says that Clymene was given "to Merops, the king of this country which is the first country that the Sun, as he rises in his chariot and four, strikes with his golden flame. And the swarthy men who dwell upon the confines of that country call it the bright stables of Dawn and Sun." In this passage Euripides assigns the stables jointly to Dawn and Sun, but in what immediately follows he says that these stables are near to the dwelling of Merops, and indeed this is woven into the whole structure of the play, not, I am sure, because it is a peculiarity of the Ethiopia which lies next to Egypt, but rather because it is a peculiarity of the sea-board that stretches along the entire southern belt.

2.3.6On the other hand, he correctly sets down in his work the fact that the earth sometimes rises and undergoes settling processes, and undergoes changes that result from earthquakes and the other similar agencies, all of which I too have enumerated above. And on this point he does well to cite the statement of Plato that it is possible that the story about the island of Atlantis is not a fiction. Concerning Atlantis Plato relates that Solon, after having made inquiry of the Egyptian priests, reported that Atlantis did once exist, but disappeared - an island no smaller in size than a continent; and Poseidonius thinks that it is better to put the matter in that way than to say of Atlantis: "Its inventor caused it to disappear, just as did the Poet the wall of the Achaeans." And Poseidonius also conjectures that migration of the Cimbrians and their kinsfolk from their native country occurred as the result of an inundation of the sea that came on all of a sudden. And he suspects that the length of the inhabited world, being about seventy thousand stadia, is half of the entire circle on which it has been taken, so that, says he, if you sail from the west in a straight course you will reach India within the seventy thousand stadia.

3.1.4But, to resume, let me describe Iberia in detail, beginning with the Sacred Cape. This cape is the most westerly point, not only of Europe, but of the whole inhabited world; for, whereas the inhabited world comes to an end in the west with the two continents (in the one hand, at the headlands of Europe, and in the other, at the extremities of Libya, of which regions the Iberians occupy the one, and the Maurusians the other), the headlands of Iberia project at the aforementioned cape about fifteen hundred stadia beyond those of Libya. Moreover, the country adjacent to this cape they call in the Latin language "Cuneus," meaning thereby to indicate its wedge-shape. But as for the cape itself, which projects into the sea, Artemidorus (who visited the place, as he says) likens it to a ship; and he says that three little islands help to give it this shape, one of these islands occupying the position of a ship's beak, and the other two, which have fairly good places of anchorage, occupying the position of cat-heads. But as for Heracles, he says, there is neither a temple of his to be seen on the cape (as Ephorus wrongly states), nor an altar to him, or to any other god either, but only stones in many spots, lying in groups of three or four, which in accordance with a native custom are turned round by those who visit the place, and then, after the pouring of a libation, are moved back again. And it is not lawful, he adds, to offer sacrifice there, nor, at night, even to set foot on the place, because the gods, the people say, occupy it at that time; but those who come to see the place spend the night in a neighbouring village, and then enter the place by day, taking water with them, for there is no water there.

2.11Not very far from Castalo is also the mountain in which the Baetis is said to rise; it is called "Silver Mountain" on account of the silver-mines that are in it. According to Polybius, however, both this river and the Anas, though distant from each other as much as nine hundred stadia, rise in Celtiberia; for, as a result of their growth in power, the Celtiberians caused the whole neighbouring country to have the same name as their own. The ancients seem to have called the Baetis River "Tartessus"; and to have called Gades and the adjoining islands "Erytheia"; and this is supposed to be the reason why Stesichorus spoke as he did about the neat-herd of Geryon, namely, that he was born "about opposite famous Erytheia, beside the unlimited, silver-rooted springs of the river Tartessus, in a cavern of a cliff." Since the river had two mouths, a city was planted on the intervening territory in former times, it is said, - a city which was called "Tartessus," after the name of the river; and the country, which is now occupied by Turdulians, was called "Tartessis." Further, Eratosthenes says that the country adjoining Calpe is called "Tartessis," and that Erytheia is called "Blest Isle." Eratosthenes is contradicted by Artemidorus, who says that this is another false statement of Eratosthenes, like his statement that the distance from Gades to the Sacred Cape is a five days' sail (although it is not more than one thousand seven hundred stadia), and his statement that the tides come to an end at the Sacred Cape (although the tides take place round the whole circuit of the inhabited world), and his statement that the northerly parts of Iberia afford an easier passage to Celtica than if you sail thither by the ocean; and, in fact, every other statement which he had made in reliance upon Pytheas, on account of the latter's false pretensions.

15Along with the happy lot of their country, the qualities of both gentleness and civility have come to the Turdetanians; and to the Celtic peoples, too, on account of their being neighbours to the Turdetanians, as Polybius has said, or else on account of their kinship; but less so the Celtic peoples, because for the most part they live in mere villages. The Turdetanians, however, and particularly those that live about the Baetis, have completely changed over to the Roman mode of life, not even remembering their own language any more. And most of them have become Latins, and they have received Romans as colonists, so that they are not far from being all Romans. And the present jointly-settled cities, Pax Augusta in the Celtic country, Augusta Emerita in the country of the Turdulians, Caesar-Augusta near Celtiberia, and some other settlements, manifest the change to the aforesaid civil modes of life. Moreover, all those Iberians who belong to this class are called "Togati." And among these are the Celtiberians, who were once regarded the most brutish of all. So much for the Turditanians.

5.3Close to the Pillars there are two isles, one of which they call Hera's Island; moreover, there are some who call also these isles the Pillars. Gades, however, is outside the Pillars. Concerning Gades I have said only thus much, that it is about seven hundred and fifty stadia distant from Calpe (that is, it is situated near the outlet of the Baetis), but there is more to be said about it than the others. For example, here live the men who fit out the most and largest merchant-vessels, both for Our Sea and the outer sea, although, in the first place, it is no large island they live in, and secondly, they do not occupy much of the continent opposite the island, and, thirdly, are not well-off in the possession of other islands; indeed, they live mostly on the sea, though a mere few keep at home or else while away their time at Rome. [...] But though the Gaditanians are so numerous, they occupy an island not much larger than a hundred stadia in length, and in places merely a stadium in breadth. As for their city, the one they lived in at first was very small indeed, but Balbus of Gades, who gained the honour of a triumph, founded another for them, which they call "Nea"; and the city which is composed of the two they call "Didyme," although it is not more than twenty stadia in circuit, and even at that not crowded. For only a few stay at home in the city, because in general they are all at sea, though some live on the continent opposite the island, and also, in particular, on account of its natural advantages, on the islet that lies off Gades; and because they take delight in its geographical position they have made the island a rival city, as it were, to Didyme. Only a few, however, comparatively speaking, live either on the islet or in the harbour-town which was constructed for them by Balbus on the opposite coast of the mainland. The city of Gades is situated on the westerly parts of the island; and next to it, at the extremity of the island and near the islet, is the temple of Cronus; but the temple of Heracles is situated on the other side, facing towards the east, just where the island runs, it so happens, most closely to the mainland, thus leaving a strait of only about a stadium in width. And they say that the temple is twelve miles distant from the city, thus making the number of the miles equal to that of the Labours; yet the distance is greater than that and amounts to almost as much as the length of the island; and the length of the island is that from the west to the east.

4By "Erytheia," in which the myth-writers place the adventures of Geryon, Pherecydes seems to mean Gades. Others, however, think that Erytheia is the island that lies parallel to this city and is separated from it by a strait of a stadium in width, that is, in view of the fine pasturage there, because the milk of the flocks that pasture there yields no whey. And when they make cheese they first mix the milk with a large amount of water, on account of the fat in the milk. Further, the animals choke to death within fifty days, unless you open a vein and bleed them. The grass upon which they graze is dry, but it makes them very fat and it is from this fact, it is inferred, that the myth about the cattle of Geryon has been fabricated. The whole of the coast, however, is peopled jointly.

5In telling stories of the following sort about the founding of Gades, the Gaditanians recall a certain oracle, which was actually given, they say, to the Tyrians, ordering them to send a colony to the Pillars of Heracles: The men who were sent for the sake of spying out the region, so the story goes, believed, when they got near to the strait at Calpe, that the two capes which formed the strait were the ends of the inhabited world and of Heracles' expedition, and that the capes themselves were what the oracle called "Pillars"; and they therefore landed at a place inside the narrows, namely, where the city of the Exitanians now is; and there they offered sacrifice, but since the sacrifices did not prove favourable they turned homeward again; but the men who were sent at a later period went on outside the strait, about fifteen hundred stadia, to an island sacred to Heracles, situated near the city of Onoba in Iberia, and believing that this was where the Pillars were they offered sacrifice to the god, but since again the sacrifices did not prove favourable they went back home; but the men who arrived on the third expedition founded Gades, and placed the temple in the eastern part of the island but the city in the western. For this reason some are of the opinion that the capes at the strait are the Pillars; others, Gades; and others that they lie on ahead still farther outside the strait than Gades. Again, some have supposed that Calpe and Abilyx are the Pillars, Abilyx being that mountain in Libya opposite Calpe which is situated, according to Eratosthenes, in Metagonium, country of a nomadic tribe; while others have supposed that the isles near each mountain, one of which they call Hera's Island, are the Pillars. Artemidorus speaks of Hera's Island and her temple, and he says there is a second isle, yet he does not speak of Mount Abilyx or of a Metagonian tribe. There are some who transfer hither both the Planctae and the Symplegades, because they believe these rocks to be the pillars which Pindar calls the "gates of Gades" when he asserts that they are the farthermost limits reached by Heracles. And Dicaearchus, too, and Eratosthenes and Polybius and most of the Greeks represent the Pillars as in the neighbourhood of the strait. But the Iberians and Libyans say that the Pillars are in Gades, for the regions in the neighbourhood of the strait in no respect, they say, resemble pillars. Others say that it is the bronze pillars of eight cubits in the temple of Heracles in Gades, whereon is inscribed the expense incurred in the construction of the temple, that are called the Pillars; and those people who have ended their voyage with visiting these pillars and sacrificing to Heracles have had it noisily spread abroad that this is the end of both land and sea. Poseidonius, too, believes this to be the most plausible account of the matter, but that the oracle and the many expeditions from Tyre are a Phoenician lie. Now, concerning the expeditions, what could one affirm with confidence as to their falsity of the trustworthiness when neither of the two opinions is contrary to reason? But to deny that the isles or the mountains resemble pillars, and to search for the limits of the inhabited world or of the expedition of Heracles at Pillars that were properly so called, is indeed a sensible thing to do; for it was a custom in early times to set up landmarks like that. For instance, the people of Rhegium set up the column - a sort of small tower - which stands at the strait; and opposite this column there stands what is called the Tower of Pelorus. And in the land about midway between the Syrtes there stand what are called the Altars of the Philaeni. And mention is made of a pillar placed in former times on the Isthmus of Corinth, which was set up in common by those Ionians who, after their expulsion from the Peloponnesus, got possession of Attica together with Megaris, and by the peoples who got possession of the Peloponnesus; they inscribed on the side of the pillar which faced Megaris, "This is not the Peloponnesus, but Ionia," on the other, "This is the Peloponnesus, not Ionia." Again, Alexander set up altars, as limits of his Indian Expedition, in the farthermost regions reached by him in Eastern India, thus imitating Heracles and Dionysus. So then, this custom was indeed in existence.

6More than that, it is reasonable for place where a landmark is to take on the same appellation, and especially after time has once destroyed the landmark that has been set up. For instance, the Altars of the Philaeni no longer remain, yet the place has taken on the appellation. In India, too, there are no pillars, it is said, either of Heracles or of Dionysus to be seen standing, and, of course, when certain of the places there were spoken of or pointed out to the Macedonians, they believed to be Pillars those places only in which they found some sign of the stories told about Dionysus or of those about Heracles. So, in the case of Gades, too, one might not disbelieve that the first visitors used, so to speak, "hand-wrought" landmarks - altars or towers or pillars - setting them up in the most conspicuous of the farthermost places they came to (and the most conspicuous places for denoting both the ends and beginnings of regions are the straits, the mountains there situated, and the isles), and that when the hand-wrought monuments had disappeared, their name was transferred to the places - whether you mean thereby the isles, or the capes that form the strait. For this is a distinction now hard to make - I mean to which of the two we should attach the appellation - because the term "Pillars" suits both. I say "suits" because both are situated in places of a sort that clearly suggest the ends; and it is on the strength of this fact that the strait has been called a "mouth," - not only this strait, but several others as well: that is, as you sail in, the mouth is the beginning, and, as you sail out, the end. Accordingly, it would not be foolish for one to liken to pillars the isles at the mouth, since they have the attributes of being both sharp of outline and conspicuous as signs; and so, in the same way, it would not be foolish to liken to pillars the mountains that are situated at the strait, since they present just such a prominent appearance as do columns or pillars. And in this way Pindar would be right in speaking of the "gates of Gades," if the pillars were conceived of as at the mouth; for the mouths of straits are like gates. But Gades is not situated in such a geographical position as to denote an end; rather it lies at about the centre of a long coastline that forms a bay. And the argument that refers those pillars which are in the temple of Heracles at Gades to the Pillars of Heracles is less reasonable still, as it appears to me. For it is plausible that the fame of the name "Pillars of Heracles" prevailed because the name originated, not with merchants, but rather with commanders, just as in the case of the Indian pillars; and besides that, "the inscription" which they speak of, since it does not set forth the dedication of a reproduction but instead a summary of expense, bears witness against the argument; for the Heracleian pillars should be reminders of Heracles' mighty doings, not of the expenses of the Phoenicians.

11The Cassiterides are ten in number, and they lie near each other in the high sea to the north of the port of the Artabrians. One of them is desert, but the rest are inhabited by people who wear black cloaks, go clad in tunics that reach to their feet, wear belts around their breasts, walk around with canes, and resemble the goddesses of vengeance in tragedies. They live off their herds, leading for the most part a nomadic life. As they have mines of tin and lead, they give these metals and the hides from their cattle to the sea-traders in exchange for pottery, salt and copper utensils. Now in former times it was the Phoenicians alone who carried on this commerce (that is, from Gades), for they kept the voyage hidden from every one else. And when once the Romans were closely following a certain ship-captain in order that they too might learn the markets in question, out of jealousy the ship-captain purposely drove his ship out of its course into shoal water; and after he had lured the followers into the same ruin, he himself escaped by a piece of wreckage and received from the State the value of the cargo he had lost. Still, by trying many times, the Romans learned all about the voyage. After Publius Crassus crossed over to these people and saw that the metals were being dug from only a slight depth, and that the men there were peaceable, he forthwith laid abundant information before all who wished to traffic over this sea, albeit a wider sea than that which separates Britain from the continent. So much, then, for Iberia and the islands that lie off its coast.

8.7.1In antiquity this country was under the mastery of the Ionians, who were sprung from the Athenians; and in antiquity it was called Aegialeia, and the inhabitants Aegialeians, but later it was called Ionia after the Ionians, just as Attica also was called Ionia after Ion the son of Xuthus. They say that Hellen was the son of Deucalion, and that he was lord of the people between the Peneius and the Asopus in the region of Phthia and gave over his rule to the eldest of his sons, but that he sent the rest of them to different places outside, each to seek a settlement for himself. One of these sons, Dorus, united the Dorians about Parnassus into one state, and at his death left them named after himself; another, Xuthus, who had married the daughter of Erechtheus, founded the Tetrapolis of Attica, consisting of Oenoê, Marathon, Probalinthus, and Tricorynthus. One of the sons of Xuthus, Achaeus, who had committed involuntary manslaughter, fled to Lacedaemon and brought it about that the people there were called Achaeans; and Ion conquered the Thracians under Eumolpus, and thereby gained such high repute that the Athenians turned over their government to him. At first Ion divided the people into four tribes, but later into four occupations: four he designated as farmers, others as artisans, others as sacred officers, and a fourth group as the guards. And he made several regulations of this kind, and at his death left his own name to the country. But the country had then come to be so populous that the Athenians even sent forth a colony of Ionians to the Peloponnesus, and caused the country which they occupied to be called Ionia after themselves instead of Aegialus; and the men were divided into twelve cities and called Ionians instead of Aegialeians. [...] And they were so powerful that, although the Heracleidae, from whom they had revolted, held the rest of the Peloponnesus, still they held out against one and all, and named the country Achaea. Now from Tisamenus to Ogyges they continued under the rule of kings; then, under a democratic government, they became so famous for their constitutions that the Italiotes, after the uprising against the Pythagoreians, actually borrowed most of their usages from the Achaeans. And after the battle at Leuctra the Thebans turned over to them the arbitration of the disputes which the cities had with one another; and later, when their league was dissolved by the Macedonians, they gradually recovered themselves. When Pyrrhus made his expedition to Italy, four cities came together and began a new league, among which were Patrae and Dymê; and then they began to add some of the twelve cities, except Olenus and Helicê, the former having refused to join and the latter having been wiped out by a wave from the sea.

8.7.2For the sea was raised by an earthquake and it submerged Helicê, and also the temple of the Heliconian Poseidon, whom the Ionians worship even to this day, offering there the Pan-Ionian sacrifices. And, as some suppose, Homer recalls this sacrifice when he says: "but he breathed out his spirit and bellowed, as when a dragged bull bellows round the altar of the Heliconian lord." And they infer that the poet lived after the Ionian colonisation, since he mentions the Pan-Ionian sacrifice, which the Ionians perform in honour of the Heliconian Poseidon in the country of the Prienians; for the Prienians themselves are also said to be from Helicê; and indeed as king for this sacrifice they appoint a Prienian young man to superintend the sacred rites. But still more they base the supposition in question on what the poet says about the bull; for the Ionians believe that they obtain omens in connection with this sacrifice only when the bull bellows while being sacrificed. But the opponents of the supposition apply the above-mentioned inferences concerning the bull and the sacrifice to Helicê, on the ground that these were customary there and that the poet was merely comparing the rites that were celebrated there. Helicê was submerged by the sea two years before the battle at Leuctra. And Eratosthenes says that he himself saw the place, and that the ferrymen say that there was a bronze Poseidon in the strait, standing erect, holding a hippo-campus in his hand, which was perilous for those who fished with nets. And Heracleides says that the submersion took place by night in his time, and, although the city was twelve stadia distant from the sea, this whole district together with the city was hidden from sight; and two thousand men who had been sent by the Achaeans were unable to recover the dead bodies; and they divided the territory of Helicê among the neighbours; and the submersion was the result of the anger of Poseidon, for the Ionians who had been driven out of Helicê sent men to ask the inhabitants of Helicê particularly for the statue of Poseidon, or, if not that, for the model of the temple; and when the inhabitants refused to give either, the Ionians sent word to the general council of the Achaeans; but although the assembly voted favorably, yet even so the inhabitants of Helicê refused to obey; and the submersion resulted the following winter; but the Achaeans later gave the model of the temple to the Ionians. Hesiod mentions still another Helicê, in Thessaly.

9.4.11Now for a time the cities in question were held in respect, although they were small and had poor soil, but afterwards they were lightly esteemed. During the Phocian War and the domination of the Macedonians, Aetolians, and Athamanians - it is marvellous that even a trace of them passed to the Romans. And the Aenianians had the same experience, for they too were destroyed by the Aetolians and the Athamanians: by the Aetolians, when they waged war in conjunction with the Acarnanians, and were very powerful, and by the Athamanians, when they attained to distinction (the last of the Epeirotes to do so, the other peoples having by this time been worn out) and under their king Amynander had acquired power. These Athamanians kept possession of Oeta.

12.8.18Phrygia "Catacecaumenê," which is occupied by Lydians and Mysians, received its appellation for some such reason as follows: In Philadelphia, the city near it, not even the walls are safe, but in a sense are shaken and caused to crack every day. And the inhabitants are continually attentive to the disturbances in the earth and plan all structures with a view to their occurrence. And, among the other cities, Apameia was often shaken by earthquakes before the expedition of King Mithridates, who, when he went over to that country and saw that the city was in ruins, gave a hundred talents for its restoration; and it is said that the same thing took place in the time of Alexander. And this, in all probability, is why Poseidon is worshipped in their country, even though it is in the interior, and why the city was called Celaenae, that is, after Celaenus, the son of Poseidon by Celaeno, one of the daughters of Danaüs, or else because of the "blackness" of the stone, which resulted from the burn-outs. And the story of Mt. Sipylus and its ruin should not be put down as mythical, for in our own times Magnesia, which lies at the foot of it, was laid low by earthquakes, at the time when not only Sardeis, but also the most famous of the other cities, were in many places seriously damaged.

13.1.36However, the Naval Station, still now so called, is so near the present Ilium that one might reasonably wonder at the witlessness of the Greeks and the faint-heartedness of the Trojans; witlessness, if the Greeks kept the Naval Station unwalled for so long a time, when they were near to the city and to so great a multitude, both that in the city and that of the allies; for Homer says that the wall had only recently been built (or else it was not built at all, but fabricated and then abolished by the poet, as Aristotle says); and faint-heartedness, if the Trojans, when the wall was built, could besiege it and break into the Naval Station itself and attack the ships, yet did not have the courage to march up and besiege the station when it was still unwalled and only a slight distance away; for it is near Sigeium, and the Scamander empties near it, at a distance of only twenty stadia from Ilium. But if one shall say that the Harbour of Achaeans, as it is now called, is the Naval Station, he will be speaking of a place that is still closer, only about twelve stadia from the city, even if one includes the plain by the sea, because the whole of this plain is a deposit of the rivers - I mean the plain by the sea in front of the city; so that, if the distance between the sea and the city is now twelve stadia, it must have been no more than half as great at that time.

Sir Graham