Home -> Diodorus Siculus -> BOOK III – North Africa
On the Ethiopians who dwell beyond Libya and their antiquities (ch. 1-11).
On the gold mines on the farthest borders of Egypt and the working of the gold (ch. 12-14).
On the peoples who dwell upon the coast of the Arabian Gulf and, speaking generally, upon all the coast of the ocean as far as India. In this connection there is a discussion of the customs which each people follows and of the reasons why history records many things in connection with them which are entirely unique and are not believed because they are contrary to what one expects (ch. 15-48).
On the antiquities of Libya and the history of the Gorgons and Amazons, and of Ammon and Atlas (ch. 49-61).
On the myths related about Nysa, in connection with which there is also an account of the Titans and Dionysus and the Mother of the Gods (ch. 62-74).
1 1 Of the two preceding Books the First embraces the deeds in Egypt of the early kings and the accounts, as found in their myths, of the gods of the Egyptians; there is also a discussion of the Nile and of the products of the land, and also of its animals, which are of every kind, and a description of the topography of Egypt, of the customs prevailing among its inhabitants, and of its courts of law. 2 The Second Book embraces the deeds performed by the Assyrians in Asia in early times, connected with which are both the birth and the rise to power of Semiramis, in the course of which she founded Babylon and many other cities and made a campaign against India with great forces; and after this is an account of the Chaldaeans and of their practice of observing the stars, of Arabia and the marvels of that land, of the kingdom of the Scythians, of the Amazons, and finally of the Hyperboreans. In this present Book we shall add the matters which are connected with what I have already narrated, 3 and shall describe the Ethiopians and the Libyans and the people known as the Atlantians.
2 1 Now the Ethiopians, as historians relate, were the first of all men and the proofs of this statement, they say, are manifest. For that they did not come into their land as immigrants from abroad but were natives of it and so justly bear the name of “autochthones” is, they maintain, conceded by practically all men; furthermore, that those who dwell beneath the noon-day sun were, in all likelihood, the first to be generated by the earth, is clear to all; since, inasmuch as it was the warmth of the sun which, at the generation of the universe, dried up the earth when it was still wet and impregnated it with life, it is reasonable to suppose that the region which was nearest the sun was the first to bring forth living creatures. 2 And they say that they were the first to be taught to honour the gods and to hold sacrifices and processions and festivals and the other rites by which men honour the deity; and that in consequence their piety has been published abroad among all men, and it is generally held that the sacrifices practised among the Ethiopians are those which are the most pleasing to heaven. 3 As witness to this they call upon the poet who is perhaps the oldest and certainly the most venerated among the Greeks; for in the Iliad he represents both Zeus and the rest of the gods with him as absent on a visit to Ethiopia to share in the sacrifices and the banquet which were given annually by the Ethiopians for all the gods together:
For Zeus had yesterday to Ocean’s bounds
Set forth to feast with Ethiop’s faultless men,
And he was followed there by all the gods.
4 And they state that, by reason of their piety towards the deity, they manifestly enjoy the favour of the gods, inasmuch as they have never experienced the rule of an invader from abroad; for from all time they have enjoyed a state of freedom and of peace one with another, and although many and powerful rulers have made war upon them, not one of these has succeeded in his undertaking.
3 1 Cambyses, for instance, they say, who made war upon them with a great force, both lost all his army and was himself exposed to the greatest peril; Semiramis also, who through the magnitude of her undertakings and achievements has become renowned, after advancing a short distance into Ethiopia gave up her campaign against the whole nation; and Heracles and Dionysus, although they visited all the inhabited earth, failed to subdue the Ethiopians alone who dwell above Egypt, both because of the piety of these men and because of the insurmountable difficulties involved in the attempt.
They say also that the Egyptians are colonists sent out by the Ethiopians, Osiris having been the leader of the colony. 2 For, speaking generally, what is now Egypt, they maintain, was not land but sea when in the beginning the universe was being formed; afterwards, however, as the Nile during the times of its inundation carried down the mud from Ethiopia, land was gradually built up from the deposit. Also the statement that all the land of the Egyptians is alluvial silt deposited by the river receives the clearest proof, in their opinion, from what takes place at the outlets of the Nile; 3 for as each year new mud is continually gathered together at the mouths of the river, the sea is observed being thrust back by the deposited silt and the land receiving the increase. And the larger part of the customs of the Egyptians are, they hold, Ethiopian, the colonists still preserving their ancient manners. 4 For instance, the belief that their kings are gods, the very special attention which they pay to their burials, and many other matters of a similar nature are Ethiopian practices, while the shapes of their statues and the forms of their letters are Ethiopian; 5 for of the two kinds of writing which the Egyptians have, that which is known as “popular” (demotic) is learned by everyone, while that which is called “sacred” is understood only by the priests of the Egyptians, who learn it from their fathers as one of the things which are not divulged, but among the Ethiopians everyone uses these forms of letters. 6 Furthermore, the orders of the priests, they maintain, have much the same position among both peoples; for all are clean who are engaged in the service of the gods, keeping themselves shaven, like the Egyptian priests, and having the same dress and form of staff, which is shaped like a plough and is carried by their kings, who wear high felt hats which end in a knob at the top and are circled by the serpents which they call asps; and this symbol appears to carry the thought that it will be the lot of those who shall dare to attack the king to encounter death-carrying stings. 7 Many other things are also told by them concerning their own antiquity and the colony which they sent out that became the Egyptians, but about this there is no special need of our writing anything.
4 1 We must now speak about the Ethiopian writing which is called hieroglyphic among the Egyptians, in order that we may omit nothing in our discussion of their antiquities. Now it is found that the forms of their letters take the shape of animals of every kind, and of the members of the human body, and of implements and especially carpenters’ tools; for their writing does not express the intended concept by means of syllables joined one to another, but by means of the significance of the objects which have been copied and by its figurative meaning which has been impressed upon the memory by practice. 2 For instance, they draw the picture of a hawk, a crocodile, a snake, and of the members of the human body — an eye, a hand, a face, and the like. Now the hawk signifies to them everything which happens swiftly, since this animal is practically the swiftest of winged creatures. And the concept portrayed is then transferred, by the appropriate metaphorical transfer, to all swift things and to everything to which swiftness is appropriate, very much as if they had been named. 3 And the crocodile is a symbol of all that is evil, and the eye is the warder of justice and the guardian of the entire body. And as for the members of the body, the right hand with fingers extended signifies a procuring of livelihood, and the left with the fingers closed, a keeping and guarding of property. 4 The same way of reasoning applies also to the remaining characters, which represent parts of the body and implements and all other things; for by paying close attention to the significance was is inherent in each object and by training their minds through drill and exercise of the memory over a long period, they read from habit everything which has been written.
5 1 As for the customs of the Ethiopians, not a few of them are thought to differ greatly from those of the rest of mankind, this being especially true of those which concern the selection of their kings. The priests, for instance, first choose out the noblest men from their own number, and whichever one from this group the god may select, as he is borne about in a procession in accordance with a certain practice of theirs, him the multitude take for their king; and straightway it both worships and honours him like a god, believing that the sovereignty has been entrusted to him by Divine Providence. 2 And the king who has been thus chosen both follows a regimen which has been fixed in accordance with the laws and performs all his other deeds in accordance with the ancestral custom, according neither favour nor punishment to anyone contrary to the usage which has been approved among them from the beginning. It is also a custom of theirs that the king shall put no one of his subjects to death, not even if a man shall have been condemned to death and is considered deserving of punishment, but that he shall send to the transgressor one of his attendants bearing a token of death; and the guilty person, on seeing the warning, immediately retires to his home and removes himself from life. Moreover, for a man to flee from his own into a neighbouring country and thus by moving away from his native land to pay the penalty of his transgression, as is the custom among the Greeks, is permissible under no circumstances. 3 Consequently, they say, when a man to whom the token of death had been sent by the king once undertook to flee from Ethiopia, and his mother, on learning of this, bound his neck about with her girdle, he dared not so much as raise his hands against her in any way but submitted to be strangled until he died, that he might not leave a greater disgrace to his kinsmen.
6 1 Of all their customs the most astonishing is that which obtains in connection with the death of their kings. For the priests at Meroë who spend their time in the worship of the gods and the rites which do them honour, being the greatest and most powerful order, whenever the idea comes to them, dispatch a messenger to the king with orders that he die. 2 For the gods, they add, have revealed this to them, and it must be that the command of the immortals should in no wise be disregarded by one of mortal frame. And this order they accompany with other arguments, such as are accepted by a simple-minded nature, which has been bred in a custom that is both ancient and difficult to eradicate and which knows no argument that can be set in opposition to commands enforced by no compulsion. 3 Now in former times the kings would obey the priests, having been overcome, not by arms nor by force, but because their reasoning powers had been put under a constraint by their very superstition; but during the reign of the second Ptolemy the king of the Ethiopians, Ergamenes, who had had a Greek education and had studied philosophy, was the first to have the courage to disdain the command. 4 For assuming a spirit which became the position of a king he entered with his soldiers into the unapproachable place where stood, as it turned out, the golden shrine of the Ethiopians, put the priests to the sword, and after abolishing this custom thereafter ordered affairs after his own will.
7 1 As for the custom touching the friends of the king, strange as it is, it persists, they said, down to our own time. For the Ethiopians have the custom, they say, that if their king has been maimed in some part of his body through any cause whatever, all his companions suffer the same loss of their own choice; because they consider that it would be a disgraceful thing if, when the king had been maimed in his leg, his friends should be sound of limb, and if in their goings forth from the palace they should not all follow the king limping as he did; 2 for it would be strange that steadfast friendship should share sorrow and grief and bear equally all other things both good and evil, but should have no part in the suffering of the body. They say also that it is customary for the comrades of the kings even to die with them of their own accord and that such a death is an honourable one and a proof of true friendshi And it is for this reason, they add, that a conspiracy against the king is not easily raised among the Ethiopians, all his friends being equally concerned both for his safety and their own. These, then, are the customs which prevail among the Ethiopians who dwell in their capital and those who inhabit both the island of Meroë and the land adjoining Egypt.
8 1 But there are also a great many other tribes of the Ethiopians, some of them dwelling in the land lying on both banks of the Nile and on the islands in the river, others inhabiting the neighbouring country of Arabia, and still others residing in the interior of Libya. 2 The majority of them, and especially those who dwell along the river, are black in colour and have flat noses and woolly hair. As for their spirit they are entirely savage and display the nature of a wild beast, not so much, however, in their temper as in their ways of living; for they are squalid all over their bodies, they keep their nails very long like the wild beasts, and are as far removed as possible from human kindness to one another; 3 and speaking as they do with a shrill voice and cultivating none of the practices of civilized life as these are found among the rest of mankind, they present a striking contrast when considered in the light of our own customs.
4 As for their arms, some of them use shields of raw ox-hide and short spears, others javelins without a slinging-thong and sometimes bows of wood, four cubits in length, with which they shoot by putting their foot against them, and after their arrows are exhausted they finish the fight with wooden clubs. They also arm their women, setting an age limit for their service, and most of these observe the custom of wearing a bronze ring in the li As for clothing, certain of them wear none whatsoever, going naked all their life long and making for themselves of whatever comes to hand a rude protection from the heat alone; others, cutting off the tails and the ends of the hides of their sheep, cover their loins with them, putting the tail before them to screen, after a manner, the shameful part; and some make use of the skins of their domestic animals, while there are those who cover their bodies as far as the waist with shirts, which they weave of hair, since their sheep do not produce wool by reason of the peculiar nature of the land. 6 For food some gather the fruits which are generated in their waters and which grow wild in both the lakes and marshy places, certain of them pluck off the foliage of a very tender kind of tree, with which they also cover their bodies in the midday and cool them in this way, some sow sesame and lotus, and there are those who are nourished by the most tender roots of the reeds. Not a few of them are also well trained in the use of the bow and bring down with good aim many birds, with which they satisfy their physical needs; but the greater number live for their entire life on the meat and milk and cheese of their herds.
9 1 With regard to the gods, the Ethiopians who dwell above Meroë entertain two opinions: they believe that some of them, such as the sun and the moon and the universe as a whole, have a nature which is eternal and imperishable, but others of them, they think, share a mortal nature and have come to receive immortal honours because of their virtue and the benefactions which they have bestowed upon all mankind; 2 for instance, they revere Isis and Pan, and also Heracles and Zeus, considering that these deities in particular have been benefactors of the race of men. But a few of the Ethiopians do not believe in the existence of any gods at all; consequently at the rising of the sun they utter imprecations against it as being most hostile to them, and flee to the marshes of those parts.
3 Different also from those of other peoples are the customs they observe with respect to their dead; for some dispose of them by casting them into the river, thinking this to be the best burial; others, after pouring glass about the bodies, keep them in their houses, since they feel that the countenances of the dead should not be unknown to their kinsmen and that those who are united by ties of blood should not forget their near relations; and some put them in coffins made of baked clay and bury them in the ground in a ring about their temples, and they consider that the oath taken by them is the strongest possible.
4 The kingship some of them bestow upon the most comely, believing both supreme power and comeliness to be gifts of fortune, while others entrust the rule to the most careful keepers of cattle, as being the only men who would give the best thought to their subjects; some assign this honour to the wealthiest, since they feel that these alone can come to the aid of the masses because they have the means ready at hand; and there are those who choose for their kings men of unusual valour, judging that the most efficient in war are alone worthy to receive the meed of honour.
10 1 In that part of the country which lies along the Nile in Libya there is a section which is remarkable for its beauty; for it bears food in great abundance and of every variety and provides convenient places of retreat in its marshes where one finds protection against the excessive heat; consequently this region is a bone of contention between the Libyans and the Ethiopians, who wage unceasing warfare with each other for its possession. 2 It is also a gathering-place for a multitude of elephants from the country lying above it because, as some say, the pasturage is abundant and sweet; for marvellous marshes stretch along the banks of the river and in them grows food in great plenty and of every kind. 3 Consequently, whenever they taste of the rush and the reed, they remain there because of the sweetness of the food and destroy the means of subsistence of the human beings; and because of this the inhabitants are compelled to flee from these regions, and to live as nomads and dwellers in tents — in a word, to fix the bounds of their country by their advantage. 4 The herds of the wild beasts which we have mentioned leave the interior of the country because of the lack of food, since every growing thing in the ground quickly dries up; for as a result of the excessive heat and the lack of water from springs and rivers it comes to pass that the plants for food are rough and scanty.
5 There are also, as some say, in the country of the wild beasts, as it is called, serpents which are marvellous for their size and multitude; these attack the elephants at the water-holes, pit their strength against them, and winding themselves in coils about their legs continue squeezing them tighter and tighter in their bands until at last the beasts, covered with foam, fall to the ground from their weight. Thereupon the serpents gather and devour the flesh of the fallen elephant, overcoming the beast with ease because it moves only with difficulty. 6 But since it still remains a puzzle why, in pursuit of their accustomed food, they do not follow the elephants into the region along the river, which I have mentioned, they say that the serpents of such great size avoid the level part of the country and continually make their homes at the foot of mountains in ravines which are suitable to their length and in deep caves; consequently they never leave the regions which are suitable to them and to which they are accustomed, Nature herself being the instructor of all the animals in such matters.
As for the Ethiopians, then, and their land, this is as much as we have to say.
11 1 Concerning the historians, we must distinguish among them, to the effect that many have composed works on both Egypt and Ethiopia, of whom some have given credence to false report and others have invented many tales out of their own minds for the delectation of their readers, and so may justly be distrusted. 2 For example, Agatharchides of Cnidus in the second Book of his work on Asia, and the compiler of geographies, Artemidorus of Ephesus, in his eighth Book, and certain others whose homes were in Egypt, have recounted most of what I have set forth above and are, on the contrary, accurate in all they have written. 3 Since, to bear witness ourselves, during the time of our visit to Egypt, we associated with many of its priests and conversed with not a few ambassadors from Ethiopia as well who were then in Egypt; and after inquiring carefully of them about each matter and testing the stories of the historians, we have composed our account so as to accord with the opinions on which they most fully agree.
4 Now as for the Ethiopians who dwell in the west, we shall be satisfied with what has been said, and we shall discuss in turn the peoples who live to the South and about the Red Sea. However, we feel that it is appropriate first to tell of the working of the gold as it is carried on in these regions.
12 1 At the extremity of Egypt and in the contiguous territory of both Arabia and Ethiopia there lies a region which contains many large gold mines, where the gold is secured in great quantities with much suffering and at great expense. For the earth is naturally black and contains seams and veins of a marble which is unusually white and in brilliancy surpasses everything else which shines brightly by its nature, and here the overseers of the labour in the mines work recover the gold with the aid of a multitude of workers. 2 For the kings of Egypt gather together and condemn to the mining of the gold such as have been found guilty of some crime and captives of war, as well as those who have been accused unjustly and thrown into prison because of their anger, and not only such persons but occasionally all their relatives as well, by this means not only inflicting punishment upon those found guilty but also securing at the same time great revenues from their labours. 3 And those who have been condemned in this way — and they are a great multitude and are all bound in chains — work at their task unceasingly both by day and throughout the entire night, enjoying no respite and being carefully cut off from any means of escape; since guards of foreign soldiers who speak a language different from theirs stand watch over them, so that not a man, either by conversation or by some contact of a friendly nature, is able to corrupt one of his keepers. 4 The gold-bearing earth which is hardest they first burn with a hot fire, and when they have crumbled it in this way they continue the working of it by hand; and the soft rock which can yield to moderate effort is crushed with a sledge by myriads of unfortunate wretches. 5 And the entire operations are in charge of a skilled worker who distinguishes the stone and points it out to the labourers; and of those who are assigned to this unfortunate task the physically strongest break the quartz-rock with iron hammers, applying no skill to the task, but only force, and cutting tunnels through the stone, not in a straight line but wherever the seam of gleaming rock may lead. 6 Now these men, working in darkness as they do because of the bending and winding of the passages, carry lamps bound on their foreheads; and since much of the time they change the position of their bodies to follow the particular character of the stone they throw the blocks, as they cut them out, on the ground; and at this task they labour without ceasing beneath the sternness and blows of an overseer.
13 1 The boys there who have not yet come to maturity, entering through the tunnels into the galleries formed by the removal of the rock, laboriously gather up the rock as it is cast down piece by piece and carry it out into the open to the place outside the entrance. Then those who are above thirty years of age take this quarried stone from them and with iron pestles pound a specified amount of it in stone mortars, until they have worked it down to the size of a vetch. 2 Thereupon the women and older men receive from them the rock of this size and cast it into mills of which a number stand there in a row, and taking their places in groups of two or three at the spoke or handle of each mill they grind it until they have worked down the amount given them to the consistency of the finest flour. And since no opportunity is afforded any of them to care for his body and they have no garment to cover their shame, no man can look upon unfortunate wretches without feeling pity for them because of the exceeding hardships they suffer. 3 For no leniency or respite of any kind is given to any man who is sick, or maimed, or aged, or in the case of a woman for her weakness, but all without exception are compelled by blows to persevere in their labours, until through ill-treatment they die in the midst of their tortures. Consequently the poor unfortunates believe, because their punishment is so excessively severe, that the future will always be more terrible than the present and therefore look forward to death as more to be desired than life.
14 1 In the last steps the skilled workmen receive the stone which has been ground to powder and take it off for its complete and final working; for they rub the marble which has been worked down upon a broad board which is slightly inclined, pouring water over it all the while; whereupon the earthy matter in it, melted away by the action of the water, runs down the inclined board, while that which contains the gold remains on the wood because of its weight. 2 And repeating this a number of times, they first of all rub it gently with their hands, and then lightly pressing it with sponges of loose texture they remove in this way whatever is porous and earthy, until there remains only the pure gold-dust. 3 Then at last other skilled workmen take what has been recovered and put it by fixed measure and weight into earthen jars, mixing with it a lump of lead proportionate to the mass, lumps of salt and a little tin, and adding thereto barley bran; thereupon they put on it a close-fitting lid, and smearing it over carefully with mud they bake it in a kiln for five successive days and as many nights; 4 and at the end of this period, when they have let the jars cool off, of the other matter they find no remains in the jars, but the gold they recover in pure form, there being but little waste. This working of the gold, as it is carried on at the farthermost borders of Egypt, is effected through all the extensive labours here described; 5 for Nature herself, in my opinion, makes it clear that whereas the production of gold is laborious, the guarding of it is difficult, the zest for it is very great, and that its use is half-way between pleasure and pain.
Now the discovery of these mines is very ancient, having been made by the early kings. 6 But we shall undertake to discuss the peoples which inhabit the coast of the Arabian Gulf and that of the Trogodytes and the part of Ethiopia that faces the noon-day sun and the south wind.
15 1 The first people we shall mention are the Ichthyophagi who inhabit the coast which extends from Carmania and Gedrosia to the farthest limits of the arm of the sea which is found at the Arabian Gulf, which extends inland an unbelievable distance and is enclosed at its mouth by two continents, on the one side by Arabia Felix and on the other by the land of the Trogodytes. 2 As for these barbarians, certain of them go about entirely naked and have the women and children in common like their flocks and herds, and since they recognize only the physical perception of pleasure and pain they take no thought of things which are disgraceful and those which are honourable. 3 They have their dwellings not far from the sea along the rocky shores, where there are not only deep valleys but also jagged ravines and very narrow channels which Nature has divided by means of winding side-branches. These branches being by their nature suited to their need, the natives close up the passages and outlets with heaps of great stones, and by means of these, as if with nets, they carry on the catching of the fish. 4 For whenever the flood-tide of the sea sweeps violently over the land, which happens twice daily and usually about the third and ninth hour, the sea covers in its flood all the rocky shore and together with the huge and violent billow carries to the land an incredible multitude of fish of every kind, which at first remain along the coast, wandering in search of food among the sheltered spots and hollow places; but whenever the time of ebb comes, the water flows off little by little through the heaps of rocks and ravines, but the fish are left behind in the hollow places. 5 At this moment the multitude of the natives with their children and women gather, as if at a single word of command, at the rocky shores. And the barbarians, dividing into several companies, rush in bands each to its respective place with a hideous shouting, as if they had come unexpectedly upon some prey. 6 Thereupon the women and children, seizing the smaller fish which are near the shore, throw them on the land, and the men of bodily vigour lay hands upon the fish which are hard to overcome because of their size; for there are driven out of the deep creatures of enormous size, not only sea-scorpions and sea-eels and dog-fish, but also seals and many other kinds which are strange both in appearance and in name. 7 These animals they subdue without the assistance of any skilful device of weapons but by piercing them through with sharp goathorns and by gashing them with the jagged rocks; for necessity teaches Nature everything, as Nature, in her own fashion, by seizing upon the opportunities which lie at hand adapts herself to their hoped-for utilization.
16 1 Whenever they have collected a multitude of all kinds of fish they carry off their catch and bake the whole of it upon the rocks which are inclined towards the south. And since these stones are red-hot because of the very great heat, they leave the fish there for only a short time and then turn them over, and then, picking them up bodily by the tail, they shake them. 2 And the meat, which has become tender by reason of the warmth, falls away, but backbones are cast into a single spot and form a great heap, being collected for a certain use of which we shall speak a little later. Then placing the meat upon a smooth stone they carefully tread upon it for a sufficient length of time and mix with it the fruit of the Christ’s thorn; 3 for when this has been thoroughly worked into the meat the whole of it becomes a glutinous mass, and it would appear that this takes the place among them of a relish. Finally, when this has been well trodden, they mould it into little oblong bricks and place them in the sun; and after these have become thoroughly dry they sit down and feast upon them, eating not according to any measure or weight but according to every man’s own wish, inasmuch as they make their physical desire the bounds of their indulgence. 4 For they have at all times stores which are unfailing and ready for use, as though Poseidon had assumed the task of Demeter.
But at times a tidal wave of such size rolls in from the sea upon the land, a violent wave that for many days submerges the rocky shores, that no one can approach those regions. 5 Consequently, being short of food at such times, they at first gather the mussels, which are of so great a size that some of them are found that weigh four minas; that is, they break their shells by throwing huge stones at them and then eat the meat raw, its taste resembling somewhat that of oysters. 6 And whenever it comes to pass that the ocean is high for a considerable period because of the continued winds, and the impossibility of coping with that state of affairs prevents them from making their usual catch of fish, they turn, as has been said, to the mussels. But if the food from the mussels fails them, they have recourse to the heap of backbones; 7 that is, they select from this heap such backbones as are succulent and fresh and take them apart joint by joint, and then they grind some at once with their teeth, though the hard ones they first crush with rocks and thus prepare them before they eat them, their level of life being much the same as that of the wild beasts which make their homes in dens.
17 1 Now as for dry food they get an abundance of it in the manner described, but their use of wet food is astonishing and quite incredible. For they devote themselves assiduously for four days to the sea-food they have caught, the whole tribe feasting upon it merrily while entertaining one another with inarticulate songs; and furthermore, they lie at this time with any women they happen to meet in order to beget children, being relieved of every concern because their food is easily secured and ready at hand. 2 But on the fifth day the whole tribe hurries off in search of drink to the foothills of the mountains, where there are springs of sweet water at which the pastoral folk water their flocks and herds. 3 And their journey thither is like that of herds of cattle, all of them uttering a cry which produces, not articulate speech, but merely a confused roaring. As for their children, the women carry the babies continually in their arms, but the fathers do this after they have been separated from their milk, while those above five years of age lead the way accompanied by their parents, playing as they go and full of joy, as though they were setting out for pleasure of the sweetest kind. 4 For the nature of this people, being as yet unperverted, considers the satisfying of their need to be the greatest possible good, desiring in addition none of the imported pleasures. And so soon as they arrive at the watering-places of the pastoral folk and have their bellies filled with the water, they return, scarcely able to move because of the weight of it. 5 On that day they taste no food, but everyone lies gorged and scarcely able to breathe, quite like a drunken man. The next day, however, they turn again to the eating of the fish; and their way of living follows a cycle after this fashion throughout their lives.
Now the inhabitants of the coast inside the Straits lead the kind of life which has been described, and by reason of the simplicity of their food they rarely are subject to attacks of disease, although they are far shorter-lived than the inhabitants of our part of the world.
18 1 But as for the inhabitants of the coast outside the gulf, we find that their life is far more astonishing than that of the people just described, it being as though their nature never suffers from thirst and is insensible to pain. For although they have been banished by fortune from the inhabited regions into the desert, they fare quite well from their catch of the fish, but wet food they do not require. 2 For since they eat the fish while it is yet juicy and not far removed from the raw state, they are so far from requiring wet food that they have not even a notion of drinking. And they are content with that food which was originally allotted to them by fortune, considering that the mere elimination of that pain which arises from want (of food) is happiness.
3 But the most surprising thing of all is, that in lack of sensibility they surpass all men, and to such a degree that what is recounted of them is scarcely credible. And yet many merchants of Egypt, who sail, as is their practice, through the Red Sea down to this day and have often sailed as far as the land of the Ichthyophagi, agree in their accounts with what we have said about the human beings who are insensible to pain. 4 The third Ptolemy also, who was passionately fond of hunting the elephants which are found in that region, sent one of his friends named Simmias to spy out the land; and he, setting out with suitable supplies, made, as the historian Agatharchides of Cnidus asserts, a thorough investigation of the nations lying along the coast. Now he says that the nation of the “insensible” Ethiopians makes no use whatsoever of drink and that their nature does not require it for the reasons given above. 5 And as a general thing, he relates, they have no intercourse with other nations nor does the foreign appearance of people who approach their shores have any effect upon the natives, but looking at them intently they show no emotion and their expressions remain unaltered, as if there were no one present. Indeed when a man drew his sword and brandished it at them they did not turn to flight, nor, if they were subjected to insult or even to blows, would they show irritation, and the majority were not moved to anger in sympathy with the victims of such treatment; on the contrary, when at times children or women were butchered before their eyes they remained “insensible” in their attitudes, displaying no sign of anger or, on the other hand, of pity. 6 In short, they remained unmoved in the face of the most appalling horrors, looking steadfastly at what was taking place and nodding their heads at each incident. Consequently, they say, they speak no language, but by movements of the hands which describe each object they point out everything they need. 7 And the most marvellous fact of all is that seals live with these tribes and catch the fish for themselves in a manner similar to that employed by the human beings. Likewise with respect to their lairs and the safety of their offspring these two kinds of beings place the greatest faith in one another; for the association with animals of a different species continues without any wrongdoing and with peace and complete observance of propriety. Now this manner of life, strange as it is, has been observed by these tribes from very early times, whether it has been fashioned by habit over the long space of time or by a need imposed by necessity because of stress of circumstances.
19 1 As for their dwelling-places, those used by these tribes are not all similar, but they inhabit homes modified to suit the peculiar nature of their surroundings. For instance, certain of them make their home in caves which open preferably towards the north and in which they cool themselves, thanks to the deep shade and also to the breezes which blow about them; since those which face the south, having as they do a temperature like that of an oven, cannot be approached by human beings because of the excessive heat. 2 But others who can find no caves facing the north collect the ribs of the whales which are cast up by the sea; and then, since there is a great abundance of these ribs, they interweave them from either side, the curve outwards and leaning towards each other, and then weave fresh seaweed through them. Accordingly, when this vaulted structure is covered over, in it they gain relief from the heat when it is most intense, the necessity imposed by Nature suggesting to them a skill in which they were self-taught.
3 A third method by which the Ichthyophagi find a dwelling for themselves is as follows. Olive trees grow about these regions in very great numbers and their roots are washed by the sea, but they bear thick foliage and a fruit which resembles the sweet chestnut. 4 These trees they interlace, forming in this way a continuous shade, and live in tents of this peculiar kind; for passing their days as they do on land and in the water at the same time, they lead a pleasurable life, since they avoid the sun by means of the shade cast by the branches and offset the natural heat of the regions with the continual washing of the waves against them, giving their bodies comfort and ease by the pleasant breezes which blow about them.
We must speak also about the fourth kind of habitation. 5 From time immemorial there has been heaped up a quantity of seaweed of tremendous proportions, resembling a mountain, and this has been so compacted by the unceasing pounding of the waves that it has become hard and intermingled with sand. Accordingly, the natives dig in these heaps tunnels the height of a man, leaving the upper portion for a roof, and in the lower part they construct passage-ways connected with each other by borings. As they cool themselves in these tunnels they free themselves from all troubles, and leaping forth from them at the times when the waves pour over the shore they busy themselves with the catching of the fish; then, when the ebb-tide sets in, they flee back together into these same passage-ways to feast upon their catch. 6 Their dead, moreover, they “bury” by leaving the bodies just as they are cast out at the ebb of the tide, and then when the flood-tide sets in they cast the bodies into the sea. Consequently, by making their own interment a nutriment of the fish, they have a life which follows in singular fashion a continuous cycle throughout all eternity.
20 1 One tribe of the Ichthyophagi has dwellings so peculiar that they constitute a great puzzle to men who take a pride in investigating such matters; for certain of them make their home among precipitous crags which these men could not possibly have approached at the outset, since from above there overhangs a lofty rock, sheer at every point, while on the sides unapproachable cliffs shut off entrance, and on the remaining face the sea hems them in, which cannot be passed through on foot, and they do not use rafts at all, while of boats such as we have they have no notion. 2 Such being the puzzle concerning them, the only solution left to us is that they are autochthonous, and that they experienced no beginning of the race they originally sprang from, but existed always from the beginning of time, as certain natural philosophers have declared to be true of all the phenomena of nature. 3 But since the knowledge of such matters is unattainable by us, nothing prevents those who have the most to say about them from knowing the least, inasmuch as, while plausibility may persuade the hearing, it by no means discovers the truth.
21 1 We must speak also about the Chelonophagi, as they are called, and the nature of their entire manner of life. There are islands in the ocean, which lie near the land, many in number, but small in size and low-lying, and bearing no food either cultivated or wild. Because these islands are so near to one another no waves occur among them, since the surf breaks upon the outermost islands, and so a great multitude of sea-turtles tarry in these regions, resorting thither from all directions to gain the protection afforded by the calm. 2 These animals spend the nights in deep water busied with their search for food, but during the days they resort to the sea which lies between the islands and sleep on the surface with their upper shells towards the sun, giving to the eye an appearance like that of overturned boats; for they are of extraordinary magnitude and not smaller than the smallest fishing skiffs. 3 And the barbarians who inhabit the islands seize the occasion and swim quietly out to the turtles; and when they have come near the turtle on both sides, those on the one side push down upon it while those on the other side lift it up, until the animal is turned over on its back. 4 Then the men, taking hold on both sides, steer the entire bulk of the creature, to prevent it from turning over and making its escape into the deep water by swimming with the means with which Nature has endowed it, and one man with a long rope, fastening it to its tail, swims towards the land, and drawing the turtle along after him he hauls it to the land, those who had first attacked it assisting him in bringing it in. 5 And when they have got the turtles upon the shore of their island, all the inside meat they bake slightly for a short time in the sun and then feast upon it, but the upper shells, which are shaped like a boat, they use both for sailing over to the mainland, as they do in order to get water, and for their dwellings, by setting them right side up on elevations, so that it would appear that Nature, by a single act of favour, had bestowed upon these peoples the satisfaction of many needs; for the same gift constitutes for them food, vessel, house and ship.
6 Not far distant from these people the coast is inhabited by barbarians who lead an irregular life. For they depend for their food upon the whales which are cast up by the land, at times enjoying an abundance of food because of the great size of the beasts which they discover, but at times, when interruptions of the supply occur, they suffer greatly from the shortage; and when the latter is the case they are forced by the scarcity of food to gnaw the cartilages of old bones and the parts which grow from the ends of the ribs.
As for the Ichthyophagi, then this is the number of their tribes and such, speaking summarily, are the ways in which they live.
22 1 But the coast of Babylonia borders on a land which is civilized and well planted and there is such a multitude of fish for the natives that the men who catch them are unable readily to keep ahead of the abundance of them. 2 For along the beaches they set reeds close to one another and interwoven, so that their appearance is like that of a net which has been set up along the edge of the sea. And throughout the entire construction there are doors which are fixed close together and resemble basket-work in the way they are woven, but are furnished with hinges that easily yield to movements of the water in either direction. These doors are opened by the waves as they roll towards the shore at the time of flood-tide, and are closed at ebb-tide as they surge back. 3 Consequently it comes about that every day, when the sea is at flood-tide, the fish are carried in from the deep water with the tide and pass inside through the doors, but when the sea recedes they are unable to pass with the water through the interwoven reeds. As a result it is possible at times to see beside the ocean heaps being formed of gasping fish, which are being picked up unceasingly by those who have been appointed to this work, who have from their catch subsistence in abundance as well as large revenues. 4 And some of the inhabitants of these parts, because the country is both like a plain and low-lying, dig wide ditches leading from the sea over a distance of many stades to their private estates, and setting wicker gates at their openings they open these when the flood-tide is coming inland and close them when the tide changes to the opposite direction. Then, inasmuch as the sea pours out through the interstices of the gate but the fish are held back in the ditches, they have a controlled store of fish and can take of them as many as they choose and at whatever time they please.
23 1 Now that we have discussed the peoples who dwell on the coast from Babylonia to the Arabian Gulf, we shall describe the nations who live next to them. For in the Ethiopia which lies above Egypt there dwells beside the river Asa the nation of the Rhizophagi. For the barbarians here dig up the roots of the reeds which grow in the neighbouring marshes and then thoroughly wash them; and after they have made them clean they crush them with stones until the stuff is without lumps and glutinous; and then, moulding it into balls as large as can be held in the hand, they bake it in the sun and on this as their food they live all their life long. 2 Enjoying as they do the unfailing abundance of this food and living ever at peace with one another, they are nevertheless preyed upon by a multitude of lions; for since the air about them is fiery hot, lions come out of the desert to them in search of shade and in some cases in pursuit of the smaller animals. Consequently it comes to pass that when the Ethiopians come out of the marshy lands they are eaten by these beasts; for they are unable to withstand the might of the lions, since they have no help in the form of weapons, and indeed in the end the race of them would have been utterly destroyed had not Nature provided them with an aid which acts entirely of itself. 3 For at the time of the rising of the dog-star, whenever a calm unexpectedly comes on, there swarms to these regions such a multitude of mosquitoes, surpassing in vigour those that are known to us, that while the human beings find refuge in the marshy pools and suffer no hurt, all the lions flee from those regions, since they not only suffer from their stings but are at the same time terrified by the sound of their humming.
24 1 Next to these people are the Hylophagi and the Spermatophagi, as they are called. The latter gather the fruit as it falls in great abundance from the trees in the summer season and so find their nourishment without labour, but during the rest of the year they subsist upon the most tender part of the plant which grows in the shady glens; for this plant, being naturally stiff and having a stem like the bounias, as we call it, supplies the lack of the necessary food. 2 The Hylophagi, however, setting out with children and wives in search of food, climb the trees and subsist off the tender branches. And this climbing of theirs even to the topmost branches they perform so well as a result of their continued practice that a man can scarcely believe what they do; indeed they leap from one tree to another like birds and make their way up the weakest branches without experiencing dangers. 3 For being in body unusually slender and light, whenever their feet slip they catch hold instead with their hands, and if they happen to fall from a height they suffer no hurt by reason of their light weight; and every juicy branch they chew so thoroughly with their teeth that their stomachs easily digest them. 4 These men go naked all their life, and since they consort with their women in common they likewise look upon their offspring as the common children of all. They fight with one another for the possession of certain places, arming themselves with clubs, with which they also keep off enemies, and they dismember whomsoever they have overcome. Most of them die from becoming exhausted by hunger, when cataracts form upon their eyes and the body is deprived of the necessary use of this organ of sense.
25 1 The next part of the country of the Ethiopians is occupied by the Cynegi, as they are called, who are moderate in number and lead a life in keeping with their name. For since their country is infested by wild beasts and is utterly worthless, and has few streams of spring water, they sleep in the trees from fear of the wild beasts, but early in the morning, repairing with their weapons to the pools of water, they secrete themselves in the woods and keep watch from their positions in the trees. 2 And at the time when the heat becomes intense, wild oxen and leopards and a multitude of every other kind of beast come to drink, and because of the excessive heat and their great thirst they greedily quaff the water until they are gorged, whereupon the Ethiopians, the animals having become sluggish and scarcely able to move, leap down from the trees, and by the use of clubs hardened in the fire and of stones and arrows easily kill them. 3 They hunt in this way in companies and feed upon the flesh of their prey, and although now and then they are themselves slain by the strongest animals, yet for the most part they master by their cunning the superior strength of the beasts. 4 And if at any time they find lack of animals in their hunt they soak the skins of some which they had taken at former times and then hold them over a low fire; and when they have singed off the hair they divide the hides among themselves, and on such fare as has been forced upon them they satisfy their want. Their boys they train in shooting at a mark and give food only to those who hit it. Consequently, when they come to manhood, they are marvellously skilled in marksmanship, being most excellently instructed by the pangs of hunger.
26 1 Far distant from this country towards the parts to the west are Ethiopians known as Elephant-fighters, hunters also. For dwelling as they do in regions close together, they carefully observe the places where the elephants enter and their favourite resorts, watching them from the tallest trees; and when they are in herds they do not set upon them, since they would have no hope of success, but they lay hands on them as they go about singly, attacking them in an astonishingly daring manner. 2 For as the beast in its wandering comes near the tree in which the watcher happens to be hidden, the moment it is passing the spot he seizes its tail with his hands and plants his feet against its left flank; he has hanging from his shoulders an axe, light enough to that a blow may be struck with one hand and yet exceedingly sharp, and seizing this in his right hand he hamstrings the elephant’s right leg, raining blows upon it and maintaining the position of his own body with his left hand. And they bring an astonishing swiftness to bear upon the task, since there is a contest between the two of them for their very lives; for all that is left to the hunter is either to get the better of the animal or to die himself, the situation not admitting another conclusion. 3 As for the beast which has been hamstrung, sometimes being unable to turn about because it is hard for it to move and sinking down on the place where it has been hurt, it falls to the ground and causes the death of the Ethiopian along with its own, and sometimes squeezing the man against a rock or tree it crushes him with its weight until it has killed him. 4 In some cases, however, the elephant in the extremity of its suffering is far from thinking of turning on its attacker, but flees across the plain until the man who has set his feet upon it, striking on the same place with his axe, has severed the tendons and paralysed the beast. And as soon as the beast has fallen they run together in companies, and cutting the flesh off the hind-quarters of the elephant while it is still alive they hold a feast.
27 1 But some of the natives who dwell near by hunt the elephants without exposing themselves to dangers, overcoming their strength by cunning. For it is the habit of this animal, whenever it has had its fill of grazing, to lie down to sleep, the manner in which it does this being different from that of all other four-footed animals; 2 for it cannot bring its whole bulk to the ground by bending its knees, but leans against a tree and thus gets the rest which comes from sleep. Consequently the tree, by reason of the frequent leaning against it by the animal, becomes both rubbed and covered with mud, and the place about it, furthermore, shows both tracks and many signs, whereby the Ethiopians who search for such traces discover where the elephants take their rest. 3 Accordingly, when they come upon such a tree, they saw it near the ground until it requires only a little push to make it fall; thereupon, after removing the traces of their own presence, they quickly depart in anticipation of the approach of the animal, and towards evening the elephant, filled with food, comes to his accustomed haunt. But as soon as he leans against the tree with his entire weight he at once rolls to the ground along with the tree, and after his fall he remains there lying on his back the night through, since the nature of his body is not fashioned for rising. 4 Then the Ethiopians who have sawn the tree gather at dawn, and when they have slain the beast without danger to themselves they pitch their tents at the place and remain there until they have consumed the fallen animal.
28 1 The parts west of these tribes are inhabited by Ethiopians who are called Simi, but those towards the south are held by the tribe of the Struthophagi. 2 For there is found among them a kind of bird having a nature which is mingled with that of the land animal, and this explains the compound name it bears. This animal is not inferior in size to the largest deer and has been fashioned by Nature with a long neck and a round body, which is covered with feathers. Its head is weak and small, but it has powerful thighs and legs and its foot is cloven. 3 It is unable to fly in the air because of its weight, but it runs more swiftly than any other animal, barely touching the earth with the tips of its feet; and especially when it raises its wings adown the blasts of the wind it makes off like a ship under full sail; and it defends itself against its pursuers by means of its feet, hurling, as if from a sling, in an astonishing manner, stones as large as can be held in the hand. 4 But when it is pursued at a time of calm, its wings quickly collapse, it is unable to make use of the advantages given it by nature, and being easily overtaken it is made captive. 5 And since these animals abound in the land in multitude beyond telling, the barbarians devise every manner of scheme whereby to take them; moreover, since they are easily caught in large numbers, their meat is used for food and their skins for clothing and bedding. 6 But being constantly warred upon by the Ethiopians known as “Simi,” they are in daily peril from their attackers, and they use as defensive weapons the horns of gazelles; these horns, being large and sharp, are of great service and are found in abundance throughout the land by reason of the multitude of the animals which carry them.
29 1 A short distance from this tribe on the edge of the desert dwell the Acridophagi, men who are smaller than the rest, lean of body, and exceeding dark. For among them in the spring season strong west and south-west winds drive out of the desert a multitude beyond telling of locusts, of great and unusual size and with wings of an ugly, dirty colour. From these locusts they have food in abundance all their life long, catching them in a manner peculiar to themselves. For along the border of their land over many stades there extends a ravine of considerable depth and width; this they fill with wood from the forests, which is found in plenty in their land; and then, when the winds blow which we have mentioned and the clouds of the locusts approach, they divide among themselves the whole extent of the ravine and set fire to the brush in it. 3 And since a great volume of pungent smoke rises, the locusts, as they fly over the ravine, are choked by the pungency of the smoke and fall to the ground after they have flown through it only a short space, and as the destruction of them continues over several days, great heaps of them are raised up; moreover, since the land contains a great amount of brine, all the people bring this to the heaps, after they have been gathered together, soak them to an appropriate degree with the brine and thus both give the locusts a palatable taste and make their storage free from rot and lasting for a long time. 4 Accordingly, the food of this people, at the moment and thereafter, consists of these animals; for they possess no herds nor do they live near the sea nor do they have at hand any other resources; and light in body and very swift of foot as they are, they are also altogether short-lived, the oldest among them not exceeding forty years of age.
5 As for the manner in which they end their lives, not only is it astounding but extremely pitiful. For when old age draws near there breed in their bodies winged lice, which not only have an unusual form but are also savage and altogether loathsome in aspect. 6 The affliction begins on the belly and the breast and in a short time spreads over the whole body. And the person so affected is at first irritated by a kind of itching and insists on scratching himself a bit, the disease at this point offering a satisfaction combined with pain; but after this stage the animals, which have been continuously engendered more and more in the body, break out to the surface and there is a heavy discharge of a thin humour, the sting of which is quite unbearable. 7 Consequently the man who is in the grip of the disease lacerates himself with his nails the more violently, groaning and moaning deeply. And as his hands tear at his body, such a multitude of the vermin pours forth that those who try to pick them off accomplish nothing, since they issue forth one after another, as from a kind of vessel that is pierced throughout with holes. And so these wretches end their lives in a dissolution of the body after this manner, a miserable fate, meeting with such a sudden reversal of fortune either by reason of the peculiar character of their food or because of the climate.
30 1 Along the borders of this people there stretches a country great in size and rich in its varied pasturage; but it is without inhabitants and altogether impossible for man to enter; not that it has from the first never known the race of men, but in later times, as a result of an unseasonable abundance of rain, it brought forth a multitude of venomous spiders and scorpions. 2 For, as historians relate, so great a multitude of these animals came to abound that, although at the outset the human beings dwelling there united in killing the natural enemy, yet, because the multitude of them was not to be overcome and their bites brought swift death to their victims, they renounced both their ancestral land and mode of life and fled from these regions. Nor is there any occasion to be surprised at this statement or to distrust it, since we have learned through trustworthy history of many things more astonishing than this which have taken place throughout all the inhabited world. 3 In Italy, for instance, such a multitude of field-mice was generated in the plains that they drove certain people out of their native country; in Media birds, which came to abound beyond telling and made away with the seeds sown by the inhabitants, compelled them to remove into regions held by another people; and in the case of the Autariatae, as they are called, frogs were originally generated in the clouds, and when they fell upon the people in place of the customary rain, they forced them to leave their native homes and to flee for safety to the place where they now dwell. 4 And who indeed has not read in history, in connection with the Labours which Heracles performed in order to win his immortality, the account of the one Labour in the course of which he drove out of the Stymphalian Lake the multitude of birds which had come to abound in it? Moreover, in Libya certain cities have become depopulated because a multitude of lions came out of the desert against them.
Let these instances, then, suffice in reply to those who adopt a sceptical attitude towards histories because they recount what is astonishing; and now we shall in turn pass on to what follows the subjects we have been treating.
31 1 The borders of the parts to the south are inhabited by men whom the Greeks call “Cynamolgi,” but who are known in the language of the barbarians who live near them as Agrii. They wear great beards and maintain packs of savage dogs which serve to meet the needs of their life. 2 For from the time of the beginning of the summer solstice until mid-winter, Indian cattle, in a multitude beyond telling, resort to their country, the reason for this being uncertain; for no man knows whether they are in flight because they are being attacked by a great number of carnivorous beasts, or because they are leaving their own regions by reason of a lack of food, or because of some other reversal of fortune which Nature, that engenders all astonishing things, devises, but which the mind of the race of men cannot comprehend. 3 However, since they have not the strength of themselves to get the better of the multitude of the cattle, they let the dogs loose on them, and hunting them by means of the dogs they overcome a very great number of the animals; and as for the beasts which they have taken, some of them they eat while fresh and some they pack down with salt and store up. Many also of the other animals they hunt, thanks to the courage of their dogs, and so maintain themselves by the eating of flesh.
4 Now the most distant tribes of those peoples who live to the south have indeed the forms of men but their life is that of the beasts; however, it remains for us to discuss two peoples, the Ethiopians and the Trogodytes. But about the Ethiopians we have written in other connections, and so we shall now speak of the Trogodytes.
32 1 The Trogodytes, we may state, are called Nomads by the Greeks, and living as they do a nomadic life off their flocks, each group of them has its tyrant, and their women, like their children, they hold in common, with the single exception of the wife of the tyrant; but if any man goes in to this woman the ruler exacts of him a fine of a specified number of shee At the time of the etesian winds, when there are heavy rains in their country, they live off blood and milk which they mix together and seethe for a short while. But after this season the pasturage is withered by the excessive heat, and they retreat into the marshy places and fight with each other for the pasturage of the land. 3 They eat the older animals of the flocks and such as are growing sick and maintain themselves on them at all times. Consequently they give the name of parents to no human being, but rather to a bull and a cow, and also to a ram and a sheep; these they call their fathers or their mothers, by reason of the fact that they ever secure their daily food from them, and not from those who had begotten them. And as a drink the common people make use of juice from the plant Christ’s-thorn, but for the rulers there is prepared from a certain flower a beverage like the vilest of our sweet new wines. Following after their herds and flocks they move about from one land of the another, avoiding any stay in the same regions. 4 And they are all naked as to their bodies except for the loins, which they cover with skins; moreover, all the Trogodytes are circumcised like the Egyptians with the exception of those who, because of what they have experienced, are called “colobi”; for these alone of all who live inside the Straits have in infancy all that part cut completely off with the razor which among other peoples merely suffers circumcision.
33 1 As for the arms of the Trogodytes, those who bear the name of Megabari have round shields covered with raw ox-hide and a club with iron knobs, but the rest of them have bows and arrows and lances. Again, the burials practised by them differ entirely from all others; 2 for after binding the bodies of the dead with withes of Christ’s-thorn they tie the neck to the legs, and then placing the corpse upon a mound they cast at it stones as large as can be held in the hand, making merry the while, until they have built up a heap of stones and have hidden the bodies from sight; and finally they set up a goat’s horn on the heap and separate, having shown no fellow-feeling for the dead. 3 And they fight with one another, not, as the Greeks do, for possession of land or because of some alleged misdeeds, but for pasturage as it comes up at one time and another. In their quarrels they at first hurl stones at each other, until some are wounded, and the rest of the time they resort to the struggle with bows and arrows. And it is but a moment before many are dead, since they are accurate shooters by reason of their practice in archery and the object at which they are aiming is bare of protective armour. 4 The fighting is terminated by the older women, who rush into the fray and offer themselves as a protection to the fighters, and are the object of respect; for it is a custom with these people that they shall in no wise strike one of these women, and so at their appearance they cease shooting. 5 Those who can no longer accompany the flocks by reason of old age bind the tail of an ox about their own necks and so put an end to their lives of their own free will; and if a man postpones his death, anyone who wishes has the authority to fasten the noose about his neck, as an act of good-will, and, after admonishing the man, to take his life. 6 Likewise it is a custom of theirs to remove from life those who have become maimed or are in the grip of incurable diseases; for they consider it to be the greatest disgrace for a man to cling to life when he is unable to accomplish anything worth living for. Consequently, a man can see every Trogodyte sound in body and of vigorous age, since no one of them lives beyond sixty years.
7 But we have said enough about the Trogodytes; and if anyone of our readers shall distrust our histories because of what is strange and astonishing in the different manners of life which we have described, when he has considered and compared the climate of Scythia and that of the Trogodyte country and has observed the differences between them, he will not distrust what has been here related.
34 1 So great, for instance, is the contrast between our climate and the climates which we have described that the difference, when considered in detail, surpasses belief. 2 For example, there are countries where, because of the excessive cold, the greatest rivers are frozen over, the ice sustaining the crossing of armies and the passage of heavily laden wagons, the wine and all other juices freeze so that they must be cut with knives, yea, what is more wonderful still, the extremities of human beings fall off when rubbed by the clothing, their eyes are blinded, fire furnishes no protection, even bronze statues are cracked open, and at certain seasons, they say, the clouds are so thick that in those regions there is neither lightning nor thunder; and many other things, more astonishing than these, come to pass, which are unbelievable to such as are ignorant of them, but cannot be endured by any who have actually experienced them. 3 But on the farthermost bounds of Egypt and the Trogodyte country, because of the excessive heat from the sun at midday, men who are standing side by side are unable even to see one another by reason of the thickness of the air as it is condensed, and no one can walk about without foot-gear, since blisters appear at once on any who go barefoot. 4 And as for drink, unless it is ready to hand to satisfy the need of it, they speedily perish, since the heat swiftly exhausts the natural moistures in the body. Moreover, whenever any man puts any food into a bronze vessel along with water and sets it in the sun, it quickly boils without fire or wood. 5 Nevertheless, the inhabitants of both the lands which we have mentioned, far from desiring to escape from the excessive evils which befall them, actually, on the contrary, give up their lives of their own accord simply to avoid being compelled to make trial of a different fare and manner of life. 6 Thus it is that every country to which a man has grown accustomed holds a kind of spell of its own over him, and the length of time which he has spent there from infancy overcomes the hardship which he suffers from its climate. 7 And yet countries so different in both ways are separated by no great interval of space. For from Lake Maeotis, near which certain Scythians dwell, living in the midst of frost and excessive cold, many sailors of merchant vessels, running before a favourable wind, have made Rhodes in ten days, from which they have reached Alexandria in four, and from that city many men, sailing by way of the Nile, have reached Ethiopia in ten, so that from the cold parts of the inhabited world to its warmest parts the sailing time is not more than twenty-four days, if the journey is made without a break. 8 Consequently, the difference in climates in a slight interval being so great, it is nothing surprising that both the fare and the manners of life as well as the bodies of the inhabitants should be very different from such as prevail among us.
35 1 And now that we have discussed the principal facts concerning the nations and the manners of life which men consider astonishing, we shall speak in turn of the wild animals of the countries which we are considering. 2 There is an animal, for instance, which is called, from its characteristic, rhinoceros; in courage and strength it is similar to the elephant but not so high, and it has the toughest hide known and a colour like box-wood. At the tip of its nostrils it carries a horn which may be described as snub and in hardness is like iron. 3 Since it is ever contesting with the elephant about pasturage it sharpens its horn on stones, and when it opens the fight with this animal it slips under its belly and rips open the flesh with its horn as with a sword. By adopting this kind of fighting it drains the blood of the beasts and kills many of them. But if the elephant has avoided the attempt of the rhinoceros to get under his belly and has seized it beforehand with his trunk, he easily overcomes it by goring it with its tusks and making use of its superior strength.
4 There are also sphinxes in both the Trogodyte country and Ethiopia, and in shape they are not unlike those depicted in art save that they are more shaggy of hair, and since they have dispositions that are gentle and rather inclined towards cunning they yield also to systematic training.
5 The animals which bear the name cynocephali are in body like misshapen men, and they make a sound like the whimpering of human beings. These animals are very wild and quite untamable, and their eyebrows give them a rather surly expression. A most peculiar characteristic of the female is that it carries the womb on the outside of its body during its entire existence.
6 The animal called the cepus has received its name from the beautiful and pleasing grace which characterizes its entire body, and it has a head like that of a lion, but the rest of its body is like that of a panther, save in respect to its size, in which it resembles a gazelle.
7 But of all the animals named the carnivorous bull is the wildest and altogether the hardest to overcome. For in bulk he is larger than the domestic bulls, in swiftness of foot he is not inferior to a horse, and his mouth open clear back to the ears. His colour is a fiery red, his eyes are more piercing than those of a lion and shine at night, and his horns enjoy a distinctive property; for at all other times he moves them like his ears, but when fighting he holds them rigid. The direction of growth of his hair is contrary to that of all other animals. 8 He is, again, a remarkable beast in both boldness and strength, since he attacks the boldest animals and finds his food in devouring the flesh of his victims. He also destroys the flocks of the inhabitants and engages in terrible combats with whole bands of the shepherds and packs of dogs. 9 Rumour has it that their skin cannot be pierced; at any rate, though many men have tried to capture them, no man has ever brought one under subjection. If he has fallen into a pit or been captured by some other ruse he becomes choked with rage, and in no case does he ever exchange his freedom for the care which men would accord to him in domestication. It is with reason, therefore, that the Trogodytes hold this wild beast to be the strongest of all, since Nature has endowed it with the prowess of a lion, the speed of a horse, and the might of a bull, and since it is not subdued by the native strength of iron which is the greatest known.
10 The animal which the Ethiopians call the crocottas has a nature which is a mixture of that of a dog and that of a wolf, but in ferocity it is more to be feared than either of them, and with respect to its teeth it surpasses all animals; for every bone, no matter how huge in size, it easily crushes, and whatever it has gulped down its stomach digests in an astonishing manner. And among those who recount marvellous lies about this beast there are some who relate that it imitates the speech of men, but for our part they do not win our credence.
36 1 As for snakes, those peoples which dwell near the country which is desert and infested by beasts say that there is every kind of them, of a magnitude surpassing belief. For when certain writers state that they have seen some one hundred cubits long, it may justly be assumed, not only by us but by everybody else, that they are telling a falsehood; indeed they add to this tale, which is utterly distrusted, things far more astonishing, when they say that, since the country is flat like a plain, whenever the largest of these beasts coil themselves up, they make, by the coils which have been wound in circles and rest one upon another, elevations which seen from a distance resemble a hill. 2 Now a man may not readily agree as to the magnitude of the beasts of which we have just spoken; but we shall describe the largest beasts which have actually been seen and were brought to Alexandria in certain well-made receptacles, and shall add a detailed description of the manner in which they were captured.
3 The second Ptolemy, who was passionately fond of the hunting of elephants and gave great rewards to those who succeeded in capturing against odds the most valiant of these beasts, expending on this hobby great sums of money, not only collected great herds of war-elephants, but also brought to the knowledge of the Greeks other kinds of animals which had never before been seen and were objects of amazement. 4 Consequently certain of the hunters, observing the princely generosity of the king in the matter of the rewards he gave, rounding up a considerable number decided to hazard their lives and to capture one of the huge snakes and bring it alive to Ptolemy at Alexandria. 5 Great and astonishing as was the undertaking, fortune aided their designs and crowned their attempt with the success which it deserved. For they spied one of the snakes, thirty cubits long, as it loitered near the pools in which the water collects; here it maintained for most of the time its coiled body motionless, but at the appearance of an animal which came down to the spot to quench its thirst it would suddenly uncoil itself, seize the animal in its jaws, and so entwine in its coil the body of the creature which had come into view that it could in no wise escape its doom. And so, since the beast was long and slender and sluggish in nature, hoping that they could master it with nooses and ropes, they approached it with confidence the first time, having ready to hand everything which they might need; 6 but as they drew near it they constantly grew more and more terrified as they gazed upon its fiery eye and its tongue darting out in every direction, caught the hideous sound made by the roughness of its scales as it made its way through the trees and brushed against them, and noted the extraordinary size of its teeth, and the astonishing height of its heap of coils. 7 Consequently, after they had driven the colour from their cheeks through fear, with cowardly trembling they cast the nooses about its tail; but the beast, the moment the rope touched its body, whirled around with so mighty a hissing as to frighten them out of their wits, and raising itself into the air above the head of the foremost man it seized him in its mouth and ate his flesh while he still lived, and the second it caught from a distance with a coil as it fled, drew him to itself, and winding itself about him began squeezing his belly with its tightening bond; and as for all the rest, stricken with terror they sought their safety in flight.
37 1 Nevertheless, the hunters did not give up their attempt to capture the beast, the favour expected of the king and his reward outweighing the dangers which they had come to know full well as the result of their experiment, and by ingenuity and craft they did subdue that which was by force well-nigh invincible, devising a kind of contrivance like the following: — They fashioned a circular thing woven of reeds closely set together, in general shape resembling a fisherman’s creel and in size and capacity capable of holding the bulk of the beast. 2 Then, when they had reconnoitred its hole and observed the time when it went forth to feed and returned again, so soon as it had set out to prey upon the other animals, as was its custom, they stopped the opening of its old hole with large stones and earth, and digging an underground cavity near its lair they set the woven net in it and placed the mouth of the net opposite the opening, so that it was in this way all ready for the beast to enter. 3 Against the return of the animal they had made ready archers and slingers and many horsemen, as well as trumpeters and all the other apparatus needed, and as the beast drew near it raised its neck in air higher than the horsemen. Now the company of men who had assembled for the hunt did not dare to draw near it, being warned by the mishaps which had befallen them on the former occasion, but shooting at it from afar, and with many hands aiming at a single target, and a large one at that, they kept hitting it, and when the horsemen appeared and the multitude of bold fighting-dogs, and then again when the trumpets blared, they got the animal terrified. Consequently, when it retreated to its accustomed lair, they closed in upon it, but only so far as not to arouse it still more. 4 And when it came near the opening which had been stopped up, the whole throng, acting together, raised a mighty din with their arms and thus increased its confusion and fear because of the crowds which put in their appearance and of the trumpets. But the beast could not find the opening and so, terrified at the advance of the hunters, fled for refuge into the mouth of the net which had been prepared near by. 5 And when the woven net began to be filled up as the snake uncoiled itself, some of the hunters anticipated its movements by leaping forward, and before the snake could turn about to face the entrance they closed and fastened with ropes the mouth, which was long and had been shrewdly devised with such swiftness of operation in mind; then they hauled out the woven net and putting rollers under it drew it up into the air. 6 But the beast, enclosed as it was in a straitened place, kept sending forth an unnatural and terrible hissing and tried to pull down with its teeth the reeds which enveloped it, and by twisting itself in every direction created the expectation in the minds of the men who were carrying it that it would leap out of the contrivance which enveloped it. Consequently, in terror, they set the snake down on the ground, and by jabbing it about tail they diverted the attention of the beast from its work of tearing with its teeth to its sensation of pain in the parts which hurt.
7 When they had brought the snake to Alexandria they presented it to the king, an astonishing sight which those cannot credit who have merely heard the tale. And by depriving the beast of its food they wore down its spirit and little by little tamed it, so that the domestication of it became a thing of wonder. 8 As for Ptolemy, he distributed among the hunters the merited rewards, and kept and fed the snake, which had now been tamed and afforded the greatest and most astonishing sight for the strangers who visited his kingdom. 9 Consequently, in view of the fact that a snake of so great a size has been exposed to the public gaze, it is not fair to doubt the word of the Ethiopians or to assume that the report which they circulated far and wide was a mere fiction. For they state that there are to be seen in their country snakes so great in size that they not only eat both oxen and bulls and other animals of equal bulk, but even join issue in battle with the elephants, and by intertwining their coil about the elephants’ legs they prevent the natural movement of them and by rearing their necks above their trunks they put their heads directly opposite the eyes of the elephants, and sending forth, by reason of the fiery nature of their eyes, brilliant flashes like lightning, they first blind their sight and then throw them to the ground and devour of the flesh of their conquered foes.
38 1 But now that we have examined with sufficient care Ethiopia and the Trogodyte country and the territory adjoining them, as far as the region which is uninhabited because of the excessive heat, and, beside these, the coast of the Red Sea and the Atlantic deep which stretches towards the south, we shall give an account of the part which still remains — and I refer to the Arabian Gulf — drawing in part upon the royal records preserved in Alexandria, and in part upon what we have learned from men who have seen it with their own eyes. 2 For this section of the inhabited world and that about the British Isles and the far north have by no means come to be included in the common knowledge of men. But as for the parts of the inhabited world which lie to the far north and border on the area which is uninhabited because of the cold, we shall discuss them when we record the deeds of Gaius Caesar; 3 for he it was who extended the Roman Empire the farthest into those parts and brought it about that all the area which had formerly been unknown came to be included in a narrative of history; 4 but the Arabian Gulf, as it is called, opens into the ocean which lies to the south, and its innermost recess, which stretches over a distance of very many stades in length, is enclosed by the farthermost borders of Arabia and the Trogodyte country. Its width at the mouth and at the innermost recess is about sixteen stades, but from the harbour of Panormus to the opposite mainland is a day’s run for a warship. And its greatest width is at the Tyrcaeus mountain and Macaria, an island out at sea, the mainlands there being out of sight of each other. But from this point the width steadily decreases more and more and continually tapers as far as the entrance. 5 And as a man sails along the coast he comes in many places upon long islands with narrow passages between them, where the current rises full and strong. Such, then, is the setting, in general terms, of this gulf. But for our part, we shall make our beginning with the farthest regions of the innermost recess and then sail along its two sides past the mainlands, in connection with which we shall describe what is peculiar to them and most deserving of discussion; and first of all we shall take the right side, the coast of which is inhabited by tribes of the Trogodytes as far inland as the desert.
39 1 In the course of the journey, then, from the city of Arsinoê along the right mainland, in many places numerous streams, which have a bitter salty taste, drop from the cliffs into the sea. And after a man has passed these waters, above a great plain there towers a mountain whose colour is like ruddle and blinds the sight of any who gaze steadfastly upon it for some time. Moreover, at the edge of the skirts of the mountain there lies a harbour, known as Aphroditê’s Harbour, which has a winding entrance. 2 Above this harbour are situated three islands, two of which abound in olive trees and are thickly shaded, while one falls short of the other two in respect of the number of these trees but contains a multitude of the birds called meleagrides. 3 Next there is a very large gulf which is called Acathartus, and by it is an exceedingly long peninsula, over the narrow neck of which men transport their ships to the opposite sea. 4 And as a man coasts along these regions he comes to an island which lies at a distance out in the open sea and stretches for a length of eighty stades; the name of it is Ophiodes and it was formerly full of fearful serpents of every variety, which was in fact the reason why it received this name, but in later times the kings at Alexandria have laboured so diligently on the reclaiming of it that not one of the animals which were formerly there is any longer to be seen on the island.
5 However, we should not pass over the reason why the kings showed diligence in the reclamation of the island. For there is found on it the topaz, as it is called, which is a pleasing transparent stone, similar to glass, and of a marvellous golden hue. 6 Consequently no unauthorized person may set foot upon the island and it is closely guarded, every man who has approached it being put to death by the guards who are stationed there. And the latter are few in number and lead a miserable existence. For in order to prevent any stone being stolen, not a single boat is left on the island; furthermore, any who sail by pass along it at a distance because of their fear of the king; and the provisions which are brought to it are quickly exhausted and there are absolutely no other provisions in the land. 7 Consequently, whenever only a little food is left, all the inhabitants of the village sit down and await the arrival of the ship of those who are bringing the provisions, and when these are delayed they are reduced to their last hopes. 8 And the stone we have mentioned, being found in the rock, is not discernible during the day because of the stifling heat, since it is overcome by the brilliance of the sun, but when night falls it shines in the dark and is visible from afar, in whatever place it may be. 9 The guards on the island divide these places by lot among themselves and stand watch over them, and when the stone shines they put around it, to mark the place, a vessel corresponding in size to the chunk of stone which gives out the light; and when day comes and they go their rounds they cut out the area which has been so marked and turn it over to men who are able by reason of their craftsmanship to polish it properly.
40 1 After sailing past these regions one finds that the coast is inhabited by many nations of Ichthyophagi and many nomadic Trogodytes. Then there appear mountains of all manner of peculiarities until one comes to the Harbour of Soteria, as it is called, which gained this name from the first Greek sailors who found safety there. 2 From this region onwards the gulf begins to become contracted and to curve toward Arabia. And here it is found that the nature of the country and of the sea has altered by reason of the peculiar characteristic of the region; 3 for the mainland appears to be low as seen from the sea, no elevation rising above it, and the sea, which runs to shoals, is found to have a depth of no more than three fathoms, while in colour it is altogether green. The reason for this is, they say, not because the water is naturally of that colour, but because of the mass of seaweed and tangle which shows from under water. 4 For ships, then, which are equipped with oars the place is suitable enough, since it rolls along no wave from a great distance and affords, furthermore, fishing in the greatest abundance; but the ships which carry the elephants, being of deep draft because of their weight and heavy by reason of their equipment, bring upon their crews great and terrible dangers. 5 For running as they do under full sail and often times being driven during the night before the force of the winds, sometimes they will strike against rocks and be wrecked or sometimes run aground on slightly submerged spits. The sailors are unable to go over the sides of the ship because the water is deeper than a man’s height, and when in their efforts to rescue their vessel by means of their punting-poles they accomplish nothing, they jettison everything except their provisions; but if even by this course they do not succeed in effecting an escape, they fall into great perplexity by reason of the fact that they can make out neither an island nor a promontory nor another ship near at hand; — for the region is altogether inhospitable and only at rare intervals do men cross it in ships. 6 And to add to these evils the waves within a moment’s time cast up such a mass of sand against the body of the ship and heap it up in so incredible a fashion that it soon piles up a mound round about the place and binds the vessel, as if of set purpose, to the solid land.
7 Now the men who have suffered this mishap, at the outset bewail their lot with moderation in the face of a deaf wilderness, having as yet not entirely abandoned hope of ultimate salvation; for oftentimes the swell of the flood-tide has intervened for men in such a plight and raised the ship aloft, and suddenly appearing, as might a deus ex machina, has brought succour to men in the extremity of peril. But when such god-sent aid has not been vouchsafed to them and their food fails, then the strong cast the weaker into the sea in order that for the few left the remaining necessities of life may last a greater number of days. But finally, when they have blotted out of their minds all their hopes, these perish by a more miserable fate than those who had died before; for whereas the latter in a moment’s time returned to Nature the spirit which she had given them, these parcelled out their death into many separate hardships before they finally, suffering long-protracted tortures, were granted the end of life. 8 As for the ships which have been stripped of their crews in this pitiable fashion, there they remain for many years, like a group of cenotaphs, embedded on every side in a heap of sand, their masts and yard-arms si standing aloft, and they move those who behold them from afar to pity and sympathy for the men who have perished. For it is the king’s command to leave in place such evidences of disasters that they may give notice to sailors of the region which works to their destruction. 9 And among the Ichthyophagi who dwell near by has been handed down a tale which has preserved the account received from their forefathers, that once, when there was a great receding of the sea, the entire area of the gulf which has what may be roughly described as the green appearance became land, and that, after the sea had receded to the opposite parts and the solid ground in the depths of it had emerged to view, a mighty flood came back upon it again and returned the body of water to its former place.
41 1 The voyage along the coast, as one leaves these regions, from Ptolemaïs as far as the Promontories of the Tauri we have already mentioned, when we told of Ptolemy’s hunting of the elephants; and from the Tauri the coast swings to the east, and at the time of the summer solstice the shadows fall to the south, opposite to what is true with us, at about the second hour of the day. 2 The country also has rivers, which flow from the Psebaean mountains, as they are called. Moreover, it is checkered by great plains as well, which bear mallows, cress, and palms, all of unbelievable size; and it also brings forth fruits of every description, which have an insipid taste and are unknown among us. 3 That part which stretches towards the interior is full of elephants and wild bulls and lions and many other powerful wild beasts of every description. The passage by sea is broken up by islands which, though they bear no cultivated fruit, support varieties of birds which are peculiar to them and marvellous to look upon. 4 After this place the sea is quite deep and produces all kinds of sea-monsters of astonishing size, which, however, offer no harm to men unless one by accident falls upon their back-fins; for they are unable to pursue the sailors, since when they rise from the sea their eyes are blinded by the brilliance of the sun. These, then, are the farthest known parts of the Trogodyte country, and are circumscribed by the ranges which go by the name of Psebaean.
42 1 But we shall now take up the other side, namely, the opposite shore which forms the coast of Arabia, and shall describe it, beginning with the innermost recess. This bears the name Poseideion, since an altar was erected here to Poseidon Pelagius by that Ariston who was dispatched by Ptolemy to investigate the coast of Arabia as far as the ocean. Directly after the innermost recess is a region along the sea which is especially honoured by the natives because of the advantage which accrues from it to them. It is called the Palm-grove and contains a multitude of trees of this kind which are exceedingly fruitful and contribute in an unusual degree to enjoyment and luxury. 3 But all the country round about is lacking in springs of water and is fiery hot because it slopes to the south; accordingly, it was a natural thing that the barbarians made sacred the place which was full of trees and, lying as it did in the midst of a region utterly desolate, supplied their food. And indeed not a few springs and streams of water gush forth there, which do not yield to snow in coldness; and these make the land on both sides of them green and altogether pleasing. 4 Moreover, an altar is there built of hard stone and very old in years, bearing an inscription in ancient letters of an unknown tongue. The oversight of the sacred precinct is in the care of a man and a woman who hold the sacred office for life. The inhabitants of the place are long-lived and have their beds in the trees because of their fear of the wild beasts.
5 After sailing past the Palm-grove one comes to an island off a promontory of the mainland which bears the name Island of Phocae from the animals which make their home there; for so great a multitude of these beasts spend their time in these regions as to astonish those who behold them. And the promontory which stretches out in front of the island lies over against Petra, as it is called, and Palestine; for to this country, as it is reported, both the Gerrhaeans and Minaeans convey from Upper Arabia, as it is called, both the frankincense and the other aromatic wares.
43 1 The coast which comes next was originally inhabited by the Maranitae, and then by the Garindanes who were their neighbours. The latter secured the country somewhat in this fashion: In the above-mentioned Palm-grove a festival was celebrated every four years, to which the neighbouring peoples thronged from all sides, both to sacrifice to the gods of the sacred precinct hecatombs of well-fed camels and also to carry back to their native lands some of the water of this place, since the tradition prevailed that this drink gave health to such as partook of it. 2 When for these reasons, then, the Maranitae gathered to the festival, the Garindanes, putting to the sword those who had been left behind in the country, and lying in ambush for those who were returning from the festival, utterly destroyed the tribe, and after stripping the country of its inhabitants they divided among themselves the plains, which were fruitful and supplied abundant pasture for their herds and flocks. 3 This coast has few harbours and is divided by many large mountains, by reason of which it shows every shade of colour and affords a marvellous spectacle to those who sail past it.
4 After one has sailed past this country the Laeanites Gulf comes next, about which are many inhabited villages of Arabs who are known as Nabataeans. This tribe occupies a large part of the coast and not a little of the country which stretches inland, and it has a people numerous beyond telling and flocks and herds in multitude beyond belief. 5 Now in ancient times these men observed justice and were content with the food which they received from their flocks, but later, after the kings in Alexandria had made the ways of the sea navigable for the merchants, these Arabs not only attacked the shipwrecked, but fitting out pirate ships preyed upon the voyagers, imitating in their practices the savage and lawless ways of the Tauri of the Pontus; some time afterward, however, they were caught on the high seas by some quadriremes and punished as they deserved.
6 Beyond these regions there is a level and well-watered stretch of land which produces, by reason of springs which flow through its whole extent, dog’s-tooth grass, lucerne, and lotus as tall as a man. And because of the abundance and excellent quality of the pasturage, not only does it support every manner of flocks and herds in multitude beyond telling, but also wild camels, deer, and gazelles. 7 And against the multitude of animals which are nourished in that place there gather in from the desert bands of lions and wolves and leopards, against which the herdsmen must perforce battle both day and night to protect their charges; and in this way the land’s good fortune becomes a cause of misfortune for its inhabitants, seeing that it is generally Nature’s way to dispense to men along with good things what is hurtful as well.
44 1 Next after these plains as one skirts the coast comes a gulf of extraordinary nature. It runs, namely, to a point deep into the land, extends in length a distance of some five hundred stades, and shut in as it is by crags which are of wondrous size, its mouth is winding and hard to get out of; for a rock which extends into the sea obstructs its entrance and so it is impossible for a ship either to sail into or out of the gulf. 2 Furthermore, at times when the current rushes in and there are frequent shiftings of the winds, the surf, beating upon the rocky beach, roars and rages all about the projecting rock. The inhabitants of the land about the gulf, who are known as Banizomenes, find their food by hunting the land animals and eating their meat. And a temple has been set up there, which is very holy and exceedingly revered by all Arabians.
3 Next there are three islands which lie off the coast just described and provide numerous harbours. The first of these, history relates, is sacred to Isis and is uninhabited, and on it are stone foundations of ancient dwellings and stelae which are inscribed with letters in a barbarian tongue; the other two islands are likewise uninhabited and all three are covered thick with olive trees which differ from those we have. 4 Beyond these islands there extends for about a thousand stades a coast which is precipitous and difficult for ships to sail past; for there is neither harbour beneath the cliffs nor roadstead where sailors may anchor, and no natural breakwater which affords shelter in emergency for mariners in distress. And parallel to the coast here runs a mountain range at whose summit are rocks which are sheer and of a terrifying height, and at its base are sharp undersea ledges in many places and behind them are ravines which are eaten away underneath and turn this way and that. 5 And since these ravines are connected by passages with one another and the sea is deep, the surf, as it at one time rushes in and at another time retreats, gives forth a sound resembling a mighty crash of thunder. At one place the surf, as it breaks upon huge rocks, rocks leaps on high and causes an astonishing mass of foam, at another it is swallowed up within the caverns and creates such a terrifying agitation of the waters that men who unwittingly draw near these places are so frightened that they die, as it were, a first death.
6 This coast, then, is inhabited by Arabs who are called Thamudeni; but the coast next to it is bounded by a very large gulf, off which lie scattered islands which are in appearance very much like the islands called the Echinades. After this coast there come sand dunes, of infinite extent in both length and width and black in colour. 7 Beyond them a neck of land is to be seen and a harbour, the fairest of any which have come to be included in history, called Charmuthas. For behind an extraordinary natural breakwater which slants towards the west there lies a gulf which not only is marvellous in its form but far surpasses all others in the advantages it offers; for a thickly wooded mountain stretches along it, enclosing it on all sides in a ring one hundred stades long; its entrance is two plethra wide, and it provides a harbour undisturbed by the waves sufficient for two thousand vessels. 8 Furthermore, it is exceptionally well supplied with water, since a river, larger than ordinary, empties into it, and it contains in its centre an island which is abundantly watered and capable of supporting gardens. In general, it resembles most closely the harbour of Carthage, which is known as Cothon, of the advantages of which we shall endeavour to give a detailed discussion in connection with the appropriate time. And a multitude of fish gather from the open sea into the harbour both because of the calm which prevails there and because of the sweetness of the waters which flow into it.
45 1 After these places, as a man skirts the coast, five mountains rise on high separated one from another, and their peaks taper into breast-shaped tips of stone which give them an appearance like that of the pyramids of Egypt. 2 Then comes a circular gulf guarded on every side by great promontories, and midway on a line drawn across it rises a trapezium-shaped hill on which three temples, remarkable for their height, have been erected to gods, which indeed are unknown to the Greeks, but are accorded unusual honour by the natives. 3 After this there is a stretch of dank coast, traversed at intervals by streams of sweet water from springs; on it there is a mountain which bears the name Chabinus and is heavily covered with thickets of every kind of tree. The land which adjoins the mountainous country is inhabited by the Arabs known as Debae. 4 They are breeders of camels and make use of the services of this animal in connection with the most important needs of their life; for instance, they fight against their enemies from their backs, employ them for the conveyance of their wares and thus easily accomplish all their business, drink their milk and in this way get their food from them, and traverse their entire country riding upon their racing camels. 5 And down the centre of their country runs a river which carries down such an amount of what is gold dust to all appearance that the mud glitters all over as it is carried out at its mouth. The natives of the region are entirely without experience in the working of the gold, but they are hospitable to strangers, not, however, to everyone who arrives among them, but only to Boeotians and Peloponnesians, the reason for this being the ancient friendship shown by Heracles for the tribe, a friendship which, they relate, has come down to them in the form of a myth as a heritage from their ancestors.
6 The land which comes next is inhabited by Alilaei and Gasandi, Arab peoples, and is not fiery hot, like the neighbouring territories, but is often overspread by mild and thick clouds, from which come heavy showers and timely storms that make the summer season temperate. The land produces everything and is exceptionally fertile, but it does not receive the cultivation of which it would admit because of the lack of experience of the folk. 7 Gold they discover in underground galleries which have been formed by nature and gather in abundance not that which has been fused into a mass out of gold-dust, but the virgin gold, which is called, from its condition when found, “unfired” gold. And as for size the smallest nugget found is about as large as the stone offruit, and the largest not much smaller than a royal nut. 8 This gold they wear about both their wrists and necks, perforating it and alternating it with transparent stones. And since this precious metal abounds in their land, whereas there is a scarcity of copper and iron, they exchange it with merchants for equal parts of the latter wares.
46 1 Beyond this people are the Carbae, as they are called, and beyond these the Sabaeans, who are the most numerous of the tribes of the Arabians. They inhabit that part of the country known as Arabia the Blest, which produces most of the things which are held dear among us and nurtures flocks and herds of every kind in multitude beyond telling. And a natural sweet odour pervades the entire land because practically all the things which excel in fragrance grow there unceasingly. 2 Along the coast, for instance, grow balsam, as called, and cassia and a certain other herb possessing a nature peculiar to itself; for when fresh it is most pleasing and delightful to the eye, but when kept for a time it suddenly fades to nothing. 3 And throughout the interior of land there are thick forests, in which are great trees which yield frankincense and myrrh, as well as palms and reeds, cinnamon trees and every other kind which possesses a sweet odour as these have; for it is impossible to enumerate both the peculiar properties and natures of each one severally because of the great volume and the exceptional richness of the fragrance as it is gathered from each and all. 4 For a divine thing and beyond the power of words to describe seems the fragrance which greets the nostrils and stirs the senses of everyone. Indeed, even though those who sail along this coast may be far from the land, that does not deprive them of a portion of the enjoyment which this fragrance affords; for in the summer season, when the wind is blowing off shore, one finds that the sweet odours exhaled by the myrrh-bearing and other aromatic trees penetrate to the near-by parts of the sea; and the reason is that the essence of the sweet-smelling herbs is not, as with us, kept laid away until it has become old and stale, but its potency is in the full bloom of its strength and fresh, and penetrates to the most delicate parts of the sense of smell. 5 And since the breeze carries the emanation of the most fragrant plants, to the voyagers who approach the coast there is wafted a blending of perfumes, delightful and potent, and healthful withal and exotic, composed as it is of the best of them, seeing that the product of the trees has not been minced into bits and so has exhaled its own special strength, nor yet lies stored away in vessels made of a different substance, but taken at the very prime of its freshness and while its divine nature keeps the shoot pure and undefiled. Consequently those who partake of the unique fragrance feel that they are enjoying the ambrosia of which the myths relate, being unable, because of the superlative sweetness of the perfume, to find any other name that would be fitting and worthy of it.
47 1 Nevertheless, fortune has not invested the inhabitants of this land with a felicity which is perfect and leaves no room for envy, but with such great gifts she has coupled what is harmful and may serve as a warning to such men as are wont to despise the gods because of the unbroken succession of their blessings. 2 For in the most fragrant forests is a multitude of snakes, the colour of which is dark-red, their length a span, and their bites altogether incurable; they bite by leaping upon their victim, and as they spring on high they leave a stain of blood upon his skin. 3 And there is also something peculiar to the natives which happens in the case of those whose bodies have become weakened by a protracted illness. For when the body has become permeated by an undiluted and pungent substance and the combination of foreign bodies settles in a porous area, an enfeebled condition ensues which is difficult to cure: consequently at the side of men afflicted in this way they burn asphalt and the beard of a goat, combatting the excessively sweet odour by that from substances of the opposite nature. Indeed the good, when it is measured out in respect of quantity and order, is for human beings an aid and delight, but when it fails of due proportion and proper time the gift which it bestows is unprofitable.
4 The chief city of this tribe is called by them Sabae and is built upon a mountain. The kings of this city succeed to the throne by descent and the people accord to them honours mingled with good and ill. For though they have the appearance of leading a happy life, in that they impose commands upon all and are not accountable for their deeds, yet they are considered unfortunate, inasmuch as it is unlawful for them ever to leave the palace, and if they do so they are stoned to death, in accordance with a certain ancient oracle, by the common crowd. 5 This tribe surpasses not only the neighbouring Arabs but also all other men in wealth and in their several extravagancies besides. For in the exchange and sale of their wares they, of all men who carry on trade for the sake of the silver they receive in exchange, obtain the highest price in return for things of the smallest weight. 6 Consequently, since they have never for ages suffered the ravages of war because of their secluded position, and since an abundance of both gold and silver abounds in the country, especially in Sabae, where the royal palace is situated, they have embossed goblets of every description, made of silver and gold, couches and tripods with silver feet, and every other furnishing of incredible costliness, and halls encircled by large columns, some of them gilded, and others having silver figures on the capitals. 7 Their ceilings and doors they have partitioned by means of panels and coffers made of gold, set with precious stones and placed close together, and have thus made the structure of their houses in every part marvellous for its costliness; for some parts they have constructed of silver and gold, others of ivory and that most showy precious stones or of whatever else men esteem most highly. 8 For the fact is that these people have enjoyed their felicity unshaken since ages past because they have been entire strangers to those whose own covetousness leads them to feel that another man’s wealth is their own godsend. The sea in these parts looks to be white in colour, so that the beholder marvels at the surprising phenomenon and at the same time seeks for its cause. 9 And there are prosperous islands near by, containing unwalled cities, all the herds of which are white in colour, while no female has any horn whatsoever. These islands are visited by sailors from every part and especially from Potana, the city which Alexander founded on the Indus river, when he wished to have a naval station on the shore of the ocean.
Now as regards Arabia the Blest and its inhabitants we shall be satisfied with what has been said.
48 1 But we must not omit to mention the strange phenomena which are seen in the heavens in these regions. The most marvellous is that which, according to accounts we have, has to do with the constellation of the Great Bear and occasions the greatest perplexity among navigators. What they relate is that, beginning with the month which the Athenians call Maemacterion, not one of the seven stars of the Great Bear is seen until the first watch, in Poseideon none until second, and in the following months they gradually drop out of the sight of navigators. 2 As for the other heavenly bodies, the planets, as they are called, are, in the case of some, larger than they appear with us, and in the case of others their risings and settings are also not the same; and the sun does not, as with us, send forth its light shortly in advance of its actual rising, but while the darkness of night still continues, it suddenly and contrary to all expectation appears and sends forth its light. 3 Because of this there is no daylight in those regions before the sun has become visible, and when out of the midst of the sea, as they say, it comes into view, it resembles a fiery red ball of charcoal which discharges huge sparks, and its shape does not look like a cone, as is the impression we have of it, but it has the shape of a column which has the appearance of being slightly thicker at the top; and furthermore it does not shine or send out rays before the first hour, appearing as a fire that gives forth no light in the darkness; but at the beginning of the second hour it takes on the form of a round shield and sends forth a light which is exceptionally bright and fiery. 4 But at its setting the opposite manifestations take place with respect to it; for it seems to observers to be lighting up the whole universe with a strange kind of ray for not less than two or, as Agatharchides of Cnidus has recorded, for three hours. And in the opinion of the natives this is the most pleasant period, when the heat is steadily lessening because of the setting of the sun.
5 As regards the winds, the west, the south-west, also the north-west and the east blow as in the other parts of the world; but in Ethiopia the south winds neither blow nor are known at all, although in the Trogodyte country and Arabia they so exceptionally hot that they set the forests on fire and cause the bodies of those who take refuge in the shade of their huts to collapse through weakness. The north wind, however, may justly be considered the most favourable of all, since it reaches into every region of the inhabited earth and is ever cool.
49 1 But now that we have examined these matters, it will be appropriate to discuss the Libyans who dwell near Egypt and the country which borders upon them. The parts about Cyrenê and the Syrtes as well as the interior of the mainland in these regions are inhabited by four tribes of Libyans; of these the Nasamones, as they are called, dwell in the parts to the south, the Auschisae in those to the west, the Marmaridae occupy the narrow strip between Egypt and Cyrene and come down to the coast, and the Macae, who are more numerous than their fellow Libyans, dwell in the regions about the Syrtis. 2 Now of the Libyans whom we have just mentioned those are farmers who possess land which is able to produce abundant crops, while those are nomads who get their sustenance from the flocks and herds which they maintain; and both of these groups have kings and lead a life which is not entirely savage or different from that of civilized men. The third group, however, obeying no king and taking no account or even thought of justice, makes robbery its constant practice, and attacking unexpectedly from out of the desert it seizes whatever it has happened upon and quickly withdraws to the place from which it had set out. 3 All the Libyans of this third group lead a life like that of the wild beasts, spending their days under the open sky and practising the savage in their mode of life; for they have nothing to do with civilized food or clothing, but cover their bodies with the skins of goats. Their leaders have no cities whatsoever, but only towers near the sources of water, and into these they bring and store away the excess of their booty. Of the peoples who are their subjects they annually exact an oath of obedience to their authority, and to any who have submitted to them they extend their protection as being allies, and such as take no heed of them they first condemn to death and then make war upon them as robbers. 4 Their weapons are appropriate to both the country and their mode of life; for since they are light of body and inhabit a country which is for the most part a level plain, they face the dangers which beset them armed with three spears and stones in leather bags; and they carry neither sword nor helmet nor any other armour, since their aim is to excel in agility both in pursuit and again in withdrawal. 5 Consequently they are expert in running and hurling stones, having brought to full development by practice and habit the advantages accorded them by nature. And, speaking generally, they observe neither justice nor good faith in any respect in dealing with peoples of alien race.
50 1 That part of the country which lies near the city of Cyrenê has a deep soil and bears products of many kinds; for not only does it produce wheat, but it also possesses large vineyards and olive orchards and native forests, and rivers which are of great utility; but the area which extends beyond its southern border where nitre is found, being uncultivated and lacking springs of water, is in appearance like a sea; and in addition to its showing no variety of landscape it is surrounded by desert land, the desert which lies beyond ending in a region from which egress is difficult. 2 Consequently not even a bird is to be seen there nor any four-footed animal except the gazelle and the ox, nor indeed any plant or anything that delights the eye, since the land which stretches into the interior contains nearly continuous dunes throughout its length. And greatly as it is lacking in the things which pertain to civilized life, to the same degree does it abound in snakes of every manner of appearance and size, and especially in those which men call cerastes, the stings of which are mortal and their colour is like sand; 3 and since for this reason they look like the ground on which they lie, few men discern them and the greater number tread on them unwittingly and meet with unexpected perils. Moreover, the account runs that in ancient times these snakes once invaded a large part of that section of Egypt which lies below this desert and rendered it uninhabitable.
4 And both in this arid land and in Libya which lies beyond the Syrtis there takes place a marvellous thing. For at certain times, and especially when there is no wind, shapes are seen gathering in the sky which assume the forms of animals of every kind; and some of these remain fixed, but others begin to move, sometimes retreating before a man and at other times pursuing him, and in every case, since they are of monstrous size, they strike such as have never experienced them with wondrous dismay and terror. 5 For when the shape which are pursuing overtake the persons they envelop their bodies, causing a chilling and shivering sensation, so that strangers who are unfamiliar with them are overcome with fear, although the natives, who have often met with such things, pay no attention to the phenomenon.
51 1 Now incredible though this effect may seem and like a fanciful tale, yet certain physical philosophers attempt to set forth the causes of it somewhat as follows: 2 The winds, they say, either blow in this land not at all or else are altogether sluggish and without vigour; and often there prevails in the air a calm and wondrous lack of movement, because of the fact that neither wooded vales nor thickly-shaded glens lie near it nor are there any elevations that make hills; furthermore, these regions lack large rivers and, in general, the whole territory round about, being barren of plants, gives forth no vapour. Yet it is all these things which are wont, they explain, to generate beginnings, as it were, and gatherings of air-currents. 3 Consequently, when so stifling an atmosphere extends over the arid land the phenomenon which we observe taking place now and then with respect to the clouds on humid days, when every kind of shape is formed, occurs likewise in Libya, they tell us, the air as it condenses assuming manifold shapes. Now this air is driven along by the weak and sluggish breezes, rising aloft and making quivering motions and impinging upon other bodies of similar character, but when a calm succeeds, it then descends towards the earth by reason of its weight and in the shape which it may chance to have assumed, whereupon, there being nothing to dissipate it, the air clings to such living creatures as accidentally come to be in the way. 4 As for the movements which these shapes make in both directions, these, they say, indicate no volition on their part, since it is impossible that voluntary flight or pursuit should reside in a soulless thing. And yet the living creatures are, unknown to themselves, responsible for this movement through the air; for, if they advance, they push up by their violent motion the air which lies beneath them, and this is the reason why the image which has been formed retreats before them and gives the impression of fleeing; whereas if the living creatures withdraw, they follow in the opposite direction, the cause having been reversed, since that which is empty and rarefied draws the shapes towards itself. 5 Consequently it has the appearance of pursuing men who withdraw before it, for the image is drawn to the empty space and rushes forward in a mass under the influence of the backward motion of the living creature; and as for those who flee, it is quite reasonable that, whether they turn about or stand still, their bodies should feel the light touch of the image which follows them; and this is broken in pieces as it strikes upon the solid object, and as it pours itself out in all directions it chills the bodies of all with whom it comes in contact.
52 1 But now that we have examined these matters it will be fitting, in connection with the regions we have mentioned, to discuss the account which history records of the Amazons who were in Libya in ancient times. For the majority of mankind believe that the only Amazons were those who are reported to have dwelt in the neighbourhood of the Thermodon river on the Pontus; but the truth is otherwise, since the Amazons of Libya were much earlier in point of time and accomplished notable deeds. 2 Now we are not unaware that to many who read this account the history of this people will appear to be a thing unheard of and entirely strange; for since the race of these Amazons disappeared entirely many generations before the Trojan War, whereas the women about the Thermodon river were in their full vigour a little before that time, it is not without reason that the later people, who were also better known, should have inherited the fame of the earlier, who are entirely unknown to most men because of the lapse of time. 3 For our part, however, since we find that many early poets and historians, and not a few of the later ones as well, have made mention of them, we shall endeavour to recount their deeds in summary, following the account of Dionysius, who composed a narrative about the Argonauts and Dionysus, and also about many other things which took place in the most ancient times.
4 Now there have been in Libya a number of races of women who were warlike and greatly admired for their manly vigour; for instance, tradition tells us of the race of the Gorgons, against whom, as the account is given, Perseus made war, a race distinguished for its valour; for the fact that it was the son of Zeus, the mightiest Greek of his day, who accomplished the campaign against these women, and that this was his greatest Labour may be taken by any man as proof of both the pre-eminence and the power of the women we have mentioned. Furthermore, the manly prowess of those of whom we are now about to write presupposes an amazing pre-eminence when compared with the nature of the women of our day.
53 1 We are told, namely, that there was once on the western parts of Libya, on the bounds of the inhabited world, a race which was ruled by women and followed a manner of life unlike that which prevails among us. For it was the custom among them that the women should practise the arts of war and be required to serve in the army for a fixed period, during which time they maintained their virginity; then, when the years of their service in the field had expired, they went in to the men for the procreation of children, but they kept in their hands the administration of the magistracies and of all the affairs of the state. 2 The men, however, like our married women, spent their days about the house, carrying out the orders which were given them by their wives; and they took no part in military campaigns or in office or in the exercise of free citizenship in the affairs of the community by virtue of which they might become presumptuous and rise up against the women. 3 When their children were born the babies were turned over to the men, who brought them up on milk and such cooked foods as were appropriate to the age of the infants; and if it happened that a girl was born, its breasts were seared that they might not develop at the time of maturity; for they thought that the breasts, as they stood out from the body, were no small hindrance in warfare; and in fact it is because they have been deprived of their breasts that they are called by the Greeks Amazons.
4 As mythology relates, their home was on an island which, because it was in the west, was called Hespera, and it lay in the marsh Tritonis. This marsh was near the ocean which surrounds the earth and received its name from a certain river Triton which emptied into it; and this marsh was also near Ethiopia and that mountain by the shore of the ocean which is the highest of those in the vicinity and impinges upon the ocean and is called by the Greeks Atlas. 5 The island mentioned above was of great size and full of fruit-bearing trees of every kind, from which the natives secured their food. It contained also a multitude of flocks and herds, namely, of goats and sheep, from which possessors received milk and meat for their sustenance; but grain the nation used not at all because the use of this fruit of the earth had not yet been discovered among them.
6 The Amazons, then, the account continues, being a race superior in valour and eager for war, first of all subdued all the cities on the island except the one called Menê, which was considered to be sacred and was inhabited by Ethiopian Ichthyophagi, and was also subject to great eruptions of fire and possessed a multitude of the precious stones which the Greeks call anthrax, sardion, and smaragdos; and after this they subdued many of the neighbouring Libyans and nomad tribes, and founded within the marsh Tritonis a great city which they named Cherronesus after its shape.
54 1 Setting out from the city of Cherronesus, the account continues, the Amazons embarked upon great ventures, a longing having come over them to invade many part of the inhabited world. The first people against whom they advanced, according to the tale, was the Atlantians, the most civilized men among the inhabitants of those regions, who dwelt in a prosperous country and possessed great cities; it was among them, we are told, that mythology places the birth of the gods, in the regions which lie along the shore of the ocean, in this respect agreeing with those among the Greeks who relate legends, and about this we shall speak in detail a little later.
2 Now the queen of the Amazons, Myrina, collected, it is said, an army of thirty thousand foot-soldiers and three thousand cavalry, since they favoured to an unusual degree the use of cavalry in their wars. 3 For protective devices they used the skins of large snakes, since Libya contains such animals of incredible size, and for offensive weapons, swords and lances; they also used bows and arrows, with which they struck not only when facing the enemy but also when in flight, by shooting backwards at their pursuers with good effect. 4 Upon entering the land of the Atlantians they defeated in a pitched battle the inhabitants of the city of Cernê, as it is called, and making their way inside the walls along with the fleeing enemy, they got the city into their hands; and desiring to strike terror into the neighbouring peoples they treated the captives savagely, put to the sword the men from the youth upward, led into slavery the children and women, and razed the city. 5 But when the terrible fate of the inhabitants of Cernê became known among their fellow tribesmen, it is related that the Atlantians, struck with terror, surrendered their cities on terms of capitulation and announced that they would do whatever should be commanded them, and that the queen Myrina, bearing herself honourably towards the Atlantians, both established friendship with them and founded a city to bear her name in place of the city which had been razed; and in it she settled both the captives and any native who so desired. 6 Whereupon the Atlantians presented her with magnificent presents and by public decree voted to her notable honours, and she in return accepted their courtesy and in addition promised that she would show kindness to their nation. 7 And since the natives were often being warred upon by the Gorgons, as they were named, a folk which resided upon their borders, and in general had that people lying in wait to injure them, Myrina, they say, was asked by the Atlantians to invade the land of the afore-mentioned Gorgons. But when the Gorgons drew up their forces to resist them a mighty battle took place in which the Amazons, gaining the upper hand, slew great numbers of their opponents and took no fewer than three thousand prisoners; and since the rest had fled for refuge into a certain wooded region, Myrina undertook to set fire to the timber, being eager to destroy the race utterly, but when she found that she was unable to succeed in her attempt she retired to the borders of her country.
55 1 Now as the Amazons, they go on to say, relaxed their watch during the night because of their success, the captive women, falling upon them and drawing the swords of those who thought they were conquerors, slew many of them; in the end, however, the multitude poured in about them from every side and the prisoners fighting bravely were butchered one and all. 2 Myrina accorded a funeral to her fallen comrades on three pyres and raised up three great heaps of earth as tombs, which are called to this day “Amazon Mounds.” 3 But the Gorgons, grown strong again in later days, were subdued a second time by Perseus, the son of Zeus, when Medusa was queen over them; and in the end both they and the race of the Amazons were entirely destroyed by Heracles, when he visited the regions to the west and set up his pillars in Libya, since he felt that it would ill accord with his resolve to be the benefactor of the whole race of mankind if he should suffer any nations to be under the rule of women. The story is also told that the marsh disappeared from sight in the course of an earthquake, when those parts of it which lay towards the ocean were torn asunder.
4 As for Myrina, the account continues, she visited the larger part of Libya, and passing over into Egypt she struck a treaty of friendship with Horus, the son of Isis, who was king of Egypt at that time, and then, after making war to the end upon the Arabians and slaying many of them, she subdued Syria; but when the Cilicians came out with presents to meet her and agreed to obey her commands, she left those free who yielded to her of their free will and for this reason these are called to this day the “Free Cilicians.” 5 She also conquered in war the races in the region of the Taurus, peoples of outstanding courage, and descended through Greater Phrygia to the sea; and then she won over the land lying along the coast and fixed the bounds of her campaign at the Caïcus River. 6 And selecting in the territory which she had won by arms sites well suited for the founding of cities, she built a considerable number of them and founded one which bore her own name, but the others she named after the women who held the most important commands, such as Cymê, Pitana, and Prienê.
7 These, then, are the cities she settled along the sea, but others, and a larger number, she planted in the regions stretching towards the interior. She seized also some of the islands, and Lesbos in particular, on which she founded the city of Mitylenê, which was named after her sister who took part in the campaign. 8 After that, while subduing some of the rest of the islands, she was caught in a storm, and after she had offered up prayers for her safety to the Mother of the Gods, she was carried to one of the uninhabited islands; this island, in obedience to a vision which she beheld in her dreams, she made sacred to this goddess, and set up altars there and offered magnificent sacrifices. She also gave it the name of Samothrace, which means, when translated into Greek, “sacred island,” although some historians say that it was formerly called Samos and was then given the name of Samothrace by Thracians who at one time dwelt on it. 9 However, after the Amazons had returned to the continent, the myth relates, the Mother of the Gods, well pleased with the island, settled in it certain other people, and also her own sons, who are known by the name of Corybantes — who their father was is handed down in their rites as a matter not to be divulged; and she established the mysteries which are now celebrated on the island and ordained by law that the sacred area should enjoy the right of sanctuary.
10 In these times, they go on to say, Mopsus the Thracian, who had been exiled by Lycurgus, the king of the Thracians, invaded the land of the Amazons with an army composed of fellow-exiles, and with Mopsus on the campaign was also Sipylus the Scythian, who had likewise been exiled from that part of Scythia which borders upon Thrace. 11 There was a pitched battle, Sipylus and Mopsus gained the upper hand, and Myrina, the queen of the Amazons, and the larger part of the rest of her army were slain. In the course of the years, as the Thracians continued to be victorious in their battles, the surviving Amazons finally withdrew again into Libya. And such was the end, as the myth relates, of the campaign which the Amazons of Libya made.
56 1 But since we have made mention of the Atlantians, we believe that it will not be inappropriate in this place to recount what their myths relate about the genesis of the gods, in view of the fact that it does not differ greatly from the myths of the Greeks. 2 Now the Atlantians, dwelling as they do in the regions on the edge of the ocean and inhabiting a fertile territory, are reputed far to excel their neighbours in reverence towards the gods and the humanity they showed in their dealings with strangers, and the gods, they say, were born among them. And their account, they maintain, is in agreement with that of the most renowned of the Greek poets when he represents Hera as saying:
For I go to see the ends of the bountiful earth,
Oceanus source of the gods and Tethys divine
3 This is the account given in their myth: Their first king was Uranus, and he gathered the human beings, who dwelt in scattered habitations, within the shelter of a walled city and caused his subjects to cease from their lawless ways and their bestial manner of living, discovering for them the uses of cultivated fruits, how to store them up, and not a few other things which are of benefit to man; and he also subdued the larger part of the inhabited earth, in particular the regions to the west and the north. 4 And since he was a careful observer of the stars he foretold many things which would take place throughout the world; and for the common people he introduced the year on the basis of the movement of the sun and the months on that of the moon, and instructed them in the seasons which recur year after year. 5 Consequently the masses of the people, being ignorant of the eternal arrangement of the stars and marvelling at the events which were taking place as he had predicted, conceived that the man who taught such things partook of the nature of the gods, and after he had passed from among men they accorded him immortal honours, both because of his benefactions and because of his knowledge of the stars and then they transferred his name to the firmament of heaven, both because they thought that he had been so intimately acquainted with the risings and the settings of the stars and with whatever else took place in the firmament, and because they would surpass his benefactions by the magnitude of the honours which they would show him, in that for all subsequent time they proclaimed him to be the king of the universe.
57 1 To Uranus, the myth continues, were born forty-five sons from a number of wives, and, of these, eighteen, it is said, were by Titaea, each of them bearing a distinct name, but all of them as a group were called, after their mother, Titans. 2 Titaea, because she was prudent and had brought about many good deeds for the peoples, was deified after her death by those whom she had helped and her name was changed to Gê. To Uranus were also born daughters, the two eldest of whom were by far the most renowned above all the others and were called Basileia and Rhea, whom some also named Pandora. 3 Of these daughters Basileia, who was the eldest and far excelled the others in both prudence and understanding, reared all her brothers, showing them collectively a mother’s kindness; consequently she was given the appellation of “Great Mother”; and after her father had been translated from among men into the circle of the gods, with the approval of the masses and of her brothers she succeeded to the royal dignity, though she was still a maiden and because of her exceedingly great chastity had been unwilling to unite in marriage with any man. But later, because of her desire to leave sons who should succeed to the throne, she united in marriage with Hyperion, one of her brothers, for whom she had the greatest affection. 4 And when there were born to her two children, Helius and Selenê, who were greatly admired for both their beauty and their chastity, the brothers of Basileia, they say, being envious of her because of her happy issue of children and fearing that Hyperion would divert the royal power to himself, committed an utterly impious deed; 5 for entering into a conspiracy among themselves they put Hyperion to the sword, and casting Helius, who was still in years a child, into the Eridanus river, drowned him. When this crime came to light, Selenê, who loved her brother very greatly, threw herself down from the roof, but as for his mother, while seeking his body along the river, her strength left her and falling into a swoon she beheld a vision in which she thought that Helius stood over her and urged her not to mourn the death of her children; for, he said, the Titans would meet the punishment which they deserve, while he and his sister would be transformed, by some divine providence, into immortal natures, since that which had formerly been called the “holy fire” in the heavens would be called by men Helius (“the sun”) and that addressed as “menê” would be called Selenê (“the moon”). 6 When she was aroused from the swoon she recounted to the common crowd both the dream and the misfortunes which had befallen her, asking that they render to the dead honours like those accorded to the gods and asserting that no man should thereafter touch her body. 7 And after this she became frenzied, and seizing such of her daughter’s playthings as could make a noise, she began to wander over the land, with her hair hanging free, inspired by the noise of the kettledrums and cymbals, so that those who saw her were struck with astonishment. 8 And all men were filled with pity at her misfortune and some were clinging to her body, when there came a mighty storm and continuous crashes of thunder and lightning; and in the midst of this Basileia passed from sight, whereupon the crowds of people, amazed at this reversal of fortune, transferred the names and the honours of Helius and Selenê to the stars of the sky, and as for their mother, they considered her to be a goddess and erected altars to her, and imitating the incidents of her life by the pounding of the kettledrums and the clash of the cymbals they rendered unto her in this way sacrifices and all other honours.
58 1 However, an account is handed down also that this goddess was born in Phrygia. For the natives of that country have the following myth: In ancient times Meïon became king of Phrygia and Lydia; and marrying Dindymê he begat an infant daughter, but being unwilling to rear her he exposed her on the mountain which was called Cybelus. There, in accordance with some divine providence, both the leopards and some of the other especially ferocious wild beasts offered their nipples to the child and so gave it nourishment, 2 and some women who were tending the flocks in that place witnessed the happening, and being astonished at the strange event took up the babe and called her Cybelê after the name of the place. The child, as she grew up, excelled in both beauty and virtue and also came to be admired for her intelligence; for she was the first to devise the pipe of many reeds and to invent cymbals and kettledrums with which to accompany the games and the dance, and in addition she taught how to heal the sicknesses of both flocks and little children by means of rites of purification; 3 in consequence, since the babes were saved from death by her spells and were generally taken up in her arms, her devotion to them and affection for them led all the people to speak of her as the “mother of the mountain.” The man who associated with her and loved her more than anyone else, they say, was Marsyas the physician, who was admired for his intelligence and chastity; and a proof of his intelligence they find in the fact that he imitated the sounds made by the pipe of many reeds and carried all its notes over into the flute, and as an indication of his chastity they cite his abstinence from sexual pleasures until the day of his death.
4 Now Cybelê, the myth records, having arrived at full womanhood, came to love a certain native youth who was known as Attis, but at a later time received the appellation Papas; with him she consorted secretly and became with child, and at about the same time her parents recognized her as their child.
59 1 Consequently she was brought up into the palace, and her father welcomed her at the outset under the impression that she was a virgin, but later, when he learned of her seduction, he put to death her nurses and Attis as well and cast their bodies forth to lie unburied; whereupon Cybelê, they say, because of her love for the youth and grief over the nurses, became frenzied and rushed out of the palace into the countryside. And crying aloud and beating upon a kettledrum she visited every country alone, with hair hanging free, and Marsyas, out of pity for her plight, voluntarily followed her and accompanied her in her wanderings because of the love which he had formerly borne her. 2 When they came to Dionysus in the city of Nysa they found there Apollo, who was being accorded high favour because of the lyre, which, they say, Hermes invented, though Apollo was the first to play it fittingly; and when Marsyas strove with Apollo in a contest of skill and the Nysaeans had been appointed judges, the first time Apollo played upon the lyre without accompanying it with his voice, while Marsyas, striking up upon his pipes, amazed the ears of his hearers by their strange music and in their opinion far excelled, by reason of his melody, the first contestant. 3 But since they had agreed to take turn about in displaying their skill to the judges, Apollo, they say, added, this second time, his voice in harmony with the music of the lyre, whereby he gained greater approval than that which had formerly been accorded to the pipes. Marsyas, however, was enraged and tried to prove to the hearers that he was losing the contest in defiance of every principle of justice; for, he argued, it should be a comparison of skill and not of voice, and only by such a test was it possible to judge between the harmony and music of the lyre and of the pipes; and furthermore, it was unjust that two skills should be compared in combination against but one. Apollo, however, as the myth relates, replied that he was in no sense taking any unfair advantage of the other; 4 in fact, when Marsyas blew into his pipes he was doing almost the same thing as himself; consequently the rule should be made either that they should both be accorded this equal privilege of combining their skills, or that neither of them should use his mouth in the contest but should display his special skill by the use only of his hands. 5 When the hearers decided that Apollo presented the more just argument, their skills were again compared; Marsyas was defeated, and Apollo, who had become somewhat embittered by the quarrel, flayed the defeated man alive. But quickly repenting and being distressed at what he had done, he broke the strings of the lyre and destroyed the harmony of sounds which he had discovered. 6 The harmony of the strings, however, was rediscovered, when the Muses added later the middle string, Linus the string struck with the forefinger, and Orpheus and Thamyras the lowest string and the one next to it. And Apollo, they say, laid away both the lyre and the pipes as a votive offering in the cave of Dionysus, and becoming enamoured of Cybelê joined in her wanderings as far as the land of the Hyperboreans.
7 But, the myth goes on to say, a pestilence fell upon human beings throughout Phrygia and the land ceased to bear fruit, and when the unfortunate people inquired of the god how they might rid themselves of their ills he commanded them, it is said, to bury the body of Attis and to honour Cybelê as a goddess. Consequently the physicians, since the body had disappeared in the course of time, made an image of the youth, before which they sang dirges and by means of honours in keeping with his suffering propitiated the wrath of him who had been wronged; and these rites they continue to perform down to our own lifetime. 8 As for Cybelê, in ancient times they erected altars and performed sacrifices to her yearly; and later they built for her a costly temple in Pisinus of Phrygia, and established honours and sacrifices of the greatest magnificence, Midas their king taking part in all these works out of his devotion to beauty; and beside the statue of the goddess they set up panthers and lions, since it was the common opinion that she had first been nursed by these animals.
Such, then, are the myths which are told about Mother of the God both among the Phrygians and by the Atlantians who dwell on the coast of the ocean.
60 1 After the death of Hyperion, the myth relates, the kingdom was divided among the sons of Uranus, the most renowned of whom were Atlas and Cronus. Of these sons Atlas received as his part the regions on the coast of the ocean, and he not only gave the name of Atlantians to his peoples but likewise called the greatest mountain in the land Atlas. 2 They also say that he perfected the science of astrology and was the first to publish to mankind the doctrine of the sphere; and it was for this reason that the idea was held that the entire heavens were supported upon the shoulders of Atlas, the myth darkly hinting in this way at his discovery and description of the sphere. There were born to him a number of sons, one of whom was distinguished above the others for his piety, justice to his subjects, and love of mankind, his name being Hesperus. 3 This king, having once climbed to the peak of Mount Atlas, was suddenly snatched away by mighty winds while he was making his observations of the stars, and never was seen again; and because of the virtuous life he had lived and their pity for his sad fate the multitudes accorded to him immortal honours and called the brightest of the stars of heaven after him.
4 Atlas, the myth goes on to relate, also had seven daughters, who as a group were called Atlantides after their father, but their individual names were Maea, Electra, Taÿgetê, Steropê, Meropê, Halcyonê, and the last Celaeno. These daughters lay with the most renowned heroes and gods and thus became the first ancestors of the larger part of the race of human beings, giving birth to those who, because of their high achievements, came to be called gods and heroes; Maea the eldest, for instance, lay with Zeus and bore Hermes, who was the discoverer of many things for the use of mankind; similarly the other Atlantides also gave birth to renowned children, who became the founders in some instances of nations in other cases of cities. 5 Consequently, not only among certain barbarians but among the Greeks as well, the great majority of the most ancient heroes trace their descent back to the Atlantides. These daughters were also distinguished for their chastity and after their death attained to immortal honour among men, by whom they were both enthroned in the heavens and endowed with the appellation of Pleiades. The Atlantides were also called “nymphs” because the natives of that land addressed their women by the common appellation of “nymph.”
61 1 Cronus, the brother of Atlas, the myth continues, who was a man notorious for his impiety and greed, married his sister Rhea, by whom he begat that Zeus who was later called “the Olympian.” But there had been also another Zeus, the brother of Uranus and a king of Crete, who, however, was far less famous than the Zeus who was born at a later time. 2 Now the latter was king over the entire world, whereas the earlier Zeus, who was lord of the above-mentioned island, begat ten sons who were given the name of Curetes; and the island he named after his wife Idaea, and on it he died and was buried, and the place which received his grave is pointed out to our day. 3 The Cretans, however, have a myth which does not agree with the story given above, and we shall give a detailed account of it when we speak of Crete. Cronus, they say, was lord of Sicily and Libya, and Italy as well, and, in a word, established his kingdom over the regions to the west; and everywhere he occupied with garrisons the commanding hills and the strongholds of the regions, this being the reason why both throughout Sicily and the parts which incline towards the west many of the lofty places are called to this day after him “Cronia.”
4 Zeus, however, the son of Cronus, emulated a manner of life the opposite of that led by his father, and since he showed himself honourable and friendly to all, the masses addressed him as “father.” As for his succession to the kingly power, some say that his father yielded it to him of his own accord, but others state that he was chosen as king by the masses because of the hatred they bore towards his father, and that when Cronus made war against him with the aid of the Titans, Zeus overcame him in battle, and on gaining supreme power visited all the inhabited world, conferring benefactions upon the race of men. 5 He was pre-eminent also in bodily strength and in all the other qualities of virtue and for this reason quickly became master of the entire world. And in general he showed all zeal to punish impious and wicked men and to show kindness to the masses. 6 In return for all this, after he had passed from among men he was given the name of Zên, because he was the cause of right “living” among men, and those who had received his favours showed him honour by enthroning him in the heavens, all men eagerly acclaiming him as god and lord for ever of the whole universe.
These, then, are in summary the facts regarding the teachings of the Atlantians about the gods.
62 1 But since we have previously made mention, in connection with our discussion of Egypt, of the birth of Dionysus and of his deeds as they are preserved in the local histories of that country, we are of the opinion that it is appropriate in this place to add the myths about this god which are current among the Greeks. 2 But since the early composers of myths and the early poets who have written about Dionysus do not agree with one another and have committed to writing many monstrous tales, it is a difficult undertaking to give a clear account of the birth and deeds of this god. For some have handed down the story that there was but one Dionysus, others that there were three, and there are those who state that there was never any birth of him in human form whatsoever, and think that the word Dionysus means only “the gift of wine” (oinou dosis). 3 For this reason we shall endeavour to run over briefly only the main facts as they are given by each writer.
Those authors, then, who use the phenomena of nature to explain this god and call the fruit of the vine “Dionysus” speak like this: “The earth brought forth of itself the vine at the same time with the other plants and it was not originally planted by some man who discovered it. 4 And they allege as proof of this fact that to this day vines grow wild in many regions and bear fruit quite similar to that of plants which are tended by the experienced hand of man. 5 Furthermore, the early men have given Dionysus the name of “Dimetor,” reckoning it as a single and first birth when the plant is set in the ground and begins to grow, and as a second birth when it becomes laden with fruit and ripens its clusters, the god, therefore, being considered as having been born once from the earth and again from the vine. 6 And though the writers of myths have handed down the account of a third birth as well, at which, as they say, the Sons of Gaia tore to pieces the god, who was a son of Zeus and Demeter, and boiled him, but his members were brought together again by Demeter and he experienced a new birth as if for the first time, such accounts as this they trace back to certain causes found in nature. 7 For he is considered to be the son of Zeus and Demeter, they hold, by reason of the fact that the vine gets its growth both from the earth and from rains and so bears as its fruit the wine which is pressed out from the clusters of grapes; and the statement that he was torn to pieces, while yet a youth, by the “earth-born” signifies the harvesting of the fruit by the labourers, and the boiling of his members has been worked into a myth by reason of the fact that most men boil the wine and then mix it, thereby improving its natural aroma and quality. Again, the account of his members, which the “earth-born” treated with despite, being brought together again and restored to their former natural state, shows forth that the vine, which has been stripped of its fruit and pruned at the yearly seasons, is restored by the earth to the high level of fruitfulness which it had before. For, in general, the ancient poets and writers of myths spoke of Demeter as Gê Meter (Earth Mother). 8 And with these stories the teachings agree which are set forth in the Orphic poems and are introduced into their rites, but it is not lawful to recount them in detail to the uninitiated.
9 In the same manner the account that Dionysus was born of Semelê they trace back to natural beginnings, offering the explanation that Thuonê was the name which the ancients gave to the earth, and that this goddess received the appellation Semelê because the worship and honour paid to her was dignified (semnê), and she was called Thuonê because of the sacrifices (thusiai) and burnt offerings (thuelai) which were offered (thuomenai) to her. 10 Furthermore, the tradition that Dionysus was born twice of Zeus arises from the belief that these fruits also perished in common with all other plants in the flood at the time of Deucalion, and that when they sprang up again after the Deluge it was as if there had been a second epiphany of the god among men, and so the myth was created that the god had been born again from the thigh of Zeus. However this may be, those who explain the name Dionysus as signifying the use and importance of the discovery of wine recount such a myth regarding him.
63 1 Those mythographers, however, who represent the god as having a human form ascribe to him, with one accord, the discovery and cultivation of the vine and all the operations of the making of wine, although they disagree on whether there was a single Dionysus or several. 2 Some, for instance, who assert that he who taught how to make wine and to gather “the fruits of the trees,” as they are called, he who led an army over all the inhabited world, and he who introduced the mysteries and rites and Bacchic revelries were one and the same person; but there are others, as I have said, who conceive that there were three persons, at separate periods, and to each of these they ascribe deeds which were peculiarly his own.
3 This, then, is their account: The most ancient Dionysus was an Indian, and since his country, because of the excellent climate, produced the vine in abundance without cultivation, he was the first to press out the clusters of grapes and to devise the use of wine as a natural product, likewise to give the proper care to the figs and other fruits which grow upon trees, and, speaking generally, to devise whatever pertains to the harvesting and storing of these fruits. The same Dionysus is, furthermore, said to have worn a long beard, the reason for the report being that it is the custom among the Indians to give great care, until their death, to the raising of a beard. 4 Now this Dionysus visited with an army all the inhabited world and gave instruction both as to the culture of the vine and the crushing of the clusters in the wine-vats (lenoi), which is the reason why the god was named Lenaeus. Likewise, he allowed all people to share in his other discoveries, and when he passed from among men he received immortal honour at the hands of those who had received his benefactions. 5 Furthermore, there are pointed out among the Indians even to this day the place where it came to pass that the god was born, as well as cities which bear his name in the language of the natives; and many other notable testimonials to his birth among the Indians still survive, but it would be a long task to write of them.
64 1 The second Dionysus, the writers of myths relate, was born to Zeus by Persephonê, though some say it was Demeter. He is represented by them as the first man to have yoked oxen to the plough, human beings before that time having prepared the ground by hand. Many other things also, which are useful for agriculture, were skilfully devised by him, whereby the masses were relieved of their great distress; 2 and in return for this those whom he had benefited accorded to him honours and sacrifices like those offered to the gods, since all men were eager, because of the magnitude of his service to them, to accord to him immortality. And as a special symbol and token the painters and sculptors represented him with horns, at the same time making manifest thereby the other nature of Dionysus and also showing forth the magnitude of the service which he had devised for the farmers by his invention of the plough.
3 The third Dionysus, they say, was born in Boeotian Thebes of Zeus and Semelê, the daughter of Cadmus. The myth runs as follows: Zeus had become enamoured of Semelê and often, lured by her beauty, had consorted with her, but Hera, being jealous and anxious to punish the girl, assumed the form of one of the women who was an intimate of Semelê’s and led her on to her ruin; 4 for she suggested to her that Zeus should lie with her while having the same majesty and honour in his outward appearance as when he took Hera to his arms. Consequently Zeus, at the request of Semelê that she be shown the same honours as Hera, appeared to her accompanied by thunder and lightning, but Semelê, unable to endure the majesty of his grandeur, died and brought forth the babe before the appointed time. 5 This babe Zeus quickly took and hid in his thigh, and afterwards, when the period which nature prescribed for the child’s birth had completed its growth, he brought it to Nysa in Arabia. 6 There the boy was reared by nymphs and was given the name Dionysus after his father (Dios) and after the place (Nysa); and since he grew to be of unusual beauty he at first spent his time at dances and with bands of women and in every kind of luxury and amusement, and after that, forming the women into an army and arming them with thyrsi, he made a campaign over all the inhabited world. 7 He also instructed all men who were pious and cultivated a life of justice in the knowledge of his rites and initiated them into his mysteries, and, furthermore, in every place he held great festive assemblages and celebrated musical contests; and, in a word, he composed the quarrels between the nations and cities and created concord and deep peace where there had existed civil strifes and wars.
65 1 Now since the presence of the god, the myth goes on to say, became noised abroad in every region, and the report spread that he was treating all men honourably and contributing greatly to the refinement of man’s social life, the whole populace everywhere thronged to meet him and welcomed him with great joy. 2 There were a few, however, who, out of disdain and impiety, looked down upon him and kept saying that he was leading the Bacchantes about with him because of his incontinence and was introducing the rites and the mysteries that he might thereby seduce the wives of other men, but such persons were punished by him right speedily. 3 For in some cases he made use of the superior power which attended his divine nature and punished the impious, either striking them with madness or causing them while still living to be torn limb from limb by the hands of the women; in other cases he destroyed such as opposed him by a military device which took them by surprise. For he distributed to the women, instead of the thyrsi, lances whose tips of iron were covered with ivy leaves; consequently, when the kings in their ignorance and for this reason were unprepared, he attacked them when they did not expect it and slew them with the spears. 4 Among those who were punished by him, the most renowned, they say, were Pentheus among the Greeks, Myrrhanus the king of the Indians, and Lycurgus among the Thracians. For the myth relates that when Dionysus was on the point of leading his force over from Asia into Europe, he concluded a treaty of friendship with Lycurgus, who was king of that part of Thrace which lies upon the Hellespont. Now when he had led the first of the Bacchantes over into a friendly land, as he thought, Lycurgus issued orders to his soldiers to fall upon them by night and to slay both Dionysus and all the Maenads, and Dionysus, learning of the plot from a man of the country who was called Charops, was struck with dismay, because his army was on the other side of the Hellespont and only a mere handful of his friends had crossed over with him. 5 Consequently he sailed across secretly to his army, and then Lycurgus, they say, falling upon the Maenads in the city known as Nysium, slew them all, but Dionysus, bringing his forces over, conquered the Thracians in a battle, and taking Lycurgus alive put out his eyes and inflicted upon him every kind of outrage, and then crucified him. 6 Thereupon, out of gratitude to Charops for the aid the man had rendered him, Dionysus made over to him the kingdom of the Thracians and instructed him in the secret rites connected with the initiations; and Oeagrus, the son of Charops, then took over both the kingdom and the initiatory rites which were handed down in the mysteries, the rites which afterwards Orpheus, the son of Oeagrus, who was the superior of all men in natural gifts and education, learned from his father; Orpheus also made many changes in the practices and for that reason the rites which had been established by Dionysus were also called “Orphic.”
7 But some of the poets, one of whom is Antimachus, state that Lycurgus was king, not of Thrace, but of Arabia, and that the attack upon Dionysus and the Bacchantes was made at the Nysa which is in Arabia. However this may be, Dionysus, they say, punished the impious but treated all other men honourably, and then made his return journey from India to Thebes upon an elephant. 8 The entire time consumed in the journey was three years, and it is for this reason, they say, that the Greeks hold his festival every other year. The myth also relates that he gathered a great mass of booty, such as would result from such a campaign, and that he was the first of all men to make his return to his native country in a triumph.
66 1 Now these accounts of the birth of Dionysus are generally agreed upon by the ancient writers; but rival claims are raised by not a few Greek cities to having been the place of his birth. The peoples of Elis and Naxos, for instance, and the inhabitants of Eleutherae and Teos and several other peoples, state that he was born in their cities. 2 The Teans advance as proof that the god was born among them the fact that, even to this day, at fixed times in their city a fountain of wine, of unusually sweet fragrance, flows of its own accord from the earth; and as for the peoples of the other cities, they in some cases point out a plot of land which is sacred to Dionysus, in other cases shrines and sacred precincts which have been consecrated to him from ancient times. 3 But, speaking generally, since the god has left behind him in many places over the inhabited world evidences of his personal favour and presence, it is not surprising that in each case the people should think that Dionysus had had a peculiar relationship to both their city and country. And testimony to our opinion is also offered by the poet in his Hymns, when he speaks of those who lay claim to the birthplace of Dionysus and, in that connection, represents him as being born in the Nysa which is in Arabia:
Some Dracanum, wind-swept Icarus some,
Some Naxos, Zeus-born one, or Alpheius’ stream
Deep-eddied, call the spot where Semelê
Bore thee, Eiraphiotes, unto Zeus
Who takes delight in thunder; others still
Would place thy birth, O Lord, in Thebes. ’Tis false;
The sire of men and gods brought thee to light,
Unknown to white-armed Hera, far from men.
There is a certain Nysa, mountain high,
With forests thick, in Phoenicê afar,
Close to Aegyptus’ streams.
4 I am not unaware that also those inhabitants of Libya who dwell on the shore of the ocean lay claim to the birthplace of the god, and point out that Nysa and all the stories which the myths record are found among themselves, and many witnesses to this statement, they say, remain in the land down to our own lifetime; and I also know that many of the ancient Greek writers of myths and poets, and not a few of the later historians as well, agree with this in their accounts. 5 Consequently, in order not to omit anything which history records about Dionysus, we shall present in summary what is told by the Libyans and those Greek historians whose writings are in accord with these and with that Dionysius who composed an account out of the ancient fabulous tales. 6 For this writer has composed an account of Dionysus and the Amazons, as well as of the Argonauts and the events connected with the Trojan War and many other matters, in which he cites the versions of the ancient writers, both the composers of myths and the poets.
67 1 This, then, is the account of Dionysius: Among the Greeks Linus was the first to discover the different rhythms and song, and when Cadmus brought from Phoenicia the letters, as they are called, Linus was again the first to transfer them into the Greek language, to give a name to each character, and to fix its shape. Now the letters, as a group, are called “Phoenician” because they were brought to the Greeks from the Phoenicians, but as single letters the Pelasgians were the first to make use of the transferred characters and so they were called “Pelasgic.” 2 Linus also, who was admired because of his poetry and singing, had many pupils and three of greatest renown, Heracles, Thamyras, and Orpheus. Of these three Heracles, who was learning to play the lyre, was unable to appreciate what was taught him because of his sluggishness of soul, and once when he had been punished with rods by Linus he became violently angry and killed his teacher with a blow of the lyre. 3 Thamyras, however, who possessed unusual natural ability, perfected the art of music and claimed that in the excellence of song his voice was more beautiful than the voices of the Muses. Whereupon the goddesses, angered at him, took from him his gift of music and maimed the man, even as Homer also bears witness when he writes:
There met the Muses Thamyris of Thrace
And made an end of his song;
But him, enraged, they maimed, and from him took
The gift of song divine and made him quite
Forget his harping.
4 About Orpheus, the third pupil, we shall give a detailed account when we come to treat of his deeds.
Now Linus, they say, composed an account in the Pelasgic letters of the deeds of the first Dionysus and of the other mythical legends and left them among his memoirs. 5 And in the same manner use was made of these Pelasgic letters by Orpheus and Pronapides who was the teacher of Homer and a gifted writer of songs; and also by Thymoetes, the son of Thymoetes, the son of Laomedon, who lived at the same time as Orpheus, wandered over many regions of the inhabited world, and penetrated to the western part of Libya as far as the ocean. He also visited Nysa, where the ancient natives of the city relate that Dionysus was reared there, and, after he had learned from the Nysaeans of the deeds of this god one and all, he composed the “Phrygian poem,” as it is called, wherein he made use of the archaic manner both of speech and of letters.
68 1 Dionysius, then, continues his account as follows: Ammon, the king of that part of Libya, married a daughter of Uranus who was called Rhea and was a sister of Cronus and the other Titans. And once when Ammon was going about his kingdom, near the Ceraunian Mountains, as they are called, he came upon a maiden of unusual beauty whose name was Amaltheia. 2 And becoming enamoured of her he lay with the maiden and begat a son of marvellous beauty as well as bodily vigour, and Amaltheia herself he appointed mistress of all the region round about, which was shaped like the horn of a bull and for this reason was known as Hesperoukeras; and the region, because of the excellent quality of the land, abounds in every variety of the vine and all other trees which bear cultivated fruits. 3 When the woman whom we have just mentioned took over the supreme power the country was named after her Amaltheias Keras; consequently the men of later times, for the reason which we have just given, likewise call any especially fertile bit of ground which abounds in fruits of every kind “Amaltheia’s Horn.”
4 Now Ammon, fearing the jealousy of Rhea, concealed the affair and brought the boy secretly to a certain city called Nysa, which was at a great distance from those parts. 5 This city lies on a certain island which is surrounded by the river Triton and is precipitous on all sides save at one place where there is a narrow pass which bears the name “Nysaean Gates.” The land of the island is rich, is traversed at intervals by pleasant meadows and watered by abundant streams from springs, and possesses every kind of fruit-bearing tree and the wild vine in abundance, which for the most part grows up trees. 6 The whole region, moreover, has a fresh and pure air and is furthermore exceedingly healthful; and for this reason its inhabitants are the longest lived of any in those parts. The entrance into the island is like a glen at its beginning, being thickly shaded by lofty trees growing close together, so that the sun never shines at all through the close-set branches but only the radiance of its light may be seen.
69 1 Everywhere along the lanes, the account continues, springs of water gush forth of exceeding sweetness, making the place most pleasant to those who desire to tarry there. Further in there is a cave, circular in shape and of marvellous size and beauty. For above and all about it rises a crag of immense height, formed of rocks of different colours; for the rocks lie in bands and send forth a bright gleam, some like that purple which comes from the sea, some bluish and others like every other kind of brilliant hue, the result being that there is not a colour to be seen among men which is not visible in that place. 2 Before the entrance grow marvellous trees, some fruit-bearing, others evergreen, and all of them fashioned by nature for no other end than to delight the eye; and in them nest every kind of bird of pleasing colour and most charming song. Consequently the whole place is meet for a god, not merely in its aspect but in its sound as well, since the sweet tones which nature teaches are always superior to the song which is devised by art. 3 When one has passed the entrance the cave is seen to widen out and to be lighted all about by the rays of the sun, and all kinds of flowering plants grow there, especially the cassia and every other kind which has the power to preserve its fragrance throughout the year; and in it are also to be seen several couches of nymphs, formed of every manner of flower, made not by hand but by the light touch of Nature herself, in manner meet for a god. 4 Moreover, throughout the whole place round about not a flower or leaf is to be seen which has fallen. Consequently those who gaze upon this spot find not only its aspect delightful but also its fragrance most pleasant.
70 1 Now to this cave, the account runs, Ammon came and brought the child and gave him into the care of Nysa, one of the daughters of Aristaeus; and he appointed Aristaeus to be the guardian of the child, he being a man who excelled in understanding, and in self-control, and in all learning. 2 The duty of protecting the boy against the plottings of his stepmother Rhea he assigned to Athena, who a short while before had been born of the earth and had been found beside the river Triton, from which she had been called Tritonis. 3 And according to the myth this goddess, choosing to spend all her days in maidenhood, excelled in virtue and invented most of the crafts, since she was exceedingly ready of wit; she cultivated also the arts of war, and since she excelled in courage and in bodily strength she performed many other deeds worthy of memory and slew the Aegis, as it was called, a certain frightful monster which was a difficult antagonist to overcome. 4 For it was sprung from the earth and in accordance with its nature breathed forth terrible flames of fire from its mouth, and its first appearance it made about Phrygia and burned up the land, which to this day is called “Burned Phrygia”; and after that it ravaged unceasingly the lands about the Taurus mountains and burned up the forests extending from that region as far as India. Thereupon, returning again towards the sea round about Phoenicia, it sent up in flames the forests on Mt. Lebanon, and making its way through Egypt it passed over Libya to the regions of the west and at the end of its wanderings fell upon the forests about Ceraunia. 5 And since the country round about was going up in flames and the inhabitants in some cases were being destroyed and in others were leaving their native countries in their terror and removing to distant regions, Athena, they say, overcoming the monster partly through her intelligence and partly through her courage and bodily strength, slew it, and covering her breast with its hide bore this about with her, both as a covering and protection for her body against later dangers, and as a memorial of her valour and of her well-merited fame. 6 Gê (Earth), however, the mother of the monster, was enraged and sent up the Giants, as they are called, to fight against the gods; but they were destroyed at a later time by Zeus, Athena and Dionysus and the rest of the gods taking part in the conflict on the side of Zeus.
7 Dionysus, however, being reared according to the account in Nysa and instructed in the best pursuits, became not only conspicuous for his beauty and bodily strength, but skilful also in the arts and quick to make every useful invention. 8 For while still a boy he discovered both the nature and use of wine, in that he pressed out the clusters of grapes of the vine while it still grew wild, and such ripe fruits as could be dried and stored away to advantage, and how each one of them should be planted and cared for was likewise a discovery of his; also it was his desire to share the discoveries which he had made with the race of men, in the hope that by reason of the magnitude of his benefactions he would be accorded immortal honours.
71 1 When the valour and fame of Dionysus became spread abroad, Rhea, it is said, angered at Ammon, strongly desired to get Dionysus into her power; but being unable to carry out her design she forsook Ammon and, departing to her brothers, the Titans, married Cronus her brother. 2 Cronus, then, upon the solicitation of Rhea, made war with the aid of the Titans upon Ammon, and in the pitched battle which followed Cronus gained the upper hand, whereas Ammon, who was hard pressed by lack of supplies, fled to Crete, and marrying there Cretê, the daughter of one of the Curetes who were the kings at that time, gained the sovereignty over those regions, and to the island, which before that time had been called Idaea, he gave the name Crete after his wife. 3 As for Cronus, the myth relates, after his victory he ruled harshly over these regions which had formerly been Ammon’s, and set out with a great force against Nysa and Dionysus. Now Dionysus, on learning both of the reverses suffered by his father and of the uprising of the Titans against himself, gathered soldiers from Nysa, two hundred of whom were foster-brothers of his and were distinguished for their courage and their loyalty to him; and to these he added from neighbouring peoples both the Libyans and the Amazons, regarding the latter of whom we have already observed that it is reputed that they were distinguished for their courage and first of all campaigned beyond the borders of their country and subdued with arms a large part of the inhabited world. 4 These women, they say, were urged on to the alliance especially by Athena, because their zeal for their ideal of life was like her own, seeing that the Amazons clung tenaciously to manly courage and virginity. The force was divided into two parts, the men having Dionysus as their general and the women being under the command of Athena, and coming with their army upon the Titans they joined battle. The struggle having proved sharp and many having fallen on both sides, Cronus finally was wounded and victory lay with Dionysus, who had distinguished himself in the battle. 5 Thereupon the Titans fled to the regions which had once been possessed by Ammon, and Dionysus gathered up a multitude of captives and returned to Nysa. Here, drawing up his force in arms about the prisoners, he brought a formal accusation against the Titans and gave them every reason to suspect that he was going to execute the captives. But when he got them free from the charges and allowed them to make their choice either to join him in his campaign or to go scot free, they all chose to join him, and because their lives had been spared contrary to their expectation they venerated him like a god. 6 Dionysus, then, taking the captives singly and giving them a libation (spondê) of wine, required of all of them an oath that they would join in the campaign without treachery and fight manfully until death; consequently, these captives being the first to be designated as “freed under a truce” (hypospondoi), men of later times, imitating the ceremony which had been performed at that time, speak of the truces in wars as spondai.
72 1 Now when Dionysus was on the point of setting out against Cronus and his force was already passing out of Nysa, his guardian Aristaeus, the myth relates, offered a sacrifice and so was the first man to sacrifice to him as to a god. And companions of his on the campaign, they say, were also the most nobly born of the Nysaeans, those, namely, who bear the name Seileni. 2 For the first man of all, they say, to be king of Nysa was Seilenus, but his ancestry was unknown to all men because of its antiquity. This man had a tail at the lower part of his back and his descendants also regularly carried this distinguishing mark because of their participation in his nature.
Dionysus, then, set out with his army, and after passing through a great extent of waterless land, no small portion of which was desert and infested with wild beasts, he encamped beside a city of Libya named Zabirna. 3 Near this city an earth-born monster called Campê, which was destroying many of the natives, was slain by him, whereby he won great fame among the natives for valour. Over the monster which he had killed he also erected an enormous mound, wishing to leave behind him an immortal memorial of his personal bravery, and this mound remained until comparatively recent times. 4 Then Dionysus advanced against the Titans, maintaining strict discipline on his journeyings, treating all the inhabitants kindly, and, in a word, making it clear that his campaign was for the purpose of punishing the impious and of conferring benefits upon the entire human race. The Libyans, admiring his strict discipline and high-mindedness, provided his followers with supplies in abundance and joined in the campaign with the greatest eagerness.
5 As the army approached the city of the Ammonians, Cronus, who had been defeated in a pitched battle before the walls, set fire to the city in the night, intending to destroy utterly the ancestral palace of Dionysus, and himself taking with him his wife Rhea and some of his friends who had aided him in the struggle, he stole unobserved out of the city. Dionysus, however, showed no such a temper as this; for though he took both Cronus and Rhea captive, not only did he waive the charges against them because of his kinship to them, but he entreated them for the future to maintain both the good-will and the position of parents towards him and to live in a common home with him, held in honour above all others. 6 Rhea, accordingly, loved him like a son for all the rest of her life, but the good-will of Cronus was a pretence. And about this time there was born to both of these a son who was called Zeus, and he was honoured greatly by Dionysus and at a later time, because of his high achievements, was made king over all.
73 1 Since the Libyans had said to Dionysus before the battle that, at the time when Ammon had been driven from the kingdom, he had prophesied to the inhabitants that at an appointed time his son Dionysus would come, and that he would recover his father’s kingdom and, after becoming master of all the inhabited world, would be looked upon as a god, Dionysus, believing him to have been a true prophet, established there the oracle of his father, rebuilt the city and ordained honours to him as to a god, and appointed men to have charge of the oracle. Tradition also has recorded that the head of Ammon was shaped like that of a ram, since as his device he had worn a helmet of that form in his campaigns. 2 But there are some writers of myths who recount that in very truth there were little horns on both sides of his temples and that therefore Dionysus also, being Ammon’s son, had the same aspect as his father and so the tradition has been handed down to succeeding generations of mankind that this god had horns.
3 However this may be, after Dionysus had built the city and established the oracle he first of all, they say, inquired of the god with regard to his expedition, and he received from his father the reply that, if he showed himself a benefactor of mankind, he would receive the reward of immortality. 4 Consequently, elated in spirit at this prophecy, he first of all directed his campaign against Egypt and as king of the country he set up Zeus, the son of Cronus and Rhea, though he was still but a boy in years. And at his side as guardian he placed Olympus, by whom Zeus had been instructed and after whom he came to be called “Olympian,” when he had attained pre-eminence in high achievements. 5 As for Dionysus, he taught the Egyptians, it is said, both the cultivation of the vine and how to use and to store both wine and the fruits which are gathered from trees, as well as all others. And since a good report of him was spread abroad everywhere, no man opposed him as if he were an enemy, but all rendered him eager obedience and honoured him like a god with panegyrics and sacrifices. 6 In like manner as in Egypt, they say, he visited the inhabited world, bringing the land under cultivation by means of the plantings which he made and conferring benefactions upon the people for all time by bestowing upon them great and valuable gifts. For this reason it comes about that, although not all men are of one belief with one another concerning the honours which they accord to the other gods, in the case of Dionysus alone we may almost say that they are in complete agreement in testifying to his immortality; for there is no man among Greeks or barbarians who does not share in the gift and favour which this god dispenses, nay, even those who possess a country which has become a wilderness or altogether unsuited to the cultivation of the vine learned from him how to prepared from barley a drink which is little inferior to wine in aroma.
7 Now Dionysus, they say, as he was marching out of India to the sea, learned that all the Titans had assembled their united forces together and had crossed over to Crete to attack Ammon. Already Zeus had passed over from Egypt to the aid of Ammon and a great war had arisen on the island, and forthwith Dionysus and Athena and certain others who had been considered to be gods rushed over in a body to Crete. 8 In a great battle which followed Dionysus was victorious and slew all the Titans. And when after this Ammon and Dionysus exchanged their mortal nature for immortality, Zeus, they say, became king of the entire world, since the Titans had been punished and there was no one whose impiety would make him bold enough to dispute with him for the supreme power.
74 1 As for the first Dionysus, the son of Ammon and Amaltheia, these, then, are the deeds he accomplished as the Libyans recount the history of them; the second Dionysus, as men say, who was born to Zeus by Io, the daughter of Inachus, became king of Egypt and appointed the initiatory rites of that land; and the third and last was sprung from Zeus and Semelê and became, among the Greeks, the rival of the first two. 2 Imitating the principles of both the others he led an army over all the inhabited world and left behind him not a few pillars to mark the bounds of his campaign; the land he also brought under cultivation by means of the plantings which he made, and he selected women to be his soldiers, as the ancient Dionysus had done in the case of the Amazons. He went beyond the others in developing the orgiastic practices, and as regards the rites of initiation, he improved some of them, and others he introduced for the first time. 3 But since in the long passage of time the former discoverers had become unknown to the majority of men, this last Dionysus fell heir to both the plan of life and the fame of his predecessors of the same name. And this Dionysus is not the only one to whom has happened that which we have related, but in later times Heracles likewise experienced the same fortune. 4 For there had been two persons of an earlier period who had borne the same name, the most ancient Heracles who, according to the myths, had been born in Egypt, had subdued with arms a large part of the inhabited world, and had set up the pillar which is in Libya, and the second, who was one of the Idaean Dactyls of Crete and a wizard with some knowledge of generalship, was the founder of the Olympic Games; but third and last, who was born of Alcmenê and Zeus a short time before the Trojan War, visited a large part of the inhabited world while he was serving Eurystheus and carrying out his commands. 5 And after he had successfully completed all the Labours he also set up the pillar which is in Europe, but because he bore the same name as the other two and pursued the same plan of life as did they, in the course of time and upon his death he inherited the exploits of the more ancient persons of the name, as if there had been in all the previous ages but one Heracles.
6 To support the view that there were several of the name Dionysus the effort is made to cite, along with the other proofs, the battle waged against the Titans. For since all men agree that Dionysus fought on the side of Zeus in his war against the Titans, it will not do at all, they argue, to date the generations of the Titans in the time when Semelê lived or to declare that Cadmus, the son of Agenor, was older than the gods of Olympus.
Such, then, is the myth which the Libyans recount concerning Dionysus; but for our part, now that we have brought to an end the plan which we announced at the beginning, we shall close the third Book at this point.