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Pliny's Natural history. In thirty-seven books online

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who prepare Bitumen. The River Oroatis, with a difficult
Mouth, except to skilful Pilots: two little Islands. Past
which, the Sea is very shallow, like a Marsh, but there are
some Channels wherein they may sail. The Mouth of the
Euphrates. The Lake which the Eulseus and Tigris make,
near to Characis. Then on the Tigris, Susa. There they
found Alexander keeping Feast-days of Festivity in the
seventh Month after he had parted from them at Patalae,
and the third Month of his Voyage. And thus much con-
cerning the Voyage of Alexanders Fleet. Afterwards
from Syagrus, a Promontory in Arabia, it was counted to
Patale 1332 Miles, and that the West Wind, which the
people of that Country call Hypalus, was thought most pro-
per to sail with to the same Place. The Age ensuing dis-
covered a shorter and safer Course ; namely, if from the said
Promontory they set their Course directly to the River Zize-
rus, an Harbour in India. And in truth this Passage was
sailed for a long time, until at length a Merchant found out
a more compendious Course, and India was brought near
for Gain : for every Year they sailed thither, and because
Pirates very much infest them, they embark in their Ships
Companies of Archers. And because all these Seas are now-
first certainly discovered, it is not amiss to shew the whole
Course from Egypt. It is worthy to be observed, that there
is not a Year but it costs our State to furnish into India,
500,000 Sesterces, (fifty millions of Sesterces.) For which
the Indians send back Merchandise, which at Rome is
sold for a hundred times as much as it cost. From Alex-
andria it is two Miles to Juliopolis : from whence on the
Nilus they sail 303 Miles to Coptus, which may be done in
twelve Days, with the Etesian Winds blowing. From Cop-
tus they travel upon Camels ; and for the sake of Water
there are Places appointed for Lodging. The first is called



BOOK VI.] History of Nature. 135

Hydreuma, 32 Miles. The second, one Day's Journey, in a
Mountain. The third, at another Hydreuma, 95 Miles from
Coptus. The fourth, again, in a Mountain. Again, at the
Hydreuma of Apollo, from Coptus, 184 Miles. Again, in a
Hill. And then to Hydreuma the New, from Coptus, 234
Miles. 1 There is another called Hydreuma the Old, named
also Troglodyticum, where, two Miles out of the direct way, is
a Garrison, four Miles distant from New Hydreuma. From
thence to the Town Berenice, where is an Harbour of the
Red Sea, 258 Miles from Coptus. But as the Journey is for
the most part performed by Night, because of the excessive
Heat, and Travellers rest all the Day, twelve Days are set
down for the whole Journey between Coptus and Berenices
They begin to sail at Midsummer, before or close upon the
rising of the Dog-star ; and in about 30 Days they arrive at
Ocelis in Arabia, or else at Cana, within the Country of In-
cense. A third Port there is besides, called Muza, to which
there is no Resort of the Merchants of India : neither by any
but Merchants that traffic in Incense and Spices of Arabia.
The Indus hath Towns. 2 Its Region is called Saphar : and
another called Sabe. But for them that would make a
Journey to the Indians, the most commodious place from
whence to set forward is Ocelis : for from thence, and with
the West Wind called Hypalus, they have a passage of forty
Days' Sailing to the first Town of Merchandise in India,
called Muziris. However, this Port is not to be ventured
in, because of the neighbouring Pirates, which keep ordi-
narily about a place called Hydrae; and it is not richly
stored with Merchandise. And moreover, the Station of the
Ships is far from the Land, so that they must convey their
Wares in little Boats which they use for the purpose. At
the time when this Account was written, the King that
reigned there was named Celebothras. There is another
Harbour that is more commodious, belonging to the Nation

1 So as it appeareth that every day's journey was about thirty-two
miles.

2 This is an unfinished sentence, perhaps from the author's not being
able to obtain the names of these towns. Wern. Club.



136 History of Nature. [ BOOK, VI.

Necanidon, which they call Becare : the King's Name at
present is Pandion ; far off is another Town of Merchandise
within the Land, called Modusa. The Region from whence
they transport Pepper in small Lighters made of one piece
of Wood to Becare, is named Cotona : of all which Nations,
Ports, and Towns, there is not a Name found in any of the
former Writers. By which it appeareth, that there hath
been great Change in these places. From India, our Mer-
chants return in the Beginning of our Month December,
which the Egyptians call Tybis : or at farthest before the
Sixth Day of the ^Egyptian Month Machiris, which is before
our Ides of January : and by this reckoning they may pass
and return within the compass of One Year. When they
sail from India they have the (North-East) Wind, Vulturnus,
with them : and when they have entered into the Red Sea,
the South or South-west. Now will we return to our pro-
posed Discourse concerning Carmania : the Coast of which,
after the reckoning of Nearchus, may take in Circuit 12,050
Miles. From its Beginning to the River Sabis is 100 Miles;
from whence as far as to the River Andanin, are Vineyards
and Corn-fields, well cultivated. The Region is called Ar-
muzia. The Towns of Carmania are Zetis and Alexandria.
In this part the Sea breaketh into the Land in two Arms ;
which our Countrymen call the Red Sea, 1 and the Greeks
Erythrseum, from a King named Erythras: or (as some
think) because the Sea, by reason of the Reflexion of the Sun,
seemeth of a reddish colour. Others suppose that this Redness
is occasioned of the Sand and Ground, which is Red: and others
again, that the very Water is of its own nature so coloured.

CHAPTER XXIV.
The Persian and Arabian Gulfs.

THIS Red Sea is divided into Two Gulfs, That from the
East is named the Persian Gulf, and is in Circuit 2500 Miles,

1 Another reason for the name is to be found in Esau, the son of the
patriarch Isaac, and whose dominion was on its borders. Bruce and others
have advanced opinions with regard to the origin of the name of this cele-
brated sea ; but its most ancient name may be rendered the Weedy Sea.
- Wern. Club,



BOOK VI.] History of Nature. 137

by the computation of Eratosthenes. Overagainst this Gulf
is Arabia, which is in Length 1200 Miles. On the other
side there is another called the Arabian Gulf, which runneth
into the Ocean, called Azanius. The Mouth of the Persian
Gulf is Five Miles wide, though some have made it but
Four. From this to its deepest recess, by a straight Course,
is known to be 1125 Miles; and it is fashioned like a Man's
Head. Onesicritus and Nearchus have written, that from
the River Indus to the Persian Gulf, and from thence to
Babylon by the Marshes of the Euphrates, is 2500 Miles.
In an angle of Carmania the Chelonophagi inhabit, who feed
on the Flesh of Tortoises, and cover their Cottages with their
Shells. They inhabit from the River Arbis to the very Cape,
they are Hairy over all their Body except their Heads, and
wear no other Garment but Fish-skins.

CHAPTER XXV.
The Island Cascandrus : and the Kingdoms of the Parthians.

BEYOND this Tract of the Chelonophagi, toward India,
there lieth, Fifty Miles within the Sea, the Island Cascan-
drus, by report all desert ; and near it, with an Ann of the
Sea between, another Island called Stois ; having a lucrative
Trade in Pearls. Beyond the Cape of Carmania, you enter
upon the Armozei. Some say, that the Albii are between
both ; and that their Coasts contain in the whole 402 Miles.
There are the Port of the Macedonians, and the Altars of
Alexander on the very Promontory itself. The Rivers Saga-
nos, and then Daras, and Salsos : beyond which is the Cape
Themistheas, and the Island Aphrodisias, which is inhabited.
Then beginneth Persis, which extendeth to the River Oroatis,
that divideth it from Elymais. Overagainst Persis, these
Islands, Philos, Cassandra, and Aratia, with an exceeding
high Mountain in it : and this Island is consecrated to Nep-
tune. Persis itself, westward, hath the Coasts lying out in
Length 450 Miles. The People are Rich, even to Luxury;
and long since they are become subject to the Parthians, and
have- lost their own Name. We will briefly now speak of



1 38 History of Nature. [BooK VI .

their Empire. The Parthians have in all Eighteen Realms
under them : for so they divide the Provinces about the
Two Seas, as we have said, the Red Sea lying southward,
and the Hircan Sea, toward the north. Of these Eleven,
which are called the Higher Provinces, take their beginning
from the Border of Armenia, and the Coasts of the Caspian ;
and they reach to the Scythians, with whom they have equal
Intercourse on the other side. The other Seven are called
the Lower Provinces. As for the Parthians, their Land
always lay at the Foot of those Mountains of which we have
so often spoken, which enclose all those Nations. It hath
on the East the Arii, and southward Carmania and the
Ariani ; on the west side the Pratitse and Medi ; and on
the North the Hircani ; and is compassed about with Deserts.
The farthest Nations of the Parthians are called Nomades :
beyond the Deserts their Cities toward the West, are Issaris
and Calliope, of which we have written before ; but toward
the North-east, Europum ; and South-east, Mania. In the
Midland the City Hecatompylos, and Arsacia. The noble
Region of Nyssea in Parthyenes, where is Alexandropolis,
(so called) from its Founder.

CHAPTER XXVI.
Media, Mesopotamia, Babylon, and Seleucia.

IT is needful in this place to describe the Situation of the
Medi, and to discover the Face of those Countries, as far as
to the Persian Sea, in order that the Description of other
Regions may be the better understood. For Media on the
West runneth obliquely, confronteth the Parthise, and en-
closeth both these Realms. Therefore on the East side it
hath the Parthians and Caspians : on the South, Sittacene,
Susiane, and Persis ; Westward, Adiabene ; and Northward,
Armenia. The Persians always dwelt about the Red Sea, on
which account it was called the Persian Gulf. The Mari-
time Coast thereabout is called Cyropolis, and that part
which bordereth upon the Medes Elymais. There is a Place
called Megala, in the ascent of a steep Mountain, through a



BOOK VI.] History of Nature. 139

narrow Passage by Steps to Persepolis, the Head of the
Kingdom, and destroyed by Alexander. Moreover, in the
Frontiers standeth Laodicea, built by King Antiochus.
From thence towards the East the Magi hold the Castle of
Passagardae, wherein is the Tomb of Cyrus. Also the Town
Ecbatana belonging to the Magi, which Darius the King
caused to be translated to the Mountains. 1 Between the
Parthians and the Ariani are extended the Paraeraceni.
These Nations and the River Euphrates serve to limit the
lower Realms. Now are we to discourse of the Parts
remaining of Mesopotamia ; setting aside one point thereof,
and the People of Arabia, whereof we spoke in the former
Book. All Mesopotamia belonged to the Assyrians, dis-
persed in Villages, except Babylon and Ninus. The Mace-
donians collected it into Cities on account of the goodness of
their Soil. Besides the above-named Towns, it hath Seleucia,
Laodicea, and Artemita : likewise within the Nation of the
Arabians named Aroei and Mardani, Antiochia : and that
which, being founded by Nicanor, Governor of Mesopotamia,
is called Arabis. Upon these join the Arabians, but within
the Country are the Eldamarii. Above them is the Town
Bura, situated upon the River Pelloconta ; beyond which are
the Salmani and Masei, Arabians. Then there join to the
Gordisei the Aloni, by whom the River Zerbis passeth, and so
is discharged into the Tigris. The Azones and Silices, Moun-
taineers, together with the Orentes ; on the side of whom the
Town Gaugamela. Also Sue among the Rocks ; above are
the Sylici and Classitae, through whom the Lycus runneth
out of Armenia. Toward the South-east, Absittis, and the
Town Azochis. Presently in the Plains the Towns Diospage,
Polytelia, Stratonicea, and Anthemus. Nicephorion, as we
have already said, is seated near the River Euphrates, where
Alexander caused it to be founded, for the convenient Situ-
ation of the Place. Of the City Apamia we have before

1 Pliny's statement as to the building of the palace, and indeed the
whole city of Shushan, by Darius Hystaspes, is contradicted by all Greek
and Oriental writers, who represent the city as extremely ancient vide
"Home." Wem. Club.





140 History of Nature. [Boox VI.

spoken in the Description of Zeugma : from which they that
go eastward meet with a strong fortified Town, formerly
in Compass 65 Stadia, and called the Royal Palace of their
Satraps, to which they hrought Tributes ; but now it is
formed into a Castle. But there continue still as they
were, Hebata and Oruros, unto which, by the Conduct of
Pompey the Great, the Bounds of the Roman Empire were
extended ; and it is from Zeugma 250 Miles. Some Writers
say that the Euphrates was divided by a Governor of Meso-
potamia, and one Arm of it brought to Gobaris ; which was
done lest the River should endanger the City of Babylon.
They affirm, moreover, that the Assyrians generally called it
Armalchar, 1 which signifieth a Royal River. On the Place
where it is turned there stood Agrani, one of the greatest
Towns of that Region, which the Persians utterly destroyed.
Babylon, 2 the Capital of the Chaldean Nations, for a long-
time possessed an illustrious Name through all the World : in
regard of which the other Part of Mesopotamia and Assyria
was named Babylonia : and embracing 60 Miles. The Walls
were 200 Feet in Height, and 50 broad : reckoning to every
Foot three Fingers' Breadth more than our ordinary Mea-
sure. Through the midst passeth the River Euphrates : with
a wonderful Work, on both Sides. To this Day the Temple



1 Or rather, Nahal Nalca, L e. the King's River.

2 Herodotus, in the first book of his history, describes this most
splendid of cities ; the walls of which were classed among the wonders of
the world. But contrary to the report by which Pliny professes to be
guided, this ancient Greek author represents them to have been built in
the form of a square ; and although the lapse of time may have caused a
variety of changes to take place in other particulars regarding this city,
we can scarcely suppose that these changes can have extended to the
dimensions or situation of its stupendous walls ; by which alone its form
would be influenced. It is surprising that among the authors which
Pliny had consulted in drawing up his account of these regions, he makes
no mention of this illustrious Greek writer, though he quotes him in
other places. Philostratus, Solinus, Diodorus, Quintus Curtius, and
more especially the Bible, may be consulted for a variety of curious par-
ticulars regarding this eminent and powerful city, whose walls and
splendour are now buried in a desert. Wern. Club.



BOOK VI.] History of Nature. 141

of Jupiter Belus continueth there entire. He was the first
Discoverer of the Science of the Stars. Nevertheless it is
reduced to a Desert, having been exhausted by Seleucia,
which standeth near it : and which was for that very purpose
built by Nicator within the Fortieth Stone, at the Place of
meeting of the New Channel of Euphrates with the Tigris :
nevertheless it is named Babylonia, a free State at this Day,
of independent Jurisdiction; but they live after the Man-
ners of the Macedonians. And by report there are 600,000
common Citizens. The Position of the Walls, by report, is
in the form of an Eagle spreading out her Wings : and the
Soil is the most Fertile in all the East. The Parthians,
again, to exhaust this City, built Ctesiphon within the Third
Stone from it, in Chalonitis ; which now is the Head
of the Kingdom. But when it advanced nothing, King
Vologesus founded another Town near it, called Vologeso
Certa. There are also in Mesopotamia the Cities Hyp-
parenum, a City likewise of the Chaldaeans, and ennobled
for Learning, and, as well as Babylon, situated near the
River Narraga, which gave the Name to the City. The
Persians destroyed the Walls of this Hypparenum. There are
also in this Tract the Orcheni, toward the south ; and a Third
Sect of the Chaldaeans. Beyond this Region are the Notitae,
Orthophantae, and Graeciochantae. Nearchus and Onesi-
critus report, That from the Persian Sea to Babylon, by the
Voyage up the Euphrates, is 412 Miles. But later Writers
count from Seleucia 490 Miles. Juba writeth, that from
Babylon to Charax is 175 Miles. Some affirm that beyond
Babylon the River Euphrates floweth in one Channel 87
Miles, before it is divided to water the Country : its entire
Course being 1200 Miles. This variety in Authors is the cause
of the Uncertainty of the Measure, considering that even the
very Persians agree not about the Dimensions of their
Schceni and Parasangae, but have different Measures of them.
Where the River Euphrates ceaseth to defend by its own
Channel, at the portion approaching the Border of Charax,
there is great danger of the Robbers called Attalae, a Nation
of the Arabians. Beyond them are the Scenitae. The Arabian



142 History of Nature. [BooK VI.

Nomades occupy the circuit of the Euphrates, as far as to the
Deserts of Syria : from which place we said that it turned
into the South, abandoning the Deserts of Palmyra. 1 From
the beginning of Mesopotamia to Seleucia, by sailing on the
Euphrates, is 1125 Miles ; and from the Red Sea, if you go
by the Tigris, 320 Miles ; from Zeugma 527 Miles ; and to
Zeugma from Seleucia in Syria, upon the Coast of our Sea,
is 175 Miles. This is the Breadth there of the Land between
the two Seas. The Kingdoms of Parthia contain 944 Miles.
Finally, there is a Town of Mesopotamia on the Bank of the
Tigris, near where the Rivers meet, which they call Digba.

CHAPTER XXVII.
The River Tigris.

IT is also convenient to say somewhat of the River Tigris
itself. It beginneth in the Region of Armenia the Greater,
issuing out of a great Source in the Plain. The place beareth
the Name of Elongosine. The River itself, so long as it run-
neth slowly, is named Diglito ; but when it beginneth to be
rapid, it is called Tigris, which in the Median language sig-
nifieth a Dart. It runneth into the Lake Arethusa, which
beareth up all that is cast into it; and the Vapours that arise
out of it carry Clouds of Nitre. In this Lake there is but
one kind of Fish, and that entereth not into the Channel of
the Tigris as it passeth through ; as likewise the Fishes of
the Tigris do not swim out into the Water of the Lake. In
its Course and Colour it is unlike the other : and when it is
past the Lake and meeteth the Mountain Taurus, it loseth
itself in a Cave, and so runneth under, until on the other



1 This is Tadmor in the wilderness, built by Solomon, king of Israel,
and further illustrious from being the city where the critic Longinus was
the prime minister of the Queen Zenobia. It is now truly in a wilder-
ness, but is still celebrated for its remains of antiquity : chiefly of Greek
construction. There are many streams coming down from the adjacent
mountains, and there can be no doubt that if a settled tribe fixed
themselves there, the tract would become as fine an oasis as erer.
Wern. Club.



BOOK VI .] History of Nature. \ 43

Side it breaketh forth again in a Place which is called Zoro-
anda. That it is the same River is evident by this, that it
carrieth through whatever was cast into it. After this second
Spring, it runneth through another Lake, named Thospites,
and again taketh its Way under the Earth through Gutters,
and 25 Miles beyond it is returned about Nymphaeum.
Claudius Caesar reporteth, that in the Country Arrhene, it
runneth so near to the River Arsanias, that when they both
swell they join, but without mingling their Water; for Arsa-
nias, being the lighter, floateth over the other, for almost the
Space of four Miles ; but soon after they part asunder, and it
turneth its Course toward the River Euphrates, into which
it entereth. But Tigris receiving the famous Rivers out of
Armenia : Parthenis, Agnice, and Pharion, so dividing the
Arabians, Aroeans, and the Adiabeni, and by this means
making, as we have said, Mesopotamia to be an Island, after
it hath passed by and viewed the Mountains of the Gordiaei,
near Apamia, a Town of Mesene on this side Seleucia, sur-
named Babylonia, 125 Miles. Dividing itself into two Chan-
nels, with the one it runneth southward to Seleucia, watering
the Country of Mesene ; and with the other it windeth to
the north, on the back of the said Mesene, and cutteth
through the Plains of the Cauchians. When these two
Branches are united again, it is called Pasitigris. After this
it receiveth out of Media the Coaspes ; and so passing be-
tween Seleucia and Ctesiphon, as we have said, it poureth
itself into the Lakes of Chaldsea, which it replenisheth with
Water for the Compass of threescore and ten Miles : which
done, it issueth forth, gushing out with a very great Stream,
and on the right of the Town Charax is discharged into the
Persian Sea, by a Mouth ten Miles over. Between the
Mouths of these two Rivers were 25 Miles, or, as some say,
seven : and both of them were navigable. But the Orcheni
and other neighbouring Inhabitants long since turned the
Course of Euphrates aside to water their Fields, insomuch
that it is conveyed into the Sea, only through the Tigris.
The next Country bordering upon the Tigris is called Para-
potamia : in it is Mesene, of which we have spoken. Its



144 History of Nature. [ BOOK VI.

Town is Dibitach. Chalonitis is joined with Ctesiphon, noble
not only with Date-trees, but also with Olive, Apple, and
Pear-trees, and generally with all sorts of Fruit. Unto this
Country extendeth the Mountain Zagrus, coming out of Ar-
menia, between the Medes and Adiabeni, above Paraetacene
and Persis. Chalonitis is distant from Persis 480 Miles.
Some write, that by the nearest Way it is so much from the
Caspian Sea to Assyria. Between these Nations and Mesene
lieth Sittacene, the same that is called Arbelitis and Pales-
tine. The Towns therein are Sittace of the Graecians, toward
the east, and Sabata ; but on the West, Antiochia, between
two Rivers, Tigris and Tornadotus. Also Apamia, which
Antiochus so called after his Mother's Name. This City
is environed with the River Tigris, and divided by the River
Archous. Somewhat lower is Susiane, wherein (is) Susa,
the ancient Region of the Persians, founded by Darius, the
Son of Hystaspes ; and from Seleucia Babylonia, it is distant
450 Miles ; and as much from Ecbatana of the Medes,
through the Mountain Charbanus. Upon that Channel of
the Tigris which taketh its Course northward, standeth the
Town Babytace : and from Susa it is 135 Miles. The People
of this Country are the only Men in the World that hate
Gold : and they bury it, that it may serve for no use to any
one. To the Susiani eastward are joined the Cossiaei Rob-
bers, and forty Nations of the Mizsei, free and wild. Above
these lie the Parthusi, Mardi, Saitae, and Hyi, who are
spread abroad above Elemais, which joineth to the maritime
Coasts of Persis, as is above said. Susa is from the Persian
Sea 250 Miles. On that Side where the Fleet of Alexander
came up the Pasitigris, there standeth a Village upon the
Lake Chaldais, named Aphle : from which to Susa is 65|
Miles by Water. The next that border upon the Susiani
eastward are the Cossaei ; and above the Cossaei northward
lieth Mesobatene, under the Mountain Cambiladus, which is
a Branch of the Caucasus : and from thence is the most easy
Passage to the Bactri. The River Eulaeus maketh a Parti-
tion between Elimais and Susiane. This River riseth in the
Country of the Medi, and in the midst of its Course loseth



BOOK VI.] History of Nature. 145

itself in the Ground ; but rising again, and running through
Mesobatene, it passeth round the Castle of the Susi and the
Temple of Diana, the most august Temple among those
Nations : and the very River itself is ceremoniously re-
garded : so that the Kings drink of no other, and therefore
they carry it to a great distance. It receiveth the River
Hedypnus, which corneth along by the Asylum of the Per-
sians, and one from among the Susiani. A Town there is near
it, called Magoa, 15 Miles from Charax. Some place this Town
in the utmost Borders of Susiana, close to the Deserts. Be-
neath Eulaeus lieth Elymais, joining to Persis on the Sea-



Online Librarythe Elder PlinyPliny's Natural history. In thirty-seven books → online text (page 29 of 60)