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Tiresias: The Ancient Mediterranean Religions Source Database



10496
Strabo, Geography, 11.5.5


nanThe stories that have been spread far and wide with a view to glorifying Alexander are not accepted by all; and their fabricators were men who cared for flattery rather than truth. For instance: they transferred the Caucasus into the region of the Indian mountains and of the eastern sea which lies near those mountains from the mountains which lie above Colchis and the Euxine; for these are the mountains which the Greeks named Caucasus, which is more than thirty thousand stadia distant from India; and here it was that they laid the scene of the story of Prometheus and of his being put in bonds; for these were the farthermost mountains towards the east that were known to writers of that time. And the expedition of Dionysus and Heracles to the country of the Indians looks like a mythical story of later date, because Heracles is said to have released Prometheus one thousand years later. And although it was a more glorious thing for Alexander to subdue Asia as far as the Indian mountains than merely to the recess of the Euxine and to the Caucasus, yet the glory of the mountain, and its name, and the belief that Jason and his followers had accomplished the longest of all expeditions, reaching as far as the neighborhood of the Caucasus, and the tradition that Prometheus was bound at the ends of the earth on the Caucasus, led writers to suppose that they would be doing the king a favor if they transferred the name Caucasus to India.


Intertexts (texts cited often on the same page as the searched text):

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1. Strabo, Geography, 2.5.39, 11.7.4, 11.11.5, 15.1.11, 16.1.9-16.1.11 (1st cent. BCE - 1st cent. BCE)

2.5.39. At Ptolemais in Phoenicia, and at Sidon and Tyre, the longest day consists of fourteen hours and a quarter. These cities are north of Alexandria by about 1600 stadia, and north of Carthage about 700. In the Peloponnesus, and about the middle of Rhodes, at Xanthus in Lycia, or a little to the south of this place, and at 400 stadia south of Syracuse, the longest day consists of fourteen and a half equinoctial hours. These places are distant from Alexandria 3640 stadia. . . . This parallel, according to Eratosthenes, passes through Caria, Lycaonia, Cataonia, Media, the Caspian Gates, and India next the Caucasus. 11.7.4. Many false notions were also added to the account of this sea because of Alexander's love of glory; for, since it was agreed by all that the Tanais separated Asia from Europe, and that the region between the sea and the Tanais, being a considerable part of Asia, had not fallen under the power of the Macedonians, it was resolved to manipulate the account of Alexander's expedition so that in fame at least he might be credited with having conquered those parts of Asia too. They therefore united lake Maeotis, which receives the Tanais, with the Caspian Sea, calling this too a lake and asserting that both were connected with one another by an underground passage and that each was a part of the other. Polycleitus goes on to adduce proofs in connection with his belief that the sea is a lake (for instance, he says that it produces serpents, and that its water is sweetish); and that it is no other than Maeotis he judges from the fact that the Tanais empties into it. From the same Indian mountains, where the Ochus and the Oxus and several other rivers rise, flows also the Iaxartes, which, like those rivers, empties into the Caspian Sea and is the most northerly of them all. This river, accordingly, they named Tanais; and in addition to so naming it they gave as proof that it was the Tanais mentioned by Polycleitus that the country on the far side of this river produces the fir-tree and that the Scythians in that region use arrows made of fir-wood; and they say that this is also evidence that the country on the far side belongs to Europe and not to Asia, for, they add, Upper and Eastern Asia does not produce the fir-tree. But Eratosthenes says that the fir-tree grows also in India and that Alexander built his fleet out of fir-wood from there. Eratosthenes tries to reconcile many other differences of this kind, but as for me, let what I have said about them suffice. 11.11.5. Aristobulus calls the river which flows through Sogdiana Polytimetus, a name imposed by the Macedonians (just as they imposed names on many other places, giving new names to some and slightly altering the spelling of the names of others); and watering the country it empties into a desert and sandy land, and is absorbed in the sand, like the Arius which flows through the country of the Arians. It is said that people digging near the Ochus River found oil. It is reasonable to suppose that, just as nitrous and astringent and bituminous and sulphurous liquids flow through the earth, so also oily liquids are found; but the rarity causes surprise. According to some, the Ochus flows through Bactriana; according to others, alongside it. And according to some, it is a different river from the Oxus as far as its mouths, being more to the south than the Oxus, although they both have their outlets into the Caspian Sea in Hyrcania, whereas others say that it is different at first, but unites with the Oxus, being in many places as much as six or seven stadia wide. The Iaxartes, however, from beginning to end, is a different river from the Oxus, and although it ends in the same sea, the mouths of the two, according to Patrocles, are about eighty parasangs distant from one another. The Persian parasang, according to some, is sixty stadia, but according to others thirty or forty. When I was sailing up the Nile, they used different measures when they named the distance in schoeni from city to city, so that in some places the same number of schoeni meant a longer voyage and in others a shorter; and thus the variations have been preserved to this day as handed down from the beginning. 15.1.11. The boundaries of India, on the north, from Ariana to the Eastern Sea, are the extremities of Taurus, to the several parts of which the natives give, besides others, the names of Paropamisus, Emodus, and Imaus, but the Macedonians call them Caucasus; on the west, the river Indus; the southern and eastern sides, which are much larger than the others, project towards the Atlantic Sea, and the figure of the country becomes rhomboidal, each of the greater sides exceeding the opposite by 3000 stadia; and this is the extent of the extremity, common to the eastern and southern coast, and which projects beyond the rest of that coast equally on the east and south.The western side, from the Caucasian mountains to the Southern Sea, is estimated at 13,000 stadia, along the river Indus to its mouth; wherefore the eastern side opposite, with the addition of the 3000 stadia of the promontory, will be 16,000 stadia in extent. This is both the smallest and greatest breadth of India. The length is reckoned from west to east. The part of this extending (from the Indus) as far as Palibothra we may describe more confidently; for it has been measured by Schoeni, and is a royal road of 10,000 stadia. The extent of the parts beyond depends upon conjecture derived from the ascent of vessels from the sea by the Ganges to Palibothra. This may be estimated at 6000 stadia.The whole, on the shortest computation, will amount to 16,000 stadia, according to Eratosthenes, who says that he took it from the register of the Stathmi (or the several stages from place to place), which was received as authentic, and Megasthenes agrees with him. But Patrocles says, that the sum of the whole is less by 1000 stadia. If again we add to this distance the extent of the extremity which advances far towards the east, the greatest length of India will be 3000 stadia; this length is reckoned from the mouths of the river Indus along the coast, in a line with the mouths to the abovementioned extremity and its eastern limits. Here the people called Coniaci live. 16.1.9. The country is intersected by many rivers, the largest of which are the Euphrates and the Tigris: next to the Indian rivers, the rivers in the southern parts of Asia are said to hold the second place. The Tigris is navigable upwards from its mouth to Opis, and to the present Seleuceia. Opis is a village and a mart for the surrounding places. The Euphrates also is navigable up to Babylon, a distance of more than 3000 stadia. The Persians, through fear of incursions from without, and for the purpose of preventing vessels from ascending these rivers, constructed artificial cataracts. Alexander, on arriving there, destroyed as many of them as he could, those particularly [on the Tigris from the sea] to Opis. But he bestowed great care upon the canals; for the Euphrates, at the commencement of summer, overflows; It begins to fill in the spring, when the snow in Armenia melts: the ploughed land, therefore, would be covered with water and be submerged, unless the overflow of the superabundant water were diverted by trenches and canals, as in Egypt the water of the Nile is diverted. Hence the origin of canals. Great labour is requisite for their maintece, for the soil is deep, soft, and yielding, so that it would easily be swept away by the stream; the fields would be laid bare, the canals filled, and the accumulation of mud would soon obstruct their mouths. Then, again, the excess of water discharging itself into the plains near the sea forms lakes, and marshes, and reed-grounds, supplying the reeds with which all kinds of platted vessels are woven; some of these vessels are capable of holding water, when covered over with asphaltus; others are used with the material in its natural state. Sails are also made of reeds; these resemble mats or hurdles. 16.1.10. It is not, perhaps, possible to prevent inundations of this kind altogether, but it is the duty of good princes to afford all possible assistance. The assistance required is to prevent excessive overflow by the construction of dams, and to obviate the filling of rivers, produced by the accumulation of mud, by cleansing the canals, and removing stoppages at their mouths. The cleansing of the canals is easily performed, but the construction of dams requires the labour of numerous workmen. For the earth being soft and yielding, does not support the superincumbent mass, which sinks, and is itself carried away, and thus a difficulty arises in making dams at the mouth. Expedition is necessary in closing the canals to prevent all the water flowing out. When the canals dry up in the summer time, they cause the river to dry up also; and if the river is low (before the canals are closed), it cannot supply the canals in time with water, of which the country, burnt up and scorched, requires a very large quantity; for there is no difference, whether the crops are flooded by an excess or perish by drought and a failure of water. The navigation up the rivers (a source of many advantages) is continually obstructed by both the above-mentioned causes, and it is not possible to remedy this unless the mouths of the canals were quickly opened and quickly closed, and the canals were made to contain and preserve a mean between excess and deficiency of water. 16.1.11. Aristobulus relates that Alexander himself, when he was sailing up the river, and directing the course of the boat, inspected the canals, and ordered them to be cleared by his multitude of followers; he likewise stopped up some of the mouths, and opened others. He observed that one of these canals, which took a direction more immediately to the marshes, and to the lakes in front of Arabia, had a mouth very difficult to be dealt with, and which could not be easily closed on account of the soft and yielding nature of the soil; he (therefore) opened a new mouth at the distance of 30 stadia, selecting a place with a rocky bottom, and to this the current was diverted. But in doing this he was taking precautions that Arabia should not become entirely inaccessible in consequence of the lakes and marshes, as it was already almost an island from the quantity of water (which surrounded it). For he contemplated making himself master of this country; and he had already provided a fleet and places of rendezvous; and had built vessels in Phoenicia and at Cyprus, some of which were in separate pieces, others were in parts, fastened together by bolts. These, after being conveyed to Thapsacus in seven distances of a day's march, were then to be transported down the river to Babylon. He constructed other boats in Babylonia, from cypress trees in the groves and parks, for there is a scarcity of timber in Babylonia. Among the Cossaei, and some other tribes, the supply of timber is not great,The pretext for the war, says Aristobulus, was that the Arabians were the only people who did not send their ambassadors to Alexander; but the true reason was his ambition to be lord of all.When he was informed that they worshipped two deities only, Jupiter and Bacchus, who supply what is most requisite for the subsistence of mankind, he supposed that, after his conquests, they would worship him as a third, if he permitted them to enjoy their former national independence. Thus was Alexander employed in clearing the canals, and in examining minutely the sepulchres of the kings, most of which are situated among the lakes.
2. Plutarch, Alexander The Great, 18.2 (1st cent. CE - 2nd cent. CE)

18.2. Well, then, most writers say that since the fastenings had their ends concealed, and were intertwined many times in crooked coils, Alexander was at a loss how to proceed, and finally loosened the knot by cutting it through with his sword, and that when it was thus smitten many ends were to be seen. But Aristobulus says that he undid it very easily, by simply taking out the so-called hestor, or pin, of the waggon-pole, by which the yoke-fastening was held together, and then drawing away the yoke. Cf. Arrian, Anab. ii. 3 .
3. Curtius Rufus, Historiae Alexandri Magni, 3.1.14-3.1.18

3.1.14. Alexander urbe in dicionem suam redacta lovis templum intrat. Vehiculum, quo Gordium, Midae patrem, vectum esse constabat, aspexit cultu haud sane a vilioribus vulgatisque usu abhorrens. 3.1.15. Notabile erat iugum adstrictum compluribus nodis in semetipsos inplicatis et celantibus nexus. 3.1.16. Incolis deinde adfirmantibus editam esse oraculo sortem, Asiae potiturum, qui inexplicabile vinculum solvisset, cupido incessit animo sortis eius explendae. 3.1.17. Circa regem erat et Phrygum turba et Macedonum, illa expectatione suspensa, haec sollicita ex temeraria regis fiducia: quippe serie vinculorum ita adstricta, ut, unde nexus inciperet quove se conderet, nec ratione nec visu perspici posset, solvere adgressus iniecerat curam ei, ne in omen verteretur irritum inceptum. 3.1.18. Ille nequaquam diu luctatus cum latentibus nodis: “Nihil,” inquit, “interest, quomodo solvantur,” gladioque ruptis omnibus loris oraculi sortem vel elusit vel implevit.


Subjects of this text:

subject book bibliographic info
alexander the great Baumann and Liotsakis, Reading History in the Roman Empire (2022) 209, 212
aristobulus Baumann and Liotsakis, Reading History in the Roman Empire (2022) 209
arrian Baumann and Liotsakis, Reading History in the Roman Empire (2022) 209, 212
caucasus Bianchetti et al., Brill’s Companion to Ancient Geography: The Inhabited World in Greek and Roman Tradition (2015) 106
caucasus (hindu kush) Baumann and Liotsakis, Reading History in the Roman Empire (2022) 209
cyrenaeans Baumann and Liotsakis, Reading History in the Roman Empire (2022) 209
eratosthenes Baumann and Liotsakis, Reading History in the Roman Empire (2022) 209, 212
gordian knot Baumann and Liotsakis, Reading History in the Roman Empire (2022) 212
gordius Baumann and Liotsakis, Reading History in the Roman Empire (2022) 212
hercules Baumann and Liotsakis, Reading History in the Roman Empire (2022) 209
hindu kush Baumann and Liotsakis, Reading History in the Roman Empire (2022) 209
jaxartes Bianchetti et al., Brill’s Companion to Ancient Geography: The Inhabited World in Greek and Roman Tradition (2015) 106
macedonians Baumann and Liotsakis, Reading History in the Roman Empire (2022) 209, 212
megasthenes Baumann and Liotsakis, Reading History in the Roman Empire (2022) 212
nearchus Baumann and Liotsakis, Reading History in the Roman Empire (2022) 212
ochus, river Bianchetti et al., Brill’s Companion to Ancient Geography: The Inhabited World in Greek and Roman Tradition (2015) 106
oxus, river Bianchetti et al., Brill’s Companion to Ancient Geography: The Inhabited World in Greek and Roman Tradition (2015) 106
parapamissus Baumann and Liotsakis, Reading History in the Roman Empire (2022) 209
polytimetos, river in sogdiana Bianchetti et al., Brill’s Companion to Ancient Geography: The Inhabited World in Greek and Roman Tradition (2015) 106
prometheus Baumann and Liotsakis, Reading History in the Roman Empire (2022) 209
ptolemy i Baumann and Liotsakis, Reading History in the Roman Empire (2022) 209
strabo' Baumann and Liotsakis, Reading History in the Roman Empire (2022) 209
strabo Baumann and Liotsakis, Reading History in the Roman Empire (2022) 212; Bianchetti et al., Brill’s Companion to Ancient Geography: The Inhabited World in Greek and Roman Tradition (2015) 106
tanaïs (modern don) Bianchetti et al., Brill’s Companion to Ancient Geography: The Inhabited World in Greek and Roman Tradition (2015) 106