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Skimnos of Chios

The Description of the World

This short work containing a brief description of the world is written in iambic hexameter and was probably meant for use in schools. A part of it (up to line 748) has been preserved in a manuscript from Paris, while another part (up to line 749) has been reconstructed from fragments preserved in the Periplous of the Pontos Euxeinos by an anonymous author and from other sources. The manuscript has not preserved the name of its author, which is why some scholars attribute it to Markianos of Heraklea, and others to Skimnos of Chios who is mentioned by Stephen of Byzantium and other authors. Although one can determine the date of the source from the dedication in line 2 to Nikomedes, the king of Vifinia, it is not known whether this was Nikomedes II (147-95 BC) or Nikomedes III (95-75 BC).

This Periplous attributed to Skimnos, who probably lived in the 3rd or 2nd century BC, states that it was based on works by Ephoros and Demetrios of Kallatis. The Periplous is valuable largely because it has preserved these authors' accounts which are important for the history of the Black Sea coast. It describes the western region of the northern Black Sea coast according mainly to Demetrios; however, the description of the eastern part of the Crimean and Caucasian coasts has been outlined according to Ephoros with an emphasis on Scythian daily life, which interest is characteristic to the latter scholar. The Periplous reflects some very important migrations of the eastern Scythian and Sarmatian tribes in the 3rd and 2nd centuries BC.

The text (translated from the Russian by I. Berezhkov)


... 804-812. At the junction of the Hypanis and Boristhenos rivers there is a city which was formerly called Olbia and later renamed Boristhenos by the Greeks. This city was established by the Miletans during the dominion of the Midians. 240 stadii measure the distance to the city from the sea up-stream along the Boristhenos.

813-819. This river is better than any other because of its supplies of large fish, wild fruit, and pastures for cattle. Its stream is, they say, navigable in the course of approximately 40 days of travel, although there is neither passageway nor thoroughfare to places lying up-stream because of snow and ice.

820-821. Achilles' Run is a very long and narrow sea route.

822-830. These lands are contiguous with the so-called Tauric Chersonesos, the Greek city established by the Herakleans and Delians according to the prophecy to populate Chersonesos. The prophecy was given to the Herakleans who lived in Asia inside the Kioneioi. Some people say that Iphigenia, kidnapped from Avlis, once arrived in this region of Taurica.

831-834. The Taurians are a numerous nation; they prefer nomadic life in the mountains; they are barbarians and murderers due to their cruel natures; they propitiate their gods with dishonest deeds.

835-840. Then, near the very mouth of the Meotian Lake there is the most remote Pantikapaion, which is the capital of the Bosporos. Upwards from these lands there is a barbarous country called Scythia, which borders a land uninhabited and unknown to any of the Greeks...


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