Thracians: Charon of Lampsakos on relations between Bisaltians and Greek Kardians (mid-fifth century BCE)

Citation with stable link: Philip A. Harland, 'Thracians: Charon of Lampsakos on relations between Bisaltians and Greek Kardians (mid-fifth century BCE),' Ethnic Relations and Migration in the Ancient World, last modified April 25, 2024,

Ancient authors: Suda lexicon at Χάρων, chi.136 = FGrHist 262 T1 (link); Charon of Lampsakos,  FGrHist 262 F1, as cited by Athenaios, Sophists at Dinner 12.520d–f (link; link to FGrHist).

Comments: We know very little about Charon of Lampsakos (on the northwestern coast of the Troad, modern Turkey) beyond what the Suda entry cited below outlines, including that he was likely active writing before Herodotos.  What is clear from the list of his books is that he too had considerable ethnographic interests, writing works on Ethiopians and on Persians.

In the second passage below, Charon deals with relations between the Greek colonists of Kardia (consisting of Milesians and Klazomenians at first) and the Bisaltians, who are usually encompassed by the Greek category of Thracians. Charon relates a story about a Bisaltian who had been enslaved at Kardia and escaped only to lead the Bisaltians in an expedition against the Greek Kardians (supposedly after hearing Kardians talking about an oracle about their own future defeat). Athenaios cites this passage mainly to point to another instance of excessive luxury doing people in, in this case luxury on the part of the Greek Kardians who had dancing horses.

Later on, Strabo (Geography 7, fragment 36) situates the Bisaltians on the southern portion of the Strymon river (modern Struma river in what is now Bulgaria and northern Macedonia, Greece): “Now above Amphipolis and as far as the city Herakleia [Sintika], is the land of the Bisaltians, with its fruitful valley. This valley is divided into two parts by the Strymon river, which has its source in the country of the Agrianians who live around Rhodope mountain. Alongside this country lies Parorbelia, a district of Macedonia, which has in its interior, along the valley that begins at Eidonene, the cities Kallipolis, Orthopolis, Philippopolis, Gareskos. If one goes up the Strymon river, one comes to Berge, which is situated in the country of the Bisaltians, and is a village about two hundred stadium-lengths away from Amphipolis.”


Suda Lexicon

Charon: A person from Lampsakos, son of Pythokles who was born during the reign of the first Darius, in the seventy-ninth Olympiad [ca. 464 BCE], or rather in the time of the Persian wars, the seventy-fifth Olympiad [ca. 480 BCE]. A historian, he wrote Ethiopian Matters (Aithiopika); Persian Matters in two books; Greek Matters in four books; On Lampsakos in two books; Libyan Matters; Chronicles of the Lampsakenians in four books; Presidents and Leaders of the Lakedaimonians, which are chronicles; Foundations of Cities in two books; Cretan Matters in three books, including the laws established by Minos; and, Voyage Beyond the Pillars of Herakles.


(FGrHist 262 F1) Charon of Lampsakos in the second book of his Chronicles writes as follows:

“The Bisaltians (Bisaltai) went to war against Kardia [on the Thracian Chersonese or peninsula, modern Dardanelles, opposite Lampsakos in the Troad region of northwestern Asia Minor] and won the victory. Naris was leader of the Bisaltians. When Naris was a child, he had been sold in Kardia, and after serving as a slave to a Kardian had become a barber. Now the Kardians had an oracle that the Bisaltians would come against them, and they would often talk about it as they sat in the barber-shop. So Naris, escaping from Kardia to his native land, prepared the Bisaltians to attack the Kardians, and was appointed leader by the Bisaltians. All the Kardians had taught their horses to dance at their drinking-parties to the accompaniment of the pipes. The horses would dance by rising on their hind legs and sort of gesticulate with their front feet, being thoroughly accustomed to the pipe-melodies. Knowing these facts, Naris purchased a flute-girl from Kardia, and on her arrival in Bisaltia she taught many pipers. So he set out with them to attack Kardia. During the battle, he gave orders to play all the pipe-melodies which the Kardian horses knew. And when the horses heard the piping, they stood on their hind legs and began to dance. But since the whole strength of the Kardians rested on their horsemen, they were beaten in this way.”


Source of translations: H.L. Jones, Strabo, 8 volumes, LCL (Cambridge, MA: HUP, 1917-28), public domain (passed away in 1932); David Whitehead at Suda Online (link); C.B. Gulick, Athenaeus: The Deipnosophists, 7 volumes, LCL (Cambridge, MA: HUP, 1927-41), public domain (passed away in 1962 and copyright expired), all adapted by Harland.

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