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Strabo



An ancient geographer, born at Amasia in Pontus, probably about 64 BC. On his mother's side he was of Greek descent, and also closely connected with the Mithridatidae; of his father's family nothing is known. How the name Strabo ("squint-eyed") must have originated is obvious.

Strabo studied under the grammarian Tyrannio at Rome, under Aristodemus at Nysa in Caria, and under the philosopher Xenarchus either at Rome or at Alexandria. He does not appear to have followed any calling, but to have spent his life in travel and study, from which it can safely be inferred that he was well off. He was at Corinth in 29 BC, sailed up the Nile with Aelius Gallus in 24, and seems to have been settled at Rome after 14 AD, but all we know of the date of his death is that it was after 21 AD.

Of Strabo's great historical work in forty-seven books – from the fifth a continuation to his own time of Polybius – only a few fragments are extant; but his Geographica in seventeen books has come down to us almost complete. It is a work of great value in those parts especially which record the results of his own extensive observation. "Westwards," he says in a passage in the second book, "I have traveled from Armenia to the parts of Tyrrhenia adjacent to Sardinia; towards the south, from the Euxine to the borders of Ethiopia. And perhaps there is not one among those who have written geographies who has visited more places than I have between these limits." Yet he does not describe with equal accuracy or fullness all the countries of whose geography he treats. Some he seems to have visited hurriedly, or in just passing through; others he knows like a native. For example, his accounts of Greece, particularly of the Peloponnesus, are very sparse, and many of the obscurer regions he writes about merely from hearsay. He makes much use of his predecessors Eratosthenes, Artemidorus, Polybius, Posidonus, Aristotle, Theopompus, Thucydides, Aristobulus, and many other writers, but he strangely depreciates the authority of Herodotus, and quotes few Roman writers except Fabius Pictor and Julius Caesar.

Of the seventeen books of his Geographica i-ii contain a criticism of former geographers, and the mathematical part of physical geography; book iii is devoted to Spain; iv to Gaul, Britain, and Ireland; v and vi to Italy; vii to the north and east of Europe as far as the Danube; viii-x to Greece; xi-xvi to Asia; and xvii to Africa.