Citation with stable link: Philip A. Harland, 'Indian wisdom: Philostratos on Apollonios of Tyana’s journeys to barbarian lands (early third century CE),' Last modified November 17, 2022, http://philipharland.com/Blog/?p=8244.
Ancient author: Philostratos of Lemnos, The Life of Apollonios of Tyana, parts of books 1-3 and 6 (link to Greek text and full translation).
Comments: Philostratos’ biography (bios) about Apollonios of Tyana (mid-first century CE), written in the first half of the third century, presents Apollonios as an ideal philosopher on the model of an ultra-Pythagoras (sixth century BCE). In relating Apollonios’ journeys to various “barbarian” lands, parts of Philostratos’ narrative (books 1-3 and 6) develop a rather clear hierarchy of barbarian wisdom with the greatest wisdom coming from the furthest people and a declining value of knowledge closer to Greek Asia Minor (modern Turkey), Apollonios’ place of origin. The hierarchy of Indian wisdom at the top, Ethiopian wisdom below that and Egyptian lower still (it’s not entirely clear where Babylonian wisdom of the Magians fits into this hierarchy) is evident throughout the structure of the narrative and in the debates with the naked sages in Ethiopia. But Philostratos’ (via Apollonios’) view is stated quite directly in a passage as Apollonios first reaches these naked sages: “With regard to wisdom, they [the naked sages of Ethiopia] fall short of the Indians more than they excel the Egyptians” (6.6). The somewhat ironic concept is that the further away (from Greece or the Greek cities of Asia Minor) some source of knowledge is, the more likely it is that it is superior. There is an ongoing thread of competition among peoples throughout the story. Yet at the same time the Greek Apollonios (modelling himself after the Greek Pythagoras) embodies wisdom at its best and he outdoes them all in the end, having most in common with the wisdom of the Indian Brahmans nonetheless. In doing all this, Philostratos supplies us with perhaps the most detailed expression of the idea of barbarian wisdom.
It is also noteworthy that the entire narrative about barbarian wisdom is couched in the frame of ethnographic description as Philostratos regularly draws on ethnographic material to add details to his protagonist’s journey to far-off places and peoples. Here the idea of “marvels” (or paradoxography to use a scholarly term) in distant places predominates, much like other ethnographic material.
Source of the translations: F.C. Conybeare, Philostratus: The Life of Apollonius of Tyana, volume 1, LCL (London: William Heinemann, 1912), public domain, adapted and modernized by Harland.
[Apollonios’ wisdom and its relation to “barbarian” wisdom of Babylon, India, and Egypt]
[Initial outline of the ideal of Pythagoras and other followers of Pythagoras omitted] . . . There is much else that they tell of those sages who observe the rule of Pythagoras. But right now I must not deal with such points, but hurry on to the work which I have set myself to complete.
2 For quite similar to theirs was the ideal which Apollonios pursued, and more divinely than Pythagoras he pursued wisdom and soared above tyrants. He lived in times not long gone but not of our own day, yet men know him not because of the true wisdom which he practiced as sage and sanely. But one man singles out one feature for praise in him and another another. While some, because he had interviews with the Magians (Magians) of Babylon and with the Brahmans of India, and with the naked sages of Egypt, put him down as a Magian [with implications of “magician”], and spread the calumny that he was a sage (sophos) of an illegitimate kind, judging of him negatively. For Empedokles, Pythagoras himself, and Demokritos consorted with Magians and uttered many spiritual things (daimonia), yet never stooped to the skill [implying negative uses of secret knowledge]. Plato went to Egypt and mingled with his own discourses much of what he heard from the prophets and priests there. Though, like a painter, he laid his own colours on to their rough sketches, yet he was never considered to be doing Magian things (or: engaging in “magic”), although envied above all humankind for his wisdom.
For the circumstance that Apollonios foresaw and foreknew so many things does not in the least justify us in imputing to him this kind of wisdom [with negative connotations]. We might as well accuse Sokrates of the same, because, thanks to his familiar spirit, he knew things beforehand, and we might also accuse Anaxagoras because of the many things which he predicted. Indeed who does not know the story of how Anaxagoras at Olympia in a season when least rain falls came forward wearing a fleece into the stadium, by way of predicting rain, and of how he predicted the fall of the house. This is true, for it did fall. Of how Anaxagoras said that day would be turned into night, and stones would be discharged from heaven round Aigospotamoi [rivers in Thrace that discharged into the straits now known as the Dardanelles], and of how his predictions were fulfilled? Now these feats are set down to the wisdom of Anaxagoras by the same people who would rob Apollonios of the credit of having predicted things by way of wisdom, and say that he achieved these results by Magian (or: magical) skill.
[Philostratos’ supposed sources]
It seems to me then that I should not condone or acquiesce in the general ignorance, but write a true account of the man, detailing the exact times at which he said or did this or that, as well as the habits and temper of wisdom by means of which he succeeded in being considered a spiritual and divine being. I have gathered my information partly from the many cities where he was loved, and partly from the temples whose long-neglected and decayed rites he restored, and partly from the accounts left of him by others and partly from his own letters. For he addressed these letters to kings, to sophists, to philosophers, to men of Elis, to men of Delphi, to Indians, and to Ethiopians. In his letters, he dealt with the subjects of the gods, of customs, of moral principles, and of laws. In all these areas, he corrected the errors into which people had fallen. But the more precise details which I have collected are as follows. . . [material omitted].
[Apollonios’ planned journey to India with a stop in Babylonia and Susa]
18 After this [his time at sacred sites in Syrian Antioch] he formed the scheme of an extensive voyage, and had in mind the Indian people (ethnos) and the sages (sophoi) there, who are called Brahmans and Hyrkanians. For he said that it was a young man’s duty to go abroad to embark upon foreign travel. But he made quite a discovery with the Magians who live in Babylon and Susa [previous centre of Elam and then Persia]. For he would take the opportunity to acquaint himself thoroughly with their knowledge while he was on his way. Apollonios announced his intention to travel to his followers, who were seven in number. But when they tried to persuade him to adopt another plan, in hopes of drawing him away from his resolution, he said: “I have taken the gods into counsel and have told you their decision. I have tested you to see if you are strong enough to undertake the same things as myself. Since therefore you are so soft and effeminate, I wish you very good health and that you may go on with your philosophy. But I must depart wherever wisdom and the gods lead me.” After he said this he left Antioch with two attendants, who belonged to his father’s house, one of them a shorthand writer and the other a calligraphist.
[Damis the Assyrian becomes a follower and note-taker]
19 He reached the ancient city of Nineveh [an old Assyrian town], where he found an idol set up with barbarous characteristics. They say that it is Io, the daughter of Inachos, and short, budding horns project from her temples. While he was staying there and forming wiser conclusions about the image than the priests and prophets were, one Damis, a native of Nineveh, joined him as a pupil, the same, as I said at the beginning, who became the companion of his wanderings abroad and his fellow-traveller and associate in all wisdom, and who has preserved for us many particulars of the sage. Damis admired Apollonios, and having a desire to travel, said: “Let us depart, Apollonios, you follow God, and I you. For I think you will find that I can serve you. I can’t say to you how much more, but at least I’ve been to Babylon. I know all the cities there are, because I have been up there not long ago, and also the villages in which there is much good to be found. Moreover, I know the languages of the various barbarians, and there are several, including the Armenian language, and that of the Medes, Persians, and Kadusians, and I am familiar with all of them.” Apollonios said, “My good friend, I understand all languages, even though I never learned a single one.” The native of Nineveh was astonished at this answer, but the other replied: “You need not wonder at my knowing all human languages. For, to tell you the truth, I also understand all the secrets of human silence.”
At that point, the Assyrian worshipped him after hearing this, and he regarded him as a lower spirit (damōn). He stayed with him, increasing in wisdom and committing to memory whatever he learned. This Assyrian’s language, however, was of a mediocre quality, for he did not have the gift of expressing himself, having been educated among the barbarians. But he was able to write down a discourse or a conversation and to give impressions of what he heard or saw and to put together a journal of such matters, and he carried it out as well as anyone could. At any rate, the volume which he calls his scrap-book, was intended to serve such a purpose by Damis, who was determined that nothing about Apollonios should be passed over in silence. To the contrary, even Apollonios’ most casual and negligent utterances would also be written down.
I may mention the answer which he made to one who complained and found fault with this journal. It was a lazy and malicious person who tried to pick holes in him. That person remarked that Damis recorded a lot of things, including the opinions and ideas of his hero, but that in collecting such trifles as these Damis seemed like dogs who pick up and eat the fragments which fall from a feast. Damis replied like this: “If the gods do engage in banquets and gods eat food, surely they must have attendants whose business it is that not even the bits of ambrosia that fall to the ground should be lost.”
[Travel in Mesopotamia]
20 Such was the companion and admirer that he had met with, and in common with him most of his travels and life were passed. As they travelled on into Mesopotamia [literally: into the middle of the two rivers, namely Euphrates and Tigris], the tax-gatherer who presided over Zeugma (or: Bridge) [Belkis, Turkey] led them into the registry and asked them what they were taking out of the country with them. Apollonios replied: “I am taking with me temperance, justice, virtue, continence, courage, and discipline.” In this way he strung together a number of feminine nouns or names. The other, already scenting his own dues, said: “You must then write down in the register these female slaves.” Apollonios answered: “Impossible, for they are not female slaves that I am taking out with me, but ladies of quality.”
[Among Armenians and Arabians]
Now Mesopotamia is bordered on one side by the Tigris, and on the other by the Euphrates, rivers which flow from Armenia and from the lowest slopes of the Taurus mountains. But they contain a tract like a continent, in which there are some cities, though for the most part only villages, and the peoples (ethnē) that inhabit them are Armenian and Arabian. These peoples are so closed in by the rivers that most of them, who lead the life of nomads, are so convinced that they are islanders, as to say that they are going down to the sea, when they are merely on their way to the rivers. They think that these rivers border the earth and encircle it. For they curve around the continental tract in question, and discharge their waters into the same sea. But there are people who say that the greater part of the Euphrates is lost in a marsh, and that this river ends in the earth. But some have a bolder theory to which they adhere, and declare that it runs under the earth to turn up in Egypt and mingle itself with the Nile.
Well, for the sake of accuracy and truth, and in order to leave out nothing of the things that Damis wrote, I should have liked to relate all the incidents that occurred on their journey through these barbarous regions. But my subject hurries me on to greater and more remarkable episodes. Nevertheless, I must dwell on two topics: on the courage which Apollonios showed, in making a journey among barbarian peoples and bandits (lēstrika), which were not at that time even subject to the Romans, and at the cleverness with which after the matter of the Arabians he managed to understand the language of the animals. For he learned this on his way among these Arabians, who best understand and practice it. For it is quite common for the Arabians to listen to the birds prophesying like any oracles, but they acquire this faculty of understanding them by feeding themselves, so they say, either on the heart or liver of serpents.
[Interactions with a supposedly effeminate satrap / district governor]
21 Apollonios left Ktesiphon [about 35km southeast of Baghdad, Iraq] behind, and passed on to the borders of Babylon. Here was a frontier garrison belonging to the king, which one could not pass by without being questioned about who one was, one’s city of origin and one’s reason for coming there. There was a satrap in command of this post, a sort of “eye of the king” [referring to a Persian functionary], I imagine. For the Mede [Parthian king Vardanes I, reigned 40-46 CE] had just acceded to the throne, and instead of being content to live in security, he worried himself about things real and imaginary and fell into fits of fear and panic.
Apollonios then and his party were brought before this satrap, who had just set up the awning on his wagon and was driving out to go somewhere else. When he saw a man so dried up and parched, he began to cry like a cowardly woman and hid his face, and could hardly be induced to look up at him. “Where are you coming from,” he said, “and who sent you?” as if he was asking questions of a spirit. Apollonios replied: “I have sent myself in order to see whether I can make you into men, whether you like it or not.” He asked a second time who he was to come trespassing like that into the king’s country, and Apollonios said: “All the earth is mine, and I have a right to go all over it and through it.” At this point, the satrap said: “I will torture you, if you don’t answer my questions.” “And I hope,” said the other, “that you will do it with your own hands, so that you may be tested by the touchstone of a true man.” Now the eunuch was astonished to find that Apollonios needed no interpreter, but understood what he said without the least trouble or difficulty. “By the gods,” he said, “who are you?” this time altering his tone to a whine of entreaty. Apollonios replied: “Since you have asked me politely this time and not so rudely as before, listen, I will tell you who I am: I am Apollonios of Tyana, and my road leads me to the king of India, because I want to acquaint myself with the country there. I will be glad to meet your king, for those who have associated with him say that he is no bad fellow, and certainly he is not, if he is this Vardanes who has lately recovered the empire which he had lost.” “He is the same,” replied the other, “O divine Apollonios! for we have heard of you a long time ago, and in favour of so wise a man as you he would, I am sure, step down off his golden throne and send your party to India, each of you mounted on a camel. I myself now invite you to be my guest, and I beg to present you with these treasures.” at the moment he pointed out a store of gold to him saying: “Take as many handfuls as you like, fill your hands, not once, but ten times.” when Apollonios refused the money he said: “Well, at any rate you will take some of the Babylonian wine, which the king provides for us, his ten satraps. Take a jar of it with some roast steaks of bacon and venison and some meal and bread and anything else you like. For the road after this, for many stades, leads through villages which are not well provisioned.” here the eunuch caught himself up and said: “Oh gods, what have I done? For I have heard that this man never eats the flesh of animals, nor drinks wine, and here I am inviting him to dine in a gross and ignorant manner.” “Well,” said Apollonios, “you can offer me a lighter meal and give me bread and dried fruits.” “I will give you,” said the other, “leavened bread and palm dates, like amber and of good size. I will also supply you with vegetables, the best which the gardens of the Tigris afford.” “Well,” said Apollonios, “the wild herbs which grow free are nicer than those which are forced and artificial.” “They are nicer,” said the satrap, “I admit, but our land in the direction of Babylon is full of wormwood so that the herbs which grow in it are disagreeably bitter.” In the end Apollonios accepted the satrap’s offer, and as he was on the point of going away, he said: “My excellent fellow, don’t keep your good manners to the end another time, but begin with them.” This by way of rebuking him for saying that he would torture him, and for the barbaric language which he had heard to begin with. . . [story of a lioness omitted].
[Eretrian Greek immigrants from Euboia settled in Kissian territory]
23 As Apollonios advanced into the Kissian [Elamite] country and was already close to Babylon, he was visited by a dream, and the god who revealed it to him fashioned its imagery as follows: there were fishes which had been cast up from the sea on to the land, and they were gasping, and uttering a lament almost human, and upset that they were not in their element. They were begging a dolphin that was swimming past the shore to help them in their misery, just like human beings who are weeping in a foreign land. Apollonios was not in the least frightened by his dream, and proceeded to conjecture its meaning and drift. But he was determined to give Damis a shock, for he found that he was the most nervous of men. So he related his vision to him, and feigned as if it foreboded evil. But Damis began to moan as if he had seen the dream himself, and tried to dissuade Apollonios from going any further, “in case we also like fishes get thrown out of our element and perish, and have to weep and wail in a foreign land. In fact, we may even be reduced to straits, and have to go down on our knees to some potentate or king, who will flout us as the dolphins did the fishes,” he said. Then Apollonios laughed and said: “You’ve not become a philosopher yet, if you are afraid of this sort of thing. But I will explain to you the real drift of the dream. For this land of Kissia is habited by the Eretrians, who were brought up here from Euboia by Darius five hundred years ago, and they are said to have been treated at their capture like the fishes that we saw in the dream. For they were netted in, so they say, and captured one and all. It would seem then that the gods are instructing me to visit them and tend their needs, supposing I can do anything for them. Perhaps also the souls of the Greeks whose lot was cast in this part of the world are enlisting my aid for their land. Let us then go and diverge from the highroad and ask only about the well close to where the settlement is.” Now this well is said to consist of a mixture of pitch and oil and water, and if you draw up a bucket and pour it out, these three elements divide and part themselves from one another.
That Apollonios really did visit Kissia, he himself acknowledges in a letter which he wrote to the sophist of Klazomenai [in Ionia in western Turkey]. For he was so kind and loyal, that when he saw the Eretrians, he remembered the sophist and wrote to him an account of what he had seen, and of what he had done for them. All through this letter he urges the sophist to take pity on the Eretrians, and asks him, every time that he is declaiming a discourse about them, not to deprecate even the shedding of tears over their fate.
24 The record which Damis left about the Eretrians is in harmony with this. For they live in the country of the Medes, not far distant from Babylon, a day’s journey for a fast traveller. But their country is without cities. For the whole of Kissia consists of villages, except for a descent group (genos) of nomads that also inhabits it, people who seldom dismount from their horses. The settlement of the Eretrians is in the centre of the rest, and the river is carried round it in a trench, for they say that they themselves diverted it round the village in order to form a rampart of defense against the barbarians of the country. But the soil is drenched with pitch, and is bitter to plant in. The inhabitants are very short lived, because the pitch in the water forms a sediment in most of their bowels. They get their sustenance off a bit of rising ground on the confines of their village, where the ground rises above the tainted country. On this they sow their crops and regard it as their land. They say that they have heard from the natives that seven hundred and eighty of the Eretrians were captured, not of course all of them fighting men. For there was a certain number of women and old men among them. There was, I imagine, a certain number of children too, for the greater portion of the population of Eretria had fled to Kaphereus and to the loftiest peaks of Euboia. But anyhow the men who were brought up numbered about four hundred, and there were ten women perhaps. But the rest, who had started from Ionia and Lydia, perished as they were marching up. They managed to open a quarry on the hill. As some of them understood the art of cutting stone, they built temples in the Greek style and a market-place large enough for their purpose. They dedicated various altars, two to Darius, and one to Xerxes, and several to Daridaios. But up to the time of Daridaios, eighty eight years after their capture, they continued to write in the manner of the Greeks. What is more, their ancient graves are inscribed with the legend: “So and so, the son of so and so.” though the letters are Greek, they said that they never yet had seen the like. There were ships engraved on the tombstones, to show that the various individuals had lived in Euboia, and engaged either in seafaring trade, or in that of purple, as sailors or as dyers. They say that they read an Elegiac inscription written over the sepulcher of some sailors and seafarers, which ran like this: “Here, we who once sailed over the deep-flowing billows of the Aegaean Sea / are lying in the midst of the plain of Ekbatana. / Farewell, once-famed fatherland of Eretria, farewell Athens, / You neighbour of Euboia, farewell you darling sea.”
Well, Damis says that Apollonios restored the tombs that had gone to ruin and closed them up, and that he poured out libations and made offering to their occupants, all that customs require, except that he did not slay or sacrifice any victim. Then after weeping and accessing emotion, he delivered himself of the following apostrophe in their midst: “You Eretrians, who by the lot of fortune have been brought here, you, even if you are far from your own land, have at least received burial. But those who cast you here perished unburied round the shores of your island ten years after yourself. For the gods brought about this calamity in the Hollows of Euboia.” And Apollonios at the end of his letter to the sophist writes as follows: “I also attended, O Skopelianos, to your Eretrians, while I was still a young man. I gave what help I could both to their dead and their living.” What attention then did he show to their living? The barbarians in the neighbourhood of the hill, when the Eretrians sowed their seed upon it, would come in summertime and plunder their crops, so that they had to starve and see the fruits of their farming go to others. When therefore he reached the king, he took pains to secure for them the sole use of the hill.
25 I found the following to be an account of the sage’s stay in Babylon, and of all we need to know about Babylon. The fortifications of Babylon extend four hundred and eighty stadia and form a complete circle. Its wall is three half plethrons high, but less than a plethron deep. It is split by the river Euphrates into halves of similar shape. There passes underneath the river an extraordinary bridge which joins together by an unseen passage the palaces on either bank.
It is said that a woman, Medea, was formerly queen of those parts, who spanned the river underneath in a manner in which no river was ever bridged before. For she got stones, it is said, and copper and pitch and all that men have discovered for use in masonry under water, and she piled these up along the banks of the river. Then she diverted the stream into lakes. As soon as the river was dry, she dug down two fathoms, and made a hollow tunnel, which she caused to empty into the palaces on either bank like a subterranean grotto. She roofed it on a level with the bed of the stream. The foundations were made stable in this way, and also the walls of the tunnel. But as the pitch required water in order to set as hard as stone, the Euphrates was let in again on the roof while still soft, and so the junction stood solid.
The palaces are roofed with bronze, and a glitter goes off from them. But the chambers of the women and of the men and the porticos are adorned partly with silver and partly with golden tapestries or curtains, and partly with solid gold in the form of pictures. But the subjects embroidered there are taken by them from Greek stories with Andromedas being represented as well as Amymonai, and you see Perseus frequently. They delight in Orpheus, perhaps out of regard for his peaked cap and breeches, for it cannot be for his music or the songs with which he charmed and soothed others. Woven into the pattern you perceive Datis tearing up Naxos out of the sea, and Artaphernes beleaguering Eretria, and such battles of Xerxes as he said he won. For there is, of course, the occupation of Athens and Thermopylai, and other pictures still more to the Median taste, such as rivers drained from off the land and a bridge over the sea and the piercing of Athos.
But they say that they also visited a man’s apartment of which the roof had been carried up in the form of a dome, to resemble in a manner the heavens, and that it was roofed with lapis lazuli, a stone that is very blue and like heaven to the eye. There were images of the gods, which they worship, attached up high and looking like golden figures shining out of the ether. It is here that the king gives judgment, and golden woodpeckers are hung from the ceiling, to remind him of Adrastea, the goddess of justice, and to engage him not to exalt himself above humanity. These figures the Magians themselves say they arranged. For they have access to the palace, and they call them the tongues of the gods.
26 With respect to the Magians, Apollonios has said all there is to be said, how he associated with them and learned some things from them, and taught them others before he went away. But Damis is not acquainted with the conversations which the sage held with the Magians, for the latter forbade him to accompany him in his visits to them. So he tells us merely that he visited the Magians in the middle of the day and about midnight, and he says that he once asked his master: “What of the Magians?” and the latter answered: “They are wise men, but not in all respects.”
27 But I will return to this later on. When then he arrived at Babylon, the satrap in command of the great gates, having learned that he had come to see the country, held out a golden image of the king, which everyone must kiss before he is allowed to enter the city. Now an ambassador coming from the Roman emperor does not have this ceremony imposed upon him, but anyone who comes from the barbarians or just to look at the country is arrested with dishonour unless he has first paid his respect to this image. Such are the silly duties committed to satraps among the barbarians. When therefore Apollonios saw the image, he said: “Who is that?” on being told that it was the king, he said: “This king whom you worship would acquire a great success if I merely recommended him as seeming honourable and good to me.” With these words he passed through the gate. But the satrap was astonished, and followed him, and taking hold of his hand, he asked him through an interpreter his name and his family and what was his profession and why he came there. He wrote down the answers in a book and also a description of his dress and appearance, and ordered him to wait there.
28 But he himself ran off to the persons whom they are pleased to call “ears of the king”, and described Apollonios to them, after first telling them both that he refused to do homage and that he was not the least like other men. They instructed the functionary to bring Apollonios along, and show him respect without using any violence. When he came, the head of the department asked him what induced him to flout the king, and he answered: “I have not yet flouted him.” “But would you flout him?” was the next question. “Why, of course I will,” said Apollonios, “if on making his acquaintance I find him to be neither honourable nor good.” “Well, and what presents do you bring for him?” Apollonios answered that he brought courage and justice and so forth. “Do you mean,” said the other, “to imply that the king lacks these qualities?” “No, indeed,” he answered, “but I would gladly teach him to practice them, in case he possesses them.” “Surely it was by practising these qualities,” said the other, “that he has recovered the kingdom, which you see, after he had lost it, and has restored his house. This was no light task, nor easy.” “How many years is it since he recovered his kingdom?” “This is the third year since,” answered the other, “which year began about two months ago.”
As was his custom, Apollonios upheld his opinion and went on: “O bodyguard, or whatever I should call you, Darius the father of Cyrus and Artaxerxes was master of these royal domains, I think, for sixty years, and he is said, when he felt that his end was at hand, to have offered a sacrifice to Justice personified and to have addressed her in this way: ‘O lady mistress, or whoever you are.’ This shows that he had long loved justice and desired her, but did not yet actually know her, nor deemed that he had won her. He brought up his two sons so foolishly that they took up arms against one another, and one was wounded and the other killed by his fellow. Well, here is a king perhaps who does not even know how to keep his seat on the throne, and you would have me believe that he combines already all virtues. You praise him, though, if he does turn out fairly good, it is you and not I that will gain by that”. The barbarian then glanced at his neighbour and said: “Here is a lucky discovery! It is one of the gods who has brought this man here. For as one good man associating with another improves him, so he will much improve our king, and render him more temperate and gracious. For these qualities are conspicuous in this man.” They accordingly ran into the palace and told everybody the good news: namely, that there stood at the king’s gates a man who was wise and a Greek, and a good counselor.
29 When these tidings were brought to the king, he happened to be sacrificing with the Magians, for sacred rites are performed under their supervision. He called one of them and said: “The dream is come true, which I narrated to you when you visited me in my bed.” Now the dream which the king had dreamed was as follows: he thought that he was Artaxerxes, the son of Xerxes, and that he had altered and assumed the latter’s form. He was very much afraid in case some change should come over his affairs, for so he interpreted his change of appearance. But when he heard that it was a Greek and a wise man that had come, he remembered about Themistokles of Athens, who had once come from Greece and had lived with Artaxerxes, and had not only derived great benefit from the king, but had conferred great benefit himself. So he held out his right hand and said: “Call him in, for it will make the best of beginnings, if he will join with me in my sacrifice and prayer.”
30 [material omitted]. . . How far then he was from being astonished at the king and his pomp and ceremony, he showed by the fact that he did not think such things worth looking at, but went on talking about other things, as if he did not think the palace worth a glance.
[Apollonios meets with the king]
31 Now the king caught sight of Apollonios approaching, for the vestibule of the temple was of considerable length, and insisted to those by him that he recognized the sage. When he came still nearer he cried out with a loud voice and said: “This is Apollonios, whom Megabates, my brother, said he saw in Antioch, the admired and respected of serious people. He depicted him to me at that time just such a man as now comes to us.” When Apollonios approached and saluted him, the king addressed him in the Greek language and invited him to sacrifice with him. It chanced that he was on the point of sacrificing to the Sun as a victim a horse of the true Nisaian breed, which he had adorned with trappings as if for a triumphal procession. But Apollonios replied: “Do you, O king, go on with your sacrifice, in your own way, but permit me to sacrifice in mine.” He took up a handful of frankincense and said: “O Sun, send me as far over the earth as is my pleasure and yours, and may I make the acquaintance of good men, but never hear anything of bad ones, nor they of me.” With these words he threw the frankincense into the fire, and watched to see how the smoke of it curled upwards, and how it grew turbid, and in how many points it shot up. In a manner he caught the meaning of the fire, and watched how it appeared of good omen and pure. Then he said: “Now, O king, go on with your sacrifice in accordance with your own ancestral traditions, for my ancestral traditions are such as you see.”
[Magian wisdom and lifestyle compared to the Pythagorean]
32 He left the scene of sacrifice in order not to be present at the shedding of blood. But after the sacrifice was over he approached and said: “O king, do you know the Greek language thoroughly, or have you a smattering of it perhaps, in order to be able to express yourself and appear polite in case any Greek arrives?” “I know it thoroughly,” replied the king, “as well as I do my native language. So say you what you like, for this I suppose is the reason why you put the question to me.” “It was my reason,” said the other, “so listen. The goal of my voyage is India, but I had no intention of passing you by. For I heard that you were such a man as from a slight acquaintance I already perceive you to be, and was desirous also of examining the wisdom which is indigenous among you and is cultivated by the Magians, and of finding out whether they are wise about divine matters as they are reported to be. Now my own system of wisdom is that of Pythagoras, a man of Samos, who taught me to worship the gods in the way you see, and to be aware of them whether they are seen or not seen, and to be frequent in my communication with them, and to dress myself in this land-wool. For it was never worn by sheep, but is the spotless product of spotless parents, the gift of water and of earth, namely linen. The very fashion of letting my hair grow long, I have from Pythagoras as part of his discipline, and also it is a result of his wisdom that I keep myself pure from animal food. I cannot therefore become either for you or for anybody else a companion in drinking or an associate in idleness and luxury. But if you have problems of conduct that are difficult and hard to settle, I will supply you with solutions, for I not only know matters of practice and duty, but I even know them beforehand.” That was the conversation which Damis declares the sage to have held. Apollonios himself composed a letter containing them, and has sketched out in his epistles much else of what he said in conversation.
33 Since the king said that he was more pleased and delighted with his arrival than if he had added to his own possessions the wealth of Persia and India, and added that Apollonios must be his guest and share with him the royal roof, Apollonios remarked: “Supposing, O king, that you came to my country of Tyana and I invited you to live where I live, would you care to do so?” “Why no,” answered the king, “unless I had a house to live in that was big enough to accommodate not only my escort and bodyguard, but myself as well, in a handsome manner.” “Then,” said Apollonios, “I may use the same argument to you. For if I am housed above my rank, I will be ill at ease, for superfluity distresses wise men more than deficiency distresses you. Let me therefore be entertained by some private person who has the same means as myself, and I will visit with you as often as you like.” The king conceded this point, in case he should be betrayed into doing anything that might annoy him, and Apollonios stayed with a worthy Babylonian man of good character and high-minded as well. But before he had finished dinner, one of the eunuchs presented himself and addressed him in this way: “The king,” he said, “grants you ten presents, and leaves you free to name them. But he is anxious that you should not ask for small insignificant things, for he wishes to exhibit to you and to us his generosity.” Apollonios commended the message, and asked: “Then when am I to ask for them?” the messenger replied: “Tomorrow,” and at once went off to all the king’s friends and kinsmen and bade them be present when the sage should prefer his demand and receive the honour. But Damis says that he expected him to ask for nothing, because he had studied his character and knew that he offered to the gods the following prayer: “O you gods, grant me to have little and to want nothing.” However, as he saw him much preoccupied and, as it were, brooding, he determined that he was going to ask and anxiously turning over in his mind, what he should ask.
[“Barbarian” practice of having eunuchs]
But in the evening, Apollonios said, “Damis, I am thinking over the question of why the barbarians have regarded eunuchs as men sufficiently chaste to be allowed the free entry of the women’s apartments.” “But,” answered the other, “O Apollonios, a child could tell you. For insofar as the operation has deprived them of the faculty, they are freely admitted into those apartments, no matter how far their wishes may go.” “But do you suppose the operation has removed their desires or the further aptitude?” “Both,” replied Damis, “for if you extinguish in a man the unruly member that lashes the body to madness, the fit of passion will come on him no more.” After a brief pause, Apollonios said: “Tomorrow, Damis, you will learn that even eunuchs are liable to fall in love, and that the desire which is contracted through the eyes is not extinguished in them, but remains alive and ready to burst into a flame. For that will occur which will refute your opinion. Even if there were really any human art of such tyrannical force that it could expel such feelings from the heart, I do not see how we could ever attribute to them any chastity of character, seeing that they would have no choice, having been by sheer force and artificially deprived of the faculty of falling in love. For chastity consists in not yielding to passion when the longing and impulse is felt, and in the abstinence which rises superior to this form of madness.”
Accordingly Damis answered and said: “Here is a thing that we will examine another time, O Apollonios. But we had better consider now that answer you can make tomorrow to the king’s magnificent offer. For you will perhaps ask for nothing at all, but you should be careful and be on your guard in case you seem to decline any gift the king may offer, as they say, out of mere empty pride, for you see the land that you are in and that we are wholly in his power. You must be on your guard against the accusation of treating him with contempt, and understand that although we have sufficient means to carry us to India, yet what we have will not be sufficient to bring us back there, and we have no other backup supply.”
34 By such devices he tried to wheedle Apollonios into not refusing to take anything he might be offered. But Apollonios, as if by way of assisting him in his argument, said: “But, O Damis, are you not going to give me some examples? Let me supply you with some: Aischines, the son of Lysanias, went off to Dionysios in Sicily in quest of money, and Plato is said thrice to have traversed Charybdis in quest of the wealth of Sicily, and Aristippos of Kyrene, and Helicon of Kyzikos, and Phyton of Rhegion, when he was in exile, buried their noses so deep in the treasure-houses of Dionysios, that they could barely tear themselves away. Moreover they tell of how Eudoxos of Knidos once arrived in Egypt and both admitted that he had come there in quest of money, and conversed with the king about the matter. Not to take away more characters, they say that Speusippos the Athenian was so fond of money that he reeled off festal songs when he romped off to Macedonia. These songs were in honour of Kassander’s marriage, which were frigid compositions, and that he sang these songs in public for the sake of money.
Well, I think, O Damis, that a wise man runs more risk than do sailors and soldiers in action, for envy is ever assailing him, whether he holds his tongue or speaks, whether he exerts himself or is idle, whether he passes by anything or takes care to visit anyone, whether he addresses others or neglects to address them. So a man must fortify himself and understand that a wise man who yields to laziness or anger or passion, or love of drink, or who commits any other action prompted by impulse and inopportune, will probably find his fault condoned. But if he stoops to greed, he will not be pardoned, but render himself odious with a combination of all vices at once. For surely they will not allow that he could be the slave of money, unless he was already the slave of his stomach or of fine raiment or of wine or of riotous living.
But you perhaps imagine that it is a lesser thing to go wrong in Babylon than to go wrong at Athens or at the Olympian or Pythian games. You do not reflect that a wise man finds Greece everywhere, and that a sage will not regard or consider any place to be a desert or barbarous, because he, at any rate, lives under the eyes of virtue, and although he only sees a few men, yet he is himself looked at by ten thousand eyes. Now if you came across an athlete, Damis, one of those who practice and train themselves in wrestling and boxing, surely you would require him, in case he were contending in the Olympic games, or went to Arcadia, to be both noble in character and good. Nay, more, if the Pythian or Nemean contest were going on, you would require him to take care of his physique, because these games are famous and the race-courses are made much of in Greece. Would you then, if Philip were sacrificing with Olympic rites after capturing certain cities, or if his son Alexander were holding games to celebrate his victories, tell the man forthwith to neglect the training of his body and to leave off being keen to win, because the contest was to be held in Olynthus or in Macedonia or in Egypt, rather than among the Greeks, and on your native race-courses?”
These then were the arguments by which Damis declares that he was so impressed as to blush at what he had said, and to ask Apollonios to pardon him for having through imperfect acquaintance with him, ventured to tender him such advice, and use such arguments. But the sage stopped him up and said: “Never mind, for it was not by way of rebuking and humbling you that I have spoken in this way, but in order to give you some idea of my own point of view.”
[Apollonios asks the king to help the Greek Eretrian settlers]
35 Now when the eunuch arrived and summoned him before the king, he said: “I will come as soon as I have duly discharged my duties towards the gods.” Accordingly he sacrificed and offered his prayer, and then departed, and everyone looked at him and wondered at his bearing. When he had come within, the king said: “I present you with ten gifts, because I consider you such a man as never before has come hither from Greece.” he answered and said: “I will not, O king, decline all your gifts. But there is one which I prefer to many tens of gifts, and for that I will most eagerly solicit.” He at one told the story of the Eretrians, beginning it from the time of Datis. “I ask then,” he said, “that these poor people should not be driven away from their borders and from the hill, but should be left to cultivate the span of earth, which Darius allowed them. For it is very hard if they are not to be allowed to retain the land which was substituted for their own when they were driven out of the latter.” The king then consented and said: “The Eretrians were, until yesterday, the enemies of myself and of my fathers. For they once took up arms against us, and they have been neglected in order that their people might perish. But from now on they will be considered among my friends, and they will have, as a satrap, a good man who will judge their country justly. But why,” he said, “will you not accept the other nine gifts?” “Because,” he answered, “I have not yet, O king, made any friends here.” “Do you yourself require nothing?” said the king. “Yes,” he said, “I need dried fruits and bread, for that is a habit which delights me and which I find magnificent.”
36 While they were conversing in this way with one another a loud noise was heard coming from the palace with eunuchs and women shrieking all at once. In fact, a eunuch had been caught misbehaving with one of the royal concubines just as if he were an adulterer. The guards of the harem were now dragging him along by the hair in the way they do royal slaves. The senior of the eunuchs accordingly declared that he had long before noticed he had an affection for this particular lady, and had already forbidden him to talk to her or touch her neck or hand, or assist her toilette, though he was free to wait upon all the other members of the harem. Yet he had now caught him behaving as if he were the lady’s lover. Apollonios then glanced at Damis, as if to indicate that the argument they had conducted on the point that even eunuchs fall in love, was now demonstrated to be true. But the king remarked to the bystanders: “Nay, but it is disgraceful, gentlemen, that, in the presence of Apollonios, we should be enlarging on the subject of chastity rather than he. What then, O Apollonios, do you urge us to do with him?” “Why, to let him live, of course,” answered Apollonios to the surprise of them all. At this, the king reddened, and said: “Then you do not think he deserves to die may times for trying to usurp my rights in this way?” “No, but my answer, O king, was suggested not by any wish to condone his offense, but rather to mete out to him a punishment which will wear him out. For if he lives with this disease of impotence on him, and can never take pleasure in eating or drinking, nor in the spectacles which delight you and your companions, and if his heart will throb as he often leaps up in his sleep, as they say is particularly the case of people in love, is there any form of consumption so wasting as this, any form of hunger so likely to enfeeble his bowels? Indeed, unless he is one of those who are ready to live at any price, he will entreat you, O king, before long even to slay him, or he will slay himself, deeply deploring that he was not put to death straight away this very day.” Such was the answer rendered on this occasion by Apollonios, one so wise and humane, that the king was moved by it to spare the life of his eunuch.
[Further interactions with the king]
37 One day the king was going to hunt the animals in the parks in which the barbarians keep lions, bears and leopards, and he asked Apollonios to accompany him on the chase, but the latter replied: “You have forgotten, O king, that I never attend you, even when you are sacrificing. Moreover, it is no pleasure to me to attack animals that have been mistreated and enslaved in violation of their nature.” The king asking him what was the most stable and secure way of governing, Apollonios answered: “To respect many, and confide in few.”
On one occasion the governor of Syria sent a mission about two villages which, I think, are close to Zeugma, alleging that these villages had long ago been subject to Antiochos and Seleukos, but at present they were under his sway and belonged to the Romans. The Arabians and Armenians did not disturb these villages, yet the king had traversed so great a distance in order to exploit them, as if they belonged to himself, rather than to the Romans. The king sent the embassy aside, and said: “O Apollonios, these villages were given to my forefathers by the kings whom I mentioned, that they might sustain the wild animals, which are taken by us in our country and sent to theirs across the Euphrates, and they, as if they had forgotten this fact, have espoused a policy that is new and unjust. What then do you think are the intentions of the embassy?” Apollonios replied: “Their intention, O king, is moderate and fair, seeing that they only desire to obtain from you, with your consent, places which, as they are in their territory, they can equally well retain without it.” He added his opinion that it was a mistake to quarrel with the Romans over such insignificant villages that probably bigger ones were owned even by private individuals. He also said that it was a mistake to go to war even over large issues.
When the king was ill, Apollonios visited him and discoursed so weightily and in such a lofty strain of the soul, that the king recovered, and said to his courtiers that Apollonios had so influenced him that he now felt a contempt not only for his kingdom but also for death.
38 One day the king was showing to him the grotto under the Euphrates, and asked him what he thought about such a wonderful thing. Apollonios in answer belittled the wonder of the work, and said: “It would be a real miracle, O king, if you went dry-shod through a river as deep as this and as unfordable.” When he was shown the walls of Ekbatana, and was told that they were the dwelling-place of gods, he remarked: “They are not the dwelling place of gods at all, and I am not sure that they are of real men either. For, O king, the inhabitants of the city of Lacedaemon do not dwell within walls, and have never fortified their city.”
Moreover, on one occasion the king had decided a suit for some villages and was boasting to Apollonios of how he had listened to the one suit for two whole days. “Well,” said the other, “you took a mighty long time, anyhow, to find out what was just.”
When the revenues from the subject country came in on one occasion in great quantities at once, the king opened his treasury and showed his wealth to the sage, to induce him to fall in love with wealth. But he admired nothing that he saw and said: “This, for you, O king, represents wealth, but to me it is mere chaff.” “How, then,” said the other, “and in what manner can I best make use of it?” “By spending it,” he said, “for you are king.”
39 He had addressed many such sayings to the king and found the king ready to do what he advised him. When realizing that he had enough of the society of the Magians he said to Damis: “Come, let us start our journey to India. For the people who visited the lotus-eaters in their ships were seduced from their own home-principles by the food. But we, without tasting any of the food of this land, have remained here a longer time than is right and fitting.” Damis replied, “I am more than in agreement with your opinion. But as I bore in mind the period of time which you discovered by the help of the lioness, I was waiting on for it to be completed. Now it has not yet all of it expired, for we have so far only spent a year and four months. However, if we can depart at once, would it be as well?” “But,” said the other, “the king will not let us go, O Damis, before the eighth month has passed. For you, I think, see that he is a worthy man and too superior a person to be ruling over barbarians.”
40 When at last they were resolved on their departure and the king had consented that they should go away, Apollonios remembered the presents, which he had put off till he should have acquired friends, and he said: “O excellent king, I have in no way remunerated my host and I owe a great reward to the Magians. Do you therefore attend to them, and oblige me by bestowing your favours on men who are both wise and wholly devoted to yourself.” The king then was more than delighted, and said: “For you I will tomorrow make their estate enviable and will see that they have been granted great favours. But since you ask for nothing that is mine, I hope you will at least allow these good men to accept from me money and what else they like,” and he pointed to Damis and his companions. When they too declined the offer, Apollonios said: “You see, O king, how many hands I have, and how closely they resemble one another.” “But do you anyhow take a guide,” said the king, “and camels on which to ride. For the road is too long by far for you to walk the whole of it.” “Be it so,” said Apollonios, “O king: for they say that the road is a difficult one for him who is not mounted, and moreover this animal is easily fed and finds his pasture easily where there is nothing to feed on. I think we must take a supply of water also, and take it in bottles, like wine.” “Yes,” said the king, “for three days the country is waterless but after that there are plenty of rivers and springs. But you must take the road over the Caucasus mountains, for there you will find plenty of the necessities of life and the country is friendly.” The king then asked him what he would bring back to him from his destination. He answered: “A graceful gift, O king, for if I am turned into a wiser man by the society of people over there, I will return to you here a better man than I now am.” When he said this the king embraced him and said: “May you come back, for that will indeed be a great gift.”
1 In the summer our travellers, together with their guide, left Babylon and started out, mounted on camels. The king had supplied them with the camel-driver, and plenty of provisions, as much as they wanted. . . [section omitted].
[Visiting the wise Indian king Phraotes at Taxila and learning about his lifestyle]
23 While the sage was engaged in this conversation, messengers and an interpreter presented themselves from the king [Phraotes], to say that the king would make him his guest for three days, because the laws did not allow strangers residing in the city for a longer time. Accordingly they conducted him into the palace. . . [detailed description of palace omitted].
26 So the Indian was regarded by Apollonios as a philosopher, and addressing him through an interpreter, he said: “I am delighted, O king, to find you living like a philosopher.” “I am also delighted that you should think of me in this way,” the king said. Apollonios said, “is this customary among you, or was it you yourself that established your government on so modest a scale?” “Our customs,” said the king, “are dictated by moderation, and I am still more moderate in my carrying them out. Though I have more than other men, yet I want little, for I regard most things as belonging to my own friends.” “Blessed are you then in your treasure,” said Apollonios, “if you rate your friends more highly than gold and silver, for out of them grows up for you a harvest of blessings.” “Even more,” said the king, “I share my wealth also with my enemies. For the barbarians who live on the border of this country were perpetually quarreling with us and making raids into my territories. But I keep them quiet and control them with money, so that my country is patrolled by them. Instead of their invading my dominions, they themselves keep off the barbarians that are on the other side of the frontier, and are difficult people to deal with.” When Apollonios asked him, whether Poros [an Indian king that had been defeated by Alexander] also had paid them subsidy, he replied: “Poros was as fond of war as I am of peace.” By expressing such sentiments he quite disarmed Apollonios, who was so captivated by him, that once, when he was rebuking Euphrates for his want of philosophic self-respect, he remarked: “No, let us at least admire Phraotes the Indian,” for this was the name of the Indian.
When a satrap, who admired the monarch, desired to bind on his brow a golden mitre adorned with various stones, he said: “Even if I were an admirer of such things, I should decline them now, and cast them off my head, because I have met with Apollonios. How can I now adorn myself with ornaments which I never before deigned to bind upon my head, without ignoring my guest and forgetting myself?”
Apollonios also asked him about his diet, and he replied: “I drink just as much wine as I pour out in libation to the Sun. Whatever I take in the chase I give to others to eat, for I am satisfied with the exercise I get. But my own meal consists of vegetables and of the pith and fruit of date palms, and of all that a well-watered garden yields in the way of fruit. A great deal of fruit is yielded to me by the trees which I cultivate with these hands.” When Apollonios heard this, he was more than gratified, and kept glancing at Damis.
27 When they had talked a good deal about which road to take to the Brahmans [Indian sages], the king ordered the guide from Babylon to be well entertained, as it was customary to treat those who came from Babylon in this way and for the guide from the satrap to be dismissed after being given provisions for the road. Then he took Apollonios by the hand, and having instructed the interpreter to leave, Phraotes said: “So I hope you will choose me for your close friend.” He asked him a question in the Greek language. But Apollonios was surprised, and remarked: “Why did you not converse with me in this way from the beginning?” “I was afraid,” said the king, “of seeming presumptuous, seeming, that is, not to know myself and not to know that I am a barbarian by decree of fate. But you have won my affection, and as soon as I saw that you take pleasure in my society, I was unable to keep myself concealed. But that I am quite competent in the Greek speech I will show you amply.” “Why then,” said Apollonios, “did you not invite me to the banquet, instead of begging me to invite you?” “Because,” he replied, “I regard you as my superior, for wisdom has more of the kingly quality about it.”
With that he led him and his companions to where he was accustomed to bathe. The bathing-place was a garden, a stade in length, in the middle of which was dug out a pool, which was fed by fountains of water, cold and drinkable. On each side there were exercising places, in which he was accustomed to practice himself after the manner of the Greeks with javelin and quoit-throwing. For physically he was very robust, both because he was still young, for he was only seven-and-twenty years old, and because he trained himself in this way. When he had had enough exercise, he would jump into the water and exercised himself in swimming. But when they had taken their bath, they proceeded into the banqueting room with wreaths upon their heads. For this is the custom of the Indians, whenever they drink wine in the palace.
[Indian king’s banqueting customs]
28 I must make sure not to leave out a description of the arrangement of the banquet, since this has been clearly described and recorded by Damis. The king then banquets upon a mattress, and as many as five of his nearest relations with him. But all the rest join in the feast sitting upon chairs. The table resembles an altar in that it is built up to the height of a man’s knee in the middle of the room, and allows room for thirty to dispose themselves around it like a choir in a close circle. Upon it laurels are strewn, and other branches which are similar to the myrtle, but yield to the Indians their balm. Upon it are served up fish and birds, and there are also laid upon it whole lions and gazelles and swine and the loins of tigers. For they decline to eat the other parts of this animal, because they say that, as soon as it is born, it lifts up its front paws to the rising Sun. Next, the master of ceremonies rises and goes to the table, and he selects some of the food for himself, and cuts off other portions, and then he goes back to his own chair and eats his full, constantly munching bread with it. When they all have had enough, goblets of silver and gold are brought in, each of which is enough for ten banqueters. They drink out of these, stooping down like animals that are being watered.
While they are drinking, they have brought in performers of various dangerous feats, not undeserving of serious study. For a boy, like one employed by dancing-girls, would be tossed lightly aloft, and at the same moment an arrow is aimed at him, up in the air, and when he was a long way from the ground, the boy would, by a tumblers’ leap, raise himself above the weapon, and if he missed his leap, he was sure to be hit. For the archer, before he let fly, went round the banqueters and showed them the point of his weapon, and let them try the missile themselves. Shooting through a ring, too, or hitting a hair with an arrow, or for a man to mark the outline of his own son with arrows, as he stands in front of a board, keeps them occupied at their banquets, and they aim straight, even when they are drinking.
[Discussion of the king’s source of knowledge of Greek language and philosophy, and the story of his family]
29 Well, the companions of Damis marvelled at the accuracy of their eye, and were surprised at the exactness with which they aimed their weapons. But Apollonios, who ate with the king, since they agreed in diet, was less interested in these feats and said to the king: “Tell me, O king, how you acquired such a command of the Greek language, and from where you derived all your philosophical attainments in this place? For I don’t imagine that you owe them to teachers, for it is not likely that there are, in India, any who could teach it.” The king smiled and said: “In old days they would ask men who arrived by sea whether they were sea-bandits, since it was so common that people adopted that way of living, hard though it is. But as far as I can make out, you Greeks ask your visitors whether they are not philosophers, so convinced you are that everyone you meet with must possess the most sacred of human attainments.”
“That philosophy and sea-banditry are one and the same thing among you, I am well aware. For they say that a man like yourself is not to be found anywhere. But that most of your philosophers are like people who have despoiled another man of his garment and then have dressed themselves up in it, although it does not fit them, and proceed to walk around trailing another man’s garment. No, by Zeus, just as bandits live in luxury, knowing fully that they lie at the mercy of justice, so are they, it is said, addicted to gluttony and riotous living and to delicate clothes. The reason is this: you have laws, I believe, to the effect that if a man is caught forging money, he must die, and the same if anyone illegally enrolls a child upon the register, or there is some penalty, I know not what. But people who utter counterfeit philosophy or corrupt her are not, I believe, restrained among you by any law, nor is there any authority set to suppress them.”
30 “Now among us, few engage in philosophy, and they are sifted and tried as follows: A young man so soon as he reaches the age of eighteen, and this I think is accounted the time of full age among you also, must pass across the river Hyphasis to the men [the sages or Brahmans] who you are set upon visiting, after first making a public statement that he will become a philosopher, so that those who wish to may exclude him, if he does not approach the study in a state of purity. By pure I mean, firstly, in respect of his parentage, that no disgraceful action can be proved against either his father or his mother. Next, that their parents in turn, and the third generation upwards, are equally pure, that there was no ruffian among them, no one who engaged in debauchery, nor any unjust usurer. When no scar or reproach can be proved against them, nor any other stain whatever, then it is time narrowly to inspect the young man himself and test him. They see ,firstly, whether he has a good memory and, secondly, whether he is modest and reserved in disposition, and does not merely pretend to be so, whether he is addicted to drink, or greed, or a quack, or a buffoon, or rash, or abusive, to see whether he is obedient to his father, to his mother, to his teachers, to his school-masters, and above all, if he makes no bad use of his personal attractions. The particulars then of his parents and of their progenitors are gathered from witnesses and from the public archives. For whenever an Indian dies, a particular authority charged by the law to make a record of him visits his house and to assess how he lived. If this officer lies or allows himself to be deceived, he is condemned by the law and forbidden ever to hold another office, on the ground that he has counterfeited a man’s life. But the particulars of the youths themselves are duly learnt by inspection of them. For in many cases a man’s eyes reveal the secrets of his character, and in many cases there is material for forming a judgment and appraising his value in his eyebrows and cheeks, for from these features the dispositions of people can be detected by wise and accurate men, as images are seen in a looking-glass. For seeing that philosophy is highly esteemed in this country, and it is held in honour by the Indians, it is absolutely necessary that those who take to it should be tested and subjected to a thousand modes of proof. Well then, that we study philosophy under direction of teachers, and that admission to philosophy is by examination among us, I have clearly explained. Now I will relate to you my own history.”
31 “My grandfather was king, and had the same name as myself. But my father was a private person. For he was left quite young and two of his relations were appointed guardians in accordance with the laws of the Indians. But they did not carry on the king’s government honestly on his behalf. Not at all. By the Sun, they carried it on so unfairly that their subjects found their regime oppressive and the government fell into bad repute. A conspiracy then was formed against them by some of the influential men, who attacked them and slew them when they were sacrificing to the river Indus. The conspirators than seized upon the reins of government and took control of the leadership.
Now my father’s kinsmen entertained apprehensions about him, because he was not yet sixteen years old, so they sent him across the Hyphasis river to the king there. That king has more subjects than I have, and his country is much more fertile than this one. This monarch wished to adopt him, but this my father declined on the ground that he would not struggle with fate that robbed him of his kingdom. But he asked to be allowed to go to the sages and become a philosopher, for he said that this would make it easier for him to bear the reverses of his house. The king however being anxious to restore him to his father’s kingdom, my father said: “If you see that I have become a genuine philosopher, then restore me. But if not, let me remain as I am.” The king accordingly went in person to the sages, and said that he would lie under great obligation to them if they would take care of a youth who had already showed such nobility of character. They, discerning in him something uncommon, were delighted to impart to him their wisdom, and were glad to educate him when they saw how addicted he was to learning.
Now seven years afterwards the king fell sick, and at the very moment when he was dying, he sent for my father, and appointed him co-heir in the government with his own son, and promised his daughter in marriage to him as she was already of marriageable age. My father, since he saw that the king’s son was the victim of flatterers and of wine and of such like vices and was also full of suspicions of himself, said to him: “Do you keep all this and drink down the whole Empire as your own. For it is ridiculous that one who could not even gain the kingdom which belonged to him should presume to meddle with one which does not. But give me your sister, for this is all I want of yours.”
So having obtained her in marriage he lived hard by the sage in seven fertile villages which the king granted his sister as her dowry. I then am a result of this marriage, and my father after a Greek education brought me to the sages at an age somewhat too early perhaps, for I was only twelve at the time. But they brought me up like their own son. For any that they admit knowing the Greek language they are especially fond of, because they consider that in virtue of the similarity of his disposition he already belongs to themselves.
32 When my parents had died, which they did almost together, the sages instructed me to go to the villages and look after my own affairs, for I was now nineteen years of age. But, unfortunately, my good uncle had already taken away the villages, and didn’t even leave me the few acres my father had acquired. For he said that the whole of them belonged to his kingdom, and that I would be getting more than I deserved if he spared my life. I accordingly raised a subscription among my mother’s freedmen, and kept four retainers. . . [material omitted].
[Explanation about the Oxydrakians encountered by Alexander and the more distant Indian sages]
33 Here Apollonios interrupted and said: “You have exactly played the part of the restored sons of Herakles in the play, and praised be the gods who have helped so noble a man to come by his own and restored you by their noble intervention. But tell me this about these sages: were they not once actually subject to Alexander, and were they not brought before him to philosophize about the heavens?” “Those were the Oxydrakians,” he said, “and a descent group that has always been independent and well equipped for war. They assert that they deal in wisdom, though they know nothing of value. But the genuine sages live between the Hyphasis and Ganges rivers, in a country which Alexander never reached. Not I imagine because he was afraid of what was in it. Rather, because the omens warned him against it, I think. But if he had crossed the Hyphasis, and had been able to take the surrounding country, he could certainly never have taken possession of their tower in which they live, not even if he had had ten thousand like Achilles, and thirty thousand like Ajax behind him. For they do not do battle with those who approach them, but they repulse them with prodigies and thunderbolts which they send forth, for they are holy men and beloved of the gods.
It is related, anyhow, that Herakles of Egypt and Dionysos after they had overrun the Indian people with their arms, at last attached them in company, and that they constructed engines of war, and tried to take the place by assault [see Megasthenes’ discussion of these two figures in India: link]. But the sages, instead of engaging them in battle, lay quiet and passive, as it seemed to the enemy. But as soon as the latter approached they were driven off by rockets of fire and thunderbolts which were hurled obliquely from above and fell upon their armour.
It was on that occasion, they say, that Herakles lost his golden shield, and the sages dedicated it as an offering, partly out of respect for Herakles’ reputation, and partly because of the reliefs upon the shield. For in these Herakles is represented fixing the frontier of the world at Gadira, and turning the mountains into pillars, and confining the ocean within its bounds. From this it is clear that it was not the Theban Herakles but the Egyptian Herakles that came to Gadira, and fixed the limits of the world.”
34 While they were talking like this, the strain of the hymn sung to the pipe fell upon their ears, and Apollonios asked the king what was the meaning of their cheerful song. “The Indians,” he answered, “sing their admonitions to the king, at the moment of his going to bed. They pray that he may have good dreams, and rise up propitious and affable towards his subjects.” “And how,” said Apollonios, “do you, O king, feel in regard to this matter? For it is yourself I suppose that they honour with their pipes.” “I don’t laugh at them,” he said, “for I must allow it because of the law, although I do not require any admonition of the kind: for in so far as a king behaves himself with moderation and integrity, he will grant, I imagine, favours on himself rather than on his subjects.” . . . [long discussion between Apollonios and the king on the nature of sleeping drunk or sober in relation to the wisdom omitted].
41 So they remained the next day as well, for the Indian king would not let them go, and he gave them a letter for Iarchas, written in the following terms:
“King Phroates to Iarchas his master and to his companions, all hail! Apollonios, wisest of men, yet accounts you still wiser than himself, and is coming to learn your knowledge. Send him away therefore when he knows all that you know yourselves, assured that nothing of your teachings will perish, for in discourse and memory he excels all men. Let him also see the throne, on which I sat, when you, Father Iarchas, bestowed on me the kingdom. His followers too deserve commendation for their devotion to such a master. Farewell to yourself and your companions.”
[Remnants of Alexander’s journey and its limits]
42 They rode out of Taxila [Takshashila, Pakistan], and after a journey of two days reached the plain, in which Poros is said to have engaged Alexander. They say they saw gates there that enclosed nothing, but had been erected to carry trophies. For there was set up on them a statue of Alexander standing in a four-poled chariot, as he looked when he confronted the satraps of Darius at Issos. At a short distance from one another there are said to have been built two gates, carrying the one a statue of Poros, and the other one of Alexander, of both, as I imagine, reconciled to one another after the battle. For the one is in the attitude of one man greeting another, and the other of one displaying honour.
43 And having crossed the river Hydraotes and passed by several tribes, they reached the Hyphasis, and thirty stades away from this they came on altars bearing this inscription: “To Father Ammon and Herakles his brother, and to Athena Providence and to Zeus of Olympos and to the Kabeiroi of Samothrake and to the Indian Sun and to the Delphian Apollo.” They also say there was a brass column dedicated and inscribed as follows: “Alexander stayed his steps at this point.” The altars we may suppose to be due to Alexander who so honoured the limit of his domination. But I speculate that the Indians beyond the Hyphasis erected the column, by way of expressing their pride at Alexander’s having gone no further.
[Continuing description of marvels in India with arrival at the Indian city of Paraka]
[descriptions of marvels omitted] . . . 9 They tell us that the city under the mountain is of great size and is called Paraka [unknown location, if it was a real city], and that in the centre of it are enshrined a great many heads of dragons. For the Indians who inhabit it are trained from their boyhood in this form of sport [i.e. capturing dragons that were just described in the preceding passages along with other marvels]. They are also said to acquire an understanding of the language and ideas of animals by feeding either on the heart or the liver of the dragon. As they [Apollonios of Tyana and his travelling companions] advanced they thought they heard the pipe of some shepherd marshalling his flock, but it turned out to be a man looking after a herd of white female deer, for the Indians use these for milking, and find their milk very nutritious.
[Introduction of the Indian sages / Brahmans and their role]
10 From this point their road led for four days across a rich and well cultivated country, until they approached the tower of the sages (sophoi). This is when their guide ordered his camel crouch down and leapt off it in such extreme fear that he was covered in sweat. However, Apollonios understood well what place he had arrived at and, smiling at the panic of the Indian, said: “It seems to me that this fellow, were he a sailor who had reached harbour after a long sea voyage, would worry at being on land and tremble at being in dock.” As Apollonios said this he ordered his camel to kneel down, for he was by now really well accustomed to this. It seems that what scared the guide so much was that he was now close to the sages. For the Indians fear these people more than they do their own king, because the very king to whom the land is subject consults them about everything that he has to say or do, just as people who consult an oracle of a god. The sages indicate to the king what it is expedient for him to do, and what is not expedient, and dissuade and warn him away with signs from what is not expedient.
11 They were about to stop in the neighboring village, which is hardly a single stade [a stadion may have been about 157 metres] away from the hill occupied by the sages, when they saw a youth run up to them. This was the blackest Indian they ever saw, and between his eyebrows was a crescent-shaped spot which shone brightly. But I learn that at a later time the same feature was remarked in the case of Menon the pupil of Herodes [Attikos] the Sophist [ca. 102-177 CE], who was an Ethiopian [the term literally means “burnt-faced” or “black-faced” in Greek]. The crescent-shaped spot showed while he was a youth, but as he became a man its splendor lessened and finally disappeared with his youth. But the Indian also wore, they say, a golden anchor, which Indians consider an announcer’s symbol because it restrains things.
12 Then the Indian ran up to Apollonios and addressed him in the Greek language. So far this did not seem very remarkable, because all the inhabitants of the village spoke the Greek language. But when he addressed him by name and said “Greetings so and so,” the rest of the party were filled with astonishment, though our sage only felt even more confidence in his mission. For Apollonios looked at Damis [Apollonios’ ostensibly Assyrian follower from Ninevah] and said: “We have reached men who are truly sages, for they seem to have the gift of foreknowledge.” Immediately he asked the Indian what he must do, because he was already eager for an interview, and the Indian replied: “Your party must stop here, but you must come on just as you are, for they themselves command this.”
[Detailed description of the surroundings where the sages live]
13 The word [sages, sophoi (?)] immediately had a Pythagorean ring for the ears of Apollonios and he gladly followed the messenger. Now the summit of the hill where the sages live is, according to the account of our travelers, about the same height as the Acropolis of Athens. It rises straight up from the plain, though its natural position equally secures it from attack, for the rock surrounds it on all sides. On many parts of this rock you see traces of cloven feet and outlines of beards and of faces, and here and there impressions of backs as of persons who had slipped and rolled down. For they say that Dionysos, when he was trying to storm the place together with Herakles, ordered the Pans to attack it, thinking that they would be strong enough to stand the shock [perhaps a reference to similar stories of Dionysos related by Megasthenes (link)]. But the Pans were thunderstruck by the sages and fell down one way or another. The rocks as it were took the print of the various postures in which they fell and failed. They say that they saw a cloud floating round the hill on which the Indians live and render themselves visible or invisible at will. Whether there were any other gates to the hill they say they did not know. For the cloud around it did not anywhere allow them to be seen, whether there was an opening in the rampart, or whether on the other hand it was a close-shut fortress.
14 Apollonios says that he himself ascended mostly on the south side of the ridge, following the Indian, and that the first thing he saw was a well four fathoms deep. Above the mouth of the well there rose a sheen of deep blue light. In the middle of the day, when the sun was stationary above it, the sheen of light was always drawn up on high by the rays, and in its ascent assumed the look of a glowing rainbow. But he learned afterwards that the soil underneath the well was composed of the mineral realgar, but that they regarded the water as holy and mysterious. No one either drank it or drew it up, but it was regarded by the whole land of India all around as binding in oaths.
Near this there was a crater, he says, of fire, which sent up a lead-coloured flame, though it emitted no smoke or any smell, nor did this crater ever overflow. Instead, it emitted just enough matter not to bubble over the edges of the pit. It is here that the Indians purify themselves of involuntary errors, which is the reason the sages call the well “the well of testing” and they call the fire “the fire of leniency.” They [Apollonios, Damis and companions] say that they saw there two jars of black stone, of the rains and of the winds respectively. The jar of the rains, they say, is opened in case the land of India is suffering from drought, and sends up clouds to moisten the whole country. But if the rains should be in excess they are stopped by the jar being shut up. But the jar of the winds plays, I imagine, the same role as the bag of Aiolos [a legendary king figure near Sicily who was thought to hold the winds in a bag]: for when they open this jar ever so little, they let out one of the winds, which creates a seasonable breeze by which the country is refreshed.
[Indian, Egyptian and Greek gods worshipped by Indians]
They say that they came upon statues of gods, and they were not nearly so much astonished at finding Indian or Egyptian gods as they were by finding the most ancient of the Greek gods, a statue of Athena Polias and of Apollo of Delos and of Dionysos of Limnai and another of him of Amyclai, and others of similar age. These were set up by these Indians and worshipped with Greek rites. They say that they are inhabiting the heart of India, as they regard the mound as the navel of this hill, and on it they worship fire with rites (orgia), deriving the fire, according to their own account, from the rays of the sun. To the Sun they sing a hymn every day in the middle of the day.
[Apollonios’ and Damis’ descriptions of the Brahmans and their customs]
15 Apollonios himself describes the character of these sages and of their settlement upon the hill. For in one of his addresses to the Egyptians he says, “I saw Indian Brahmans [i.e. the indigenous designation for the sages] living upon the earth and yet not on it, and fortified without fortifications, and possessing nothing, yet having the riches of all men.” He may in fact be writing here with too much subtlety. But we have anyhow the account of Damis to effect that they made a practice of sleeping on the ground, and that they spread grasses on the ground which they prefer. What is more, he says that he saw them levitating themselves two cubits high from the ground, not for the sake of miraculous display, for they disdain any such ambition.
But they regard any rites they perform in leaving earth and walking with the Sun in this way as acts of homage acceptable to the god. Moreover, they neither burn upon an altar nor keep in stoves the fire which they extract from the sun’s rays, although it is a material fire. But like the rays of sunlight when they are refracted in water, so this fire is seen raised up in the air and dancing in the ether.
Further they pray to the Sun who governs the seasons by his might, that the latter may succeed duly in the land, so that India may prosper. But at night they entreat the ray of light not to be confused by the night, but to stay with them just as they have brought it down. Such then was the meaning of the phrase of Apollonios, that “the Brahmans are upon earth and yet not upon earth.” And his phrase “fortified without fortifications or walls” refers to the air or vapour under which they live, for though they seem to live in the open air, yet they raise up a shadow and veil themselves in it, so that they are not made wet when it rains and they enjoy the sunlight whenever they choose.
The phrase “without possessing anything they had the riches of all men” is explained in this way by Damis: All the springs which the bacchic devotees (bacchoi) see leaping up from the ground under their feet, whenever Dionysos stirs them and earth in a common convulsion, spring up in plenty for these Indians also when they are entertaining or being entertained. Apollonios therefore was right in saying that people provided as they are with all they want offhand and without having prepared anything, possess what they do not possess.
On principle they grow their hair long, as the Lakedaimonians [Spartans] did in the old days and the Thourians and Tarentinians, as well as the Melians and all who follow the fashions of Sparta. They bind a white turban on their heads, and their feet are naked for walking and they cut their garments to resemble the tunic with one sleeve. But the material of which they make their clothing is a wool that springs wild from the ground, white like that of the Pamphylians, though it is of softer growth, and a grease like olive oil distills from it. This is what they make their sacred garments from, and if anyone else except these Indians tries to pluck it up, the earth refuses to surrender its wool. They all carry both a ring and a staff of which the peculiar powers can effect all things, and the one and the other, so we learn, are prized as secrets.
[Apollonios finally meets the sages and has a conversation with Iarchas the Brahman]
16 When Apollonios approached, the rest of the sages welcomed him and shook hands. But Iarchas sat down on a high stool. This stool was of black copper and chased with golden figures, while the seats of the others were of copper, but plain and not so high, for they sat lower down than Iarchas. When he saw Apollonios, Iarchas greeted him in the Greek language and asked for the Indian’s letter. As Apollonios showed astonishment at his gift of foreknowledge, he took pains to add that a single letter was missing in the epistle, namely a delta, which had escaped the writer. This was found to be the case.
Then having read the epistle, Iarchas said “What do you think of us, O Apollonios? ” “Why,” replied the Apollonios, “how can you ask, when it is sufficiently shown by the fact that I have taken a journey to see you which was never till now accomplished by any of the inhabitants of my country.” “And what do you think we know more than yourself?” “I,” replied the Apollonios, “consider that what you know is profounder and much more divine than our own knowledge. If I add nothing to my present stock of knowledge while I am with you, I will at least have learned that I have nothing more to learn.”
At that point, the Indian replied and said: “Other people ask those who arrive among them, who they are that come, and why, but the first display we make of our wisdom consists in showing that we are not ignorant who it is that comes. You may test this point to begin with.”
To match his word Iarchas promptly recounted the whole story of Apollonios’ family both on his father’s and his mother’s side, and he related all his life in Aigai [in Cilicia, near modern Yumurtalık, Turkey], and how Damis had joined him, and any conversations that they had had on the road, and anything they had found out through the conversation of others with them. All this, just as if he had shared their voyage with them, the Indian recounted right away, quite clearly and without pausing for breath.
When Apollonios was astounded and asked Iarchas how he came to know it all, Iarchas replied: “And you too are come to share in this wisdom, but you are not yet an adept.” “Will you teach me all this wisdom, then?,” Apollonios replied. “Yes, and gladly, for that is a wiser course than grudging and hiding matters of interest. Moreover, Apollonios, I perceive that you are well endowed with memory, a goddess whom we love more than any other of the divine beings.” “Well,” said the Apollonios, “you have certainly discerned by your penetration my exact disposition.” “O Apollonios,” said Iarchas, “we can see all spiritual traits, for we trace and detect them by a thousand signs. But as it is nearly the middle of the day, and we must get ready our offerings for the gods, let us now employ ourselves with that, and afterwards let’s talk as much as you like. But you must take part in all the things we do [i.e. the rites].” “By Zeus,” said Apollonios, “I should be wronging the Caucasus and the Indus mountains, both of which I have crossed in order to reach you, if I did not fully feast myself on what you do.” “Do so, and let us go,” said Iarchas.
[Witnessing the practices of the Brahmans]
17 Accordingly, they went to a spring of water, which Damis, who saw it subsequently, says resembles that of Dirke [a spring in Thebes] in Boiotia. First they stripped, and then they anointed their heads with an amber-like drug, which imparted such a warmth to these Indians, that their bodies steamed and the sweat ran off them as profusely as if they were washing themselves with fire. Next they threw themselves into the water and, having so taken their bath, they went to the temple with wreaths upon their heads and singing sacred songs. They stood round in the form of a chorus, and having chosen Iarchas as conductor they struck the earth, uplifting their rods, and the earth arched itself like a billow of the sea and raised them up two cubits high into the air. But they sang a song resembling the paean of Sophocles which they sing at Athens in honour of Asklepios. But when they had descended to the ground, Iarchas called the stripling who carried the anchor and said: “Do you look after the companions of Apollonios.” And he went off swifter than the quickest of the birds, and coming back again said: “I have looked after them.” After fulfilling most of most of their sacred activities, they sat down to rest upon their seats, but Iarchas said to the young person: “Bring out the throne of Phraotes [king of Taxila previously encountered by Apollonios in the narrative] for the wise Apollonios that he may sit upon it to converse with us.”
[Conversation with Iarchas the head Brahman / sage]
18 And when he had taken his seat, Iarchas said: “Ask whatever you like, for you find yourself among people who know everything.” Apollonios then asked him whether they knew themselves also, thinking that he, like the Greeks, would regard self-knowledge as a difficult matter. But the other, contrary to Apollonios’ expectations, corrected him and said: “We know everything, just because we begin by knowing ourselves. For no one of us would be admitted to this philosophy unless he first knew himself.” Apollonios remembered what he had heard Phraotes [king of Taxila] say, and how he who would become a philosopher must examine himself before he undertakes the task. He therefore acquiesced in this answer, for he was convinced of its truth in his own case also. He accordingly asked a fresh question, namely, who they considered themselves to be. Iarchas answered “We consider ourselves to be gods.” Apollonios asked again: “Why?” “Because,” said Iarchas, “we are good men.” This reply struck Apollonios as so aligned with trained good sense that he subsequently mentioned it to Domitian in his defense of himself.
19 Apollonios therefore resumed his questions and said: “And what view do you take of the soul?” “That which Pythagoras imparted to you,” replied Iarchas, “and which we imparted to the Egyptians.” “Would you then say,” said Apollonios, “that as Pythagoras declared himself to be Euphorbos, so you yourself, before you entered your present body, were one of the Trojans or Achaians or someone else?” And the Indian replied: “Those Achaian sailors were the ruin of Troy, and your talking so much about it is the ruin of you Greeks. For you imagine that those engaging in the campaign against Troy were the only heroes that ever were, and you forget other heroes both more numerous and more divine, whom your own country and that of the Egyptians and that of the Indians have produced. Since then you have asked me about my earlier incarnation, tell me, whom you regard as the most remarkable of the assailants or defenders of Troy.” “I,” replied Apollonios, “regard Achilles, the son of Peleus and Thetis, as such, for he and no other is celebrated by Homer as excelling all the Achaians in personal beauty and size, and he knows of mighty deeds of his. He also rates very highly such men as Ajax and Nireus, who were only second to him in beauty and courage, and are celebrated as such in his poems.” The other said, “With him, O Apollonios, I would have you compare my own ancestor, or rather my ancestral body, for that was the light in which Pythagoras regarded Euphorbos.
[Ethiopians as descendants of Indians]
20 He said, “There was a time when the Ethiopians, an Indian descent group (genos), inhabited this country, and when Ethiopia as such did not yet exist. But Egypt stretched its borders beyond Meroe [near what is now Shendi, Sudan] and the cataracts, and on the one side included in itself the fountains of the Nile, and on the other was only bounded by the mouths of the river. Well, at that time of which I speak, the Ethiopians lived here, and were subject to king Ganges, and the land was sufficient for their sustenance, and the gods watched over them. But when they slew this king, neither did the rest of the Indians regard them as pure, nor did the land permit them to remain upon it. For it spoiled the seed which they sowed in it before it came into ear, and it inflicted miscarriages on their women, and it gave a miserable feed to their flocks. Wherever they tried to found a city, it would give way and sink down under their feet. Even more, the ghost of Ganges drove them forward on their path, a haunting terror to their multitude, and it did not stop until they atoned to earth by sacrificing the murderers who had shed the king’s blood with their hands.”
[Legend of king Ganges]
“Now this Ganges it seems, was ten cubits high, and in personal beauty excelled any man the world had yet seen, and he was the son of the river Ganges. When his own father inundated India, he himself turned the flood into the Erythraian sea [Red Sea], and effected a reconciliation between his father [the river] and the land, with the result that the latter brought forth fruits in abundance for him when living, and also avenged him after death. Since Homer brings Achilles to Troy in Helen’s behalf, and relates how he took twelve cities by sea and eleven on land, and how he was carried away by wrath because he had been robbed of a woman by the king, on which occasion, in my opinion, he showed himself merciless and cruel, let us contrast the Indian king in similar circumstances. King Ganges on the contrary set himself to found sixty cities, which are the most considerable of those around here (and I would like to know who would regard the destruction of cities as a better title to fame than the rebuilding of them) and he also repulsed the Scythians who once invaded this land across the Caucasus mountains. Surely it is better to prove yourself a good man by liberating your country than to bring slavery upon a city, and that too on behalf of a woman who probably was never really carried off against her will. Ganges had formed an alliance with the king of the country, over which Phraotes now rules. However, that other king had violated every law and principle of morality by carrying of Ganges wife. Nonetheless, Ganges did not break his oath, and so stable,” Iarchas said, “was his pledged word, that, in spite of the injury he had suffered, he would not do anything to harm that other.
[Iarchas as Ganges reincarnated]
21 “I could also enumerate many more merits of this great man, if I did not shrink from pronouncing a panegyric upon myself. For I may tell you I am the person in question, as I clearly proved when I was four years old. For this Ganges on one occasion fixed seven swords made of adamant in the earth, to prevent any monster approaching our country. Now the gods ordered us to sacrifice if we came where he had implanted these weapons, though without indicating the spot where he had fixed them. I was a mere child, and yet I led the interpreters of their will to a trench, and told them to dig there, for it was there I said that they had been laid.”
22 “You must not be surprised at my transformation from one Indian to another. For here is one,” and he pointed to a young man of about twenty years of age, “who in natural aptitude for philosophy excels everyone, and he enjoys good health as you see, and possesses an excellent constitution. Moreover he can endure fire and all sorts of cutting and wounding, yet in spite of all these advantages he detests philosophy.” Apollonios said, “What then, Iarchas, is the matter with the youth? For it is a terrible thing you tell me, if one so well adapted by nature to the pursuit refuses to embrace philosophy, and has no love for learning, and that although he lives with you.” “He does not live with us,” replied Iarchas, “but he has been caught like a lion against his will, and confined here, but he looks askance at us when we try to domesticate him and caress him. The truth is this youth was once Palamedes of Troy, and he found his bitterest enemies in Odysseus and Homer. For the one laid an ambush against him of people by whom he was stoned to death, while the other denied him any place in his epic. Because neither the wisdom with which he was endowed was of any use to him, nor did he meet with any praise from Homer. Nevertheless many people of no great importance owe their renown to Homer, and because Palamedes was outwitted by Odysseus in spite of his innocence, he has conceived an aversion to philosophy, and deplores his ill-luck. He is Palamedes, for indeed he can write without having learned his letters.”
[Apollonios formerly an Egyptian sailor in a previous incarnation]
23 While they were conversing in this way, a messenger approached Iarchas and said: “The king will come early in the afternoon to consult you about his own business.” And Iarchas replied: “Let him come, for he too will go away all the better for making acquaintance of a man from Greece.” After this, he went on with his former discourse. He accordingly asked Apollonios the question: “Will you tell us,” he said, “about your earlier incarnation, and who you were before the present life?” And he replied: “Since it was an ignoble episode, I do not remember much of it.” Iarchas therefore took him up and said: “Then you think it ignoble to have been the pilot of an Egyptian vessel, for I perceive that this is what you were?” “What you say,” said Apollonios, “is true, Iarchas. For that is really what I was. But I consider this profession not only inglorious but also detestable, and even though the profession is as valuable to humanity as that of a prince or the leader of an army, nevertheless it bears a negative reputation by the reason of those who follow the sea. At any rate the most noble of the deeds which I performed no one at the time saw fit to praise.” “Well, and what would you claim for yourself in the way of noble achievement? Is it your having doubled the capes of Malea and Sounion, by checking your ship when it was drifting out of its course, and your having discerned so accurately the quarters from which the winds would blow both fore and aft, or you getting your boat past the reefs in the Hollows of Euboia, where any number of ships’ ornamental signs show sticking up?”
24 But Apollonios replied: “Since you tempt me to talk about being a pilot, I would have you hear what I consider to have been my most sound exploit at that time. Sea-bandits (lēstai) at one time infested the Phoenician sea, and were hanging around the cities to pick up information about the cargoes which different people had. The agents of the sea-bandits spied out accordingly a rich cargo which I had on board my ship, and having taken me aside in conversation, asked me what was my share in the freight. I told them that it was a thousand drachmas, for there were four people in command of the ship. ‘And,’ they said, ‘have you a house?’ ‘A wretched hut,’ I replied, ‘on the island of Pharos [above the Egyptian Delta], where once upon a time Proteus used to live.’ ‘Would you like then,’ they went on, ‘to acquire a landed estate instead of the sea, and a decent house instead of your hut, and ten times as much for the cargo as you are going to get now? And to get rid of a thousand misfortunes which beset pilots owing to the roughness of the sea?’ I replied that I would gladly do so, but that I did not aspire to become a sea-bandit just at a time when I had made myself more expert than I ever had been, and had won crowns for my skill in my profession. However, they persevered and promised to give me a purse filled with ten thousand drachmas, if I would be their man and do what they wanted. Accordingly I egged them on to talk by promising not to fail them, but to assist them in every way. Then they admitted that they were agents of the sea-bandits, and asked me not to deprive them of a chance of capturing the ship. Instead of sailing away to the city whenever I weighed anchor there, they arranged that I should cast anchor under the promontory, under the lee of which the sea-bandit ships were riding. They were willing to swear that they would not kill me but also spare the life of any for whom I interceded. I for my part did not consider it safe to reprehend them, for I was afraid that if they were driven to despair, they would attack my ship on the high seas and then we would all be lost somewhere at sea. Accordingly I promised to assist their enterprise, but I insisted upon their taking oath to keep their promise truly. They accordingly made oath, for our interview took place in a temple, and then I said: ‘You yourselves go to the ships of the sea-bandits immediately, for we will sail away by night.’ And they found me all the more plausible from the way I bargained about the money, for I stipulated that it must all be paid me in current cash, though not before they had captured the ship. They therefore went off, but I put straight out to sea after doubling the promontory.” Iarchas said, “This is what you you consider the behavior of a just man, Apollonios?” “Why yes,” said Apollonios, “and of a humane one too! for I consider it was a rare combination of virtues for one who was a mere sailor to refuse to sacrifice men’s lives, or to betray the interests of merchants, so rising superior to all bribes of money.”
[Iarchas on justice]
25 At that point the Indian smiled and said: “You seem to think that mere abstention from injustice constitutes justice, and I am of the opinion that all Greeks do that same thing. For as I once learned from the Egyptians that come here, governors from Rome are in the habit of visiting your country, brandishing their axes naked over your heads, before they know they have bad men to rule or not. But you acknowledge them to be just if they merely do not sell justice. I have heard that the slave merchants over there do exactly the same thing. For when they come to you with convoys of Karian slaves and are anxious to recommend their characters to you, they make it a great merit of the slaves that they do not steal. In the same way do you recommend on such grounds the rulers whose sway you acknowledge, and after decorating them with such praises as you lavish upon slaves, you send them away, objects, as you imagine, of universal admiration. Even more, your most clever poets will not give you leave to be just and good, even if you want to. For here was Minos [legendary king of Krete], a man who exceeded all men in cruelty, and who enslaved with his navies the inhabitants of continent and islands alike. Yet they honour him by placing in his hand a scepter of justice and give him a throne in Hades to be umpire of spirits. While at the same time they deny food and drink to Tantalos, merely because he was a good man and inclined to share with his friends the immortality granted them by the gods. Some of them hang stones over him, and rain insults of a terrible kind upon this divine and good man [in Tartaros in the underworld]. I would much rather that they had represented him as swimming in a lake of nectar, for he regaled men with that drink humanely and ungrudgingly.” And as he spoke he pointed out a statue which stood upon his left hand, on which was inscribed the name “Tantalos”. Now this statue was four cubits high, and represented a man of fifty years who was clad in the fashion of Argolis, though he differed in his cloak, that being like a Thessalian’s, and he held a cup sufficient at least for one thirsty man and drank to your health from it, and in the goblet was a liquor, an unmixed draught which frothed and foamed, though without bubbling over the edge of the cup. Now I will presently explain what they consider this cup to be, and for what reason they drink from it. In any case, however, we must suppose that Tantalos was assailed by the poets for not controlling his tongue, but because he shared the nectar with humankind. But we must not suppose that he was really the victim of the gods’ dislike, for, had he been hateful to them, he would never have been judged by the Indians to be a good man. For Indians are favoured by the gods and never do anything outside of what the god want.
[Arrival of the foolish Indian king]
26 While they were still discussing this topic, they heard loud noises down below in the village, for it seems the king had arrived equipped in the height of Median fashion and full of pomp. Iarchas then, not too well pleased, remarked: “If it were Phraotes who was stopping here, you would find a dead silence prevailing everywhere as if you were attending a mystery.” From this remark Apollonios realized that the king in question was not only inferior to Phraotes in a few details, but in the whole of philosophy. As he saw that the sages did not get themselves ready to make any preparations or provide for the king’s wants, though he was arriving in the middle of the day, he said: “Where is the king going to stay?” “Here,” the sages replied, “for we will discuss by night the objects for which he is come, since that is the best time for taking counsel.” “And will a table be prepared for him when he comes,” said Apollonios. “Why, of course,” they answered, “a rich table too, furnished with everything which this place provides”. “Then,” said Apollonios, “you live richly?” “We,” they answered, “live in a moderate way, for although we might eat as much as we like, we are contented with little. But the king requires a great deal, for that is his pleasure. But he will not eat any living creature, for it is wrong to do that here. He will only eat dried fruits and roots and the seasonable produce of the Indian land at this time of year, and whatever else the new year’s seasons will provide.”
27 He said, “Look, here he is.” And just then the king advanced together with his brother and his son, ablaze with gold and jewels. Apollonios was about to rise and step down, when Iarchas checked him from leaving his throne, and explained to him that it was not their custom for him to do so. Damis himself [in his supposed memoir] says that he was not present on this occasion, because on that day he was staying in the village, but he heard from Apollonios what happened and wrote it in his book. He says then that when they had sat down, the king extended his hand as if in prayer to the sages and they nodded their assent as if they were conceding his request. He was transported with joy at the promise, just as if he had come to the oracle of a god. But the brother of the king and his son, who was a very handsome boy, were not more considered than if they had been the slaves of the others, that were mere retainers. After that the Indian rose from his place, and in a formal speech called on the king to take food, and he accepted the invitation and that most cordially.
At that point, four tripods stepped forth like those of the Pythian Temple, but of their own accord, like those which advanced in Homer’s poem [Iliad 18.375], and upon them were cup-bearers of black brass resembling the figures of Ganymede and of Pelops among the Greeks. The earth lay beneath them grass softer than any mattress. Dried fruits and bread and vegetables and the dessert of the season all came in, served in order, and set before them more agreeably that if cooks and waiters had provided it. Now two of the tripods flowed with wine, but the other two supplied, the one of them a jet of warm water and the other of cold. Now the precious stones imported from India are employed in Greece for necklaces and rings because they are so small, but among the Indians they are turned into decanters and wine coolers, because they are so large, and into goblets of such size that from a single one of them four persons can slake their thirst in the middle of summer. But the cup-bearers of bronze drew a mixture, he says, of wine and water made in due proportions. They pushed cups round, just as they do in drinking bouts. The sages, however, reclined as we do in a common banquet, not that any special honour was paid to the king, although great importance would be attached to him among Greeks and Romans, but each took the first place that he chanced to reach.
28 When the wine had circulated, Iarchas said: “I pledge you to drink the health, O king, of a Greek,” and he pointed to Apollonios, who was reclining just below him, and he made a gesture with his hand to indicate that he was a noble man and divine. But the king said: “I have heard that he and the persons who are stopping in the village belong to Phraotes [i.e. The rival king of a nearby district].” “Quite, right,” he answered, “and true is what you heard: for it is Phraotes who entertains him here also.” “What,” asked the king, “is his mode of life and pursuit?” “Why, what else,” replied Iarchas, “except that of that king himself?” “It is no great compliment you have paid him,” answered the king, “by saying that he has embraced a mode of life which has denied even to Phraotes the chance of being a noble man.” At that point, Iarchas remarked: “You must judge more reasonably, O king, both about philosophy and about Phraotes: for as long as you were a stripling, your youth excused in you such extravagances. But now that you have already reached man’s estate, let us avoid foolish and facile utterances.”
But Apollonios, who found an interpreter in Iarchas said: “And what have you gained, O king, by refusing to be a philosopher?” “What have I gained? Why, the whole of virtue and the identification of myself with the Sun.” Then the other, by way of checking his pride and muzzling him, said: “If you were a philosopher, you would not entertain such fancies.” “And you,” replied the king, “since you are a philosopher, what is your fancy about yourself, my fine fellow?” “That I may pass,” replied Apollonios, “for being a good man, if only I can be a philosopher.” At that point, the king stretched out his hand to heaven and exclaimed: “By the Sun, you come here full of Phraotes.” But the other hailed this remark as a godsend, and catching him up said: “I have not taken this long journey in vain, if I have become full of Phraotes. But if you should meet him presently, you will certainly say that he is full of me. He wished to write to you in my behalf, but since he declared that you were a good man, I begged him not to take the trouble of writing, seeing that in his case no one sent a letter commending me.”
29 This put a stop to the incipient folly of the king for having heard that he himself was praised by Phraotes, he not only dropped his suspicions, but lowering his tone he said: “Welcome, goodly stranger.” But Apollonios answered: “And my welcome to you also, O king, for you appear to have only just arrived.” “And who,” asked the other, “attracted you to us?” “These gentlemen here, who are both gods and wise men.” “And about myself, O stranger.” The king said, “what is said among Greeks?” Apollonios replied, “Why, as much, as is said about the Greeks here.” “As for myself, I find nothing in the Greeks,” said the king, “that is worth speaking of.” “I will tell them that,” said Apollonios, “and they will crown you at Olympia.”
30 Stooping towards Iarchas he said: “Let him go on like a drunkard, but do you tell me why do you not invite to the same table as yourself, nor hold worthy of other recognition those who accompany this man, though they are his brother and son, as you tell me?” “Because,” said Iarchas,” they reckon to be kings one day themselves, and by being made themselves to suffer disdain they must be taught not to disdain others.”
Remarking that the sages were eighteen in number, Apollonios again asked Iarchas what was the meaning of their being just so many and no more. “For,” he said, “the number eighteen is not a square number, nor is it one of the numbers held in esteem and honour, as are the numbers ten and twelve and sixteen and so forth.” At that point, the Indian took him up and said: “Neither are we beholden to number nor number to us, but we owe our superior honour to wisdom and virtue. Sometimes we are more in number than we now are, and sometimes fewer. Indeed I have heard that when my grandfather was enrolled among these wise men, the youngest of them all, they were seventy in number but when he reached his 130th year, he was left here all alone, because not one of them survived him at that time, nor was there to be found anywhere in India a nature that was either philosophic or noble. The Egyptians accordingly wrote and congratulated him warmly on being left alone for four years in his tenure of this throne, but he begged them to cease reproaching the Indians for the paucity of their sages.
Now we, O Apollonios, have heard from the Egyptians of the custom of the Eleans, and that the Hellanodikai, who preside over the Olympic games, are ten in number. But we do not approve of the rule imposed in the case of these men. For they leave the choice of them to the lot, and the lot has no discernment, for a worse man might be as easily chosen by lot as a better one. On the other hand would they not make a mistake. If they had made merit the qualification and chosen them by vote? Yes, a parallel one, for if you are on no account to exceed the number ten, there may more than ten just men, and you will deprive some of the rank which their merits entitle them to, while if on the other hand there are not so many as ten, then none will be thought to be really qualified. Therefore the Eleans would be much wiser-minded if they allowed the number to fluctuate, merely preserving the same standard of justice.”
[King’s derogatory view of Greeks in connection with Xerxes]
31 While they were conversing in this way, the king kept trying to interrupt them, constantly breaking off their every sentence by his silly and ignorant remarks. He accordingly again asked them what they were conversing about, and Apollonios replied: “We are discussing matters important and held in great repute among the Greeks. Though you would think of them but slightly, for you say that you detest everything Greek.” “I do certainly detest them,” he said, “but nevertheless I want to hear. For I imagine you are talking about those Athenians, the slaves of Xerxes.” But Apollonios replied: “No we are discussing other things. But since you have alluded to the Athenians in a manner both absurd and false, answer me this question: Have you, O king, any slaves?” “Twenty thousand,” said the other, “and not a single one of them did I buy myself, but they were all born in my household.” At that point, Apollonios, using Iarchas as his interpreter, asked him again whether he was in the habit of running away from his slaves or his slaves from him. The king by way of insult answered him: “Your very question is worthy of a slave. Nevertheless I will answer it: a man who runs away is not only a slave but a bad one as well, and his master would never run away from him, when he can if he likes both torture and card him.” “In that case,” said Apollonios, “O king, Xerxes has been proved out of your mouth to have been a slave of the Athenians, and like a bad slave to have run away from them. For when he was defeated by them in the naval action in the Straits, he was so anxious about his bridge of boats over the Hellespont that he fled in a single ship.” “Yes, but he anyhow burned Athens with his own hands,” said the king. Apollonios answered: “And for that act of audacity, O king, he was punished as never yet was any other man. For he had to run away from those whom he imagined he had destroyed. When I contemplate the ambitions with which Xerxes set out on his campaign I can conceive that some were justified in exalting him and saying that he was Zeus. But when I contemplate his flight, I arrive at the conviction that he was the most unlucky of men. For if he had fallen at the hands of the Greeks, no one would have earned a brighter fame than he. For to whom would the Greeks have raised and dedicated a loftier tomb? What jousts of armed men, what contests of musicians would not have been instituted in honour of him? For, if men like Melikertes Palaimon [legendary Boiotian prince] and Pelops the Lydian immigrant [legendary king of Piso in the Peloponessos] – the former of whom died in childhood at the breast, while Pelops enslaved Arkadia and Argolis and the land within the Isthmus – were commemorated by the Greeks as gods, what would not have been done for Xerxes by men who are by nature more enthusiastic admirers of the virtues, and who consider that they praise themselves in praising those whom they have defeated?”
[Egyptian negative stories about Greeks]
32 These words of Apollonios caused the king to burst into tears, and he said: “Dearest friend, in what an heroic light do you represent these Greeks to me.” “Why then, O king, were you so hard on them?” “The visitors who come here from Egypt, O guest,” replied the king, “malign the descent group (genos) of Greeks, and while declaring that they themselves are holy men and wise, and the true law-givers who fixed all the sacrifices and rites of initiation which are in style among the Greeks, they deny to the latter any and every sort of good quality, declaring them to be ruffians, and a mixed herd addicted to every sort of anarchy, and lovers of legend and miracle mongers, and though indeed poor, yet making their poverty not a title of dignity, but a mere excuse for stealing. But now that I have heard this from you and understand how fond of honour and how worthy the Greeks are, I am reconciled for the future to them and I engage both that they will have my praise and that I will pray all I can for them, and will never set trust in another Egyptian.” But Iarchas remarked: “I too, O king, was aware that your mind had been poisoned by these Egyptians. But I would not take the part of the Greeks until you met some such counselor as this. But since you have been put right by a wise man, let us now proceed to quaff the good cheer provided by Tantalos, and let us sleep over the serious issues which we have to discuss tonight. But at another time I will fill you full with Greek arguments, and no other descent group is so rich in them. You will delight in them whenever you come here.” And right away he set an example to this fellow guests, by stooping the first of them all to the goblet which indeed furnished an ample drink for everyone. For the stream refilled itself plenteously, as if with spring waters welling up from the ground. Apollonios also drank, for this cup is instituted by the Indians as a cup of friendship. They pretend that Tantalos is the wine-bearer who supplies it, because he is considered to have been the most friendly of men.
33 When they had drunk, the earth received them on the couches which she had spread for them. But when it was midnight they rose up and first they sang a hymn to the ray of light, suspended in the air as they had been in the middle of the day. Then they attended the king, as much as he desired. Damis, however, says that Apollonios was not present at the king’s conversation with them, because he thought that the interview had to do with secrets about ruling. Having then at daybreak offered his sacrifice, the king approached Apollonios and offered him the hospitality of his palace, declaring that he would send him back to Greece an object of envy to all. But he commended him for his kindness, nevertheless he excused himself from inflicting himself upon one with whom he was on no sort of equality. Moreover, he said that he had been longer abroad than he liked, and that he was concerned to give his friends at home cause to think they were being neglected. The king at that point said that he entreated him, and assumed such an undignified attitude in urging his request, that Apollonios said: “A king who insists upon his request in such terms at the expense of his dignity, is laying a trap.” At that point, Iarchas intervened and said: “You offend this sacred abode by trying to drag away from it a man against his will, O king. Moreover, being one of those who can read the future, he is aware that his staying with you would not conduce to his own good, and would probably not be in any way profitable to yourself.”
[Conversation between Apollonios and Iarchas on the elements of the cosmos and other questions of physics]
34 The king accordingly went down into the village, for the law of the sages did not allow a king to be with them more than one day. But Iarchas said to the messenger: “We admit Damis also here to our mysteries. So let him come, but do you look after the rest of them in the village.” And when Damis arrived, they sat down together, as they were accustomed to do, and they allowed Apollonios to ask questions. He asked them of what they thought the cosmos was composed. But they replied: “Of elements.” “Are there then four?” he asked. “Not four,” said Iarchas, “but five.” “And how can there be a fifth,” said Apollonios, “alongside of water and air and earth and fire?” “There is the ether,” replied the other, “which we must regard as the stuff of which gods are made. For just as all mortal creatures inhale the air, so do immortal and divine natures inhale the ether.” Apollonios again asked which of the elements came first into being, and Iarchas answered: “All are simultaneous, for a living creature is not born bit by bit.” “Am I,” said Apollonios, “to regard the universe as a living creature?” “Yes,” said the other, “if you have a sound knowledge of it, for it engenders all living things.” “Will I then,” said Apollonios, “call the universe female, or of both the male and the opposite gender?” “Of both genders,” said the other, “for by commerce with itself it fulfills the role both of mother and father in bringing forth living creatures. It is possessed by a love for itself more intense than any separate being has for its fellow, a passion which knits it together into harmony. It is not illogical to suppose that it cleaves unto itself. For as the movement of an animal dictates the function of its hands and feet, in co-operation with a soul in it by which it is set in motion, so we must regard the parts of the universe also as adapting themselves through its inherent soul to all creatures which are brought forth or conceived. For example, the sufferings so often caused by drought are visited on us in accordance with the soul of the universe, whenever justice has fallen into disrepute and is disowned by men. This animal shepherds itself not with a single hand only, but with many mysterious ones, which it has at its disposal. Though from its immense size it is controlled by no other, yet it moves obediently to the rein and is easily guided.
35 The subject is so vast and so far transcends our mental powers, that I do not know any example adequate to illustrate it. But we will take that of a ship, such as the Egyptians construct for our seas and launch for the exchange of Egyptian goods against Indian wares. For there is an ancient law in regard to the Erythraian sea [Red Sea and Arabian Sea], which the king Erythras laid down when he held sway over that sea. This law was to the effect that the Egyptians should not enter that sea with a vessel of war, and indeed should employ only a single merchant ship. This regulation obliged the Egyptians to contrive a ship equivalent to several at once of those which other peopless have. They ribbed the sides of this ship with bolts such as hold a ship together, and they raised its bulwarks and its mast to a great height, and they constructed several compartments, such as are built upon the timber balks which run across a ship, and they set several pilots in this boat and subordinated them to the oldest and wisest of their number, to conduct the voyage. There were several officers on the prow and excellent and handy sailors to man the sails. In the crew of this ship there was a detachment of armed men, for it is necessary to equip the ship and protect it against the savages of the Gulf that live on the right hand as you enter it, in case they should ever attack and plunder it on the high seas. Let us apply this imagery to the universe, and regard it in the light of a naval construction. For then you must apportion the first and supreme position to god the begetter of this animal, and subordinate posts to the gods who govern its parts. We may well assent to the statements of the poets, when they say that there are many gods in heaven and many in the sea, and many in the fountains and streams, and many round about the earth, and that there are some even under the earth. But we will do well to separate from the universe the region under the earth, if there is one, because the poets represent it as an abode of terror and corruption.”
[Praising the wisdom of the Indian sage]
36 As the Indian concluded this discourse, Damis says that he was transported with admiration and applauded loudly. For he could never have thought that a native of India could show such mastery of the Greek language, nor even that, supposing he understood that language, he could have used it with so much ease and elegance. He praises the look and smile of Iarchas, and the inspired air with which he expressed his ideas, admitting that Apollonios, although he had a delivery as graceful as it was free from bombast, nevertheless gained a great deal by contact with this Indian, and he says that whenever he sat down to discuss a theme, as he very often did, he resembled Iarchas.
37 The rest of the company praised the contents of Iarchas’ speech as much as the tone in which he spoke, Apollonios resumed by asking him which they considered the bigger, the sea or the land. Iarchas replied: “If the land is compared with the sea it will be found to be bigger, for it includes the sea in itself. But if it be considered in relation to the entire mass of water, we can show that the earth is the lesser of the two, for it is upheld by the water.”
[Indian sage assists or heals various people brought to him]
38 This discussion was interrupted by the appearance among the sages of the messenger bringing in certain Indians who needed help. He brought forward a poor woman who interceded in behalf of her child, who was, she said, a boy of sixteen years of age, but had been for two years possessed by a spirit (daimonion). Now the character of the spirit was that of a mocker and a liar. Here one of the sages asked, why she said this, and she replied: “This child of mine is extremely good-looking, and therefore the spirit is amorous of him and will not allow him to retain his reason, nor will he permit him to go to school, or to learn archery, nor even to remain at home, but drives him out into desert places. The boy does not even retain his own voice, but speaks in a deep hollow tone, as men do. He looks at you with other eyes rather than with his own. As for myself I weep over all this and I tear my cheeks, and I rebuke my son as much as is possible. But he does not know me. I made my mind to come here. In fact, I planned to do so a year ago.
Only the spirit discovered himself using my child as a mask, and what he told me was this, that he was the ghost of man, who fell long ago in battle, but that at death he was passionately attached to his wife. Now he had been dead for only three days when his wife insulted their union by marrying another man, and the consequence was that he had come to detest the love of women, and had transferred himself completely into this boy. But he promised, if I would only not denounce him to yourselves, to endow the child with many noble blessings. As for myself, I was influenced by these promises. But he has put me off and off for such a long time now, that he has got complete control of my household, yet has no honest or true intentions.” Here the sage asked again if the boy was at hand. She said not, for, although she had done all she could to get him to come with her, the spirit had threatened her with steep places and precipices and declared that he would kill her son if I brought him here assesssment.” “Take courage,” said the sage, “for he will not slay him when he has read this.” And so saying he drew a letter out of his bosom and gave it to the woman. The letter, it appears, was addressed to the ghost and contained threats of an alarming kind.
39 There also arrived a man who was lame. He was already thirty years old and was a keen hunter of lions. But a lion had sprung upon him and dislocated his hip so that he limped with one leg. However when they massaged with their hands his hip, the youth immediately recovered his upright gait. Another man had had his eyes put out, and he went away having recovered the sight of both of them. Yet another man had his hand paralyzed. But left their presence in full possession of the limb. A certain woman had suffered in labour already seven times, but was healed in the following way through the intercession of her husband. He instructed the man, whenever his wife should be about to bring forth her next child, to enter her room carrying in his bosom a live hare. Then he was to walk once round her and at the same moment to release the hare. For that the womb would be extruded together with the fetus, unless the hare was at once driven out.
40 Again a certain man who was a father said that he had had several sons, but that they had died the moment they began to drink wine. Iarchas took him up and said: “Yes, and it is just as well they did die. For they would inevitably have gone mad, having inherited, as it appears, from their parents too warm a temperament. Your children,” he added, “must therefore abstain from wine, but in order that they may be never led even to desire wine, supposing you should have another boy, and I perceive you had one only six days ago, you must carefully watch the hen owl and find where it builds its nest. Then you must snatch its eggs and give them to the child to chew after boiling them properly. For if it is fed upon these, before it tastes wine, a distaste for wine will be bred in it, and it will keep sober by your excluding from its temperament any but natural warmth.”
With such wisdom as this then they filled themselves, and they were astonished at the many-sided wisdom of the company, and day after day they asked all sorts of questions, and were themselves asked many in turn.
[Apollonios engages in secret conversations with the sages and later writes books]
41 Both Apollonios and Damis then took part in the interviews devoted to abstract discussions, but not together in the conversations devoted to secret themes. These were discussion in which the sages pondered the nature of astronomy or divination, considered the problem of foreknowledge, and handled the problems of sacrifice and of the invocations in which the gods take pleasure. In these Damis says that Apollonios alone participated in the philosophic discussion together with Iarchas, and that Apollonios embodied the results in four books concerning the divination by the stars, a work which Moeragenes has mentioned. Damis says that he composed a work on the way to offer sacrifice to the several gods in a manner pleasing to them. Not only then do I regard the work on the stars and the whole subject of such divination as transcending human nature, but I do not even know if anyone has these gifts. But I found the treatise on sacrifices in several cities, and in the houses of several learned men. Moreover, if anyone should translate it, he would find it to be an important and dignified composition, and one that rings of the author’s personality. Damis says that Iarchas gave seven rings to Apollonios named after the seven stars, and that Apollonios wore each of these in turn on the day of the week which bore its name.
42 As to the subject of foreknowledge, they presently had a talk about it, for Apollonios was devoted to this kind of wisdom, and turned most of their conversations on to it. For this Iarchas praised him and said: “My good friend Apollonios, those who take pleasure in divination are rendered divine by it and contribute to the salvation of humankind. For here we have discoveries which we must go to a divine oracle in order to make. Yet these, my good friend, we foresee of our unaided selves and foretell to others things which they know not yet. This I regard as the gift of one thoroughly blessed and endowed with the same mysterious power as the Delphic Apollo. Now the ritual insists that those who visit a shrine with a view to obtaining a response, must purify themselves first, otherwise they will be told to “depart from the temple.” Consequently I consider that one who would foresee events must be healthy in himself, and must not have his soul stained with any sort of defilement nor his character scarred with the wounds of any errors. So he will pronounce his predictions with purity, because he will understand himself and the sacred tripod in his breast, and with ever louder and clearer tone and truer import will he utter his oracles. Therefore you need not be surprised, if you comprehend the knowledge, seeing that you carry in your soul so much ether.”
[Discussion on divination]
43 With these words he turned to Damis and said playfully: “And you, O Assyrian, have you no foreknowledge of anything, especially as you associate with such a man as this?” “Yes, by Zeus,” answered Damis, “at any rate of the things that are necessary for myself. For when I first met with Apollonios here, he at once struck me as full of wisdom, cleverness and sobriety and of true endurance. But when I saw that he also had a good memory, and that he was very learned and entirely devoted to the love of learning, he became to me something superhuman. I came to the conclusion that if I stuck with him I should be held a wise man instead of an ignorant and stupid person, and an educated man instead of a savage. I saw that, if I followed him and shared his pursuits, I should visit the Indians and visit you, and that I should be turned into a Greek by him and be able to mix with the Greeks. Now of course you set your oracles, as they concern important issues, on a level with those of Delphi and Dodona and of any other shrine you like. As for my own premonitions, since Damis is the person who has them, and since his foreknowledge concerns himself alone, we will suppose that they resemble the guesses of an old beggar wife foretelling what will happen to sheep and such like.”
44 All the sages laughed of course at this joke. When their laughter had subsided, Iarchas led back the argument to the subject of divination, and among the many blessings which that art had conferred upon humankind, he declared the gift of healing to be the most important. “For,” said he, “the wise sons of Asklepios would have never attained to this branch of knowledge, if Asklepios had not been the son of Apollo. As such had not in accordance with the latter’s responses and oracles concocted and adapted different drugs to different diseases. These he not only handed on to his own sons, but he taught his companions what herbs must be applied to running wounds, and what to parched and dry wounds, and in what doses to administer liquid drugs for drinking, by means of which dropsical patients are drained and bleeding is checked, and diseases of decay and the cavities due to their ravages are put an end to. Who,” he said, “can deprive the art of divination of the credit of discovering medicinal agents which heal the bites of venomous creatures, and in particular of using the virus itself as a cure for many diseases? For I do not think that men without the forecasts of a prophetic wisdom would ever have ventured to mingle with medicines that save life these most deadly of poisons.”
[Discussions about Indian marvels, animals, and people]
45 Inasmuch as the following conversation also has been recorded by Damis as having been held upon this occasion with regard to the mythological animals, fountains and people encountered in India, I must not leave it out, for there is much to be gained by neither believing nor yet disbelieving everything. Accordingly Apollonios asked the question, whether there was there an animal called the man-eater (martichoras [tiger]). Iarchas replied: “And what have you heard about the make of this animal? For it is probable that there is some account given of its shape.” “There are,” replied Apollonios, “tall stories current which I cannot believe. For they say that the creature has four feet, and that his head resembles that of a man, but that in size it is comparable to a lion. While the tail of this animal puts out hairs a cubit long and sharp as thorns, which it shoots like arrows at those who hunt it.” Apollonios further asked about the golden water which they say bubbles up from a spring, and about the stone which behaves like a magnet, and about the men who live underground and the pygmies also and the shadow-footed men. Iarchas answered his questions in this way: “What have I to tell you about animals or plants or fountains which you have seen yourself on coming here? For by this time you are as competent to describe these to other people as I am. But I never yet heard in this country of an animal that shoots arrows or of springs of golden water.”
46 However about the stone which attracts and binds to itself other stones you must not be skeptical. For you can see the stone yourself if you like, and admire its properties. For the greatest specimen is exactly of the size of this finger nail,” and here he pointed to his own thumb. “It is conceived in a hollow in the earth at a depth of four fathoms. But it is so highly endowed with spirit, that the earth swells and breaks open in many places when the stone is conceived in it. But no one can get hold of it, for it runs away, unless it is carefully attracted. But we alone can secure, partly by performance of certain rites and partly by certain forms of words, this pantarbe, for such is the name given to it. Now in the night-time it glows like the day just as fire might, for it is red and gives out rays. If you look at it in the daytime it smites your eyes with a thousand glints and gleams. The light within it is a spirit of mysterious power, for it absorbs to itself everything in its neighborhood. Why do I say in its neighborhood? Why you can sink anywhere in river or in sea as many stones as you like, and these not even near to one another, but here there. Everywhere. Then if you let down this stone among them by a string it gathers them all together by the diffusion of its spirit, and the stones yield to its influence and cling to it in bunch, like a swarm of bees.” 47 After saying this, he showed the stone itself and all that it was capable of effecting.
As to the pygmies, he said that they lived underground, and that they lay on the other side of the Ganges and lived in the manner which is related by everyone. As to men that are shadow-footed or have long heads, and as to the other poetical fancies which the treatise of Skylax [link] recounts about them, he said that they didn’t live anywhere on the earth, and least of all in India.
48 As to the gold which the griffins dig up, there are rocks which are spotted with drops of gold as with sparks, which this creature can quarry because of the strength of its beak. “For these animals do exist in India,” he said, “and are held in veneration as being sacred to the Sun. The Indian artists, when they represent the Sun, yoke four of them across to draw the imaged car. In size and strength they resemble lions but having this advantage over them that they have wings, they will attack them, and they get the better of elephants and of dragons. But they have no great power of flying, not more than have birds of short flight. For they are not winged as is proper with birds, but the palms of their feet are webbed with red membranes, such that they are able to revolve them, and make a flight and fight in the air. The tiger alone is beyond their powers of attack, because in swiftness it rivals the winds.”
49 “And the phoenix,” he said, “is the bird which visits Egypt every five hundred years, but the rest of that time it flies around in India. It is unique in that it gives out rays of sunlight and shines with gold, in size and appearance like an eagle. It sits upon the nest. Which is made by it at the springs of the Nile out of spices. The story of the Egyptians about it, that it comes to Egypt, is testified to by the Indians also, but the latter add this touch to the story, that the phoenix which is being consumed in its nest sings funeral strains for itself. This is also done by the swans according to the account of those who have the wit to hear them.”
[Apollonios departs from the sages and writes a letter back to them]
50 In such conversations with the sages Apollonios spent the four months which he passed there, and he acquired all sorts of knowledge both open and secret. But when Apollonios decided to go on his way, the sages persuaded him to send back to Phraotes with a letter, his guide, and the camels. They themselves gave him another guide and camels, and sent him on his way, congratulating both themselves and him. Having embraced Apollonios and declared that he would be considered a god by many, not merely after his death, but while he was still alive, they turned back to their place of meditation, though repeatedly and right away they turned towards him, and showed by their action that they were parting from him against their will. Keeping the Ganges river on his right hand but the Hyphasis river on his left, Apollonios went down towards the sea a journey of ten days from the sacred ridge. As they went down they saw a great many ostriches, wild bulls, asses, lions, leopards and tigers, and another kind of apes than those which inhabit the pepper trees, for these were black and bushy-haired and were dog-like in features and as big as small men. In the usual discussion of what they saw they reached the sea, where small factories had been built, and passenger ships rode in them resembling those of the Tyrrhenians. They say that the sea called Erythra or “red” is of a deep blue colour, but that it was so named from a king Erythras, who gave his own name to the sea in question.
51 Having reached this point, Apollonios sent back the camels to Iarchas together with the following letter:
“Apollonios to Iarchas and the other sages, greeting. I came to you on foot, and yet you presented me with the sea. But by sharing with me the wisdom which is yours, you have made it mine even to travel through the heavens. All this I will mention to the Greeks. I will communicate my words to you as if you were present, unless I have in vain drunk the drink of Tantalos. Farewell, you good philosophers.”
52 He then embarked upon the ship and was carried away by a smooth and favourable breeze, and he was struck at the formidable manner in which the Hyphasis discharges itself into the sea at its mouth. For in its later course, as I said before, it falls into rocky and narrow places and over precipices, and breaking its way through these to the sea by a single mouth, presents a formidable danger to those who hug the land too closely.
[Marvels, places, and peoples encountered on the journey]
53 They say, moreover, that they saw the mouth of the Indus, and that there was situated on it the city of Patala, round which the Indus flows. It was to this city that the fleet of Alexander came, under the command of Nearchos, a highly trained naval captain. But as for the stories of Orthagoras about the sea called Erythra, to the effect that the constellation of the bear is not to be seen in it, and that the mariners cast no reckoning at mid-day, and that the visible stars there vary from their usual positions, this account is endorsed by Damis. We must consider it to be sound and based on local observations of the heavens. They also mention a small island, of the name of Biblos, in which there is the large cockle, and where there are mussels, oysters and similar organisms clinging to the rocks and ten times as big as those which we find in Greece. There is also taken in this region a stone, the pearl in a white shell, wherein it occupies the place of the heart of the oyster.
54 They say they also touched at Pegadai in the country of the Oreitians. As for these people, they have rocks of bronze and sand of bronze, and the dust which the rivers bring down is of bronze. But they regard their land as full of gold because the bronze is of such high quality. 55 They also say that they came across the people called the Fish-Eaters (Ithyophagiai), whose city is Stobera. They clothe themselves in the skins of very large fishes, and the cattle there look like fish and eat extraordinary things. For the shepherds feed them upon fish, just as in Karia the flocks are fed on figs. But the Indians of Carman are a gentle descent group (genos), who live on the edge of a sea so well stocked with fish, that they neither lay them in by stores, nor salt them as is done in Pontos [the Black Sea area], but they just sell a few of them and throw back most they catch panting into the sea.
56 They say that they also touched at Balara, which is a trading-centre full of myrtles and date palms. They also saw laurels, and the place was well watered by springs. There were kitchen gardens there, as well as flower gardens, all growing luxuriantly, and the harbors there were entirely calm. But nearby there lies a sacred island, which was called Selera, and the passage to it from the mainland was a hundred stades long. Now in this island there lived a Nereid, a dreadful female spirit, which would snatch away many mariners and would not even allow ships to fasten a cable to the island.
57 It is just as well not to omit the story of the other kind of pearl: since even Apollonios did not regard it as puerile, and it is anyhow a pretty invention, and there is nothing in the records of sea fishing so remarkable. For on the side of the island which is turned towards the open sea, the bottom is of great depth, and produces an oyster in a white sheath full of fat, for it does not produce any jewel. The inhabitants watch for a calm day, or they themselves render the sea smooth, and this they do by flooding it with oil. Then a man plunges in in order to hunt the oyster in question, and he is in other aspects equipped like those who cut off the sponges from the rocks, but he carries in addition an oblong iron block and an alabaster case of myrrh. The Indian then stops alongside of the oyster and holds out the myrrh before him as a bait. At that point, the oyster opens and drinks itself drunk upon the myrrh. Then its pierced with a long pin and discharges a peculiar liquid called ichor, which the man catches in the iron block which is hollowed out in regular holes. The liquid so obtained petrifies in regular shapes, just like the natural pearl, and it is a white blood furnished by the Erythraian sea [Red Sea or Persian gulf]. They say that the Arabs also who live on the opposite coast devote themselves to catching these creatures. From this point on they found the entire sea full of sharks, and whales gathered there in schools. The ships, they say, in order to keep off these animals, carry bells at the bow and at the stern, the sound of which frightens away these creatures and prevents them from approaching the ships.
58 When they sailed as far as the mouth of the Euphrates, they say they sailed up by it to Babylon to see Vardanes, whom they found just as they had found him before. They then came again to Nineveh [former capital of Assyria], and as the people of Antioch displayed their customary insolence and took no interest in any affairs of the Greeks, they went down to the sea at Seleukeia, and finding a ship, they sailed to Kypros and landed at Paphos, where there is the statue of Aphrodite. Apollonios marveled at the symbolic construction of the statue, and gave the priests instruction with regard to the ritual of the temple. He then sailed to Ionia, where he excited much admiration and no little admiration among all lovers of wisdom.
1 When they saw our sage in Ionia and he had arrived in Ephesos, even the craftsmen would not remain at their work, but followed him, one admiring his wisdom, another his beauty, another his way of life, another his bearing, some of them absolutely everything about him. . . [adventures in Ionia omitted].
[Description of Ethiopia with comparison to India]
1 Ethiopia covers the western wing of the entire earth under the sun, just as India does the eastern wing. At Meroe it adjoins Egypt and, after skirting a part of unknown Libya, it ends at the sea which the poets call by the name of the Ocean, that being the name they applied to the mass of water which surrounds the earth. This country supplies Egypt with the river Nile, which takes its rise at the cataracts, and brings down from Ethiopia to all of Egypt the soil of which in flood-time it inundates. Now in size this country is not worthy of comparison with India, not for that matter is any of the continents that are famous among men. Even if you put together all Egypt with Ethiopia, and we may regard the river as so combining the two, we should not compare the two together with India, because of how vast is the standard of comparison. However their respective rivers, the Indus and the Nile, resemble one another, if we consider their creatures. For they both spread their moisture over the land in the summer season, when the earth most wants it. Unlike all other rivers they produced the crocodile and the river-horse. The rites (orgia) celebrated in relation to these rivers correspond with one another, for many of the invocations of the gods among the Indians are repeated in the case of the Nile. We have a proof of the similarity of the two countries in the spices which are found in them, as well as in the fact that the lion and the elephant are captured and confined in both the one and the other. They are also the haunts of animals not found elsewhere, and of black men (anthropoi melanes), a feature not found in other continents. In both cases we encounter pygmies [i.e. supposed people measuring a pygmos, from the hand to the elbow] and peoples who bark in various ways instead of talking and other similar wonders (thaumata). The griffins of the Indians and the ants of the Ethiopians, though they are dissimilar in form, from what we hear they play similar parts. For in each country they are the guardians of gold, and devoted to the gold reefs of the two countries. But we will not pursue these subjects. For we must resume the course of our history and follow in the sage’s footsteps.
[Apollonios arrives at Ethiopia, and witnesses trading customs]
2 For when he arrived at the boundaries of the Ethiopians and the Egyptians, and the name of the place is Sykaminos [modern el-Maharraqa], he came across a quantity of uncoined gold, linen, an elephant, various roots, myrrh and spices, which are all lying without anyone to watch them at the crossways. I will explain the meaning of this, for the same custom still survives among ourselves. It was a market place to which the Ethiopians bring all the products of their country. The Egyptians in their turn take them all away and bring to the same spot their own wares of equal value, so bartering what they have got for what they have not.
Now those living at the boundaries are not completely black but they have a complexion as though they are of the same tribe, for they are less black than Ethiopians and more black than Egyptians. Apollonios, accordingly, when he realized the character of the market, remarked: “Contrast our good Greeks: they pretend they cannot live unless one obol [smallest amoung of money] creates another and unless they can force up the price of their goods by bartering or holding them back. One pretends that he has got a daughter whom it is time to marry; another pretends that he has got a son who has just reached manhood; a third that he has to pay into his contribution-society (eranos); a fourth that he is having a house built for him; and, a fifth that he would be ashamed of being thought a worse man of business than his father was before him. What a splendid thing then it would be, if wealth were held in less honour and equality flourished a little more and if the black iron were left to rust in the ground, for all men would agree with one another, and the whole earth would be like one brotherhood.”
3 With such conversations, the occasions providing as usual the topics he talked about, he turned his steps towards Memnon. An Egyptian [named Timasion] showed them the way. . . [material omitted]. 4 Under his guidance, they say, they went on to the sacred enclosure of Memnon. . . [material omitted]. They accordingly offered a sacrifice to the Sun of Ethiopia and to Memnon of the Dawn, for this the priests recommended them to do, explaining that one name was derived from the words signifying “to burn and be warm” and the other from his mother. Having done this they set out upon camels for the home of the Naked Ones (gymnoi) [i.e. Naked sages or philosophers].
[Naked Ones not so wise, according to Apollonios]
5 On the way they met a man wearing the garb of the inhabitants of Memphis, but who was wandering about rather than wending his steps to a fixed point. So Damis asked him who he was and why he was roving about like that. But Timasion said: “You had better ask me, and not him. For he will never tell you what is the matter with him, because he is ashamed of the plight in which he finds himself. But as for me, I know the poor man and pity him, and I will tell you all about him. For he has slain unwittingly a certain inhabitant of Memphis, and the laws of Memphis prescribe that a person exiled for an involuntary offense of this kind – with the penalty as exile – should remain with the Naked Ones until he has washed away the guilt of bloodshed. Then he may return home as soon as he is pure, though he must first go to the tomb of the slain man and sacrifice there some trifling victim. Now until he has been received by the Naked Ones, so long he must roam around these boundaries, until they take pity upon him as if he were a suppliant.” Apollonios therefore put the question to Timasion: “What do the Naked Ones think of this particular exile?” Timasion [the Egyptian guide] answered: “I do not know anything more than that this is the seventh month that he has remained here as a suppliant, and that he has not yet obtained redemption.” Apollonios said, “You wouldn’t call men wise who refuse to purify him and are not aware that Philiskos whom he slew was a descendant of Thamous the Egyptian, who long ago laid waste the country of these Naked Ones.” At that, Timasion said in surprise: “What do you mean?” Apollonios said, “my good youth, I mean what was actually the fact. For this Thamous once on a time was intriguing against the inhabitants of Memphis, and these Naked Ones detected his plot and prevented him. He having failed in his enterprise retaliated by laying waste all the land upon which they live, for by his banditry he tyrannized the country around Memphis. I perceive that Philiskkos whom this man slew was the thirteenth in descent from this Thamous, and was obviously cursed to those whose country the latter so thoroughly ravaged at the time in question. Where then is their wisdom? Here is a man that they should crown, even if he had slain the other intentionally. Yet they refuse to purge him of a murder which he committed involuntarily on their behalf.” The youth then was astounded and said: “Stranger, who are you?” Apollonios replied: “He whom you will find among these Naked Ones. But since it is not at all considered holy for me to address one who is stained with blood, I would ask you, my good boy, to encourage him, and tell him that he will at once be purged of guilt, if he will come to the place where I am lodging.” When the man in question came, Apollonios went through the rites over him which Empedokles [who was influenced by Pythagoras] and Pythagoras prescribe for the purification of such offenses, and told him to return home, for that he was now pure of guilt.
[Naked Ones described – wiser than Egyptians and less wise than Indians]
6 From there they rode out at sunrise and arrived before the middle of the day at the academy of the Naked Ones, who live upon a moderate-sized hill a little way from the bank of the Nile, they report. With regard to wisdom, they fall short of the Indians more than they excel the Egyptians. They wear next to no clothes in the same way as people do at Athens in the heat of summer. In their district there are few trees, and a certain grove of no great size to which they resort when they meet for the transaction of common affairs. But they do not build their shrines in one and the same place, as Indian shrines are built. Rather, one is in one part of the hill and another in another, all worthy of observation, according to the accounts of the Egyptians. The Nile is the chief object of their worship, for they regard this river as land and water at once. They have no need, however, for a hut or dwelling, because they live in the open air directly under the heaven itself, but they have built lodging to accommodate visitors, and it is a portico of no great size, about equal in length to those of Elis, beneath which the athletes await the sound of the trumpet in the middle of the day.
[Euphrates and Thrasyboulos’ plan to foil Apollonios’ visit]
7 At this place Damis records an action of Euphrates, which if we do not regard it as juvenile, was anyhow unworthy of the dignity of philosophy. Euphrates had heard Apollonios often say that he wished to compare the wisdom of India with that of Egypt, so he sent up to the Naked Ones one Thrasyboulos, a native of Naukratis, to damage our sage’s character. Thrasyboulos at the same time that he pretended to have come there in order to enjoy their society, told them that the sage of Tyana would presently arrive, and that they would have considerable trouble with him, because he considered himself superior to the sages (sophoi) of India, though he praised the latter whenever he opened his mouth. Thrasyboulos added that Apollonios had contrived a thousand pitfalls for them, and that he would not allow any sort of influence over the sun, sky, or earth, but pretended to move and juggle and rearrange these forces for whatever end he chose.
8 Having concocted these stories the man from Naukratis went away. The sages, imagining the stories were true, did not in fact decline to meet Apollonios when he arrived. Instead, the sages pretended that they were occupied with important business and were so intent upon it that they could only arrange an interview with him if they had time, and if they were informed first of what he wanted and of what attracted him to come there. A messenger from them called on them stay and lodge in the portico, but Apollonios remarked: “We do not want to hear about a house for ourselves, for the climate here is such that anyone can live naked.” This was an unkind reference to them, as it implied that they went without clothes not to show their endurance, but because it was too hot to wear any. He added: “I am not surprised indeed at their not yet knowing what I want, and what I am come here for, though the Indians never asked me these questions.”
9 Accordingly Apollonios lay down under one of the trees, and let his companions who were there with him ask whatever question they pleased. Damis took Timasion apart and asked him the question in private: “About these naked sages, my good fellow, as you have lived with them, and in all probability know, tell me what their wisdom comes to?” “It is,” answered the other, “manifold and profound.” “Yet,” said Damis, “their demeanor towards us does not demonstrate any wisdom, my fine fellow. For when they refuse to talk about wisdom with so great a man as our master, and assume all sorts of airs against him, what can I say about them except that they are too vain and proud.” “Pride and vanity!” said the other, “I have already come among them twice, and I never saw any such thing about them. For they were always very modest and courteous towards those who came to visit them. At any rate a little time ago, perhaps a matter of fifty days, one Thrasyboulos was staying here who achieved nothing remarkable in philosophy, and they received him with open arms merely because he said he was a disciple of Euphrates.” Then Damis cried: “What’s that you say, my boy? Then you saw Thrasyboulos of Naukratis in this academy of theirs?” “Yes, and what’s more,” answered the other, “I brought him here, when he went down the river, in my own boat.” “Now I have it, by Athena,” cried Damis, in a loud tone of indignation. “I warrant he has played us some dirty trick.” Timasion then replied: “Your master, when I asked him yesterday who he was, would not answer me at once, but kept his name a secret. But do you, unless this is a mystery, tell me who he is, for then I could probably help you to find what you seek.” When he heard from Damis that it was the sage of Tyana, he said, “You have put the matter in a nutshell. For Thrasyboulos, as he descended the Nile with me, in answer to my question what he had gone up there for, explained to me that his love for wisdom was not genuine, and said that he had filled these naked sages with suspicion of Apollonios, to the end that whenever he came here they might mock him. What his quarrel is with him I know not, but anyhow, it is, I think, worthy of a woman or of a vulgar person to backbite him as he has done. But I will address myself to these people and ascertain their real disposition. For they are friendly to me.” Around evening, Timasion returned, though without telling Apollonios any more than that he had interchanged words with them. However he told Damis in private that they meant to come the next morning primed with all that they had heard from Thrasyboulos.
[Thespesion, the eldest among the Naked Ones]
10 They spent that evening conversing about insignificant things which are not worth recording, and then they lay down to sleep on the spot where they had eaten. But at daybreak Apollonios, after adoring the sun according to his custom, had set himself to meditate upon some problem, when Nilos, who was the youngest of the Naked Ones, running up to him, exclaimed: “We are coming to you.” “Quite right,” said Apollonios, “for to get to you I have made this long journey from the sea all the way here.” With these words he followed Nilos. So after exchanging greetings with the sages, they met him close to the portico. “Where,” said Apollonios, “will we hold our interview?” “Here,” said Thespesion, pointing to the grove.
Now Thespesion was the eldest of the Naked Ones, and led them in procession. They followed him with an orderly and leisurely step, just as the jury of the athletic sports at Olympia follow the eldest of their number. When they had sat down, which they did anyhow, and without observing their previous order, they all fixed their eyes on Thespesion as the one who should regale them with a discourse, which he proceeded as follows: “They say, Apollonios, that you have visited the Pythian and Olympian festivals. For this was reported of you here by Stratokles of Pharos, who says he met you there. Now those who come to the Pythian festival are, they say, escorted with the sound of pipe, song and lyre, and are honoured with shows of comedies and tragedies. Then last of all they are presented with an exhibition of games and races run by naked athletes. At the Olympic festival, however, these excesses are omitted as inappropriate and unworthy of the place. Those who go to the festival are only provided with the show of naked athletes originally instituted by Herakles. You may see the same contrast between the wisdom of the Indians and our own. For they, like those who invite others to the Pythian festival, appeal to the gathering with all sorts of crowd-pleasers and charms. But we, like the athletes of Olympia, go naked. Here earth prepares for us no couches, nor does it yield us milk or wine as if we were devotees of Bacchos [i.e. the god Dionysos], nor do we hover in the air. But the earth beneath us is our only couch, and we live by partaking of its natural fruits, which we would have it yield to us gladly and without being tortured against its will. But you will see that we are not unable to work tricks if we like.”
“Hey, you tree over there,” Thespesion cried, pointing to an elm tree, the third in the row from that under which they were talking, “just greet the wise Apollonios, will you?” Immediately, the tree saluted him as requested in accents which were articulate and like those of a woman. Now he performed this sign to discredit the Indians, and in the belief that by doing so he would wean Apollonios of his excessive estimate of their powers. For he was always recounting to everybody what the Indians said and did.
Then the Egyptian added these precepts: he said that it is sufficient for the sage to abstain from eating all flesh of living animals, and from the roving desires which mount up in the soul through the eyes, and from envy which ends by teaching injustice for action and thought, and that truth stands not in need of miracle-mongering and sinister arts. “For look,” he said, “at the Apollo of Delphi, who keeps the centre of Greece for the utterance of his oracles. There then, as you probably know yourself, a person who desires a response puts his question briefly, and Apollo tells what he knows without any miraculous display. Yet it would be just as easy for him to convulse the whole mountain of Parnassos, and to alter the springs of the Castalian fountain so that it should run with wine, and to check the river Kephisos and halt its stream. But he reveals the bare truth without any of this show of ostentation.
Nor must we suppose that it is by his will, that so much gold and showy offerings enter his treasury, nor that he would care for his temple even if it were made twice as large as it already is. For once on a time this god Apollo dwelled in quite a humble habitation. A little hut was constructed for him to which the bees are said to have contributed their honeycomb and wax, and the birds their feathers. For simplicity is the teacher of wisdom and the teacher of truth. You must embrace it, if you would have men think you really wise, and forget all your legendary tales that you have acquired among the Indians. For what need is there to beat the drum over such simple matters as: ‘Do this, or do not do it,’ or ‘I know it, or I do not know it,’ or ‘It is this and not that’? What do you want with thunder, nay, I would say, What do you want to be thunder-struck for? You have seen in picture-books the representation of Herakles by Prodikos. In it Herakles is represented as a youth, who has not yet chosen the life he will lead. Vice and virtue stand in each side of him plucking his garments and trying to draw him to themselves. Vice is adorned with gold and necklaces and with purple raiment, and her cheeks are painted and her hair delicately plaited and her eyes underlined with henna. She also wears golden slippers, for she is pictured strutting about in these. But virtue in the picture resembles a woman worn out with toil, with a pinched look. She has chosen for her adornment rough squalor, and she goes without shoes and in the plainest of raiment, and she would have appeared naked if she had not too much regard for her feminine decency. Now figure yourself, Apollonios, as standing between Indian wisdom on one side, and our humble wisdom on the other. Imagine that you hear the one telling you how she will strew flowers under you when you lie down to sleep, yes, and by Heaven, how she will regale you upon milk and nourish you on honey-comb, and how she will supply you with nectar and wings, whenever you want them. How she will wheel in tripods, whenever you drink, and golden thrones. You will have no hard work to do, but everything will be flung unsought into your lap. But the other discipline insists that you must lie on the bare ground in squalor, and be seen to toil naked like ourselves. That you must not find dear or sweet anything which you have not won by hard work. That you must not be boastful, not hunt after vanities and pursue pride. That you must be on your guard against all dreams and visions which lift you off the earth. If then you really make the choice of Herakles, and steel your will resolutely, neither to dishonour truth, nor to decline the simplicity of nature, then you may say that you have overcome many lions and have cut off the heads of many hydras and of monsters like Geryon and Nessos, and have accomplished all his other labours, but if you embrace the life of a strolling juggler, you will flatter men’s eyes and ears, but they will think you no wiser than anybody else, and you will become the vanquished of any Naked One of Egypt.”
11 When Thespesion ended, all turned their eyes upon Apollonios. His own followers knowing well that he would reply, while Thespesion’s friends wondered what he could say in answer. But Apollonios, after praising the fluency and vigour of the Egyptian, merely said: “Have you anything more to say?” “No, by Zeus,” said Thespesion, “for I have said all I have to say.” Then Apollonios asked again: “Don’t any of the other Egyptians have anything to say?” “I am their spokesman,” answered his antagonist, “and you have heard them all.”
[Apollonios’ speech on the superiority of philosophy in the spirity of Pythagoras and the Indian sages]
Apollonios accordingly paused for a minute and then, fixing his eyes, as it were, on the discourse he had heard, he spoke as follows: “You have very well described and in a sound philosophic spirit the choice which Prodikos declares Herakles to have made as a young man. But, you wise men of the Egyptians, it does not apply in the least to myself. For I am not come here to ask your advice about how to live, insomuch as I long ago made choice of the life which seemed best to myself. As I am older than any of you, except Thespesion, I myself am better qualified, now I have got here, to advise you how to choose wisdom, if I did not find that you had already made the choice. Being, however, as old as I am, and so far advanced in wisdom as I am, I will not hesitate as it were to make you the auditors of my life and motives, and teach you that I rightly chose this life of mine, than which no better one has ever suggested itself to me. For I discerned a certain sublimity in the discipline of Pythagoras, and how a certain secret wisdom enabled him to know, not only who he was himself, but also who he had been. I saw that he approached the altars in purity, and suffered not his belly to be polluted by partaking of the flesh of animals and that he kept his body pure of all garments woven of dead animal refuse. That he was the first of mankind to restrain his tongue, inventing a discipline of silence described in the proverbial phrase, ‘An ox sits upon it.’ I also saw that his philosophical system was in other respects oracular and true. So I ran to embrace his teachings, not choosing one form of wisdom rather than another of two presented me, as you, my excellent Thespesion, advise me to do. For philosophy marshalled before me her various points of view, investing them with the adornment proper to each and she commanded me to look upon them and make a sound choice. Now they were all possessed of an august and divine beauty. Some of them were of such dazzling brightness that you might well have closed your eyes. However I fixed my eyes firmly upon all of them, for they themselves encouraged me to do so by moving towards me, and telling me beforehand how much they would give me. Well, one of them professed that she would shower upon me a swarm of pleasures without any toil on my part and another that she would give me rest after toil. A third that she would mingle mirth and merriment in my toil. Everywhere I had glimpses of pleasures and of unrestrained indulgence in the pleasures of the table. It seemed that I had only to stretch out my hand to be rich, and that I needed not to set any bridle upon my eyes, but love and loose desire and such-like feelings were freely allowed me. One of them, however, boasted that she would restrain me from such things, but she was bold and abusive and in an unabashed manner elbowed all others aside. I beheld the ineffable form of wisdom which long ago conquered the soul of Pythagoras. She stood, I may tell you, not among the many, but kept herself apart and in silence. When she saw that I ranged not myself with the rest, though as yet I knew not what were her wares, she said: ‘Young man, I am unpleasing and a lady full of sorrows. For, if anyone betakes himself to my abode, he must of his own choice put away all dishes which contain the flesh of living animals, and he must forget wine, nor make muddy therewith the cup of wisdom which is set in the souls of those that drink no wine. Nor will blanket keep him warm, nor wool shorn from a living animal. But I allow him shoes of bark, and he must sleep anywhere and anyhow, and if I find my votaries yielding to sensual pleasures, I have precipices to which justice that waits upon wisdom carries them and pushes them over. I am so harsh to those who make choice of my discipline that I have bits ready to restrain their tongues. But learn from me what rewards you will reap by enduring all this: Temperance and justice unsought and at once, and the faculty to regard no man with envy, and to be dreaded by tyrants rather than cringe to them, and to have your humble offerings appear sweeter to the gods than the offerings of those who pour out before them the blood of bulls. When you are pure I will grant you the faculty of foreknowledge, and I will so fill your eyes with light, that you will distinguish a god, and recognize a hero, and detect and put to shame the shadowy phantoms which disguise themselves in the form of men. This was the life I chose, you wise of the Egyptians. It was a sound choice and in the spirit of Pythagoras, and in making it I neither deceived myself, nor was deceived. For I have become all that a philosopher should become, and all that she promised to give the philosopher, that is mine. For I have studied profoundly the problem of the rise of the art and from where it draws its first principles. I have realized that it belongs to men of transcendent holy gifts, who have thoroughly investigated the nature of the soul, the well-springs of whose existence lie back in the immortal and in the unbegotten. Now I agree that this doctrine was wholly alien to the Athenians. For when Plato in their city lifted up his voice and discoursed upon the soul, full of inspiration and wisdom, they caviled against him and adopted opinions of the soul opposed thereto and altogether false. One may well ask whether there is any city, or any people among men, where not one more and another less, but wherein men of all ages alike, will enunciate the same doctrine of the soul.
“I myself, because my youth and inexperience so inclined me, began by looking up to yourselves, because you had the reputation of an extraordinary knowledge of most things. But when I explained my views to my own teacher, he interrupted me, and said as follows: ‘Supposing you were in a passionate mood and being of an impressionable age were inclined to form a friendship. Suppose you met a handsome youth and admired his looks, and you asked whose son he was, and suppose he were the son of a knight or a general, and that his grand-parents had been furnishers of a chorus – if then you dubbed him the child of some skipper or policeman, do you suppose that you would thereby be the more likely to captivate his affections, and that you would not rather make yourself odious to him by refusing to call him by his father’s name, and giving him instead that of some ignoble and spurious parent? If then you were enamored of the wisdom which the Indians discovered, would you call it not by the name which its natural parents bore, but by the name of its adoptive sires. So confer upon the Egyptians a greater boon, than if that were to happen over again which their own poets relate, namely if the Nile on reaching its full were found to be with honey blent?’”
“It was this which turned my steps to the Indians rather than to yourselves. For I reflected that they were more subtle in their understanding, because such men as they live in contact with a purer daylight, and entertain truer opinions of nature and of the gods, because they are near to the gods, and live on the edge and confines of that thermal essence which enlivens everything. When I came among them, their message made the same impression upon me as the talent of Aischylos is said to have made upon the Athenians. For he was a poet of tragedy, and finding the art to be rude and inchoate and as yet not in the least elaborated, he went to work, and curtailed the prolixity of the chorus. He invented dialogues for the actors, discarding the long monodies of the earlier time. He hit upon a plan of killing people behind the stage instead of their being slain before the eyes of the audience. Well, if we cannot deny his talent in making all these improvements, we must nevertheless admit that they might have suggested themselves equally well to an inferior dramatist. But his talent was twofold. On the one hand as a poet he set himself to make his diction worthy of tragedy, on the other hand as a manager, to adapt his stage to sublime, rather than to humble and groveling themes. Accordingly he devised masks which represented the forms of the heroes, and he mounted his actors on buskins so that their gait might correspond to the characters they played. He was the first to devise stage dresses, which might convey an adequate impression to the audience of the heroes and heroines they saw. For all these reasons the Athenians accounted him to be the father of tragedy. Even after his death they continued to invite him to represent his plays at the Dionysiac festival, for in accordance with public decree the plays of Aischylos continued to be put upon the stage and win the prize again.”
“Yet the gratification of a well-staged tragedy is insignificant, for its pleasures last a brief day, as brief as is the season of the Dionysiac festival. But the gratification of a philosophic system devised to meet the requirements of a Pythagoras, and also breathing the inspiration in which Pythagoras was anticipated by the Indians, lasts not for a brief time, but for an endless and incalculable period. It is then not unreasonable on my part, I think, to have devoted myself to a philosophy so highly elaborated, and to one which, to use a metaphor from the stage, the Indians mount, as it deserves to be mounted, upon a lofty and divine mechanism, and then wheel it forth upon the stage. That I was right to admire them, and that I am right in considering them to be wise and blessed, it is now time to convince you. I saw men dwelling upon the earth, and yet not upon it, I saw them fortified without fortifications, I saw them possessed of nothing, and yet possessed of all things.”
“You will say that I have taken to riddles, but the wisdom of Pythagoras allows this. For he taught us to speak in riddles, when he discovered that the word is the teacher of silence. There was a time when you yourselves took counsel with Pythagoras, and were advocates of this same wisdom. That was in the time when you could say nothing too good of the Indian philosophy, for to begin with and of old you were Indians. Subsequently because your soil was wrath with you, you came hither. Then ashamed of the reasons owing to which you stopped it, you tried to get men to regard you as anything rather than Ethiopians who had come from India to here, and you took every effort to efface your past. This is why you stripped yourselves of the apparel in which you came there, as if you were anxious to remove your signs of being Ethiopians. This is why you have resolved to worship the gods in the Egyptian rather than in your own fashion, and why you have set yourselves to disseminate unflattering stories of the Indians, as if in maligning them you did not foul your own nest. In this respect you have not yet altered your tone for the better. For only today you have given here an exhibition of your propensities for abuse and satire, pretending that the Indians are no better employed than in startling people and in pandering to their eyes and ears. Because as yet you are ignorant of my wisdom, you show yourself indifferent to the fame which crowns it.”
“Well, in defense of myself I do not mean to say anything, for I am content to be what the Indians think I am. But I will not allow them to be attacked. If you are so sound and sane as to possess any tincture of the wisdom of the man of Himera, who composed in honour of Helen a poem which contradicted a former one and called it a palinode, it is high time for you also to use the words he used and say: ‘This discourse of ours is not true,’ so changing your opinion and adopting one better than you at present entertain about these people. But if you have not the wit to recant, you must at least spare men to whom the gods vouchsafe, as worthy of them, their own prerogatives, and whose possessions they do not disdain for themselves.”
“You have also, Thespesion, made some remarks about the simplicity and freedom from pomp which characterizes the Pythian oracle. By way of example you instanced the temple composed of wax and feathers. But I do not myself find that even this was devoid of pomp, for we have the line ‘O bird bring hither your wings, and bees your wax.’ Such language signals a carefully prepared home and the form of house. The god I believe regarded even this as too humble and below the dignity of wisdom, and therefore desired to have another and yet another temple, big ones these and a hundred feet in breadth. From one of them, it is said that golden figures of the woodpecker were hung up which possessed in a manner the charm of the Sirens. The god collected the most precious of the offerings into the Pythian temple for ornament. Nor did he reject works of statuary, when their authors brought him to his temple colossal figures of gods and men, and also of horses, oxen and other animals. Nor did he refuse the gift of Glaukos, a stand for a goblet which he brought there, nor the picture of the taking of the citadel of Ilion which Polygnotos painted there. For I imagine he did not consider that the gold of Lydia really beautified the Pythian shrine, but he admitted it on behalf of the Greeks themselves, by way of pointing out to them, I believe, the immense riches of the barbarians, and inducing them to covet that rather than continue to ravage one another’s lands. He accordingly adopted the Greek fashion of art which suited his particular wisdom, and adorned his shrine therewith. I believe that it was by way of adornment that he also puts his oracles in metrical form. For if he did not wish to make a show in this matter, he would surely make his responses in such forms as the following: ‘Do this, or do not do that’. And ‘go, or do not go,’ or ‘choose allies, or do not choose them.’ For here are short formulas, or as you call it naked ones. But in order to display his mastery of the grand style, and in order to please those who came to consult his oracle, he adopted the poetical form. He does not allow that anything exists which he does not know, but claims to have counted the sands of the sea and to know their number, and also to have fathomed the depths of the sea. But I suppose you will call it miracle-monging, that Apollo dictates his oracles with such proud dignity and elation of spirit? But if you will not be annoyed, Thespesion, at what I say, there are certain old women who go about with sieves in their hands to shepherds, sometimes to cow-herds, pretending to heal their flocks, when they are sick, by divination, as they call it, and they claim to be called wise women, yea wiser than those who are unfeignedly prophets. It seems to me that you are in the same case, when I contrast your wisdom with that of the Indians. For they are divine, and have trimmed and adorned their science after the matter of the Pythian oracle. But you – however I will say no more, for modesty in speech is as dear to me as it is dear to the Indians, and I would be glad to have it at once to attend upon and to guide my tongue, seeking to compass what is in my power when I am praising those to whom I am so devoted, but leaving alone what is too high for me to attain unto, without bespattering it with petty disapproval.”
“But you no doubt delight in the story which you have read in Homer about the Cyclopes, how their land, all unsown and unploughed, nourished the most fearless and lawless of beings. If it is some Edonians or Lydians who are conducting bacchic revels, you are quite ready to believe that the earth will supply them with fountains of milk and wine, and supply them drink. But you would deny to these Indians, lovers of all wisdom as enthusiastic as ever bacchants were, the unsought bounties which earth offers them.”
“Moreover tripods, gifted with will of their own, attend the banquets of the gods also. Ares, ignorant and hostile as he was to Hephaistos, yet never accused him merely for making them. Nor is it conceivable that the gods ever listened to such an indictment as this: ‘You commit an injustice, O Hephaistos, in adorning the banquet of the gods, and encompassing it with miracles.’ Nor was Hephaistos ever sued for constructing handmaids of gold, nor accused of debasing the metals because he made the gold to breath. For ever art is interested to adorn, and the very existence of the arts was a discovery made in behalf of ornament.”
“Moreover a man who goes without shoes and wears a philosopher’s cloak and hangs a wallet on his back is a creature of ornament. No, more even the nakedness which you affect, in spite of its rough and plain appearance, has for its object ornament and decoration, and it is not even exempt from the proverbial ‘pride of your own sort to match’. We must judge by their own standard the rites of the Sun and the ancestral customs of the Indians and any cult in which that god delights. For the subterranean gods will always prefer deep trenches and ceremonies conducted in the hollows of the earth, but the air is the chariot of the sun. Those who would sing his praise in a fitting manner must rise from the earth and soar aloft with god. This everyone would like to do, but the Indians alone are able to do it.”
[Reaction to Apollonios defence of the superiority of the Indian sages]
12 Damis says that he breathed afresh when he heard this address. For that the Egyptians were so impressed by Apollonios’ words, that Thespesion, in spite of the blackness of his complexion, visibly blushed, while the rest of them seemed in some way stunned by the vigourous and fluent discourse which they listened to. But the youngest of them, whose name was Nilos, leapt up from the ground, he says, in admiration, and passing over to Apollonios shook hands with him, and asked him to tell him about the interviews which he had had with the Indians. Apollonios, he says, replied: “I should not grudge you anything, for you are ready to listen, as I see, and are ready to welcome wisdom of every kind. But I should not care to pour out the teachings I gathered there upon Thespesion or on anyone else who regards the knowledge of the Indians as so much nonsense.” At this point, Thespesion said: “But if you were a merchant or a seafarer, and you brought to us some cargo or other from over there, would you claim, merely because it came from India, to dispose of it untested and unexamined, refusing us either the liberty of looking at it or tasting it?” But Apollonios repled as follows: “I should furnish it to those who asked for it. But if the moment my ship had reached the harbour, someone came down the beach and began to run down my cargo and abuse myself, and say that I came from a country which produces nothing worth having, and if he reproached me for sailing with a cargo of shoddy goods, and tried to persuade the rest to think like himself, do you suppose that one would, after entering such a harbour, cast anchor or make his cables fast, and not rather hoist his sails and put to sea afresh, entrusting his goods more gladly to the winds than to such undiscerning and inhospitable people?” Nilos said, “Well, I nonetheless lay hold on your cables, and entreat you, my skipper, to let me share your goods that you bring here. I would gladly embark with you in your ship as a super-cargo and a clerk to check your merchandise.”
13 Thespesion, however, was anxious to put a stop to such propositions, so he said: “I am glad, Apollonios, that you are annoyed at what we said to you. For you can the more readily condone our annoyance at the misrepresentation you made of our local wisdom, long before you had gained any experience of its quality.” Apollonios was for a moment astonished at these words, for he had heard nothing as yet of the intrigues of Thrasyboulos and Euphrates. But as was his custom, he guessed the truth and said: “The Indians, O Thespesion, would never have behaved as you have, nor have given ear to these insinuation dropped by Euphrates, for they have a gift of foreknowledge. Now I never have had any quarrel of my own with Euphrates. I only tried to steer him away from his passion for money and cure his propensity to value everything by what he could make out of it. But I found that my advice was not congenial to him, nor in his case practicable. No, he merely takes it as a tacit reproach, and never loses any opportunity of intriguing against me. But since you have found his attacks upon my character so plausible, I may as well tell you that it is you, rather than myself, that he has calumniated. For though, as is clear to me, the victims of calumny incur considerable dangers, since they are, I suppose, sure to be disliked without having done any wrong, yet neither are those who incline to listen to the calumnies free from danger. For in the first place they will be convicted of paying respect to lies and giving them as much attention as they would to the truth, and secondly they are convicted of levity and credulity, faults which it is disgraceful even for a stripling to fall into. They will be thought envious, because they allow envy to teach them to listen to unjust tittle-tattle. They expose themselves all the more to calumny, because they think it true of others. For man is by nature inclined to commit a fault which he does not discredit when he hears it related to others. Heaven forbid that a man of these inclinations should become a tyrant, or even president of a popular city. For in his hands even a democracy would become a tyranny. Nor let him be made a judge, for surely he will not ever discern the truth. Nor let him be captain of a ship, for the crew would mutiny, nor general of an army, for that would bring luck to the adversary. Nor let one of his disposition attempt philosophy, for he would not consider the truth in forming his opinions. But Euphrates has deprived you of even the quality of wisdom. For how can those on whom he has imposed with his falsehoods claim wisdom for themselves? Have they not deserted from it to take sides with one who has persuaded them of improbabilities?”
Here Thespesion tried to calm him, and remarked: “Enough of Euphrates and of his small-minded affairs. For we are quite ready even to reconcile you with him, since we consider it the proper work of a sage to be umpire in the disputes of other sages.” “But,” said Apollonios, “who will reconcile me with you? For the victim of lies must surely be driven into hostility by the falsehood.” . . . [part of the text is missing here] “Be it so,” said Apollonios, “and let us hold a conversation, for that will be the best way of reconciling us.”
[Nilos and others seek instruction from Apollonios]
14 Nilos, as he was passionately anxious to listen to Apollonios, said: “And what’s more, it is your responsibility to begin the conversation, and to tell us all about the journey which you made to the people of India, and about the conversations which you held there, I have no doubt, on the most brilliant topics.” “I too,” said Thespesion, “long to hear about the wisdom of Phraotes, for you are said to have brought from India some examples of his arguments.” Apollonios accordingly began by telling them about the events which occurred in Babylon, and told them everything, and they gladly listened to him, spellbound by his words. But when it was the middle of the day, they broke of the conversations, for at this time of day the Naked Ones, like others, attend to sacred rites.
15 Apollonios and his comrades were about to dine, when Nilos presented himself with vegetables and bread and dried fruits, some of which he carried himself, while his friends carried the rest. Very politely he said: “The sages send these gifts of hospitality, not only to yourselves but to me. For I mean to share in your repast, not uninvited, as they say, but inviting myself.” “It is a delightful gift of hospitality,” said Apollonios, “which you bring to us, O youth, in the shape of yourself and your disposition, for you are evidently a philosopher without guile, and an enthusiastic lover of the doctrines of the Indians and of Pythagoras. So lie down here and eat with us.” “I will do so,” said the other, “but your dishes will not be ample enough to satisfy me.” “It seems to me,” said the other, “that you are an over-eater and an appalling eater.” “None like me,” said the other, “for although you have set before me so ample and so brilliant a repast, I am not sated. After a little time I am come back again to eat afresh. What then can you call me but an insatiable cormorant?” “Eat your fill,” said Apollonios, “and as for topics of conversation, some you must yourself supply, and I will give you others.”
16 So when they had dined, “I,” said Nilos, “until now have been camping together with the naked sages, and joined my forces with them as with certain light armed troops or slingers. But now l intend to put on my heavy armour, and it is your shield that will adorn me.” “But,” said Apollonios, “I think, my good Egyptian, that you will incur the censure of Thespesion and his society for two reasons. Firstly, that after no further examination and testing of ourselves you have left them, and secondly that you give the preference to our manners and discipline with more speed than is admissible where a man is making choice of how he will live.” “I agree with you,” said the young man, “but if I am to blame for making this choice, I might also be to blame if I did not make it. Anyhow they will be most open to rebuke, if they make the same choice as myself. For it will be more justly reprehensible in them, as they are both older and wiser than myself, not to have made the choice long ago which I make now. For with all their advantages they will have failed to choose what in practice would so much redound to their advantage.” “A very generous sentiment indeed, my good youth, is this which you have expressed,” said Apollonios; “but beware lest the mere fact of their being so wise and aged should give them an appearance, at any rate, of being right in choosing as they have done, and of having good reason for rejecting my doctrine. Lest you should seem to take up a very bold position in setting them to rights rather than in following them.”
But the Egyptian turned short round upon Apollonios and countering his opinion said: “So far as it was right for a young man to agree with his elders, I have been careful to do so. For so long as I thought that these gentlemen were possessed of a wisdom which belonged to no other set of men, I attached myself to them. The motive which actuated me to do so was the following: My father once made a voyage on his own initiative to the Red Sea, for he was, I may tell you, captain of the ship which the Egyptians send to the Indies. After he had had intercourse with the Indians of the seaboard, he brought home stories of the wise men of that region, closely similar to those which you have told us. His account which I heard was somewhat as follows, namely that the Indians are the wisest of mankind, but that the Ethiopians are colonists sent from India, who follow their forefathers in matters of wisdom, and fix their eyes on the institutions of their home. Well, I, having reached my teens, surrendered my patrimony to those who wanted it more than myself, and frequented the society of these naked sages, naked myself as they, in the hope of picking up the teaching of the Indians, or at any rate teaching allied to theirs. They certainly appeared to me to be wise, though not after the manner of India. But when I asked them point blank why they did not teach the philosophy of India, they plunged into abuse of the natives of that country very much as you have heard them do in their speeches this very day. Now I was still young, as you see, so they made me a member of their society, because I imagine they were afraid I might hastily quit them and undertake a voyage to the Red Sea, as my father did before me. I should certainly have done so, yes, by Heaven, I would have pushed on until I reached the hill of the sages, unless someone of the gods had sent you hither to help me and enabled me without either making any voyage over the Red Sea or adventuring to the inhabitants of the Gulf, to taste the wisdom of India. It is not today therefore for the first time that I will make my choice, but I made it long ago, though I did not obtain what I hoped to obtain. For what is there to wonder at if a man who has missed what he was looking for, returns to the search? And if I should convert my friends yonder to this point of view, and persuade them to adopt the convictions which I have adopted myself, should I, tell me, be guilty of any hardihood? For you must not reject the claim that youth makes, that in some way it assimilates an idea more easily than old age. Anyone who counsels another to adopt the wisdom and teaching which he himself has chosen, anyhow escapes the imputation of trying to persuade others of things he does not believe himself. Anyone who takes the blessings granted him by fortune into a corner and there enjoys them by himself, violates their character as blessings, for he prevents their sweetness from being enjoyed by as many as possible.”
17 When Nilos had finished these arguments, and juvenile enough they were, Apollonios took him up and said: “If you were in love with my wisdom, had you not better, before I begin, discuss with me the question of my reward?” “Let us discuss it,” answered Nilos, “and do you ask whatever you like.” “I ask you,” he said, “to be content with the choice you have made, and not to annoy the naked sages by giving them advice which they will not take.” “I consent,” he said, “and let this be agreed upon as your reward.”
This then was the substance of their conversation, and when Nilos at its close asked him how long a time he would stay among the nakes sages he replied: “So long as the quality of their wisdom justifies anyone in remaining in their company. After that I will take my way to the cataracts, in order to see the springs of the Nile, for it will be delightful not only to behold the sources of the Nile, but also to listen to the roar of its waterfalls.”
18 After they had held this discussion and listened to some recollections of India, they lay down to sleep upon the grass. But at daybreak, having offered their accustomed prayers, they followed Nilos, who led them into the presence of Thespesion. They accordingly greeted one another, and sitting down together in the grove they began a conversation in which Apollonios led as follows: “How important it is,” said he, “not to conceal wisdom, is proved by our conversation of yesterday. For because the Indians taught me as much of their wisdom as I thought it proper for me to know, I not only remember my teachers, but I go about instilling into others what I heard from them. You too will be richly rewarded by me, if you send me away with a knowledge of your wisdom as well. For I will not cease to go about and repeat your teachings to the Greeks, while to the Indians I will write them.”
[Greek critique of Egyptian animal worship]
19 “Ask,” they said, “for you know question comes first and argument follows on it.” “It is about the gods that I would like to ask you a question first, namely, what induced you to impart, as your tradition, to the people of this country forms of the gods that are absurd and grotesque in all but a few cases? In a few cases, do I say? I would rather say that in very few are the gods’ images fashioned in a wise and god-like manner, for the mass of your shrines seem to have been erected in honour rather of irrational and ignoble animals than of gods.”
Thespesion, resenting these remarks, said: “And your own images in Greece, how are they fashioned?” “In the way,” Apollonios replied, “in which it is best and most reverent to construct images of the gods.” “I suppose you allude,” said the other, “to the statue of Zeus in Olympia, and to the image of Athena and to that of the Knidian goddess and to that of the Argive goddess and to other images equally beautiful and full of charm?” “Not only to these,” replied Apollonios, “but without exception I maintain, that whereas in other lands statuary has scrupulously observed decency and fitness, you rather make ridicule of the gods than really believe in them.” “Your artists, then, like Phidias,” said Thespesion, “and like Praxiteles, went up, I suppose, to heaven and took a copy of the forms of the gods, and then reproduced these by their art or was there any other influence which presided over and guided their molding?” “There was,” said Apollonios, “and an influence pregnant with wisdom and genius.” “What was that?” said the other, “for I do not think you can adduce any except imitation.” “Imagination,” said Apollonios, “wrought these works, a wiser and subtler artist by far than imitation. For imitation can only create as its handiwork what it has seen, but imagination equally what it has not seen. For it will conceive of its ideal with reference to the reality, and imitation is often baffled by terror, but imagination by nothing. For it marches undismayed to the goal which it has itself laid down. When you entertain a notion of Zeus you must, I suppose, envisage him along with heaven and seasons and stars, as Phidias in his day endeavoured to do, and if you would fashion an image of Athena you must imagine in your mind armies and cunning, and handicrafts, and how she leapt out of Zeus himself. But if you make a hawk or an owl or a wolf or a dog, and put it in your temples instead of Hermes or Athena or Apollo, your animals and your birds may be esteemed and of much price as likenesses, but the gods will be very much lowered in their dignity.”
“I think,” said Thespesion, “that you criticize our ways very superficially. For if the Egyptians have any wisdom, they show it by their deep respect and reverence in the representation of the gods, and by the circumstance that they fashion their forms as symbols of a profound inner meaning, so as to enhance their solemnity and revered character.”
At that, Apollonios merely laughed and said: “My good friends, you have indeed greatly profited by the wisdom of Egypt and Ethiopia, if your dog and your ibis and your goat seem particularly revered and god-like, for this is what I learn from Thespesion the sage. But what is there that is august or awe-inspiring in these images? Is it not likely that perjurers and temple-thieves and all the rabble of low jesters will despise such holy objects rather than dread them. If they are to be held for the hidden meanings which they convey, surely the gods in Egypt would have met with much greater reverence, if no images of them had ever been set up at all, and if you had planned your theology along other lines wiser and more mysterious. For I imagine you might have built temples for them, and have fixed the altars and laid down rules about what to sacrifice and what not, and when and on what scale, and with what liturgies and rites, without introducing any image at all, but leaving it to those who frequented the temples to imagine the images of the gods. For the mind can more or less delineate and figure them to itself better than can any artist. But you have denied to the gods the privilege of beauty both of the outer eye and of an inner suggestion.”
Thespesion replied and said: “There was was a certain Athenian, called Sokrates, a foolish old man like ourselves, who thought that the dog and the goose and the plane tree were gods and used to swear by them.” “He was not foolish,” said Apollonios, “but a divine and sincere wise man. For he did not swear by these objects on the understanding that they were gods, but to save himself from swearing by the gods.”
[Thespesion’s questions about Greek ancestral customs]
20 As if anxious to drop the subject, at this point Thespesion put some questions to Apollonios, about the scourging in Sparta, and asked if the Lakedaimonians [Spartans] were smitten with rods in public. “Yes,” answered the other, “as hard, O Thespesion, as men can smite them. It is especially men of noble birth among them that are so treated.” “Then what do they do to menials,” he asked, “when they do wrong?” “They do not kill them these days,” said Apollonios, “as Lykourgos formerly allowed, but the same whip is used to them too.”
[Comparison of Spartan with Scythian customs of human sacrifice]
“And what judgment does Greece pass upon the matter?” Apollonios answered, “They flock to see the spectacle with pleasure and utmost enthusiasm, as if to the festival of Hyakinthos, or to that of the naked boys. Then these excellent Greeks are not ashamed, either to behold those publicly whipped who erewhile governed them. So far as anything could be reformed, I gave them my advice, and they readily adopted it. For they are most free of the Greeks. But at the same time they will only listen to one who gives them good advice. Now the custom of scourging is a ceremony in honour of the Scythian Artemis, so they say, and was prescribed by oracles, and to oppose the regulations of the gods is in my opinion utter madness.”
“It’s a poor wisdom, Apollonios,” Thespesion replied, “which you attribute to the gods of the Greeks, if they countenance scourging as a part of the discipline of freedom.” “It’s not the scourging,” Apollonios said, “but the sprinkling of the altar with human blood that is important, for the Scythians too held the altar to be worthy of such a thing. But the Lakedaimonians modified the ceremony of sacrifice because of its implacable cruelty, and turned it into a contest of endurance, undergone without any loss of life, and yet securing to the goddess as first fruits an offering of their own blood.” “Why then,” said Thespesion, “do they not sacrifice strangers right out to Artemis, as the Scythians formerly considered right to do?” “Because,” Apollonios answered, “it is not congenial to any of the Greeks to adopt in full rigor the manners and customs of barbarians.” “And yet,” said Thespesion, “it seems to me that it would be more humane to sacrifice one or two of them [i.e., slaves] than to enforce as they do a policy of exclusion against all foreigners.” “Let us not assail,” said the other, “O Thespesion, the law-giver Lykourgos. But we must understand him, and then we will see that his prohibition to strangers to settle in Sparta and live there was not inspired on his part by mere boorish exclusiveness, but by a desire to keep the institutions of Sparta in their original purity by preventing outsiders from mingling in her life.”
“Well,” said Thespesion, “I should allow the men of Sparta to be what they claim to be, if they had ever lived with strangers, and yet had faithfully adhered to their home principles. For it was not by keeping true to themselves in the absence of strangers, but by doing so in spite of their presence, that they needed to show their superiority. But they, although they enforced his policy of excluding strangers, corrupted their institutions, and were found doing exactly the same as did those of the Greeks whom they most detested. Anyhow, their subsequent naval program and policy of imposing tribute was modelled entirely upon that of Athens, and they themselves ended by committing acts which they had themselves regarded as a just cause for war against the Athenians, whom they had no sooner beaten in the field than they humbly adopted, as if they were the beaten party, their pet institution. And the very fact that the goddess was introduced from Tauros and Scythia was the action of men who embraced alien customs. But if an oracle prescribed this, what want was there of the scourge? What need to feign an endurance fit for slaves? Had they wanted to prove the disdain that Lakedaimonians felt for death, they had I think done better to sacrifice a youth of Sparta with his own consent upon the altar. For this would have been a real proof of the superior courage of the Spartans, and would have disinclined Greece from ranging herself in the opposite camp to them. But you will say that they had to save their young men for the battlefield. Well, in that case the law which prevails among the Scythians, and sentences all men of sixty years of age to death, would have been more suitably introduced and followed among the Lakedaimonians then among the Scythians, supposing that they embrace death in its grim reality and not as a mere parade. These remarks of mine are directed not so much against the Lakedaimonians, as against yourself, O Apollonios. For if ancient institutions, whose great age defies our understanding of their origins, are to be examined in an unsympathetic spirit, and the reason why they are pleasing to heaven subjected to cold criticism, such a line of speculation will produce a crop of odd conclusions. For we could attack the mystery rite of Eleusis in the same way and ask, why it is this and not that. The same with the rites of the Samothrakians, for in their ritual they avoid one thing and insist on another. The same with the Dionysiac ceremonies and the phallic symbol, and the figure erected in Kyllene, and before we know where we are we will be picking holes in everything. Let us choose, therefore, any other topic you like, but respect the sentiment of Pythagoras, which is also our own. For it is better, if we can’t hold our tongues about everything, at any rate to preserve silence about such matters as these.”
Apollonios replied and said, “If, O Thespesion, you had wished to discuss the topic seriously, you would have found that the Lakedaimonians have many excellent arguments to advance in favour of their institutions, proving that they are sound and superior to those of other Greeks. But since you are so averse to continue the discussion, and even regard it as impious to talk about such things, let us proceed to another subject, of great importance, as I am convinced, for it is about justice that I will now put a question.”
[Discussion about the Indians’ teaching on the just man]
21 “Let us,” said Thespesion, tackle the subject; for it is one very suitable to men, whether they are wise or not wise. But to avoid dragging in the opinions of Indians, and so confuse our discussion, and going off without having formed any conclusions, do you first impart to us the views held by the Indians concerning justice, for you probably examined their views on the spot; and if their opinion is proved to be correct we will adopt it; but if we have something wiser to put in its place, you must adopt our view, for that too is plain justice.” Apollonios said: “Your plan is excellent and most satisfactory to me; so do listen to the conversation which I held there. For I related to them how I had once been captain of a large ship, in the period when my soul was in command of another body, and how I thought myself extremely just because, when robbers offered me a reward, if I would betray my ship by running it into roads where they were going to lie in wait for it, in order to seize its cargo, I agreed and made the promise, just to save them from attacking us, but intending to slip by them and get beyond the place agreed upon.”
Thespesion said, “did the Indians agree that this was justice?” “No, they laughed at the idea,” Apollonios said, “for they said that justice was something more than not being unjust.” “It was very sensible,” said the other, “of the Indians to reject such a view; for good sense is something more than not entertaining nonsense, just as courage is something more than not running away from the ranks; and so temperance is something more than the avoidance of adultery, and no one reserves his praise for a man who has simply shown himself to be not bad. For because a thing, no matter what, is equidistant between praise and punishment, it is not on that account to be reckoned off-hand to be virtue.” “How then, O Thespesion,” said Apollonios, “are we to crown the just man and for what actions?” “Could you have discussed justice more completely and more opportunely,” said the other, “than when the sovereign of so large and flourishing a country intervened in your philosophic discussion of the art of kingship, a thing intimately connected with justice?”
“If it had been Phraotes,” said Apollonios, “who turned up on that occasion, you might rightly blame me for not gravely discussing the subject of justice in his presence. But you from the account which I gave of him yesterday that the man is a drunkard and an enemy of all philosophy. What need therefore was there to inflict on him the trouble? Why should we try to win credit for ourselves in the presence of a sybarite who thinks of nothing but his own pleasures? But insofar as it is incumbent upon wise men like ourselves to explore and trace out justice, more so than on kings and generals, let us proceed to examine the absolutely just man. For though I thought myself just in the affair of the ship, and thought others just too because they do not practice injustice, you deny that this in itself constitutes them just or worthy of honour.”
“And rightly so,” said Thespesion, ” for whoever heard of a decree drafted by Athenians or Lakedaimonians in favor of crowning so and so, because he is not a libertine, or of granting the freedom of the city to so and so, because the temples have not been robbed by him? Who then is the just man and what are his actions? For neither did I ever hear of anyone being crowned merely for his justice, nor of a decree being proposed over a just man to the effect that so and so shall be crowned, because such and such actions of his show him to be just. For anyone who considers the fate of Palamedes in Troy or Sokrates in Athens, will discover that even justice is not sure of success among men, for assuredly these men suffered most unjustly being themselves most just. Still they at least were put to death on the score of acts of injustice imputed on them, and the verdict was a distortion of the truth; whereas in the case of Aristides the son of Lysimachos, it was very justice that was the undoing of him, for he in spite of his integrity was banished merely because of his reputation for this very virtue. I am sure that justice will appear in a very ridiculous light; for having been appointed by Zeus and by the Fates to prevent men being unjust to one another, she has never been able to defend herself against injustice. The history of Aristides is sufficient to me to show the difference between one who is not unjust and one who is really just. For, tell me, is not this the same Aristides of whom your Greek compatriots when they come here tell us that he undertook a voyage to the islands to fix the tribute of the allies, and after settling it on a fair basis, returned again to his country still wearing the same cloak in which he left it?”
“It is he,” answered Apollonios, “who made the love of poverty once to flourish.” “Now,” said the other, “let us suppose that there were at Athens two public orators passing an encomium upon Aristides, just after he had returned from the allies; one of them proposes that he shall be crowned, because he has come back again without enriching himself or amassing any fortune, but the poorest of the Athenians, poorer than he was before; and the other orator, we will suppose, drafts his motion somewhat as follows: ‘Whereas Aristides has fixed the tribute of the allies according to their ability to pay, and not in excess of the resources of their respective countries; and whereas he has endeavored to keep them loyal to the Athenians, and to see that they shall feel it no grievance to pay upon this scale, it is hereby resolved to crown him for justice.’ Do you not suppose that Aristides himself would have opposed the first of these resolutions, as an indignity to his entire life, seeing that it only honoured him for not doing injustice; whereas, he might perhaps have supported the other resolution as a fair attempt to express his intentions and policy? For I imagine it was with an eye to the interest of Athenians and subject states alike, that he took care to fix the tribute on a fair and moderate basis, and in fact his wisdom in this matter was conclusively proved after his death. For when the Athenians exceeded his valuations and imposed heavier tributes upon the islands, their naval supremacy at once went to pieces, though it more than anything else had made them formidable; on the other hand the prowess of the Lacedaemonians passed on to the sea itself; and nothing was left of Athenian supremacy, for the whole of the subject states rushed into revolution and made good their escape. It follows then, O Apollonios, that rightly judged, it is not the man who abstains from injustice that is just, but the man who himself does what is just, and also influences others not to be unjust; and from such justice as his there will spring up a crop of other virtues, especially those of the law-court and of the legislative chamber. For such a man as he will make a much fairer judge than people who take their oaths upon the dissected parts of victims, and his legislation will be similar to that of Solon and of Lycurgus; for assuredly these great legislators were inspired by justice to undertake their work.”
[Exploring the source of the Nile]
22 Such, according to Damis, was the discussion held by them with regard to the just man, and Apollonios, he says, assented to their argument, for he always agreed with what was reasonably put. They also had a philosophic talk about the soul, proving its immortality, and about nature, along much the same lines which Plato follows in his Timaios. After some further remarks and discussions of the laws of the Greeks, Apollonios said: “For myself I have come all this way to see yourselves and visit the springs of the Nile. For a person who only comes as far as Egypt may be excused if he ignores the latter, but if he advances as far as Ethiopia, as I have done, he will be rightly reproached if he neglects to visit them, and to draw as it were from their well-springs some arguments of his own.”
“Farewell then,” said Thespesion, “and pray to the springs for whatever you desire, for they are divine. But I imagine you will take as your guide Timasion, who formerly lived at Naukratis, but is now of Memphis. For he is well acquainted with the springs of the Nile and he is not so impure as to stand in need of further lustrations. But as for you, O Nilos, we would like to have a talk to you by ourselves.”
The meaning of this sally was clear enough to Apollonios, for he well understood their annoyance at Nilos’ preference for himself. But to give them an opportunity of speaking him apart, he left them to prepare and pack up for his journey, for he meant to start at daybreak. After a little time Nilos returned, but did not tell them anything of what they had said to him, though he laughed a good deal to himself. No one asked him what he was laughing about, but they respected his secret.
23 They then took their supper and after a discussion of certain insignificant topics they laid them down to sleep where they were. But at daybreak they said goodbye to the Naked Ones, and started off along the road which leads to the mountains, keeping the Nile on their right hand.
[Further marvels in the area]
They saw the following spectacles deserving of notice. The Katadupoi are mountains formed of good soil, about the same size as the hill of the Lydians called Tmolos. From them the Nile flows rapidly down, washing with it the soil of which it creates Egypt. But the roar of the stream, as it breaks down in a cataract from the mountains and hurls itself into the Nile, is terrible and intolerable to the ears, and many of those have approached it too close have returned with the loss of their hearing.
24 Apollonios, however, and his party pushed on till they saw some round-shaped hills covered with trees, the leaves and bark and gum of which the Ethiopians regard as of great value. They also saw lions close to the path, and leopards and other such wild animals. But they were not attracted by any of them, for they fled from them in haste as if they were scared at the sight of men. They also saw stags, gazelles, ostriches and asses, the latter in great numbers, and also many wild bulls and ox-goats, the former of these two animals being a mixture of the stag and the ox, that latter of the creatures from which its name is taken. They found on the road the bones and half-eaten carcasses of these. For the lions, when they have gorged themselves with fresh prey, care little for what is left over of it, because, I think, they feel sure of catching fresh quarry whenever they want it.
[Ethiopian peoples, including pygmies]
25 It is here that the nomad Ethiopians live in a sort of colony upon wagons, and not far from them the elephant-hunters, who cut up these animals and sell the flesh, and are accordingly called by a name which signifies the selling of elephants. The Nasamonikans, the man-eaters and the pygmies and the shadow-footed people are also tribes of Ethiopia. They extend as far as the Ethiopian ocean, which no mariners ever enter except castaways who do so against their will.