, is a 17-volume encyclopedia of geographical knowledge written in Greek
Ancient Greek is the stage of the Greek language in the periods spanning the times c. 9th–6th centuries BC, , c. 5th–4th centuries BC , and the c. 3rd century BC – 6th century AD of ancient Greece and the ancient world; being predated in the 2nd millennium BC by Mycenaean Greek...
Strabo, also written Strabon was a Greek historian, geographer and philosopher.-Life:Strabo was born to an affluent family from Amaseia in Pontus , a city which he said was situated the approximate equivalent of 75 km from the Black Sea...
, an educated citizen of the Roman empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....
of Greek descent. Work can have begun on it no earlier than 20 BC. A first edition was published in 7
Year 7 was a common year starting on Saturday of the Julian calendar. At the time, it was known as the Year of the Consulship of Metellus and Nerva...
BC followed by a gap, resumption of work and a final edition no later than 23 AD
Year 23 was a common year starting on Friday of the Julian calendar. At the time, it was known as the Year of the Consulship of Pollio and Vetus...
in the last year of Strabo's life. Strabo probably worked on his Geography
and now missing History
concurrently, as the Geography
contains a considerable amount of historical data. Except for parts of Book 7, it has come down to us complete.
Strabo refers to his Geography
within it by several names:
- geōgraphia, "description of the earth"
- chōrographia, "description of the land"
- periēgēsis, "an outline"
- periodos gēs, "circuit of the earth"
- periodeia tēs chōrās, "circuit of the land"
Apart from the "outline", two words recur, "earth" and "country." Something of a theorist, Strabo explains what he means by Geography and Chorography:
It is the sea more than anything else that defines the contours of the land (geōgraphei) and gives it its shape, by forming gulfs, deep seas, straits and likewise isthmuses, peninsulas, and promontories; but both the rivers and the mountains assist the seas herein. It is through such natural features that we gain a clear conception of continents, nations, favourable positions of cities and all the other diversified details with which our geographical map (chorographikos pinax) is filled.
From this description it is clear that by geography
Strabo means ancient physical geography
Physical geography is one of the two major subfields of geography. Physical geography is that branch of natural science which deals with the study of processes and patterns in the natural environment like the atmosphere, biosphere and geosphere, as opposed to the cultural or built environment, the...
and by chorography
, political geography
Political geography is the field of human geography that is concerned with the study of both the spatially uneven outcomes of political processes and the ways in which political processes are themselves affected by spatial structures...
. The two are combined in this work, which makes a "circuit of the earth" detailing the physical and political features. Strabo often uses the adjective geōgraphika
with reference to the works of others and to geography in general, but not of his own work. In the Middle Ages it became the standard name used of his work.
The date of Geographica
is a large topic, perhaps because Strabo worked on it along with his History
for most of his adult life. He traveled extensively, undoubtedly gathering notes, and made extended visits to Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...
Alexandria is the second-largest city of Egypt, with a population of 4.1 million, extending about along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea in the north central part of the country; it is also the largest city lying directly on the Mediterranean coast. It is Egypt's largest seaport, serving...
, where he is sure to have spent time in the famous library taking notes from his sources.
Strabo visited Rome in 44 BC at age 19 or 20 apparently for purposes of education. He studied under various persons, including Tyrannion
Tyrannion was a Greek grammarian brought to Rome as a war captive and slave.Tyrannion was a native of Amisus in Pontus, the son of Epicratides, or according to some accounts, of Corymbus...
, a captive educated Greek and private tutor, who instructed Cicero
Marcus Tullius Cicero , was a Roman philosopher, statesman, lawyer, political theorist, and Roman constitutionalist. He came from a wealthy municipal family of the equestrian order, and is widely considered one of Rome's greatest orators and prose stylists.He introduced the Romans to the chief...
's two sons. Cicero says:
The geographical work I had planned is a big undertaking...if I take Tyrannion's views too...
If one presumes that Strabo acquired the motivation for writing geography during his education, the latter must have been complete by the time of his next visit to Rome in 35 BC at 29 years old. He may have been gathering notes but the earliest indication that he must have been preparing them is his extended visit to Alexandria 25-20 BC. In 20 he was 44 years old. His "numerous excerpts" from "the works of his predecessors" are most likely to have been noted at the library
The Royal Library of Alexandria, or Ancient Library of Alexandria, in Alexandria, Egypt, was the largest and most significant great library of the ancient world. It flourished under the patronage of the Ptolemaic dynasty and functioned as a major center of scholarship from its construction in the...
there. Whether these hypothetical notes first found their way into his history
and then into his geography
or were simply ported along as notes remains unknown.
Most of the events of the life of Augustus
Augustus ;23 September 63 BC – 19 August AD 14) is considered the first emperor of the Roman Empire, which he ruled alone from 27 BC until his death in 14 AD.The dates of his rule are contemporary dates; Augustus lived under two calendars, the Roman Republican until 45 BC, and the Julian...
mentioned by Strabo occurred 31-7 BC with a gap 6 BC - 14 AD, which can be interpreted as an interval after first publication in 7 BC. Then in 19 AD a specific reference dates a passage: he said that the Carni
The Carni were a tribe of the Eastern Alps in classical antiquity, settling in the mountains separating Noricum and Venetia....
Noricum, in ancient geography, was a Celtic kingdom stretching over the area of today's Austria and a part of Slovenia. It became a province of the Roman Empire...
had been at peace since they were "stopped ... from their riotous incursions ...." by Drusus
Nero Claudius Drusus Germanicus , born Decimus Claudius Drusus also called Drusus, Drusus I, Nero Drusus, or Drusus the Elder was a Roman politician and military commander. He was a fully patrician Claudian on his father's side but his maternal grandmother was from a plebeian family...
33 years ago, which was 15 BC, dating the passage 19 AD. The latest event mentioned is the death of Juba
Juba II or Juba II of Numidia was a king of Numidia and then later moved to Mauretania. His first wife was Cleopatra Selene II, daughter to Greek Ptolemaic Queen Cleopatra VII of Egypt and Roman triumvir Mark Antony.-Early life:Juba II was a prince of Berber descent from North Africa...
at no later than 23 AD, when Strabo was in his 80's. These events can be interpreted as a second edition unless he saved all his notes and wrote the book entirely after the age of 80.
Strabo is his own best expounder of his principles of composition:
In short, this book of mine should be ... useful alike to the statesman and to the public at large - as was my work on History. ... And so, after I had written my Historical Sketches ... I determined to write the present treatise also; for this work is based on the same plan, and is addressed to the same class of readers, and particularly to men of exalted stations in life. ... in this work also I must leave untouched what is petty and inconspicuous, and devote my attention to what is noble and great, and to what contains the practically useful, or memorable, or entertaining. ... For it, too, is a colossal work, in that it deals with the facts about large things only, and wholes ....
An outline of the encyclopedia follows, with links to the appropriate Wikipedia article.
Book III – Iberian peninsula
Book XI - Russia east of the Don, the Transcaucasus, northwest Iran, Central Asia
Some thirty manuscripts of Geographica
or parts of it have survived, almost all of them medieval copies of copies, though there are fragments from papyrus rolls which were probably copied out ca AD 100‑300. Scholars have struggled for a century and a half to produce an accurate edition close to what Strabo wrote. A definitive one has been in publication since 2002, appearing at a rate of about a volume a year.
- Kramer, Gustav, ed., Strabonis Geographica, 3 vols, containing Books 1-17. Berlin: Friedericus Nicolaus, 1844-52.
Ancient Greek and English
Contains Books 1-17, Greek on the left page, English on the right. Sterrett translated Books I and II and wrote the introduction before dying in 1915. Jones changed Sterrett's style from free to more literal and finished the translation. The Introduction
contains a major bibliography on all aspects of Strabo and a definitive presentation of the manuscripts and editions up until 1917.
Books I – VI only. Downloadable Google Books
. Books VII – XII only. Downloadable Google Books
The text of Strabo online
English text. English text. English text. The Greek and Greek transliterated texts.