[4.18.4] But since we have mentioned the pillars of Heracles, we deem it to be appropriate to set forth the facts concerning them. When Heracles arrived at the farthest points of the continents of Libya and Europe which lie upon the ocean, he decided to set up these pillars to commemorate his campaign.
[4.18.5] And since he wished to leave upon the ocean a monument which would be had in everlasting remembrance, he built out both the promontories, they say, to a great distance; consequently, whereas before that time a great space had stood between them, he now narrowed the passage, in order that by making it shallow and narrow52 he might prevent the great sea-monsters from passing out of the ocean into the inner sea, and that at the same time the fame of their builder might be held in everlasting remembrance by reason of the magnitude of the structures. Some authorities, however, say just the opposite, namely, that the two continents were originally joined and that he cult a passage between them, and that by opening the passage he brought it about that the ocean was mingled with our sea. On this question, however, it will be possible for everyman to think as he may please.
Homer, Odyssey 3. 1 ff (trans. Shewring) (Greek epic C8th B.C.) :
“Leaving the lovely lake of Okeanos, Helios (the Sun) leapt upwards into the brazen sky, bringing light.”
Homer, Odyssey 10. 508 ff :
“[Kirke instructs Odysseus on the journey to Haides :] When you have sailed [from the island of Aiaia] through the river Okeanos, you will see before you a narrow strand and groves that are Persephone’s . . . then beach the vessel beside deep-eddying Okeanos and pass on foot to the dank domains of Haides.”
Homer, Odyssey 11. 158 ff (trans. Murray) :
“Hard is it for those that live to behold these realms [of Haides], for between are great rivers and dread streams; Okeanos first, which one may in no wise cross on foot, but only if one have a well-built ship.”
Herodotus, Histories 4. 35. 1 (trans. Godley) (Greek historian C5th B.C.) :
“I laugh to see how many have before now drawn maps of the world, not one of them reasonably; for they draw the world as round as if fashioned by compasses, encircled by the Okeanos river, and Asia and Europe of a like extent. For myself, I will in a few words indicate the extent of the two, and how each should be drawn.”
Herodotus, Histories 4. 8. 1 :
“As for Okeanos, the Greeks say that it flows around the whole world from where the sun rises, but they cannot prove that this is so.”
Herodotus, Histories 4. 8. 1 (trans. Godley) (Greek historian C5th B.C.) :
“Herakles, driving the cattle of Geryones . . . Geryones lived west of the Pontos, settled in the island called by the Greeks Erytheia, on the shore of Okeanos near Gadeira, outside the pillars of Herakles.”
Plato, Phaedo 112e (trans. Lamb) (Greek philosopher C4th B.C.) :
“[The] streams are many and great and of all sorts, but among the many are four streams, the greatest and outermost of which is that called Okeanos, which flows round in a circle, and opposite this, flowing in the opposite direction, is Akheron, which flows through various desert places and, passing under the earth, comes to the Akherousian lake.”
Pindar, Olympian Ode 2. 70 ff (trans. Conway) (Greek lyric C5th B.C.) :
“The road of Zeus to Kronos’ tower. There round the Islands of the Blest (Nesoi Makaron), the winds of Okeanos play, and golden blossoms burn, some nursed upon the waters, others on land on glorious trees.”
Throughout Greco-Roman antiquity,memory has been retained of two famous monuments of the proto-historic world, namely theErakleos stelai or The Pillars of Hercules, which were situated near a mountain gorge in the western parts of the Homeric Ocean.
Some of these traditions claimed that the famous Pillars of Hercules were simple commemorative monuments “laborum Herculis metae”. Hercules, as Pliny tells us (H. N. III), had reached these domains and, because here the mountains on both sides were joined together, had cut a mountain gap, opening a gorge to let the inland sea beyond it to drain through. In memory of this effort and its everlasting achievements, the indigenous population had named the two mountains which form this gorge, “The Pillars of Hercules” (Mela, lib. I. c. 5; Diodorus Siculus, I. IV. 18. 4; Strabo, I. III. 5).
According to another tradition, left to us by the poet Pindar, the Pillars of Hercules were simple guide posts for navigation on the ocean and for travel on land.
Hercules, writes Pindar, has erected these columns as famous evidence for the extreme reach of navigation, because he had subdued the sea monsters (to make the sea navigable), he had scrutinized the fords of the flowing rivers right to the end of the road, and at the same time he had also surveyed the land; and beyond these columns neither the wise nor the imprudent could pass (Nem. III. v. 19-20; IV. v. 69-70; Olymp. III. v. 46-48; Pyth. III. v. 22; Isthm. III. v. 30). Here was therefore the extreme reach of navigation on the old Ocean, because, as Scylax writes, near the Pillars of Hercules, there stretched from one shore to the other a strip of crags, some of which were hit by waves, while others were hidden under the water (Periplus, 112).
The geographical position of these columns was very well known during the first times of history, as it results from the sentences of oracles and from some more authentic topographical descriptions.
Later though, when navigation on the big seas passed from Pelasgian hands into the hands of the Phoenicians, when the Homeric Ocean became confused with the External Sea or the Iberian Ocean, the true position of the Pillars of Hercules became enigmatic for the Greek world of the southern parts of Europe. This geographical obscurity led afterwards the Greek authors to assume that the Pillars of Hercules were situated not near the Pelasgian Ocean, or the Ocean of Theogony, but near the Iberian Ocean, which anyway, became known to the commercial world of the Eastern Mediterranean at a very late date.
So it was that in Greek literature arose the belief that the miraculous Pillars of Hercules had to be found near the straits of the Mediterranean, between Spain and Mauritania. And, because there were neither traditions in those parts, nor monuments regarding Hercules, the name of Columns was given (contrary to all ancient customs) to the two promontories of Europe and Africa, the northern one being named Calpe and the southern Abila.
This transplantation of the Pillars of Hercules from the Homeric Ocean to the Iberian Oceanhas created an enormous confusion ingeography, ethnography and history of the pre-Herodotic times. Mountains and rivers, islands and lakes, peoples and cities, legends and historical events were dislocated from the Eastern parts of Europe and thrown on the geographical maps of the extreme Occident. The errors had multiplied from century to century and the fiction of some plagiarists and poets about the Pillars of Hercules at the straits of the Mediterranean had assumed a geographical character .
A curious proof in this regard is offered by “The cosmography of Iulius Honorius”. According to this treatise of scholastic geography, compiled in the 5th to 6th century, without order and critical view, but which mostly sums up the theories of some older authors, the Hem and Rhodope Mountains, Moesia province, the Sarmatians, Bastarnii and Carpii were considered as belonging to the province of the western Ocean (Riese, Geographi latini minores, p. 34-41)].
The Tyrians look for the Pillars of Hercules in the Mediterranean, the Romans near the North Sea
As Strabo tells us, the Tyrians, the famous representatives of the Phoenician commerce, had tried three times to find the Pillars of Hercules near the western straits of the Mediterranean, but always without a positive result.
According to this author, the inhabitants of Gades were telling how the Tyrians, wanting to set up a new colony, had first consulted the oracle, as were the religious customs of the ancients, and the oracle had suggested to found their colony near the Pillars of Hercules. The men sent by the Tyrians to visit those lands arrived at Calpe, or the western straits of the Mediterranean. Believing that in those extreme parts was the end of the earth and of Hercules’ expeditions, they reasoned that the columns of which the oracle spoke should have also been there. They kept therefore a religious service, but the result of the sacrifice being unfavorable, they returned home. After some time the Tyrians sent again another party to the place indicated by the oracle. These men passed beyond the straits, to a distance of 1500 stades and arrived to an island which was consecrated to Hercules. Believing that here must have been the Pillars of Hercules, they sacrificed to the god, but again the victims were not favorable and they returned home. Finally, the Tyrians sent another group of people for the third time. These settled on the island named Gadeira (Gades), where they founded a temple on the eastern side and a city on the western side of the island.
That’s why, says Strabo, some believe that the extreme parts of the straits might be the so-called Pillars of Hercules, while others, on the contrary, consider as the Pillars of Hercules, either the mountains Calpe and Abila, or some smaller islands in the vicinity of these mountains.
Artemidor of Ephesus though, a renowned geographical investigator, who had navigated along the shores of the Mediterranean Sea and in part of the External Ocean, tells us that there is no mountain named Abila at the Mediterranean straits.
And Strabo adds that neither these islands, nor these mountains have the appearance of columns, and that people who insist that the so called Pillars of Hercules must be found somewhere else, have good reasons to say so (Geogr. lib. III. 5. 5).
The Romans had conquered the southern parts of Iberia even before the destruction of Carthage (146bc), but none of the Roman generals who had marched with the legions of Italy as far as the Western Ocean, none of the captains of the fleet, who had passed through the Mediterranean straits (Pliny, V. 1. 8; Flor, II. 7; Orosius VI. 21), had claimed the glory of discovering the sacred Pillars of Hercules, and of taking the eagle of the Roman Empire beyond the extreme limits of the ancient world. On the contrary, there was a general tradition with the Roman people, that the legendary Pillars of Hercules were situated near another ocean, and that Drus Germanicus had been the one who had tried to win the glory of finding them and of expanding the Roman Empire to those ends of the earth.
“We” writes Tacitus (Germania, c. 34), “have tried to cross even the Northern Ocean, because it is told that the Pillars of Hercules still exist there, either because Hercules really went there, or because we use to attribute to his glory all the miraculous things that are on the surface of the earth. Drus Germanicus had not lacked the courage, but the Ocean had opposed his wish to master it and to find the Pillars of Hercules. Nobody has tried to look for these columns ever since. Anyway, it is much more religious and respectful to believe in gods’ acts, than to know them”.
The Pillars of Hercules near Oceanos potamos
In pre-historical antiquity, the Pillars of Hercules had been a geographical reality. This was the general opinion of the ancient geographers and historians.
The positive fact that results from all these traditions is that the so-called Pillars of Hercules were neither near the Iberian Ocean, which, until the 7th century bc had been unknown to the Phoenicians and Greeks, nor near the Northern Sea or Baltic, which became known to the ancient world only since Cesar’s times. They were near the archaic Ocean at the north of Thrace, the big river of the theogony, the place where take place the most remarkable deeds of the Pelasgian hero Hercules, in the blessed country of the Hyperboreans, rich in gold, rich in flocks, in miraculous herds and fabulous harvests, country towards which was directed the commercial navigation of the southern Pelasgians, Egyptians, Phoenicians and Greeks, since the most ancient times.
We will summarize here the main geographical sources regarding the Pillars of Hercules, near Oceanos potamos or Istru.
According to Pindar, one of the most illustrious poets of Greece, the Pillars of Hercules were in the legendary and remote country of the pious and happy Hyperboreans.
In one of his most beautiful odes, Pindar tells us about Hercules’ trip to the sources (or the cataracts) of Istru, in the country of the Hyperboreans, from whom he had requested an oleander (wild olive tree), to plant it near Jove’s temple at Olympia, to shade the holy altars of the divinities and to crown the virtuous men (Olymp. III. V. 11-19).
In the same ode, Pindar also mentions Hercules’ travel to the Istrian country, to Diana, the wonderful rider, and the Pillars of Hercules, as an extreme limit for brave deeds (Olymp. III. V. 26, 45; Isthm. III. 30). Finally, Pindar tells us in other odes of his, that Hercules had erected these columns as famous markers for the extreme limits of navigation; and that the last reaches of travel on water and land were in the region of the Hyperboreans (Nem. III. V. 19-25; Pyth. X. v. 29-30).
So, according to the geographical notions expressed by Pindar, the Pillars of Hercules, these extreme limits of navigation and heroic actions, were on Hyperborean territory (Cf. Boeckhius, Pindari Opera, II. 2. 140), the territory of the just, holy (Pindar, Pyth. X. v. 42), wise (Origenes, c. Cels. I. 16) and long lived people of the Istru, or the lower Danube.
We also find two important indications about the geographical situation of the Pillars of Hercules with Herodotus. As this author tells us, the Greeks near the Euxine Pontos had positive information about the Pillars of Hercules, which they said were outside the Euxine Pontos, near the big river named Oceanos (lib. IV. 8). And in another place Herodotus tells us about the Pillars of Hercules as being located in the geographical region of the Istru.
“The Istru”, writes he, “begins its course in the lands of the Celts and flows through the middle of Europe, which it cuts in two parts. The Celts though, live beyond the Pillars of Hercules, and are neighbours with the Cynesii, who are the most extreme people in the western parts of Europe. And the Istru flows into the sea near Istria, city which is inhabited by a Milesian colony” (lib. II. C. 33).
If the Pillars of Hercules had been therefore situated on the southern parts of Iberia, between Africa and Europe, then neither the Greeks near the Euxine Pontos could have had in those times authentic knowledge about them, nor Herodotus could have written that the Celts lived beyond the Pillars of Hercules, and finally, that beyond the Celts lived the Cynesii, the most extreme people in the western parts of Europe.
So, according with the geographical sources of Herodotus, the Pillars of Hercules were not near the Iberian Sea, but in a continental region of Europe, near the Istru, on the eastern side of the Celts, or between the Celts and the Scythians, because, as Diodorus Siculus writes, the Celts were spread in more or less considerable large groups as far as Scythia (lib. III. 32. 1).
Another remarkable author from the 4th century a.d., the Roman poet Avienus, born at Volsinium in Etruria, ex proconsul of Africa and Achaia, summarizes this way the geographical and astronomical ideas of the ancients regarding the Pillars of Hercules:
“In the extreme parts of the (known) earth rise up to the sky the Pillars of Hercules, of a longish shape. Here is the place called Gadir, here the superb craggy Atlas rises, here the sky turns around a strong axle, here the hub of the earth and the universe is surrounded by clouds” (Descriptio orbis terrae, v. 98-104).
Cardines Mundi on the Atlas mountain, called also axis boreus, axis hyperboreus, polus Geticus, were, as we saw in the previous chapter, in the western parts of the Black Sea, on the territory of Roman Dacia. The Pillars of Hercules belonged therefore, according to the ancient astronomical and geographical theories, to the boreal region. This was also the tradition of the Romans, but a tradition difficult to understand in the times of Drus Germanicus. He had tried to find the Pillars of Hercules near the Northern Sea.
Erythia, near the Pillars of Hercules
Close to the Pillars of Hercules was the island the Greeks named Erythia, where the giant king Geryon, kept at pasture his magnificent cattle herds, cows and oxen with wide foreheads and flexible legs (Livy, lib. I. c. 7; Hesiod, Theog. V. 290-291).
Among the twelve labours which the king Eurystheus of Mycenae had imposed on Hercules, the tenth was to bring him the famous herds of Geryon from the Erythia island.
Hercules, Apollodorus tells us (Bibl. Lib. II. 5. 10), after arriving near Oceanos, where Erythia island was, erects in the mountains two columns, one facing the other, as monumental markers of his travel, then kills the herdsman Eurythion and his dog called Orthros, takes Geryon’s herds and departs. Geryon though, hearing of this theft, runs after Hercules and catches up with him at the river called Anthemunta. The fight starts. Hercules shoots Geryon down with an arrow, takes the herds into Abderia and from here into the land of the Lygiens. Here he is confronted by the heroes Alebion and Dercunos (Dercynos), who want to take his herds. But Hercules kills them also, and continues on his way across Tyrrhenia.
This island called Erythia, where king Geryon kept his magnificent herds, was not in the External Ocean, as Greek geographers of later times of antiquity erroneously assumed, but was situated close to the Euxine Pontos, in the western parts of the river called Oceanos potamos or Istru. “The Greeks who dwell near the Euxine Pontos” writes Herodotus “tell that Hercules, driving the cattle herds which he had taken from Geryon, came to this country, which at that time was deserted, but now is owned by the Scythians. And they tell that Geryon dwelt outside of the Euxine Pontos, in the island which the Greeks call Erythia (Rosia, Rusava), situated near Gadira (Gedeira), outside of the Pillars of Hercules, in the Ocean” (lib. IV. C. 8).
As results from this tale, the Greeks from near the Black Sea had some historical traditions about the theft of Geryon’s herds, they had positive geographical knowledge about the place where the Pillars of Hercules were situated, and about the island named Erythia, located outside of the Euxine Pontos, near the same Columns.
The name “Erythia” under which Geryon’s island appears in the ancient geographical literature, presents only a simple Greek translation of an indigenous name. This statement is made by Herodotus himself in the words “the Greeks call it Erythia”.
Another author of antiquity, the famous Hecateus of Miletus, who had lived during the times of Darius Hystaspes and had navigated along the shores of Spain and Italy, declares also, based on his information, that the island called Erythia was not to be found at the Iberian straits.
“That Geryon”, writes he, “against whom king Eurystheus had sent Hercules to take his herds and bring them to Mycenae, has nothing to do with the Iberian region, nor was Hercules sent to some island Erythia, out into the big sea (Mediterranean), but to Geryon on the continent, who was king over the region beside Ambracia and Amphiloch” (Fragm. 349 in Fragm. Hist. grace. Ed. Didot, I. p. 27; Strabo, Geogr. III. 2. 11, 5. 4; Pomponius Mela, Oeuvres completes, Ed. Didot, p.652).
Finally, the Orphic poem about the Argonauts tells us that the island Erythia was at the straits of the Caucasus mountains (Argonautica, v. 1048). And under the name of “Caucasus” figure, as we know, Dacia’s Carpathians, not only in the legends of Typhon, Prometheus, and the Argonauts, but also on a Latin inscription from the time of the emperor Trajan, in Jornande’s history of the Getae, and finally, even with the Russian historian Nestor.
So, Erythia island, which was only a simple geographical fiction at the western straits of the Mediterranean, but about which the Greek merchants settled near the Euxine Pontos had positive information, and which was situated at the straits of the Caucasus mountains, in the big river from north of Thrace (Oceanos potamos).
The Greek legends about Hercule’s fight with Geryon also mentioned two distinguished heroes of the antiquity, one called Alebion and the other Dercunos, both from the Lygiens’ lands , both the sons of Neptune. According to their genealogy, Alebion and Dercunos were therefore from near the big waters over which Neptune ruled, who had the particular epithets of thalassios and pontomedon. They had met Hercules with war, to take back his herds, as probable natural allies of Geryon.
Erythia near the Pillars of Hercules, called Kerne and Cerne
The island Erythia, near the Pillars of Hercules, also appears in antiquity under the names Kerne and Cerne.
The Greek geographers had considered for a long time that the island Kerne, or Kernes, situated in the old Ocean (Eustathius, Comentarii in Dionysium, ad. v. 218), might have been located at the western straits of the Mediterranean, the place where they thought the Pillars of Hercules must have once existed (Hannonis Carthaginiensis, Periplus, c. 8; Scylax, Periplus, 5. 112; Dionysius, Orbis Descriptio, v. 219; Palaephatius, Incred. c. 33 – Cf. Geographi graeci minores, Vol. I. Ed. Didot, pag. 6-7).
But, like the Pillars of Hercules, which were never found on the western parts of the Mediterranean at the straits today called Gibraltar, similarly it was never ascertained that an island named Cerne had existed there. Regarding this, Strabo writes the following: the island Cerne, which Erathosthenes mentions near the Pillars of Hercules, doesn’t exist anywhere (Geogr. Lib. I. 3. 2).
Pliny the Old believed in the existence of this island, but its position was an enigma for him.
He tried first to locate it in front of the Persian Gulf, but was compelled to declare that he didn’t know either its size, or its distance from the continent. Then, based on Ephor’s testimony, he mentioned some columns, which were near this island. These were the legendary Pillars of Hercules .
According to Pliny, as well as to other authors of the antiquity, the island Cerne was inhabited by Ethiopians. But, what sort of Ethiopians? This is a geographical question, about which a lot has been written.
Homer mentions two ethnic groups of Ethiopians. Some of these dwelt in the east, while others dwelt near Oceanos potamos, the place where, according to the old traditions, the sun set.
These latter Ethiopians are also called esperioi, westerners, or from the western regions (Strabo, II. 5. 15), the most extreme people known to the Greeks, virtuous and saintly. The western Ethiopians, or from near Oceanos potamos, are the men favored by gods. According to Stephanos Byzantinos they (Aithiops) were the first to revere the gods, the first who used laws; and the founders of their civilisation had been Mithras and Phlegyas. Jove and all the gods attend their solemn banquets, when they sacrifice hundreds (hecatombs) of bulls and lambs (Homer, Odyss. I. 23; Iliad, I. 428; XXIII. 205).
With the poet Pindar, these latter Ethiopians appear under the name of Hyperboreans (Pyth. X. 30 seqq), and with Dionysius Periegetus, under the name of Macrobii, meaning the long lived people.
Hesiod places geographically the Ethiopians with the Ligyiens and the Ippomolgian Scythians (Fragm. 132). According to Eschyl (Prom. vinct. 808. 809) they dwelt near the gold rich Arimaspians, and according to Dionysius Periegetus they lived in the beautiful valleys of Kernes / Cerne (v. 218 seqq), or near Erythia, close to the Atlas mountain (Ibid. v. 558-560; Avienus, v. 738 seqq).
According to Scylax they were the most handsome and tall among all the known peoples. They dressed in multicoloured clothes, had beards and long hair, were skilful riders, archers and fighters. The Phoenician merchants sold them bottles and earthenware. They ate meat, drank milk and produced a lot of wine, which the Phoenicians bought from them.
But, because of the geographical confusion with the Ethiopians of Africa, the texts of the ancient authors about the Ethiopians from the Oceanos potamos are full of errors and interpolations. Today it is difficult to understand the origin of the name Ethiopians, given to the inhabitants of that region close to the island of Cerne, or the cataracts of the Istru. It is sure though that the Greeks generally understood under the name of Ethiopians, people burnt by the sun, and that they had applied this name not only to part of the Pelasgians who dwelt on the north side of the Istru, but also to the Pelasgians from the islands of Samothrace and Lesbos (Pauly, R. E. I. 1839 see Aethiopia).
The Ethiopians from near the Pillars of Hercules were shown in the old geographical descriptions as a people rich in gold (Mela, III. 9; Herodotus, III. 145, IV. 196).
Finally, in another place in his natural history, Pliny considers the island Cerne to be situated close to Africa, but in an unspecified Ocean (H. N. X. 9. 2).
The Orphic literature throws an important light on this state of confusion of the old geographical ideas regarding the location of the island Cerne. In the epic poem titled “Argonautica”, attributed to Orpheus, whose geographical background hails from very remote times, is mentioned the island called ‘Iernis , situated in the big river Oceanos, at the straits of Riphaei mountains, upstream from those rocks, perilous for navigation (Ed. Schneider, 1803, v. 1166. 1181. 1123).
Those who have considered the island Iernis as identical to Hibernia (Ireland), have taken into account only the simple name resemblance, but not at all the geographical location indicated by the Orphic poem]
From the form of its name and its geographical position, the island Iernis from Orpheus’ Argonautica is one and the same with Kerne or Cerne of Eratosthenes, and this is entirely identical with the famous island of Geryon, Erythia.
According to Diodorus Siculus (III. 54. 4), the island Cerne was near the mountain Atlas, close to the Amazons, therefore also in the northern region. And according to Palaephat (Incred. c. 33), Phorcys, the father of the Gorgons, of the Hesperides and of the dragon who guarded the gold apples near Atlas mountain, was a native of the island Cerne].
According to the old geographical descriptions, Erythia, exactly like Cerne, is the first island near the Pillars of Hercules, situated in the mountain strait, beyond the perilous strip of rocks which spread through the river bed from one bank to the other.
The name of the island Cerne derives incontestably from the nearby town. On the territory of Rusava or Old Orsova, at the place where the famous river Cerna pours its furious waters into the Danube, there was situated during Roman times the town called Tierna, Tsierna, Dierna, Zernes (Ulpian, The Peutingerian Tabula, lib. I. De censibus; Ptolemy, III. 8. 10)
The island Cerne figures with Herodotus (lib. IV. c. 195. 196) under the name of Kyraunis (Cyraunis). It was situated near the Pillars of Hercules. It was ruled by the Carthagenese merchants. It was 200 stades long and narrow, full with olive trees and grape vines. It had therefore the same shape which the island Rusava presents even today .
According to Cornelius Nepos (Pliny, VI. 36), Cerne island was no longer than 2000 steps in circumference (2958.52m). And according to Draghicescu (Dunarea de la gura Tisei pana la mare, p.53), the actual length of the island Ada-Kaleh or Rusava, is about 1800 steps and its width about 400 steps].
The islands called Gadeira (Gadira) near the Pillars of Hercules
Close to the Pillars of Hercules, the ancient geographers also mentioned two islands named Gadeira, Gadira (Scylax, Periplus, 1. 111), both situated inside the strait (Dionysus, Orbis Descriptio, v. 450).
One of these islands was considered as the extreme terminus point of navigation on the old Oceanos, beyond which the commercial vessels could not pass (Pindar, Nem. IV. 69; Pliny, V. 17. 2; Eustathius, Commentarii in Dionysium, v.451).
From the information which Herodotus had got from the Greeks of Scythia, this extreme island called Gadira was situated in the big river called Oceanos, beyond the Pillars of Hercules, close to Erythia island (lib. IV. c. 8); or in other words, the island Gadira was known also to the Black Sea merchants. It was therefore situated in the north-western parts of Thrace.
The old geographical traditions told that further upstream from the island Gadira, navigation was not possible. There the stone walls were so close that, according to Pliny (H. N. lib. IX. 3. 1), one single tree could hinder with its branches the passing of the vessels .
This geographical tradition could not be applied to the Gibraltar strait, which Strabo says (II. 5. 19) that at its narrower point was cca 70 stadesor 12.390km wide, or 14.700km, depending on which stade Strabo had in mind, the Attic stade of 177m or the Ionic one of 210m].
Later on though, when the true position of the Pillars of Hercules had become obscured, the island Gadira, exactly like the island Erythia, exactly like the Pillars of Hercules, was dislocated and transferred to the south-western parts of Europe. And because inside the strait between Europe and Africa there was no similar island, the old Gadira was placed in the open waters of the External Ocean, near Hispania Baetica, at a distance of 25,000 Roman steps (cca 37km), outside the strait of Gibraltar (Pliny, H. N. lib. IV. 36; Strabo, III. 1. 8).
The placing of Gadira in the External Ocean was only a simple fiction. It did not correspond from any point of view to the old geographical traditions.
The second island, which the Greek geographers called Gadira, was considered as identical with Erythia, the island renowned for its exuberant vegetation.
Erythia, writes Apollodorus (Bibl. Lib. II; 5. 10. 1), is an island which today is called Gadira, and in this island Geryon, Chrysaor’s son dwelt (Priscian, v. 462-463; Stephanos Byzantinos writes that Gadeira was a narrow and longish island, like a band, therefore identical with Erythia. The same wrote Eustathius in Dion. 64; Strabo, III. 2. 11; 5. 4). But, according to the geographical poem of Avienus (Descriptio orbis terrae, v. 98-102; v. 610), it was not the island Erythia, but a nearby place, and a fort situated on top of a mountain which overlooked the strait, which had the name Gadir .
The first island near the Pillars of Hercules (Erythia), was called in older times, as Avienus tells us, Cotinusa, meaning the island of the wild olive trees, from chotinos, oleander. Pindar also writes (Ol. III. 13-14) that Hercules, travelling to the Hyperboreans, took from the shady sources of the Istru (or from its cataracts, the point from which the river flew under this name), a wild olive tree (Pausanias, V. 7. 7), which he brought and planted near the temple of Jove at Olympia, to shade with its branches the altars of the gods, and to serve for crowning the men who distinguished themselves through virtuous deeds.
The oleander was therefore a holy tree for the Hyperboreans. The general opinion is that the olive tree was introduced in Europe from Asia Minor (Mommsen, Rom. Gesch. I. 187), but according to the oldest traditions, the wild olive tree could be found on the northern bank of the Istru even since the beginning of human history, as the wild grape vine is still found even today in great abundance, in the same area.
The Pillars of Hercules called Pylai Gadeirides
The poet Pindar calls the Pillars of Hercules Pylai Gadeirides (Frag. 155 in Strabo, lib. III. 5. 5-6), in other words “The Gates Gadira”.
In Homer’s Iliad (VIII, v. 15; II. v. 783; Hesiod, Theog. v. 820 seqq), this renowned gate of Europe is known under the name of sydereiai pylai, in other words The Iron Gates. They were located in the country of the Arimi, the place where Typhon, the legendary dragon of Theogony, had been thrown in a deep cave; and in the work of the poet Claudian they appear under the name of Ferratae portae of the Getae (in his poem about the war against the Getae, v. 237).
From this point onwards, the communication on the old Oceanos potamos or Istru appears to have been extremely difficult for the commercial vessels coming from the southern regions.
The ancients told that near the Pillars of Hercules there was a long and wide strip of snaggy rocks, some visible, others hidden under the surface of the water, which stretched across the bed of the old Oceanos from one bank to the other (Scylax, Periplus, 112).
These rocks, so dangerous for navigation until the present day, which Ovid calls fera saxa (Pont. II. 6. 10), from near the Ceraunia mountains (or the mountains of Cerna), were also called in antiquity Katarrachtai. Suidas describes them on the base of an unknown author, as follows: “the Cataracts are rocks (petrai) in Istru river, which rise like a mountain under the surface of the water. Here the Istru, precipitating itself with great speed onto these rocks, is hit back with an enormous noise, then the waves, passing over them with a deafening sound, form fast whirlpools, tides, high and low, so much so that the river in these places does not differ much from the Sicily strait”.
Near this frightening barrier of crags, which formed the most perilous place on the river Istru, there was on the northern bank the Iron Gate, called sidereiai pylai by Homer and Pylai Gadeirides by Pindar, a narrow path used by the land travelers, which once was surely closed by an iron gate.
Which was though the origin of the name Pylai Gadeirides?
The old geographers have interpreted in the same way the name of the place Gadir, or Gadeira, from near the Pillars of Hercules.
According to Roman authors, Gadir meant in the Punic language sepes, in other words gard, according to the Roman authors Pliny (H. N. lib. IV. 36) and Avienus (Descriptio orbis, v. 614-615). This name though, which appears under the name Gadeira with the Greek authors (Eratosthenes, “ta Gadeira”; Stephanos Byzantinos, “a Gadeira”), did not belong to the Phoenician idiom from Libya (Etym. M. p. 219, 32). The ancient population of North Africa, which was in large part under Carthagena’s rule, was of Pelasgian origin. Getulii, the most numerous inhabitants of Libya, had emigrated there, according to traditions, from the region of the European Getae (Isidorus Hispal. Lib. IX. 2. 118).
The word Gadir, judging from its form and meaning of “sepes” which the Latin texts attribute to it, is only a distorted reproduction of the popular Pelasgian word of gard, garduri (pl). From this derives the Greek name (in plural form) of ta Gadeira, from here the name Pylai Gadeirides, or the Gate from near the rocky fence which cut across the bed of the old Oceanos.
The same interpretation of the name Gadeira, but under a different form, is found with the ancient Greek authors.
Hercules, Suidas tells us, citing from an unknown author, threw enormous rocks at the mouth of the Ocean, to prevent the entry of beasts or monsters. So, according to legends, he had made a fence of stones across the bed of the river Oceanos. And Apollodorus writes that the goddess Juno, when sending a gadfly against the herds taken from Geryon, they scattered far and wide through the mountains of Thrace. Hercules though, attributing this calamity to the river Strymon (Istru), filled its bed with stones and changed it from navigable into a non-navigable river (Bibl. Lib. II. 5. 10. 12).
The name Gadeirides Pylai used by the Greek merchants and navigators, had once become very popular in the region of the Iron Gates. The inhabitants on both sides of the Danube call even today the cataracts, or the stone fence near the Iron Gates, Gherdapuri, a simple distorted form of the old commercial name Gadeirides Pylai.
The Pillars of Hercules called Calpe
The Tyrians, Strabo tells us, had been the first people to look for the Pillars of Hercules in order to found there a new commercial colony.
It is certain that the famous metropolis of Phoenicia could mostly be thankful for its opulence and prosperity, to the lively commerce with the region of the Pillars of Hercules, rich in gold and other metals, rich in flocks, magnificent herds, grains and wine.
The two columns of the famous hero were represented inside the great temple of Hercules at Tyre.
According to Herodotus, one of these columns was made of emerald (or another material, with a beautiful, diaphanous colour, green or blue). It therefore represented the commercial navigation on the great waterways, in particular on the divine Oceanos potamos, the father of all waters. The second column from the metropolis of Tyre was of gold (lib. II. c. 44). It represented the other Pillars of Hercules located near the old Oceanos, where, as Herodotus tells us, all the Phoenician goods were paid for in gold (lib. IV. c. 196).
At the same time, the two Pillars of Hercules formed the political and commercial emblem of the Tyrians. On a coin dating from the Roman epoch, the two Pillars of Hercules figure as the crest of the metropolis of Tyre. On this coin, one of the Pillars of Hercules is shown near an urn containing an inflammable substance, or near a lighthouse (pharos), which indicates to us that the first Pillars of Hercules was situated on the shore of a navigable river, near Oceanos potamos. This was the column which the Tyrians reproduced in emerald, or in an azure colour.
According to the ancient geographers, one of the Pillars of Hercules and particularly the one situated on the northern shore of the strait, had the name Kalpe, Calpe (Strabo, Geogr. Lib. II. 1. 8; Pliny, lib. III. Proem.; Avienus, v. 478; Priscianus, v. 335; Charax Pergamenus, fragm 16 in Frag. Hist. graec. III. p. 649). In the old Greek language the word chalpe and chalpis meant ewer and urn, and similarly, on the coin of Tyre the Column Calpe is indicated near an urn. Kalpis, according to the epic poem attributed to Orpheus, was one of the heights of the strait of the Rhipaei mountains, the ancient name of the Carpathians, near which the river Oceanos flew (Argonautica, v. 1123-1124; Justinius, lib. II. c. 2; Avienus, Descr. Orbis. v. 455-456; Valerius Flaccus, Argon. v. 603-604).
According to the ancient geographical descriptions, this Column called Calpe was situated on the ridge of a mountain, downstream of Erythia island (Cerne or Rusava), near the strip of crags which crossed the old Oceanos, and near a promontory, which in a time of deep antiquity had been consecrated to Saturn (Orpheus, Argonautica, v. 1167; Scylax, Periplus, 112; Dionysius, Orbis Descriptio, v. 451; Avienus, Descriptio orbis, v. 111, 739-740; Priscianus, Periegesis, v. 334. 462; Strabo, III. 5. 3).
One of the divinities who watched over the navigation on the Istru appears to have been especially Hercules.
According to the writings of Trog Pompeius, Philip II, the king of Macedonia, sent a delegation to Atheas, the king of the Scythians, at north of the lower Danube, through which he let him know that, while he was busy to occupy Greece, he had decided, by casting votes, to erect a copper statue of Hercules at the mouths of the Istru, probably to ensure the success of the transport of goods from the Danube. But Atheas, fearing that under this religious pretext king Philip could hide some hostile plans, asked him to send over the statue, promising that he will not only ensure that the monument will be set in place, but that he will even see to it that it will not be violated in the future (Justinus, Historiarum Philippicarum, lib. IX. c. 2).
The Greek historian Arrianus from Nicodemia tells us the following: Alexander the Great, when crossing the lower Istru after he had beaten the Getae and had destroyed their big city in the area, made a sacrifice on the bank of the Istru to Jove Soter (the redeemer), to Hercules and even to Istru “because it had been favourable during this crossing” (De expeditione Alexandri, lib. I. c. 4).
Finally, when the emperor Trajan went with war against the Dacians, the Arvali Brothers made on the day of 25 of March 101 a.d. a solemn pledge of sacrifices to Hercules Victor, so that the emperor should return in good health, happy and victorious from the lands and provinces where he was going by land and sea (Henzen, Acta fratrum arvalium. p. CXLII).
According to Pliny (H. N. III. Proem), the locals from near the Pillars of Hercules told that once upon a time, the mountains in this place were joined together on both sides, forming an uninterrupted chain, and that Hercules, by cutting an opening into these heights, had let the ocean, or the inland sea, to flow out, and in this way he had changed the appearance of the landscape (Mela, lib. I. 5, Cf. Diodorus Siculus, lib. IV. 18. 4).
The second Pillars of Hercules, Abyla
On the Roman coin of the metropolis of Tyre, the second Pillars of Hercules can be seen represented also.
While the first column is shown on this coin near a pharos, therefore near a navigable body of water, the position of the second column is indicated in a very clear fashion, by a beautiful mountain tree; it is an oak, the characteristic species of Central Europe.
So, the second Pillars of Hercules was somewhat further away from Oceanos potamos, inside a secular forest.
According to Herodotus, the second Pillars of Hercules from the magnificent temple in Tyre was of gold (lib. II. c. 44). The Tyrians wanted to express through this symbolic representation, that one of the Pillars of Hercules, from the great empire responsible for their commercial prosperity, was situated in some mountains, famous for their riches in gold.
According to the ancient geographical traditions, the second Pillars of Hercules was called Abyla, Abila, Abyle or Abile (Mela, lib. I. 5; Avienus, Descr. Orb. v. 111; Pliny, lib. III; Ptolemy, IV. 1; Dionisyus Periegetus, Geogr. Gr. Min. II. p. 228). This is a word with a Pelasgian or Proto-Latin root, which had no other meaning than Albula (Pliny, lib. III. 5; Livy, lib. I. 3; Virgil, Aen. VIII. 330) or Alba in Latin (TN – white). As Pliny tells us (III. Proem.), the height on which rose the column called Abyla had the name “promontorium Album”. In Romanian we have Alba, pl. Albe and Albele; and in the Romanian-Istrian dialect aba, pl. abe and abele (Maiorescu, Itinerar in Istria, p. 83).
After the old geographical notions about the true position of the Pillars of Hercules had been lost, and their memory had been preserved only in the holy books of some very ancient times; after the old Oceanos potamos was mistaken for the External Ocean and Libya from the Ister for Libya from Africa (Apollodorus, Bibl. II. 5. 11. 11; 5. 10. 9), the Greek authors transferred also on the shores of Mauritania, the Pillars of Hercules named Abyla, and the mountain on which this column stood, called by some Abylix and promontorium Album by Pliny. But the famous geographer Artemidorus from Ephesus, who had visited the shores of Africa, Spain and Italy, tells us that no mountain with the name Abilyx (Strabo, Geogr. III. 5. 5) had ever existed on the territory of Libya, close to the strait of the Mediterranean Sea, neither a “promontorium Album”. On the other hand, Charax Pergamenus and Dionysius Periegetus tell us something more. According to them, the column called Abyla was not in Africa, but on the territory of Europe (Schol. ad Dionys. Perieg. 641 in Frag. Hist. grace. III. P. 640; Dionysius, Orb. Descr. v. 334-336). On the Roman coin of the metropolis of Tyre, the Pillars of Hercules are represented as having the same common basis, without being separated by the river bed or the course of some water, which denotes that both these principal Pillars of Hercules were on the same side of the continent.
Therefore, this Pillars of Hercules, Abyla or Abula, had to be found in the same region of the old Oceanos potamos, close to the legendary straits of this big river, from where travel onwards, on water and on land, was met with enormous difficulties.
Pliny the Elder communicates to us (lib. XXXVII. 19. 2) an important note extracted from the writings of the Greek philosopher Theophrastus (4th century b.c.), according to which the emerald Pillars of Hercules from the temple at Tyre distinguished itself by its considerable circumference. The same type is presented by the Pillars of Hercules represented on the Roman coin of Tyre. Here the height of both columns is only a little bigger than the double diameter of the base.
According to the traditions preserved by the Greek authors, the Pillars of Hercules were markers, not only for the navigation on the river Oceanos, but for the land travel as well (Pindar, Nem. III; Suidas, v. Gadeira), laborum Herculis metae.
These prehistoric lines of communication had in popular traditions the name of “the roads of Hercules” (Livy, lib. V. c. 34). In his Roman history he tells us that, according to the mythological legends, there was an ancient road through the “Alps”, whose construction had been attributed to Hercules.
We find another tradition at Diodorus Siculus. Hercules, writes he (lib. IV. 19. 3), after having taken Geryon’s herds, wanting to go from the Celtic lands to Italy, across the Alps, had opened and paved with stones the bad and difficult roads, in order to pass with his men and all the baggage loaded on his transporting wagons; and because the barbarians of those lands had attacked and robbed his troupes inside the mountains’ straits, Hercules had punished with death the leaders of these evil doers, and had ensured that this road will be safe for posterity.
The same tradition is repeated by Silius Italicus with the following words: “The first to pass over these inaccessible peaks (of the Alps) was Hercules of Tirynth. The Gods above saw him going on his way through the clouds, breaking the chasms of the mountains, and opening with extraordinary strength, through the untouched cliffs, a way unknown to the previous centuries” (lib. III. v. 513 seqq).
And finally, Ammianus Marcellinus tells us that the first road across the Alps was built by Hercules, when this hero went to destroy Geryon (lib. XV. 1. 10).
As we see, the pre-historical traditions which the Greek authors have preserved, were talking in particular about a road through the Alps, which they connected with Hercules’ expedition against Geryon. Under the name of Alpes, Greek Alpeis, from albus (white, or covered with snow), the ancients understood any system of high and wide mountains.
It is possible that Hercules might have opened a way through the central Alps of Europe as well, although Livy tells us very precisely that there is no popular tradition regarding this, and that only the mythological legends told about Hercules’ road through the Alps
Diodorus Siculus (IV. 18. 6) mentions also a tradition according to which the fields named Tempe from Thessaly, being covered with stagnant water, Hercules, by perforating the hill, had drained this lake into the river Peneus. It looks like this is one and the same tradition, which the Greek authors have placed in Thessaly. Tempea and Tempe in Greek meant any beautiful valley].
As Herodotus tells us, the second column in Hercules’ temple at Tyre was made from the purest gold (lib. II. c. 44). It was a simple symbol for the region where the second Pillars of Hercules was. This column had therefore no connection with navigation, but only with the mountains, or the continental thoroughfares, the same meaning as its representation on the coin of Tyre had.
The Pillars of Hercules called Cynegetiche:
There existed different opinions in antiquity about the number of the Pillars of Hercules.
As Hesychius writes, some talked about two, others about three, one, or four Pillars of Hercules. Scylax even expresses the following: “I shall start from the Pillars of Hercules in Europe and I shall continue as far as the Pillars of Hercules which are in Libya” (Periple of the Seas).
It results therefore from these words that in older geographical literature there was really talk about more Pillars of Hercules.
One of the Greek historians, Charax Pergamenus, who lived during the times of Hadrian and the Antonines, considers that the column called Calpe was identical with Alybe (Abyle), and about the second column he tells us (Frag. Hist. grace. III. 640) that the Greeks named it Kynegetiche and the barbarians ‘Abenna.
In old Greek the word chynegeo meant to hunt, chynegos meant hunter and chynegetiche meant hunt. We have here again a geographical name, distorted in order to have a Greek meaning.
The position of this column called Chynegetiche was, according to Charax, in Libya. But surely, the old sources were not talking about the African Libya, but of Libya from near the Istru, whose boundaries today we don’t know any more.
The Argonauts pass the Pillars of Hercules, when returning to Hellada on Oceanos potamos
According to Homer’s Odyssey (v. 66-72), the expedition of the Argonautic heroes returns to Thessaly on the big river Oceanos potamos, and for the first time their renowned ship Argo passes successfully through the perilous crags on the bed of this river.
“From the danger of these rocks” writes Homer, “no human vessel, of all that tried to pass this way, escaped. Their planks smashed and the water waves, with their violent eddies, swallowed them together with the bodies of men. Only one sea vessel passed through this place, Argo, the most illustrious of all, when it returned from Aetes and she certainly would have crashed on the large rocks (megalas poti petras), but for the goddess Juno, who helped her to pass, because she loved Jason”.
These rocks so fatal for navigation on the so called Oceanos potamos, were the cataracts of Istru. But the Argonautic heroes, continuing their navigation upstream on the river Oceanos, reach with their holy ship also the Pillars of Hercules, at the strait of the Rhipaei mountains.
According to the epic poem attributed to Orpheus, the Argonauts, returning to Hellada with their ship and the golden fleece, pass firstly by the Scythian Archers and by the Hyperborean shepherds, then they enter the wide valley of the Rhipaei mountains, and reach the strait of these mountains, where there was the height called Calpis; from here they pass in extreme fear by the whirlpools and the rocks which were in the vicinity of the island Iernis (Cerne), then they reach the mouth of the river Ternesos and call into the port, near the shore on which the Pillars of Hercules were situated .
According to the poet Pindar (Pyth. IV. v. 251), the Argonauts pass from the waters of the Ocean in “pontul rosu” (T.N. – the red bridge). But under this name has to be understood the turn, or the wide opening of the Danube near Rusava island (Erythia), and not the Red Sea between Arabia and Egypt. Pindar had taken the words “pontos erythros”
Herodotus also mentions an ancient tradition, communicated by the Egyptian priests, that king Sesostris, departing with a fleet composed of long ships, had subjected the inhabitants from near ‘Erythra thalassa, from where he could not navigate further, because of the straits. This Sesostris is one and the same with Osiris, the great king of the Egyptians, who had reached with his army the sources (cataracts) of Istru (Diodor, I. 27. 5).
The Orphic poem also mentions the Erythia strait (v. 1048) near the Caucas mountains, or Carpathians. While at Homer and in the Orphic poem Istru, on which the Argonauts return to Hellada, figures under the name Ocheanos potamos, the same Istru appears at Apollodorus (I. 9. 24. 4) under the name of Eridan, and at Diodorus Siculus under the name of Tanais, Danuvius of the Romans)].
In more recent times of the antiquity, another two famous poets, Apollonius Rhodius and Valerius Flaccus, had studied the legend about the taking of the Golden fleece. Both these authors distinguished themselves with their mythological and geographical erudition, and both admitted that the great river of the ante-Homeric geography, Oceanos potamos, which flew in the Euxine Pontos, was none other than Istru.
According to Apollonius Rhodius the Argonautic heroes return to Hellada with the golden fleece on the waters of Istru, called “Istroio megas” and “megas Okeanoio” (Argon. lib. IV. v. 302. 282). They pass first by the wild shepherds, by the Thracians mixed with Scythians, and by the Sigynii (Idem, lib. IV. v. 316 seqq), who according to Herodotus, lived on the northern side of the lower Istru.
And according to the epic poem of Valerius Flaccus, the Argonauts return to their country also through the vast mouths of the Istru (Argon. VIII. v. 189-191).
We find another important mention about the Pillars of Hercules with the Roman grammarian Servius Maurus Honoratus (4th century a.d.), a lettered man with extraordinary knowledge of history and mythology. In the commentaries which he has written about Virgil’s Enaeid, he tells us the following: “according to what we read, the Pillars of Hercules exist both in the Pontos region, and also in Hispania” (Virgilii Maronis opera). As we see here, Servius has added here “in Hispania also”, because this fiction had become consecrated, during many past centuries, on the Greek geographical documents, although the Romans, who had conquered Iberia and North Africa, had not found there any vestige, any tradition, about the Pillars of Hercules.
The cities Tartessos (s. Tertessus) and Cempsi near the Pillars of Hercules
Close to the Pillars of Hercules, the ancient geographers and historians also mentioned, based on previous traditions, two market cities important from a commercial and industrial point of view, one named Tartessos or Tertessus, the other Cempsi (Avienus, Descr. Orb. v. 478-480).
These two traditional cities, exactly like the Pillars of Hercules and the islands near these columns, were transported in later times on the territory of Spain, close to the Gibraltar strait. But in fact, from the Pyrenees to the southern shores of Spain, there never was any locality with these names.
In the absence of any positive historical remains and any local traditions, some of the Greek authors (Strabo, Geogr. III. 2. 11) supposed that old Tartessos might have existed in the delta of the Baetis river. But others insisted on the contrary, that the prehistoric Tartessos might have been identical with the city named Carteia during Roman times (today San-Roque), located near the Mediterranean straits (Strabo, Geogr. III. 2. 4).
But a Tartessos on the territory of Carteia was only a simple fiction of the Greek authors, disregarded by the public Roman administration and by the Roman geographers. Pliny the Elder tells us (H. N. III. 3. 2) that only the Greeks called Carteia Tartessos. And the geographer Mela, who was born near Carteia, can not tell us anything precise in this regard, but only repeats the opinions of others, somehow doubting them. “Carteia” says he “which, according to some, was Tartessos” (lib. III. 6).
Tartessos had had an important role in the history of civilization. It had been one of the most famous cities of the ancient world. It especially reached an immense importance for the commerce of the Phoenicians (in the history of the Phoenicians the name Tartessos appears under the form of Tarsis). Its region was extremely rich in silver, gold, copper, tin and lead mines (The Bible, 10. 9 and 27. 12; Scymnus, v. 165-166; Stephanos Byzantynos, see Tartessos; Herodotus, IV. 152; Pausanias, VI. 19. 2).
We find an interesting note about its large metal treasures with Herodotus. “Some merchants from the Samos island” writes he “blown by winds and lost during their navigation, reached Tartessos beyond the Pillars of Hercules, and it seemed that their good fate took them in those lands. This town was still standing in those times. They returned from there with the best of profits which the Greeks ever made, up until these days, according to our knowledge. Then the Samiens put aside the tenth part of their profit, worth six talents, with which they decided to make a copper crater, like the one at Argos, decorated around the rim with uplifted gryphon heads. These gryphons, symbol of the lands of the Hyperboreans, indicated very clearly the source of the metal (Isidorus, Orig. XII. 2. 7). They then dedicated this crater in Juno’s temple, where they placed it on three kneeling copper colossi, about seven ells high (lib. IV. 152).
As results from these historical and geographical notes, the old city of Tartessos, famous for its metal riches, was a city of owners and workers of mines.
As for its geographical location, “the most happy” Tartessos, as called by Scymnus, was situated upstream from Calpe promontory (Priscianus, v. 335-337), but further inland from the banks of the river Oceanos or Istru (Strabo, lib. III. 2. 11).
The epic poet Silius Italicus presents (Pun. Lib. V. v. 395 seqq) the following picture of the region where the city of Tartessos was: “In the same way father Oceanos beats the Calpe promontory of Hercules with its furious waters, in the same way its whirlpools, with their howling waves, rush with violence in the cavities which open in the heart of this mountain, the rocks in the bed of the river moan, and its waves hit and are turned back on the stony ridges with such an infernal noise, that it is heard even at Tartessus, separated from the shores by extensive countryside”.
According to the grammarian Apollodorus from Athens, Hercules, after stealing Geryon’s herds from the island of Erythia, crossed with them to Tartessos (Bibl. II. 5. 10. 8).
We have the following extra geographical data regarding the location of the famous city Tartessos: according to Stephanos Byzantinos, the city Tartessos was situated near the river with the same name, which rose in the Silver Mountain (‘Argyrou orous).
In the Argonautica of Apollonius Rhodius (IV. 323-324), the same mountain appears with the name Aggouron oros, whose position was near the straits of Istru.
According to the poet Stesichor (630-550 bc), who had paid a special attention to Geryon’s legends, Tartessos potamos flew somewhere in front of the island Erythia (Rusava) and had immense sources, which sprang from a cave, which was in the mountain called Radacini de Argint (T.N. – silver roots, Cf. Strabo, III. 2. 11).
The second market city near the Pillars of Hercules, important for the commerce with metals in the prehistoric times, was Cempsi. According to Dionysius Periegetus, Avienus and Priscianus, the market city called Cempsi had its dwellings further up from Tartessus, on some smaller hills (Priscianus, Periegesis, v. 335-
337), at the feet of the burnt mountains, which the Greeks called Pyrrhene
In regard to the origin of the name Pyrenees, Diodorus Siculus writes (V. 35. 2): And because these mountains were covered in extensive forests, dark because of the enormous number of their trees, it is told that in the old times, when the shepherds put fire to them, it happened that this whole mountainous region has burnt. As the violent fire went on for days, everything that was on the face of the earth burned, and that’s why these mountains were named Pyrenaia, burnt. At the same time, a big quantity of silver appeared at the surface of the earth, which by melting, formed in some parts rivers of pure silver. But the local inhabitants not knowing the use of this metal, the Phoenicians, as soon as they got wind of it, bought the silver from them in exchange for some goods of little value. They won immense riches by transporting the silver to Greece, Asia and all the other countries].
These Pyrenees of the prehistoric times, whose position was near the Pillars of Hercules, were not the Pyrenees which separated Gaul from Iberia, and which appear under this name only in later times of antiquity. It is impossible not to compare the great Buddhist gateways, with their
triple lintels and sun-discs, to the propylons of Phœnician temples preserved insemblance on. These have double lintels binding the otherwise isolated sideposts, and over the centre of the lintel are the sun and moon. Probably the doorposts of the sun-gates in the East and West are the origin of the two pillars that served for symbol of Melkarth in Phœnician temples, for this symbol was not a single stone, a shapeless ærolith, but a pair of pillars of metal or emerald glass, almost certainly connected by a lintel. They are bethels and Gates of Heaven’ dedicated to the Opener. Perrot remarks that, ‘in speaking of the Phœnician and Syrian temples, classic authors often mentioned the tall pillars which rose in couples before the sanctuary. In the temples of Melkarth, at Gades, they were of bronze, eight cubits high, and bore a long inscription. In the shrine of the same deity at Tyre the admiration of Herodotus was stirred by the sight of two shafts, one of pure gold and the other of emerald, that is, of lapis lazuli or coloured glass. These shafts or stelæ probably stood in similar places to those occupied at Jerusalem by Jachin and Boaz, the two famous bronze columns, which rose at the threshold of a building also erected by a Phœnician architect.’
Such pillars have been found engraved as a symbol of Melkarth on a votive stele (see Perrot’s Phœnicia), and they really form a gateway, a trilithon, for, standing apart, they are connected by a lintel; over them are the sun and moon—a counterpart of the gateway to the temple on the coin of Paphos.
Professor Robertson Smith, in the recent volume of the ‘Encyclopædia Britannica’ (art. Temple), says definitely: ‘Such twin pillars or twin stelæ in stone are of constant occurrence in Phœnician sacred art, and are still familiar to us as the Pillars of Hercules.’
The Egyptian obelisks that flank the great portals of the temples, at once occur to us as having a corresponding intention. In both ancient and modern times the symbolism of these is understood to be solar. ‘Dedicated to the sun,’ says that at Rome set up by Augustus. According to Pliny, they ‘represent rays of the sun.’ ‘The obelisks,’ says Ebers, ‘were sacred to Ra, the sun.’ It has been remarked that sometimes they were entirely gilt, that the apex was at other times covered with gilded bronze, and some at least appear to have carried spheres or discs, also of gilded metal.
An inscription describes two obelisks erected by Queen Hashop, the sister of the great Thothmes: ‘Their tops are covered with copper of the best war tributes of all countries; they are seen a great many miles off. It is a flood of shining-splendour when the sun rises between them’ (Brugsch). The Assyrian slabs and bronzes seem to make it clear that ‘sun pillars’ flanked the entrances, or were set up right and left of an altar.
In India, pillars supporting sun-wheels are found at the entrance gates to sacred buildings. Fergusson says: ‘My impression is that all the pillars surmounted by lions in front of the caves, as at Karla, supported originally a wheel in metal.’ Such ‘chakra pillars’ are frequent on the Buddhist sculptures, and the wheels appear to have been turned on an axle. In Orissa, Dr Hunter tells us, ‘sun pillars’ are surmounted by the charioteer of the god, or by an eagle.
book 1, chapter 1: … was likewise well acquainted with the Mediterranean. Starting from the Pillars, The rocks of Gibraltar and Ceuta. this sea… drew a line parallel with the equator, running from the Pillars of Hercules to the extreme east of Asia, and
book 1, chapter 2: … in the same list with navigators who had passed the Pillars. Unfortunately for Strabo’s illustration, no Grecian navigator had… in his calculation by 3° 34′ 34″. to the Pillars to be 22,500 stadia, and supposing the rate … the Arabian Gulf, The Red Sea. or the Pillars, The Strait of Gibraltar. after proceeding a certain… his conjecture, for he considers that the strait at the Pillars was not then formed, so that the Atlantic
book 1, chapter 3: … credit to many strange narrations concerning what lies beyond the Pillars of Hercules, informing us of an Isle of Kerne … period of the Trojan war they had penetrated beyond the Pillars of Hercules, and founded cities as well there as … the rivers, had opened for itself a passage by the Pillars of Hercules, and thus, much that was formerly covered … case there ought to be a like influx at the Pillars and Calpe, This city of Calpe was near Mount Calpe, one of the Pillars of Hercules. as there is at Byzantium. But … overflowed, it might have broken through the Strait at the Pillars, as through a cataract; and still continuing to swell… to mean, that so long as the strait by the Pillars of Hercules remained closed, these marshes covered with shoal-
book 1, chapter 4: … Canopic mouth to Carthage, 13,500. From thence to the Pillars at least 8000. Which make in all 70,800 … says] should be added the curvature of Europe beyond the Pillars of Hercules, fronting the Iberians, and inclining west, not
book 2, chapter 1: … east to west parallel to the equator. He makes the Pillars of Hercules the boundary of this line to the … those mountains which bound India on the north. From the Pillars he draws the line through the Strait of Sicily,… India. The Taurus continuing in a straight line from the Pillars divides Asia through its whole length into two halves, … So that both the Taurus and the sea from the Pillars hither That is, the Mediterranean on the coast of… to instruments and geometrical calculations for his statement that the Pillars and Cilicia lie in a direct line due east. For that part of it included between the Pillars and the Strait of Sicily he rests entirely on … opinion we before mentioned, that a line drawn from the Pillars of Hercules across the Mediterranean, and the length of
book 2, chapter 3: … to return to Egypt through the passage of the Pillars of Hercules. See Humboldt’s Cosmos, ii. 488, … hastens home, and then starts on a voyage beyond the Pillars of Hercules! But he could never have left Alexandria
book 2, chapter 4: … there are 10,000 stadia from the Peloponnesus to the Pillars, and something above this number from the Peloponnesus to … only about half the distance from the Peloponnesus to the Pillars of Hercules. This mistake of Dicæarchus is a … would remain 7000 between the Strait of Sicily and the Pillars. Literally, He assigns 3000 to the interval which stretches towards the Pillars as far as the Strait, and 7000 from the Strait to the Pillars. The distance from Cape Tenarum to the Strait … correct measure [from the Strait of Messina to the Pillars of Hercules], whether taken along the sea-shore, or … reaching to the Strait of Sicily, the other to the Pillars, the vertex being Narbonne. Now let a triangle be
book 2, chapter 5: … It is generally admitted that a line drawn from the Pillars of Hercules, and passing over the Strait [of Messina]… of latitude. The actual latitudes are as follow: The Pillars of Hercules, or Strait of Gibraltar, 360. The … is likewise admitted, that the line in passing from the Pillars to the Strait of Sicily divides the Mediterranean through … west at right angles to the former, passing by the Pillars of Hercules and the Strait of Sicily to Rhodes … so. It is likewise stated of the country beyond the Pillars of Hercules, that the most western point of the … It lies nearly in a line with Gades, the Pillars of Hercules, the Strait of Sicily, and Rhodes; Cape… by 30′ 30″, north of the Strait of Gibraltar, or Pillars of Hercules, by 1° 2′, south of the Strait
book 3, chapter 1: … of the south is fertile, especially what is beyond the Pillars [of Hercules]. This however will be shown more in… and the Mediterranean the southern from the Pyrenees to the Pillars of Hercules, thence the exterior [ocean] The Atlantic. … as inhabiting the most western part of Europe, beyond the Pillars of Hercules. which signifies a wedge. The… sea-coast from the outlets of the Guadiana to the Pillars [of Hercules]. But it is necessary that I should… of Maurusia, the Atlantic Ocean forms the strait at the Pillars [of Hercules] by which it is connected with the
book 3, chapter 2: … between the Sacred Promontory Cape St. Vincent. and the Pillars, consists of an extended plain. Here in many places … between the Sacred Promontory Cape St. Vincent. and the Pillars, where the tide comes in with more violence than … and Rome. The navigation is excellent as far as the Pillars, (excepting perhaps some little difficulties at the Strait,)… but also from the remainder of the coast beyond the Pillars, equal to that of Pontus. Formerly they exported large … are ripe, the whole coast on either side of the Pillars is covered with acorns which have been thrown up … quantity however is always less on this side the Pillars [than on the other]. Polybius states that these acorns… to the failure of their food, as they approach the Pillars from the outer sea. This fish, in fact, may
book 3, chapter 3: … as far as the sea-coast on this side the Pillars. Next these towards the north are the Carpetani, then
book 3, chapter 4: … of Iberia, is the seacoast of the Mediterranean from the Pillars to the Pyrenees, and the whole of the inland … It has been remarked that the sea-coast From the Pillars to the Sacred Promontory, or Cape St. Vincent. … , The rock of Gibraltar. which is near the Pillars, to New Carthage, Carthagena. there are 2200 stadia… the majority of the scenes which he narrates without the Pillars, in the Atlantic. For historical events of a similar … possesses an anchorage. The whole coast from the Pillars up to this place wants harbours, but all the … Such is the whole sea-coast from the Pillars to the confines of the Iberians and Kelts. The … however to the south and the sea-coast towards the Pillars. At the commencement it consists of bare hills, but
book 3, chapter 5: … islands] are on this side of what are called the Pillars of Hercules. Near to them are two … is called the Island of Juno: some call these the Pillars. Beyond the Pillars is Gades, Cadiz. concerning which all that we… oracle commanded the Tyrians to found a colony by the Pillars of Hercules. Those who were sent out for the … Hercules, and consequently they were what the oracle termed the Pillars. They landed on the inside of the straits, at … Onoba, a city of Iberia: considering that here were the Pillars, they sacrificed to the god, but the sacrifices being … some consider that the capes in the strait are the Pillars, others suppose Gades, while others again believe that they
book 11, chapter 1: … ; in the same manner that the sea within the Pillars, which for the most part runs in the same
book 11, chapter 11: … stadia, and to Issus from the western extremities at the pillars 30,000 stadia. The recess of the bay of
book 14, chapter 5: … Phœnicia. The remainder towards the west terminates at the pillars (of Hercules). Strabo means to say, that the
book 15, chapter 1: … Hercules among the Greeks, penetrated even as far as the Pillars, It is evident that the name Pillars misled Megasthenes or the writers from whom he borrowed … march followed by Sesostris. Ptolemy indicates the existence of Pillars, which he calls the Pillars of Alexander, above Albania and Iberia, at the … hordes of savages. Everything therefore seems to show, that these Pillars near Iberia in Asia, and not the Pillars of Hercules in Europe, formed the boundary of the … a long shady roof, like a tent, supported by many pillars. In speaking of the size of the trees, he
book 16, chapter 1: … terraces, raised one above another, and resting upon cube-shaped pillars. These are hollow and filled with earth to allow trees of the largest size to be planted. The pillars, the vaults, and the terraces are constructed of baked … On account of the scarcity of timber, the beams and pillars of the houses were made of palm wood. They wind ropes of twisted reed round the pillars, paint them over with colours, and draw designs upon
book 16, chapter 2: … into Africa and Spain, as far as, and beyond the Pillars, extol much more the glory of Tyre.
book 17, chapter 3: … coast in our quarter, situated between the Nile and the Pillars, particularly that which belonged to the Carthaginians, is fertile … extending from Egypt and the Nile to Mauretania and the Pillars; at right angles to this is a side formed… Spain, on the other side of the strait, at the Pillars of Hercules, which we have frequently mentioned before. On proceeding beyond the strait at the Pillars, with Africa on the left hand, we come to … of 800 stadia, the width of the strait at the Pillars between both places. To the south, near Lixus and … of fables respecting the sea-coast of Africa beyond the Pillars. We have mentioned them before, and mention them now, … They say, that the length of the strait at the pillars is 120 stadia, and the least breadth at Elephas