Classics Strabo
by
Duane W. Roller
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 June 2016
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389661-0230

Introduction

Strabo of Amaseia (c. 62 BCE–24 CE) is known today as the author of the seventeen-book Geography (more properly Geographika), the sole surviving work of its genre in Greek literature, and one of the longest works extant in the Greek language. As a Hellenistic polymath, Strabo wrote other works, including a general history, a study of Alexander the Great, and perhaps a Homeric commentary, none of which has survived in any detail. Yet it is the Geography on which his reputation rests. All that is known about Strabo is from autobiographical notices within the Geography. He was from Amaseia in Pontos, was educated in Nysa in Karia, and eventually came to Rome and became attached to Aelius Gallus, who was the second prefect of Egypt in the 20s BCE. He traveled widely, ending up either back in Amaseia or nearby Pontic Caesarea. He worked on the Geography during much of his life and probably died shortly after 23 or 24 CE, the date of the last material in the work. In its seventeen books, the Geography covers the topography of the known world, from the Iberian Peninsula to India, north to the Arctic, and south to the Indian Ocean. Several thousand places are named. It opens with a history of geography, from the time of Homer to Strabo’s own era, with extensive paraphrases of his geographic predecessors, most notably Eratosthenes of Kyrene (the inventor of the discipline), Hipparchos of Nikaia, Polybios, and Poseidonios. Explorers such as Pytheas of Massalia and Eudoxos of Kyzikos are also examined. It is no exaggeration to say that in the early 21st century, virtually nothing would be known about these personalities, or the history of Greek geography, were it not for the material in Strabo’s treatise. The Geography is a complex, rambling, and discursive work. In addition to contemporaneous geography and the history of the discipline, there are lengthy sections on Homeric criticism, linguistics, cultic history, and the history of Anatolia in the 1st century BCE. To some extent it is an autobiographical memoir, and it contains unique information about major personalities of Strabo’s era, such as Kleopatra VII, Pompeius the Great, and Marcus Antonius. Many unusual words are scattered throughout the treatise. The work is difficult to understand, but the fact remains that without the Geography, comprehension and understanding of the late Hellenistic world would be much more difficult.

The Life of Strabo

Nothing is known about the life of Strabo beyond the information that he provided in his Geography, which, to be sure, is substantial, as outlined in Honigmann 1931. His name is rare, and it is by no means clear whether it is a Greek personal name (examples documented in Fraser and Matthews 1987–) or a Roman cognomen. But it is most likely that “Strabo” was his adopted Roman name and that his birth name remains unknown, issues explored in Pothecary 1999. He was born in Amaseia, in Pontos, in the 60s BCE, about the time that the last pre-Roman king of the region, Mithridates VI, committed suicide. Probably due to the regime change and the advent of Roman control, his family immigrated to Nysa in Karia, an important intellectual and cultural center, where Strabo embarked on a thorough education that included training in the popular Stoicism of the 1st century BCE, as shown in Laurent 2008 and Clarke 1997. By 44 BCE he was in Rome, and in time he became attached to Aelius Gallus, the second prefect of Egypt, whose tenure of office was probably 27–24 BCE. There are few other datable moments in Strabo’s career, but by his own account he traveled throughout the eastern portion of the Mediterranean world (everywhere from Italy eastward). There is no specific evidence as to a professional career, but a particular interest in mining may indicate a possibility. Nevertheless, his life, however lacking in known detail, was typical of the educated Greek in the 1st century BCE and the early 1st century CE, a context explored in Bowersock 1965. He began work on the Geography after writing his history and other works, perhaps in the 20s BCE, and continued with it until his death, sometime shortly after 24 CE. Where he spent his last years is uncertain; perhaps his hometown of Amaseia, or the capital of the new Pontic kingdom of his era, Caesarea (formerly Kabeira), where Queen Pythodoris became his patroness (Braund 2005). Full studies of the career of Strabo are rare, and despite the biographical data the geographer himself provided, modern scholars are generally less interested in Strabo the personality than in details of the Geography itself. An exception to this is Dueck 2000.

  • Bowersock, Glen W. 1965. Augustus and the Greek world. Oxford: Clarendon.

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    The seminal study of the world in which Strabo operated, and the interactions between Greek scholars and the new Roman regime that came into power in 30 BCE.

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    • Braund, David. 2005. Polemo, Pythodoris, and Strabo. In Roms auswärtige Freunde in der späten Republik und im frühen Prinzipat. Edited by Altay Coksun, 253–270. Göttinger Forum für Altertumswissenschaft 19. Göttingen, Germany: Ruprecht.

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      A precise study of the relationship between Strabo and his probable patron, the dynamic queen of Pontos, who came to the throne in 8 BCE, survived for the rest of Strabo’s life, and may have implemented his scholarship.

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      • Clarke, Katherine. 1997. In search of the author of Strabo’s Geography. Journal of Roman Studies 87:92–110.

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        A discussion of Strabo and the personality and world that allowed him to produce the Geography.

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        • Dueck, Daniela. 2000. Strabo of Amaseia: A Greek man of letters in Augustan Rome. London: Routledge.

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          The first English study of the life and career of Strabo. Although somewhat out of date, it remains an important piece of Strabonian scholarship.

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          • Fraser, Peter M., and Elaine Matthews, eds. 1987–. A lexicon of Greek personal names. 7 vols. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

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            This work is significant because it provides all the evidence for people named “Strabo” and thus allows placement of the geographer within the onomastic traditions of the late Hellenistic world.

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            • Honigmann, Ernst. 1931. Strabon von Amaseia (#3). In Realencyclopädie der classischen Altertumswissenschaft. 2d ser. Vol. 4A, Part 7, Stoa–symposion. Edited by Georg Wissowa, 76–155. Stuttgart: Metzler.

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              Although nearly a century old, this discusses all aspects of the geographer and his work; it remains an exhaustive and thorough study and continues to be valuable in the early 21st century.

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              • Laurent, Jérôme. 2008. Strabon et la philosophie stoïcienne. In Special issue: Diderot philosophe. Archives de Philosophie 71.1: 111–127.

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                Strabo’s education as a Stoic was an essential part of his identity and pervades the Geography. Laurent discusses the evidence for this part of his career and personality.

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                • Pothecary, Sarah. 1999. Strabo the geographer: His name and its meaning. Mnemosyne, 4th ser. 52.6: 691–704.

                  DOI: 10.1163/1568525991518366Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                  A discussion of the significance of Strabo’s name, and how it reveals his position in the world in which he functioned.

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                  Strabo’s Ancestry and Family

                  Because of the autobiographical data provided in the Geography, it is remarkably easy to construct Strabo’s ancestry, back through four generations to the latter part of the 2nd century BCE, as outlined in Roller 2014. This is more than of idle interest, since it is some of the best documentation on the fortunes of an aristocratic family in the Greek world during the years of the advent of Roman control (Cassia 2000). Strabo’s family had been in the service of the kings of Pontos for several generations: his great-great-grandfather Dorylaos and his brother Philetairos were associates of Mithridates V Euergetes, who ruled between 152 and 120 BCE. Dorylaos was sent to Crete by the king to enlist mercenaries and remained there after the king died, marrying and having children, including Lagetas, Strabo’s great-grandfather. Dorylaos’s nephew, also named Dorylaos, was the only ancestor mentioned in sources other than the Geography, becoming secretary to the new king, Mithridates VI, and priest at the famous sanctuary of Pontic Komana, an office that carried royal privileges. He remained in the service of the king until he was killed at Kabeira in 71 BCE. McGing 1986 outlines how the Mithridatic dynasty tangled with Rome and the fortunes of Mithridates VI began to deteriorate. Strabo’s great-grandfather Lagetas played the king and the Romans against each other, suggesting that he would lead a pro-Roman revolt in return for being made ruler of Pontos. This did not happen, but it affected the further status of the family and perhaps was the reason that they had to leave Amaseia when the Mithridatic dynasty collapsed. Another important member of Strabo’s family was Moaphernes, the geographer’s granduncle, who was the Mithridatic governor of Colchis and a naval commander during the wars with Rome; he vanishes from the historical record after the fall of the dynasty. Strabo’s grandfather—not named by the geographer—also revolted from the king, capturing fifteen fortresses, but Richards 1941 notes that he never received recognition for his services because of increasing tension between the various Roman commanders, perhaps another reason that the family left Pontos. Although the record is incomplete, and one must allow for a certain amount of familial exaggeration, nevertheless the family of Strabo demonstrates how a prosperous family coped with the unstable political events of north-central Anatolia in the latter 2nd century and early 1st century BCE, when significant changes in government and policy were taking place, issues explored in Sullivan 1990. Attempts to end up on the winning side and even to play either side against the other were unsuccessful, and the survivors, including young Strabo, had to leave Pontos after 62 BCE, as Bowersock 2005 explains.

                  • Bowersock, Glen W. 2005. La patria di Strabone. In Strabone e l’Asia Minore. Edited by Anna Maria Biraschi and Giovanni Salmieri, 15–23. Studi di Storia e di Storiografia. Göttingen, Germany: Edizione Scientifiche Italiane.

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                    The most detailed and important study of Strabo’s family, and its important role in the events of the era.

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                    • Cassia, Margherita. 2000. La famiglia di Strabone di Amaseia tra fedeltà mitridatica e tendenze filoromane. Mediterraneo Antico 3:211–237.

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                      An examination of the geographer’s family, with a good discussion of the attempts to choose the winning side in a difficult era.

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                      • McGing, Brian C. 1986. The foreign policy of Mithridates VI Eupator, king of Pontus. Mnemosyne, Bibliotheca Classica Batava, Supplementum 89. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill.

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                        Although not directed specifically toward Strabo or his family, this is the best treatment of the final years of the Mithridatic dynasty, in which the ancestors of Strabo played such an important role.

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                        • Richards, G. C. 1941. Strabo: The Anatolian who failed of Roman recognition. Greece and Rome 10.29: 79–90.

                          DOI: 10.1017/S0017383500007282Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                          An examination of the convoluted issues of Strabo’s attempts to win recognition within the Roman elite.

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                          • Roller, Duane W., ed. and trans. 2014. The Geography of Strabo. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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                            The most recent and thorough discussion of Strabo’s life and career, with special attention to his ancestry, in the context of a new English translation of the Geography.

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                            • Sullivan, Richard D. 1990. Near Eastern royalty and Rome, 100–30 BC. Toronto: Univ. of Toronto Press.

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                              The essential work on dynastic politics within the indigenous kingdoms of Anatolia during the period of Strabo’s known ancestors.

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                              The Geography: General Discussion

                              The Geography of Strabo defies analysis. It is a complex and lengthy work that includes many topics other than geography, and thus it is often easy to lose sight of the treatise as a complete and organic composition. Most of the modern literature on the work is about specific parts, issues, or toponymic matters. There has been little analysis of it as a whole (Thomson 1965). The treatise consists of seventeen books, making it one of the longest extant pieces of Greek literature. The first two books are basically a history of geography (see the History of Geography), and the remaining fifteen are a topographical survey, highly digressive, of the known work, moving in a clockwise fashion from the Iberian Peninsula, across Europe, around the Black Sea, through Anatolia, east to the Iranian plateau and India, and then west through Egypt and North Africa. It is very much a work of its era: Strabo began to write at the beginning of the Augustan Age, completing the treatise in the first decade of the reign of Tiberius. Aujac 1966 and Clarke 1999 examine how he was strongly connected with issues of his time, not only intellectual ones but the cultural situation of the emergent Augustan era and the attempts by Greek scholars to relate to the new Roman world. Engels 2013 and Irby 2012 reveal how he built on existing Hellenistic models of geographical scholarship, such as the work of Eratosthenes and Poseidonios, but related them to the Roman world, as noted in Engels 1999, serving the dual purpose of telling Greeks about Rome and Romans about Greece. There is a certain tension in Strabo’s purpose, since his family had suffered with the Roman advent in Anatolia, but afterward he profited from a life within the Roman world. The new Roman regime needed to establish its credibility—both culturally and literally—and the Geography was an important element in this purpose, just as Augustan poetry and history served similar roles. The Geography became a literary representation of the physical extent of the Roman world, verbally mapping the new regime. Nevertheless, what most affects the modern reader is the wealth of toponyms within the Geography, over four thousand in all, many of which are mentioned nowhere else. To see the work as essentially toponymic, while inevitable, is perhaps misleading, as it is much more—in essence a thorough discussion of the inhabited world as it was known in the first decades of the 1st century CE.

                              • Aujac, Germaine. 1966. Strabon et la science de son temps. Collection d’Études Anciennes. Paris: Les Belles Lettres.

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                                The most complete discussion of the place of the Geography in the scientific world of its era.

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                                • Clarke, Katherine. 1999. Between geography and history: Hellenistic constructions of the Roman world. Oxford Classical Monographs. Oxford: Clarendon.

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                                  This volume is devoted to the role of Hellenistic scholarship in creating the Roman world, including the part that Strabo played.

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                                  • Engels, Johannes. 1999. Augusteische Oikumenegeographie und Universalhistorie im Werk Strabons von Amaseia. Geographica Historica 12. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag.

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                                    A broad view of Strabo’s role in creating a geography and a history that was suitable for the Augustan understanding of the inhabited world.

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                                    • Engels, Johannes. 2013. Kulturgeographie im Hellenismus: Die Rezeption des Eratosthenes und Poseidonios durch Strabon in den Geographika. In Vermessung der Oikumene. Edited by Klaus Geus and Michael Rathmann, 87–99. Topoi 14. Berlin: De Gruyter.

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                                      A demonstration of how Strabo built on his Greek predecessors, especially Eratosthenes and Poseidonios, in establishing the definitive view of geography in the new Roman world.

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                                      • Irby, Georgia L. 2012. Mapping the world: Greek initiatives from Homer to Eratosthenes. In Ancient perspectives: Maps and their place in Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece, and Rome. Edited by Richard J. A. Talbert, 81–107. Kenneth Nebenzahl Jr. Lectures in the History of Cartography. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

                                        DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226789408.003.0004Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                        A essential background work on the issue of Greek mapping in the era previous to Strabo, necessary for understanding the environment upon which the Geography was built.

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                                        • Thomson, J. Oliver. 1965. History of ancient geography. New York: Biblio and Tannen.

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                                          Long the standard handbook on ancient geography (although somewhat outdated and superseded now), it is an intensive study of Strabo and his predecessors. Originally published in 1948 and reprinted as recently as 2013 (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press).

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                                          Editions, Translations, and Reception of the Geography

                                          The Geography is essentially complete today, although the last portions of Book 7 were lost in Late Antiquity and there are numerous gaps in the text, mostly obscure toponyms. It survives in about thirty manuscripts, including a fragmentary palimpsest from the 5th century CE and a full manuscript (except for the missing portions noted above) from the 10th century CE. Landfester, et al. 2009 contends that the editio princeps was the Aldine of 1516, although a Latin translation had appeared in 1469. The first edition to establish a solid text of the Geography was Aly 1957–1972, which makes use of the palimpsest for the first time. Wolfgang Aly’s commentary was never completed, however, and it fell to Stefan Radt (Radt 2002–2011) to create the full definitive text of the work. Radt also provided the first complete commentary on the Geography (in German), more oriented toward philological issues than topography and history. Also useful is the Budé edition, Aujac, et al. 2003, in Greek and French with a solid commentary, although lacking Books 13–16. For many years the definitive English translation has been the Loeb Classical Library version, Strabo 1917–1932, which, although still widely used, has become increasingly obsolete and does not have the advantage of the palimpsest. This however has been replaced by a new translation, Roller 2014, which is based on Radt’s definitive text (Radt 2002–2011). Diller 1954 and Diller 1975 are also of use in understanding Strabo’s reception since Antiquity: the earlier work examines the scholia on the Geography, which are significant but not of major importance, and the latter provides a full account of the textual tradition of the Geography.

                                          • Aly, Wolfgang, ed. 1957–1972. Strabonis Géographica. 3 vols. Bonn, Germany: Rudolf Habelt.

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                                            The first edition of the Geography to establish a good text, by using the palimpsest.

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                                            • Aujac, Germaine, Raoul Baladié, and François Lasserre, eds. and trans. 2003. Géographie. 9 vols. 2d ed. Collection des Universités de France. Paris: Les Belles Lettres.

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                                              An edition with French translation and excellent commentary, but only covering Books 1–12.

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                                              • Diller, Aubrey. 1954. The scholia on Strabo. Traditio 10:29–50.

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                                                The only analysis of the various scholia to the Geography.

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                                                • Diller, Aubrey. 1975. The textual tradition of Strabo’s Geography. Amsterdam: Hakkert.

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                                                  A full account of the history of the text of the Geography, including a discussion of the manuscript tradition.

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                                                  • Landfester, Manfred, Brigitte Egger, Tina Jerke, and Volker Dallman, eds. 2009. Brill’s new Pauly: Dictionary of Greek and Latin authors and texts. Translated by Tina Jerke and Volker Dallman. Neue Pauly, Supplemente 2. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill.

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                                                    An essential account of the history of the text, including editions and translations.

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                                                    • Radt, Stefan, ed. and trans. 2002–2011. Strabons Geographika: Mit Übersetzung und Kommentar. Göttingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht.

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                                                      The definitive Greek text of the Geography, with a German translation and commentary.

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                                                      • Roller, Duane W., ed. and trans. 2014. The Geography of Strabo. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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                                                        The latest translation of the work into English, on the basis of the definitive text established by Radt.

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                                                        • Strabo. 1917–1932. Geography. 8 vols. Translated by Horace Leonard Jones. Loeb Classical Library 49–50, 182, 196, 211, 223, 241, 267. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press.

                                                          DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.strabo-geography.1917Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                          The definitive Loeb Classical Library edition, now very much outdated both in text and translation.

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                                                          The History of Geography

                                                          One of the most important aspects of the Geography is the outline of the history of the discipline that comprises Books 1 and 2 of the treatise. Without this summary, practically nothing would be known about how the discipline of geography developed, and what the primary sources are for its history. As a Homeric scholar, Strabo believed that Homer was the first geographer, but, more importantly, he summarized the major predecessors in the discipline, beginning with Eratosthenes, of the 3rd century BCE, who invented the study of geography as well as the word “geography” (geographia) itself. In two treatises, the Measurement of the Earth and the Geographika, Eratosthenes established the basic tenets of geography as an academic discipline, as discussed in Roller 2010, not only setting its terminology but creating base lines that ran east–west and north–south across the inhabited world, thereby creating a potential grid on which every known place could be located, and which could be extended into parts of the world that had hardly been reached by Greek travelers, such as sub-Saharan Africa. This made it possible to define the limits of the known world. In his Measurement of the Earth Eratosthenes determined the size of the world (252,000 stadia) and was able to locate the inhabited portions on the globe of the earth itself. Eratosthenes’ works survive only in fragments, most of which are preserved in the Geography of Strabo. The major flaw in Eratosthenes’ methodology was that by necessity he relied on information received from travelers, and in the 2nd century BCE Hipparchos of Nikaia, whose text is outlined in Dicks 1960, pointed out this problem in his Against the Geography of Eratosthenes—again, modern knowledge of this work is almost solely through the fragments preserved by Strabo—and suggested that astronomical calculation was the only possible way accurately to determine the position of places. With Eratosthenes and Hipparchos, the basic methodology of the discipline of geography had been established. Other geographical predecessors are essentially known only through Strabo’s recension of their works. These include Pytheas of Massalia, whose text was published in Roseman 1994, who was the first and only Greek to reach the Arctic and to view the phenomena of the Far North, in the latter 4th century BCE, and his contemporary Dikaiarchos of Messana, who anticipated Eratosthenes in rudimentary attempts to define the inhabited world: the fragments of his geography were published in Keyser 2001. Polybios, better known as a historian, traveled widely and perhaps was the first Greek to reach the equator, in the 140s BCE, as Walbank 1947 shows. Poseidonios of Apameia, Krates of Mallos, and Artemidoros of Ephesos are other significant geographical scholars whose fragments are preserved in Strabo’s Geography; editions of their works include Kidd 1989, Broggiato 2002, and Engels 2009.

                                                          • Broggiato, Maria, ed. 2002. Cratete di Mallo: I fragmenti. Pleiadi 2. La Spezia, Italy: Agorà Edizioni.

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                                                            Krates of Mallos was a polymath whose geographical thoughts, including the creation of the first globe, are analyzed in this work. This is the only modern complete edition of his work.

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                                                            • Dicks, D. R., ed. 1960. The geographical fragments of Hipparchus. University of London Classical Studies. London: Athlone.

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                                                              The only collection and analysis of this important treatise, which critiques the work of Eratosthenes.

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                                                              • Engels, Johannes. 2009. Artemidoros of Ephesos and Strabo of Amasia. In Intorno al Papiro di Artemidoro: II, Geografia e cartografia; Atti del convegno internazionale del 27 novembre 2009 presso la Società Geografica Italiana, Roma. Edited by Claudio Gallazzi, Bärbel Kramer, and Salvatore Settis, 139–155. Colloquium. Milan: LED.

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                                                                Artemidoros of Ephesos, active around 100 BCE, was a major source for Strabo in his analysis of the toponyms of the Hellenistic world, and this is the only modern critique of his work.

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                                                                • Keyser, Paul T. 2001. The geographical work of Dikaiarchos. In Dicaearchus of Messana: Text, translation, and discussion. Edited by William W. Fortenbaugh and Eckhart Schütrumpf, 253–272. Rutgers University Studies in Classical Humanities 10. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction.

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                                                                  A collation and analysis of the geographical fragments of Dikaiarchos, who anticipated Eratosthenes and established the east–west baseline of the inhabited world.

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                                                                  • Kidd, Ian G., ed. 1989. Posidonius. Vol. 1, The fragments. Cambridge Classical Texts and Commentaries 13. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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                                                                    A complete study of all the known surviving material of this Hellenistic polymath that includes all his known geographical fragments, most of which were preserved by Strabo.

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                                                                    • Roller, Duane W. 2010. Eratosthenes’ Geography. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press.

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                                                                      The only modern collection of the fragments of Eratosthenes’ seminal work, which established the discipline and its terminology.

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                                                                      • Roseman, Christina Horst, ed. and trans. 1994. Pytheas of Massalia: On the ocean. Chicago: Ares.

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                                                                        The only existing collection and analysis of this major explorer, who is hardly known outside of Strabo’s Geography.

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                                                                        • Walbank, Frank W. 1947. The geography of Polybius. Classica et Mediaevalia 9:155–182.

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                                                                          An analysis of the geographical scholarship of Polybios, who was better known as a historian.

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                                                                          Broad Regions Covered by the Geography

                                                                          The fifteen topographical regions covered by the Geography are ordered in a clockwise direction (with one exception) around the known world, beginning with the Iberian Peninsula and Keltic world (Books 3–4). Following are Italy and Sicily (Books 5–6), the northern and eastern parts of the known world, as far as the remotest parts of the Black Sea (Book 7), the Greek peninsula (Books 8–10), Anatolia and the regions east of the Black Sea (Books 11–14), the Far East (Books 15–16), and Egypt and North Africa (Book 17). At the very end of the circuit the strict clockwise orientation is broken: after discussing Egypt, Strabo jumped to the Atlantic coast of North Africa and then headed back east to the Egyptian frontier, perhaps in order to end the Geography at the Kyrenaika, the home of Eratosthenes, the inventor of the discipline of geography. It is perhaps inevitable that modern scholars have looked at the Geography in terms of these broad geographical regions. Biffi 1988, Biffi 1999, Biffi 2002, and Biffi 2005 are a series of useful volumes on the Italian, African, and eastern books. The early-21st-century excavations at Troy, which have revealed the Hellenistic and Roman city, have led to Charles Rose’s excellent critique (Rose 2014) of Greek and Roman Troy, which is broader than its title implies, covering much of the western Troad; since Strabo is the primary literary source for the topic, the work by necessity is an analysis of his account of the Troad in Book 13, one of the longest parts of the Geography. The study of Greek literature on India in Karttunen 1989 is the best discussion of perhaps the most enigmatic book of the Geography. An important regional study is Wallace 1979, which brings an intensive topographical analysis to a particular area, Boiotia. Given Strabo’s Homeric studies, the region was examined in great detail. Needless to say, these regional studies do not cover all the areas examined by Strabo, and while there are other commentaries on the whole (or most) of the Geography (see Editions, Translations, and Reception of the Geography), other broad regions covered in the work await their detailed analyses.

                                                                          • Biffi, Nicola. 1988. L’Italia di Strabone: Testo, traduzione e commento dei libri V e VI della Geografia. Genoa, Italy: Università di Genova.

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                                                                            A thorough discussion of Books 5 and 6 of the Geography.

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                                                                            • Biffi, Nicola. 1999. L’Africa di Strabone: Libro XVII della Geografia: Introduzione, traduzione e commento. Quaderni di “Invigilata Lucernis” 7. Modugno, Italy: Edizioni dal Sud.

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                                                                              The most thorough analysis of Book 17 of the Geography, which ranges from Egypt across North Africa to the Atlantic.

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                                                                              • Biffi, Nicola. 2002. Il Medio Oriente di Strabone: Libro XVI della Geografia. Quaderni di “Invigilata Lucernis” 19. Bari, Italy: Edipuglia.

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                                                                                Book 16 of the Geography, extending from Mesopotamia and Arabia to India, is examined in this commentary.

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                                                                                • Biffi, Nicola. 2005. L’Estremo Oriente di Strabone: Libro XV della Geografia. Quaderni di “Invigilata Lucernis” 26. Bari, Italy: Edipuglia.

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                                                                                  A commentary on an enigmatic region covered by the Geography, in Book 15: India, an area difficult to understand.

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                                                                                  • Karttunen, Klaus. 1989. India in early Greek literature. Studia Orientalia 65. Helsinki: Finnish Oriental Society.

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                                                                                    Although a broad study of all discussions of India in Greek literature, this work is the most thorough in English regarding Strabo’s account of the region.

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                                                                                    • Rose, Charles Brian. 2014. The archaeology of Greek and Roman Troy. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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                                                                                      Despite its title, this work emphasizes the evidence provided by Strabo for the western Troad, a region covered in detail.

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                                                                                      • Wallace, Paul W. 1979. Strabo’s description of Boiotia: A commentary. Bibliothek der Klassischen Altertumswissenschaften, 2d ser. 65. Heidelberg, Germany: Carl Winter.

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                                                                                        A fine example of a regional study, in this case of a district that Strabo examined in detail.

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                                                                                        Toponyms of the Geography

                                                                                        The modern reader of the Geography will be most struck by the vast number of toponyms that pervade the work, several thousand in number, of which hundreds are unique. Somewhat over 2,500 of these can be identified and are available on a map produced by the Ancient World Mapping Center (Map of the Toponyms in the Geography of Strabo), the first attempt to represent visually the entire world of Strabo on a single map. Other studies are available for particular regions discussed by the geographer, but as yet there is no comprehensive topographical study of the places mentioned in the Geography. Leaf 1923 is a rare example of one devoted specifically to Strabonic topography, which makes it of use despite its age (see also Wallace 1979, cited under Broad Regions Covered by the Geography). Many works on the topography of the Greco-Roman world are heavily oriented on Strabo’s Geography, such as Simpson and Lazenby 1970, which uses the data in the treatise to locate sites mentioned in the Homeric Catalogue of Ships. The multivolume series on the topography of the Greek mainland by W. Kendrick Pritchett (Pritchett 1965–1992) is indirectly a critique of toponyms in Strabo’s Books 8–10. In a similar vein, an analysis of Greek overseas settlements, Boardman 1980, relies extensively on the data provided by Strabo. Egyptian toponyms are a major part of Yoyette and Charvet 1997, and Dirkzwager 1975 examines the toponyms of Narbonese Gaul. Most of the works cited under Broad Regions Covered by the Geography also have major topographical analyses.

                                                                                        • Ancient World Mapping Center. Map of the toponyms in the geography of Strabo.

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                                                                                          The only complete visual representation of the toponyms of the Geography, presented in a single format with online indexing.

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                                                                                          • Boardman, John. 1980. The Greeks overseas: Their early colonies and trade. New and enlarged ed. London: Thames and Hudson.

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                                                                                            A study of Greek overseas settlement (beyond the Greek peninsula), which relies heavily on the data provided by Strabo.

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                                                                                            • Dirkzwager, Arie. 1975. Strabo über Gallia Narbonensis. Studies of the Dutch Archaeological and Historical Society 6. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill.

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                                                                                              A topographic study of the region of Narbonese Gaul (along the Mediterranean coast) as presented in the Geography.

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                                                                                              • Leaf, Walter, ed. and trans. 1923. Strabo on the Troad: Book XIII, cap. 1. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                Although from the 1920s, this remains the only study devoted specifically to Strabo’s topography of the Troad.

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                                                                                                • Pritchett, W. Kendrick. 1965–1992. Studies in ancient Greek topography. 8 vols. University of California Publications, Classical Studies. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

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                                                                                                  As essential study of various problems in the topography of mainland Greece, which makes extensive use of Strabo’s Geography.

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                                                                                                  • Simpson, R. Hope, and J. F. Lazenby. 1970. The catalogue of ships in Homer’s Iliad. Oxford: Clarendon.

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                                                                                                    An examination of the many toponyms in the Homeric Catalogue of Ships, which necessarily makes extensive use of Strabo’s data.

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                                                                                                    • Yoyette, Jean, and Pascal Charvet. 1997. Strabon: Le voyage en Egypte: Un regard romain. Le Cabinet de Curiosités. Paris: NiL Éditions.

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                                                                                                      The only published account of Strabo’s topography of Egypt.

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                                                                                                      The Purpose of the Geography

                                                                                                      The Geography is a complex and difficult work that discusses many topics in addition to geography. The purpose of the work—beyond the obvious need to recount the history of geographical scholarship and the topography of the inhabited world—can often be an elusive subject. Yet, Strabo ended the treatise with an important analysis of the division of the world into Roman provinces and allied kingdoms, essentially on the basis of the situation in the 20s BCE but with some of the changes over the following half century. This demonstrates that Augustan policy was an essential part of the work (Engels 1999, Lasserre 1982). The lengthy gestation of the Geography, over a period that saw great changes in the Mediterranean world, means that its purpose could have altered as Strabo wrote, and there is evidence throughout of material that had become obsolete by the time Strabo finished the work, but which was not updated. Nevertheless, it is clear that a primary goal in writing the Geography was to present a geographical analysis of the state of the world in Strabo’s time—the era of Augustus and the first decade of Tiberius—perhaps following the model of the histories of Polybios, himself an important geographical author and one of Strabo’s most quoted sources, which Braund 2006 shows. But Strabo was by no means an apologist for Roman power: he criticized policy more than once, especially in regard to what had happened to his family in Anatolia. Yet, the Geography was written both for Greek and Roman readers. Moreover, it was probably the first geographical work with a semipopular audience in mind: earlier treatises, such as those of Eratosthenes and Hipparchos, were technical and oriented toward specialists. For Greeks, Strabo could tell of the rise of Rome and the topography of the Italian peninsula and also describe the western portions of Europe that might be unfamiliar to them. Engels 2006 shows how he could remind his Roman audience that Rome would not have achieved its state of power without the cultural assistance of the Greek world: he was careful to mention over two hundred important Greeks from Anatolia who created the intellectual brilliance of that part of the world and, to all intents and purposes, made Rome what it was. In fact, the Geography is one of the best sources for the relationship of Greek intellectual culture to Roman political leaders in the 1st century BCE. As a rare Greek scholar who was fluent in Latin—see Kaimio 1979—Strabo was able to effectively straddle both worlds and to make it clear that Greece—especially Anatolia, his home region—had made the Roman Empire what it was.

                                                                                                      • Braund, David. 2006. Greek geography and Roman Empire: The transformation of tradition in Strabo’s Euxine. In Strabo’s cultural geography: The making of a Kolossourgia. Edited by Daniela Dueck, Hugh Lindsay, and Sarah Pothecary, 216–234. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                        Although limited to the Black Sea area, this is an essential study of how the Geography reflected Roman policy in the region that Strabo knew best.

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                                                                                                        • Engels, Johannes. 1999. Augusteische Oikumenegeographie und Universalhistorie im Werk Strabons von Amaseia. Geographica Historica 12. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag.

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                                                                                                          An analysis of how the Geography fulfills certain policy issues of the Augustan world as they relate to geography.

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                                                                                                          • Engels, Johannes. 2006. Ἄνδρες ἔνδοξοι or “men of high reputation” in Strabo’s Geography. In Strabo’s cultural geography: The making of a Kolossourgia. Edited by Daniela Dueck, Hugh Lindsay, and Sarah Pothecary, 129–143. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                            A study of the over two hundred Greek cultural figures mentioned in the Geography.

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                                                                                                            • Kaimio, Jorma. 1979. The Romans and the Greek language. Commentationes Humanarum Litterarum 64. Helsinki: Societas Scientiarum Fennica.

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                                                                                                              Although not primarily focused on Strabo alone, this is a examination of the relationship between Romans and the Greek language, an essential part of the Geography.

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                                                                                                              • Lasserre, François. 1982. Strabon devant l’Empire romain. Aufstieg und Niedergang der Römischen Welt, 2d ser. 30.1: 867–896.

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                                                                                                                A discussion of the place of Strabo (and his writings) within the Roman Empire.

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                                                                                                                Other Topics in the Geography

                                                                                                                One of the important aspects of the Geography is its wide range of subject material. In addition to the history of geography and the topographic circuit of the world, the treatise includes material on a large number of other topics that are only marginally geographical but add to knowledge of the Greco-Roman world of Strabo’s era. The treatise includes an extensive amount of scientific data, including material on the history of geology, hydrology, botany, and zoology (Aujac 1966). Because the original writings on these topics are not extant, the Geography becomes the primary source material; an example is the lost geological treatise of Xanthos of Lydia. Natural history is a particular topic of the work: many species of flora and fauna, some cited nowhere else, are recorded by Strabo, especially from Egypt (Cruz Andreotti 2009). Much the same can be said for food products. From numerous varieties of wine—some still available today—to the extinct spice silphium, the Geography is one of the major sources on ancient dining and drinking habits, and much of this is shown in Dalby 2003. The history of the 1st century BCE is an essential part of the Geography. It contains unique information about the culture of the era, especially in Anatolia: topics such as piracy—see de Souza 1999 for further information—and the structuring of the eastern Mediterranean world in the last years of the Roman civil war and the evolution of the Augustan era pervade the treatise. Kelly 2008 shows that much less would be known about the triumvir Marcus Antonius if the Geography were not extant. Cultic practices are always apparent; one of the more interesting sections, noted in Achille 2004, is the digression in Book 15 on Jewish religion, an important source for Greco-Roman views of the 1st century BCE on Moses and the history of Judaism. Even the autobiographical aspect of the treatise (see the Life of Strabo and Strabo’s Ancestry and Family) provides insights into the local culture of the world in which Strabo and his ancestors functioned. Moreover, Zambianchi 2000 demonstrates that his connections with Crete provided a reason for a lengthy discussion of the cultic history of the island. The Geography remains one of the most complex and diverse works of Greek literature, and the enormity of its topics continues to astound the modern reader.

                                                                                                                • Achille, Cinzia. 2004. Strabone e la storia giudaica: La progressiva corruzione della legge di Mosè. Sungraphe 6:89–105.

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                                                                                                                  The only modern study of Strabo’s account of Jewish religion, and the contemporaneous Greek view of Moses as lawgiver.

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                                                                                                                  • Aujac, Germaine. 1966. Strabon et la science de son temps. Collection d’Études Anciennes. Paris: Les Belles Lettres.

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                                                                                                                    A wide-ranging study of Strabo’s contribution to the sciences.

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                                                                                                                    • Cruz Andreotti, Gonzalo. 2009. La naturaleza histórica de la Geografía de Estrabón. Euphrosyne: Revista de Filologia Clássica 37:131–144.

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                                                                                                                      An important discussion of Strabo’s account of natural history that pervades the Geography.

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                                                                                                                      • Dalby, Andrew. 2003. Food in the ancient world from A to Z. Ancient World from A to Z. London: Routledge.

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                                                                                                                        The essential work on its topic, with many references to Strabo, especially demonstrative of his interest in wine and viniculture as well as many other culinary items.

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                                                                                                                        • de Souza, Philip. 1999. Piracy in the Graeco-Roman world. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                                          The definitive work on its topic, relying in part on the material in the Geography and discussing the role of piracy in the economy of the 1st century BCE.

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                                                                                                                          • Kelly, Benjamin. 2008. Dellius, the Parthian campaign, and the image of Mark Antony. Studies in Latin Literature and Roman History 14:209–234.

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                                                                                                                            An account of Antonius’s misbegotten Parthian campaign of 36 BCE, an important element in the history of the era that shaped the careers of many in the Greek world and Rome, and about which Strabo is a major source.

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                                                                                                                            • Zambianchi, Maria Teresa. 2000. Strabone e la storia locale cretese. Sungraphe 2:107–122.

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                                                                                                                              The only account of Strabo’s rendition of Cretan social and cultic history.

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                                                                                                                              Other Works by Strabo

                                                                                                                              Like most Hellenistic scholars, Strabo did not limit himself to a single work. Two others are cited within the Geography, and a close deconstruction of the treatise reveals evidence for a third. His Historical Commentaries, an astounding thirty-seven books long (over twice the length of the extant Geography), covered the period from the end of the partially extant history of Polybios (probably 146 BCE) to perhaps the end of the Roman civil war in the early 20s BCE (Roller 2008). Nineteen fragments survive, all from between 107 and 37 BCE. Over half of them come from the works of Flavius Josephus, who was particularly interested in Strabo’s information on the late Hellenistic Levant. It is difficult to determine the scope of the work, which must have been exceedingly detailed, but Strabo’s own statement in the Geography suggests that it may have been in the style of Polybios. A second work, The Deeds of Alexander, was mentioned by Strabo; Engels 1998 and Pedech 1974 point out that it is difficult to identify any specific fragments from this work, but there is an inordinate emphasis on Alexander the Great in the Geography, and much of the eastern portions of that work, discussing India, the Caspian region, and the Iranian plateau, is oriented on the travels of the king in a way that seems somewhat at odds with the broader topographical scope of the rest of the work. Bosworth 1980–1995 stresses that, as such, Strabo has provided some of the earliest extant material on Alexander. It is quite probable that Strabo also wrote a Homeric commentary, but no such specific work is mentioned in any source, although Kim 2007 provides much of the evidence. Nevertheless, Strabo was almost obsessively interested in Homeric topography, often to the point of distraction (he cited the poet over seven hundred times), and he was trained at the famous Homeric school of Nysa in Karia. His account of the Troad, especially, is more a Homeric commentary than a geography, and such an orientation is apparent elsewhere in the work. In addition, Strabo had a particular interest in cultic history—this is especially apparent in Book 10—and given that an ancestor was priest at the famous sanctuary of Pontic Komana, it is quite possible that he also wrote a separate work on cults, portions of which found their way into the Geography.

                                                                                                                              • Bosworth, A. B. 1980–1995. A historical commentary on Arrian’s history of Alexander. 2 vols. Oxford: Clarendon.

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                                                                                                                                Designed as a commentary on Arrian’s account of Alexander, nevertheless this work is also an important source for Strabo’s knowledge of the king and his deeds.

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                                                                                                                                • Engels, Johannes. 1998. Die Geschichte des Alexanderzuges und das Bild Alexanders des Grossen in Strabons Geographika: Zur Interpretation der augusteischen Kulturgeographie Strabons als Quelle seiner historischen Auffassungen. In Alexander der Grosse: Eine Welteroberung und Ihr Hintergrund; Vorträge des Internationalen Bonner Alexanderkolloquiums, 19.–21.12.1996. Edited by Wolfgang Will, 131–171. Antiquitas, Abhandlungen zur Alten Geschichte 46. Bonn, Germany: Rudolf Halbert.

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                                                                                                                                  The only detailed study of the evidence for Strabo as a historian of Alexander the Great.

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                                                                                                                                  • Kim, Lawrence. 2007. The portrait of Homer in Strabo’s Geography. Classical Philology 102.4: 363–388.

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                                                                                                                                    A thorough examination of Strabo as a Homeric scholar, and his approach to Homeric criticism within the Geography.

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                                                                                                                                    • Pedech, Paul. 1974. Strabon historien d’Alexandre. Grazer Beiträge 2:129–145.

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                                                                                                                                      A brief study of Strabo’s role as a historian of Alexander the Great.

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                                                                                                                                      • Roller, Duane W. 2008. Strabo of Amaseia (91). In Brill’s new Jacoby. Edited by Ian Worthington. Brill Online.

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                                                                                                                                        The only account of the fragments of Strabo’s Historical Commentaries, with original translation and full commentary.

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