Furthermore, the greater part of Iberia is so well built up in
respect to cities and farmsteads that their roofs are tiled, and their houses
as well as their marketplaces and other public buildings are constructed with
Parts of the country are surrounded by the Caucasian
Mountains; for branches of these
mountains, as I said before, project towards the south; they are fruitful,
comprise the whole of Iberia,
and border on both Armenia
and Colchis. In the middle is a plain
intersected by rivers, the largest being the Cyrus. This river has its
beginning in Armenia, flows immediately into the plain above-mentioned,
receives both the Aragus, which flows from the Caucasus, and other streams,
and empties through a narrow valley into Albania; and between the valley and
Armenia it flows in great volume through plains that have exceedingly good
pasture, receives still more rivers, among which are the Alazonius,
Sandobanes, Rhoetaces, and Chanes, all navigable, and empties into the
Caspian Sea. It was formerly called Corus.
Now the plain of the Iberians is inhabited by people who are rather
inclined to farming and to peace, and they dress after both the Armenian and
the Median fashion; but the major, or warlike, portion occupy the mountainous
territory, living like the Scythians and the Sarmatians, of whom they are
both neighbors and kinsmen; however, they engage also in farming. And they
assemble many tens of thousands, both from their own people and from the
Scythians and Sarmatians, whenever anything alarming occurs.
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.
From the country of the nomads on the north there is a difficult ascent
into Iberia requiring
three days' travel; and after this ascent comes a
narrow valley on the Aragus
River, with a single
file road requiring a four days' journey. The end of the road is guarded by a
fortress which is hard to capture. The pass leading from Albania into Iberia
is at first hewn through rock, and then leads through a marsh formed by the
River Alazonius, which falls from the Caucasus.
The passes from Armenia
are the defiles on the Cyrus and those on the Aragus. For, before the two
rivers meet, they have on their banks fortified cities that are situated upon
rocks, these being about sixteen stadia distant from each other--I mean
Harmozice on the Cyrus and Seusamora on the other river. These passes were
used first by Pompey when he set out from the country of the Armenians, and
afterwards by Canidius.
There are also four castes among the inhabitants of Iberia. One, and the first of
all, is that from which they appoint their kings, the appointee being both
the nearest of kin to his predecessor and the eldest, whereas the second in
line administers justice and commands the army. The second caste is that of
the priests, who among other things attend to all matters of controversy with
the neighboring peoples. The third is that of the soldiers and the farmers.
And the fourth is that of the common people, who are slaves of the king and
perform all the services that pertain to human livelihood. Their possessions
are held in common by them according to families, although the eldest is
ruler and steward of each estate. Such are the Iberians and their country.