Ancient History from Primary Sources - Cover - Color - 1

Excerpt from Ancient History from Primary Sources: A Literary Timeline by Harvey and Laurie Bluedorn

c. 66 b.c.-a.d. 24

Strabo was a Greek historian and geographer writing in the early days of the Roman Empire under the first two Roman emperors, Augustus and Tiberius. (His history has been lost.) Much of his geographical information is from his personal observation from his many travels. In a passage from his second book he says: “Our descriptions shall consist of what we ourselves have observed in our travels by land and sea, and of what we conceive to be credible in the statements and writings of others; for in a westerly direction we have traveled from Armenia to that part of Tyrrhenia which is over against Sardinia; and southward, from the Euxine to the frontiers of Ethiopia. Of all the writers on geography, not one can be mentioned who has traveled over a wider extent of the countries described than we have. Some may have gone farther to the west, but then they have never been so far east as we have; again, others may have been farther east, but not so far west; and the same with respect to north and south. However, in the main, both we and they have availed ourselves of the reports of others, from which to describe the form, size, and other peculiarities of the country.” The seventeen volumes of his Ancient Geography provide information on the geography of the ancient world from the Atlantic Ocean in the west to the Indus River in the east.

Extant works

Ancient Geography

Books 1-2 – Preliminaries and theory; definition of geography; critique of predecessors.

Book 3 – Spain.

Book 4 – Gaul, Britain, Alps.

Book 5 – Northern Italy.

Book 6 – Southern Italy and Sicily.

Book 7 – Northern and Central Europe; epitome of Thrace and Macedon.

Book 8 – Macedon and Greece.

Book 9 – Attica, Boeotia, Thessaly.

Book 10 – Aetolia, Crete.

Book 11 – Asia Minor.

Book 12 – Asia Minor.

Book 13 – Asia Minor.

Book 14 – Asia Minor.

Book 15 – India and Parthia.

Book 16 – Assyria, Babylonia, Syria, Arabia.

Book 17 – Egypt, Ethiopia, Libya.

Significant excerpts

Ancient Geography

1.1.20-21 – The condition of science at this time.

1.4.1-9 – Critique of Eratosthenes.

1.4.9 – Character of Alexander.

2.5.1-4 – Description of Strabo’s principles.

3.5.11 – The Cassiterides Islands.

4.1.4,5 – Massalia.

5.3 – The founding and grandeur of Rome.

5.4.8 – Mt. Vesuvius pre-eruption – it erupted August 24, a.d. 79.

6.3.1 – Colossus of Zeus.

7.6.2 – Byzantium.

8.1.2 – The tribes of Greece and their Greek dialects.

9.1.16-17 – On Attica.

10.3.10 – Pythagoras’s theory of music.

11.14.2 – The Tigris and Euphrates Rivers.

16.1.5 – Description of the walls and hanging gardens of Babylon.

16.1.7 – Bats used for food.

16.1.9-13 – The canals of Babylon.

16.1.14-15 – The products of Babylon.

16.2.22-24 – Physical description of Sidon and Tyre.

16.2.26 – A strange occurrence of the sea.

16.2.34-46 – Judea; Strabo’s version of the Moses story.

17.1.4 – Description of the Nile River.

17.1.6-10 – The city of Alexandria.

17.1.52-54; 17. 2.4-5 – A description of Egypt under the principate.


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