Strabo

Strabo

Overview
Strabo, also written Strabon was a Greek historian
History
History is the discovery, collection, organization, and presentation of information about past events. History can also mean the period of time after writing was invented. Scholars who write about history are called historians...

, geographer
Geography
Geography is the science that studies the lands, features, inhabitants, and phenomena of Earth. A literal translation would be "to describe or write about the Earth". The first person to use the word "geography" was Eratosthenes...

 and philosopher
Philosophy
Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Philosophy is distinguished from other ways of addressing such problems by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on rational...

.

Strabo was born to an affluent family from Amaseia in Pontus
Pontus
Pontus or Pontos is a historical Greek designation for a region on the southern coast of the Black Sea, located in modern-day northeastern Turkey. The name was applied to the coastal region in antiquity by the Greeks who colonized the area, and derived from the Greek name of the Black Sea: Πόντος...

 (modern Amasya
Amasya
- History :Its location in this steep valley makes the city a mountain stronghold, easy to defend, and thus Amasya has had a long and prominent history.-Antiquity:...

, Turkey
Turkey
Turkey , known officially as the Republic of Turkey , is a Eurasian country located in Western Asia and in East Thrace in Southeastern Europe...

), a city which he said was situated the approximate equivalent of 75 km from the Black Sea. Pontus had recently fallen to the Roman Republic
Roman Republic
The Roman Republic was the period of the ancient Roman civilization where the government operated as a republic. It began with the overthrow of the Roman monarchy, traditionally dated around 508 BC, and its replacement by a government headed by two consuls, elected annually by the citizens and...

, and although politically he was a proponent of Roman imperialism
Imperialism
Imperialism, as defined by Dictionary of Human Geography, is "the creation and/or maintenance of an unequal economic, cultural, and territorial relationships, usually between states and often in the form of an empire, based on domination and subordination." The imperialism of the last 500 years,...

, Strabo belonged on his mother's side to a prominent family whose members had held important positions under the resisting regime of King Mithridates VI of Pontus.

Strabo's life was characterized by extensive travels.
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Encyclopedia
Strabo, also written Strabon was a Greek historian
History
History is the discovery, collection, organization, and presentation of information about past events. History can also mean the period of time after writing was invented. Scholars who write about history are called historians...

, geographer
Geography
Geography is the science that studies the lands, features, inhabitants, and phenomena of Earth. A literal translation would be "to describe or write about the Earth". The first person to use the word "geography" was Eratosthenes...

 and philosopher
Philosophy
Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Philosophy is distinguished from other ways of addressing such problems by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on rational...

.

Life


Strabo was born to an affluent family from Amaseia in Pontus
Pontus
Pontus or Pontos is a historical Greek designation for a region on the southern coast of the Black Sea, located in modern-day northeastern Turkey. The name was applied to the coastal region in antiquity by the Greeks who colonized the area, and derived from the Greek name of the Black Sea: Πόντος...

 (modern Amasya
Amasya
- History :Its location in this steep valley makes the city a mountain stronghold, easy to defend, and thus Amasya has had a long and prominent history.-Antiquity:...

, Turkey
Turkey
Turkey , known officially as the Republic of Turkey , is a Eurasian country located in Western Asia and in East Thrace in Southeastern Europe...

), a city which he said was situated the approximate equivalent of 75 km from the Black Sea. Pontus had recently fallen to the Roman Republic
Roman Republic
The Roman Republic was the period of the ancient Roman civilization where the government operated as a republic. It began with the overthrow of the Roman monarchy, traditionally dated around 508 BC, and its replacement by a government headed by two consuls, elected annually by the citizens and...

, and although politically he was a proponent of Roman imperialism
Imperialism
Imperialism, as defined by Dictionary of Human Geography, is "the creation and/or maintenance of an unequal economic, cultural, and territorial relationships, usually between states and often in the form of an empire, based on domination and subordination." The imperialism of the last 500 years,...

, Strabo belonged on his mother's side to a prominent family whose members had held important positions under the resisting regime of King Mithridates VI of Pontus.

Strabo's life was characterized by extensive travels. He journeyed to Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

 and Kush
Kingdom of Kush
The native name of the Kingdom was likely kaš, recorded in Egyptian as .The name Kash is probably connected to Cush in the Hebrew Bible , son of Ham ....

, as far west as coastal Tuscany and as far south as Ethiopia in addition to his travels in Asia Minor and time spent in Rome. Travel throughout the Mediterranean and Near East, especially for scholarly purposes, was popular during this era, and was facilitated by the relative peace enjoyed throughout the reign of Augustus
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...

 (27 BC - AD 14). He moved to Rome in 44 BC, and stayed there, studying and writing, until at least 31 BC. In 29 BC, on his way to Corinth
Corinth
Corinth is a city and former municipality in Corinthia, Peloponnese, Greece. Since the 2011 local government reform it is part of the municipality Corinth, of which it is the seat and a municipal unit...

 (where Augustus was at the time), he visited the island of Gyaros
Gyaros
Gyaros is an arid and unpopulated Greek island of the northern Cyclades near in the islands Andros and Tinos, with an area of 23 square kilometres. It is a part of the municipality of Ano Syros, which lies primarily on the island of Syros. This and other small islands of the Aegean Sea served as...

 in the Aegean Sea for several years. Around 25 BC, he sailed up the Nile
Nile
The Nile is a major north-flowing river in North Africa, generally regarded as the longest river in the world. It is long. It runs through the ten countries of Sudan, South Sudan, Burundi, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda and Egypt.The Nile has two major...

 until reaching Philae
Philae
Philae is an island in the Nile River and the previous site of an Ancient Egyptian temple complex in southern Egypt...

, after which point there is little record of his proceedings until 17 AD, when he returned to Rome to finish compiling a final draft of his Geography during his final years.

It is not known precisely when Strabo's Geography was written, though comments within the work itself place the finished version within the reign of Emperor Tiberius
Tiberius
Tiberius , was Roman Emperor from 14 AD to 37 AD. Tiberius was by birth a Claudian, son of Tiberius Claudius Nero and Livia Drusilla. His mother divorced Nero and married Augustus in 39 BC, making him a step-son of Octavian...

. Some place its first drafts around 7 AD, others around 18 AD. Last dateable mention is given to the death in 23 AD of Juba II, king of Maurousia (Mauretania
Mauretania
Mauretania is a part of the historical Ancient Libyan land in North Africa. It corresponds to present day Morocco and a part of western Algeria...

), who is said to have died "just recently".
On the presumption that "recently" means within a year, Strabo stopped writing that year or the next (24 AD), when he died.

The first of Strabo's major works, Historical Sketches (Historica hypomnemata), written while he was in Rome (ca. 20 BC), is nearly completely lost. Meant to cover the history of the known world from the conquest of Greece by the Romans, Strabo quotes it himself and other classical authors mention that it existed, although the only surviving document is a fragment of papyrus now in possession of the University of Milan
University of Milan
The University of Milan is a higher education institution in Milan, Italy. It is one of the largest universities in Europe, with about 62,801 students, a teaching and research staff of 2,455 and a non-teaching staff of 2,200....

 (renumbered [Papyrus] 46).

Education


Strabo studied under several prominent teachers of various specialties throughout his early life, at different stops along his mediterranean travels. His first chapter of education took place in Nysa (modern Sultanhisar
Sultanhisar
Sultanhisar is a town and a small district of Aydın Province in the Aegean region of Turkey, 30 km east of the city of Aydın on the road to Denizli.- History :...

, Turkey), under the master of rhetoric Aristodemus, who had formerly taught the sons of the very same Roman general who had taken over Pontus. Aristodemus was the head of two schools of rhetoric and grammar, one in Nysa and one in Rhodes
Rhodes
Rhodes is an island in Greece, located in the eastern Aegean Sea. It is the largest of the Dodecanese islands in terms of both land area and population, with a population of 117,007, and also the island group's historical capital. Administratively the island forms a separate municipality within...

, the former of the two cities possessing a distinct intellectual curiosity of Homeric literature and the interpretation of epics. Strabo was an admirer of Homer's poetry, perhaps a consequence of his time spent in Nysa with Aristodemus.

Around the age of 21 Strabo then first moved to Rome, where he studied philosophy with the Peripatetic Xenarchus, a highly respected tutor in Augustus' court. Despite Xenarchus' Aristotelian leanings, Strabo later gives evidence to have formed his own Stoic
Stoicism
Stoicism is a school of Hellenistic philosophy founded in Athens by Zeno of Citium in the early . The Stoics taught that destructive emotions resulted from errors in judgment, and that a sage, or person of "moral and intellectual perfection," would not suffer such emotions.Stoics were concerned...

 inclinations. In Rome he also learned grammar under the rich and famous scholar Tyrannion of Amisus
Tyrannion of Amisus
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...

. Although Tyrannion was also a Peripatetic, he was more relevantly a respected authority on geography, a fact obviously significant considering Strabo's future contributions to the field.
The final noteworthy mentor to Strabo is Athenodorus Cananites, a philosopher who had spent his life since 44 BC in Rome forging relationships with the Roman elite. Athenodorus endowed to Strabo three important items: his philosophy, his knowledge, and his contacts. Unlike the Aristotelian Xenarchus and Tyrannion that preceded him in teaching Strabo, Athenodorus was Stoic in mindset, almost certainly the source of Strabo's diversion from the philosophy of his former mentors. Secondly, from his own experiences he provided Strabo with information of regions of the empire that would never have told him otherwise.

The Geography



Strabo is mostly famous for his 17-volume work Geographica, which presented a descriptive history of people and places from different regions of the world known to his era.


Although the Geographica was rarely utilized in its contemporary antiquity, a multitude of copies are found throughout the Byzantine Empire
Byzantine Empire
The Byzantine Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire during the periods of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, centred on the capital of Constantinople. Known simply as the Roman Empire or Romania to its inhabitants and neighbours, the Empire was the direct continuation of the Ancient Roman State...

. For all his excellence, Strabo is not completely free from mistakes, e.g. Cassiterides
Cassiterides
The Cassiterides, meaning Tin Islands , are an ancient geographical name of islands that were regarded as situated somewhere near the west coasts of Europe...

 is out of this. It first appeared in Western Europe in Rome as a Latin translation issued around 1469. The first Greek edition was published in 1516 in Venice. Isaac Casaubon
Isaac Casaubon
Isaac Casaubon was a classical scholar and philologist, first in France and then later in England, regarded by many of his time as the most learned in Europe.-Early life:...

, classical scholar and editor of Greek texts, provided the first critical edition in 1587.

Although Strabo cited the antique Greek astronomers Eratosthenes
Eratosthenes
Eratosthenes of Cyrene was a Greek mathematician, poet, athlete, geographer, astronomer, and music theorist.He was the first person to use the word "geography" and invented the discipline of geography as we understand it...

 and Hipparchus
Hipparchus
Hipparchus, the common Latinization of the Greek Hipparkhos, can mean:* Hipparchus, the ancient Greek astronomer** Hipparchic cycle, an astronomical cycle he created** Hipparchus , a lunar crater named in his honour...

, acknowledging their astronomical and mathematical efforts towards geography, he claimed that a descriptive approach was more practical, such that his works were designed for statesmen who were more anthropologically than numerically concerned with the character of countries and regions.

As such, Geographica provides a valuable source of information on the ancient world, especially when this information is corroborated by other sources.

Within the books of Geographica is a map of Europe (see image at right).

Strabo is pro-Roman politically but culturally reserves primacy to Greece.

Editions

  • Strabonis Geographica. Recens. G. Kramer. Ed. minor, with Latin annotations at Google Books.
  • Stefan Radt (ed.), Strabons Geographika, Band 9: Epitome und Chrestomathie (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2010).

External links