« السابقةمتابعة »
tion of the battle-field, might happen to give us that circumstantial information which we miss in the imperfect account of the other. The dulness of the middle ages has overshadowed ancient science, art, and enlightened opinions. A Frankish historian will be a bad source for the knowledge of the government of the Caesars; a monk of mount Athos is regarded as a bad critic, when he condemns the mythology of his ancestors; and the Byzantine artists who built the first Christian church on the banks of the Borysthenes, and adorned it with the painting of the Virgin on gold ground, would scarcely have been able to appreciate the master-works of Apelles and Phidias. But it is not so with geography, a science which has derived more information from the keen eye of a soldier, or the vigilance of an unlettered sailor, than from the meditations of Plato and Aristotle.
The geographical observations made during the middle ages are as correct as those of Pliny and Strabo; and whether they are made by Arabs, Greeks, or Latins, they will often be useful for the understanding of obscure passages of the ancients.
. The statements of Strabo, Pomponius Mela, Ptolemy, and Arrian, concerning the Bosporus Cimmerius, the present island of Taman, and the mouths of the Kuban, which seem to be, and partly are, so very contradictory, derive a satisfactory explanation from a Greek author of the middle ages. This is Con stantine Porphyrogeneta, who wrote his geography under circumstances and with an object which are too important in determining the trustworthiness of the author, not to deserve a few remarks.
The century, in which the emperor Constantine Porphyrogeneta lived, was a dangerous epoch for the Byzantine empire, which was then constantly exposed to the invasions of the Russians, a nation whose first appearance in history took place under strange circumstances. In the ninth and tenth centuries they were under the sway of the Waregues or Normans, who, still fond of the piratical life of their ancestors, forced the continental nations, which they had vanquished in the very heart of the boundless woods of Sar-niatia, to undertake maritime expeditions. Kiew, the capital of the Norman-Russian empire, was situated at a distance of almost three hundred miles from the Euxine, but on following the curve of the Borysthenes, on the banks of which that city was, and is still situated, the traveller has to traverse through double of that distance before he arrives at the sea-shore. In Kiew, however, in the midst of a vast continent, the Russians used to arm powerful fleets. Commanded by their Norman chiefs they descended the Borysthenes in spacious barges; they penetrated into the Euxine, and more than once laid siege to Constantinople.
The destructive incursions of these barbarians compelled the emperors of Byzantium to conclude alliances with the Petzenegues and the Khazars, or those Turkish and Finnish tribes which were scattered over the vast steppes between the Don and the Caspian. These nations being united with Byzantium through common interest, the Russians had no chance of attacking the imperial dominions without crossing a great extent of hostile country; and although they could not always be prevented from descending to the shores of the Euxine, they at least could not make their incursions without fighting their way through the arrows of the Petzenegues, who lay in ambush round the cataracts of the Borysthenes. The Emperor Constantine Porphyrogeneta, in his work De Administrando Imperio, recommended these alliances to his son Romanus, as the best means of protecting the empire against the northern barbarians; and he directs the attention of the young prince to every thing concerning the history and geography of that part of Scythia. The political importance of these countries, and the extensive trade of the Greeks on the Tanais and the Borysthenes, are so many guarantees for their geography being well known to the Byzantines; and we can only expect that the imperial author of the work cited above, who was a well-instructed man, and who certainly derived his knowledge from the most authentic sources, has given us the most correct information which it was possible to gather in his time. It is true that he makes an egregious blunder in stating that there was an uninterrupted communication by water between Novgorod and the upper part of the Borysthenes; but this is very excusable, since the spot he speaks of was situated beyond the limits of correct knowledge, in one of those hyperborean countries where, as Herodotus relates, though not without his doubts, showers of feathers fall from the foggy sky, covering the fields and the leafless trees. In all his statements, however, concerning those countries of which an exact knowledge could be obtained, the emperor is correct and accurate.
The commentators of Constantine Porphyrogeneta have written some very good notes; but the geographical part of the work, De Administrando Imperio, especially as far as Southern Russia is concerned, was far from being cleared up in a satisfactory manner, until Bayer, one of the earliest and most distinguished members of the Imperial Academy of St. Petersburg, published his commentary, which is excellent in many respects, and which is contained in the ninth volume of the Commentarii Academies PetropolitcmcB.
Bayer lived at a time when the whole extent of Southern Russia was almost inaccessible to scientific investigation, on account of its being in the hands of the Tatars of the Crimea, whose jealous temper could hardly distinguish between an innocent astronomer and a Russian spy. He had no such detailed maps as have since been engraved by order of the Russian government; and he lived long before the time of Dr. Clarke, and Pallas, that illustrious traveller, who has given us the best description of the countries between the Don, the Volga, and the range of the Caucasus. Although Bayer always tries to restore or discover the correct names, he does not always venture to give his fair opinion about the situation of the localities which are designated by those names. Sometimes also he labours under palpable mistakes, or has recourse to a particular kind of wit, which, among the German scholars of the past century, was admired as esprit, but which is far from agreeing either with the taste or the criticism of the present age. In later years, the learned Count Potocki, Frahn, the eminent oriental scholar, Miiller, the author of Der Ugrische Volksstamm, Eichwald, and several other distinguished men, have treated on the same subject, although their purpose was by no means to write commentaries upon Constantine Porphyrogeneta.
In 1840, the Academie des Inscriptions et Belles Lettres of Paris, proposed as a prize-essay the history of the nations which lived in Southern Russia from the third to the tenth century, with particular regard to the geography of Constantine Porphyrogeneta. One memoir was presented and rejected in 1841, and the problem was renewed; but it will not be before the month of August in this year that we shall know the result of it.
The passage of Constantine Porphyrogeneta concerning the Palus Meeotis, which throws light on the passages of Strabo, Ptolemy, Pliny, and Arrian, treating the same subject, has presented great difficulties to the commentators; and until this day it has not been explained in a satisfactory way. This passage is of great importance, because it enables us to prove the existence of a second Bosporus Cimmerius, which has now disappeared, but which continued open in the tenth century of our era. The following is a translation of the passage.
"A great many rivers empty themselves into the eastern part of the Palus Meeotis, (among which are remarkable) the Tanais, which comes down from the castle of Sarcel, and the Choracul, in which the fish called Berzeticon are caught. Besides these there are the Bal, the Burlic, the Chader, and a great number of other rivers; there is also a channel (called) Burlic, which is a mouth of the Meeotis, through which this sea fiows into the Euxine, at ilte very same place where the Bosporus flows into it. Opposite the (town of) Bosporus there stands the castle of Tamatarcha; the breadth of the above-mentioned channel between them (Tamatarcha and Bosporus) is eighteen miles, and half-way of this distance there is a large flat island of the name of Atech. At a distance of from eighteen to twenty miles from the castle of Tamatarcha there flows the river Ucruch, which separates the island of Tamatarcha from the country of Zichia, which extends from the river Ucruch to the river Nicopsis2."
8 De Administrando Imperio, cap. 42, p. 180, 181, ed. Bonn "Eh Si TodvaTo
XtKtoTepov ficpos Ttjs MaiWTLOOS XiflVtjS elcrepyovTat iroXXoi Tii/es 'iro-raiioi* o -re Ta'j/ats Tora/ios, 6 dirb To Kao-rpov 2dpKeX cpxpfieinK, Kal To XmpaKovX, eir (S Kal To fiepfy'iTiKOii dXieueTai' elcl 06 Kal eTepot iroTap,oi, o BaX, Kal 6 BovpXiK, 6 Xxwiip Kal aXXoi TrXelaToi iroTap.01' eK Se T^s MatcuTioos Xip.vrji e£epXe*rai mofiiov To BovoXi/c €irovop.a%6p.eitov, Kal irpos TtjV Too Tiovtov Ou'Xac
aav (caxapet ei> to etrrlv 6 Botnropos. 'AlrrlKpit de Ttjs Bofriropov To TafiaTapxa Xeyoueuov Kaarpov etrri' To oe Stdo-Ttj/ta Tov irepafiaTos Too Toiovtov O-touiov etrrl fiiXta tij'. ev oe Tw fietrto Twv aiiTwv Hi' fiiXiwu itTTl vijoriov utya xap-ilXdv To Xeyofievov !A.Tex« aTco To Ta/iaTapxa cart iroTafids a-jro piXtutv trj' q Kal K, Xeyouevos OiiKpovX) o Siaxiopt^tav TtjV 'AiyiuLKal To TafuxTapxa. diro 6*' Tow OiiKpoux
p-£XPl T°v NtKoi^ecos iroTa/xov eo-Tiv
rj X<u'oa T»js ZtX'05.1'
Bayer remarks with regard to this passage, that it is very difficult to find out the modern names and the situation of all these rivers, the ancient names having disappeared without leaving any trace. According to him, the Tanais and the Chader are the extreme limits between which the remaining rivers are to be placed; but as he leaves the reader in doubt with regard to the situation of the Chader, these limits, though fixed in the north by the Tanais, remain vague in the south. It is evident that he believes these two rivers to be the extreme limits, because it happens that the emperor begins with the Tanais, and finishes with the Chader. But an attentive examination of the Greek text will show, that the author was far from enumerating the rivers of the Maeotis in the order in which we find them successively crossing our way in travelling along the shore from northeast to south-west. The rivers which are mentioned before all the others, are the Tanais and the Choracul; and the author leads the attention of the reader to them by putting their names together within the space of a single clause, while all the other rivers are enumerated separately. By thus pointing out two rivers, one of which is known to be one of the largest of Europe, the author evidently intended to speak first of the two most considerable objects of his inquiries. He mentioned first and conjointly the Tanais and the Choracul, because they surpassed the others in magnitude; and he did not comply with the method of Ptolemy, who, as a mere mathematical geographer, and always with a view to longitude and latitude, keeps strictly to the geographical order and position of the localities. We have of course only to find out that river which is the most considerable after the Don. This is undoubtedly the Chernaia Protoka, one of the two branches of the Kuban, both of which flow into the Sea of Azof, (Palus Maeotis); the other branch, the Kazatchei Yerik, is less considerable. The Chernaia Protoka runs through a swampy country, and its upper course, though very wide in some places, is narrow in others, its bed being obstructed by reeds and sand-banks; but its mouth is large and deep enough to afford a good harbour for the Russian galley-fleet, opposite the fortress of Achuief. The mouth of the main branch of the Kuban, which empties itself into the Black Sea, is neither as wide nor as deep as that of