STRABOON COLCHIS†††† (ca 63 BC Ė 18 AD)

†††† Translation: H. L. Jones
†††† Maps: Andrew Andersen

 

 

 

 

 

Geography

 

11.2.1

 

This mountain lies above both seas, both the Pontic and the Caspian, and forms a wall across the isthmus that separates the two seas. It marks the boundary, on the south, of Albania and Iberia, and, on the north, of the plains of the Sarmatae. It is well wooded with all kinds of timber, and especially the kind suitable for shipbuilding. According to Eratosthenes, the Caucasus is called "Caspius" by the natives, the name being derived perhaps from the "Caspii." Branches of it project towards the south; and these not only comprise the middle of Albania but also join the mountains of Armenia and the Moschian Mountains, as they are called, and also the Scydises and the Paryadres Mountains. All these are parts of the Taurus, which forms the southern side of Armenia,parts broken off, as it were, from that mountain on the north and projecting as far as the Caucasus and that part of the coast of the Euxine which stretches from Colchis to Themiscyra.

Be this as it may, since Dioscurias is situated in such a gulf and occupies the most easterly point of the whole sea, it is called not only the recess of the Euxine, but also the "farthermost" voyage. And the proverbial verse, To Phasis, where for ships is the farthermost run, must be interpreted thus, not as though the author of the iambic verse meant the river, much less the city of the same name situated on the river, but as meaning by a part of Colchis the whole of it, since from the river and the city of that name there is left a straight voyage into the recess of not less than six hundred stadia. The same Dioscurias is the beginning of the isthmus between the Caspian Sea and the Euxine, and also the common emporium of the tribes who are situated above it and in its vicinity; at any rate, seventy tribes come together in it, though others, who care nothing for the facts, actually say three hundred. All speak different languages because of the fact that, by reason of their obstinacy and ferocity, they live in scattered groups and without intercourse with one another. The greater part of them are Sarmatae, but they are all Caucasii. So much, then, for the region of Dioscurias.

 

 

11.2.17

 

Further, the greater part of the remainder of Colchis is on the sea. Through it flows the Phasis, a large river having its sources in Armenia and receiving the waters of the Glaucus and the Hippus, which issue from the neighboring mountains. It is navigated as far as Sarapana, a fortress capable of admitting the population even of a city. From here people go by land to the Cyrus in four days by a wagon road. On the Phasis is situated a city bearing the same name, an emporium of the Colchi, which is protected on one side by the river, on another by a lake, and on another by the sea. Thence people go to Amisus and Sinope by sea (a voyage of two or three days), because the shores are soft and because of the outlets of the rivers. The country is excellent both in respect to its produce--except its honey, which is generally bitter--and in respect to every thing that pertains to shipbuilding; for it not only produces quantities of timber but also brings it down on rivers. And the people make linen in quantities, and hemp, wax, and pitch. Their linen industry has been famed far and wide; for they used to export linen to outside places; and some writers, wishing to show forth a kinship between the Colchians and the Egyptians, confirm their belief by this. Above the aforesaid rivers in the Moschian country lies the temple of Leucothea, founded by Phrixus, and the oracle of Phrixus, where a ram is never sacrificed; it was once rich, but it was robbed in our time by Pharnaces, and a little later by Mithridates of Pergamum. For when a country is devastated, things divine are in sickly plight and wont not even to be respected, says Euripides.

 

 

 

 

11.2.18

 

The great fame this country had in early times is disclosed by the myths, which refer in an obscure way to the expedition of Jason as having proceeded as far even as Media, and also, before that time, to that of Phrixus. After this, when kings succeeded to power, the country being divided into "sceptuchies," they were only moderately prosperous; but when Mithridates Eupator grew powerful, the country fell into his hands; and he would always send one of his friends as sub-governor or administrator of the country. Among these was Moaphernes, my mother's uncle on her father's side. And it was from this country that the king received most aid in the equipment of his naval forces. But when the power of Mithridates had been broken up, all the territory subject to him was also broken up and distributed among many persons. At last Polemon got Colchis; and since his death his wife Pythodoris has been in power, being queen, not only of the Colchians, but also of Trapezus and Pharnacia and of the barbarians who live above these places, concerning whom I shall speak later on.3 Now the Moschian country, in which is situated the temple, is divided into three parts: one part is held by the Colchians, another by the Iberians, and another by the Armenians. There is also a small city in Iberia, the city of Phrixus, the present IdeŽssa, well fortified, on the confines of Colchis. And near Dioscurias flows the Chares River.

 

 

11.3.4

There are four passes leading into their country; one through Sarapana, a Colchian stronghold, and through the narrow defiles there. Through these defiles the Phasis, which has been made passable by one hundred and twenty bridges because of the windings of its course, flows down into Colchis with rough and violent stream, the region being cut into ravines by many torrents at the time of the heavy rains. The Phasis rises in the mountains that lie above it, where it is supplied by many springs; and in the plains it receives still other rivers, among which are the Glaucus and the Hippus. Thus filled and having by now become navigable, it issues forth into the Pontus; and it has on its banks a city bearing the same name; and near it is a lake. Such, then, is the pass that leads from Colchis into Iberia, being shut in by rocks, by strongholds, and by rivers that run through ravines.

 

 

 

 

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