Mysians, Galatians, Pisidians, and others: Strabo on relations among Anatolian peoples (early first century CE)

Citation with stable link: Philip A. Harland, 'Mysians, Galatians, Pisidians, and others: Strabo on relations among Anatolian peoples (early first century CE),' Last modified January 20, 2023, http://philipharland.com/Blog/?p=11809.

Ancient author: Strabo, Geography 12.4-8 (link to Greek text and full translation)

Comments: After dealing with the northern portion of Asia Minor or Anatolia (modern Turkey), Strabo turns to a variety of other peoples in Anatolia. Again, as he is close to home, he provides considerable detail along the way. Despite his focus on the Greek settlements and cities, he nonetheless sketches out an impression of other indigenous peoples in different regions of the area. Strabo spends considerable time clarifying that the relationship between Bithynians, Mysians, Phrygians, Maionians, and others was hotly debated and that some or all of them may well all be closely related (and connected with Thracians). Here he taps into the poetry of Homer as though it is a reliable source of ethnographic information (as he also tends to do elsewhere).

With the Galatians, Strabo clarifies that there are three main tribes or peoples among those who invaded from the Celtic region and settled in central Anatolia in the third century BCE. He then provides a brief impression about the region of Lykaonia, emphasizing that the indigenous peoples of the rougher-terrained areas were a consistent source of trouble, characterizing them as bandits and pirates.

The characterization of indigenous peoples, particularly those in mountainous areas continues to centre on their supposed inclination to banditry. The case of Kleon near Mysian mount Olympos demonstrates that a “bandit” is in the eye of the beholder, because as Strabo’s account of Kleon’s roles and positions in temples continues, it becomes clear that many others would not consider him a “bandit.”  Likewise the Pamphylians are, as a whole, characterized as engaging in banditry (just like the neighbouring Cilicians). There is, then, an ongoing juxtaposition of settled cities with Greek or Hellenized inhabitants (see especially Strabo’s praise for Kyzikos) versus more wild and dangerous indigenous peoples on the outskirts, particularly in mountainous areas.

Finally, Strabo turns to the various sub-regions of Phrygia, but his account says very little about Phrygians as a people (beyond his earlier discussion of Phrygians as indistinguishable from Bithynians, Mysians, and others). However, he does conclude this section with remarks about Phrygian tribes mentioned by earlier authors, tribes that are no longer identifiable in his time, he claims.

Further reading: A. Coşkun, “Belonging and Isolation in Central Anatolia: Galatians in the Graeco-Roman World,” in Belonging and Isolation in the Hellenistic World, ed. Sheila Louise Ager and Faber Riemer (Toronto: UTP, 2013), 73–95;

Source of translation: H.L. Jones, Strabo, 8 volumes, LCL (Cambridge, MA: HUP, 1917-28), public domain (passed away in 1932), adapted by Harland.

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[For Strabo’s preceding discussion on Bithynians, Paphlagonians, and others, go to this link].

Book 12

[Bithynians / Mysians / Phrygians]

 4 (1) Bithynia is bounded on the east by the Paphlagonians and Mariandynians and some of the inhabitants of the newly added portion of Phrygia [Phrygia Epictetus, in the northwest]. On the north by the Pontic sea [Black Sea], from the outlets of the Sangarios river to the mouth of the sea at Byzantion [Istanbul] and Chalcedon [Kadıköy district of Istanbul], on the west by the Propontis, and towards the south by Mysia and by the newly added (Epictetus) Phrygia, as it is called, though the same is also called “Hellespontian” Phrygia.

[Chalcedon and Nikomedeia]

(2) In this last country, at the mouth of the Pontos, are situated Chalcedon (founded by the Megarians), Chrysopolis (a village), and the Chalcedonian temple. Slightly above the sea, the country has a spring called Azaritia, which breeds little crocodiles. Then the Chalcedonian shore is followed by the Astakene gulf, as it is called, a part of the Propontis and it was on this gulf that Nikomedeia [İzmit] was founded, being named after one of the Bithynian kings who founded it. But many kings, for example the Ptolemies, were, on account of the fame of the first, given the same name. And on the gulf itself there was also a city Astakos, founded by the Megarians and Athenians and afterwards by Doidalsos. It was after the city Astakos that the gulf was named. It was destroyed by Lysimachos, and its inhabitants were transferred to Nikomedeia by the friend of the latter.

[Prusias at the base of Hypios mountain]

(3) Continuous with the Astakene gulf is another gulf, which runs more nearly towards the rising sun than the former does and on this gulf is Prusias [also called Prusias at the base of mount Hypios], formerly called Kios [near modern Konuralp, Turkey]. Kios was destroyed by Philip, the son of Demetrius and father of Perseus [Philip V, king of Macedon, reigning 221-179 BCE], and given by him to Prusias [king of Bithynia, reigning ca. 228-182 BCE] the son of Zelas, who had helped him destroy both this city and Myrleia, which latter is a neighbouring city and also is near Prusa. And Prusias restored them from their ruins and named the city Kios “Prusias” after himself and Myrleia “Apameia” after his wife. This is the Prusias who welcomed Hannibal, when the latter withdrew there after the defeat of Antiochos, and who retired from Phrygia on the Hellespont in accordance with an agreement made with the Attalids.

This country was in earlier times called “Lesser Phrygia,” but the Attalids called it “Phrygia Epictetus” [i.e. newly acquired Phrygia]. Above Prusias lies a mountain called Arganthonion. And here is the scene of the myth of Hylas, one of the companions of Herakles who sailed with him on the Argo. When Hylas was going out to get water, he was carried off by the nymphs. And when Kios, who was also a companion of Herakles and with him on the voyage, returned from Kolchis, he stayed here and founded the city which was named after him. And still to this day a kind of festival is celebrated among the Prusians, a mountain-ranging festival, in which they march in procession and call Hylas, as though making their excursion to the forests to find him. Because they had shown a friendly disposition towards the Romans in the conduct of their government, the Prusians obtained freedom. Prusa is situated on the Mysian Olympos. It is a well-governed city, borders on the Phrygians and the Mysians, and was founded by the Prusias who made war against Croesus [king of the Lydians].

[Difficulties in discerning boundaries between Bithynians, Phrygians, and Mysians, all of which may have a Thracian connection]

(4) It is difficult to mark the boundaries between Bithynians, Phrygians and Mysians, or even those between the Dolionians around Kyzikos and the Mygdonians and the Trojans. It is agreed that each tribe (phylē) is “separate” from the others (in the case of the Phrygians and Mysians, at least, there is a proverb, “Separate are the boundaries of the Mysians and Phrygians”), but that it is difficult to mark the boundaries between them. The cause of this is that the foreigners who went there, being barbarians and soldiers, did not hold the conquered territory firmly, but for the most part were wanderers, driving people out and being driven out. One might conjecture that all these peoples (ethnē) were Thracian because the Thracians occupy the other side and because the people on either side do not differ much from one another.

[Drawing geographic and ethnographic information from Homer on the boundaries]

(5) But still, as far as one is able to conjecture, one might put down Mysia as situated between Bithynia and the outlet of the Aisepos [Gönen] river, as touching upon the sea, and as extending as far as Olympos [Uludağ] mountain, along almost the whole of it. And Epictetus [the “newly added” portion of Phrygia] as lying in the interior around Mysia, but nowhere touching upon the sea, and as extending to the eastern parts of the Askanian [İznik] lake and territory, for the territory was called by the same name as lake. And a part of this territory was Phrygian and a part Mysian, but the Phrygian part was farther away from Troy. So, in fact, one should interpret the words of the poet [Homer] when he says, “Phorkys and godlike Askanios led the Phrygians from far away, from Askania” [Iliad 2.862] that is, the Phrygian Askania, since his words imply that another Askania, the Mysian, near the present Nikaia, is nearer Troy, that is, the Askania to which the poet refers when he says, “and Palmys, and Askanios, and Morys, son of Hippotion (Morys being leader of the Mysians, hand-to‑hand fighters), who had come from deep-soiled Askania to relieve their fellows” [Iliad 13.792]. So it is not remarkable if he speaks of one Askanios as a leader of the Phrygians and as having come from Askania and also of another Askanios as a leader of the Mysians and as having come from Askania, for in Homer identity of names is a frequent occurrence, as also the surnaming of people after rivers, lakes, and places.

(6) The poet himself gives the Aisepos river as a boundary of the Mysians, for after naming the foothills of Troy above Ilion that were subject to Aeneas, which he calls Dardania, he puts down Lycia as next towards the north, the country that was subject to Pandaros, in which Zeleia was situated. And he says, “and they dwelt in Zeleia beneath the nethermost foot of mount Ida, wealthy men, Trojans, who drink the dark water of the Aisepos” [Iliad 2.824]. Below Zeleia, near the sea, and on this side of the Aisepos, are the plain of Adrasteia, mount Tereia, and Pitya (that is, speaking generally, the present Kyzikene area near Priapos), which the poet names next after Zeleia and then he returns to the parts towards the east and those on the far side of the Aisepos, by which he indicates that he regards the country as far as the Aisepos as the northerly and easterly limit of the Troad. But certainly Mysia and mount Olympos come after the Troad.

[Present situation with position of peoples]

Now ancient tradition suggests some such position of the peoples (ethnē) as this, but the present differences are the result of numerous changes. This is because different rulers have been in control at different times, and have combined together some peoples and separated others. For both the Phrygians and the Mysians had control after the capture of Troy, and then later the Lydians, and with them the Aiolians and the Ionians, and then the Persians and the Macedonians, and lastly the Romans. Under the Romans’ reign most of the peoples have already lost both their languages and their names, since a different partition of the country has been made. But it is better for me to consider this matter when I describe the conditions as they are now, at the same time giving proper attention to conditions as they were in antiquity.

[Bithynion and Nikaia]

(7) In the interior of Bithynia are, not only Bithynion [Bolu], which is situated above Tieion and holds the territory round Salon, where there is the best pasturage for cattle and from which comes the Salonian cheese, but also Nikaia [or: Nicaea; modern İznik], the metropolis of Bithynia, situated on the Askanian [İznik] lake, which is surrounded by a plain that is large and very fertile but not at all healthy in summer.

Nikaia was first founded by Antigonos the son of Philip [Antigonios I Monophthalmos, reigning ca. 306–301 BCE), who called it Antigoneia, and then by Lysimachos [king of Thrace, ca. 306–281 BCE], who changed its name to that of Nikaia his wife. She was the daughter of Antipater. The city is sixteen stadia around and is quadrangular in shape. It is situated in a plain, and has four gates. Its streets are cut at right angles, so that the four gates can be seen from one stone which is set up in the middle of the gymnasium. Slightly above the Askanian lake is the town Otroia, situated just on the borders of Bithynia towards the east. It is surmised that Otroia was so named after Otroios.

[Evidence that Mysians are Thracians]

(8) That Bithynia was a settlement of the Mysians will first be testified by Skylax the Karyandian [link], who says that Phrygians and Mysians lived around the Askanian lake, and next by the Dionysios [of Chalkis] who wrote on “The Foundings” of cities. Dionysios says that the strait at Chalcedon and Byzantion, now called the Thracian Bosporos, was in earlier times called the “Mysian Bosporos.” And this might also be provided as evidence that the Mysians were Thracians. Further, when Euphorion says, “besides the waters of the Mysian Askanios,” and when Alexandros the Aitolian says, “who have their homes on the Askanian streams, on the lips of the Askanian lake, where Dolion the son of Silenos and Melia lived,” they bear witness to the same thing, since the Askanian lake is nowhere to be found but here alone.

(9) Bithynia has produced men notable for their learning: Xenokrates the philosopher, Dionysios the dialectician, Hippokrates, Theodosios and his sons the mathematicians, and also Kleochares the rhetorician of Myrleia, and Asklepiades the physician of Prusa.

(10) To the south of the Bithynians are the Mysians around mount Olympos (who by some are called the Olympenians and by others the Hellespontians) and Hellespontian Phrygia. To the south of the Paphlagonians are the Galatians, and still to the south of these two is Greater Phrygia, as well as Lykaonia, extending as far as the Cilician and the Pisidian Tauros [Taurus] mountain range. But since the region continuous with Paphlagonia is adjacent to Pontos and Cappadocia and the peoples which I have already described [link to Cappadocians; link to Pontic area], it might be appropriate for me first to give an account of the parts in the neighbourhood of these and then put forward a description of the places that come next after that.

[Galatians in central Anatolia]

5 (1) The Galatians (Galatai), then, are to the south of the Paphlagonians. There are three peoples (ethnē) among them. Two of them, the Trokmians and the Tolistobogians, are named after their leaders, whereas the third, the Tektosagians, is named after the people in the Celtic region. This country was occupied by the Galatians after they had wandered around for a long time and after they had overrun the country that was subject to the Attalid and Bithynian kings, until by voluntary concession they received the present Galatia, or Gallo-Graecia, as it is called. Leonnorios is generally reputed to have been the chief leader of their expedition across to Asia.

The three peoples spoke the same language and in no way differed from each other. Each was divided into four portions which were called “tetrarchies,” each tetrarchy having its own tetrarch (literally: leader of the four sections), and also one judge and one military commander, both subject to the tetrarch, and two subordinate commanders. The Council of the twelve tetrarchs consisted of three hundred men, who assembled at “Drynemeton,” as it was called. Now the Council passed judgment upon murder cases, but the tetrarchs and the judges upon all others. Such, then, was the organization of Galatia long ago. However, in my time the power has passed to three rulers, then to two, and then to one, Deiotaros [king of Galatia, ca. 64-40 BCE], and then to Amyntas [king of Galatia ca. 36-25 BCE], who succeeded him. But at the present time the Romans possess both this country and the whole of the country that became subject to Amyntas, having united them into one province [province of Galatia centred on Ankyra created in 25 BCE].

[1. Trokmians]

(2) The Trokmians possess the areas near Pontos and Cappadocia. These are the most powerful of the parts occupied by the Galatians. They have these walled garrisons: Tavium, the trading-centre of the people in that part of the country. This is where there are: the colossal statue of Zeus in bronze and his sacred precinct, a place of refuge; the Mithridation, which Pompey gave to Bogodiataros, having separated it from the kingdom of Pontus; and, third, Danala, where Pompey and Lucullus had their conference, Pompey coming there as successor of Lucullus in command of the war and Lucullus giving over to Pompey his authority and leaving the country to celebrate his triumph.

[2. Tektosagians]

The Trokmians, then, possess these areas, but the Tektosagians possess the areas near Greater Phrygia in the neighbourhood of Pessinos and Orkaorki. To the Tectosagians belonged the fortress Ankyra, which bore the same name as the Phrygian town situated toward Lydia in the neighbourhood of Blaudos.

[3. Tolistobogians]

The Tolistobogians border on the Bithynians and Phrygia “Epictetus” (newly acquired), as it is called. Their fortresses are Bloukion and Peion, the former of which was the royal residence of Deiotaros and the latter the place where he kept his treasures.

[Pessinos and the temple of Agdistis]

(3) Pessinos is the greatest of the trading-centres of that part of the world, containing a temple of the Mother of the gods, which is an object of great veneration. They call her Agdistis. The priests were in ancient times rulers, I might call them, who reaped the fruits of a great priesthood. But now the prerogatives of these priests have been considerably reduced, although the trading-centre still continues. The sacred precinct has been built up by the Attalid kings in a manner appropriate for a holy place, with a sanctuary and also with porticoes of white marble.

The Romans made the temple famous when, in accordance with oracles of the Sibyl, they sent for the statue of the goddess there [ca. 204 BCE], just as they did in the case of that of Asklepios at Epidaurus. There is also a mountain situated above the city, Dindymon, after which the country Dindymene was named, just as Kybele was named after Kybela mountain. Near by, also, flows the Sangarios river, and on this river are the ancient habitations of the Phrygians, of Midas and of Gordius who lived even before his time, and of certain others. These habitations preserve not even traces of cities, but are only villages slightly larger than the others, such as Gordion and Gorbeos, the royal residence of Kastor the son of Saokondarios, where Deiotaros [king of the Galatians, ca. 63-40 BCE], Kastor’s father-in‑law, killed him and his own daughter. And he pulled down the fortress and ruined most of the settlement.

(4) After Galatia towards the south are situated lake Tatta [Tuz], which lies alongside Greater Cappadocia near Morimene but is a part of Greater Phrygia, and the country continuous with this lake and extending as far as the Tauros range, most of which was held by Amyntas. Now lake Tatta is a natural salt‑pan and the water so easily congeals around everything that is immersed in it, that when people let down into it rings made of rope they draw up wreaths of salt, and that the birds which touch the water with their wings fall on the spot and are thus caught because of the congealing of the salt.

[Lykaonians]

[Pitnissos]

6 (1) Such, then, is Tatta. Now the regions around Orkaorkoi and Pitnissos, as well as the plateaus of the Lykaonians, are cold, lacking forests, and grazed by wild donkeys even though there is a great scarcity of water. even where it is possible to find water, the wells are the deepest in the world, just as in Soatra, where the water is actually sold (this is a village-city near Garsaoura). But still, although the country lacks water,​ it is remarkably productive of sheep. However, the wool is coarse. Yet some people have acquired very great wealth from this alone. Amyntas had over three hundred flocks in this region.

[Iconium]

There are also two lakes in this region, the larger being Koralis [Beyşehi] and the smaller Trogitis [Suğla]. Iconium is als in this neighbourhood. This is a town that is well settled and has a more prosperous territory than the donkey-grazing country mentioned above. This place was held by Polemon [Polemon I, client king of Pontos, Cilicia and other territories, ca. 36-8 BCe]. Here the region in question is near the Tauros mountain range, which separates Cappadocia and Lykaonia from Rough (Tracheia) Cilicia, which lies above that region. The boundary between the Lykaonians and the Cappadocians lies between Koropassos, a village of the Lykaonians, and Garsaoura, a town of the Cappadocians. The distance between these fortifications is about one hundred and twenty stadia.

[Isaurika and its bandits]

(2) Isaurika (or: Isauria), which is near the Tauros range itself, also belongs to Lykaonia. This region has the two Isauras, villages bearing the same name, one of which is called Old Isaura and the other New Isaura, which is well-fortified. Numerous other villages were subject to these, and they were all settlements of bandits (lestai). They were the cause of much trouble to the Romans and in particular to Publius Servilius, surnamed Isauricus, with whom I was acquainted. Servilius subjected these places to the Romans and also destroyed most of the fortifications of the pirates (peiratai) that were situated on the sea.

[Derbe and king Amyntas’ difficulties with native inhabitants]

(3) On the side of Isaurika lies Derbe, which lies closer to Cappadocia than to any other country and was the royal seat of the tyrant Antipater Derbetes. He also possessed Laranda. But in my time Derbe and also the two Isauras have been held by Amyntas [king of Galatia, ca. 36-25 BCE],​ who attacked and killed Derbetes, although he received Isaura from the Romans. In fact, after destroying the Old Isaura, he built for himself a royal residence there. And though he was building a new wall in the same place, he did not live to complete it, but was killed by the Cilicians when he was invading the country of the Homonadians and was captured by ambush. (4) Being in possession of the Antiocheia near Pisidia, of the country as far as the Apollonias near Apameia Kibotos, of certain parts of the country alongside the mountain, and of Lykaonia, Amyntas was trying to exterminate the Cilicians and the Pisidians. The Cilicians from the Tauros were overrunning this country, which belonged to the Phrygians and the Cilicians. He captured many places which previously had been impregnable, among which was Kremna. However, he did not even try to win Sandalion by force, which is situated between Kremna and Sagalassos.

[Kremna and Sagalassos, and more difficulties with native inhabitants]

(5) Now Kremna is occupied by Roman colonists, and Sagalassos is subject to the same Roman governor to whom the whole kingdom of Amyntas was subject. It is a day’s journey distant from Apameia, having a descent of about thirty stadia from the fortress. It is also called Selgessos; this city was also captured by Alexander. Now Amyntas captured Kremna. After passing into the country of the Homonadians (who were considered too strong to capture), establishing himself as master of most of the places, and even killing their tyrant, Amyntas was caught by treachery through the artifice of the tyrant’s wife. And he was put to death by those people, but Quirinius [Sulpicius Quirinius, governor of Syria] overthrew the inhabitants by starving them, and captured alive four thousand men and settled them in the neighbouring cities. This left the country destitute of all its men who were in the prime of life.

In the midst of the heights of the Tauros mountain range, which are very steep and for the most part impassable, there is a hollow and fertile plain which is divided into several valleys. But though the people tilled this plain, they lived on the overhanging brows of the mountains or in caves. They were armed for the most part and were accustomed to overrun the country of others, having mountains that served as walls about their country.

[Pisidians and Pamphylians]

7 (1) Contiguous to these are the Pisidians, and in particular the Selgians, who are the most notable of the Pisidians. Now the greater part of them occupy the summits of the Tauros mountain range. But some, situated above Side and Aspendos, Pamphylian cities, occupy hilly places, everywhere planted with olive-trees. The region above this (we are now in the mountains) is occupied by the Katennians, whose country borders on that of the Selgians and the Homonadians, but the Sagalassians occupy the region this side the Tauros mountain range that faces Milyas.

[Peaceable city dwellers vs. bandit peoples of the mountains]

(2) Artemidoros [of Ephesos, writing ca. 100 BCE] says that the cities of the Pisidians are Selge, Sagalassos, Petnelissos, Adada, Tymbriada, Kremna, Pityassos, Amblada, Anaboura, Sinda, Aarassos, Tarbassos, and Termessos. Of these, some are entirely in the mountains, while others extend even as far as the foot-hills on either side, to both Pamphylia and Milyas. The latter border on the Phrygians, Lydians and Carians, which are all peaceable peoples (ethnē), although they are situated towards the north. But the Pamphylians, who share most traits with the Cilician tribe (phylē), do not wholly abstain from activities of banditry. Nor do they allow the peoples on their borders to live in peace, although they occupy the southern parts of the foot-hills of the Tauros range. And on the borders of the Phrygians and Caria are situated Tabai and Sinda, and also Amblada, from which is exported the Ambladian wine, which is suitable for use in medicinal diets. (3) Now all the rest of the above-mentioned Pisidians who live in the mountains are divided into separate peoples governed by tyrants, like the Cilicians, and are trained in banditry. It is said that in ancient times certain Lelegians, a wandering people, intermingled with them and on account of similarity of character stayed there.

[Selge]

Selge was founded at first by the Lakedaimonians [Spartans] as a city, and still earlier by Kalchas, but later it remained an independent city, having become so powerful on account of the law‑abiding manner in which its government was conducted that it once contained twenty thousand men. And the nature of the region is wonderful, for among the summits of the Tauros there is a country which can support tens of thousands of inhabitants and is so very fertile that it is planted with the olive in many places, and with fine vineyards, and produces abundant pasture for cattle of all kinds. And above this country, all round it, lie forests of various kinds of timber. But it is the styrax-tree that is produced in greatest abundance there, a tree which is not large but grows straight up, the tree from which the styracine javelins are made, similar to those made of cornel-wood. And a species of wood-eating worm is bred in the trunk which eats through the wood of the tree to the surface, and at first pours out raspings like bran or saw‑dust, which are piled up at the root of the tree, and then a liquid substance exudes which readily hardens into a substance like gum. But a part of this liquid flows down upon the raspings at the root of the tree and mixes with both them and the soil, except so much of it as condenses on the surface of the raspings and remains pure, and except the part which hardens on the surface of the trunk down which it flows, this too being pure. The people make a kind of substance mixed with wood and earth from that which is not pure, this being more fragrant than the pure substance but otherwise inferior in strength to it (a fact unnoticed by most people), which is used in large quantities as frankincense by the worshippers of the gods. People also praise the Selgian iris and the ointment made from it.

The region round the city and the territory of the Selgians has only a few approaches, since their territory is mountainous and full of precipices and ravines, which are formed, among other rivers, by the Eurymedon [Köprüçay] and the Kestros [Aksu], which flow from the Selgian mountains and empty into the Pamphylian sea. But they have bridges on their roads. Because of their natural fortifications, however, the Selgians have never even once, either in earlier or later times, become subject to others. Instead, unmolested they have reaped the fruit of the whole country except the part situated below them in Pamphylia and inside the Tauros, for which they were always at war with the kings. But in their relations with the Romans, they occupied the part in question on certain stipulated conditions. They sent an embassy to Alexander and offered to receive his commands as a friendly country, but at the present time they have become wholly subject to the Romans and are included in the territory that was formerly subject to Amyntas.

[Mysians, Phrygians, Maionians, and Lydians]

8 (1) Bordering on the Bithynians towards the south, as I have said, are the Mysians and Phrygians who live around the Mysian Olympos mountain, as it is called. And each of these peoples is divided into two parts: one part of Phrygia is called Greater Phrygia, the part over which Midas reigned, a part of which was occupied by the Galatians; the other part is called Lesser Phrygia, that on the Hellespont and around Olympos, I mean Phrygia Epictetus (newly acquired), as it is called.

Mysia is likewise divided into two parts: I mean Olympene, which is continuous with Bithynia and Phrygia Epictetus which, according to Artemidoros, was colonized by the Mysians who lived on the far side of the Ister [Danube]; and, secondly, the country in the neighbourhood of the Kaikos [Bakırçay] river and Pergamene, extending as far as Teuthrania and the outlets of the river.

[Strabo returns to the difficulties in discerning relationships among peoples with reference to invasions and migrations]

(2) But the boundaries of these parts have been so confused with one another, as I have often said, that it is uncertain even as to the country around mount Sipylos, which the ancients called Phrygia, whether it was a part of Greater Phrygia or of Lesser Phrygia, where, they say, the “Phrygian” Tantalos, Pelops, and Niobe lived. But no matter which of the two opinions is correct, the confusion of the boundaries is obvious, for Pergamene and Elaitis, where the Kaikos empties into the sea, and Teuthrania, situated between these two countries, where Teuthras lived and were Telephos was reared, lie between the Hellespont on the one side and the country around mount Sipylos and Magnesia, which lies at the foot of Sipylos, on the other. Therefore, as I have said before, it is a task to determine the boundaries (“Separate are the boundaries of the Mysians and Phrygians”).

(3) The Lydians and the Maionians, whom Homer called the Meionians, are in some way confused both with these peoples [Mysians and Phrygians] and with one another, because some say that they are the same and others that they are different. They are confused with these people because some say that the Mysians were Thracians but others that they were Lydians, thus concurring with an ancient explanation given by Xanthos the Lydian and Menekrates of Elaia, who explain the origin of the name of the Mysians by saying that the oxya-tree is so named by the Lydians. The oxya-tree flourishes in the neighbourhood of mount Olympos, where they say that the decimated persons were put out and that their descendants were the Mysians of later times, so named after the oxya-tree, and that their language bears witness to this. For, they add, their language is, in a way, a mixture of the Lydian and the Phrygian languages, for the reason that, although they lived around mount Olympos for a time, when the Phrygians crossed over from Thrace and killed a ruler of Troy and of the country near it, those people settled there, whereas the Mysians settled above the sources of the Kaikos near Lydia.

(4) Contributing to the creation of myths of this kind are the confusion of the peoples there and the fertility of the country this side the Halys river, particularly that of the seaboard. Because of this situation, there were attacks made against it from numerous places and continually by peoples from the opposite mainland, or else the people near by would attack one another. Now it was particularly in the time of the Trojan war and after that time that invasions and migrations took place, since at the same time both the barbarians and the Greeks felt an impulse to acquire possession of the countries of others.

But this was also the case before the Trojan War, for the people of the Pelasgians was then in existence, as also that of the Kaukonians and Lelegians. As I have said before, they wandered in ancient times over many regions of Europe. These peoples the poet makes the allies of the Trojans, but not as coming from the opposite mainland. The accounts both of the Phrygians and of the Mysians go back to earlier times than the Trojan war.

The existence of two groups of Lycians arouses suspicion that they were of the same people, whether it was the Trojan Lycians or those near Caria that colonized the country of the other of the two. Perhaps the same was also true in the case of the Cilicians, for these, too, were two‑fold. However, we are unable to get the same kind of evidence that the present people of Cilicians was already in existence before the Trojan war. Telephos might be thought to have come from Arkadia [in the Greek Peloponessos] with his mother and having become related to Teuthras, to whether he was a welcome guest, by the marriage of his mother to that ruler, was regarded as his son and also succeeded to the ruler­ship of the Mysians.

(5) Not only the Carians, who in earlier times were islanders, but also the Lelegians, as they say, became mainlanders with the aid of the Kretans, who founded, among other places, Miletos, having taken Sarpedon from the Kretan Miletos as founder. And they settled the Termilians (Termilai) in the country which is now called Lycia and they say that these settlers were brought from Krete by Sarpedon, a brother of Minos and Rhadamanthos, and that he gave the name Termilians to the people who were formerly called Milyaians (Milyai), as Herodotos [Inquiries 1.173; 7.92] says, and were in still earlier times called Solymians (Solymoi), but that when Lykos the son of Pandion went over there he named the people Lycians after himself. Now this account represents the Solymians and the Lycians as the same people, but the poet [Homer] makes a distinction between them. At any rate, Bellerophontes set out from Lycia and “fought with the glorious Solymians” [Iliad 6.184]. And likewise his son Peisander “was slain when fighting the Solymians” by Ares, as he says [Iliad 6.204]. Homer also speaks of Sarpedon as a native of Lycia [Iliad 6.199].

(6) But the fact that the fertility of the country of which I am speaking was set before the powerful as a common prize of war is confirmed by many things which have taken place even subsequent to the Trojan war.  Even the Amazons took courage to attack it, against whom not only Priam, but also Bellerophontes, are said to have made expeditions and the naming of ancient cities after the Amazons attests this fact. In the Trojan plain there is a hill “which by men is called ‘Batieia,’ but by the immortals ‘the tomb of the much-bounding Myrina,'” [Homer, Iliad 2.813]. Historians say Myrina was one of the Amazons, inferring this from the epithet “much-bounding,” for they say that horses are called “well-bounding” because of their speed, and that Myrina, therefore, was called “much-bounding” because of the speed with which she drove her chariot. Myrina, therefore, is named after this Amazon. And the neighbouring islands had the same experience because of their fertility. And Homer clearly testifies that, among these, Rhodes and Kos were already inhabited by Greeks before the Trojan war.

(7) After the Trojan war the migrations of the Greeks and the Trerans, and the onsets of the Kimmerians and of the Lydians, and, after this, of the Persians and the Macedonians, and, at last, of the Galatians, disturbed and confused everything. But the obscurity has arisen, not on account of the changes only, but also on account of the disagreements of the historians, who do not say the same things about the same subjects, calling the Trojans Phrygians, as do the tragic poets, and the Lycians Carians, and so in the case of other peoples. But the Trojans, having become so strong from a small beginning that they became kings of kings, afforded both the poet and his expounders grounds for enquiring what should be called Troy. For in a general way he [Homer] calls “Trojans” the peoples, one and all, who fought on the Trojan side, just as he called their opponents both “Danaans” and “Achaians.” Yet, of course, we should surely not speak of Paphlagonia as a part of Troy, nor yet Caria, nor the country that borders on Caria, I mean Lycia. I mean when the poet says, “the Trojans advanced with clamour and with a cry like birds” [Iliad 3.2] and when he says of their opponents, “but the Achaeans advanced in silence, breathing rage” [Iliad 3.8]. In many ways, he uses terms differently. But still, although such is the case, I must try to arbitrate the several details to the best of my ability. However, if anything in ancient history escapes me, I must leave it unmentioned, for the task of the geographer does not lie in that field, and I must speak of things as they now are. [Very funny, Strabo.]

[Area around Mysian mount Olympos, and Kleon the bandit-leader]

(8) Above the Propontis, then, there are two mountains, the Mysian Olympos and mount Ida. Now the region of the Bithynians lies at the foot of Olympos, whereas Troy is situated between mount Ida and the sea and borders on the mountain. As for Troy, I shall describe it and the parts adjacent to it towards the south later on, but at present let me describe the country of mount Olympos and the parts which come next in order thereafter, extending as far as the Tauros mountain range and lying parallel to the parts which I have previously traversed, mount Olympos, then, is not only well settled all around but also has on its heights immense forests and places so well-fortified by nature that they can support groups of bandits (lēstēria). Among these groups there often arise tyrants who are able to maintain their power for a long time, for example, Kleon, who in my time was bandit-leader.

(9) Kleon was from the village Gordion, which he later enlarged, making it a city and calling it Juliopolis. But from the beginning he used the strongest of the strongholds, Kallydion by name, as retreat and base of operations for the groups of bandits. In fact, he proved useful to Antony, since he made an attack upon those who were levying money for Labienus at the time when the latter held possession of Asia, and he hindered his preparations. But during the Actian war, after he had revolted from Antony, Kleon joined the generals of Caesar. Kleon was honoured more than he deserved, since he also received, in addition to what Antony had given him, what Caesar gave to him, so that he was invested with the guise of a ruler from being a bandit. That is, he was priest of Zeus Abrettenos, a Mysian god, and held subject a part of Morene, which, like Abrettene, is also Mysian.

Finally, Kleon received the priesthood of Komana in Pontos, although he died within a month’s time after he went down to Komana. He was carried off by an acute disease, which either attacked him in consequence of excessive over-eating or else, as the people around the temple said, was inflicted upon him because of the anger of the goddess. For the dwelling of both the priest and the priestess is within the circuit of the sanctuary, and the sanctuary, apart from its sanctity in other respects, is most conspicuously free from the impurity of eating the meat of pigs. In fact, the city as a whole is free from this meat and pigs cannot even be brought into the city. Kleon, however, among the first things he did when he arrived, displayed the character of the bandit by transgressing this custom, as though he had come, not as priest, but as corrupter of all that was sacred.

[Dolionians and Mygdonians near Kyzikos and Daskyleion]

(10) Such, then, is mount Olympos and towards the north it is inhabited all around by the Bithynians and Mygdonians and Doliones, whereas the rest of it is occupied by Mysians and inhabitants of the newly acquired parts of Phrygia. Now the peoples round Kyzikos, from the Aisepos river to the Rhyndacus river and lake Daskylitis, are for the most part called Dolionians, whereas the peoples who live next after these as far as the country of the Myrleians are called Mygdonians. Above lake Daskylitis lies two other lakes, large ones, I mean lake Apolloniatis and lake Miletopolitis. Near lake Daskylitis is the city Daskyleion [Ergili, Turkey], and near lake Miletopolitis Miletopolis, and near the third lake “Apollonia on Rhyndakos,” as it is called. But at the present time most of these places belong to the Kyzikenians.

[Kyzikos]

(11) Kyzikos is an island in the Propontis [on what is now the modern Kapıdağ peninsula], being connected with the mainland by two bridges and it is not only most excellent in the fertility of its soil, but in size has a perimeter of about five hundred stadia. It has a city of the same name near the bridges themselves, and two harbours that can be closed, and more than two hundred ship storage areas. One part of the city is on level ground and the other is near a mountain called “Arktonoros.” About this mountain lies another mountain, Dindymos. It rise into a single peak, and it has a temple of Dindymene, mother of the gods, which was founded by the Argonauts.

This city rivals the foremost of the cities of Asia in size, in beauty, and in its excellent administration of affairs both in peace and in war. Its decoration appears to be of a type similar to that of Rhodes, Massalia and ancient Carthage. Now I am omitting most details, but I may say that there are three directors who take care of the public buildings and the engines of war, and three who have charge of the treasure-houses, one of which contains arms and another engines of war and another grain. They prevent the grain from spoiling by mixing Chalkidic earth with it. They showed in the Mithridatic war the advantage resulting from this preparation of theirs, for when the king unexpectedly came over against them with one hundred and fifty thousand men and with a large cavalry [ca. 74 BCE]. Mithridates took possession of the mountain opposite the city, the mountain called Adrasteia, and of the suburb. Then, when Mithridates transferred his army to the neck of land above the city and was fighting them, not only on land, but also by sea with four hundred ships, the Kyzikenians held out against all attacks, and, by digging a counter-tunnel, all but captured the king alive in his own tunnel. But he forestalled this by taking precautions and by withdrawing outside his tunnel. Lucullus, the Roman general, was able, though late, to send an auxiliary force to the city by night. As a further aid to the Kyzikenians, famine struck that large army, a thing which the king did not foresee, because he suffered a great loss of men before he left the island.

Now the Romans honoured the city and it is free to this day, and holds a large territory, not only that which it has held from ancient times, but also other territory presented to it by the Romans. For, of the Troad, they possess the parts around Zeleia on the far side of the Aisepos, as also the plain of Adrasteia, and, of lake Daskylitis, they possess some parts, while the Byzantians possess the others. In addition to Dolionis and Mygdonia they occupy a considerable territory extending as far as lake Miletopolitis and lake Apolloniatis itself.

It is through this region that the Rhyndakos [Mustafakemalpaşa] river flows. This river has its sources in Azanitis, and then, receiving from Mysia Abrettene, among other rivers, the Makestos, which flows from Ankyra in Abaeitis, empties into the Propontis opposite the island Besbikos. In this island of the Kyzikenians is a well-wooded mountain called Artake and in front of this mountain lies an isle bearing the same name. Nearby is a promontory called Melanos, which one passes on a coasting-voyage from Kyzikos to Priapos . . .

[Phrygian tribes: Berekyntians, Kerbesians]

[Omitted detailed discussion of different regions and cities of Phyrgia without much reference to Phrygians themselves]. . . . (21) Writers mention certain Phrygian tribes (phylai) that are no longer to be seen. For example, the Berekyntians. Alkman says, “On the pipe he played the Kerbesian, a Phrygian melody.” And a certain pit that emits deadly effluvia is spoken of as Kerbesian. This, indeed, is to be seen, but the people are no longer called Kerbesians. Aischylos, in his Niobe [not extant], confounds things that are different: for example, Niobe says that she will be mindful of the house of Tantalos, “those who have an altar of their paternal Zeus on the Idaian hill”;​ again, “Sipylos in the Idaian land”;​ and, Tantalos says, “I sow furrows that extend a ten days’ journey, Berekyntian land, where the site of Adrasteia is located, and where both mount Ida and the whole of the Erechtheian plain resound with the bleatings and bellowings of flocks.”

[For Strabo’s subsequent discussion of legendary Trojans, Lelegians, and Kilikians, go to this link].

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