Riphean mountains



the Riphean mountains;

Original French:  les mons Riphées:

Modern French:  les mons Riphées:

Among the far-flung places that are brought together by the use of Pantagruelion to weave the sails of ships.

Java has seen the the Riphean mountains…”



And traveling neither by ships nor on foot could you find
the marvelous way to the assembly of the Hyperboreans.
With them Perseus, the leader of people, once feasted,
upon entering their halls,
when he came upon them sacrificing glorious hecatombs
of asses to the god. In their banquets
and praises Apollo ever finds greatest delight
and laughs to see the beasts’ braying insolence.
And the Muse is no stranger
to their ways, for everywhere choruses of maidens,
sounds of lyres, and pipes’ shrill notes are stirring.
With golden laurel they crown their hair
and feast joyfully.
Neither sickness nor accursed old age mingles
with that holy race, but without toils or battles
they dwell there, having escaped
strictly judging Nemesis. Breathing courage in his heart,
the son of Danaë once came—Athena led him—
to that throng of blessed men. He slew
the Gorgon, and, bearing her head adorned
with locks of serpents, came to the islanders,
bringing them stony death.

Pindar (ca. 518-438 BCE), Pythian Odes. William H. Race Race, translator. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1997. 10.29. Loeb Classical Library

les mons Riphées:

240. mundus, ut ad Scythiam Riphaeasque arduus arces
consurgit, premitur Libyae devexus in Austros.
hic vertex nobis semper sublimis; at illum
sub pedibus Styx atra videt Manesque profundi.

As our globe rises steep to Scythia and the Riphaean crags, so it slopes downward to Libya’s southland. One pole is ever high above us, while the other, beneath our feet, is seen of black Styx and the shades infernal.

Virgil (70 – 19 BC), Eclogues. Georgics. Aeneid: Books 1-6. H. Rushton Fairclough, translator. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1916. Georgic 1.240, p. 115. Loeb Classical Library

Ripaen Mountains

mox Ripaei montes et adsiduo nivis casu pinnarum similitudine Pterophoros appellata regio, pars mundi damnata a rerum natura et densa mersa caligine…

Along the coast, as far as the river Don, are the Maeotae from whom the sea receives its name, and last of all in the rear of the Maeotae are the Arimaspi. Then come the Ripaean Mountainsa and the region called Pterophorus, because of the feather-like snow continually falling there; it is a part of the world that lies under the condemnation of nature and is plunged in dense darkness, and occupied only by the work of frost and the chilly lurking-places of the north wind.b Behind these mountains and beyond the north wind there dwells (if we can believe it) a happy race of people called the Hyperboreans, who live to extreme old age and are famous for legendary marvels. Here are believed to be the hinges on which the firmament turns and the extreme limits of the revolutions of the stars, with six months’ daylight and a single day of the sun in retirement, not as the ignorant have said, from the spring equinox till autumn: for these people the sun rises once in the year, at midsummer, and sets once, at midwinter. It is a genial region, with a delightful climate and exempt from every harmful blast. The homes of the natives are the woods and groves; they worship the gods severally and in congregations; all discord and all sorrow is unknown. Death comes to them only when, owing to satiety of life, after holding a banquet and anointing their old age with luxury, they leap from a certain rock into the sea: this mode of burial is the most blissful. Some authorities have placed these people not in Europe but on the nearest part of the coasts of Asia, because there is a race there with similar customs and a similar location, named the Attaci; others have put them midway between the two suns, the sunsets of the antipodes and our sunrise, but this is quite impossible because of the enormous expanse of sea that comes between. Those who locate them merely in a region having six months of daylight have recorded that they sow in the morning periods, reap at midday, pluck the fruit from the trees at sunset, and retire into caves for the night. Nor is it possible to doubt about this race, as so many authoritiesa state that they regularly send the first fruits of their harvests to Delos as offerings to Apollo, whom they specially worship. These offerings used to be brought by virgins, who for many years were held in veneration and hospitably entertained by the nations on the route, until because of a violation of good faith they instituted the custom of depositing their offerings at the nearest frontiers of the neighbouring people, and these of passing them on to their neighbours, and so till they finally reached Delos. Later this practice itself also passed out of use.

Pliny the Elder (23–79 AD), The Natural History. Volume 2: Books 3 – 7. Harris Rackham (1868–1944), translator. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1942. 04.12. Loeb Classical Library

Riphean mountains

Lacus ipse Maeotis Tanain amnem ex Ripaeis montibus defluentem accipiens, novissimum inter Europam Asiamque finem, xvivi circuitu patere traditur, ab alii sxixxv ab ostio eius ad Tanais ostium directo cursu ccclxxv esse constat. accolae sinus eius in mentione Thraciae dicti sunt Histropolin usque.

The actual Sea of Azov, which receives the Don flowing down from the Ripaean Mountains [This name is applied vaguely to all the ranges of Northern Europe and Asia. As a matter of fact the Don rises in the centre of European Russia], the river being the extreme boundary between Europe and Asia, is said to measure 1406, or according to other authorities 1125, miles in circumference. The distance in a straight line between the entrance of the Sea of Azov and the mouth of the Don is agreed to be 375 miles. The inhabitants of the coasts of this great Gulf as far as Istere have been mentioned in our account of Thrace.

Pliny the Elder (23–79 AD), The Natural History. Volume 2: Books 3 – 7. Harris Rackham (1868–1944), translator. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1942. 04.14. Loeb Classical Library

les mons Riphées

Not found.

Pliny the Elder (23–79 AD), The Natural History. Volume 2: Books 3 – 7. Harris Rackham (1868–1944), translator. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1942. 03.12. Loeb Classical Library

mons Riphées

Ch. ix Comment Pantagruel equitablement iugea d’une controverse merveilleusement obscure et difficile si iustement que son iugement fut dit plus admirable que celluy de Salomon.

[Monsieur de Baisecul demandeur d’une part, l’aultre monsieur de Humevesne defendeur de l’autre .]

Et lors Pantagruel leur dist Estes vous qui avez ce grand different entre vous deux? Ouy, dirent ilz, monsieur. Lequel de vous est demandeur? C’est moy, dit le seigneur de Baisecul.

Donc commença en la maniere que s’ensuyt. Monsieur il est vray que une bonne femme de ma maison portoit vendre des oeufz au marché. Couvrez vous Baisecul, dist Pantagruel. Grand mercy monsieur, dist le seigneur de Baisecul. Mais a propos passoit entre les tropicques vers le zenith diametralement opposé es Troglodytes, par autant que les mons Rhiphées avoient eu celle année grande sterilité de happelourdes, moyennant une sedition meue entre les Barragouyns & les Accoursiers pour la rebellion des Souisses, qui s’estoient assemblez iusques au nombre de troys, six, neuf, dix, pour aller à l’aguillanneuf, le premier trou de l’an, que l’on donne la souppe aux boeufz, & la clef du charbon aux filles, pour donner l’avoine aux chiens.

Rabelais, François (1483?–1553), Pantagruel. Les horribles et espouvantables faictz & prouesses du tresrenommé Pantagruel Roy des Dipsodes, filz du grand geant Gargantua, Composez nouvellement par maistre Alcofrybas Nasier. Lyon: Claude Nourry, 1532. Ch.9. Athena

Rhiphaean Mountains – Smith translation

CHAPTER XI How the Lords of Kissbreech and Suckfizzle did plead before Pantagruel without Advocates
But to the purpose, there passed between the two Tropics six white Pieces towards the Zenith and a Halfpenny, forasmuch as the Rhiphaean Mountains had this year had a great Sterility of Happelourdes by means of a Sedition of Babblers stirred up between the Jabberers and the Accursians, for the Rebellion of the Switzers, who had assembled together to the Number of the Bumbees, to go to the Handsel-getting on the first Hole of the Year, when men give Brewis to the Oxen and the Key of the Coals to the Maids, to give Oats to the Dogs.

Rabelais, François (1483?–1553), The Five Books and Minor Writings. Volume 1: Books I-III. William Francis Smith (1842–1919), translator. London: Alexader P. Watt, 1893. Internet Archive

Rhipaei Montes

RHIPAEI MONTES, a name applied by Grecian fancy to a mountain chain whose peaks rose to the North of the known world. It is probably connected with the word “ripai” or the chill rushing blasts of “Boreas”, the mountain wind or “tramontana” of the Greek Archipelago, which was conceived to issue from the caverns of this mountain range. Hence arose the notion of the happiness of those living beyond these mountains — the only place exempt from the northern blasts.
In fact they appear in the form of “Ripai”, in Alcman, a lyric poet of the 7th century B.C., who is the first to mention them. The contemporary writers Damastes of Sigeum and Hellanicus of Lesbos agree in their statements in placing beyond the fabled tribes of the North the Rhipaean Mountains from which the north wind blows, and on the other side of these, on the seacoast, the Hyperboreans.
The legends connected with this imagined range of mountains lingered for a long period in Grecian literature, as may be seen from the statements of Hecataeus of Abdera and Aristotle. Herodotus knows nothing of the Rhipaean Mountains or the Alps, though the positive geography of the North begins with him. It would be an idle inquiry to identify the Rhipaean range with any actual chain.
As the knowledge of the Greeks advanced, the geographical “mythus” was moved further and further to the North till it reached the 48th degree of latitude North of the Maeotic Lake and the Caspian, between the Don, the Volga, and the Jaik, where Europe and Asia melt as it were into each other in wide plains or steppes. These “mountains of the winds” followed in the train of the meteorological “mythus” of the Hyperboreans which wandered with Heracles far to the West.
Geographical discovery embodied the picture which the imagination had formed. Poseidonius seems to have considered this range to be the Alps. The Roman poets, borrowing from the Greeks, made the Rhipaean chain the extreme limit to the North; and Lucan places the sources of the Tanais in this chain.
In the earlier writers the form is Ripaei, but with Pliny and those who followed him the P becomes aspirated. In the geography of Ptolemy and the Rhipaean chain appears to be that gently rising ground which divides the rivers which flow into the Baltic from those which run to the Euxine.

Smith, William (1813-1893), A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography. Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1854. Vol. 2, p. 710. Internet Archive


The legendary race of the Hyperboreans, though mentioned neither in the Iliad nor Odyssey, are spoken of in the poem of the Epigoni and in Hesiod and occur in traditions connected with the temples of Tempe, Delphi, and Delos.
The situation assigned to this sacred nation, as the name indicates, is the remote regions of the North. They were said to dwell beyond Boreas, the mountain wind, which came from the Rhipaean Mountains, the name of which was derived from hurricanes, issuing from a cavern, which they warded off from the Hyperboreans, and sent to more southern nations; so that they never felt the cold north wind, but had their lot fixed in some happy climate, where, like an Alpine summit rising above the storms, they were surrounded by an atmosphere of calm and undisturbed serenity.
“Here,” says Alexander Von Humboldt, “are the first views of a natural science which explains the distribution of heat and the difference of climates by local causes, by the direction of the winds, the proximity of the sun, and the action of a moist or saline principle.” And thus the “meteorological myth,” which placed the Hyperboreans in the North at the sources of the Ister, as conceived by Pindar, and Aeschylus in the Prometheus Unbound, was, when the Ister was supposed to be a river running through all Europe from its western extremity, transferred to the regions of the West.
In consequence of this we find, in later writers, a confusion of this happy land with that of Italy and other western countries, as well as of the Rhipaeans with the Alps and Pyrenees. But whatever arbitrary license was assumed by the poets and geographers who wished to mold these creations of the fancy into the form of a real people, as to their local habitation, the religious idea always remained the same. They were represented as a pious nation, abstaining from the flesh of animals, and living in perpetual serenity in the service of their God for a thousand years.
“The muse is no stranger to their manners. The dances of girls, and the sweet melody of the lyre and pipe, resound on every side, and twining their hair with the glittering bay they feast joyously. There is no doom of sickness or disease for this sacred race; but they live apart from toil and battles, undisturbed by exacting Nemesis.”
But at length, tired out with this easy life, betwixt the sun and shade, they leapt, crowned with garlands, from a rock into the sea.
We are conducted almost involuntarily to the Argippaei, Issedones, and the “ancient kingdom of the Griffin,” to which Aristeas of Proconessus, and, two hundred years after him, Herodotus, have given such celebrity.
East of the Kalmuck Argippaei were the Issedones, but to the North of both, nothing was known, since high mountains presented an impassable barrier. In descending the chain of Ural to the East, towards the steppes of Obol and Ichim, another lofty range of mountains, forming the West extremity of the Altai, does in fact appear. The commercial route crossed the first chain from West to East, which indicates a “meridian” chain with its main axis running from South to North.
In marking off the second chain, Herodotus clearly distinguishes that which is to the East of the Argippaei (the country of the Issedones) from that which lies beyond the huge mountains towards the North, where the men sleep half the year, and the air is filled with feathers, where the Arimaspi live who steal the gold from the “Griffins”.
This distinction seems to establish the existence of a chain running from West to East. The region of the “Griffins” and the Hyperboreans commences beyond the North slope of the “chain of the Aegipodes” (the Altai). The position of the Issedones to the North of the Jaxartes (Araxes) appears justified by the account of the campaign of Cyrus against the Massagetae, who occupied the plain to the South of the Issedones.
The most precious mineral riches are stored up in the extremities of the earth, and it is in the North of Europe that the greatest abundance of gold is found. Now the North of Europe, in the geography of Herodotus, comprehends the North of Asia, and we are irresistibly reminded of the gold-washings to the South of the Ural, among the mountains of Kousnetsk, and the ravines of the Lowlands of South Siberia. The locality of the gold trade of Northwest Asia may be placed between the 53rd and 55th degrees of latitude.
An ingenious hypothesis has been started by Erman, which refers the mythus of the “Griffins”, guardians of the gold of the Arimaspi, to the phenomenon of the frequent occurrence of the fossil bones of the great pachydermatous animals found in the alluvium of North Siberia: bones which to this day the native tribes of wild hunters believe to be the claws, beak, and head of some gigantic bird.
Von Humboldt, to whose interesting discussion on this subject reference has been made, justly enough condemns this confusion between ancient and modern fable; and shows that the symbolic image of the “Griffins”, as a poetic fiction and representation in the arts, did precede, among the Greeks, the time when relations were formed among the colonists of Pontus and the Arimaspi.
The “Griffin” was known to the Samians, who figured it upon the vase which commemorated the good fortune of their first expedition to Tartessus, according to Herodotus. This mysterious symbol of an animal acting as guardian over gold, seems to have been the growth of India and of Persia; and the commerce of Miletus contributed to spread it in Greece along with the tapestries of Babylon.
The region of auriferous sand, of which the Daradas (Dardars, or Derders, mentioned in The Mahabharata, and in the fragments of Megasthenes) gave intelligence to travellers, and with which the often-repeated fable of the ants became connected, owing to the accidental double meaning of a name, belongs to a more Southern Latitude, 35° or 37°.

Smith, William (1813-1893), A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography. Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1854. Vol. 1, pp. 1104-1106,. Internet Archive

les mons Riphées

Riphæi montes, dans la Scythie. Cf. Pline, H.N., III, 12, et Virgile, Géorgiques, I, 240.

Rabelais, François (1483?–1553), Oeuvres. Édition critique. Tome Cinquieme: Tiers Livre. Abel Lefranc (1863-1952), editor. Paris: Librairie Ancienne Honoré Champion, 1931. p. 368. Internet Archive

mons Riphées

the Riphean Mountains of Scythia, the steppes north of the Black Sea…

Rabelais, François (1483?–1553), Complete works of Rabelais. Jacques LeClercq (1891–1971), translator. New York: Modern Library, 1936.

Rhipaei montes

Rhipaei montes ( Ῥιπαῖα ὄρη ), the “gusty” and ever snowy mountains, imagined from Homer onwards to exist north of the known parts of Europe. From them blew the North Wind; beyond, down to the Northern Ocean, dwelt Hyperboreans. Herodotus ignored the Rhipaeans, and Strabo denied their existence. Those who believed in them differed as to their location. Aeschylus and Pindar regarded them as the source of the Danube (Danuvius), and Posidonius thought originally that the Alps were meant. On the other hand …

Oxford Classical Dictionary. Oxford Reference Online

Rhipaei montes

Rhipaei montes ( Ῥιπαῖα ὄρη ), the “gusty” and ever snowy mountains, imagined from Homer onwards to exist north of the known parts of Europe. From them blew the North Wind; beyond, down to the Northern Ocean, dwelt Hyperboreans. Herodotus ignored the Rhipaeans, and Strabo denied their existence. Those who believed in them differed as to their location. Aeschylus and Pindar regarded them as the source of the Danube (Danuvius), and Posidonius thought originally that the Alps were meant. On the other hand …

Oxford Classical Dictionary. Oxford Reference Online

les mons Riphées

En Scythie.

Rabelais, François (1483?–1553), Œuvres complètes. Mireille Huchon, editor. Paris: Gallimard, 1994. p. 508, n. 7.


In Greek mythology the Hyperboreans (Ancient Greek: Ὑπερβόρε(ι)οι, Latin: Hyperborei) were a mythical people who lived far to the north of Thrace. The Greeks thought that Boreas, the North Wind,[1] lived in Thrace, and that therefore Hyperborea was an unspecified region in the northern lands that lay beyond the north wind. Their land, called Hyperborea or Hyperboria – “beyond the Boreas” – was perfect, with the sun shining twenty-four hours a day.

Never the Muse is absent
from their ways: lyres clash and flutes cry
and everywhere maiden choruses whirling.
Neither disease nor bitter old age is mixed
in their sacred blood; far from labor and battle they live.

— Pindar, Tenth Pythian Ode; translated by Richmond Lattimore.

Reaching such exotic lands is never easy; Pindar cautioned:

neither by ship nor on foot would you find
the marvellous road to the assembly of the Hyperboreans.

The earliest extant source that mentions Hyperborea in detail is Herodotus’ Histories (Book IV, Chapters 32–36),[2] written circa 450 BC.[3] However, Herodotus recorded three earlier sources that supposedly mentioned the Hyperboreans, including Hesiod and Homer, the latter purportedly having written of Hyperborea in his lost work Epigoni: “if that be really a work of his.” Herodotus also wrote that the 7th century BC poet Aristeas wrote of the Hyperboreans in a poem (now lost) called Arimaspea about a journey to the Issedones, who are estimated to have lived in Western Asia.[4] Beyond these lived the one-eyed Arimaspians, further on there were gold-guarding griffins, and beyond these the Hyperboreans.[5]

Pindar, Simonides of Ceos and Hellanicus of Lesbos, contemporaries of Herodotus in the 5th century BC, also all briefly described or referenced the Hyperboreans in their works.[6]

The Hyperboreans were believed to live beyond the snowy Riphean Mountains which Homer first referenced in his Iliad (15. 171; 19. 358)[7] or beyond the home of Boreas.

According to Pausanias: “The land of the Hyperboreans, men living beyond the home of Boreas.”[8]

Homer placed Boreas in Thrace, and therefore Hyperborea in his opinion was somewhere to the north of Thracian territory, perhaps Dacia.[9] Sophocles (Antigone, 980–987), Aeschylus (Agamemnon, 193; 651), Simonides of Ceos (Schol. on Apollonius Rhodius, 1. 121) and Callimachus (Delian, [IV] 65) also placed Boreas in Thrace.[10] Other ancient writers however believed the home of Boreas or the Rhipean Mountains were in a different location. For example, Hecataeus of Miletus believed that the Rhipean Mountains were adjacent to the Black Sea.[11] Alternatively Pindar placed the home of Boreas, the Rhipean Mountains and Hyperborea all near the Danube.[12] Heraclides Ponticus and Antimachus in contrast identified the Rhipean Mountains with the Alps, and the Hyperboreans as a Celtic tribe (perhaps the Helvetii) who lived just beyond them.[13] Aristotle placed the Rhipean mountains on the borders of Scythia, and Hyperborea further north.[14] Hecataeus of Abdera and others believed Hyperborea was Britain (see below).

Along with Thule, Hyperborea was one of several terrae incognitae to the Greeks and Romans, where Pliny, Pindar and Herodotus, as well as Virgil and Cicero, reported that people lived to the age of one thousand and enjoyed lives of complete happiness. Hecataeus of Abdera collated all the stories about the Hyperboreans current in the fourth century BC and published a lengthy treatise on them, lost to us, but noted by Diodorus Siculus (ii.47.1–2).[30] Also, the sun was supposed to rise and set only once a year in Hyperborea; which would place it above or upon the Arctic Circle, or, more generally, in the arctic polar regions.

Apollonius wrote that the Argonauts sighted Hyperborea, when they sailed through Eridanos.

Portions of this article were formerly excerpted from the public domain Lemprière’s Classical Dictionary, 1848.

[Notes not included in article]

World Heritage Encyclopedia. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2000. World Heritage Encyclopedia

Hypeborea and the Rhipaean Mountains

Note by Solàrion to quotes from Smith, A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography, 1873, re Hyperborei and Rhipaei Montes: These are “traditional” descriptions of Hyperborea and related matters, by 19th-century professors who were attempting to determine from various “myths” actual planetary geographical locations for these mystical lands, rather than place Hyperborea in a celestial position above the North Pole as a Cosmic Tree. This information is provided here, as it were, for the record. The reader can draw his or her own conclusions as to how it might relate to the true circumstances discussed in this series of essays and documents.

Solàrion, Robertino, The Cosmic Tree. Dallas, Terxas: 2001. The Cosmic Tree

Riphean Mountains

The Riphean Mountains are mountains mentioned by authors of classical antiquity (Apollonius of Rhodes, Aristotle, Hecataeus of Miletus, Hippocrates, Ptolemy, Plutarch, and others), but whose location is uncertain.
Later Roman writers applied the term to mountains in the north of Europe or Asia. Pomponius Mela placed them within the Arctic Circle. Pliny the Elder assigned them to the Ural Mountains. Noah Webster wrote that the earliest geographers applied the term to the Alps in Switzerland and claimed that they are the source of the Danube. All sources agree that the Riphean mountains were cold and blanketed in snow.
The people living around the mountains in antiquity were variously called Riphaeans (Mela), Arimphaei (Pliny), or Arimaspi. The name of the mountains has also been connected by Christian theologians with Riphath, son of Gomer in Genesis 10. The Book of Jubilees (8:12, 16, 28) mentions a mountain range it calls Rafa, which Professor R.H. Charles associated with the Riphaean, i.e. Ural Mountains.



Posted 10 February 2013. Modified 12 April 2020.

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