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Greek & Roman Geography (ed. William Smith)

Adriaticum Mare

  Adriaticum Mare (d Adias), is the name given both by Greek and Latin writers to the inland sea still called the Adriatic, which separates Italy from Illyricum, Dalmatia and Epeirus, and is connected at its southern extremity with the Ionian Sea. It appears to have been at first regarded by the Greeks as a mere gulf or inlet of the Ionian Sea, whence the expression d Adrias (kolpos sc.), which first came into use, became so firmly established that it always maintained its ground among the Greek writers of the best ages, and it is only at a later period or in exceptional cases that we find the expressions n Adriane or Adriatikn Thalassa. (The former expression is employed by Scymnus Chius, 368; and the latter in one instance by Strabo, iv. p. 204.) The Latins frequently termed it Mare Superum, the Upper Sea, as opposed to the Tyrrhenian or Lower Sea (Mare Inferum); and the phrase is copied from them by Polybius and other Greek writers. It appears probable indeed that this was the common or vernacular expression among the Romans, and that the name of the Adriatic was a mere geographical designation, perhaps borrowed in the first instance from the Greeks. The use of Adria or Hadria in Latin for the name of the sea, was certainly a mere Graecism, first introduced by the poets (Hor. Carm. i. 3. 15, iii. 3. 5, &c.; Catull. xxxvi. 15), though it is sometimes used by prose writers also. (Senec. Ep. 90; Mela, ii. 2, &c.)
  According to Herodotus (i. 163) the Phocaeans were the first of the Greeks who discovered the Adriatic, or at least the first to explore its recesses, but the Phoenicians must have been well acquainted with it long before, as they had traded with the Venetians for amber from a very early period. It has, indeed, been contended, that ho Adries in Herodotus (both in this passage and in iv. 33, v. 9) means not the sea or gulf so called, but a region or district about the head of it. But in this case it seems highly improbable that precisely the same expression should have come into general use, as we certainly find it not long after the time of Herodotus, for the sea itself. Hecataeus also (if we can trust to the accuracy of Stephanus B. s. v. Adrias) appears to have used the full expression kolpos Adrias.
  The natural limits of the Adriatic are very clearly marked by the contraction of the opposite shores at its entrance, so as to form a kind of strait, not exceeding 40 G. miles in breadth, between the Acroceraunian promontory in Epirus, and the coast of Calabria near Hydruntum, in Italy. This is accordingly correctly assumed both by Strabo and Pliny as the southern limits of the Adriatic, as it was at an earlier period by Scylax and Polybius, the latter of whom expressly tells us that Oricus was the first city on the right hand after entering the Adriatic. (Strab. vii. p. 317; Plin. iii. 11. s. 16; Scylax, § 14, p. 5, § 27, p. 11; Pol. vii. 19; Mela, ii. 4.) But it appears to have been some time before the appellation was received in this definite sense, and the use of the name both of the Adriatic and of the Ionian Gulf was for some time very vague and fluctuating. It is probable, that in the earliest times the name of o Adrias was confined to the part of the sea in the immediate neighbourhood of Adria itself and the mouths of the Padus, or at least to the upper part near the head of the gulph, as in the passages of Herodotus and Hecataeus above cited; but it seems that Hecataeus himself in another passage (ap. Steph. B. s. v. Istroi) described the Istrians as dwelling on the Ionian gulf, and Hellanicus (ap. Dion. Hal. i. 28) spoke of the Padus as flowing into the Ionian gulf. In like manner Thucydides (i. 24) describes Epidamnus as a city on the right hand as you enter the Ionian gulf. At this period, therefore, the latter expression seems to have been at least the more common one, as applied to the whole sea. But very soon after we find the orators Lysias and Isocrates employing the term d Adrias in its more extended sense: and Scylax (who must have been nearly contemporary with the latter) expressly tells us that the Adriatic and Ionian gulfs were one and the same. (Lys. Or. c. Diog. § 38, p. 908; Isocr. Philipp. § 7; Scylax, § 27, p. 11.) From this time no change appears to have taken place in the use of the name, d Adrias being familiarly used by Greek writers for the modern Adriatic (Theophr. iv. 5. § § 2, 6; Pseud. Aristot. de Mirab. § § >80, 82; Scymn. Ch. 132, 193, &c.; Pol. ii. 17, iii. 86, 87, &c.) until after the Christian era. But subsequently to that date a very singular change was introduced: for while the name of the Adriatic Gulf (d Hadrias, or Adriatikos kolpos) became restricted to the upper portion of the inland sea now known by the same name, and the lower portion nearer the strait or entrance was commonly known as the Ionian Gulf, the sea without that entrance, previously known as the Ionian or Sicilian, came to be called the Adriatic Sea. The beginning of this alteration may already be found in Strabo, who speaks of the Ionian Gulf as a part of the Adriatic: but it is found fully developed in Ptolemy, who makes the promontory of Garganus the limit between the Adriatic Gulf (ho Adrias kolpos) and the Ionian Sea (to Ionion pelagos), while he calls the sea which bathes the eastern shores of Bruttium and Sicily, the Adriatic Sea (to Adriatikon pelagos): and although the later geographers, Dionysius Periegetes and Agathemerus, apply the name of the Adriatic within the same limits as Strabo, the common usage of historians and other writers under the Roman Empire is in conformity with that of Ptolemy. Thus we find them almost uniformly speaking of the Ionian Gulf for the lower part of the modern Adriatic: while the name of the latter had so completely superseded the original appellation of the Ionian Sea for that which bathes the western shores of Greece, that Philostratus speaks of the isthmus of Corinth as separating the Aegaean Sea from the Adriatic. And at a still later period we find Procopius and Orosius still further extending the appellation as far as Crete on the one side, and Malta on the other. (Ptol. iii. 1. § § 1, 10, 14, 17, 26, 4. § § 1, 8; Dionys. Per. 92--94, 380, 481; Agathemer. i. 3, ii. 14; Appian, Syr. 63, B.C. ii. 39, iii. 9, v. 65; Dion Cass. xli. 44, xiv. 3; Herodian. viii. 1; Philostr. Imagg. ii. 16; Pausan. v. 25. § 3, viii. 54. § 3; Hieronym. Ep. 86; Procop. B. G. i. 15, iii. 40, iv. 6, B. V.. i. 13, 14, 23; Oros. i. 2.) Concerning the various fluctuations and changes in the application and signification of the name, see Larcher's Notes on Herodotus (vol. i. p. 157, Eng. transl.), and Letronne (Recherches sur Dicuil. p. 170--218), who has, however, carried to an extreme extent the distinctions he attempts to establish. The general form of the Adriatic Sea was well known to the ancients, at least in the time of Strabo, who correctly describes it as long and narrow, extending towards the NW., and corresponding in its general dimensions with the part of Italy to which it is parallel, from the Iapygian promontory to the mouths of the Padus. He also gives its greatest breadth pretty correctly at about 1200 stadia, but much overstates its length at 6000 stadia. Agathemerus, on the contrary, while he agrees with Strabo as to the breadth, assigns it only 3000 stadia in length, which is as much below the truth, as Strabo exceeds it. (Strab. ii. p. 123, v. p. 211; Agathemer. 14.) The Greeks appear to have at first regarded the neighbourhood of Adria and the mouths of the Padus as the head or inmost recess of the gulf, but Strabo and Ptolemy more justly place its extremity at the gulf near Aquileia and the mouth of the Tilavemptus (Tagliamento). (Strab. ii. p. 123, iv. p. 206; Ptol. iii. 1. § § 1, 26.)
  The navigation of the Adriatic was much dreaded on account of the frequent and sudden storms to which it was subject : its evil character on this account is repeatedly alluded to by Horace. (Carm. i. 3. 15, 33. 15, ii. 14. 14, iii. 9. 23, &c.)
  There is no doubt that the name of the Adriatic was derived from the Etruscan city of Adria or Atria, near the mouths of the Padus. Livy, Pliny, and Strabo, all concur in this statement, as well as in extolling the ancient power and commercial influence of that city, and it is probably only by a confusion between the two cities of the same name, that some later writers have derived the appellation of the sea from Adria in Picenum, which was situated at some distance from the coast, and is not known to have been a place of any importance in early times.

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


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