Strabo’s Mediterranean

The historian and geographer Strabo visited the Corinthia in 29 BC and later drafted what would become one of the most influential and misunderstood accounts of a city made wealthy and corrupted from its position astride a connecting Isthmus. The passage (8.6.20-23) strongly colored the first European accounts of the region, and made its way into so many modern views of Greek and Roman Corinth. Strabo was the author of that dubious notion that a thousand temple prostitutes were available for services at a Temple of Aphrodite on Acrocorinth, as well as that misunderstood passage that traders refused to circumnavigate Cape Malea and preferred to land at the Isthmus. The author is in fact challenging to interpret since he deliberately mines past literary anecdotes collected in the Hellenistic age to characterize the potential and probable path of the new Roman colony he visits.

With Duane Roller’s new English translation of the Geography last year (Cambridge University Press 2014), the Ancient World Mapping Center announced the release of a new interactive digital map of Strabo’s geography to accompany the publication. One can now roam around the Mediterranean to visit the sites listed in Strabo’s geography:

The map is built on the Antiquity À-la-carte interface, and has immense coverage because it plots all the locatable geographical and cultural features mentioned in the 17 books of this fundamentally important Greek source – over 3,000 of them, stretching from Ireland to the Ganges delta and deep into north Africa. In the e-version of the translation, the gazetteer offers embedded hyperlinks to each toponym’s stable URI within the digital module, making it possible to move directly between Strabo’s text and its cartographic realization.

The dots on the map link to entries at Pelagios as well as Pleiades, the site we reviewed earlier this month. I notice that not all locatable geographical features are shown on the map as the dozens of isthmuses of the Mediterranean are conspicuously absent, and the isthmuses were certainly important for Strabo’s view of the connecting seascape. Even still, this is another great resource for seeing Strabo’s the location of the sites that were important to Strabo’s particular vision of the Mediterranean. Click on the map below to visit Strabo’s Greece at AWMC.


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