Strabo was born to an affluent family from Amaseia in Pontus in around 64 BC.
Strabo's life was characterized by extensive travels. He journeyed to Egypt and Kush, as far west as coastal Tuscany and as far south as Ethiopia in addition to his travels in Asia Minor and the time he spent in Rome. Travel throughout the
Mediterranean and Near East, especially for scholarly purposes, was popular during this era and was facilitated by the relative peace enjoyed throughout the reign of Augustus (27 BC – AD 14). He moved to Rome in 44 BC, and stayed there,
studying and writing, until at least 31 BC. Around 25 BC, he sailed up the Nile until reaching Philae, after which point there is little record of his proceedings until AD 17.
It is not known precisely when Strabo's Geography was written, though comments within the work itself place the finished version within the reign of Emperor Tiberius. Some place its first drafts around 7 BC, others around AD 17 or 18. He
probably worked on the Geography for many years and revised it steadily, not always consistently. It is an encyclopaedical chronicle and consists of political, economic, social, cultural, geographic description of almost whole Europe:
British Isles, Iberian Peninsula, Gaul, Germania, The Alps, Italy, Greece; and Northern Black Sea region, Anatolia, Middle East, Central Asia and North Africa. The Geography is the only extant work providing information about both Greek and
Roman peoples and countries during the reign of Augustus.
Strabo stopped writing on AD 23 or AD 24, when he died. He was influenced by Homer, Hecataeus, and Aristotle. The first of Strabo's major works, Historical Sketches (Historica hypomnemata), written while he was in Rome (c. 20 BC), is nearly
completely lost. Meant to cover the history of the known world from the conquest of Greece by the Romans, Strabo quotes it himself and other classical authors mention that it existed, although the only surviving document is a fragment of
Strabo studied under several prominent teachers of various specialties throughout his early life at different stops along his Mediterranean travels. His first chapter of education took place in Nysa under the master of rhetoric Aristodemus.
Aristodemus was the head of two schools of rhetoric and grammar, one in Nysa and one in Rhodes, the former of the two cities possessing a distinct intellectual curiosity of Homeric literature and the interpretation of epics. Strabo was an
admirer of Homer's poetry, perhaps a consequence of his time spent in Nysa with Aristodemus.
At around the age of 21, Strabo moved to Rome, where he studied philosophy with the Peripatetic Xenarchus, a highly respected tutor in Augustus's court. Despite Xenarchus's Aristotelian leanings, Strabo later gives evidence to have formed
his own Stoic inclinations. In Rome, he also learned grammar under the rich and famous scholar Tyrannion of Amisus. Although Tyrannion was also a Peripatetic, he was more relevantly a respected authority on geography, a fact obviously
significant, considering Strabo's future contributions to the field.
The final noteworthy mentor to Strabo was Athenodorus Cananites, a philosopher who had spent his life since 44 BC in Rome forging relationships with the Roman elite. Athenodorus endowed to Strabo three important items: his philosophy, his
knowledge, and his contacts. Unlike the Aristotelian Xenarchus and Tyrannion who preceded him in teaching Strabo, Athenodorus was Stoic in mindset, almost certainly the source of Strabo's diversion from the philosophy of his former mentors.
Moreover, from his own first-hand experience, Athenodorus provided Strabo with information about regions of the empire which he would not otherwise have known.
Strabo is most notable for his work Geographica ("Geography"), which presented a descriptive history of people and places from different regions of the world known to his era.
Although the Geographica was rarely utilized in its contemporary antiquity, a multitude of copies survived throughout the Byzantine Empire. It first appeared in Western Europe in Rome as a Latin translation issued around 1469. The first
Greek edition was published in 1516 in Venice. Isaac Casaubon, classical scholar and editor of Greek texts, provided the first critical edition in 1587.
Although Strabo cited the antique Greek astronomers Eratosthenes and Hipparchus, acknowledging their astronomical and mathematical efforts towards geography, he claimed that a descriptive approach was more practical, such that his works were
designed for statesmen who were more anthropologically than numerically concerned with the character of countries and regions.
As such, Geographica provides a valuable source of information on the ancient world, especially when this information is corroborated by other sources. He traveled extensively, as he says. We do not know when he wrote Geographica, but we
know that he spent a lot of time in the famous library taking notes from his sources and his "the works of his predecessors" are most likely to have been noted at the library there. A first edition was published in 7 BC and a final edition
no later than 23 AD, in the last year of Strabo's life. Geographica, unfortunately, had an infinitesimal influence in his lifetime. It took about five years for scholars to give him a credit and for it to become a standard. In his last book
of Geographica, he wrote quite extensively about the thriving port city of Alexandria.
Strabo is pro-Roman politically, but culturally he reserves primacy to Greece:"... pro-Roman throughout the Geography. But while he acknowledges and even praises Roman ascendancy in the political and military sphere, he also makes a
significant effort to establish Greek primacy over Rome in other contexts."