History, Book 3
(C. Plinii Secundi Naturalis
Historiæ, Liber III)
and translations: English (ed. John Bostock, M.D., F.R.S., H.T. Riley,
Esq., B.A.) |
Latin (ed. Karl Friedrich Theodor Mayhoff)
BOOK III. AN ACCOUNT OF COUNTRIES,
NATIONS, SEAS, TOWNS, HAVENS, MOUNTAINS, RIVERS, DISTANCES, AND PEOPLES
WHO NOW EXIST OR FORMERLY EXISTED.
Thus far have I treated of the position and
the wonders of the earth, of the waters, the stars, and the proportion of
the universe and its dimensions. I shall now proceed to describe its
individual parts; although indeed we may with reason look upon the task as
of an infinite nature, and one not to be rashly commenced upon without
incurring censure. And yet, on the other hand, there is nothing which
ought less to require an apology, if it is only considered how far from
surprising it is that a mere mortal cannot be acquainted with everything.
I shall therefore not follow any single author, but shall employ, in
relation to each subject, such writers as I shall look upon as most worthy
of credit. For, indeed, it is the characteristic of nearly all of them,
that they display the greatest care and accuracy in the description of the
countries in which they respectively flourished; so that by doing this, I
shall neither have to blame nor contradict any one.
The names of the different places will here
be simply given, and as briefly as possible; the account of their
celebrity, and the events which have given rise thereto, being deferred to
a more appropriate occasion; for it must be remembered that I am here
speaking of the earth as a whole, and I wish to be understood as using the
names without any reference whatever to their celebrity, and as though the
places themselves were in their infancy, and had not as yet acquired any
fame through great events. The name is men- tioned, it is true, but only
as forming a part of the world and the system of the universe.
The whole globe is divided into three
parts, Europe, Asia, and Africa. Our description commences where the sun
sets and at the Straits of Gades1
, where the Atlantic ocean, bursting
[p. 1152] in, is poured forth into the inland seas. As it makes its
entrance from that side, Africa is on the right hand and Europe on the
left; Asia lies between them2
; the boundaries being the rivers Tanais3
and Nile. The Straits of the ocean, of which I have just spoken, extend
fifteen miles in length and five4
in breadth, measured from the village of Mellaria5
in Spain to the Album Promontorium6
or White Promontory in Africa, as we learn from Turranius Gracilis, who
was born in that vicinity. Titus Livius and Cornelius Nepos however have
stated the breadth, where it is least, to be seven miles, and where
greatest, ten; from so small a mouth as this does so immense an expanse of
water open upon us! Nor is our astonishment diminished by the fact of its
being of great depth; for, instead of that, there are numerous breakers
and shoals, white with foam, to strike the mariner with alarm. From this
circumstance it is, that many have called this spot the threshold of The
At the narrowest part of the Straits, there
are mountains placed to form barriers to the entrance on either side,
in Africa, and Calpe8
in Europe, the boundaries formerly of the labours of Hercules9
. Hence it is that the inhabitants have called them the Columns of that
[p. 1153] also believe that they were dug through by him; upon
which the sea, which was before excluded, gained admission, and so changed
the face of nature.
CHAP. 1. (1.)--THE BOUNDARIES AND GULFS OF
EUROPE FIRST SET FORTH IN A GENERAL WAY.
I shall first then speak of Europe, the
foster-mother of that people which has conquered all other nations, and
itself by far the most beauteous portion of the earth. Indeed, many
persons have, not without reason10
, considered it, not as a third part only of the earth, but as equal to
all the rest, looking upon the whole of our globe as divided into two
parts only, by a line drawn from the river Tanais to the Straits of Gades.
The ocean, after pouring the waters of the Atlantic through the inlet
which I have here described, and, in its eager progress, overwhelming all
the lands which have had to dread its approach, skirts with its winding
course the shores of those parts which offer a more effectual resistance,
hollowing out the coast of Europe especially into numerous bays, among
which there are four Gulfs that are more particularly remarkable. The
first of these begins at Calpe, which I have previously mentioned, the
most distant mountain of Spain; and bends, describing an immense curve, as
far as Locri and the Promontory of Bruttium11
- Now the Straits of Gibraltar.
- This is said more especially in reference to the
western parts of Asia, the only portion which was perfectly known to the
ancients. His meaning is, that Asia as a portion of the globe does not
lie so far north as Europe, nor so far south as Africa.
- Now the Don. It was usually looked upon as the boundary
between Europe and Asia. Pliny's meaning seems to be, that the Tanais
divides Asia from Europe, and the Nile, Asia from Africa, the more
especially as the part to the west of the Nile was sometimes considered
as belonging to Asia. It has been however suggested that he intends to
assign these rivers as the extreme eastern boundaries of the internal or
- At no spot are the Straits less than ten miles in
width; although D'Anville makes the width to be little less than five
miles. This passage of our author is probably in a corrupt state.
- This probably stood near the site of the town of Tarifa
of the present day.
- Probably the point called 'Punta del Sainar' at the
- Now called Ximiera, Jebel-el-Mina, or Monte del Hacho.
- The Rock of Gibraltar.
- The fable was that they originally formed one mountain,
which was torn asunder by Hercules, or as Pliny says, "dug through."
- This was the opinion of Herodotus, but it had been so
strenuously combated by Polybius and other writers before the time of
Pliny, that it is difficult to imagine how he should countenance it.
- He probably alludes to Leucopetra, now called Capo
dell' Armi. Locri Epizephyrii was a town of Bruttium, situate north of
the promontory of Zephyrium, now called Capo di Bruzzano.
[Chapters 2 through 22 are here omitted.]