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Information about the place (4)
Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities
The southeastern part of what is now Georgia, in Asia, on the west
side of the Caspian, extending from the rivers Cyrus and Araxes on the south to
Mt. Ceraunius (the east part of the Caucasus) on the north, and bounded on the
west by Iberia. It was a fertile plain, abounding in pasture and vineyards; but
the inhabitants were fierce and warlike. They were a Scythian tribe, identical
with the Alani. The Romans first became acquainted with them at the time of the
Mithridatic war, when they encountered Pompey with a large army. Modern geography
comprises ancient Albania under two divisions--Daghestan and Leghistan. The name
in our own times is applied to the territory which in ancient times was included
in Illyria and Epirus.
This text is cited Sep 2002 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks
- Perseus: Harry Thurston Peck, Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities (1898)
- Perseus: Charlton T. Lewis, Charles Short, A Latin Dictionary(1879)
They were a Scythian tribe, identical with the Albanians
- Perseus: Charlton T. Lewis, Charles Short, A Latin Dictionary(1879)
Greek & Roman Geography (ed. William Smith)
Albania (he Albania: Eth. and Adj. Albanos, Albanios, Albanus, Albanius),
a country of Asia, lying about the E. part of the chain of Caucasus. The first
distinct information concerning it was obtained by the Romans and Greeks through
Pompey's expedition into the Caucasian countries in pursuit of Mithridates (B.C.
65); and the knowledge obtained from then to the time of Augustus is embodied
in Strabo's full description of the country and people (pp. 501, foll.). According
to him, Albania was bounded on the E. by the Caspian, here called the Albanian
Sea (Mare Albanum, Plin.); and on the N. by the Caucasus, here called Ceraunius
Mons, which divided it from Sarmatia Asiatica. On the W. it joined Iberia: Strabo
gives no exact boundary, but he mentions as a part of Albania the district of
Cambysene, that is, the valley of the Camnbyses, where he says the Armenians touch
both the Iberians and the Albanians. On the S. it was divided from the Great Armenia
by the river Cyrus (Kour). Later writers give the N. and W. boundaries differently.
It was found that the Albanians dwelt on both sides of the Caucasus, and accordingly
Pliny carries the country further N. as far as the river Casius (vi. 13. s. 15);
and he also makes the river Alazon (Alasan) the W. boundary towards Iberia (vi.
10. s. 11). Ptolemy (v. 12) names the river Soana (Soana) as the N. boundary;
and for the W. he assigns a line which he does not exactly describe, but which,
from what follows, seems to lie either between the Alazon and the Cambyses, or
even W. of the Cambyses. The Soana of Ptolemy is probably the Sulak or S. branch
of the great river Terek (mth. in 43° 45? N. lat.), S. of which Ptolemy mentions
the Gerrhus (Alksay?); then the Caesius, no doubt the Casius of Pliny (Koisou);
S. of Which again both Pliny and Ptolemy place the Albanus (prob. Samour), near
the city of Albana (Derbent). To these rivers, which fall into the Caspian N.
of the Caucasus, Pliny adds the Cyrus and its tributary, the Cambyses. Three other
tributaries of the Cyrus, rising in the Caucasus, are named by Strabo as navigable
rivers, the Sandobanes, Rhoetaces, and Canes. The country corresponds to the parts
of Georgia called Schirvan or Guirvan, with the addition (in its wider extent)
of Leghistan and Daghestan. Strabo's description of the country must, of course,
be understood as applying to the part of it known in his time, namely, the plain
between the Caucasus and the Cyrus. Part of it, namely, in Cambysene (on the W.),
was mountainous; the rest was an extensive plain. The mud brought down by the
Cyrus made the land along the shore of the Caspian marshy, but in general it was
extremely fertile, producing corn, the vine, and vegetables of various kinds almost
spontaneously; in some parts three harvests were gathered in the year from one
sowing, the first of them yielding fifty-fold. The wild and domesticated animals
were the finest of their kind; the dogs were able to cope with lions: but there
were also scorpions and venomous spiders (the tarantula). Many of these particulars
are confirmed by modern travellers.
The inhabitants were a fine race of men, tall and handsome, and more
civilised than their neighbours the Iberians. They had evidently been originally
a nomade people, and they continued so in a great degree. Paying only slight attention
to agriculture, they lived chiefly by hunting, fishing, and the produce of their
flocks and herds. They were a warlike race, their force being chiefly in their
cavalry, but not exclusively. When Pompey marched into their country, they met
him with an army of 60,000 infantry, and 22,000 cavalry. (Plut. Pomp. 35.) They
were armed with javelins and bows and arrows, and leathern helmets and shields,
and many of their cavalry were clothed in complete armour. (Plut.; Strab. p. 530.)
They made frequent predatory attacks on their more civilised agricultural neighbours
of Armenia. Of peaceful industry they were almost ignorant; their traffic was
by barter, money being scarcely known to them, nor any regular system of weights
and measures. Their power of arithmetical computation is said to have only reached
to the number 100. (Eustath. ad Dion. Perieg. 729.) They buried the moveable property
of the dead with them, and sons received no inheritance from their fathers; so
that they never accumulated wealth. We find among them the same diversity of race
and language that still exists in the regions of the Caucasus; they spoke 26 different
dialects, and were divided into 12 hordes, each governed by its own chief, but
all, in Strabo's time, subject to one king. Among their tribes were the Legae
(Aegai), whose name is still preserved in Leghistan, and Gelae (Gelai) in the
mountains on the N. and NW. (Strab. p. 503), and the Gerrhi (Gerrhoi) on the river
The Albanians worshipped a deity whom Strabo identifies with Zeus,
and the Sun, but above all the Moon, whose temple was near the frontier of Iberia.
Her priest ranked next to the king: and had under his command a rich and extensive
sacred domain, and a body of temple-slaves (hierodouloi), many of whom prophesied
in fits of frenzy. The subject of such a paroxysm was seized as he wandered alone
through the forests, and kept a year in the hands of the priests, and then offered
as a sacrifice to Selene; and auguries were drawn from the manner of his death:
the rite is fully described by Strabo.
The origin of the Albanians is a much disputed point. It was by Pompey's
expedition into the Caucasian regions in pursuit of Mithridates (B.C. 65) that
they first became known to the Romans and Greeks, who were prepared to find in
that whole region traces of the Argonautic voyage. Accordingly the people were
said to have descended from Jason and his comrades (Strab. pp. 45, 503, 526; Plin.
vi. 13. s. 15; Solin. 15); and Tacitus relates (Ann. vi. 34) that the Iberi and
Albani claimed descent from the Thessalians who accompanied Jason, of whom and
of the oracle of Phrixus they preserved many legends, and that they abstained
from offering rams in sacrifice. Another legend derived them from the companions
of Hercules, who followed him out of Italy when he drove away the oxen of Geryon;
and hence the Albanians greeted the soldiers of Pompey as their brethren. (Justin.
xlii. 3.) Several of the later writers regard them as a Scythian people, akin
to the Massagetae, and identical with the Alani; and it is still disputed whether
they were, or not, original inhabitants of the Caucasus.
Of the history of Albania there is almost nothing to be said. The
people nominally submitted to Pompey, but remained really independent.
Ptolemy mentions several cities of Albania, but none of any consequence
except Albana (Derbend), which commanded the great pass on the shore of the Caspian
called the Albaniae or Caspiae Pylae (Pass of Derbend). It is formed by a NE.
spur of Caucasus, to which some geographers give the name of Ceraunius M., which
Strabo applied to the E. part of Caucasus itself. It is sometimes confounded with
the inland pass, called Caucasiae Pylae. The Gangara or Gaetara of Ptolemy is
supposed to be Bakou, famous for its naphtha springs. Pliny mentions Cabalaca,
in the interior, as the capital. Respecting the districts of Caspiene and Cambysene,
which some of the ancient geographers mention as belonging to Albania, see the
separate articles. (Ukert, vol. iii. pt. 2, pp. 561, &c.; Georgii, vol. i. pp.
This text is from: Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854) (ed. William Smith, LLD). Cited July 2004 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks
- Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854) (ed. William Smith, LLD)