Mediterranean peoples: Pausanias, ethnographic interests, and local traditions (mid-second century CE)

Citation with stable link: Philip A. Harland, 'Mediterranean peoples: Pausanias, ethnographic interests, and local traditions (mid-second century CE),' Ethnic Relations and Migration in the Ancient World, last modified November 5, 2023, https://philipharland.com/Blog/?p=14536.

Ancient authors: Pausanias (mid-second century CE), Description of Greece, various passages (link; link to Greek text).

Comments: A search for a variety of specific peoples in Pausanias’  guide to Greece reveals how much this second century author (originally from Lydia in Asia Minor) is guided by ethnographic interests, but also how local traditions in Greece (and therefore people on the ground) in numerous places were thinking about or depicting foreign peoples. Instead of grouping together passages relating to specific peoples here, I have instead presented the passages in the order in which they occur in Pausanias’ narrative with a grab-bag of materials with foreigners as a focus, including his digressions on Celts and on far-easterners (Serians, sometimes the equivalent of people in what is now China). This helps to draw attention to the frequency and variety of ethnographic materials in the guide, as well as recurring motifs.

It is noteworthy that Pausanias encounters specific pieces of art or other material evidence, including inscriptions, paintings, statues, and entire buildings, which entailed locals characterizing – or viewing others’ characterizations of – foreign peoples. In one relatively short passage as Pausanias walks through Athens, for instance, his discussion of local sights leads him to not one or two but four peoples: Egyptians, Phrygians, Libyans, Assyrians. Then there is Pausanias’ description (ekphrasis) of a painting at Athens dealing with the Greeks’ confrontations with both Amazons and Persians. In another digression, Pausanias provides some details about stories of migration and ethnic diversity on Sicily and on Sardinia.

On Serians and silk, compare Pliny the Elder’s earlier account at this link.

Source of the translation: J.G. Frazer, Pausanias’s Description of Greece, volume 1 (London: MacMillan and Co., 1898), public domain, adapted by Harland.

‗‗‗‗‗‗‗

[Digression on Galatians / Celts in discussion of Athens]

(1.4) These Galatians (Galatai) inhabit the farthest parts of Europe on the shore of a great sea [Atlantic Ocean], which at its extremities is not navigable. The sea ebbs and flows, and contains beasts quite unlike those in the rest of the sea. Through their country flows the river Eridanos, on whose banks people think that the daughters of the Sun mourn the fate of their brother Phaethon. The name “Galatians” came into vogue only lately, for in previous times the people were called “Celts” (Keltoi) both by themselves and by others.

[Galatian invasion ca. 279 BCE; cf. 10.19-23, not fully reproduced here, for a more extensive account of the details of the invasion and battles]

A force of Celts assembled and marched towards the Ionian sea: they dispossessed the Illyrian people (ethnos) and the Macedonians, as well as all the intervening peoples, and overran Thessaly. When they came near to Thermopylai, most of the Greeks passively awaited the attack of the barbarians. This hesitancy was because they had suffered heavily before at the hands of Alexander and Philip, and afterwards the people had been brought low by Antipater and Cassander, so that in their weakness each thought it no shame to refrain from taking part in the defence. But the Athenians, although they were more exhausted than any of the Greeks by the long Macedonian war and many defeats in battle, nevertheless appointed the said Kallipos to the command, and hurried to Thermopylai with those of the Greeks who volunteered. Having seized the narrowest part of the pass, they attempted to hinder the barbarians from entering into Greece. But the Celts discovered the path by which Ephialtes the Trachinian once guided the Medes. After over-powering the Phokians, who were posted on it, they crossed mount Oita before the Greeks were aware [ca. 480 BCE]. At that point the Athenians rendered a great service to Greece because, although they were surrounded on both sides, they kept the barbarians at bay. But their comrades on the ships laboured the most. At Thermopylai the Lamian gulf is a swamp, the cause of which, it seems to me, is the warm water that here flows into the sea. So their toil was the greater; for when they had taken the Greeks on board, they made shift to sail through the mud in ships weighed down with arms and men. So they strove to save the Greeks in the way I have described.

However, the Galatians were now inside the Gates. Not caring to capture the other towns, they were bent on plundering Delphi and the treasures of the god. The Delphians, and those of the Phokians who inhabit the cities around mount Parnassos, put themselves in array against them, and a force of Aitolians also came, because at that time the Aitolian people excelled in youthful vigour. But when the armies came close, thunderbolts and rocks, breaking away from Parnassos, came hurtling down on the Galatians, and dreadful shapes of men in arms appeared against the barbarians. They say that two of these phantom warriors, Hyperochos and Amadokos, came from the Hyperboreans, and that the third was Pyrrhus son of Achilles. For this help in battle the Delphians sacrifice to Pyrrhus as to a hero, though formerly they held his very tomb in dishonour as that of a foe.

Most of the Galatians crossed to Asia in ships and plundered the sea-coast. But afterwards the people of Pergamon, which was called Teuthrania in the old days, drove them away from the sea into the country now called Galatia. They captured Ankyra, a city of the Phrygians, founded in former days by Midas son of Gordios, and took possession of the land beyond the Sangarios. The anchor which Midas found still existed, even down to my time, in the sanctuary of Zeus, and there is a fountain called the fountain of Midas. They say that Midas mixed wine with the water of the fountain to catch Silenos. This town of Ankyra, then, was captured by the Galatians, and likewise Pessinous under mount Agdistis, where they say that Attis is buried. The Pergamenes have spoils taken from the Galatians, and a picture representing the battle with them. The country inhabited by the Pergamenes is said to have been sacred to the Kabeiroi of the old times; but the Pergamenes themselves claim to be Arkadians of the band which crossed to Asia with Telephos. Of their other wars, if indeed they waged any, the fame has not gone abroad. But three most renowned achievements are theirs, namely: the empire of lower Asia, the expulsion of the Galatians from there, and Telephos’ bold attack on the army of Agamemnon at the time when the Greeks, after missing Ilion, were plundering the Mysian plain in the belief that it was the land of Troy. But I return to the point from which I digressed.

[Digression on Thracian peoples in connection with a digression on Lysimachos in connection with Athens]

(1.9.5-7) . . . After Alexander’s death, Lysimachos [the Macedonian] reigned over those Thracians bordering on Macedonia over whom Alexander and Philip before him had ruled. These Thracians are probably just a small portion of the Thracians, because no single people (ethnos), except the Celts, is more numerous than the Thracians collectively. So no one ever conquered the whole Thracian people until the Romans did so. But the whole of Thrace is subject to the Romans, who hold also all the lands of the Celts that are worth having, disregarding only parts that they consider useless because of the severity of the cold or the poverty of the soil. The first of the neighbouring Thracians on whom Lysimachos made war were the Odrysians (Odrysai). Next he marched against the Getians (Getai) and their chief Dromichaites. Having engaged a far superior force of that warlike people, Lysimachos had a narrow escape himself. But his son Agathokles, then serving his first campaign with him, fell into the hands of the Getians. Fresh defeats and anxiety at the captivity of his son induced him to conclude a peace with Dromichaites, in which he ceded to that chief all his domains beyond the Danube and he gave him, somewhat reluctantly, his daughter as a wife. Some say that it was not Agathokles, but Lysimachos himself who fell into the hands of the enemy, and that he was rescued by Agathokles, who negotiated on his behalf with the Getian chief. . . .

[Inscription by king Pyrrhos on the “bold Galatians” after victory ca. 279 BCE]

(1.13.2-3) . . . The greatness of the battle and the decisive nature of Pyrrhus’ victory are best shown by the Celtic equipment dedicated in the sanctuary of Itonian Athena, between Pherai and Larissa, with the following inscription: “Pyrrhos the Molossian hung up these shields as a gift to Itonian Athena. From the bold (thrasys) Galatians he took them / when he conquered all the host of Antigonus. And no wonder / for the Aiakids are warriors now as of old.” He dedicated these there. But the shields of the Macedonians he dedicated to Zeus at Dodona . . .

[Comparing Athenians with Egyptians, Phrygians, Libyans, Assyrians, and others at Athens]

(1.14) On entering the music hall (ōideion) at Athens, we notice, among other things, an image of Dionysos which is worth seeing. Near the music hall is a fountain called Enneakrounos (“Nine Jets”). It was adorned as at present by Pisistratos. For though there are wells throughout the city, this is the only spring. Above the fountain are temples: one of them is a temple of Demeter and Kore, in the other there is an image of Triptolemos. I will tell the story of Triptolemos, omitting what relates to Deiope. Among all the Greeks it is the Argives who most dispute the claim of the Athenians to antiquity and to the possession of gifts of the gods, just as among the barbarians it is the Egyptians who dispute the claims of the Phrygians. The story goes that when Demeter came to Argos, Pelasgos received her in his house, and that Chrysanthis, knowing the rape of the maid, told it to her. . . [omitted description of variants of the myth]. Above the Kerameikos subdivision and the Royal Colonnade is a temple of Hephaistos. Knowing the story about Erichthonios, I was not surprised that an image of Athena stood beside Hephaistos. However, observing that Athena’s image had blue eyes, I recognised the Libyan version of the myth. For the Libyans say that she is a daughter of Poseidon and the Tritonian lake, and that therefore she, like Poseidon, has blue eyes. Nearby is a sanctuary of Heavenly (Ourania) Aphrodite. The first people to worship this Heavenly goddess were the Assyrians, and next to them were the inhabitants of Paphos in Cyprus and the Phoenicians of Askalon in Palestine. The Kytherians learnt the worship from the Phoenicians. Aigeus introduced it into Athens, thinking that his own childlessness (for up to that time he had no offspring) and the misfortune of his sisters were due to the anger of the Heavenly goddess. The image still existing in my time is of Parian marble, and is a work of Pheidias. However, there is an Athenian subdivision called Athmonia where the inhabitants say that their sanctuary of the Heavenly goddess was founded by Porphyrion, who reigned before Aktaios. There are other stories which the people of the different subdivisions tell quite differently from the people of the central city of Athens. . . .

[Description of a painting depicting Greeks confronting Amazons and Persians in the “Painted Colonnade” at Athens]

(1.15) On the way to the colonnade, which from its paintings they call the “Painted Colonnade,” there is a bronze Hermes, surnamed Hermes of the Market, and near it a gate. On this gate there is a trophy of a victory gained by the Athenian cavalry over Plistarchos, who commanded the cavalry and the mercenary troops of his brother Kassander. The first painting in this colonnade represents the Athenians arrayed against the Lakedaimonians [Spartans] at Oinoe in Argolis. The painter has not depicted the heat of battle, when valiant deeds are done. The fight is just beginning, the combatants are still advancing to the encounter. On the middle wall are Theseus and the Athenians fighting the Amazons. It would appear that the intrepidity of the Amazons alone was not hindered by reverses. For though Themiskyra was taken by Herakles, and though afterwards the army which they sent against Athens was destroyed, nevertheless they came to Troy to fight the Athenians and all the Greeks. Next after the Amazons is a picture of the Greeks after their conquest of Ilion. The kings are gathered together to consult on the outrage offered by Ajax to Kassandra. Ajax himself appears in the picture, as well as Kassandra and other captive women. The last painting depicts the combatants at Marathon [490 BCE]. The Boiotians of Plataia and all the men of Attica are closing in on the barbarians [Persians]. In this part of the picture the combatants are evenly matched. However, farther on the barbarians are fleeing and pushing each other into the marsh. At the extremity of the picture are the Phoenician ships and the Greeks slaughtering the barbarians who are rushing into the ships. Here, too, are depicted the hero Marathon, after whom the plain was named; Theseus, seeming to rise out of the earth; and, Athena and Herakles. According to their own account, the people of Marathon were the first to regard Herakles as a god. Among the combatants, the most conspicuous in the painting are Kallimachus, who had been chosen to command the Athenians; Miltiades, one of the generals; and, a hero called Echetlos, who I will mention again. In this colonnade are some bronze shields, with some having an inscription stating that they were taken from the Skionians and their allies; but those shields which are smeared with pitch to preserve them from the injurious effects of time and rust, are said to be the shields of the Lakedaimonians who were taken in the island of Sphakteria.

[Description of Attalos’ monument depicting Medes, Galatians, Amazons, and Thracian giants in defeat]

(1.25.2) At the south wall [of the Acropolis at Athens] are figures about two forearms high, dedicated by Attalos [king of Pergamon; link to photos of similar or identical monuments]. They represent the legendary war of the giants who once lived around Thrace and the isthmus of Pallene, the fight of the Athenians with the Amazons, the battle with the Medes at Marathon, and the destruction of the Galatians in Mysia.

[Hyperboreans in local history at Prasiai]

(1.31.2) In Prasiai [on the eastern coast of Lakonia, Greece] there is a temple of Apollo. It is said that the first-fruits of the Hyperboreans come there. They say the Hyperboreans pass them over to the Arimaspians, the Arimaspians pass them to the Issedonians, and from the Issedonians to the Scythians who transport them to Sinope. From there they are brought by Greeks to Prasiai, and the Athenians carry them to Delos. These first-fruits, it is said, are hidden in straw, and nobody knows what they are.

[Ethiopians and Fish-eaters and ethnographic interests at Rhamnous on the eastern coast of Attica]

(1.33) Some distance from Marathon is Brauron, where they say that Iphigenia, daughter of Agamemnon, fleeing from the Taurians, landed with the image of Artemis. Here, it is said, she left the image and went to Athens, and afterwards to Argos. There is, in fact, an old wooden image of Artemis here, but in another place I will show who, in my opinion, possess the image which was brought from the barbarians. About sixty stadium-lengths from Marathon is Rhamnous [on the eastern coast of Attica], on the road that runs beside the sea to Oropos. The dwellings of the people are beside the sea, but a little above the sea is a sanctuary of Nemesis, who among all deities is most unstoppable when it comes to proud people. It appears that the barbarians who landed at Marathon incurred the anger of this goddess because, considering it an easy task to capture Athens, they brought with them Parian marble to make a trophy, as if the victory was already won. Pheidias produced an image of Nemesis from this very marble. On the head of the goddess is a crown ornamented with deers and small figures of Victory. In her left hand she carries an apple bough, in her right a bowl, on which are worked figures of Ethiopians.

I could not guess the meaning of these Ethiopians that are depicted, nor could I accept the views of those [i.e. locals at Rhamnous] who believed that they understood it. They [some Rhamnians] said that the Ethiopians are depicted on the bowl due to the Ocean river, because the Ethiopians live beside it, and Ocean is the father of Nemesis. But beside the Ocean (which is not a river, but the furthest sea that is navigated by people) live Iberians and Celts, and this embraces the island of the Britons. Regarding the Ethiopians above Syene, the closest to the Erythraian sea are the Ichthyophagians (Fish-eaters), and the gulf around which they dwell is named after them. The most righteous of them inhabit the city of Meroe and the plain called the Ethiopian plain. These are the ones who show the Table of the Sun, but they have no sea and no river except the Nile. There are other Ethiopians who live next to the Maurians (Maurioi; or: Mauretanians / Moors), and reach as far as the Nasamonians [i.e. another people in Libya / northern Africa]. The Nasamonians are called Atlantians by Herodotos, but those who profess to know the dimensions of the earth call them Lixitians (Lixitiai). They are the most distant of the Libyans, and live beside the Atlas mountain range [i.e. beside the Atlantic Ocean], planting nothing, but subsisting on wild vines. But neither these Ethiopians nor the Nasamonians have any river. For the water of Atlas, though it gives rise to three streams, swells none of them into a river, but is all immediately absorbed by the sand. So the Ethiopians do not live beside an Ocean river. The water of Atlas is rough, and at the spring there were crocodiles not less than two arm-lengths in size. However, when people approached, they plunged into the spring. Not a few have supposed that this water, reappearing out of the sand, forms the Egyptian Nile. Atlas’ mountain range is so lofty that it is said to touch the sky with its peaks, but it is inaccessible by reason of the water and of the trees that grow all over it. The side of the Atlas towards the Nasamonians is known. However, as far as we know, no one has yet sailed past the side that faces to the open sea. But enough of this. . . .

[Ajax’s size compared to Celts in the discussion of Salamis island, with Pausanias questioning legends of Celtic size]

(1.35.5) Regarding the size of Ajax, a man from Mysia said that the sea had washed against the side of the grave that faces the beach, and had made the entrance to the tomb not difficult. He also told me I might judge of the size of the corpse from this: the knee bones or knee pans (as doctors call them) were about the size of a quoit used by a boy who was a pentathlete. As to the remotest Celts called “Kabarians (Kabareis),” who live at the edges of the frozen desert, I was not astonished at their stature, which does not differ from that of Egyptian corpses. . . .

[Libyans in connection with local story and a Carthaginian story about Gorgon Medusa at Argos, perhaps ultimately deriving from Dionysios’ Libyan Stories]

(2.21) Not far from the building in the market-place of Argos is a mound of earth. They say that in it lies the head of the Gorgon Medusa. If we leave out the mythical element, the story told about her is this: She was a daughter of Phorkos, and when her father died she reigned over the people who live near Tritonis lake [in northern Africa]. She used to go out hunting, and she led the Libyans to battle. But being encamped with her army over against the army of Perseus, who was accompanied by chosen troops from the Peloponnesos, she was assassinated at night. Perseus, who admired her beauty even in death, cut off her head and brought it to show to the Greeks.

[Prokles on wild men and women of Libya]

But a Carthaginian named Prokles son of Eukrates thought that the following account was more plausible. The desert of Libya contains wild beasts that a man would not believe if he were told about them. Amongst these monsters are wild men and wild women. Prokles said that he had seen one of these men who had been brought to Rome. He conjectured, therefore, that one of these women had wandered to the lake Tritonis, where she harrassed the people of the neighbourhood until Perseus killed her. Because the people who live around about lake Tritonis are sacred to Athena, it was supposed that the goddess had aided him in his exploit.

[Sanctuary of Ammon at Sparta and a connection with Libya]

(3.18) Going farther on, you come to a sanctuary of Ammon. From the earliest times the Libyan oracle is known to have been consulted by the Lakedaimonians [Spartans] more frequently than by the rest of the Greeks. It is said that when Lysander was besieging Aphytis in Pallene, Ammon appeared to him at night and warned him ahead of time that it would be better for him and for Lakedaimon to desist from the war with the Aphytaians. So Lysander raised the siege and induced the Lakedaimonians to revere the god more than ever; and the Aphytaians are not at all behind the Libyans of Ammon themselves in their respect for Ammon.

[Aside on Chaldeans and Indian Magians regarding the immortal soul]

(4.32.4) The first people I know of who asserted that the soul of man is immortal were the Chaldeans and the Indian Magians, and some of the Greeks believed them, especially Plato the son of Aristo.

[Ethnic diversity at Pachynos / Pachynum and in Sicily generally]

(5.25.5-6) At Pachynos, the promontory of Sicily which faces towards Libya and the south, there is a city called Motye which is inhabited by Libyans and Phoenicians. With these barbarians of Motye the Agrigentines went to war and, after taking plunder and spoil from them, they dedicated the bronze statues at Olympia representing boys stretching out their right hands as if praying to the god. These statues stand on the wall of the Altis. I guessed that they were works of Kalamis, and the tradition agreed with my guess. Sicily is inhabited by the following peoples (ethnē): Sikanians, Sikelians, and Phrygians. The first two crossed into Sicily from Italy, but the Phrygians came from the river Skamander and the Troad region. The Phoenicians and Libyans came to the island together, being colonists from Carthage. Those are the barbarian peoples in Sicily. Its Greek population consists of Dorians and Ionians, with a small proportion of people of Phokian and Attic descent.

[Digression on Serians in the far east]

(6.26.6-9) The land of Elis is fertile, and is especially adapted to the growth of fine flax. Now, while hemp and flax – both the ordinary and the fine kinds – are sown where the soil is suitable, the threads which the Serians (Sēres) [i.e. sometimes the equivalent of Far-easterners or Chinese] use to make their clothing are produced, not from a bark, but in the following manner: In the country of the Serians there is an insect which the Greeks call a “sēr” [silk-worm], but which the Serians themselves probably give a different name. In size it is twice as big as the biggest beetle. Yet in every other respect it resembles the spiders that spin under the trees, and in particular it has, like the spider, eight feet. The Serians rear these creatures and build houses for them adapted to both winter and summer weather. The product of these insects is found in the shape of a fine thread wound around their eight feet. The people keep the insects four years, feeding them on millet. But because they know that the insect will not live beyond the fifth year, they give them a green reed to eat. This is the food that the insect likes best of all, and it crams itself with it till it bursts from eating too much. When it is dead, they find the bulk of the thread in its inside. The island of Seria is known to be situated in a recess of the Erythraian sea [encompassing what we know as the Red Sea, the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean]. But I have also heard that the island is formed not by the Erythraian sea, but by a river named the Ser, just as the Delta of Egypt is surrounded by the Nile and not by a sea. It is said that is what the island of Seria is like. Both the Serians and the inhabitants of the neighbouring islands of Abasa and Sakaia are of the Ethiopian descent group (genos). However, some others say that the Serians are not Ethiopians, but a mixture of Scythians and Indians. . .

[Digression on Maurians and Libyans and characterization of Germans and Sarmatians in discussion of the emperor Antoninus Pius and Marcus Aurelius]

(8.43.3-6) Antoninus [Pius, ruling 138-161], the benefactor of Pallantion [in Arkadia, Greece], never voluntarily involved the Romans in war. However, when the Maurians (Mauroi; or: Moors) took up arms against Rome he drove them out of all their land, and forced them to flee into the furthest parts of Libya, as far as mount Atlas and the peoples who live on that mountain. These Maurians form the greatest part of the independent Libyan. They are nomads and harder to fight than the Scythians because they roam – both the men and the women – on horseback rather than wagons. Also he deprived the Brigantians in Brittania of most of their territory because they, too, had begun a war of aggression by invading the province of Genunia, which is subject to Rome. The Lycian and Carian cities, as well as Kos and Rhodes, were destroyed by a violent earthquake. But the emperor Antoninus restored them by a lavish expenditure of money, and by his eagerness to have them rebuilt. As to his free gifts of money both to Greeks and such barbarians as needed it, and his buildings in Greece, Ionia, Carthage, and Syria, they have been very exactly recorded by other writers. . . This emperor was called Pius by the Romans because he was known to be most devout. In my opinion, the title borne by the elder Cyrus might well be applied to him—the “Father of humankind.” He left the throne to a son of the same name, Antoninus the Second [Marcus Aurelius], who inflicted punishment on the Germans, the most numerous and war-like barbarians in Europe, and on the Sarmatian people, both of whom had violently broken the peace.

[Ktesias and Indian accounts of the martichoras with reference to Pausanias’ views on the influnce of climate and environment on both humans and animals]

(9.21.4-6) In his account of Indians, Ktesias mentions an animal which he says is called “martichoras” by the Indians and “man-eater” (androphagos) by the Greeks. I believe it is the tiger. That it has three rows of teeth on each jaw and prickles on the tip of the tail, and that it defends itself with these prickles at close quarters, and hurls them at its foes at a distance like the arrow of an archer: all this seems to me to be a false report which circulates amongst the Indians owing to their excessive fear of the animal. They were deceived also in respect to its colour, because when they saw the tiger in the sunlight it seemed to them to be red all over, either by reason of its speed, or, if it were not running, on account of its constantly turning around, especially if they did not see the animal close up.

I also think that if a man were to search the farthest parts of Libya, or India, or Arabia, for the wild animals of Greece, he would fail to find some of them at all, and others would appear different to him. For certainly man is not the only animal whose aspect differs with differences in climate and country. All the other animals are probably subject to the same law. For example, the Libyan asps differ from the Egyptian in colour, and in Ethiopia the asps are as black as the men. So careful should we be to avoid quick judgments on the one hand, and incredulity in matters of rare occurrence on the other. I myself, for instance, have never seen winged snakes, but I believe that they exist, because a man of Phrygia brought to Ionia a scorpion that had wings just like those of locusts.

[Prophecy of Phainnis regarding defeat of the Galatian ca. 279 BCE, as an aside in discussing statues in Phokis]

(10.15.3) Also there are statues of the Aitolian generals, an image of Artemis, one of Athena, and two of Apollo: these were offered by the Aitolians when they had brought their affair with the Galatians to an end. That the Celtic force would cross from Europe into Asia to destroy the cities had been foretold by Phainnis [among the Chaonians] in her oracles a generation before the event took place:

“Then having crossed the narrow strait of the Hellespont / the destructive army of the Galatians will pipe; they shall lawlessly / Ravage Asia, and god shall make it yet worse / for all who dwell by the shores of the sea / for a little while. But soon the son of Kronos will stir up a helper for them, / a dear son of a Zeus-reared bull, / who shall bring a day of doom on all the Galatians.” By the son of a bull she meant Attalos, king of Pergamon, who is also described in an oracle as bull-horned.

[Libyans, Iberians, Greeks, Trojans, and others colonize the island of Sardinia]

(10.17) Of the barbarians of the west, the inhabitants of Sardinia sent to Delphi a bronze statue of the hero after whom they are named. In size and wealth Sardinia is a match for the most celebrated islands. I do not know what the ancient name given to it by the natives may have been, but the Greeks who made trading voyages there called it Ichnousa, because the shape of the island is very like a man’s “footstep” (ichnos). Its length is one thousand one hundred and twenty stadium-lengths, and its breadth four hundred and twenty. The first to cross over to the island in ships are said to have been Libyans. Their leader was Sardos, a son of that Makeris whom the Egyptians and Libyans surname Herakles. Makeris himself was mainly famous for his journey to Delphi. But Sardos had the distinction of leading the Libyans to Ichnousa, and the island received its new name from him. However, the Libyan invaders did not expel the indigenous people, who allowed the newcomers to settle among them, not because they wished them well, but because they could not help it. Neither the Libyans nor the natives knew how to build cities: they lived dispersed, as chance directed, in huts and caves.

Years after the arrival of the Libyans there came to the island Aristaios and his company from Greece. They say that Aristaios was a son of Apollo and Cyrene, and that being exceedingly distressed at the sad end of Aktaion, and disgusted with Boiotia and the whole of Greece, he migrated to Sardinia. Some think that Daidalos at that time had fled from Kamikos, because of the Cretan invasion, and joined Aristaios in colonizing Sardinia. However, it would be completely irrational to suppose that Daidalos, a contemporary of Oedipus, king of Thebes, could have participated in a colony or anything else with Aristaios, who married Autonoe, daughter of Kadmos. Regardless, it is certain that the Greek colonists did not found a city, I suppose because their numbers and strength were not equal to it.

After Aristaios the Iberians crossed into Sardinia under the command of Norax, and founded a city Nora, which tradition affirms to have been the earliest city in the island. They say that Norax was a son of Hermes, by Erythea, daughter of Geryon.

A fourth element of the population was formed by an army from Thespiai and Attica, which landed in Sardinia, under the command of Iolaos, and founded a city Olbia. The Athenians, however, founded a city by themselves, and called it Ogryle, either in memory of one of their townships at home, or because one Ogrylos actually shared in the expedition. Anyways, in my time there are still places in Sardinia called Iolaia, and Iolaos is worshipped by the inhabitants.

When Ilion was taken, amongst the Trojans who escaped were the fugitives who accompanied Aeneas. Some of them were driven by strong winds to Sardinia and blended with the Greek population which they found on the island. But the barbarians were prevented from fighting the Greeks and Trojans because, being well matched with the river Thorsos flowing between their lands, both sides were equally afraid to cross the river.

However, many years afterwards the Libyans crossed over once more to the island in greater force than before, and attacked the Greek population. The Greeks were utterly annihilated, or the remnant of them was small. But the Trojans fled to the highlands and occupied precipitous mountains, which they strengthened still further by defensive walls. In my time, they still retain the name of Ilians. However, their features, style of weapons, and way of life resemble those of the Libyans.

There is an island at no great distance from Sardinia, known to the Greeks as Kyros, but called by the Libyans who inhabit it Korsika [Corsica]. A considerable part of the population of that island, oppressed by faction, migrated to Sardinia, and having appropriated a part of the mountainous district, settled there. But the Sardinians still call them by their original name of Korsikans. When the Carthaginians were at the height of their naval power they subdued the whole population of Sardinia, except the Ilians and Korsikans, who were saved from slavery by the natural strength of their mountains. Like some of their predecessors, the Carthaginians founded cities in the island, namely, Karalis and Sylkous. Some of the Carthaginian auxiliaries, either Libyans or Iberians, argued about the plunder and, in a rage, revolted and withdrew to the highlands, where they, too, settled. Their name in the Korsikan tongue is “Balaroi,” that being the Korsikan word for fugitives. Those are the different descent groups (genē) that inhabit Sardinia, and such was the mode of their settlement.

[Description of Galatian character and fighting style in a long account of the invasion of 279 BCE in connection with description of Delphi]

(10.21.2) [Context of the clash between Greeks and the Galatian invaders at Thermopylai] . . . The Galatians were the worse equipped, their native shields being their only defensive weapon, and in military skill they were still more inferior. They advanced on the foe with the blind rage and spirit of wild beasts (thēria). Hacked with axes or swords, their fury did not desert them so long as they drew breath. Run through with darts and javelins, their courage did not diminish while life remained. Some of them even tore from their wounds the spears with which they had been hit and hurled them at the Greeks, or used them at close quarters. . . . [omitted remainder of detailed account of the battles].

Leave a comment or correction

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *