Ethiopians: Dalion on paradoxical peoples (mid-third century BCE)

Citation with stable link: Philip A. Harland, 'Ethiopians: Dalion on paradoxical peoples (mid-third century BCE),' Ethnic Relations and Migration in the Ancient World, last modified May 19, 2024,

Ancient authors: Dalion (mid-third century BCE), Ethiopian Matters = FGrHist 666 F2-4 (link to FGrHist), as discussed by Pliny the Elder, Natural History 6.183, 194-195 and 7.17 (link).

Comments: We know very little about Dalion beyond these citations by Pliny, which suggest that he lived in the fourth century BCE and made a journey beyond Meroe in Kush (in what is now Sudan). Dalion’s work on Ethiopian Matters evidently gave attention to peoples and marvels.

Works consulted: S.M. Burstein, “Dalion (666),” in Jacoby Online. Brill’s New Jacoby – Second Edition, Part III, edited by Ian Worthington. Brill: Leiden, 2018.


[Dalion’s journey south beyond Meroe]

(F2 = 6.183) Similarly there have also been various reports regarding size of the country [of Ethiopia]. The first report was given by Dalion, who sailed up a long way beyond Meroe, and then by Aristokreon, Bion, and Basilis, and also by the younger Simonides, who stayed at Meroe for five years while writing his account of Ethiopia.

[Ethiopian or Libyan peoples west of the Nile]

(F3 = 6.194-195) On the side of the Nile that stretches inland from the Greater Syrtes [modern Gulf of Sidra, Libya; i.e. the western side of the Nile] and the southern ocean. Dalion says there are the Vacathians, who use only rainwater, the Cisorians, the Logonporians five days’ journey from the Oecalices, the Usibalchians, Isbelians, Perusians, Ballians and Cispians. He also says that all the rest of the country is uninhabited.

Then there are regions that are purely imaginary: towards the west are the Nigrians (Nigroe, literally “Blacks”), whose king is said to have only one eye on his forehead; the Agriophagians (“Wild-beast-eaters”), who live mainly on the flesh of panthers and lions; the Pamphagians (“Eat-everythings”), who devour everything; the Anthropophagians (“Man-eaters”), whose diet is human flesh; the Kynomolgians (“Dog-milkers”), who have dogs’ heads; the Artabatitians, who have four legs and roam around like wild animals; and then the Hesperians, the Perorsians and the people we have mentioned as inhabiting the border of Mauretania. One segment of the Ethiopians live only on locusts, dried in smoke and salted to keep for a year’s supply of food. These people do not live beyond the age of forty.

[Potion-makers as a people with double pupils]

(F4 = 7.17) Apollonides also reports women of this kind [who use the evil eye] in Scythia, who are called the Bitians, and Phylarchos also the Thibian people and many others of the same nature in Pontus [Black Sea region], whose distinguishing marks he records as being a double pupil in one eye and the likeness of a horse in the other. Phylarchos also says that they are incapable of drowning, even when weighed down with clothing. Dalion records a people not unlike these in Ethiopia, the Pharmacians (“Potion-makers”), whose sweat relieves diseases when touched. Also among ourselves Cicero states that the glance of all women who have double pupils is injurious everywhere.


Source of translation: H. Rackham, W.H.S. Jones, and D.E. Eichholz, Pliny: Natural History, 10 volumes, LCL (Cambridge, MA: HUP, 1938-1962), public domain (Rackham passed away in 1944, Jones passed away in 1963, copyright not renewed as well), adapted by Harland.

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