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My Favourite Planet > English > People > Strabo

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Strabo

Strabo (Στράβων, Strabon; 64/63 BC – circa 24 AD) was a Greek geographer, historian and philosopher from Amaseia (Ἀμάσεια) in Pontus (today Amasya in the Black Sea Region of Turkey). He lived and studied in Rome from 44 BC until around 31 BC, and travelled widely through the Mediterranean, the Near East and north Africa.

There is no known ancient portrait of Strabo. His only surviving work is Geography (Γεωγραφικά, Geographica), a 17-volume historical geography of the known world, written in Greek, including topographical, geological and anthropological information. It is uncertain when he wrote the work, but from the internal evidence (the persons and events described) he may have begun as early as 20 BC, and have completed a first edition shortly after 9 BC, probably in 7 BC. A final, revised edition was published around 23 AD, shortly before his death.

The Geography has survived almost complete, with a few parts only in fragments, mainly thanks to the many copies and quotations in other works from the Byzantine era. Interest in ancient authors, including Strabo, was renewed in western Europe during the Renaissance. The first printed edition of the Geography was a Latin translation, published in Rome in 1469, with an edition in Greek published in Venice by Aldus in 1516. The first English translation did not appear until 1854. [1]

The contents of Strabo's Geography:

Books I - II - introduction, including discussion of geography in the works of other authors, particularly Homer and Eratosthenes;

Book III - Iberian peninsula;

Book IV - Gaul;

Book V - northern and central Italy;

Book VI - southern Italy and Sicily;

Book VII - central and eastern Europe (Germany, Rhine, Danube, Thrace, Byzantium, Actium, Nicopolis);

Book VIII - the Peloponnese;

Book IX - central Greece;

Book X - Greek islands;

Book XI - Russia east of the Don, Transcaucasus, northwest Iran, Central Asia;

Book XII - Anatolia;

Book XIII - northwest Anatolia and northern Aegean;

Book XIV - west and south Anatolia and eastern Aegean;

Book XV - Persia, Ariana, Indian subcontinent;

Book XVI - Middle East, southwestern Asia;

Book XVII - Africa (Egypt and Libya).

He also wrote a historical work, Historika hypomnemata (Ιστορικά υπομνήματα, Historical Notes), perhaps around 20 BC while he was in Rome. This work, probably of 43 books, was apparently a history of the known world from the Roman conquest of Greece, continuing on from the period covered by Polybius (Πολύβιος, circa 200-118 BC) in his Histories. It is now lost and known only from Strabo's own references to it in the Geography [2], mentions by other ancient authors and a single papyrus fragment, now in the University of Milan.

Along with the surviving works of ancient authors such as Herodotus, Thucydides and Pausanias, Strabo's Geography has proved an essential source for modern historians and archaeologists researching the location and other information concerning historical sites.


Strabo's Geography can be read online
at Perseus Digital Library.

In Greek, with notes in Greek:

A. Meineke, Strabo, Geographica.
Teubner, Leipzig, 1877.

In English, with notes in English:

H. L. Jones, The Geography of Strabo.
Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass.;
William Heinemann, London. 1924.

The Geography of Strabo.
George Bell & Sons, London, 1903.

See also:
Sarah Pothecary's Strabo website, containing a clear, useful introduction to the author and the Geography, including links and a bibliography.
www.strabo.ca
 
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Part 1       Part 2       Part 3       Part 5

Part 6       Part 7       Part 8

Olympiada gallery page 3

Stageira gallery page 23
 
Detail of a map of the world according to Strabo at My Favourite Planet

Detail of a map of the inhabited world
according to Strabo and Eratosthenes.

See the whole map below.
 
 
 
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A map of the inhabited world according to Strabo at My Favourite Planet

A map of the inhabited world according to Strabo and Eratosthenes.

Image source: Horace Leonard Jones (translator), The Geography of Strabo, Volume I, frontispiece.
Loeb Classical Library. William Heinemann, London; G. P. Putman's Sons, New York. 1917.
 
Strabo Notes, references and links

1. Editions and manuscripts of Strabo's Geography

The first of three volumes of the first English translation of Geography was published in 1854. Hans Claude Hamilton (1811-1895) translated the first six books, and William Falconer (1801-1885) completed the project by translating the remainder of the books.

"The present translation of Strabo, the great Geographer of Antiquity, is the first which has been laid before the English public. It is curious that a classic of so much renown and intrinsic value should have remained a comparatively sealed book to this country for so many centuries; yet such is the fact. It is true that the imperfect state of the Greek text, and the difficulty of geographical identification, have always been appalling obstacles; yet, after the acute and valuable labours of Gossellin, Du Theil, Groskurd, and especially of Gustav Cramer of Berlin, (whose text is followed in the present volume), we might fairly have expected that some English scholar would have ventured to enter the field. But the task, like many in a similar position, has been reserved for the publisher of the Classical Library, and he trusts it will be found conscientiously fulfilled."

Foreword to Volume I.

Falconer's uncle, Thomas Falconer (1738–1792) had prepared materials on Strabo which he gave to William's father Thomas Falconer (1772–1839) who edited Strabonis Rerum Geographicarum Libri XVII, Graece et Latine... (Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1807), in Greek and Latin in parallel columns. The father also passed on to his son the manuscript of an English translation on which he had been working.

The preface of Volume III, published in 1857, includes a biography of Strabo, based on what had been gleaned of his life up to that date, and a summary of various Medieval manuscripts and fragments, as well as translations into modern languages (Italian, French, German).

Hans Claude Hamilton and William Falconer, The Geography of Strabo, Volume 1 (of 3). A literal translation, with notes. Henry H. Bohn, London, 1854. At Hathi Trust Digital Library.

Volume II, 1856.     Volume III, 1857, with a complete index.

Modern readers may prefer the Loeb edition, with the English and Greek on opposite pages, a lengthy itroduction, bibliography and index:

Horace Leonard Jones (translator), The Geography of Strabo, Volume I (of 8). Loeb Classical Library. William Heinemann, London; G. P. Putman's Sons, New York. 1917. At archive.org, with links to other volumes and editions.

2. Strabo's Historika hypomnemata

Scholars have recently speculated that the work may have covered the period from the time of Alexander the Great until 27 BC or a decade later.

The Greek word hypomnemata (υπομνήματα) means notes, much as the word is used today for lists and other information written as an aid to memory, memoranda and comments added to official and unofficial records. It was translated into Latin as commentarii, and historiographical works of hypomnemata and commentarii comprised a sub-genre. The word has been translated into English as commentaries, sketches and memoirs (this now usually used for autobiographical works).

The Jewish historian Flavius Josephus (37 - circa 100 AD) is known to have quoted passages from Strabo's Historica hypomnemata in his Antiquities of the Jews. Strabo himself refers to it in the Geography:

"We have enlarged on the subject of the Parthian customs in the sixth book of Historical commentaries, and in the second of those, which are a sequel to Polybius: we shall omit what we said, in order to avoid repetition; adding this only, that Poseidonius affirms that the council of the Parthians is composed of two classes, one of relatives, (of the royal family), and another of wise men and magi, by both of which kings are chosen."

Strabo, Geography, Book 11, chapter 9, section 3. Translated by H. C. Hamilton and W. Falconer. George Bell & Sons, London, 1903. At Perseus Digital Library.

See: Hugh Lindsay, Strabo and the shape of his Historika Hypomnemata, The Ancient History Bulletin, Volume 28 (2014) Numbers 1-2, pages 1-19.
 
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