Thank you. I suspect you are right: the key thing about these place names is that they lie outside the empire. Your comment that we need a poetic map in which "the barbarian people are located where they need to be" makes me wonder, though. Isn't it a predominent feature of Meliboeus' perception of his immediate surroundings that everything is topsy-turvey - and that one way in which this manifests itself is his claim that "a barbarian will inherit these crops" (71) - i.e. that they aren't only to be found beyond the bounds of the empire, but 'here' too?

I would imagine that the main point, then, is not that these place names denote locations inhabited by barbarians, but that they all point to places far away (and ones that would have seemed pretty uninhabitable to an Italian of the time). A correlative function would therefore also be to establish the potential geographical, etc scope of an eclogue - and in so doing indicate its place within/relationship towards both epic and empire.

I'd be interested to hear more about this portmanteau place/word 'Oaxes' too. Does Virgil construct such place names elsewhere in his work too?

Thanks again

HM


From: Leofranc Holford-Strevens <[EMAIL PROTECTED]>
Reply-To: mantovano@virgil.org
To: mantovano@virgil.org
Subject: Re: VIRGIL: Ancient Geography
Date: Thu, 7 Sep 2006 23:21:19 +0100

In message <[EMAIL PROTECTED]>, Hippolyte Menshikov <[EMAIL PROTECTED]> writes
I have been trying to make some sense of the geographical place names listed by Meliboeus at Eclogue 1.64-66. In his commentary, Page suggests that they constitute the 4 points of the compass: North (Scythia), East (Oaxes), South (Africans) and West (Britons).

This took me somewhat by surprise. According to modern cartography,
Which has nothing to do with the case; not even ancient cartography. What we need is neither the Barrington Atlas nor Strabo, but a poetic map in which the barbarian peoples are located where they need to be, because it is barbarians amongst whom Meliboeus, in disgust or despair, must go. The Africans are obvious; Oaxes is a portmanteau of Oxus and Araxes (if Shakespeare can speak of 'Ariachne's woof', why can't Vergil blend names too), and therefore stands for the east; obviously not Crete, a Mediterranean island in the empire, which as Clausen puts it would not 'be compatible with the African desert, distant Britain, and the frozen North'. The West has to be the cut-off Britons because Spain, due west of Italy as it lies, and even Gaul are under Roman rule. Scythia did indeed stand for the frozen North in the classical imaginary (think of the Riphaean mountains) because it was cooler than Greece or Italy; after all, the Straits of Kerch had frozen over in the lifetime of Vergil's father.

Leofranc Holford-Strevens
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Leofranc Holford-Strevens
67 St Bernard's Road                                         usque adeone
Oxford               scire MEVM nihil est, nisi ME scire hoc sciat alter?
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