Extract from The Geography of Strabo
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Extract from The Geography of Strabo

Strabo (64 BC - 25 AD) was an Asiatic Greek, and a keen traveller, who spent a substantial part of his life studying in Alexandria. His 17-volume Geography is one of the most important descriptions of the classical world. In the extract below (Book 1, paragraphs 3-5) he justifies his description of Homer as the founder of the science of geography.

'In the first place, Homer declares that the inhabited world is washed on all sides by Oceanus, and this is true; and then he mentions some of the countries by name, while he leaves us to infer the other countries from hints; for instance, he expressly mentions Libya, Ethiopia, Sidonians, and Erembians - and by Erembians he probably means Arabian troglodytes - whereas he only indicates in general terms the people who live in the far east and the far west by saying that their countries are washed by Oceanus. For he makes the sun to rise out of Oceanus and to set in Oceanus ...'

'As for the people of the west, Homer makes plain that they were prosperous and that they lived in a temperate climate - doubtless having heard of the wealth of Iberia, and how in quest of that wealth, Heracles invaded the country, and after him the Phoenicians also, the people who in earliest times became masters of most of that country (it was at a later date that the Romans occupied it). For in the west the breezes of Zephyrus blow; and there it is that Homer places the Elysian Plain itself ...'

'And, too, the Islands of the Blest (Canaries) lie to the westward of most western Maurusia (Morocco), that is, west of the region where the end of Maurusia runs close to that of Iberia. And their name shows that because these islands were near to blessed countries they too were thought to be blessed abodes'

Translation by Horace Leonard Jones, first published 1917, Loeb Classical Library, Harvard University Press.

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Last modified: 13 December 2010