Strabo (born c. 63 BC), Greek geographer and historian, was born at Amazia in Pontus, a city which had been much Hellenized, and was the royal residence of the kings of Pontus. We know nothing of his father’s family, but several of his mother’s relatives held important posts under Mithradates V. and VI. Some were of Hellenic, others of Asiatic origin, but Strabo himself was by lanugage and education thoroughly Greek. The date of his birth cannot be exactly determined, but from various indications in his work it seems to have been about 63 BC. He studied atNysa under the grammarian Aristodemus, under Tyrannio the grammarian at Rome, under the philosopher Xenarchus either at Rome or at Alexandria, and he had studied Aristotle along with Boethus (possibly at Rome under Tyrannio, who had access to the Aristotelian writings in Sulla’s library). He states that he saw P. Servilius Isauricus, who died at Rome in advanced years in 44 BC, form which it is inferred that he visited Rome early in life. He also tells us that he was at Gyaros (one of the Cyclades) when Augustus was at Corinth on his return to Rome from the East in 29 BC, and that he accompanied the prefect of Egypt, Aelius Gallus, on his expedition to Upper Egypt, which seems to have taken place in 25-24 BC. These are the only dates in his life which can be accurately fixed. The latest event mentinoed in his work is the death of Juba, king of Mauretania, which took place in AD 21.

Although he had seen a comparatively small portion of the regions which he describes, he had traveled much. As he states himself: "Westward I have journeyed to the parts of Etruria opposite Sardinia; towards the south, from the Euxine to the borders of Ethiopia; and perhaps not one of those who have written geographies has visited more places that I have between those limits." He tells us that he had seen Egypt as far south as Syene and Philae, Comana in Cappadocia, Ephesus, Mylasa, Nysa and Hierapolis in Phrygia, Hyarus and Popilopia. Of Greece proper he saw but little; it is by no means certain that even visited Athens. though he describes Corinth as an eyewitness, it is clear that he was never at Delphi, and was not aware that the ruins of Myceae still existed. He had seen Cyrene from the sea, probably on his voyage from Puteoli to Alexandria, where he remained a long time, probably amassing materials and studying astronomy and mathematics. For nowhere could he have had a better means of consulting the works of historians, geographers and astronomers, such as Eratosthenes, Posidonius, Hipparchus and Apollodorus. We cannot tell where his Geography was written, but it was at least finally revised between 17 and 23 AD, since we have historical allusions which can be dated to that time. Probably Strabo was in Rome; the fact that his work passed unnoticed by Roman writers such as the elder Pliny does not prove the contrary.

His earliest writing was a historical work now lost, which he himself describes as his Historical Memoirs. He tells us that the sixth book of the Memoirs was identical with the second of the Continuations of Polybius; probably, therefore, books i.-iv. formed an introduction to the main work. This accounts for the fact that he speaks of having treated the exploits of Alexander in his Memoirs, a topic which could not have found a place in a work which began where that of Polybius ended (146 BC). According to Suidas, the continuation of Polybius was in 43 books. Plutarch, who calls him "The Philosopher", quotes Strabo’s Memoirs and cites him as a historian. Josephus, who constantly calls him "the Cappadocian", often quotes from him, but does not mention the title of the work.

From the eleventh edition of The Encyclopedia, 1911. Public domain. Some editing has been done for the sake of clarity.

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