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Pliny,   Natural History

-   Book 6 ,   sections 71-141


Translated by H.Rackham (1952), with some minor alterations. Click on the L symbols to go to the Latin text of each chapter.

In this web version, many of the place names have been altered to reproduce the Latin spellings - for instance, 'Massilia' instead of 'Marseilles'. Wherever possible, links are provided to further information about the places.


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{23.} L   [71] The Indus, the native name for which is Sindus, rises on the east side of a ridge of Mount Caucasus called Paropanisus; in its course it receives nineteen tributaries, the best known being the Hydaspes which brings with it four other streams, the Cantaba which brings three, and the Acesinus and the Hypasis, themselves navigable rivers. Owing however to a certain limitation in its supply of water the Indus is nowhere more than 6 miles wide or 75 feet deep; and it forms an island of considerable size named Prasiane and another smaller one named Patale. [72] The main river is navigable for a distance of 1240 miles according to the most moderate accounts, and it discharges into the ocean after following the sun course in some measure westward. I will give the measurement of the coastline to the mouth of the river by stages as I find it, although none of the various reports of it agree with one another; from the mouth of the Ganges to the Cape of the Calingae and the town of Dandaguda 625 miles, to Tropina 1225 miles, to the Cape of Perimula, where is the most celebrated trading-place of India, 750 miles, to the town of Patala on the island which we have mentioned above, 620 miles.

[73] Between the Indus and the Iomanes are the mountain tribes of the Caesi, the forester Caetriboni, and then the Megallae (whose king possesses 500 elephants and an uncertain number of infantry and cavalry), the Chrysei, the Parasangae and the Asmagi, whose district is infested by the wild tiger; they have an armed force of 30,000 foot, 300 elephants and 800 cavalry. They are bounded by the river Indus and surrounded by a ring of mountains and by deserts. Below the deserts at a distance of 625 miles are the Dari and Surae, and then desert again for a distance of 187 miles, these places for the most part being surrounded by sands exactly as islands are surrounded by the sea. [74] Below these deserts are the Maltaecorae, Singae, Moroae, Rarungae and Moruni. These peoples are the inhabitants of the mountains that stretch in a continuous range on the coast of the ocean; they are free people having no kings, and they occupy the mountain slopes with a number of cities. Next come the Nareae, who are shut in by the Capitalia range, the highest of the mountains of India. The inhabitants of the other side of this mountain work a wide range of gold and silver mines. [75] Next to these come the Oratae, whose king has only ten elephants but a large force of infantry, the Suarataratae - these also though ruled by a king do not keep elephants but rely on cavalry and infantry - the Odonbaeoraes and the Arabastrae, whose fine city Thorax is guarded by marshy canals which crocodiles, creatures with an insatiable appetite for human flesh, render impassable save by way of a bridge. Another town in their country is also highly spoken of, Automula, which is situated on the coast at the point of confluence of five rivers, and has a celebrated market; their king possesses 1600 elephants, 150,000 foot and 5000 horse. The king of the Charmae is not so wealthy, having 60 elephants and small forces of the other kinds. [76] The race next to these is that of the Pandae, the only people in India ruled by queens. They say that only one child of the female sex was born to Hercules, and that she was in consequence his favourite and he bestowed on her a specially large kingdom. The queens deriving their descent from her rule aver 300 towns, and have an army of 150,000 foot and 500 elephants. After this list of 300 cities we have the Derangae, Posingae, Butae, Gogaraei, Umbrae, Nereae, Brangosi, Nobundae, Cocondae, Nesei, Palatitae, Salobriasae and Orostrae, the last people being adjacent to the island of Patala, the distance from the extreme point of which to the Caspian Gates is given as 1925 miles.

[77] From this point onward the tribes dwelling on the Indus - our enumeration proceeding up stream - are the Mathoae, Bolingae, Gallitalutae, Dimuri, Megari, Ardabae, Mesae, Abi, Suri and Silae; then 250 miles of desert; and after traversing that, the Organagae, Abortae and Bassuertae; and next to these an uninhabited stretch equal in extent to the preceding one. Then the Sorofages, Arbae and Marogomatrae; the Umbnitae and Ceae comprising twelve tribes and each race possessing two cities; the Asini inhabiting three cities, their chief place being Bucephala, founded to be the burial-place of King Alexander's charger bearing that name. [78] Mountain tribes above these under the Paropanisus range are the Sosaeadae and Sondrae; and crossing the Indus and following it downstream we come to the Samarabiae, Sarnbraceni, Bisambritae, Orsi and Andiseni, and the Taxilae with their famous city. Then the region slopes down to level ground, the whole having the name of Amenda; and there are four tribes, the Peucolitae, Arsagalitae, Geretae and Assoi; indeed, most authorities do not put the western frontier at the river Indus but include four satrapies, the Gedrosi, Arachotae, Arii and Paropanisidae, with the river Cophes as the final boundary - the whole of which region others consider to belong to the Arii. [79] Moreover most people also assign to India the city of Nisa and Mount Merus which is sacred to Father Liber (this being the place from which originated the myth of the birth of Liber from the thigh of Jupiter), and the same as to the Aspagani tribe, a district producing the vine, the bay and the box and all the kinds of fruit indigenous to Greece. Remarkable and almost fabulous reports as to fertility of soil and variety of crops and trees or wild animals and birds and other living creatures will be recorded in their several places in the remainder of the work, and the four satrapies will be described a little below, as at present our mind hastens on to the island of Taprobane.

[80] But before Taprobane. come some other islands: Patale, which we have indicated as situated at the very mouth of the Indus, an island of triangular shape, 220 miles in breadth; and outside the mouth of the Indus Chryse and Argyre, both of which I believe to be rich in minerals - for I find it hard to believe the statement of some writers that they only have gold and silver mines. Twenty miles beyond these is Crocala, and 12 miles further Bibaga, which is full of oysters and other shell-fish, and then Coralliba 8 miles beyond the above-mentioned island, and many of no note.

{24.} L   [81] Taprobane, under the name of the Land of the Antichthones, was long considered to be another world; but the epoch and the achievements of Alexander the Great supplied clear proof of its being an island. Onesicritus, a commander of Alexander's navy, writes that elephants are bred there of larger size and more warlike spirit than in India; and Megasthenes says that it is cut in two by a river, that the inhabitants have the name of Palaeogoni, and that they produce more gold and large pearls than the Indians. Eratosthenes further gives the dimensions of the island as 875 miles in length and 625 miles in breadth, and says that it contains no cities, but 700 villages. [82] Beginning at the eastern sea it stretches along the side of India from east to west; and it was formerly believed to be a distance of 20 days' sail from the nation of the Prasii, but at later times, inasmuch as the voyage to it used to be made with vessels constructed of reeds and with the rigging used on the Nile, its distance was fixed with reference to the speeds made by our ships as seven days' sail. The sea between the island and the mainland is shallow, not more than 18 feet deep, but in certain channels so deep that no anchors hold the bottom: for this reason ships are used that have bows at each end, so as to avoid the necessity of coming about while negotiating the narrows of the channel; the tonnage of these vessels is as much as three thousand barrels. [83] The natives take no observations of the stars in navigation - indeed, the Great Bear is not visible; but they carry birds on board with them and at fairly frequent intervals set them free, and follow the course they take as they make for the land. They only use four months in the year for voyages, and they particularly avoid the hundred days following midsummer, when those seas are stormy.

[84] So far the facts stated have been recorded by the early writers. We however have obtained more accurate information during the principate of Claudius, when an embassy actually came to Rome from the island of Taprobane. The circumstances were as follows: Annius Plocamus had obtained a contract from the Treasury to collect the taxes from the Red Sea; a freedman of his while sailing round Arabia was carried by gales from the north beyond the coast of Carmania, and after a fortnight made the harbour of Hippuri in Taprobane, where he was entertained with kindly hospitality by the king, and in a period of six months acquired a thorough knowledge of the language; and afterwards in reply to the king's enquiries he gave him an account of the Romans and their emperor. [85] The king among all that he heard was remarkably struck with admiration for Roman honesty, on the ground that among the money found on the captive the denarii were all equal in weight, although the various figures on them showed that they had been coined by several emperors. This strongly attracted his friendship, and he sent four envoys, the chief of whom was Rachias. From them we learnt the following facts about Taprobane: it contains 500 towns, and a harbour facing south, adjacent to the town of Palaesimundus, which is the most famous of all the places in the island and a royal residence, with a population of 200,000. [86] Inland (we were told) there is a marsh named Megisba measuring 375 miles round and containing islands that only produce pasturage; and out of this marsh flow two rivers, Palaesimundus running through three channels into the harbour near the town that bears the same name as the river, and measuring over half a mile in breadth at the narrowest point and nearly two miles at the widest, and the other, named Cydara, flowing north in the direction of India. The nearest cape in India (according to our informants) is the one called Cape Coliacum, at a distance of four days' sail, passing in the middle of the voyage the Island of the Sun; [87] and the sea there is of a deep green colour, and also has thickets of trees growing in it, the tops of which are brushed by the rudders of passing vessels. The envoys marvelled at the new aspect of the heavens visible in our country, with the Great and Little Bear and the Pleiades, and they told us that in their own country even the moon only appears above the horizon from the 8th to the 18th day of the month, and that Canopus, a large and brilliant star, lights them by night. But what surprised them most was that their shadows fell towards our sky and not towards theirs, and that the sun rose on the left-hand side of the observer and set towards the right instead of vice versa. [88] They also told us that the side of their island facing towards India is 1250 miles long and lies south-east of India; that beyond the Hemodi Mountains they also face towards the country of the Seres, who are known to them by intercourse in trade as well, the father of Rachias having travelled there, and that when they arrived there the Seres always hastened down to the beach to meet them. That people themselves (they told us) are of more than normal height, and have flaxen hair and blue eyes, and they speak in harsh tones and use no language in dealing with travellers. The remainder of the envoys' account agreed with the reports of our traders - that commodities were deposited on the opposite bank of a river by the side of the goods offered for sale by the natives, and they took them away if satisfied by the barter - hatred of luxury being in no circumstances more justifiable than if the imagination travels to the Far East and reflects what is procured from there and what means of trade are employed and for what purpose.

[89] But even Taprobane, although banished by Nature beyond the confines of the world, is not without the vices that belong to us: gold and silver are valued there also, and a kind of marble resembling tortoiseshell and pearls and precious stones are held in honour; in fact the whole mass of luxury is there carried to a far higher pitch than ours. They told us that there was greater wealth in their own country than in ours, but that we made more use of our riches: with them nobody kept a slave, everybody got up at sunrise and nobody took a siesta in the middle of the day; their buildings were of only moderate height; the price of corn was never inflated; there were no law-courts and no litigation; the deity worshipped was Hercules; the king was elected by the people on the grounds of age and gentleness of disposition, and as having no children, and if he afterwards had a child, he was deposed, to prevent the monarchy from becoming hereditary. [90] Thirty Governors, they told us, were assigned to the king by the people, and capital punishment could only be inflicted by a vote of a majority of these; and even then there was a right of appeal to the people, and a jury of seventy members was appointed to try the case, and if these acquitted the accused the thirty Governors were no more held in any esteem, being utterly disgraced. The king's costume was of Father Liber, and the other people wore Arabian dress. [91] If the king committed a delinquency he was punished by being condemned to death, though nobody executed the sentence, but the whole of the people turned their backs on him and refused to have any communication with him or even to speak to him. Holidays, they told us, were spent in hunting, tiger hunts and elephant hunts being always the most popular. Agriculture was industriously practised, but the vine was not grown, although orchard fruit was abundant. They were also fond of fishing, especially for turtle, the shells of which were used as roofs for family dwellingsthey were found of so large a size. They looked upon a hundred years as a moderate span of life.

This is the information that was given to us about Taprobane.

{25.} L   [92] The following is the arrangement of the four satrapies which we deferred to this place in our account. After leaving the races nearest to India, you come to the mountain districts. That of Capisene formerly had a city named Capisa, which was destroyed by Cyrus; next Arachosia, with a river and town of the same name - the town, which was founded by Semiramis, being called by some writers Cufis; then the river Erymandus, flowing past the Arachosian town of Parabeste. Next to the Arachosii writers place the Dexendrusi on the south side, adjoining a section of the Arachotae, and the Paropanisadae on the north; and beneath the Paropanisus the town of Cartana, later called Tetragonis. This region is opposite to Bactria, and then comes the region of the Arii, whose town is called Alexandria after its founder; the Syndraci, Dangalae, Parapinae, Cataces and Mazi; near the the Paropanisus the Cadrusi, whose town was founded by Alexander. Below these places the whole country is more level. [93] In the direction of the Indus is the Arian region, which is scorched by glowing heat and encircled by deserts, yet extending in the district between them with plenty of shade, it is occupied by numerous farmers, settled especially on the banks of two rivers, the Tonberos and the Arosapes. There is a town, Artacoana, and a river, Arius, which flows past Alexandria, a town founded by Alexander which covers an area of nearly four miles; and the much more beautiful as well as older town of Artacabene, the fortifications of which were renewed by Antiochus, covers an area of 6 miles. [94] Then the Dorsigi tribe; the rivers Pharnacotis and Ophradus; Prophthasia; the town of Zaraspadum, the Drangae, Euergetae, Zarangae and Gedrusi; the towns of Peucolis, Lyphorta and Methorcum; a space of desert; the river Manain, the Acutri tribe, the river Eorum, the Orbi tribe, the navigable river Pomanus at the frontier of the Pandae and the Cabirus at that of the Suari, forming a good harbour at its mouth; the town of Condigramma and the river Cophes. Navigable tributaries of the Cophes are the Saddaros, Parospus and Sodamus. [95] Some hold that Daritis is part of Ariana, and they give the dimensions of both as - length 1950 miles, breadth one half that of India. Others place the Gedrusi and Sires as covering an area of 138 miles, and then the Fish-eating Oritae, who do not speak the Indian language but have one of their own, covering a space of 200 miles. ( Alexander made an order forbidding a fish diet to all the Fish-eaters. ) Next they put the race of the Arbii, covering 200 miles. Beyond them there is a region of desert, and then come Carmania, Persis and Arabia.

{26.} L   [96] But before we go on to a detailed account of these countries, it is suitable to indicate the facts reported by Onesicritus after sailing with the fleet of Alexander round from India to the interior of Persis, and quite recently related in detail by Juba, and then to state the sea-route that has been ascertained in recent times and is followed at the present day.

The record of the voyage of Onesicritus and Nearchus does not include the names of the official stopping places nor the distances travelled; and to begin with, no sufficiently clear account is given of the position of Xylinepolis, founded by Alexander, which was their starting point, nor is the river on which it stood indicated. [97] Nevertheless they give the following places worth mentioning: the town of Arbis, founded by Nearchus during his voyage, and the river Arbium, navigable by ships, and an island opposite to Arbis, 8 miles distant; Alexandria, founded in the territory of this race by Leonnatus at the order of Alexander; Argenus, with a serviceable harbour; the navigable river Tonberum, in the neighbourhood of which are the Parirae; then the Fish-eaters, covering so wide a space of coast that it took 30 days to sail past them; the island a called the Isle of the Sun and also the Couch of the Nymphs, the soil of which is red in colour, and on which all animals without exception die, from causes not ascertained; [98] the Ori tribe; the Carmanian river Hyctanis, affording harbourage and producing gold. The travellers noted that it was here that the Great and Little Bear first became visible, and that Arcturus is not visible at all on some nights and never all night long; that the rule of the Persian kings extended to this point; and that copper, iron, arsenic and red-lead are mined here. Next there is the Cape of Carmania, from which it is a passage of five miles to cross to the Arabian tribe of the Macae on the opposite coast; three islands, of which only Oracta, 25 miles from the mainland, has a supply of fresh water and is inhabited; [99] four islands quite in the gulf, off the coast of Persis - in the neighbourhood of these the fleet was terrified by sea-serpents 30 ft. long that swam alongside - the island of Aradus and that of Gauratae, both inhabited by the Gyani tribe; at the middle of the Persian Gulf the river Hyperis, navigable for merchant vessels; the river Sitioganus, up which it is seven days' voyage to Pasargadae; the navigable river Phrystimus; and an island that has no name. The river Granis, carrying vessels of moderate size, flows through Susiane, and on its right bank dwell the Dedmontani, who manufacture asphalt; the river Zarotis, the mouth of which is difficult to navigate except for those familiar with it; and two small islands. Then comes a shallow stretch of water like a marsh which nevertheless is navigable by way of certain channels; the mouth of the Euphrates; a lake formed in the neighbourhood of Charax by the Eulaeus and the Tigris; then by the Tigris they reached Susa. [100] There after three months' voyaging they found Alexander celebrating a festival; it was seven months since he had left them at Patala. Such was the route followed by the fleet of Alexander; but subsequently it was thought that the safest line is to start from the Syagros promontory in Arabia with a west wind (the native name for which in those parts is Hippalus) and make for Patale, the distance being reckoned as 1332 miles. [101] The following period considered it a shorter and safer route to start from the same cape and steer for the Indian harbour of Sigerus, and for a long time this was the course followed, until a merchant discovered a shorter route, and the desire for gain brought India nearer; indeed, the voyage is made every year, with companies of archers on board, because these seas used to be very greatly infested by pirates.

And it will not be amiss to set out the whole of the voyage from Egypt, now that reliable knowledge of it is for the first time accessible. It is an important subject, in view of the fact that in no year does India absorb less than fifty million sesterces of our empire's wealth, sending back merchandise to be sold with us at a hundred times its prime cost. [102] Two miles from Alexandria is the town of Juliopolis. The voyage up the Nile from there to Coptus is 309 miles, and takes 12 days when the midsummer trade-winds are blowing. From Coptus the journey is made with camels, stations being placed at intervals for the purpose of watering; the first, a stage of 22 miles, is called Hydreuma; the second is in the mountains, a day's journey on; the third at a second place named Hydreuma, 85 miles from Coptus; the next is in the mountains; next we come to Apollo's Hydreuma, 184 miles from Coptus; again a station in the mountains; then we get to New Hydreuma, 230 miles from Coptus. [103] There is also another old Hydreuma known by the name of Trogodyticum, where a guard is stationed on outpost duty at a caravanserai accommodating two thousand travellers; it is seven miles from New Hydreuma. Then comes the town of Berenice, where there is a harbour on the Red Sea, 257 miles from Coptus. But as the greater part of the journey is done by night because of the heat and the days are spent at stations, the whole journey from Coptus to Berenice takes twelve days. [104] Travelling by sea begins at midsummer before the dog-star rises or immediately after its rising, and it takes about thirty days to reach the Arabian port of Ocelis or Cane in the frankincense-producing district. There is also a third port named Muza, which is not called at on the voyage to India, and is only used by merchants trading in frankincense and Arabian perfumes. Inland there is a town, the residence of the king of the district, called Sapphar, and another called Save. From Ocelis it is a 40 days' voyage, if the Hippalus is blowing, to the first trading-station in India, Muziris - not a desirable port of call, on account of the neighbouring pirates, who occupy a place called Nitriae, nor is it specially rich in articles of merchandise; and furthermore the roadstead for shipping is a long way from the land, and cargoes have to be brought in and carried out in boats. The king of Muziris, at the date of publication, was Caelobothras. [105] There is another more serviceable port, belonging to the Neacyndi tribe, called Becare; this is where king Pandion reigned, his capital being a town in the interior a long way from the port, called Madura; while the district from which pepper is conveyed to Becare in canoes made of hollowed tree-trunks is called Cottonara. But all these names of tribes and ports or towns are to be found in none of the previous writers, which seems to show that the local conditions of the places are changing. [106] Travellers set sail from India on the return voyage at the beginning of the Egyptian month Tybi, which is our December, or at all events before the sixth day of the Egyptian Mechir, which works out at before January 13 in our calendar - so making it possible to return home in the same year. They set sail from India with a south-east wind, and after entering the Red Sea, continue the voyage with a south-west or south wind.

We will now return to our main subject.

{27.} L   [107] Nearchus writes that the length of the coast of Carmania is 1250 miles, and the distance from its beginning to the river Sabis 100 miles; and that from that river to the river Ananis, a space of 25 miles, there are vineyards and arable land. The district is called Armysia; and towns of Carmania are Zetis and Alexandria.

{28.} L   Moreover in this region the sea then makes a double inroad into the land; the name given to it by our countrymen is the Red Sea, while the Greeks call it Erythrum, from King Erythras, or, according to others, in the belief that the water is given a red colour by the reflexion of the sun, while others say that the name comes from the sand and the soil, and others that it is due to the actual water being naturally of such a character. [108] However, this sea is divided into two bays. The one to the east is called the Persian Gulf, and according to the report of Eratosthenes measures 2500 miles round. Opposite is Arabia, with a coastline 1500 miles in length, and on its other side Arabia is encompassed by the second bay, named the Arabian Gulf; the ocean flowing into this is called the Azanian Sea. The width of the Persian Gulf at its entrance some make five and others four miles; the distance in a straight line from the entrance to the innermost part of the Gulf has been ascertained to be nearly 1125 miles, and its outline has been found to be in the likeness of a human head. [109] Onesicritus and Nearchus write that from the river Indus to the Persian Gulf and from there to Babylon by the marshes of the Euphrates is a voyage of 1700 miles. In an angle of Carmania are the Turtle-eaters, who roof their houses with the shells and live on the flesh of turtles. These people inhabit the promontory that is reached next after leaving the river Arabis. They are covered all over, except their heads, with shaggy hair, and they wear clothes made of the skins of fishes. [110] After the district belonging to these people, in the direction of India there is said to be an uninhabited island, Caecandrus, 50 miles out at sea, and next to it, with, a strait flowing between, Stoidis, with a valuable pearl-fishery. After the promontory the Carmanians are adjoined by the Harmozaei, though some authorities place the Arbii between them, stretching all along the coast for 421 miles. Here are the Port of the Macedonians and the Altars of Alexander situated on a promontory; the rivers are Siccanas and then the Dratinus and the Salsum. [111] After the Salsum is Cape Themisteas, and the inhabited island of Aphrodisias. Here is the beginning of Persis, at the river Tab, which separates Persis from Elymais. Off the coast of Persis lie the islands of Psilos, Cassandra and Aracha, the last with an extremely lofty mountain, and consecrated to Neptune. Persis itself occupies 550 miles of coast, facing west. It is wealthy even to the point of luxury. It has for a long been time under Parthian control.

We will now give a brief account of the Parthian empire.

{29.} L   [112] The Parthians possess in all eighteen kingdoms, such being the divisions of their provinces on the coasts of two seas, as we have stated, the Red Sea on the south and the Caspian Sea on the north. Of these provinces the eleven designated the Upper Kingdoms begin at the frontiers of Armenia and the shores of the Caspian, and extend to the Scythians, with whom the Parthians live on terms of equality. The remaining seven kingdoms are called the Lower Kingdoms. So far as the Parthians are concerned, there has always been a country named Parthyaea at the foot of the mountain range, already mentioned more than once, which forms the boundary of all these races. [113] To the east of Parthyaea are the Arii, to the south Carmania and the Ariani, to the west the Pratitae, a Median race, and to the north the Hyrcani; and it is surrounded on all sides by desert. The more remote Parthians are called the Nomads. Short of the desert on the west side are the Parthian cities mentioned above, Issatis and Calliope; north-east is Pyropum, south-east Maria, and in the middle Hecatompylos, Arsace, and the fine district of Parthyene, Nisiaea, containing the city named Alexandropolis after its founder.

[114] At this point it is necessary also to indicate the geographical position of the Medes, and to trace the formation of the country round to the Persian Sea, in order that the rest of the account that follows may be more easily understood. Media lies crosswise on the west side, meeting Parthia at an angle, and so shutting off both groups of Parthian kingdoms. Consequently it has the Caspian and Parthian people on its east side, Sittacene, Susiane and Persis on the south, Adiabene on the west, and Armenia on the north. [115] The Persians have always lived on the shore of the Red Sea, which is the reason why it is called the Persian Gulf. The coastal region there is called Ceribobus, but the Greek name of the place where it runs up towards the Medes is the Great Staircase, from a steep gorge ascending the mountain by stages, with a narrow entrance, leading to the former capital of the kingdom, Persepolis, which was destroyed by Alexander. Right on the frontier the region also possesses the city of Laodicea, founded by Antiochus. [116] To the east of Laodicea is the fortress of Phrasargis, occupied by the Magi, which contains the Tomb of Cyrus; and another place belonging to the Magi is the town of Ecbatana which King Darius transferred to the mountains. Between the Parthi and the Ariani projects the territory of the Paraetaceni. The Lower Kingdoms are enclosed by these races and by the Euphrates; of the remaining kingdoms we shall speak after describing Mesopotamia, with the exception of the point of that country and the Arabian peoples mentioned in the preceding volume.

{30.} L   [117] The whole of Mesopotamia once belonged to the Assyrians, and the population was scattered in villages, with the exception of Babylon and Nineveh. The Macedonians collected its population into cities, because of the fertility of the soil. Besides the cities already mentioned it has the towns of Seleucia, Laodicea and Artemita; and also, in the territory of the Arabian tribe called the Orroei and Mandani, Antioch, which was founded by Nicanor when Governor of Mesopotamia, and which is called Arabian Antioch. [118] Adjoining these, in the interior, are the Arabian tribe of the Eldamari, above whom on the river Pallaconta is the town of Bura, and the Arabian Salmani and Masei; but adjoining the Gordyaei are the Azoni, through whose country flows the Zerbis, a tributary of the Tigris, and adjoining the Azoni the mountain tribe of the Silices and the Orontes; west of whom is the town of Gaugamela, and also Suae on a cliff. Above the Silices are the Sitrae, through whom flows the Lycus from its source in Armenia, and south-east of the Sitrae the town of Azochis, and then in level country the towns of Diospege, Polytelia, Stratonicea and Anthemus. [119] In the neighbourhood of the Euphrates is Nicephorion, mentioned above; it was founded by order of Alexander because of the convenience of the site. We have also mentioned Apamea opposite Zeugma; travelling eastward from which one comes to the fortified town of Caphrena, which formerly measured 8 miles in extent and was called the Court of the Satraps, being a centre for the collection of tribute, but which has now been reduced to a fortress. [120] Thebata remains in the same condition as it was formerly, and so does the place which marked the limit of the Roman Empire under the leadership of Pompey, Oruros, 250 miles from Zeugma. Some writers record that the Euphrates was diverted into an artificial channel by the governor Gobares at the place where we have stated that it divides, in order to prevent the violence of its current from threatening damage to the district of Babylonia; and that its name among the whole of the Assyrians is Narmalchas, which means the Royal River. At the point where the channel divides there was once a very large town named Agranis, which was destroyed by the Persians.

[121] Babylon, which is the capital of the Chaldaean races, long held an outstanding celebrity among the cities in the whole of the world, and in consequence of this the remaining part of Mesopotamia and Assyria has received the name of Babylonia. It has two walls with a circuit of 60 miles, each wall being 200 ft. high and 50 ft. wide (the Assyrian foot measures 3 inches more than ours). The Euphrates flows through the city, with marvellous embankments on either side. The temple of Jupiter Belus in Babylon is still standing - Belus was the discoverer of the science of astronomy; [122] but in all other respects the place has gone back to a desert, having been drained of its population by the proximity of Seleucia, founded for that purpose by Nicator not quite 90 miles away, at the point where the canalised Euphrates joins the Tigris. However, Seleucia is still described as being in Babylonia, although at the present day it is a free and independent city and retains the Macedonian customs. It is said that the population of the city numbers 600,000; that the plan of the walls resembles the shape of an eagle spreading its wings; and that its territory is the most fertile in the whole of the east. For the purpose of drawing away the population of Seleucia in its turn, the Parthians founded Ctesiphon, which is about three miles from Seleucia in the Hulwan Chalonitis district, and is now the capital of the kingdoms of Parthia. And after it was found that the intended purpose was not being achieved, another town was recently founded in the neighbourhood by King Vologesus, named Vologesocerta. [123] There are in addition the following towns in Mesopotamia: Hippareni - this also a school of Chaldaean learning like Babylon - situated on a tributary of the river Narraga, from which the city-state takes its name (the walls of Hippareni were demolished by the Persians); also Orcheni, a third seat of Chaldaean learning, is situated in the same neighbourhood towards the south; and next Notitae and Orothophanitae and Gnesiochartae.

[124] Nearchus and Onesicritus report that the Euphrates is navigable from the Persian Sea to Babylon, a distance of 412 miles; but subsequent writers say it is navigable up to Seleucia, 440 miles, and Juba from Babylon as far as Charax, 175 miles. Some report that it continues to flow in a single channel for a distance of 87 miles beyond Babylon before it is diverted into irrigation-channels, and that its entire course is 1200 miles long. This discrepancy of measurement is due to the variety of authors that have dealt with the matter, as even among the Persians different writers give different measurements for the length of the schoenus and the parasang. [125] Where it ceases to afford protection by its channel, as it does when its course approaches the boundary of Charax, it immediately begins to be infested by the Attali, an Arabian tribe of brigands, beyond whom are the Scenitae. But the winding course of the Euphrates is occupied by the Nomads of Arabia right on to the desert of Syria, where, as we have stated, the river makes a bend to the south, quitting the uninhabited districts of Palmyra. [126] The distance of Seleucia from the beginning of Mesopotamia is a voyage by the Euphrates of 1125 miles; its distance from the Red Sea, if the voyage by made by the Tigris, is 320 miles, and from Zeugma 724 miles. Zeugma is 175 miles from Seleucia on the Mediterranean coast of Syria. This gives the breadth of the country lying between the Mediterranean and the Red Sea. The extent of the kingdom of Parthia is 918 miles.

{31.} L   Moreover there is a town belonging to Mesopotamia on the bank of the Tigris near its confluence with the Euphrates, the name of which is Digba. But some statement about the Tigris itself may also be suitable here. [127] The source of the Tigris is in a region of Greater Armenia, and is clearly visible, being on level ground; the name of the place is Elegosine, and the stream itself in its comparatively sluggish part is named Diglitus, but where its flow accelerates, it begins to be called the Tigris, owing to its swiftness - tigris is the Persian word for an arrow. It flows into Lake Aretissa, heavy objects thrown into which always float on the surface, and which gives off nitrous vapours. The lake contains a single species of fish, which never enters the current of the Tigris flowing through the lake, as likewise the fish of the river do not swim out of its stream into the water of the lake; but the river travels on in a distinct course and with a different colour, [128] and when after traversing the lake it comes against Mount Taurus, it plunges into a cave, glides underground, and bursts out again on the other side of the mountain. The name of the place where it emerges is Zoaranda; and the identity of the stream is proved by the fact that objects thrown into it are carried through the tunnel. Then it crosses a second lake called Thespites, and again burrows into underground passages, re-emerging 22 miles further on in the neighbourhood of Nymphaeum. According to Claudius Caesar, the course of the Tigris in the Archene district is so close to that of the Arsanias that when they are in flood they flow together, although without intermingling their waters; that of the Arsanias being of less specific gravity floats on the surface for a distance of nearly four miles, after which the two rivers separate, and the Arsanias discharges into the Euphrates. [129] The Tigris however after receiving as tributaries from Armenia those notable rivers the Parthenias and Nicephorion, makes a frontier between the Arab tribes of the Orroei and Adiabeni and forms the region of Mesopotamia mentioned above; it then traverses the mountains of the Gordyaei, flowing round Apamea, a town belonging to Mesene, and 125 miles short of Babylonian Seleucia splits into two channels, one of which flows south and reaches Seleucia, watering Mesene on the way, while the other bends northward and passing behind the same people cuts through the plains of Cauchae; when the two streams have reunited, the river is called Pasitigris. [130] Afterwards it is joined by the Choaspes from Media, and, as we have said, after flowing between Seleucia and Ctesiphon empties itself into the Chaldaean Lakes, and broadens them out to a width of 62 miles. Then it flows out of the Lakes in a vast channel and passing on the right-hand side of the town of Charax discharges into the Persian Sea, the mouth of the river being 10 miles wide. The mouths of the two rivers used to be 25 miles apart, or as others record 7 miles, and both were navigable; but a long time ago the Euphrates was dammed by the Orcheni and other neighbouring tribes in order to irrigate their lands, and its water is only discharged into the sea by way of the Tigris.

[131] The country adjacent to the Tigris is called Parapotamia. It contains the district of Mesene, mentioned above; a town in this is Dabitha, and adjoining it is Chalonitis, with the town of Ctesiphon, a wooded district containing not only palm groves but also olives and orchards. Mount Zagrus extends as far as Chalonitis from Armenia, coming between the Medes and the Adiabeni above Paraetacene and Persis. The distance of Chalonitis from Persis is 380 miles, and some persons say that by the shortest route it is the same distance from the Caspian Sea and from Syria. [132] Between these races and Mesene is Sittacene, which is also called Arbelitis and Palaestine. Its town of Sittace is of Greek origin, and also to the east of this is Sabdata and to the west Antiochia, which lies between the two rivers, Tigris and Tomadotus, and also Apamea, which Antiochus named after his mother; this town is surrounded by the Tigris, and the Archous intersects it. [133] Below is Susiane, in which is situated Susa, the ancient capital of the Persian monarchy, founded by Darius son of Hystaspes. It is 450 miles from Babylonian Seleucia, and the same distance from Ecbatana of the Medes, by way of Mount Carbantus. On the northern channel of the Tigris is the town of Barbitace, which is 135 miles from Susa. Here are the only people among mankind who have a hatred for gold, which they collect together and bury, to prevent anyone from using it. Adjoining the Susiani on the east are the brigand Oxii and the forty independent and savage tribes of the Mizaei. [134] Above these and subject to the Parthians are the Mardi and Saitae stretching above Blymais, which we described as adjacent to Persis on the coast. The distance of Susa from the Persian Gulf is 250 miles. Near where the fleet of Alexander came up the Pasitigris to the city of Susa is a village on the Chaldaic lake called Aple, the distance of which from Susa is a voyage of 62 miles. The nearest people to the Susiani on the east side are the Cossiaei, and beyond the Cossiaei to the north is Massabatene, lying below Mount Cambalidus, which is a spur of the Caucasus range; from this point is the easiest route across to the country of the Bactri.

[135] The territory of Susa is separated from Elymais by the river Eulaeus, which rises in the country of the Medes, and after running for a moderate distance underground, comes to the surface again and flows through Massabatene. It passes round the citadel of Susa and the temple of Diana, which is regarded with the greatest reverence by the races in those parts; and the river itself is held in great veneration, inasmuch as the kings drink water drawn from it only, and consequently have it conveyed to places a long distance away. Tributaries of the Eulaeus are the Hedyphon, which flows past the Persian town of Asylum, and the Aduna coming from the territory of the Susiani. On the Eulaeus lies the town of Magoa, 15 miles from Charax - though some people locate Magoa at the extreme edge of the territory of Susa, close to the desert. [136] Below the Eulaeus on the coast is Elymais, which marches with Persis and extends from the river Oratis to Charax, a distance of 240 miles; its towns are Seleucia and Sostrate, situated on the flank of Mount Chasirus. The coast lying in front, as we have stated above, is rendered inaccessible by mud, like the Lesser Syrtis, as the rivers Brixa and Ortacia bring down a quantity of sediment, and the Elymais district is itself so marshy that it is only possible to reach Persis by making a long detour round it. It is also infested with snakes carried down by the streams. A particularly inaccessible part of it is called Characene, from Charax, a town of Arabia that marks the frontier of these kingdoms; about this town we will now speak, after first stating the opinion of Marcus Agrippa. [137] According to his account the countries of Media, Parthia and Persis are bounded on the east by the Indus, on the west by the Tigris, on the north by the Taurus and Caucasus mountains, and on the south by the Red Sea, and cover an area 1320 miles in length and 840 miles in breadth; he adds that the area of Mesopotamia by itself, bounded by the Tigris on the east, the Euphrates on the west, Mount Taurus on the north and the Persian Sea on the south, is 800 miles in length by 360 miles in breadth.

[138] The town of Charax is situated in the innermost recess of the Persian Gulf, from which projects the country called Arabia Felix. It stands on an artificial elevation between the Tigris on the right and the Eulaeus on the left, at the point where these two rivers unite, and the site measures two miles in breadth. The original town was founded by Alexander the Great with settlers brought from the royal city of Durine, which was then destroyed, and with the invalided soldiers from his army who were left there. He had given orders that it was to be called Alexandria, and a borough which he had assigned specially to the Macedonians was to be named Pellaeum, after Pella, the place where he was born. [139] The original town was destroyed by the rivers, but it was afterwards restored by Antiochus, the fifth king of Syria, who gave it his own name; and when it had been again damaged it was restored and named after himself by Spaosines son of Sagdodonacus, king of the neighbouring Arabs, who is wrongly stated by Juba to have been a satrap of Antiochus; he constructed embankments for the protection of the town, and raised the level of the adjacent ground over a space of six miles in length and a little less in breadth. It was origin ally at a distance of 1 miles from the coast, and had a harbour of its own, but when Juba published his work it was 50 miles inland; [140] its present distance from the coast is stated by Arab envoys and our own traders who have come from the place to be 120 miles. There is no part of the world where earth carried down by rivers has encroached on the sea further or more rapidly; and what is more surprising is that the deposits have not been driven back by the tide, as it approaches far beyond this point.

[141] It has not escaped my notice that Charax was the birthplace of Dionysius, the most recent writer dealing with the geography of the world, who was sent in advance to the East by the deified Augustus to write a full account of it when the emperor's elder son was about to proceed to Armenia to take command against the Parthians and Arabians; nor have I forgotten the view stated at the beginning of my work that each author appears to be most accurate in describing his own country; in this section however my intention is to be guided by the Roman armies and by King Juba, in his volumes dedicated to the above-mentioned Gaius Caesar describing the same expedition to Arabia.

Following sections (142-220)



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