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As I have already observed, that the geographical system of Apollonius seems to be taken from the Orphic fables, and is altogether ideal and romantic; it may appear to be a waste of time and labour, to attempt any thing like an exposition of it: or to point out any foundations of fact, as the probable, though remote grounds of a superstructure so chimerical. It would, I believe, be the fairest way, and might come nearest the truth, were we, at once, frankly to confess, that our poet, and the Orphic writers, who preceded him, either did not trouble themselves with the details of geography, or meant to set them at defiance. But, as we may be able to invalidate some of the objections, which have been made to the reality of the Argonautic expedition; by showing how the very errors, particularly in point of geography, which run through the accounts of this transaction, may have originated, in some foundation of fact; I trust, the reader will excuse a more minute examination of this subject. Apollonius, as I have had frequent occasion
of observing, in the course of the preceding notes and dispositions, drew much of his information, from antetior writers on the subject, some of them of very high antiquity. It is probable, that, as the original Orphic traditions came to be handed down, from poet to poet, they were rather more and more disguised by fiction, than rectified, in point of truth, and geographical precision, and veracity. It appears, that in the work of Herodotus, professedly historical, compiled by a man of candour, and admirable sense, who took uncommon pains to gain authentic information, and proposed to relate nothing, which he had not accurately examined; there are, however, a number of gross mistakes, in point of geography. It is not surprising, therefore, that writers of a much earlier date, who also had the sanction of poetical license, should have been extremely deficient in their geography. It is a branch of science, of peculiar nicety and accuracy. It is very difficult, indeed, to follow the geography of any persons, who describe the relative situation of countries, without putting the description to the test, by reducing it to the trial of geometrical construction. The details of the Orphic writers, (I mean the original details,) were long prior, in point of time, to Herodotus; and much allowance is to be made, for poetical embellishment.--For instance, the author of the Orphic fable, had some faint knowledge of Europe projecting towards the west; and places the island of Circe beyond the sea of Gades, in the Western ocean, at the Ligurian coast. -Orphei Arg. v. 1205, 1239.-- Various other errors of this kind will present themselves to the reader.
Although these things occur in poetical works, and might be considered, as the mere offspring of fancy: yet, when they come to be viewed, as in some measure affording a pledge of truth, and being connected with
an event of the utmost historical notoriety, which furnishes an æra in chronology, they will deserve more attention--and the manner, in which such notions came to prevail, and such circumstances came to be inserted, by general consent, in the narratives of a transaction of general celebrity, must be an object of curiosity, and interesting speculation. At any rate, as so much of the narrative of Apollonius consists in geographical detail, it is necessary, to the right understanding of this author, that the reader should form distinct ideas of his geography. It is not very easy to do this, because we stumble at the threshold, and are shocked at the disagreement between him, and the authentic details of modern geography. And the verbal exposition, of the relative situation of places, is unaided by the diagram of geometrical construction.
It will conduce much, to the clearness and distinctness of our ideas, if we compare the circumstances, and points of geography, introduced by Apollonius, with the real truth, and genuine face of the country; if we try to follow
up his errors, to refer them to their probable and original sources, and endeavour to show out of what materials they were produced and grew.
I shall first give a short account of the course, by which Apollonius conducts his adventurers home from Colehis, in one connected view. After which, I shall verture to hint my conjecture, respecting the manner, in which the poet might have been led, to attribute to the Argonauts, a route so visionary, and different, from what the true state of the face of the countries, to which he refers, warranted; or at this day appears to warrant.
After the Argonauts had possessed themselves of the Fleece, the Colchians, in great numbers, prepared to pursue them.- Part of this force sailed through the Bosporus, and past the Cyanean rocks; the other division,
with Absyrtus at their head, past, by the Danube, into the Adriatic sea. It appears, according to the poet's account, that the Danube, or Ister, had two embou, chures in the Euxine sea, which were separated, and formed, by a triangular island, named Peucè, the vertex of which being turned to meet the stream, the base was towards the sea.
These mouths were called Arux, or Arecos, and Calon. The latter was nearest, and most favourable and inviting. Some of the Colchians, there, fore, pursued it, and thus overshot the Argonauts. The Argonauts, describing one side, and the base, of the triangle, pursued the branch, called Arax, and saw nothing of their enemies, the Colchians, till they reached the outlet of the Ister, in the Chronian or Adriatic sea, or gulf of Venice, as it is generally called, where were two islands, sacred to Diana. Here, they found the Colchians waiting to intercept their passage. Medea and Jason, in this strait, destroy Absyrtus, and the Colchians are dispersed. — The Argonauts sail among the numerous islands, which lie on the coast of Dalmatia. They obtain assistance and intelligence from the natives. They come, at length, to Electris, an island at the mouths of the Po; and ascend that river. From thence, Apollonius imagines, that they past into the river Rhone, which, according to him, mingles its waters with the Po, and sends one of its branches (it must be presumed mixed with the Po) to the Adriatic or Ionian sea, as Apollonius calls it, while the other discharges itself into the Sardinian or Tuscan sea, by seven wide embouchures. -The Rhone, with many windings, conveys them to a number of spreading lakes, that overflowed the country peopled by the Celtic tribes. Here, the Argo was near being lost.–After wandering some time, in the regions of the Celtes and Ligurians, they reached the sea shore, by the aid of Juno, somewhere in the gulf of Genoa, or,
as it is called by Apollonius, the Ligustic sea, not far from the Hieres islands. From thence they proceeded, with a rapid course, after passing a multitude of Celtic or Ligurian islands, to Ethalia, or the isle of Elba ; where they refreshed themselves, and steered for the Italian coast, and the residence of Circe; that, by her means, they might obtain expiation and remission, of the guilt they had incurred by the murder of Absyrtus. Here, they performed rites of lustration.--Afterwards, pursuing their voyage, they passed the rocks of the Syrens, and the Eolian or Liparæ islands. In this part their progress, they escaped the dangers of the Planeta, or erratic rocks, and of Scylla and Charybdis, or the faro of Messina.--Passing by the point of Italy, or cape Spartivento, they came to the Grecian sea, and made Corcyra, or the island of Corfou, which lies before the entrance of the Adriatic gulf.-Here they find, that part of the Colchian armament, which, proceeding by the Bosporus, had past the Cyanean rocks. They are protected by the king and queen of the island, and entertained with hospitality.--The Argonauts, after their departure from Corcyra, endeavoured to reach that part of Greece, to which they were bound; but a dreadful storm drove them on the coast of Lybia; where they were in danger of being lost, in the greater Syrtis, now called Sydra.—They landed in a sandy inhospitable desert, and were in still greater danger of perishing, by thirst and hunger. -Here, they were encouraged to carry their vessel over land, with united efforts.
- This they performed with wonderful perseverance; and, after a long and painful march, arrived at the river and lake of Triton, or Tritonis, now called Lowdeah, or the lake of Marks.---Here they were, at first, as much perplexed as ever; not being able to discover any outlet from the lake, to the sea. From this strait they