Turtle-eaters and Their Homes

Strabo 16

“The Khelônophagoi live underneath turtle shells that are big enough to sail in too. Some of them, because a lot of seaweed is cast onto the shore and makes piles as high as hills, dig into them and live inside. They dispose of corpses as food for fish by allowing them to be drawn away in the high tides.

Three islands are situated in a row: they are named Turtle Island, Seal Island, and Hawk Island. The whole shoreline has palm-trees, olive trees, and laurels and this is not just in the straits but on the outside too. There is a certain Philip’s island, facing which, above the coastline, is a hunting preserve for elephants which is called Pythangelos’ Hunting Ground.

Next to this is Arsinoê which has a city and harbor and beyond these, to Deirê above which is another hunting preserve for elephants. The land right above Deirê is rich in aromatics: the first part part produces myrrh—and it is the land of the Fish-Eaters and Meat-Eaters—and it also produces persea and the Egyptian sykamin. Beyond this land is Likha, another hunting ground for elephants. Frequently there are pools of rain water in the region and when these dry, the elephants dig with their tusks and teeth and uncover water.

On that coast, there are two enormous lakes extending up as far as the Pytholaian headland. One of them has salt water and they call it a sea; the other is fresh and contains both hippopotamuses and crocodiles. It also has papyrus on its shores. People also find the Ibis around this lake. Starting near the Pytholaus, the people who live there have unblemished bodies….”

  1. Οἱ δὲ Χελωνοφάγοι τοῖς ὀστράκοις αὐτῶν σκεπάζονται μεγάλοις οὖσιν, ὥστε καὶ πλεῖσθαι ἐν αὐτοῖς· ἔνιοι δὲ τοῦ φύκους ἀποβεβλημένου πολλοῦ καὶ θῖνας ὑψηλὰς καὶ λοφώδεις ποιοῦντος, ὑπορύττοντες ταύτας ὑποικοῦσι. τοὺς δὲ νεκροὺς ῥίπτουσι τροφὴν τοῖς ἰχθύσιν, ἀναλαμβανομένους ὑπὸ τῶν πλημμυρίδων. τῶν δὲ νήσων τινὲς τρεῖς ἐφεξῆς κεῖνται, ἡ μὲν Χελωνῶν, ἡ δὲ Φωκῶν, ἡ δ᾿ Ἱεράκων λεγομένη· πᾶσα δ᾿ ἡ παραλία φοίνικάς τε ἔχει καὶ ἐλαιῶνας καὶ δαφνῶνας, οὐχ ἡ ἐντὸς τῶν στενῶν μόνον, ἀλλὰ καὶ τῆς ἐκτὸς πολλή. ἔστι δέ τις καὶ Φιλίππου νῆσος, καθ᾿ ἣν ὑπέρκειται τὸ Πυθαγγέλου καλούμενον τῶν ἐλεφάντων κυνήγιον· εἶτ᾿ Ἀρσινόη πόλις καὶ λιμήν, καὶ μετὰ ταῦτα ἡ Δειρή· καὶ τούτων ὑπέρκειται θήρα τῶν ἐλεφάντων. ἀπὸ δὲ τῆς Δειρῆς ἡ ἐφεξῆς ἐστιν ἀρωματοφόρος, πρώτη μὲν ἡ τὴν σμύρναν φέρουσα (καὶ αὕτη μὲν Ἰχθυοφάγων καὶ Κρεοφάγων), φύει δὲ καὶ περσέαν καὶ συκάμινον Αἰγύπτιον· ὑπέρκειται δὲ ἡ Λίχα θήρα τῶν ἐλεφάντων· πολλαχοῦ δ᾿ εἰσὶ συστάδες τῶν ὀμβρίων ὑδάτων, ὧν ἀναξηρανθεισῶν οἱ ἐλέφαντες ταῖς προβοσκίσι καὶ τοῖς ὀδοῦσι φρεωρυχοῦσι καὶ ἀνευρίσκουσιν ὕδωρ. ἐν δὲ τῇ παραλίᾳ ταύτῃ μέχρι τοῦ Πυθολάου ἀκρωτηρίου δύο λίμναι εἰσὶν εὐμεγέθεις· ἡ μὲν ἁλμυροῦ ὕδατος, ἣν καλοῦσι θάλατταν, ἡ δὲ γλυκέος, ἣ τρέφει καὶ ἵππους ποταμίους καὶ κροκοδείλους, περὶ τὰ χείλη δὲ πάπυρον· ὁρῶνται δὲ καὶ ἴβεις περὶ τὸν τόπον. ἤδη δὲ καὶ οἱ πλησίον τῆς ἄκρας τῆς Πυθολάουτὰ σώματα ὁλόκληροί
Related image
Silver Turtle Stater from Aigina

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