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Visit of Pytheas to Germany and the Baltic.-Criticism by Strabo.-Summary of route.
- Pliny's northern geography.--Description of Germany by Tacitus. — The Gothones and Suiones.-The Northern Ocean.— The Amber Coast.-The Sitones. --Obligations of Tacitus to Greek writers. — Route of Pytheas.— Passage to Celtica.—The Ostians or Ostiones—Their mode of living.–The Cimbri.— The Chauci.- North Germany.—The Hercynian Forest-Its Fauna in the time of Pytheas. — The reindeer. – The elk.—The urus.--The aurochs. — The country of the Cimbri. — The Guttones. – The Amber Islands.-Extent of commerce in amber—Voyage to Thule.—Dis. coveries in the Arctic Circle.- Return to Britain.-Return to Marseilles-Character of Pytheas.
HE visit of Pytheas to Germany must always be in
teresting to those who regard the North Sea coasts as the true fatherland of the English people. It is besides of great historical importance, as being the source of all Greek knowledge of the countries beyond the Rhine, with the single exception of the travels of Posidonius, of which some fragments relating to Germany are extant. Even late in the first century after Christ the Romans were forced to rely mainly on the old geographers for information about the regions east of the Elbe, or, in other words, upon the works of Pytheas and his commentators.
Strabo indeed denied boldly that any Greek had penetrated east of the Elbe, and gave the reason for his belief. If they had sailed there, he said, the ships must have come out near the mouth of the “Caspian Sea,” which certainly had never happened. He concluded, therefore, that nothing was actually known of those parts of the world, and professed a complete ignorance of the nations who inhabited those northern lands, if, indeed, any people could inhabit a region of such terrible cold.
The general notions of Pytheas about the countries beyond the Rhine may be briefly summarized as follows, the details of his diary being reserved for closer examination after a notice of certain general statements in the works of Pliny and Tacitus.
A Celtic country, called “Germara,” or by some such name, stretched east from the Rhine to Scythia, and northwards from the "Orcynian forest" to the sea. The coast as far as the Elbe was occupied by the “Ostions,” or “Ostiæi”: next to them the Cimbri filled their famous Chersonesus: south and east of them dwelt their allies the Teutones. The Cimbric peninsula ran up to the mouth of an immense estuary or gulf, called “ Mentonomon," of which the southern shores were occupied by Scythian tribes called “Guttones," as far as the great river the Vistula, which seemed to be the same as the Tanais (which falls into the Sea of Azof): another great river was not unlike the Borysthenes. There were several islands near the Scythian shore and further out in the gulf, and also beyond its mouth an immense archipelago stretched from “Scania” to Cape Rubeas, the northern point of the world. By passing northwards from island to island a traveller would come to Thule, which might itself be an island, or might be
part of the unknown Scythian continent. In the neighbourhood of Thule was the Dead or Sluggish Sea, and further to the north a frozen or encrusted ocean,
1 The word “Germara” was applied to "a Celtic nation”
very soon after the return of Pytheas. See the false Aristotle's “Wonderful Stories,” De Mir. Ausc. 5, and Stephan. Byzant. sub voce “Germara.” Pytheas made the Don or Tanais the limit of his northern discoveries, but he seems to have doubted the identity of the Vistula and the Don. His follower, Timæus, distinctly said that the northern Tanais was unconnected with the Don (Diod. Sic. iv. 58). The summary given above is believed to
If we compare this sketch with Pliny's account of the Baltic, or with the more elaborate account of Germany by Tacitus, we shall find that a good deal of knowledge on the subject had been acquired in the first century of our era, which cannot fairly be said to have been borrowed from Pytheas.
Pliny was acquainted with the great range of mountains which separates Sweden from Norway. “Mount Sebo" (the classical name for the mountains in question), and the promontory of Jutland formed in his notion the horns which encircled a gigantic gulf, the Sinus Codanus; in which were scattered the Scandinavian islands. Scandia," he said, “is the most famous of these : one part of it alone contains five hundred settlements, and it seems like another world : then there is . Eningia,'' which is said to be about as large. People say, that from this point round to the Vistula the whole country is inhabited by Sarmatians and Wends: that there is a bay called Cylipenus, with an island at its mouth. Going west, one comes to the Bay of Lagnum, quite close to the Cimbric peninsula : the
promontory in which the peninsula ends is called Cartris ; it runs a long way into the sea, and is nearly cut off by the waters. On the other side of the promontory the islands
harmonize the fragments in which the voyage of Pytheas is mentioned : but those who are interested should consult Mannert's “Geographie," or the essays of Bessell and Lelewel on Pytheas, in each of which works there are slight variations from the theory adopted in the text.
1 “Eningia” is taken by Bessell (Uber Pytheas, 132), to be Zealand. It is called “ Epigia" by the Irish monk Dicuil. It is identified with Finland by Olaus Magnus, Hist. Septent. i. 2; and this seems to be most in accordance with Pliny's description. The accompanying map of the northern countries is taken from an early edition of Olaus Magnus.
2 The Liim Fjord. Cylipenus may be the Dantzic Frische Haf.
begin, of which twenty-three have been reached in the Roman wars, the best known being ‘Burchana,” which the soldiers called the Isle of Beans, from a vegetable which they found growing wild : another is Glessaria, or Amber Island, which the natives called Austrania ;' but the later Greeks have called all the islands from Jutland to the Rhine • Electrides,' or Amber Islands; and some say that there are others called Scandia, Dumni, and Bergi, and Nerigo, the largest of all, from which the voyage to Thule is made."
The description of the same countries by Tacitus is not so accurate in its details, but is perhaps more interesting. His account of “North Germany” is interspersed with several anecdotes of travellers and fragments of old Greek tradition. It is remarkable indeed that, though he was an intimate friend of the younger Pliny, Tacitus does not seem to have drawn upon the stores of information about Germany, which the elder naturalist had collected for a history of the German wars. And it is extremely doubtful whether Pliny the naturalist would have agreed with the details of the account which Tacitus received or compiled
concerning the origin and manners of the whole German nation." He includes in Germany all the countries lying north of the Danube and west of the line of the Vistula, as far as the Arctic regions : taking in Bohemia, Silesia, Poland, Pomerania, and a vast number of Slavonian districts besides, over an area about three times as large as that which is now allowed to the Teutonic stock. The case, indeed, is very much as if one should take the
1 The small portion which the sea has not swept away is called the Isle of Borkum.
2 The island of Ameland, off the coast of West Friesland.
modern German Empire, adding Poland and Bohemia and several neighbouring countries, and should proceed to describe the whole population as having exactly the same laws, customs, and physical appearance.
Tacitus wrote in much the same way of his " Germany," with its heterogeneous crowd of nations.
C. 1. “The German nations,” he said, “are divided from Gaul and the Alpine and Illyrian provinces by the Rhine and the Danube, and from the Sarmatian and Dacian tribes either by ranges of mountains or mutual fears of war. Their other boundary is the encircling ocean, which sweeps through broad gulfs and around islands of immense extent."
c. 4. “For myself I agree with those who hold that the peoples of Germany were never crossed with another race in marriage, and that they belong to no one but themselves, and are a pure stock unlike any other in the world. This is the reason that in such a vast multitude of men all have the same bodily character— fierce blue eyes and red hair, and stout bodies, good only for a charge : in fatigue and hard work they have not a corresponding endurance, and they are but little able to bear thirst or heat, though accustomed to cold and hunger by their climate or the nature of the soil.”
C. 44. “ Beyond the Lygians are the Gothones, who are ruled by kings a little more strictly than the other German nations, but yet not more than is consistent with freedom. Thence, turning from the
ocean, we come to the Rugians and Lemovians. And all these nations may be known by their round shields and short swords, and their loyalty towards their kings. And now in mid-ocean begin the states of the Suiones, whose strength lies in ships as well