Mediterranean peoples: Pseudo-Skymnos’ Voyage Around the Earth for Nikomedes in full (mid-second century BCE)

Citation with stable link: Philip A. Harland, 'Mediterranean peoples: Pseudo-Skymnos’ Voyage Around the Earth for Nikomedes in full (mid-second century BCE),' Ethnic Relations and Migration in the Ancient World, last modified May 10, 2023,

Ancient author: Pseudo-Skymnos / Pausanias of Damaskos, Circuit around the Earth for Nikomedes, complete work (link to Greek).

Comments: This partially preserved anonymous work (often described as authored by a pseudo-Skymnos or pseudo-Scymnus) is a poetic description of an (ostensible) journey from the pillars of Herakles in Spain in a clockwise direction around the Mediterranean and (likely) back west along the coast of Africa, sometimes heading inland (in contrast to the typical periplous / periplus or circumnavigation literature). (Only the first 749 lines survive, but some of the remaining parts seem to be preserved in a later work on a Voyage Around the Euxine Sea, and those lines are included here). Although the author is unknown, the writing is presented to king Nikomedes of the Bithynian kingdom in northern Asia Minor. The most likely canditate is king Nikomedes II who reigned from ca. 149 BCE to the 120s BCE (especially based on the references to Nikomedes’ father in line 56).

In the process of describing this supposed journey, the author mentions many different peoples, sometimes providing certain details about their customs. But this nonetheless once again provides glimpses into a Greek perspective on the peoples of the Mediterranean overall. The author also reflects Ephoros’ division of the known world into four compartments based on peoples: Scythians (north), Indians (east), Ethiopians (south) and Celts (west) (link).

Works consulted (particularly to sort out the missing portion of the poem): Duane W. Roller, Three Ancient Geographical Treatises in Translation (London: Routledge, 2022), 42-118.

Source of the translation: Brady Kiesling from the Müller text 857 (link), adapted by Harland.


[Introduction and dedication to king Nikomedes]

Comedy [i.e. comic poetic meter], the most necessary thing of all, most divine king Nikomedes, is to express each thing concisely and clearly and to allure the healthy critic in everything. As a result, having tested how convincing the speech is, I was eager to converse with you about it and to discourse briefly, presenting to you this neatly compiled, useful composition as a common service to all, so you can provide it to those who like to learn. So, wanting first to present to you clearly the account of the whole composition, I ask to be given space for a brief word of introduction. For it seems best to me to speak in a brief way like the Lakonians, saying the least amount possible about great affairs.

(16) What I write is as follows: for the kings in Pergamon [i.e. the Attalid kings], though they have died, their glory remains alive for all of us forever, because a certain one of the genuine Attic philologists [Apollodoros], who was a follower of the Stoic Diogenes (a long time student of Aristarchos as well) composed a chronological writing from the fall of Troy up to life today. That philologist expounded definitively one thousand and forty years, enumerating the conquests of cities, the removals of camps, the migrations of peoples (ethnē), military campaigns of barbarians, the crossings of naval fleets, the places of contests, alliances, truces, battles, acts of kings, lives of famous men, escapes, expeditions, and dissolutions of tyrannies. That philologist summarized a whole flood of words, which he chose to present in comic meter, for the sake of clarity, seeing that it would then be easy to commit to memory. He used an analogy from life, for just as when someone undertakes to carry a lot of loose sticks they are not easy to hold, but easily when bound up, so too it is not possible to take up an unbound word quickly. But when it is wrapped up in meter, it can be retained efficiently and accurately, for it has a grace in it when history and discourse are metrically woven. So that man, gathering up the chapters of years, made them a favour to the king, and they distributed deathless glory across the whole settled world to Attalos Philadelphos, to whom the work was dedicated.

(50) When I heard that you are the only modern king demonstrating kingly virtue, I wanted to test for myself and be present to see what kind of king you are, so that I can report it back to others. As a result I had picked out a counsellor for the project, one who in the past helped your father correct the affairs of the kingdom, as we hear, one truly honoured by you, king, in everything, I mean Didymaian Apollo, both as the oracle for what is lawful and also the Muse-wrangler. I was already mostly convinced I should come to your hearth (for you have designated it almost a common home for those who like to learn), and the god endorsed my predisposition.

(61) From the things recounted here and there by various people I have written for you in brief about the colonies, city-foundations and whatever places are navigable or reachable on foot from practically the whole earth. For such things as are well-marked and clear I will trim my account to the main headings, but for what is not clearly known my account will go into precise detail. That, way, king, you will have a concise definition of the whole of the settled world, the character and course of the great rivers, the position of the two continents place by place where there are cities of the Greeks, who founded them, in what years they were established, those belonging to the same peoples (homoethneis), the indigenous peoples (autochthones), the neighbouring descent groups (genē) of barbarians, what is said of the mixed peoples, which ones are nomadic, which are tame, which are most unfriendly to strangers and most barbarous in customs, manners, and deeds, which are the largest and most numerous peoples, what laws and lifestyle each uses, what is the most successful merchandise, the position of all the islands toward Europe and then of those lying near Asia, the foundation of the cities said to be in them. I will lay this all out simply and give the whole circuit in a few verses, so the hearer is not only delighted but takes away some useful knowledge. If nothing else, as they say, they will take away knowledge of where on earth it is and the homeland is, by whom it was first founded and the kinship it has to which cities. To say it compactly, not, as the myths have it, undertaking the wanderings of Odysseus but remaining comfortably in one’s own property, you will not only learn about the life of foreign peoples, but also the citadels and laws of all the peoples (ethnē). By adopting you as its famous leader and virtuous protector, this work will bring attentive successors into your life, king, and proclaim your glory. It will send your fair fame forth from place to place even to those far distant.


(109) In fact, I am already at the beginning of the work. By listing the writers I used, I document the fidelity of the historical account: Eratosthenes, who wrote the most thorough geography, with scales and figures; Ephoros, who spoke about city-foundations in five books; the Chalkidian Dionysios; the writer Demetrios of Kallatis; the Sicilian Kleon and Timosthenes . . . [gap in manuscript]. . . and Kallisthenes; . . . [gap] . . . and, Timaios, a Sicilian man from Tauromenion. Also, from the books written by Herodotos I used the things he himself diligently examined, offering eyewitness testimony as a spectator not only of Greece but of the towns lying in Asia, while having been an inquirer into the things around the Adriatic and lying next to it in the Ionian sea, reaching the borders of Tyrrhenia and Sicily and westward and most of Libya and Carthage.


(137) Pulling many things together I will begin first by ordering the places in Europe. They say the mouth of the Atlantic sea is one hundred and twenty stadium-lengths wide. The land encompassing it is the headland of Libya and that of Europe. There are islands lying on both sides of them, distant from each other about thirty stadium-lengths. They are called by some the pillars of Herakles. Near one of them is a Massaliote city called Mainake. This has the most remote position of all the Greek cities in Europe. Rounding the opposite cape toward the setting sun it is a day’s sailing. Then by it is the island called Erytheia, quite narrow in size but having herds of cattle and fattened animals, very like the Egyptian bulls and the Thesprotian ones in Epeiros. They say it is settled by western Ethiopians, who made a colony. Near it is . . . a city with a colony of Tyrian merchants, Gadeira, where legend says the great sea-monsters originate. After this it is a two-day sail to that most fortunate trading post called Tartessos, a famous city with riverborne tin from the Celtic region and much gold and bronze.

[Four parts of the known world, likely based on Ephoros: Indians, Ethiopians, Celts, Scythians]

(167) Then there is the region called Celtica (Keltikē), as far as the sea lying off Sardinia, the greatest people (ethnos) in the west. For the Indians occupy almost all the land toward the east, and toward the south the Ethiopians lying near the south wind, and the Celts have from the west wind up to the summer sunset, and the Scythians that to the north. So the Indians live between the summer and winter sunrise; the Celts the opposite, between the equinox and the summer sunset, legend has it. So the peoples are four, equal in the crowd and number of their inhabitants. The Ethiopians and Scythians have the most deserted land, because of the fiery parts of the one and the watery parts of the other. The Celts use Greek customs, being familiar with Greece through receiving travellers. They conduct their assemblies with music, and are eager for it as a taming influence. There is a so-called extreme north pillar. That pillar is very tall, rising on a headland of the wave-tossed sea. In the places near the pillar live those who end up as last of the Celts, the Enetians and the last of the Istrians who reach down into the Adriatic. They say the Ister [Danube] river takes the beginning of its flow from here.

[Circuit of the world and its various peoples]


(196) The Libyan-Phoenicians inhabit the lands lying off the Sardinian sea, taking a colony from Carthage. It is said tha the Tartessians hold the next land. Then there are the Iberians, and above these places are the Bebrykians. Then along the sea below are the Ligurians and Greek cities which the Phokaian Massaliotes colonized. First there is Emporion, second Rhode. This is a foundation of the Rhodians, powerful in ships. Coming after them into Iberia the Phokaian founders of Massalia [modern Marseilles] held it. Agathe and Rhodanousia come next, past which the great river Rhone flows and Massalia is next, a very great city, colony of the Phokaians. They founded it in Liguria, they say, one hundred and twenty years before the battle of Salamis. Timaios recounts the founding. Next after this is Tauroeis and near it the city Olbia and Antipolis is the last of these. After Liguria are Pelasgians who settled here coming from Greece, occupying the country in common with the Tyrrhenians. The Lydian Atyos founded Tyrrhenia, Tyrrhenos coming once to the Umbrians.

(262) Beyond lie the sea islands Kyrnos [Corsica] and Sardo [Sardinia], which is said to be the largest island after Sicily. They used to be called the Siren islands and isle of Kirke (or: Circe). The Umbrians are above the Pelasgians . . . whom Latinus settled, who was born of Kirke and Odysseus, and the Ausonians have the interior. Among these peoples is the city of Rome, with a name to match its power, a common star of the whole settled world, in Latium. They say Romulus founded it, giving it this name. After the Latins is a city among the Opicians near the so-called lake of Aornos, Kyme, which the Chalcidians first settled and then the Aiolians [where a Kerberion is shown, an underground oracle. For they say Odysseus came here led by Kirke. From Kyme by the Aornos Neapolis took its founding in accordance with an oracle.] The Saunitians live alongside them, with the Ausonians next. After them in the interior are the Leukanians and Campanians together. Adjoining them are Oinotrians as far as the place called Poseidonias, which they say the Sybarites colonized first, and Elea city of the Massaliots and Phokaians, which the Phokaians built after fleeing during the Persian wars. [Phokaia was a particularly well-people city in Asia.]

(254) Beyond are seven islands in the Tyrrhenian sea not far from Sicily, which they call the islands of Aiolos. One of the islands is called Hiera (“Sacred”), for good reason, since the fires burning in it appear clearly from many stadium-lengths away and lumps of fiery metal are thrown up to a height, with the sound of hammers pounding iron. One of them has a Dorian colony, Lipara by name, related to Knidos.

(264) Next is the most fortunate island Sicily, which in earlier times they say was settled by a multilingual crowd of Iberian barbarians. Due to the multilateral nature of the country it was called Trinakria (three capes) by the Iberians but with time reverted to being called Sicily, named after Sikilos who ruled it. But then it had Greek cities, as they say, when in the tenth generation after the Trojan War Theokles took a fleet of Chalcidians. This man was from Athens by descent group. Legend says Ionians came together, then Dorian settlers. When civil strife arose among them, the Chalcidians settled Naxos, the Megarians settled Hybla, and the Dorians occupied the Epizephyrian part of Italy. Taking these, Archias the Corinthian settled with the Dorians the place now called by them Syrakousai, with the name taken from the adjacent lake. After this, from Naxos, the city Leontinoi, then Zankle, placed opposite Rhegion, lying on the ferry-crossing of Sicily, Katane, Kallipolis with colonies. Back from these, they settled two cities called Euboia and Mylai, then Himera and Tauromenion beside those. These are all cities of the Chalcidians. Again it is necessary to say the Dorian cities: the Megarians built Selinous, the Geloans built Akragas, the Ionians from Samos built Messene, the Syracusans built the so-called Kamarina. The Syracusans raised it from the base again, having been settled for forty-six years. These then are the Greek cities. The rest of the towns are barbarian, places fortified by the Carthaginians.


(300) Italy, which adjoins Oinotria, formerly had mixed barbarians, taking the name from ruling Italos, but afterwards was called by the colonies Greater Greece to the west. Indeed it has Greek cities by the sea. First it has Tereina, which the Krotoniats first settled and nearby there is Hipponion and Medma which the Lokrians settled. Then there are the Rheginoi and the city Rhegion, where the crossing to Sicily is shortest. Chalkidians seem to have settled Rhegion. The so-called Epizephyrian Lokrians are nearby. These, they say, were the first to use written laws, which Zaleukos reportedly adopted. They are colonists of the Opountian Lokrians, but some say they are from the Lokrians in Ozolia. First of these is Kaulonia, which had its colony from Kroton, taking its name from the trench lying near the city, later with time being renamed Kaulonia. Next from this is the once most fortunate and well-peopled city Kroton, which they say was founded by Myskelos the Achaian. After Kroton are Pandosia and Thourioi, with Metapontion bordering them. All these cities they say were founded by Achaians coming from the Peloponnesos. Next is the largest of the cities in Italy, Taras, named from some hero Taras, a colony of the Lakedaimonians, a prosperous city. The Parthenians founded this first, convenient, strong, a natural success, for with its two harbours against an island it has a sheltered landing place for every ship.

(336) There was in earlier times a great city celebrated far and wide, weighty, wealthy, beautiful, named Sybaris from the river Sybaris, a famous colony of the Achaians. It had almost one hundred thousand residents endowed with much property. These, exalted beyond what is human, destroyed a great city with its people, not having learned to bear well so many good things. For it is said that they did not observe the laws of Zaleukos, but pursuing a luxurious and easy life progressed over time into abuse and excess, and were eager to destroy the contest of the Olympians and strip away the honours of Zeus, carrying out athletic games to Zeus with large prizes at the same time as the Eleians, so that everyone would hasten to arrive there, brought by the prizes, leaving Greece. The nearby Krotoniatians conquered them by force in a short time, after they had lived there without any trouble for two hundred and ten years.

[Central and northeastern Italy]

(361) After Italy is the Ionian strait. The Iapygians inhabit the area [of Italy] extending to the entrance. After them are the Oinotrians and Brentesion the naval station of the Messapians. Beyond them are the Keraunian mountains. Near the Messapians live . . . Umbrians, whom they say lead a luxurious lifestyle very much like that of the Lydians. Next is the Adriatic sea. Theopompos describes its setting as sharing a common isthmus with the Pontic sea. It has islands very like the Kyklades, called the Apsyrtides, Elektrides, and Libyrnides. They say the number of barbarians living around the Adriatic gulf is almost 1,500,000, and the country is excellent and fruitful, and the cattle bear twins. But there is a different climate from the Pontic climate even if it is nearby. For the air is not snowy or too frigid but moisture remains everywhere to the end, but sharp and turbulent in its changes, especially in summer, with violent storms and bolts of lightning and the so-called typhoons. There are fifty cities of the Enetians at the far recess of the gulf. They are said to have moved from the land of the Paphlagonians and settled around the Adriatic.


(391) Next to the Enetians are the Istrian Thracians. There are two islands offshore from them, which are supposed to have the best tin. Beyond them are the Ismenians and Mentorians. . . The Eridanos has the best amber, which they say are petrified tears, some transparent drops of black poplar. For some say the thunderbolt that struck Phaithon happened here, for which reason all the crowd of inhabitants wears black and mourning clothes. The country lying near them is held by the Pelagonians and Liburnians. Adjoining them is the nation of the Boulinians.

[Illyria and down the western coast of Greece]

(408) Next is the great Hyllike peninsula, equated in size with the Peloponnesos. They say the Hyllians inhabit fifteen cities in it. They are Greeks by descent group (genos), for they claim Hyllos the son of Herakles as their founder, but they recount that they were barbarized over time by the customs of their neighbours, as Timaios and Eratosthenes say. There is an island offshore there called Issa, a colony of the Syracusans. The land of Illyria spreading beyond it contains many peoples; they say they are densely peopled and some of them live throughout the interior while others settle the coast of the Adriatic, and some of them are subject to royal powers while some to autonomous monarchs. They are said to be very pious and extremely fair and hospitable, devoted to sociability they pursue a most decorous life. (425) Pharos lies not far from them, an island settlement of the Parians, and the so-called Black Kerkyra, which the Knidians settled. This country has a large lake they call Lychnites. The next island, some say, is where Diomedes ended his life, which is here it got its name Diomedeia. Beyond these are barbarian Brygians. Toward the sea is Epidamnos, a Greek city, that Kerkyra apparently founded. Beyond the Brygians live the so-called Encheleians, whom Kadmos once ruled. Neighbouring them is Apollonia, a foundation of the Kerkyrans and Corinthians, and Orikos a Greek seaside city. For Euboians returning from Troy built it, carried here by the winds. Then the barbarian descent groups of the Thesprotians and Chaonians inhabit not much space. Kerkyra is an island opposite Thesprotia. After the Thesprotians live the Molossians, whom Pyrros once brought, the son of Neoptolemos, and Dodona the oracle of Zeus, a Pelasgian foundation.

[Western part (roughly) of the modern region of Aetolia-Acarnania, Greece]

(450) In the interior are barbarians of a mixture of origins whom they say live beside the oracle. After the Molossians, Ambrakia a colony of the Corinthians. Gorgos the first son of Kypselos built it. Then there is Amphilochian Argos, apparently founded by Amphilochos the son of the prophet Amphiaraios. Barbarian settlers are above them. On the seashore is the city Anaktorion, which the Akarnanians and Corinthians colonized. Then Akarnania, founded some say by Alkmeon, while others say his son Akarnan. Several islands lie opposite, Leukas foremost, a foundation of the Corinthians, then Kephalonia, and nearby Ithaka, and Zakynthos lying near the Peloponnese, and then the islands lying beyond toward the Acheloos, called the Echinades.

[Aitolia, Lokria, Boiotia]

(470) From here on we go back to Greece, and we will declare in summary all the places in it people by people, according to Ephoros. So after the Akarnanians is Aitolia, taking the colony from Elis. For the Kouretes settled it before and Aitolos, coming from Elis, drove them out and named it Aitolia. Toward Rhion lies the city Naupaktos, which the Dorians with Temenos built. Then after the Aitolians the Lokrians are the next, called Ozolians, being colonists from the Lokrians opposite Euboia. Delphi adjoins them, which has the Pythian oracle most incapable of falsehood. Next are the Phokians, whom Phokos seems to have settled, coming down first with the Corinthians. His descent traces to Ornytos and Sisyphos. Nearby is Boiotia, a very large country in an opportune position. For alone it has access to three seas, as the saying goes. For it has ports looking south most conveniently toward the Adriatic and the Sicilian commerce, and others toward Kypros and the direction for sailing to Egypt and the islands. These are the places around Aulis where the city of the Tanagraians lies, and beyond it in the interior Thespiae. The third is outside the way by the Euripos, leading to the Macedonians and Thessalonians, by which is Anthedon the seaside city (500) and Thebes, the largest city of Boeotia. Megara is adjoining, a Dorian city, for all the Dorians built it, mainly Corinthians and Messenians. They say Megareos son of Onchestos gave it the name having gained control. The Megarid borders Boiotia.


(508) The Corinthian Gulf is close by, and Kenchreatis, where the narrow isthmus draws together the mainlands from each side. Then the Peloponnesos lies next, having deep gulfs and many promontories, Malea the greatest and the so-called Tainaron. A sanctuary of Poseidon fit for the gods is founded here below Lakonia. So the Sikyonians possess the northern parts of the Peloponnese, and those who settled the once famous city Corinth, as well as the other Achaians. Eleians and Messenians hold the west and southwest borders, and to the noon and southward clime are Lakonians and Argives. Toward the rising sun are those cities that hold the Coast (Akte). Inland there is Phliasia and the great people of the Arkadians. For they say the Arkadians are indigenous, while later on Aletes settled the Corinthians, Phalkes settled Sikyon, Tisamenos settled Achaia. Oxylos was the ruler of Elis, Kresphontes was ruler of Messenia, Eurysthenes and Prokles of Lakedaimonia, Keisos and after him Temenos of Argos and, the story goes, Agelaos of those by the Coast and Deifontos, the son-in-law of Temenos.


(535) The island of Crete lies beyond the Peloponnesos, large in size and very prosperous, stretching lengthwise in the sea from Malea, the Lakonian promontory, as far as Doric Rhodes and settled from the beginning with numerous populations and cities. The most ancient settlers are the ones they call the Eteokretans. They say the Cretans were the first to rule the Greek sea and to possess the island cities, which Ephoros says they also jointly founded. They say the island got its name from a certain Kres, when he became the native king. It lies a day’s sail distant from Lakonia.

[Atypalaia, other islands, and Athens]

(550) Lying further out in the Cretan sea is Astypalaia a sea-island colony of the Megarians. Toward Lakonia is Kythera. Beyond these off Epidauros is the island that used to be called Oinone, but later, when Aiakos got it, he called it Aigina from Aigina the daughter of Asopis. Near it is Salamis, where legend says Telamon the son of Ajax once ruled. Next is Athens. They say the first settlers happened to be Pelasgians, whom legend calls Kranaous, and after them Kekropians, when Kekrops was ruler, and in later times when Erechtheus was master of the city it drew its appellation from Athena. Herodotos writes about this.

[Euboia and islands in eastern Greece]

(566) After rounding Sounion from Attica, the island Euboia lies ahead, previously called, they say, Makris (“long”) from its nature, next from the so-called Asopis, taking with time again the name Euboia. The first to inhabit it, they say, were mixed Lelegian settlers. Pandoros the son of Erechtheus crossed over from Attica to found Chalkis, the largest city on it. Aiklos, an Athenian by descent group, founded Eretria and Kothos founded Kerinthos on the shore. Dryopes founded the city named Karystos, while Hestiaia was a foundation of the Perrhaibians. Islands lie near it, Skyros, Peparethos, Skiathos. The Cretans who crossed over from Knossos with Staphylos once settled Peparethos and Ikos, the island lying near it, while legend says Pelasgians crossed over from Thrace to settle Skyros and Skiathos. The Chalcidians resettled all of them after they became deserted.

[Lokris and surrounding area in eastern Greece]

(587) Opposite Euboia live the Lokrians, whom, they say, Amphiktyon the son of Deukalion first ruled, next by blood Aitolos, then Physkos, who begot Lokros, who named the Lelegians “Lokrians” after himself. After them are small cities of the Dorians, Erineon, Boion, and Kytinion, very ancient, and Pindos beside them. Doros the son of Hellen founded these cities. All the Dorian colonies descend from these ones. Next after them is Herakleia, the city the Lakonians first founded sending a myriad of settlers to Trachis. Coastal Pylaia is next. Here the Amphiktyonic assembly takes place. The Maliac gulf lies there in the deep recess, of which Echinos city, foundation of Echion the Spartos, and other cities of the Malians. Then the Phthiotic Achaian shores. The Magnetes live around Pelion. Beyond them is the best-pastured country, with the best fruit-bearing plains and most-happy city Larisa, and many others. The great river Peneios flows through the Tempe narrows, and the deep lake called Boibeis is beside Pelion.


(614) Athamania borders on Thessaly, and the bordering peoples of the Dolopians and Perrhaibians and Ainianians, who are thought to be from the Haimonian Lapiths and Myrmidons. Beyond Tempe is the country of the Macedonians lying by Olympos, whose king they say was earthborn Makedo, and the people of the Lynkestians and the Pelagonians lying beyond this beside the Axios, and the Botteaians around the Strymon. Inland there are many cities, Pella and Beroia are the most famous. On the shore Thessalonika and Pydna. Rounding the headland called Aineia is a Doric city, Potidaia, founded before by the Corinthians, afterwards named Kasandreia. Inland the so-called Antigoneia. Olynthos which became a city afterwards, which Philip the Macedonian uprooted, conquering with the spear. After Olynthia there is Arethousa, and Pallene lies on the isthmus. Here, in earlier days called Phlegra, they say the giants who fought the gods settled, and after them they called it after the Palleneians, who rose up out of Achaia. Next the so-called Toronic gulf, where Mekyberna once lay. Then Torone, with the same name as the place. Then marine Lemnos, the nurse of Hephaistos, which Thoas son of Dionysos first made his residence, and afterwards an Attic colony. (646) After sailing round Athos is the coastal city Akanthos, colony of the Andrians, by which is shown a canal cut seven stadium-lengths long. Xerxes, they say, cut it. Then Amphipolis, and beside it flows the Strymon, a great river bearing to the sea past the so-called Nereid dance floors on the far side. Berga lies beside it, inland, and this is the homeland of Antiphanes who has written unbelievable things and fabulous stories. After Amphipolis was once Oisyme, a city of the Thasians, afterwards of the Macedonians, taking its name from Emathia the daughter of Makesse. Then Neapolis and the island of Thasos, which barbarians inhabited first, legend says, then Phoenicians crossing from Asia with Kadmos and Thasos. The island Thasos took the name, as it now is, from that Thasos.


(664) The dispersed Thracians extend along the country beyond this up to the Pontic Ister [Danube]. Of those lying by the sea is the the city of Abdera, named after Abderos who first settled it. Abderos seems to have been killed afterwards by the guest-killing horses of Diomedes. People from Teos settled the city, fleeing during Persian times. Beyond this is the river called Nestos, taking its name from the parts to the east, of the Bistonian Thracians along lake Bistonis. Then Maroneia, where they say first the Kikones dwelt in Ismaros, but then it became a foundation of the Chians.

[Samothrake island and surrounding area]

Across is the Trojan isle Samothrake having a mixed settlement. For some say first the Trojans lived there, when Elektra the daughter of Atlas bore Dardanos and Iasion, of whom they say Iasion committed some impiety regarding the statue of Demeter and died struck by a divine thunderbolt, while Dardanos leaving the places by the skirts of Ida founded a city Dardania named for himself. The Samothrakians then, though indeed Trojan by descent group, took on the epithet Thracians from the place and abide in the place out of piety. Once when there was famine among the Samians while they themselves had a sufficiency, then they accepted some from Samos and took them as fellow-colonists.

(696) After Maroneia is the city Ainos with Aiolian settlers from Mitylene. The Thracian Chersonnese comes next, on which the first city is Kardia, settled in the beginning by Milesians and Klazomenians, but again by Athenians, when Miltiades conquered the Chersonnesians. Next on is Lysimacheia, which Lysimachos established, naming the city for himself. Next are lakes of the Milesians; then Alopekonnesos, a city of the Aiolians. Next there is Elaious, with an Attic colony said to have been founded by Phorbas. Then Sestos and Madytos lying on the strait, Lesbian foundations. Next is Krithote and Paktye city. They say Miltiades founded these too. After the Chersonnesos, Thrace extends into Propontis, and Perinthos is a colony of the Samians. Following this comes Selymbria, which the Megarians settled before Byzantium. Next is Byzantium of the fortunate Megarians. After this is the Pontos, about which the Kallatian writer Demetrios seems to have been the most diligent inquirer.

(721) Let us go through the places here one at a time. For near the entrance to the Pontic sea [Black Sea] is the country of the Byzantines called Philia. Then a certain shore called Salmydessos. For seven hundred stadium-lengths it stretches out, all shoals, hard to anchor, completely harbourless. This is a most hostile place for ships. Then the well-harboured promontory Thynias, which is the limit of Astikes Thrace, after which, sharing a border, is the city Apollonia. Fifty years before the reign of Cyrus, the Milesians came here and founded the city. For they sent many colonies from Ionia to Pontos which, before called “inhospitable” (axenos) due to the attacks of the barbarians, they gave it the epithet “hospitable” (Euxeinos). Round the foothills of the so-called Haimos is a city named Mesembria, the bordering land to Getian Thrace. Chalcedonians and Megarians founded it, when king Darius [of Persia] was waging war on the Scythians. Haimos is the great mountain beyond it, like in size to Cilician Tauros, by extension of the places lengthwise. For from Krobyza and the Pontic borders it runs on to the Adriatic.


[Remaining section derived from an apparent citation of the poem (in iambic meter) for Nikomedes in the sixth century Voyage Around the Euxine Sea. Although changes and additions would have been made, this gives a clear sense of the content that immediately followed:]

[Northern coast of the Black Sea]

(748) Odessos [modern Odesa, Ukraine] comes next, which the Milesians founded when Astyages was ruler of Media. This has the Krobyzan Thracians in a ring around it. Dionysopolis, which first was named Krounoi from the nearby founts of water, they say is called Dionysopolis after a statue of the god Dionysos which was retrieved from the sea there. In the border territory of the Krobyzans and Scythians the country has mixed Greek settlers.

(758) Bizone . . . this town some say belongs to the barbarians, others to be a colony of Mesembria. Kallatis [modern Mangalia, Romania], a colony of the Herakleiotians by an oracle. They settled it after Amyntas took rule over the Macedonians. Tomoi was colonized by the Milesians, with Scythians surrounding it. The city Istros which takes its name from the river is a city the Milesians founded after an army of barbarian Scythians crossed into Asia to chase the Kimmerians from the Bosporus.

[Danube river and surrounding area]

(773) The river Istros [Danube] descends from western places, making its outflow by five mouths, and divided in two it flows also into the Adriatic. At any rate it is known as far as the Celtic region. It flows for the entire year because in winter it increases from rains, while in the summer it takes the run-off (as they say) from the snow and from the melting ice it emits an equal flow. It has islands lying in it, many and great in size, word has it, of which the one lying between the sea and the mouths is no smaller than Rhodes. It is called Peuke from the number of pines it has. Straight opposite it lies the sea island of Achilles. This has a multitude of tame birds, and a holy spectacle for visitors. It is not possible from it to see any land, even though it is distant from the opposite shore only four hundred stadium-lengths, as Demetrios writes.

[Olbia and surrounding area]

(797) These are Thracians and immigrant Bastarnians. The river Tyras is deep and well-pastured for flocks, and is a market for merchants of fish, with a safe upward sailing for cargo ships. The city on it has the same name as the river, Tyras, a colony of the Milesians. (804) At the double junction of the Hypanis and Borysthenes rivers a city was founded, first called Olbia, afterwards, again by the Greeks, Borysthenes. This city the Milesians founded during Median rule. The upriver sail from the sea is two hundred and two score stadium-lengths on the Borysthenes [Dnieper] river. This river is the most useful of all, having many giant fish and bearing the fruit that grows and the flocks of the pastures. They say it flows navigably for a fourty-day sailing, but it cannot be sailed, nor is it passable to the upper places. For the way is barred by snow and ice.

[Taurian area on the northern coast of the Black Sea]

(820) The Achilleios Dromos (literally: racetrack of Achilles), which is a very long and narrow shore… The peninsula called Taurike adjoins these, with a Greek polis which the Herakleiotes and Delians colonized. There had been some oracle for the Herakleiotians who live within the Kyanean rocks to settle the peninsula together with the Delians. Some say that Iphigeneia reached this spot once, having been kidnapped from Aulis. . . The Taurians frequent it in large numbers, aspiring to a mountainous and nomadic life. They are barbarians in cruelty and murders, propitiating the gods with impieties.

[Pantikipaion, the Bosporan kingdom, and Scythia]

(835) The farthest point of Europe at the very mouth of the Maiotis lake [sea of Azov] is Pantikapaion, called the Bosporan kingdom. Beyond these is the barbarian Scythian land which borders the land unoccupied and unknown to all the Greeks. First along the Istros [Danube] river, Ephoros says, are the Karpidians, then the Aroterians [i.e. with reference to “ploughmen”], and beyond the Neurians as far as the desert land because of the ice. To the east traversing the Borysthenes [Dnieper] river are Scythians inhabiting the so-called Hylaia [i.e. woodland], the Georgians are next to them beyond, then again there is a large stretch of desert. Beyond this are the Androphagians (Man-eaters), a Scythian people (ethnos), and beyond them again the desert. Traversing the Pantikape [strait of Kerch] are the people of the Limnaians (Lake-people) and many others not repeated here called “nomadic,” who are very pious and would never harm a living thing. They carry their homes with them, it is said, and are nourished with milk from Scythian milking of mares. They live with their possessions and everything in common to everyone. They say the wise man Anacharsis came from the most extremely pious of the nomads. Some came into Asia and settled, whom they call the Sakians. They say the most distinguished are the descent group (genos) of the Sauromatians and the Gelonians and thirdly the so-called Agathyrsians. From the Maiotians, the Maiotic lake – which comes next – takes its name.

The Tanais river flows into that lake and also takes the flow of the Araxes river, as Hekataios the Eretrian reported, from some lake whose limit is unexpressed. It has a double-outlet into the so-called Maiotis and the Kimmerian Bosporos. The Tanais river, which is the boundary of Asia, cuts the mainland in two. The first inhabitants are Sarmatians, stretching for two thousand stadium-lengths. Then after them is the descent group (genos) of Maiotians called Iazabatians, as Demetrios said. But Ephoros calls them the descent group of Sauromatians. They say the Amazons intermingled with these Sauromatians, having come after the battle at the Thermodon [Terme] river, and from this they are called those who are dominated by women.

(886) Next are Hermonassa and Phanagoreia, which, they say the people of Teos once settled, and Sindikos harbour, having as founders Greeks coming from the nearby places. These cities are contained on an island that lies at Maiotis up to the Bosporos, occupying much flat ground. Part of this is inaccessible because of the swamps and rivers and by the shoals opposite, and the rest by reason of the sea and the lake. As one sails out the mouth there is Kimmeris city, so called from the Kimmerian barbarians, a foundation of the tyrants of Bosporos and Kepos which was colonized by the Milesians.

[Mosynoikians and their customs]

(900) . . . The Mosynoikians are very barbaric in customs, laws, and deeds. They are said to all live in very high wooden towers, to do everything in the open, to keep their king bound in a tower and carefully shut away on the topmost floor, and him to be careful of his guards, so as always to be lawful in ordering them to act. If he transgresses, they say he is punished greatly by not giving him food. Kerasous, a colony of the people of Sinope, off of which lies a desert island called the island of Ares.

(914) The Tibarenians are the neighbouring people (ethnos), very eager to laugh by any means, having judged this to be the greatest happiness. Amisos, which lies in the land of the Leukosyrians (White-Syrians), is a colony of the Phokaians, settled four years earlier than the Ionic foundation of Herakleia. By this city is the narrowest neck of Asia, stretching to the Issian gulf and to Alexandroupolis, founded by the Macedonians. The road to Cilicia is seven full days from here. For this part of Asia is said to be the most isthmus-like, constricted to the deepest part of the gulf. Herodotos seems to have been ignorant in saying that from Cilicia for a well-built man it was a five-day road to reach Pontus.

[Southern and central Asia Minor]

(931) The peninsula has fifteen peoples in all, of which three are Greek – Aiolian, Ionian and Doric – the rest of them are barbarian apart from those who are a mixture of both Greek and barbarian. The Cilicians and the Lycians and in addition the Carians and the Mariandynians live by the shore, as well as the Paphlagonians and Pamphylians. Inland are the Chalybians and the Cappadocians near them who live in Pisidia, and the Lydians and next to them the Mysians and Phrygians.

[Northern Asia Minor]

(940) Then Sinope, a city named for one of the Amazons, whose village was nearby. Once, as they say, it was settled by noble Syrians, but after them by Greeks who went over against the Amazons, Autolykos and Phlogios with Deileon, who were Thessalians, and then Abrondas a Milesian by descent. He seems to have been killed by the Kimmerians. After the Kimmerians, Koos, and again Kretines, who were fugitives from the Milesian borders, and they settled it after the Kimmerian army descended on Asia.

(953) On the far shore opposite Karambis [perhaps modern Fakas, Turkey] lies a great high mountain going steeply to the sea, called Kriou metopon (Ram’s forehead), a night and day’s sail distant from Karambis. They say Phineas ruled these places, the son of the Tyrian Phoinix. In later times a fleet of Milesians came down from Ionia to settle these cities, which later came together to Amastris, who founded in these places a city of that name, Amastris. It is related that there was a daughter of Oxyathros the Persian who became wife of Dionysios the tyrant of Herakleia.

(868) Parthenios… this river is navigable with a very gentle flow. In it is said to be a famous bath of Artemis. Next is Herakleia, a foundation of the Boiotians and Megarians. Setting out from Greece they built it inside the Kyanean rocks when Cyrus was sovereign of Media. (976) Sangarios . . . This river from the parts beyond the Thynai and Phryges is said to flow out by Thynis. Hypius: on it is the city called Prusias.

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