The Works
Lucian of Samosata

Complete with exceptions specified in the preface

Translated by

H. W. Fowler and F. G. Fowler


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Table of Contents

  1. The Vision
  2. A Literary Prometheus
  3. Nigrinus
  4. Trial in the Court of Vowels
  5. Timon the Misanthrope
  6. Prometheus on Caucasus
  7. Dialogues of the Gods
  8. Dialogues of the Sea-Gods
  9. Dialogues of the Dead
  10. Menippus
  11. Charon
  12. Of Sacrifice
  13. Sale of Creeds
  14. The Fisher
  15. Voyage to the Lower World
  16. The Dependent Scholar
  17. Apology for ‘The Dependent Scholar’
  18. A Slip of the Tongue in Salutation
  19. Hermotimus, or the Rival Philosophies
  20. Herodotus and Aetion
  21. Zeuxis and Antiochus
  22. Harmonides
  23. The Scythian
  24. The Way to Write History
  25. The True History
  26. The Tyrannicide
  27. The Disinherited
  28. Phalaris, I
  29. Phalaris, II
  30. Alexander the Oracle-Monger
  31. Of Pantomime
  32. Lexiphanes
  33. Life of Demonax
  34. A Portrait-Study
  35. Defence of the ‘Portrait-Study’
  36. Toxaris: A Dialogue of Friendship
  37. Zeus Cross-Examined
  38. Zeus Tragoedus
  39. The Cock
  40. Icaromenippus, an Aerial Expedition
  41. The Double Indictment
  42. The Parasite, a Demonstration that Sponging is a Profession
  43. Anacharsis, a Discussion of Physical Training
  44. Of Mourning
  45. The Rhetorician’s Vade Mecum
  46. The Liar
  47. Dionysus, an Introductory Lecture
  48. Heracles, an Introductory Lecture
  49. Swans and Amber
  50. The Fly, an Appreciation
  51. Remarks Addressed to an Illiterate Book-Fancier
  52. Slander, a Warning
  53. The Hall
  54. Patriotism
  55. Dipsas, the Thirst-Snake
  56. A Word with Hesiod
  57. The Ship: Or, the Wishes
  58. Dialogues of the Hetaerae
  59. The Death of Peregrine
  60. The Runaways
  61. Saturnalia
  62. Cronosolon
  63. Saturnalian Letters
  64. A Feast of Lapithae
  65. Demosthenes
  66. The Gods in Council
  67. The Cynic
  68. The Purist Purized

Notes Explanatory of Allusions to Persons, &c.

What work nobler than transplanting foreign thought into the barren domestic soil? except indeed planting thought of your own, which the fewest are privileged to do.

Sartor Resartus.

At each flaw, be this your first thought: the author doubtless said something quite different, and much more to the point. And then you may hiss me off, if you will.

— LUCIAN, Nigrinus, 9.

(LUCIAN) The last great master of Attic eloquence and Attic wit.

Lord Macaulay.


The text followed in this translation is that of Jacobitz, Teubner, 1901, all deviations from which are noted.

In the following list of omissions, italics denote that the piece is marked as spurious both by Dindorf and by Jacobitz. The other omissions are mainly by way of expurgation. In a very few other passages some isolated words and phrases have been excised; but it has not been thought necessary to mark these in the texts by asterisks.

Halcyon; Deorum Dialogi, iv, v, ix, x, xvii, xxii, xxiii; Dialogi Marini, xiii; Vera Historia, I. 22, II. 19; Alexander, 41,42; Eunuchus; De Astrologia; Amores; Lucius sive Asinus; Rhetorum Preceptor, 23; Hippias; Adversus Indoctum, 23; Pseudologista; Longaevi; Dialogi Meretricii, v, vi, x; De Syria Dea; Philopatris; Charidemus; Nero; Tragodopodagra; Ocypus; Epigrammata.

A word may be said about four pieces that seem to stand apart from the rest. Of these, the Trial in the Court of Vowels and A Slip of the Tongue will be interesting only to those who are familiar with Greek. The Lexiphanes and A Purist Purized, satirizing the pedants and euphuists of Lucian’s day, almost defy translation, and they must be accepted at best as an effort to give the general effect of the original.

The Notes explanatory at the end of vol. iv will be used by the reader at his discretion. Reference is made to them at the foot of the page only when it is not obvious what name should be consulted.

The translators take this opportunity of offering their heartiest thanks to the Delegates of the Clarendon Press for undertaking this work; and, in particular, to the Vice–Chancellor of Oxford University, Dr. Merry, who has been good enough to read the proofs, and to give much valuable advice both on the difficult subject of excision and on details of style and rendering. In this connexion, however, it should be added that for the retention of many modern phrases, which may offend some readers as anachronistic, responsibility rests with the translators alone.


  1. LIFE.




It is not to be understood that all statements here made are either ascertained facts or universally admitted conjectures. The introduction is intended merely to put those who are not scholars, and probably have not books of reference at hand, in a position to approach the translation at as little disadvantage as may be. Accordingly, we give the account that commends itself to us, without discussion or reference to authorities. Those who would like a more complete idea of Lucian should read Croiset’s Essai sur la vie et les oeuvres de Lucien, on which the first two sections of this introduction are very largely based. The only objections to the book (if they are objections) are that it is in French, and of 400 octavo pages. It is eminently readable.


With the exception of a very small number of statements, of which the truth is by no means certain, all that we know of Lucian is derived from his own writings. And any reader who prefers to have his facts at first rather than at second hand can consequently get them by reading certain of his pieces, and making the natural deductions from them. Those that contain biographical matter are, in the order corresponding to the periods of his life on which they throw light, The Vision, Demosthenes, Nigrinus, The Portrait-study and Defence (in which Lucian is Lycinus), The Way to write History, The double ndictment (in which he is The Syrian), The Fisher (Parrhesiades), Swans and Amber, Alexander, Hermotimus (Lycinus), Menippus and Icaromenippus (in which Menippus represents him), A literary Prometheus, Herodotus, Zeuxis, Harmonides, The Scythian, The Death of Peregrine, The Book-fancier, Demonax, The Rhetorician’s Vade mecum, Dionysus, Heracles, A Slip of the Tongue, Apology for ‘The dependent Scholar.‘ Of these The Vision is a direct piece of autobiography; there is intentional but veiled autobiography in several of the other pieces; in others again conclusions can be drawn from comparison of his statements with facts known from external sources.

Lucian lived from about 125 to about 200 A.D., under the Roman Emperors Antoninus Pius, M. Aurelius and Lucius Verus, Commodus, and perhaps Pertinax. He was a Syrian, born at Samosata on the Euphrates, of parents to whom it was of importance that he should earn his living without spending much time or money on education. His maternal uncle being a statuary, he was apprenticed to him, having shown an aptitude for modelling in the wax that he surreptitiously scraped from his school writing-tablets. The apprenticeship lasted one day. It is clear that he was impulsive all through life; and when his uncle corrected him with a stick for breaking a piece of marble, he ran off home, disposed already to think he had had enough of statuary. His mother took his part, and he made up his mind by the aid of a vision that came to him the same night.

It was the age of the rhetoricians. If war was not a thing of the past, the shadow of the pax Romana was over all the small states, and the aspiring provincial’s readiest road to fame was through words rather than deeds. The arrival of a famous rhetorician to lecture was one of the important events in any great city’s annals; and Lucian’s works are full of references to the impression these men produced, and the envy they enjoyed. He himself was evidently consumed, during his youth and early manhood, with desire for a position like theirs. To him, sleeping with memories of the stick, appeared two women, corresponding to Virtue and Pleasure in Prodicus’s Choice of Heracles — the working woman Statuary, and the lady Culture. They advanced their claims to him in turn; but before Culture had completed her reply, the choice was made: he was to be a rhetorician. From her reminding him that she was even now not all unknown to him, we may perhaps assume that he spoke some sort of Greek, or was being taught it; but he assures us that after leaving Syria he was still a barbarian; we have also a casual mention of his offering a lock of his hair to the Syrian goddess in his youth.

He was allowed to follow his bent and go to Ionia. Great Ionian cities like Smyrna and Ephesus were full of admired sophists or teachers of rhetoric. But it is unlikely that Lucian’s means would have enabled him to become the pupil of these. He probably acquired his skill to a great extent by the laborious method, which he ironically deprecates in The Rhetorician’s Vade mecum, of studying exhaustively the old Attic orators, poets, and historians.

He was at any rate successful. The different branches that a rhetorician might choose between or combine were: (1) Speaking in court on behalf of a client; (2) Writing speeches for a client to deliver; (3) Teaching pupils; (4) Giving public displays of his skill. There is a doubtful statement that Lucian failed in (1), and took to (2) in default. His surviving rhetorical pieces (The Tyrannicide, The Disinherited, Phalaris) are declamations on hypothetical cases which might serve either for (3) or (4); and The Hall, The Fly, Dipsas, and perhaps Demosthenes, suggest (4). A common form of exhibition was for a sophist to appear before an audience and let them propose subjects, of which he must choose one and deliver an impromptu oration upon it.

Whatever his exact line was, he earned an income in Ionia, then in Greece, had still greater success in Italy, and appears to have settled for some time in Gaul, perhaps occupying a professorial chair there. The intimate knowledge of Roman life in some aspects which appears in The dependent Scholar suggests that he also lived some time in Rome. He seems to have known some Latin, since he could converse with boatmen on the Po; but his only clear reference (A Slip of the Tongue,) implies an imperfect knowledge of it; and there is not a single mention in all his works, which are crammed with literary allusions, of any Latin author. He claims to have been during his time in Gaul one of the rhetoricians who could command high fees; and his descriptions of himself as resigning his place close about his lady’s (i.e. Rhetoric’s) person, and as casting off his wife Rhetoric because she did not keep herself exclusively to him, show that he regarded himself, or wished to be regarded, as having been at the head of his profession.

This brings us to about the year 160 A.D. We may conceive Lucian now to have had some of that yearning for home which he ascribes in the Patriotism even to the successful exile. He returned home, we suppose, a distinguished man at thirty-five, and enjoyed impressing the fact on his fellow citizens in The Vision. He may then have lived at Antioch as a rhetorician for some years, of which we have a memorial in The Portrait-study. Lucius Verus, M. Aurelius’s colleague, was at Antioch in 162 or 163 A.D. on his way to the Parthian war, and The Portrait-study is a panegyric on Verus’s mistress Panthea, whom Lucian saw there.

A year or two later we find him migrating to Athens, taking his father with him, and at Athens he settled and remained many years. It was on this journey that the incident occurred, which he relates with such a curious absence of shame in the Alexander, of his biting that charlatan’s hand.

This change in his manner of life corresponds nearly with the change in habit of mind and use of his powers that earned him his immortality. His fortieth year is the date given by himself for his abandonment of Rhetoric and, as he calls it, taking up with Dialogue, or, as we might say, becoming a man of letters. Between Rhetoric and Dialogue there was a feud, which had begun when Socrates five centuries before had fought his battles with the sophists. Rhetoric appeals to the emotions and obscures the issues (such had been Socrates’s position); the way to elicit truth is by short question and answer. The Socratic method, illustrated by Plato, had become, if not the only, the accredited instrument of philosophers, who, so far as they are genuine, are truth-seekers; Rhetoric had been left to the legal persons whose object is not truth but victory. Lucian’s abandonment of Rhetoric was accordingly in some sort his change from a lawyer to a philosopher. As it turned out, however, philosophy was itself only a transitional stage with him.

Already during his career as a rhetorician, which we may put at 145–164 A.D., he seems both to have had leanings to philosophy, and to have toyed with dialogue. There is reason to suppose that the Nigrinus, with its strong contrast between the noise and vulgarity of Rome and the peace and culture of Athens, its enthusiastic picture of the charm of philosophy for a sensitive and intelligent spirit, was written in 150 A.D., or at any rate described an incident that occurred in that year; and the Portrait-study and its Defence, dialogues written with great care, whatever their other merits, belong to 162 or 163 A.D. But these had been excursions out of his own province. After settling at Athens he seems to have adopted the writing of dialogues as his regular work. The Toxaris, a collection of stories on friendship, strung together by dialogue, the Anacharsis, a discussion on the value of physical training, and the Pantomime, a description slightly relieved by the dialogue form, may be regarded as experiments with his new instrument. There is no trace in them of the characteristic use that he afterwards made of dialogue, for the purposes of satire.

That was an idea that we may suppose to have occurred to him after the composition of the Hermotimus. This is in form the most philosophic of his dialogues; it might indeed be a dialogue of Plato, of the merely destructive kind; but it is at the same time, in matter, his farewell to philosophy, establishing that the pursuit of it is hopeless for mortal man. From this time onward, though he always professes himself a lover of true philosophy, he concerns himself no more with it, except to expose its false professors. The dialogue that perhaps comes next, The Parasite, is still Platonic in form, but only as a parody; its main interest (for a modern reader is outraged, as in a few other pieces of Lucian’s, by the disproportion between subject and treatment) is in the combination for the first time of satire with dialogue.

One more step remained to be taken. In the piece called A literary Prometheus, we are told what Lucian himself regarded as his claim to the title of an original writer. It was the fusing of Comedy and Dialogue — the latter being the prose conversation hat had hitherto been confined to philosophical discussion. The new literary form, then, was conversation, frankly for purposes of entertainment, as in Comedy, but to be read and not acted. In this kind of writing he remains, though he has been often imitated, first in merit as clearly as in time; and nearly all his great masterpieces took this form. They followed in rapid succession, being all written, perhaps, between 165 and 175 A.D. And we make here no further comment upon them, except to remark that they fall roughly into three groups as he drew inspiration successively from the writers of the New Comedy (or Comedy of ordinary life) like Menander, from the satires of Menippus, and from writers of the Old Comedy (or Comedy of fantastic imagination) like Aristophanes. The best specimens of the first group are The Liar and the Dialogues of the Hetaerae; of the second, the Dialogues of the Dead and of the Gods, Menippus and Icaromenippus, Zeus cross-examined; of the third, Timon, Charon, A Voyage to the lower World, The Sale of Creeds, The Fisher, Zeus Tragoedus, The Cock, The double Indictment, The Ship.

During these ten or more years, though he lived at Athens, he is to be imagined travelling occasionally, to read his dialogues to audiences in various cities, or to see the Olympic Games. And these excursions gave occasion to some works not of the dialogue kind; the Zeuxis and several similar pieces are introductions to series of readings away from Athens; The Way to write History, a piece of literary criticism still very readable, if out of date for practical purposes, resulted from a visit to Ionia, where all the literary men were producing histories of the Parthian war, then in progress (165 A.D.). An attendance at the Olympic Games of 169 A.D. suggested The Death of Peregrine, which in its turn, through the offence given to Cynics, had to be supplemented by the dialogue of The Runaways. The True History, most famous, but, admirable as it is, far from best of his works, presumably belongs to this period also, but cannot be definitely placed. The Book-fancier and The Rhetorician’s Vade mecum are unpleasant records of bitter personal quarrels.

After some ten years of this intense literary activity, producing, reading, and publishing, Lucian seems to have given up both the writing of dialogues and the presenting of them to audiences, and to have lived quietly for many years. The only pieces that belong here are the Life of Demonax, the man whom he held the best of all philosophers, and with whom he had been long intimate at Athens, and that of Alexander, the Asiatic charlatan, who was the prince of impostors as Demonax of philosophers. When quite old, Lucian was appointed by the Emperor Commodus to a well-paid legal post in Egypt. We also learn, from the new introductory lectures called Dionysus and Heracles, that he resumed the practice of reading his dialogues; but he wrote nothing more of importance. It is stated in Suidas that he was torn to pieces by dogs; but, as other statements in the article are discredited, it is supposed that this is the Christian revenge for Lucian’s imaginary hostility to Christianity. We have it from himself that he suffered from gout in his old age. He solaced himself characteristically by writing a play on the subject; but whether the goddess Gout, who gave it its name, was appeased by it, or carried him off, we cannot tell.


The received order in which Lucian’s works stand is admitted to be entirely haphazard. The following arrangement in groups is roughly chronological, though it is quite possible that they overlap each other. It is M. Croiset’s, put into tabular form. Many details in it are open to question; but to read in this order would at least be more satisfactory to any one who wishes to study Lucian seriously than to take the pieces as they come. The table will also serve as a rough guide to the first-class and the inferior pieces. The names italicized are those of pieces rejected as spurious by M. Croiset, and therefore not placed by him; we have inserted them where they seem to belong; as to their genuineness, it is our opinion that the objections made (not by M. Croiset, who does not discuss authenticity) to the Demosthenes and The Cynic at least are, in view of the merits of these, unconvincing.

(i) About 145 to 160 A.D. Lucian a rhetorician in Ionia, Greece, Italy, and Gaul.

The Tyrannicide, a rhetorical exercise.

The Disinherited.

Phalaris I & II.

Demosthenes, a panegyric.

Patriotism, an essay.

The Fly, an essay.

Swans and Amber, an introductory lecture.

Dipsas, an introductory lecture.

The Hall, an introductory lecture.

Nigrinus, a dialogue on philosophy, 150 A.D.

(ii) About 160 to 164 A.D. After Lucian’s return to Asia.

The Portrait-study, a panegyric in dialogue, 162 A.D.

Defence of The Portrait-study, in dialogue.

A Trial in the Court of Vowels, a jeu d’esprit.

Hesiod, a short dialogue.

The Vision, an autobiographical address.

(iii) About 165 A.D. At Athens.

Pantomime, art criticism in dialogue.

Anacharsis, a dialogue on physical training.

Toxaris, stories of friendship in dialogue.

Slander, a moral essay.

The Way to write History, an essay in literary criticism.

The next eight groups, iv-xi, belong to the years from about 165 A.D. to about 175 A.D., when Lucian was at his best and busiest; iv-ix are to be regarded roughly as succeeding each other in time; x and xi being independent in this respect. Pieces are assigned to groups mainly according to their subjects; but some are placed in groups that do not seem at first sight the most appropriate, owing to specialties in their treatment; e.g. The Ship might seem more in place with vii than with ix; but M. Croiset finds in it a maturity that induces him to put it later.

(iv) About 165 A.D.

Hermotimus, a philosophic dialogue.

The Parasite, a parody of a philosophic dialogue.

(v) Influence of the New Comedy writers.

The Liar, a dialogue satirizing superstition.

A Feast of Lapithae, a dialogue satirizing the manners of philosophers.

Dialogues of the Hetaerae, a series of short dialogues.

(vi) Influence of the Menippean satire.

Dialogues of the Dead, a series of short dialogues.

Dialogues of the Gods, a series of short dialogues.

Dialogues of the Sea–Gods, a series of short dialogues.

Menippus, a dialogue satirizing philosophy.

Icaromenippus, a dialogue satirizing philosophy and religion.

Zeus cross-examined, a dialogue satirizing religion.

The Cynic, a dialogue against luxury.

Of Sacrifice, an essay satirizing religion.

Saturnalia, dialogue and letters on the relation of rich and poor.

The True History, a parody of the old Greek historians,

(vii) Influence of the Old Comedy writers: vanity of human wishes.

A Voyage to the Lower World, a dialogue on the vanity of power.

Charon, a dialogue on the vanity of all things.

Timon, a dialogue on the vanity of riches.

The Cock, a dialogue on the vanity of riches and power,

(viii) Influence of the Old Comedy writers: dialogues satirizing religion.

Prometheus on Caucasus.

Zeus Tragoedus.

The Gods in Council.

(ix) Influence of the Old Comedy writers: satire on philosophers.

The Ship, a dialogue on foolish aspirations.

The Life of Peregrine, a narrative satirizing the Cynics, 169 A.D.

The Runaways, a dialogue satirizing the Cynics.

The double Indictment, an autobiographic dialogue.

The Sale of Creeds, a dialogue satirizing philosophers.

The Fisher, an autobiographic dialogue satirizing philosophers.

(x) 165–175 A.D. Introductory lectures.




The Scythian.

A literary Prometheus.

(xi) 165–175 A.D. Scattered pieces standing apart from the great dialogue series, but written during the same period.

The Book-fancier, an invective. About 170 A.D.

The Purist purized, a literary satire in dialogue.

Lexiphanes, a literary satire in dialogue.

The Rhetorician’s Vade-mecum, a personal satire. About 178 A.D.

(xii) After 180 A.D.

Demonax, a biography.

Alexander, a satirical biography,

(xiii) In old age.

Mourning, an essay.

Dionysus, an introductory lecture.

Heracles, an introductory lecture.

Apology for ‘The dependent Scholar.’

A Slip of the Tongue.

In conclusion, we have to say that this arrangement of M. Croiset’s, which we have merely tabulated without intentionally departing from it in any particular, seems to us well considered in its broad lines; there are a few modifications which we should have been disposed to make in it; but we thought it better to take it entire than to exercise our own judgment in a matter where we felt very little confidence.


M. Aurelius has for us moderns this great superiority in interest over Saint Louis or Alfred, that he lived and acted in a state of society modern by its essential characteristics, in an epoch akin to our own, in a brilliant centre of civilization. Trajan talks of “our enlightened age” just as glibly as The Times talks of it.’ M. Arnold, Essays in Criticism, M. Aurelius.

The age of M. Aurelius is also the age of Lucian, and with any man of that age who has, like these two, left us a still legible message we can enter into quite different relations from those which are possible with what M. Arnold calls in the same essay ‘classical-dictionary heroes.’ A twentieth-century Englishman, a second-century Greek or Roman, would be much more at home in each other’s century, if they had the gift of tongues, than in most of those which have intervened. It is neither necessary nor possible to go deeply into the resemblance here 1; all that need be done is to pass in review those points of it, some important, and some trifling, which are sure to occur in a detached way to readers of Lucian.

The Graeco–Roman world was as settled and peaceful, as conscious of its imperial responsibilities, as susceptible to boredom, as greedy of amusement, could show as numerous a leisured class, and believed as firmly in money, as our own. What is more important for our purpose, it was questioning the truth of its religion as we are today questioning the truth of ours. Lucian was the most vehement of the questioners. Of what played the part then that the Christian religion plays now, the pagan religion was only one half; the other half was philosophy. The gods of Olympus had long lost their hold upon the educated, but not perhaps upon the masses; the educated, ill content to be without any guide through the maze of life, had taken to philosophy instead. Stoicism was the prevalent creed, and how noble a form this could take in a cultivated and virtuous mind is to be seen in the Thoughts of M. Aurelius. The test of a religion, however, is not what form it takes in a virtuous mind, but what effects it produces on those of another sort. Lucian applies the test of results alike to the religion usually so called, and to its philosophic substitute. He finds both wanting; the test is not a satisfactory one, but it is being applied by all sorts and conditions of men to Christianity in our own time; so is the second test, that of inherent probability, which he uses as well as the other upon the pagan theology; and it is this that gives his writings, even apart from their wit and fancy, a special interest for our own time. Our attention seems to be concentrated more and more on the ethical, as opposed to the speculative or dogmatic aspect of religion; just such was Lucian’s attitude towards philosophy.

Some minor points of similarity may be briefly noted. As we read the Anacharsis, we are reminded of the modern prominence of athletics; the question of football versus drill is settled for us; light is thrown upon the question of conscription; we think of our Commissions on national deterioration, and the schoolmaster’s wail over the athletic Frankenstein’s monster which, like Eucrates in The Liar, he has created but cannot control. The ‘horsy talk in every street’ of the Nigrinus calls up the London newsboy with his ‘All the winners.’ We think of palmists and spiritualists in the police-courts as we read of Rutilianus and the Roman nobles consulting the impostor Alexander. This sentence reads like the description of a modern man of science confronted with the supernatural: ‘It was an occasion for a man whose intelligence was steeled against such assaults by scepticism and insight, one who, if he could not detect the precise imposture, would at any rate have been perfectly certain that, though this escaped him, the whole thing was a lie and an impossibility.’ The upper-class audiences who listened to Lucian’s readings, taking his points with quiet smiles instead of the loud applause given to the rhetorician, must have been something like that which listens decorously to an Extension lecturer. When Lucian bids us mark ‘how many there are who once were but cyphers, but whom words have raised to fame and opulence, ay, and to noble lineage too,’ we remember not only Gibbon’s remark about the very Herodes Atticus of whom Lucian may have been thinking (‘The family of Herod, at least after it had been favoured by fortune, was lineally descended from Cimon and Miltiades’), but also the modern carriere ouverte aux talents, and the fact that Tennyson was a lord. There are the elements of a socialist question in the feelings between rich and poor described in the Saturnalia; while, on the other hand, the fact of there being an audience for the Dialogues of the Hetaerae is an illustration of that spirit of humani nihil a me alienum puto which is again prevalent today. We care now to realize the thoughts of other classes besides our own; so did they in Lucian’s time; but it is significant that Francklin in 1780, refusing to translate this series, says: ‘These dialogues exhibit to us only such kind of conversation as we may hear in the purlieus of Covent Garden — lewd, dull, and insipid.’ The lewdness hardly goes beyond the title; they are full of humour and insight; and we make no apology for translating most of them. Lastly, a generation that is always complaining of the modern over-production of books feels that it would be at home in a state of society in which our author found that, not to be too singular, he must at least write about writing history, if he declined writing it himself, even as Diogenes took to rolling his tub, lest he should be the only idle man when Corinth was bustling about its defences.

As Lucian is so fond of saying, ‘this is but a small selection of the facts which might have been quoted’ to illustrate the likeness between our age and his. It may be well to allude, on the other hand, to a few peculiarities of the time that appear conspicuously in his writings.

The Roman Empire was rather Graeco–Roman than Roman; this is now a commonplace. It is interesting to observe that for Lucian ‘we’ is on occasion the Romans; ‘we’ is also everywhere the Greeks; while at the same time ‘I’ is a barbarian and a Syrian. Roughly speaking, the Roman element stands for energy, material progress, authority, and the Greek for thought; the Roman is the British Philistine, the Greek the man of culture. Lucian is conscious enough of the distinction, and there is no doubt where his own preference lies. He may be a materialist, so far as he is anything, in philosophy; but in practice he puts the things of the mind before the things of the body.

If our own age supplies parallels for most of what we meet with in the second century, there are two phenomena which are to be matched rather in an England that has passed away. The first is the Cynics, who swarm in Lucian’s pages like the begging friars in those of a historical novelist painting the middle ages. Like the friars, they began nobly in the desire for plain living and high thinking; in both cases the thinking became plain, the living not perhaps high, but the best that circumstances admitted of, and the class — with its numbers hugely swelled by persons as little like their supposed teachers as a Marian or Elizabethan persecutor was like the founder of Christianity — a pest to society. Lucian’s sympathy with the best Cynics, and detestation of the worst, make Cynicism one of his most familiar themes. The second is the class so vividly presented in The dependent Scholar — the indigent learned Greek who looks about for a rich vulgar Roman to buy his company, and finds he has the worst of the bargain. His successors, the ‘trencher chaplains’ who ‘from grasshoppers turn bumble-bees and wasps, plain parasites, and make the Muses mules, to satisfy their hunger-starved panches, and get a meal’s meat,’ were commoner in Burton’s days than in our own, and are to be met in Fielding, and Macaulay, and Thackeray.

Two others of Lucian’s favourite figures, the parasite and the legacy-hunter, exist still, no doubt, as they are sure to in every complex civilization; but their operations are now conducted with more regard to the decencies. This is worth remembering when we are occasionally offended by his frankness on subjects to which we are not accustomed to allude; he is not an unclean or a sensual writer, but the waters of decency have risen since his time and submerged some things which were then visible.

A slight prejudice, again, may sometimes be aroused by Lucian’s trick of constant and trivial quotation; he would rather put the simplest statement, or even make his transition from one subject to another, in words of Homer than in his own; we have modern writers too who show the same tendency, and perhaps we like or dislike them for it in proportion as their allusions recall memories or merely puzzle us; we cannot all be expected to have agreeable memories stirred by insignificant Homer tags; and it is well to bear in mind by way of palliation that in Greek education Homer played as great a part as the Bible in ours. He might be taken simply or taken allegorically; but one way or the other he was the staple of education, and it might be assumed that every one would like the mere sound of him.

We may end by remarking that the public readings of his own works, to which the author makes frequent reference, were what served to a great extent the purpose of our printing-press. We know that his pieces were also published; but the public that could be reached by hand-written copies would bear a very small proportion to that which heard them from the writer’s own lips; and though the modern system may have the advantage on the whole, it is hard to believe that the unapproached life and naturalness of Lucian’s dialogue does not owe something to this necessity.


With all the sincerity of Lucian in The True History, ‘soliciting his reader’s incredulity,’ we solicit our reader’s neglect of this appreciation. We have no pretensions whatever to the critical faculty; the following remarks are to be taken as made with diffidence, and offered to those only who prefer being told what to like, and why, to settling the matter for themselves.

Goethe, aged fourteen, with seven languages on hand, devised the plan of a correspondence kept up by seven imaginary brothers scattered over the globe, each writing in the language of his adopted land. The stay-at-home in Frankfort was to write Jew–German, for which purpose some Hebrew must be acquired. His father sent him to Rector Albrecht. The rector was always found with one book open before him — a well-thumbed Lucian. But the Hebrew vowel-points were perplexing, and the boy found better amusement in putting shrewd questions on what struck him as impossibilities or inconsistencies in the Old–Testament narrative they were reading. The old gentleman was infinitely amused, had fits of mingled coughing and laughter, but made little attempt at solving his pupil’s difficulties, beyond ejaculating Er narrischer Kerl! Er narrischer Junge! He let him dig for solutions, however, in an English commentary on the shelves, and occupied the time with turning the familiar pages of his Lucian 2. The wicked old rector perhaps chuckled to think that here was one who bade fair to love Lucian one day as well as he did himself.

For Lucian too was one who asked questions — spent his life doing little else; if one were invited to draw him with the least possible expenditure of ink, one’s pen would trace a mark of interrogation. That picture is easily drawn; to put life into it is a more difficult matter. However, his is not a complex character, for all the irony in which he sometimes chooses to clothe his thought; and materials are at least abundant; he is one of the self-revealing fraternity; his own personal presence is to be detected more often than not in his work. He may give us the assistance, or he may not, of labelling a character Lucian or Lycinus; we can detect him, volentes volentem, under the thin disguise of Menippus or Tychiades or Cyniscus as well. And the essence of him as he reveals himself is the questioning spirit. He has no respect for authority. Burke describes the majority of mankind, who do not form their own opinions, as ‘those whom Providence has doomed to live on trust’; Lucian entirely refuses to live on trust; he ‘wants to know.’ It was the wish of Arthur Clennam, who had in consequence a very bad name among the Tite Barnacles and other persons in authority. Lucian has not escaped the same fate; ‘the scoffer Lucian’ has become as much a commonplace as ‘fidus Achates,’ or ‘the well-greaved Achaeans,’ the reading of him has been discountenanced, and, if he has not actually lost his place at the table of Immortals, promised him when he temporarily left the Island of the Blest, it has not been so ‘distinguished’ a place as it was to have been and should have been. And all because he ‘wanted to know.’

His questions, of course, are not all put in the same manner. In the Dialogues of the Gods, for instance, the mark of interrogation is not writ large; they have almost the air at first of little stories in dialogue form, which might serve to instruct schoolboys in the attributes and legends of the gods — a manual charmingly done, yet a manual only. But we soon see that he has said to himself: Let us put the thing into plain natural prose, and see what it looks like with its glamour of poetry and reverence stripped off; the Gods do human things; why not represent them as human persons, and see what results? What did result was that henceforth any one who still believed in the pagan deities might at the cost of an hour’s light reading satisfy himself that his gods were not gods, or, if they were, had no business to be. Whether many or few did so read and so satisfy themselves, we have no means of knowing; it is easy to over-estimate the effect such writing may have had, and to forget that those who were capable of being convinced by exposition of this sort would mostly be those who were already convinced without; still, so far as Lucian had any effect on the religious position, it must have been in discrediting paganism and increasing the readiness to accept the new faith beginning to make its way. Which being so, it was ungrateful of the Christian church to turn and rend him. It did so, partly in error. Lucian had referred in the Life of Peregrine to the Christians, in words which might seem irreverent to Christians at a time when they were no longer an obscure sect; he had described and ridiculed in The Liar certain ‘Syrian’ miracles which have a remarkable likeness to the casting out of spirits by Christ and the apostles; and worse still, the Philopatris passed under his name. This dialogue, unlike what Lucian had written in the Peregrine and The Liar, is a deliberate attack on Christianity. It is clear to us now that it was written two hundred years after his time, under Julian the Apostate; but there can be no more doubt of its being an imitation of Lucian than of its not being his; it consequently passed for his, the story gained currency that he was an apostate himself, and his name was anathema for the church. It was only partly in error, however. Though Lucian might be useful on occasion (‘When Tertullian or Lactantius employ their labours in exposing the falsehood and extravagance of Paganism, they are obliged to transcribe the eloquence of Cicero or the wit of Lucian’ 3), the very word heretic is enough to remind us that the Church could not show much favour to one who insisted always on thinking for himself. His works survived, but he was not read, through the Middle Ages. With the Renaissance he partly came into his own again, but still laboured under the imputations of scoffing and atheism, which confined the reading of him to the few.

The method followed in the Dialogues of the Gods and similar pieces is a very indirect way of putting questions. It is done much more directly in others, the Zeus cross-examined, for instance. Since the fallen angels

reasoned high

Of Providence, Foreknowledge, Will, and Fate —

Fixed fate, free will, foreknowledge absolute —

And found no end, in wandering mazes lost,

these subjects have had their share of attention; but the questions can hardly be put more directly, or more neatly, than in the Zeus cross-examined, and the thirtieth Dialogue of the Dead.

He has many other interrogative methods besides these, which may be left to reveal themselves in the course of reading. As for answering questions, that is another matter. The answer is sometimes apparent, sometimes not; he will not refrain from asking a question just because he does not know the answer; his role is asking, not answering. Nor when he gives an answer is it always certain whether it is to be taken in earnest. Was he a cynic? one would say so after reading The Cynic; was he an Epicurean? one would say so after reading the Alexander; was he a philosopher? one would say Yes at a certain point of the Hermotimus, No at another. He doubtless had his moods, and he was quite unhampered by desire for any consistency except consistent independence of judgement. Moreover, the difficulty of getting at his real opinions is increased by the fact that he was an ironist. We have called him a self-revealer; but you never quite know where to have an ironical self-revealer. Goethe has the useful phrase, ‘direct irony’; a certain German writer ‘makes too free a use of direct irony, praising the blameworthy and blaming the praiseworthy — a rhetorical device which should be very sparingly employed. In the long run it disgusts the sensible and misleads the dull, pleasing only the great intermediate class to whom it offers the satisfaction of being able to think themselves more shrewd than other people, without expending much thought of their own’ (Wahrheit und Dichtung, book vii). Fielding gives us in Jonathan Wild a sustained piece of ‘direct irony’; you have only to reverse everything said, and you get the author’s meaning. Lucian’s irony is not of that sort; you cannot tell when you are to reverse him, only that you will have sometimes to do so. He does use the direct kind; The Rhetorician’s Vade mecum and The Parasite are examples; the latter is also an example (unless a translator, who is condemned not to skip or skim, is an unfair judge) of how tiresome it may become. But who shall say how much of irony and how much of genuine feeling there is in the fine description of the philosophic State given in the Hermotimus (with its suggestions of Christian in The Pilgrim’s Progress, and of the ‘not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble’), or in the whimsical extravagance (as it strikes a modern) of the Pantomime, or in the triumph permitted to the Cynic (against ‘Lycinus’ too) in the dialogue called after him? In one of his own introductory lectures he compares his pieces aptly enough to the bacchante’s thyrsus with its steel point concealed.

With his questions and his irony and his inconsistencies, it is no wonder that Lucian is accused of being purely negative and destructive. But we need not think he is disposed of in that way, any more than our old-fashioned literary education is disposed of when it has been pointed out that it does not equip its alumni with knowledge of electricity or of a commercially useful modern language; it may have equipped them with something less paying, but more worth paying for. Lucian, it is certain, will supply no one with a religion or a philosophy; but it may be doubted whether any writer will supply more fully both example and precept in favour of doing one’s thinking for oneself; and it may be doubted also whether any other intellectual lesson is more necessary. He is nullius addictus iurare in verba magistri, if ever man was; he is individualist to the core. No religion or philosophy, he seems to say, will save you; the thing is to think for yourself, and be a man of sense. ‘It was but small consolation,’ says Menippus, ‘to reflect that I was in numerous and wise and eminently sensible company, if I was a fool still, all astray in my quest for truth.’ Vox populi is no vox dei for him; he is quite proof against majorities; Athanasius contra mundum is more to his taste. “What is this I hear?” asked Arignotus, scowling upon me; “you deny the existence of the supernatural, when there is scarcely a man who has not seen some evidence of it?” “Therein lies my exculpation,” I replied; “I do not believe in the supernatural, because, unlike the rest of mankind, I do not see it; if I saw, I should doubtless believe, just as you all do.”’ That British schoolboys should have been brought up for centuries on Ovid, and Lucian have been tabooed, is, in view of their comparative efficacy in stimulating thought, an interesting example of habent sua fata libelli.

It need not be denied that there is in him a certain lack of feeling, not surprising in one of his analytic temper, but not agreeable either. He is a hard bright intelligence, with no bowels; he applies the knife without the least compunction — indeed with something of savage enjoyment. The veil is relentlessly torn from family affection in the Mourning. Solon in the Charon pursues his victory so far as to make us pity instead of scorning Croesus. Menippus and his kind, in the shades, do their lashing of dead horses with a disagreeable gusto, which tempts us to raise a society for the prevention of cruelty to the Damned. A voyage through Lucian in search of pathos will yield as little result as one in search of interest in nature. There is a touch of it here and there (which has probably evaporated in translation) in the Hermotimus, the Demonax, and the Demosthenes; but that is all. He was perhaps not unconscious of all this himself. ‘But what is your profession?’ asks Philosophy. ‘I profess hatred of imposture and pretension, lying and pride . . . However, I do not neglect the complementary branch, in which love takes the place of hate; it includes love of truth and beauty and simplicity, and all that is akin to love. But the subjects for this branch of the profession are sadly few.’

Before going on to his purely literary qualities, we may collect here a few detached remarks affecting rather his character than his skill as an artist. And first of his relations to philosophy. The statements in the Menippus and the Icaromenippus, as well as in The Fisher and The double Indictment, have all the air of autobiography (especially as they are in the nature of digressions), and give us to understand that he had spent much time and energy on philosophic study. He claims Philosophy as his mistress in The Fisher, and in a case where he is in fact judge as well as party, has no difficulty in getting his claim established. He is for ever reminding us that he loves philosophy and only satirizes the degenerate philosophers of his day. But it will occur to us after reading him through that he has dissembled his love, then, very well. There is not a passage from beginning to end of his works that indicates any real comprehension of any philosophic system. The external characteristics of the philosophers, the absurd stories current about them, and the popular misrepresentations of their doctrines — it is in these that philosophy consists for him. That he had read some of them there is no doubt; but one has an uneasy suspicion that he read Plato because he liked his humour and his style, and did not trouble himself about anything further. Gibbon speaks of ‘the philosophic maze of the writings of Plato, of which the dramatic is perhaps more interesting than the argumentative part.’ That is quite a legitimate opinion, provided you do not undertake to judge philosophy in the light of it. The apparently serious rejection of geometrical truth in the Hermotimus may fairly suggest that Lucian was as unphilosophic as he was unmathematical. Twice, and perhaps twice only, does he express hearty admiration for a philosopher. Demonax is ‘the best of all philosophers’; but then he admired him just because he was so little of a philosopher and so much a man of ordinary common sense. And Epicurus is ‘the thinker who had grasped the nature of things and been in solitary possession of truth’; but then that is in the Alexander, and any stick was good enough to beat that dog with. The fact is, Lucian was much too well satisfied with his own judgement to think that he could possibly require guidance, and the commonplace test of results was enough to assure him that philosophy was worthless: ‘It is no use having all theory at your fingers’ ends, if you do not conform your conduct to the right.’ There is a description in the Pantomime that is perhaps truer than it is meant to pass for. ‘Lycinus’ is called ‘an educated man, and in some sort a student of philosophy.’

If he is not a philosopher, he is very much a moralist; it is because philosophy deals partly with morals that he thinks he cares for it. But here too his conclusions are of a very commonsense order. The Stoic notion that ‘Virtue consists in being uncomfortable’ strikes him as merely absurd; no asceticism for him; on the other hand, no lavish extravagance and Persici apparatus; a dinner of herbs with the righteous — that is, the cultivated Athenian — a neat repast of Attic taste, is honestly his idea of good living; it is probable that he really did sacrifice both money and fame to live in Athens rather than in Rome, according to his own ideal. That ideal is a very modest one; when Menippus took all the trouble to get down to Tiresias in Hades via Babylon, his reward was the information that ‘the life of the ordinary man is the best and the most prudent choice.’ So thought Lucian; and it is to be counted to him for righteousness that he decided to abandon ‘the odious practices that his profession imposes on the advocate — deceit, falsehood, bluster, clamour, pushing,’ for the quiet life of a literary man (especially as we should probably never have heard his name had he done otherwise). Not that the life was so quiet as it might have been. He could not keep his satire impersonal enough to avoid incurring enmities. He boasts in the Peregrine of the unfeeling way in which he commented on that enthusiast to his followers, and we may believe his assurance that his writings brought general dislike and danger upon him. His moralizing (of which we are happy to say there is a great deal) is based on Tiresias’s pronouncement. Moralizing has a bad name; but than good moralizing there is, when one has reached a certain age perhaps, no better reading. Some of us like it even in our novels, feel more at home with Fielding and Thackeray for it, and regretfully confess ourselves unequal to the artistic aloofness of a Flaubert. Well, Lucian’s moralizings are, for those who like such things, of the right quality; they are never dull, and the touch is extremely light. We may perhaps be pardoned for alluding to half a dozen conceptions that have a specially modern air about them. The use that Rome may serve as a school of resistance to temptation (Nigrinus, 19) recalls Milton’s ‘fugitive and cloistered virtue, unexercised and unbreathed, that never sallies out and seeks her adversary.’ ‘Old age is wisdom’s youth, the day of her glorious flower’ (Heracles, 8) might have stood as a text for Browning’s Rabbi ben Ezra. The brands visible on the tyrant’s soul, and the refusal of Lethe as a sufficient punishment (Voyage to the lower World, 24 and 28), have their parallels in our new eschatology. The decision of Zeus that Heraclitus and Democritus are to be one lot that laughter and tears will go together (Sale of Creeds, l3)— accords with our views of the emotional temperament. Chiron is impressive on the vanity of fruition (Dialogues of the Dead, 26). And the figuring of Truth as ‘the shadowy creature with the indefinite complexion’ (The Fisher, 16) is only one example of Lucian’s felicity in allegory.

Another weak point, for which many people will have no more inclination to condemn him than for his moralizing, is his absolute indifference to the beauties of nature. Having already given him credit for regarding nothing that is human as beyond his province, it is our duty to record the corresponding limitation; of everything that was not human he was simply unconscious; with him it was not so much that the proper as that the only study of mankind is man. The apparent exceptions are not real ones. If he is interested in the gods, it is as the creatures of human folly that he takes them to be. If he writes a toy essay with much parade of close observation on the fly, it is to show how amusing human ingenuity can be on an unlikely subject. But it is worth notice that ‘the first of the moderns,’ though he shows himself in many descriptions of pictures quite awake to the beauty manufactured by man, has in no way anticipated the modern discovery that nature is beautiful. To readers who have had enough of the pathetic fallacy, and of the second-rate novelist’s local colour, Lucian’s tacit assumption that there is nothing but man is refreshing. That he was a close enough observer of human nature, any one can satisfy himself by glancing at the Feast of Lapithae, the Dialogues of the Hetaerae, some of the Dialogues of the Gods, and perhaps best of all, The Liar.

As it occurs to himself to repel the imputation of plagiarism in A literary Prometheus, the point must be briefly touched upon. There is no doubt that Homer preceded him in making the gods extremely, even comically, human, that Plato showed him an example of prose dialogue, that Aristophanes inspired his constructive fancy, that Menippus provided him with some ideas, how far developed on the same lines we cannot now tell, that Menander’s comedies and Herodas’s mimes contributed to the absolute naturalness of his conversation. If any, or almost any, of these had never existed, Lucian would have been more or less different from what he is. His originality is not in the least affected by that; we may resolve him theoretically into his elements; but he too had the gift, that out of three sounds he framed, not a fourth sound, but a star. The question of his originality is no more important — indeed much less so — than that of Sterne’s.

When we pass to purely literary matters, the first thing to be remarked upon is the linguistic miracle presented to us. It is useless to dwell upon it in detail, since this is an introduction not to Lucian, but to a translation of Lucian; it exists, none the less. A Syrian writes in Greek, and not in the Greek of his own time, but in that of five or six centuries before, and he does it, if not with absolute correctness, yet with the easy mastery that we expect only from one in a million of those who write in their mother tongue, and takes his place as an immortal classic. The miracle may be repeated; an English-educated Hindu may produce masterpieces of Elizabethan English that will rank him with Bacon and Ben Jonson; but it will surprise us, when it does happen. That Lucian was himself aware of the awful dangers besetting the writer who would revive an obsolete fashion of speech is shown in the Lexiphanes.

Some faults of style he undoubtedly has, of which a word or two should perhaps be said. The first is the general taint of rhetoric, which is sometimes positively intolerable, and is liable to spoil enjoyment even of the best pieces occasionally. Were it not that ‘Rhetoric made a Greek of me,’ we should wish heartily that he had never been a rhetorician. It is the practice of talking on unreal cases, doubtless habitual with him up to forty, that must be responsible for the self-satisfied fluency, the too great length, and the perverse ingenuity, that sometimes excite our impatience. Naturally, it is in the pieces of inferior subject or design that this taint is most perceptible; and it must be forgiven in consideration of the fact that without the toilsome study of rhetoric he would not have been the master of Greek that he was.

The second is perhaps only a special case of the first. Julius Pollux, a sophist whom Lucian is supposed to have attacked in The Rhetorician’s Vade mecum, is best known as author of an Onomasticon, or word-list, containing the most important words relating to certain subjects. One would be reluctant to believe that Lucian condescended to use his enemy’s manual; but it is hard to think that he had not one of his own, of which he made much too good use. The conviction is constantly forced on a translator that when Lucian has said a thing sufficiently once, he has looked at his Onomasticon, found that there are some words he has not yet got in, and forthwith said the thing again with some of them, and yet again with the rest.

The third concerns his use of illustrative anecdotes, comparisons, and phrases. It is true that, if his pieces are taken each separately, he is most happy with all these (though it is hard to forgive Alexander’s bathe in the Cydnus with which The Hall opens); but when they are read continuously, the repeated appearances of the tragic actor disrobed, the dancing apes and their nuts, of Zeus’s golden cord, and of the ‘two octaves apart,’ produce an impression of poverty that makes us momentarily forget his real wealth.

We have spoken of the annoying tendency to pleonasm in Lucian’s style, which must be laid at the door of rhetoric. On the other hand let it have part of the credit for a thing of vastly more importance, his choice of dialogue as a form when he took to letters. It is quite obvious that he was naturally a man of detached mind, with an inclination for looking at both sides of a question. This was no doubt strengthened by the common practice among professional rhetoricians of writing speeches on both sides of imaginary cases. The level-headedness produced by this combination of nature and training naturally led to the selection of dialogue. In one of the preliminary trials of The double Indictment, Drink, being one of the parties, and consciously incapable at the moment of doing herself justice, employs her opponent, The Academy, to plead for as well as against her. There are a good many pieces in which Lucian follows the same method. In The Hall the legal form is actually kept; in the Peregrine speeches are delivered by an admirer and a scorner of the hero; in The Rhetorician’s Vade mecum half the piece is an imaginary statement of the writer’s enemy; in the Apology for ‘The dependent Scholar’ there is a long imaginary objection set up to be afterwards disposed of; the Saturnalian Letters are the cases of rich and poor put from opposite sides. None of these are dialogues; but they are all less perfect devices to secure the same object, the putting of the two views that the man of detached mind recognizes on every question. Not that justice is always the object; these devices, and dialogue still more, offer the further advantage of economy; no ideas need be wasted, if the subject is treated from more than one aspect. The choice of dialogue may be accounted for thus; it is true that it would not have availed much if the chooser had not possessed the nimble wit and the endless power of varying the formula which is so astonishing in Lucian; but that it was a matter of importance is proved at once by comparing the Alexander with The Liar, or The dependent Scholar with the Feast of Lapithae. Lucian’s non-dialogue pieces (with the exception of The True History) might have been written by other people; the dialogues are all his own.

About five-and-thirty of his pieces (or sets of pieces) are in dialogue, and perhaps the greatest proof of his artistic skill is that the form never palls; so great is the variety of treatment that no one of them is like another. The point may be worth dwelling on a little. The main differences between dialogues, apart from the particular writer’s characteristics, are these: the persons may be two only, or more; they may be well or ill-matched; the proportions and relations between conversation and narrative vary; and the objects in view are not always the same. It is natural for a writer to fall into a groove with some or all of these, and produce an effect of sameness. Lucian, on the contrary, so rings the changes by permutations and combinations of them that each dialogue is approached with a delightful uncertainty of what form it may take. As to number of persons, it is a long step from the Menippus to the crowded dramatis personae of The Fisher or the Zeus Tragoedus, in the latter of which there are two independent sets, one overhearing and commenting upon the other. It is not much less, though of another kind, from The Parasite, where the interlocutor is merely a man of straw, to the Hermotimus, where he has life enough to give us ever fresh hopes of a change in fortune, or to the Anacharsis, where we are not quite sure, even when all is over, which has had the best. Then if we consider conversation and narrative, there are all kinds. Nigrinus has narrative in a setting of dialogue, Demosthenes vice versa, The Liar reported dialogue inside dialogue; Icaromenippus is almost a narrative, while The Runaways is almost a play. Lastly, the form serves in the Toxaris as a vehicle for stories, in the Hermotimus for real discussion, in Menippus as relief for narrative, in the Portrait-study for description, in The Cock to convey moralizing, in The double Indictment autobiography, in the Lexiphanes satire, and in the short series it enshrines prose idylls.

These are considerations of a mechanical order, perhaps; it may be admitted that technical skill of this sort is only valuable in giving a proper chance to more essential gifts; but when those exist, it is of the highest value. And Lucian’s versatility in technique is only a symbol of his versatile powers in general. He is equally at home in heaven and earth and hell, with philosophers and cobblers, telling a story, criticizing a book, describing a picture, elaborating an allegory, personifying an abstraction, parodying a poet or a historian, flattering an emperor’s mistress, putting an audience into good temper with him and itself, unveiling an imposture, destroying a religion or a reputation, drawing a character. The last is perhaps the most disputable of the catalogue. How many of his personages are realities to us when we have read, and not mere labels for certain modes of thought or conduct? Well, characterization is not the first, but only the second thing with him; what is said matters rather more than who says it; he is more desirous that the argument should advance than that the person should reveal himself; nevertheless, nothing is ever said that is out of character; while nothing can be better of the kind than some of his professed personifications, his Plutus or his Philosophy, we do retain distinct impressions of at least an irresponsible Zeus and a decorously spiteful Hera, a well-meaning, incapable Helius, a bluff Posidon, a gallant Prometheus, a one-idea’d Charon; Timon is more than misanthropy, Eucrates than superstition, Anacharsis than intelligent curiosity, Micyllus than ignorant poverty, poor Hermotimus than blind faith, and Lucian than a scoffer.

1 Some words of Sir Leslie Stephen’s may be given, however, describing the welter of religious opinions that prevailed at both epochs: ‘The analogy between the present age and that which witnessed the introduction of Christianity is too striking to have been missed by very many observers. The most superficial acquaintance with the general facts shows how close a parallel might be drawn by a competent historian. There are none of the striking manifestations of the present day to which it would not be easy to produce an analogy, though in some respects on a smaller scale. Now, as then, we can find mystical philosophers trying to evolve a satisfactory creed by some process of logical legerdemain out of theosophical moonshine; and amiable and intelligent persons labouring hard to prove that the old mythology could be forced to accept a rationalistic interpretation — whether in regard to the inspection of entrails or prayers for fine weather; and philosophers framing systems of morality entirely apart from the ancient creeds, and sufficiently satisfactory to themselves, while hopelessly incapable of impressing the popular mind; and politicians, conscious that the basis of social order was being sapped by the decay of the faith in which it had arisen, and therefore attempting the impossible task of galvanizing dead creeds into a semblance of vitality; and strange superstitions creeping out of their lurking-places, and gaining influence in a luxurious society whose intelligence was an ineffectual safeguard against the most grovelling errors; and a dogged adherence of formalists and conservatives to ancient ways, and much empty profession of barren orthodoxy; and, beneath all, a vague disquiet, a breaking up of ancient social and natural bonds, and a blind groping toward some more cosmopolitan creed and some deeper satisfaction for the emotional needs of mankind.’— The Religion of all Sensible Men in An Agnostic’s Apology, 1893.

2 Wahrheit und Dichtung, book iv.

3 Gibbon, Decline and Fall, cap. xv.

The Vision

A Chapter of Autobiography

When my childhood was over, and I had just left school, my father called a council to decide upon my profession. Most of his friends considered that the life of culture was very exacting in toil, time, and money: a life only for fortune’s favourites; whereas our resources were quite narrow, and urgently called for relief. If I were to take up some ordinary handicraft, I should be making my own living straight off, instead of eating my father’s meat at my age; and before long my earnings would be a welcome contribution.

So the next step was to select the most satisfactory of the handicrafts; it must be one quite easy to acquire, respectable, inexpensive as regards plant, and fairly profitable. Various suggestions were made, according to the taste and knowledge of the councillors; but my father turned to my mother’s brother, supposed to be an excellent statuary, and said to him: ‘With you here, it would be a sin to prefer any other craft; take the lad, regard him as your charge, teach him to handle, match, and grave your marble; he will do well enough; you know he has the ability.’ This he had inferred from certain tricks I used to play with wax. When I got out of school, I used to scrape off the wax from my tablets and work it into cows, horses, or even men and women, and he thought I did it creditably; my masters used to cane me for it, but on this occasion it was taken as evidence of a natural faculty, and my modelling gave them good hopes of my picking up the art quickly.

As soon as it seemed convenient for me to begin, I was handed over to my uncle, and by no means reluctantly; I thought I should find it amusing, and be in a position to impress my companions; they should see me chiselling gods and making little images for myself and my favourites. The usual first experience of beginners followed: my uncle gave me a chisel, and told me to give a gentle touch to a plaque lying on the bench: ‘Well begun is half done,’ said he, not very originally. In my inexperience I brought down the tool too hard, and the plaque broke; he flew into a rage, picked up a stick which lay handy, and gave me an introduction to art which might have been gentler and more encouraging; so I paid my footing with tears.

I ran off, and reached home still howling and tearful, told the story of the stick, and showed my bruises. I said a great deal about his brutality, and added that it was all envy: he was afraid of my being a better sculptor than he. My mother was very angry, and abused her brother roundly; as for me, I fell asleep that night with my eyes still wet, and sorrow was with me till the morning.

So much of my tale is ridiculous and childish. What you have now to hear, gentlemen, is not so contemptible, but deserves an attentive hearing; in the words of Homer,

To me in slumber wrapt a dream divine Ambrosial night conveyed,

a dream so vivid as to be indistinguishable from reality; after all these years, I have still the figures of its persons in my eyes, the vibration of their words in my ears; so clear it all was.

Two women had hold of my hands, and were trying vehemently and persistently to draw me each her way; I was nearly pulled in two with their contention; now one would prevail and all but get entire possession of me, now I would fall to the other again, All the time they were exchanging loud protests: ‘He is mine, and I mean to keep him;’ ‘Not yours at all, and it is no use your saying he is.’ One of them seemed to be a working woman, masculine looking, with untidy hair, horny hands, and dress kilted up; she was all powdered with plaster, like my uncle when he was chipping marble. The other had a beautiful face, a comely figure, and neat attire. At last they invited me to decide which of them I would live with; the rough manly one made her speech first.

‘Dear youth, I am Statuary — the art which you yesterday began to learn, and which has a natural and a family claim upon you. Your grandfather’ (naming my mother’s father) ‘and both your uncles practised it, and it brought them credit. If you will turn a deaf ear to this person’s foolish cajolery, and come and live with me, I promise you wholesome food and good strong muscles; you shall never fear envy, never leave your country and your people to go wandering abroad, and you shall be commended not for your words, but for your works.

‘Let not a slovenly person or dirty clothes repel you; such were the conditions of that Phidias who produced the Zeus, of Polyclitus who created the Hera, of the much-lauded Myron, of the admired Praxiteles; and all these are worshipped with the Gods. If you should come to be counted among them, you will surely have fame enough for yourself through all the world, you will make your father the envy of all fathers, and bring your country to all men’s notice.’ This and more said Statuary, stumbling along in a strange jargon, stringing her arguments together in a very earnest manner, and quite intent on persuading me. But I can remember no more; the greater part of it has faded from my memory. When she stopped, the other’s turn came.

‘And I, child, am Culture, no stranger to you even now, though you have yet to make my closer acquaintance. The advantages that the profession of a sculptor will bring with it you have just been told; they amount to no more than being a worker with your hands, your whole prospects in life limited to that; you will be obscure, poorly and illiberally paid, mean-spirited, of no account outside your doors; your influence will never help a friend, silence an enemy, nor impress your countrymen; you will be just a worker, one of the masses, cowering before the distinguished, truckling to the eloquent, living the life of a hare, a prey to your betters. You may turn out a Phidias or a Polyclitus, to be sure, and create a number of wonderful works; but even so, though your art will be generally commended, no sensible observer will be found to wish himself like you; whatever your real qualities, you will always rank as a common craftsman who makes his living with his hands.

‘Be governed by me, on the other hand, and your first reward shall be a view of the many wondrous deeds and doings of the men of old; you shall hear their words and know them all, what manner of men they were; and your soul, which is your very self, I will adorn with many fair adornments, with self-mastery and justice and reverence and mildness, with consideration and understanding and fortitude, with love of what is beautiful, and yearning for what is great; these things it is that are the true and pure ornaments of the soul. Naught shall escape you either of ancient wisdom or of present avail; nay, the future too, with me to aid, you shall foresee; in a word, I will instill into you, and that in no long time, all knowledge human and divine.

‘This penniless son of who knows whom, contemplating but II now a vocation so ignoble, shall soon be admired and envied of all, with honour and praise and the fame of high achievement, respected by the high-born and the affluent, clothed as I am clothed’ (and here she pointed to her own bright raiment), ‘held worthy of place and precedence; and if you leave your native land, you will be no unknown nameless wanderer; you shall wear my marks upon you, and every man beholding you shall touch his neighbour’s arm and say, That is he.

‘And if some great moment come to try your friends or country, then shall all look to you. And to your lightest word the many shall listen open-mouthed, and marvel, and count you happy in your eloquence, and your father in his son. ’Tis said that some from mortal men become immortal; and I will make it truth in you; for though you depart from life yourself, you shall keep touch with the learned and hold communion with the best. Consider the mighty Demosthenes, whose son he was, and whither I exalted him; consider Aeschines; how came a Philip to pay court to the cymbal-woman’s brat? how but for my sake? Dame Statuary here had the breeding of Socrates himself; but no sooner could he discern the better part, than he deserted her and enlisted with me; since when, his name is on every tongue.

‘You may dismiss all these great men, and with them all glorious deeds, majestic words, and seemly looks, all honour, repute, praise, precedence, power, and office, all lauded eloquence and envied wisdom; these you may put from you, to gird on a filthy apron and assume a servile guise; then will you handle crowbars and graving tools, mallets and chisels; you will be bowed over your work, with eyes and thoughts bent earthwards, abject as abject can be, with never a free and manly upward look or aspiration; all your care will be to proportion and fairly drape your works; to proportioning and adorning yourself you will give little heed enough, making yourself of less account than your marble.’

I waited not for her to bring her words to an end, but rose up and spoke my mind; I turned from that clumsy mechanic woman, and went rejoicing to lady Culture, the more when I thought upon the stick, and all the blows my yesterday’s apprenticeship had brought me. For a time the deserted one was wroth, with clenched fists and grinding teeth; but at last she stiffened, like another Niobe, into marble. A strange fate, but I must request your belief; dreams are great magicians, are they not?

Then the other looked upon me and spoke:—‘For this justice done me,’ said she, ‘you shall now be recompensed; come, mount this car’— and lo, one stood ready, drawn by winged steeds like Pegasus — ‘that you may learn what fair sights another choice would have cost you.’ We mounted, she took the reins and drove, and I was carried aloft and beheld towns and nations and peoples from the East to the West; and methought I was sowing like Triptolemus; but the nature of the seed I cannot call to mind — only this, that men on earth when they saw it gave praise, and all whom I reached in my flight sent me on my way with blessings.

When she had presented these things to my eyes, and me to my admirers, she brought me back, no more clad as when my flight began; I returned, methought, in glorious raiment. And finding my father where he stood waiting, she showed him my raiment, and the guise in which I came, and said a word to him upon the lot which they had come so near appointing for me. All this I saw when scarce out of my childhood; the confusion and terror of the stick, it may be, stamped it on my memory.

‘Good gracious,’ says some one, before I have done, ‘what a longwinded lawyer’s vision!’ ‘This,’ interrupts another, ‘must be a winter dream, to judge by the length of night required; or perhaps it took three nights, like the making of Heracles. What has come over him, that he babbles such puerilities? memorable things indeed, a child in bed, and a very ancient, worn-out dream! what stale frigid stuff! does he take us for interpreters of dreams?’ Sir, I do not. When Xenophon related that vision of his which you all know, of his father’s house on fire and the rest, was it just by way of a riddle? was it in deliberate ineptitude that he reproduced it? a likely thing in their desperate military situation, with the enemy surrounding them! no, the relation was to serve a useful purpose.

Similarly I have had an object in telling you my dream. It is that the young may be guided to the better way and set themselves to Culture, especially any among them who is recreant for fear of poverty, and minded to enter the wrong path, to the ruin of a nature not all ignoble. Such an one will be strengthened by my tale, I am well assured; in me he will find an apt example; let him only compare the boy of those days, who started in pursuit of the best and devoted himself to Culture regardless of immediate poverty, with the man who has now come back to you, as high in fame, to put it at the lowest, as any stonecutter of them all.


A Literary Prometheus

So you will have me a Prometheus? If your meaning is, my good sir, that my works, like his, are of clay, I accept the comparison and hail my prototype; potter me to your heart’s content, though my clay is poor common stuff, trampled by common feet till it is little better than mud. But perhaps it is in exaggerated compliment to my ingenuity that you father my books upon the subtlest of the Titans; in that case I fear men will find a hidden meaning, and detect an Attic curl on your laudatory lips. Where do you find my ingenuity? in what consists the great subtlety, the Prometheanism, of my writings? enough for me if you have not found them sheer earth, all unworthy of Caucasian clay-pits. How much better a claim to kinship with Prometheus have you gentlemen who win fame in the courts, engaged in real contests; your works have true life and breath, ay, and the warmth of fire. That is Promethean indeed, though with the difference, it may be, that you do not work in clay; your creations are oftenest of gold; [Section: 2] we on the other hand who come before popular audiences and offer mere lectures are exhibitors of imitations only. However, I have the general resemblance to Prometheus, as I said before — a resemblance which I share with the dollmakers — that my modelling is in clay; but then there is no motion, as with him, not a sign of life; entertainment and pastime is the beginning and the end of my work. So I must look for light elsewhere; possibly the title is a sort of lucus a non lucendo, applied to me as to Cleon in the comedy:

Full well Prometheus–Cleon plans — the past.

Or again, the Athenians used to call Prometheuses the makers of jars and stoves and other, clay-workers, with playful reference to the material, and perhaps to the use of fire in baking the ware. If that is all your ‘Prometheus’ means, you have aimed your shaft well enough, and flavoured your jest with the right Attic tartness; my productions are as brittle as their pottery; fling a stone, and you may smash them all to pieces.

But here some one offers me a crumb of comfort: ‘That was not the likeness he found between you and Prometheus; he meant to commend your innovating originality: at a time when human beings did not exist, Prometheus conceived and fashioned them; he moulded and elaborated certain living things into agility and beauty; he was practically their creator, though Athene assisted by putting breath into the clay and bringing the models to life.’ So says my some one, giving your remark its politest possible turn. Perhaps he has hit the true meaning; not that I can rest content, however, with the mere credit of innovation, and the absence of any original to which my work can be referred; if it is not good as well as original, I assure you I shall be ashamed of it, bring down my foot and crush it out of existence; its novelty shall not avail (with me at least) to save its ugliness from annihilation. If I thought otherwise, I admit that a round dozen of vultures would be none too many for the liver of a dunce who could not see that ugliness was only aggravated by strangeness.

Ptolemy, son of Lagus, imported two novelties into Egypt; one was a pure black Bactrian camel, the other a piebald man, half absolutely black and half unusually white, the two colours evenly distributed; he invited the Egyptians to the theatre, and concluded a varied show with these two, expecting to bring down the house. The audience, however, was terrified by the camel and almost stampeded; still, it was decked all over with gold, had purple housings and a richly jewelled bridle, the spoil of Darius’ or Cambyses’ treasury, if not of Cyrus’ own. As for the man, a few laughed at him, but most shrank as from a monster. Ptolemy realized that the show was a failure, and the Egyptians proof against mere novelty, preferring harmony and beauty. So he withdrew and ceased to prize them; the camel died forgotten, and the parti-coloured man became the reward of Thespis the fluteplayer for a successful after-dinner performance.

I am afraid my work is a camel in Egypt, and men’s admiration limited to the bridle and purple housings; as to combinations, though the components may be of the most beautiful (as Comedy and Dialogue in the present case), that will not ensure a good effect, unless the mixture is harmonious and well-proportioned; it is possible that the resultant of two beauties may be bizarre. The readiest instance to hand is the centaur: not a lovely creature, you will admit, but a savage, if the paintings of its drunken bouts and murders go for anything. Well, but on the other hand is it not possible for two such components to result in beauty, as the combination of wine and honey in superlative sweetness? That is my belief; but I am not prepared to maintain that my components have that property; I fear the mixture may only have obscured their separate beauties.

For one thing, there was no great original connexion or friendship between Dialogue and Comedy; the former was a stay-at-home, spending his time in solitude, or at most taking a stroll with a few intimates; whereas Comedy put herself in the hands of Dionysus, haunted the theatre, frolicked in company, laughed and mocked and tripped it to the flute when she saw good; nay, she would mount her anapaests, as likely as not, and pelt the friends of Dialogue with nicknames — doctrinaires, airy metaphysicians, and the like. The thing she loved of all else was to chaff them and drench them in holiday impertinence, exhibit them treading on air and arguing with the clouds, or measuring the jump of a flea, as a type of their ethereal refinements. But Dialogue continued his deep speculations upon Nature and Virtue, till, as the musicians say, the interval between them was two full octaves, from the highest to the lowest note. This ill-assorted pair it is that we have dared to unite and harmonize-reluctant and ill — disposed for reconciliation.

And here comes in the apprehension of yet another Promethean analogy: have I confounded male and female, and incurred the penalty? Or no — when will resemblances end? — have I, rather, cheated my hearers by serving them up bones wrapped in fat, comic laughter in philosophic solemnity? As for stealing — for Prometheus is the thief’s patron too — I defy you there; that is the one fault you cannot find with me: from whom should I have stolen? if any one has dealt before me in such forced unions and hybrids, I have never made his acquaintance. But after all, what am I to do? I have made my bed, and I must lie in it; Epimetheus may change his mind, but Prometheus, never.



A Dialogue

[Lucian to Nigrinus. Health.

There is a proverb about carrying ‘owls to Athens’— an absurd undertaking, considering the excellent supply already on the spot. Had it been my intention, in presenting Nigrinus with a volume of my composition, to indulge him of all people with a display of literary skill, I should indeed have been an arrant ‘owl-fancier in Athens.’ As however my object is merely to communicate to you my present sentiments, and the profound impression produced upon me by your eloquence, I may fairly plead Not Guilty, even to the charge of Thucydides, that ‘Men are bold from ignorance, where mature consideration would render them cautious.’ For I need not say that devotion to my subject is partly responsible for my present hardihood; it is not all the work of ignorance. Farewell.]

Lucian. A Friend

Fr. What a haughty and dignified Lucian returns to us from his journey! He will not vouchsafe us a glance; he stands aloof, and will hold no further communion with us. Altogether a supercilious Lucian! The change is sudden. Might one inquire the cause of this altered demeanour?

Luc. ’Tis the work of Fortune.

Fr. Of Fortune!

Luc. As an incidental result of my journey, you see in me a happy man; ‘thrice-blest,’ as the tragedians have it.

Fr. Dear me. What, in this short time?

Luc. Even so.

Fr. But what does it all mean? What is the secret of your elation? I decline to rejoice with you in this abridged fashion; I must have details. Tell me all about it.

Luc. What should you think, if I told you that I had exchanged servitude for freedom; poverty for true wealth; folly and presumption for good sense?

Fr. Extraordinary! But I am not quite clear of your meaning yet.

Luc. Why, I went off to Rome to see an oculist — my eyes had been getting worse —

Fr. Yes, I know about that. I have been hoping that you would light on a good man.

Luc. Well, I got up early one morning with the intention of paying a long-deferred visit to Nigrinus, the Platonic philosopher. On reaching his house, I knocked, and was duly announced and admitted to his presence. I found him with a book in his hand, surrounded by various statues of the ancient philosophers. Before him lay a tablet, with geometrical figures described on it, and a globe of reeds, designed apparently to represent the universe. He greeted me cordially, and asked after my welfare. I satisfied his inquiries, and demanded, in my turn, how he did, and whether he had decided on another trip to Greece. Once on that subject, he gave free expression to his sentiments; and, I assure you, ’twas a veritable feast of ambrosia to me. The spells of the Sirens (if ever there were Sirens), of the Pindaric ‘Charmers,’ of the Homeric lotus, are things to be forgotten, after his truly divine eloquence. Led on by his theme, he spoke the praises of philosophy, and of the freedom which philosophy confers; and expressed his contempt for the vulgar error which sets a value upon wealth and renown and dominion and power, upon gold and purple, and all that dazzles the eyes of the world — and once attracted my own! I listened with rapt attention, and with a swelling heart. At the time, I knew not what had come over me; my feelings were indescribable. My dearest idols, riches and renown, lay shattered; one moment I was ready to shed bitter tears over the disillusionment, the next, I could have laughed for scorn of these very things, and was exulting in my escape from the murky atmosphere of my past life into the brightness of the upper air. The result was curious: I forgot all about my ophthalmic troubles, in the gradual improvement of my spiritual vision; for till that day I had grovelled in spiritual blindness. Little by little I came into the condition with which you were twitting me just now. Nigrinus’s words have raised in me a joyous exaltation of spirit which precludes every meaner thought. Philosophy seems to have produced the same effect on me as wine is said to have produced on the Indians the first time they drank it. The mere taste of such potent liquor threw them into a state of absolute frenzy, the intoxicating power of the wine being doubled in men so warm-blooded by nature. This is my case. I go about like one possessed; I am drunk with the words of wisdom.

Fr. This is not drunkenness, but sobriety and temperance. But I should like to hear what Nigrinus actually said, if that may be. It is only right that you should take that trouble for me; I am your friend, and share your interests.

Luc. Enough! You urge a willing steed. I was about to bespeak your attention. You must be my witness to the world, that there is reason in my madness. Indeed, apart from this, the work of recollection is a pleasure, and has become a constant practice with me; twice, thrice in a day I repeat over his words, though there is none to hear. A lover, in the absence of his mistress, remembers some word, some act of hers, dwells on it, and beguiles hours of sickness with her feigned presence. Sometimes he thinks he is face to face with her; words, heard long since, come again from her lips; he rejoices; his soul cleaves to the memory of the past, and has no time for present vexations. It is so with me. Philosophy is far away, but I have heard a philosopher’s words. I piece them together, and revolve them in my heart, and am comforted. Nigrinus is the beacon-fire on which, far out in mid-ocean, in the darkness of night, I fix my gaze; I fancy him present with me in all my doings; I hear ever the same words. At times, in moments of concentration, I see his very face, his voice rings in my ears. Of him it may truly be said, as of Pericles,

In every heart he left his sting.

Fr. Stay, gentle enthusiast. Take a good breath, and start again; I am waiting to hear what Nigrinus said. You beat about the bush in a manner truly exasperating.

Luc. True, I must make a start, as you say. And yet . . . Tell me, did you never see a tragedy (nay, the comedies fare no better) murdered by bad acting, and the culprits finally hissed off the stage for their pains? As often as not the play is a perfectly good one, and has scored a success.

Fr. I know the sort of thing; and what about it?

Luc. I am afraid that before I have done you will find that I make as sad work of it as they do — jumbling things together pell-mell, spoiling the whole point sometimes by inadequate expression; and you will end by damning the play instead of the actor. I could put up with my own share of the disgrace; but it would vex me indeed, that my subject should be involved in my downfall; I cannot have it discredited for my shortcomings. Remember, then: whatever the imperfections in my speech, the author is not to be called to account; he sits far aloof from the stage, and knows nothing of what is going forward. The memory of the actor is all that you are invited to criticize; I am neither more nor less than the ‘Messenger’ in a tragedy. At each flaw in the argument, be this your first thought, that the author probably said something quite different, and much more to the point; — and then you may hiss me off if you will.

Fr. Bless me; here is quite a professional exordium! You are about to add, I think, that ‘your consultation with your client has been but brief’; that you ‘come into court imperfectly instructed’; that ‘it were to be desired that your client were here to plead his own cause; as it is, you are reduced to such a meagre and inadequate statement of the case, as memory will supply.’ Am I right? Well then, spare yourself the trouble, as far as I am concerned. Imagine all these preliminaries settled. I stand prepared to applaud: but if you keep me waiting, I shall harbour resentment all through the case, and hiss you accordingly.

Luc. I should, indeed, have been glad to avail myself of the arguments you mention, and of others too. I might have said, that mine would be no set speech, no orderly statement such as that I heard; that is wholly beyond me. Nor can I speak in the person of Nigrinus. There again I should be like a bad actor, taking the part of Agamemnon, or Creon, or Heracles’ self; he is arrayed in cloth of gold, and looks very formidable, and his mouth opens tremendously wide; and what comes out of it? A little, shrill, womanish pipe of a voice that would disgrace Polyxena or Hecuba! I for my part have no intention of exposing myself in a mask several sizes too large for me, or of wearing a robe to which I cannot do credit. Rather than play the hero’s part, and involve him in my discomfiture, I will speak in my own person.

Fr. Will the man never have done with his masks and his stages?

Luc. Nay, that is all. And now to my subject. Nigrinus’s first words were in praise of Greece, and in particular of the Athenians. They are brought up, he said, to poverty and to philosophy. The endeavours, whether of foreigners or of their own countrymen, to introduce luxury into their midst, find no favour with them. When a man comes among them with this view, they quietly set about to correct his tendency, and by gentle degrees to bring him to a better course of life. He mentioned the case of a wealthy man who arrived at Athens in all the vulgar pomp of retinue and gold and gorgeous raiment, expecting that every eye would be turned upon him in envy of his lot; instead of which, they heartily pitied the poor worm, and proceeded to take his education in hand. Not an ill-natured word, not an attempt at direct interference: it was a free city; he was at liberty to live in it as he thought fit. But when he made a public nuisance of himself in the baths or gymnasiums, crowding in with his attendants, and taking up all the room, someone would whisper, in a sly aside, as if the words were not meant to reach his ears: ‘He is afraid he will never come out from here alive; yet all is peace; there is no need of such an army.’ The remark would be overheard, and would have its educational effect. They soon eased him of his embroidery and purple, by playful allusions to flower and colour. ‘Spring is early.’—‘How did that peacock get here?’—‘His mother must have lent him that shawl,’— and so on. The same with the rest, his rings, his elaborate coiffure, and his table excesses. Little by little he came to his senses, and left Athens very much the better for the public education he had received.

Nor do they scruple to confess their poverty. He mentioned a sentence which he heard pronounced unanimously by the assembled people at the Panathenaic festival. A citizen had been arrested and brought before the Steward for making his appearance in coloured clothes. The onlookers felt for him, and took his part; and when the herald declared that he had violated the law by attending the festival in that attire, they all exclaimed with one voice, as if they had been in consultation, ‘that he must be pardoned for wearing those clothes, as he had no others.’

He further commended the Athenian liberty, and unpretentious style of living; the peace and learned leisure which they so abundantly enjoy. To dwell among such men, he declared, is to dwell with philosophy; a single-hearted man, who has been taught to despise wealth, may here preserve a pure morality; no life could be more in harmony with the determined pursuit of all that is truly beautiful. But the man over whom gold has cast its spell, who is in love with riches, and measures happiness by purple raiment and dominion, who, living his life among flatterers and slaves, knows not the sweets of freedom, the blessings of candour, the beauty of truth; he who has given up his soul to Pleasure, and will serve no other mistress, whose heart is set on gluttony and wine and women, on whose tongue are deceit and hypocrisy; he again whose ears must be tickled with lascivious songs, and the voluptuous notes of flute and lyre; — let all such (he cried) dwell here in Rome; the life will suit them. Our streets and market-places are filled with the things they love best. They may take in pleasure through every aperture, through eye and ear, nostril and palate; nor are the claims of Aphrodite forgotten. The turbid stream surges everlastingly through our streets; avarice, perjury, adultery — all tastes are represented. Under that rush of waters, modesty, virtue, uprightness, are torn from the soul; and in their stead grows the tree of perpetual thirst, whose flowers are many strange desires.

Such was Rome; such were the blessings she taught men to enjoy. ‘As for me,’ he continued, ‘on returning from my first voyage to Greece, I stopped short a little way from the city, and called myself to account, in the words of Homer, for my return.

Ah, wretch! and leav’st thou then the light of day — the joyous freedom of Greece,

And wouldst behold —

the turmoil of Rome? slander and insolence and gluttony, flatterers and false friends, legacy-hunters and murderers? And what wilt thou do here? thou canst not endure these things, neither canst thou escape them! Thus reasoning, I withdrew myself out of range, as Zeus did Hector,

Far from the scene of slaughter, blood and strife,

and resolved henceforth to keep my house. I lead the life you see — a spiritless, womanish life, most men would account it — holding converse with Philosophy, with Plato, with Truth. From my high seat in this vast theatre, I look down on the scene beneath me; a scene calculated to afford much entertainment; calculated also to try a man’s resolution to the utmost. For, to give evil its due, believe me, there is no better school for virtue, no truer test of moral strength, than life in this same city of Rome. It is no easy thing, to withstand so many temptations, so many allurements and distractions of sight and sound. There is no help for it: like Odysseus, we must sail past them all; and there must be no binding of hands, no stopping of our ears with wax; that would be but sorry courage: our ears must hear, our hands must be free — and our contempt must be genuine. Well may that man conceive an admiration of philosophy, who is a spectator of so much folly; well may he despise the gifts of Fortune, who views this stage, and its multitudinous actors. The slave grows to be master, the rich man is poor, the pauper becomes a prince, a king; and one is His Majesty’s friend, and another is his enemy, and a third he banishes. And here is the strangest thing of all: the affairs of mankind are confessedly the playthings of Fortune, they have no pretence to security; yet, with instances of this daily before their eyes, men will reach after wealth and power; — not one of them but carries his load of hopes unrealized.

‘But I said that there was entertainment also to be derived from the scene; and I will maintain it. Our rich men are an entertainment in themselves, with their purple and their rings always in evidence, and their thousand vulgarities. The latest development is the salutation by proxy; 4 they favour us with a glance, and that must be happiness enough. By the more ambitious spirits, an obeisance is expected; this is not performed at a distance, after the Persian fashion — you go right up, and make a profound bow, testifying with the angle of your body to the self-abasement of your soul; you then kiss his hand or breast — and happy and enviable is he who may do so much! And there stands the great man, protracting the illusion as long as may be. (I heartily acquiesce, by the way, in the churlish sentence which excludes us from a nearer acquaintance with their lips.)

‘But if these men are amusing, their courtiers and flatterers are doubly so. They rise in the small hours of the night, to go their round of the city, to have doors slammed in their faces by slaves, to swallow as best they may the compliments of “Dog,” “Toadeater,” and the like. And the guerdon of their painful circumambulations? A vulgarly magnificent dinner, the source of many woes! They eat too much, they drink more than they want, they talk more than they should; and then they go away, angry and disappointed, grumbling at their fare, and protesting against the scant courtesy shown them by their insolent patron. You may see them vomiting in every alley, squabbling at every brothel. The daylight most of them spend in bed, furnishing employment for the doctors. Most of them, I say; for with some it has come to this, that they actually have no time to be ill. My own opinion is that, of the two parties, the toadies are more to blame, and have only themselves to thank for their patron’s insolence. What can they expect him to think, after their commendations of his wealth, their panegyrics on money, their early attendance at his doors, their servile salutations? If by common consent they would abstain, were it only for a few days, from this voluntary servitude, the tables must surely be turned, and the rich come to the doors of the paupers, imploring them not to leave such blessedness as theirs without a witness, their fine houses and elegant furniture lying idle for want of some one to use them. Not wealth, but the envy that waits on wealth, is the object of their desire. The truth is, gold and ivory and noble mansions are of little avail to their owner, if there is no one to admire them. If we would break the power of the rich, and bring down their pretensions, we must raise up within their borders a stronghold of Indifference. As it is, their vanity is fostered by the court that is paid to them. In ordinary men, who have no pretence to education, this conduct, no doubt, is less to be blamed. But that men who call themselves philosophers should actually outdo the rest in degradation — this, indeed, is the climax. Imagine my feelings, when I see a brother philosopher, an old man, perhaps, mingling in the herd of sycophants; dancing attendance on some great man; adapting himself to the conversational level of a possible host! One thing, indeed, serves to distinguish him from his company, and to accentuate his disgrace; — he wears the garb of philosophy. It is much to be regretted that actors of uniform excellence in other respects will not dress conformably to their part. For in the achievements of the table, what toadeater besides can be compared with them? There is an artlessness in their manner of stuffing themselves, a frankness in their tippling, which defy competition; they sponge with more spirit than other men, and sit on with greater persistency. It is not an uncommon thing for the more courtly sages to oblige the company with a song.’

All this he treated as a jest. But he had much to say on the subject of those paid philosophers, who hawk about virtue like any other marketable commodity. ‘Hucksters’ and ‘petty traders’ were his words for them. A man who proposes to teach the contempt of wealth, should begin (he maintained) by showing a soul above fees. And certainly he has always acted on this principle himself. He is not content with giving his services gratis to all comers, but lends a helping hand to all who are in difficulties, and shows an absolute disregard for riches. So far is he from grasping at other men’s goods, that he could anticipate without concern the deterioration of his own property. He possessed an estate at no great distance from the city, on which for many years he had never even set foot. Nay, he disclaimed all right of property in it; meaning, I suppose, that we have no natural claim to such things; law, and the rights of inheritance, give us the use of them for an indefinite period, and for that time we are styled ‘owners’; presently our term lapses, and another succeeds to the enjoyment of a name.

There are other points in which he sets an admirable example to the serious followers of philosophy: his frugal life, his systematic habits of bodily exercise, his modest bearing, his simplicity of dress, but above all, gentle manners and a constant mind. He urges his followers not to postpone the pursuit of good, as so many do, who allow themselves a period of grace till the next great festival, after which they propose to eschew deceit and lead a righteous life; there must be no shilly-shallying, when virtue is the goal for which we start. On the other hand, there are philosophers whose idea of inculcating virtue in their youthful disciples is to subject them to various tests of physical endurance; whose favourite prescription is the strait waistcoat, varied with flagellations, or the enlightened process of scarification. Of these Nigrinus evidently had no opinion. According to him, our first care should be to inure the soul to pain and hardship; he who aspired to educate men aright must reckon with soul as well as body, with the age of his pupils, and with their previous training; he would then escape the palpable blunder of overtasking them. Many a one (he affirmed) had succumbed under the unreasonable strain put upon him; and I met with an instance myself, of a man who had tasted the hardships of those schools, but no sooner heard the words of true wisdom, than he fled incontinently to Nigrinus, and was manifestly the better for the change.

Leaving the philosophers to themselves, he reverted to more general subjects: the din and bustle of the city, the theatres, the race-course, the statues of charioteers, the nomenclature of horses, the horse-talk in every side-street. The rage for horses has become a positive epidemic; many persons are infected with it whom one would have credited with more sense.

Then the scene changed to the pomp and circumstance attendant upon funerals and testamentary dispositions. ‘Only once in his life’ (he observed) ‘does your thoroughbred Roman say what he means; and then,’ meaning, in his will, ‘it comes too late for him to enjoy the credit of it.’ I could not help laughing when he told me how they thought it necessary to carry their follies with them to the grave, and to leave the record of their inanity behind them in black and white; some stipulating that their clothes or other treasures should be burnt with them, others that their graves should be watched by particular servants, or their monuments crowned with flowers; — sapient end to a life of sapience! ‘Of their doings in this world,’ said he, ‘you may form some idea from their injunctions with reference to the next. These are they who will pay a long price for an entree; whose floors are sprinkled with wine and saffron and spices; who in midwinter smother themselves in roses, ay, for roses are scarce, and out of season, and altogether desirable; but let a thing come in its due course, and oh, ’tis vile, ’tis contemptible. These are they whose drink is of costly essences.’ He had no mercy on them here. ‘Very bunglers in sensuality, who know not her laws, and confound her ordinances, flinging down their souls to be trampled beneath the heels of luxury! As the play has it, Door or window, all is one to them. Such pleasures are rank solecism.’ One observation of his in the same spirit fairly caps the famous censure of Momus. Momus found fault with the divine artificer for not putting his bull’s horns in front of the eyes. Similarly, Nigrinus complained that when these men crown themselves in their banquets, they put the garlands in the wrong place; if they are so fond of the smell of violets and roses, they should tie on their garlands as close as may be under their nostrils; they could then snuff up the smell to their hearts’ content.

Proceeding to the gentlemen who make such a serious work of their dinner, he was exceedingly merry over their painful elaborations of sauce and seasoning. ‘Here again,’ he cried, ‘these men are sore put to it, to procure the most fleeting of enjoyments. Grant them four inches of palate apiece —’tis the utmost we can allow any man — and I will prove to you that they have four inches of gratification for their trouble. Thus: there is no satisfaction to be got out of the costliest viands before consumption; and after it a full stomach is none the better for the price it has cost to fill it. Ergo, the money is paid for the pleasure snatched in transitu. But what are we to expect? These men are too grossly ignorant to discern those truer pleasures with which Philosophy rewards our resolute endeavours.’

The Baths proved a fertile topic, what with the insolence of the masters and the jostlings of their men; —‘they will not stand without the support of a slave; it is much that they retain enough vitality to get away on their own legs at all.’ One practice which obtains in the streets and Baths of Rome seemed to arouse his particular resentment. Slaves have to walk on ahead of their masters, and call out to them to ‘look to their feet,’ whenever there is a hole or a lump in their way; it has come to this, that men must be reminded that they are walking. ‘It is too much,’ he cried; ‘these men can get through their dinner with the help of their own teeth and fingers; they can hear with their own ears: yet they must have other men’s eyes to see for them! They are in possession of all their faculties: yet they are content to be spoken to in language which should only be addressed to poor maimed wretches! And this goes on in broad daylight, in our public places; and among the sufferers are men who are responsible for the welfare of cities!’

This he said, and much more to the same effect. At length he was silent. All the time I had listened in awestruck attention, dreading the moment when he should cease. And when it was all over, my condition was like that of the Phaeacians. For a long time I gazed upon him, spellbound; then I was seized with a violent attack of giddiness; I was bathed in perspiration, and when I attempted to speak, I broke down; my voice failed, my tongue stammered, and at last I was reduced to tears. Mine was no surface wound from a random shaft. The words had sunk deep into a vital part; had come with true aim, and cleft my soul asunder. For (if I may venture to philosophize on my own account) I conceive the case thus:— A well-conditioned human soul is like a target of some soft material. As life goes on, many archers take aim thereat; and every man’s quiver is full of subtle and varied arguments, but not every man shoots aright. Some draw the bow too tight, and let fly with undue violence. These hit the true direction, but their shafts do not lodge in the mark; their impetus carries them right through the soul, and they pass on their way, leaving only a gaping wound behind them. Others make the contrary mistake: their bows are too slack, and their shafts never reach their destination; as often as not their force is spent at half distance, and they drop to earth. Or if they reach the mark, they do but graze its surface; there can be no deep wound, where the archer lacks strength. But a good marksman, a Nigrinus, begins with a careful examination of the mark, in case it should be particularly soft — or again too hard; for there are marks which will take no impression from an arrow. Satisfied on this point, he dips his shaft, not in the poisons of Scythia or Crete, but in a certain ointment of his own, which is sweet in flavour and gentle in operation; then, without more ado, he lets fly. The shaft speeds with well-judged swiftness, cleaves the mark right through, and remains lodged in it; and the drug works its way through every part. Thus it is that men hear his words with mingled joy and grief; and this was my own case, while the drug was gently diffusing itself through my soul. Hence I was moved to apostrophize him in the words of Homer:

So aim; and thou shalt bring (to some) salvation.

For as it is not every man that is maddened by the sound of the Phrygian flute, but only those who are inspired of Cybele, and by those strains are recalled to their frenzy — so too not every man who hears the words of the philosophers will go away possessed, and stricken at heart, but only those in whose nature is something akin to philosophy.

Fr. These are fearful and wonderful words; nay, they are divine. All that you said of ambrosia and lotus is true; I little knew how sumptuous had been your feast. I have listened to you with strange emotion, and now that you have ceased, I feel oppressed, nay, in your own language, ‘sore stricken.’ This need not surprise you. A person who has been bitten by a mad dog not only goes mad himself, you know, but communicates his madness to any one whom he bites whilst he is in that state, so that the infection may be carried on by this means through a long succession of persons.

Luc. Ah, then you confess to a tenderness?

Fr. I do; and beg that you will think upon some medicine for both our wounded breasts.

Luc. We must take a hint from Telephus.

Fr. What is that?

Luc. We want a hair of the dog that bit us.


4 The spoken salutation being performed by a servant.

Trial in the Court of Vowels

Archon, Aristarchus of Phalerum. Seventh Pyanepsion. Court of the Seven Vowels. Action for assault with robbery. Sigma v. Tau. Plaintiff’s case — that the words inpp-are wrongfully withheld from him.

Vowels of the jury. — For some time this Mr. Tau’s trespasses and encroachments on my property were of minor importance; I made no claim for damages, and affected unconsciousness of what I heard; my conciliatory temper both you and the other letters have reason to know. His covetousness and folly, however, have now so puffed him up, that he is no longer content with my habitual concessions, but insists on more; I accordingly find myself compelled to get the matter settled by you who know both sides of it. The fact is, I am in bodily fear, owing to the crushing to which I am subjected. This evergrowing aggression will end by ousting me completely from my own; I shall be almost dumb, lose my rank as a letter, and be degraded to a mere noise.

Justice requires then that not merely you, the jury in this case, but the other letters also, should be on your guard against such attempts. If any one who chooses is to be licensed to leave his own place and usurp that of others, with no objection on your part (whose concurrence is an indispensable condition of all writing), I fail to see how combinations are to have their ancient constitutional rights secured to them. But my first reliance is upon you, who will surely never be guilty of the negligence and indifference which permits injustice; and even if you decline the contest, I have no intention of sitting down under that injustice myself.

It is much to be regretted that the assaults of other letters were not repelled when they first began their lawless practices; then we should not be watching the still pending dispute between Lambda and Rho for possession of kephalalgia or kephalargia, kishlis or kishris: Gamma would not have had to defend its rights over gyaphalla, constantly almost at blows with Kappa in the debatable land, and per contra it would itself have dropped its campaign against Lambda (if indeed it is more dignified than petty larceny) for converting molis to mogis: in fact lawless confusion generally would have been nipped in the bud. And it is well to abide by the established order; such trespasses betray a revolutionary spirit.

Now our first legislators — Cadmus the islander, Palamedes, son of Nauplius, or Simonides, whom some authorities credit with the measure — were not satisfied with determining merely our order of precedence in the alphabet; they also had an eye to our individual qualities and faculties. You, Vowels of the jury, constitute the first Estate, because you can be uttered independently; the semi-vowels, requiring support before they can be distinctly heard, are the second; and the lowest Estate they declared to consist of those nine which cannot be sounded at all by themselves. The vowels are accordingly the natural guardians of our laws.

But this — this Tau — I would give him a worse designation, but that is a manifest impossibility; for without the assistance of two good presentable members of your Estate, Alpha and Upsilon, he would be a mere nonentity — he it is that has dared to outdo all injuries that I have ever known, expelling me from the nouns and verbs of my inheritance, and hunting me out of my conjunctions and prepositions, till his rapacity has become quite unbearable. I am now to trace proceedings from the beginning.

I was once staying at Cybelus, a pleasant little town, said to be an Athenian colony; my travelling companion was the excellent Rho, best of neighbours. My host was a writer of comedies, called Lysimachus; he seems to have been a Boeotian by descent, though he represented himself as coming from the interior of Attica. It was while with him that I first detected Tau’s depredations 5. For some earlier occasional attempts (as when he took to tettaroakonta for tessarakonta, taemeron for saemeron, with little pilferings of that sort) I had explained as a trick and peculiarity of pronunciation; I had tolerated the sound without letting it annoy me seriously.

But impunity emboldened him; kassiteros became kattiteros, kassuma and pissa shared its fate; and then he cast off all shame and assaulted basigissa. I found myself losing the society in which I had been born and bred 6; at such a time equanimity is out of place; I am tortured with apprehension; how long will it be before suka is tuka? Bear with me, I beseech you; I despair and have none to help me; do I not well to be angry? It is no petty everyday peril, this threatened separation from my long-tried familiars. My kissa, my talking bird that nestled in my breast, he has torn away and named anew; my phassa, my nhssai, my khossuphoi — all gone; and I had Aristarchus’s own word that they were mine; half my melissai he has lured to strange hives; Attica itself he has invaded, and wrongfully annexed its Hymettus (as he calls it); and you and the rest looked on at the seizure.

But why dwell on such trifles? I am driven from all Thessaly (Thettaly, forsooth!), thalassa is now mare clausum to me; he will not leave me a poor garden-herb like seutlion, I have never a passalos to hang myself upon. What a long-suffering letter I am myself, your own knowledge is witness enough. When Zeta stole my smaragdos, and robbed me of all Smyrna, I never took proceedings against him; Xi might break all sunthhkai, and appeal to Thucydides (who ought to know) as xympathizing with his xystem; I let them alone. My neighbour Rho I made no difficulty about pardoning as an invalid, when he transplanted my mursinai into his garden, or, in a fit of the spleen, took liberties with my khopsh. So much for my temper.

Tau’s, on the other hand, is naturally violent; its manifestations are not confined to me. In proof that he has not spared other letters, but assaulted Delta, Theta, Zeta, and almost the whole alphabet, I wish his various victims to be put in the box. Now, Vowels of the jury, mark the evidence of Delta:—‘He robbed me of endelecheia, which he claimed, quite illegally, as entelecheia.’ Mark Theta beating his breast and plucking out his hair in grief for the loss of kolokunthh. And Zeta mourns for surizein and salpizein — nay, cannot mourn, for lack of his gryzein. What tolerance is possible, what penalty adequate, for this criminal letter’s iniquities?

But his wrongs are not even limited to us, his own species; he has now extended his operations to mankind, as I shall show. He does not permit their tongues to work straight. (But that mention of mankind calls me back for a moment, reminding me how he turns glossa into glotta, half robbing me of the tongue itself. Ay, you are a disease of the tongue in every sense, Tau.) But I return from that digression, to plead the cause of mankind and its wrongs. The prisoner’s designs include the constraint, racking, and mutilation of their utterance. A man sees a beautiful thing, and wishes to describe it as kalon, but in comes Tau, and forces the man to say talon he must have precedence everywhere, of course. Another man has something to say about a vine, and lo, before it is out, it is metamorphosed by this miserable creature into misery; he has changed slaema to tlaema, with a suggestive hint of tlaemon. And, not content with middle-class victims, he aims at the Persian king himself, the one for whom land and sea are said to have made way and changed their nature: Cyrus comes out at his bidding as Tyrus.

Such are his verbal offences against man; his offences in deed remain. Men weep, and bewail their lot, and curse Cadmus with many curses for introducing Tau into the family of letters; they say it was his body that tyrants took for a model, his shape that they imitated, when they set up the erections on which men are crucified. Stayros the vile engine is called, and it derives its vile name from him. Now, with all these crimes upon him, does he not deserve death, nay, many deaths? For my part I know none bad enough but that supplied by his own shape — that shape which he gave to the gibbet named Stayros after him by men.


5 For the probably corrupt passage Section 7 fin. — Section 8 init. I accept Dindorf’s rearrangement as follows: mechr men gar oligois epecheirei, tettarakonta legein axioun, eti de taemeron kai ta homoia epispomenon, sunaetheian thmaen idia tauti legein, kai oiston aen moi to akousma kai ou panu ti edaknomaen ep autois. 8. hupote d ek touton arxamenon etolmaese kattiteron eipein kai kattuma kai pittan, eita aperuthriasan kai basilitgan onomazein, aposteroun me ton suggegenaemenun moi kai suntethrammenun grammatun, ou metrius ipi toutois aganaktu.

6 For the probably corrupt passage Section 7 fin. — Section 8 init. I accept Dindorf’s rearrangement as follows: mechr men gar oligois epecheirei, tettarakonta legein axioun, eti de taemeron kai ta homoia epispomenon, sunaetheian thmaen idia tauti legein, kai oiston aen moi to akousma kai ou panu ti edaknomaen ep autois. 8. hupote d ek touton arxamenon etolmaese kattiteron eipein kai kattuma kai pittan, eita aperuthriasan kai basilitgan onomazein, aposteroun me ton suggegenaemenun moi kai suntethrammenun grammatun, ou metrius ipi toutois aganaktu.

Timon the Misanthrope

Timon. Zeus. Hermes. Plutus. Poverty. Gnathonides. Philiades. Demeas. Thrasycles. Blepsias.

Tim. O Zeus, thou arbiter of friendship, protector of the guest, preserver of fellowship, lord of the hearth, launcher of the lightning, avenger of oaths, compeller of clouds, utterer of thunder (and pray add any other epithets; those cracked poets have plenty ready, especially when they are in difficulties with their scansion; then it is that a string of your names saves the situation and fills up the metrical gaps), O Zeus, where is now your resplendent lightning, where your deep-toned thunder, where the glowing, white-hot, direful bolt? we know now ’tis all fudge and poetic moonshine — barring what value may attach to the rattle of the names. That renowned projectile of yours, which ranged so far and was so ready to your hand, has gone dead and cold, it seems; never a spark left in it to scorch iniquity.

If men are meditating perjury, a smouldering lamp-wick is as likely to frighten them off it as the omnipotent’s levin-bolt; the brand you hold over them is one from which they see neither flame nor smoke can come; a little soot-grime is the worst that need be apprehended from a touch of it. No wonder if Salmoneus challenged you to a thundering-match; he was reasonable enough when he backed his artificial heat against so cool-tempered a Zeus. Of course he was; there are you in your opiate-trance, never hearing the perjurers nor casting a glance at criminals, your glazed eyes dull to all that happens, and your ears as deaf as a dotard’s.

When you were young and keen, and your temper had some life in it, you used to bestir yourself against crime and violence; there were no armistices in those days; the thunderbolt was always hard at it, the aegis quivering, the thunder rattling, the lightning engaged in a perpetual skirmish. Earth was shaken like a sieve, buried in snow, bombarded with hail. It rained cats and dogs (if you will pardon my familiarity), and every shower was a waterspout. Why, in Deucalion’s time, hey presto, everything was swamped, mankind went under, and just one little ark was saved, stranding on the top of Lycoreus and preserving a remnant of human seed for the generation of greater wickedness.

Mankind pays you the natural wages of your laziness; if any one offers you a victim or a garland nowadays, it is only at Olympia as a perfunctory accompaniment of the games; he does it not because he thinks it is any good, but because he may as well keep up an old custom. It will not be long, most glorious of deities, before they serve you as you served Cronus, and depose you. I will not rehearse all the robberies of your temple — those are trifles; but they have laid hands on your person at Olympia, my lord High–Thunderer, and you had not the energy to wake the dogs or call in the neighbours; surely they might have come to the rescue and caught the fellows before they had finished packing up the swag. But there sat the bold Giant-slayer and Titan-conqueror letting them cut his hair, with a fifteen-foot thunderbolt in his hand all the time! My good sir, when is this careless indifference to cease? how long before you will punish such wickedness? Phaethon-falls and Deucalion-deluges — a good many of them will be required to suppress this swelling human insolence.

To leave generalities and illustrate from my own case — I have raised any number of Athenians to high position, I have turned poor men into rich, I have assisted every one that was in want, nay, flung my wealth broadcast in the service of my friends, and now that profusion has brought me to beggary, they do not so much as know me; I cannot get a glance from the men who once cringed and worshipped and hung upon my nod. If I meet one of them in the street, he passes me by as he might pass the tombstone of one long dead; it has fallen face upwards, loosened by time, but he wastes no moment deciphering it. Another will take the next turning when he sees me in the distance; I am a sight of ill omen, to be shunned by the man whose saviour and benefactor I had been not so long ago.

Thus in disgrace with fortune, I have betaken me to this corner of the earth, where I wear the smock-frock and dig for sixpence a day, with solitude and my spade to assist meditation. So much gain I reckon upon here — to be exempt from contemplating unmerited prosperity; no sight that so offends the eye as that. And now, Son of Cronus and Rhea, may I ask you to shake off that deep sound sleep of yours — why, Epimenides’s was a mere nap to it — put the bellows to your thunderbolt or warm it up in Etna, get it into a good blaze, and give a display of spirit, like a manly vigorous Zeus? or are we to believe the Cretans, who show your grave among their sights?

Zeus. Hermes, who is that calling out from Attica? there, on the lower slopes of Hymettus — a grimy squalid fellow in a smock-frock; he is bending over a spade or something; but he has a tongue in his head, and is not afraid to use it. He must be a philosopher, to judge from his fluent blasphemy.

Her. What, father! have you forgotten Timon — son of Echecratides, of Collytus? many is the time he has feasted us on unexceptionable victims; the rich parvenu of the whole hecatombs, you know, who used to do us so well at the Diasia.

Zeus. Dear, dear, quantum mutatus! is this the admired, the rich, the popular? What has brought him to this pass? There he is in filth and misery, digging for hire, labouring at that ponderous spade.

Her. Why, if you like to put it so, it was kindness and generosity and universal compassion that ruined him; but it would be nearer the truth to call him a fool and a simpleton and a blunderer; he did not realize that his proteges were carrion crows and wolves; vultures were feeding on his unfortunate liver, and he took them for friends and good comrades, showing a fine appetite just to please him. So they gnawed his bones perfectly clean, sucked out with great precision any marrow there might be in them, and went off, leaving him as dry as a tree whose roots have been severed; and now they do not know him or vouchsafe him a nod — no such fools — nor ever think of showing him charity or repaying his gifts. That is how the spade and smock-frock are accounted for; he is ashamed to show his face in town; so he hires himself out to dig, and broods over his wrongs — the rich men he has made passing him contemptuously by, apparently quite unaware that his name is Timon.

Zeus. This is a case we must take up and see to. No wonder he is down on his luck. We should be putting ourselves on the level of his despicable sycophants, if we forgot all the fat ox and goat thighs he has burnt on our altars; the savour of them is yet in my nostrils. But I have been so busy, there is such a din of perjury, assault, and burglary; I am so frightened of the temple-robbers — they swarm now, you cannot keep them out, nor take a nap with any safety; and, with one thing and another, it is an age since I had a look at Attica. I have hardly been there since philosophy and argument came into fashion; indeed, with their shouting-matches going on, prayers are quite inaudible. One must sit with one’s ears plugged, if one does not want the drums of them cracked; such long vociferous rigmaroles about Incorporeal Things, or something they call Virtue! That is how we came to neglect this man — who really deserved better.

However, go to him now without wasting any more time, Hermes, and take Plutus with you. Thesaurus is to accompany Plutus, and they are both to stay with Timon, and not leave him so lightly this time, even though the generous fellow does his best to find other hosts for them. As to those parasites, and the ingratitude they showed him, I will attend to them before long; they shall have their deserts as soon as I have got the thunderbolt in order again. Its two best spikes are broken and blunted; my zeal outran my discretion the other day when I took that shot at Anaxagoras the sophist; the Gods non-existent, indeed! that was what he was telling his disciples. However, I missed him (Pericles had held up his hand to shield him), and the bolt glanced off on to the Anaceum, set it on fire, and was itself nearly pulverized on the rock. But meanwhile it will be quite sufficient punishment for them to see Timon rolling in money.

Her. Nothing like lifting up your voice, making yourself a nuisance, and showing a bold front; it is equally effective whether you are pleading with juries or deities. Here is Timon developing from pauper to millionaire, just because his prayer was loud and free enough to startle Zeus; if he had dug quietly with his face to his work, he might have dug to all eternity, for any notice he would have got.

Pl. Well, Zeus, I am not going to him.

Zeus. Your reason, good Plutus; have I not told you to go?

Pl. Good God! why, he insulted me, threw me about, dismembered me — me, his old family friend — and practically pitchforked me out of the house; he could not have been in a greater hurry to be rid of me if I had been a live coal in his hand. What, go there again, to be transferred to toadies and flatterers and harlots? No, no, Zeus; send me to people who will appreciate the gift, take care of me, value and cherish me. Let these gulls consort with the poverty which they prefer to me; she will find them a smock-frock and a spade, and they can be thankful for a miserable pittance of sixpence a day, these reckless squanderers of 1,000 pound presents.

Zeus. Ah, Timon will not treat you that way again. If his loins are not of cast iron, his spade-work will have taught him a thing or two about your superiority to poverty. You are so particular, you know; now, you are finding fault with Timon for opening the door to you and letting you wander at your own sweet will, instead of keeping you in jealous seclusion. Yesterday it was another story: you were imprisoned by rich men under bolts and locks and seals, and never allowed a glimpse of sunlight. That was the burden of your complaint — you were stifled in deep darkness. We saw you pale and careworn, your fingers hooked with coin-counting, and heard how you would like to run away, if only you could get the chance. It was monstrous, then, that you should be kept in a bronze or iron chamber, like a Danae condemned to virginity, and brought up by those stern unscrupulous tutors, Interest, Debit and Credit.

They were perfectly ridiculous, you know, loving you to distraction, but not daring to enjoy you when they might; you were in their power, yet they could not give the reins to their passion; they kept awake watching you with their eyes glued to bolt and seal; the enjoyment that satisfied them was not to enjoy you themselves, but to prevent others’ enjoying you — true dogs in the manger. Yes, and then how absurd it was that they should scrape and hoard, and end by being jealous of their own selves! Ah, if they could but see that rascally slave — steward — trainer — sneaking in bent on carouse! little enough he troubles his head about the luckless unamiable owner at his nightly accounts by a dim little half-fed lamp. How, pray, do you reconcile your old strictures of this sort with your contrary denunciation of Timon?

Pl. Oh, if you consider the thing candidly, you will find both attitudes reasonable. It is clear enough that Timon’s utter negligence comes from slackness, and not from any consideration for me. As for the other sort, who keep me shut up in the obscurity of strong-boxes, intent on making me heavy and fat and unwieldy, never touching me themselves, and never letting me see the light, lest some one else should catch sight of me, I always thought of them as fools and tyrants; what harm had I done that they should let me rot in close confinement? and did not they know that in a little while they would pass away and have to resign me to some other lucky man?

No, give me neither these nor the off-hand gentry; my beau ideal is the man who steers a middle course, as far from complete abstention as from utter profusion. Consider, Zeus, by your own great name; suppose a man were to take a fair young wife, and then absolutely decline all jealous precautions, to the point of letting her wander where she would by day or night, keeping company with any one who had a mind to her — or put it a little stronger, and let him be procurer, janitor, pander, and advertiser of her charms in his own person — well, what sort of love is his? come, Zeus, you have a good deal of experience, you know what love is.

On the other hand, let a man make a suitable match for the express purpose of raising heirs, and then let him neither himself have anything to do with her ripe, yet modest, beauty, nor allow any other to set eyes on it, but shut her up in barren, fruitless virginity; let him say all the while that he is in love with her, and let his pallid hue, his wasting flesh and his sunken eyes confirm the statement; — is he a madman, or is he not? he should be raising a family and enjoying matrimony; but he lets this fair-faced lovely girl wither away; he might as well be bringing up a perpetual priestess of Demeter. And now you understand my feelings when one set of people kick me about or waste me by the bucketful, and the others clap irons on me like a runaway convict.

Zeus. However, indignation is superfluous; both sets have just what they deserve — one as hungry and thirsty and dry-mouthed as Tantalus, getting no further than gaping at the gold; and the other finding its food swept away from its very gullet, as the Harpies served Phineus. Come, be off with you; you will find Timon has much more sense nowadays.

Pl. Oh, of course! he will not do his best to let me run out of a leaky vessel before I have done running in! oh no, he will not be consumed with apprehensions of the inflow’s gaining on the waste and flooding him! I shall be supplying a cask of the Danaids; no matter how fast I pour in, the thing will not hold water; every gallon will be out almost before it is in; the bore of the waste-pipe is so large, and never a plug.

Zeus. Well, if he does not stop the hole — if the leak is more than temporary — you will run out in no time, and he can find his smock-frock and spade again in the dregs of the cask. Now go along, both of you, and make the man rich. And, Hermes, on your way back, remember to bring the Cyclopes with you from Etna; my thunderbolt wants the grindstone; and I have work for it as soon as it is sharp.

Her. Come along, Plutus. Hullo! limping? My good man, I did not know you were lame as well as blind.

Pl. No, it is intermittent. As sure as Zeus sends me to any one, a sort of lethargy comes over me, my legs are like lead, and I can hardly get to my journey’s end; my destined host is sometimes an old man before I reach him. As a parting guest, on the other hand, you may see me wing my way swifter than any dream. ‘Are you ready?’ and almost before ‘Go’ has sounded, up goes my name as winner; I have flashed round the course absolutely unseen sometimes.

Her. You are not quite keeping to the truth; I could name you plenty of people who yesterday had not the price of a halter to hang themselves with, and today have developed into lavish men of fortune; they drive their pair of high-steppers, whereas a donkey would have been beyond their means before. They go about in purple raiment with jewelled fingers, hardly convinced yet that their wealth is not all a dream.

Pl. Ah, those are special cases, Hermes. I do not go on my own feet on those occasions, and it is not Zeus who sends me, but Pluto, who has his own ways of conferring wealth and making presents; Pluto and Plutus are not unconnected, you see. When I am to flit from one house to another, they lay me on parchment, seal me up carefully, make a parcel of me and take me round. The dead man lies in some dark corner, shrouded from the knees upward in an old sheet, with the cats fighting for possession of him, while those who have expectations wait for me in the public place, gaping as wide as young swallows that scream for their mother’s return.

Then the seal is taken off, the string cut, the parchment opened, and my new owner’s name made known. It is a relation, or a parasite, or perhaps a domestic minion, whose value lay in his vices and his smooth cheeks; he has continued to supply his master with all sorts of unnatural pleasures beyond the years which might excuse such service, and now the fine fellow is richly rewarded. But whoever it is, he snatches me up, parchment included, and is off with me in a flash; he used to be called Pyrrhias or Dromo or Tibius, but now he is Megacles, Megabyzus, or Protarchus; off he goes, leaving the disappointed ones staring at each other in very genuine mourning-over the fine fish which has jumped out of the landing-net after swallowing their good bait.

The fellow who has pounced on me has neither taste nor feeling; the sight of fetters still gives him a start; crack a whip in his neighbourhood, and his ears tingle; the treadmill is an abode of awe to him. He is now insufferable — insults his new equals, and whips his old fellows to see what that side of the transaction feels like. He ends by finding a mistress, or taking to the turf, or being cajoled by parasites; these have only to swear he is handsomer than Nireus, nobler than Cecrops or Codrus, wiser than Odysseus, richer than a dozen Croesuses rolled into one; and so the poor wretch disperses in a moment what cost so many perjuries, robberies, and swindles to amass.

Her. A very fair picture. But when you go on your own feet, how can a blind man like you find the way? Zeus sends you to people who he thinks deserve riches; but how do you distinguish them?

Pl. Do you suppose I do find them? not much. I should scarcely have passed Aristides by, and gone to Hipponicus, Callias, and any number of other Athenians whose merits could have been valued in copper.

Her. Well, but what do you do when he sends you?

Pl. I just wander up and down till I come across some one; the first comer takes me off home with him, and thanks — whom but the God of windfalls, yourself?

Her. So Zeus is in error, and you do not enrich deserving persons according to his pleasure?

Pl. My dear fellow, how can he expect it? He knows I am blind, and he sends me groping about for a thing so hard to detect, and so nearly extinct this long time, that a Lynceus would have his work cut out spying for its dubious remains. So you see, as the good are few, and cities are crowded with multitudes of the bad, I am much more likely to come upon the latter in my rambles, and they keep me in their nets.

Her. But when you are leaving them, how do you find escape so easy? you do not know the way.

Pl. Ah, there is just one occasion which brings me quickness of eye and foot; and that is flight.

Her. Yet another question. You are not only blind (excuse my frankness), but pallid and decrepit; how comes it, then, that you have so many lovers? All men’s looks are for you; if they get possession of you, they count themselves happy men; if they miss you, life is not worth living. Why, I have known not a few so sick for love of you that they have scaled some sky-pointing crag, and thence hurled themselves to unplumbed ocean depths 7, when they thought they were scorned by you, because you would not acknowledge their first salute. I am sure you know yourself well enough to confess that they must be lunatics, to rave about such charms as yours.

Pl. Why, you do not suppose they see me in my true shape, lame, blind, and so forth?

Her. How else, unless they are all as blind themselves?

Pl. They are not blind, my dear boy; but the ignorant misconceptions now so prevalent obscure their vision. And then I contribute; not to be an absolute fright when they see me, I put on a charming mask, all gilt and jewels, and dress myself up. They take the mask for my face, fall in love with its beauty, and are dying to possess it. If any one were to strip and show me to them naked, they would doubtless reproach themselves for their blindness in being captivated by such an ugly misshapen creature,

Her. How about fruition, then? When they are rich, and have put the mask on themselves, they are still deluded; if any one tries to take it off, they would sooner part with their heads than with it; and it is not likely they do not know by that time that the beauty is adventitious, now that they have an inside view. Pl. There too I have powerful allies.

Her. Namely —?

Pl. When a man makes my acquaintance, and opens the door to let me in, there enter unseen by my side Arrogance, Folly, Vainglory, Effeminacy, Insolence, Deceit, and a goodly company more. These possess his soul; he begins to admire mean things, pursues what he should abhor, reveres me amid my bodyguard of the insinuating vices which I have begotten, and would consent to anything sooner than part with me.

Her. What a smooth, slippery, unstable, evasive fellow you are, Plutus! there is no getting a firm hold of you; you wriggle through one’s fingers somehow, like an eel or a snake. Poverty is so different — sticky, clinging, all over hooks; any one who comes near her is caught directly, and finds it no simple matter to get clear. But all this gossip has put business out of our heads.

Pl. Business? What business?

Her. We have forgotten to bring Thesaurus, and we cannot do without him.

Pl. Oh, never mind him. When I come up to see you, I leave him on earth, with strict orders to stay indoors, and open to no one unless he hears my voice.

Her. Then we may make our way into Attica; hold on to my cloak till I find Timon’s retreat.

Pl. It is just as well to keep touch; if you let me drop behind, I am as likely as not to be snapped up by Hyperbolus or Cleon. But what is that noise? it sounds like iron on stone.

Her. Ah, here is Timon close to us; what a steep stony little plot he has got to dig! Good gracious, I see Poverty and Toil in attendance, Endurance, Wisdom, Courage, and Hunger’s whole company in full force — much more efficient than your guards, Plutus.

Pl. Oh dear, let us make the best of our way home, Hermes. We shall never produce any impression on a man surrounded by such troops.

Her. Zeus thought otherwise; so no cowardice.

Pov. Slayer of Argus, whither away, you two hand in hand?

Her. Zeus has sent us to Timon here.

Pov. Now? What has Plutus to do with Timon now? I found him suffering under Luxury’s treatment, put him in the charge of Wisdom and Toil (whom you see here), and made a good worthy man of him. Do you take me for such a contemptible helpless creature that you can rob me of my little all? have I perfected him in virtue, only to see Plutus take him, trust him to Insolence and Arrogance, make him as soft and limp and silly as before, and return him to me a worn-out rag again?

Her. It is Zeus’s will.

Pov. I am off, then. Toil, Wisdom, and the rest of you, quick march! Well, he will realize his loss before long; he had a good help meet in me, and a true teacher; with me he was healthy in body and vigorous in spirit; he lived the life of a man, and could be independent, and see the thousand and one needless refinements in all their absurdity.

Her. There they go, Plutus; let us come to him.

Tim. Who are you, villains? What do you want here, interrupting a hired labourer? You shall have something to take with you, confound you all! These clods and stones shall provide you with a broken head or two.

Her. Stop, Timon, don’t throw. We are not men; I am Hermes, and this is Plutus; Zeus has sent us in answer to your prayers. So knock off work, take your fortune, and much good may it do you!

Tim. I dare say you are Gods; that shall not save you. I hate every one, man or God; and as for this blind fellow, whoever he may be, I am going to give him one over the head with my spade.

Pl. For God’s sake, Hermes, let us get out of this! the man is melancholy-mad, I believe; he will do me a mischief before I get off.

Her. Now don’t be foolish, Timon; cease overdoing the ill-tempered boor, hold out your hands, take your luck, and be a rich man again. Have Athens at your feet, and from your solitary eminence you can forget ingratitude.

Tim. I have no use for you; leave me in peace; my spade is riches enough for me; for the rest, I am perfectly happy if people will let me alone.

Her. My dear sir — so unsociable?

So stiff and stubborn a reply to Zeus?

A misanthrope you may well be, after the way men have treated you; but with the Gods so thoughtful for you, you need not be a misotheist.

Tim. Very well, Hermes; I am extremely obliged to you and Zeus for your thoughtfulness — there; but I will not have Plutus.

Her. Why, pray?

Tim. He brought me countless troubles long ago — put me in the power of flatterers, set designing persons on me, stirred up ill-feeling, corrupted me with indulgence, exposed me to envy, and wound up with treacherously deserting me at a moment’s notice. Then the excellent Poverty gave me a drilling in manly labour, conversed with me in all frankness and sincerity, rewarded my exertions with a sufficiency, and taught me to despise superfluities; all hopes of a livelihood were to depend on myself, and I was to know my true wealth, unassailable by parasites’ flattery or informers’ threats, hasty legislatures or decree-mongering legislators, and which even the tyrant’s machinations cannot touch.

So, toil-hardened, working with a will at this bit of ground, my eyes rid of city offences, I get bread enough and to spare out of my spade. Go your ways, then, Hermes, and take Plutus back to Zeus. I am quite content to let every man of them go hang.

Her. Oh, that would be a pity; they are not all hanging-ripe. Don’t make a passionate child of yourself, but admit Plutus. Zeus’s gifts are too good to be thrown away.

Pl. Will you condescend to argue with me, Timon? or does my voice provoke you?

Tim. Oh, talk away; but be brief; no rascally lawyer’s ‘opening the case.’ I can put up with a few words from you, for Hermes’ sake.

Pl. A speech of some length might seem to be needed, considering the number of your charges; however, just examine your imputations of injustice. It was I that gave you those great objects of desire — consideration, precedence, honours, and every delight; all eyes and tongues and attentions were yours — my gifts; and if flatterers abused you, I am not responsible for that. It is I who should rather complain; you prostituted me vilely to scoundrels, whose laudations and cajolery of you were only samples of their designs upon me. As to your saying that I wound up by betraying you, you have things topsy-turvy again; I may complain; you took every method to estrange me, and finally kicked me out neck and crop. That is why your revered Dame Poverty has supplied you with a smock-frock to replace your soft raiment. Why, I begged and prayed Zeus (and Hermes heard me) that I might be excused from revisiting a person who had been so unfriendly to me as you.

Her. But you see how he is changed, Plutus; you need not be afraid to live with him now. Just go on digging, Timon; and you, Plutus, put Thesaurus in position; he will come at your call.

Tim. I must obey, and be a rich man again, Hermes; what can one do, when Gods insist? But reflect what troubles you are bringing on my luckless head; I have had a blissful life of late, and now for no fault of my own I am to have my hands full of gold and care again.

Her. Hard, intolerable fate! yet endure for my sake, if only that the flatterers may burst themselves with envy. And now for heaven, via Etna.

Pl. He is off, I suppose, from the beating of his wings. Now, you stay where you are, while I go and fetch Thesaurus to you; or rather, dig hard. Here, Gold! Thesaurus I say! answer Timon’s summons and let him unearth you. Now, Timon, with a will; a deep stroke or two. I will leave you together.

Tim. Come, spade, show your mettle; stick to it; invite Thesaurus to step up from his retreat. . . . O God of Wonders! O mystic priests! O lucky Hermes! whence this flood of gold? Sure, ’tis all a dream; methinks ’twill be ashes when I wake. And yet — coined gold, ruddy and heavy, a feast of delight!

O gold, the fairest gift to mortal eyes! be it night, or be it day, Thou dost outshine all else like living fire.

Come to me, my own, my beloved. I doubt the tale no longer; well might Zeus take the shape of gold; where is the maid that would not open her bosom to receive so fair a lover gliding through the roof?

Talk of Midas, Croesus, Delphic treasures! they were all nothing to Timon and his wealth; why, the Persian King could not match it. My spade, my dearest smock-frock, you must hang, a votive offering to Pan. And now I will buy up this desert corner, and build a tiny castle for my treasure, big enough for me to live in all alone, and, when I am dead, to lie in. And be the rule and law of my remaining days to shun all men, be blind to all men, scorn all men. Friendship, hospitality, society, compassion — vain words all. To be moved by another’s tears, to assist another’s need — be such things illegal and immoral. Let me live apart like a wolf; be Timon’s one friend — Timon.

All others are my foes and ill-wishers; to hold communion with them is pollution; to set eyes upon one of them marks the day unholy; let them be to me even as images of bronze or stone. I will receive no herald from them, keep with them no truce; the bounds of my desert are the line they may not cross. Cousin and kinsman, neighbour and countryman — these are dead useless names, wherein fools may find a meaning. Let Timon keep his wealth to himself, scorn all men, and live in solitary luxury, quit of flattery and vulgar praise; let him sacrifice and feast alone, his own associate and neighbour, far from 8 the world. Yea, when his last day comes, let there be none to close his eyes and lay him out, but himself alone.

Be the name he loves Misanthropus, and the marks whereby he may be known peevishness and spleen, wrath and rudeness and abhorrence. If ever one burning to death should call for help against the flames, let me help — with pitch and oil. If another be swept past me by a winter torrent, and stretch out his hands for aid, then let mine press him down head under, that he never rise again. So shall they receive as they have given. Mover of this resolution — Timon, son of Echecratides of Collytus. Presiding officer — the same Timon. The ayes have it. Let it be law, and duly observed.

All the same, I would give a good deal to have the fact of my enormous wealth generally known; they would all be fit to hang themselves over it. . . . Why, what is this? Well, that is quick work. Here they come running from every point of the compass, all dusty and panting; they have smelt out the gold somehow or other. Now, shall I get on top of this knoll, keep up a galling fire of stones from my point of vantage, and get rid of them that way? Or shall I make an exception to my law by parleying with them for once? contempt might hit harder than stones. Yes, I think that is better; I will stay where I am, and receive them. Let us see, who is this in front? Ah, Gnathonides the flatterer; when I asked an alms of him the other day, he offered me a halter; many a cask of my wine has he made a beast of himself over. I congratulate him on his speed; first come, first served.

Gna. What did I tell them? — Timon was too good a man to be abandoned by Providence. How are you, Timon? as good-looking and good-tempered, as good a fellow, as ever?

Tim. And you, Gnathonides, still teaching vultures rapacity, and men cunning?

Gna. Ah, he always liked his little joke. But where do you dine? I have brought a new song with me, a march out of the last musical thing on.

Tim. It will be a funeral march, then, and a very touching one, with spade obbligato.

Gna. What means this? This is assault, Timon; just let me find a witness! . . . Oh, my God, my God! . . . I’ll have you before the Areopagus for assault and battery.

Tim. You’d better not wait much longer, or you’ll have to make it murder.

Gna. Mercy, mercy! . . . Now, a little gold ointment to heal the wound; it is a first-rate styptic.

Tim. What! you won’t go, won’t you?

Gna. Oh, I am going. But you shall repent this. Alas, so genial once, and now so rude!

Tim. Now who is this with the bald crown? Why, it is Philiades; if there is a loathsome flatterer, it is he. When I sang that song that nobody else would applaud, he lauded me to the skies, and swore no dying swan could be more tuneful; his reward was one of my farms, and a 500 pounds portion for his daughter. And then when he found I was ill, and had come to him for assistance, his generous aid took the form of blows.

Phil. You shameless creatures! yes, yes, now you know Timon’s merits! now Gnathonides would be his friend and boon-companion! well, he has the right reward of ingratitude. Some of us were his familiars and playmates and neighbours; but we hold back a little; we would not seem to thrust ourselves upon him. Greeting, lord Timon; pray let me warn you against these abominable flatterers; they are your humble servants during meal-times, and else about as useful as carrion crows. Perfidy is the order of the day; everywhere ingratitude and vileness. I was just bringing a couple of hundred pounds, for your immediate necessities, and was nearly here before I heard of your splendid fortune. So I just came on to give you this word of caution; though indeed you are wise enough (I would take your advice before Nestor’s myself) to need none of my counsel.

Tim. Quite so, Philiades. But come near, will you not, and receive my — spade!

Phil. Help, help! this thankless brute has broken my head, for giving him good counsel.

Tim. Now for number three. Lawyer Demeas — my cousin, as he calls himself, with a decree in his hand. Between three and four thousand it was that I paid in to the Treasury in ready money for him; he had been fined that amount and imprisoned in default, and I took pity on him. Well, the other day he was distributing-officer of the festival money 9; when I applied for my share, he pretended I was not a citizen.

Dem. Hail, Timon, ornament of our race, pillar of Athens, shield of Hellas! The Assembly and both Councils are met, and expect your appearance. But first hear the decree which I have proposed in your honour. ‘WHEREAS Timon son of Echecratides of Collytus who adds to high position and character a sagacity unmatched in Greece is a consistent and indefatigable promoter of his country’s good and Whereas he has been victorious at Olympia on one day in boxing wrestling and running as well as in the two and the four-horse chariot races —’

Tim. Why, I was never so much as a spectator at Olympia.

Dem. What does that matter? you will be some day. It looks better to have a good deal of that sort in-‘and Whereas he fought with distinction last year at Acharnae cutting two Peloponnesian companies to pieces —’

Tim. Good work that, considering that my name was not on the muster-rolls, because I could not afford a suit of armour.

Dem. Ah, you are modest; but it would be ingratitude in us to forget your services —‘and Whereas by political measures and responsible advice and military action he has conferred great benefits on his country Now for all these reasons it is the pleasure of the Assembly and the Council the ten divisions of the High Court and the Borough Councils individually and collectively THAT a golden statue of the said Timon be placed on the Acropolis alongside of Athene with a thunderbolt in the hand and a seven-rayed aureole on the head Further that golden garlands be conferred on him and proclaimed this day at the New Tragedies 10 the said day being kept in his honour as the Dionysia. Mover of the Decree Demeas the pleader the said Timon’s near relation and disciple the said Timon being as distinguished in pleading as in all else wherein it pleases him to excel.’

So runs the decree. I had designed also to present to you my son, whom I have named Timon after you.

Tim. Why, I thought you were a bachelor, Demeas.

Dem. Ah, but I intend to marry next year; my child — which is to be a boy — I hereby name Timon.

Tim. I doubt whether you will feel like marrying, my man, when I have given you — this!

Dem. Oh Lord! what is that for? . . . You are plotting a coup d’etat, you Timon; you assault free men, and you are neither a free man nor a citizen yourself. You shall soon be called to account for your crimes; it was you set fire to the Acropolis, for one thing.

Tim. Why, you scoundrel, the Acropolis has not been set on fire; you are a common blackmailer.

Dem. You got your gold by breaking into the Treasury.

Tim. It has not been broken into, either; you are not even plausible.

Dem. There is time for the burglary yet; meantime, you are in possession of the treasures.

Tim. Well, here is another for you, anyhow.

Dem. Oh! oh! my back!

Tim. Don’t make such a noise, if you don’t want a third. It would be too absurd, you know, if I could cut two companies of Spartans to pieces without my armour, and not be able to give a single little scoundrel his deserts. My Olympic boxing and wrestling victories would be thrown away.

Whom have we now? is this Thrasycles the philosopher? sure enough it is. A halo of beard, eyebrows an inch above their place, superiority in his air, a look that might storm heaven, locks waving to the wind — ’tis a very Boreas or Triton from Zeuxis’ pencil. This hero of the careful get-up, the solemn gait, the plain attire — in the morning he will utter a thousand maxims, expounding Virtue, arraigning self-indulgence, lauding simplicity; and then, when he gets to dinner after his bath, his servant fills him a bumper (he prefers it neat), and draining this Lethe-draught he proceeds to turn his morning maxima inside out; he swoops like a hawk on dainty dishes, elbows his neighbour aside, fouls his beard with trickling sauce, laps like a dog, with his nose in his plate, as if he expected to find Virtue there, and runs his finger all round the bowl, not to lose a drop of the gravy. Let him monopolize pastry or joint, he will still criticize the carving — that is all the satisfaction his ravenous greed brings him —; when the wine is in, singing and dancing are delights not fierce enough; he must brawl and rave. He has plenty to say in his cups — he is then at his best in that kind — upon temperance and decorum; he is full of these when his potations have reduced him to ridiculous stuttering. Next the wine disagrees with him, and at last he is carried out of the room, holding on with all his might to the flute-girl. Take him sober, for that matter, and you will hardly find his match at lying, effrontery or avarice. He is facile princeps of flatterers, perjury sits on his tongue-tip, imposture goes before him, and shamelessness is his good comrade; oh, he is a most ingenious piece of work, finished at all points, a multum in parvo. I am afraid his kind heart will be grieved presently. Why, how is this, Thrasycles? I must say, you have taken your time about coming.

Thr. Ah, Timon, I am not come like the rest of the crowd; they are dazzled by your wealth; they are gathered together with an eye to gold and silver and high living; they will soon be showing their servile tricks before your unsuspicious, generous self. As for me, you know a crust is all the dinner I care for; the relish I like best is a bit of thyme or cress; on festal days I may go as far as a sprinkling of salt. My drink is the crystal spring; and this threadbare cloak is better than your gay robes. Gold — I value it no higher than pebbles on the beach. What brought me was concern for you; I would not have you ruined by this same pestilent wealth, this temptation for plunderers; many is the man it has sunk in helpless misery. Take my advice, and fling it bodily into the sea; a good man, to whom the wealth of philosophy is revealed, has no need of the other. It does not matter about deep water, my good sir; wade in up to your waist when the tide is near flood, and let no one see you but me. Or if that is not satisfactory, here is another plan even better. Get it all out of the house as quick as you can, not reserving a penny for yourself, and distribute it to the poor five shillings to one, five pounds to another, a hundred to a third; philosophy might constitute a claim to a double or triple share. For my part — and I do not ask for myself, only to divide it among my needy friends — I should be quite content with as much as my scrip would hold; it is something short of two standard bushels; if one professes philosophy, one must be moderate and have few needs — none that go beyond the capacity of a scrip.

Tim. Very right, Thrasycles. But instead of a mere scripful, pray take a whole headful of clouts, standard measure by the spade.

Thr. Land of liberty, equality, legality! protect me against this ruffian!

Tim. What is your grievance, my good man? is the measure short? here is a pint or two extra, then, to put it right.

Why, what now? here comes a crowd; friend Blepsias, Laches, Gniphon; their name is legion; they shall howl soon. I had better get up on the rock; my poor tired spade wants a little rest; I will collect all the stones I can lay hands on, and pepper them at long range.

Bl. Don’t throw, Timon; we are going.

Tim. Whether the retreat will be bloodless, however, is another question.


7 See Apology for ‘The Dependent Scholar,’

8 Reading, with Dindorf, hekas o‘n for ekseio‘n.

9 Every citizen had the right to receive from the State the small sum which would pay for his admission to theatrical or other festival entertainments.

10 See Dionysia in Notes

Prometheus on Caucasus

Hermes. Hephaestus. Prometheus.

Her. This, Hephaestus, is the Caucasus, to which it is our painful duty to nail our companion. We have now to select a suitable crag, free from snow, on which the chains will have a good hold, and the prisoner will hang in all publicity.

Heph. True. It will not do to fix him too low down, or these men of his might come to their maker’s assistance; nor at the top, where he would be invisible from the earth. What do you say to a middle course? Let him hang over this precipice, with his arms stretched across from crag to crag.

Her. The very thing. Steep rocks, slightly overhanging, inaccessible on every side; no foothold but a mere ledge, with scarcely room for the tips of one’s toes; altogether a sweet spot for a crucifixion. Now, Prometheus, come and be nailed up; there is no time to lose.

Prom. Nay, hear me; Hephaestus! Hermes! I suffer injustice: have compassion on my woes!

Her. In other words, disobey orders, and promptly be gibbeted in your stead! Do you suppose there is not room on the Caucasus to peg out a couple of us? Come, your right hand! clamp it down, Hephaestus, and in with the nails; bring down the hammer with a will. Now the left; make sure work of that too. — So! — The eagle will shortly be here, to trim your liver; so ingenious an artist is entitled to every attention.

Prom. O Cronus, and Iapetus, and Mother Earth! Behold the sufferings of the innocent!

Her. Why, as to innocence — to begin with, there was that business of the sacrificial meats, your manner of distributing which was most unfair, most disingenuous: you got all the choice parts for yourself, and put Zeus off with bones ‘wrapped up in shining fat’; I remember the passage in Hesiod; those are his very words. Then you made these human beings; creatures of unparalleled wickedness, the women especially. And to crown all, you stole fire, the most precious possession of the Gods, and gave it to them. And with all this on your conscience, you protest that you have done nothing to deserve captivity.

Prom. Ah, Hermes; you are as bad as Hector; you ‘blame the blameless.’ For such crimes as these, I deserve a round pension, if justice were done. And by the way, I should like, if you can spare the time, to answer to these charges, and satisfy you of the injustice of my sentence. You can employ your practised eloquence on behalf of Zeus, and justify his conduct in nailing me up here at the Gates of the Caspian, for all Scythia to behold and pity.

Her. There is nothing to be gained now by an appeal to another court; it is too late. Proceed, however. We have to wait in any case till the eagle comes to look after that liver of yours; and the time might be worse spent than in listening to the subtleties of such a master in impudence as yourself.

Prom. You begin then, Hermes. Exert all your powers of invective; leave no stone unturned to establish the righteousness of papa’s judgements. — You, Hephaestus, shall compose the jury.

Heph. The jury! Not a bit of it; I am a party in this case. My furnace has been cold, ever since you stole that fire.

Prom. Well, at this rate you had better divide the prosecution between you. You conduct the case of larceny, and Hermes can handle the man-making, and the misappropriation of meat. I shall expect a great deal of you; you are both artists.

Heph. Hermes shall speak for me. The law is not in my line; my forge takes up most of my time. But Hermes is an orator; he has made a study of these things.

Prom. Well! I should never have thought that Hermes would have the heart to reproach me with larceny; he ought to have a fellow-feeling for me there. However, with this further responsibility on your shoulders, there is no time to be lost, son of Maia; out with your accusation, and have done with it.

Her. To deal adequately with your crimes, Prometheus, would require many words and much preparation. It is not enough to mention the several counts of the accusation; how, entrusted with the distribution of meats, you defrauded the crown by retaining the choicer portions for your own use; how you created the race of men, with absolutely no justification for so doing; how you stole fire and conveyed it to these same men. You seem not to realize, my friend, that, all-things considered, Zeus has dealt very handsomely by you. Now, if you deny the charges, I shall be compelled to establish your guilt at some length, and to set the facts in the clearest possible light. But if you admit the distribution of meat in the manner described, the introduction of men, and the theft of fire — then my case is complete, and there is no more to be said. To expatiate further would be to talk nonsense.

Prom. Perhaps there has been some nonsense talked already; that remains to be seen. But as you say your case is now complete, I will see what I can do in the way of refutation. And first about that meat. Though, upon my word, I blush for Zeus when I name it: to think that he should be so touchy about trifles, as to send off a God of my quality to crucifixion, just because he found a little bit of bone in his share! Does he forget the services I have rendered him? And does he think what it is that he is so angry about, and how childish it is to show temper about a little thing like that? What if he did miss getting the better share? Why, Hermes, these tricks that are played over the wine-cups are not worth thinking twice about. A joke, perhaps, is carried a little too far, in the warmth of the feast; still, it is a joke, and resentment should be left behind in the dregs of the bowl. I have no patience with your long memories; this nursing of grievances, this raking up of last night’s squabbles, is unworthy of a king, let alone a king of Gods. Once take away from our feasts the little elegancies of quip and crank and wile, and what is left? Muzziness; repletion; silence; — cheerful accompaniments these to the wine-bowl! For my part, I never supposed that Zeus would give the matter a thought the next morning; much less that he would make such a stir about it, and think himself so mightily injured; my little manoeuvre with the meat was merely a playful experiment, to see which he would choose. It might have been worse. Instead of giving him the inferior half, I might have defrauded him of the whole. And what if I had? Would that have been a case for putting heaven and earth in commotion, for deep designs of chain and cross and Caucasus, dispatchings of eagles, rendings of livers? These things tell a sad tale, do they not, of the puny soul, the little mind, the touchy temper of the aggrieved party? How would he take the loss of a whole ox, who storms to such purpose over a few pounds of meat? How much more reasonable is the conduct of mortals, though one would have expected them to be more irritable than Gods! A mortal would never want his cook crucified for dipping a finger into the stew-pan, or filching a mouthful from the roast; they overlook these things. At the worst their resentment is satisfied with a box on the ears or a rap on the head. I find no precedent among them for crucifixion in such cases. So much for the affair of the meat; there is little credit to be got in the refutation of such a charge, and still less in the bringing of it.

I am next to speak of my creation of mankind. And here the terms of your accusation are ambiguous. I have to choose between two distinct possibilities. Do you maintain that I had no right to create men at all, that I ought to have left the senseless clay alone? Or do you only complain of the form in which I designed them? However, I shall have something to say on both points. I shall first endeavour to show that no harm has accrued to the Gods from my bringing mankind into existence; and shall then proceed to the positive advantages and improvements which have resulted to them from the peopling of the earth. The question as to the harm done by my innovation is best answered by an appeal to the past, to those days when the race of heaven-born Gods stood alone, and earth was a hideous shapeless mass, a tangle of rude vegetation. The Gods had no altars then, nor temples (for who should raise them?), no images of wood or stone, such as now abound in every corner of the earth, and are honoured with all observance. It was to me that the idea occurred — amid my ceaseless meditations on the common welfare, on the aggrandizement of the Gods and the promotion of order and beauty in the universe — of setting all to rights with a handful of clay; of creating living things, and moulding them after our own likeness. I saw what was lacking to our godhead: some counterpart, some foil wherein to set off its blessedness. And that counterpart must be mortal; but in all else exquisitely contrived, perfect in intelligence, keen to appreciate our superiority. Thereupon, I moulded my material,

With water mingling clay,

and created man, calling in Athene to aid me in the task. And this is my rank offence against the Gods. Destructive work — to reduce inanimate clay to life and motion! The Gods, it seems, are Gods no longer, now that there are mortal creatures on the earth. To judge at least by Zeus’s indignation, one would suppose that the Gods suffered some loss of prestige from the creation of mankind; unless it is that he is afraid of another revolt, of their waging war with heaven, like the Giants.

That the cause of the Gods suffered nothing at my hands is evident; show me the slightest instance to the contrary, and I will say no more; I have but my deserts. But for the positive benefits I have conferred, use the evidence of your eyes. The earth, no longer barren and untilled, is decked with cities and farms and the fruits of cultivation; the sea has its ships, the islands their inhabitants. Everywhere are altars and temples, everywhere festivals and sacrifices:

Zeus with his presence fills their gatherings, He fills their streets.

Had I created mankind for my own private convenience, it might perhaps have denoted a grasping spirit: but I made them common property; they are at the service of every God of you. Nay more: temples of Zeus, and Apollo, and Hera, temples of Hermes, are everywhere to be seen; but who ever saw a temple of Prometheus? You may judge from this, how far I have sacrificed the common cause to my private ambition.

And further. Consider, Hermes: can any good thing whatsoever, be it gift of Nature or work of our hands, give the full measure of enjoyment to its possessor, when there is none to see, none to admire? You see whither my question tends? But for mankind, the glories of the universe must have been without a witness; and there was little satisfaction to be derived from a wealth which was doomed to excite no envy in others. We should have lacked a standard for comparison; and should never have known the extent of our happiness, while all were as happy as ourselves. The great is not great, till it is compared with the small. Yet instead of honouring me for my political insight, you crucify me; such are the wages of wisdom!

Ah, but (you will say) there is so much wickedness among them; adultery, war, incest, parricide. Well, I fancy these are not unknown among ourselves? And I am sure no one would think that a reason for saying that Uranus and Ge made a mistake in creating us. Or again, you will complain that we have so much trouble in looking after them. At that rate, a shepherd ought to object to the possession of a flock, because he has to look after it. Besides, a certain show of occupation is rather gratifying than otherwise; the responsibility is not unwelcome — it helps to pass the time. What should we do, if we had not mankind to think of? There would be nothing to live for; we should sit about drinking nectar and gorging ourselves with ambrosia. But what fairly takes away my breath is, your assurance in finding fault with my women in particular, when all the time you are in love with them: our bulls and satyrs and swans are never tired of making descents upon the Earth; women, they find, are good enough to be made the mothers of Gods!

Yes, yes (you will say), it was quite right that men should be created, but they should not have been made in our likeness. And what better model could I have taken than this, whose perfection I knew? Was I to make them brute beasts without understanding? Had they been other than they are, how should they have paid you due honour and sacrifice? When the hecatombs are getting ready, you think nothing of a journey to the ends of the earth to see the ‘blameless Ethiopians’; and my reward for procuring you these advantages is — crucifixion! But on this subject I have said enough.

And now, with your permission, I will approach the subject of that stolen fire, of which we hear so much. I have a question to ask, which I beg you will answer frankly. Has there been one spark less fire in Heaven, since men shared it with us? Of course not. It is the nature of fire, that it does not become less by being imparted to others. A fire is not put out by kindling another from it. No, this is sheer envy: you cannot bear that men should have a share of this necessary, though you have suffered no harm thereby. For shame! Gods should be beneficent, ‘givers of good’; they should be above all envy. Had I taken away fire altogether, and left not a spark behind, it would have been no great loss. You have no use for it. You are never cold; you need no artificial light; nor is ambrosia improved by boiling. To man, on the other hand, fire is indispensable for many purposes, particularly for those of sacrifice; how else are they to fill their streets with the savour of burnt-offerings, and the fumes of frankincense I how else to burn fat thigh-pieces upon your altars? I observe that you take a particular pleasure in the steam arising therefrom, and think no feast more delicious than the smell of roast meat, as it mounts heavenwards

In eddying clouds of smoke.

Your present complaint, you see, is sadly at variance with this taste. I wonder you do not forbid the Sun to shine on mankind. He too is of fire, and fire of a purer and diviner quality. Has anything been said to him about his lavish expenditure of your property?

And now I have done. If there is any flaw in my defence, it is for you two to refute me. I shall answer your objections in due course.

Her. Nay, you are too hard for us, Prometheus; we will not attempt a sophist of your mettle. Well for you that Zeus is not within earshot, or you would have had a round dozen of hungry vultures to reckon with, for certain; in clearing your own character, you have grievously mishandled his. But one thing puzzles me: you are a prophet; you ought to have foreseen your sentence.

Prom. All this I knew, and more than this; for I shall be released; nay, even now the day is not far off when one of your blood shall come from Thebes, and shoot this eagle with which you threaten me 11.

Her. With all my heart! I shall be delighted to see you free again, and feasting in our midst; but not, my friend, not carving for us!

Prom. You may take my word for it; I shall be with you again. I have the wherewithal to pay abundantly for my ransom.

Her. Oh, indeed? Come, tell us all about it.

Prom. You know Thetis — But no; the secret is best kept. Ransom and reward depend upon it.

Her. Well, you know best. Now, Hephaestus, we must be going; see, here comes the eagle. — Bear a brave heart, Prometheus; and all speed to your Theban archer, who is to set a term to this creature’s activity.


11 See Prometheus in Notes.

Dialogues of the Gods


Prometheus. Zeus

Prom. Release me, Zeus; I have suffered enough.

Zeus. Release you? you? Why, by rights your irons should be heavier, you should have the whole weight of Caucasus upon you, and instead of one, a dozen vultures, not just pecking at your liver, but scratching out your eyes. You made these abominable human creatures to vex us, you stole our fire, you invented women. I need not remind you how you overreached me about the meat-offerings; my portion, bones disguised in fat: yours, all the good.

Prom. And have I not been punished enough — riveted to the Caucasus all these years, feeding your bird (on which all worst curses light!) with my liver?

Zeus. ’Tis not a tithe of your deserts.

Prom. Consider, I do not ask you to release me for nothing. I offer you information which is invaluable.

Zeus. Promethean wiles!

Prom. Wiles? to what end? you can find the Caucasus another time; and there are chains to be had, if you catch me cheating.

Zeus. Tell me first the nature of your ‘invaluable’ offer.

Prom. If I tell you your present errand right, will that convince you that I can prophesy too?

Zeus. Of course it will.

Prom. You are bound on a little visit to Thetis.

Zeus. Right so far. And the sequel? I trust you now.

Prom. Have no dealings with her, Zeus. As sure as Nereus’s daughter conceives by you, your child shall mete you the measure you meted to —

Zeus. I shall lose my kingdom, you would say?

Prom. Avert it, Fate! I say only, that union portends this issue.

Zeus. Thetis, farewell! and for this Hephaestus shall set you free.



Eros. Zeus

Eros. You might let me off, Zeus! I suppose it was rather too bad of me; but there! — I am but a child; a wayward child.

Zeus. A child, and born before Iapetus was ever thought of? You bad old man! Just because you have no beard, and no white hairs, are you going to pass yourself off for a child?

Eros. Well, and what such mighty harm has the old man ever done you, that you should talk of chains?

Zeus. Ask your own guilty conscience, what harm. The pranks you have played me! Satyr, bull, swan, eagle, shower of gold — I have been everything in my time; and I have you to thank for it. You never by any chance make the women in love with me; no one is ever smitten with my charms, that I have noticed. No, there must be magic in it always; I must be kept well out of sight. They like the bull or the swan well enough: but once let them set eyes on me, and they are frightened out of their lives.

Eros. Well, of course. They are but mortals; the sight of Zeus is too much for them.

Zeus. Then why are Branchus and Hyacinth so fond of Apollo?

Eros. Daphne ran away from him, anyhow; in spite of his beautiful hair and his smooth chin. Now, shall I tell you the way to win hearts? Keep that aegis of yours quiet, and leave the thunderbolt at home; make yourself as smart as you can; curl your hair and tie it up with a bit of ribbon, get a purple cloak, and gold-bespangled shoes, and march forth to the music of flute and drum; — and see if you don’t get a finer following than Dionysus, for all his Maenads.

Zeus. Pooh! I’ll win no hearts on such terms.

Eros. Oh, in that case, don’t fall in love. Nothing could be simpler.

Zeus. I dare say; but I like being in love, only I don’t like all this fuss. Now mind; if I let you off, it is on this understanding.



Zeus. Hermes

Zeus. Hermes, you know Inachus’s beautiful daughter?

Her. I do. Io, you mean?

Zeus. Yes; she is not a girl now, but a heifer.

Her. Magic at work! how did that come about?

Zeus. Hera had a jealous fit, and transformed her. But that is not all; she has thought of a new punishment for the poor thing. She has put a cowherd in charge, who is all over eyes; this Argus, as he is called, pastures the heifer, and never goes to sleep.

Her. Well, what am I to do?

Zeus. Fly down to Nemea, where the pasture is, kill Argus, take Io across the sea to Egypt, and convert her into Isis. She shall be henceforth an Egyptian Goddess, flood the Nile, regulate the winds, and rescue mariners.



Hera. Zeus

Hera. Zeus! What is your opinion of this man Ixion?

Zeus. Why, my dear, I think he is a very good sort of man; and the best of company. Indeed, if he were unworthy of our company, he would not be here.

Hera. He is unworthy! He is a villain! Discard him!

Zeus. Eh? What has he been after? I must know about this.

Hera. Certainly you must; though I scarce know how to tell you. The wretch!

Zeus. Oh, oh; if he is a ‘wretch,’ you must certainly tell me all about it. I know what ‘wretch’ means, on your discreet tongue. What, he has been making love?

Hera. And to me! to me of all people! It has been going on for a long time. At first, when he would keep looking at me, I had no idea —. And then he would sigh and groan; and when I handed my cup to Ganymede after drinking, he would insist on having it, and would stop drinking to kiss it, and lift it up to his eyes; and then he would look at me again. And then of course I knew. For a long time I didn’t like to say anything to you; I thought his mad fit would pass. But when he actually dared to speak to me, I left him weeping and groveling about, and stopped my ears, so that I might not hear his impertinences, and came to tell you. It is for you to consider what steps you will take.

Zeus. Whew! I have a rival, I find; and with my own lawful wife. Here is a rascal who has tippled nectar to some purpose. Well, we have no one but ourselves to blame for it: we make too much of these mortals, admitting them to our table like this. When they drink of our nectar, and behold the beauties of Heaven (so different from those of Earth!), ’tis no wonder if they fall in love, and form ambitious schemes! Yes, Love is all-powerful; and not with mortals only: we Gods have sometimes fallen beneath his sway.

Hera. He has made himself master of you; no doubt of that. He does what he likes with you; — leads you by the nose. You follow him whither he chooses, and assume every shape at his command; you are his chattel, his toy. I know how it will be: you are going to let Ixion off, because you have had relations with his wife; she is the mother of Pirithous.

Zeus. Why, what a memory you have for these little outings of mine! — Now, my idea about Ixion is this. It would never do to punish him, or to exclude him from our table; that would not look well. No; as he is so fond of you, so hard hit — even to weeping point, you tell me —

Hera. Zeus! What are you going to say?

Zeus. Don’t be alarmed. Let us make a cloud-phantom in your likeness, and after dinner, as he lies awake (which of course he will do, being in love), let us take it and lay it by his side. ’Twill put him out of his pain: he will fancy he has attained his desire.

Hera. Never! The presumptuous villain!

Zeus. Yes, I know. But what harm can it do to you, if Ixion makes a conquest of a cloud?

Hera. But he will think that I am the cloud; he will be working his wicked will upon me for all he can tell.

Zeus. Now you are talking nonsense. The cloud is not Hera, and Hera is not the cloud. Ixion will be deceived; that is all.

Hera. Yes, but these men are all alike — they have no delicacy. I suppose, when he goes home, he will boast to every one of how he has enjoyed the embraces of Hera, the wife of Zeus! Why, he may tell them that I am in love with him! And they will believe it; they will know nothing about the cloud.

Zeus. If he says anything of the kind he shall soon find himself in Hades, spinning round on a wheel for all eternity. That will keep him busy! And serve him right; not for falling in love — I see no great harm in that — but for letting his tongue wag.



Hephaestus. Apollo

Heph. Have you seen Maia’s baby, Apollo? such a pretty little thing, with a smile for everybody; you can see it is going to be a treasure.

Ap. That baby a treasure? well, in mischief, Iapetus is young beside it.

Heph. Why, what harm can it do, only just born?

Ap. Ask Posidon; it stole his trident. Ask Ares; he was surprised to find his sword gone out of the scabbard. Not to mention myself, disarmed of bow and arrows.

Heph. Never! that infant? he has hardly found his legs yet; he is not out of his baby-linen.

Ap. Ah, you will find out, Hephaestus, if he gets within reach of you.

Heph. He has been.

Ap. Well? all your tools safe? none missing?

Heph. Of course not.

Ap. I advise you to make sure.

Heph. Zeus! where are my pincers?

Ap. Ah, you will find them among the baby-linen.

Heph. So light-fingered? one would swear he had practised petty larceny in the womb.

Ap. Ah, and you don’t know what a glib young chatterbox he is; and, if he has his way, he is to be our errand-boy! Yesterday he challenged Eros — tripped up his heels somehow, and had him on his back in a twinkling; before the applause was over, he had taken the opportunity of a congratulatory hug from Aphrodite to steal her girdle; Zeus had not done laughing before — the sceptre was gone. If the thunderbolt had not been too heavy, and very hot, he would have made away with that too.

Heph. The child has some spirit in him, by your account.

Ap. Spirit, yes — and some music, moreover, young as he is.

Heph. How can you tell that?

Ap. He picked up a dead tortoise somewhere or other, and contrived an instrument with it. He fitted horns to it, with a cross-bar, stuck in pegs, inserted a bridge, and played a sweet tuneful thing that made an old harper like me quite envious. Even at night, Maia was saying, he does not stay in Heaven; he goes down poking his nose into Hades — on a thieves’ errand, no doubt. Then he has a pair of wings, and he has made himself a magic wand, which he uses for marshalling souls — convoying the dead to their place.

Heph. Ah, I gave him that, for a toy.

Ap. And by way of payment he stole —

Heph. Well thought on; I must go and get them; you may be right about the baby-linen.


VIII Hephaestus. Zeus

Heph. What are your orders, Zeus? You sent for me, and here I am; with such an edge to my axe as would cleave a stone at one blow.

Zeus. Ah; that’s right, Hephaestus. Just split my head in half, will you?

Heph. You think I am mad, perhaps? — Seriously, now, what can I do for you?

Zeus. What I say: crack my skull. Any insubordination, now, and you shall taste my resentment; it will not be the first time. Come, a good lusty stroke, and quick about it. I am in the pangs of travail; my brain is in a whirl.

Heph. Mind you, the consequences may be serious: the axe is sharp, and will prove but a rough midwife.

Zeus. Hew away, and fear nothing. I know what I am about.

Heph. H’m. I don’t like it: however, one must obey orders. . . . Why, what have we here? A maiden in full armour! This is no joke, Zeus. You might well be waspish, with this great girl growing up beneath your pia mater; in armour, too! You have been carrying a regular barracks on your shoulders all this time. So active too! See, she is dancing a war-dance, with shield and spear in full swing. She is like one inspired; and (what is more to the point) she is extremely pretty, and has come to marriageable years in these few minutes; those grey eyes, even, look well beneath a helmet. Zeus, I claim her as the fee for my midwifery.

Zeus. Impossible! She is determined to remain a maid for ever. Not that I have any objection, personally.

Heph. That is all I want. You can leave the rest to me. I’ll carry her off this moment.

Zeus. Well, if you think it so easy. But I am sure it is a hopeless case.



Aphrodite. Selene

Aph. What is this I hear about you, Selene? When your car is over Caria, you stop it to gaze at Endymion sleeping hunter-fashion in the open; sometimes, they tell me, you actually get out and go down to him.

Sel. Ah, Aphrodite, ask that son of yours; it is he must answer for it all.

Aph. Well now, what a naughty boy! he gets his own mother into all sorts of scrapes; I must go down, now to Ida for Anchises of Troy, now to Lebanon for my Assyrian stripling; — mine? no, he put Persephone in love with him too, and so robbed me of half my darling. I have told him many a time that if he would not behave himself I would break his artillery for him, and clip his wings; and before now I have smacked his little behind with my slipper. It is no use; he is frightened and cries for a minute or two, and then forgets all about it. But tell me, is Endymion handsome? That is always a comfort in our humiliation.

Sel. Most handsome, I think, my dear; you should see him when he has spread out his cloak on the rock and is asleep; his javelins in his left hand, just slipping from his grasp, the right arm bent upwards, making a bright frame to the face, and he breathing softly in helpless slumber. Then I come noiselessly down, treading on tiptoe not to wake and startle him — but there, you know all about it; why tell you the rest? I am dying of love, that is all.



Aphrodite. Eros

Aph. Child, child, you must think what you are doing. It is bad enough on earth — you are always inciting men to do some mischief, to themselves or to one another; — but I am speaking of the Gods. You change Zeus into shape after shape as the fancy takes you; you make Selene come down from the sky; you keep Helius loitering about with Clymene, till he sometimes forgets to drive out at all. As for the naughty tricks you play on your own mother, you know you are safe there. But Rhea! how could you dare to set her on thinking of that young fellow in Phrygia, an old lady like her, the mother of so many Gods? Why, you have made her quite mad: she harnesses those lions of hers, and drives about all over Ida with the Corybantes, who are as mad as herself, shrieking high and low for Attis; and there they are, slashing their arms with swords, rushing about over the hills, like wild things, with dishevelled hair, blowing horns, beating drums, clashing cymbals; all Ida is one mad tumult. I am quite uneasy about it; yes, you wicked boy, your poor mother is quite uneasy: some day when Rhea is in one of her mad fits (or when she is in her senses, more likely), she will send the Corybantes after you, with orders to tear you to pieces, or throw you to the lions. You are so venturesome!

Eros. Be under no alarm, mother; I understand lions perfectly by this time. I get on to their backs every now and then, and take hold of their manes, and ride them about; and when I put my hand into their mouths, they only lick it, and let me take it out again. Besides, how is Rhea going to have time to attend to me? She is too busy with Attis. And I see no harm in just pointing out beautiful things to people; they can leave them alone; — it is nothing to do with me. And how would you like it if Ares were not in love with you, or you with him?

Aph. Masterful boy! always the last word! But you will remember this some day.



Zeus. Asclefius. Heracles

Zeus. Now, Asclepius and Heracles, stop that quarrelling; you might as well be men; such behaviour is very improper and out of place at the table of the Gods.

Her. Is this druggist fellow to have a place above me, Zeus?

Asc. Of course I am; I am your better.

Her. Why, you numskull? because it was Zeus’s bolt that cracked your skull, for your unholy doings, and now you have been allowed your immortality again out of sheer pity?

Asc. You twit me with my fiery end; you seem to have forgotten that you too were burnt to death, on Oeta.

Her. Was there no difference between your life and mine, then? I am Zeus’s son, and it is well known how I toiled, cleansing the earth, conquering monsters, and chastising men of violence. Whereas you are a root-grubber and a quack; I dare say you have your use for doctoring sick men, but you never did a bold deed in your life.

Asc. That comes well from you, whose burns I healed, when you came up all singed not so long ago; between the tunic and the flames, your body was half consumed. Anyhow, it would be enough to mention that I was never a slave like you, never combed wool in Lydia, masquerading in a purple shawl and being slippered by an Omphale, never killed my wife and children in a fit of the spleen. Her. If you don’t stop being rude, I shall soon show you that immortality is not much good. I will take you up and pitch you head over heels out of Heaven, and Apollo himself shall never mend your broken crown. Zeus. Cease, I say, and let us hear ourselves speak, or I will send you both away from table. Heracles, Asclepius died before you, and has the right to a better place.



Hermes. Apollo

Her. Why so sad, Apollo?

Ap. Alas, Hermes — my love!

Her. Oh; that’s bad. What, are you still brooding over that affair of Daphne?

Ap. No. I grieve for my beloved; the Laconian, the son of Oebalus.

Her. Hyacinth? he is not dead?

Ap. Dead.

Her. Who killed him? Who could have the heart? That lovely boy!

Ap. It was the work of my own hand.

Her. You must have been mad!

Ap. Not mad; it was an accident.

Her. Oh? and how did it happen?

Ap. He was learning to throw the quoit, and I was throwing with him. I had just sent my quoit up into the air as usual, when jealous Zephyr (damned be he above all winds! he had long been in love with Hyacinth, though Hyacinth would have nothing to say to him)— Zephyr came blustering down from Taygetus, and dashed the quoit upon the child’s head; blood flowed from the wound in streams, and in one moment all was over. My first thought was of revenge; I lodged an arrow in Zephyr, and pursued his flight to the mountain. As for the child, I buried him at Amyclae, on the fatal spot; and from his blood I have caused a flower to spring up, sweetest, fairest of flowers, inscribed with letters of woe. — Is my grief unreasonable?

Her. It is, Apollo. You knew that you had set your heart upon a mortal: grieve not then for his mortality.



Hermes. Apollo

Her. To think that a cripple and a blacksmith like him should marry two such queens of beauty as Aphrodite and Charis!

Ap. Luck, Hermes — that is all. But I do wonder at their putting up with his company; they see him running with sweat, bent over the forge, all sooty-faced; and yet they cuddle and kiss him, and sleep with him!

Her. Yes, it makes me angry too; how I envy him! Ah, Apollo, you may let your locks grow, and play your harp, and be proud of your looks; I am a healthy fellow, and can touch the lyre; but, when it comes to bedtime, we lie alone.

Ap. Well, my loves never prosper; Daphne and Hyacinth were my great passions; she so detested me that being turned to a tree was more attractive than I; and him I killed with a quoit. Nothing is left me of them but wreaths of their leaves and flowers.

Her. Ah, once, once, I and Aphrodite — but no; no boasting.

Ap. I know; that is how Hermaphroditus is accounted for. But perhaps you can tell me how it is that Aphrodite and Charis are not jealous of one another.

Her. Because one is his wife in Lemnus and the other in Heaven. Besides, Aphrodite cares most about Ares; he is her real love; so she does not trouble her head about the blacksmith.

Ap. Do you think Hephaestus sees?

Her. Oh, he sees, yes; but what can he do? he knows what a martial young fellow it is; so he holds his tongue. He talks of inventing a net, though, to take them in the act with.

Ap. Ah, all I know is, I would not mind being taken in that act.



Hera. Leto

Hera. I must congratulate you, madam, on the children with whom you have presented Zeus.

Leto. Ah, madam; we cannot all be the proud mothers of Hephaestuses.

Hera. My boy may be a cripple, but at least he is of some use. He is a wonderful smith, and has made Heaven look another place; and Aphrodite thought him worth marrying, and dotes on him still. But those two of yours! — that girl is wild and mannish to a degree; and now she has gone off to Scythia, and her doings there are no secret; she is as bad as any Scythian herself — butchering strangers and eating them! Apollo, too, who pretends to be so clever, with his bow and his lyre and his medicine and his prophecies; those oracle-shops that he has opened at Delphi, and Clarus, and Dindyma, are a cheat; he takes good care to be on the safe side by giving ambiguous answers that no one can understand, and makes money out of it, for there are plenty of fools who like being imposed upon — but sensible people know well enough that most of it is clap-trap. The prophet did not know that he was to kill his favourite with a quoit; he never foresaw that Daphne would run away from him, so handsome as he is, too, such beautiful hair! I am not sure, after all, that there is much to choose between your children and Niobe’s.

Leto. Oh, of course; my children are butchers and impostors. I know how you hate the sight of them. You cannot bear to hear my girl complimented on her looks, or my boy’s playing admired by the company.

Hera. His playing, madam! — excuse a smile; — why, if the Muses had not favoured him, his contest with Marsyas would have cost him his skin; poor Marsyas was shamefully used on that occasion; ’twas a judicial murder. — As for your charming daughter, when Actaeon once caught sight of her charms, she had to set the dogs upon him, for fear he should tell all he knew: I forbear to ask where the innocent child picked up her knowledge of obstetrics.

Leto. You set no small value on yourself, madam, because you are the wife of Zeus, and share his throne; you may insult whom you please. But there will be tears presently, when the next bull or swan sets out on his travels, and you are left neglected.



Hera. Zeus

Hera. Well, Zeus, I should be ashamed if I had such a son; so effeminate, and so given to drinking; tying up his hair in a ribbon, indeed! and spending most of his time among mad women, himself as much a woman as any of them; dancing to flute and drum and cymbal! He resembles any one rather than his father.

Zeus. Anyhow, my dear, this wearer of ribbons, this woman among women, not content with conquering Lydia, subduing Thrace, and enthralling the people of Tmolus, has been on an expedition all the way to India with his womanish host, captured elephants, taken possession of the country, and led their king captive after a brief resistance. And he never stopped dancing all the time, never relinquished the thyrsus and the ivy; always drunk (as you say) and always inspired! If any scoffer presumes to make light of his ceremonial, he does not go unpunished; he is bound with vine-twigs; or his own mother mistakes him for a fawn, and tears him limb from limb. Are not these manful doings, worthy of a son of Zeus? No doubt he is fond of his comforts, too, and his amusements; we need not complain of that: you may judge from his drunken achievements, what a handful the fellow would be if he were sober.

Hera. I suppose you will tell me next, that the invention of wine is very much to his credit; though you see for yourself how drunken men stagger about and misbehave themselves; one would think the liquor had made them mad. Look at Icarius, the first to whom he gave the vine: beaten to death with mattocks by his own boon companions!

Zeus. Pooh, nonsense. That is not Dionysus’s fault, nor the wine’s fault; it comes of the immoderate use of it. Men will drink their wine neat, and drink too much of it. Taken in moderation, it engenders cheerfulness and benevolence. Dionysus is not likely to treat any of his guests as Icarius was treated. — No; I see what it is:— you are jealous, my love; you can’t forget about Semele, and so you must disparage the noble achievements of her son.



Aphrodite. Eros

Aph. Eros, dear, you have had your victories over most of the Gods — Zeus, Posidon, Rhea, Apollo, nay, your own mother; how is it you make an exception for Athene? against her your torch has no fire, your quiver no arrows, your right hand no cunning.

Eros. I am afraid of her, mother; those awful flashing eyes! she is like a man, only worse. When I go against her with my arrow on the string, a toss of her plume frightens me; my hand shakes so that it drops the bow.

Aph. I should have thought Ares was more terrible still; but you disarmed and conquered him.

Eros. Ah, he is only too glad to have me; he calls me to him. Athene always eyes me so! once when I flew close past her, quite by accident, with my torch, ‘If you come near me,’ she called out, ‘I swear by my father, I will run you through with my spear, or take you by the foot and drop you into Tartarus, or tear you in pieces with my own hands’— and more such dreadful things. And she has such a sour look; and then on her breast she wears that horrid face with the snaky hair; that frightens me worst of all; the nasty bogy — I run away directly I see it.

Aph. Well, well, you are afraid of Athene and the Gorgon; at least so you say, though you do not mind Zeus’s thunderbolt a bit. But why do you let the Muses go scot free? do they toss their plumes and hold out Gorgons’ heads?

Eros. Ah, mother, they make me bashful; they are so grand, always studying and composing; I love to stand there listening to their music.

Aph. Let them pass too, because they are grand. And why do you never take a shot at Artemis?

Eros. Why, the great thing is that I cannot catch her; she is always over the hills and far away. But besides that, her heart is engaged already.

Aph. Where, child?

Eros. In hunting stags and fawns; she is so fleet, she catches them up, or else shoots them; she can think of nothing else. Her brother, now, though he is an archer too, and draws a good arrow —

Aph. I know, child, you have hit him often enough.



The Judgement of Paris

Zeus. Hermes. Hera. Athene. Aphrodite. Paris

Zeus. Hermes, take this apple, and go with it to Phrygia; on the Gargaran peak of Ida you will find Priam’s son, the herdsman. Give him this message: ‘Paris, because you are handsome, and wise in the things of love, Zeus commands you to judge between the Goddesses, and say which is the most beautiful. And the prize shall be this apple.’— Now, you three, there is no time to be lost: away with you to your judge. I will have nothing to do with the matter: I love you all exactly alike, and I only wish you could all three win. If I were to give the prize to one of you, the other two would hate me, of course. In these circumstances, I am ill qualified to be your judge. But this young Phrygian to whom you are going is of the royal blood — a relation of Ganymede’s — and at the same time a simple countryman; so that we need have no hesitation in trusting his eyes.

Aph. As far as I am concerned, Zeus, Momus himself might be our judge; I should not be afraid to show myself. What fault could he find with me? But the others must agree too.

Hera. Oh, we are under no alarm, thank you — though your admirer Ares should be appointed. But Paris will do; whoever Paris is.

Zeus. And my little Athene; have we her approval? Nay, never blush, nor hide your face. Well, well, maidens will be coy; ’tis a delicate subject. But there, she nods consent. Now, off with you; and mind, the beaten ones must not be cross with the judge; I will not have the poor lad harmed. The prize of beauty can be but one.

Herm. Now for Phrygia. I will show the way; keep close behind me, ladies, and don’t be nervous. I know Paris well: he is a charming young man; a great gallant, and an admirable judge of beauty. Depend on it, he will make a good award.

Aph. I am glad to hear that; I ask for nothing better than a just judge. — Has he a wife, Hermes, or is he a bachelor?

Herm. Not exactly a bachelor.

Aph. What do you mean?

Herm. I believe there is a wife, as it were; a good enough sort of girl — a native of those parts — but sadly countrified! I fancy he does not care very much about her. — Why do you ask?

Aph. I just wanted to know.

Ath. Now, Hermes, that is not fair. No whispering with Aphrodite.

Herm. It was nothing, Athene; nothing about you. She only asked me whether Paris was a bachelor.

Ath. What business is that of hers?

Herm. None that I know of. She meant nothing by the question; she just wanted to know.

Ath. Well, and is he?

Herm. Why, no.

Ath. And does he care for military glory? has he ambition? Or is he a mere neatherd?

Herm. I couldn’t say for certain. But he is a young man, so it is to be presumed that distinction on the field of battle is among his desires.

Aph. There, you see; I don’t complain; I say nothing when you whisper with her. Aphrodite is not so particular as some people.

Herm. Athene asked me almost exactly the same as you did; so don’t be cross. It will do you no harm, my answering a plain question. — Meanwhile, we have left the stars far behind us, and are almost over Phrygia. There is Ida: I can make out the peak of Gargarum quite plainly; and if I am not mistaken, there is Paris himself.

Hera. Where is he? I don’t see him.

Herm. Look over there to the left, Hera: not on the top, but down the side, by that cave where you see the herd.

Hera. But I don’t see the herd.

Herm. What, don’t you see them coming out from between the rocks — where I am pointing, look — and the man running down from the crag, and keeping them together with his staff?

Hera. I see him now; if he it is.

Herm. Oh, that is Paris. But we are getting near; it is time to alight and walk. He might be frightened, if we were to descend upon him so suddenly.

Hera. Yes; very well. And now that we are on the earth, you might go on ahead, Aphrodite, and show us the way. You know the country, of course, having been here so often to see Anchises; or so I have heard.

Aph. Your sneers are thrown away on me, Hera.

Herm. Come; I’ll lead the way myself. I spent some time on Ida, while Zeus was courting Ganymede. Many is the time that I have been sent here to keep watch over the boy; and when at last the eagle came, I flew by his side, and helped him with his lovely burden. This is the very rock, if I remember; yes, Ganymede was piping to his sheep, when down swooped the eagle behind him, and tenderly, oh, so tenderly, caught him up in those talons, and with the turban in his beak bore him off, the frightened boy straining his neck the while to see his captor. I picked up his pipes — he had dropped them in his fright and — ah! here is our umpire, close at hand. Let us accost him. — Good-morrow, herdsman!

Par. Good-morrow, youngster. And who may you be, who come thus far afield? And these dames? They are over comely, to be wandering on the mountain-side.

Herm. ‘These dames,’ good Paris, are Hera, Athene, and Aphrodite; and I am Hermes, with a message from Zeus. Why so pale and tremulous? Compose yourself; there is nothing the matter. Zeus appoints you the judge of their beauty. ‘Because you are handsome, and wise in the things of love’ (so runs the message), ‘I leave the decision to you; and for the prize — read the inscription on the apple.’

Par. Let me see what it is about. FOR THE FAIR, it says. But, my lord Hermes, how shall a mortal and a rustic like myself be judge of such unparalleled beauty? This is no sight for a herdsman’s eyes; let the fine city folk decide on such matters. As for me, I can tell you which of two goats is the fairer beast; or I can judge betwixt heifer and heifer; —’tis my trade. But here, where all are beautiful alike, I know not how a man may leave looking at one, to look upon another. Where my eyes fall, there they fasten — for there is beauty: I move them, and what do I find? more loveliness! I am fixed again, yet distracted by neighbouring charms. I bathe in beauty: I am enthralled: ah, why am I not all eyes like Argus? Methinks it were a fair award, to give the apple to all three. Then again: one is the wife and sister of Zeus; the others are his daughters. Take it where you will, ’tis a hard matter to judge.

Herm. So it is, Paris. At the same time — Zeus’s orders! There is no way out of it.

Par. Well, please point out to them, Hermes, that the losers must not be angry with me; the fault will be in my eyes only.

Herm. That is quite understood. And now to work.

Par. I must do what I can; there is no help for it. But first let me ask — am I just to look at them as they are, or must I go into the matter thoroughly?

Herm. That is for you to decide, in virtue of your office. You have only to give your orders; it is as you think best.

Par. As I think best? Then I will be thorough.

Herm. Get ready, ladies. Now, Mr. Umpire. — I will look the other way.

Hera. I approve your decision, Paris. I will be the first to submit myself to your inspection. You shall see that I have more to boast of than white arms and large eyes: nought of me but is beautiful.

Par. Aphrodite, will you also prepare?

Ath. Oh, Paris — make her take off that girdle, first; there is magic in it; she will bewitch you. For that matter, she has no right to come thus tricked out and painted — just like a courtesan! She ought to show herself unadorned.

Par. They are right about the girdle, madam; it must go.

Aph. Oh, very well, Athene: then take off that helmet, and show your head bare, instead of trying to intimidate the judge with that waving plume. I suppose you are afraid the colour of your eyes may be noticed, without their formidable surroundings.

Ath. Oh, here is my helmet.

Aph. And here is my girdle.

Hera. Now then.

Par. God of wonders! What loveliness is here! Oh, rapture! How exquisite these maiden charms! How dazzling the majesty of Heaven’s true queen! And oh, how sweet, how enthralling is Aphrodite’s smile! ’Tis too much, too much of happiness. — But perhaps it would be well for me to view each in detail; for as yet I doubt, and know not where to look; my eyes are drawn all ways at once.

Aph. Yes, that will be best.

Par. Withdraw then, you and Athene; and let Hera remain.

Hera. So be it; and when you have finished your scrutiny, you have next to consider, how you would like the present which I offer you. Paris, give me the prize of beauty, and you shall be lord of all Asia.

Par. I will take no presents. Withdraw. I shall judge as I think right. Approach, Athene.

Ath. Behold. And, Paris, if you will say that I am the fairest, I will make you a great warrior and conqueror, and you shall always win, in every one of your battles.

Par. But I have nothing to do with fighting, Athene. As you see, there is peace throughout all Lydia and Phrygia, and my father’s dominion is uncontested. But never mind; I am not going to take your present, but you shall have fair play. You can robe again and put on your helmet; I have seen. And now for Aphrodite.

Aph. Here I am; take your time, and examine carefully; let nothing escape your vigilance. And I have something else to say to you, handsome Paris. Yes, you handsome boy, I have long had an eye on you; I think you must be the handsomest young fellow in all Phrygia. But it is such a pity that you don’t leave these rocks and crags, and live in a town; you will lose all your beauty in this desert. What have you to do with mountains? What satisfaction can your beauty give to a lot of cows? You ought to have been married long ago; not to any of these dowdy women hereabouts, but to some Greek girl; an Argive, perhaps, or a Corinthian, or a Spartan; Helen, now, is a Spartan, and such a pretty girl — quite as pretty as I am — and so susceptible! Why, if she once caught sight of you, she would give up everything, I am sure, to go with you, and a most devoted wife she would be. But you have heard of Helen, of course?

Par. No, ma’am; but I should like to hear all about her now.

Aph. Well, she is the daughter of Leda, the beautiful woman, you know, whom Zeus visited in the disguise of a swan.

Par. And what is she like?

Aph. She is fair, as might be expected from the swan, soft as down (she was hatched from an egg, you know), and such a lithe, graceful figure; and only think, she is so much admired, that there was a war because Theseus ran away with her; and she was a mere child then. And when she grew up, the very first men in Greece were suitors for her hand, and she was given to Menelaus, who is descended from Pelops. — Now, if you like, she shall be your wife.

Par. What, when she is married already?

Aph. Tut, child, you are a simpleton: I understand these things.

Par. I should like to understand them too.

Aph. You will set out for Greece on a tour of inspection: and when you get to Sparta, Helen will see you; and for the rest — her falling in love, and going back with you — that will be my affair.

Par. But that is what I cannot believe — that she will forsake her husband to cross the seas with a stranger, a barbarian.

Aph. Trust me for that. I have two beautiful children, Love and Desire. They shall be your guides. Love will assail her in all his might, and compel her to love you: Desire will encompass you about, and make you desirable and lovely as himself; and I will be there to help. I can get the Graces to come too, and between us we shall prevail.

Par. How this will end, I know not. All I do know is, that I am in love with Helen already. I see her before me — I sail for Greece I am in Sparta — I am on my homeward journey, with her at my side! Ah, why is none of it true?

Aph. Wait. Do not fall in love yet. You have first to secure my interest with the bride, by your award. The union must be graced with my victorious presence: your marriage-feast shall be my feast of victory. Love, beauty, wedlock; all these you may purchase at the price of yonder apple.

Par. But perhaps after the award you will forget all about me?

Aph. Shall I swear?

Par. No; but promise once more.

Aph. I promise that you shall have Helen to wife; that she shall follow you, and make Troy her home; and I will be present with you, and help you in all.

Par. And bring Love, and Desire, and the Graces?

Aph Assuredly; and Passion and Hymen as well.

Par. Take the apple: it is yours.



Ares. Hermes

Ar. Did you hear Zeus’s threat, Hermes? most complimentary, wasn’t it, and most practicable? ‘If I choose,’ says he, ‘I could let down a cord from Heaven, and all of you might hang on to it and do your very best to pull me down; it would be waste labour; you would never move me. On the other hand, if I chose to haul up, I should have you all dangling in mid air, with earth and sea into the bargain and so on; you heard? Well, I dare say he is too much for any of us individually, but I will never believe he outweighs the whole of us in a body, or that, even with the makeweight of earth and sea, we should not get the better of him.

Her. Mind what you say, Ares; it is not safe to talk like that; we might get paid out for chattering.

Ar. You don’t suppose I should say this to every one; I am not afraid of you; I know you can keep a quiet tongue. I must tell you what made me laugh most while he stormed: I remember not so long ago, when Posidon and Hera and Athene rebelled and made a plot for his capture and imprisonment, he was frightened out of his wits; well, there were only three of them, and if Thetis had not taken pity on him and called in the hundred-handed Briareus to the rescue, he would actually have been put in chains, with his thunder and his bolt beside him. When I worked out the sum, I could not help laughing.

Her. Oh, do be quiet; such things are too risky for you to say or me to listen to.



Hermes. Maia

Her. Mother, I am the most miserable god in Heaven.

Ma. Don’t say such things, child.

Her. Am I to do all the work of Heaven with my own hands, to be hurried from one piece of drudgery to another, and never say a word? I have to get up early, sweep the dining-room, lay the cushions and put all to rights; then I have to wait on Zeus, and take his messages, up and down, all day long; and I am no sooner back again (no time for a wash) than I have to lay the table; and there was the nectar to pour out, too, till this new cup-bearer was bought. And it really is too bad, that when every one else is in bed, I should have to go off to Pluto with the Shades, and play the usher in Rhadamanthus’s court. It is not enough that I must be busy all day in the wrestling-ground and the Assembly and the schools of rhetoric, the dead must have their share in me too. Leda’s sons take turn and turn about betwixt Heaven and Hades — I have to be in both every day. And why should the sons of Alemena and Semele, paltry women, why should they feast at their ease, and I— the son of Maia, the grandson of Atlas — wait upon them? And now here am I only just back from Sidon, where he sent me to see after Europa, and before I am in breath again-off I must go to Argos, in quest of Danae, ‘and you can take Boeotia on your way,’ says father, ‘and see Antiope.’ I am half dead with it all. Mortal slaves are better off than I am: they have the chance of being sold to a new master; I wish I had the same!

Ma. Come, come, child. You must do as your father bids you, like a good boy. Run along now to Argos and Boeotia; don’t loiter, or you will get a whipping. Lovers are apt to be hasty.



Zeus. Helius

Zeus. What have you been about, you villainous Titan? You have utterly done for the earth, trusting your car to a silly boy like that; he has got too near and scorched it in one place, and in another killed everything with frost by withdrawing the heat too far; there is not a single thing he has not turned upside down; if I had not seen what was happening and upset him with the thunderbolt, there would not have been a remnant of mankind left. A pretty deputy driver!

Hel. I was wrong, Zeus; but do not be angry with me; my boy pressed me so; how could I tell it would turn out so badly?

Zeus. Oh, of course you didn’t know what a delicate business it is, and how the slightest divergence ruins everything! it never occurred to you that the horses are spirited, and want a tight hand! oh no! why, give them their heads a moment, and they are out of control; just what happened: they carried him now left, now right, now clean round backwards, and up or down, just at their own sweet will; he was utterly helpless.

Hel. I knew it all; I held out for a long time and told him he mustn’t drive. But he wept and entreated, and his mother Clymene joined in, and at last I put him up. I showed him how to stand, and how far he was to mount upwards, and where to begin descending, and how to hold the reins, and keep the spirited beasts under control; and I told him how dangerous it was, if he did not keep the track. But, poor boy, when he found himself in charge of all that fire, and looking down into yawning space, he was frightened, and no wonder; and the horses soon knew I was not behind them, took the child’s measure, left the track, and wrought all this havoc; he let go the reins — I suppose he was afraid of being thrown out — and held on to the rail. But he has suffered for it, and my grief is punishment enough for me, Zeus.

Zeus. Punishment enough, indeed! after daring to do such a thing as that! — Well, I forgive you this time. But if ever you transgress again, or send another substitute like him, I will show you how much hotter the thunderbolt is than your fire. Let his sisters bury him by the Eridanus, where he was upset. They shall weep amber tears and be changed by their grief into poplars. As for you, repair the car — the pole is broken, and one of the wheels crushed — put the horses to and drive yourself. And let this be a lesson to you.



Apollo. Hermes

Ap. Hermes, have you any idea which of those two is Castor, and which is Pollux? I never can make out.

Her. It was Castor yesterday, and Pollux today.

Ap. How do you tell? They are exactly alike.

Her. Why, Pollux’s face is scarred with the wounds he got in boxing; those that Amycus, the Bebrycian, gave him, when he was on that expedition with Jason, are particularly noticeable. Castor has no marks; his face is all right.

Ap. Good; I am glad I know that. Everything else is the same for both. Each has his half egg-shell, with the star on top, each his javelin and his white horse. I am always calling Pollux Castor, and Castor Pollux. And, by the way, why are they never both here together? Why should they be alternately gods and shades?

Her. That is their brotherly way. You see, it was decreed that one of the sons of Leda must die, and the other be immortal; and by this arrangement they split the immortality between them.

Ap. Rather a stupid way of doing it: if one of them is to be in Heaven, whilst the other is underground, they will never see one another at all; and I suppose that is just what they wanted to do. Then again: all the other gods practise some useful profession, either here or on earth; for instance, I am a prophet, Asclepius is a doctor, you are a first-rate gymnast and trainer, Artemis ushers children into the world; now what are these two going to do? surely two such great fellows are not to have a lazy time of it?

Her. Oh no. Their business is to wait upon Posidon, and ride the waves; and if they see a ship in distress, they go aboard of her, and save the crew.

Ap. A most humane profession.


Dialogues of the Sea-Gods


Doris. Galatea.

Dor. A handsome lover, Galatea, this Sicilian shepherd who they say is so mad for you!

Gal. Don’t be sarcastic, Doris; he is Posidon’s son, after all.

Dor. Well, and if he were Zeus’s, and still such a wild shaggy creature, with only one eye (there is nothing uglier than to have only one eye), do you think his birth would improve his beauty?

Gal. Shagginess and wildness, as you call them, are not ugly in a man; and his eye looks very well in the middle of his forehead, and sees just as well as if it were two.

Dor. Why, my dear, from your raptures about him one would think it was you that were in love, not he.

Gal. Oh no, I am not in love; but it is too bad, your all running him down as you do. It is my belief you are jealous, Do you remember? we were playing on the shore at the foot of Etna, where the long strip of beach comes between the mountain and the sea; he was feeding his sheep, and spied us from above; yes, but he never so much as glanced at the rest of you; I was the pretty one; he was all eyes — eye, I mean — for me. That is what makes you spiteful, because it showed I was better than you, good enough to be loved, while you were taken no notice of.

Dor. Hoity-toity! jealous indeed! because a one-eyed shepherd thinks you pretty! Why, what could he see in you but your white skin? and he only cared for that because it reminded him of cheese and milk; he thinks everything pretty that is like them. If you want to know any more than that about your looks, sit on a rock when it is calm, and lean over the water; just a bit of white skin, that is all; and who cares for that, if it is not picked out with some red?

Gal. Well, if I am all white, I have got a lover of some sort; there is not a shepherd or a sailor or a boatman to care for any of you. Besides, Polyphemus is very musical.

Dor. Take care, dear; we heard him singing the other day when he serenaded you. Heavens! one would have taken him for an ass braying. And his lyre! what a thing! A stag’s skull, with its horns for the uprights; he put a bar across, and fastened on the strings without any tuning-pegs! then came the performance, all harsh and out of tune; he shouted something himself, and the lyre played something else, and the love ditty sent us into fits of laughter. Why, Echo, chatterbox that she is, would not answer him; she was ashamed to be caught mimicking such a rough ridiculous song. Oh, and the pet that your beau brought you in his arms! — a bear cub nearly as shaggy as himself. Now then, Galatea, do you still think we envy you your lover?

Gal. Well, Doris, only show us your own; no doubt he is much handsomer, and sings and plays far better.

Dor. Oh, I have not got one; I do not set up to be lovely. But one like the Cyclops — faugh, he might be one of his own goats! — he eats raw meat, they say, and feeds on travellers — one like him, dear, you may keep; I wish you nothing worse than to return his love.



Cyclops. Posidon

Cy. Only look, father, what that cursed stranger has been doing to me! He made me drunk, and set upon me whilst I was asleep, and blinded me.

Po. Who has dared to do this?

Cy. He called himself ‘Noman’ at first: but when he had got safely out of range, he said his name was Odysseus.

Po. I know — the Ithacan; on his way back from Troy. But how did he come to do such a thing? He is not distinguished for courage.

Cy. When I got back from the pasture, I caught a lot of the fellows in my cave. Evidently they had designs upon the sheep: because when I had blocked up my doorway (I have a great big stone for that), and kindled a fire, with a tree that I had brought home from the mountain — there they were trying to hide themselves. I saw they were robbers, so I caught a few of them, and ate them of course, and then that scoundrel of a Noman, or Odysseus, whichever it is, gave me something to drink, with a drug in it; it tasted and smelt very good, but it was villanously heady stuff; it made everything spin round; even the cave seemed to be turning upside down, and I simply didn’t know where I was; and finally I fell off to sleep. And then he sharpened that stake, and made it hot in the fire, and blinded me in my sleep; and blind I have been ever since, father.

Po. You must have slept pretty soundly, my boy, or you would have jumped up in the middle of it. Well, and how did Odysseus get off? He couldn’t move that stone away, I know.

Cy. I took that away myself, so as to catch him as he went out. I sat down in the doorway, and felt about for him with my hands. I just let the sheep go out to pasture, and told the ram everything I wanted done.

Po. Ah! and they slipped out under the sheep? But you should have set the other Cyclopes on to him.

Cy. I did call them, and they came: but when they asked me who it was that was playing tricks with me, I said ‘Noman’; and then they thought I was mad, and went off home again. The villain! that name of his was just a trick! And what I minded most was the way in which he made game of my misfortune: ‘Not even Papa can put this right,’ he said.

Po. Never mind, my boy; I will be even with him. I may not be able to cure blindness, but he shall know that I have something to say to mariners. He is not home yet.



Posidon. Alpheus

Pos. What is the meaning of this, Alpheus? unlike others, when you take your plunge you do not mingle with the brine as a river should; you do not put an end to your labours by dispersing; you hold together through the sea, keep your current fresh, and hurry along in all your original purity; you dive down to strange depths like a gull or a heron; I suppose you will come to the top again and show yourself somewhere or other.

Al. Do not press me, Posidon; a love affair; and many is the time you have been in love yourself.

Pos. Woman, nymph, or Nereid?

Al. All wrong; she is a fountain.

Pos. A fountain? and where does she flow?

Al. She is an islander — in Sicily. Her name is Arethusa.

Pos. Ah, I commend your taste. She is pellucid, and bubbles up in perfect purity; the water as bright over her pebbles as if it were a mass of silver.

Al. You know my fountain, Posidon, and no mistake. It is to her that I go.

Pos. Go, then; and may the course of love run smooth! But pray where did you meet her? Arcadia and Syracuse, you know!

Al. I am in a hurry; you are detaining me, with these superfluous questions.

Pos. Ah, so I am. Be off to your beloved, rise from the sea, mingle your channels and be one water.



Menelaus. Proteus

Me. I can understand your turning into water, you know, Proteus, because you are a sea-god. I can even pass the tree; and the lion is not wholly beyond the bounds of belief. But the idea of your being able to turn into fire, living under water as you do — this excites my surprise, not to say my incredulity.

Pro. Don’t let it; because I can.

Me. I have seen you do it. But (to be frank with you) I think there must be some deception; you play tricks with one’s eyes; you don’t really turn into anything of the kind?

Pro. Deception? What deception can there possibly be? Everything is above-board. Your eyes were open, I suppose, and you saw me change into all these things? If that is not enough for you, if you think it is a fraud, an optical illusion, I will turn into fire again, and you can touch me with your hand, my sagacious friend. You will then be able to conclude whether I am only visible fire, or have the additional property of burning.

Me. That would be rash.

Pro. I suppose you have never seen such a thing as a polypus, nor observed the proceedings of that fish?

Me. I have seen them; as to their proceedings, I shall be glad of your information.

Pro. The polypus, having selected his rock, and attached himself by means of his suckers, assimilates himself to it, changing his colour to match that of the rock. By this means he hopes to escape the observation of fishermen: there is no contrast of colour to betray his presence; he looks just like stone.

Me. So I have heard. But yours is quite another matter, Proteus.

Pro. I don’t know what evidence would satisfy you, if you reject that of your own eyes.

Me. I have seen it done, but it is an extraordinary business; fire and water, one and the same person!



Panope. Galene

Pa. Galene, did you see what Eris did yesterday at the Thessalian banquet, because she had not had an invitation?

Ga, No, I was not with you; Posidon had told me to keep the sea quiet for the occasion. What did Eris do, then, if she was not there?

Pa. Thetis and Peleus had just gone off to the bridal chamber, conducted by Amphitrite and Posidon, when Eris came in unnoticed — which was easy enough; some were drinking, some dancing, or attending to Apollo’s lyre or the Muses’ songs — Well, she threw down a lovely apple, solid gold, my dear; and there was written on it, FOR THE FAIR. It rolled along as if it knew what it was about, till it came in front of Hera, Aphrodite, and Athene. Hermes picked it up and read out the inscription; of course we Nereids kept quiet; what should we do in such company? But they all made for it, each insisting that it was hers; and if Zeus had not parted them, there would have been a battle. He would not decide the matter himself, though they asked him to. ‘Go, all of you, to Ida,’ he said, ‘to the son of Priam; he is a man of taste, quite capable of picking out the beauty; he will be no bad judge.’

Ga. Yes. and the Goddesses, Panope?

Pa. They are going to Ida today, I believe; we shall soon have news of the result.

Ga. Oh, I can tell you that now; if the umpire is not a blind man, no one else can win, with Aphrodite in for it.

Triton. Posidon. Amymone

Tri. Posidon, there is such a pretty girl coming to Lerna for water every day; I don’t know that I ever saw a prettier.

Pos. What is she, a lady? or a mere water-carrier?

Tri. Oh no; she is one of the fifty daughters of that Egyptian king. Her name is Amymone; I asked about that and her family. Danaus understands discipline; he is bringing them up to do everything for themselves; they have to fetch water, and make themselves generally useful.

Pos. And does she come all that way by herself, from Argos to Lerna?

Tri. Yes; and Argos, you know, is a thirsty place; she is always having to get water.

Pos. Triton, this is most exciting. We must go and see her.

Tri. Very well. It is just her time now; I reckon she will be about half-way to Lerna.

Pos. Bring out the chariot, then. Or no; it takes such a time getting it ready, and putting the horses to. Just fetch me out a good fast dolphin; that will be quickest.

Tri. Here is a racer for you.

Pos. Good; now let us be off. You swim alongside. — Here we are at Lerna. I’ll lie in ambush hereabouts; and you keep a look-out. When you see her coming —

Tri. Here she comes.

Pos. A charming child; the dawn of loveliness. We must carry her off.

Am. Villain! where are you taking me to? You are a kidnapper. I know who sent you — my uncle Aegyptus. I shall call my father.

Tri. Hush, Amymone; it is Posidon.

Am. Posidon? What do you mean? Unhand me, villain! would you drag me into the sea? Help, help, I shall sink and be drowned.

Pos. Don’t be frightened; no harm shall be done to you. Come, you shall have a fountain called after you; it shall spring up in this very place, near the waves; I will strike the rock with my trident. — Think how nice it will be being dead, and not having to carry water any more, like all your sisters.



South Wind. West Wind

S. Zephyr, is it true about Zeus and the heifer that Hermes is convoying across the sea to Egypt? — that he fell in love with it?

W. Certainly. She was not a heifer then, though, but a daughter of the river Inachus. Hera made her what she is now; Zeus was so deep in love that Hera was jealous.

S. And is he still in love, now that she is a cow?

W. Oh, yes; that is why he has sent her to Egypt, and told us not to stir up the sea till she has swum across; she is to be delivered there of her child, and both of them are to be Gods.

S. The heifer a God?

W. Yes, I tell you. And Hermes said she was to be the patroness of sailors and our mistress, and send out or confine any of us that she chooses.

S. So we must regard ourselves as her servants at once?

W. Why, yes; she will be the kinder if we do. Ah, she has got across and landed. Do you see? she does not go on four legs now; Hermes has made her stand erect, and turned her back into a beautiful woman.

S. This is most remarkable, Zephyr; no horns, no tail, no cloven hoofs; instead, a lovely maid. But what is the matter with Hermes? he has changed his handsome face into a dog’s.

W. We had better not meddle; he knows his own business best.



Posidon. Dolphins

Pos. Well done, Dolphins! — humane as ever. Not content with your former exploit, when Ino leapt with Melicertes from the Scironian cliff, and you picked the boy up and conveyed him to the Isthmus, one of you swims from Methymna to Taenarum with this musician on his back, mantle and lyre and all. Those sailors had almost had their wicked will of him; but you were not going to stand that.

Dol. You need not be surprised to find us doing a good turn to a man, Posidon; we were men before we were fishes.

Pos. Yes; I think it was too bad of Dionysus to celebrate his victory by such a transformation scene; he might have been content with adding you to the roll of his subjects. — Well, Dolphin, tell me all about Arion.

Dol. From what I can gather, Periander was very fond of him, and was always sending for him to perform; till Arion grew quite rich at his expense, and thought he would take a trip to Methymna, and show off his wealth at home. He took ship accordingly; but it was with a crew of rogues. He had made no secret of the gold and silver he had with him; and when they were in mid Aegean, the sailors rose against him. As I was swimming alongside, I heard all that went on. ‘Since your minds are made up,’ says Arion, ‘at least let me get my mantle on, and sing my own dirge; and then I will throw myself into the sea of my own accord.’— The sailors agreed. He threw his minstrel’s cloak about him, and sang a most sweet melody; and then he let himself drop into the water, never doubting but that his last moment had come. But I caught him up on my back, and swam to shore with him at Taenarum.

Pos. I am glad to find you a patron of the arts. This was handsome pay for a song.



Posidon. Amphitrite and other Nereids

Pos. The strait where the child fell shall be called Hellespont after her. And as for her body, you Nereids shall take it to the Troad to be buried by the inhabitants.

Amph. Oh no, Posidon. Let her grave be the sea which bears her name. We are so sorry for her; that step-mother’s treatment of her was shocking.

Pos. No, my dear, that may not be. And indeed it is not desirable that she should lie here under the sand; her grave shall be in the Troad, as I said, or in the Chersonese. It will be no small consolation to her that Ino will have the same fate before long. She will be chased by Athamas from the top of Cithaeron down the ridge which runs into the sea, and there plunge in with her son in her arms. But her we must rescue, to please Dionysus; Ino was his nurse and suckled him, you know.

Amph. Rescue a wicked creature like her?

Pos. Well, we do not want to disoblige Dionysus.

Nereid. I wonder what made the poor child fall off the ram; her brother Phrixus held on all right.

Pos. Of course he did; a lusty youth equal to the flight; but it was all too strange for her; sitting on that queer mount, looking down on yawning space, terrified, overpowered by the heat, giddy with the speed, she lost her hold on the ram’s horns, and down she came into the sea.

Nereid. Surely her mother Nephele should have broken her fall.

Pos. I dare say; but Fate is a great deal too strong for Nephele.



Iris. Posidon

Ir. Posidon: you know that floating island, that was torn away from Sicily, and is still drifting about under water; you are to bring it to the surface, Zeus says, and fix it well in view in the middle of the Aegean; and mind it is properly secured; he has a use for it.

Pos. Very good. And when I have got it up, and anchored it, what is he going to do with it?

Ir. Leto is to lie in there; her time is near.

Pos. And is there no room in Heaven? Or is Earth too small to hold her children?

Ir. Ah, you see, Hera has bound the Earth by a great oath not to give shelter to Leto in her travail. This island, however, being out of sight, has not committed itself.

Pos. I see. — Island, be still! Rise once more from the depths; and this time there must be no sinking. Henceforth you are terra firma; it will be your happiness to receive my brother’s twin children, fairest of the Gods. — Tritons, you will have to convey Leto across. Let all be calm. — As to that serpent who is frightening her out of her senses, wait till these children are born; they will soon avenge their mother. — You can tell Zeus that all is ready. Delos stands firm: Leto has only to come.



The Xanthus. The Sea

Xan. O Sea, take me to you; see how horribly I have been treated; cool my wounds for me.

Sea. What is this, Xanthus? who has burned you?

Xan. Hephaestus. Oh, I am burned to cinders! oh, oh, oh, I boil!

Sea. What made him use his fire upon you?

Xan. Why, it was all that son of your Thetis. He was slaughtering the Phrygians; I tried entreaties, but he went raging on, damming my stream with their bodies; I was so sorry for the poor wretches, I poured down to see if I could make a flood and frighten him off them. But Hephaestus happened to be about, and he must have collected every particle of fire he had in Etna or anywhere else; on he came at me, scorched my elms and tamarisks, baked the poor fishes and eels, made me boil over, and very nearly dried me up altogether. You see what a state I am in with the burns.

Sea. Indeed you are thick and hot, Xanthus, and no wonder; the dead men’s blood accounts for one, and the fire for the other, according to your story. Well, and serve you right; assaulting my grandson, indeed! paying no more respect to the son of a Nereid than that!

Xan. Was I not to take compassion on the Phrygians? they are my neighbours.

Sea. And was Hephaestus not to take compassion on Achilles? He is the son of Thetis.



Doris. Thetis

Dor. Crying, dear?

The. Oh, Doris, I have just seen a lovely girl thrown into a chest by her father, and her little baby with her; and he gave the chest to some sailors, and told them, as soon as they were far enough from the shore, to drop it into the water; he meant them to be drowned, poor things.

Dor. Oh, sister, but why? What was it all about? Did you hear?

The. Her father, Acrisius, wanted to keep her from marrying. And, as she was so pretty, he shut her up in an iron room. And — I don’t know whether it’s true — but they say that Zeus turned himself into gold, and came showering down through the roof, and she caught the gold in her lap — and it was Zeus all the time. And then her father found out about it — he is a horrid, jealous old man — and he was furious, and thought she had been receiving a lover; and he put her into the chest, the moment the child was born.

Dor. And what did she do then?

The. She never said a word against her own sentence; she was ready to submit: but she pleaded hard for the child’s life, and cried, and held him up for his grandfather to see; and there was the sweet babe, that thought no harm, smiling at the waves. I am beginning again, at the mere remembrance of it.

Dor. You make me cry, too. And is it all over?

The. No; the chest has carried them safely so far; it is by Seriphus.

Dor. Then why should we not save them? We can put the chest into those fishermen’s nets, look; and then of course they will be hauled in, and come safe to shore.

The. The very thing. She shall not die; nor the child, sweet treasure!



Triton. Iphianassa. Doris. Nereids

Tri. Well, ladies: so the monster you sent against the daughter of Cepheus has got killed himself, and never done Andromeda any harm at all!

Nereid. Who did it? I suppose Cepheus was just using his daughter as a bait, and had a whole army waiting in ambush to kill him?

Tri. No, no. — Iphianassa, you remember Perseus, Danae’s boy? — they were both thrown into the sea by the boy’s grandfather, in that chest, you know, and you took pity on them.

Iph. I know; why, I suppose he is a fine handsome young fellow by now?

Tri. It was he who killed your monster.

Iph. But why? This was not the way to show his gratitude.

Tri. I’ll tell you all about it. The king had sent him on this expedition against the Gorgons, and when he got to Libya —

Iph. How did he get there? all by himself? he must have had some one to help him? — it is a dangerous journey otherwise.

Tri. He flew — Athene gave him wings. — Well, so when he got to where the Gorgons were living, he caught them napping, I suppose, cut off Medusa’s head, and flew away.

Iph. How could he see them? The Gorgons are a forbidden sight. Whoever looks at them will never look at any one else again.

Tri. Athene held up her shield — I heard him telling Andromeda and Cepheus about it afterwards — Athene showed him the reflection of the Gorgon in her shield, which is as bright as any mirror; so he took hold of her hair in his left hand, grasped his scimetar with the right, still looking at the reflection, cut off her head, and was off before her sisters woke up. Lowering his flight as he reached the Ethiopian coast yonder, he caught sight of Andromeda, fettered to a jutting rock, her hair hanging loose about her shoulders; ye Gods, what loveliness was there exposed to view! And first pity of her hard fate prompted him to ask the cause of her doom: but Fate had decreed the maiden’s deliverance, and presently Love stole upon him, and he resolved to save her. The hideous monster now drew near, and would have swallowed her: but the youth, hovering above, smote him with the drawn scimetar in his right hand, and with his left uncovered the petrifying Gorgon’s head: in one moment the monster was lifeless; all of him that had met that gaze was turned to stone. Then Perseus released the maiden from her fetters, and supported her, as with timid steps she descended from the slippery rock. — And now he is to marry her in Cepheus’s palace, and take her home to Argos; so that where she looked for death, she has found an uncommonly good match.

Iph. I am not sorry to hear it. It is no fault of hers, if her mother has the vanity to set up for our rival.

Dor. Still, she is Andromeda’s mother; and we should have had our revenge on her through the daughter.

Iph. My dear, let bygones be bygones. What matter if a barbarian queen’s tongue runs away with her? She is sufficiently punished by the fright. So let us take this marriage in good part.



West Wind. South Wind

W. Such a splendid pageant I never saw on the waves, since the day I first blew. You were not there, Notus? S. Pageant, Zephyr? what pageant? and whose?

W. You missed a most ravishing spectacle; such another chance you are not likely to have.

S. I was busy with the Red Sea; and I gave the Indian coasts a little airing too. So I don’t know what you are talking about.

W. Well, you know Agenor the Sidonian?

S. Europa’s father? what of him?

W. Europa it is that I am going to tell you about.

S. You need not tell me that Zeus has been in love with her this long while; that is stale news.

W. We can pass the love, then, and get on to the sequel.

Europa had come down for a frolic on the beach with her playfellows. Zeus transformed himself into a bull, and joined the game. A fine sight he was — spotless white skin, crumpled horns, and gentle eyes. He gambolled on the shore with them, bellowing most musically, till Europa took heart of grace and mounted him. No sooner had she done it than, with her on his back, Zeus made off at a run for the sea, plunged in, and began swimming; she was dreadfully frightened, but kept her seat by clinging to one of his horns with her left hand, while the right held her skirt down against the puffs of wind.

S. A lovely sight indeed, Zephyr, in every sense — Zeus swimming with his darling on his back.

W. Ay, but what followed was lovelier far.

Every wave fell; the sea donned her robe of peace to speed them on their way; we winds made holiday and joined the train, all eyes; fluttering Loves skimmed the waves, just dipping now and again a heedless toe — in their hands lighted torches, on their lips the nuptial song; up floated Nereids — few but were prodigal of naked charms — and clapped their hands, and kept pace on dolphin steeds; the Triton company, with every sea-creature that frights not the eye, tripped it around the maid; for Posidon on his car, with Amphitrite by him, led them in festal mood, ushering his brother through the waves. But, crowning all, a Triton pair bore Aphrodite, reclined on a shell, heaping the bride with all flowers that blow.

So went it from Phoenice even to Crete. But, when he set foot on the isle, behold, the bull was no more; ’twas Zeus that took Europa’s hand and led her to the Dictaean Cave — blushing and downward-eyed; for she knew now the end of her bringing.

But we plunged this way and that, and roused the still seas anew.

S. Ah me, what sights of bliss! and I was looking at griffins, and elephants, and blackamoors!


Dialogues of the Dead


Diogenes. Pollux

Diog. Pollux, I have a commission for you; next time you go up — and I think it is your turn for earth tomorrow — if you come across Menippus the Cynic — you will find him about the Craneum at Corinth, or in the Lyceum, laughing at the philosophers’ disputes — well, give him this message:— Menippus, Diogenes advises you, if mortal subjects for laughter begin to pall, to come down below, and find much richer material; where you are now, there is always a dash of uncertainty in it; the question will always intrude — who can be quite sure about the hereafter? Here, you can have your laugh out in security, like me; it is the best of sport to see millionaires, governors, despots, now mean and insignificant; you can only tell them by their lamentations, and the spiritless despondency which is the legacy of better days. Tell him this, and mention that he had better stuff his wallet with plenty of lupines, and any unconsidered trifles he can snap up in the way of pauper doles 12 or lustral eggs. 13

Pol. I will tell him, Diogenes. But give me some idea of his appearance.

Diog. Old, bald, with a cloak that allows him plenty of light and ventilation, and is patched all colours of the rainbow; always laughing, and usually gibing at pretentious philosophers.

Pol. Ah, I cannot mistake him now.

Diog. May I give you another message to those same philosophers?

Pol. Oh, I don’t mind; go on.

Diog. Charge them generally to give up playing the fool, quarrelling over metaphysics, tricking each other with horn and crocodile puzzles 14 and teaching people to waste wit on such absurdities.

Pol. Oh, but if I say anything against their wisdom, they will call me an ignorant blockhead.

Diog. Then tell them from me to go to the devil.

Pol. Very well; rely upon me.

Diog. And then, my most obliging of Polluxes, there is this for the rich:— O vain fools, why hoard gold? why all these pains over interest sums and the adding of hundred to hundred, when you must shortly come to us with nothing beyond the dead-penny?

Pol. They shall have their message too.

Diog. Ah, and a word to the handsome and strong; Megillus of Corinth, and Damoxenus the wrestler will do. Inform them that auburn locks, eyes bright or black, rosy cheeks, are as little in fashion here as tense muscles or mighty shoulders; man and man are as like as two peas, tell them, when it comes to bare skull and no beauty.

Pol. That is to the handsome and strong; yes, I can manage that.

Diog. Yes, my Spartan, and here is for the poor. There are a great many of them, very sorry for themselves and resentful of their helplessness. Tell them to dry their tears and cease their cries; explain to them that here one man is as good as another, and they will find those who were rich on earth no better than themselves. As for your Spartans, you will not mind scolding them, from me, upon their present degeneracy?

Pol. No, no, Diogenes; leave Sparta alone; that is going too far; your other commissions I will execute.

Diog. Oh, well, let them off, if you care about it; but tell all the others what I said.


12 In the Greek, ‘a Hecate’s repast lying at a street corner.’ ‘Rich men used to make offerings to Hecate on the 30th of every month as Goddess of roads at street corners; and these offerings were at once pounced upon by the poor, or, as here, the Cynics.’ Jacobitz.

13 ‘Eggs were often used as purificatory offerings and set out in front of the house purified.’ Id.

14 See Puzzles in Notes.


Before Pluto: Croesus, Midas, and Sardanapalus v. Menippus

Cr. Pluto, we can stand this snarling Cynic no longer in our neighbourhood; either you must transfer him to other quarters, or we are going to migrate.

Pl. Why, what harm does he do to your ghostly community?

Cr. Midas here, and Sardanapalus and I, can never get in a good cry over the old days of gold and luxury and treasure, but he must be laughing at us, and calling us rude names; ‘slaves’ and ‘garbage,’ he says we are. And then he sings; and that throws us out. — In short, he is a nuisance.

Pl. Menippus, what’s this I hear?

Me. All perfectly true, Pluto. I detest these abject rascals! Not content with having lived the abominable lives they did, they keep on talking about it now they are dead, and harping on the good old days. I take a positive pleasure in annoying them.

Pl. Yes, but you mustn’t. They have had terrible losses; they feel it deeply.

Me. Pluto! you are not going to lend your countenance to these whimpering fools?

Pl. It isn’t that: but I won’t have you quarrelling.

Me. Well, you scum of your respective nations, let there be no misunderstanding; I am going on just the same. Wherever you are, there shall I be also; worrying, jeering, singing you down.

Cr. Presumption!

Me. Not a bit of it. Yours was the presumption, when you expected men to fall down before you, when you trampled on men’s liberty, and forgot there was such a thing as death. Now comes the weeping and gnashing of teeth: for all is lost!

Cr. Lost! Ah God! My treasure-heaps —

Mid. My gold —

Sar. My little comforts —

Me. That’s right: stick to it! You do the whining, and I’ll chime in with a string of GNOTHI-SAUTONS, best of accompaniments.



Menippus. Amphilochus. Trophonius

Me. Now I wonder how it is that you two dead men have been honoured with temples and taken for prophets; those silly mortals imagine you are Gods.

Amp. How can we help it, if they are fools enough to have such fancies about the dead?

Me. Ah, they would never have had them, though, if you had not been charlatans in your lifetime, and pretended to know the future and be able to foretell it to your clients.

Tro. Well, Menippus, Amphilochus can take his own line, if he likes; as for me, I am a Hero, and do give oracles to any one who comes down to me. It is pretty clear you were never at Lebadea, or you would not be so incredulous.

Me. What do you mean? I must go to Lebadea, swaddle myself up in absurd linen, take a cake in my hand, and crawl through a narrow passage into a cave, before I could tell that you are a dead man, with nothing but knavery to differentiate you from the rest of us? Now, on your seer-ship, what is a Hero? I am sure I don’t know.

Tro. He is half God, and half man.

Me. So what is neither man (as you imply) nor God, is both at once? Well, at present what has become of your diviner half?

Tro. He gives oracles in Boeotia.

Me. What you may mean is quite beyond me; the one thing I know for certain is that you are dead — the whole of you.



Hermes. Charon

Her. Ferryman, what do you say to settling up accounts? It will prevent any unpleasantness later on.

Ch. Very good. It does save trouble to get these things straight.

Her. One anchor, to your order, five shillings.

Ch. That is a lot of money.

Her. So help me Pluto, it is what I had to pay. One rowlock-strap, fourpence.

Ch. Five and four; put that down.

Her. Then there was a needle, for mending the sail; ten-pence.

Ch. Down with it.

Her. Caulking-wax; nails; and cord for the brace. Two shillings the lot.

Ch. They were worth the money.

Her. That’s all; unless I have forgotten anything. When will you pay it?

Ch. I can’t just now, Hermes; we shall have a war or a plague presently, and then the passengers will come shoaling in, and I shall be able to make a little by jobbing the fares.

Her. So for the present I have nothing to do but sit down, and pray for the worst, as my only chance of getting paid?

Ch. There is nothing else for it; — very little business doing just now, as you see, owing to the peace.

Her. That is just as well, though it does keep me waiting for my money. After all, though, Charon, in old days men were men; you remember the state they used to come down in — all blood and wounds generally. Nowadays, a man is poisoned by his slave or his wife; or gets dropsy from overfeeding; a pale, spiritless lot, nothing like the men of old. Most of them seem to meet their end in some plot that has money for its object.

Ch. Ah; money is in great request.

Her. Yes; you can’t blame me if I am somewhat urgent for payment.



Pluto. Hermes

Pl. You know that old, old fellow, Eucrates the millionaire — no children, but a few thousand would-be heirs?

Her. Yes — lives at Sicyon. Well?

Pl. Well, Hermes, he is ninety now; let him live as much longer, please; I should like it to be more still, if possible; and bring me down his toadies one by one, that young Charinus, Damon, and the rest of them.

Her. It would seem so strange, wouldn’t it?

Pl. On the contrary, it would be ideal justice. What business have they to pray for his death, or pretend to his money? they are no relations. The most abominable thing about it is that they vary these prayers with every public attention; when he is ill, every one knows what they are after, and yet they vow offerings if he recovers; talk of versatility! So let him be immortal, and bring them away before him with their mouths still open for the fruit that never drops.

Her. Well, they are rascals, and it would be a comic ending. He leads them a pretty life too, on hope gruel; he always looks more dead than alive, but he is tougher than a young man. They have divided up the inheritance among them, and feed on imaginary bliss.

Pl. Just so; now he is to throw off his years like Iolaus, and rejuvenate, while they in the middle of their hopes find themselves here with their dream-wealth left behind them. Nothing like making the punishment fit the crime.

Her. Say no more, Pluto; I will fetch you them one after another; seven of them, is it?

Pl. Down with them; and he shall change from an old man to a blooming youth, and attend their funerals.



Terpsion. Pluto

Ter. Now is this fair, Pluto — that I should die at the age of thirty, and that old Thucritus go on living past ninety?

Pl. Nothing could be fairer. Thucritus lives and is in no hurry for his neighbours to die; whereas you always had some design against him; you were waiting to step into his shoes.

Ter. Well, an old man like that is past getting any enjoyment out of his money; he ought to die, and make room for younger men.

Pl. This is a novel principle: the man who can no longer derive pleasure from his money is to die! — Fate and Nature have ordered it otherwise.

Ter. Then they have ordered it wrongly. There ought to be a proper sequence according to seniority. Things are turned upside down, if an old man is to go on living with only three teeth in his head, half blind, tottering about with a pair of slaves on each side to hold him up, drivelling and rheumy-eyed, having no joy of life, a living tomb, the derision of his juniors — and young men are to die in the prime of their strength and beauty. ’Tis contrary to nature. At any rate the young men have a right to know when the old are going to die, so that they may not throw away their attentions on them for nothing, as is sometimes the case. The present arrangement is a putting of the cart before the horse.

Pl. There is a great deal more sound sense in it than you suppose, Terpsion. Besides, what right have you young fellows got to be prying after other men’s goods, and thrusting yourselves upon your childless elders? You look rather foolish, when you get buried first; it tickles people immensely; the more fervent your prayers for the death of your aged friend, the greater is the general exultation when you precede him. It has become quite a profession lately, this amorous devotion to old men and women — childless, of course; children destroy the illusion. By the way though, some of the beloved objects see through your dirty motives well enough by now; they have children, but they pretend to hate them, and so have lovers all the same. When their wills come to be read, their faithful bodyguard is not included: nature asserts itself, the children get their rights, and the lovers realize, with gnashings of teeth, that they have been taken in.

Ter. Too true! The luxuries that Thucritus has enjoyed at my expense! He always looked as if he were at the point of death. I never went to see him, but he would groan and squeak like a chicken barely out of the shell: I considered that he might step into his coffin at any moment, and heaped gift upon gift, for fear of being outdone in generosity by my rivals; I passed anxious, sleepless nights, reckoning and arranging all; ’twas this, the sleeplessness and the anxiety, that brought me to my death. And he swallows my bait whole, and attends my funeral chuckling.

Pl. Well done, Thucritus! Long may you live to enjoy your wealth — and your joke at the youngsters’ expense; many a toady may you send hither before your own time comes!

Ter. Now I think of it, it would be a satisfaction if Charoeades were to die before him.

Pl. Charoeades! My dear Terpsion, Phido, Melanthus — every one of them will be here before Thucritus — all victims of this same anxiety!

Ter. That is as it should be. Hold on, Thucritus!



Zenophantus. Callidemides

Ze. Ah, Callidemides, and how did you come by your end? As for me, I was free of Dinias’s table, and there died of a surfeit; but that is stale news; you were there, of course.

Cal. Yes, I was. Now there was an element of surprise about my fate. I suppose you know that old Ptoeodorus?

Ze. The rich man with no children, to whom you gave most of your company?

Cal. That is the man; he had promised to leave me his heir, and I used to show my appreciation. However, it went on such a time; Tithonus was a juvenile to him; so I found a short cut to my property. I bought a potion, and agreed with the butler that next time his master called for wine (he is a pretty stiff drinker) he should have this ready in a cup and present it; and I was pledged to reward the man with his freedom.

Ze. And what happened? this is interesting.

Cal. When we came from bath, the young fellow had two cups ready, one with the poison for Ptoeodorus, and the other for me; but by some blunder he handed me the poisoned cup, and Ptoeodorus the plain; and behold, before he had done drinking, there was I sprawling on the ground, a vicarious corpse! Why are you laughing so, Zenophantus? I am your friend; such mirth is unseemly.

Ze. Well, it was such a humorous exit. And how did the old man behave?

Cal. He was dreadfully distressed for the moment; then he saw, I suppose, and laughed as much as you over the butler’s trick.

Ze. Ah, short cuts are no better for you than for other people, you see; the high road would have been safer, if not quite so quick.



Cnemon. Damnippus

Cne. Why, ’tis the proverb fulfilled! The fawn hath taken the lion.

Dam. What’s the matter, Cnemon?

Cne. The matter! I have been fooled, miserably fooled. I have passed over all whom I should have liked to make my heirs, and left my money to the wrong man.

Dam. How was that?

Cne. I had been speculating on the death of Hermolaus, the millionaire. He had no children, and my attentions had been well received by him. I thought it would be a good idea to let him know that I had made my will in his favour, on the chance of its exciting his emulation.

Dam. Yes; and Hermolaus?

Cne. What his will was, I don’t know. I died suddenly — the roof came down about my ears; and now Hermolaus is my heir. The pike has swallowed hook and bait.

Dam. And your anglership into the bargain. The pit that you digged for other. . . .

Cue. That’s about the truth of the matter, confound it.



Simylus. Polystratus

Si. So here you are at last, Polystratus; you must be something very like a centenarian.

Pol. Ninety-eight.

Si. And what sort of a life have you had of it, these thirty years? you were about seventy when I died.

Pol. Delightful, though you may find it hard to believe.

Si. It is surprising that you could have any joy of your life — old, weak, and childless, moreover.

Pol. In the first place, I could do just what I liked; there were still plenty of handsome boys and dainty women; perfumes were sweet, wine kept its bouquet, Sicilian feasts were nothing to mine.

Si. This is a change, to be sure; you were very economical in my day.

Pol. Ah, but, my simple friend, these good things were presents — came in streams. From dawn my doors were thronged with visitors, and in the day it was a procession of the fairest gifts of earth.

Si. Why, you must have seized the crown after my death.

Pol. Oh no, it was only that I inspired a number of tender passions.

Si. Tender passions, indeed! what, you, an old man with hardly a tooth left in your head!

Pol. Certainly; the first of our townsmen were in love with me. Such as you see me, old, bald, blear-eyed, rheumy, they delighted to do me honour; happy was the man on whom my glance rested a moment.

Si. Well, then, you had some adventure like Phaon’s, when he rowed Aphrodite across from Chios; your God granted your prayer and made you young and fair and lovely again.

Pol. No, no; I was as you see me, and I was the object of all desire.

Si. Oh, I give it up.

Pol. Why, I should have thought you knew the violent passion for old men who have plenty of money and no children.

Si. Ah, now I comprehend your beauty, old fellow; it was the Golden Aphrodite bestowed it.

Pol. I assure you, Simylus, I had a good deal of satisfaction out of my lovers; they idolized me, almost. Often I would be coy and shut some of them out. Such rivalries! such jealous emulations!

Si. And how did you dispose of your fortune in the end?

Pol. I gave each an express promise to make him my heir; he believed, and treated me to more attentions than ever; meanwhile I had another genuine will, which was the one I left, with a message to them all to go hang.

Si. Who was the heir by this one? one of your relations, I suppose.

Pol. Not likely; it was a handsome young Phrygian I had lately bought.

Si. Age?

Pol. About twenty.

Si. Ah, I can guess his office.

Pol. Well, you know, he deserved the inheritance much better than they did; he was a barbarian and a rascal; but by this time he has the best of society at his beck. So he inherited; and now he is one of the aristocracy; his smooth chin and his foreign accent are no bars to his being called nobler than Codrus, handsomer than Nireus, wiser than Odysseus.

Si. Well, I don’t mind; let him be Emperor of Greece, if he likes, so long as he keeps the property away from that other crew.



Charon. Hermes. Various Shades

Ch. I’ll tell you how things stand. Our craft, as you see, is small, and leaky, and three-parts rotten; a single lurch, and she will capsize without more ado. And here are all you passengers, each with his luggage. If you come on board like that, I am afraid you may have cause to repent it; especially those who have not learnt to swim.

Her. Then how are we to make a trip of it?

Ch. I’ll tell you. They must leave all this nonsense behind them on shore, and come aboard in their skins. As it is, there will be no room to spare. And in future, Hermes, mind you admit no one till he has cleared himself of encumbrances, as I say. Stand by the gangway, and keep an eye on them, and make them strip before you let them pass.

Her. Very good. Well, Number One, who are you?

Men. Menippus. Here are my wallet and staff; overboard with them. I had the sense not to bring my cloak.

Her. Pass on, Menippus; you’re a good fellow; you shall have the seat of honour, up by the pilot, where you can see every one. — Here is a handsome person; who is he?

Char. Charmoleos of Megara; the irresistible, whose kiss was worth a thousand pounds.

Her. That beauty must come off — lips, kisses, and all; the flowing locks, the blushing cheeks, the skin entire. That’s right. Now we’re in better trim; — you may pass on. — And who is the stunning gentleman in the purple and the diadem?

Lam. I am Lampichus, tyrant of Gela.

Her. And what is all this splendour doing here, Lampichus?

Lam. How! would you have a tyrant come hither stripped?

Her. A tyrant! That would be too much to expect. But with a shade we must insist. Off with these things.

Lam. There, then: away goes my wealth.

Her. Pomp must go too, and pride; we shall be overfreighted else.

Lam. At least let me keep my diadem and robes.

Her. No, no; off they come!

Lam. Well? That is all, as you see for yourself.

Her. There is something more yet: cruelty, folly, insolence, hatred.

Lam. There then: I am bare.

Her. Pass on. — And who may you be, my bulky friend?

Dam. Damasias the athlete.

Her. To be sure; many is the time I have seen you in the gymnasium.

Dam. You have. Well, I have peeled; let me pass.

Her. Peeled! my dear sir, what, with all this fleshy encumbrance? Come, off with it; we should go to the bottom if you put one foot aboard. And those crowns, those victories, remove them.

Dam. There; no mistake about it this time; I am as light as any shade among them.

Her. That’s more the kind of thing. On with you. — Crato, you can take off that wealth and luxury and effeminacy; and we can’t have that funeral pomp here, nor those ancestral glories either; down with your rank and reputation, and any votes of thanks or inscriptions you have about you; and you need not tell us what size your tomb was; remarks of that kind come heavy.

Cra. Well, if I must, I must; there’s no help for it.

Her. Hullo! in full armour? What does this mean? and why this trophy?

A General. I am a great conqueror; a valiant warrior; my country’s pride.

Her. The trophy may stop behind; we are at peace; there is no demand for arms. — Whom have we here? whose is this knitted Drow, this flowing beard? ’Tis some reverend sage, if outside goes for anything; he mutters; he is wrapped in meditation.

Men. That’s a philosopher, Hermes; and an impudent quack not the bargain. Have him out of that cloak; you will find something to amuse you underneath it.

Her. Off with your clothes first; and then we will see to the rest. My goodness, what a bundle: quackery, ignorance, quarrelsomeness, vainglory; idle questionings, prickly arguments, intricate conceptions; humbug and gammon and wishy-washy hair-splittings without end; and hullo! why here’s avarice, and self-indulgence, and impudence! luxury, effeminacy and peevishness! — Yes, I see them all; you need not try to hide them. Away with falsehood and swagger and superciliousness; why, the three-decker is not built that would hold you with all this luggage.

A Philosopher. I resign them all, since such is your bidding.

Men. Have his beard off too, Hermes; only look what a ponderous bush of a thing! There’s a good five pounds’ weight there.

Her. Yes; the beard must go.

Phil. And who shall shave me?

Her. Menippus here shall take it off with the carpenter’s axe; the gangway will serve for a block.

Men. Oh, can’t I have a saw, Hermes? It would be much better fun.

Her. The axe must serve. — Shrewdly chopped! — Why, you look more like a man and less like a goat already.

Men. A little off the eyebrows?

Her. Why, certainly; he has trained them up all over his forehead, for reasons best known to himself. — Worm! what, snivelling? afraid of death? Oh, get on board with you.

Men. He has still got the biggest thumper of all under his arm.

Her. What’s that?

Men. Flattery; many is the good turn that has done him.

Phil. Oh, all right, Menippus; suppose you leave your independence behind you, and your plain — speaking, and your indifference, and your high spirit, and your jests! — No one else here has a jest about him.

Her. Don’t you, Menippus! you stick to them; useful commodities, these, on shipboard; light and handy. — You rhetorician there, with your verbosities and your barbarisms, your antitheses and balances and periods, off with the whole pack of them.

Rhet. Away they go.

Her. All’s ready. Loose the cable, and pull in the gangway; haul up the anchor; spread all sail; and, pilot, look to your helm. Good luck to our voyage! — What are you all whining about, you fools? You philosopher, late of the beard — you’re as bad as any of them.

Phil. Ah, Hermes: I had thought that the soul was immortal.

Men. He lies: that is not the cause of his distress.

Her. What is it, then?

Men. He knows that he will never have a good dinner again; never sneak about at night with his cloak over his head, going the round of the brothels; never spend his mornings in fooling boys out of their money, under the pretext of teaching them wisdom.

Phil. And pray are you content to be dead?

Men. It may be presumed so, as I sought death of my own accord. — By the way, I surely heard a noise, as if people were shouting on the earth?

Her. You did; and from more than one quarter. — There are people running in a body to the Town-hall, exulting over the death of Lampichus; the women have got hold of his wife; his infant children fare no better — the boys are giving them handsome pelting. Then again you hear the applause that greets the orator Diophantus, as he pronounces the funeral oration of our friend Crato. Ah yes, and that’s Damasias’s mother, with her women, striking up a dirge. No one has tear for you, Menippus; your remains are left in peace. Privileged person!

Men. Wait a bit: before long you will hear the mournful howl of dogs, and the beating of crows’ wings, as they gather to perform my funeral rites.

Her. I like your spirit. — However, here we are in port. Away with you all to the judgement-seat; it is straight ahead. The ferryman and I must go back for a fresh load.

Men. Good voyage to you, Hermes. — Let us be getting on; what are you all waiting for? We have got to face the judge, sooner or later; and by all accounts his sentences are no joke; wheels, rocks, vultures are mentioned. Every detail of our lives will now come to light!



Crates. Diogenes

Cra. Did you know Moerichus of Corinth, Diogenes? A shipowner, rolling in money, with a cousin called Aristeas, nearly as rich. He had a Homeric quotation:— Wilt thou heave me? shall I heave thee?


Diog. What was the point of it?

Cra. Why, the cousins were of equal age, expected to succeed to each other’s wealth, and behaved accordingly. They published their wills, each naming the other sole heir in case of his own prior decease. So it stood in black and white, and they vied with each other in showing that deference which the relation demands. All the prophets, astrologers, and Chaldean dream-interpreters alike, and Apollo himself for that matter, held different views at different times about the winner; the thousands seemed to incline now to Aristeas’s side, now to Moerichus’s.

Diog. And how did it end? I am quite curious.

Cra. They both died on the same day, and the properties passed to Eunomius and Thrasycles, two relations who had never had a presentiment of it. They had been crossing from Sicyon to Cirrha, when they were taken aback by a squall from the north-west, and capsized in mid-channel.

Diog. Cleverly done. Now, when we were alive, we never had such designs on one another. I never prayed for Antisthenes’s death, with a view to inheriting his staff — though it was an extremely serviceable one, which he had cut himself from a wild olive; and I do not credit you, Crates, with ever having had an eye to my succession; it included the tub, and a wallet with two pints of lupines in it.

Cra. Why, no; these things were superfluities to me — and to yourself, indeed. The real necessities you inherited from Antisthenes, and I from you; and in those necessities was more grandeur and majesty than in the Persian Empire.

Diog. You allude to ——

Cra. Wisdom, independence, truth, frankness, freedom.

Diog. To be sure; now I think of it, I did inherit all this from Antisthenes, and left it to you with some addition.

Cra. Others, however, were not interested in such property; no one paid us the attentions of an expectant heir; they all lad their eyes on gold, instead.

Diog. Of course; they had no receptacle for such things as we could give; luxury had made them so leaky — as full of holes as a worn-out purse. Put wisdom, frankness, or truth into them, and it would have dropped out; the bottom of the bag would have let them through, like the perforated cask into which those poor Danaids are always pouring. Gold, on the other hand, they could grip with tooth or nail or somehow.

Cra. Result: our wealth will still be ours down here; while they will arrive with no more than one penny, and even that must be left with the ferryman.


15 Homer, Il. xxiii. 724. When Ajax and Odysseus have wrestled for some time without either’s producing any impression, and the spectators are getting tired of it, the former proposes a change in tactics. “Let us hoist — try you with me or I with you.” The idea evidently is that each in turn is to offer only a passive resistance, and let his adversary try to fling him thus.’ Leaf.


Alexander. Hannibal. Minos. Scipio

Alex. Libyan, I claim precedence of you. I am the better man.

Han. Pardon me.

Alex. Then let Minos decide.

Mi. Who are you both?

Alex. This is Hannibal, the Carthaginian: I am Alexander, the son of Philip.

Mi. Bless me, a distinguished pair! And what is the quarrel about?

Alex. It is a question of precedence. He says he is the better general: and I maintain that neither Hannibal nor (I might almost add) any of my predecessors was my equal in strategy; all the world knows that.

Mi. Well, you shall each have your say in turn: the Libyan first.

Han. Fortunately for me, Minos, I have mastered Greek since I have been here; so that my adversary will not have even that advantage of me. Now I hold that the highest praise is due to those who have won their way to greatness from obscurity; who have clothed themselves in power, and shown themselves fit for dominion. I myself entered Spain with a handful of men, took service under my brother, and was found worthy of the supreme command. I conquered the Celtiberians, subdued Western Gaul, crossed the Alps, overran the valley of the Po, sacked town after town, made myself master of the plains, approached the bulwarks of the capital, and in one day slew such a host, that their finger-rings were measured by bushels, and the rivers were bridged by their bodies. And this I did, though I had never been called a son of Ammon; I never pretended to be a god, never related visions of my mother; I made no secret of the fact that I was mere flesh and blood. My rivals were the ablest generals in the world, commanding the best soldiers in the world; I warred not with Medes or Assyrians, who fly before they are pursued, and yield the victory to him that dares take it.

Alexander, on the other hand, in increasing and extending as he did the dominion which he had inherited from his father, was but following the impetus given to him by Fortune. And this conqueror had no sooner crushed his puny adversary by the victories of Issus and Arbela, than he forsook the traditions of his country, and lived the life of a Persian; accepting the prostrations of his subjects, assassinating his friends at his own table, or handing them over to the executioner. I in my command respected the freedom of my country, delayed not to obey her summons, when the enemy with their huge armament invaded Libya, laid aside the privileges of my office, and submitted to my sentence without a murmur. Yet I was a barbarian all unskilled in Greek culture; I could not recite Homer, nor had I enjoyed the advantages of Aristotle’s instruction; I had to make a shift with such qualities as were mine by nature. — It is on these grounds that I claim the preeminence. My rival has indeed all the lustre that attaches to the wearing of a diadem, and — I know not — for Macedonians such things may have charms: but I cannot think that this circumstance constitutes a higher claim than the courage and genius of one who owed nothing to Fortune, and everything to his own resolution.

Mi. Not bad, for a Libyan. — Well, Alexander, what do you say to that?

Alex. Silence, Minos, would be the best answer to such confident self-assertion. The tongue of Fame will suffice of itself to convince you that I was a great prince, and my opponent a petty adventurer. But I would have you consider the distance between us. Called to the throne while I was yet a boy, I quelled the disorders of my kingdom, and avenged my father’s murder. By the destruction of Thebes, I inspired the Greeks with such awe, that they appointed me their commander-inchief; and from that moment, scorning to confine myself to the kingdom that I inherited from my father, I extended my gaze over the entire face of the earth, and thought it shame if I should govern less than the whole. With a small force I invaded Asia, gained a great victory on the Granicus, took Lydia, lonia, Phrygia — in short, subdued all that was within my reach, before I commenced my march for Issus, where Darius was waiting for me at the head of his myriads. You know the sequel: yourselves can best say what was the number of the dead whom on one day I dispatched hither. The ferryman tells me that his boat would not hold them; most of them had to come across on rafts of their own construction. In these enterprises, I was ever at the head of my troops, ever courted danger. To say nothing of Tyre and Arbela, I penetrated into India, and carried my empire to the shores of Ocean; I captured elephants; I conquered Porus; I crossed the Tanais, and worsted the Scythians — no mean enemies — in a tremendous cavalry engagement. I heaped benefits upon my friends: I made my enemies taste my resentment. If men took me for a god, I cannot blame them; the vastness of my undertakings might excuse such a belief. But to conclude. I died a king: Hannibal, a fugitive at the court of the Bithynian Prusias — fitting end for villany and cruelty. Of his Italian victories I say nothing; they were the fruit not of honest legitimate warfare, but of treachery, craft, and dissimulation. He taunts me with self-indulgence: my illustrious friend has surely forgotten the pleasant time he spent in Capua among the ladies, while the precious moments fleeted by. Had I not scorned the Western world, and turned my attention to the East, what would it have cost me to make the bloodless conquest of Italy, and Libya, and all, as far West as Gades? But nations that already cowered beneath a master were unworthy of my sword. — I have finished, Minos, and await your decision; of the many arguments I might have used, these shall suffice.

Sci. First, Minos, let me speak.

Mi. And who are you, friend? and where do you come from?

Sci. I am Scipio, the Roman general, who destroyed Carthage, and gained great victories over the Libyans.

Mi. Well, and what have you to say?

Sci. That Alexander is my superior, and I am Hannibal’s, having defeated him, and driven him to ignominious flight. What impudence is this, to contend with Alexander, to whom I, your conqueror, would not presume to compare myself!

Mi. Honestly spoken, Scipio, on my word! Very well, then: Alexander comes first, and you next; and I think we must say Hannibal third. And a very creditable third, too.



Diogenes. Alexander

Diog. Dear me, Alexander, you dead like the rest of us?

Alex. As you see, sir; is there anything extraordinary in a mortal’s dying?

Diog. So Ammon lied when he said you were his son; you were Philip’s after all.

Alex. Apparently; if I had been Ammon’s, I should not have died.

Diog. Strange! there were tales of the same order about Olympias too. A serpent visited her, and was seen in her bed; we were given to understand that that was how you came into the world, and Philip made a mistake when he took you for his.

Alex. Yes, I was told all that myself; however, I know now that my mother’s and the Ammon stories were all moonshine.

Diog. Their lies were of some practical value to you, though; your divinity brought a good many people to their knees. But now, whom did you leave your great empire to?

Alex. Diogenes, I cannot tell you. I had no time to leave any directions about it, beyond just giving Perdiccas my ring as I died. Why are you laughing?

Diog. Oh, I was only thinking of the Greeks’ behaviour; directly you succeeded, how they flattered you! their elected patron, generalissimo against the barbarian; one of the twelve Gods according to some; temples built and sacrifices offered to the Serpent’s son! If I may ask, where did your Macedonians bury you?

Alex. I have lain in Babylon a full month today; and Ptolemy of the Guards is pledged, as soon as he can get a moment’s respite from present disturbances, to take and bury me in Egypt, there to be reckoned among the Gods.

Diog. I have some reason to laugh, you see; still nursing vain hopes of developing into an Osiris or Anubis! Pray, your Godhead, put these expectations from you; none may re-ascend who has once sailed the lake and penetrated our entrance; Aeacus is watchful, and Cerberus an awkward customer. But there is one thing I wish you would tell me: how do you like thinking over all the earthly bliss you left to come here — your guards and armour-bearers and lieutenant-governors, your heaps of gold and adoring peoples, Babylon and Bactria, your huge elephants, your honour and glory, those conspicuous drives with white-cinctured locks and clasped purple cloak? does the thought of them hurt? What, crying? silly fellow! did not your wise Aristotle include in his instructions any hint of the insecurity of fortune’s favours?

Alex. Wise? call him the craftiest of all flatterers. Allow me to know a little more than other people about Aristotle; his requests and his letters came to my address; I know how he profited by my passion for culture; how he would toady and compliment me, to be sure! now it was my beauty — that too is included under The Good; now it was my deeds and my money; for money too he called a Good — he meant that he was not going to be ashamed of taking it. Ah, Diogenes, an impostor; and a past master at it too. For me, the result of his wisdom is that I am distressed for the things you catalogued just now, as if I had lost in them the chief Goods.

Diog. Wouldst know thy course? I will prescribe for your distress. Our flora, unfortunately, does not include hellebore; but you take plenty of Lethe-water — good, deep, repeated draughts; that will relieve your distress over the Aristotelian Goods. Quick; here are Clitus, Callisthenes, and a lot of others making for you; they mean to tear you in pieces and pay you out. Here, go the opposite way; and remember, repeated draughts.



Philip. Alexander

Phil. You cannot deny that you are my son this time, Alexander; you would not have died if you had been Ammon’s.

Alex. I knew all the time that you, Philip, son of Amyntas, were my father. I only accepted the statement of the oracle because I thought it was good policy.

Phil. What, to suffer yourself to be fooled by lying priests?

Alex. No, but it had an awe-inspiring effect upon the barbarians. When they thought they had a God to deal with, they gave up the struggle; which made their conquest a simple matter.

Phil. And whom did you ever conquer that was worth conquering? Your adversaries were ever timid creatures, with their bows and their targets and their wicker shields. It was other work conquering the Greeks: Boeotians, Phocians, Athenians; Arcadian hoplites, Thessalian cavalry, javelin-men from Elis, peltasts of Mantinea; Thracians, Illyrians, Paeonians; to subdue these was something. But for gold-laced womanish Medes and Persians and Chaldaeans — why, it had been done before: did you never hear of the expedition of the Ten Thousand under Clearchus? and how the enemy would not even come to blows with them, but ran away before they were within bow-shot?

Alex. Still, there were the Scythians, father, and the Indian elephants; they were no joke. And my conquests were not gained by dissension or treachery; I broke no oath, no promise, nor ever purchased victory at the expense of honour. As to the Greeks, most of them joined me without a struggle; and I dare say you have heard how I handled Thebes.

Phil. I know all about that; I had it from Clitus, whom you ran through the body, in the middle of dinner, because he presumed to mention my achievements in the same breath with yours. They tell me too that you took to aping the manners of your conquered Medes; abandoned the Macedonian cloak in favour of the candies, assumed the upright tiara, and exacted oriental prostrations from Macedonian freemen! This is delicious. As to your brilliant matches, and your beloved Hephaestion, and your scholars in lions’ cages — the less said the better. I have only heard one thing to your credit: you respected the person of Darius’s beautiful wife, and you provided for his mother and daughters; there you acted like a king.

Alex. And have you nothing to say of my adventurous spirit, father, when I was the first to leap down within the ramparts of Oxydracae, and was covered with wounds?

Phil. Not a word. Not that it is a bad thing, in my opinion, for a king to get wounded occasionally, and to face danger at the head of his troops: but this was the last thing that you were called upon to do. You were passing for a God; and your being wounded, and carried off the field on a litter, bleeding and groaning, could only excite the ridicule of the spectators: Ammon stood convicted of quackery, his oracle of falsehood, his priests of flattery. The son of Zeus in a swoon, requiring medical assistance! who could help laughing at the sight? And now that you have died, can you doubt that many a jest is being cracked on the subject of your divinity, as men contemplate the God’s corpse laid out for burial, and already going the way of all flesh? Besides, your achievements lose half their credit from this very circumstance which you say was so useful in facilitating your conquests: nothing you did could come up to your divine reputation.

Alex. The world thinks otherwise. I am ranked with Heracles and Dionysus; and, for that matter, I took Aornos, which was more than either of them could do.

Phil. There spoke the son of Ammon. Heracles and Dionysus, indeed! You ought to be ashamed of yourself, Alexander; when will you learn to drop that bombast, and know yourself for the shade that you are?



Antilochus. Achilles

Ant. Achilles, what you were saying to Odysseus the other day about death was very poor-spirited; I should have expected better things from a pupil of Chiron and Phoenix. I was listening; you said you would rather be a servant on earth to some poor hind ‘of scanty livelihood possessed,’ than king of all the dead. Such sentiments might have been very well in the mouth of a poor-spirited cowardly Phrygian, dishonourably in love with life: for the son of Peleus, boldest of all Heroes, so to vilify himself, is a disgrace; it gives the lie to all your life; you might have had a long inglorious reign in Phthia, and your own choice was death and glory.

Ach. In those days, son of Nestor, I knew not this place; ignorant whether of those two was the better, I esteemed that flicker of fame more than life; now I see that it is worthless, let folk up there make what verses of it they will. ’Tis dead level among the dead, Antilochus; strength and beauty are no more; we welter all in the same gloom, one no better than another; the shades of Trojans fear me not, Achaeans pay me no reverence; each may say what he will; a man is a ghost, ‘or be he churl, or be he peer.’ It irks me; I would fain be a servant, and alive.

Ant. But what help, Achilles? ’tis Nature’s decree that by all means all die. We must abide by her law, and not fret at her commands. Consider too how many of us are with you here; Odysseus comes ere long; how else? Is there not comfort in the common fate? ’tis something not to suffer alone. See Heracles, Meleager, and many another great one; they, methinks, would not choose return, if one would send them up to serve poor destitute men.

Ach. Ay, your intent is friendly; but I know not, the thought of the past life irks me — and each of you too, if I mistake not. And if you confess it not, the worse for you, smothering your pain.

Ant. Not the worse, Achilles; the better; for we see that speech is unavailing. Be silent, bear, endure — that is our resolve, lest such longings bring mockery on us, as on you.



Diogenes. Heracles

Diog. Surely this is Heracles I see? By his godhead, ’tis no other! The bow, the club, the lion’s-skin, the giant frame; ’tis Heracles complete. Yet how should this be? — a son of Zeus, and mortal? I say, Mighty Conqueror, are you dead? I used to sacrifice to you in the other world; I understood you were a God!

Her. Thou didst well. Heracles is with the Gods in Heaven,

And hath white-ankled Hebe there to wife.

I am his phantom.

Diog. His phantom! What then, can one half of any one be a God, and the other half mortal?

Her. Even so. The God still lives. ’Tis I, his counterpart, am dead.

Diog. I see. You’re a dummy; he palms you off upon Pluto, instead of coming himself. And here are you, enjoying his mortality!

Her. ’Tis somewhat as thou hast said.

Diog. Well, but where were Aeacus’s keen eyes, that he let a counterfeit Heracles pass under his very nose, and never knew the difference?

Her. I was made very like to him.

Diog. I believe you! Very like indeed, no difference at all! Why, we may find it’s the other way round, that you are Heracles, and the phantom is in Heaven, married to Hebe!

Her. Prating knave, no more of thy gibes; else thou shalt presently learn how great a God calls me phantom.

Diog. H’m. That bow looks as if it meant business. And yet — what have I to fear now? A man can die but once. Tell me, phantom — by your great Substance I adjure you — did you serve him in your present capacity in the upper world? Perhaps you were one individual during your lives, the separation taking place only at your deaths, when he, the God, soared heavenwards, and you, the phantom, very properly made your appearance here?

Her. Thy ribald questions were best unanswered. Yet thus much thou shalt know. — All that was Amphitryon in Heracles, is dead; I am that mortal part. The Zeus in him lives, and is with the Gods in Heaven.

Diog. Ah, now I see! Alcmena had twins, you mean — Heracles the son of Zeus, and Heracles the son of Amphitryon? You were really half-bothers all the time?

Her. Fool! not so. We twain were one Heracles.

Diog. It’s a little difficult to grasp, the two Heracleses packed into one. I suppose you must have been like a sort of Centaur, man and God all mixed together?

Her. And are not all thus composed of two elements — the body and the soul? What then should hinder the soul from being in Heaven, with Zeus who gave it, and the mortal part — myself — among the dead?

Diog. Yes, yes, my esteemed son of Amphitryon — that would be all very well if you were a body; but you see you are a phantom, you have no body. At this rate we shall get three Heracleses.

Her. Three?

Diog. Yes; look here. One in Heaven: one in Hades, that’s you, the phantom: and lastly the body, which by this time has returned to dust. That makes three. Can you think of a good father for number Three?

Her. Impudent quibbler! And who art thou?

Diog. I am Diogenes’s phantom, late of Sinope. But my original, I assure you, is not ‘among th’ immortal Gods,’ but here among dead men; where he enjoys the best of company, and snaps my ringers at Homer and all hair-splitting.



Menippus. Tantalus

Me. What are you crying out about, Tantalus? standing at the edge and whining like that!

Tan. Ah, Menippus, I thirst, I perish!

Me. What, not enterprise enough to bend down to it, or scoop up some in your palm?

Tan. It is no use bending down; the water shrinks away as soon as it sees me coming. And if I do scoop it up and get it to my mouth, the outside of my lips is hardly moist before it has managed to run through my fingers, and my hand is as dry as ever.

Me. A very odd experience, that. But by the way, why do you want to drink? you have no body — the part of you that was liable to hunger and thirst is buried in Lydia somewhere; how can you, the spirit, hunger or thirst any more?

Tan. Therein lies my punishment — soul thirsts as if it were body.

Me. Well, let that pass, as you say thirst is your punishment. But why do you mind it? are you afraid of dying, for want of drink? I do not know of any second Hades; can you die to this one, and go further?

Tan. No, that is quite true. But you see this is part of the sentence: I must long for drink, though I have no need of it.

Me. There is no meaning in that. There is a draught you need, though; some neat hellebore is what you want; you are suffering from a converse hydrophobia; you are not afraid of water, but you are of thirst.

Tan. I would as life drink hellebore as anything, if I could but drink.

Me. Never fear, Tantalus; neither you nor any other ghost will ever do that; it is impossible, you see; just as well we have not all got a penal thirst like you, with the water running away from us.



Menippus. Hermes

Me. Where are all the beauties, Hermes? Show me round; I am a new-comer.

Her. I am busy, Menippus. But look over there to your right, and you will see Hyacinth, Narcissus, Nireus, Achilles, Tyro, Helen, Leda — all the beauties of old.

Me. I can only see bones, and bare skulls; most of them are exactly alike.

Her. Those bones, of which you seem to think so lightly, have been the theme of admiring poets.

Me. Well, but show me Helen; I shall never be able to make her out by myself.

Her. This skull is Helen.

Me. And for this a thousand ships carried warriors from every part of Greece; Greeks and barbarians were slain, and cities made desolate.

Her. Ah, Menippus, you never saw the living Helen; or you would have said with Homer,

Well might they suffer grievous years of toil Who strove for such a prize.

We look at withered flowers, whose dye is gone from them, and what can we call them but unlovely things? Yet in the hour of their bloom these unlovely things were things of beauty.

Me. Strange, that the Greeks could not realize what it was for which they laboured; how short-lived, how soon to fade.

Her. I have no time for moralizing. Choose your spot, where you will, and lie down. I must go to fetch new dead.



Aeacus. Protesilaus. Menelaus. Paris

Aea. Now then, Protesilaus, what do you mean by assaulting and throttling Helen?

Pro. Why, it was all her fault that I died, leaving my house half built, and my bride a widow.

Aea. You should blame Menelaus, for taking you all to Troy after such a light-o’-love.

Pro. That is true; he shall answer it.

Me. No, no, my dear sir; Paris surely is the man; he outraged all rights in carrying off his host’s wife with him. He deserves throttling, if you like, and not from you only, but from Greeks and barbarians as well, for all the deaths he brought upon them.

Pro. Ah, now I have it. Here, you — you Paris! you shall not escape my clutches.

Pa. Oh, come, sir, you will never wrong one of the same gentle craft as yourself. Am I not a lover too, and a subject of your deity? against love you know (with the best will in the world) how vain it is to strive; ’tis a spirit that draws us whither it will.

Pro. There is reason in that. Oh, would that I had Love himself here in these hands!

Aea. Permit me to charge myself with his defence. He does not absolutely deny his responsibility for Paris’s love; but that for your death he refers to yourself, Protesilaus. You forgot all about your bride, fell in love with fame, and, directly the fleet touched the Troad, took that rash senseless leap, which brought you first to shore and to death.

Pro. Now it is my turn to correct, Aeacus. The blame does not rest with me, but with Fate; so was my thread spun from the beginning.

Aea. Exactly so; then why blame our good friends here?



Menippus. Aeacus. Various Shades

Me. In Pluto’s name, Aeacus, show me all the sights of Hades.

Aea. That would be rather an undertaking, Menippus. However, you shall see the principal things. Cerberus here you know already, and the ferryman who brought you over. And you saw the Styx on your way, and Pyriphlegethon.

Me. Yes, and you are the gate-keeper; I know all that; and I have seen the King and the Furies. But show me the men of ancient days, especially the celebrities.

Aea. This is Agamemnon; this is Achilles; near him, Idomeneus; next comes Odysseus; then Ajax, Diomede, and all the great Greeks.

Me. Why, Homer, Homer, what is this? All your great heroes flung down upon the earth, shapeless, undistinguishable; mere meaningless dust; ‘strengthless heads,’ and no mistake. — Who is this one, Aeacus?

Aea. That is Cyrus; and here is Croesus; beyond him Sardanapalus, and beyond him again Midas. And yonder is Xerxes.

Me. Ha! and it was before this creature that Greece trembled? this is our yoker of Hellesponts, our designer of Athos-canals? — Croesus too! a sad spectacle! As to Sardanapalus, I will lend him a box on the ear, with your permission.

Aea. And crack his skull, poor dear! Certainly not.

Me. Then I must content myself with spitting in his ladyship’s face.

Aea. Would you like to see the philosophers?

Me. I should like it of all things.

Aea. First comes Pythagoras.

Me. Good-day, Euphorbus, alias Apollo, alias what you will.

Py. Good-day, Menippus.

Me. What, no golden thigh nowadays?

Py. Why, no. I wonder if there is anything to eat in that wallet of yours?

Me. Beans, friend; you don’t like beans.

Py. Try me. My principles have changed with my quarters. I find that down here our parents’ heads are in no way connected with beans.

Aea. Here is Solon, the son of Execestides, and there is Thales. By them are Pittacus, and the rest of the sages, seven in all, as you see. Me. The only resigned and cheerful countenances yet. Who is the one covered with ashes, like a loaf baked in the embers? He is all over blisters.

Aea. That is Empedocles. He was half-roasted when he got here from Etna.

Me. Tell me, my brazen-slippered friend, what induced you to jump into the crater?

Em. I did it in a fit of melancholy.

Me. Not you. Vanity, pride, folly; these were what burnt you up, slippers and all; and serve you right. All that ingenuity was thrown away, too: your death was detected. — Aeacus, where is Socrates?

Aea. He is generally talking nonsense with Nestor and Palamedes.

Me. But I should like to see him, if he is anywhere about.

Aea. You see the bald one? Me. They are all bald; that is a distinction without a difference.

Aea. The snub-nosed one.

Me. There again: they are all snub-nosed.

Soc. Do you want me, Menippus?

Me. The very man I am looking for.

Soc. How goes it in Athens?

Me. There are a great many young men there professing philosophy; and to judge from their dress and their walk, they should be perfect in it.

Soc. I have seen many such.

Me. For that matter, I suppose you saw Aristippus arrive, reeking with scent; and Plato, the polished flatterer from Sicilian courts?

Soc. And what do they think about me in Athens?

Me. Ah, you are fortunate in that respect. You pass for a most remarkable man, omniscient in fact. And all the time — if the truth must out — you know absolutely nothing.

Soc. I told them that myself: but they would have it that that was my irony.

Me. And who are your friends?

Soc. Charmides; Phaedrus; the son of Clinias.

Me. Ha, ha! still at your old trade; still an admirer of beauty.

Soc. How could I be better occupied? Will you join us?

Me. No, thank you; I am off, to take up my quarters by Croesus and Sardanapalus. I expect huge entertainment from their outcries.

Aea. I must be off, too; or some one may escape. You shall see the rest another day, Menippus.

Me. I need not detain you. I have seen enough.



Menippus. Cerberus

Me. My dear coz — for Cerberus and Cynic are surely related through the dog — I adjure you by the Styx, tell me how Socrates behaved during the descent. A God like you can doubtless articulate instead of barking, if he chooses.

Cer. Well, while he was some way off, he seemed quite unshaken; and I thought he was bent on letting the people outside realize the fact too. Then he passed into the opening and saw the gloom; I at the same time gave him a touch of the hemlock, and a pull by the leg, as he was rather slow. Then he squalled like a baby, whimpered about his children, and, oh, I don’t know what he didn’t do.

Me. So he was one of the theorists, was he? His indifference was a sham?

Cer. Yes; it was only that he accepted the inevitable, and put a bold face on it, pretending to welcome the universal fate, by way of impressing the bystanders. All that sort are the same, I tell you — bold resolute fellows as far as the entrance; it is inside that the real test comes.

Me. What did you think of my performance?

Cer. Ah, Menippus, you were the exception; you are a credit to the breed, and so was Diogenes before you. You two came in without any compulsion or pushing, of your own free will, with a laugh for yourselves and a curse for the rest.



Charon. Menippus. Hermes

Ch. Your fare, you rascal.

Me. Bawl away, Charon, if it gives you any pleasure.

Ch. I brought you across: give me my fare.

Me. I can’t, if I haven’t got it.

Ch. And who is so poor that he has not got a penny?

Me. I for one; I don’t know who else.

Ch. Pay: or, by Pluto, I’ll strangle you.

Me. And I’ll crack your skull with this stick.

Ch. So you are to come all that way for nothing?

Me. Let Hermes pay for me: he put me on board.

Her. I dare say! A fine time I shall have of it, if I am to pay for the shades.

Ch. I’m not going to let you off.

Me. You can haul up your ship and wait, for all I care. If I have not got the money, I can’t pay you, can I?

Ch. You knew you ought to bring it?

Me. I knew that: but I hadn’t got it. What would you have? I ought not to have died, I suppose?

Ch. So you are to have the distinction of being the only passenger that ever crossed gratis?

Me. Oh, come now: gratis! I took an oar, and I baled; and I didn’t cry, which is more than can be said for any of the others.

Ch. That’s neither here nor there. I must have my penny; it’s only right.

Me. Well, you had better take me back again to life.

Ch. Yes, and get a thrashing from Aeacus for my pains! I like that.

Me. Well, don’t bother me.

Ch. Let me see what you have got in that wallet.

Me. Beans: have some? — and a Hecate’s supper.

Ch. Where did you pick up this Cynic, Hermes? The noise he made on the crossing, too! laughing and jeering at all the rest, and singing, when every one else was at his lamentations.

Her. Ah, Charon, you little know your passenger! Independence, every inch of him: he cares for no one. ’Tis Menippus.

Ch. Wait till I catch you ——

Me. Precisely; I’ll wait — till you catch me again.



Protesilaus. Pluto. Persephone

Pro. Lord, King, our Zeus! and thou, daughter of Demeter! Grant a lover’s boon!

Pl. What do you want? who are you?

Pro. Protesilaus, son of Iphiclus, of Phylace, one of the Achaean host, the first that died at Troy. And the boon I ask is release and one day’s life.

Pl. Ah, friend, that is the love that all these dead men love, and none shall ever win.

Pro. Nay, dread lord, ’tis not life I love, but the bride that I left new wedded in my chamber that day I sailed away — ah me, to be slain by Hector as my foot touched land! My lord, that yearning gives me no peace. I return content, if she might look on me but for an hour.

Pl. Did you miss your dose of Lethe, man?

Pro. Nay, lord; but this prevailed against it.

Pl. Oh, well, wait a little; she will come to you one day; it is so simple; no need for you to be going up.

Pro. My heart is sick with hope deferred; thou too, O Pluto, hast loved; thou knowest what love is.

Pl. What good will it do you to come to life for a day, and then renew your pains?

Pro. I think to win her to come with me, and bring two dead for one.

Pl. It may not be; it never has been.

Pro. Bethink thee, Pluto. ’Twas for this same cause that ye gave Orpheus his Eurydice; and Heracles had interest enough to be granted Alcestis; she was of my kin.

Pl. Would you like to present that bare ugly skull to your fair bride? will she admit you, when she cannot tell you from another man? I know well enough; she will be frightened and run from you, and you will have gone all that way for nothing.

Per. Husband, doctor that disease yourself: tell Hermes, as soon as Protesilaus reaches the light, to touch him with his wand, and make him young and fair as when he left the bridal chamber.

Pl. Well, I cannot refuse a lady. Hermes, take him up and turn him into a bridegroom. But mind, you sir, a strictly temporary one.



Diogenes. Mausolus

Diog. Why so proud, Carian? How are you better than the rest of us?

Man. Sinopean, to begin with, I was a king; king of all Caria, ruler of many Lydians, subduer of islands, conqueror of well-nigh the whole of Ionia, even to the borders of Miletus. Further, I was comely, and of noble stature, and a mighty warrior. Finally, a vast tomb lies over me in Halicarnassus, of such dimensions, of such exquisite beauty as no other shade can boast. Thereon are the perfect semblances of man and horse, carved in the fairest marble; scarcely may a temple be found to match it. These are the grounds of my pride: are they inadequate?

Diog. Kingship — beauty — heavy tomb; is that it?

Mau. It is as you say.

Diog. But, my handsome Mausolus, the power and the beauty are no longer there. If we were to appoint an umpire now on the question of comeliness, I see no reason why he should prefer your skull to mine. Both are bald, and bare of flesh; our teeth are equally in evidence; each of us has lost his eyes, and each is snub-nosed. Then as to the tomb and the costly marbles, I dare say such a fine erection gives the Halicarnassians something to brag about and show off to strangers: but I don’t see, friend, that you are the better for it, unless it is that you claim to carry more weight than the rest of us, with all that marble on the top of you.

Mau. Then all is to go for nothing? Mausolus and Diogenes are to rank as equals?

Diog. Equals! My dear sir, no; I don’t say that. While Mausolus is groaning over the memories of earth, and the felicity which he supposed to be his, Diogenes will be chuckling. While Mausolus boasts of the tomb raised to him by Artemisia, his wife and sister, Diogenes knows not whether he has a tomb or no — the question never having occurred to him; he knows only that his name is on the tongues of the wise, as one who lived the life of a man; a higher monument than yours, vile Carian slave, and set on firmer foundations.



Nireus. Thersites. Menippus

Ni. Here we are; Menippus shall award the palm of beauty. Menippus, am I not better-looking than he?

Me. Well, who are you? I must know that first, mustn’t I?

Ni. Nireus and Thersites.

Me. Which is which? I cannot tell that yet.

Ther. One to me; I am like you; you have no such superiority as Homer (blind, by the way) gave you when he called you the handsomest of men; he might peak my head and thin my hair, our judge finds me none the worse. Now, Menippus, make up your mind which is handsomer.

Ni. I, of course, I, the son of Aglaia and Charopus,

Comeliest of all that came ‘neath Trojan walls.

Me. But not comeliest of all that come ‘neath the earth, as far as I know. Your bones are much like other people’s; and the only difference between your two skulls is that yours would not take much to stove it in. It is a tender article, something short of masculine.

Ni. Ask Homer what I was, when I sailed with the Achaeans.

Me. Dreams, dreams. I am looking at what you are; what you were is ancient history.

Ni. Am I not handsomer here, Menippus?

Me. You are not handsome at all, nor any one else either. Hades is a democracy; one man is as good as another here.

Ther. And a very tolerable arrangement too, if you ask me.



Menippus. Chiron

Me. I have heard that you were a god, Chiron, and that you died of your own choice?

Chi. You were rightly informed. I am dead, as you see, and might have been immortal.

Me. And what should possess you, to be in love with Death? He has no charm for most people.

Chi. You are a sensible fellow; I will tell you. There was no further satisfaction to be had from immortality.

Me. Was it not a pleasure merely to live and see the light?

Chi. No; it is variety, as I take it, and not monotony, that constitutes pleasure. Living on and on, everything always the same; sun, light, food, spring, summer, autumn, winter, one thing following another in unending sequence — I sickened of it all. I found that enjoyment lay not in continual possession; that deprivation had its share therein.

Me. Very true, Chiron. And how have you got on since you made Hades your home?

Chi. Not unpleasantly. I like the truly republican equality that prevails; and as to whether one is in light or darkness, that makes no difference at all. Then again there is no hunger or thirst here; one is independent of such things.

Me. Take care, Chiron! You may be caught in the snare of your own reasonings.

Chi. How should that be?

Me. Why, if the monotony of the other world brought on satiety, the monotony here may do the same. You will have to look about for a further change, and I fancy there is no third life procurable.

Chi. Then what is to be done, Menippus?

Me. Take things as you find them, I suppose, like a sensible fellow, and make the best of everything.



Diogenes. Antisthenes. Crates

Diog. Now, friends, we have plenty of time; what say you to a stroll? we might go to the entrance and have a look at the new-comers — what they are and how they behave.

Ant. The very thing. It will be an amusing sight — some weeping, some imploring to be let go, some resisting; when Hermes collars them, they will stick their heels in and throw their weight back; and all to no purpose.

Cra. Very well; and meanwhile, let me give you my experiences on the way down.

Diog. Yes, go on, Crates; I dare say you saw some entertaining sights.

Cra. We were a large party, of which the most distinguished were Ismenodorus, a rich townsman of ours, Arsaces, ruler of Media, and Oroetes the Armenian. Ismenodorus had been murdered by robbers going to Eleusis over Cithaeron, I believe. He was moaning, nursing his wound, apostrophizing the young children he had left, and cursing his foolhardiness. He knew Cithaeron and the Eleutherae district were all devastated by the wars, and yet he must take only two servants with him — with five bowls and four cups of solid gold in his baggage, too. Arsaces was an old man of rather imposing aspect; he expressed his feelings in true barbaric fashion, was exceedingly angry at being expected to walk, and kept calling for his horse. In point of fact it had died with him, it and he having been simultaneously transfixed by a Thracian pikeman in the fight with the Cappadocians on the Araxes. Arsaces described to us how he had charged far in advance of his men, and the Thracian, standing his ground and sheltering himself with his buckler, warded off the lance, and then, planting his pike, transfixed man and horse together.

Ant. How could it possibly be done simultaneously?

Cra. Oh, quite simple. The Median was charging with his thirty-foot lance in front of him; the Thracian knocked it aside with his buckler; the point glanced by; then he knelt, received the charge on his pike, pierced the horse’s chest — the spirited beast impaling itself by its own impetus — and finally ran Arsaces through groin and buttock. You see what happened; it was the horse’s doing rather than the man’s. However, Arsaces did not at all appreciate equality, and wanted to come down on horseback. As for Oroetes, he was so tender-footed that he could not stand, far less walk. That is the way with all the Medes — once they are off their horses, they go delicately on tiptoe as if they were treading on thorns. He threw himself down, and there he lay; nothing would induce him to get up; so the excellent Hermes had to pick him up and carry him to the ferry; how I laughed!

Ant. When I came down, I did not keep with the crowd; I left them to their blubberings, ran on to the ferry, and secured a comfortable seat for the passage. Then as we crossed, they were divided between tears and sea-sickness, and gave me a merry time of it.

Diog. You two have described your fellow passengers; now for mine. There came down with me Blepsias, the Pisatan usurer, Lampis, an Acarnanian freelance, and the Corinthian millionaire Damis. The last had been poisoned by his son, Lampis had cut his throat for love of the courtesan Myrtium, and the wretched Blepsias is supposed to have died of starvation; his awful pallor and extreme emaciation looked like it. I inquired into the manner of their deaths, though I knew very well. When Damis exclaimed upon his son, ‘You only have your deserts,’ I remarked — ‘an old man of ninety living in luxury yourself with your million of money, and fobbing off your eighteen-year son with a few pence! As for you, sir Acarnanian’— he was groaning and cursing Myrtium — ‘why put the blame on Love? it belongs to yourself; you were never afraid of an enemy — took all sorts of risks in other people’s service — and then let yourself be caught, my hero, by the artificial tears and sighs of the first wench you came across.’ Blepsias uttered his own condemnation, without giving me time to do it for him: he had hoarded his money for heirs who were nothing to him, and been fool enough to reckon on immortality. I assure you it was no common satisfaction I derived from their whinings.

But here we are at the gate; we must keep our eyes open, and get the earliest view. Lord, lord, what a mixed crowd! and all in tears except these babes and sucklings. Why, the hoary seniors are all lamentation too; strange! has madam Life given them a love-potion? I must interrogate this most reverend senior of them all. — Sir, why weep, seeing that you have died full of years? has your excellency any complaint to make, after so long a term? Ah, but you were doubtless a king.

Pauper. Not so.

Diog. A provincial governor, then?

Pauper. No, nor that.

Diog. I see; you were wealthy, and do not like leaving your boundless luxury to die.

Pauper. You are quite mistaken; I was near ninety, made a miserable livelihood out of my line and rod, was excessively poor, childless, a cripple, and had nearly lost my sight.

Diog. And you still wished to live?

Pauper. Ay, sweet is the light, and dread is death; would that one might escape it!

Diog. You are beside yourself, old man; you are like a child kicking at the pricks, you contemporary of the ferryman. Well, we need wonder no more at youth, when age is still in love with life; one would have thought it should court death as the cure for its proper ills. — And now let us go our way, before our loitering here brings suspicion on us: they may think we are planning an escape.



Menippus. Tiresias

Me. Whether you are blind or not, Tiresias, would be a difficult question. Eyeless sockets are the rule among us; there is no telling Phineus from Lynceus nowadays. However, I know that you were a seer, and that you enjoy the unique distinction of having been both man and woman; I have it from the poets. Pray tell me which you found the more pleasant life, the man’s or the woman’s?

Ti. The woman’s, by a long way; it was much less trouble. Women have the mastery of men; and there is no fighting for them, no manning of walls, no squabbling in the assembly, no cross-examination in the law-courts.

Me. Well, but you have heard how Medea, in Euripides, compassionates her sex on their hard lot — on the intolerable pangs they endure in travail? And by the way — Medea’s words remind me did you ever have a child, when you were a woman, or were you barren?

Ti. What do you mean by that question, Menippus?

Me. Oh, nothing; but I should like to know, if it is no trouble to you.

Ti. I was not barren: but I did not have a child, exactly.

Me. No; but you might have had. That’s all I wanted to know.

Ti. Certainly.

Me. And your feminine characteristics gradually vanished, and you developed a beard, and became a man? Or did the change take place in a moment?

Ti. Whither does your question tend? One would think you doubted the fact.

Me. And what should I do but doubt such a story? Am I to take it in, like a nincompoop, without asking myself whether it is possible or not?

Ti. At that rate, I suppose you are equally incredulous when you hear of women being turned into birds or trees or beasts — Aedon for instance, or Daphne, or Callisto?

Me. If I fall in with any of these ladies, I will see what they have to say about it. But to return, friend, to your own case: were you a prophet even in the days of your femininity? or did manhood and prophecy come together?

Ti. Pooh, you know nothing of the matter. I once settled a dispute among the Gods, and was blinded by Hera for my pains; whereupon Zeus consoled me with the gift of prophecy.

Me. Ah, you love a lie still, Tiresias. But there, ’tis your trade. You prophets! There is no truth in you.



Agamemnon. Ajax

Ag. If you went mad and wrought your own destruction, Ajax, in default of that you designed for us all, why put the blame on Odysseus? Why would you not vouchsafe him a look or a word, when he came to consult Tiresias that day? you stalked past your old comrade in arms as if he was beneath your notice.

Aj. Had I not good reason? My madness lies at the door of my solitary rival for the arms.

Ag. Did you expect to be unopposed, and carry it over us all without a contest?

Aj. Surely, in such a matter. The armour was mine by natural right, seeing I was Achilles’s cousin. The rest of you, his undoubted superiors, refused to compete, recognizing my claim. It was the son of Laertes, he that I had rescued scores of times when he would have been cut to pieces by the Phrygians, who set up for a better man and a stronger claimant than I.

Ag. Blame Thetis, then, my good sir; it was she who, instead of delivering the inheritance to the next of kin, brought the arms and left the ownership an open question.

Aj. No, no; the guilt was in claiming them — alone, I mean.

Ag. Surely, Ajax, a mere man may be forgiven the sin of coveting honour — that sweetest bait for which each one of us adventured; nay, and he outdid you there, if a Trojan verdict counts.

Aj. Who inspired that verdict 16? I know, but about the Gods we may not speak. Let that pass; but cease to hate Odysseus? ’tis not in my power, Agamemnon, though Athene’s self should require it of me.


16 Athene is meant. The allusion is to Homer, Od. xi. 547, a passage upon the contest for the arms of Achilles, in which Odysseus states that ‘The judges were the sons of the Trojans, and Pallas Athene.’


Minos. Sostratus

Mi. Sostratus, the pirate here, can be dropped into Pyriphlegethon, Hermes; the temple-robber shall be clawed by the Chimera; and lay out the tyrant alongside of Tityus, there to have his liver torn by the vultures. And you honest fellows can make the best of your way to Elysium and the Isles of the Blest; this it is to lead righteous lives.

Sos. A word with you, Minos. See if there is not some justice in my plea.

Mi. What, more pleadings? Have you not been convicted of villany and murder without end?

Sos. I have. Yet consider whether my sentence is just.

Mi. Is it just that you should have your deserts? If so, the sentence is just.

Sos. Well, answer my questions; I will not detain you long.

Mi. Say on, but be brief; I have other cases waiting for me.

Sos. The deeds of my life — were they in my own choice, or were they decreed by Fate?

Mi. Decreed, of course.

Sos. Then all of us, whether we passed for honest men or rogues, were the instruments of Fate in all that we did?

Mi. Certainly; Clotho prescribes the conduct of every man at his birth.

Sos. Now suppose a man commits a murder under compulsion of a power which he cannot resist, an executioner, for instance, at the bidding of a judge, or a bodyguard at that of a tyrant. Who is the murderer, according to you?

Mi. The judge, of course, or the tyrant. As well ask whether the sword is guilty, which is but the tool of his anger who is prime mover in the affair.

Sos. I am indebted to you for a further illustration of my argument. Again: a slave, sent by his master, brings me gold or silver; to whom am I to be grateful? who goes down on my tablets as a benefactor?

Mi. The sender; the bringer is but his minister.

Sos. Observe then your injustice! You punish us who are but the slaves of Clotho’s bidding, and reward these, who do but minister to another’s beneficence. For it will never be said that it was in our power to gainsay the irresistible ordinances of Fate?

Mi. Ah, Sostratus; look closely enough, and you will find plenty of inconsistencies besides these. However, I see you are no common pirate, but a philosopher in your way; so much you have gained by your questions. Let him go, Hermes; he shall not be punished after that. But mind, Sostratus, you must not put it into other people’s heads to ask questions of this kind.



A Necromantic Experiment

Menippus. Philonides

Me. All hail, my roof, my doors, my hearth and home! How sweet again to see the light and thee!

Phi. Menippus the cynic, surely; even so, or there are visions about. Menippus, every inch of him. What has he been getting himself up like that for? sailor’s cap, lyre, and lion-skin? However, here goes. — How are you, Menippus? where do you spring from? You have disappeared this long time.

Me. Death’s lurking-place I leave, and those dark gates Where Hades dwells, a God apart from Gods.

Phi. Good gracious! has Menippus died, all on the quiet, and come to life for a second spell?

Me. Not so; a living guest in Hades I.

Phi. But what induced you to take this queer original journey?

Me. Youth drew me on — too bold, too little wise.

Phi. My good man, truce to your heroics; get off those iambic stilts, and tell me in plain prose what this get-up means; what did you want with the lower regions? It is a journey that needs a motive to make it attractive.

Me. Dear friend, to Hades’ realms I needs must go, To counsel with Tiresias of Thebes.

Phi. Man, you must be mad; or why string verses instead of talking like one friend with another?

Me. My dear fellow, you need not be so surprised. I have just been in Euripides’s and Homer’s company; I suppose I am full to the throat with verse, and the numbers come as soon as I open my mouth. But how are things going up here? what is Athens about?

Phi. Oh, nothing new; extortion, perjury, forty per cent, face-grinding.

Me. Poor misguided fools! they are not posted up in the latest lower-world legislation; the recent decrees against the rich will be too much for all their evasive ingenuity.

Phi. Do you mean to say the lower world has been making new regulations for us?

Me. Plenty of them, I assure you. But I may not publish them, nor reveal secrets; the result might be a suit for impiety in the court of Rhadamanthus.

Phi. Oh now, Menippus, in Heaven’s name, no secrets between friends! you know I am no blabber; and I am initiated, if you come to that.

Me. ’Tis a hard thing you ask, and a perilous; yet for you I must venture it. It was resolved, then, that these rich who roll in money and keep their gold under lock and key like a Danae ——

Phi. Oh, don’t come to the decrees yet; begin at the beginning. I am particularly curious about your object in going, who showed you the way, and the whole story of what you saw and heard down there; you are a man of taste, and sure not to have missed anything worth looking at or listening to.

Me. I can refuse you nothing, you see; what is one to do, when a friend insists? Well, I will show you first the state of mind which put me on the venture. When I was a boy, and listened to Homer’s and Hesiod’s tales of war and civil strife — and they do not confine themselves to the Heroes, but include the Gods in their descriptions, adulterous Gods, rapacious Gods, violent, litigious, usurping, incestuous Gods — well, I found it all quite proper, and indeed was intensely interested in it. But as I came to man’s estate, I observed that the laws flatly contradicted the poets, forbidding adultery, sedition, and rapacity. So I was in a very hazy state of mind, and could not tell what to make of it. The Gods would surely never have been guilty of such behaviour if they had not considered it good; and yet law-givers would never have recommended avoiding it, if avoidance had not seemed desirable.

In this perplexity, I determined to go to the people they call philosophers, put myself in their hands, and ask them to make what they would of me and give me a plain reliable map of life. This was my idea in going to them; but the effort only shifted me from the frying-pan into the fire; it was just among these that my inquiry brought the greatest ignorance and bewilderment to light; they very soon convinced me that the real golden life is that of the man in the street. One of them would have me do nothing but seek pleasure and ensue it; according to him, Happiness was pleasure. Another recommended the exact contrary — toil and moil, bring the body under, be filthy and squalid, disgusting and abusive — concluding always with the tags from Hesiod about Virtue, or something about indefatigable pursuit of the ideal. Another bade me despise money, and reckon the acquisition of it as a thing indifferent; he too had his contrary, who declared wealth a good in itself. I will spare you their metaphysics; I was sickened with daily doses of Ideas, Incorporeal Things, Atoms, Vacua, and a multitude more. The extraordinary thing was that people maintaining the most opposite views would each of them produce convincing plausible arguments; when the same thing was called hot and cold by different persons, there was no refuting one more than the other, however well one knew that it could not be hot and cold at once. I was just like a man dropping off to sleep, with his head first nodding forward, and then jerking back.

Yet that absurdity is surpassed by another. I found by observation that the practice of these same people was diametrically opposed to their precepts. Those who preached contempt of wealth would hold on to it like grim death, dispute about interest, teach for pay, and sacrifice everything to the main chance, while the depreciators of fame directed all their words and deeds to nothing else but fame; pleasure, which had all their private devotions, they were almost unanimous in condemning.

Thus again disappointed of my hope, I was in yet worse case than before; it was slight consolation to reflect that I was in numerous and wise and eminently sensible company, if I was a fool still, all astray in my quest of Truth. One night, while these thoughts kept me sleepless, I resolved to go to Babylon and ask help from one of the Magi, Zoroaster’s disciples and successors; I had been told that by incantations and other rites they could open the gates of Hades, take down any one they chose in safety, and bring him up again. I thought the best thing would be to secure the services of one of these, visit Tiresias the Boeotian, and learn from that wise seer what is the best life and the right choice for a man of sense. I got up with all speed and started straight for Babylon. When I arrived, I found a wise and wonderful Chaldean; he was white-haired, with a long imposing beard, and called Mithrobarzanes. My prayers and supplications at last induced him to name a price for conducting me down.

Taking me under his charge, he commenced with a new moon, and brought me down for twenty-nine successive mornings to the Euphrates, where he bathed me, apostrophizing the rising sun in a long formula, of which I never caught much; he gabbled indistinctly, like bad heralds at the Games; but he appeared to be invoking spirits. This charm completed, he spat thrice upon my face, and I went home, not letting my eyes meet those of any one we passed. Our food was nuts and acorns, our drink milk and hydromel and water from the Choaspes, and we slept out of doors on the grass. When he thought me sufficiently prepared, he took me at midnight to the Tigris, purified and rubbed me over, sanctified me with torches and squills and other things, muttering the charm aforesaid, then made a magic circle round me to protect me from ghosts, and finally led me home backwards just as I was; it was now time to arrange our voyage.

He himself put on a magic robe, Median in character, and fetched and gave me the cap, lion’s skin, and lyre which you see, telling me if I were asked my name not to say Menippus, but Heracles, Odysseus, or Orpheus.

Phi. What was that for? I see no reason either for the get-up or for the choice of names.

Me. Oh, obvious enough; there is no mystery in that. He thought that as these three had gone down alive to Hades before us, I might easily elude Aeacus’s guard by borrowing their appearance, and be passed as an habitue; there is good warrant in the theatre for the efficiency of disguise.

Dawn was approaching when we went down to the river to embark; he had provided a boat, victims, hydromel, and all necessaries for our mystic enterprise. We put all aboard, and then,

Troubled at heart, with welling tears, we went.

For some distance we floated down stream, until we entered the marshy lake in which the Euphrates disappears. Beyond this we came to a desolate, wooded, sunless spot; there we landed, Mithrobarzanes leading the way, and proceeded to dig a pit, slay our sheep, and sprinkle their blood round the edge. Meanwhile the Mage, with a lighted torch in his hand, abandoning his customary whisper, shouted at the top of his voice an invocation to all spirits, particularly the Poenae and Erinyes,

Hecat’s dark might, and dread Persephone,

with a string of other names, outlandish, unintelligible, and polysyllabic.

As he ended, there was a great commotion, earth was burst open by the incantation, the barking of Cerberus was heard far off, and all was overcast and lowering;

Quaked in his dark abyss the King of Shades;

for almost all was now unveiled to us, the lake, and Phlegethon, and the abode of Pluto. Undeterred, we made our way down the chasm, and came upon Rhadamanthus half dead with fear. Cerberus barked and looked like getting up; but I quickly touched my lyre, and the first note sufficed to lull him. Reaching the lake, we nearly missed our passage for that time, the ferry-boat being already full; there was incessant lamentation, and all the passengers had wounds upon them; mangled legs, mangled heads, mangled everything; no doubt there was a war going on. Nevertheless, when good Charon saw the lion’s skin, taking me for Heracles, he made room, was delighted to give me a passage, and showed us our direction when we got off.

We were now in darkness; so Mithrobarzanes led the way, and I followed holding on to him, until we reached a great meadow of asphodel, where the shades of the dead, with their thin voices, came flitting round us. Working gradually on, we reached the court of Minos; he was sitting on a high throne, with the Poenae, Avengers, and Erinyes standing at the sides. From another direction was being brought a long row of persons chained together; I heard that they were adulterers, procurers, publicans, sycophants, informers, and all the filth that pollutes the stream of life. Separate from them came the rich and usurers, pale, pot-bellied, and gouty, each with a hundredweight of spiked collar upon him. There we stood looking at the proceedings and listening to the pleas they put in; their accusers were orators of a strange and novel species. Phi. Who, in God’s name? shrink not; let me know all.

Me. It has not escaped your observation that the sun projects certain shadows of our bodies on the ground.

Phi. How should it have?

Me. These, when we die, are the prosecutors and witnesses who bring home to us our conduct on earth; their constant attendance and absolute attachment to our persons secures them high credit in the witness-box.

Well, Minos carefully examined each prisoner, and sent him off to the place of the wicked to receive punishment proportionate to his transgressions. He was especially severe upon those who, puffed up with wealth and authority, were expecting an almost reverential treatment; he could not away with their ephemeral presumption and superciliousness, their failure to realize the mortality of themselves and their fortunes. Stripped of all that made them glorious, of wealth and birth and power, there they stood naked and downcast, reconstructing their worldly blessedness in their minds like a dream that is gone; the spectacle was meat and drink to me; any that I knew by sight I would come quietly up to, and remind him of his state up here; what a spirit had his been, when morning crowds lined his hall, expectant of his coming, being jostled or thrust out by lacqueys! at last my lord Sun would dawn upon them, in purple or gold or rainbow hues, not unconscious of the bliss he shed upon those who approached, if he let them kiss his breast or his hand. These reminders seemed to annoy them.

Minos, however, did allow his decision to be influenced in one case. Dionysius of Syracuse was accused by Dion of many unholy deeds, and damning evidence was produced by his shadow; he was on the point of being chained to the Chimera, when Aristippus of Cyrene, whose name and influence are great below, got him off on the ground of his constant generosity as a patron of literature.

We left the court at last, and came to the place of punishment. Many a piteous sight and sound was there — cracking of whips, shrieks of the burning, rack and gibbet and wheel; Chimera tearing, Cerberus devouring; all tortured together, kings and slaves, governors and paupers, rich and beggars, and all repenting their sins. A few of them, the lately dead, we recognized. These would turn away and shrink from observation; or if they met our eyes, it would be with a slavish cringing glance — how different from the arrogance and contempt that had marked them in life! The poor were allowed half-time in their tortures, respite and punishment alternating. Those with whom legend is so busy I saw with my eyes — Ixion, Sisyphus, the Phrygian Tantalus in all his misery, and the giant Tityus — how vast, his bulk covering a whole field!

Leaving these, we entered the Acherusian plain, and there found the demi-gods, men and women both, and the common dead, dwelling in their nations and tribes, some of them ancient and mouldering, ‘strengthless heads,’ as Homer has it, others fresh, with substance yet in them, Egyptians chiefly, these — so long last their embalming drugs. But to know one from another was no easy task; all are so like when the bones are bared; yet with pains and long scrutiny we could make them out. They lay pell-mell in undistinguished heaps, with none of their earthly beauties left. With all those anatomies piled together as like as could be, eyes glaring ghastly and vacant, teeth gleaming bare, I knew not how to tell Thersites from Nireus the beauty, beggar Irus from the Phaeacian king, or cook Pyrrhias from Agamemnon’s self. Their ancient marks were gone, and their bones alike — uncertain, unlabelled, indistinguishable.

When I saw all this, the life of man came before me under the likeness of a great pageant, arranged and marshalled by Chance, who distributed infinitely varied costumes to the performers. She would take one and array him like a king, with tiara, bodyguard, and crown complete; another she dressed like a slave; one was adorned with beauty, another got up as a ridiculous hunchback; there must be all kinds in the show. Often before the procession was over she made individuals exchange characters; they could not be allowed to keep the same to the end; Croesus must double parts and appear as slave and captive; Maeandrius, starting as slave, would take over Polycrates’s despotism, and be allowed to keep his new clothes for a little while. And when the procession is done, every one disrobes, gives up his character with his body, and appears, as he originally was, just like his neighbour. Some, when Chance comes round collecting the properties, are silly enough to sulk and protest, as though they were being robbed of their own instead of only returning loans. You know the kind of thing on the stage — tragic actors shifting as the play requires from Creon to Priam, from Priam to Agamemnon; the same man, very likely, whom you saw just now in all the majesty of Cecrops or Erechtheus, treads the boards next as a slave, because the author tells him to. The play over, each of them throws off his gold-spangled robe and his mask, descends from the buskin’s height, and moves a mean ordinary creature; his name is not now Agamemnon son of Atreus or Creon son of Menoeceus, but Polus son of Charicles of Sunium or Satyrus son of Theogiton of Marathon. Such is the condition of mankind, or so that sight presented it to me.

Phi. Now, if a man occupies a costly towering sepulchre, or leaves monuments, statues, inscriptions behind him on earth, does not this place him in a class above the common dead?

Me. Nonsense, my good man; if you had looked on Mausolus himself — the Carian so famous for his tomb — I assure you, you would never have stopped laughing; he was a miserable unconsidered unit among the general mass of the dead, flung aside in a dusty hole, with no profit of his sepulchre but its extra weight upon him. No, friend, when Aeacus gives a man his allowance of space — and it never exceeds a foot’s breadth — he must be content to pack himself into its limits. You might have laughed still more if you had beheld the kings and governors of earth begging in Hades, selling salt fish for a living, it might be, or giving elementary lessons, insulted by any one who met them, and cuffed like the most worthless of slaves. When I saw Philip of Macedon, I could not contain myself; some one showed him to me cobbling old shoes for money in a corner. Many others were to be seen begging — people like Xerxes, Darius, or Polycrates.

Phi. These royal downfalls are extraordinary almost incredible. But what of Socrates, Diogenes, and such wise men?

Me. Socrates still goes about proving everybody wrong, the same as ever; Palamedes, Odysseus, Nestor, and a few other conversational shades, keep him company. His legs, by the way, were still puffy and swollen from the poison. Good Diogenes pitches close to Sardanapalus, Midas, and other specimens of magnificence. The sound of their lamentations and better-day memories keeps him in laughter and spirits; he is generally stretched on his back roaring out a noisy song which drowns lamentation; it annoys them, and they are looking out for a new pitch where he may not molest them.

Phi. I am satisfied. And now for that decree which you told me had been passed against the rich.

Me. Well remembered; that was what I meant to tell you about, but I have somehow got far astray. Well, during my stay the presiding officers gave notice of an assembly on matters of general interest. So, when I saw every one flocking to it, I mingled with the shades and constituted myself a member. Various measures were decided upon, and last came this question of the rich. Many grave accusations were preferred against them, including violence, ostentation, pride, injustice; and at last a popular speaker rose and moved this decree.


‘Whereas the rich are guilty of many illegalities on earth, harrying and oppressing the poor and trampling upon all their rights, it is the pleasure of the Senate and People that after death they shall be punished in their bodies like other malefactors, but their souls shall be sent on earth to inhabit asses, until they have passed in that shape a quarter-million of years, generation after generation, bearing burdens under the tender mercies of the poor; after which they shall be permitted to die. Mover of this decree — Cranion son of Skeletion of the deme Necysia in the Alibantid 17 tribe.’ The decree read, a formal vote was taken, in which the people accepted it. A snort from Brimo and a bark from Cerberus completed the proceedings according to the regular form.

So went the assembly. And now, in pursuance of my original design, I went to Tiresias, explained my case fully, and implored him to give me his views upon the best life. He is a blind little old man, pale and weak-voiced. He smiled and said:—‘My son, the cause of your perplexity, I know, is the fact that doctors differ; but I may not enlighten you; Rhadamanthus forbids.’ ‘Ah, say not so, father,’ I exclaimed; ‘speak out, and leave me not to wander through life in a blindness worse than yours.’ So he drew me apart to a considerable distance, and whispered in my ear:—‘The life of the ordinary man is the best and most prudent choice; cease from the folly of metaphysical speculation and inquiry into origins and ends, utterly reject their clever logic, count all these things idle talk, and pursue one end alone — how you may do what your hand finds to do, and go your way with ever a smile and never a passion.’

So he, and sought the lawn of asphodel.

It was now late, and I told Mithrobarzanes that our work was done, and we might reascend. ‘Very well, Menippus,’ said he, ‘I will show you an easy short cut.’ And taking me to a place where the darkness was especially thick, he pointed to a dim and distant ray of light — a mere pencil admitted through a chink. ‘There,’ he said, ‘is the shrine of Trophonius, from which the Boeotian inquirers start; go up that way, and you will be on Grecian soil without more ado.’ I was delighted, took my leave of the Mage, crawled with considerable difficulty through the aperture, and found myself, sure enough, at Lebadea.


17 The four names are formed from words meaning skull, skeleton, corpse, anatomy.


Hermes. Charon

Her. So gay, Charon? What makes you leave your ferry to come up here? You are quite a stranger in the upper world.

Ch. I thought I should like to see what life is like; what men do with it, and what are these blessings of which they all lament the loss when they come down to us. Never one of them has made the passage dry-eyed. So I got leave from Pluto to take a day off, like that Thessalian lad 18, you know; and here I am, in the light of day. I am in luck, it seems, to fall in with you. You will show me round, of course, and point out all that is to be seen, as you know all about it.

Her. I have no time, good ferryman. I am bound on certain errands of the Upper Zeus, certain human matters. He is short-tempered: any loitering on my part, and he may hand me over to you Powers of Darkness for good and all; or treat me as he did Hephaestus the other day — hurl me down headlong from the threshold of Heaven; there would be a pair of lame cupbearers then, to amuse the gods.

Ch. And you would leave an old messmate wandering at large on the face of the earth? Think of the cruises we have sailed together, the cargoes you and I have handled! You might remember one thing, son of Maia; I have never set you down to bale or row. You lie sprawling about the deck, you great strong lubber, snoring away, or chatting the whole trip through with any communicative shade you can find; and the old man plies both oars at once. Come, stand by me, like a true son of Zeus as you are, and show me all the ins and outs, there’s a dear lad. I want to see something of life before I go back, and if you leave me in the lurch, I shall be no better off than a blind man: he comes to grief because he is always in the dark, and, contrariwise, I can make nothing of it in the light. Do me this good turn, and I’ll not forget it.

Her. Clearly this is to be a flogging matter for me. There will go some shrewd knocks to the settlement of this reckoning. However, I must give you a helping hand. What is one to do, when a friend is so pressing? Now, as to going over everything thoroughly, it is out of the question; it would take us years. Meanwhile, I should have the hue-and-cry out after me, you would be neglecting your ghostly work, Pluto would lose the shades that you ought to be shipping over all that time, and Aeacus would never take a single toll, and would be proportionately furious. We have only to think, therefore, of contriving you a general view of what is going on.

Ch. You must do the best you can for me. I know nothing of the matter, being a stranger up here.

Her. The main thing is to get an elevation from which you may see in every direction. If you could come up to Heaven, we should be saved any further trouble; you would then have a good bird’s-eye view of everything. But it would be sacrilege for one so conversant with phantoms to set foot in the courts of Zeus. Let us lose no time, therefore, in looking out a good high mountain.

Ch. You know what I sometimes say to you on the ship, Hermes. — If a sudden gust strikes the sail from a new quarter, and the waves are rising high, you landsmen know not what to make of it; you are for taking in sail, or slackening the sheet, or letting her go before the wind, and then I tell you not to trouble your heads, for I know what to do. Well, now it is your turn; you are sailing this ship; do as you think best, and I’ll sit quiet, as a passenger should, and obey orders.

Her. Just so; leave it to me, and I will find a good look-out. How would Caucasus do? Or is Parnassus higher? Olympus, perhaps, is higher than either of them. Olympus! stay, that reminds me; I have a happy thought. But there is work for two here; I shall want your assistance.

Ch. Give your orders, I’ll bear a hand, to the best of my ability.

Her. Homer tells us how the sons of Aloeus 19 (they were but two, like ourselves) took it into their heads, when they were yet children, to drag up Ossa from its foundations, and plant it on the top of Olympus, and then Pelion on the top of all; they thought that would serve as a ladder for getting into heaven. The two boys were rightly punished for their presumption. But we have no design against the Gods: why should not we take the hint, and make an erection of mountains piled one on the top of another? From such a height we should get a better view.

Ch. What, shall we two be able to lift Pelion or Ossa?

Her. Why not? We are gods; I should hope we are as good as those two infants.

Ch. Yes; but I should never have thought we could do such a job as that.

Her. Ah, my dear Charon, you don’t understand these things; you have no imagination. To the lofty spirit of Homer this is simplicity itself. Just a couple of lines, and the mountains are in place; — we have only to walk up. I wonder you make such a marvel of this. You know Atlas, of course? He holds up the entire heaven by himself, Gods and all. And I dare say you have heard how my brother Heracles relieved him once, and took the burden on his own shoulders for a time?

Ch. Yes, I have heard it. But you and the poets best know whether it is true.

Her. Oh, perfectly true. What should induce wise men to lie? — Come, let us get to work on Ossa first; for so the masterbuilder directs:

Ossa first; On Ossa leafy Pelion.

There! What think you of this? Is it suave work? is it poetry? I must run up, and see whether we shall want another storey. Oh dear, we are no way up as yet. On the East, it is all I can do to make out Ionia and Lydia; on the West is nothing but Italy and Sicily; on the North, nothing to be seen beyond the Danube; and on the South, Crete, none too clear. It looks to me as if we should want Oeta, my nautical friend; and Parnassus into the bargain.

Ch. So be it; but take care not to make the height too great for the width; or down we shall come, ladder and all, and pay our footing in the Homeric school of architecture with a cracked crown apiece.

Her. No fear; all will be safe enough. Pass Oeta along. Now trundle Parnassus up. There; I’ll go up again. . . . That’s better! A fine view. You can come now.

Ch. Give me a hand up, Hermes. This is an erection, and no mistake!

Her. Well, you know, you would see everything. Safety is one thing, my friend, and sight-seeing is another. Here is my hand; hang on, and keep clear of the slippery bits. There, now you are up. Let us sit down; here are two peaks, one for each of us. Now take a general look round at the prospect.

Ch. I see a vast stretch of land, and a huge lake surrounding it, and mountains, and rivers bigger than Cocytus and Pyriphlegethon; and men, tiny little things! and I suppose their dens.

Her. Dens? Those are cities!

Ch. I tell you what it is, Hermes; all this is no use. Here have we been shifting about Parnassus (Castalia and all complete), and Oeta, and these others, and we might have spared ourselves the trouble!

Her. How so?

Ch. Why, I can make nothing out up here. These cities and mountains look for all the world like a map. It is men that I am after; I want to see what they do, and hear what they say. That is what I was laughing about just now, when first you met me, and asked me what the joke was. I had heard something that tickled me hugely.

Her. And what might that be?

Ch. One of them had been asked by a friend to dinner, I think it was, the next day. ‘Depend on it,’ says he, ‘I’ll be with you.’ And before the words were out of his mouth, down came a tile — started somehow from the roof — and he was a dead man! Ha, ha, thought I, that promise will never be kept. So I think I shall go down again; I want to see and hear.

Her. Sit where you are. I will soon put that right; you shall see with the best; Homer has a charm for this too. Now, the moment I say the lines, there must be no more dull eyes; all must be clear as daylight. Don’t forget!

Ch. Say on.


See, from before thine eyes I lift the veil; So shalt thou clearly know both God and man.

Well? Are the eyes any better?

Ch. A marvellous improvement! Lynceus is blind to me. Now, the next thing I want is information. I have some questions to ask. Will you have them couched in the Homeric style, to convince you that I am not wholly unversed in his poems?

Her. And how should you know anything of Homer? A seaman, chained to the oar!

Ch. Come, come; no abuse of my profession. The fact is, when he died, and I ferried him over, I heard a good many of his ballads, and a few of them still run in my head. There was a pretty stiff gale on at the time, too. You see, he began singing a song about Posidon, which boded no good to us mariners — how Posidon gathered the clouds, and stirred the depths with his trident, as with a ladle, and roused the whirlwind, and a good deal more (enough to raise a storm of itself) — when suddenly there came a black squall which nearly capsized the boat. The poet was extremely ill, and disgorged such an avalanche of minstrelsy (Scylla, Charybdis, the Cyclops, all came up bodily), that I had no difficulty in preserving a few snatches. I should like to know, for instance,

Who is yon hero, stout and strong and tall, O’ertopping all mankind by head and shoulders?

Her. That is Milo of Croton, the athlete. He has just picked up a bull, and is carrying it along the race-course; and the Greeks are applauding him.

Ch. It would be more to the point, if they were to offer their congratulations to me. I shall presently be picking up Milo himself, and putting him into my boat; that will be after he has had his fall from Death, that most invincible of antagonists, who will have him on his back before he knows what is happening. We shall hear a sad tale then, no doubt, of the crowns and the applause he has left behind him. Meanwhile, he is mightily elated over the bull exploit, and the distinction it has won him. What is one to think? Does it ever occur to him that he must die some day?

Her. How should he think of death? He is at his zenith.

Ch. Well, never mind him. We shall have sport enough with him before long; he will come aboard with no strength left to pick up a gnat, let alone a bull. But pray,

Who is yon haughty hero? No Greek, to judge by his dress.

Her. That is Cyrus, son of Cambyses, who transferred to the Persians the ancient empire of the Medes. He has lately conquered Assyria, and reduced Babylon; and now it looks as if he meditated an invasion of Lydia, to complete his dominion by the overthrow of Croesus.

Ch. And whereabouts is Croesus?

Her. Look over there. You see the great city with the triple wall? That is Sardis. And there, look, is Croesus himself, reclining on a golden couch, and conversing with Solon the Athenian. Shall we listen to what they are saying?

Ch. Yes, let us.

Cr. Stranger, you have now seen my stores of treasure, my heaps of bullion, and all my riches. Tell me therefore, whom do you account the happiest of mankind?

Ch. What will Solon say, I wonder?

Her. Trust Solon; he will not disgrace himself.

So. Croesus, few men are happy. Of those whom I know, the happiest, I think, were Cleobis and Biton, the sons of the Argive priestess.

Ch. Ah, he means those two who yoked themselves to a waggon, and drew their mother to the temple, and died the moment after. It was but the other day.

Cr. Ah. So they are first on the list. And who comes next?

So. Tellus the Athenian, who lived a righteous life, and died for his country.

Cr. And where do I come, reptile?

So. That I am unable to say at present, Croesus; I must see you end your days first. Death is the sure test; — a happy end to a life of happiness.

Ch. Bravo, Solon; you have not forgotten us! As you say, Charon’s ferry is the proper place for the decision of these questions. — But who are these men whom Croesus is sending out? And what have they got on their shoulders?

Her. Those are bars of gold; they are going to Delphi, to pay for an oracle, which oracle will presently be the ruin of Croesus. But oracles are a hobby of his.

Ch. Oh, so that is gold, that glittering yellow stuff, with just a tinge of red in it. I have often heard of gold, but never saw it before.

Her. Yes, that is the stuff there is so much talking and squabbling about.

Ch. Well now, I see no advantages about it, unless it is an advantage that it is heavy to carry.

Her. Ah, you do not know what it has to answer for; the wars and plots and robberies, the perjuries and murders; for this men will endure slavery and imprisonment; for this they traffic and sail the seas.

Ch. For this stuff? Why, it is not much different from copper. I know copper, of course, because I get a penny from each passenger.

Her. Yes, but copper is plentiful, and therefore not much esteemed by men. Gold is found only in small quantities, and the miners have to go to a considerable depth for it. For the rest, it comes out of the earth, just the same as lead and other metals.

Ch. What fools men must be, to be enamoured of an object of this sallow complexion; and of such a weight!

Her. Well, Solon, at any rate, seems to have no great affection for it. See, he is making merry with Croesus and his outlandish magnificence. I think he is going to ask him a question. Listen.

So. Croesus, will those bars be any use to Apollo, do you think?

Cr. Any use! Why there is nothing at Delphi to be compared to them.

So. And that is all that is wanting to complete his happiness, eh? — some bar gold?

Cr. Undoubtedly.

So. Then they must be very hard up in Heaven, if they have to send all the way to Lydia for their gold supply?

Cr. Where else is gold to be had in such abundance as with us?

So. Now is any iron found in Lydia?

Cr. Not much.

So. Ah; so you are lacking in the more valuable metal.

Cr. More valuable? Iron more valuable than gold?

So. Bear with me, while I ask you a few questions, and I will convince you it is so.

Cr. Well?

So. Of protector and protege, which is the better man?

Cr. The protector, of course.

So. Now in the event of Cyrus’s invading Lydia — there is some talk of it — shall you supply your men with golden swords? or will iron be required, on the occasion?

Cr. Oh, iron.

So. Iron accordingly you must have, or your gold would be led captive into Persia?

Cr. Blasphemer!

So. Oh, we will hope for the best. But it is clear, on your own admission, that iron is better than gold.

Cr. And what would you have me do? Recall the gold, and offer the God bars of iron?

So. He has no occasion for iron either. Your offering (be the metal what it may) will fall into other hands than his. It will be snapped up by the Phocians, or the Boeotians, or the God’s own priests; or by some tyrant or robber. Your goldsmiths have no interest for Apollo.

Cr. You are always having a stab at my wealth. It is all envy!

Her. This blunt sincerity is not to the Lydian’s taste. Things are come to a strange pass, he thinks, if a poor man is to hold up his head, and speak his mind in this frank manner! He will remember Solon presently, when the time comes for Cyrus to conduct him in chains to the pyre. I heard Clotho, the other day, reading over the various dooms. Among other things, Croesus was to be led captive by Cyrus, and Cyrus to be murdered by the queen of the Massagetae. There she is: that Scythian woman, riding on a white horse; do you see?

Ch. Yes.

Her. That is Tomyris. She will cut off Cyrus’s head, and put it into a wine-skin filled with blood. And do you see his son, the boy there? That is Cambyses. He will succeed to his father’s throne; and, after innumerable defeats in Libya and Ethiopia, will finally slay the god Apis, and die a raving madman.

Ch. What fun! Why, at this moment no one would presume to meet their eyes; from such a height do they look down on the rest of mankind. Who would believe that before long one of them will be a captive, and the other have his head in a bottle of blood? — But who is that in the purple robe, Hermes? — the one with the diadem? His cook has just been cleaning a fish, and is now handing him a ring — “in yonder sea-girt isle”; “’tis, sure, some king.”

Her.Ha, ha! A parody, this time. — That is Polycrates, tyrant of Samos. He is extremely well pleased with his lot: yet that slave who now stands at his side will betray him to the satrap Oroetes, and he will be crucified. It will not take long to overturn his prosperity, poor man! This, too, I had from Clotho.

Ch. I like Clotho; she is a lady of spirit. Have at them, madam! Off with their heads! To the cross with them! Let them know that they are men. And let them be exalted in the meantime; the higher they mount, the heavier will be the fall. I shall have a merry time of it hereafter, identifying their naked shades, as they come aboard; no more purple robes then; no tiaras; no golden couches!

Her. So much for royalty; and now to the common herd. Do you see them, Charon; — on their ships and on the field of battle; crowding the law-courts and following the plough; usurers here, beggars there?

Ch. I see them. What a jostling life it is! What a world of ups and downs! Their cities remind me of bee-hives. Every man keeps a sting for his neighbour’s service; and a few, like wasps, make spoil of their weaker brethren. But what are all these misty shapes that beset them on every side?

Her. Hopes, Fears, Follies, Pleasures, Greeds, Hates, Grudges, and such like. They differ in their habits. The Folly is a domestic creature, with vested rights of its own. The same with the Grudge, the Hate, the Envy, the Greed, the Know-not, and the What’s-to-do. But the Fear and the Hope fly overhead. The Fear swoops on its prey from above; sometimes it is content with startling a man out of his wits, sometimes it frightens him in real earnest. The Hope hovers almost within reach, and just when a man thinks he is going to catch it, off it flies, and leaves him gaping — like Tantalus in the water, you know. Now look closely, and you will make out the Fates up aloft, spinning each man his spindle-full; from that spindle a man hangs by a narrow thread. Do you see what looks like a cobweb, coming down to each man from the spindles?

Ch. I see each has a very slight thread. They are mostly entangled, one with another, and that other with a third.

Her. Of course they are. Because the first man has got to be murdered by the second, and he by the third; or again, B is to be A’s heir (A’s thread being the shorter), and C is to be B’s. That is what the entangling means. But you see what thin threads they all have to depend on. Now here is one drawn high up into the air; presently his thread will snap, when the weight becomes too much for it, and down he will come with a bang: whereas yonder fellow hangs so low that when he does fall it makes no noise; his next-door neighbours will scarcely hear him drop.

Ch. How absurd it all is!

Her. My dear Charon, there is no word for the absurdity of it. They do take it all so seriously, that is the best of it; and then, long before they have finished scheming, up comes good old Death, and whisks them off, and all is over! You observe that he has a fine staff of assistants at his command; — agues, consumptions, fevers, inflammations, swords, robbers, hemlock, juries, tyrants — not one of which gives them a moment’s concern so long as they are prosperous; but when they come to grief, then it is Alack! and Well-a-day! and Oh dear me! If only they would start with a clear understanding that they are mortal, that after a brief sojourn on the earth they will wake from the dream of life, and leave all behind them — they would live more sensibly, and not mind dying so much. As it is, they get it into their heads that what they possess they possess for good and all; the consequence is, that when Death’s officer calls for them, and claps on a fever or a consumption, they take it amiss; the parting is so wholly unexpected. Yonder is a man building his house, urging the workmen to use all dispatch. How would he take the news, that he was just to see the roof on and all complete, when he would have to take his departure, and leave all the enjoyment to his heir? — hard fate, not once to sup beneath it! There again is one rejoicing over the birth of a son; the child is to inherit his grandfather’s name, and the father is celebrating the occasion with his friends. He would not be so pleased, if he knew that the boy was to die before he was eight years old! It is natural enough: he sees before him some happy father of an Olympian victor, and has no eyes for his neighbour there, who is burying a child; that thin-spun thread escapes his notice. Behold, too, the money-grubbers, whom the aforesaid Death’s-officers will never permit to be money-spenders; and the noble army of litigant neighbours!

Ch. Yes! I see it all; and I ask myself, what is the satisfaction in life? What is it that men bewail the loss of? Take their kings; they seem to be best off, though, as you say, they have their happiness on a precarious tenure; but apart from that, we shall find their pleasures to be outweighed by the vexations inseparable from their position — worry and anxiety, flattery here, conspiracy there, enmity everywhere; to say nothing of the tyranny of Sorrow, Disease, and Passion, with whom there is confessedly no respect of persons. And if the king’s lot is a hard one, we may make a pretty shrewd guess at that of the commoner. Come now, I will give you a similitude for the life of man. Have you ever stood at the foot of a waterfall, and marked the bubbles rising to the surface and gathering into foam? Some are quite small, and break as soon as they are born. Others last longer; new ones come to join them, and they swell up to a great size: yet in the end they burst, as surely as the rest; it cannot be otherwise. There you have human life. All men are bubbles, great or small, inflated with the breath of life. Some are destined to last for a brief space, others perish in the very moment of birth: but all must inevitably burst.

Her. Homer compares mankind to leaves. Your simile is full as good as his.

Ch. And being the things they are, they do — the things you see; squabbling among themselves, and contending for dominion and power and riches, all of which they will have to leave behind them, when they come down to us with their penny apiece. Now that we are up here, how would it be for me to cry out to them at the top of my voice, to abstain from their vain endeavours, and live with the prospect of Death before their eyes? ‘Fools’ (I might say), ‘why so much in earnest? Rest from your toils. You will not live for ever. Nothing of the pomp of this world will endure; nor can any man take anything hence when he dies. He will go naked out of the world, and his house and his lands and his gold will be another’s, and ever another’s.’ If I were to call out something of this sort, loud enough for them to hear, would it not do some good? Would not the world be the better for it?

Her. Ah, my poor friend, you know not what you say. Ignorance and deceit have done for them what Odysseus did for his crew when he was afraid of the Sirens; they have waxed men’s ears up so effectually, that no drill would ever open them. How then should they hear you? You might shout till your lungs gave way. Ignorance is as potent here as the waters of Lethe are with you. There are a few, to be sure, who from a regard for Truth have refused the wax process; men whose eyes are open to discern good and evil.

Ch. Well then, we might call out to them?

Her. There again: where would be the use of telling them what they know already? See, they stand aloof from the rest of mankind, and scoff at all that goes on; nothing is as they would have it. Nay, they are evidently bent on giving life the slip, and joining you. Their condemnations of folly make them unpopular here.

Ch. Well done, my brave boys! There are not many of them, though, Hermes.

Her. These must serve. And now let us go down.

Ch. There is still one thing I had a fancy to see. Show me the receptacles into which they put the corpses, and your office will have been discharged.

Her. Ah, sepulchres, those are called, or tombs, or graves. Well, do you see those mounds, and columns, and pyramids, outside the various city walls? Those are the store-chambers of the dead.

Ch. Why, they are putting flowers on the stones, and pouring costly essences upon them. And in front of some of the mounds they have piled up faggots, and dug trenches. Look: there is a splendid banquet laid out, and they are burning it all; and pouring wine and mead, I suppose it is, into the trenches! What does it all mean?

Her. What satisfaction it affords to their friends in Hades, I am unable to say. But the idea is, that the shades come up, and get as close as they can, and feed upon the savoury steam of the meat, and drink the mead in the trench.

Ch. Eat and drink, when their skulls are dry bone? But I am wasting my breath: you bring them down every day; — you can say whether they are likely ever to get up again, once they are safely underground! That would be too much of a good thing! You would have your work cut out for you and no mistake, if you had not only to bring them down, but also to take them up again when they wanted a drink. Oh, fools and blockheads! You little know how we arrange matters, or what a gulf is set betwixt the living and the dead!

The buried and unburied, both are Death’s. He ranks alike the beggar and the king; Thersites sits by fair-haired Thetis’ son. Naked and withered roam the fleeting shades Together through the fields of asphodel.

Her. Bless me, what a deluge of Homer! And now I think of it, I must show you Achilles’s tomb. There it is on the Trojan shore, at Sigeum. And across the water is Rhoeteum, where Ajax lies buried.

Ch. Rather small tombs, considering. Now show me the great cities, those that we hear talked about in Hades; Nineveh, Babylon, Mycenae, Cleonae, and Troy itself. I shipped numbers across from there, I remember. For ten years running I had no time to haul my boat up and clean it.

Her. Why, as to Nineveh, it is gone, friend, long ago, and has left no trace behind it; there is no saying whereabouts it may have been. But there is Babylon, with its fine battlements and its enormous wall. Before long it will be as hard to find as Nineveh. As to Mycenae and Cleonae, I am ashamed to show them to you, let alone Troy. You will throttle Homer, for certain, when you get back, for puffing them so. They were prosperous cities, too, in their day; but they have gone the way of all flesh. Cities, my friend, die, just like men; stranger still, so do rivers! Inachus is gone from Argos — not a puddle left.

Ch. Oh, Homer, Homer! You and your ‘holy Troy,’ and your ‘city of broad streets,’ and your ‘strong-walled Cleonae’! — By the way, what is that battle going on over there? What are they murdering one another about?

Her. It is between the Argives and the Lacedaemonians. The general who lies there half-dead, writing an inscription on the trophy with his own blood, is Othryades.

Ch. And what were they fighting for?

Her. For the field of battle, neither more nor less.

Ch. The fools! Not to know that though each one of them should win to himself a whole Peloponnesus, he will get but a bare foot of ground from Aeacus! As to yonder plain, one nation will till it after another, and many a time will that trophy be turned up by the plough.

Her. Even so. And now let us get down, and put these mountains to rights again. After which, I must be off on my errand, and you back to your ferry. You will see me there before long, with the day’s contingent of shades.

Ch. I am much obliged to you, Hermes; the service shall be perpetuated in my records. Thanks to you, my outing has been a success. Dear, dear, what a world it is! — And never a word of Charon!


18 See Protesilaus in Notes.

19 See Olus in Notes.

Of Sacrifice

Methinks that man must lie sore stricken under the hand of sorrow, who has not a smile left for the folly of his superstitious brethren, when he sees them at work on sacrifice and festival and worship of the gods, hears the subject of their prayers, and marks the nature of their creed. Nor, I fancy, will a smile be all. He will first have a question to ask himself: Is he to call them devout worshippers or very outcasts, who think so meanly of God as to suppose that he can require anything at the hand of man, can take pleasure in their flattery, or be wounded by their neglect? Thus the afflictions of the Calydonians, that long tale of misery and violence, ending with the death of Meleager — all is attributed to the resentment of Artemis, at Oeneus’s neglect in not inviting her to a feast. She must have taken the disappointment very much to heart. I fancy I see her, poor Goddess, left all alone in Heaven, after the rest have set out for Calydon, brooding darkly over the fine spread at which she will not be present. Those Ethiopians, too; privileged, thrice-happy mortals! Zeus, one supposes, is not unmindful of the handsome manner in which they entertained him and all his family for twelve days running. With the Gods, clearly, nothing goes for nothing. Each blessing has its price. Health is to be had, say, for a calf; wealth, for a couple of yoke of oxen; a kingdom, for a hecatomb. A safe conduct from Troy to Pylos has fetched as much as nine bulls, and a passage from Aulis to Troy has been quoted at a princess. For six yoke of oxen and a robe, Athene sold Hecuba a reprieve for Troy; and it is to be presumed that a cock, a garland, a handful of frankincense, will each buy something.

Chryses, that experienced divine and eminent theologian, seems to have realized this principle. Returning from his fruitless visit to Agamemnon, he approaches Apollo with the air of a creditor, and demands repayment of his loan. His attitude is one of remonstrance, almost, ‘Good Apollo,’ he cries, ‘here have I been garlanding your temple, where never garland hung before, and burning unlimited thigh-pieces of bulls and goats upon your altars: yet when I suffer wrong, you take no heed; you count my benefactions as nothing worth.’ The God is quite put out of countenance: he seizes his bow, settles down in the harbour and smites the Achaeans with shafts of pestilence, them and their mules and their dogs.

And now that I have mentioned Apollo, I cannot refrain from an allusion to certain other passages in his life, which are recorded by the sages. With his unfortunate love affairs — the sad end of Hyacinth, and the cruelty of Daphne — we are not concerned. But when that vote of censure was passed on him for the slaughter of the Cyclopes, he was dismissed from Heaven, and condemned to share the fortunes of men upon earth. It was then that he served Admetus in Thessaly, and Laomedon in Phrygia; and in the latter service he was not alone. He and Posidon together, since better might not be, made bricks and built the walls of Troy; and did not even get their full wages; — the Phrygian, it is said, remained their debtor for no less a sum than five-and-twenty shillings Trojan, and odd pence. These, and yet holier mysteries than these, are the high themes of our poets. They tell of Hephaestus and of Prometheus; of Cronus and Rhea, and well-nigh all the family of Zeus. And as they never commence their poems without bespeaking the assistance of the Muses, we must conclude that it is under that divine inspiration that they sing, how Cronus unmanned his father Uranus, and was king in his room; and how, like Argive Thyestes, he swallowed his own children; and how thereafter Rhea saved Zeus by the fraud of the stone, and the child was exposed in Crete, and suckled by a goat, as Telephus was by a hind, and Cyrus the Great by a bitch; and how he dethroned his father, and threw him into prison, and was king; and of his many wives, and how finally (like a Persian or an Assyrian) he married his own sister Hera; and of his love adventures, and how he peopled the Heaven with gods, ay, and with demi-gods, the rogued for he wooed the daughters of earth, appearing to them now in a shower of gold, now in the form of a bull or a swan or an eagle; a very Proteus for versatility. Once, and only once, he conceived within his own brain, and gave birth to Athene. For Dionysus, they say, he tore from the womb of Semele before the fire had yet consumed her, and hid the child within his thigh, till the time of travail was come.

Similarly, we find Hera conceiving without external assistance, and giving birth to Hephaestus; no child of fortune he, but a base mechanic, living all his life at the forge, soot-begrimed as any stoker. He is not even sound of limb; he has been lame ever since Zeus threw him down from Heaven. Fortunately for us the Lemnians broke his fall, or there would have been an end of him, as surely as there was of Astyanax when he was flung from the battlements. But Hephaestus is nothing to Prometheus. Who knows not the sorrows of that officious philanthropist? How he too fell a victim to the wrath of Zeus, and was carried into Scythia, and nailed up on Caucasus, with an eagle to keep him company and make daily havoc of his liver? However, there was a reckoning settled, at any rate. But Rhea, now! We cannot, I think, pass over her conduct unnoticed. It is surely most discreditable; — a lady of her venerable years, the mother of such a family, still feeling the pangs of love and jealousy, and carrying her beloved Attis about with her in the lion-drawn car — and he so ill qualified to play the lover’s part! After that, we can but wink, if we find Aphrodite making a slip, or Selene time after time pulling up in mid-career to pay a visit to Endymion.

But enough of scandal. Borne on the wings of poesy, let us take flight for Heaven itself, as Homer and Hesiod have done before us, and see how all is disposed up there. The vault is of brass on the under side, as we know from Homer. But climb over the edge, and take a peep up. You are now actually in Heaven. Observe the increase of light; here is a purer Sun, and brighter stars; daylight is everywhere, and the floor is of gold. We arrive first at the abode of the Seasons; they are the fortresses of Heaven. Then we have Iris and Hermes, the servants and messengers of Zeus; and next Hephaestus’s smithy, which is stocked with all manner of cunning contrivances. Last come the dwellings of the Gods, and the palace of Zeus. All are the work of Hephaestus; and noble work it is.

Hard by the throne of Zeus

(I suppose we must adapt our language to our altitude)

sit all the gods.

Their eyes are turned downwards; intently they search every corner of the earth; is there nowhere a fire to be seen, or the steam of burnt-offerings

. . . in eddying clouds upborne?

If a sacrifice is going forward, all mouths are open to feast upon the smoke; like flies they settle on the altar to drink up the trickling streams of blood. If they are dining at home, nectar and ambrosia is the bill of fare. In ancient days, mortals have eaten and drunk at their table. Such were Ixion and Tantalus; but they forgot their manners, and talked too much. They are paying the penalty for it to this day; and since then mortals have been excluded from Heaven.

The life of the Gods being such as I have described, our religious ordinances are in admirable harmony with the divine requirements. Our first care has been to supply each God with his sacred grove, his holy hill, and his own peculiar bird or plant. The next step was to assign them their various sacred cities. Apollo has the freedom of Delphi and Delos, Athene that of Athens (there is no disputing her nationality); Hera is an Argive, Rhea a Mygdonian, Aphrodite a Paphian. As for Zeus, he is a Cretan born and bred — and buried, as any native of that island will show you. It was a mistake of ours to suppose that Zeus was dispensing the thunder and the rain and the rest of it; — he has been lying snugly underground in Crete all this time. As it would never have done to leave the Gods without a hearth and home, temples were now erected, and the services of Phidias, Polyclitus, and Praxiteles were called in to create images in their likeness. Chance glimpses of their originals (but where obtained I know not) enabled these artists to do justice to the beard of Zeus, the perpetual youth of Apollo, the down on Hermes’s cheek, Posidon’s sea-green hair, and Athene’s flashing eyes; with the result that on entering the temple of Zeus men believe that they see before them, not Indian ivory, nor gold from a Thracian mine, but the veritable son of Cronus and Rhea, translated to earth by the hand of Phidias, with instructions to keep watch over the deserted plains of Pisa, and content with his lot, if, once in four years, a spectator of the games can snatch a moment to pay him sacrifice.

And now the altars stand ready; proclamation has been made, and lustration duly performed. The victims are accordingly brought forward — an ox from the plough, a ram or a goat, according as the worshipper is a farmer, a shepherd, or a goatherd; sometimes it is only frankincense or a honey cake; nay, a poor man may conciliate the God by merely kissing his hand. But it is with the priests that we are concerned. They first make sure that the victim is without blemish, and worthy of the sacrificial knife; then they crown him with garlands and lead him to the altar, where he is slaughtered before the God’s eyes, to the broken accompaniment of his own sanctimonious bellowings, most musical, most melancholy. The delight of the Gods at such a spectacle, who can doubt?

According to the proclamation, no man shall approach the holy ground with unclean hands. Yet there stands the priest himself, wallowing in gore; handling his knife like a very Cyclops, drawing out entrails and heart, sprinkling the altar with blood — in short, omitting no detail of his holy office. Finally, he kindles fire, and sets the victim bodily thereon, sheep or goat, unfleeced, unflayed. A godly steam, and fit for godly nostrils, rises heavenwards, and drifts to each quarter of the sky. The Scythian, by the way, will have nothing to do with paltry cattle: he offers men to Artemis; and the offering is appreciated.

But all this, and all that Assyria, Phrygia, and Lydia can show, amounts to nothing much. If you would see the Gods in their glory, fit denizens of Heaven, you must go to Egypt. There you will find that Zeus has sprouted ram’s horns, our old friend Hermes has the muzzle of a dog, and Pan is perfect goat; ibis, crocodile, ape — each is a God in disguise.

And wouldst thou know the truth that lurks herein?

If so, you will find no lack of sages and scribes and shaven priests to inform you (after expulsion of the profanum vulgus) how, when the Giants and their other enemies rose against them, the Gods fled to Egypt to hide themselves, and there took the form of goat and ram, of bird and reptile, which forms they preserve to this day. Of all this they have documentary evidence, dating from thousands of years back, stored up in their temples. Their sacrifices differ from others only in this respect, that they go into mourning for the victim, slaying him first, and beating their breasts for grief afterwards, and (in some parts) burying him as soon as he is killed. When their great god Apis dies, off comes every man’s hair, however much he values himself on it; though he had the purple lock of Nisus, it would make no difference: he must show a sad crown on the occasion, if he die for it. It is as the result of an election that each succeeding Apis leaves his pasture for the temple; his superior beauty and majestic bearing prove that he is something more than bull.

On such absurdities as these, such vulgar credulity, remonstrance would be thrown away; a Heraclitus would best meet the case, or a Democritus; for the ignorance of these men is as laughable as their folly is deplorable.


Sale of Creeds


Zeus. Hermes. Several Dealers. Creeds.

Zeus. Now get those benches straight there, and make the place fit to be seen. Bring up the lots, one of you, and put them in line. Give them a rub up first, though; we must have them looking their best, to attract bidders. Hermes, you can declare the sale-room open, and a welcome to all comers. — For Sale! A varied assortment of Live Creeds. Tenets of every description. — Cash on delivery; or credit allowed on suitable security.

Hermes. Here they come, swarming in. No time to lose; we must not keep them waiting.

Zeus. Well, let us begin.

Her. What are we to put up first?

Zeus. The Ionic fellow, with the long hair. He seems a showy piece of goods.

Her. Step up, Pythagoreanism, and show yourself.

Zeus. Go ahead.

Her. Now here is a creed of the first water. Who bids for this handsome article? What gentleman says Superhumanity? Harmony of the Universe! Transmigration of souls! Who bids?

First Dealer. He looks all right. And what can he do?

Her. Magic, music, arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, jugglery. Prophecy in all its branches.

First D. Can I ask him some questions?

Her. Ask away, and welcome.

First D. Where do you come from?

Py. Samos.

First D. Where did you get your schooling?

Py. From the sophists in Egypt.

First D. If I buy you, what will you teach me?

Py. Nothing. I will remind you.

First D. Remind me?

Py. But first I shall have to cleanse your soul of its filth.

First D. Well, suppose the cleansing process complete. How is the reminding done?

Py. We shall begin with a long course of silent contemplation. Not a word to be spoken for five years.

First D. You would have been just the creed for Croesus’s son! But I have a tongue in my head; I have no ambition to be a statue. And after the five years’ silence?

Py. You will study music and geometry.

First D. A charming recipe! The way to be wise: learn the guitar.

Py. Next you will learn to count.

First D. I can do that already.

Py. Let me hear you.

First D. One, two, three, four —

Py. There you are, you see. Four (as you call it) is ten. Four the perfect triangle. Four the oath of our school.

First D. Now by Four, most potent Four! — higher and holier mysteries than these I never heard.

Py. Then you will learn of Earth, Air, Fire, and Water; their action, their movement, their shapes.

First D. Have Fire and Air and Water shapes?

Py. Clearly. That cannot move which lacks shape and form You will also find that God is a number; an intelligence; a harmony.

First D. You surprise me.

Py. More than this, you have to learn that you yourself are not the person you appear to be.

First D. What, I am some one else, not the I who am speaking to you?

Py. You are that you now: but you have formerly inhabited another body, and borne another name. And in course of time you will change once more.

First D. Why then I shall be immortal, and take one shape after another? But enough of this. And now what is your diet?

Py. Of living things I eat none. All else I eat, except beans.

First D. And why no beans? Do you dislike them?

Py. No. But they are sacred things. Their nature is a mystery. Consider them first in their generative aspect; take a green one and peel it, and you will see what I mean. Again, boil one and expose it to moonlight for a proper number of nights, and you have — blood. What is more, the Athenians use beans to vote with.

First D. Admirable! A very feast of reason. Now just strip, and let me see what you are like. Bless me, here is a creed with a golden thigh! He is no mortal, he is a God. I must have him at any price. What do you start him at?

Her. Forty pounds.

First D. He is mine for forty pounds.

Zeus. Take the gentleman’s name and address.

Her. He must come from Italy, I should think; Croton or Tarentum, or one of the Greek towns in those parts. But he is not the only buyer. Some three hundred of them have clubbed together.

Zeus. They are welcome to him. Now up with the next.

Her. What about yonder grubby Pontian? 21

Zeus. Yes, he will do.

Her. You there with the wallet and cloak; come along, walk round the room. Lot No. 2. A most sturdy and valiant creed, free-born. What offers?

Second D. Hullo, Mr. Auctioneer, are you going to sell a free man?

Her. That was the idea.

Second D. Take care, he may have you up for kidnapping. This might be matter for the Areopagus.

Her. Oh, he would as soon be sold as not. He feels just as free as ever.

Second D. But what is one to do with such a dirty fellow? He is a pitiable sight. One might put him to dig perhaps, or to carry water.

Her. That he can do and more. Set him to guard your house, and you will find him better than any watch-dog. — They call him Dog for short.

Second D. Where does he come from? and what is his method?

Her. He can best tell you that himself.

Second D. I don’t like his looks. He will probably snarl if I go near him, or take a snap at me, for all I know. See how he lifts his stick, and scowls; an awkward-looking customer!

Her. Don’t be afraid. He is quite tame.

Second D. Tell me, good fellow, where do you come from?

Dio. Everywhere. Second D. What does that mean?

Dio. It means that I am a citizen of the world.

Second D. And your model?

Dio. Heracles.

Second D. Then why no lion’s-skin? You have the orthodox club.

Dio. My cloak is my lion’s-skin. Like Heracles, I live in a state of warfare, and my enemy is Pleasure; but unlike him I am a volunteer. My purpose is to purify humanity.

Second D. A noble purpose. Now what do I understand to be your strong subject? What is your profession?

Dio. The liberation of humanity, and the treatment of the passions. In short, I am the prophet of Truth and Candour.

Second D. Well, prophet; and if I buy you, how shall you handle my case?

Dio. I shall commence operations by stripping off yours superfluities, putting you into fustian, and leaving you closeted with Necessity. Then I shall give you a course of hard labour. You will sleep on the ground, drink water, and fill your belly as best you can. Have you money? Take my advice and throw it into the sea. With wife and children and country you will not concern yourself; there will be no more of that nonsense. You will exchange your present home for a sepulchre, a ruin, or a tub. What with lupines and close-written tomes, your knapsack will never be empty; and you will vote yourself happier than any king. Nor will you esteem it any inconvenience, if a flogging or a turn of the rack should fall to your lot.

Second D. How! Am I a tortoise, a lobster, that I should be flogged and feel it not?

Dio. You will take your cue from Hippolytus; mutates mutandis.

Second D. How so?

Dio. ‘The heart may burn, the tongue knows nought thereof’. 22 Above all, be bold, be impudent; distribute your abuse impartially to king and commoner. They will admire your spirit. You will talk the Cynic jargon with the true Cynic snarl, scowling as you walk, and walking as one should who scowls; an epitome of brutality. Away with modesty, good-nature, and forbearance. Wipe the blush from your cheek for ever. Your hunting-ground will be the crowded city. You will live alone in its midst, holding communion with none, admitting neither friend nor guest; for such would undermine your power. Scruple not to perform the deeds of darkness in broad daylight: select your love-adventures with a view to the public entertainment: and finally, when the fancy takes you, swallow a raw cuttle-fish, and die. Such are the delights of Cynicism.

Second D. Oh, vile creed! Monstrous creed! Avaunt!

Dio. But look you, it is all so easy; it is within every man’s reach. No education is necessary, no nonsensical argumentation. I offer you a short cut to Glory. You may be the merest clown — cobbler, fishmonger, carpenter, money-changer; yet there is nothing to prevent your becoming famous. Given brass and boldness, you have only to learn to wag your tongue with dexterity.

Second D. All this is of no use to me. But I might make a sailor or a gardener of you at a pinch; that is, if you are to be had cheap. Three-pence is the most I can give.

Her. He is yours, to have and to hold. And good riddance to the brawling foul-mouthed bully. He is a slanderer by wholesale.

Zeus. Now for the Cyrenaic, the crowned and purple-robed.

Her. Attend please, gentlemen all. A most valuable article, this, and calls for a long purse. Look at him. A sweet thing in creeds. A creed for a king. Has any gentleman a use for the Lap of Luxury? Who bids?

Third D. Come and tell me what you know. If you are a practical creed, I will have you.

Her. Please not to worry him with questions, sir. He is drunk, and cannot answer; his tongue plays him tricks, as you see.

Third D. And who in his senses would buy such an abandoned reprobate? How he smells of scent! And how he slips and staggers about! Well, you must speak for him, Hermes. What can he do? What is his line?

Her. Well, for any gentleman who is not strait-laced, who loves a pretty girl, a bottle, and a jolly companion, he is the very thing. He is also a past master in gastronomy, and a connoisseur in voluptuousness generally. He was educated at Athens, and has served royalty in Sicily 23, where he had a very good character. Here are his principles in a nutshell: Think the worst of things: make the most of things: get all possible pleasure out of things.

Third D. You must look for wealthier purchasers. My purse is not equal to such a festive creed.

Her. Zeus, this lot seems likely to remain on our hands.

Zeus. Put it aside, and up with another. Stay, take the pair from Abdera and Ephesus; the creeds of Smiles and Tears. They shall make one lot.

Her. Come forward, you two. Lot No. 4. A superlative pair. The smartest brace of creeds on our catalogue.

Fourth D. Zeus! What a difference is here! One of them does nothing but laugh, and the other might be at a funeral; he is all tears. — You there! what is the joke?

Democr. You ask? You and your affairs are all one vast joke.

Fourth D. So! You laugh at us? Our business is a toy?

Democr. It is. There is no taking it seriously. All is vanity. Mere interchange of atoms in an infinite void.

Fourth D. Your vanity is infinite, if you like. Stop that laughing, you rascal. — And you, my poor fellow, what are you crying for? I must see what I can make of you.

Heracl. I am thinking, friend, upon human affairs; and well may I weep and lament, for the doom of all is sealed. Hence my compassion and my sorrow. For the present, I think not of it; but the future! — the future is all bitterness. Conflagration and destruction of the world. I weep to think that nothing abides. All things are whirled together in confusion. Pleasure and pain, knowledge and ignorance, great and small; up and down they go, the playthings of Time.

Fourth D. And what is Time?

Heracl. A child; and plays at draughts and blindman’s-bluff.

Fourth D. And men?

Heracl. Are mortal Gods.

Fourth D. And Gods?

Heracl. Immortal men.

Fourth D. So! Conundrums, fellow? Nuts to crack? You are a very oracle for obscurity.

Heracl. Your affairs do not interest me.

Fourth D. No one will be fool enough to bid for you at that rate.

Heracl. Young and old, him that bids and him that bids not, a murrain seize you all!

Fourth D. A sad case. He will be melancholy mad before long. Neither of these is the creed for my money.

Her. No one bids.

Zeus. Next lot.

Her. The Athenian there? Old Chatterbox?

Zeus. By all means.

Her. Come forward! — A good sensible creed this. Who buys Holiness?

Fifth D. Let me see. What are you good for?

Soc. I teach the art of love.

Fifth D. A likely bargain for me! I want a tutor for my young Adonis.

Soc. And could he have a better? The love I teach is of, the spirit, not of the flesh. Under my roof, be sure, a boy will come to no harm.

Fifth D. Very unconvincing that. A teacher of the art of love, and never meddle with anything but the spirit? Never use the opportunities your office gives you?

Soc. Now by Dog and Plane-tree, it is as I say!

Fifth D. Heracles! What strange Gods are these?

Soc. Why, the Dog is a God, I suppose? Is not Anubis made much of in Egypt? Is there not a Dog-star in Heaven, and a Cerberus in the lower world?

Fifth D. Quite so. My mistake. Now what is your manner of life?

Soc. I live in a city of my own building; I make my own laws, and have a novel constitution of my own.

Fifth D. I should like to hear some of your statutes.

Soc. You shall hear the greatest of them all. No woman shall be restricted to one husband. Every man who likes is her husband.

Fifth D. What! Then the laws of adultery are clean swept away?

Soc. I should think they were! and a world of hair-splitting with them.

Fifth D. And what do you do with the handsome boys?

Soc. Their kisses are the reward of merit, of noble and spirited actions.

Fifth D. Unparalleled generosity! — And now, what are the main features of your philosophy?

Soc. Ideas and types of things. All things that you see, the earth and all that is upon it, the sea, the sky — each has its counterpart in the invisible world.

Fifth D. And where are they?

Soc. Nowhere. Were they anywhere, they were not what they are.

Fifth D. I see no signs of these ‘types’ of yours.

Soc. Of course not; because you are spiritually blind. I see the counterparts of all things; an invisible you, an invisible me; everything is in duplicate.

Fifth D. Come, such a shrewd and lynx-eyed creed is worth a bid. Let me see. What do you want for him?

Her. Five hundred.

Fifth D. Done with you. Only I must settle the bill another day.

Her. What name?

Fifth D. Dion; of Syracuse.

Her. Take him, and much good may he do you. Now I want Epicureanism. Who offers for Epicureanism? He is a disciple of the laughing creed and the drunken creed, whom we were offering just now. But he has one extra accomplishment — impiety. For the rest, a dainty, lickerish creed.

Sixth D. What price?

Her. Eight pounds.

Sixth D. Here you are. By the way, you might let me know what he likes to eat.

Her. Anything sweet. Anything with honey in it. Dried figs are his favourite dish.

Sixth D. That is all right. We will get in a supply of Carian fig-cakes.

Zeus. Call the next lot. Stoicism; the creed of the sorrowful countenance, the close-cropped creed.

Her. Ah yes, several customers, I fancy, are on the look-out for him. Virtue incarnate! The very quintessence of creeds! Who is for universal monopoly?

Seventh D. How are we to understand that?

Her. Why, here is monopoly of wisdom, monopoly of beauty, monopoly of courage, monopoly of justice. Sole king, sole orator, sole legislator, sole millionaire.

Seventh D. And I suppose sole cook, sole tanner, sole carpenter, and all that?

Her. Presumably.

Seventh D. Regard me as your purchaser, good fellow, and tell me all about yourself. I dare say you think it rather hard to be sold for a slave?

Chrys. Not at all. These things are beyond our control. And what is beyond our control is indifferent.

Seventh D. I don’t see how you make that out.

Chrys. What! Have you yet to learn that of indifferentia some are praeposita and others rejecta?

Seventh D. Still I don’t quite see.

Chrys. No; how should you? You are not familiar with our terms. You lack the comprehensio visi. The earnest student of logic knows this and more than this. He understands the nature of subject, predicate, and contingent, and the distinctions between them.

Seventh D. Now in Wisdom’s name, tell me, pray, what is a predicate? what is a contingent? There is a ring about those words that takes my fancy.

Chrys. With all my heart. A man lame in one foot knocks that foot accidentally against a stone, and gets a cut. Now the man is subject to lameness; which is the predicate. And the cut is a contingency.

Seventh D. Oh, subtle! What else can you tell me?

Chrys. I have verbal involutions, for the better hampering, crippling, and muzzling of my antagonists. This is performed by the use of the far-famed syllogism.

Seventh D. Syllogism! I warrant him a tough customer.

Chrys. Take a case. You have a child?

Seventh D. Well, and what if I have?

Chrys. A crocodile catches him as he wanders along the bank of a river, and promises to restore him to you, if you will first guess correctly whether he means to restore him or not. Which are you going to say?

Seventh D. A difficult question. I don’t know which way I should get him back soonest. In Heaven’s name, answer for me, and save the child before he is eaten up.

Chrys. Ha, ha. I will teach you far other things than that.

Seventh D. For instance?

Chrys. There is the ‘Reaper.’ There is the ‘Rightful Owner.’ Better still, there is the ‘Electra’ and the ‘Man in the Hood.’

Seventh D. Who was he? and who was Electra?

Chrys. She was the Electra, the daughter of Agamemnon, to whom the same thing was known and unknown at the same time. She knew that Orestes was her brother: yet when he stood before her she did not know (until he revealed himself) that her brother was Orestes. As to the Man in the Hood, he will surprise you considerably. Answer me now: do you know your own father?

Seventh D. Yes.

Chrys. Well now, if I present to you a man in a hood, shall you know him? eh?

Seventh D. Of course not.

Chrys. Well, but the Man in the Hood is your father. You don’t know the Man in the Hood. Therefore you don’t know your own father.

Seventh D. Why, no. But if I take his hood off, I shall get at the facts. Now tell me, what is the end of your philosophy? What happens when you reach the goal of virtue?

Chrys. In regard to things external, health, wealth, and the like, I am then all that Nature intended me to be. But there is much previous toil to be undergone. You will first sharpen your eyes on minute manuscripts, amass commentaries, and get your bellyful of outlandish terms. Last but not least, it is forbidden to be wise without repeated doses of hellebore.

Seventh D. All this is exalted and magnanimous to a degree. But what am I to think when I find that you are also the creed of cent-per-cent, the creed of the usurer? Has he swallowed his hellebore? is he made perfect in virtue?

Chrys. Assuredly. On none but the wise man does usury sit well. Consider. His is the art of putting two and two together, and usury is the art of putting interest together. The two are evidently connected, and one as much as the other is the prerogative of the true believer; who, not content, like common men, with simple interest, will also take interest upon interest. For interest, as you are probably aware, is of two kinds. There is simple interest, and there is its offspring, compound interest. Hear Syllogism on the subject. ‘If I take simple interest, I shall also take compound. But I shall take simple interest: therefore I shall take compound.’

Seventh D. And the same applies to the fees you take from your youthful pupils? None but the true believer sells virtue for a fee?

Chrys. Quite right. I take the fee in my pupil’s interest, not because I want it. The world is made up of diffusion and accumulation. I accordingly practise my pupil in the former, and myself in the latter.

Seventh D. But it ought to be the other way. The pupil ought to accumulate, and you, ‘sole millionaire,’ ought to diffuse.

Chrys. Ha! you jest with me? Beware of the shaft of insoluble syllogism.

Seventh D. What harm can that do?

Chrys. It cripples; it ties the tongue, and turns the brain. Nay, I have but to will it, and you are stone this instant.

Seventh D. Stone! You are no Perseus, friend?

Chrys. See here. A stone is a body?

Seventh D. Yes.

Chrys. Well, and an animal is a body?

Seventh D. Yes.

Chrys. And you are an animal?

Seventh D. I suppose I am.

Chrys. Therefore you are a body. Therefore a stone.

Seventh D. Mercy, in Heaven’s name! Unstone me, and let me be flesh as heretofore.

Chrys. That is soon done. Back with you into flesh! Thus: Is every body animate?

Seventh D. No.

Chrys. Is a stone animate?

Seventh D. No.

Chrys. Now, you are a body?

Seventh D. Yes.

Chrys. And an animate body?

Seventh D. Yes.

Chrys. Then being animate, you cannot be a stone.

Seventh D. Ah! thank you, thank you. I was beginning to feel my limbs growing numb and solidifying like Niobe’s. Oh, I must have you. What’s to pay?

Her. Fifty pounds.

Seventh D. Here it is.

Her. Are you sole purchaser?

Seventh D. Not I. All these gentlemen here are going shares.

Her. A fine strapping lot of fellows, and will do the ‘Reaper’ credit.

Zeus. Don’t waste time. Next lot — the Peripatetic!

Her. Now, my beauty, now, Affluence! Gentlemen, if you want Wisdom for your money, here is a creed that comprises all knowledge.

Eighth D. What is he like?

Her. He is temperate, good-natured, easy to get on with; and his strong point is, that he is twins.

Eighth D. How can that be?

Her. Why, he is one creed outside, and another inside. So remember, if you buy him, one of him is called Esoteric, and the other Exoteric.

Eighth D. And what has he to say for himself?

Her. He has to say that there are three kinds of good: spiritual, corporeal, circumstantial.

Eighth D. There’s something a man can understand. How much is he?

Her. Eighty pounds.

Eighth D. Eighty pounds is a long price.

Her. Not at all, my dear sir, not at all. You see, there is some money with him, to all appearance. Snap him up before it is too late. Why, from him you will find out in no time how long a gnat lives, to how many fathoms’ depth the sunlight penetrates the sea, and what an oyster’s soul is like.

Eighth D. Heracles! Nothing escapes him.

Her. Ah, these are trifles. You should hear some of his more abstruse speculations, concerning generation and birth and the development of the embryo; and his distinction between man, the laughing creature, and the ass, which is neither a laughing nor a carpentering nor a shipping creature.

Eighth D. Such knowledge is as useful as it is ornamental. Eighty pounds be it, then.

Her. He is yours.

Zeus. What have we left?

Her. There is Scepticism. Come along, Pyrrhias, and be put up. Quick’s the word. The attendance is dwindling; there will be small competition. Well, who buys Lot 9?

Ninth D. I. Tell me first, though, what do you know?

Sc. Nothing.

Ninth D. But how’s that?

Sc. There does not appear to me to be anything.

Ninth D. Are not we something?

Sc. How do I know that?

Ninth D. And you yourself?

Sc. Of that I am still more doubtful.

Ninth D. Well, you are in a fix! And what have you got those scales for?

Sc. I use them to weigh arguments in, and get them evenly balanced, They must be absolutely equal — not a feather-weight to choose between them; then, and not till then, can I make uncertain which is right. Ninth D. What else can you turn your hand to?

Sc. Anything; except catching a runaway.

Ninth D. And why not that?

Sc. Because, friend, everything eludes my grasp.

Ninth D. I believe you. A slow, lumpish fellow you seem to be. And what is the end of your knowledge?

Sc. Ignorance. Deafness. Blindness.

Ninth D. What! sight and hearing both gone?

Sc. And with them judgement and perception, and all, in short, that distinguishes man from a worm.

Ninth D. You are worth money! — What shall we say for him?

Her. Four pounds.

Ninth D. Here it is. Well, fellow; so you are mine?

Sc. I doubt it.

Ninth D. Nay, doubt it not! You are bought and paid for.

Sc. It is a difficult case. . . . I reserve my decision.

Ninth D. Now, come along with me, like a good slave.

Sc. But how am I to know whether what you say is true?

Ninth D. Ask the auctioneer. Ask my money. Ask the spectators.

Sc. Spectators? But can we be sure there are any?

Ninth D. Oh, I’ll send you to the treadmill. That will convince you with a vengeance that I am your master.

Sc. Reserve your decision.

Ninth D. Too late. It is given.

Her. Stop that wrangling and go with your purchaser. Gentlemen, we hope to see you here again tomorrow, when we shall be offering some lots suitable for plain men, artisans, and shopkeepers.


20 The distinction between the personified creeds or philosophies here offered for sale, and their various founders or principal exponents, is but loosely kept up. Not only do most of the creeds bear the names of their founders, but some are even credited with their physical peculiarities and their personal experiences.

21 See Diogenes in Notes.

22 Hippolytus (in Euripides’s play of that name) is reproached with having broken an oath, and thus defends himself: ‘The tongue hath sworn: the heart knew nought thereof.’

23 See Aristippus in Notes.

The Fisher

A Resurrection Piece

Lucian or Parrhesiades. Socrates, Empedocles. Plato. Chrysippus. Diogenes. Aristotle. Other Philosophers. Platonists. Pythagoreans. Stoics. Peripatetics. Epicureans. Academics. Philosophy. Truth. Temperance. Virtue. Syllogism. Exposure. Priestess of Athene.

Soc. Stone the miscreant; stone him with many stones; clod him with clods; pot him with pots; let the culprit feel your sticks; leave him no way out. At him, Plato! come, Chrysippus, let him have it! Shoulder to shoulder, close the ranks;

Let wallet succour wallet, staff aid staff!

We are all parties in this war; not one of us but he has assailed. You, Diogenes, now if ever is the time for that stick of yours; stand firm, all of you. Let him reap the fruits of his reveling. What, Epicurus, Aristippus, tired already? ’tis too soon; ye sages,

Be men; relume that erstwhile furious wrath!

Aristotle, one more sprint. There! the brute is caught; we have you, villain. You shall soon know a little more about the characters you have assailed. Now, what shall we do with him? it must be rather an elaborate execution, to meet all our claims upon him; he owes a separate death to every one of us.

First Phil. Impale him, say I.

Second Phil. Yes, but scourge him first.

Third Phil. Tear out his eyes.

Fourth Phil. Ah, but first out with the offending tongue.

Soc. What say you, Empedocles?

Emp. Oh, fling him into a crater; that will teach him to vilify his betters.

Pl. ’Twere best for him, Orpheus or Pentheus like, to

Find death, dashed all to pieces on the rock;

so each might have taken a piece home with him.

Lu. Forbear; spare me; I appeal to the God of suppliants.

Soc. Too late; no loophole is left you now. And you know your Homer:

‘Twixt men and lions, covenants are null.’

Lu. Why, it is in Homer’s name that I ask my boon. You will perhaps pay reverence to his lines, and listen to a selection from him:

Slay not; no churl is he; a ransom take Of bronze and gold, whereof wise hearts are fain.

Pl. Why, two can play at that game; exempli gratia,

Reviler, babble not of gold, nor nurse Hope of escape from these our hands that hold thee.

Lu. Ah me, ah me! my best hopes dashed, with Homer! Let me fly to Euripides; it may be he will protect me:

Leave him his life; the suppliant’s life is sacred.

Pl. Does this happen to be Euripides too —

Evil men evil treated is no evil?

Lu. And will you slay me now for nought but words?

Pl. Most certainly; our author has something on that point too:

Unbridled lips And folly’s slips Invite Fate’s whips.

Lu. Oh, very well; as you are all set on murdering me, and escape is impossible, do at least tell me who you are, and what harm I have done you; it must be something irreparable, to judge by your relentless murderous pursuit.

Pl. What harm you have done us, vile fellow? your own conscience and your fine dialogues will tell you; you have called Philosophy herself bad names, and as for us, you have subjected us to the indignity of a public auction, and put up wise men — ay, and free men, which is more — for sale. We have reason to be angry; we have got a short leave of absence from Hades, and come up against you — Chrysippus here, Epicurus and myself, Aristotle yonder, the taciturn Pythagoras, Diogenes and all of us that your dialogues have made so free with.

Lu. Ah, I breathe again. Once hear the truth about my conduct to you, and you will never put me to death. You can throw away those stones. Or, no, keep them; you shall have a better mark for them presently.

Pl. This is trifling. This day thou diest; nay, even now,

A suit of stones shalt don, thy livery due.

Lu. Believe me, good gentlemen, I have been at much pains on your behalf to slay me is to slay one who should rather be selected for commendation a kindred spirit, a well-wisher, a man after your own heart, a promoter, if I may be bold to say it, of your pursuits. See to it that you catch not the tone of our latter-day philosophers, and be thankless, petulant, and hard of heart, to him that deserves better of you.

Pl. Talk of a brazen front! So to abuse us is to oblige us. I believe you are under the delusion that you are really talking to slaves; after the insolent excesses of your tongue, do you propose to chop gratitude with us?

Lu. How or when was I ever insolent to you? I have always been an admirer of philosophy, your panegyrist, and a student of the writings you left. All that comes from my pen is but what you give me; I deflower you, like a bee, for the behoof of mankind; and then there is praise and recognition; they know the flowers, whence and whose the honey was, and the manner of my gathering; their surface feeling is for my selective art, but deeper down it is for you and your meadow, where you put forth such bright blooms and myriad dyes, if one knows but how to sort and mix and match, that one be not in discord with another. Could he that had found you such have the heart to abuse those benefactors to whom his little fame was due? then he must be a Thamyris or Eurytus, defying the Muses who gave his gift of song, or challenging Apollo with the bow, forgetful from whom he had his marksmanship.

Pl. All this, good sir, is quite according to the principles of rhetoric; that is to say, it is clean contrary to the facts; your unscrupulousness is only emphasized by this adding of insult to injury; you confess that your arrows are from our quiver, and you use them against us; your one aim is to abuse us. This is our reward for showing you that meadow, letting you pluck freely, fill your bosom, and depart. For this alone you richly deserve death.

Lu. There; your ears are partial; they are deaf to the right. Why, I would never have believed that personal feeling could affect a Plato, a Chrysippus, an Aristotle; with you, of all men, I thought there was dry light. But, dear sirs, do not condemn me unheard; give me trial first. Was not the principle of your establishing — that the law of the stronger was not the law of the State, and that differences should be settled in court after due hearing of both sides? Appoint a judge, then; be you my accusers, by your own mouths or by your chosen representative; and let me defend my own case; then if I be convicted of wrong, and that be the court’s decision, I shall get my deserts, and you will have no violence upon your consciences. But if examination shows me spotless and irreproachable, the court will acquit me, and then turn you your wrath upon the deceivers who have excited you against me.

Pl. Ah, every cock to his own dunghill! You think you will hoodwink the jury and get off. I hear you are a lawyer, an advocate, an old hand at a speech. Have you any judge to suggest who will be proof against such an experienced corrupter as you?

Lu. Oh, be reassured. The official I think of proposing is no suspicious, dubious character likely to sell a verdict. What say you to forming the court yourselves, with Philosophy for your President?

Pl. Who is to prosecute, if we are the jury?

Lu. Oh, you can do both; I am not in the least afraid; so much stronger is my case; the defence wins, hands down.

Pl. Pythagoras, Socrates, what do you think? perhaps the I man’s appeal to law is not unreasonable.

Soc. No; come along, form the court, fetch Philosophy, and see what he has to say for himself. To condemn unheard is a sadly crude proceeding, not for us; leave that to the hasty people with whom might is right. We shall give occasion to the enemy to blaspheme if we stone a man without a hearing, professed lovers of justice as we are. We shall have to keep quiet about Anytus and Meletus, my accusers, and the jury on that occasion, if we cannot spare an hour to hear this fellow before he suffers. Pl. Very true, Socrates. We will go and fetch Philosophy. The decision shall be hers, and we will accept it, whatever it is.

Lu. Why, now, my masters, you are in a better and more law-abiding mood. However, keep those stones, as I said; you will need them in court. But where is Philosophy to be found? I do not know where she lives, myself. I once spent a long time wandering about in search of her house, wishing to make her acquaintance. Several times I met some long-bearded people in threadbare cloaks who professed to be fresh from her presence; I took their word for it, and asked them the way; but they knew considerably less about it than I, and either declined to answer, by way of concealing their ignorance, or else pointed to one door after another. I have never been able to find the right one to this day.

Many a time, upon some inward prompting or external offer of guidance, I have come to a door with the confident hope that this time I really was right; there was such a crowd flowing in and out, all of solemn persons decently habited and thoughtful-faced; I would insinuate myself into the press and go in too. What I found would be a woman who was not really natural, however skillfully she played at beauty unadorned; I could see at once that the apparent neglige of her hair was studied for effect, and the folds of her dress not so careless as they looked. One could tell that nature was a scheme of decoration with her, and artlessness an artistic device. The white lead and the rouge did not absolutely defy detection, and her talk betrayed her real vocation; she liked her lovers to appreciate her beauty, had a ready hand for presents, made room by her side for the rich, and hardly vouchsafed her poorer lovers a distant glance. Now and then, when her dress came a little open by accident, I saw that she had on a massive gold necklace heavier than a penal collar. That was enough for me; I would retrace my steps, sincerely pitying the unfortunates whom she led by the — beard, and their Ixion embracings of a phantom.

Pl. You are right there; the door is not conspicuous, nor generally known. However, we need not go to her house; we will wait for her here in the Ceramicus. I should think it is near her hour for coming back from the Academy, and taking her walk in the Poecile; she is very regular; to be sure, here she comes. Do you see the orderly, rather prim lady there, with the kindly look in her eyes, and the slow meditative walk?

Lu. I see several answering the description so far as looks and walk and clothes go. Yet among them all the real lady Philosophy can be but one.

Pl. True; but as soon as she opens her lips you will know.

Philos. Dear me, what are Plato and Chrysippus and Aristotle doing up here, and the rest of them — a living dictionary of my teachings? Alive again? how is this? have things been going wrong down there? you look angry. And who is your prisoner? a rifler of tombs? A murderer? a temple-robber?

Pl. Worse yet, Philosophy. He has dared to slander your most sacred self, and all of us who have been privileged to impart anything from you to posterity.

Philos. And did you lose your tempers over abusive words? Did you forget how Comedy handled me at the Dionysia, and how I yet counted her a friend? Did I ever sue her, or go and remonstrate? Or did I let her enjoy her holidays in the harmless old-fashioned way? I know very well that a jest spoils no real beauty, but rather improves it; so gold is polished by hard rubs, and shines all the brighter for it. But you seem to have grown passionate and censorious. Come, why are you strangling him like that?

Pl. We have got this one day’s leave, and come after him to give him his deserts. Rumours had reached us of the things he used to say about us in his lectures.

Philos. And are you going to kill him without a trial or a hearing? I can see he wishes to say something.

Pl. No; we decided to refer it all to you. If you will accept the task, the decision shall be yours.

Philos. Sir, what is your wish?

Lu. The same, dear Mistress; for none but you can find the truth. It cost me much entreaty to get the case reserved for you.

Pl. You call her Mistress now, scoundrel; the other day you were making out Philosophy the meanest of things, when before that great audience you let her several doctrines go for a pitiful threepence apiece.

Philos. It may be that it was not Ourself he then reviled, but some impostors who practised vile arts in our name.

Pl. The truth will soon come to light, if you will hear his defence.

Philos. Come we to the Areopagus — or better, to the Acropolis, where the panorama of Athens will be before us.

Ladies, will you stroll in the Poecile meanwhile? I will join you when I have given judgement.

Lu. Who are these, Philosophy? methinks their appearance is seemly as your own.

Philos. This with the masculine features is Virtue; then there is Temperance, and Justice by her side. In front is Culture; and this shadowy creature with the indefinite complexion is Truth.

Lu. I do not see which you mean.

Philos. Not see her? over there, all naked and unadorned, shrinking from observation, and always slipping out of sight.

Lu. Now I just discern her. But why not bring them all with you? there would be a fullness and completeness about that commission. Ah yes, and I should like to brief Truth on my behalf.

Philos. Well thought of; come, all of you; you will not mind sitting through a single case — in which we have a personal interest, too?

Truth. Go on, the rest of you; it is superfluous for me to hear what I know all about before.

Philos. But, Truth dear, your presence will be useful to us; you will show us what to think.

Truth. May I bring my two favourite maids, then?

Philos. And as many more as you like.

Truth. Come with me, Freedom and Frankness; this poor little adorer of ours is in trouble without any real reason; we shall be able to get him out of it. Exposure, my man, we shall not want you.

Lu. Ah yes, Mistress, let us have him, of all others; my opponents are no ordinary ruffians; they are people who make a fine show and are hard to expose; they have always some back way out of a difficulty; we must have Exposure.

Philos. Yes, we must, indeed; and you had better bring Demonstration too.

Truth. Come all of you, as you are such important legal persons.

Ar. What is this? Philosophy, he is employing Truth against us!

Philos. And are Plato and Chrysippus and Aristotle afraid of her lying on his behalf, being who she is?

Pl. Oh, well, no; only he is a sad plausible rogue; he will take her in.

Philos. Never fear; no wrong will be done, with madam Justice on the bench by us. Let us go up.

Prisoner, your name?

Lu. Parrhesiades, son of Alethion, son of Elanxicles. 24

Philos. And your country?

Lu. I am a Syrian from the Euphrates, my lady. But is the question relevant? Some of my accusers I know to be as much barbarians by blood as myself; but character and culture do not vary as a man comes from Soli or Cyprus, Babylon or Stagira. However, even one who could not talk Greek would be none the worse in your eyes, so long as his sentiments were right and just.

Philos. True, the question was unnecessary.

But what is your profession? that at least is essential.

Lu. I profess hatred of pretension and imposture, lying, and pride; the whole loathsome tribe of them I hate; and you know how numerous they are.

Philos. Upon my word, you must have your hands full at this profession!

Lu. I have; you see what general dislike and danger it brings upon me. However, I do not neglect the complementary branch, in which love takes the place of hate; it includes love of truth and beauty and simplicity and all that is akin to love. But the subjects for this branch of the profession are sadly few; those of the other, for whom hatred is the right treatment, are reckoned by the thousand. Indeed there is some danger of the one feeling being atrophied, while the other is over-developed.

Philos. That should not be; they run in couples, you know. Do not separate your two branches; they should have unity in diversity.

Lu. You know better than I, Philosophy. My way is just to hate a villain, and love and praise the good.

Philos. Well, well. Here we are at the appointed place. We will hold the trial in the forecourt of Athene Polias. Priestess, arrange our seats, while we salute the Goddess.

Lu. Polias, come to my aid against these pretenders, mindful of the daily perjuries thou hearest from them. Their deeds too are revealed to thee alone, in virtue of thy charge. Thou hast now thine hour of vengeance. If thou see me in evil case, if blacks be more than whites, then cast thou thy vote and save me!

Philos. So. Now we are seated, ready to hear your words. Choose one of your number, the best accuser you may, make your charge, and bring your proofs. Were all to speak, there would be no end. And you, Parrhesiades, shall afterwards make your defence.

Ch. Plato, none of us will conduct the prosecution better than you. Your thoughts are heaven-high, your style the perfect Attic; grace and persuasion, insight and subtlety, the cogency of well-ordered proof — all these are gathered in you. Take the spokesman’s office and say what is fitting on our behalf. Call to memory and roll in one all that ever you said against Gorgias, Polus, Hippias, Prodicus; you have now to do with a worse than them. Let him taste your irony; ply him with your keen incessant questions; and if you will, perorate with the mighty Zeus charioting his winged car through Heaven, and grudging if this fellow get not his deserts.

Pl. Nay, nay; choose one of more strenuous temper — Diogenes, Antisthenes, Crates, or yourself, Chrysippus. It is no time now for beauty or literary skill; controversial and forensic resource is what we want. This Parrhesiades is an orator.

Diog. Let me be accuser; no need for long speeches here. Moreover, I was the worst treated of all; threepence was my price the other day.

Pl. Philosophy, Diogenes will speak for us. But mind, friend, you are not to represent yourself alone, but think of us all. If we have any private differences of doctrine, do not go into that; never mind now which of us is right, but keep your indignation for Philosophy’s wrongs and the names he has called her. Leave alone the principles we differ about, and maintain what is common to us all. Now mark, you stand for us all; on you our whole fame depends; shall it come out majestic, or in the semblance he has given it?

Diog. Never fear; nothing shall be omitted; I speak for all. Philosophy may be softened by his words — she was ever gentle and forgiving — she may be minded to acquit him; but the fault shall not be mine; I will show him that our staves are more than ornaments.

Philos. Nay, take not that way; words, not bludgeons; ’tis better so. But no delay now; your time-allowance has begun; and the court is all attention.

Lu. Philosophy, let the rest take their seats and vote with you, leaving Diogenes as sole accuser.

Philos. Have you no fears of their condemning you?

Lu. None whatever; I wish to increase my majority, that is all.

Philos. I commend your spirit. Gentlemen, take your seats. Now, Diogenes.

Diog. With our lives on earth, Philosophy, you are acquainted; I need not dwell long upon them. Of myself I say nothing; but Pythagoras, Plato, Aristotle, Chrysippus, and the rest — who knows not the benefits that they conferred on mankind? I will come at once, then, to the insults to which we have been subjected by the thrice accursed Parrhesiades. He was, by his own account, an advocate; but he has left the courts and the fame there to be won, and has availed himself of all the verbal skill and proficiency so acquired for a campaign of abuse against us. We are impostors and deceivers; his audiences must ridicule and scorn us for nobodies. Did I say ‘nobodies’? he has made us an abomination, rather, in the eyes of the vulgar, and yourself with us, Philosophy. Your teachings are balderdash and rubbish; the noblest of your precepts to us he parodies, winning for himself applause and approval, and for us humiliation. For so it is with the great public; it loves a master of flouts and jeers, and loves him in proportion to the grandeur of what he assails; you know how it delighted long ago in Aristophanes and Eupolis, when they caricatured our Socrates on the stage, and wove farcical comedies around him. But they at least confined themselves to a single victim, and they had the charter of Dionysus; a jest might pass at holiday time, and the laughing God might be well pleased.

But this fellow gets together an upper-class audience, gives long thought to his preparations, writes down his slanders in a thick notebook, and uplifts his voice in vituperation of Plato, Pythagoras, Aristotle, Chrysippus, and in short all of us; he cannot plead holiday time, nor yet any private grievance; he might perhaps be forgiven if he had done it in self-defence; but it was he that opened hostilities. Worst of all, Philosophy, he shelters himself under your name, entices Dialogue from our company to be his ally and mouthpiece, and induces our good comrade Menippus to collaborate constantly with him; Menippus, more by token, is the one deserter and absentee on this occasion.

Does he not then abundantly deserve his fate? What conceivable defence is open to him, after his public defamation of all that is noblest? On the public which listened to him, too, the spectacle of his condign punishment will have a healthy effect; we shall see no more ridicule of Philosophy. Tame submission to insult would naturally enough be taken, not for moderation, but for insensibility and want of spirit. Who could be expected to put up with his last performance? He brought us to market like a gang of slaves, and handed us over to the auctioneer. Some, I believe, fetched high prices; but others went for four or five pounds, and as for me — confound his impudence, threepence! And fine fun the audience had out of it! We did well to be angry; we have come from Hades; and we ask you to give us satisfaction for this abominable outrage.

Resurgents. Hear, hear! well spoken, Diogenes; well and loyally.

Philos. Silence in court! Time the defence. Parrhesiades, it is now your turn; they are timing you; so proceed.

Par. Philosophy, Diogenes has been far indeed from exhausting his material; the greater part of it, and the more strongly expressed, he has passed by, for reasons best known to himself. I refer to statements of mine which I am as far from denying that I made as from having provided myself with any elaborate defence of them. Any of these that have been omitted by him, and not previously emphasized by myself, I propose now to quote; this will be the best way to show you who were the persons that I sold by auction and inveighed against as pretenders and impostors; please to concentrate your vigilance on the truth or falsehood of my descriptions. If what I say is injurious or severe, your censure will be more fairly directed at the perpetrators than at the discoverer of such iniquities. I had no sooner realized the odious practices which his profession imposes on an advocate — the deceit, falsehood, bluster, clamour, pushing, and all the long hateful list, than I fled as a matter of course from these, betook myself to your dear service, Philosophy, and pleased myself with the thought of a remainder of life spent far from the tossing waves in a calm haven beneath your shadow.

At my first peep into your realm, how could I but admire yourself and all these your disciples? there they were, legislating for the perfect life, holding out hands of help to those that would reach it, commending all that was fairest and best; fairest and best — but a man must keep straight on for it and never slip, must set his eyes unwaveringly on the laws that you have laid down, must tune and test his life thereby; and that, Zeus be my witness, there are few enough in these days of ours to do.

So I saw how many were in love, not with Philosophy, but with the credit it brings; in the vulgar externals, so easy for any one to ape, they showed a striking resemblance to the real article, perfect in beard and walk and attire; but in life and conduct they belied their looks, read your lessons backwards, and degraded their profession. Then I was wroth; methought it was as though some soft womanish actor on the tragic stage should give us Achilles or Theseus or Heracles himself; he cannot stride nor speak out as a Hero should, but minces along under his enormous mask; Helen or Polyxena would find him too realistically feminine to pass for them; and what shall an invincible Heracles say? Will he not swiftly pound man and mask together into nothingness with his club, for womanizing and disgracing him?

Well, these people were about as fit to represent you, and the degradation of it all was too much for me. Apes daring to masquerade as heroes! emulators of the ass at Cyme! The Cymeans, you know, had never seen ass or lion; so the ass came the lion over them, with the aid of a borrowed skin and his most awe-inspiring bray; however, a stranger who had often seen both brought the truth to light with a stick. But what most distressed me, Philosophy, was this: when one of these people was detected in rascality, impropriety, or immorality, every one put it down to philosophy, and to the particular philosopher whose name the delinquent took in vain without ever acting on his principles; the living rascal disgraced you, the long dead; for you were not there in the flesh to point the contrast; so, as it was clear enough that his life was vile and disgusting, your case was given away by association with his, and you had to share his disgrace.

This spectacle, I say, was too much for me; I began exposing them, and distinguishing between them and you; and for this good work you now arraign me. So then, if I find one of the Initiated betraying and parodying the Mysteries of the two Goddesses, and if I protest and denounce him, the transgression will be mine? There is something wrong there; why, at the Games, if an actor who has to present Athene or Posidon or Zeus plays his part badly, derogating from the divine dignity, the stewards have him whipped; well, the Gods are not angry with them for having the officers whip the man who wears their mask and their attire; I imagine they approve of the punishment. To play a slave or a messenger badly is a trifling offence, but to represent Zeus or Heracles to the spectators in an unworthy manner — that is a crime and a sacrilege.

I can indeed conceive nothing more extraordinary than that so many of them should get themselves absolutely perfect in your words, and then live precisely as if the sole object of reading and studying them had been to reverse them in practice. All their professions of despising wealth and appearances, of admiring nothing but what is noble, of superiority to passion, of being proof against splendour, and associating with its owners only on equal terms — how fair and wise and laudable they all are! But they take pay for imparting them, they are abashed in presence of the rich, their lips water at sight of coin; they are dogs for temper, hares for cowardice, apes for imitativeness, asses for lust, cats for thievery, cocks for jealousy. They are a perfect laughing-stock with their strivings after vile ends, their jostling of each other at rich men’s doors, their attendance at crowded dinners, and their vulgar obsequiousness at table. They swill more than they should and would like to swill more than they do, they spoil the wine with unwelcome and untimely disquisitions, and they cannot carry their liquor. The ordinary people who are present naturally flout them, and are revolted by the philosophy which breeds such brutes.

What is so monstrous is that every man of them says he has no needs, proclaims aloud that wisdom is the only wealth, and directly afterwards comes begging and makes a fuss if he is refused; it would hardly be stranger to see one in kingly attire, with tall tiara, crown, and all the attributes of royalty, asking his inferiors for a little something more. When they want to get something, we hear a great deal, to be sure, about community of goods — how wealth is a thing indifferent — and what is gold and silver? — neither more nor less worth than pebbles on the beach. But when an old comrade and tried friend needs help and comes to them with his modest requirements, ah, then there is silence and searchings of heart, unlearning of tenets and flat renunciation of doctrines. All their fine talk of friendship, with Virtue and The Good, have vanished and flown, who knows whither? they were winged words in sad truth, empty phantoms, only meant for daily conversational use.

These men are excellent friends so long as there is no gold or silver for them to dispute the possession of; exhibit but a copper or two, and peace is broken, truce void, armistice ended; their books are blank, their Virtue fled, and they so many dogs; some one has flung a bone into the pack, and up they spring to bite each other and snarl at the one which has pounced successfully. There is a story of an Egyptian king who taught some apes the sword-dance; the imitative creatures very soon picked it up, and used to perform in purple robes and masks; for some time the show was a great success, till at last an ingenious spectator brought some nuts in with him and threw them down. The apes forgot their dancing at the sight, dropped their humanity, resumed their apehood, and, smashing masks and tearing dresses, had a free fight for the provender. Alas for the corps de ballet and the gravity of the audience!

These people are just those apes; it is they that I reviled; and I shall never cease exposing and ridiculing them; but about you and your like — for there are, in spite of all, some true lovers of philosophy and keepers of your laws — about you or them may I never be mad enough to utter an injurious or rude word! Why, what could I find to say? what is there in your lives that lends itself to such treatment? but those pretenders deserve my detestation, as they have that of heaven. Why, tell me, all of you, what have such creatures to do with you? Is there a trace in their lives of kindred and affinity? Does oil mix with water? If they grow their beards and call themselves philosophers and look solemn, do these things make them like you? I could have contained myself if there had been any touch of plausibility in their acting; but the vulture is more like the nightingale than they like philosophers. And now I have pleaded my cause to the best of my ability. Truth, I rely upon you to confirm my words.

Philos. Parrhesiades, retire to a further distance. Well, and our verdict? How think you the man has spoken?

Truth. Ah, Philosophy, while he was speaking I was ready to sink through the ground; it was all so true. As I listened, I could identify every offender, and I was fitting caps all the time — this is so-and-so, that is the other man, all over. I tell you they were all as plain as in a picture — speaking likenesses not of their bodies only, but of their very souls.

Tem. Yes, Truth, I could not help blushing at it.

Philos. What say you, gentlemen?

Res. Why, of course, that he is acquitted of the charge, and stands recorded as our friend and benefactor. Our case is just that of the Trojans, who entertained the tragic actor only to find him reciting their own calamities. Well, recite away, our tragedian, with these pests of ours for dramatis personae.

Diog. I too, Philosophy, give him my need of praise; I withdraw my charges, and count him a worthy friend.

Philos. I congratulate you, Parrhesiades; you are unanimously acquitted, and are henceforth one of us.

Par. Your humble servant. Or no, I must find more tragic words to fit the solemnity of the occasion:

Victorious might My life’s path light, And ever strew with garlands bright!

Vir. Well, now we come to our second course; let us have in the other people and try them for their insults. Parrhesiades shall accuse them each in turn.

Par. Well said, Virtue. Syllogism, my boy, put your head out over the city and summon the philosophers.

Syl. Oyez, oyez! All philosophers to the Acropolis to make their defence before Virtue, Philosophy, and Justice.

Par. The proclamation does not bring them in flocks, does it? They have their reasons for keeping clear of Justice. And a good many of them are too busy with their rich friends. If you want them all to come, Syllogism, I will tell you what to say.

Philos. No, no; call them yourself, Parrhesiades, in your own way.

Par. Quite a simple matter. Oyez, oyez! All who profess philosophy and hold themselves entitled to the name of philosopher shall appear on the Acropolis for largesse; 8 pounds, with a sesame cake, to each. A long beard shall qualify for a square of compressed figs, in addition. Every applicant to have with him, of temperance, justice, and self-control, any that he is in possession of, it being clearly understood that these are not indispensable, and, of syllogisms, a complete set of five, these being the condition precedent of wisdom.

Two golden talents in the midst are set, His prize who wrangles best amongst his peers.

Just look! the ascent packed with a pushing crowd, at the very first sound of my 8 pounds. More of them along the Pelasgicum, more by the temple of Asclepius, a bigger crowd still over the Areopagus. Why, positively there are a few at the tomb of Talos; and see those putting ladders against the temple of Castor and Pollux; up they climb, buzzing and clustering like a swarm of bees. In Homeric phrase, on this side are exceeding many, and on that

Ten thousand, thick as leaves and flowers in spring.

Noisily they settle, the Acropolis is covered with them in a trice; everywhere wallet and beard, flattery and effrontery, staves and greed, logic and avarice. The little company which came up at the first proclamation is swamped beyond recovery, swallowed up in these later crowds; it is hopeless to find them, because of the external resemblance. That is the worst of it, Philosophy; you are really open to censure for not marking and labelling them; these impostors are often more convincing than the true philosophers.

Philos. It shall be done before long; at present let us receive them.

Platon. Platonists first!

Pyth. No, no; Pythagoreans first; our master is senior.

Stoics. Rubbish! the Porch is the best.

Peri. Now, now, this is a question of money; Peripatetics first there!

Epic. Hand over those cakes and fig-squares; as to the money, Epicureans will not mind waiting till the last.

Acad. Where are the two talents? none can touch the Academy at a wrangle; we will soon show you that.

Stoics. Not if we know it.

Philos. Cease your strife. Cynics there, no more pushing! And keep those sticks quiet. You have mistaken the nature of this summons. We three, Philosophy, Virtue, and Truth, are about to decide which are the true philosophers; that done, those whose lives are found to be in accord with our pleasure will be made happy by our award; but the impostors who are not truly of our kin we shall crush as they deserve, that they may no more make vain claims to what is too high for them. Ha! you fly? In good truth they do, jumping down the crags, most of them. Why, the Acropolis is deserted, except for — yes, a few have stood their ground and are not afraid of the judgement.

Attendants, pick up the wallet which yonder flying Cynic has dropped. Let us see what it contains — beans? a book? some coarse crust?

Par. Oh dear no. Here is gold; some scent; a mirror; dice.

Philos. Ah, good honest man! such were his little necessaries for the philosophic life, such his title to indulge in general abuse and instruct his neighbours.

Par. There you have them. The problem before you is, how the general ignorance is to be dispersed, and other people enabled to discriminate between the genuine and the other sort. Find the solution, Truth; for indeed it concerns you; Falsehood must not prevail; shall Ignorance shield the base while they counterfeit the good, and you never know it?

Truth. I think we had better give Parrhesiades this commission; he has been shown an honest man, our friend and your true admirer, Philosophy. Let him take Exposure with him and have interviews with all who profess philosophy; any genuine scion that he finds let him crown with olive and entertain in the Banqueting Hall; and for the rascals — ah, how many! — who are only costume philosophers, let him pull their cloaks off them, clip their beards short with a pair of common goatshears, and mark their foreheads or brand them between the eyebrows; the design on the branding iron to be a fox or an ape.

Philos. Well planned, Truth. And, Parrhesiades, here is a test for you; you know how young eagles are supposed to be tested by the sun; well, our candidates have not got to satisfy us that they can look at light, of course; but put gold, fame, and pleasure before their eyes; when you see one remain unconscious and unattracted, there is your man for the olive; but when one looks hard that way, with a motion of his hand in the direction of the gold, first off with his beard, and then off with him to the brander.

Par. I will follow your instructions, Philosophy; you will soon find a large majority ornamented with fox or ape, and very few with olive. If you like, though, I will get some of them up here for you to see.

Philos. What do you mean? bring them back after that stampede?

Par. Oh yes, if the priestess will lend me the line I see there and the Piraean fisherman’s votive hook; I will not keep them long.

Priestess. You can have them; and the rod to complete the equipment.

Par. Thanks; now quickly, please, a few dried figs and a handful of gold.

Priestess. There.

Philos. What is all this about?

Priestess. He has baited his hook with the figs and gold, and is sitting on the parapet dangling it over the city.

Philos. What are you doing, Parrhesiades? do you think you are going to fish up stones from the Pelasgicum?

Par. Hush! I wait till I get a bite. Posidon, the fisherman’s friend, and you, dear Amphitrite, send me good fishing!

Ah, a fine bass; no, it is not; it is a gilthead.

Expo. A shark, you mean; there, see, he is getting near the hook, open-mouthed too. He scents the gold; now he is close — touching — he has it; up with him!

Par. Give me a hand with the line, Exposure; here he is. Now, my best of fishes, what do we make of you? Salmo Cynicus, that is what you are. Good gracious, what teeth! Aha, my brave fish, caught snapping up trifles in the rocks, where you thought you could lurk unobserved? But now you shall hang by the gills for every one to look at you. Pull out hook and bait. Why, the hook is bare; he has not been long assimilating the figs, eh? and the gold has gone down too.

Diog. Make him disgorge; we want the bait for some more.

Par. There, then. Now, Diogenes, do you know who it is? has the fellow anything to do with you?

Diog. Nothing whatever.

Par. Well, what do you put him at? threepence was the price fixed the other day.

Diog. Too much. His flavour and his looks are intolerable — a coarse worthless brute. Drop him head first over the rock, and catch another. But take care your rod does not bend to breaking point.

Par. No fear; they are quite light — about the weight of a gudgeon.

Diog. About the weight and about the wit. However, up with them.

Par. Look; what is this one? a sole? flat as a plate, thin as one of his own fillets; he gapes for the hook; down it goes; we have him; up he comes.

Diog. What is he?

Expo. His plateship would be a Platonist.

Pl. You too after the gold, villain?

Par. Well, Plato? what shall we do with him?

Pl. Off with him from the same rock.

Diog. Try again.

Par. Ah, here is a lovely one coming, as far as one can judge in deep water, all the colours of the rainbow, with gold bars across the back. Do you see, Exposure? this is the sham Aristotle. There he is; no, he has shied. He is having a good look round; here he comes again; his jaws open; caught! haul up.

Ar. You need not apply to me; I do not know him.

Par. Very well, Aristotle; over he goes.

Hullo! I see a whole school of them together, all one colour, and covered with spines and horny scales, as tempting to handle as a hedgehog. We want a net for these; but we have not got one. Well, it will do if we pull up one out of the lot. The boldest of them will no doubt try the hook.

Expo. You had better sheathe a good bit of the line before you let it down; else he will gorge the gold and then saw the line through.

Par. There it goes. Posidon grant me a quick catch! There now! they are fighting for the bait, a lot of them together nibbling at the figs, and others with their teeth well in the gold. That is right; one soundly hooked. Now let me see, what do you call yourself? And yet how absurd to try and make a fish speak; they are dumb. Exposure, tell us who is his master,

Expo. Chrysippus.

Par. Ah, he must have a master with gold in his name, must he? Chrysippus, tell me seriously, do you know these men? are you responsible for the way they live?

Ch. My dear Parrhesiades, I take it ill that you should suggest any connexion between me and such creatures.

Par. Quite right, and like you. Over he goes head first like the others; if one tried to eat him, those spines might stick in one’s throat.

Philos. You have fished long enough, Parrhesiades; there are so many of them, one might get away with gold, hook and all, and you have the priestess to pay. Let us go for our usual stroll; and for all you it is time to be getting back to your place, if you are not to outstay your leave. Parrhesiades, you and Exposure can go the rounds now, and crown or brand as I told you.

Par. Good, Philosophy. Farewell, ye best of men. Come, Exposure, to our commission. Where shall we go first? the Academy, do you think, or the Porch?

Expo. We will begin with the Lyceum.

Par. Well, it makes no difference. I know well enough that wherever we go there will be few crowns wanted, and a good deal of branding.


24 i.e. Free-speaker, son of Truthful, son of Exposure.

Voyage to the Lower World

Charon. Clotho. Hermes. Shades. Rhadamanthus. Tisiphone. Lamp. Bed

Cha. You see how it is, Clotho; here has all been ship-shape and ready for a start this long time; the hold baled out, the mast stepped, the sail hoisted, every oar in its rowlock; it is no fault of mine that we don’t weigh anchor and sail. ’Tis Hermes keeps us; he should have been here long ago. Not a passenger on board, as you may see; and we might have made the trip three times over by this. Evening is coming on now; and never a penny taken all day! I know how it will be: Pluto will think I have been wanting to my work. It is not I that am to blame, but our fine gentleman of a supercargo. He is just like any mortal: he has taken a drink of their Lethe up there, and forgotten to come back to us. He’ll be wrestling with the lads, or playing on his lyre, or giving his precious gift of the gab a good airing; or he’s off after plunder, the rascal, for what I know: ’tis all in the day’s work with him. He is getting too independent: he ought to remember that he belongs to us, one half of him.

Clo. Well, well, Charon; perhaps he has been busy: Zeus may have had some particular occasion for his services in the upper world; he has the use of him too, remember.

Cha. That doesn’t say that he should make use of him beyond what’s reasonable. Hermes is common property. We have never kept him here when he was due to go. No, I know what it is. In these parts of ours all is mist and gloom and darkness, and nothing to be had but asphodel and libations and sacrificial cakes and meats. Yonder in Heaven, all’s bright, with plenty of ambrosia, and no end of nectar. Small wonder that he likes to loiter there. When he leaves us, ’tis on wings; it is as though he escaped from prison. But when the time comes for return, he tramps it on foot, and has much ado to get here at all.

Clo. Well, never mind now; here he comes, look, and a fine host of passengers with him; a fine flock, rather; he hustles them along with his staff like so many goats. But what’s this? One of them is bound, and another enjoying the joke; and there is one with a wallet slung beside him, and a stick in his hand; a cantankerous-looking fellow; he keeps the rest moving. And just look at Hermes! Bathed in perspiration, and his feet covered with dust! See how he pants; he is quite out of breath. What is the matter, Hermes? Tell us all about it; you seem disturbed.

Her. The matter is that this rascal ran away; I had to go after him, and had well nigh played you false for this trip, I can tell you.

Clo. Why, who is he? What did he want to run away for?

Her. His motive is sufficiently clear: he had a preference for remaining alive. He is some king or tyrant, as I gather from his piteous allusions to blessedness no longer his.

Clo. And the fool actually tried to run away, and thought to prolong his life when the thread of Fate was exhausted?

Her. Tried! He would have got clean away, but for that capital fellow there with the club; he gave me a hand, and we caught and bound him. The whole way along, from the moment that Atropus handed him over to me, he dragged and hung back, and dug his heels into the ground: it was no easy work getting him along. Every now and then he would take to prayers and entreaties: Would I let him go just for a few minutes? he would make it worth my while. Of course I was not going to do that; it was out of the question. — Well, we had actually got to the very pit’s mouth, when somehow or other this double-dyed knave managed to slip off, whilst I was telling over the Shades to Aeacus, as usual, and he checking them by your sister’s invoice. The consequence was, we were one short of tally. Aeacus raised his eyebrows. ‘Hermes,’ he said, ‘everything in its right place: no larcenous work here, please. You play enough of those tricks in Heaven. We keep strict accounts here: nothing escapes us. The invoice says 1,004; there it is in black and white. You have brought me one short, unless you say that Atropus was too clever for you.’ I coloured up at that; and then all at once I remembered what had happened on the way, and when I looked round and this fellow was nowhere to be seen, I knew that he must have made off, and I set off after him along the road to the upper world, as fast as I could go. My worthy friend here volunteered for the service; so we made a race of it, and caught the runaway just as he got to Taenarum! It was a near thing.

Clo. There now, Charon! And we were beginning to accuse Hermes of neglect.

Cha. Well, and why are we waiting here, as if there had not been enough delay already?

Clo. True. Let them come aboard. I’ll to my post by the gangway, with my notebook, and take their names and countries as they come up, and details of their deaths; and you can stow them away as you get them. — Hermes, let us have those babies in first; I shall get nothing out of them.

Her. Here, skipper. Three hundred of them, including those that were exposed.

Cha. A precious haul, on my word!-These are but green grapes, Hermes.

Her. Who next, Clotho? The Unwept?

Clo. Ah! I take you. — Yes, up with the old fellows. I have no time today for prehistoric research. All over sixty, pass on! What’s the matter with them? They don’t hear me; they are deaf with age. I think you will have to pick them up, like the babies, and get them along that way.

Her. Here they are; fine well-matured fruit, gathered in due season; three hundred and ninety-eight of them.

Cha. Nay, nay; these are no better than raisins.

Clo. Bring up the wounded next, Hermes. Now I can get to work. Tell me how you were killed. Or no; I had better look at my notes, and call you over. Eighty-four due to be killed in battle yesterday, in Mysia, These to include Gobares, son of Oxyartes.

Her. Adsunt.

Clo. The seven who killed themselves for love. Also Theagenes, the philosopher, for love of the Megarian courtesan.

Her. Here they are, look.

Clo. And the rival claimants to thrones, who slew one another?

Her. Here!

Clo. And the one murdered by his wife and her paramour?

Her. Straight in front of you.

Clo. Now the victims of the law — the cudgelled and the crucified. And where are those sixteen who were killed by robbers?

Her. Here; you may know them by their wounds. Am I to bring the women too?

Clo. Yes, certainly; and all who were shipwrecked; it is the same kind of death. And those who died of fever, bring them too, the doctor Agathocles and all. Then there was a Cynic philosopher, who was to have succumbed to a dinner with Dame Hecate, eked out with sacrificial eggs and a raw cuttlefish; where is he?

Cy. Here I stand this long time, my good Clotho. — Now what had I done to deserve such a weary spell of life? You gave me pretty nearly a spindleful of it. I often tried to cut the thread and away; but somehow it never would give.

Clo. I left you as a censor and physician of human frailties; pass on, and good luck to you.

Cy. No, by Zeus! First let us see our captive safe on board. Your judgement might be perverted by his entreaties.

Clo. Let me see; who is he?

Her. Megapenthes, son of Lacydes; tyrant.

Clo. Come up, Megapenthes.

Me. Nay, nay, my lady Clotho; suffer me to return for a little while, and I will come of my own accord, without waiting to be summoned.

Clo. What do you want to go for?

Me. I crave permission to complete my palace; I left the building half-finished.

Clo. Pooh! Come along.

Me. Oh Fate, I ask no long reprieve. Vouchsafe me this one day, that I may inform my wife where my great treasure lies buried.

Clo. Impossible. ’Tis Fate’s decree.

Me. And all that money is to be thrown away?

Clo. Not thrown away. Be under no uneasiness. Your cousin Megacles will take charge of it.

Me. Oh, monstrous! My enemy, whom from sheer good nature I omitted to put to death?

Clo. The same. He will survive you for rather more than forty years; in the full enjoyment of your harem, your wardrobe, and your treasure.

Me. It is too bad of you, Clotho, to hand over my property to my worst enemy.

Clo. My dear sir, it was Cydimachus’s property first, surely? You only succeeded to it by murdering him, and butchering his children before his eyes.

Me. Yes, but it was mine after that.

Clo. Well, and now your term of possession expires.

Me. A word in your ear, madam; no one else must hear this. — Sirs, withdraw for a space. — Clotho, if you will let me escape, I pledge myself to give you a quarter of a million sterling this very day.

Clo. Ha, ha! So your millions are still running in your head?

Me. Shall I throw in the two mixing-bowls that I got by the murder of Cleocritus? They weigh a couple of tons apiece; refined gold!

Clo. Drag him up. We shall never get him to come on board by himself.

Me. I call you all to witness! My city-wall, my docks, remain unfinished. I only wanted five days more to complete them.

Clo. Never mind. It will be another’s work now.

Me. Stay! One request I can make with a clear conscience.

Clo. Well?

Me. Suffer me only to complete the conquest of Persia; . . . and to impose tribute on Lydia; . . . and erect a colossal monument to myself, . . . and inscribe thereon the military achievements of my life. Then let me die.

Clo. Creature, this is no single day’s reprieve: you would want something like twenty years.

Me. Oh, but I am quite prepared to give security for my expeditious return. Nay, I could provide a substitute, if preferred — my well-beloved!

Clo. Wretch! How often have you prayed that he might survive you!

Me. That was a long time ago. Now — I see a better use for him.

Clo. But he is due to be here, shortly, let me tell you. He is to be put to death by the new sovereign.

Me. Well, Clotho, I hope you will not refuse my last request.

Clo. Which is?

Me. I should like to know how things will be, now that I am gone.

Clo. Certainly; you shall have that mortification. Your wife will pass into the hands of Midas, your slave; he has been her gallant for some time past.

Me. A curse on him! ’Twas at her request that I gave him his freedom.

Clo. Your daughter will take her place in the harem of the present monarch. Then all the old statues and portraits which the city set up in your honour will be overturned — to the entertainment, no doubt, of the spectators.

Me. And will no friend resent these doings?

Clo. Who was your friend? Who had any reason to be? Need I explain that the cringing courtiers who lauded your every word and deed were actuated either by hope or by fear — time-servers every man of them, with a keen eye to the main chance?

Me. And these are they whose feasts rang with my name! who, as they poured their libations, invoked every blessing on my head! Not one but would have died before me, could he have had his will; nay, they swore by no other name.

Clo. Yes; and you dined with one of them yesterday, and it cost you your life. It was that last cup you drank that brought you here.

Me. Ah, I noticed a bitter taste. — But what was his object?

Clo. Oh, you want to know too much. It is high time you came on board.

Me. Clotho, I had a particular reason for desiring one more glimpse of daylight. I have a burning grievance!

Clo. And what is that? Something of vast importance, I make no doubt.

Me. It is about my slave Carion. The moment he knew of my death, he came up to the room where I lay; it was late in the evening; he had plenty of time in front of him, for not a soul was watching by me; he brought with him my concubine Glycerium (an old affair, this, I suspect), closed the door, and proceeded to take his pleasure with her, as if no third person had been in the room! Having satisfied the demands of passion, he turned his attention to me. ‘You little villain,’ he cried, ‘many’s the flogging I’ve had from you, for no fault of mine!’ And as he spoke he plucked out my hair and smote me on the face. ‘Away with you,’ he cried finally, spitting on me, ‘away to the place of the damned!’— and so withdrew. I burned with resentment: but there I lay stark and cold, and could do nothing. That baggage Glycerium, too, hearing footsteps approaching, moistened her eyes and pretended she had been weeping for me; and withdrew sobbing, and repeating my name. — If I could but get hold of them —

Clo. Never mind what you would do to them, but come on board. The hour is at hand when you must appear before the tribunal.

Me. And who will presume to give his vote against a tyrant?

Clo. Against a tyrant, who indeed? Against a Shade, Rhadamanthus will take that liberty. He is strictly impartial, as you will presently observe, in adapting his sentences to the requirements of individual cases. And now, no more delay.

Me. Dread Fate, let me be some common man — some pauper! I have been a king — let me be a slave! Only let me live!

Clo. Where is the one with the stick? Hermes, you and he must drag him up feet foremost. He will never come up by himself.

Her. Come along, my runagate. Here you are, skipper. And I say, keep an eye —

Cha. Never fear. We’ll lash him to the mast.

Me. Look you, I must have the seat of honour.

Clo. And why exactly?

Me. Can you ask? Was I not a tyrant, with a guard of ten thousand men?

Cy. Oh, dullard! And you complain of Carion’s pulling your hair! Wait till you get a taste of this stick; you shall know what it is to be a tyrant.

Me. What, shall a Cynic dare to raise his staff against me? Sirrah, have you forgotten the other day, when I had all but nailed you to the cross, for letting that sharp censorious tongue of yours wag too freely?

Cynic. Well, and now it is your turn to be nailed — to the mast.

Mi. And what of me, mistress? Am I to be left out of the reckoning? Because I am poor, must I be the last to come aboard?

Clo. Who are you?

Mi. Micyllus the cobbler.

Clo. A cobbler, and cannot wait your turn? Look at the tyrant: see what bribes he offers us, only for a short reprieve. It is very strange that delay is not to your fancy too.

Mi. It is this way, my lady Fate. I find but cold comfort in that promise of the Cyclops: ‘Outis shall be eaten last,’ said he; but first or last, the same teeth are waiting. And then, it is not the same with me as with the rich. Our lives are what they call ‘diametrically opposed.’ This tyrant, now, was thought happy while he lived; he was feared and respected by all: he had his gold and his silver; his fine clothes and his horses and his banquets; his smart pages and his handsome ladies — and had to leave them all. No wonder if he was vexed, and felt the tug of parting. For I know not how it is, but these things are like birdlime: a man’s soul sticks to them, and will not easily come away; they have grown to be a part of him. Nay, ’tis as if men were bound in some chain that nothing can break; and when by sheer force they are dragged away, they cry out and beg for mercy. They are bold enough for aught else, but show them this same road to Hades, and they prove to be but cowards. They turn about, and must ever be looking back at what they have left behind them, far off though it be — like men that are sick for love. So it was with the fool yonder: as we came along, he was for running away; and now he tires you with his entreaties. As for me, I had no stake in life; lands and horses, money and goods, fame, statues — I had none of them; I could not have been in better trim: it needed but one nod from Atropus — I was busied about a boot at the time, but down I flung knife and leather with a will, jumped up, and never waited to get my shoes, or wash the blacking from my hands, but joined the procession there and then, ay, and headed it, looking ever forward; I had left nothing behind me that called for a backward glance. And, on my word, things begin to look well already. Equal rights for all, and no man better than his neighbour; that is hugely to my liking. And from what I can learn there is no collecting of debts in this country, and no taxes; better still, no shivering in winter, no sickness, no hard knocks from one’s betters. All is peace. The tables are turned: the laugh is with us poor men; it is the rich that make moan, and are ill at ease.

Clo. To be sure, I noticed that you were laughing, some time ago. What was it in particular that excited your mirth?

Mi. I’ll tell you, best of Goddesses. Being next door to a tyrant up there, I was all eyes for what went on in his house; and he seemed to me neither more nor less than a God. I saw the embroidered purple, the host of courtiers, the gold, the jewelled goblets, the couches with their feet of silver: and I thought, this is happiness. As for the sweet savour that arose when his dinner was getting ready, it was too much for me; such blessedness seemed more than human. And then his proud looks and stately walk and high carriage, striking admiration into all beholders! It seemed almost as if he must be handsomer than other men, and a good eighteen inches taller. But when he was dead, he made a queer figure, with all his finery gone; though I laughed more at myself than at him: there had I been worshipping mere scum on no better authority than the smell of roast meat, and reckoning happiness by the blood of Lacedaemonian sea-snails! There was Gniphon the usurer, too, bitterly reproaching himself for having died without ever knowing the taste of wealth, leaving all his money to his nearest relation and heir-at-law, the spendthrift Rhodochares, when he might have had the enjoyment of it himself.

When I saw him, I laughed as if I should never stop: to think of him as he used to be, pale, wizened, with a face full of care, his fingers the only rich part of him, for they had the talents to count — scraping the money together bit by bit, and all to be squandered in no time by that favourite of Fortune, Rhodochares! — But what are we waiting for now? There will be time enough on the voyage to enjoy their woebegone faces, and have our laugh out.

Clo. Come on board, and then the ferryman can haul up the anchor.

Cha. Now, now! What are you doing here? The boat is full. You wait till tomorrow. We can bring you across in the morning.

Mi. What right have you to leave me behind — a shade of twenty-four hours’ standing? I tell you what it is, I shall have you up before Rhadamanthus. A plague on it, she’s moving! And here I shall be left all by myself. Stay, though: why not swim across in their wake? No matter if I get tired; a dead man will scarcely be drowned. Not to mention that I have not a penny to pay my fare.

Clo. Micyllus! Stop! You must not come across that way; Heaven forbid!

Mi. Ha, ha! I shall get there first, and I shouldn’t wonder.

Clo. This will never do. We must get to him, and pick him up. . . . Hermes, give him a hand up.

Cha. And where is he to sit now he is here? We are full up, as you may see.

Her. What do you say to the tyrant’s shoulders?

Clo. A good idea that.

Cha. Up with you then; and make the rascal’s back ache. And now, good luck to our voyage!

Cy. Charon, I may as well tell you the plain truth at once. The penny for my fare is not forthcoming; I have nothing but my wallet, look, and this stick. But if you want a hand at baling, here I am; or I could take an oar; only give me a good stout one, and you shall have no fault to find with me.

Cha. To it, then; and I’ll ask no other payment of you.

Cy. Shall I tip them a stave?

Cha. To be sure, if you have a sea-song about you.

Cy. I have several. Look here though, an opposition is starting: a song of lamentation. It will throw me out.

Sh. Oh, my lands, my lands! — Ah, my money, my money! — Farewell, my fine palace! — The thousands that fellow will have to squander! — Ah, my helpless children! — To think of the vines I planted last year! Who, ah who, will pluck the grapes? ——

Her. Why, Micyllus, have you never an Oh or an Ah? It is quite improper that any shade should cross the stream, and make no moan.

Mi. Get along with you. What have I to do with Ohs and Ahs? I’m enjoying the trip!

Her. Still, just a groan or two. It’s expected.

Mi. Well, if I must, here goes. — Farewell, leather, farewell! Ah, Soles, old Soles! — Oh, ancient Boots! — Woe’s me! Never again shall I sit empty from morn till night; never again walk up and down, of a winter’s day, naked, unshod, with chattering teeth! My knife, my awl, will be another’s: whose, ah! whose?

Her. Yes, that will do. We are nearly there.

Cha. Wait a bit! Fares first, please. Your fare, Micyllus; every one else has paid; one penny.

Mi. You don’t expect to get a penny out of the poor cobbler? You’re joking, Charon; or else this is what they call a ‘castle in the air.’ I know not whether your penny is square or round.

Cha. A fine paying trip this, I must say! However — all ashore! I must fetch the horses, cows, dogs, and other livestock. Their turn comes now.

Clo. You can take charge of them for the rest of the way, Hermes. I am crossing again to see after the Chinamen, Indopatres and Heramithres. They have been fighting about boundaries, and have killed one another by this time.

Her. Come, shades, let us get on; — follow me, I mean, in single file.

Mi. Bless me, how dark it is! Where is handsome Megillus now? There would be no telling Simmiche from Phryne. All complexions are alike here, no question of beauty, greater or less. Why, the cloak I thought so shabby before passes muster here as well as royal purple; the darkness hides both alike. Cyniscus, whereabouts are you?

Cy. Use your ears; here I am. We might walk together. What do you say?

Mi. Very good; give me your hand. — I suppose you have been admitted to the mysteries at Eleusis? That must have been something like this, I should think?

Cy. Pretty much. Look, here comes a torch-bearer; a grim, forbidding dame. A Fury, perhaps?

Mi. She looks like it, certainly.

Her. Here they are, Tisiphone. One thousand and four.

Ti. It is time we had them. Rhadamanthus has been waiting.

Rhad. Bring them up, Tisiphone. Hermes, you call out their names as they are wanted.

Cy. Rhadamanthus, as you love your father Zeus, have me up first for examination.

Rhad. Why?

Cy. There is a certain shade whose misdeeds on earth I am anxious to denounce. And if my evidence is to be worth anything, you must first be satisfied of my own character and conduct.

Rhad. Who are you?

Cy. Cyniscus, your worship; a student of philosophy.

Rhad. Come up for judgement; I will take you first. Hermes, summon the accusers.

Her. If any one has an accusation to bring against Cyniscus here present, let him come forward.

Cy. No one stirs!

Rhad. Ah, but that is not enough, my friend. Off with your clothes; I must have a look at your brands.

Cy. Brands? Where will you find them?

Rhad. Never yet did mortal man sin, but he carried about the secret record thereof, branded on his soul.

Cy. Well, here I am stripped. Now for the ‘brands.’

Rhad. Clean from head to heel, except three or four very faint marks, scarcely to be made out. Ah! what does this mean? Here is place after place that tells of the iron; all rubbed out apparently, or cut out. How do you explain this, Cyniscus? How did you get such a clean skin again?

Cy. Why, in old days, when I knew no better, I lived an evil life, and acquired thereby a number of brands. But from the day that I began to practise philosophy, little by little I washed out all the scars from my soul,-thanks to the efficiency of that admirable lotion.

Rhad. Off with you then to the Isles of the Blest, and the excellent company you will find there. But we must have your impeachment of the tyrant before you go. Next shade, Hermes!

Mi. Mine is a very small affair, too, Rhadamanthus; I shall not keep you long. I have been stripped all this time; so do take me next.

Rhad. And who may you be?

Mi. Micyllus the cobbler.

Rhad. Very well, Micyllus. As clean as clean could be; not a mark anywhere. You may join Cyniscus. Now the Tyrant.

Her. Megapenthes, son of Lacydes, wanted! Where are you off to? This way! You there, the Tyrant! Up with him, Tisiphone, neck and crop.

Rhad. Now, Cyniscus, your accusation and your proofs. Here is the party.

Cy. There is in fact no need of an accusation. You will very soon know the man by the marks upon him. My words however may serve to unveil him, and to show his character in a clearer light. With the conduct of this monster as a private citizen, I need not detain you. Surrounded with a bodyguard, and aided by unscrupulous accomplices, he rose against his native city, and established a lawless rule. The persons put to death by him without trial are to be counted by thousands, and it was the confiscation of their property that gave him his enormous wealth. Since then, there is no conceivable iniquity which he has not perpetrated. His hapless fellow-citizens have been subjected to every form of cruelty and insult. Virgins have been seduced, boys corrupted, the feelings of his subjects outraged in every possible way. His overweening pride, his insolent bearing towards all who had to do with him, were such as no doom of yours can adequately requite. A man might with more security have fixed his gaze upon the blazing sun, than upon yonder tyrant. As for the refined cruelty of his punishments, it baffles description; and not even his familiars were exempt. That this accusation has not been brought without sufficient grounds, you may easily satisfy yourself, by summoning the murderer’s victims. — Nay, they need no summons; see, they are here; they press round as though they would stifle him. Every man there, Rhadamanthus, fell a prey to his iniquitous designs. Some had attracted his attention by the beauty of their wives; others by their resentment at the forcible abduction of their children; others by their wealth; others again by their understanding, their moderation, and their unvarying disapproval of his conduct.

Rhad. Villain, what have you to say to this?

Me. I committed the murders referred to. As for the rest, the adulteries and corruptions and seductions, it is all a pack of lies.

Cy. I can bring witnesses to these points too, Rhadamanthus.

Rhad. Witnesses, eh?

Cy. Hermes, kindly summon his Lamp and Bed. They will appear in evidence, and state what they know of his conduct.

Her. Lamp and Bed of Megapenthes, come into court. Good, they respond to the summons.

Rhad. Now, tell us all you know about Megapenthes. Bed, you speak first.

Bed. All that Cyniscus said is true. But really, Mr. Rhadamanthus, I don’t quite like to speak about it; such strange things used to happen overhead.

Rhad. Why, your unwillingness to speak is the most telling evidence of all! — Lamp, now let us have yours.

Lamp. What went on in the daytime I never saw, not being there. As for his doings at night, the less said the better. I saw some very queer things, though, monstrous queer. Many is the time I have stopped taking oil on purpose, and tried to go out. But then he used to bring me close up. It was enough to give any lamp a bad character.

Rhad. Enough of verbal evidence. Now, just divest yourself of that purple, and we will see what you have in the way of brands. Goodness gracious, the man’s a positive network! Black and blue with them! Now, what punishment can we give him? A bath in Pyriphlegethon? The tender mercies of Cerberus, perhaps?

Cy. No, no. Allow me — I have a novel idea; something that will just suit him.

Rhad. Yes? I shall be obliged to you for a suggestion.

Cy. I fancy it is usual for departed spirits to take a draught of the water of Lethe?

Rhad. Just so.

Cy. Let him be the sole exception.

Rhad. What is the idea in that?

Cy. His earthly pomp and power for ever in his mind; his fingers ever busy on the tale of blissful items; —’tis a heavy sentence!

Rhad. True. Be this the tyrant’s doom. Place him in fetters at Tantalus’s side — never to forget the things of earth.


The Dependent Scholar

The dependent scholar! The great man’s licensed friend! — if friend, not slave, is to be the word. Believe me, Timocles, amid the humiliation and drudgery of his lot, I know not where to turn for a beginning. Many, if not most, of his hardships are familiar to me; not, heaven knows, from personal experience, for I have never been reduced to such extremity, and pray that I never may be; but from the lips of numerous victims; from the bitter outcries of those who were yet in the snare, and the complacent recollections of others who, like escaped prisoners, found a pleasure in detailing all that they had been through. The evidence of the latter was particularly valuable. Mystics, as it were, of the highest grade, Dependency had no secrets for them. Accordingly, it was with keen interest that I listened to their stories of miraculous deliverance from moral shipwreck. They reminded me of the mariners who, duly cropped, gather at the doors of a temple, with their tale of stormy seas and monster waves and promontories, castings out of cargoes, snappings of masts, shatterings of rudders; ending with the appearance of those twin brethren 25 so indispensable to nautical story, or of some other deus ex machina, who, seated at the masthead or standing at the helm, guides the vessel to some sandy shore, there to break up at her leisure — not before her crew (so benevolent is the God!) have effected a safe landing. The mariner, however, is liberal in embellishment, being prompted thereto by the exigencies of his situation; for by his appearance as a favourite of heaven, not merely a victim of fortune, the number of the charitable is increased. It is otherwise with those whose narrative is of domestic storms, of billows rising mountain high (if so I may phrase it) within four walls. They tell us of the seductive calm that first lured them on to those waters, of the sufferings they endured throughout the voyage, the thirst, the sea-sickness, the briny drenchings; and how at last their luckless craft went to pieces upon some hidden reef or at the foot of some steep crag, leaving them to swim for it, and to land naked and utterly destitute. All this they tell us: but I have ever suspected them of having convenient lapses of memory, and omitting the worst part for very shame. For myself, I shall have no such scruple. All that I have heard, or can reasonably infer, of the evils of dependence, I shall place before you. For either, friend, my penetration is at fault, or you have long had a hankering for this profession.

Yes, I have seen it from the first, whenever the conversation has fallen on this subject of salaried intellects. ‘Happy men!’ some enthusiast has cried. ‘The elite of Rome are their friends. They dine sumptuously, and call for no reckoning. They are lodged splendidly, and travel comfortably — nay, luxuriously — with cushions at their backs, and as often as not a fine pair of creams in front of them. And, as if this were not enough, the friendship they enjoy and the handsome treatment they receive is made good to them with a substantial salary. They sow not, they plough not; yet all things grow for their use.’ How I have seen you prick up your ears at such words as these! How wide your mouth has opened to the bait!

Now I will have a clear conscience in this matter. I will not be told hereafter that I saw you swallowing this palpable bait, and never stirred a finger to snatch it from you, and show you the hook while there was yet time; that I watched you nibbling, saw the hook well in and the fish hauled up, and then stood by shedding useless tears. A grave charge, indeed, were I to leave it in your power to bring it; such neglect would admit of no palliation. You shall therefore hear the whole truth. Now, in leisurely fashion, from without, not hereafter from within, shall you examine this weel from which no fish escapes. You shall take in hand this hook of subtle barb. You shall try the prongs of this eel-spear against your inflated cheek; and if you decide that they are not sharp, that they would be easily evaded, that a wound from them would be no great matter, that they are deficient in power and grasp — then write me among those who have cowardice to thank for their empty bellies; and for yourself, take heart of grace, and swoop upon your prey, and cormorant-wise, if you will, swallow all at a gulp.

But however much the present treatise is indebted to you for its existence, its application is not confined to you who are philosophers, whose ambition it is to form your conduct upon serious principles; it extends to the teachers of literature, of rhetoric, of music — to all, in short, whose intellectual attainments can command a maintenance and a wage. And where the life, from beginning to end, is one and the same for all, the philosopher (I need not say), so far from being a privileged person, has but the additional ignominy of being levelled with the rest, and treated by his paymaster with as scant ceremony as the rest. In conclusion, whatever disclosures I may be led to make, the blame must fall in the first instance on the aggressors, and in the second instance on those who suffer the aggression. For me, unless truth and candour be crimes, I am blameless.

As to the vulgar rabble of trainers and toadies, illiterate, mean-souled creatures, born to obscurity, should we attempt to dissuade them from such pursuits, our labour would be wasted. Nor can we fairly blame them, for putting up any affront, rather than part with their employers. The life suits them; they are in their element. And what other channel is there, into which their energies could be directed? Take away this, their sole vocation, and they are idle cumberers of the earth. They have nothing, then, to complain of; nor are their employers unreasonable in turning these humble vessels to the use for which they were designed. They come into a house prepared for such treatment from the first; it is their profession to endure and suffer wrong.

But the case of educated men, such as I have mentioned above, is another matter; it calls for our indignation, and for our utmost endeavours to restore them to liberty. I think it will not be amiss, if I first examine into the provocations under which they turn to a life of dependence. By showing how trivial, how inadequate these provocations are, I shall forestall the main argument used by the defenders of voluntary servitude. Most of them are content to cloak their desertion under the names of Poverty and Necessity. It is enough, they think, to plead in extenuation, that they sought to flee from this greatest of human ills, Poverty. Theognis comes pat to their purpose. His

Poverty, soul-subduing Poverty,

is in continual requisition, together with other fearful utterances of our most degenerate poets to the same effect. Now if I could see that they really found an escape from poverty in the lives they lead, I would not be too nice on the point of absolute freedom. But when we find them (to use the expression of a famous orator) ‘faring like men that are sick,’ what conclusion is then left to us to draw? What but this, that here again they have been misled, the very evil which they sold their liberty to escape remaining as it was? Poverty unending is their lot. From the bare pittance they receive nothing can be set apart. Suppose it paid, and paid in full: the whole sum is swallowed up to the last farthing, before their necessities are supplied. I would advise them to think upon better expedients; not such as are merely the protectors and accomplices of Poverty, but such as will make an end of her altogether. What say you, Theognis? Might this be a case for,

Steep plunge from crags into the teeming deep?

For when a pauper, a needy hireling, persuades himself that by being what he is he has escaped poverty, one cannot avoid the conclusion that he labours under some mistake.

Others tell a different tale. For them, mere poverty would have had no terrors, had they been able, like other men, to earn their bread by their labours. But, stricken as they were by age or infirmity, they turned to this as the easiest way of making a living. Now let us consider whether they are right. This ‘easy’ way may be found to involve much labour before it yields any return; more labour perhaps than any other. To find money ready to one’s hand, without toil or trouble on one’s own part, would indeed be a dream of happiness. But the facts are otherwise. The toils and troubles of their situation are such as no words can adequately describe. Health, as it turns out, is nowhere more essential than in this vocation, in which a thousand daily labours combine to grind the victim down, and reduce him to utter exhaustion. These I shall describe in due course, when I come to speak of their other grievances. For the present let it suffice to have shown that this excuse for the sale of one’s liberty is as untenable as the former.

And now for the true reason, which you will never hear from their lips. Voluptuousness and a whole pack of desires are what induce them to force their way into great houses. The dazzling spectacle of abundant gold and silver, the joys of high feeding and luxurious living, the immediate prospect of wallowing in riches, with no man to say them nay — these are the temptations that lure them on, and make slaves of free men; not lack of the necessaries of life, as they pretend, but lust of its superfluities, greed of its costly refinements. And their employers, like finished coquettes, exercise their rigours upon these hapless slaves of love, and keep them for ever dangling in amorous attendance; but for fruition, no! never so much as a kiss may they snatch. To grant that would be to give the lover his release, a conclusion against which they are jealously on their guard. But upon hopes he is abundantly fed. Despair might else cure his ardent passion, and the lover be lover no more. So there are smiles for him, and promises; always something shall be done, some favour shall be granted, a handsome provision shall be made for him — some day. Meanwhile, old age steals upon the pair; the superannuated lover ceases from desire, and his mistress has nothing left to give. Life has gone by, and all they have to show for it is hope.

Well now, that a man for the sake of pleasure should put up with every hardship is perhaps no great matter. Devoted to this one object, he can think of nothing, but how to procure it. Let that pass. Though it seems but a scurvy bargain, a bargain for a slave; to sell one’s liberty for pleasures far less pleasant than liberty itself. Still, as I say, let that pass, provided the price is paid. But to endure unlimited pain, merely in the hope that pleasure may come of it, this surely is carrying folly to the height of absurdity. And men do it with their eyes open. The hardships, they know, are certain, unmistakable, inevitable. As to the pleasure, that vague, hypothetic pleasure, they have never had it in all these years, and in all reasonable probability they never will. The comrades of Odysseus forgot all else in the Lotus: but it was while they were tasting its sweets. They esteemed lightly of Honour: but it was in the immediate presence of Pleasure. In men so occupied, such forgetfulness was not wholly unnatural. But to dwell a prisoner, with Famine for company, to watch one’s neighbour fattening on the Lotus, and keeping it all to himself, and to forget Honour and Virtue in the bare prospect of a possible mouthful — by Heaven, it is too absurd, and calls in good truth for Homeric scourgings.

Such, as nearly as I can describe them, are men’s motives for taking service with the rich, for handing themselves over bodily, to be used as their employers think fit. There is one class, however, of which I ought perhaps to make mention — those whose vanity is gratified by the mere fact of being seen in the company of well-born and well-dressed men. For there are those who consider this a distinguished privilege; though for my own part I would not give a fig to enjoy and to be seen enjoying the company of the King of Persia, if I was to get nothing by it.

And now, since we understand what it is that these men would be at, let us mentally review their whole career; — the difficulties that beset the applicant before he gains acceptance; his condition when he is duly installed in his office; and the closing scene of his life’s drama. You may perhaps suppose that his situation, whatever its drawbacks, is at least attainable without much trouble; that you have but to will it, and the thing is done in a trice. Far from it. Much tramping about is in store for you, much kicking of heels. You will rise early, and stand long before your patron’s closed door; you will be jostled; you will hear occasional comments on your impudence. You will be exposed to the vile gabble of a Syrian porter, and to the extortions of a Libyan nomenclator, whose memory must be fee’d, if he is not to forget your name. You must dress beyond your means, or you will be a discredit to your patron; and select his favourite colours, or you will be out of harmony with your surroundings. Finally, you will be indefatigable in following his steps, or rather in preceding them, for you will be thrust forward by his slaves, to swell his triumphal progress. And for days together you will not be favoured with a glance.

But one day the best befalls you. You catch his eye; he beckons you to him, and puts a random question. In that supreme moment what cold sweats, what palpitations, what untimely tremors are yours! and what mirth is theirs who witness your confusion! ‘Who was the king of the Achaeans?’ is the question: and your answer, as likely as not, ‘A thousand sail.’ With the charitable this passes for bashfulness; but to the impudent you are a craven, and to the ill-natured a yokel. This first experience teaches you that the condescensions of the great are not unattended with danger; and as you depart you pronounce upon yourself a sentence of utter despair. Thereafter,

many a sleepless night,

Many a day of strife shall be thy lot —

not for the sake of Helen, not for the towers of Troy, but for the sevenpence halfpenny of your desire. At length some heaven-sent protector gives you an introduction: the scholar is brought up for examination. For the great man, who has but to receive your flatteries and compliments, this is an agreeable pastime: for you, it is a life-and-death struggle; all is hazarded on the one throw. For it will of course occur to you, that if you are rejected at the first trial, you will never pass current with any one else. A thousand different feelings now distract you. You are jealous of your rivals (for we will assume that there is competition for the post); you are dissatisfied with your own replies; you hope; you fear; you cannot remove your eye from the countenance of your judge. Does he pooh-pooh your efforts? You are a lost man. Was that a smile? You rejoice, and hope rises high. It is only to be expected, that many of the company are your enemies, and others your rivals, and each has his secret shaft to let fly at you from his lurking-place. What a picture! The venerable grey-beard being put through his paces. Is he any use? Some say yes, others no. Time is taken for consideration. Your antecedents are industriously overhauled. Some envious compatriot, some neighbour with a trivial grievance, is asked his opinion; he has but to drop a word of ‘loose morality,’ and your business is done; ‘the man speaks God’s truth!’ Every one else may testify to your character: their evidence proves nothing; they are suspected; they are venal. The fact is, you must gain every point; there must be no hitch anywhere. That is your only chance of success.

And now, take it that you have succeeded — beyond all expectation. Your words have found favour with the great man. Those friends, by whose judgement in such matters he sets most store, have made no attempt to alter his decision. His wife approves his choice; the steward and the major-domo have neither of them anything against you. No aspersions have been cast on your character; all is propitious, every omen is in your favour. Hail, mighty conqueror, wreathed in the Olympian garland! Babylon is yours, Sardis falls before you. The horn of plenty is within your grasp; pigeons shall yield you milk.

Now, if your crown is to be of anything better than leaves, there must be some solid benefits to compensate you for the labours you have undergone. A considerable salary will be placed at your disposal, and you will draw upon it without ceremony, whenever you have occasion. You will be a privileged person in every respect. As for toils, and muddy tramps, and wakeful nights, the time for those have gone by. Your prayers have been heard: you will take your ease, and sleep your fill. You will do the work you were engaged to do, and not a stroke besides. This, indeed, is what you have a right to expect. There would be no great hardship in bowing one’s neck to a yoke so light, so easy — and so superbly gilded. But alas, Timocles, many, nay all of these requirements are unsatisfied. Your office, now that you have got it, is attended with a thousand details insufferable to all but slaves. Let me rehearse them to you; you shall judge for yourself whether any man with the slightest pretence to culture would endure such treatment.

Let me begin with your first invitation to dinner, which may reasonably be expected to follow, as an earnest of the patronage to come. It is brought to you by a most communicative slave, whose goodwill it must be your first care to secure. Five shillings is the least you can slip into his palm, if you would do the thing properly. He has scruples. ‘Really, sir — couldn’t think of it; no, indeed, sir.’ But he is prevailed upon at last, and goes off, grinning from ear to ear. You then look out your best clothes, have your bath, make yourself as presentable as possible, and arrive — in fear and trembling lest you should be the first, which would wear an awkward air, just as it savours of ostentation to arrive last. Accordingly you contrive to hit on the right moment, are received with every attention, and shown to your place, a little above the host, separated from him only by a couple of his intimates. And now you feel as if you were in heaven. You are all admiration; everything you see done throws you into ecstasies. It is all so new and strange! The waiters stare at you, the company watch your movements. Nor is the host without curiosity. Some of his servants have instructions to observe you narrowly, lest your glance should fall too often on his wife or children. The other guests’ men perceive your amazement at the novel scene, and exchange jesting asides. From the fact that you do not know what to make of your napkin, they conclude that this is your first experience of dining-out. You perspire with embarrassment; not unnaturally. You are thirsty, but you dare not ask for wine, lest you should be thought a tippler. The due connexion between the various dishes which make their appearance is beyond you: which ought you to take first? which next? There is nothing for it but to snatch a side glance at your neighbour, do as he does, and learn to dine in sequence. On the whole, your feelings are mingled, your spirit perturbed, and stricken with awe. One moment you are envying your host his gold, his ivory, and all his magnificence; the next, you are pitying yourself — that miserable nonentity which calls its existence life; and then at intervals comes the thought, ‘how happy shall I be, sharing in these splendours, enjoying them as if they were my own!’ For you conceive of your future life as one continual feast; and the smiling attendance of gracious Ganymedes gives a charming finish to the picture. That line of Homer keeps coming to your lips: Small blame to Trojan or to greaved Achaean, if such happiness as this was to be the reward of their toils and sufferings. Presently healths are drunk. The host calls for a large beaker, and drinks to ‘the Professor,’ or whatever your title is to be. You, in your innocence, do not know that you ought to say something in reply; you receive the cup in silence, and are set down as a boor.

Apart from this, your host’s pledge has secured you the enmity of many of his old friends, with some of whom it was already a grievance, that an acquaintance of a few hours’ standing should sit above men who have been drinking the cup of slavery for years. Tongues are busy with you at once. Listen to some of them. ‘So! We are to give place to new-comers! It wanted but this. The gates of Rome are open to none but these Greeks. Now what is their claim to be set over our heads? I suppose they think they are conferring a favour on us with their wordy stuff?’ ‘How he did drink, to be sure!’ says another. ‘And did you see how he shovelled his food down, hand over hand? Mannerless starveling! He has never so much as dreamt of white bread before. ’Twas the same with the capon and pheasant; much if he left us the bones to pick!’ ‘My dear sirs’ (cries number three), ‘I give him five days at the outside; after which you will see him at our end of the table, making like moan with ourselves. He is a new pair of shoes just now, and is treated with all ceremony. Wait till he has been worn a few times, and the mud has done its work; he will be flung under the bed, poor wretch, like the rest of us, to be a receptacle for bugs.’ Such are some among the many comments you excite; and, for all we know, mischief may be brewing at this moment.

Meanwhile, you are the guest of the evening, and the principal theme of conversation. Your unwonted situation has led you on to drink more than was advisable. For some time you have been feeling uncomfortable effects from your host’s light, eager wine. To get up before the rest would be bad manners: to remain is perilous. The drinking is prolonged; subject upon subject is started, spectacle after spectacle is produced; for your host is determined that you shall see all he has to show. You suffer the torments of the damned. You see nothing of what is going forward: some favourite singer or musician is performing — you hear him not; and while you force out some complimentary phrase, you are praying that an earthquake may swallow up all, or that the news of a fire may break up the party.

Such, my friend, is your first dinner, the best you will ever get. For my part, give me a dinner of herbs, with liberty to eat when I will and as much as I will. I shall spare you the recital of the nocturnal woes that follow your excess. The next morning, you have to come to terms as to the amount of your salary, and the times of payment. Appearing in answer to his summons, you find two or three friends with him. He bids you be seated, and begins to speak. ‘You have now seen the sort of way in which we live — no ostentation, no fuss; everything quite plain and ordinary. Now you will consider everything here as your own. It would be a strange thing, indeed, were I to entrust you with the highest responsibility of all, the moral guidance of myself and my children’— if there are children to be taught —‘and yet hesitate to place the rest at your disposal. Something, however, must be settled. I know your moderate, independent spirit. I quite realize that you come to us from no mercenary motive, that you are influenced only by the regard and uniform respect which will be assured to you in this house. Still, as I say, something must be settled. Now, my dear sir, tell me yourself, what you think right; remembering that there is something to be expected at the great festivals; for you will not find me remiss in that respect, though I say nothing definite at present; and these occasions, as you know, come pretty frequently in the course of the year. This consideration will no doubt influence you in settling the amount of your salary; and apart from that, it sits well on men of culture like yourself, to be above the thought of money.’ Your hopes are blasted at the words, and your proud spirit is tamed. The dream of the millionaire and landed proprietor fades away, as you gradually catch his parsimonious drift. Yet you smirk appreciation of the promise. You are to ‘consider everything as your own’; there, surely, is something solid? ’Tis a draught (did you but know it)

That wets the lips, but leaves the palate dry. After an interval of embarrassment, you leave the matter to his decision. He declines the responsibility, and calls for the intervention of one of the company: let him name a sum, at once worthy of your acceptance, and not burdensome to his purse, which has so many more urgent calls upon it. ‘Sir,’ says this officious old gentleman, who has been a toady from his youth, ‘Sir, you are the luckiest man in Rome. Deny it if you can! You have gained a privilege which many a man has longed for, and is not like to obtain at Fortune’s hands. You have been admitted to enjoy the company and share the hearth and home of the first citizen of our empire. Used aright, such a privilege will be more to you than the wealth of a Croesus or a Midas. Knowing as I do how many there are — persons of high standing — who would be glad to pay money down, merely for the honour and glory of the acquaintanceship, of being seen in his company, and ranking as his friends and intimates — knowing this, I am at a loss for words in which to express my sense of your good fortune. You are not only to enjoy this happiness, but to be paid for enjoying it! Under the circumstances, I think we shall satisfy your most extravagant expectations, if we say’— and he names a sum which in itself is of the smallest, quite apart from all reference to your brilliant hopes. However, there is nothing for it but to submit with a good grace. It is too late now for escape; you are in the toils. So you open your mouth for the bit, and are very manageable from the first. You give your rider no occasion to keep a tight rein, or to use the spur; and at last by imperceptible degrees you are quite broken in to him.

The outside world from that time watches you with envy. You dwell within his courts; you have free access; you are become a person of consequence. Yet it is now incomprehensible to you how they can suppose you to be happy. At the same time, you are not without a certain exultation: you cheat yourself from day to day with the thought that there are better things to come. Quite the contrary turns out to be the case. Your prospects, like the proverbial sacrifice of Mandrobulus, dwindle and contract from day to day. Gradually you get some faint glimmerings of the truth. It begins to dawn upon you at last, that those golden hopes were neither more nor less than gilded bubbles: the vexations, on the other hand, are realities; solid, abiding, uncompromising realities. ‘And what are these vexations?’ you will perhaps exclaim; ‘I see nothing so vexatious about the matter; I know not what are the hardships and the drudgery alluded to.’ Then listen. And do not confine yourself to the article of drudgery, but keep a sharp look-out for ignominy, for degradation, for everything, in short, that is unworthy of a free man.

Let me remind you then, to begin with, that you are no longer free-born, no longer a man of family. Birth, freedom, ancestry, all these you will leave on the other side of the door, when you enter upon the fulfilment of your servile contract; for Freedom will never bear you company in that ignoble station. You are a slave, wince as you may at the word; and, be assured, a slave of many masters; a downward-looking drudge, from morning till night

serving for sorry wage.

Then again, you are a backward pupil: Servitude was not the nurse of your childhood; you are getting on in years when she takes you in hand; accordingly, you will do her little credit, and give little satisfaction to your lord. Recollections of Freedom will exercise their demoralizing influence upon you, causing you to jib at times, and you will make villanous work of your new profession. Or will your aspirations after Freedom be satisfied, perhaps, with the thought, that you are no son of a Pyrrhias or a Zopyrion, no Bithynian, to be knocked down under the hammer of a bawling auctioneer? My dear sir, when pay-day comes round each month, and you mingle in the herd of Pyrrhiases and Zopyrions, and hold out your hand for the wage that is due to you, what is that but a sale? No need of an auctioneer, for the man who can cry his own wares, and hawks his liberty about from day to day. Wretch! (one is prompted to exclaim, and particularly when the culprit is a professed philosopher) Wretch! Were you captured and sold by a pirate or a brigand, you would bewail your lot, and think that Fortune had dealt hardly with you. Were a man to lay violent hands on you, and claim a master’s rights in you, loud and bitter would be your outcry: ‘By heaven and earth, ’tis monstrous! I appeal to the laws!’ And now, at an age at which a born slave may begin to look towards Freedom, now for a few pence do you sell yourself, your virtue and wisdom, in one parcel? And could Plato’s noble words, could all that Chrysippus and Aristotle have said, of the blessings of freedom and the curse of slavery, raise no compunction in you? Do you count it no shame to be pitted against toadies and vulgar parasites? no shame to sit at the noisy banquets of a promiscuous, and for the most part a disreputable company, a Greek among Romans, wearing the foreign garb of philosophy, and stammering their tongue with a foreign accent? How fulsome are your flatteries on these occasions! how indecent your tipplings! And next morning the bell rings, and up you must get, losing the best of your sleep, to trudge up and down with yesterday’s mud still on your shoes. Were lupines and wild herbs so scarce with you? had the springs ceased to give their wonted supply, that you were brought to such a pass? No, the cause of your captivity is too clear. Not water, not lupines were the object of your desire, but dainty viands and fragrant wines; and your sin has found you out: you are hooked like a pike by your greedy jaws. We have not far to look for the reward of gluttony. Like a monkey with a collar about its neck, you are kept to make amusement for the company; fancying yourself supremely happy, because you are unstinted in the matter of dried figs. As to freedom and generosity, they are fled, with the memories of Greece, and have left no trace behind them. And would that that were all, the disgrace of falling from freedom to servitude! Would that your employments were not those of a very menial! Consider: are your duties any lighter than those of a Dromo or a Tibius? As to the studies in which your employer professed an interest when he engaged you, they are nothing to him. Shall an ass affect the lyre? Remove from these men’s minds the gold and the silver, with the cares that these involve, and what remains? Pride, luxury, sensuality, insolence, wantonness, ignorance. Consuming must be their desire, doubt it not, for the wisdom of Homer, the eloquence of Demosthenes, the sublimity of Plato!

No, your employer has no need of your services in this direction. On the other hand, you have a long beard and a venerable countenance; the Grecian cloak hangs admirably upon your shoulders, and you are known to be a professor of rhetoric, or literature, or philosophy; it will not be amiss, he thinks, to have such pursuits represented in the numerous retinue that marches before him. It will give him an air of Grecian culture, of liberal curiosity in fact. Friend, friend! your stock-intrade would seem to be not words of wisdom, but a cloak and a beard. If you would do your duty, therefore, be always well in evidence; begin your unfailing attendance from the early hours of the morning, and never quit his side. Now and again he places a hand upon your shoulder, and mutters some nonsense for the benefit of the passers-by, who are to understand that though he walk abroad the Muses are not forgotten, that in all his comings and goings he can find elegant employment for his mind. Breathless and perspiring, you trot, a pitiable spectacle, at the litter’s side; or if he walks — you know what Rome is — up hill and down dale after him you tramp. While he is paying a call on a friend, you are left outside, where, for lack of a seat, you are fain to take out your book and read standing.

Night finds you hungry and thirsty. You snatch an apology for a bath; and it is midnight or near it before you get to dinner. You are no longer an honoured guest; no longer do you engage the attention of the company. You have retired to make room for some newer capture. Thrust into the most obscure corner, you sit watching the progress of dinner, gnawing in canine sort any bones that come down to you and regaling yourself with hungry zest on such tough mallow-leaves — the wrappers of daintier fare — as may escape the vigilance of those who sit above you. No slight is wanting. You have not so much as an egg to call your own; for there is no reason why you should expect to be treated in the same way as a stranger; that would be absurd. The birds that fall to your lot are not like other birds. Your neighbour gets some plump, luscious affair; you, a poor half-chicken, or lean pigeon, an insult, a positive outrage in poultry. As often as not, an extra guest appears unexpectedly, and the waiter solves the difficulty by removing your share (with the whispered consolation that you are ‘one of the family’), and placing it before the new-comer. When the joint, be it pork or venison, is brought in to be carved, let us hope that you stand well with the carver, or you will receive a Promethean helping of ‘bones wrapped up in fat.’ And the way in which a dish is whisked past you, after remaining with your neighbour till he can eat no more! — what free man would endure it, though he were as innocent of gall as any stag? And I have said nothing yet of the wine. While the other guests are drinking of some rare old vintage, you have vile thick stuff, whose colour you must industriously conceal with the help of a gold or silver cup, lest it should betray the estimation in which the drinker is held. It would be something if you could get enough even of this. Alas! you may call and call: the waiter is

as one that marketh not.

Many are your grievances; nay, all is one huge grievance. And the climax is reached, when you find yourself eclipsed by some minion, some dancing-master, some vile Alexandrian patterer of Ionic lays. How should you hope to rank with the minister of Love’s pleasures, with the stealthy conveyer of billets-doux? You cower shamefaced in your corner, and bewail your hard lot, as well you may; cursing your luck that you have never a smattering of such graceful accomplishments yourself. I believe you wish that you could turn love-songs, or sing other men’s with a good grace; perceiving as you do what a thing it is to be in request. Nay, you could find it in you to play the wizard’s, the fortune-teller’s part; to deal in thrones and in millions of money. For these, too, you observe, make their way in the world, and are high in favour. Gladly would you enter on any one of these vocations, rather than be a useless castaway. Alas, even these are beyond you; you lack plausibility. It remains for you to give place to others; to endure neglect, and keep your complaints to yourself.

Nay, more. Should some slave whisper that you alone withheld your praise, when his mistress’s favourite danced or played, the neglect may cost you dear. Then let your dry throat be as busy as any thirsty frog’s. See to it, that your voice is heard leading the chorus of applause; and time after time, when all else are silent, throw in some studied servile compliment. The situation is not without humour. Hungry as you are, ay, and thirsty into the bargain, you must anoint yourself with oil of gladness, and crown your head with garlands. It reminds one of the offerings made by recent mourners at a tomb. The tomb gets the ointment and the garlands, while the mourners drink and enjoy the feast.

If your patron is of a jealous disposition, and has a young wife or handsome children, and you are not wholly without personal attractions, then beware! you are on dangerous ground. Many are the ears of a king, and many the eyes, that see not the truth only, but ever something over and above the truth, lest they should seem to fail of their office. Imagine yourself, therefore, at a Persian banquet. Keep your eyes downwards, lest a eunuch should catch them resting on one of the concubines. For see, there stands another with his bow ever on the stretch: one glance at the forbidden object as you raise your cup, and his arrow is through your jaw before you can put it down.

And now dinner is over; you retire, and snatch a little sleep. But at cock-crow you are aroused. ‘Wretch! Worm that I am!’ you exclaim. ‘To sacrifice the pursuits, the society of former days, the placid life wherein sleep was measured by inclination, and my comings and goings were unfettered, and all to precipitate myself bodily into this hideous gulf! And why? What, in God’s name, is my glorious recompense? Was there no other way? Could I not have provided for myself better than this, and preserved liberty and free-will into the bargain? Alas! the lion is fast bound in the net. I am haled hither and thither. Pitiable is my lot, where no honour is to be won, no favour to be hoped for. Untaught, unpractised in the arts of flattery, I am pitted against professionals. I am no choice spirit, no jolly companion; to raise a laugh is beyond me. My presence (well do I know it) is a vexation to my patron, and then most when he is in his most gracious mood. He finds me sullen; and how to attune myself to him I know not. If I wear a grim face, I am a sour fellow, scarcely to be endured. If I assume my most cheerful expression, my smiles arouse his contempt and disgust. As well attempt to act a comic part in the mask of tragedy! And what is the end of it all? My present life has been another’s: do I look to have a new life which shall be my own?’

Your soliloquy is interrupted by the bell. The old routine awaits you: you must trudge, and you must stand; and first anoint your limbs, if you would hold out to the end. Dinner will be the same as ever, and go on as late as ever. The change from all your former habits, the wakeful night, the violent exercise, the exhaustion, are slowly undermining your health at this moment, and preparing you for consumption or colic, for asthma or the delights of gout. However, you hold out in spite of all, though many a time your right place would be in bed. But that would never do: that looks like shamming, like shirking your work. The result is that you grow as pallid as a man at the point of death.

So much for your city life. And now for an excursion into the country. I will content myself with a single detail. As likely as not it is a wet day. Your turn for the carriage (as might be expected) comes last. You wait and wait, till at last its return is out of the question, and you are squeezed into some vehicle with the cook, or with my lady’s friseur, without even a proper allowance of straw. I shall make no scruple of relating to you an experience of Thesmopolis the Stoic, which I had from his own mouth; a most amusing incident, and just the sort of thing one might expect to find happening again. He was in the service of a certain wealthy and luxurious lady of quality, whom on one occasion he had to accompany on a journey from Rome. The fun began at once. The philosopher received as his travelling companion a beardless exquisite of the pitch-plastering persuasion, by whom, you may be certain, my lady set great store; his name, she informed the philosopher, was ‘Robinetta.’ Is not this a promising start? — the grave and reverend Thesmopolis, with his hoary beard (you know what a long, venerable affair it is), side by side with this rouged and painted ogler, whose drooping neck and plucked throat suggested the vulture rather than the robin! ’Twas all that Thesmopolis could do to persuade him not to wear his hair-net; and as it was he had a sad journey of it, with the fellow singing and whistling all the time — I daresay he would have danced there and then, if Thesmopolis had not prevented him. But there was more to come, as you will see. ‘Thesmopolis,’ cries my lady, calling him to her, ‘I have a great favour to ask of you; now please don’t say no, and don’t wait to be asked twice, there’s a good creature.’ Of course, he said he would do anything she wished. ‘I only ask you, because I know you are to be trusted; you are so good-natured and affectionate! I want you to take my little dog Myrrhina in with you, and see that she wants for nothing. Poor little lady! she is soon to become a mother. These hateful, inattentive servants take no notice of me when we are travelling, much less of her. You will be doing me a great kindness, I assure you, in taking charge of her; I am so fond of the sweet little pet!’ She prayed and almost wept; and Thesmopolis promised. Imagine the ludicrous picture. The little beast peeping out from beneath the philosophic cloak; within licking distance of that beard, which perhaps still held traces of the thick soup of yesterday; yapping away with its shrill pipe of a voice, as Maltese terriers will; and no doubt taking other liberties, which Thesmopolis did not think worth mentioning. That night at dinner, the exquisite, his fellow traveller, after cracking a passable joke here and there at the expense of the other guests, came to Thesmopolis. ‘Of him,’ he remarked, ‘I have only this to say, that our Stoic has turned Cynic.’ According to what I heard, the little animal actually littered in his mantle!

Such are the caprices, nay, the insults, let me rather say, with which the patron gradually breaks the spirit of his dependants. I know myself of an orator, a very free speaker, who was actually ordered to stand up and deliver a speech at table; and a masterly speech it was, trenchant and terse. He received the congratulations of the company on being timed by a wine — instead of a water-clock; and this affront, it is said, he was content to put up, for the consideration of 8 pounds. But what of that? Wait till you get a patron who has poetical or historical tendencies, and spouts passages of his own works all through dinner: you must praise, you must flatter, you must devise original compliments for him — or die in the attempt. Then there are the beaux, the Adonises and Hyacinths, as you must be careful to call them, undeterred by the eighteen inches or so of nose that some of them carry on their faces. Do your praises halt? ’Tis envy, ’tis treason! Away with you, Philoxenus that you are, to Syracusan quarries! — Let them be orators, let them be philosophers, if they will: what matter for a solecism here and there? Find Attic elegance, find honey of Hymettus in every word; and pronounce it law henceforth, to speak as they speak.

If we had only men to deal with, it would be something: but there are the women too. For among the objects of feminine ambition is this, of having a scholar or two in their pay, to dance attendance at the litter’s side; it adds one more to the list of their adornments, if they can get the reputation of culture and philosophy, of turning a song which will bear comparison with Sappho’s. So they too keep their philosopher, their orator, or their litterateur; and give him audience — when, think you? Why, at the toilet, by all that is ridiculous, among the rouge-pots and hair-brushes; or else at the dinner-table. They have no leisure at other times. As it is, the philosopher is often interrupted by the entrance of a maid with a billet-doux. Virtue has then to bide her time; for the audience will not be resumed till the gallant has his answer.

At rare intervals, at the Saturnalia or the Feast of Minerva, you will be presented with a sorry cloak, or a worn-out tunic; and a world of ceremony will go to the presentation. The first who gets wind of the great man’s intention flies to you with the news of what is in store for you; and the bringer of glad tidings does not go away empty-handed. The next morning a dozen of them arrive, conveying the present, each with his tale of how he spoke up for you, or the hints he threw out, or how he was entrusted with the choice, and chose the best. Not a man of them but departs with your money in his pocket, grumbling that it is no more.

As to that salary, it will be paid to you sixpence at a time, and there will be black looks when you ask for it. Still, you must get it somehow. Ply your patron therefore with flatteries and entreaties, and pay due observance to his steward, and let it be the kind of observance that stewards like best; nor must you forget your kind introducer. You do get something at last; but it all goes to pay the tailor, the doctor, or the shoemaker, and you are left the proud possessor of nothing at all.

Meanwhile, jealousy is rife, and some slander is perhaps working its stealthy way to ears which are predisposed to hear anything to your discredit. For your employer perceives that by this time incessant fatigues have worn you out; you are crippled, you are good for nothing more, and gout is coming on. All the profit that was to be had of you, he has effectually sucked out. Your prime has gone by, your bodily vigour is exhausted, you are a tattered remnant. He begins to look about for a convenient dunghill whereon to deposit you, and for an able-bodied substitute to do your work. You have attempted the honour of one of his minions: you have been trying to corrupt his wife’s maid, venerable sinner that you are! — any accusation will serve. You are gagged and turned out neck and crop into the darkness. Away you go, helpless and destitute, with gout for the cheering companion of your old age. Whatever you once knew, you have unlearnt in all these years: on the other hand, you have developed a paunch like a balloon; a monster insatiable, inexorable, which has acquired a habit of asking for more, and likes not at all the unlearning process. It is not to be supposed that any one else will give you employment, at your age; you are like an old horse, whose very hide has deteriorated in value. Not to mention that the worst interpretation will be put upon your late dismissal; you will be credited with adultery, or poisoning, or something of that kind. Your accuser, you see, is convincing even in silence; whereas you — you are a loose-principled, unscrupulous Greek. That is the character we Greeks bear; and it serves us right; I see excellent grounds for the opinion they have of us. Greek after Greek who enters their service sets up (in default of any other practical knowledge) for wizard or poisoner, and deals in love-charms and evil spells; and these are they who talk of culture, who wear grey beards and philosophic cloaks! When these, who are accounted the best of us, stand thus exposed, when men observe their interested servility, their gross flatteries at table and elsewhere, it is not to be wondered at that we have all fallen under suspicion. Those whom they have cast off, they hate, and seek to make an end of them altogether; arguing, naturally enough, that men who know their secrets, and have seen them in all their nakedness, may divulge many a foible which will not bear the light; and the thought is torment to them. The fact is, that these great men are for all the world like handsomely bound books. Outside are the gilt edges and the purple cover: and within? a Thyestes feasts upon his own children; an Oedipus commits incest with his mother; a Tereus woos two sisters at once. Such are these human books: their brilliancy attracts all eyes, but between the purple covers lurks many a horrid tale. Turn over the pages of any one of them, and you find a drama worthy the pen of Sophocles or Euripides: close the volume — all is gilt edge and exquisite tooling. Well may they hate the confidants of such crimes, and plot their destruction! What if the outcast should take to rehearsing in public the tragedy that he has got by heart?

I am minded to give you, after the manner of Cebes, a life-picture of Dependence; with this before your eyes, you may judge for yourself, whether it is the life for you. I would gladly call in the aid of an Apelles or a Parrhasius, an Aetion or a Euphranor, but no such perfect painters are to be found in these days; I must sketch you the picture in outline as best I can. I begin then with tall golden gates, not set in the plain, but high upon a hill. Long and steep and slippery is the ascent; and many a time when a man looks to reach the top, his foot slips, and he is plunged headlong. Within the gates sits Wealth, a figure all of gold (so at least she seems); most fair, most lovely. Her lover painfully scales the height, and draws near to the door; and that golden sight fills him with amazement. The beautiful woman in gorgeous raiment who now takes him by the hand is Hope. As she leads him in, his spirit is stricken with awe. Hope still shows the way; but two others, Despair and Servitude, now take charge of him, and conduct him to Toil, who grinds the poor wretch down with labour, and at last hands him over to Age. He looks sickly now, and all his colour is gone. Last comes Contempt, and laying violent hands on him drags him into the presence of Despair; it is now time for Hope to take wing and vanish. Naked, potbellied, pale and old, he is thrust forth, not by those golden gates by which he entered, but by some obscure back-passage. One hand covers his nakedness; with the other he would fain strangle himself. Now let Regret meet him without, dropping vain tears and heaping misery on misery — and my picture is complete.

Examine it narrowly in all its details, and see whether you like the idea of going in at my golden front door, to be expelled ignominiously at the back. And whichever way you decide, remember the words of the wise man: ‘Blame not Heaven, but your own choice.’

25 The Dioscuri, Castor and Pollux, who were supposed to appear to sailors in distress.

Apology for ‘The Dependent Scholar’

Dear Sabinus,

I have been guessing how you are likely to have expressed yourself upon reading my essay about dependants. I feel pretty sure you read it all and had a laugh over it; but it is your running and general comment in words that I am trying to piece on to it. If I am any good at divination, this is the sort of thing: To think that a man can set down such a scathing indictment of the life, and then forget it all, get hold of the other end of the stick, and plunge headlong into such manifest conspicuous slavery! Take Midas, Croesus, golden Pactolus, roll them into one, multiply them, and could they induce him to relinquish the freedom which he has loved and consorted with from a child? He is nearly in the clutches of Aeacus, one foot is on the ferryman’s boat, and it is now that he lets himself be dragged submissively about by a golden collar. 26 There is some slight inconsistency between his life and his treatise; the rivers are running up-hill; topsy-turvydom prevails; our recantations are new-fashioned; the first palinodist 27 mended words with words for Helen of Troy; but we spoil words (those words we thought so wise) with deeds.

Such, I imagine, were your inward remarks. And I dare say you will give me some overt advice to the same effect; well, it will not be ill-timed; it will illustrate your friendship, and do you credit as a good man and a philosopher. If I render your part respectably for you, that will do, and we will pay our homage to the God of words; 28 if I fail, you will fill in the deficiency for yourself. There, the stage is ready; I am to hold my tongue, and submit to any necessary carving and cauterizing for my good, and you are to plaster me, and have your scalpel handy, and your iron red-hot. Sabinus takes the word, and thus addresses me:

My dear friend, this treatise of yours has quite rightly been earning you a fine reputation, from its first delivery before the great audience I had described to me, to its private use by the educated who have consulted and thumbed it since. For indeed it presents the case meritoriously; there is study of detail and experience of life in abundance; your views are the reverse of vague; and above all the book is practically useful, chiefly but not exclusively to the educated whom it might save from an unforeseen slavery. However, your mind is changed; the life you described is now the better; good-bye to freedom; your motto is that contemptible line:

Give me but gain, I’ll turn from free to slave.

Let none hear the lecture from you again, then; see to it that no copy of it comes under the eyes of any one aware of your present life; ask Hermes to bring Lethe-water from below, enough to drug your former hearers; else you will remind us of the Corinthian tale, and your writing, like Bellerophon’s, be your own condemnation. I assure you I see no decent defence you can make, at least if your detractors have the humour to commend the independence of the writings while the writer is a slave and a voluntary beast of burden before their eyes.

They will say with some plausibility: Either the book is some other good man’s work, and you a jackdaw strutting in borrowed, plumes; or, if it is really yours, you are a second Salaethus; the Crotoniate legislator made most severe laws against adultery, was much looked up to on the strength of it, and was shortly after taken in adultery with his brother’s wife. You are an exact reproduction of Salaethus, they will say; or rather he was not half so bad as you, seeing that he was mastered by passion, as he pleaded in court, and moreover preferred to leap into the flames, like a brave man, when the Crotoniates were moved to compassion and gave him the alternative of exile. The difference between your precept and practice is infinitely more ridiculous; you draw a realistic word-picture of that servile life; you pour contempt on the man who runs into the trap of a rich man’s house, where a thousand degradations, half of them self-inflicted, await him; and then in extreme old age, when you are on the border between life and death, you take this miserable servitude upon you and make a sort of circus exhibition of your chains. The conspicuousness of your position will only make the more ridiculous that contrast between your book and your life.

But I need not beat my brains for phrases of reprobation; there is one good enough in a noble tragedy:

Wisdom begins at home; no wisdom, else.

And your censors will find no lack of illustrations against you; some will compare you to the tragic actor; on the stage he is Agamemnon or Creon or great Heracles; but off it, stripped of his mask, he is just Polus or Aristodemus, a hireling liable to be hissed off, or even whipped on occasion, at the pleasure of the audience. Others will say you have had the experience of Queen Cleopatra’s monkey: the docile creature used to dance in perfect form and time, and was much admired for the regularity and decorum of its movements, adapted to the voices and instruments of a bridal chorus; alas, one day it spied a fig or almond a little way off on the ground; flutes and measures and steps were all forgotten, the mask was far off in several pieces, and there was he chewing his find.

You, they will say, are the author (for ‘actor’ would understate the case) who has laid down the laws of noble conduct; and no sooner is the lump of figs presented than the monkey is revealed; your lips are the lips of a philosopher, and your heart is quite other; it is no injustice to say that those sentiments for which you claim admiration have ‘wetted your lips, and left your palate dry.’ You have not had to wait long for retribution; you spoke unadvisedly in scorn of human needs; and, this little while after, behold you making public renunciation of your freedom! Surely Nemesis was standing behind your back as you drank in the flattering tributes to your superiority; did she not smile in her divine fore-knowledge of the impending change, and mark how you forgot to propitiate her before you assailed the victims whom fortune’s mutability had reduced to such courses?

Now I want you to imagine a rhetorician writing on the theme that Aeschines, after his indictment of Timarchus, was himself proved guilty by eyewitnesses of similar iniquity; would, or would not, the amusement of the audience be heightened by the fact that he had got Timarchus punished for offences excused by youth, whereas he was himself an old man at the time of his own guilt? Why, you are like the quack who offered a cough-mixture which was to cure instantaneously, and could hardly get the promise out for coughing.

Yes, Sabinus, and there is plenty more of the same sort for an accuser like you to urge; the subject is all handles; you can take hold of it anywhere. I have been looking about for my best line of defence. Had I better turn craven, face right-about, confess my sin, and have recourse to the regular plea of Chance, Fate, Necessity? Shall I humbly beseech my critics to pardon me, remembering that nothing is in a man’s own choice — we are led by some stronger power, one of the three I mentioned, probably, and are not true agents but guiltless altogether, whatever we say or do? Or will you tell me this might do well enough for one of the common herd, but you cannot have me sheltering myself so? I must not brief Homer; it will not serve me to plead:

No mortal man e’er yet escaped his fate;

nor again,

His thread was spun, then when his mother bare him.

On the other hand, I might avoid that plea as wanting in plausibility, and say that I did not accept this association under the temptation of money or any prospects of that kind, but in pure admiration of the wisdom, strength, and magnanimity of my patron’s character, which inspired the wish to partake his activity. But I fear I should only have brought on myself the additional imputation of flattery. It would be a case of ‘one nail drives out one nail,’ and this time the one left in would be the bigger; for flattery is the most servile, and consequently reckoned the worst, of all vices.

Both these pleas, then, being excluded, what is left me but to confess that I have no sound defence to make? I have indeed one anchor yet aboard: I may whine over age and ill health, and their attendant poverty, from which a man will purchase escape at any cost. The situation tempts me to send an invitation to Euripides’s Medea: will she come and recite certain lines of hers on my behalf, kindly making the slight changes needed? —

Too well I know how monstrous is the deed; My poverty, but not my will, consents.

And every one knows the place in Theognis, whether I quote it or not, where he approves of people’s flinging themselves to the unplumbed deep from sky-pointing crags, if one may be quit of poverty that way.

That about exhausts the obvious lines of defence; and none of them is very promising. But never fear, my friend, I am not going to try any of them. May never Argos be so hard put to it that Cyllarabis must be sown! nor ever I be in such straits for a tolerable defence as to be driven upon these evasions! No, I only ask you to consider the vast difference between being a hireling in a rich man’s house, where one is a slave, and must put up with all that is described in my book — between that and entering the public service, doing one’s best as an administrator, and taking the Emperor’s pay for it. Go fully into the matter; take the two things separately and have a good look at them; you will find that they are two octaves apart, as the musical people say; the two lives are about as like each other as lead is to silver, bronze to gold, an anemone to a rose, a monkey to a man; there is pay, and there is subordination, in each case; but the essence of the two things is utterly different. In one we have manifest slavery; the new-comers who accept the terms are barely distinguishable from the human chattels a man has bought or bred; but persons who have the management of public business, and give their services to states and nations, are not to have insinuations aimed at them just because they are paid; that single point of resemblance is not to level them down to the others. If that is to be the principle, we had better do away with all such offices at once; governors of whole provinces, prefects of cities, commanders of legions and armies, will all fall under the same condemnation; for they are paid. But of course everything is not to be upset to suit a single case; all who receive pay are not to be lumped together.

It is all a mistake; I never said that all drawers of salaries lived a degraded life; I only pitied those domestic slaves who have been caught by compliments on their culture. My position, you see, is entirely different; my private relations are as they were before, though in a public capacity I am now an active part of the great Imperial machine. If you care to inquire, you will find that my charge is not the least important in the government of Egypt. I control the cause-list, see that trials are properly conducted, keep a record of all proceedings and pleas, exercise censorship over forensic oratory, and edit the Emperor’s rescripts with a view to their official and permanent preservation in the most lucid, accurate, and genuine form. My salary comes from no private person, but from the Emperor; and it is considerable, amounting to many hundreds. In the future too there is before me the brilliant prospect of attaining in due course to a governorship or other distinguished employment.

Accordingly I am now going to throw off reserve, come to grips with the charge against me, and prove my case a fortiori. I tell you that nobody does anything for nothing; you may point to people in high places — as high as you like; the Emperor himself is paid. I am not referring to the taxes and tribute which flow in annually from subjects; the chief item in the Emperor’s pay is panegyrics, world-wide fame, and grateful devotion; the statues, temples, and consecrated ground which their subjects bestow upon them, what are these but pay for the care and forethought which they apply to public policy and improvements? To compare small things with great, if you will begin at the top of the heap and work down through the grains of which it is composed, you will find that we inferior ones differ from the superior in point of size, but all are wage-earners together.

If the law I laid down had been that no one should do anything, I might fairly have been accused of transgressing it; but as my book contains nothing of the sort, and as goodness consists in doing good, what better use can you make of yourself than if you join forces with your friends in the cause of progress, come out into the open, and let men see that you are loyal and zealous and careful of your trust, not what Homer calls a vain cumberer of the earth?

But before all, my critics are to remember that in me they will be criticizing not a wise man (if indeed there is such a person on earth), but one of the common people, one who has indeed practised rhetoric and won some little reputation therein, but has never been trained up to the perfect virtue of the really great. Well, I may surely be forgiven for that; if any one ever did come up to the ideal of the wise man, it has not been my fortune to meet him. And I confess further that I should be disappointed if I found you criticizing my present life; you knew me long ago when I was making a handsome income out of the public profession of rhetoric; for on that Atlantic tour of yours which included Gaul, you found me numbered among those teachers who could command high fees. Now, my friend, you have my defence; I am exceedingly busy, but could not be indifferent to securing your vote of acquittal; as for others, let them all denounce me with one voice if they will; on them I shall waste no more words than, What cares Hippoclides?

26 Omitting as a scholium, with Dindorf and Fritzsche, the words: hoia esti ton tryphonton plousion ta sphingia kai ta kourallia.

27 See Stesichorus in Notes.

28 i.e. Hermes.

A Slip of the Tongue in Salutation


If a poor mortal has some difficulty in guarding against that spirit of mischief which dwells aloft, he has still more in clearing himself of the absurd consequences when that spirit trips him up. I am in both predicaments at once; coming to make you my morning salutation, which should have taken the orthodox form of Rejoice, I bade you, in a very choice fit of absent-mindedness, Be healthy — a good enough wish in its way, but a little untimely and unconnected with that early hour. I at once went moist and red, not quite aware whether I was on my head or my heels; some of the company took me for a lunatic, no doubt, some thought I was in my second childhood, some that I had not quite got over my last night’s wine — though you yourself were the pink of good manners, not showing your consciousness of the slip by any ghost of a smile. It occurred to me to write to myself a little something in the way of comfort, and so modify the distress my blunder gave me — prove to myself that it was not absolutely unpardonable for an old man to transgress etiquette so flagrantly before so many witnesses. As to apology, there could be no occasion for that, when one’s slip had resulted in so well-omened a wish.

I began to write expecting my task to be very difficult, but found plenty of material as I went on. I will defer it, however, till I have cleared the way with a few necessary remarks on the three forms — Rejoice or Joy, Prosper or Prosperity, Hail or Health. Joy is a very ancient greeting; but it was not confined to the morning, or the first meeting. They did use it when they first saw one another:

Joy to thee, Lord of this Tirynthian land!

But again at the moment when the wine succeeded to the meal:

Achilles, Joy! We lack not fair repast —

so says Odysseus discharging his embassy. And even at parting:

Joy be with you! And henceforth know me God, No longer mortal man.

In fact the apostrophe was not limited to any particular season, as now to the morning alone; indeed they used it on gloomy, nay, on the most lamentable occasions; in Euripides, Polynices ends his life with the words,

Joy with you! for the darkness closes on me.

Nor was it necessarily significative of friendliness; it could express hatred and the determination to see no more of another. To wish much joy to, was a regular form for ceasing to care about.

The modern use of the word dates back to Philippides the dispatch-runner. Bringing the news of Marathon, he found the archons seated, in suspense regarding the issue of the battle. ‘Joy, we win!’ he said, and died upon his message, breathing his last in the word Joy. The earliest letter beginning with it is that in which Cleon the Athenian demagogue, writing from Sphacteria, sends the good news of his victory and capture of Spartans at that place. However, later than that we find Nicias writing from Sicily and keeping to the older custom of coming to business at once with no such introduction.

Now the admirable Plato, no bad authority on such matters, would have us reject the salutation Joy altogether; it is a mean wish, wanting in seriousness, according to him; his substitute is Prosperity, which stands for a satisfactory condition both of body and soul; in a letter to Dionysius, he reproves him for commencing a hymn to Apollo with Joy, which he maintains is unworthy of the Pythian, and not fit even for men of any discretion, not to mention Gods.

Pythagoras the mystic has vouchsafed us no writings of his own; but we may infer from his disciples, Ocellus the Lucanian and Archytas, for instance, that he headed his letters neither with Joy nor Prosperity, but recommended beginning with Hail. At any rate all the Pythagoreans in writing to one another (when their tone is serious, that is) started with wishing Health, which they took to be the prime need of soul and body alike, and to include all human blessings. The Pentagram 30, that interlaced triple triangle which served them as a sort of password, they called by the name Health. They argued that Health included Joy and Prosperity, but that neither of those two was coextensive with Health. Some of them gave to the Quaternion, 31 which is their most solemn oath, and sums their perfect number, the name of Beginning of Health. Philolaus might be quoted.

But I need hardly go so far back. Epicurus assuredly rejoiced in joy — pleasure was the chief Good in his eyes; yet in his most earnest letters (which are not very numerous), and in those to his most intimate friends, he starts with Hail. And in tragedy and the old comedy you will constantly find it used quite at the beginning. You remember,

Hail to thee, joy be thine —

which puts health before rejoicing clearly enough. And says Alexis:

All hail, my lord; after long time thou comest.

Again Achaeus:

I come in sorry plight, yet wish thee health.

And Philemon:

Health first I ask, and next prosperity, Joy thirdly, and to owe not any man.

As for the writer of the drinking-song mentioned in Plato, what says he? —‘Best is health, and second beauty, and third wealth’; joy he never so much as names. I need hardly adduce the trite saw:

Chief of them that blessings give, Health, with thee I mean to live.

But, if Health is chief, her gift, which is the enjoyment of health, should rank before other Goods.

I could multiply these examples by the thousand from poets, historians, philosophers, who give Health the place of honour; but you will not require any such childish pedantry of me, wiping out my original offence by another; I shall do better to add a historical anecdote or two which occur to me as relevant.

Eumenes of Cardia, writing to Antipater, states that just before the battle of Issus, Hephaestion came at dawn into Alexander’s tent. Either in absence of mind and confusion like mine, or else under a divine impulse, he gave the evening salutation like me —‘Hail, sire; ’tis time we were at our posts.’ All present were confounded at the irregularity, and Hephaestion himself was like to die of shame, when Alexander said, ‘I take the omen; it is a promise that we shall come back safe from battle.’

Antiochus Soter, about to engage the Galatians, dreamed that Alexander stood over him and told him to give his men the password Health; and with this word it was that he won that marvellous victory.

Ptolemy, the son of Lagus, in a letter to Seleucus, just reversed the usual order, bidding him Hail at the beginning, and adding Rejoice at the end instead of wishing him Health; this is recorded by Dionysodorus, the collector of his letters.

The case of Pyrrhus the Epirot is well worth mention; as a general he was only second to Alexander, and he experienced a thousand vicissitudes of fortune. In all his prayers, sacrifices, and offerings, he never asked for victory or increase of his royal dignity, for fame or excessive wealth; his whole prayer was always in one word, Health; as long as he had that, he thought all else would come of itself. And it was true wisdom, in my opinion; he remembered that all other good things are worthless, if health is wanting.

Oh, certainly (says some one); but we have assigned each form to its proper place by this time; and if you disregard that — even though there was no bad meaning in what you did say — you cannot fairly claim to have made no mistake; it is as though one should put a helmet on the shins, or greaves on the head. My dear sir (I reply), your simile would go on all fours if there were any season at all which did not require health; but in point of fact it is needed in the morning and at noonday and at night — especially by busy rulers like you Romans, to whom physical condition is so important. And again, the man who gives you Joy is only beginning auspiciously; it is no more than a prayer; whereas he who bids you Hail is doing you a practical service in reminding you of the means to health; his is more than a prayer, it is a precept.

Why, in that book of instructions which you all receive from the Emperor, is not the first recommendation to take care of your health? Quite rightly; that is the condition precedent of efficiency. Moreover, if I know any Latin, you yourselves, in returning a salutation, constantly use the equivalent of Health.

However, all this does not mean that I have deliberately abandoned Rejoice and substituted Hail for it. I admit that it was quite unintentional; I am not so foolish as to innovate like that, and exchange the regular formulae.

No, I only thank Heaven that my stumble had such very fortunate results, landing me in a better position than I had designed; may it not be that Health itself, or Asclepius, inspired me to give you this promise of health? How else should it have befallen me? In the course of a long life I have never been guilty of such a confusion before.

Or, if I may not have recourse to the supernatural, it is no wonder that my extreme desire to be known to you for good should so confuse me as to work the contrary effect. Possibly, too, one might be robbed of one’s presence of mind by the crowd of military persons pushing for precedence, or treating the salutation ceremony in their cavalier fashion.

As to yourself, I feel sure that, however others may have referred it to stupidity, ignorance, or lunacy, you took it as the sign of a modest, simple, unspoiled, unsophisticated soul. Absolute confidence in such matters comes dangerously near audacity and impudence. My first wish would be to make no such blunder; my second that, if I did, the resulting omen should be good.

There is a story told of the first Augustus. He had given a correct legal decision, which acquitted a maligned person of a most serious charge. The latter expressed his gratitude in a loud voice, thus:—‘I thank your majesty for this bad and inequitable verdict.’ Augustus’s attendants raged, and were ready to tear the man to pieces. But the Emperor restrained them; ‘Never mind what he said; it is what he meant that matters.’ That was Augustus’s view. Well, take my meaning, and it was good; or take my word, and it was auspicious.

And now that I have got to this point, I have reason to fear that I may be suspected of having made the slip on purpose, leading up to this apology. O God of health, only grant me that the quality of my piece may justify the notion that I wanted no more than a peg whereon to hang an essay!

29 This piece, which even in the Greek fails to convince us that Asclepius heard the prayer with which it concludes, is still flatter in English, because we have no words of salutation which correspond at once in etymological meaning and in conventional usage to the Greek. The English reader who cares to understand a piece so little worth his attention, will obligingly bear in mind that the Greek word represented here by Joy and Rejoice roughly answered in Lucian’s time to our Good-morning and How do you do, as well as to the epistolary My dear ——; while that represented by Hail or Health did the work of Good-night, Good-bye, Farewell, and (in letters) Yours truly.

30 See Pythagoras in Notes.

31 See Pythagoras in Notes.

Hermotimus, or the Rival Philosophies

Lycinus. Hermotimus

Ly. Good morning, Hermotimus; I guess by your book and the pace you are going at that you are on your way to lecture, and a little late. You were conning over something as you walked, your lips working and muttering, your hand flung out this way and that as you got a speech into order in your mind; you were doubtless inventing one of your crooked questions, or pondering some tricky problem; never a vacant mind, even in the streets; always on the stretch and in earnest, bent on advancing in your studies.

Her. I admit the impeachment; I was running over the details of what he said in yesterday’s lecture. One must lose no chance, you know; the Coan doctor 32 spoke so truly: ars longa, vita brevis. And what be referred to was only physic — a simpler matter. As to philosophy, not only will you never attain it, however long you study, unless you are wide awake all the time, contemplating it with intense eager gaze; the stake is so tremendous, too — whether you shall rot miserably with the vulgar herd, or be counted among philosophers and reach Happiness.

Ly. A glorious prize, indeed! however, you cannot be far off it now, if one may judge by the time you have given to philosophy, and the extraordinary vigour of your long pursuit. For twenty years now, I should say, I have watched you perpetually going to your professors, generally bent over a book taking notes of past lectures, pale with thought and emaciated in body. I suspect you find no release even in your dreams, you are so wrapped up in the thing. With all this you must surely get hold of Happiness soon, if indeed you have not found it long ago without telling us.

Her. Alas, Lycinus, I am only just beginning to get an inkling of the right way. Very far off dwells Virtue, as Hesiod says, and long and steep and rough is the way thither, and travellers must bedew it with sweat.

Ly. And you have not yet sweated and travelled enough?

Her. Surely not; else should I have been on the summit, with nothing left between me and bliss; but I am only starting yet, Lycinus.

Ly. Ah, but Hesiod, your own authority, tells us, Well begun is half done; so we may safely call you half-way by this time.

Her. Not even there yet; that would indeed have been much.

Ly. Where shall we put you, then?

Her. Still on the lower slopes, just making an effort to get on; but it is slippery and rough, and needs a helping hand.

Ly. Well, your master can give you that; from his station on the summit, like Zeus in Homer with his golden cord, he can let you down his discourse, and therewith haul and heave you up to himself and to the Virtue which he has himself attained this long time.

Her. The very picture of what he is doing; if it depended on him alone, I should have been hauled up long ago; it is my part that is still wanting.

Ly. You must be of good cheer and keep a stout heart; gaze at the end of your climb and the Happiness at the top, and remember that he is working with you. What prospect does he hold out? when are you to be up? does he think you will be on the top next year — by the Great Mysteries, or the Panathenaea, say?

Her. Too soon, Lycinus.

Ly. By next Olympiad, then?

Her. All too short a time, even that, for habituation to Virtue and attainment of Happiness.

Ly. Say two Olympiads, then, for an outside estimate. You may fairly be found guilty of laziness, if you cannot get it done by then; the time would allow you three return trips from the Pillars of Heracles to India, with a margin for exploring the tribes on the way instead of sailing straight and never stopping. How much higher and more slippery, pray, is the peak on which your Virtue dwells than that Aornos crag which Alexander stormed in a few days?

Her. There is no resemblance, Lycinus; this is not a thing, as you conceive it, to be compassed and captured quickly, though ten thousand Alexanders were to assault it; in that case, the sealers would have been legion. As it is, a good number begin the climb with great confidence, and do make progress, some very little indeed, others more; but when they get half-way, they find endless difficulties and discomforts, lose heart, and turn back, panting, dripping, and exhausted. But those who endure to the end reach the top, to be blessed thenceforth with wondrous days, looking down from their height upon the ants which are the rest of mankind.

Ly. Dear me, what tiny things you make us out — not so big as the Pygmies even, but positively grovelling on the face of the earth. I quite understand it; your thoughts are up aloft already. And we, the common men that walk the earth, shall mingle you with the Gods in our prayers; for you are translated above the clouds, and gone up whither you have so long striven.

Her. If but that ascent might be, Lycinus! but it is far yet.

Ly. But you have never told me how far, in terms of time.

Her. No; for I know not precisely myself. My guess is that it will not be more than twenty years; by that time I shall surely be on the summit.

Ly. Mercy upon us, you take long views!

Her. Ay; but, as the toil, so is the reward.

Ly. That may be; but about these twenty years — have you your master’s promise that you will live so long? is he prophet as well as philosopher? or is it a soothsayer or Chaldean expert that you trust? such things are known to them, I understand. You would never, of course, if there were any uncertainty of your life’s lasting to the Virtue-point, slave and toil night and day like this; why, just as you were close to the top, your fate might come upon you, lay hold of you by the heel, and lug you down with your hopes unfulfilled.

Her. God forbid! these are words of ill omen, Lycinus; may life be granted me, that I may grow wise, and have if it be but one day of Happiness!

Ly. For all these toils will you be content with your one day?

Her. Content? yes, or with the briefest moment of it.

Ly. But is there indeed Happiness up there — and worth all the pains? How can you tell? You have never been up yourself.

Her. I trust my master’s word; and he knows well; is he not on the topmost height?

Ly. Oh, do tell me what he says about it; what is Happiness like? wealth, glory, pleasures incomparable?

Her. Hush, friend! all these have nought to do with the Virtuous life.

Ly. Well, if these will not do, what are the good things he offers to those who carry their course right through?

Her. Wisdom, courage, true beauty, justice, full and firm knowledge of all things as they are; but wealth and glory and pleasure and all bodily things — these a man strips off and abandons before he mounts up, like Heracles burning on Mount Oeta before deification; he too cast off whatever of the human he had from his mother, and soared up to the Gods with his divine part pure and unalloyed, sifted by the fire. Even so those I speak of are purged by the philosophic fire of all that deluded men count admirable, and reaching the summit have Happiness with never a thought of wealth and glory and pleasure — except to smile at any who count them more than phantoms.

Ly. By Heracles (and his death on Oeta), they quit themselves like men, and have their reward, it seems. But there is one thing I should like to know: are they allowed to come down from their elevation sometimes, and have a taste of what they left behind them? or when they have once got up, must they stay there, conversing with Virtue, and smiling at wealth and glory and pleasure?

Her. The latter, assuredly; more than that, a man once admitted of Virtue’s company will never be subject to wrath or fear or desire any more; no, nor can he feel pain, nor any such sensation.

Ly. Well, but — if one might dare to say what one thinks — but no — let me keep a good tongue in my head — it were irreverent to pry into what wise men do.

Her. Nay, nay; let me know your meaning.

Ly. Dear friend, I have not the courage.

Her. Out with it, my good fellow; we are alone.

Ly. Well, then — most of your account I followed and accepted — how they grow wise and brave and just, and the rest — indeed I was quite fascinated by it; but then you went on to say they despised wealth and glory and pleasure; well, just there (quite between ourselves, you know) I was pulled up; I thought of a scene t’other day with — shall I tell you whom? Perhaps we can do without a name?

Her. No, no; we must have that too.

Ly. Your own professor himself, then — a person to whom all respect is due, surely, not to mention his years.

Her. Well?

Ly. You know the Heracleot, quite an old pupil of his in philosophy by this time — red-haired — likes an argument?

Her. Yes; Dion, he is called.

Ly. Well, I suppose he had not paid up punctually; anyhow the other day the old man haled him before the magistrate, with a halter made of his own coat; he was shouting and fuming, and if some friends had not come up and got the young man out of his hands, he would have bitten off his nose, he was in such a temper.

Her. Ah, he is a bad character, always an unconscionable time paying his debts. There are plenty of others who owe the professor money, and he has never treated any of them so; they pay him his interest punctually.

Ly. Not so fast; what in the world does it matter to him, if they do not pay up? he is purified by philosophy, and has no further need of the cast clothes of Oeta.

Her. Do you suppose his interest in such things is selfish? no, but he has little ones; his care is to save them from indigence.

Ly. Whereas he ought to have brought them up to Virtue too, and let them share his inexpensive Happiness.

Her. Well, I have no time to argue it, Lycinus; I must not be late for lecture, lest in the end I find myself left behind.

Ly. Don’t be afraid, my duteous one; today is a holiday; I can save you the rest of your walk.

Her. What do you mean?

Ly. You will not find him just now, if the notice is to be trusted; there was a tablet over the door announcing in large print, No meeting this day. I hear he dined yesterday with the great Eucrates, who was keeping his daughter’s birthday. He talked a good deal of philosophy over the wine, and lost his temper a little with Euthydemus the Peripatetic; they were debating the old Peripatetic objections to the Porch. His long vocal exertions (for it was midnight before they broke up) gave him a bad headache, with violent perspiration. I fancy he had also drunk a little too much, toasts being the order of the day, and eaten more than an old man should. When he got home, he was very ill, they said, just managed to check and lock up carefully the slices of meat which he had conveyed to his servant at table, and then, giving orders that he was not at home, went to sleep, and has not waked since. I overheard Midas his man telling this to some of his pupils; there were a number of them coming away.

Her. Which had the victory, though, he or Euthydemus — if Midas said anything about that?

Ly. Why, at first, I gathered, it was very even between them; but you Stoics had it in the end, and your master was much too hard for him. Euthydemus did not even get off whole; he had a great cut on his head. He was pretentious, insisted on proving his point, would not give in, and proved a hard nut to crack; so your excellent professor, who had a goblet as big as Nestor’s in his hand, brought this down on him as he lay within easy reach, and the victory was his.

Her. Good; so perish all who will not yield to their betters!

Ly. Very reasonable, Hermotimus; what was Euthydemus thinking of, to irritate an old man who is purged of wrath and master of his passions, when he had such a heavy goblet in his hand?

But we have time to spare — you might tell a friend like me the story of your start in philosophy; then I might perhaps, if it is not too late, begin now and join your school; you are my friends; you will not be exclusive?

Her. If only you would, Lycinus! you will soon find out how much you are superior to the rest of men. I do assure you, you will think them all children, you will be so much wiser.

Ly. Enough for me, if after twenty years of it I am where you are now.

Her. Oh, I was about your age when I started on philosophy; I was forty; and you must be about that.

Ly. Just that; so take and lead me on the same way; that is but right. And first tell me — do you allow learners to criticize, if they find difficulties in your doctrines, or must juniors abstain from that?

Her. Why, yes, they must; but you shall have leave to ask questions and criticize; you will learn easier that way.

Ly. I thank you for it, Hermotimus, by your name-God Hermes.

Now, is there only one road to philosophy — the Stoic way? they tell me there are a great many other philosophers; is that so?

Her. Certainly — Peripatetics, Epicureans, Platonists, followers of Diogenes, Antisthenes, Pythagoras, and more yet.

Ly. Quite so; numbers of them. Now, are their doctrines the same, or different?

Her. Entirely different.

Ly. But the truth, I presume, is bound to be in one of them, and not in all, as they differ?

Her. Certainly.

Ly. Then, as you love me, answer this: when you first went in pursuit of philosophy, you found many gates wide open; what induced you to pass the others by, and go in at the Stoic gate? Why did you assume that that was the only true one, which would set you on the straight road to Virtue, while the rest all opened on blind alleys? What was the test you applied then? Please abolish your present self, the self which is now instructed, or half-instructed, and better able to distinguish between good and bad than we outsiders, and answer in your then character of a layman, with no advantage over me as I am now.

Her. I cannot tell what you are driving at.

Ly. Oh, there is nothing recondite about it. There are a great many philosophers — let us say Plato, Aristotle, Antisthenes, and your spiritual fathers, Chrysippus, Zeno, and all the rest of them; what was it that induced you, leaving the rest alone, to pick out the school you did from among them all, and pin your philosophic faith to it? Were you favoured like Chaerephon with a revelation from Apollo? Did he tell you the Stoics were the best of men, and send you to their school? I dare say he recommends different philosophers to different persons, according to their individual needs?

Her. Nothing of the kind, Lycinus; I never consulted him upon it.

Ly. Why? was it not a dignus vindice nodus? or were you confident in your own unaided discrimination?

Her. Why, yes; I was.

Ly. Then this must be my first lesson from you — how one can decide out of hand which is the best and the true philosophy to be taken, and the others left.

Her. I will tell you: I observed that it attracted most disciples, and thence inferred that it was superior.

Ly. Give me figures; how many more of them than of Epicureans, Platonists, Peripatetics? Of course you took a sort of show of hands.

Her. Well, no; I didn’t count; I just guessed.

Ly. Now, now! you are not teaching, but hoaxing me; judge by guess work and impression, indeed, on a thing of this importance! You are hiding the truth.

Her. Well, that was not my only way; every one told me the Epicureans were sensual and self-indulgent, the Peripatetics avaricious and contentious, the Platonists conceited and vain; about the Stoics, on the contrary, many said they had fortitude and an open mind; he who goes their way, I heard, was the true king and millionaire and wise man, alone and all in one.

Ly. And, of course, it was other people who so described them; you would not have taken their own word for their excellences.

Her. Certainly not; it was others who said it.

Ly. Not their rivals, I suppose?

Her. Oh, no.

Ly. Laymen, then?

Her. Just so.

Ly. There you are again, cheating me with your irony; you take me for a blockhead, who will believe that an intelligent person like Hermotimus, at the age of forty, would accept the word of laymen about philosophy and philosophers, and make his own selection on the strength of what they said.

Her. But you see, Lycinus, I did not depend on their judgement entirely, but on my own too. I saw the Stoics going about with dignity, decently dressed and groomed, ever with a thoughtful air and a manly countenance, as far from effeminacy as from the utter repulsive negligence of the Cynics, bearing themselves, in fact, like moderate men; and every one admits that moderation is right.

Ly. Did you ever see them behaving like your master, as I described him to you just now? Lending money and clamouring for payment, losing their tempers in philosophic debates, and making other exhibitions of themselves? Or perhaps these are trifles, so long as the dress is decent, the beard long, and the hair close-cropped? We are provided for the future, then, with an infallible rule and balance, guaranteed by Hermotimus? It is by appearance and walk and haircutting that the best men are to be distinguished; and whosoever has not these marks, and is not solemn and thoughtful, shall be condemned and rejected?

Nay, do not play with me like this; you want to see whether I shall catch you at it.

Her. Why do you say that?

Ly. Because, my dear sir, this appearance test is one for statues; their decent orderly attire has it easily over the Stoics, because Phidias or Alcamenes or Myron designed them to be graceful. However, granting as much as you like that these are the right tests, what is a blind man to do, if he wants to take up philosophy? how is he to find the man whose principles are right, when he cannot see his appearance or gait?

Her. I am not teaching the blind, Lycinus; I have nothing to do with them.

Ly. Ah, but, my good sir, there ought to have been some universal criterion, in a matter of such great and general use. Still, if you will have it so, let the blind be excluded from philosophy, as they cannot see — though, by the way, they are just the people who most need philosophy to console them for their misfortune; but now, the people who can see — give them the utmost possible acuity of vision, and what can they detect of the spiritual qualities from this external shell?

What I mean is this: was it not from admiration of their spirit that you joined them, expecting to have your own spirit purified?

Her. Assuredly.

Ly. How could you possibly discern the true philosopher from the false, then, by the marks you mentioned? It is not the way of such qualities to come out like that; they are hidden and secret; they are revealed only under long and patient observation, in talk and debate and the conduct they inspire. You have probably heard of Momus’s indictment of Hephaestus; if not, you shall have it now. According to the myth, Athene, Posidon, and Hephaestus had a match in inventiveness. Posidon made a bull, Athene planned a house, Hephaestus constructed a man; when they came before Momus, who was to judge, he examined their productions; I need not trouble you with his criticisms of the other two; but his objection to the man, and the fault he found with Hephaestus, was this: he should have made a window in his chest, so that, when it was opened, his thoughts and designs, his truth or falsehood, might have been apparent. Momus must have been blear-eyed, to have such ideas about men; but you have sharper eyes than Lynceus, and pierce through the chest to what is inside; all is patent to you, not merely any man’s wishes and sentiments, but the comparative merits of any pair.

Her. You trifle, Lycinus. I made a pious choice, and do not repent it; that is enough for me.

Ly. And will you yet make a mystery of it to your friend, and let him be lost with the vulgar herd?

Her. Why, you will not accept anything I say.

Ly. On the contrary, my good sir, it is you who will not say anything I can accept. Well, as you refuse me your confidence, and are so jealous of my becoming a philosopher and your equal, I must even do my best to find out the infallible test and learn to choose safely for myself. And you may listen, if you like.

Her. That I will, Lycinus; you will very likely hit on some good idea.

Ly. Then attend, and do not mock me, if my inquiry is quite unscientific; it is all I can do, as you, who know better, will not give me any clearer light.

I conceive Virtue, then, under the figure of a State whose citizens are happy — as your professor, who is one of them, phrases it — absolutely wise, all of them brave, just, and self-controlled, hardly distinguishable, in fact, from Gods. All sorts of things that go on here, such as robbery, assault, unfair gain, you will never find attempted there, I believe; their relations are all peace and unity; and this is quite natural, seeing that none of the things which elsewhere occasion strife and rivalry, and prompt men to plot against their neighbours, so much as come in their way at all. Gold, pleasures, distinctions, they never regard as objects of dispute; they have banished them long ago as undesirable elements. Their life is serene and blissful, in the enjoyment of legality, equality, liberty, and all other good things.

Her. Well, Lycinus? Must not all men yearn to belong to a State like that, and never count the toil of getting there, nor lose heart over the time it takes? Enough that one day they will arrive, and be naturalized, and given the franchise.

Ly. In good truth, Hermotimus, we should devote all our efforts to this, and neglect everything else; we need pay little heed to any claims of our earthly country; we should steel our hearts against the clingings and cryings of children or parents, if we have them; it is well if we can induce them to go with us; but, if they will not or cannot, shake them off and march straight for the city of bliss, leaving your coat in their hands, if they lay hold of it to keep you back, in your hurry to get there; what matter for a coat? You will be admitted there without one.

I remember hearing a description of it all once before from an old man, who urged me to go there with him. He would show me the way, enroll me when I got there, introduce me to his own circles, and promise me a share in the universal Happiness. But I was stiff-necked, in my youthful folly (it was some fifteen years ago); else might I have been in the outskirts, nay, haply at the very gates, by now. Among the noteworthy things he told me, I seem to remember these: all the citizens are aliens and foreigners, not a native among them; they include numbers of barbarians, slaves, cripples, dwarfs, and poor; in fact any one is admitted; for their law does not associate the franchise with income, with shape, size, or beauty, with old or brilliant ancestry; these things are not considered at all; any one who would be a citizen needs only understanding, zeal for the right, energy, perseverance, fortitude and resolution in facing all the trials of the road; whoever proves his possession of these by persisting till he reaches the city is ipso facto a full citizen, regardless of his antecedents. Such distinctions as superior and inferior, noble and common, bond and free, simply do not exist there, even in name.

Her. There, now; you see I am not wasting my pains on trifles; I yearn to be counted among the citizens of that fair and happy State.

Ly. Why, your yearning is mine too; there is nothing I would sooner pray for. If the city had been near at hand and plain for all to see, be assured I would never have doubted, nor needed prompting; I would have gone thither and had my franchise long ago; but as you tell me — you and your bard Hesiod — that it is set exceeding far off, one must find out the way to it, and the best guide. You agree?

Her. Of course that is the only thing to do.

Ly. Now, so far as promises and professions go, there is no lack of guides; there are numbers of them waiting about, all representing themselves as from there. But instead of one single road there seem to be many different and inconsistent ones. North and South, East and West, they go; one leads through meadows and vegetation and shade, and is well watered and pleasant, with never a stumbling-block or inequality; another is rough and rocky, threatening heat and drought and toil. Yet all these are supposed to lead to the one city, though they take such different directions.

That is where my difficulty lies; whichever of them I try, there is sure to be a most respectable person stationed just at the entrance, with a welcoming hand and an exhortation to go his way; each of them says he is the only one who knows the straight road; his rivals are all mistaken, have never been themselves, nor learnt the way from competent guides. I go to his neighbour, and he gives the same assurances about his way, abusing the other respectable persons; and so the next, and the next, and the next. This multiplicity and dissimilarity of the roads gives me searchings of heart, and still more the assertiveness and self-satisfaction of the guides; I really cannot tell which turning or whose directions are most likely to bring me to the city.

Her. Oh, but I can solve that puzzle for you; you cannot go wrong, if you trust those who have been already.

Ly. Which do you mean? those who have been by which road, and under whose guidance? It is the old puzzle in a new form; you have only substituted men for measures.

Her. How do you mean?

Ly. Why, the man who has taken Plato’s road and travelled with him will recommend that road; so with Epicurus and the rest; and you will recommend your own. How else, Hermotimus? it must be so.

Her. Well, of course.

Ly. So you have not solved my puzzle; I know just as little as before which traveller to trust; I find that each of them, as well as his guide, has tried one only, which he now recommends and will have to be the only one leading to the city. Whether he tells the truth I have no means of knowing; that he has attained some end, and seen some city, I may perhaps allow; but whether he saw the right one, or whether, Corinth being the real goal, he got to Babylon and thought he had seen Corinth — that is still undecided; for surely every one who has seen a city has not seen Corinth, unless Corinth is the only city there is. But my greatest difficulty of all is the absolute certainty that the true road is one; for Corinth is one, and the other roads lead anywhere but to Corinth, though there may be people deluded enough to suppose that the North road and the South road lead equally to Corinth.

Her. But that is absurd, Lycinus; they go opposite ways, you see.

Ly. Then, my dear good man, this choice of roads and guides is quite a serious matter; we can by no means just follow our noses; we shall be discovering that we are well on the way to Babylon or Bactria instead of to Corinth. Nor is it advisable to toss up, either, on the chance that we may hit upon the right way if we start upon any one at a venture. That is no impossibility; it may have come off once and again in a cycle; but I cannot think we ought to gamble recklessly with such high stakes, nor commit our hopes to a frail craft, like the wise men who went to sea in a bowl; we should have no fair complaint against Fortune, if her arrow or dart did not precisely hit the centre; the odds are ten thousand to one against her; just so the archer in Homer — Teucer, I suppose it was — when he meant to hit the dove, only cut the string, which held it; of course it is infinitely more likely that the point of the arrow will find its billet in one of the numberless other places, than just in that particular central one. And as to the perils of blundering into one of the wrong roads instead of the right one, misled by a belief in the discretion of Fortune, here is an illustration:— it is no easy matter to turn back and get safe into port when you have once cast loose your moorings and committed yourself to the breeze; you are at the mercy of the sea, frightened, sick and sorry with your tossing about, most likely. Your mistake was at the beginning: before leaving, you should have gone up to some high point, and observed whether the wind was in the right quarter, and of the right strength for a crossing to Corinth, not neglecting, by the way, to secure the very best pilot obtainable, and a seaworthy craft equal to so high a sea.

Her. Much better so, Lycinus. However, I know that, if you go the whole round, you will find no better guides or more expert pilots than the Stoics; if you mean ever to get to Corinth, you will follow them, in the tracks of Chrysippus and Zeno. It is the only way to do it.

Ly. Ah, many can play at the game of assertion. Plato’s fellow traveller, Epicurus’s follower, and all the rest, will tell me just what you do, that I shall never get to Corinth except with whichever of them it is. So I must either believe them all, or disbelieve impartially. The latter is much the safest, until we have found out the truth.

Put a case, now: just as I am, as uncertain as ever which of the whole number has the truth, I choose your school; I rely on you, who are my friend, but who still know only the Stoic doctrine, and have not travelled any way but that. Now some God brings Plato, Pythagoras, Aristotle, and the rest to life again; they gather round and cross-examine me, or actually sue me in court for constructive defamation; Good Lycinus, they say, what possessed or who induced you to exalt Chrysippus and Zeno at our expense? we are far older established; they are mere creatures of yesterday; yet you never gave us a hearing, nor inquired into our statements at all. Well, what am I to plead? will it avail me to say I trusted my friend Hermotimus? I feel sure they will say, We know not this Hermotimus, who he is, nor he us; you had no right to condemn us all, and give judgement by default against us, on the authority of a man who knew only one of the philosophic roads, and even that, perhaps, imperfectly. These are not the instructions issued to juries, Lycinus; they are not to hear one party, and, refuse the other permission to say what he deems advisable; they are to hear both sides alike, with a view to the better sifting of truth from falsehood by comparison of the arguments; if they fail in these duties, the law allows an appeal to another court. That is what we may expect them to say.

Then one of them might proceed to question me like this: Suppose, Lycinus, that an Ethiopian who had never been abroad in his life, nor seen other men like us, were to state categorically in an Ethiopian assembly that there did not exist on earth any white or yellow men — nothing but blacks — would his statement be accepted? or would some Ethiopian elder remark, How do you know, my confident friend? you have never been in foreign parts, nor had any experience of other nations. Shall I tell him the old man’s question was justified? what do you advise, my counsel?

Her. Say that, certainly; I consider the old man’s rebuke quite reasonable.

Ly. So do I. But I am not so sure you will approve what comes next; as for me, I have as little doubt of that as of the other.

Her. What is it?

Ly. The next step will be the application; my questioner will say, Now Lycinus, let us suppose an analogue, in a person acquainted only with the Stoic doctrine, like your friend Hermotimus; he has never travelled in Plato’s country, or to Epicurus, or any other land; now, if he were to state that there was no such beauty or truth in those many countries as there is in the Porch and its teaching, would you not be justified in considering it bold of him to give you his opinion about them all, whereas he knew only one, having never set foot outside the bounds of Ethiopia? What reply do you advise to that?

Her. The perfectly true one, of course, that it is indeed the Stoic doctrine that we study fully, being minded to sink or swim with that, but still we do know what the others say also; our teacher rehearses the articles of their beliefs to us incidentally, and demolishes them with his comments.

Ly. Do you suppose the Platonists, Pythagoreans, Epicureans, and other schools, will let that pass? or will they laugh out loud and say, What remarkable methods your friend has, Lycinus! he accepts our adversaries’ character of us, and gathers our doctrines from the description of people who do not know, or deliberately misrepresent them. If he were to see an athlete getting his muscles in trim by kicking high, or hitting out at empty space as though he were getting a real blow home, would he (in the capacity of umpire) at once proclaim him victor, because he could not help winning ? No; he would reflect that these displays are easy and safe, when there is no defence to be reckoned with, and that the real decision must wait till he has beaten and mastered his opponent, and the latter ‘has had enough’. Well then, do not let Hermotimus suppose from his teachers’ sparrings with our shadows (for we are not there) that they have the victory, or that our doctrines are so easily upset; tell him the business is too like the sand houses which children, having built them weak, have no difficulty in overturning, or, to change the figure, like people practising archery; they make a straw target, hang it to a post, plant it a little way off, and then let fly at it; if they hit and get through the straw, they burst into a shout, as if it were a great triumph to have driven through the dry stuff. That is not the way the Persians take, or those Scythian tribes which use the bow. Generally, when they shoot, in the first place they are themselves mounted and in motion, and secondly, they like the mark to be moving too; it is not to be stationary, waiting for the arrival of the arrow, but passing at full speed; they can usually kill beasts, and their marksmen hit birds. If it ever happens that they want to test the actual impact on a target, they set up one of stout wood, or a shield of raw hide; piercing that, they reckon that their shafts will go through armour too. So, Lycinus, tell Hermotimus from us that his teachers fierce straw targets, and then say they have disposed of armed men; or paint up figures of us, spar at them, and, after a not surprising success, think they have beaten us. But we shall severally quote against them Achilles’s words against Hector:

They dare not face the nodding of my plume.

So say all of them, one after the other.

I suspect that Plato, with his intimate knowledge of Sicily, will add an anecdote from there. Gelo of Syracuse had disagreeable breath, but did not find it out himself for a long time, no one venturing to mention such a circumstance to a tyrant. At last a foreign woman who had a connexion with him dared to tell him; whereupon he went to his wife and scolded her for never having, with all her opportunities of knowing, warned him of it; she put in the defence that, as she had never been familiar or at close quarters with any other man, she had supposed all men were like that. So Hermotinus (Plato will say) after his exclusive association with Stoics, cannot be expected to know the savour of other people’s mouths. Chrysippus, on the other hand, might say as much or more if I were to put him out of court and betake myself to Platonism, in reliance upon some one who had conversed with Plato alone. And in a word, as long as it is uncertain which is the true philosophic school, I choose none; choice of one is insult to the rest.

Her. For Heaven’s sake, Lycinus, let us leave Plato, Aristotle, Epicurus, and the rest of them alone; to argue with them is not for me. Why not just hold a private inquiry, you and I, whether philosophy is what I say it is? As for the Ethiopians and Gelo’s wife, what a long way you have brought them on none of their business!

Ly. Away with them, then, if you find their company superfluous. And now do you proceed; my expectations are high.

Her. Well, it seems to me perfectly possible, Lycinus, after studying the Stoic doctrines alone, to get at the truth from them, without going through a course of all the others too. Look at it this way: if any one tells you simply, Twice two is four, need you go round all the mathematicians to find out whether there is one who makes it five, or seven; or would you know at once that the man was right?

Ly. Certainly I should.

Her. Then why should you think it impossible for a man who finds, without going further, that the Stoics make true statements, to believe them and dispense with further witness? He knows that four can never be five, though ten thousand Platos or Pythagorases said it was.

Ly. Not to the point. You compare accepted with disputed facts, whereas they are completely different. Tell me, did you ever meet a man who said twice two was seven or eleven?

Her. Not I; any one who did not make four of it must be mad.

Ly. But on the other hand — try to tell the truth, I adjure you — did you ever meet a Stoic and an Epicurean who did not differ about principles or ends?

Her. No.

Ly. You are an honest man; now ask yourself whether you are trapping a friend with false logic. We are trying to find out with whom philosophic truth lies; and you beg the question and make a present of that same truth to the Stoics; for you say (what is quite unproved) that they are the people who make twice two four; the Epicureans or Platonists would say that they bring out that result, whereas you get five or seven. Does it not amount to that, when your school reckon goodness the only end, and the Epicureans pleasure? or again when you say everything is material, and Plato recognizes an immaterial element also in all that exists? As I said, you lay hold of the thing in dispute, as though it were the admitted property of the Stoics, and put it into their hands, though the others claim it and maintain that it is theirs; why, it is the very point at issue. If it is once established that Stoics have the monopoly of making four out of twice two, it is time for the rest to hold their tongues; but as long as they refuse to yield that point, we must hear all alike, or be prepared for people’s calling us partial judges.

Her. It seems to me, Lycinus, you do not understand what I mean.

Ly. Very well, put it plainer, if it is something different from that.

Her. You will see in a minute. Let us suppose two people have gone into the temple of Asclepius or Dionysus, and subsequently one of the sacred cups is missing. Both of them will have to be searched, to see which has it about him.

Ly. Clearly.

Her. Of course one of them has it.

Ly. Necessarily, if it is missing.

Her. Then, if you find it on the first, you will not strip the other; it is clear he has not got it.

Ly. Quite.

Her. And if we fail to find it on the first, the other certainly has it; it is unnecessary to search him that way either.

Ly. Yes, he has it.

Her. So with us; if we find the cup in the possession of the Stoics, we shall not care to go on and search the others; we have what we were looking for; why trouble further?

Ly. There is no why, if you really find it, and can be certain it is the missing article, the sacred object being unmistakable. But there are some differences in this case, friend, the temple-visitors are not two, so that if one has not got the booty the other has, but many; and the identity of the missing object is also uncertain; it may be cup, or bowl, or garland; every priest gives a different description of it; they do not agree even about the material; bronze, say these, silver, say those — anything from gold to tin. So there is nothing for it but to strip the visitors, if you want to find it; even if you discover a gold cup on the first man, you must go on to the others.

Her. What for?

Ly. Because it is not certain that the thing was a cup. And even if that is generally admitted, they do not all agree that it was gold; and if it is well known that a gold cup is missing, and you find a gold cup on your first man, even so you are not quit of searching the others; it is not clear that this is the sacred cup; do you suppose there is only one gold cup in the world?

Her. No, indeed.

Ly. So you will have to go the round, and then collect all your finds together and decide which of them is most likely to be divine property.

For the source of all the difficulty is this: every one who is stripped has something or other on him, one a bowl, one a cup, one a garland, which again may be bronze, gold, or silver; but whether the one he has is the sacred one, is not yet clear. It is absolutely impossible to know which man to accuse of sacrilege; even if all the objects were similar, it would be uncertain who had robbed the God; for such things may be private property too. Our perplexity, of course, is simply due to the fact that the missing cup — assume it to be a cup — has no inscription; if either the God’s or the donor’s name had been on it, we should not have had all this trouble; when we found the inscribed one, we should have stopped stripping and inconveniencing other visitors. I suppose, Hermotimus, you have often been at athletic meetings?

Her. You suppose right; and in many places too.

Ly. Did you ever have a seat close by the judges?

Her. Dear me, yes; last Olympia, I was on the left of the stewards; Euandridas of Elis had got me a place in the Elean enclosure; I particularly wanted to have a near view of how things are done there.

Ly. So you know how they arrange ties for the wrestling or the pancratium?

Her. Yes.

Ly. Then you will describe it better than I, as you have seen it so close.

Her. In old days, when Heracles presided, bay leaves —

Ly. No old days, thank you; tell me what you saw with your own eyes.

Her. A consecrated silver urn is produced, and into it are thrown little lots about the size of a bean, with letters on them. Two are marked alpha 33, two beta, two more gamma, and so on, if the competitors run to more than that — two lots always to each letter. A competitor comes up, makes a prayer to Zeus, dips his hand into the urn, and pulls out one lot; then another does the same; there is a policeman to each drawer, who holds his hand so that he cannot see what letter he has drawn. When all have drawn, the chief police officer, I think it is, or one of the stewards themselves — I cannot quite remember this detail — goes round and examines the lots while they stand in a circle, and puts together the two alphas for the wrestling or pancratium, and so for the two betas, and the rest. That is the procedure when the number of competitors is even, as eight, four, or twelve. If it is five, seven, nine, or other odd number, an odd letter is marked on one lot, which is put in with the others, not having a duplicate. Whoever draws this is a bye, and waits till the rest have finished their ties; no duplicate turns up for him, you see; and it is a considerable advantage to an athlete, to know that he will come fresh against tired competitors.

Ly. Stop there; that is just what I wanted. There are nine of them, we will say, and they have all drawn, and the lots are in their hands. You go round — for I promote you from spectator to steward — examining the letters; and I suppose you will not know who is the bye till you have been to them all and paired them.

Her. How do you mean?

Ly. It is impossible for you to hit straight upon the letter which indicates the bye; at least, you may hit upon the letter, but you will not know about the bye; it was not announced beforehand that kappa or mu or iota had the appointment in its gift; when you find alpha, you look for the holder of the other alpha, whom finding, you pair the two. Again finding beta, you inquire into the whereabouts of the second beta which matches it; and so all through, till there is no one left but the holder of the single unpaired letter.

Her. But suppose you come upon it first or second, what will you do then?

Ly. Never mind me; I want to know what you will do, Mr. Steward. Will you say at once, Here is the bye? or will you have to go round to all, and see whether there is a duplicate to be found, it being impossible to know the bye till you have seen all the lots?

Her. Why, Lycinus, I shall know quite easily; nine being the number, if I find the epsilon first or second, I know the holder of it for the bye.

Ly. But how?

Her. How? Why, two of them must have alpha, two beta, and of the next two pairs one has certainly drawn gammas and the other deltas, so that four letters have been used up over eight competitors. Obviously, then, the next letter, which is epsilon, is the only one that can be odd, and the drawer of it is the bye.

Ly. Shall I extol your intelligence, or would you rather I explained to you my own poor idea, which differs?

Her. The latter, of course, though I cannot conceive how you can reasonably differ.

Ly. You have gone on the assumption that the letters are taken in alphabetical order, until at a particular one the number of competitors runs short; and I grant you it may be done so at Olympia. But suppose we were to pick out five letters at random, say chi, sigma, zeta, kappa, theta, and duplicate the other four on the lots for eight competitors, but put a single zeta on the ninth, which we meant to indicate the bye — what then would you do if you came on the zeta first? How can you tell that its holder is the bye till you have been all round and found no counterpart to it? for you could not tell by the alphabetical order, as at Olympia.

Her. A difficult question.

Ly. Look at the same thing another way. Suppose we put no letters at all on the lots, but, instead of them, signs and marks such as the Egyptians use for letters, men with dogs’ or lions’ heads. Or no, those are rather too strange; let us avoid hybrids, and put down simple forms, as well as our draughtsmanship will allow — men on two lots, horses on two, a pair of cocks, a pair of dogs, and let a lion be the mark of the ninth. Now, if you hit upon the lion at the first try, how can you tell that this is the bye-maker, until you have gone all round and seen whether any one else has a lion to match?

Her. Your question is too much for me.

Ly. No wonder; there is no plausible answer. Consequently if we mean to find either the man who has the sacred cup, or the bye, or our best guide to the famous city of Corinth, we must absolutely go to and examine them all, trying them carefully, stripping and comparing them; the truth will be hard enough to find, even so. If I am to take any one’s advice upon the right philosophy to choose, I insist upon his knowing what they all say; every one else I disqualify; I will not trust him while there is one philosophy he is unacquainted with; that one may possibly be the best of all. If some one were to produce a handsome man, and state that he was the handsomest of mankind, we should not accept that, unless we knew he had seen all men; very likely his man is handsome, but whether the handsomest, he has no means of knowing without seeing all. Now we are looking not simply for beauty, but for the greatest beauty, and if we miss that, we shall account ourselves no further than we were; we shall not be content with chancing upon some sort of beauty; we are in search of a definite thing, the supreme beauty, which must necessarily be one.

Her. True.

Ly. Well then, can you name me a man who has tried every road in philosophy? one who, knowing the doctrine of Pythagoras, Plato, Aristotle, Chrysippus, Epicurus, and the rest, has ended by selecting one out of all these roads, because he has proved it genuine, and had found it by experience to be the only one that led straight to Happiness? If we can meet with such a man, we are at the end of our troubles.

Her. Alas, that is no easy matter.

Ly. What shall we do, then? I do not think we ought to despair, in the momentary absence of such a guide. Perhaps the best and safest plan of all is to set to work oneself, go through every system, and carefully examine the various doctrines.

Her. That is what seems to be indicated. I am afraid, though, there is an obstacle in what you said just now: it is not easy, when you have committed yourself with a spread of canvas to the wind, to get home again. How can a man try all the roads, when, as you said, he will be unable to escape from the first of them?

Ly. My notion is to copy Theseus, get dame Ariadne to give us a skein, and go into one labyrinth after another, with the certainty of getting out by winding it up.

Her. Who is to be our Ariadne? Where shall we find the skein?

Ly. Never despair; I fancy I have found something to hold on to and escape.

Her. And what is that?

Ly. It is not original; I borrow it from one of the wise men: ‘Be sober and doubt all things,’ says he. If we do not believe everything we are told, but behave like jurymen who suspend judgement till they have heard the other side, we may have no difficulty in getting out of the labyrinths.

Her. A good plan; let us try it.

Ly. Very well, which shall we start with? However, that will make no difference; we may begin with whomsoever we fancy, Pythagoras, say; how long shall we allow for learning the whole of Pythagoreanism? and do not omit the five years of silence; including those, I suppose thirty altogether will do; or, if you do not like that, still we cannot put it lower than twenty.

Her. Put it at that.

Ly. Plato will come next with as many more, and then Aristotle cannot do with less.

Her. No.

Ly. As to Chrysippus, I need not ask you; you have told me already that forty is barely enough.

Her. That is so.

Ly. And we have still Epicurus and the others. I am not taking high figures, either, as you will see if you reflect upon the number of octogenarian Stoics, Epicureans, and Platonists who confess that they have not yet completely mastered their own systems. Or, if they did not confess it, at any rate Chrysippus, Aristotle, and Plato would for them; still more Socrates, who is as good as they; he used to proclaim to all comers that, so far from knowing all, he knew nothing whatever, except the one fact of his own ignorance. Well, let us add up. Twenty years we gave Pythagoras, the same to Plato, and so to the others. What will the total come to, if we assume only ten schools?

Her. Over two hundred years.

Ly. Shall we deduct a quarter of that, and say a hundred and fifty will do? or can we halve it?

Her. You must decide about that; but I see that, at the best, it will be but few who will get through the course, though they begin philosophy and life together.

Ly. In that case, what are we to do? Must we withdraw our previous admission, that no one can choose the best out of many without trying all? We thought selection without experiment a method of inquiry savouring more of divination than of judgement, did we not?

Her. Yes.

Ly. Without such longevity, then, it is absolutely impossible for us to complete the series — experiment, selection, philosophy, Happiness. Yet anything short of that is a mere game of blindman’s-buff; whatever we knock against and get hold of we shall be taking for the thing we want, because the truth is hidden from us. Even if a mere piece of luck brings us straight to it, we shall have no grounded conviction of our success; there are so many similar objects, all claiming to be the real thing.

Her. Ah, Lycinus, your arguments seem to me more or less logical, but — but — to be frank with you — I hate to hear you going through them and wasting your acuteness. I suspect it was in an evil hour that I came out today and met you; my hopes were almost in my grasp; and now here are you plunging me into a slough of despond with your demonstrations; truth is undiscoverable, if the search needs so many years.

Ly. My dear friend, it would be much fairer to blame your parents, Menecrates and whatever your mother’s name may have been — or indeed to go still further back to human nature. Why did not they make you a Tithonus for years and durability? instead of which, they limited you like other men to a century at the outside. As for me, I have only been helping you to deduce results.

Her. No, no; it is just your way; you want to crow over me; you detest philosophy — I cannot tell why — and poke fun at philosophers.

Ly. Hermotimus, I cannot show what truth is, so well as wise people like you and your professor; but one thing I do know about it, and that is that it is not pleasant to the ear; falsehood is far more esteemed; it is prettier, and therefore pleasanter; while Truth, conscious of its purity, blurts out downright remarks, and offends people. Here is a case of it: even you are offended with me for having discovered (with your assistance) how this matter really stands, and shown that our common object is hard of attainment. Suppose you had been in love with a statue and hoped to win it, under the impression that it was human, and I had realized that it was only bronze or marble, and given you a friendly warning that your passion was hopeless — you might just as well have thought I was your enemy then, because I would not leave you a prey to extravagant and impracticable delusions.

Her. Well, well; are we to give up philosophy, then, and idle our lives away like the common herd?

Ly. What have I said to justify that? My point is not that we are to give up philosophy, but this: whereas we are to pursue philosophy, and whereas there are many roads, each professing to lead to philosophy and Virtue, and whereas it is uncertain which of these is the true road, therefore the selection shall be made with care. Now we resolved that it was impossible out of many offers to choose the best, unless a man should try all in turn; and then the process of trial was found to be long. What do you propose? — It is the old question again. To follow and join philosophic forces with whomsoever you first fall in with, and let him thank Fortune for his proselyte?

Her. What is the good of answering your questions? You say no one can judge for himself, unless he can devote the life of a phoenix to going round experimenting; and on the other hand you refuse to trust either previous experience or the multitude of favourable testimony.

Ly. Where is your multitude, with knowledge and experience of all? Never mind the multitude; one man who answers the description will do for me. But if you mean the people who do not know, their mere numbers will never persuade me, as long as they pronounce upon all from knowledge of, at the most, one.

Her. Are you the only man who has found the truth, and are all the people who go in for philosophy fools?

Ly. You wrong me, Hermotimus, when you imply that I put myself above other people, or rank myself at all with those who know; you forget what I said; I never claimed to know the truth better than others, only confessed that I was as ignorant of it as every one else.

Her. Well, but, Lycinus, it may be all very well to insist on going the round, testing the various statements, and eschewing any other method of choice; but it is ridiculous to spend so many years on each experiment, as though there were no such thing as judging from samples. That device seems to me quite simple, and economical of time. There is a story that some sculptor, Phidias, I think, seeing a single claw, calculated from it the size of the lion, if it were modelled proportionally. So, if some one were to let you see a man’s hand, keeping the rest of his body concealed, you would know at once that what was behind was a man, without seeing his whole body. Well, it is easy to find out in a few hours the essential points of the various doctrines, and, for selecting the best, these will suffice, without any of your scrupulous exacting investigation.

Ly. Upon my word, how confident you are in your faculty of divining the whole from the parts! and yet I remember being told just the opposite — that knowledge of the whole includes that of the parts, but not vice versa. Well, but tell me; when Phidias saw the claw, would he ever have known it for a lion’s, if he had never seen a lion? Could you have said the hand was a man’s, if you had never known or seen a man? Why are you dumb? Let me make the only possible answer for you — that you could not; I am afraid Phidias has modelled his lion all for nothing; for it proves to be neither here nor there. What resemblance is there? What enabled you and Phidias to recognize the parts was just your knowledge of the wholes — the lion and the man. But in philosophy — the Stoic, for instance — how will the part reveal the other parts to you, or how can you conclude that they are beautiful? You do not know the whole to which the parts belong.

Then you say it is easy to hear in a few hours the essentials of all philosophy — meaning, I suppose, their principles and ends, their accounts of God and the soul, their views on the material and the immaterial, their respective identification of pleasure or goodness with the desirable and the Happy; well, it is easy — it is quite a trifle — to deliver an opinion after such a hearing; but really to know where the truth lies will be work, I suspect, not for a few hours, but for a good many days. If not, what can have induced them to enlarge on these rudiments to the tune of a hundred or a thousand volumes apiece? I imagine they only wanted to establish the truth of those few points which you thought so easy and intelligible. If you refuse to spend your time on a conscientious selection, after personal examination of each and all, in sum and in detail, it seems to me you will still want your soothsayer to choose the best for you. It would be a fine short cut, with no meanderings or wastings of time, if you sent for him, listened to the summaries, and killed a victim at the end of each; by indicating in its liver which is the philosophy for you, the God would save you a pack of troubles.

Or, if you like, I can suggest a still simpler way; you need not shed all this blood in sacrifice to any God, nor employ an expensive priest; put into an urn a set of tablets, each marked with a philosopher’s name, and tell a boy (he must be quite young, and his parents both be living) to go to the urn and pick out whichever tablet his hand first touches; and live a philosopher ever after, of the school which then comes out triumphant.

Her. This is buffoonery, Lycinus; I should not have expected it of you. Now tell me, did you ever buy wine? in person, I mean.

Ly. Many a time.

Her. Well, did you go to every wine vault in town, one after another, tasting and comparing?

Ly. Certainly not.

Her. No; as soon as you find good sound stuff, you have only to get it sent home.

Ly. To be sure.

Her. And from that little taste you could have answered for the quality of the whole?

Ly. Yes.

Her. Now suppose you had gone to all the wine-merchants and said: I want to buy a pint of wine; I must ask you, gentlemen, to let me drink the whole of the cask which each of you has on tap; after that exhaustive sampling, I shall know which of you keeps the best wine, and is the man for my money. If you had talked like that, they might have laughed at you, and, if you persisted in worrying them, have tried how you liked water.

Ly. Yes; it would be no more than my deserts.

Her. Apply this to philosophy. What need to drink the whole cask, when you can judge the quality of the whole from one little taste?

Ly. What an adept at evasion you are, Hermotimus! How you slip through one’s fingers! However, it is all the better this time; you fancied yourself out, but you have flopped into the net again.

Her. What do you mean?

Ly. You take a thing whose nature is self-evident and universally admitted, like wine, and argue from it to perfectly unlike things, whose nature is obscure and generally debated. In fact I cannot tell what analogy you find between philosophy and wine; there is just one, indeed: philosophers and wine-merchants both sell their wares, mostly resorting to adulteration, fraud, and false measures, in the process. But let us look into your real meaning. You say all the wine in a cask is of the same quality — which is perfectly reasonable; further, that any one who draws and tastes quite a small quantity will know at once the quality of the whole — of which the same may be said; I should never have thought of objecting. But mark what comes now: do philosophy and its professors (your own, for instance) give you every day the same remarks on the same subjects, or do they vary them? They vary them a great deal, friend; you would never have stuck to your master through your twenty years’ wandering — quite a philosophic Odyssey — if he had always said the same thing; one hearing would have been enough.

Her. So it would.

Ly. How could you have known the whole of his doctrines from the first taste, then? They were not homogeneous, like the wine; novelty today, and novelty tomorrow on the top of it. Consequently, dear friend, short of drinking the whole cask, you might soak to no purpose; Providence seems to me to have hidden the philosophic Good right at the bottom, underneath the lees. So you will have to drain it dry, or you will never get to that nectar for which I know you have so long thirsted. According to your idea, it has such virtue that, could you once taste it and swallow the very least drop, you would straightway have perfect wisdom; so they say the Delphian prophetess is inspired by one draught of the sacred spring with answers for those who consult the oracle. But it seems not to be so; you have drunk more than half the cask; yet you told me you were only beginning yet.

Now see whether this is not a better analogy. You shall keep your merchant, and your cask; but the contents of the latter are not to be wine, but assorted seeds. On the top is wheat, next beans, then barley, below that lentils, then peas — and other kinds yet. You go to buy seeds, and he takes some wheat out of that layer, and puts it in your hand as a sample; now, could you tell by looking at that whether the peas were Sound, the lentils tender, and the beans full?

Her. Impossible.

Ly. No more can you tell the quality of a philosophy from the first statements of its professor; it is not uniform, like the wine to which you compared it, claiming that it must resemble the sample glass; it is heterogeneous, and it had better not be cursorily tested. If you buy bad wine, the loss is limited to a few pence; but to rot with the common herd (in your own words) is not so light a loss. Moreover, your man who wants to drink up the cask as a preliminary to buying a pint will injure the merchant, with his dubious sampling; but philosophy knows no such danger; you may drink your fill, but this cask grows no emptier, and its owner suffers no loss. It is cut and come again here; we have the converse of the Danaids’ cask; that would not hold what was put into it; it ran straight through; but here, the more you take away, the more remains.

And I have another similar remark to make about these specimen drops of philosophy. Do not fancy I am libelling it, if I say it is like hemlock, aconite, or other deadly poison. Those too, though they have death in them, will not kill if a man scrapes off the tiniest particle with the edge of his nail and tastes it; if they are not taken in the right quantity, the right manner, and the right vehicle, the taker will not die; you were wrong in claiming that the least possible quantity is enough to base a generalization on.

Her. Oh, have it your own way, Lycinus. Well then, we have got to live a hundred years, and go through all this trouble? There is no other road to philosophy?

Ly. No, none; and we need not complain; as you very truly said, ars longa, vita brevis. But I do not know what has come over you; you now make a grievance of it, if you cannot before set of sun develop into a Chrysippus, a Plato, a Pythagoras.

Her. You trap me, and drive me into a corner, Lycinus; yet I never provoked you; it is all envy, I know, because I have made some progress in my studies, whereas you have neglected yourself, when you were old enough to know better.

Ly. Seest, then, thy true course? never mind me, but leave me as a lunatic to my follies, and you go on your way and accomplish what you have intended all this time.

Her. But you are so masterful, you will not let me make a choice, till I have proved all.

Ly. Why, I confess, you will never get me to budge from that. But when you call me masterful, it seems to me you blame the blameless, as the poet says; for I am myself being dragged along by reason, until you bring up some other reason to release me from durance. And here is reason about to talk more masterfully still, you will see; but I suppose you will exonerate it, and blame me.

Her. What can it be? I am surprised to hear it still has anything in reserve.

Ly. It says that seeing and going through all philosophies will not suffice, if you want to choose the best of them; the most important qualification is still missing.

Her. Indeed? Which?

Ly. Why (bear with me), a critical investigating faculty, mental acumen, intellectual precision and independence equal to the occasion; without this, the completest inspection will be useless. Reason insists that the owner of it must further be allowed ample time; he will collect the rival candidates together, and make his choice with long, lingering, repeated deliberation; he will give no heed to the candidate’s age, appearance, or repute for wisdom, but perform his functions like the Areopagites, who judge in the darkness of night, so that they must regard not the pleaders, but the pleadings. Then and not till then will you be able to make a sound choice and live a philosopher.

Her. Live? an after life, then. No mortal span will meet your demands; let me see: go the whole round, examine each with care, on that examination form a judgement, on that judgement make a choice, on that choice be a philosopher; so and no otherwise you say the truth may be found.

Ly. I hardly dare tell you — even that is not exhaustive; I am afraid, after all, the solid basis we thought we had found was imaginary. You know how fishermen often let down their nets, feel a weight, and pull them up expecting a great haul; when they have got them up with much toil, behold, a stone, or an old pot full of sand. I fear our catch is one of those.

Her. I don’t know what this particular net may be; your nets are all round me, anyhow.

Ly. Well, try and get through; providentially, you are as good a swimmer as can be. Now, this is it: granted that we go all round experimenting, and get it done at last, too, I do not believe we shall have solved the elementary question, whether any of them has the much-desired; perhaps they are all wrong together.

Her. Oh, come now! not one of them right either?

Ly. I cannot tell. Do you think it impossible they may all be deluded, and the truth be something which none of them has yet found?

Her. How can it possibly be?

Ly. This way: take a correct number, twenty; suppose, I mean, a man has twenty beans in his closed hand, and asks ten different persons to guess the number; they guess seven, five, thirty, ten, fifteen — various numbers, in short. It is possible, I suppose, that one may be right?

Her. Yes.

Ly. It is not impossible, however, that they may all guess different incorrect numbers, and not one of them suggest twenty beans. What say you?

Her. It is not impossible.

Ly. In the same way, all philosophers are investigating the nature of Happiness; they get different answers one Pleasure, another Goodness, and so through the list. It is probable that Happiness is one of these; but it is also not improbable that it is something else altogether. We seem to have reversed the proper procedure, and hurried on to the end before we had found the beginning I suppose we ought first to have ascertained that the truth has actually been discovered, and that some philosopher or other has it, and only then to have gone on to the next question, which of them is to be believed.

Her. So that, even if we go all through all philosophy, we shall have no certainty of finding the truth even then; that is what you say.

Ly. Please, please do not ask me; once more, apply to reason itself. Its answer will perhaps be that there can be no certainty yet — as long as we cannot be sure that it is one or other of the things they say it is.

Her. Then, according to you, we shall never finish our quest nor be philosophers, but have to give it up and live the life of laymen. What you say amounts to that: philosophy is impossible and inaccessible to a mere mortal; for you expect the aspirant first to choose the best philosophy; and you considered that the only guarantee of such choice’s being correct was to go through all philosophy before choosing the truest. Then in reckoning the number of years required by each you spurned all limits, extended the thing to several generations, and made out the quest of truth too long for the individual life; and now you crown all by proving success doubtful even apart from all that; you say it is uncertain whether the philosophers have ever found truth at all.

Ly. Could you state on oath that they have?

Her. Not on oath, no.

Ly. And yet there is much that I have intentionally spared you, though it merits careful examination too.

Her. For instance?

Ly. Is it not said that, among the professed Stoics, Platonists, and Epicureans, some do know their respective doctrines, and some do not (without prejudice to their general respectability)?

Her. That is true.

Ly. Well, don’t you think it will be a troublesome business to distinguish the first, and know them from the ignorant professors?

Her. Very.

Ly. So, if you are to recognize the best of the Stoics, you will have to go to most, if not all, of them, make trial, and appoint the best your teacher, first going through a course of training to provide you with the appropriate critical faculty; otherwise you might mistakenly prefer the wrong one. Now reflect on the additional time this will mean; I purposely left it out of account, because I was afraid you might be angry; all the same, it is the most important and necessary thing of all in questions like this — so uncertain and dubious, I mean. For the discovery of truth, your one and only sure or well-founded hope is the possession of this power: you must be able to judge and sift truth from falsehood; you must have the assayer’s sense for sound and true or forged coin; if you could have come to your examination of doctrines equipped with a technical skill like that, I should have nothing to say; but without it there is nothing to prevent their severally leading you by the nose; you will follow a dangled bunch of carrots like a donkey; or, better still, you will be water spilt on a table, trained whichever way one chooses with a finger-tip; or again, a reed growing on a river’s bank, bending to every breath, however gentle the breeze that shakes it in its passage.

If you could find a teacher, now, who understood demonstration and controversial method, and would impart his knowledge to you, you would be quit of your troubles; the best and the true would straightway be revealed to you, at the bidding of this art of demonstration, while falsehood would stand convicted; you would make your choice with confidence; judgement would be followed by philosophy; you would reach your long-desired Happiness, and live in its company, which sums up all good things.

Her. Thank you, Lycinus; that is a much better hearing; there is more than a glimpse of hope in that. We must surely look for a man of that sort, to give us discernment, judgement, and, above all, the power of demonstration; then all will be easy and clear, and not too long. I am grateful to you already for thinking of this short and excellent plan.

Ly. Ah, no, I cannot fairly claim gratitude yet. I have not discovered or revealed anything that will bring you nearer your hope; on the contrary, we are further off than ever; it is a case of much cry and little wool.

Her. Bird of ill omen, pessimist, explain yourself.

Ly. Why, my friend, even if we find some one who claims to know this art of demonstration, and is willing to impart it, we shall surely not take his word for it straight off; we shall look about for another man to resolve us whether the first is telling the truth. Finding number two, we shall still be uncertain whether our guarantor really knows the difference between a good judge and a bad, and shall need a number three to guarantee number two; for how can we possibly know ourselves how to select the best judge? You see how far this must go; the thing is unending; its nature does not allow us to draw the line and put a stop to it; for you will observe that all the demonstrations that can possibly be thought of are themselves unfounded and open to dispute; most of them struggle to establish their certainty by appealing to facts as questionable as themselves; and the rest produce certain truisms with which they compare, quite illegitimately, the most speculative theories, and then say they have demonstrated the latter: our eyes tell us there are altars to the Gods; therefore there must be Gods; that is the sort of thing.

Her. How unkindly you treat me, Lycinus, turning my treasure into ashes; I suppose all these years are to have been lost labour.

Ly. At least your chagrin will be considerably lessened by the thought that you are not alone in your disappointment; practically all who pursue philosophy do no more than disquiet themselves in vain. Who could conceivably go through all the stages I have rehearsed? you admit the impossibility yourself. As to your present mood, it is that of the man who cries and curses his luck because he cannot climb the sky, or plunge into the depths of the sea at Sicily and come up at Cyprus, or soar on wings and fly within the day from Greece to India; what is responsible for his discontent is his basing of hopes on a dream-vision or his own wild fancy, without ever asking whether his aspirations were realizable or consistent with humanity. You too, my friend, have been having a long and marvellous dream; and now reason has stuck a pin into you and startled you out of your sleep; your eyes are only half open yet, you are reluctant to shake off a sleep which has shown you such fair visions, and so you scold. It is just the condition of the day-dreamer; he is rolling in gold, digging up treasure, sitting on his throne, or somehow at the summit of bliss; for dame How-I-wish is a lavish facile Goddess, that will never turn a deaf ear to her votary, though he have a mind to fly, or change statures with Colossus, or strike a gold-reef; well, in the middle of all this, in comes his servant with some every-day question, wanting to know where he is to get bread, or what he shall say to the landlord, tired of waiting for his rent; and then he flies into a temper, as though the intrusive questioner had robbed him of all his bliss, and is ready to bite the poor fellow’s nose off.

As you love me, do not treat me like that. I see you digging up treasure, spreading your wings, nursing extravagant ideas, indulging impossible hopes; and I love you too well to leave you to the company of a life-long dream — a pleasant one, if you will, but yet a dream; I beseech you to get up and take to some every-day business, such as may direct the rest of your life’s course by common sense. Your acts and your thoughts up to now have been no more than Centaurs, Chimeras, Gorgons, or what else is figured by dreams and poets and painters, chartered libertines all, who reek not of what has been or may be. Yet the common folk believe them, bewitched by tale and picture just because they are strange and monstrous.

I fancy you hearing from some teller of tales how there is a certain lady of perfect beauty, beyond the Graces themselves or the Heavenly Aphrodite, and then, without ever an inquiry whether his tale is true, and such a person to be found on earth, falling straight in love with her, like Medea in the story enamoured of a dream-Jason. And what most drew you on to love, you and the others who worship the same phantom, was, if I am not mistaken, the consistent way in which the inventor of the lady added to his picture, when once he had got your ear. That was the only thing you all looked to, with that he turned you about as he would, having got his first hold upon you, averring that he was leading you the straight way to your beloved. After the first step, you see, all was easy; none of you ever looked round when he came to the entrance, and inquired whether it was the right one, or whether he had accidentally taken the wrong; no, you all followed in your predecessors’ footsteps, like sheep after the bell-wether, whereas the right thing was to decide at the entrance whether you should go in.

Perhaps an illustration will make my meaning clearer: when one of those audacious poets affirms that there was once a three-headed and six-handed man, if you accept that quietly without questioning its possibility, he will proceed to fill in the picture consistently — six eyes and ears, three voices talking at once, three mouths eating, and thirty fingers instead of our poor ten all told; if he has to fight, three of his hands will have a buckler, wicker targe, or shield apiece, while of the other three one swings an axe, another hurls a spear, and the third wields a sword. It is too late to carp at these details, when they come; they are consistent with the beginning; it was about that that the question ought to have been raised whether it was to be accepted and passed as true. Once grant that, and the rest comes flooding in, irresistible, hardly now susceptible of doubt, because it is consistent and accordant with your initial admissions. That is just your case; your love-yearning would not allow you to look into the facts at each entrance, and so you are dragged on by consistency; it never occurs to you that a thing may be self-consistent and yet false; if a man says twice five is seven, and you take his word for it without checking the sum, he will naturally deduce that four times five is fourteen, and so on ad libitum. This is the way that weird geometry proceeds: it sets before beginners certain strange assumptions, and insists on their granting the existence of inconceivable things, such as points having no parts, lines without breadth, and so on, builds on these rotten foundations a superstructure equally rotten, and pretends to go on to a demonstration which is true, though it starts from premisses which are false.

Just so you, when you have granted the principles of any school, believe in the deductions from them, and take their consistency, false as it is, for a guarantee of truth. Then with some of you, hope travels through, and you die before you have seen the truth and detected your deceivers, while the rest, disillusioned too late, will not turn back for shame: what, confess at their years that they have been abused with toys all this time? so they hold on desperately, putting the best face upon it and making all the converts they can, to have the consolation of good company in their deception; they are well aware that to speak out is to sacrifice the respect and superiority and honour they are accustomed to; so they will not do it if it may be helped, knowing the height from which they will fall to the common level. Just a few are found with the courage to say they were deluded, and warn other aspirants. Meeting such a one, call him a good man, a true and an honest; nay, call him philosopher, if you will; to my mind, the name is his or no one’s; the rest either have no knowledge of the truth, though they think they have, or else have knowledge and hide it, shamefaced cowards clinging to reputation.

But now for goodness’ sake let us drop all this, cover it up with an amnesty, and let it be as if it had not been said; let us, assume that the Stoic philosophy, and no other, is correct; then we can examine whether it is practicable and possible, or its disciples wasting their pains; it makes wonderful promises, I am told, about the Happiness in store for those who reach the summit; for none but they shall enter into full possession of the true Good. The next point you must help me with — whether you have ever met such a Stoic, such a pattern of Stoicism, as to be unconscious of pain, untempted by pleasure, free from wrath, superior to envy, contemptuous of wealth, and, in one word, Happy; such should the example and model of the Virtuous life be; for any one who falls short in the slightest degree, even though he is better than other men at all points, is not complete, and in that case not yet Happy.

Her. I never saw such a man.

Ly. I am glad you do not palter with the truth. But what are your hopes in pursuing philosophy, then? You see that neither your own teacher, nor his, nor his again, and so on to the tenth generation, has been absolutely wise and so attained Happiness. It will not serve you to say that it is enough to get near Happiness; that is no good; a person on the doorstep is just as much outside and in the air as another a long way off, though with the difference that the former is tantalized by a nearer view. So it is to get into the neighbourhood of Happiness — I will grant you so much — that you toil like this, wearing yourself away, letting this great portion of your life slip from you, while you are sunk in dullness and wakeful weariness; and you are to go on with it for twenty more years at the least, you tell me, to take your place when you are eighty — always assuming some one to assure you that length of days — in the ranks of the not yet Happy. Or perhaps you reckon on being the exception; you are to crown your pursuit by attaining what many a good man before you, swifter far, has pursued and never overtaken.

Well, overtake it, if that is your plan, grasp it and have it whole, this something, mysterious to me, of which the possession is sufficient reward for such toils; this something which I wonder how long you will have the enjoyment of, old man that you will be, past all pleasure, with one foot in the grave; ah, but perhaps, like a brave soul, you are getting ready for another life, that you may spend it the better when you come to it, having learned how to live: as though one should take so long preparing and elaborating a superlative dinner that he fainted with hunger and exhaustion!

However, there is another thing I do not think you have observed: Virtue is manifested, of course, in action, in doing what is just and wise and manly; but you — and when I say you, I mean the most advanced philosophers — you do not seek these things and ensue them, but spend the greater part of your life conning over miserable sentences and demonstrations and problems; it is the man who does best at these that you hail a glorious victor. And I believe that is why you admire this experienced old professor of yours: he nonplusses his associates, knows how to put crafty questions and inveigle you into pitfalls; so you pay no attention to the fruit — which consists in action — but are extremely busy with the husks, and smother each other with the leaves in your debates; come now, Hermotimus, what else are you about from morning to night?

Her. Nothing; that is what it comes to.

Ly. Is it wronging you to say that you hunt the shadow or the snake’s dead slough, and neglect the solid body or the creeping thing itself? You are no better than a man pouring water into a mortar and braying it with an iron pestle; he thinks he is doing a necessary useful job, whereas, let him bray till all’s blue (excuse the slang), the water is as much water as ever it was.

And here let me ask you whether, putting aside his discourse, you would choose to resemble your master, and be as passionate, as sordid, as quarrelsome, ay, and as addicted to pleasure (though that trait of his is not generally known). Why no answer, Hermotimus? Shall I tell you a plea for philosophy which I lately heard? It was from the mouth of an old, old man, who has quite a company of young disciples. He was angrily demanding his fees from one of these; they were long overdue, he said; the day stated in the agreement was the first of the month, and it was now the fifteenth.

The youth’s uncle was there, a rustic person without any notion of your refinements; and by way of stilling the storm, Come, come, sir, says he, you need not make such a fuss because we have bought words of you and not yet settled the bill. As to what you have sold us, you have got it still; your stock of learning is none the less; and in what I really sent the boy to you for, you have not improved him a bit; he has carried off and seduced neighbour Echecrates’s daughter, and there would have been an action for assault, only Echecrates is a poor man; but the prank cost me a couple of hundred. And the other day he struck his mother; she had tried to stop him when he was smuggling wine out of the house, for one of his club-dinners, I suppose. As to temper and conceit and impudence and brass and lying, he was not half so bad twelve months ago as he is now. That is where I should have liked him to profit by your teaching; and we could have done, without his knowing the stuff he reels of at table every day: ‘a crocodile 34 seized hold of a baby,’ says he, ‘and promised to give it back if its father could answer’— the Lord knows what; or how, ‘day 35 being, night cannot be’; and sometimes his worship twists round what we say somehow or other, till there we are with horns 36 on our heads! We just laugh at it — most of all when he stuffs up his ears and repeats to himself what he calls temperaments and conditions and conceptions and impressions, and a lot more like that. And he tells us God is not in heaven, but goes about in everything, wood and stone and animals — the meanest of them, too; and if his mother asks him why he talks such stuff, he laughs at her and says if once he gets the ‘stuff’ pat off, there will be nothing to prevent him from being the only rich man, the only king, and counting every one else slaves and offscourings.

When he had finished, mark the reverend philosopher’s answer. You should consider, he said, that if he had never come to me, he would have behaved far worse — very possibly have come to the gallows. As it is, philosophy and the respect he has for it have been a check upon him, so that you find he keeps within bounds and is not quite unbearable; the philosophic system and name tutor him with their presence, and the thought of disgracing them shames him. I should be quite justified in taking your money, if not for any positive improvement I have effected, yet for the abstentions due to his respect for philosophy; the very nurses will tell you as much: children should go to school, because, even if they are not old enough to learn, they will at least be out of mischief there. My conscience is quite easy about him; if you like to select any of your friends who is acquainted with Stoicism and bring him here tomorrow, you shall see how the boy can question and answer, how much he has learnt, how many books he has read on axioms, syllogisms, conceptions, duty, and all sorts of subjects. As for his hitting his mother or seducing girls, what have I to do with that? am I his keeper?

A dignified defence of philosophy for an old man! Perhaps you will say too that it is a good enough reason for pursuing it, if it will keep us from worse employments. Were our original expectations from philosophy at all of a different nature, by the way? did they contemplate anything beyond a more decent behaviour than the average? Why this obstinate silence?

Her. Oh, why but that I could cry like a baby? It cuts me to the heart, it is all so true; it is too much for me, when I think of my wretched, wasted years — paying all that money for my own labour, too! I am sober again after a debauch, I see what the object of my maudlin affection is like, and what it has brought upon me.

Ly. No need for tears, dear fellow; that is a very sensible fable of Aesop’s. A man sat on the shore and counted the waves breaking; missing count, he was excessively annoyed. But the fox came up and said to him: ‘Why vex yourself, good sir, over the past ones? you should let them go, and begin counting afresh.’ So you, since this is your mind, had better reconcile yourself now to living like an ordinary man; you will give up your extravagant haughty hopes and put yourself on a level with the commonalty; if you are sensible, you will not be ashamed to unlearn in your old age, and change your course for a better.

Now I beg you not to fancy that I have said all this as an anti-Stoic, moved by any special dislike of your school; my arguments hold against all schools. I should have said just the same if you had chosen Plato or Aristotle, and condemned the others unheard. But, as Stoicism was your choice, the argument has seemed to be aimed at that, though it had no such special application.

Her. You are quite right. And now I will be off to metamorphose myself. When we next meet, there will be no long, shaggy beard, no artificial composure; I shall be natural, as a gentleman should. I may go as far as a fashionable coat, by way of publishing my renunciation of nonsense. I only wish there were an emetic that would purge out every doctrine they have instilled into me; I assure you, if I could reverse Chrysippus’s plan with the hellebore, and drink forgetfulness, not of the world but of Stoicism, I would not think twice about it. Well, Lycinus, I owe you a debt indeed; I was being swept along in a rough turbid torrent, unresisting, drifting with the stream; when lo, you stood there and fished me out, a true deus ex machina. I have good enough reason, I think, to shave my head like the people who get clear off from a wreck; for I am to make votive offerings today for the dispersion of that thick cloud which was over my eyes. Henceforth, if I meet a philosopher on my walks (and it will not be with my will), I shall turn aside and avoid him as I would a mad dog.

32 Hippocrates

33 The Greek alphabet runs: alpha, beta, gamma, delta, epsilon, zeta, eta, theta, iota, kappa, lambda, mu, nu, xi, omicron, pi, rho, sigma, tau, upsilon, phi, chi, psi, omega.

34 See Puzzles in Notes.

35 See Puzzles in Notes.

36 See Puzzles in Notes.

Herodotus and Aetion

I devoutly wish that Herodotus’s other characteristics were imitable; not all of them, of course — that is past praying for — but any one of them: the agreeable style, the constructive skill, the native charm of his Ionic, the sententious wealth, or any of a thousand beauties which he combined into one whole, to the despair of imitators. But there is one thing — the use he made of his writings, and the speed with which he attained the respect of all Greece; from that you, or I, or any one else, might take a hint. As soon as he had sailed from his Carian home for Greece, he concentrated his thoughts on the quickest and easiest method of winning a brilliant reputation for himself and his works. He might have gone the round, and read them successively at Athens, Corinth, Argos, and Sparta; but that would be a long toilsome business, he thought, with no end to it; so he would not do it in detail, collecting his recognition by degrees, and scraping it together little by little; his idea was, if possible, to catch all Greece together. The great Olympic Games were at hand, and Herodotus bethought him that here was the very occasion on which his heart was set. He seized the moment when the gathering was at its fullest, and every city had sent the flower of its citizens; then he appeared in the temple hall, bent not on sight-seeing, but on bidding for an Olympic victory of his own; he recited his Histories, and bewitched his hearers; nothing would do but each book must be named after one of the Muses, to whose number they corresponded.

He was straightway known to all, better far than the Olympic winners. There was no man who had not heard his name; they had listened to him at Olympia, or they were told of him by those who had been there; he had only to appear, and fingers were pointing at him: ‘There is the great Herodotus, who wrote the Persian War in Ionic, and celebrated our victories.’ That was what he made out of his Histories; a single meeting sufficed, and he had the general unanimous acclamation of all Greece; his name was proclaimed, not by a single herald; every spectator did that for him, each in his own city.

The royal road to fame was now discovered; it was the regular practice of many afterwards to deliver their discourses at the festival; Hippias the rhetorician was on his own ground there; but Prodicus came from Ceos, Anaximenes from Chios, Polus from Agrigentum; and a rapid fame it brought, to them and many others.

However, I need not have cited ancient rhetoricians, historians, and chroniclers like these; in quite recent times the painter Aetion is said to have brought his picture, Nuptials of Roxana and Alexander, to exhibit at Olympia; and Proxenides, High Steward of the Games on the occasion, was so delighted with his genius that he gave him his daughter.

It must have been a very wonderful picture, I think I hear some one say, to make the High Steward give his daughter to a stranger. Well, I have seen it — it is now in Italy — so I can tell you. A fair chamber, with the bridal bed in it; Roxana seated — and a great beauty she is — with downcast eyes, troubled by the presence of Alexander, who is standing. Several smiling Loves; one stands behind Roxana, pulling away the veil on her head to show her to Alexander; another obsequiously draws off her sandal, suggesting bed-time; a third has hold of Alexander’s mantle, and is dragging him with all his might towards Roxana. The King is offering her a garland, and by him as supporter and groom’s-man is Hephaestion, holding a lighted torch and leaning on a very lovely boy; this is Hymenaeus, I conjecture, for there are no letters to show. On the other side of the picture, more Loves playing among Alexander’s armour; two are carrying his spear, as porters do a heavy beam; two more grasp the handles of the shield, tugging it along with another reclining on it, playing king, I suppose; and then another has got into the breast-plate, which lies hollow part upwards; he is in ambush, and will give the royal equipage a good fright when it comes within reach.

All this is not idle fancy, on which the painter has been lavishing needless pains; he is hinting that Alexander has also another love, in War; though he loves Roxana, he does not forget his armour. And, by the way, there was some extra nuptial virtue in the picture itself, outside the realm of fancy; for it did Aetion’s wooing for him. He departed with a wedding of his own as a sort of pendant to that of Alexander; his groom’s-man was the King; and the price of his marriage-piece was a marriage.

Herodotus, then (to return to him), thought that the Olympic festival would serve a second purpose very well — that of revealing to the Greeks a wonderful historian who had related their victories as he had done. As for me — and in Heaven’s name do not suppose me so beside myself as to intend any comparison between my works and his; I desire his favour too much for that — but one experience I have in common with him. On my first visit to Macedonia, my thoughts too were busy with my best policy. My darling wish was to be known to you all, and to exhibit my writings to as many Macedonians as might be; I decided that it would be too great an undertaking at such a time of year to go round in person visiting city by city; but if I seized the occasion of this your meeting, appeared before you all, and delivered my discourse, my aspirations, I thought, might be realized that way.

And now here are you met together, the elite of every city, the true soul of Macedonia; the town which lodges you is the chief of all, little enough resembling Pisa, with its crowding, its tents and hovels and stifling heat; there is as great a difference between this audience and that promiscuous crowd, mainly intent upon mere athletics, and thinking of Herodotus only as a stop-gap; here we have orators, historians, professors, the first in each kind — that is much in itself; my arena, it seems, need not suffer from comparison with Olympia. And though, if you insist on matching me with the Polydamases, Glaucuses, and Milos of literature, you must think me a very presumptuous person, it is open to you on the other hand to put them out of your thoughts altogether; and if you strip and examine me independently, you may decide that at least I need not be whipped. 37 Considering the nature of the contest, I may well be satisfied with that measure of success.

37 Cf. Remarks addressed to an Illiterate Book-fancier, 9.

Zeuxis and Antiochus

I was lately walking home after lecturing, when a number of my audience (you are now my friends, gentlemen, and there can be no objection to my telling you this)— these persons, then, came to me and introduced themselves, with the air of admiring hearers. They accompanied me a considerable way, with such laudatory exclamations that I was reduced to blushing at the discrepancy between praise and thing praised. Their chief point, which they were absolutely unanimous in emphasizing, was that the substance of my work was so fresh, so crammed with novelty. I had better give you their actual phrases: ‘How new! What paradoxes, to be sure! What invention the man has! His ideas are quite unequalled for originality.’ They said a great deal of this sort about my fascinating lecture, as they called it; they could have had no motive for pretending, or addressing such flatteries to a stranger who had no independent claims on their attention.

These commendations, to be quite frank, were very far from gratifying to me; when at length they left me to myself, my reflections took this course:— So the only attraction in my work is that it is unusual, and does not follow the beaten track; good vocabulary, orthodox composition, insight, subtlety, Attic grace, general constructive skill — these may for aught I know be completely wanting; else indeed they would hardly have left them unnoticed, and approved my method only as new and startling. Fool that I was, I did indeed guess, when they jumped up to applaud, that novelty was part of the attraction; I knew that Homer spoke truly when he said there is favour for the new song; but I did not see that novelty was to have so vast a share — the whole, indeed — of the credit; I thought it gave a sort of adventitious charm, and contributed, its part to the success, but that the real object of commendation — what extracted the cheers — was those other qualities. Why, I have been absurdly self-satisfied, and come very near believing them when they called me the one and only real Greek, and such nonsense. But behold, my gold is turned to ashes; my fame, after all, is little different from that enjoyed by a conjuror.

Now I should like to give you an illustration from painting. The great Zeuxis, after he had established his artistic supremacy, seldom or never painted such common popular subjects as Heroes, Gods, and battle-pieces; he was always intent on novelty; he would hit upon some extravagant and strange design, and then use it to show his mastery of the art. One of these daring pieces of his represented a female Centaur, nursing a pair of infant Centaur twins. There is a copy of the picture now at Athens, taken exactly from the original. The latter is said to have been put on ship — board for Italy with the rest of Sulla’s art treasures, and to have been lost with them by the sinking of the ship, off Malea, I think it was. The picture of the picture I have seen, and the best word-picture I can manage of that I am now to give you; I am no connoisseur, you must understand, but I have a vivid recollection of it as I saw it in an Athenian studio not long ago; and my warm admiration of it as a work of art may perhaps inspire me with a clear description.

On fresh green-sward appears the mother Centaur, the whole equine part of her stretched on the ground, her hoofs extended backwards; the human part is slightly raised on the elbows; the fore feet are not extended like the others, for she is only partially on her side; one of them is bent as in the act of kneeling, with the hoof tucked in, while the other is beginning to straighten and take a hold on the ground — the action of a horse rising. Of the cubs she is holding one in her arms suckling it in the human fashion, while the other is drawing at the mare’s dug like a foal. In the upper part of the picture, as on higher ground, is a Centaur who is clearly the husband of the nursing mother; he leans over laughing, visible only down to the middle of his horse body; he holds a lion whelp aloft in his right hand, terrifying the youngsters with it in sport.

There are no doubt qualities in the painting which evade analysis by a mere amateur, and yet involve supreme craftsmanship — such things as precision of line, perfect mastery of the palette, clever brush-work, management of shadow, perspective, proportion, and relation of the parts to the whole; but I leave all that to the professionals whose business it is to appreciate it; what strikes me especially about Zeuxis is the manifold scope which he has found for his extraordinary skill, in a single subject. You have in the husband a truly terrible savage creature; his locks toss about, he is almost covered with hair, human part as well as equine; the shoulders high to monstrosity; the look, even in his merry mood, brutal, uncivilized, wild.

In contrast with him, the animal half of the female is lovely; a Thessalian filly, yet unbroken and unbacked, might come nearest; and the human upper half is also most beautiful, with the one exception of the ears, which are pointed as in a satyr. At the point of junction which blends the two natures, there is no sharp line of division, but the most gradual of transitions; a touch here, a trait there, and you are surprised to find the change complete. It was perfectly wonderful, again, to see the combination of wildness and infancy, of terrible and tender, in the young ones, looking up in baby curiosity at the lion-cub, while they held on to breast and dug, and cuddled close to their dam.

Zeuxis imagined that when the picture was shown the technique of it would take visitors by storm. Well, they did acclaim him; they could hardly help that, with such a masterpiece before them; but their commendations were all in the style of those given to me the other night; it was the strangeness of the idea, the fresh unhackneyed sentiment of the picture, and so on. Zeuxis saw that they were preoccupied with the novelty of his subject, art was at a discount, and truth of rendering quite a minor matter. ‘Oh, pack it up, Miccio,’ he said to his pupil, ‘and you and the others take it home; these people are delighted with the earthy part of the work; the questions of its aim, its beauty, its artistic merit, are of no importance whatever; novelty of subject goes for much more than truth of rendering.’

So said Zeuxis, not in the best of tempers. Antiochus Soter had a somewhat similar experience about his battle with the Galatians. If you will allow me, I propose to give you an account of that event also. These people were good fighters, and on this occasion in great force; they were drawn up in a serried phalanx, the first rank, which consisted of steel-clad warriors, being supported by men of the ordinary heavy-armed type to the depth of four-and-twenty; twenty thousand cavalry held the flanks; and there were eighty scythed, and twice that number of ordinary war chariots ready to burst forth from the centre. These dispositions filled Antiochus with apprehension, and he thought the task was too hard for him. His own preparations had been hurried, on no great scale, and inadequate to the occasion; he had brought quite a small force, mostly of skirmishers and light-armed troops; more than half his men were without defensive armour. He was disposed to negotiate and find some honourable composition.

Theodotas of Rhodes, however, a brave and skilful officer, put him in heart again. Antiochus had sixteen elephants; Theodotas advised him to conceal these as well as he could for the present, not letting their superior height betray them; when the signal for battle was given, the shock just at hand, the enemy’s cavalry charging, and their phalanx opening to give free passage to the chariots, then would be the time for the elephants. A section of four was to meet the cavalry on each flank, and the remaining eight to engage the chariot squadron. ‘By this means,’ he concluded, ‘the horses will be frightened, and there will be a stampede into the Galatian infantry.’ His anticipations were realized, thus:

Neither the Galatians nor their horses had ever seen an elephant, and they were so taken aback by the strange sight that, long before the beasts came to close quarters, the mere sound of their trumpeting, the sight of their gleaming tusks relieved against dark bodies, and minatory waving trunks, was enough; before they were within bow-shot, the enemy broke and ran in utter disorder; the infantry were spitted on each other’s spears, and trampled by the cavalry who came scurrying on to them. The chariots, turning in like manner upon their own friends, whirled about among them by no means harmlessly; it was a Homeric scene of ‘rumbling tumbling cars’; when once the horses shied at those formidable elephants, off went the drivers, and ‘the lordless chariots rattled on,’ their scythes maiming and carving any of their late masters whom they came within reach of; and, in that chaos, many were the victims. Next came the elephants, trampling, tossing, tearing, goring; and a very complete victory they had made of it for Antiochus.

The carnage was great, and all the Galatians were either killed or captured, with the exception of a quite small band which got off to the mountains; Antiochus’s Macedonians sang the Paean, gathered round, and garlanded him with acclamations on the glorious victory. But the King — so the story goes — was in tears; ‘My men,’ he said, ‘we have more reason for shame; saved by those sixteen brutes! if their strangeness had not produced the panic, where should we have been?’ And on the trophy he would have nothing carved except just an elephant.

Gentlemen, de me fabula; are my resources like those of Antiochus — quite unfit for battle on the whole, but including some elephants, some queer impositions, some jugglery, in fact? That is what all the praise I hear points at. The things I really relied upon seem to be of little account; the mere fact that my picture is of a female Centaur exercises fascination; it passes for a novelty and a marvel, as indeed it is. The rest of Zeuxis’s pains is thrown away, I suppose. But ah, no, not thrown away —; you are connoisseurs, and judge by the rules of art. I only hope the show may be worthy of the spectators.


‘Tell me, Timotheus,’ said Harmonides the flute-player one day to his teacher, ‘tell me how I may win distinction in my art. What can I do to make myself known all over Greece? Everything but this you have taught me. I have a correct ear, thanks to you, and a smooth, even delivery, and have acquired the light touch so essential to the rendering of rapid measures; rhythmical effect, the adaptation of music to dance, the true character of the different moods — exalted Phrygian, joyous Lydian, majestic Dorian, voluptuous Ionic — all these I have mastered with your assistance. But the prime object of my musical aspirations seems out of my reach: I mean popular esteem, distinction, and notoriety; I would have all eyes turn in my direction, all tongues repeat my name: “There goes Harmonides, the great flute-player.” Now when you first came from your home in Boeotia, and performed in the Procne, and won the prize for your rendering of the Ajax Furens, composed by your namesake, there was not a man who did not know the name of Timotheus of Thebes; and in these days you have only to show yourself, and people flock together as birds do at the sight of an owl in daylight. It is for this that I sought to become a flute-player; this was to be the reward of all my toil. The skill without the glory I would not take at a gift, not though I should prove to be a Marsyas or an Olympus in disguise. What is the use of a light that is to be hidden under a bushel? Show me then, Timotheus, how I may avail myself of my powers and of my art. I shall be doubly your debtor: not for my skill alone, but for the glory that skill confers.’

‘Why, really,’ says Timotheus, ‘it is no such easy matter, Harmonides, to become a public character, or to gain the prestige and distinction to which you aspire; and if you propose to set about it by performing in public, you will find it a long business, and at the best will never achieve a universal reputation. Where will you find a theatre or circus large enough to admit the whole nation as your audience? But if you would attain your object and become known, take this hint. By all means perform occasionally in the theatres, but do not concern yourself with the public. Here is the royal road to fame: get together a small and select audience of connoisseurs, real experts, whose praise, whose blame are equally to be relied upon; display your skill to these; and if you can win their approval, you may rest content that in a single hour you have gained a national reputation. I argue thus. If you are known to be an admirable performer by persons who are themselves universally known and admired, what have you to do with public opinion? Public opinion must inevitably follow the opinion of the best judges. The public after all is mainly composed of untutored minds, that know not good from bad themselves; but when they hear a man praised by the great authorities, they take it for granted that he is not undeserving of praise, and praise him accordingly. It is the same at the games: most of the spectators know enough to clap or hiss, but the judging is done by some five or six persons.’

Harmonides had no time to put this policy into practice. The story goes that in his first public competition he worked so energetically at his flute, that he breathed his last into it, and expired then and there, before he could be crowned. His first Dionysiac performance was also his last.

But Timotheus’s remarks need not be confined to Harmonides, nor to his profession: they seem applicable to all whose ambition prompts them to exhibit their talents and to aim at the approbation of the public. Accordingly, when I, like Harmonides, was debating within myself the speediest means of becoming known, I took Timotheus’s advice: ‘Who,’ I asked myself, ‘is the foremost man in all this city? Whose credit is highest with his neighbours? Who shall be my multum in parvo?’ Only one name could reasonably suggest itself — your own; which stands for the perfection of every excellence, the glass of culture and the mould of wit. To submit my works to you, to win your approbation — if such a thing might be! — were to reach the goal of my desire; for your suffrage carries the rest with it. Whom, indeed, could I substitute in your place, and hope to preserve a reputation for sanity? In a sense, no doubt, I shall be hazarding all on one cast of the die: yet with more truth I might be said to have summoned the whole population into one audience-chamber; for your single judgement must assuredly outweigh the rest, taken individually or collectively. The Spartan kings had two votes each to the ordinary man’s one: but you are a whole Privy Council and Senate in yourself. Your influence is unequalled in the Court of Literature, and, above all, yours is the casting-vote of acquittal; an encouraging thought for me, who might well be uneasy otherwise at the extent of my hardihood. Moreover, I am not wholly without a claim on your interest, as belonging to that city which has so often enjoyed peculiar benefits at your hand, in addition to those which it has shared with the nation at large; and this encourages me to hope that in the present instance, if judgement is going against me, and the votes of acquittal are in a minority, you will use your prerogative, and make all right with that casting-vote of yours. I may have had successes, I may have made a name, my lectures may have been well received:— all this amounts to nothing; it is visionary; it is a mere bubble. The truth must come to light now; I am put to a final test; there will be no room for doubt or hesitation after this. It rests with you, whether my literary rank shall be assured, or my pretensions — but no! with such a contest before me, I will abstain from words of evil omen.

Ye Gods, give me approval here, and set the seal upon my reputation! I may then face the world with a light heart: he who has carried the prize at Olympia need fear no other course.

The Scythian

Anacharsis was not the first Scythian who was induced by the love of Greek culture to leave his native country and visit Athens: he had been preceded by Toxaris, a man of high ability and noble sentiments, and an eager student of manners and customs; but of low origin, not like Anacharsis a member of the royal family or of the aristocracy of his country, but what they call ’an eight-hoof man,‘ a term which implies the possession of a waggon and two oxen. Toxaris never returned to Scythia, but died at Athens, where he presently came to be ranked among the Heroes; and sacrifice is still paid to ‘the Foreign Physician,’ as he was styled after his deification. Some account of the significance of this name, the origin of his worship, and his connexion with the sons of Asclepius, will not, I think, be out of place: for it will be seen from this that the Scythians, in conferring immortality on mortals, and sending them to keep company with Zamolxis, do not stand alone; since the Athenians permit themselves to make Gods of Scythians upon Greek soil.

At the time of the great plague, the wife of Architeles the Areopagite had a vision: the Scythian Toxaris stood over her and commanded her to tell the Athenians that the plague would cease if they would sprinkle their back-streets with wine. The Athenians attended to his instructions, and after several sprinklings had been performed, the plague troubled them no more; whether it was that the perfume of the wine neutralized certain noxious vapours, or that the hero, being a medical hero, had some other motive for his advice. However that may be, he continues to this day to draw a fee for his professional services, in the shape of a white horse, which is sacrificed on his tomb. This tomb was pointed out by Dimaenete as the place from which he issued with his instructions about the wine; and beneath it Toxaris was found buried, his identity being established not merely by the inscription, of which only a part remained legible, but also by the figure engraved on the monument, which was that of a Scythian, with a bow, ready strung, in his left hand, and in the right what appeared to be a book. You may still make out more than half the figure, with the bow and book complete: but the upper portion of the stone, including the face, has suffered from the ravages of time. It is situated not far from the Dipylus, on your left as you leave the Dipylus for the Academy. The mound is of no great size, and the pillar lies prostrate: yet it never lacks a garland, and there are statements to the effect that fever-patients have been known to be cured by the hero; which indeed is not surprising, considering that he once healed an entire city.

However, my reason for mentioning Toxaris was this. He was still alive, when Anacharsis landed at Piraeus and made his way up to Athens, in no small perturbation of spirit; a foreigner and a barbarian, everything was strange to him, and many things caused him uneasiness; he knew not what to do with himself; he saw that every one was laughing at his attire; he could find no one to speak his native tongue; — in short he was heartily sick of his travels, and made up his mind that he would just see Athens, and then retreat to his ship without loss of time, get on board, and so back to the Bosphorus; once there he had no great journey to perform before he would be home again. In this frame of mind he had already reached the Ceramicus, when his good genius appeared to him in the guise of Toxaris. The attention of the latter was immediately arrested by the dress of his native country, nor was it likely that he would have any difficulty in recognizing Anacharsis, who was of noble birth and of the highest rank in Scythia. Anacharsis, on the other hand, could not be expected to see a compatriot in Toxaris, who was dressed in the Greek fashion, without sword or belt, wore no beard, and from his fluent speech might have been an Athenian born; so completely had time transformed him. ‘You are surely Anacharsis, the son of Daucetas?’ he said, addressing him in the Scythian language. Anacharsis wept tears of joy; he not only heard his mother-tongue, but heard it from one who had known him in Scythia. ‘How comes it, sir, that you know me?’ he asked.

‘I too am of that country; my name is Toxaris; but it is probably not known to you, for I am a man of no family.’

‘Are you that Toxaris,’ exclaimed the other, ‘of whom I heard that for love of Greece he had left wife and children in Scythia, and gone to Athens, and was there dwelling in high honour?’

‘What, is my name still remembered among you? — Yes, I am Toxaris.’

‘Then,’ said Anacharsis, ‘you see before you a disciple, who has caught your enthusiasm for Greece; it was with no other object than this that I set out on my travels. The hardships I have endured in the countries through which I passed on my way hither are infinite; and I had already decided, when I met you, that before the sun set I would return to my ship; so much was I disturbed at the strange and outlandish sights that I have seen. And now, Toxaris, I adjure you by Scimetar and Zamolxis, our country’s Gods — take me by the hand, be my guide, and make me acquainted with all that is best in Athens and in the rest of Greece; their great men, their wise laws, their customs, their assemblies, their constitution, their everyday life. You and I have both travelled far to see these things: you will not suffer me to depart without seeing them?’

‘What! come to the very door, and then turn back? This is not the language of enthusiasm. However, there is no fear of that — you will not go back, Athens will not let you off so easily. She is not so much at a loss for charms wherewith to detain the stranger: she will take such a hold on you, that you will forget your own wife and children — if you have any. Now I will put you into the readiest way of seeing Athens, ay, and Greece, and the glories of Greece. There is a certain philosopher living here; he is an Athenian, but has travelled a great deal in Asia and Egypt, and held intercourse with the most eminent men. For the rest, he is none of your moneyed men: indeed, he is quite poor; be prepared for an old man, dressed as plainly as could be. Yet his virtue and wisdom are held in such esteem, that he was employed by them to draw up a constitution, and his ordinances form their rule of life. Make this man your friend, study him, and rest assured that in knowing him you know Greece; for he is an epitome of all that is excellent in the Greek character. I can do you no greater service than to introduce you to him.’

‘Let us lose no time, then, Toxaris. Take me to him. But perhaps that is not so easily done? He may slight your intercessions on my behalf?’

‘You know not what you say. Nothing gives him greater pleasure than to have an opportunity of showing his hospitality to strangers. Only follow me, and you shall see how courteous and benevolent he is, and how devout a worshipper of the God of Hospitality. But stay: how fortunate! here he comes towards us. See, he is wrapped in thought, and mutters to himself. — Solon!’ he cried; ‘I bring you the best of gifts — a stranger who craves your friendship. He is a Scythian of noble family; but has left all and come here to enjoy the society of Greeks, and to view the wonders of their country. I have hit upon a simple expedient which will enable him to do both, to see all that is to be seen, and to form the most desirable acquaintances: in other words, I have brought him to Solon, who, if I know anything of his character, will not refuse to take him under his protection, and to make him a Greek among Greeks. — It is as I told you, Anacharsis: having seen Solon, you have seen all; behold Athens; behold Greece. You are a stranger no longer: all men know you, all men are your friends; this it is to possess the friendship of the venerable Solon. Conversing with him, you will forget Scythia and all that is in it. Your toils are rewarded, your desire is fulfilled. In him you have the mainspring of Greek civilization, in him the ideals of Athenian philosophers are realized. Happy man — if you know your happiness — to be the friend and intimate of Solon!’

It would take too long to describe the pleasure of Solon at Toxaris’s ‘gift,’ his words on the occasion, and his subsequent intercourse with Anacharsis — how he gave him the most valuable instruction, procured him the friendship of all Athens, showed him the sights of Greece, and took every trouble to make his stay in the country a pleasant one; and how Anacharsis for his part regarded the sage with such reverence, that he was never willingly absent from his side. Suffice it to say, that the promise of Toxaris was fulfilled: thanks to Solon’s good offices, Anacharsis speedily became familiar with Greece and with Greek society, in which he was treated with the consideration due to one who came thus strongly recommended; for here too Solon was a lawgiver: those whom he esteemed were loved and admired by all. Finally, if we may believe the statement of Theoxenus, Anacharsis was presented with the freedom of the city, and initiated into the mysteries; nor does it seem likely that he would ever have returned to Scythia, had not Solon died.

And now perhaps I had better put the moral to my tale, if it is not to wander about in a headless condition. What are Anacharsis and Toxaris doing here today in Macedonia, bringing Solon with them too, poor old gentleman, all the way from Athens? It is time for me to explain. The fact is, my situation is pretty much that of Anacharsis. I crave your indulgence, in venturing to compare myself with royalty. Anacharsis, after all, was a barbarian; and I should hope that we Syrians are as good as Scythians. And I am not comparing myself with Anacharsis the king, but Anacharsis the barbarian. When first I set foot in your city, I was filled with amazement at its size, its beauty, its population, its resources and splendour generally. For a time I was dumb with admiration; the sight was too much for me. I felt like the island lad Telemachus, in the palace of Menelaus; and well I might, as I viewed this city in all her pride;

A garden she, whose flowers are ev’ry blessing.

Thus affected, I had to bethink me what course I should adopt. For as to lecturing here, my mind had long been made up about that; what other audience could I have in view, that I should pass by this great city in silence? To make a clean breast of it, then, I set about inquiring who were your great men; for it was my design to approach them, and secure their patronage and support in facing the public. Unlike Anacharsis, who had but one informant, and a barbarian at that, I had many; and all told me the same tale, in almost the same words. ‘Sir,’ they said, ‘we have many excellent and able men in this city — nowhere will you find more: but two there are who stand preeminent; who in birth and in prestige are without a rival, and in learning and eloquence might be matched with the Ten Orators of Athens. They are regarded by the public with feelings of absolute devotion: their will is law; for they will nothing but the highest interests of the city. Their courtesy, their hospitality towards strangers, their unassuming benevolence, their modesty in the midst of greatness, their gentleness, their affability — all these you will presently experience, and will have something to say on the subject yourself. But — wonder of wonders! — these two are of one house, father and son. For the father, conceive to yourself a Solon, a Pericles, an Aristides: as to the son, his manly comeliness and noble stature will attract you at the first glance; and if he do but say two words, your ears will be taken captive by the charm that sits upon his tongue. When he speaks in public, the city listens like one man, open-mouthed; ’tis Athens listening to Alcibiades; yet the Athenians presently repented of their infatuation for the son of Clinias, but here love grows to reverence; the welfare of this city, the happiness of her citizens, are all bound up in one man. Once let the father and son admit you to their friendship, and the city is yours; they have but to raise a finger, to put your success beyond a doubt.’— Such, by Heaven (if Heaven must be invoked for the purpose), such was the unvarying report I heard; and I now know from experience that it fell far short of the truth.

Then up, nor waste thy days In indolent delays,

as the Cean poet cries; I must strain every nerve, work body and soul, to gain these friends. That once achieved, fair weather and calm seas are before me, and my haven is near at hand.

The Way to Write History

My Dear Philo,

There is a story of a curious epidemic at Abdera, just after the accession of King Lysimachus. It began with the whole population’s exhibiting feverish symptoms, strongly marked and unintermittent from the very first attack. About the seventh day, the fever was relieved, in some cases by a violent flow of blood from the nose, in others by perspiration not less violent. The mental effects, however, were most ridiculous; they were all stage-struck, mouthing blank verse and ranting at the top of their voices. Their favourite recitation was the Andromeda of Euripides; one after another would go through the great speech of Perseus; the whole place was full of pale ghosts, who were our seventh-day tragedians vociferating,

O Love, who lord’st it over Gods and men,

and the rest of it. This continued for some time, till the coming of winter put an end to their madness with a sharp frost. I find the explanation of the form it took in this fact: Archelaus was then the great tragic actor, and in the middle of the summer, during some very hot weather, he had played the Andromeda there; most of them took the fever in the theatre, and convalescence was followed by a relapse — into tragedy, the Andromeda haunting their memories, and Perseus hovering, Gorgon’s head in hand, before the mind’s eye.

Well, to compare like with like, the majority of our educated class is now suffering from an Abderite epidemic. They are not stage-struck, indeed; that would have been a minor infatuation — to be possessed with other people’s verses, not bad ones either; no; but from the beginning of the present excitements — the barbarian war, the Armenian disaster, the succession of victories — you cannot find a man but is writing history; nay, every one you meet is a Thucydides, a Herodotus, a Xenophon. The old saying must be true, and war be the father of all things 38, seeing what a litter of historians it has now teemed forth at a birth.

Such sights and sounds, my Philo, brought into my head that old anecdote about the Sinopean. A report that Philip was marching on the town had thrown all Corinth into a bustle; one was furbishing his arms, another wheeling stones, a third patching the wall, a fourth strengthening a battlement, every one making himself useful somehow or other. Diogenes having nothing to do — of course no one thought of giving him a job — was moved by the sight to gird up his philosopher’s cloak and begin rolling his tub-dwelling energetically up and down the Craneum; an acquaintance asked, and got, the explanation: ‘I do not want to be thought the only idler in such a busy multitude; I am rolling my tub to be like the rest.’

I too am reluctant to be the only dumb man at so vociferous a season; I do not like walking across the stage, like a ‘super’, in gaping silence; so I decided to roll my cask as best I could. I do not intend to write a history, or attempt actual narrative; I am not courageous enough for that; have no apprehensions on my account; I realize the danger of rolling the thing over the rocks, especially if it is only a poor little jar of brittle earthenware like mine; I should very soon knock against some pebble and find myself picking up the pieces. Come, I will tell you my idea for campaigning in safety, and keeping well out of range.

Give a wide berth to all that foam and spray, and to the anxieties which vex the historian — that I shall be wise enough to do; but I propose to give a little advice, and lay down a few principles for the benefit of those who do venture. I shall have a share in their building, if not in the dedicatory inscription; my finger-tips will at least have touched their wet mortar.

However, most of them see no need for advice here: there might as well be an art of talking, seeing, or eating; history-writing is perfectly easy, comes natural, is a universal gift; all that is necessary is the faculty of translating your thoughts into words. But the truth is — you know it without my telling, old friend — it is not a task to be lightly undertaken, or carried through without effort; no, it needs as much care as any sort of composition whatever, if one means to create ‘a possession for ever,’ as Thucydides calls it. Well, I know I shall not get a hearing from many of them, and some will be seriously offended — especially any who have finished and produced their work; in cases where its first reception was favourable, it would be folly to expect the authors to recast or correct; has it not the stamp of finality? is it not almost a State document? Yet even they may profit by my words; we are not likely to be attacked again; we have disposed of all our enemies; but there might be a Celto–Gothic or an Indo–Bactrian war; then our friends’ composition might be improved by the application of my measuring-rod — always supposing that they recognize its correctness; failing that, let them do their own mensuration with the old foot-rule; the doctor will not particularly mind, though all Abdera insists on spouting the Andromeda.

Advice has two provinces — one of choice, the other of avoidance; let us first decide what the historian is to avoid — of what faults he must purge himself — and then proceed to the measures he must take for putting himself on the straight high road. This will include the manner of his beginning, the order in which he should marshal his facts, the questions of proportion, of discreet silence, of full or cursory narration, of comment and connexion. Of all that, however, later on; for the present we deal with the vices to which bad writers are liable. As to those faults of diction, construction, meaning, and general amateurishness, which are common to every kind of composition, to discuss them is neither compatible with my space nor relevant to my purpose.

But there are mistakes peculiar to history; your own observation will show you just those which a constant attendance at authors’ readings 39 has impressed on me; you have only to keep your ears open at every opportunity. It will be convenient, however, to refer by the way to a few illustrations in recent histories. Here is a serious fault to begin with. It is the fashion to neglect the examination of facts, and give the space gained to eulogies of generals and commanders; those of their own side they exalt to the skies, the other side they disparage intemperately. They forget that between history and panegyric there is a great gulf fixed, barring communication; in musical phrase, the two things are a couple of octaves apart. The panegyrist has only one concern — to commend and gratify his living theme some way or other; if misrepresentation will serve his purpose, he has no objection to that. History, on the other hand, abhors the intrusion of any least scruple of falsehood; it is like the windpipe, which the doctors tell us will not tolerate a morsel of stray food.

Another thing these gentlemen seem not to know is that poetry and history offer different wares, and have their separate rules. Poetry enjoys unrestricted freedom; it has but one law — the poet’s fancy. He is inspired and possessed by the Muses; if he chooses to horse his car with winged steeds, or set others a-galloping over the sea, or standing corn, none challenges his right; his Zeus, with a single cord, may haul up earth and sea, and hold them dangling together — there is no fear the cord may break, the load come tumbling down and be smashed to atoms. In a complimentary picture of Agamemnon, there is nothing against his having Zeus’s head and eyes, his brother Posidon’s chest, Ares’s belt — in fact, the son of Atreus and Aerope will naturally be an epitome of all Divinity; Zeus or Posidon or Ares could not singly or severally provide the requisite perfections. But, if history adopts such servile arts, it is nothing but poetry without the wings; the exalted tones are missing; and imposition of other kinds without the assistance of metre is only the more easily detected. It is surely a great, a superlative weakness, this inability to distinguish history from poetry; what, bedizen history, like her sister, with tale and eulogy and their attendant exaggerations? as well take some mighty athlete with muscles of steel, rig him up with purple drapery and meretricious ornament, rouge and powder his cheeks; faugh, what an object would one make of him with such defilements!

I would not be understood to exclude eulogy from history altogether; it is to be kept to its place and used with moderation, is not to tax the reader’s patience; I shall presently show, indeed, that in all such matters an eye is to be had to posterity. It is true, there is a school which makes a pretty division of history into the agreeable and the useful, and defends the introduction of panegyric on the ground that it is agreeable, and pleases the general reader. But nothing could be further from the truth. In the first place the division is quite a false one; history has only one concern and aim, and that is the useful; which again has one single source, and that is truth. The agreeable is no doubt an addition, if it is present; so is beauty to an athlete; but a Nicostratus, who is a fine fellow and proves himself a better man than either of his opponents, gets his recognition as a Heracles, however ugly his face may be; and if one opponent is the handsome Alcaeus himself — handsome enough to make Nicostratus in love with him, says the story — that does not affect the issue. History too, if it can deal incidentally in the agreeable, will attract a multitude of lovers; but so long as it does its proper business efficiently — and that is the establishment of truth — it may be indifferent to beauty.

It is further to be remarked, that in history sheer extravagance has not even the merit of being agreeable; and the extravagance of eulogy is doubly repulsive, as extravagance, and as eulogy; at least it is only welcome to the vulgar majority, not to that critical, that perhaps hypercritical audience, whom no slip can escape, who are all eyes like Argus, but keener than he, who test every word as a moneychanger might his coins, rejecting the false on the spot, but accepting the good and heavy and true; it is they that we should have in mind as we write history, and never heed the others, though they applaud till they crack their voices. If you neglect the critics, and indulge in the cloying sweetness of tales and eulogies and such baits, you will soon find your history a ‘Heracles in Lydia.’ No doubt you have seen some picture of him: he is Omphale’s slave, dressed up in an absurd costume, his lion-skin and club transferred to her, as though she were the true Heracles, while he, in saffron robe and purple jacket, is combing wool and wincing under Omphale’s slipper. A degrading spectacle it is — the dress loose and flapping open, and all that was man in him turned to woman.

The vulgar may very likely extend their favour to this; but the select (whose judgement you disregard) will get a good deal of entertainment out of your heterogeneous, disjointed, fragmentary stuff. There is nothing which has not a beauty of its own; but take it out of its proper sphere, and the misuse turns its beauty to ugliness. Eulogy, I need hardly say, may possibly please one person, the eulogized, but will disgust every one else; this is particularly so with the monstrous exaggerations which are in fashion; the authors are so intent on the patron-hunt that they cannot relinquish it without a full exhibition of servility; they have no idea of finesse, never mask their flattery, but blurt out their unconvincing bald tale anyhow.

The consequence is, they miss even their immediate end; the objects of their praise are more inclined (and quite right too) to dislike and discard them for toadies — if they are men of spirit, at any rate. Aristobulus inserted in his history an account of a single combat between Alexander and Porus, and selected this passage to read aloud to the former; he reckoned that his best chance of pleasing was to invent heroic deeds for the king, and heighten his achievements. Well, they were on board ship in the Hydaspes; Alexander took hold of the book, and tossed it overboard; ‘the author should have been treated the same way, by rights,’ he added, ‘for presuming to fight duels for me like that, and shoot down elephants single-handed.’ A very natural indignation in Alexander, of a piece with his treatment of the intrusive architect; this person offered to convert the whole of Mount Athos into a colossal statue of the king — who however decided that he was a toady, and actually gave him less employment in ordinary than before.

The fact is, there is nothing agreeable in these things, except to any one who is fool enough to enjoy commendations which the slightest inquiry will prove to be unfounded; of course there are ugly persons — women more especially — who ask artists to paint them as beautiful as they can; they think they will be really better-looking if the painter heightens the rose a little and distributes a good deal of the lily. There you have the origin of the present crowd of historians, intent only upon the passing day, the selfish interest, the profit which they reckon to make out of their work; execration is their desert — in the present for their undisguised clumsy flattery, in the future for the stigma which their exaggerations bring upon history in general. If any one takes some admixture of the agreeable to be an absolute necessity, let him be content with the independent beauties of style; these are agreeable without being false; but they are usually neglected now, for the better foisting upon us of irrelevant substitutes.

Passing from that point, I wish to put on record some fresh recollections of Ionian histories — supported, now I think of it, by Greek analogies also of recent date — both concerned with the war already alluded to. You may trust my report, the Graces be my witness; I would take oath to its truth, if it were polite to swear on paper. One writer started with invoking the Muses to lend a hand. What a tasteful exordium! How suited to the historic spirit! How appropriate to the style! When he had got a little way on, he compared our ruler to Achilles, and the Parthian king to Thersites; he forgot that Achilles would have done better if he had had Hector instead of Thersites to beat, if there had been a man of might fleeing in front,

But at his heels a mightier far than he.

He next proceeded to say something handsome about himself, as a fit chronicler of such brilliant deeds. As he got near his point of departure, he threw in a word for his native town of Miletus, adding that he was thus improving on Homer, who never so much as mentioned his birthplace. And he concluded his preface with a plain express promise to advance our cause and personally wage war against the barbarians, to the best of his ability. The actual history, and recital of the causes of hostilities, began with these words:—‘The detestable Vologesus (whom Heaven confound!) commenced war on the following pretext.’

Enough of him. Another is a keen emulator of Thucydides, and by way of close approximation to his model starts with his own name — most graceful of beginnings, redolent of Attic thyme! Look at it: ‘Crepereius Calpurnianus of Pompeiopolis wrote the history of the war between Parthia and Rome, how they warred one upon the other, beginning with the commencement of the war.’ After that exordium, what need to describe the rest — what harangues he delivers in Armenia, resuscitating our old friend the Corcyrean envoy — what a plague he inflicts on Nisibis (which would not espouse the Roman cause), lifting the whole thing bodily from Thucydides — except the Pelasgicum and the Long Walls, where the victims of the earlier plague found shelter; there the difference ends; like the other, ‘it began in Ethiopia, whence it descended to Egypt,’ and to most of the Parthian empire, where it very discreetly remained. I left him engaged in burying the poor Athenians in Nisibis, and knew quite well how he would continue after my exit. Indeed it is a pretty common belief at present that you are writing like Thucydides, if you just use his actual words, mutatis mutandis. 40 Ah, and I almost forgot to mention one thing: this same writer gives many names of weapons and military engines in Latin — phossa for trench, pons for bridge, and so forth. Just think of the dignity of history, and the Thucydidean style — the Attic embroidered with these Latin words, like a toga relieved and picked out with the purple stripe — so harmonious!

Another puts down a bald list of events, as prosy and commonplace as a private’s or a carpenter’s or a sutler’s diary. However, there is more sense in this poor man’s performance; he flies his true colours from the first; he has cleared the ground for some educated person who knows how to deal with history. The only fault I have to find with him is that he inscribes his volumes with a solemnity rather disproportioned to the rank of their contents —‘Parthian History, by Callimorphus, Surgeon of the 6th Pikemen, volume so-and-so.’ Ah, yes, and there is a lamentable preface, which closes with the remark that, since Asclepius is the son of Apollo, and Apollo director of the Muses and patron of all culture, it is very proper for a doctor to write history. Also, he starts in Ionic, but very soon, for no apparent reason, abandons it for every-day Greek, still keeping the Ionic es and ks and ous, but otherwise writing like ordinary people — rather too ordinary, indeed.

Perhaps I should balance him with a philosophic historian; this gentleman’s name I will conceal, and merely indicate his attitude, as revealed in a recent publication at Corinth. Much had been expected of him, but not enough; starting straight off with the first sentence of the preface, he subjects his readers to a dialectic catechism, his thesis being the highly philosophic one, that no one but a philosopher should write history. Very shortly there follows a second logical process, itself followed by a third; in fact the whole preface is one mass of dialectic figures. There is flattery, indeed, ad nauseam, eulogy vulgar to the point of farce; but never without the logical trimmings; always that dialectical catechism. I confess it strikes me as a vulgarity also, hardly worthy of a philosopher with so long and white a beard, when he gives it in his preface as our ruler’s special good fortune that philosophers should consent to record his actions; he had better have left us to reach that conclusion for ourselves — if at all.

Again, it would be a sinful neglect to omit the man who begins like this:—‘I devise to tell of Romans and Persians’; then a little later, ‘For ’twas Heaven’s decree that the Persians should suffer evils’; and again, ‘One Osroes there was, whom Hellenes name Oxyroes’— and much more in that style. He corresponds, you see, to one of my previous examples; only he is a second Herodotus, and the other a second Thucydides.

There is another distinguished artist in words — again rather more Thucydidean than Thucydides — who gives, according to his own idea, the clearest, most convincing descriptions of every town, mountain, plain, or river. I wish my bitterest foe no worse fate than the reading of them. Frigid? Caspian snows, Celtic ice, are warm in comparison. A whole book hardly suffices him for the Emperor’s shield — the Gorgon on its boss, with eyes of blue and white and black, rainbow girdle, and snakes twined and knotted. Why, Vologesus’s breeches or his bridle, God bless me, they take up several thousand lines apiece; the same for the look of Osroes’s hair as he swims the Tigris — or what the cave was like that sheltered him, ivy and myrtle and bay clustered all together to shut out every ray of light. You observe how indispensable it all is to the history; without the scene, how could we have comprehended the action?

It is helplessness about the real essentials, or ignorance of what should be given, that makes them take refuge in word-painting — landscapes, caves, and the like; and when they do come upon a series of important matters, they are just like a slave whose master has left him his money and made him a rich man; he does not know how to put on his clothes or take his food properly; partridges or sweetbreads or hare are served; but he rushes in, and fills himself up with pea soup or salt fish, till he is fit to burst. Well, the man I spoke of gives the most unconvincing wounds and singular deaths: some one has his big toe injured, and dies on the spot; the general Priscus calls out, and seven-and-twenty of the enemy fall dead at the sound. As to the numbers killed, he actually falsifies dispatches; at Europus he slaughters 70,236 of the enemy, while the Romans lose two, and have seven wounded! How any man of sense can tolerate such stuff, I do not know.

Here is another point quite worth mention. This writer has such a passion for unadulterated Attic, and for refining speech to the last degree of purity, that he metamorphoses the Latin names and translates them into Greek; Saturninus figures as Cronius, Fronto must be Phrontis, Titianus Titanius, with queerer transmogrifications yet. Further, on the subject of Severian’s death, he accuses all other writers of a blunder in putting him to the sword; he is really to have starved himself to death, as the most painless method; the fact, however, is that it was all over in three days, whereas seven days is the regular time for starvation; are we perhaps to conceive an Osroes waiting about for Severian to complete the process, and putting off his assault till after the seventh day?

Then, Philo, how shall we class the historians who indulge in poetical phraseology? ‘The catapult rocked responsive,’ they say; ‘Loud thundered the breach’; or, somewhere else in this delectable history, ‘Thus Edessa was girdled with clash of arms, and all was din and turmoil,’ or, ‘The general pondered in his heart how to attack the wall.’ Only he fills up the interstices with such wretched common lower-class phrases as ‘The military prefect wrote His Majesty,’ ‘The troops were procuring the needful,’ ‘They got a wash 41 and put in an appearance,’ and so on. It is like an actor with one foot raised on a high buskin, and the other in a slipper.

You will find others writing brilliant high-sounding prefaces of outrageous length, raising great expectations of the wonders to follow — and then comes a poor little appendix of a — history; it is like nothing in the world but a child — say the Eros you must have seen in a picture playing in an enormous mask of Heracles or a Titan; parturiunt montes, cries the audience, very naturally. That is not the way to do things; the whole should be homogeneous and uniform, and the body in proportion to the head — not a helmet of gold, a ridiculous breastplate patched up out of rags or rotten leather, shield of wicker, and pig-skin greaves. You will find plenty of historians prepared to set the Rhodian Colossus’s head on the body of a dwarf; others on the contrary show us headless bodies, and plunge into the facts without exordium. These plead the example of Xenophon, who starts with ‘Darius and Parysatis had two children’; if they only knew it, there is such a thing as a virtual exordium, not realized as such by everybody; but of that hereafter.

However, any mistake in mere expression or arrangement is excusable; but when you come to fancy geography, differing from the other not by miles or leagues, but by whole days’ journeys, where is the classical model for that? One writer has taken so little trouble with his facts — never met a Syrian, I suppose, nor listened to the stray information you may pick up at the barber’s — that he thus locates Europus:—‘Europus lies in Mesopotamia, two days’ journey from the Euphrates, and is a colony from Edessa.’ Not content with that, this enterprising person has in the same book taken up my native Samosata and shifted it, citadel, walls, and all, into Mesopotamia, giving it the two rivers for boundaries, and making them shave past it, all but touching the walls on either side. I suspect you would laugh at me, Philo, if I were to set about convincing you that I am neither Parthian nor Mesopotamian, as this whimsical colony-planter makes me.

By the way, he has also a very attractive tale of Severian, learnt, he assures us on oath, from one of the actual fugitives. According to this, he would not die by the sword, the rope, or poison, but contrived a death which should be tragic and impressive. He was the owner of some large goblets of the most precious glass; having made up his mind to die, he broke the largest of these, and used a splinter of it for the purpose, cutting his throat with the glass. A dagger or a lancet, good enough instruments for a manly and heroic death, he could not come at, forsooth!

Then, as Thucydides composed a funeral oration over the first victims of that old war, our author feels it incumbent on him to do the same for Severian; they all challenge Thucydides, you see, little as he can be held responsible for the Armenian troubles. So he buries Severian, and then solemnly ushers up to the grave, as Pericles’s rival, one Afranius Silo, a centurion; the flood of rhetoric which follows is so copious and remarkable that it drew tears from me — ye Graces! — tears of laughter; most of all where the eloquent Afranius, drawing to a close, makes mention, with weeping and distressful moans, of all those costly dinners and toasts. But he is a very Ajax in his conclusion. He draws his sword, gallantly as an Afranius should, and in sight of all cuts his throat over the grave — and God knows it was high time for an execution, if oratory can be felony. The historian states that all the spectators admired and lauded Afranius; as for me, I was inclined to condemn him on general grounds — he had all but given a catalogue of sauces and dishes, and shed tears over the memory of departed cakes — but his capital offence was that he had not cut the historian-tragedian’s throat before he left this life himself.

I assure you, my friend, I could largely increase my list of such offenders; but one or two more will suffice, before proceeding to the second part of my undertaking, the suggestions for improvement. There are some, then, who leave alone, or deal very cursorily with, all that is great and memorable; amateurs and not artists, they have no selective faculty, and loiter over copious laboured descriptions of the veriest trifles; it is as if a visitor to Olympia, instead of examining, commending or describing to his stay-at-home friends the general greatness and beauty of the Zeus, were to be struck with the exact symmetry and polish of its footstool, or the proportions of its shoe, and give all his attention to these minor points.

For instance, I have known a man get through the battle of Europus in less than seven whole lines, and then spend twenty mortal hours on a dull and perfectly irrelevant tale about a Moorish trooper. The trooper’s name was Mausacas; he wandered up the hills in search of water, and came upon some Syrian yokels getting their lunch; at first they were afraid of him, but when they found he was on the right side, they invited him to share the meal; for one of them had travelled in the Moorish country, having a brother serving in the army. Then come long stories and descriptions of how he hunted there, and saw a great herd of elephants at pasture, and was nearly eaten up by a lion, and what huge fish he had bought at Caesarea. So this quaint historian leaves the terrible carnage to go on at Europus, and lets the pursuit, the forced armistice, the settling of outposts, shift for themselves, while he lingers far into the evening watching Malchion the Syrian cheapen big mackarel at Caesarea; if night had not come all too soon, I dare say he would have dined with him when the fish was cooked. If all this had not been accurately set down in the history, what sad ignorance we should have been left in! The loss to the Romans would have been irreparable, if Mausacas the Moor had got nothing to quench his thirst, and come back fasting to camp. Yet I am wilfully omitting innumerable details of yet greater importance — the arrival of a flute-girl from the next village, the exchange of gifts (Mausacas’s was a spear, Malchion’s a brooch), and other incidents most essential to the battle of Europus. It is no exaggeration to say that such writers never give the rose a glance, but devote all their curiosity to the thorns on its stem.

Another entertaining person, who has never set foot outside Corinth, nor travelled as far as its harbour — not to mention seeing Syria or Armenia — starts with words which impressed themselves on my memory:—‘Seeing is believing: I therefore write what I have seen, not what I have been told.’ His personal observation has been so close that he describes the Parthian ‘Dragons’ (they use this ensign as a numerical formula — a thousand men to the Dragon, I believe): they are huge live dragons, he says, breeding in Persian territory beyond Iberia; these are first fastened to great poles and hoisted up aloft, striking terror at a distance while the advance is going on; then, when the battle begins, they are released and set on the enemy; numbers of our men, it seems, were actually swallowed by them, and others strangled or crushed in their coils; of all this he was an eye-witness, taking his observations, however, from a safe perch up a tree. Thank goodness he did not come to close quarters with the brutes! we should have lost a very remarkable historian, and one who did doughty deeds in this war with his own right hand; for he had many adventures, and was wounded at Sura (in the course of a stroll from the Craneum to Lerna, apparently). All this he used to read to a Corinthian audience, which was perfectly aware that he had never so much as seen a battle-picture. Why, he did not know one weapon or engine from another; the names of manoeuvres and formations had no meaning for him; flank or front, line or column, it was all one.

Then there is a splendid fellow, who has boiled down into the compass of five hundred lines (or less, to be accurate) the whole business from beginning to end — campaigns in Armenia, in Syria, in Mesopotamia, on the Tigris, and in Media; and having done it, he calls it a history. His title very narrowly misses being longer than his book: ‘An account of the late campaigns of the Romans in Armenia, Mesopotamia, and Media, by Antiochianus, victor at the festival of Apollo’; he had probably won some junior flat race.

I have known one writer compile a history of the future, including the capture of Vologesus, the execution of Osroes (he is to be thrown to the lions), and, crowning all, our long-deferred triumph. In this prophetic vein, he sweeps hastily on to the end of his work; yet he finds time for the foundation in Mesopotamia of a city, greatest of the great, and fairest of the fair; he is still debating, however, whether the most appropriate name will be Victoria, Concord, or Peacetown; that is yet unsettled; we must leave the fair city unnamed for the present; but it is already thickly populated — with empty dreams and literary drivellings. He has also pledged himself to an account of coming events in India, and a circumnavigation of the Atlantic; nay, the pledge is half redeemed; the preface to the India is complete; the third legion, the Celtic contingent, and a small Moorish division, have crossed the Indus in full force under Cassius; our most original historian will soon be posting us up in their doings — their method of ‘receiving elephants,’ for instance — in letters dated Muziris or Oxydracae.

These people’s uneducated antics are infinite; they have no eyes for the noteworthy, nor, if they had eyes, any adequate faculty of expression; invention and fiction provide their matter, and belief in the first word that comes their style; they pride themselves on the number of books they run to, and yet more on their titles; for these again are quite absurd:— So-and-so’s so many books of Parthian victories; The Parthis, book I; The Parthis, book II— quite a rival to the Atthis, eh? Another does it (I have read the book) still more neatly —‘The Parthonicy of Demetrius of Sagalassus.’ I do not wish to ridicule or make a jest of these pretty histories; I write for a practical purpose: any one who avoids these and similar errors is already well on the road to historical success; nay, he is almost there, if the logical axiom is correct, that, with incompatibles, denial of the one amounts to affirmation of the other.

Well, I may be told, you have now a clear field; the thorns and brambles have all been extirpated, the debris of others’ buildings has been carted of, the rough places have been made smooth; come, do a little construction yourself, and show that you are not only good at destroying, but capable of yourself planning a model, in which criticism itself shall find nothing to criticize.

Well then, my perfect historian must start with two indispensable qualifications; the one is political insight, the other the faculty of expression; the first is a gift of nature, which can never be learnt; the second should have been acquired by long practice, unremitting toil, and loving study of the classics. There is nothing technical here, and no room for any advice of mine; this essay does not profess to bestow insight and acumen on those who are not endowed with them by nature; valuable, or invaluable rather, would it have been, if it could recast and modify like that, transmute lead into gold, tin into silver, magnify a Conon or Leotrophides into Titormus or Milo.

But what is the function of professional advice? not the creation of qualities which should be already there, but the indication of their proper use. No trainer, of course — let him be Iccus, Herodicus, Theon, or who he may — will suggest that he can take a Perdiccas 42 and make an Olympic victor of him, fit to face Theagenes of Thasos or Polydamas of Scotussa; what he will tell you is that, given a constitution that will stand training, his system will considerably improve it. So with us — we are not to have every failure cast in our teeth, if we claim to have invented a system for so great and difficult a subject. We do not offer to take the first comer and make a historian of him — only to point out to any one who has natural insight and acquired literary skill certain straight roads (they may or may not be so in reality) which will bring him with less waste of time and effort to his goal.

I do not suppose you will object that the man with insight has no need of system and instruction upon the things he is ignorant of; in that case he might have played the harp or flute untaught, and in fact have been omniscient. But, as things are at present, he cannot perform in these ways untaught, though with some assistance he will learn very easily, and soon be able to get along by himself.

You now know what sort of a pupil I (like the trainer) insist upon. He must not be weak either at understanding or at making himself understood, but a man of penetration, a capable administrator — potentially, that is, — with a soldierly spirit (which does not however exclude the civil spirit), and some military experience; at the least he must have been in camp, seen troops drilled or manoeuvred, know a little about weapons and military engines, the differences between line and column, cavalry and infantry tactics (with the reasons for them), frontal and flank attacks; in a word, none of your armchair strategists relying wholly on hearsay.

But first and foremost, let him be a man of independent spirit, with nothing to fear or hope from anybody; else he will be a corrupt judge open to undue influences. If Philip’s eye is knocked out at Olynthus by Aster the Amphipolite archer, it is not his business to exclaim, but just to show him as he is; he is not to think whether Alexander will be annoyed by a circumstantial account of the cruel murder of Clitus at table. If a Cleon has the ear of the assembly, and a monopoly of the tribune, he will not shrink on that account from describing him as a pestilent madman; all Athens will not stop him from dwelling on the Sicilian disaster, the capture of Demosthenes, the death of Nicias, the thirst, the foul water, and the shooting down of the drinkers. He will consider very rightly that no man of sense will blame him for recounting the effects of misfortune or folly in their entirety; he is not the author, but only the reporter of them. If a fleet is destroyed, it is not he who sinks it; if there is a rout, he is not in pursuit — unless perhaps he ought to have prayed for better things, and omitted to do so. Of course, if silence or contradiction would have put matters right, Thucydides might with a stroke of the pen have knocked down the counterwall on Epipolae, sent Hermocrates’s trireme to the bottom, let daylight through the accursed Gylippus before he had done blocking the roads with wall and trench, and, finally, have cast the Syracusans into their own quarries and sent the Athenians cruising round Sicily and Italy with Alcibiades’s first high hopes still on board. Alas, not Fate itself may undo the work of Fate.

The historian’s one task is to tell the thing as it happened. This he cannot do, if he is Artaxerxes’s physician 43 trembling before him, or hoping to get a purple cloak, a golden chain, a horse of the Nisaean breed, in payment for his laudations. A fair historian, a Xenophon, a Thucydides, will not accept that position. He may nurse some private dislikes, but he will attach far more importance to the public good, and set the truth high above his hate; he may have his favourites, but he will not spare their errors. For history, I say again, has this and this only for its own; if a man will start upon it, he must sacrifice to no God but Truth; he must neglect all else; his sole rule and unerring guide is this — to think not of those who are listening to him now, but of the yet unborn who shall seek his converse.

Any one who is intent only upon the immediate effect may reasonably be classed among the flatterers; and History has long ago realized that flattery is as little congenial to her as the arts of personal adornment to an athlete’s training. An anecdote of Alexander is to the point. ‘Ah, Onesicritus,’ said he, ‘how I should like to come to life again for a little while, and see how your stuff strikes people by that time; at present they have good enough reason to praise and welcome it; that is their way of angling for a share of my favour.’ On the same principle some people actually accept Homer’s history of Achilles, full of exaggerations as it is; the one great guarantee which they recognize of his truth is the fact that his subject was not living; that leaves him no motive for lying.

There stands my model, then: fearless, incorruptible, independent, a believer in frankness and veracity; one that will call a spade a spade, make no concession to likes and dislikes, nor spare any man for pity or respect or propriety; an impartial judge, kind to all, but too kind to none; a literary cosmopolite with neither suzerain nor king, never heeding what this or that man may think, but setting down the thing that befell.

Thucydides is our noble legislator; he marked the admiration that met Herodotus and gave the Muses’ names to his nine books; and thereupon he drew the line which parts a good historian from a bad: our work is to be a possession for ever, not a bid for present reputation; we are not to seize upon the sensational, but bequeath the truth to them that come after; he applies the test of use, and defines the end which a wise historian will set before himself: it is that, should history ever repeat itself, the records of the past may give present guidance.

Such are to be my historian’s principles. As for diction and style, he is not to set about his work armed to the teeth from the rhetorician’s arsenal of impetuosity and incisiveness, rolling periods, close-packed arguments, and the rest; for him a serener mood. His matter should be homogeneous and compact, his vocabulary fit to be understanded of the people, for the clearest possible setting forth of his subject.

For to those marks which we set up for the historic spirit — frankness and truth — corresponds one at which the historic style should first of all aim, namely, a lucidity which leaves nothing obscure, impartially avoiding abstruse out-of-the-way expressions, and the illiberal jargon of the market; we wish the vulgar to comprehend, the cultivated to commend us. Ornament should be unobtrusive, and never smack of elaboration, if it is not to remind us of over-seasoned dishes.

The historian’s spirit should not be without a touch of the poetical; it needs, like poetry, to employ impressive and exalted tones, especially when it finds itself in the midst of battle array and conflicts by land or sea; it is then that the poetic gale must blow to speed the vessel on, and help her ride the waves in majesty. But the diction is to be content with terra firma, rising a little to assimilate itself to the beauty and grandeur of the subject, but never startling the hearer, nor forgetting a due restraint; there is great risk at such times of its running wild and falling into poetic frenzy; and then it is that writers should hold themselves in with bit and bridle; with them as with horses an uncontrollable temper means disaster. At these times it is best for the spirit to go a-horseback, and the expression to run beside on foot, holding on to the saddle so as not to be outstripped.

As to the marshalling of your words, a moderate compromise is desirable between the harshness which results from separating what belongs together, and the jingling concatenations — one may almost call them — which are so common; one extreme is a definite vice, and the other repellent.

Facts are not to be collected at haphazard, but with careful, laborious, repeated investigation; when possible, a man should have been present and seen for himself; failing that, he should prefer the disinterested account, selecting the informants least likely to diminish or magnify from partiality. And here comes the occasion for exercising the judgement in weighing probabilities.

The material once complete, or nearly so, an abstract should be made of it, and a rough draught of the whole work put down, not yet distributed into its parts; the detailed arrangement should then be introduced, after which adornment may be added, the diction receive its colour, the phrasing and rhythm be perfected.

The historian’s position should now be precisely that of Zeus in Homer, surveying now the Mysians’, now the Thracian horsemen’s land. Even so he will survey now his own party (telling us what we looked like to him from his post of vantage), now the Persians, and yet again both at once, if they come to blows. And when they are face to face, his eyes are not to be on one division, nor yet on one man, mounted or afoot — unless it be a Brasidas leading the forlorn hope, or a Demosthenes repelling it; his attention should be for the generals first of all; their exhortations should be recorded, the dispositions they make, and the motives and plans that prompted them. When the engagement has begun, he should give us a bird’s-eye view of it, show the scales oscillating, and accompany pursuers and pursued alike.

All this, however, with moderation; a subject is not to be ridden to death; no neglect of proportion, no childish engrossment, but easy transitions. He should call a halt here, while he crosses over to another set of operations which demands attention; that settled up, he can return to the first set, now ripe for him; he must pass swiftly to each in turn, keeping his different lines of advance as nearly as possible level, fly from Armenia to Media, thence swoop straight upon Iberia, and then take wing for Italy, everywhere present at the nick of time.

He has to make of his brain a mirror, unclouded, bright, and true of surface; then he will reflect events as they presented themselves to him, neither distorted, discoloured, nor variable. Historians are not writing fancy school essays; what they have to say is before them, and will get itself said somehow, being solid fact; their task is to arrange and put it into words; they have not to consider what to say, but how to say it. The historian, we may say, should be like Phidias, Praxiteles, Alcamenes, or any great sculptor. They similarly did not create the gold, silver, ivory, or other material they used; it was ready to their hands, provided by Athens, Elis, or Argos; they only made the model, sawed, polished, cemented, proportioned the ivory, and plated it with gold; that was what their art consisted in-the right arrangement of their material. The historian’s business is similar — to superinduce upon events the charm of order, and set them forth in the most lucid fashion he can manage. When subsequently a hearer feels as though he were looking at what is being told him, and expresses his approval, then our historical Phidias’s work has reached perfection, and received its appropriate reward.

When all is ready, a writer will sometimes start without formal preface, if there is no pressing occasion to clear away preliminaries by that means, though even then his explanation of what he is to say constitutes a virtual preface.

When a formal preface is used, one of the three objects to which a public speaker devotes his exordium may be neglected; the historian, that is, has not to bespeak goodwill — only attention and an open mind. The way to secure the reader’s attention is to show that the affairs to be narrated are great in themselves, throw light on Destiny, or come home to his business and bosom; and as to the open mind, the lucidity in the body of the work, which is to secure that, will be facilitated by a preliminary view of the causes in operation and a precise summary of events.

Prefaces of this character have been employed by the best historians — by Herodotus, ‘to the end that what befell may not grow dim by lapse of time, seeing that it was great and wondrous, and showed forth withal Greeks vanquishing and barbarians vanquished’; and by Thucydides, ‘believing that that war would be great and memorable beyond any previous one; for indeed great calamities took place during its course.’

After the preface, long or short in proportion to the subject, should come an easy natural transition to the narrative; for the body of the history which remains is nothing from beginning to end but a long narrative; it must therefore be graced with the narrative virtues — smooth, level, and consistent progress, neither soaring nor crawling, and the charm of lucidity — which is attained, as I remarked above, partly by the diction, and partly by the treatment of connected events. For, though all parts must be independently perfected, when the first is complete the second will be brought into essential connexion with it, and attached like one link of a chain to another; there must be no possibility of separating them; no mere bundle of parallel threads; the first is not simply to be next to the second, but part of it, their extremities intermingling.

Brevity is always desirable, and especially where matter is abundant; and the problem is less a grammatical than a substantial one; the solution, I mean, is to deal summarily with all immaterial details, and give adequate treatment to the principal events; much, indeed, is better omitted altogether. Suppose yourself giving a dinner, and extremely well provided; there is pastry, game, kickshaws without end, wild boar, hare, sweetbreads; well, you will not produce among these a pike, or a bowl of peasoup, just because they are there in the kitchen; you will dispense with such common things.

Restraint in descriptions of mountains, walls, rivers, and the like, is very important; you must not give the impression that you are making a tasteless display of word-painting, and expatiating independently while the history takes care of itself. Just a light touch — no more than meets the need of clearness — and you should pass on, evading the snare, and denying yourself all such indulgences. You have the mighty Homer’s example in such a case; poet as he is, he yet hurries past Tantalus and Ixion, Tityus and the rest of them. If Parthenius, Euphorion, or Callimachus had been in his place, how many lines do you suppose it would have taken to get the water to Tantalus’s lip; how many more to set Ixion spinning? Better still, mark how Thucydides — a very sparing dealer in description — leaves the subject at once, as soon as he has given an idea (very necessary and useful, too) of an engine or a siege-operation, of the conformation of Epipolae, or the Syracusan harbour. It may occur to you that his account of the plague is long; but you must allow for the subject; then you will appreciate his brevity; he is hastening on; it is only that the weight of matter holds him back in spite of himself.

When it comes in your way to introduce a speech, the first requirement is that it should suit the character both of the speaker and of the occasion; the second is (once more) lucidity; but in these cases you have the counsel’s right of showing your eloquence.

Not so with praise or censure; these should be sparing, cautious, avoiding hypercriticism and producing proofs, always brief, and never intrusive; historical characters are not prisoners on trial. Without these precautions you will share the ill name of Theopompus, who delights in flinging accusations broadcast, makes a business of the thing in fact, and of himself rather a public prosecutor than a historian.

It may occasionally happen that some extraordinary story has to be introduced; it should be simply narrated, without guarantee of its truth, thrown down for any one to make what he can of it; the writer takes no risks and shows no preference.

But the general principle I would have remembered — it will ever be on my lips — is this: do not write merely with an eye to the present, that those now living may commend and honour you; aim at eternity, compose for posterity, and from it ask your reward; and that reward? — that it be said of you, ‘This was a man indeed, free and free-spoken; flattery and servility were not in him; he was truth all through.’ It is a name which a man of judgement might well prefer to all the fleeting hopes of the present.

Do you know the story of the great Cnidian architect? He was the builder of that incomparable work, whether for size or beauty, the Pharus tower. Its light was to warn ships far out at sea, and save them from running on the Paraetonia, a spot so fatal to all who get among its reefs that escape is said to be hopeless. When the building was done, he inscribed on the actual masonry his own name, but covered this up with plaster, on which he then added the name of the reigning king. He knew that, as happened later, letters and plaster would fall off together, and reveal the words:

Sostratus Son of Dexiphanes of Cnidus on Behalf of All Mariners to the Saviour Gods

He looked not, it appears, to that time, nor to the space of his own little life, but to this time, and to all time, as long as his tower shall stand and his art abide.

So too should the historian write, consorting with Truth and not with flattery, looking to the future hope, not to the gratification of the flattered.

There is your measuring-line for just history. If any one be found to use it, well; I have not written in vain: if none, yet have I rolled my tub on the Craneum.

38 See note on Icaromenippus, 8.

39 These were very common in Roman Imperial times, for purposes of advertisement, of eliciting criticism, &c. ‘The audience at recitations may be compared with the modern literary reviews, discharging the functions of a preventive and emendatory, not merely of a correctional tribunal. Before publication a work might thus be known to more hearers than it would now find readers’ Mayor, Juvenal, iii. 9.

40 Omitting, with Dindorf, the words which appear in the Teubner text, after emendation, as: mikra rakia, opos kai autos au phaiaes, on di autaen.

41 It was suggested in the Introduction that Lucian’s criticism is for practical purposes out of date; but Prescott writes: ‘He was surrounded by a party of friends, who had dropped in, it seems, after mass, to inquire after the state of his health, some of whom had remained to partake of his repast.’

42 Omitting, with Dindorf, a note on Perdiccas which runs thus: ‘if Perdiccas it was, and not rather Seleucus’s son Antiochus, who was wasted to a shadow by his passion for his step-mother.’

43 See Ctesias in Notes

The True History


Athletes and physical trainers do not limit their attention to the questions of perfect condition and exercise; they say there is a time for relaxation also — which indeed they represent as the most important element in training. I hold it equally true for literary men that after severe study they should unbend the intellect, if it is to come perfectly efficient to its next task.

The rest they want will best be found in a course of literature which does not offer entertainment pure and simple, depending on mere wit or felicity, but is also capable of stirring an educated curiosity — in a way which I hope will be exemplified in the following pages. They are intended to have an attraction independent of any originality of subject, any happiness of general design, any verisimilitude in the piling up of fictions. This attraction is in the veiled reference underlying all the details of my narrative; they parody the cock-and-bull stories of ancient poets, historians, and philosophers; I have only refrained from adding a key because I could rely upon you to recognize as you read.

Ctesias, son of Ctesiochus of Cnidus, in his work on India and its characteristics, gives details for which he had neither the evidence of his eyes nor of hearsay. Iambulus’s Oceanica is full of marvels; the whole thing is a manifest fiction, but at the same time pleasant reading. Many other writers have adopted the same plan, professing to relate their own travels, and describing monstrous beasts, savages, and strange ways of life. The fount and inspiration of their humour is the Homeric Odysseus, entertaining Alcinous’s court with his prisoned winds, his men one-eyed or wild or cannibal, his beasts with many heads, and his metamorphosed comrades; the Phaeacians were simple folk, and he fooled them to the top of their bent.

When I come across a writer of this sort, I do not much mind his lying; the practice is much too well established for that, even with professed philosophers; I am only surprised at his expecting to escape detection. Now I am myself vain enough to cherish the hope of bequeathing something to posterity; I see no reason for resigning my right to that inventive freedom which others enjoy; and, as I have no truth to put on record, having lived a very humdrum life, I fall back on falsehood — but falsehood of a more consistent variety; for I now make the only true statement you are to expect — that I am a liar. This confession is, I consider, a full defence against all imputations. My subject is, then, what I have neither seen, experienced, nor been told, what neither exists nor could conceivably do so. I humbly solicit my readers’ incredulity.

Book I

Starting on a certain date from the Pillars of Heracles, I sailed with a fair wind into the Atlantic. The motives of my voyage were a certain intellectual restlessness, a passion for novelty, a curiosity about the limits of the ocean and the peoples who might dwell beyond it. This being my design, I provisioned and watered my ship on a generous scale. My crew amounted to fifty, all men whose interests, as well as their years, corresponded with my own. I had further provided a good supply of arms, secured the best navigator to be had for money, and had the ship — a sloop — specially strengthened for a long and arduous voyage.

For a day and a night we were carried quietly along by the breeze, with land still in sight. But with the next day’s dawn the wind rose to a gale, with a heavy sea and a dark sky; we found ourselves unable to take in sail. We surrendered ourselves to the elements, let her run, and were storm-driven for more than eleven weeks. On the eightieth day the sun came out quite suddenly, and we found ourselves close to a lofty wooded island, round which the waves were murmuring gently, the sea having almost fallen by this time. We brought her to land, disembarked, and after our long tossing lay a considerable time idle on shore; we at last made a start, however, and leaving thirty of our number to guard the ship I took the other twenty on a tour of inspection.

We had advanced half a mile inland through woods, when we came upon a brazen pillar, inscribed in Greek characters — which however were worn and dim —‘Heracles and Dionysus reached this point.’ Not far off were two footprints on rock; one might have been an acre in area, the other being smaller; and I conjecture that the latter was Dionysus’s, and the other Heracles’s; we did obeisance, and proceeded. Before we had gone far, we found ourselves on a river which ran wine; it was very like Chian; the stream full and copious, even navigable in parts. This evidence of Dionysus’s sojourn was enough to convince us that the inscription on the pillar was authentic. Resolving to find the source, I followed the river up, and discovered, instead of a fountain, a number of huge vines covered with grapes; from the root of each there issued a trickle of perfectly clear wine, the joining of which made the river. It was well stocked with great fish, resembling wine both in colour and taste; catching and eating some, we at once found ourselves intoxicated; and indeed when opened the fish were full of wine-lees; presently it occurred to us to mix them with ordinary water fish, thus diluting the strength of our spirituous food.

We now crossed the river by a ford, and came to some vines of a most extraordinary kind. Out of the ground came a thick well-grown stem; but the upper part was a woman, complete from the loins upward. They were like our painters’ representations of Daphne in the act of turning into a tree just as Apollo overtakes her. From the finger-tips sprang vine twigs, all loaded with grapes; the hair of their heads was tendrils, leaves, and grape-clusters. They greeted us and welcomed our approach, talking Lydian, Indian, and Greek, most of them the last. They went so far as to kiss us on the mouth; and whoever was kissed staggered like a drunken man. But they would not permit us to pluck their fruit, meeting the attempt with cries of pain. Some of them made further amorous advances; and two of my comrades who yielded to these solicitations found it impossible to extricate themselves again from their embraces; the man became one plant with the vine, striking root beside it; his fingers turned to vine twigs, the tendrils were all round him, and embryo grape-clusters were already visible on him.

We left them there and hurried back to the ship, where we told our tale, including our friends’ experiment in viticulture. Then after taking some casks ashore and filling them with wine and water we bivouacked near the beach, and next morning set sail before a gentle breeze. But about midday, when we were out of sight of the island, a waterspout suddenly came upon us, which swept the ship round and up to a height of some three hundred and fifty miles above the earth. She did not fall back into the sea, but was suspended aloft, and at the same time carried along by a wind which struck and filled the sails.

For a whole week we pursued our airy course, and on the eighth day descried land; it was an island with air for sea, glistening, spherical, and bathed in light. We reached it, cast anchor, and landed; inspection soon showed that it was inhabited and cultivated. In the daytime nothing could be discerned outside of it; but night revealed many neighbouring islands, some larger and some smaller than ours; there was also another land below us containing cities, rivers, seas, forests, and mountains; and this we concluded to be our Earth.

We were intending to continue our voyage, when we were discovered and detained by the Horse-vultures, as they are called. These are men mounted on huge vultures, which they ride like horses; the great birds have ordinarily three heads. It will give you some idea of their size if I state that each of their quill-feathers is longer and thicker than the mast of a large merchantman. This corps is charged with the duty of patrolling the land, and bringing any strangers it may find to the king; this was what was now done with us. The king surveyed us, and, forming his conclusions from our dress, ‘Strangers,’ said he, ‘you are Greeks, are you not?’ we assented. ‘And how did you traverse this vast space of air?’ In answer we gave a full account of ourselves, to which he at once replied with his own history. It seemed he too was a mortal, named Endymion, who had been conveyed up from our Earth in his sleep, and after his arrival had become king of the country; this was, he told us, what we knew on our Earth as the moon. He bade us be of good cheer and entertain no apprehensions; all our needs should be supplied.

‘And if I am victorious,’ he added, ‘in the campaign which I am now commencing against the inhabitants of the Sun, I promise you an extremely pleasant life at my court.’ We asked about the enemy, and the quarrel. ‘Phaethon,’ he replied, ‘king of the Sun (which is inhabited, like the Moon), has long been at war with us. The occasion was this: I wished at one time to collect the poorest of my subjects and send them as a colony to Lucifer, which is uninhabited. Phaethon took umbrage at this, met the emigrants half way with a troop of Horse-ants, and forbade them to proceed. On that occasion, being in inferior force, we were worsted and had to retreat; but I now intend to take the offensive and send my colony. I shall be glad if you will participate; I will provide your equipment and mount you on vultures from the royal coops; the expedition starts tomorrow.’ I expressed our readiness to do his pleasure.

That day we were entertained by the king; in the morning we took our place in the ranks as soon as we were up, our scouts having announced the approach of the enemy. Our army numbered 100,000 (exclusive of camp-followers, engineers, infantry, and allies), the Horse-vultures amounting to 80,000, and the remaining 20,000 being mounted on Salad-wings. These latter are also enormous birds, fledged with various herbs, and with quill-feathers resembling lettuce leaves. Next these were the Millet-throwers and the Garlic-men. Endymion had also a contingent from the North of 30,000 Flea-archers and 50,000 Wind-coursers. The former have their name from the great fleas, each of the bulk of a dozen elephants, which they ride. The Wind-coursers are infantry, moving through the air without wings; they effect this by so girding their shirts, which reach to the ankle, that they hold the wind like a sail and propel their wearers ship-fashion. These troops are usually employed as skirmishers. 70,000 Ostrich-slingers and 50,000 Horse-cranes were said to be on their way from the stars over Cappadocia. But as they failed to arrive I did not actually see them; and a description from hearsay I am not prepared to give, as the marvels related of them put some strain on belief.

Such was Endymion’s force. They were all armed alike; their helmets were made of beans, which grow there of great size and hardness; the breastplates were of overlapping lupine-husks sewn together, these husks being as tough as horn; as to shields and swords, they were of the Greek type.

When the time came, the array was as follows: on the right were the Horse-vultures, and the King with the elite of his forces, including ourselves. The Salad-wings held the left, and in the centre were the various allies. The infantry were in round numbers 60,000,000; they were enabled to fall in thus: there are in the Moon great numbers of gigantic spiders, considerably larger than an average Aegean island; these were instructed to stretch webs across from the Moon to Lucifer; as soon as the work was done, the King drew up his infantry on this artificial plain, entrusting the command to Nightbat, son of Fairweather, with two lieutenants.

On the enemy’s side, Phaethon occupied the left with his Horse-ants; they are great winged animals resembling our ants except in size; but the largest of them would measure a couple of acres. The fighting was done not only by their riders; they used their horns also; their numbers were stated at 50,000. On their right was about an equal force of Sky-gnats — archers mounted on great gnats; and next them the Sky-pirouetters, light-armed infantry only, but of some military value; they slung monstrous radishes at long range, a wound from which was almost immediately fatal, turning to gangrene at once; they were supposed to anoint their missiles with mallow juice. Next came the Stalk-fungi, 10,000 heavy-armed troops for close quarters; the explanation of their name is that their shields are mushrooms, and their spears asparagus stalks. Their neighbours were the Dog-acorns, Phaethon’s contingent from Sirius. These were 5,000 in number, dog-faced men fighting on winged acorns. It was reported that Phaethon too was disappointed of the slingers whom he had summoned from the Milky Way, and of the Cloud-centaurs. These latter, however, arrived, most unfortunately for us, after the battle was decided; the slingers failed altogether, and are said to have felt the resentment of Phaethon, who wasted their territory with fire. Such was the force brought by the enemy.

As soon as the standards were raised and the asses on both sides (their trumpeters) had brayed, the engagement commenced. The Sunite left at once broke without awaiting the onset of the Horse-vultures, and we pursued, slaying them. On the other hand, their right had the better of our left, the Sky-gnats pressing on right up to our infantry. When these joined in, however, they turned and fled, chiefly owing to the moral effect of our success on the other flank. The rout became decisive, great numbers were taken and slain, and blood flowed in great quantities on to the clouds, staining them as red as we see them at sunset; much of it also dropped earthwards, and suggested to me that it was possibly some ancient event of the same kind which persuaded Homer that Zeus had rained blood at the death of Sarpedon.

Relinquishing the pursuit, we set up two trophies, one for the infantry engagement on the spiders’ webs, and one on the clouds for the air-battle. It was while we were thus engaged that our scouts announced the approach of the Cloud-centaurs, whom Phaethon had expected in time for the battle. They were indeed close upon us, and a strange sight, being compounded of winged horses and men; the human part, from the middle upwards, was as tall as the Colossus of Rhodes, and the equine the size of a large merchantman. Their number I cannot bring myself to write down, for fear of exciting incredulity. They were commanded by Sagittarius. Finding their friends defeated, they sent a messenger after Phaethon to bring him back, and, themselves in perfect order, charged the disarrayed Moonites, who had left their ranks and were scattered in pursuit or pillage; they routed the whole of them, chased the King home, and killed the greater part of his birds; they tore up the trophies, and overran the woven plain; I myself was taken, with two of my comrades. Phaethon now arrived, and trophies were erected on the enemy’s part. We were taken off to the Sun the same day, our hands tied behind with a piece of the cobweb.

They decided not to lay siege to the city; but after their return they constructed a wall across the intervening space, cutting off the Sun’s rays from the Moon. This wall was double, and built of clouds; the consequence was total eclipse of the Moon, which experienced a continuous night. This severity forced Endymion to negotiate. He entreated that the wall might be taken down, and his kingdom released from this life of darkness; he offered to pay tribute, conclude an alliance, abstain from hostilities in future, and give hostages for these engagements. The Sunites held two assemblies on the question, in the first of which they refused all concessions; on the second day, however, they relented, and peace was concluded on the following terms.

Articles of peace between the Sunites and their allies of the one part, and the Moonites and their allies of the other part.

1. The Sunites shall demolish the party-wall, shall make no further incursion into the Moon, and shall hold their captives to ransom at a fixed rate.

2. The Moonites shall restore to the other stars their autonomy, shall not bear arms against the Sunites, and shall conclude with them a mutual defensive alliance.

3. The King of the Moonites shall pay to the King of the Sunites, annually, a tribute of ten thousand jars of dew, and give ten thousand hostages of his subjects.

4. The high contracting parties shall found the colony of Lucifer in common, and shall permit persons of any other nationality to join the same.

5. These articles shall be engraved on a pillar of electrum, which shall be set up on the border in mid-air.

Sworn to on behalf of the Sun by Firebrace, Heaton, and Flashman; and on behalf of the Moon by Nightwell, Monday, and Shimmer.

Peace concluded, the removal of the wall and restoration of captives at once followed. As we reached the Moon, we were met and welcomed by our comrades and King Endymion, all weeping for joy. The King wished us to remain and take part in founding the colony, and, women not existing in the Moon, offered me his son in marriage. I refused, asking that we might be sent down to the sea again; and finding that he could not prevail, he entertained us for a week, and then sent us on our way.

I am now to put on record the novelties and singularities which attracted my notice during our stay in the Moon.

When a man becomes old, he does not die, but dissolves in smoke into the air. There is one universal diet; they light a fire, and in the embers roast frogs, great numbers of which are always flying in the air; they then sit round as at table, snuffing up the fumes which rise and serve them for food; their drink is air compressed in a cup till it gives off a moisture resembling dew. Beauty with them consists in a bald head and hairless body; a good crop of hair is an abomination. On the comets, as I was told by some of their inhabitants who were there on a visit, this is reversed. They have beards, however, just above the knee; no toe-nails, and but one toe on each foot. They are all tailed, the tail being a large cabbage of an evergreen kind, which does not break if they fall upon it.

Their mucus is a pungent honey; and after hard work or exercise they sweat milk all over, which a drop or two of the honey curdles into cheese. The oil which they make from onions is very rich, and as fragrant as balsam. They have an abundance of water-producing vines, the stones of which resemble hailstones; and my own belief is that it is the shaking of these vines by hurricanes, and the consequent bursting of the grapes, that results in our hailstorms. They use the belly as a pouch in which to keep necessaries, being able to open and shut it. It contains no intestines or liver, only a soft hairy lining; their young, indeed, creep into it for protection from cold.

The clothing of the wealthy is soft glass, and of the poor, woven brass; the land is very rich in brass, which they work like wool after steeping it in water. It is with some hesitation that I describe their eyes, the thing being incredible enough to bring doubt upon my veracity. But the fact is that these organs are removable; any one can take out his eyes and do without till he wants them; then he has merely to put them in; I have known many cases of people losing their own and borrowing at need; and some — the rich, naturally — keep a large stock. Their ears are plane-leaves, except with the breed raised from acorns; theirs being of wood.

Another marvel I saw in the palace. There is a large mirror suspended over a well of no great depth; any one going down the well can hear every word spoken on our Earth; and if he looks at the mirror, he sees every city and nation as plainly as though he were standing close above each. The time I was there, I surveyed my own people and the whole of my native country; whether they saw me also, I cannot say for certain. Any one who doubts the truth of this statement has only to go there himself, to be assured of my veracity.

When the time came, we took our leave of King and court, got on board, and weighed anchor. Endymion’s parting gifts to me were two glass shirts, five of brass, and a suit of lupine armour, all of which, however, I afterwards left in the whale’s belly; he also sent, as our escort for the first fifty miles, a thousand of his Horse-vultures.

We passed on our way many countries, and actually landed on Lucifer, now in process of settlement, to water. We then entered the Zodiac and passed the Sun on the left, coasting close by it. My crew were very desirous of landing, but the wind would not allow of this. We had a good view of the country, however, and found it covered with vegetation, rich, well-watered, and full of all good things. The Cloud-centaurs, now in Phaethon’s pay, espied us and pounced upon the ship, but left us alone when they learned that we were parties to the treaty.

By this time our escort had gone home. We now took a downward course, and twenty-four hours’ sailing brought us to Lampton. This lies between the atmospheres of the Pleiads and the Hyads, though in point of altitude it is considerably lower than the Zodiac. When we landed, we found no human beings, but numberless lamps bustling about or spending their time in the market-place and harbour; some were small, and might represent the lower classes, while a few, the great and powerful, were exceedingly bright and conspicuous. They all had their own homes or lodgings, and their individual names, like us; we heard them speak, and they did us no harm, offering us entertainment, on the contrary; but we were under some apprehension, and none of us accepted either food or bed. There is a Government House in the middle of the city, where the Governor sits all night long calling the roll-call; any one not answering to his name is capitally punished as a deserter; that is to say, he is extinguished. We were present and witnessed the proceedings, and heard lamps defending their conduct and advancing reasons for their lateness. I there recognized our own house lamp, accosted him, and asked for news of my friends, in which he satisfied me. We stayed there that night, set sail next morning, and found ourselves sailing, now, nearly as low as the clouds. Here we were surprised to find Cloud-cuckoo-land; we were prevented from landing by the direction of the wind, but learned that the King’s name was Crookbeak, son of Fitz–Ousel. I bethought me of Aristophanes, the learned and veracious poet whose statements had met with unmerited incredulity. Three days more, and we had a distinct view of the Ocean, though there was no land visible except the islands suspended in air; and these had now assumed a brilliant fiery hue. About noon on the fourth day the wind slackened and fell, and we were deposited upon the sea.

The joy and delight with which the touch of water affected us is indescribable; transported at our good fortune, we flung ourselves overboard and swam, the weather being calm and the sea smooth. Alas, how often is a change for the better no more than the beginning of disaster! We had but two days’ delightful sail, and by the rising sun of the third we beheld a crowd of whales and marine monsters, and among them one far larger than the rest — some two hundred miles in length. It came on open-mouthed, agitating the sea far in front, bathed in foam, and exhibiting teeth whose length much surpassed the height of our great phallic images, all pointed like sharp stakes and white as elephants’ tusks. We gave each other a last greeting, took a last embrace, and so awaited our doom. The monster was upon us; it sucked us in; it swallowed ship and crew entire. We escaped being ground by its teeth, the ship gliding in through the interstices.

Inside, all was darkness at first, in which we could distinguish nothing; but when it next opened its mouth, an enormous cavern was revealed, of great extent and height; a city of ten thousand inhabitants might have had room in it. Strewn about were small fish, the disjecta membra of many kinds of animal, ships’ masts and anchors, human bones, and merchandise; in the centre was land with hillocks upon it, the alluvial deposit, I supposed, from what the whale swallowed. This was wooded with trees of all kinds, and vegetables were growing with all the appearance of cultivation. The coast might have measured thirty miles round. Sea-birds, such as gulls and halcyons, nested on the trees.

We spent some time weeping, but at last got our men up and had the ship made fast, while we rubbed wood to get a fire and prepared a meal out of the plentiful materials around us; there were fragments of various fish, and the water we had taken in at Lucifer was unexhausted. Upon getting up next day, we caught glimpses, as often as the whale opened his mouth, of land, of mountains, it might be of the sky alone, or often of islands; we realized that he was dashing at a great rate to every part of the sea. We grew accustomed to our condition in time, and I then took seven of my comrades and entered the wood in search of information. I had scarcely gone half a mile when I came upon a shrine, which its inscription showed to have been raised to Posidon; a little further were a number of graves with pillars upon them, and close by a spring of clear water; we also heard a dog bark, saw some distant smoke, and conjectured that there must be a habitation.

We accordingly pressed on, and found ourselves in presence of an old man and a younger one, who were working hard at a plot of ground and watering it by a channel from the spring. We stood still, divided between fear and delight. They were standing speechless, no doubt with much the same feelings. At length the old man spoke:—‘What are you, strangers; are you spirits of the sea, or unfortunate mortals like ourselves? As for us, we are men, bred on land; but now we have suffered a sea change, and swim about in this containing monster, scarce knowing how to describe our state; reason tells us we are dead, but instinct that we live.’ This loosed my tongue in turn. ‘We too, father,’ I said, ‘are men, just arrived; it is but a day or two since we were swallowed with our ship. And now we have come forth to explore the forest; for we saw that it was vast and dense. Methinks some heavenly guide has brought us to the sight of you, to the knowledge that we are not prisoned all alone in this monster. I pray you, let us know your tale, who you are and how you entered.’ Then he said that, before he asked or answered questions, he must give us such entertainment as he could; so saying, he brought us to his house — a sufficient dwelling furnished with beds and what else he might need — and set before us green-stuff and nuts and fish, with wine for drink. When we had eaten our fill, he asked for our story. I told him all as it had passed, the storm, the island, the airy voyage, the war, and so to our descent into the whale.

It was very strange, he said, and then gave us his history in return. ‘I am a Cyprian, gentlemen. I left my native land on a trading voyage with my son here and a number of servants. We had a fine ship, with a mixed cargo for Italy; you may have seen the wreckage in the whale’s mouth. We had a fair voyage to Sicily, but on leaving it were caught in a gale, and carried in three days out to the Atlantic, where we fell in with the whale and were swallowed, ship and crew; of the latter we two alone survived. We buried our men, built a temple to Posidon, and now live this life, cultivating our garden, and feeding on fish and nuts. It is a great wood, as you see, and in it are vines in plenty, from which we get delicious wine; our spring you may have noticed; its water is of the purest and coldest. We use leaves for bedding, keep a good fire, snare the birds that fly in, and catch living fish by going out on the monster’s gills; it is there also that we take our bath when we are disposed. There is moreover at no great distance a salt lake two or three miles round, producing all sorts of fish; in this we swim and sail, in a little boat of my building. It is now seven and twenty years since we were swallowed.

‘Our lot might have been endurable enough, but we have bad and troublesome neighbours, unfriendly savages all.’ ‘What,’ said I, ‘are there other inhabitants?’ ‘A great many,’ he replied, ‘inhospitable and abhorrent to the sight. The western part of the wood (so to name the caudal region) is occupied by the Stockfish tribe; they have eels’ eyes and lobster faces, are bold warriors, and eat their meat raw. Of the sides of the cavern, the right belongs to the Tritonomendetes, who from the waist upwards are human, and weazels below; their notions of justice are slightly less rudimentary than the others’. The left is in possession of the Crabhands and the Tunnyheads, two tribes in close alliance. The central part is inhabited by the Crays and the Flounderfoots, the latter warlike and extremely swift. As to this district near the mouth, the East, as it were, it is in great part desert, owing to the frequent inundations. I hold it of the Flounderfoots, paying an annual tribute of five hundred oysters.

‘Such is the land; and now it is for you to consider how we may make head against all these tribes, and what shall be our manner of life.’ ‘What may their numbers be, all told?’ I asked. ‘More than a thousand.’ ‘And how armed?’ ‘They have no arms but fishbones.’ ‘Why then,’ I said, ‘let us fight them by all means; we are armed, and they are not; and, if we win, we shall live secure.’ We agreed on this course, and returned to the ship to make our preparations. The pretext for war was to be non-payment of the tribute, which was on the point of falling due. Messengers, in fact, shortly came to demand it, but the old man sent them about their business with an insolent answer. The Flounderfoots and Crays were enraged, and commenced operations with a tumultuous inroad upon Scintharus — this was our old man’s name.

Expecting this, we were awaiting the attack in full armour. We had put five and twenty men in ambush, with directions to fall on the enemy’s rear as soon as they had passed; they executed their orders, and came on from behind cutting them down, while the rest of us — five and twenty also, including Scintharus and his son — met them face to face with a spirited and resolute attack. It was risky work, but in the end we routed and chased them to their dens. They left one hundred and seventy dead, while we lost only our navigating officer, stabbed in the back with a mullet rib, and one other.

We held the battlefield for the rest of that day and the night following, and erected a trophy consisting of a dolphin’s backbone upright. Next day the news brought the other tribes out, with the Stockfish under a general called Slimer on the right, the Tunnyheads on the left, and the Crabhands in the centre; the Tritonomendetes stayed at home, preferring neutrality. We did not wait to be attacked, but charged them near Posidon’s temple with loud shouts, which echoed as in a subterranean cave. Their want of armour gave us the victory; we pursued them to the wood, and were henceforth masters.

Soon after, they sent heralds to treat for recovery of their dead, and for peace. But we decided to make no terms with them, and marching out next day exterminated the whole, with the exception of the Tritonomendetes. These too, when they saw what was going on, made a rush for the gills, and cast themselves into the sea. We went over the country, now clear of enemies, and occupied it from that time in security. Our usual employments were exercise, hunting, vine-dressing, and fruit-gathering; we were in the position of men in a vast prison from which escape is out of the question, but within which they have luxury and freedom of movement. This manner of life lasted for a year and eight months.

It was on the fifth of the next month, about the second gape (the whale, I should say, gaped regularly once an hour, and we reckoned time that way)— about the second gape, then, a sudden shouting and tumult became audible; it sounded like boatswains giving the time and oars beating. Much excited, we crept right out into our monster’s mouth, stood inside the teeth, and beheld the most extraordinary spectacle I ever looked upon — giants of a hundred yards in height rowing great islands as we do triremes. I am aware that what I am to relate must sound improbable; but I cannot help it. Very long islands they were, but of no great height; the circumference of each would be about eleven miles; and its complement of giants was some hundred and twenty. Of these some sat along each side of the island, rowing with big cypresses, from which the branches and leaves were not stripped; in the stern, so to speak, was a considerable hillock, on which stood the helmsman with his hand on a brazen steering-oar of half a mile in length; and on the deck forward were forty in armour, the combatants; they resembled men except in their hair, which was flaming fire, so that they could dispense with helmets. The work of sails was done by the abundant forest on all the islands, which so caught and held the wind that it drove them where the steersman wished; there was a boatswain timing the stroke, and the islands jumped to it like great galleys.

We had seen only two or three at first; but there appeared afterwards as many as six hundred, which formed in two lines and commenced an action. Many crashed into each other stem to stem, many were rammed and sunk, others grappled, fought an obstinate duel, and could hardly get clear after it. Great courage was shown by the troops on deck, who boarded and dealt destruction, giving no quarter. Instead of grappling-irons, they used huge captive squids, which they swung out on to the hostile island; these grappled the wood and so held the island fast. Their missiles, effective enough, were oysters the size of waggons, and sponges which might cover an acre.

Aeolocentaur and Thalassopot were the names of the rival chiefs; and the question between them was one of plunder; Thalassopot was supposed to have driven off several herds of dolphins, the other’s property; we could hear them vociferating the charge and calling out their Kings’ names. Aeolocentaur’s fleet finally won, sinking one hundred and fifty of the enemy’s islands and capturing three with their crews; the remainder backed away, turned and fled. The victors pursued some way, but, as it was now evening, returned to the disabled ones, secured most of the enemy’s, and recovered their own, of which as many as eighty had been sunk. As a trophy of victory they slung one of the enemy’s islands to a stake which they planted in our whale’s head. They lay moored round him that night, attaching cables to him or anchoring hard by; they had vast glass anchors, very strong. Next morning they sacrificed on the whale’s back, buried their dead there, and sailed off rejoicing, with something corresponding to our paean. So ended the battle of the islands.

Book II

I now began to find life in the whale unendurable; I was tired to death of it, and concentrated my thoughts on plans of escape. Our first idea was to excavate a passage through the beast’s right side, and go out through it. We actually began boring, but gave it up when we had penetrated half a mile without getting through. We then determined to set fire to the forest, our object being the death of the whale, which would remove all difficulties. We started burning from the tail end; but for a whole week he made no sign; on the eighth and ninth days it was apparent that he was unwell; his jaws opened only languidly, and each time closed again very soon. On the tenth and eleventh days mortification had set in, evidenced by a horrible stench; on the twelfth, it occurred to us, just in time, that we must take the next occasion of the mouth’s being open to insert props between the upper and lower molars, and so prevent his closing it; else we should be imprisoned and perish in the dead body. We successfully used great beams for the purpose, and then got the ship ready with all the water and provisions we could manage. Scintharus was to navigate her. Next day the whale was dead.

We hauled the vessel up, brought her through one of the gaps, slung her to the teeth, and so let her gently down to the water. We then ascended the back, where we sacrificed to Posidon by the side of the trophy, and, as there was no wind, encamped there for three days. On the fourth day we were able to start. We found and came into contact with many corpses, the relics of the sea-fight, and our wonder was heightened when we measured them. For some days we enjoyed a moderate breeze, after which a violent north wind rose, bringing hard frost; the whole sea was frozen — not merely crusted over, but solidified to four hundred fathoms’ depth; we got out and walked about. The continuance of the wind making life intolerable, we adopted the plan, suggested by Scintharus, of hewing an extensive cavern in the ice, in which we stayed a month, lighting fires and feeding on fish; we had only to dig these out. In the end, however, provisions ran short, and we came out; the ship was frozen in, but we got her free; we then hoisted sail, and were carried along as well as if we had been afloat, gliding smoothly and easily over the ice. After five days more the temperature rose, a thaw set in, and all was water again.

A stretch of five and thirty miles brought us to a small desert isle, where we got water — of which we were now in want — and shot two wild bulls before we departed. These animals had their horns not on the top of the head, but, as Momus recommended, below the eyes. Not long after this, we entered a sea of milk, in which we observed an island, white in colour, and full of vines. The island was one great cheese, quite firm, as we afterwards ascertained by eating it, and three miles round. The vines were covered with fruit, but the drink we squeezed from it was milk instead of wine. In the centre of the island was a temple to Galatea the Nereid, as the inscription informed us. During our stay there, the ground itself served us for bread and meat, and the vine-milk for drink. We learned that the queen of these regions was Tyro, daughter of Salmoneus, on whom Posidon had conferred this dignity at her decease.

After spending five days there we started again with a gentle breeze and a rippling sea. A few days later, when we had emerged from the milk into blue salt water, we saw numbers of men walking on the sea; they were like ourselves in shape and stature, with the one exception of the feet, which were of cork; whence, no doubt, their name of Corksoles. It struck us as curious that they did not sink in, but travelled quite comfortably clear of the water. Some of them came up and hailed us in Greek, saying that they were making their way to their native land of Cork. They ran alongside for some distance, and then turned off and went their own way, wishing us a pleasant voyage. A little further we saw several islands; close to us on the left was Cork, our friends’ destination, consisting of a city founded on a vast round cork; at a greater distance, and a little to the right, were five others of considerable size and high out of the water, with great flames rising from them.

There was also a broad low one, as much as sixty miles in length, straight in our course. As we drew near it, a marvellous air was wafted to us, exquisitely fragrant, like the scent which Herodotus describes as coming from Arabia Felix. Its sweetness seemed compounded of rose, narcissus, hyacinth, lilies and violets, myrtle and bay and flowering vine. Ravished with the perfume, and hoping for reward of our long toils, we drew slowly near. Then were unfolded to us haven after haven, spacious and sheltered, and crystal rivers flowing placidly to the sea. There were meadows and groves and sweet birds, some singing on the shore, some on the branches; the whole bathed in limpid balmy air. Sweet zephyrs just stirred the woods with their breath, and brought whispering melody, delicious, incessant, from the swaying branches; it was like Pan-pipes heard in a desert place. And with it all there mingled a volume of human sound, a sound not of tumult, but rather of revels where some flute, and some praise the fluting, and some clap their hands commending flute or harp.

Drawn by the spell of it we came to land, moored the ship, and left her, in charge of Scintharus and two others. Taking our way through flowery meadows we came upon the guardians of the peace, who bound us with rose-garlands — their strongest fetters — and brought us to the governor. As we went they told us this was the island called of the Blest, and its governor the Cretan Rhadamanthus. When we reached the court, we found there were three cases to be taken before our turn would come.

The first was that of Ajax, son of Telamon, and the question was whether he was to be admitted to the company of Heroes; it was objected that he had been mad and taken his own life. After long pleadings Rhadamanthus gave his decision: he was to be put under the charge of Hippocrates the physician of Cos for the hellebore treatment, and, when he had recovered his wits, to be made free of the table.

The second was a matrimonial case, the parties Theseus and Menelaus, and the issue possession of Helen. Rhadamanthus gave it in favour of Menelaus, on the ground of the great toils and dangers the match had cost him — added to the fact that Theseus was provided with other wives in the Amazon queen and the daughters of Minos.

The third was a dispute for precedence between Alexander son of Philip and Hannibal the Carthaginian; it was won by the former, who had a seat assigned him next to Cyrus the elder.

It was now our turn. The judge asked by what right we set foot on this holy ground while yet alive. In answer we related our story. He then had us removed while he held a long consultation with his numerous assessors, among whom was the Athenian Aristides the Just. He finally reached a conclusion and gave judgement: on the charges of curiosity and travelling we were remanded till the date of our deaths; for the present we were to stay in the island, with admission to the Heroic society, for a fixed term, after which we must depart. The limit he appointed for our stay was seven months.

Our rose-chains now fell off of their own accord, we were released and taken into the city, and to the Table of the Blest. The whole of this city is built of gold, and the enclosing wall of emerald. It has seven gates, each made of a single cinnamon plank. The foundations of the houses, and all ground inside the wall, are ivory; temples are built of beryl, and each contains an altar of one amethyst block, on which they offer hecatombs. Round the city flows a river of the finest perfume, a hundred royal cubits in breadth, and fifty deep, so that there is good swimming. The baths, supplied with warm dew instead of ordinary water, are in great crystal domes heated with cinnamon wood.

Their raiment is fine cobweb, purple in colour. They have no bodies, but are intangible and unsubstantial — mere form without matter; but, though incorporeal, they stand and move, think and speak; in short, each is a naked soul, but carries about the semblance of body; one who did not touch them would never know that what he looked at was not substantial; they are shadows, but upright, and coloured. A man there does not grow old, but stays at whatever age he brought with him. There is no night, nor yet bright day; the morning twilight, just before sunrise, gives the best idea of the light that prevails. They have also but one season, perpetual spring, and the wind is always in the west.

The country abounds in every kind of flower, in shrubs and garden herbs. There are twelve vintages in the year, the grapes ripening every month; and they told us that pomegranates, apples, and other fruits were gathered thirteen times, the trees producing twice in their month Minous. Instead of grain, the corn develops loaves, shaped like mushrooms, at the top of the stalks. Round the city are 365 springs of water, the same of honey, and 500, less in volume however, of perfume. There are also seven rivers of milk and eight of wine.

The banqueting-place is arranged outside the city in the Elysian Plain. It is a fair lawn closed in with thick-grown trees of every kind, in the shadow of which the guests recline, on cushions of flowers. The waiting and handing is done by the winds, except only the filling of the wine-cup. That is a service not required; for all round stand great trees of pellucid crystal, whose fruit is drinking-cups of every shape and size. A guest arriving plucks a cup or two and sets them at his place, where they at once fill with wine. So for their drink; and instead of garlands, the nightingales and other singing birds pick flowers with their beaks from the meadows round, and fly over snowing the petals down and singing the while. Nor is perfume forgotten; thick clouds draw it up from the springs and river, and hanging overhead are gently squeezed by the winds till they spray it down in fine dew.

During the meal there is music and song. In the latter kind, Homer’s verse is the favourite; he is himself a member of the festal company, reclining next above Odysseus. The choirs are of boys and girls, conducted and led by Eunomus the Locrian, Arion of Lesbos, Anacreon and Stesichorus; this last had made his peace with Helen, and I saw him there. When these have finished, a second choir succeeds, of swans and swallows and nightingales; and when their turn is done, all the trees begin to pipe, conducted by the winds.

I have still to add the most important element in their good cheer: there are two springs hard by, called the Fountain of Laughter, and the Fountain of Delight. They all take a draught of both these before the banquet begins, after which the time goes merrily and sweetly.

I should now like to name the famous persons I saw. To begin with, all the demi-gods, and the besiegers of Troy, with the exception of Ajax the Locrian; he, they said, was undergoing punishment in the place of the wicked. Of barbarians there were the two Cyruses, Anacharsis the Scythian, Zamolxis the Thracian, and the Latin Numa; and then Lycurgus the Spartan, Phocion and Tellus of Athens, and the Wise Men, but without Periander. And I saw Socrates son of Sophroniscus in converse with Nestor and Palamedes; clustered round him were Hyacinth the Spartan, Narcissus of Thespiae, Hylas, and many another comely boy. With Hyacinth I suspected that he was in love; at least he was for ever poking questions at him. I heard that Rhadamanthus was dissatisfied with Socrates, and had several times threatened him with expulsion, if he insisted on talking nonsense, and would not drop his irony and enjoy himself. Plato was the only one I missed, but I was told that he was living in his own Utopia, working the constitution and laws which he had drawn up.

For popularity, Aristippus and Epicurus bore the palm, in virtue of their kindliness, sociability, and good-fellowship. Aesop the Phrygian was there, and held the office of jester. Diogenes of Sinope was much changed; he had married Lais the courtesan, and often in his cups would oblige the company with a dance, or other mad pranks. The Stoics were not represented at all; they were supposed to be still climbing the steep hill of Virtue; and as to Chrysippus himself, we were told that he was not to set foot on the island till he had taken a fourth course of hellebore. The Academics contemplated coming, but were taking time for consideration; they could not yet regard it as a certainty that any such island existed. There was probably the added difficulty that they were not comfortable about the judgement of Rhadamanthus, having themselves disputed the possibility of judgement. It was stated that many of them had started to follow persons travelling to the island, but, their energy failing, had abandoned the journey half-way and gone back.

I have mentioned the most noteworthy of the company, and add that the most highly respected among them are, first Achilles, and second Theseus.

Before many days had passed, I accosted the poet Homer, when we were both disengaged, and asked him, among other things, where he came from; it was still a burning question with us, I explained. He said he was aware that some brought him from Chios, others from Smyrna, and others again from Colophon; the fact was, he was a Babylonian, generally known not as Homer, but as Tigranes; but when later in life he was given as a homer or hostage to the Greeks, that name clung to him. Another of my questions was about the so-called spurious lines; had he written them, or not? He said they were all genuine; so I now knew what to think of the critics Zenodotus and Aristarchus, and all their lucubrations. Having got a categorical answer on that point, I tried him next on his reason for starting the Iliad at the wrath of Achilles; he said he had no exquisite reason; it had just come into his head that way. Another thing I wanted to know was whether he had composed the Odyssey before the Iliad, as generally believed. He said this was not so. As to his reported blindness, I did not need to ask; he had his sight, so there was an end of that. It became a habit of mine, whenever I saw him at leisure, to go up and ask him things, and he answered quite readily — especially after his acquittal; a libel suit had been brought against him by Thersites, on the ground of the ridicule to which he is subjected in the poem; Homer had briefed Odysseus, and been acquitted.

It was during our sojourn that Pythagoras arrived; he had undergone seven transmigrations, lived the lives of that number of animals, and completed his psychic travels. It was the entire right half of him that was gold. He was at once given the franchise, but the question was still pending whether he was to be known as Pythagoras or Euphorbus. Empedocles also came, scorched all over and baked right through; but not all his entreaties could gain him admittance.

The progress of time brought round the Games of the Dead. The umpires were Achilles, holding that office for the fifth, and Theseus for the seventh time. A full report would take too long; but I will summarize the events. The wrestling went to Carus the Heraclid, who won the garland from Odysseus. The boxing resulted in a tie; the pair being the Egyptian Areus, whose grave is in Corinth, and Epeus. For mixed boxing and wrestling they have no prize. Who won the flat race, I have forgotten. In poetry, Homer really did much the best, but the award was for Hesiod. All prizes were plaited wreaths of peacock feathers.

Just after the Games were over, news came that the Damned had broken their fetters, overpowered their guard, and were on the point of invading the island, the ringleaders being Phalaris of Agrigentum, Busiris the Egyptian, Diomedes the Thracian, Sciron, and Pityocamptes. Rhadamanthus at once drew up the Heroes on the beach, giving the command to Theseus, Achilles, and Ajax Telamonius, now in his right senses. The battle was fought, and won by the Heroes, thanks especially to Achilles. Socrates, who was in the right wing, distinguished himself still more than in his lifetime at Delium, standing firm and showing no sign of trepidation as the enemy came on; he was afterwards given as a reward of valour a large and beautiful park in the outskirts, to which he invited his friends for conversation, naming it the Post-mortem Academy.

The defeated party were seized, re-fettered, and sent back for severer torments. Homer added to his poems a description of this battle, and at my departure handed me the MS. to bring back to the living world; but it was unfortunately lost with our other property. It began with the line:

Tell now, my Muse, how fought the mighty Dead.

According to their custom after successful war, they boiled beans, held the feast of victory, and kept high holiday. From this Pythagoras alone held aloof, fasting and sitting far off, in sign of his abhorrence of bean-eating.

We were in the middle of our seventh month, when an incident happened. Scintharus’s son, Cinyras, a fine figure of a man, had fallen in love with Helen some time before, and it was obvious that she was very much taken with the young fellow; there used to be nods and becks and takings of wine between them at table, and they would go off by themselves for strolls in the wood. At last love and despair inspired Cinyras with the idea of an elopement. Helen consented, and they were to fly to one of the neighbouring islands, Cork or Cheese Island. They had taken three of the boldest of my crew into their confidence; Cinyras said not a word to his father, knowing that he would put a stop to it. The plan was carried out; under cover of night, and in my absence — I had fallen asleep at table — they got Helen away unobserved and rowed off as hard as they could.

About midnight Menelaus woke up, and finding his wife’s place empty raised an alarm, and got his brother to go with him to King Rhadamanthus. Just before dawn the look-outs announced that they could make out the boat, far out at sea. So Rhadamanthus sent fifty of the Heroes on board a boat hollowed out of an asphodel trunk, with orders to give chase. Pulling their best, they overtook the fugitives at noon, as they were entering the milky sea near the Isle of Cheese; so nearly was the escape effected. The boat was towed back with a chain of roses. Helen shed tears, and so felt her situation as to draw a veil over her face. As to Cinyras and his associates, Rhadamanthus interrogated them to find whether they had more accomplices, and, being assured to the contrary, had them whipped with mallow twigs, bound, and dismissed to the place of the wicked.

It was further determined that we should be expelled prematurely from the island; we were allowed only one day’s grace. This drew from me loud laments and tears for the bliss that I was now to exchange for renewed wanderings. They consoled me for their sentence, however, by telling me that it would not be many years before I should return to them, and assigning me my chair and my place at table — a distinguished one — in anticipation. I then went to Rhadamanthus, and was urgent with him to reveal the future to me, and give me directions for our voyage. He told me that I should come to my native land after many wanderings and perils, but as to the time of my return he would give me no certainty. He pointed, however, to the neighbouring islands, of which five were visible, besides one more distant, and informed me that the wicked inhabited these, the near ones, that is, ‘from which you see the great flames rising; the sixth yonder is the City of Dreams; and beyond that again, but not visible at this distance, is Calypso’s isle. When you have passed these, you will come to the great continent which is opposite your own; there you will have many adventures, traverse divers tribes, sojourn among inhospitable men, and at last reach your own continent.’ That was all he would say.

But he pulled up a mallow root and handed it to me, bidding me invoke it at times of greatest danger. When I arrived in this world, he charged me to abstain from stirring fire with a knife, from lupines, and from the society of boys over eighteen; these things if I kept in mind, I might look for return to the island. That day I made ready for our voyage, and when the banquet hour came, I shared it. On the morrow I went to the poet Homer and besought him to write me a couplet for inscription; when he had done it, I carved it on a beryl pillar which I had set up close to the harbour; it ran thus:

This island, ere he took his homeward way, The blissful Gods gave Lucian to survey.

I stayed out that day too, and next morning started, the Heroes attending to see me off. Odysseus took the opportunity to come unobserved by Penelope and give me a letter for Calypso in the isle Ogygia. Rhadamanthus sent on board with me the ferryman Nauplius, who, in case we were driven on to the islands, might secure us from seizure by guaranteeing that our destination was different. As soon as our progress brought us out of the scented air, it was succeeded by a horrible smell as of bitumen, brimstone, and pitch all burning together; mingled with this were the disgusting and intolerable fumes of roasting human flesh; the air was dark and thick, distilling a pitchy dew upon us; we could also hear the crack of whips and the yelling of many voices.

We only touched at one island, on which we also landed. It was completely surrounded by precipitous cliffs, arid, stony, rugged, treeless, unwatered. We contrived to clamber up the rocks, and advanced along a track beset with thorns and snags — a hideous scene. When we reached the prison and the place of punishment, what first drew our wonder was the character of the whole. The very ground stood thick with a crop of knife-blades and pointed stakes; and it was ringed round with rivers, one of slime, a second of blood, and the innermost of flame. This last was very broad and quite impassable; the flame flowed like water, swelled like the sea, and teemed with fish, some resembling firebrands, and others, the small ones, live coals; these were called lamplets.

One narrow way led across all three; its gate was kept by Timon of Athens. Nauplius secured us admission, however, and then we saw the chastisement of many kings, and many common men; some were known to us; indeed there hung Cinyras, swinging in eddies of smoke. Our guides described the life and guilt of each culprit; the severest torments were reserved for those who in life had been liars and written false history; the class was numerous, and included Ctesias of Cnidus, and Herodotus. The fact was an encouragement to me, knowing that I had never told a lie.

I soon found the sight more than I could bear, and returning to the ship bade farewell to Nauplius and resumed the voyage. Very soon we seemed quite close to the Isle of Dreams, though there was a certain dimness and vagueness about its outline; but it had something dreamlike in its very nature; for as we approached it receded, and seemed to get further and further off. At last we reached it and sailed into Slumber, the port, close to the ivory gates where stands the temple of the Cock. It was evening when we landed, and upon proceeding to the city we saw many strange dreams. But I intend first to describe the city, as it has not been done before; Homer indeed mentions it, but gives no detailed description.

The whole place is embowered in wood, of which the trees are poppy and mandragora, all thronged with bats; this is the only winged thing that exists there. A river, called the Somnambule, flows close by, and there are two springs at the gates, one called Wakenot, and the other Nightlong. The rampart is lofty and of many colours, in the rainbow style. The gates are not two, as Homer says, but four, of which two look on to the plain Stupor; one of them is of iron, the other of pottery, and we were told that these are used by the grim, the murderous, and the cruel. The other pair face the sea and port, and are of horn — it was by this that we had entered — and of ivory. On the right as you enter the city stands the temple of Night, which deity divides with the Cock their chief allegiance; the temple of the latter is close to the port. On the left is the palace of Sleep. He is the governor, with two lieutenants, Nightmare, son of Whimsy, and Flittergold, son of Fantasy. A well in the middle of the market-place goes by the name of Heavyhead; beside which are the temples of Deceit and Truth. In the market also is the shrine in which oracles are given, the priest and prophet, by special appointment from Sleep, being Antiphon the dream-interpreter.

The dreams themselves differed widely in character and appearance. Some were well-grown, smooth-skinned, shapely, handsome fellows, others rough, short, and ugly; some apparently made of gold, others of common cheap stuff. Among them some were found with wings, and other strange variations; others again were like the mummers in a pageant, tricked out as kings or Gods or what not. Many of them we felt that we had seen in our world, and sure enough these came up and claimed us as old acquaintance; they took us under their charge, found us lodgings, entertained us with lavish kindness, and, not content with the magnificence of this present reception, promised us royalties and provinces. Some of them also took us to see our friends, doing the return trip all in the day.

For thirty days and nights we abode there — a very feast of sleep. Then on a sudden came a mighty clap of thunder: we woke; jumped up; provisioned; put off. In three days we were at the Isle of Ogygia, where we landed. Before delivering the letter, I opened and read it; here are the contents: ODYSSEUS TO CALYPSO, GREETING. Know that in the faraway days when I built my raft and sailed away from you, I suffered shipwreck; I was hard put to it, but Leucothea brought me safe to the land of the Phaeacians; they gave me passage home, and there I found a great company suing for my wife’s hand and living riotously upon our goods. All them I slew, and in after years was slain by Telegonus, the son that Circe bare me. And now I am in the Island of the Blest, ruing the day when I left the life I had with you, and the everlasting life you proffered. I watch for opportunity, and meditate escape and return. Some words were added, commending us to her hospitality.

A little way from the sea I found the cave just as it is in Homer, and herself therein at her spinning. She took and read the letter, wept for a space, and then offered us entertainment; royally she feasted us, putting questions the while about Odysseus and Penelope; what were her looks? and was she as discreet as Odysseus had been used to vaunt her? To which we made such answers as we thought she would like.

Leaving her, we went on board, and spent the night at anchor just off shore; in the morning we started with a stiff breeze, which grew to a gale lasting two days; on the third day we fell in with the Pumpkin-pirates. These are savages of the neighbouring islands who prey upon passing ships. They use large boats made of pumpkins ninety feet long. The pumpkin is dried and hollowed out by removal of the pulp, and the boat is completed by the addition of cane masts and pumpkin-leaf sails. Two boatfuls of them engaged us, and we had many casualties from their pumpkin-seed missiles. The fight was long and well matched; but about noon we saw a squadron of Nut-tars coming up in rear of the enemy. It turned out that the two parties were at war; for as soon as our assailants observed the others, they left us alone and turned to engage them.

Meanwhile we hoisted sail and made the best of our way off, leaving them to fight it out. It was clear that the Nut-tars must win, as they had both superior numbers — there were five sail of them — and stronger vessels. These were made of nutshells, halved and emptied, measuring ninety feet from stem to stern. As soon as they were hull down, we attended to our wounded; and from that time we made a practice of keeping on our armour, to be in instant readiness for an attack — no vain precaution either.

Before sunset, for instance, there assailed us from a bare island some twenty men mounted on large dolphins — pirates again. Their dolphins carried them quite well, curvetting and neighing. When they got near, they divided, and subjected us to a cross fire of dry cuttlefish and crabs’ eyes. But our arrows and javelins were too much for them, and they fled back to the island, few of them unwounded.

At midnight, in calm weather, we found ourselves colliding with an enormous halcyon’s nest; it was full seven miles round. The halcyon was brooding, not much smaller herself than the nest. She got up, and very nearly capsized us with the fanning of her wings; however, she went off with a melancholy cry. When it was getting light, we got on to the nest, and found on examination that it was composed like a vast raft of large trees. There were five hundred eggs, larger in girth than a tun of Chian. We could make out the chicks inside and hear them croaking; we hewed open one egg with hatchets, and dug out an unfledged chick bulkier than twenty vultures.

Sailing on, we had left the nest some five and twenty miles behind, when a miracle happened. The wooden goose of our stern-post suddenly clapped its wings and started cackling; Scintharus, who was bald, recovered his hair; most striking of all, the ship’s mast came to life, putting forth branches sideways, and fruit at the top; this fruit was figs, and a bunch of black grapes, not yet ripe. These sights naturally disturbed us, and we fell to praying the Gods to avert any disaster they might portend.

We had proceeded something less than fifty miles when we saw a great forest, thick with pines and cypresses. This we took for the mainland; but it was in fact deep sea, set with trees; they had no roots, but yet remained in their places, floating upright, as it were. When we came near and realized the state of the case, we could not tell what to do; it was impossible to sail between the trees, which were so close as to touch one another, and we did not like the thought of turning back. I climbed the tallest tree to get a good view, and found that the wood was five or six miles across, and was succeeded by open water. So we determined to hoist the ship on to the top of the foliage, which was very dense, and get her across to the other sea, if possible. It proved to be so. We attached a strong cable, got up on the tree-tops, and hauled her after us with some difficulty; then we laid her on the branches, hoisted sail, and floating thus were propelled by the wind. A line of Antimachus came into my head:

And as they voyaged thus the woodland through —

Well, we made our way over and reached the water, into which we let her down in the same way. We then sailed through clear transparent sea, till we found ourselves on the edge of a great gorge which divided water from water, like the land fissures which are often produced by earthquakes. We got the sails down and brought her to just in time to escape making the plunge. We could bend over and see an awful mysterious gulf perhaps a hundred miles deep, the water standing wall against wall. A glance round showed us not far off to the right a water bridge which spanned the chasm, and gave a moving surface crossing from one sea to the other. We got out the sweeps, pulled her to the bridge, and with great exertions effected that astonishing passage.

There followed a sail through smooth water, and then a small island, easy of approach, and inhabited; its occupants were the Ox-heads, savage men with horns, after the fashion of our poets’ Minotaur. We landed and went in search of water and provisions, of which we were now in want. The water we found easily, but nothing else; we heard, however, not far off, a numerous lowing; supposing it to indicate a herd of cows, we went a little way towards it, and came upon these men. They gave chase as soon as they saw us, and seized three of my comrades, the rest of us getting off to sea. We then armed — for we would not leave our friends unavenged — and in full force fell on the Ox-heads as they were dividing our slaughtered men’s flesh. Our combined shout put them to flight, and in the pursuit we killed about fifty, took two alive, and returned with our captives. We had found nothing to eat; the general opinion was for slaughtering the prisoners; but I refused to accede to this, and kept them in bonds till an embassy came from the Ox-heads to ransom them; so we understood the motions they made, and their tearful supplicatory lowings. The ransom consisted of a quantity of cheese, dried fish, onions, and four deer; these were three-footed, the two forefeet being joined into one. In exchange for all this we restored the prisoners, and after one day’s further stay departed.

By this time we were beginning to observe fish, birds on the wing, and other signs of land not far off; and we shortly saw men, practising a mode of navigation new to us; for they were boat and crew in one. The method was this: they float on their backs, erect a sail, and then, holding the sheets with their hands, catch the wind. These were succeeded by others who sat on corks, to which were harnessed pairs of dolphins, driven with reins. They neither attacked nor avoided us, but drove along in all confidence and peace, admiring the shape of our craft and examining it all round.

That evening we touched at an island of no great size. It was occupied by what we took for women, talking Greek. They came and greeted us with kisses, were attired like courtesans, all young and fair, and with long robes sweeping the ground. Cabbalusa was the name of the island, and Hydramardia the city’s. These women paired off with us and led the way to their separate homes. I myself tarried a little, under the influence of some presentiment, and looking more closely observed quantities of human bones and skulls lying about. I did not care to raise an alarm, gather my men, and resort to arms; instead, I drew out my mallow, and prayed earnestly to it for escape from our perilous position. Shortly after, as my hostess was serving me, I saw that in place of human feet she had ass’s hoofs; whereupon I drew my sword, seized, bound, and closely questioned her. Reluctantly enough she had to confess; they were sea-women called Ass-shanks, and their food was travellers. ‘When we have made them drunk,’ she said, ‘and gone to rest with them, we overpower them in their sleep.’ After this confession I left her there bound, went up on to the roof, and shouted for my comrades. When they appeared, I repeated it all to them, showed them the bones, and brought them in to see my prisoner; she at once vanished, turning to water; however, I thrust my sword into this experimentally, upon which the water became blood.

Then we marched hurriedly down to our ship and sailed away. With the first glimmering of dawn we made out a mainland, which we took for the continent that faces our own. We reverently saluted it, made prayer, and held counsel upon our best course. Some were for merely landing and turning back at once, others for leaving the ship, and going into the interior to make trial of the inhabitants. But while we were deliberating, a great storm arose, which dashed us, a complete wreck, on the shore. We managed to swim to land, each snatching up his arms and anything else he could.

Such are the adventures that befell me up to our arrival at that other continent: our sea-voyage; our cruise among the islands and in the air; then our experiences in and after the whale; with the Heroes; with the dreams; and finally with the Ox-heads and the Ass-shanks. Our fortunes on the continent will be the subject of the following books.

The Tyrannicide

A man forces his way into the stronghold of a tyrant, with the intention of killing him. Not finding the tyrant himself, he kills his son, and leaves the sword sticking in his body. The tyrant, coming, and finding his son dead, slays himself with the same sword. — The assailant now claims that the killing of the son entitles him to the reward of tyrannicide.

Two tyrants — a father advanced in years, a son in the prime of life, waiting only to step into his nefarious heritage — have fallen by my hand on a single day: I come before this court, claiming but one reward for my twofold service. My case is unique. With one blow I have rid you of two monsters: with my sword I slew the son; grief for the son slew the father. The misdeeds of the tyrant are sufficiently punished: he has lived to see his son perish untimely; and — wondrous sequel! — the tyrant’s own hand has freed us from tyranny. I slew the son, and used his death to slay another: in his life he shared the iniquities of his father; in his death, so far as in him lay, he was a parricide. Mine is the hand that freed you, mine the sword that accomplished all: as to the order and manner of procedure, there, indeed, I have deviated from the common practice of tyrannicides: I slew the son, who had strength to resist me, and left my sword to deal with the aged father. In acting thus, I had thought to increase your obligation to me; a twofold deliverance — I had supposed — would entitle me to a twofold reward; for I have freed you not from tyranny alone, but from the fear of tyranny, and by removing the heir of iniquity have made your salvation sure. And now it seems that my services are to go for nothing; I, the preserver of the constitution, am to forgo the recompense prescribed by its laws. It is surely from no patriotic motive, as he asserts, that my adversary disputes my claim; rather it is from grief at the loss of the tyrants, and a desire to avenge their death.

Bear with me, gentlemen, for a little, while I dwell in some detail upon those evils of tyranny with which you are only too familiar; I shall thus enable you to realize the extent of my services, and to enjoy the contemplation of sufferings from which you have escaped. Ours was not the common experience: we had not one tyranny, one servitude to endure, we were not subjected to the caprice of a single master. Other cities have had their tyrant: it was reserved for us to have two tyrants at once, to groan beneath a double oppression. That of the old man was light by comparison, his anger mildness, his resentment long-suffering; age had blunted his passions, checked their headlong impetus, and curbed the lust of pleasure. His crimes, so it is said, were involuntary; resulting from no tyrannical disposition in himself, but from the instigations of his son. For in him paternal affection had too clearly become a mania; his son was all in all to him; he did his bidding, committed every crime at his pleasure, dealt out punishment at his command, was subservient to him in all things; the minister of a tyrant’s caprice, and that tyrant his son. The young man left him in possession of the name and semblance of rule; so much he conceded to his years: but in all essentials he was the real tyrant. By him the power of the tyrant was upheld; by him and by him alone the fruits of tyranny were gathered. He it was who maintained the garrison, intimidated the victims of oppression, and butchered those who meditated resistance; who laid violent hands on boys and maidens, and trampled on the sanctity of marriage. Murder, banishment, confiscation, torture, brutality; all bespeak the wantonness of youth. The father followed his son’s lead, and had no word of blame for the crimes in which he participated. Our situation became unbearable: for when the promptings of passion draw support from the authority of rule, then iniquity knows no further bounds.

We knew moreover (and here was the bitterest thought of all) that our servitude must endure — ay, endure for ever; that our city was doomed to pass in unending succession from master to master, to be the heritage of the oppressor. To others it is no small consolation that they may count the days, and say in their hearts: ‘The end will be soon; he will die, and we shall be free.’ We had no such hope: there stood the heir of tyranny before our eyes. There were others — men of spirit — who cherished like designs with myself; yet all lacked resolution to strike the blow; freedom was despaired of; to contend against a succession of tyrants seemed a hopeless task.

Yet I was not deterred. I had reckoned the difficulties of my undertaking, and shrank not back, but faced the danger. Alone, I issued forth to cope with tyranny in all its might. Alone, did I say? nay, not alone; I had my sword for company, my ally and partner in tyrannicide. I saw what the end was like to be: and, seeing it, resolved to purchase your freedom with my blood. I grappled with the outer watch, with difficulty routed the guards, slew all I met, broke down all resistance, — and so to the fountain-head, the well-spring of tyranny, the source of all our calamities; within his stronghold I found him, and there slew him with many wounds, fighting valiantly for his life.

From that moment, my end was gained: tyranny was destroyed; we were free men. There remained the aged father, alone, unarmed, desolate; his guards scattered, his strong protector slain; no adversary this for a brave man. And now I debated within myself: ‘My work is done, my aim achieved, all is as I would have it. And how shall this remnant of tyranny be punished? He is unworthy of the hand that shed that other blood: the glory of a noble enterprise shall not be so denied. No, let some other executioner be found. It were too much happiness for him to die, and never know the worst; let him see all, for his punishment, and let the sword be ready to his hand; to that sword I leave the rest.’ In this design I withdrew; and the sword — as I had foreseen — did its office, slew the tyrant, and put the finishing touch to my work. And now I come to you, bringing democracy with me, and call upon all men to take heart, and hear the glad tidings of liberty. Enjoy the work of my hands! You see the citadel cleared of the oppressors; you are under no man’s orders; the law holds its course; honours are awarded, judgements given, pleadings heard. And all springs from one bold stroke, from the slaying of that son whom his father might not survive. I claim from you the recompense that is my due; and that in no paltry, grasping spirit; it was not for a wage’s sake that I sought to serve my country; but I would have my deed confirmed by your award; I would not be disparaged by slanderous tongues, as one who attempted and failed, and was deemed unworthy of honour.

My adversary tells me that I am unreasonable in asking for reward and distinction. I did not slay the tyrant; I have not fulfilled the requirements of the statute; there is a flaw in my claim. — And what more does he want of me? Say: did I flinch? did I not ascend into the citadel? did I not slay? are we not free men? have we a master? do we hear a tyrant’s threats? did any of the evil-doers escape me? — No; all is peace; the laws are in force; freedom is assured; democracy is established; our wives, our daughters are unmolested, our sons are safe; the city keeps festival in the general joy. And who is the cause of it all? who has wrought the change? Has any man a prior claim? Then I withdraw; be his the honour and the reward. But if not — if mine was the deed, mine the risk, mine the courage to ascend and smite and punish, dealing vengeance on the father through the son — then why depreciate my services? why seek to deprive me of a people’s gratitude?

‘But you did not kill the tyrant; the law assigns the reward to him who kills the tyrant.’ And pray what is the difference between killing him and causing his death? I see none. The law-giver had but one end in view — freedom, equality, deliverance from oppression. This was the signal service that he deemed worthy of recompense; and this service you cannot deny that I have rendered. In slaying one whom the tyrant could not survive, I myself wrought the tyrant’s death. His was the hand: the deed was mine. Let us not chop logic as to the manner and circumstances of his death, but rather ask: has he ceased to exist, and am I the cause? Your scruples might go further, and object to some future deliverer of his country, that he struck not with the sword, but with a stick or a stone or the like. Had I blockaded the tyrant, and brought about his death by starvation, you would still, I suppose, have objected that it was not the work of my own hand? Again there would have been a flaw in my claim? The increased bitterness of such a death would have counted for nothing with you? Confine your attention to this one question: does any of our oppressors survive? is there any ground for anxiety, any vestige of our past misery? If not, if all is peace, then none but an envious detractor would attempt to deprive me of the reward of my labours by inquiring into the means employed.

Moreover, it is laid down in our laws (unless after all these years of servitude my memory plays me false) that blood-guiltiness is of two kinds. A man may slay another with his own hand, or, without slaying him, he may put death unavoidably in his way; in the latter case the penalty is the same as in the former; and rightly, it being the intention of the law that the cause should rank with the act itself; the manner in which death is brought about is not the question. You would not acquit a man who in this sense had slain another; you would punish him as a murderer: how then can you refuse to reward as a benefactor the man who, by parity of reasoning, has shown himself to be the liberator of his country?

Nor again can it be objected that all I did was to strike the blow, and that the resulting benefits were accidental, and formed no part of my design. What had I to fear, when once the stronger of our oppressors was slain? And why did I leave my sword in the wound, if not because I foresaw the very thing that would happen? Are you prepared to deny that the death so occasioned was that of a tyrant both in name and in fact, or that his death was an event for which the state would gladly pay an abundant reward? I think not. If then the tyrant is slain, how can you withhold the reward from him who occasioned his death? What scrupulousness is this — to concern yourself with the manner of his end, while you are enjoying the freedom that results from it? Democracy is restored: what more can you demand from him who restored it? You refer us to the terms of the law: well, the law looks only at the end; of the means it says nothing; it has no concern with them. Has not the reward of tyrannicide been paid before now to him who merely expelled a tyrant? And rightly so: for he too has made free men of slaves. But I have done more: banishment may be followed by restitution: but here the family of tyrants is utterly annihilated and destroyed; the evil thing is exterminated, root and branch.

I implore you, gentlemen, to review my conduct from beginning to end, and see whether there has been any such omission on my part as to make my act appear less than tyrannicide in the eye of the law. The high patriotic resolve which prompts a man to face danger for the common good, and to purchase the salvation of his country at the price of his own life; this is the first requirement. Have I been wanting here? Have I lacked courage? Have I shrunk back at the prospect of the dangers through which I must pass? My enemy cannot say it of me. Now at this stage let us pause. Consider only the intention, the design, apart from its success; and suppose that I come before you to claim the reward of patriotism merely on the ground of my resolve. I have failed, and another, following in my footsteps, has slain the tyrant. Say, is it unreasonable in such a case to allow my claim? ‘Gentlemen,’ I might say, ‘the will, the intention, was mine; I made the attempt, I did what I could; my resolve entitles me of itself to your reward.’ What would my enemy say to that?

But in fact my case stands far otherwise. I mounted into the stronghold, I faced danger, I had innumerable difficulties to contend with, before I slew the son. Think not that it was a light or easy matter, to make my way past the watch, and single-handed to overcome one body of guards after another and put them to flight: herein is perhaps the greatest difficulty with which the tyrannicide has to contend. It is no such great matter to bring the tyrant to bay, and dispatch him. Once overcome the guards that surround him, and success is ensured; little remains to be done. I could not make my way to the tyrants till I had mastered every one of their satellites and bodyguards: each of those preliminary victories had to be won. Once more I pause, and consider my situation. I have got the better of the guards; I am master of the garrison; I present you the tyrant stripped, unarmed, defenceless. May I claim some credit for this, or do you still require his blood? Well, if blood you must have, that too is not wanting; my hands are not unstained; the glorious deed is accomplished; the youthful tyrant, the terror of all men, his father’s sole security and protection, the equivalent of many bodyguards, is slain in the prime of his strength. Have I not earned my reward? Am I to have no credit for all that is done? What if I had killed one of his guards, some underling, some favourite domestic? Would it not have been thought a great thing, to go up and dispatch the tyrant’s friend within his own walls, in the midst of his armed attendants? But who was my victim? The tyrant’s son, himself a more grievous tyrant than his father, more cruel in his punishments, more violent in his excesses; a pitiless master; one, above all, whose succession to the supreme power promised a long continuance of our miseries. Shall I concede that this is the sum of my achievements? Shall we put it, that the tyrant has escaped, and lives? Still I claim my recompense. What say you, gentlemen? do you withhold it? The son, perhaps, caused you no uneasiness; he was no despot, no grievous oppressor?

And now for the final stroke. All that my adversary demands of me, I have performed; and that in the most effectual manner. I slew the tyrant when I slew his son; slew him not with a single blow — he could have asked no easier expiation of his guilt than that — but with prolonged torment. I showed him his beloved lying in the dust, in pitiable case, weltering in blood. And what if he were a villain? he was still his son, still the old man’s likeness in the pride of youth. These are the wounds that fathers feel; this the tyrannicide’s sword of justice; this the death, the vengeance, that befits cruelty and oppression. The tyrant who dies in a moment, and knows not his loss, and sees not such sights as these, dies unpunished. I knew — we all knew — his affection for his son; knew that not for one day would he survive his loss. Other fathers may be devoted to their sons: his devotion was something more than theirs. How should it be otherwise? In him, and in him alone, the father saw the zealous guardian of his lawless rule, the champion of his old age, the sole prop of tyranny. If grief did not kill him on the spot, despair, I knew, must do so; there could be no further joy in life for him when his protector was slain. Nature, grief, despair, foreboding, terror — these were my allies; with these I hemmed him in, and drove him to his last desperate resolve. Know that your oppressor died childless, heartbroken, weeping, groaning in spirit; the time of his mourning was short, but it was a father mourning for his son; he died by his own hand, bitterest, most awful of deaths; that death comes lightly, by comparison, which is dealt by another.

Where is my sword?

Does any one else know anything of this sword? Does any one claim it? Who took it up into the citadel? The tyrant used this sword. Who had it before him? Who put it in his way? — Sword, fellow labourer, partner of my enterprise — we have faced danger and shed blood to no purpose. We are slighted. Men say that we have not earned our reward.

Suppose that I had advanced a claim solely on my sword’s behalf: suppose that I had said to you: ‘Gentlemen, the tyrant had resolved to slay himself, but was without a weapon at the moment, when this sword of mine supplied his need, and thereby played its part in our deliverance.’ Should you not have considered that the owner of a weapon so public-spirited was entitled to honour and reward? Should you not have recompensed him, and inscribed his name among those of your benefactors; consecrated his sword, and worshipped it as a God?

Now consider how the tyrant may be supposed to have acted and spoken as his end approached. — His son lies mortally wounded at my hand; the wounds are many, and are exposed to view, that so the father’s heart may be torn asunder at the very first sight of him. He cries out piteously to his father, not for help — he knows the old man’s feebleness — but for sympathy in his sufferings. I meanwhile am making my way home: I have written in the last line of my tragedy, and now I leave the stage clear for the actor; there is the body, the sword, all that is necessary to complete the scene. The father enters. He beholds his son, his only son, gasping, blood-stained, weltering in gore; he sees the wounds — mortal wound upon wound — and exclaims: ‘Son, we are slain, we are destroyed, we are stricken in the midst of our power. Where is the assassin? For what fate does he reserve me, who am dead already in thy death, O my son? Because I am old he fears me not, he withholds his vengeance, and would prolong my torment.’ Then he looks for a sword; he has always gone unarmed himself, trusting all to his son. The sword is not wanting; it has been waiting for him all this time; I left it ready for the deed that was to follow. He draws it from the wound and speaks: ‘Sword, that but a moment past hast slain me, complete thy work: comfort the stricken father, aid his aged hand; dispatch, slay, make an end of the tyrant and his grief. Would that I had met thee first, that my blood had been shed before his! I could but have died a tyrant’s death, and should have left an avenger behind me. And now I die childless: I have not so much as a murderer at my need.’ Even as he speaks, with trembling hand he plunges the sword into his breast: he is in haste to die; but that feeble hand lacks strength to do its dread office.

Is he punished? Are these wounds? Is this death? A tyrant’s death? Is there reward for this?

The closing scene you have all witnessed: the son — no mean antagonist — prostrate in death; the father fallen upon him; blood mingling with blood, the drink-offering of Victory and Freedom; and in the midst my sword, that wrought all; judge by its presence there, whether the weapon was unworthy of its master, whether it did him faithful service. Had all been done by my hand, it had been little; the strangeness of the deed is its glory. The tyranny was overthrown by me, and no other; but many actors had their part to play in the drama. The first part was mine; the second was the son’s; the third the tyrant’s; and my sword was never absent from the stage.

The Disinherited

A disinherited son adopts the medical profession. His father going mad, and being given up by the other physicians, he treats him successfully, and is then reinstated in his rights. Subsequently his step-mother also goes mad; he is bidden to cure her, and, declaring his inability to do so, is once more disinherited.

There is neither novelty nor strangeness, gentlemen of the jury, in my father’s present proceedings. It is not the first time his passions have taken this direction; it has become an instinctive habit with him to pay a visit to this familiar court. Still, my unfortunate position has this much of novelty about it: the charge I have to meet is not personal, but professional; I am to be punished for the inability of Medicine to do my father’s bidding. A curious demand, surely, that healing should be done to order, and depend not on the limits of one’s art, but on the wishes of one’s father. For my part, I should be only too glad to find drugs in the pharmacopoeia which could relieve not only disordered wits, but disordered tempers; then I might be serviceable to my father. As it is, he is completely cured of madness, but is worse-tempered than ever. The bitterest part of it is, he is sane enough in all other relations, and mad only where his healer is concerned. You see what my medical fee amounts to; I am again disinherited, cut off from my family once more, as though the sole purpose of my brief reinstatement had been the accentuation of my disgrace by repetition.

When a thing is within the limits of possibility, I require no bidding; I came before I was summoned, to see what I could do in this case. But when there is absolutely no hope, I will not meddle. With this particular patient, such caution is especially incumbent upon me; how my father would treat me, if I tried and failed, I can judge by his disinheriting me when I refused to try. Gentlemen, I am sorry for my stepmother’s illness — for she was an excellent woman; I am sorry for my father’s distress thereat; I am most sorry of all that I should seem rebellious, and be unable to give the required service; but the disease is incurable, and my art is not omnipotent. I do not see the justice of disinheriting one who, when he cannot do a thing, refuses to undertake it.

The present case throws a clear light upon the reasons for my first disinheriting. The allegations of those days I consider to have been disposed of by my subsequent life; and the present charges I shall do my best to clear away with a short account of my proceedings. Wilful and disobedient son that I am, a disgrace to my father, unworthy of my family, I thought proper to say very little indeed in answer to his long and vehement denunciations. Banished from my home, I reflected that I should find my most convincing plea, my best acquittal, in the life I then led, in practically illustrating the difference between my father’s picture and the reality, in devotion to the worthiest pursuits and association with the most reputable company. But I had also a presentiment of what actually happened; it occurred to me even then that a perfectly sane father does not rage causelessly at his son, nor trump up false accusations against him. Persons were not wanting who detected incipient madness; it was the warning and precursor of a stroke which would fall before long — this unreasoning dislike, this harsh conduct, this fluent abuse, this malignant prosecution, all this violence, passion, and general ill temper. Yes, gentlemen, I saw that the time might come when Medicine would serve me well.

I went abroad, attended lectures by the most famous foreign physicians, and by hard work and perseverance mastered my craft. Upon my return, I found that my father’s madness had developed, and that he had been given up by the local doctors, who are not distinguished for insight, and are much to seek in accurate diagnosis. I did no more than a son’s duty when I forgot and forgave the disinheritance, and visited him without waiting to be called in; I had in fact nothing to complain of that was properly his act; his errors were not his, but, as I have implied, those of his illness. I came unsummoned, then. But I did not treat him at once; that is not our custom, nor what our art enjoins upon us. What we are taught to do is first of all to ascertain whether the disease is curable or incurable — has it passed beyond our control? After that, if it is susceptible of treatment, we treat it, and do our very best to relieve the sufferer. But if we realize that the complaint has got the entire mastery, we have nothing to do with it at all. That is the tradition that has come down to us from the fathers of our art, who direct us not to attempt hopeless cases. Well, I found that there was yet hope for my father; the complaint had not gone too far; I watched him for a long time; formed my conclusions with scrupulous care; then, I commenced operations and exhibited my drugs without hesitation — though many of his friends were suspicious of my prescription, impugned the treatment, and took notes to be used against me.

My step-mother was present, distressed and doubtful — the result not of any dislike to me, but of pure anxiety, based on her full knowledge of his sad condition; no one but her, who had lived with and nursed him, knew the worst. However, I never faltered; the symptoms would not lie to me, nor my art fail me; when the right moment came, I applied the treatment, in spite of the timidity of some of my friends, who were afraid of the scandal that might result from a failure; it would be said that the medicine was my vengeful retort to the disinheritance. To make a long story short, it was at once apparent that he had taken no harm; he was in his senses again, and aware of all that went on. The company were amazed; my step-mother thanked me, and every one could see that she was delighted both at my triumph and at her husband’s recovery. He himself — to give credit where it is due — did not take time to consider, nor to ask advice, but, as soon as he heard the story, undid what he had done, made me his son again, hailed me as his preserver and benefactor, confessed that I had now given my proofs, and withdrew his previous charges. All this was delightful to the better, who were many, among his friends, but distasteful to the persons who enjoy a quarrel more than a reconciliation. I observed at the time that all were not equally pleased; there were changes of colour, uneasy glances, signs of mortification, in one quarter at least, which told of envy and hatred. With us, who had recovered each other, all was naturally affection and rejoicing.

Quite a short time after, my step-mother’s disorder commenced — a very terrible and unaccountable one, gentlemen of the jury. I observed it from its very beginning; it was no slight superficial case, this; it was a long-established but hitherto latent mental disease, which now burst out and forced its way into notice. There are many signs by which we know that madness is incurable — among them a strange one which I noticed in this case. Ordinary society has a soothing, alleviating effect; the patient forgets to be mad; but if he sees a doctor, or even hears one mentioned, he at once displays acute irritation — an infallible sign that he is far gone, incurable in fact. I was distressed to notice this symptom; my step-mother was a worthy person who deserved a better fate, and I was all compassion for her.

But my father in his simplicity, knowing neither when nor how the trouble began, and quite unable to gauge its gravity, bade me cure her by the drugs that had cured him. His idea was that madness was to be nothing else but mad; the disease was the same, its effects the same, and it must admit of the same treatment. When I told him, as was perfectly true, that his wife was incurable, and confessed that the case was beyond me, he thought it an outrage, said I was refusing because I chose to, and treating the poor woman shamefully — in short, visited upon me the limitations of my art. Such ebullitions are common enough in distress; we all lose our tempers then with the people who tell us the truth. I must nevertheless defend myself and my profession, as well as I can, against his strictures.

I will begin with some remarks upon the law under which I am to be disinherited; my father will please to observe that it is not quite so much now as before a matter for his absolute discretion. You will find, sir, that the author of the law has not conferred the right of disherison upon any father against any son upon any pretext. It is true he has armed fathers with this weapon; but he has also protected sons against its illegitimate use. That is the meaning of his insisting that the procedure shall not be irresponsible and uncontrolled, but come under the legal cognizance of inspectors whose decision will be uninfluenced by passion or misrepresentation. He knew how often irritation is unreasonable, and what can be effected by a lying tale, a trusted slave, or a spiteful woman. He would not have the deed done without form of law; sons were not to be condemned unheard and out of hand; they are to have the ear of the court for so long by the clock, and there is to be adequate inquiry into the facts.

My father’s competence, then, being confined to preferring his complaints, and the decision whether they are reasonable or not resting with you, I shall be within my rights in requesting you to defer consideration of the grievance on which he bases the present suit, until you have determined whether a second disinheritance is admissible in the abstract. He has cast me off, has exercised his legal rights, enforced his parental powers to the full, and then restored me to my position as his son. Now it is iniquitous, I maintain, that fathers should have these unlimited penal powers, that disgrace should be multiplied, apprehension made perpetual, the law now chastize, now relent, now resume its severity, and justice be the shuttlecock of our fathers’ caprices. It is quite proper for the law to humour, encourage, give effect to, one punitive impulse on the part of him who has begotten us; but if, after shooting his bolt, insisting on his right, indulging his wrath, he discovers our merits and takes us back, then he should be held to his decision, and not allowed to oscillate, waver, do and undo any more. Originally, he had no means of knowing whether his offspring would turn out well or ill; that is why parents who have decided to bring up children before they knew their nature are permitted to reject such as are found unworthy of their family.

But when a man has taken his son back, not upon compulsion, but of his own motion and after inquiry, how can further chopping and changing be justified? What further occasion for the law? Its author might fairly say to you, sir: If your son was vicious and deserved to be disinherited, what were you about to recall him? Why have him home again? Why suspend the law’s operation? You were a free agent; you need not have done it. The laws are not your play-ground; you are not to put the courts in motion every time your mood varies; the laws are not to be suspended today and enforced tomorrow, with juries to look on at the proceedings, or rather to be the ministers of your whims, executioners or peace-makers according to your taste and fancy. The boy cost you one begetting, and one rearing; in return for which you may disinherit him, once, always provided you have reason to show for it. Disinheriting as a regular habit, a promiscuous pastime, is not included in the patria potestas.

Gentlemen of the jury, I entreat you in Heaven’s name not to permit him, after voluntarily reinstating me, reversing the previous decision, and renouncing his anger, to revive the old sentence and have recourse to the same paternal rights; the period of their validity is past and gone; his own act suffices to annul and exhaust their power. You know the general rule of the courts, that a party dissatisfied with the verdict of a ballot — provided jury is allowed an appeal to another court; but that is not so when the parties have agreed upon arbitrators, and, after such selection, put the matter in their hands. They had the choice, there, of not recognizing the court ab initio; if they nevertheless did so, they may fairly be expected to abide by its award. Similarly you, sir, had the choice of never taking back your son, if you thought him unworthy; having decided that he was worthy, and taken him back, you cannot be permitted to disinherit him anew; the evidence of his not deserving it is your own admission of his worth. It is only right that the reinstatement and reconciliation should be definitive, after such abundant investigation; there have been two trials, observe: the first, that in which you rejected me; the second, that in your own conscience, which reversed the decision of the other; the fact of reversal only adds force to the later result. Abide, then, by your second thoughts, and uphold your own verdict. You are to be my father; such was your determination, approved and ratified.

Suppose I were not your begotten, but only your adopted son, I hold that you could not then have disinherited me; for what it is originally open to us not to do, we have no right, having done, to undo. But where there is both the natural tie, and that of deliberate choice, how can a second rejection, a repeated deprivation of the one relationship, be justified? Or again, suppose I had been a slave, and you had seen reason to put me in irons, and afterwards, convinced of my innocence, made me a free man; could you, upon an angry impulse, have enslaved me again? Assuredly not; the law makes these acts binding and irrevocable. Upon this contention, that the voluntary annulment of a disinheritance precludes a repetition of the act, I could enlarge further, but will not labour the point.

You have next to consider the character of the man now to be disinherited. I lay no stress upon the fact that I was then nothing, and am now a physician; my art will not help me here. As little do I insist that I was then young, and am now middle-aged, with my years as a guarantee against misconduct; perhaps there is not much in that either. But, gentlemen, at the time of my previous expulsion, if I had never done my father any harm (as I should maintain), neither had I done him any good; whereas now I have recently been his preserver and benefactor; could there be worse ingratitude than so, and so soon, to requite me for saving him from that terrible fate? My care of him goes for nothing; it is lightly forgotten, and I am driven forth desolate — I, whose wrongs might have excused my rejoicing at his troubles, but who, so far from bearing malice, saved him and restored him to his senses.

For, gentlemen, it is no ordinary slight kindness that he is choosing this way of repaying. You all know (though he may not realize) what he was capable of doing, what he had to endure, what his state was, in fact, during those bad days. The doctors had given him up, his relations had cleared away and dared not come near him; but I undertook his case and restored him to the power of — accusing me and going to law. Let me help your imagination, sir. You were very nearly in the state in which your wife now is, when I gave you back your understanding. It is surely not right that my reward for that should be this — that your understanding should be used against me alone. That it is no trifling kindness I have done you is apparent from the very nature of your accusation. The ground of your hatred is that she whom I do not cure is in extremities, is terribly afflicted; then, seeing that I relieved you of just such an affliction, there is surely better reason for you to love and be grateful to me for your own release from such horrors. But you are unconscionable enough to make the first employment of your restored faculties an indictment of me; you smite your healer, the ancient hate revives, and we have you reciting the same old law again. My art’s handsome fee, the worthy payment for my drugs, is — your present manifestation of vigour!

But you, gentlemen of the jury, will you allow him to punish his benefactor, drive away his preserver, pay for his wits with hatred, and for his recovery with chastisement? I hope better things of your justice. However flagrantly I had now been misconducting myself, I had a large balance of gratitude to draw upon. With that consideration in his memory, he need not have been extreme to mark what is now done amiss; it might have inspired him with ready indulgence, the more if the antecedent service was great enough to throw anything that might follow into the shade. That fairly states my relation to him; I preserved him; he owes his life absolutely to me; his existence, his sanity, his understanding, are my gifts, given, moreover, when all others despaired and confessed that the case was beyond their skill.

The service that I did was the more meritorious, it seems to me, in that I was not at the time my father’s son, nor under any obligation to undertake the case; I was independent of him, a mere stranger; the natural bond had been snapped. Yet I was not indifferent; I came as a volunteer, uninvited, at my own instance. I brought help, I persevered, I effected the cure, I restored him, thereby securing myself at once a father and an acquittal; I conquered anger with kindness, disarmed law with affection, purchased readmission to my family with important service, proved my filial loyalty at that critical moment, was adopted (or adopted myself, rather) on the recommendation of my art, while my conduct in trying circumstances proved me a son by blood also. For I had anxiety and fatigue enough in being always on the spot, ministering to my patient, watching for my opportunities, now humouring the disease when it gathered strength, now availing myself of a remission to combat it. Of all a physician’s tasks the most hazardous is the care of patients like this, with the personal attendance it involves; for in their moments of exasperation they are apt to direct their fury upon any one they can come at. Yet I never shrank or hesitated; I was always there; I had a life-and-death struggle with the malady, and the final victory was with me and my drugs.

Now I can fancy a person who hears all this objecting hastily, ‘What a fuss about giving a man a dose of medicine!’ But the fact is, there are many preliminaries to be gone through; the ground has to be prepared; the body must first be made susceptible to treatment; the patient’s whole condition has to be studied; he must be purged, reduced, dieted, properly exercised, enabled to sleep, coaxed into tranquillity. Now other invalids will submit to all this; but mania robs its victims of self-control; they are restive and jib; their physicians are in danger, and treatment at a disadvantage. Constantly, when we are on the very point of success and full of hope, some slight hitch occurs, and a relapse takes place which undoes all in a moment, neutralizing our care and tripping up our art.

Now, after my going through all this, after my wrestle with this formidable disease and my triumph over so elusive an ailment, is it still your intention to support him in disinheriting me? Shall he interpret the laws as he will against his benefactor? Will you look on while he makes war upon nature? I obey nature, gentlemen of the jury, in saving my father from death, and myself from the loss of him, unjust as he had been. He on the contrary defers to law (he calls it law) in ruining and cutting off from his kin the son who has obliged him. He is a cruel father, I a loving son. I own the authority of nature: he spurns and flings it from him. How misplaced is this paternal hate! How worse misplaced this filial love! For I must reproach myself — my father will have it so. And the reproach? That where I should hate (for I am hated), I love, and where I should love little, I love much. Yet surely nature requires of parents that they love their children more than of children that they love their parents. But he deliberately disregards both the law, which secures children their family rights during good behaviour, and nature, which inspires parents with fervent love for their offspring. Having greater incentives to affection, you might suppose that he would confer the fruits of it upon me in larger measure, or at the least reciprocate and emulate my love. Alas, far from it! he returns hate for love, persecution for devotion, wrong for service, disinheritance for respect; the laws which guard, he converts into means of assailing, the rights of children. Ah, my father, how do you force law into your service in this battle against nature!

The facts, believe me, are not as you would have them. You are a bad exponent, sir, of good laws. In this matter of affection there is no war between law and nature; they hunt in couples, they work together for the remedying of wrongs. When you evil entreat your benefactor, you are wronging nature; now I ask, do you wrong the laws as well as nature? You do; it is their intention to be fair and just and give sons their rights; but you will not allow it; you hound them on again and again upon one child as though he were many; you keep them ever busy punishing, when their own desire is peace and goodwill between father and son. I need hardly add that, as against the innocent, they may be said to have no existence. But let me tell you, ingratitude also is an offence known to the law; an action will lie against a person who fails to recompense his benefactor. If he adds to such failure an attempt to punish, he has surely reached the uttermost limits of wrong in this sort. And now I think I have sufficiently established two points: first, my father has not the right, after once exerting his parental privilege and availing himself of the law, to disinherit me again; and secondly, it is on general grounds inadmissible to cast off and expel from his family one who has rendered service so invaluable.

Let us next proceed to the actual reasons given for the disinheritance; let us inquire into the nature of the charge. We must first go back for a moment to the intention of the legislator. We will grant you for the sake of argument, sir, that it is open to you to disinherit as often as you please; we will further concede you this right against your benefactor; but I presume that disinheritance is not to be the beginning and the ending in itself; you will not resort to it, that is, without sufficient cause. The legislator’s meaning is not that the father can disinherit, whatever his grievance may be, that nothing is required beyond the wish and a complaint; in that case, what is the court’s function? No, gentlemen, it is your business to inquire whether the parental anger rests upon good and sufficient grounds. That is the question which I am now to put before you; and I will take up the story from the moment when sanity was restored.

The first-fruits of this was the withdrawal of the disinheritance; I was preserver, benefactor, everything. So far my conduct is not open to exception, I take it. Well, and later on what fault has my father to find? What attention or filial duty did I omit? Did I stay out o’ nights, sir? Do you charge me with untimely drinkings and revellings? Was I extravagant? Did I get into some disreputable brawl? Did any such complaint reach you? None whatever. Yet these are just the offences for which the law contemplates disherison. Ah, but my step-mother fell ill. Indeed, and do you make that a charge against me? Do you prefer a suit for ill health? I understand you to say no.

What is the grievance, then?-That you refuse to treat her at my bidding, and for such disobedience to your father deserve to be disinherited. — Gentlemen, I will explain presently how the nature of this demand results in a seeming disobedience, but a real inability. Meanwhile, I simply remark that neither the authority which the law confers on him, nor the obedience to which I am bound, is indiscriminate. Among orders, some have no sanction, while the disregard of others justifies anger and punishment. My father may be ill, and I neglect him; he may charge me with the management of his house, and I take no notice; he may tell me to look after his country estate, and I evade the task. In all these and similar cases, the parental censure will be well deserved. But other things again are for the sons to decide, as questions of professional skill or policy — especially if the father’s interests are not touched. If a painter’s father says to him, ‘Paint this, my boy, and do not paint that’; or a musician’s, ‘Strike this note, and not the other’; or a bronze-founder’s, ‘Cast so-and-so’; would it be tolerable that the son should be disinherited for not taking such advice? Of course not.

But the medical profession should be left still more to their own discretion than other artists, in proportion to the greater nobility of their aims and usefulness of their work; this art should have a special right of choosing its objects; this sacred occupation, taught straight from Heaven, and pursued by the wisest of men, should be secured against all compulsion, enslaved to no law, intimidated and penalized by no court, exposed to no votes or paternal threats or uninstructed passions. If I had told my father directly and expressly, ‘I will not do it, I refuse the case, though I could treat it, I hold my art at no man’s service but my own and yours, as far as others are concerned I am a layman’— if I had taken that position, where is the masterful despot who would have applied force and compelled me to practise against my will? The appropriate inducements are request and entreaty, not laws and browbeating and tribunals; the physician is to be persuaded, not commanded; he is to choose, not be terrorized; he is not to be haled to his patient, but to come with his consent and at his pleasure. Governments are wont to give physicians the public recognition of honours, precedence, immunities and privileges; and shall the art which has State immunities not be exempt from the patria fotestas?

All this I was entitled to say simply as a professional man, even on the assumption that you had had me taught, and devoted much care and expense to my training, that this particular case had been within my competence, and I had yet declined it. But in fact you have to consider also how utterly unreasonable it is that you should not let me use at my own discretion my own acquisition. It was not as your son nor under your authority that I acquired this art; and yet it was for your advantage that I acquired it — you were the first to profit by it — though you had contributed nothing to my training. Will you mention the fees you paid? How much did the stock of my surgery cost you? Not one penny. I was a pauper, I knew not where to turn for necessaries, and I owed my instruction to my teachers’ charity. The provision my father made for my education was sorrow, desolation, distress, estrangement from my friends and banishment from my family. And do you then claim to have the use of my skill, the absolute control of what was acquired independently? You should be content with the previous service rendered to yourself, not under obligation, but of free will; for even on that occasion nothing could have been demanded of me on the score of gratitude.

My kindness of the past is not to be my duty of the future; a voluntary favour is not to be turned into an obligation to take unwelcome orders; the principle is not to be established that he who once cures a man is bound to cure any number of others at his bidding ever after. That would be to appoint the patients we cure our absolute masters; we should be paying them, and the fee would be slavish submission to their commands. Could anything be more absurd? Because you were ill, and I was at such pains to restore you, does that make you the owner of my art?

All this I could have said, if the tasks he imposed upon me had been within my powers, and I had declined to accept all of them, or, on compulsion, any of them. But I now wish you to look further into their nature. ‘You cured me of madness (says he); my wife is now mad and in the condition I was in (that of course is his idea); she has been given up as I was by the other doctors, but you have shown that nothing is too hard for you; very well, then, cure her too, and make an end of her illness.’ Now, put like that, it sounds very reasonable, especially in the ears of a layman innocent of medical knowledge. But if you will listen to what I have to say for my art, you will find that there are things too hard for us, that all ailments are not alike, that the same treatment and the same drugs will not always answer; and then you will understand what a difference there is between refusing and being unable. Pray bear with me while I generalize a little, without condemning my disquisition as pedantic, irrelevant, or ill-timed.

To begin with, human bodies differ in nature and temperament; compounded as they admittedly are of the same elements, they are yet compounded in different proportions. I am not referring at present to sexual differences; the male body is not the same or alike in different individuals; it differs in temperament and constitution; and from this it results that in different men diseases also differ both in character and in intensity; one man’s body has recuperative power and is susceptible to treatment; another’s is utterly crazy, open to every infection, and without vigour to resist disease. To suppose, then, that all fever, all consumption, lung-disease, or mania, being generically the same, will affect every subject in the same way, is what no sensible, thoughtful, or well-informed person would do; the same disease is easily curable in one man, and not in another. Why, sow the same wheat in various soils, and the results will vary. Let the soil be level, deep, well watered, well sunned, well aired, well ploughed, and the crop will be rich, fat, plentiful. Elevated stony ground will make a difference, no sun another difference, foothills another, and so on. Just so with disease; its soil makes it thrive and spread, or starves it. Now all this quite escapes my father; he makes no inquiries of this sort, but assumes that all mania in every body is the same, and to be treated accordingly.

Besides such differences between males, it is obvious that the female body differs widely from the male both in the diseases it is subject to and in its capacity or non-capacity of recovery. The bracing effect of toil, exercise, and open air gives firmness and tone to the male; the female is soft and unstrung from its sheltered existence, and pale with anaemia, deficient caloric and excess of moisture. It is consequently, as compared with the male, open to infection, exposed to disease, unequal to vigorous treatment, and, in particular, liable to mania. With their emotional, mobile, excitable tendencies on the one hand, and their defective bodily strength on the other, women fall an easy prey to this affliction.

It is quite unfair, then, to expect the physician to cure both sexes indifferently; we must recognize how far apart they are, their whole lives, pursuits, and habits, having been distinct from infancy. Do not talk of a mad person, then, but specify the sex; do not confound distinctions and force all cases under the supposed identical title of madness; keep separate what nature separates, and then examine the respective possibilities. I began this exposition with stating that the first thing we doctors look to is the nature and temperament of our patient’s body: which of the humours predominates in it; is it full-blooded or the reverse; at, or past, its prime; big or little; fat or lean? When a man has satisfied himself upon these and other such points, his opinion, favourable or adverse, upon the prospects of recovery may be implicitly relied upon.

It must be remembered too that madness itself has a thousand forms, numberless causes, and even some distinct names. Delusion, infatuation, frenzy, lunacy — these are not the same; they all express different degrees of the affection. Again, the causes are not only different in men and women, but, in men, they are different for the old and for the young; for instance, in young men some redundant humour is the usual cause; whereas with the old a shrewdly timed slander, or very likely a fancied domestic slight, will get hold of them, first cloud their understanding, and finally drive them distracted. As for women, all sorts of things effect a lodgement and make easy prey of them, especially bitter dislike, envy of a prosperous rival, pain or anger. These feelings smoulder on, gaining strength with time, till at last they burst out in madness.

Such, sir, has been your wife’s case, perhaps with the addition of some recent trouble; for she used to have no strong dislikes, yet she is now in the grasp of the malady — and that beyond hope of medical relief. For if any physician undertakes and cures the case, you have my permission to hate me for the wrong I have done you. Yet I must go so far as to say that, even had the case not been so desperate — had there been a glimmer of hope — even then I should not have lightly intervened, nor been very ready to administer drugs; I should have been afraid of what might happen, and of the sort of stories that might get about. You know the universal belief that every step-mother, whatever her general merits, hates her step-sons; it is supposed to be a feminine mania from which none of them is exempt. If the disease had taken a wrong turn, and the medicine failed of its effect, there would very likely have been suspicions of intentional malpractice.

Your wife’s condition, sir — and I describe it to you after close observation — is this: she will never mend, though she take ten thousand doses of medicine. It is therefore undesirable to make the experiment, unless your object is merely to compel me to fail and cover me with disgrace. Pray do not enable my professional brethren to triumph over me; their jealousy is enough. If you disinherit me again, I shall be left desolate, but I shall pray for no evil upon your head. But suppose — though God forbid! — suppose your malady should return; relapses are common enough in such cases, under irritation; what is my course then to be? Doubt not, I shall restore you once more; I shall not desert the post which nature assigns to children; I for my part shall not forget my descent. And then if you recover, must I look for another restitution? You understand me? your present proceedings are calculated to awake your disease and stir it to renewed malignancy. It is but the other day that you emerged from your sad condition, and you are vehement and loud — worst of all, you are full of anger, indulging your hatred and appealing once more to the law. Alas, father, even such was the prelude to your first madness.

Phalaris, I

We are sent to you, Priests of Delphi, by Phalaris our master, with instructions to present this bull to the God, and to speak the necessary words on behalf of the offering and its donor. Such being our errand, it remains for us to deliver his message, which is as follows:

‘It is my desire above all things, men of Delphi, to appear to the Greeks as I really am, and not in that character in which Envy and Malice, availing themselves of the ignorance of their hearers, have represented me: and if to the Greeks in general, then most of all to you, who are holy men, associates of the God, sharers (I had almost said) of his hearth and home. If I can clear myself before you, if I can convince you that I am not the cruel tyrant I am supposed to be, then I may consider myself cleared in the eyes of all the world. For the truth of my statements, I appeal to the testimony of the God himself. Methinks he is not likely to be deceived by lying words. It may be an easy matter to mislead men: but to escape the penetration of a God — and that God Apollo — is impossible.

‘I was a man of no mean family; in birth, in breeding, in education, the equal of any man in Agrigentum. In my political conduct I was ever public-spirited, in my private life mild and unassuming; no unseemly act, no deed of violence, oppression, or headstrong insolence was ever laid to my charge in those early days. But our city at that time was divided into factions: I saw myself exposed to the plots of my political opponents, who sought to destroy me by every means: if I would live in security, if I would preserve the city from destruction, there was but one course open to me — to seize upon the government, and thereby baffle my opponents, put an end to their machinations, and bring my countrymen to their senses. There were not a few who approved my design: patriots and men of cool judgement, they understood my sentiments, and saw that I had no alternative. With their help, I succeeded without difficulty in my enterprise.

‘From that moment, the disturbances ceased. My opponents, became my subjects, I their ruler; and the city was freed from dissension. From executions and banishments and confiscations I abstained, even in the case of those who had plotted against my life. Such strong measures are indeed never more necessary than at the commencement of a new rule: but I was sanguine; I proposed to treat them as my equals, and to win their allegiance by clemency, mildness, and humanity. My first act was to reconcile myself with my enemies, most of whom I invited to my table and took into my confidence.

‘I found the city in a ruinous condition, owing to the neglect of the magistrates, who had commonly been guilty of embezzlement, if not of wholesale plunder. I repaired the evil by means of aqueducts, beautified the city with noble buildings, and surrounded it with walls. The public revenues were easily increased by proper attention on the part of the fiscal authorities. I provided for the education of the young and the maintenance of the old; and for the general public I had games and spectacles, banquets and doles. As for rape and seduction, tyrannical violence or intimidation, I abhorred the very name of such things.

‘I now began to think of laying down my power; and how to do so with safety was my only concern. The cares of government and public business had begun to weigh upon me; I found my position as burdensome as it was invidious. But it was still a question, how to render the city independent of such assistance for the future. And whilst I— honest man! — was busied with such thoughts, my enemies were even then combining against me, and debating the ways and means of rebellion; conspiracies were forming, arms and money were being collected, neighbour states were invited to assist, embassies were on their way to Sparta and Athens. The torments that were in store for me, had I fallen into their hands, I afterwards learnt from their public confession under torture, from which it appeared that they had vowed to tear me limb from limb with their own hands. For my escape from such a fate, I have to thank the Gods, who unmasked the conspiracy; and, in particular, the God of Delphi, who sent dreams to warn me, and dispatched messengers with detailed information.

‘And now, men of Delphi, I would ask your advice. Imagine yourselves today in the perilous situation in which I then stood; and tell me what was my proper course. I had almost fallen unawares into the hands of my enemies, and was casting about for means of safety. Leave Delphi for a while, and transport yourselves in spirit to Agrigentum: behold the preparations of my enemies: listen to their threats; and say, what is your counsel? Shall I sit quietly on the brink of destruction, exercising clemency and long-suffering as heretofore? bare my throat to the sword? see my nearest and dearest slaughtered before my eyes? What would this be but sheer imbecility? Shall I not rather bear myself like a man of spirit, give the rein to my rational indignation, avenge my injuries upon the conspirators, and use my present power with a view to my future security? This, I know, would have been your advice.

‘Now observe my procedure. I sent for the guilty persons, heard their defence, produced my evidence, established every point beyond a doubt; and when they themselves admitted the truth of the accusation, I punished them; for I took it ill, not that they had plotted against my life, but that on their account I was compelled to abandon my original policy. From that day to this, I have consulted my own safety by punishing conspiracy as often as it has shown itself.

‘And men call me cruel! They do not stop to ask who was the aggressor; they condemn what they think the cruelty of my vengeance, but pass lightly over the provocation, and the nature of the crime. It is as if a man were to see a temple-robber hurled from the rock at Delphi, and, without reflecting how the transgressor had stolen into your temple by night, torn down the votive-offerings, and laid hands upon the graven image of the God, were to exclaim against the inhumanity of persons who, calling themselves Greeks and holy men, could yet find it in them to inflict this awful punishment upon their fellow Greek, and that within sight of the holy place; — for the rock, as I am told, is not far from the city. Surely you would laugh to scorn such an accusation as this; and your cruel treatment of the impious would be universally applauded.

‘But so it is: the public does not inquire into the character of a ruler, into the justice or injustice of his conduct; the mere name of tyranny ensures men’s hatred; the tyrant might be an Aeacus, a Minos, a Rhadamanthus — they would be none the less eager for his destruction; their thoughts ever run on those tyrants who have been bad rulers, and the good, because they bear the same name, are held in the like detestation. I have heard that many of your tyrants in Greece have been wise men, who, labouring under that opprobrious title, have yet given proofs of benevolence and humanity, and whose pithy maxims are even now stored up in your temple among the treasures of the God.

‘Observe, moreover, the prominence given to punishment by all constitutional legislators; they know that when the fear of punishment is wanting, nothing else is of avail. And this is doubly so with us who are tyrants; whose power is based upon compulsion; who live in the midst of enmity and treachery. The bugbear terrors of the law would never serve our turn. Rebellion is a many-headed Hydra: we cut off one guilty head, two others grow in its place. Yet we must harden our hearts, smite them off as they grow, and — like lolaus — sear the wounds; thus only shall we hold our own. The man who has once become involved in such a strife as this must play the part that he has undertaken; to show mercy would be fatal. Do you suppose that any man was ever so brutal, so inhuman, as to rejoice in torture and groans and bloodshed for their own sake, when there was no occasion for punishment? Many is the time that I have wept while others suffered beneath the lash, and groaned in spirit over the hard fate that subjected me to a torment more fierce and more abiding than theirs. For to the man who is benevolent by nature, and harsh only by compulsion, it is more painful to inflict punishment than it would be to undergo it.

‘Now I will speak my mind frankly. If I had to choose between punishing innocent men, and facing death myself, believe me, I should have no hesitation in accepting the latter alternative. But if I am asked, whether I had rather die an undeserved death than give their deserts to those who plotted against my life, I answer no; and once more, Delphians, I appeal to you: which is better — to die when I deserve not death, or to spare my enemies who deserve not mercy? 44 No man surely can be such a fool that he would not rather live than preserve his enemies by his death. Yet in spite of this how many have I spared who were palpably convicted of conspiring against me; such were Acanthus, Timocrates, and his brother Leogoras, all of whom I saved out of regard for our former intercourse.

‘If you would learn more of me, apply to any of the strangers who have visited Agrigentum; and see what account they give of the treatment they received, and of my hospitality to all who land on my coasts. My messengers are waiting for them in every port, to inquire after their names and cities, that they may not go away without receiving due honour at my hands. Some — the wisest of the Greeks — have come expressly to visit me, so far are they from avoiding intercourse with me. It was but lately that I received a visit from the sage Pythagoras. The account that he had heard of me was belied by his experience; and on taking his departure he expressed admiration of my justice, and deplored the circumstances which made severity a duty. Now is it likely that one who is so benevolent to strangers should deal unjustly with his fellow citizens? is it not to be supposed that the provocation has been unusually great?

‘So much then in defence of my own conduct; I have spoken the words of truth and justice, and would persuade myself that I have merited your approbation rather than your resentment. And now I must explain to you the origin of my present offering, and the manner in which it came into my hands. For it was by no instructions of mine that the statuary made this bull: far be it from me to aspire to the possession of such works of art! A countryman of my own, one Perilaus, an admirable artist, but a man of evil disposition, had so far mistaken my character as to think that he could win my regard by the invention of a new form of torture; the love of torture, he thought, was my ruling passion. He it was who made the bull and brought it to me. I no sooner set eyes on this beautiful and exquisite piece of workmanship, which lacked only movement and sound to complete the illusion, than I exclaimed: “Here is an offering fit for the God of Delphi: to him I must send it.” “And what will you say,” rejoined Perilaus, who stood by, “when you see the ingenious mechanism within it, and learn the purpose it is designed to serve?” He opened the back of the animal, and continued: “When you are minded to punish any one, shut him up in this receptacle, apply these pipes to the nostrils of the bull, and order a fire to be kindled beneath. The occupant will shriek and roar in unremitting agony; and his cries will come to you through the pipes as the tenderest, most pathetic, most melodious of bellowings. Your victim will be punished, and you will enjoy the music.”

‘His words revolted me. I loathed the thought of such ingenious cruelty, and resolved to punish the artificer in kind. “If this is anything more than an empty boast, Perilaus,” I said to him, “if your art can really produce this effect, get inside yourself, and pretend to roar; and we will see whether the pipes will make such music as you describe.” He consented; and when he was inside I closed the aperture, and ordered a fire to be kindled. “Receive,” I cried, “the due reward of your wondrous art: let the music-master be the first to play.” Thus did his ingenuity meet with its deserts. But lest the offering should be polluted by his death, I caused him to be removed while he was yet alive, and his body to be flung dishonoured from the cliffs. The bull, after due purification, I sent as an offering to your God, with an inscription upon it, setting forth all the circumstances; the names of the donor and of the artist, the evil design of the latter, and the righteous sentence which condemned him to illustrate by his own agonized shrieks the efficacy of his musical device.

‘And now, men of Delphi, you will be doing me no more than justice, if you join my ambassadors in making sacrifice on my behalf, and set up the bull in a conspicuous part of the temple; that all men may know what is my attitude towards evil-doers, and in what manner I chastise their inordinate craving after wickedness. Herein is a sufficient indication of my character: Perilaus punished, the bull consecrated, not reserved for the bellowings of other victims. The first and last melody that issued from those pipes was wrung from their artificer; that one experiment made, the harsh, inhuman notes are silenced for ever. So much for the present offering, which will be followed by many others, so soon as the God vouchsafes me a respite from my work of chastisement.’

Such was the message of Phalaris; and his statement is in strict accordance with the facts. You may safely accept our testimony, as we are acquainted with the circumstances, and can have no object in deceiving you on the present occasion. Must entreaty be added? Then on behalf of one whose character has been misrepresented, and whose severities were forced upon him against his will, we implore you — we who are Agrigentines, Greeks like yourselves and of Dorian origin — to accept his offer of friendship, and not to thwart his benevolent intentions towards your community and the individuals of which it is composed. Take the bull into your keeping; consecrate it; and offer up your prayers on behalf of Agrigentum and of Phalaris. Suffer us not to have come hither in vain: repulse not our master with scorn: nor deprive the God of an offering whose intrinsic beauty is only equalled by its righteous associations.

44 Apparently the speaker intended to repeat the last pair of alternatives in different words: instead of which, he gives us one of those alternatives twice over. Lucian’s tautologic genius fails him for once.

Phalaris, II

Men of Delphi: I stand in no public relation to the city of Agrigentum, in no private relation to its ruler; I am bound to him neither by gratitude for past favours, nor by the prospect of future friendship: but I have heard the just and temperate plea advanced by his emissaries, and I rise to advocate the claims of religion, the interests of our community, the duties of the priesthood; I charge you, thwart not the pious intention of a mighty prince, nor deprive the God of an offering which in the intention of the donor is already his, and which is destined to serve as an eternal threefold record — of the sculptor’s art, of inventive cruelty, and of righteous retribution. To me it seems that only to have raised this question, only to have halted between acceptance and rejection, is in itself an offence against Heaven; nay, a glaring impiety. For what is this but a sacrilege more heinous than that of the temple-robber, who does but plunder those sacred things to which you would even deny consecration? I implore you — your fellow priest, your partner in good report (if so it may be), or in evil (should that now befall us), implores you: close not the temple-doors upon the devout worshipper; suffer us not to be known to the world as men who examine jealously into the offerings that are brought, and subject the donor to the narrow scrutiny of a court, and to the hazard of a vote. For who would not be deterred at the thought that the God accepts no offering without the previous sanction of his priests?

Already Apollo has declared his true opinion. Had he hated Phalaris, or scorned his gift, it had been easy for him to sink the gift and the ship that bore it in mid-ocean; instead, we learn that he vouchsafed them a calm passage and a safe arrival at Cirrha. Clearly the monarch’s piety is acceptable in his sight. It behoves you to confirm his decision, and to add this bull to the glories of the temple. Strange indeed, if the sender of so magnificent a gift is to meet with rejection at the temple-door, and his piety to be rewarded with the judgement that his offering is unclean.

My opponent tells a harrowing tale of butchery and violence, of plunder and abduction; it is much that he does not call himself an eyewitness thereof; we might suppose that he was but newly arrived from Agrigentum, did we not know that his travels have never carried him on board ship. In matters of this kind, it is not advisable to place much reliance even on the assertions of the supposed victims; there is no knowing how far they are speaking the truth; — as to bringing allegations ourselves, when we know nothing of the facts, that is out of the question. Granting even that something of the kind did happen, it happened in Sicily: we are at Delphi; we are not called upon to interfere. Do we propose to abandon the temple for the law-court? Are we, whose office it is to sacrifice, and minister to the God, and receive his offerings — are we to sit here debating whether certain cities on the other side of the Ionian sea are well or ill governed? Let other men’s affairs be as they may, it is our business, as I take it, to know our own: our past history, our present situation, our best interests. We need not wait for Homer to inform us that we inhabit a land of crags, and are tillers of a rocky soil; our eyes tell us that; if we depended on our soil, we must go hungry all our days. Apollo; his temple; his oracle; his worshippers; his sacrifices; — these are the fields of the Delphians, these their revenues, their wealth, their maintenance. I can speak the truth here. It is as the poets say: we sow not, we plough not, yet all things grow for our use; for a God is our husbandman, and gives us not the good things of Greece only; all that Phrygia, all that Lydia, all that Persia, Assyria, Phoenicia, Italy, and the far North can yield — all comes to Delphi. We live in prosperity and plenty; in the esteem of mankind we are second to none but the God himself. So it was in the beginning: so it is now: and so may it ever be!

But who has ever heard before of our putting an offering to the vote, or hindering men from paying sacrifice? No one; and herein, as I maintain, is the secret of our temple’s greatness, and of the abundant wealth of its offerings. Then let us have no innovations now, no new-fangled institutions, no inquiries into the origin and nature and nationality and pedigree of a gift; let us take what is brought to us, and set it in the store-chamber without more ado. In this way we shall best serve both the God and his worshippers. I think it would be well if, before you deliberate further on the question before you, you would consider how great and how various are the issues involved. There is the God, his temple, his sacrifices and offerings, the ancient customs and ordinances, the reputation of the oracle; again, our city as a whole, our common interests, and those of every individual Delphian among us; lastly — and I know not what consideration could seem of more vital importance to a well-judging mind — our own credit or discredit with the world at large.

I say, then, we have to deal not with Phalaris, not with a single tyrant, not with this bull, not with so much weight of bronze — but with every king and prince who frequents our temple at this day; with gold and silver and all the precious offerings that should pour in upon the God; that God whose interests claim our first attention. Say, why should we change the old-established usage in regard to offerings? What fault have we to find with the ancient custom, that we should propose innovations? Never yet, from the day when Delphi was first inhabited, and Apollo prophesied, and the tripod gave utterance, and the priestess was inspired, never yet have the bringers of gifts been subjected to scrutiny. And shall they now? Consider how the ancient custom, which granted free access to all men, has filled the temple with treasures; how all men have brought their offerings, and how some have impoverished themselves to enrich the God. My mind misgives me that, when you have assumed the censorship of offerings, you will lack employment: men may refuse to submit themselves to your court; they may think it is enough to spend their money, without having to undergo the risk of a rejection for their pains. Would life be worth living, to the man who should be judged unworthy to offer sacrifice?

Alexander the Oracle-Monger

You, my dear Celsus, possibly suppose yourself to be laying upon me quite a trifling task: Write me down in a book and send me the life and adventures, the tricks and frauds, of the impostor Alexander of Abonutichus. In fact, however, it would take as long to do this in full detail as to reduce to writing the achievements of Alexander of Macedon; the one is among villains what the other is among heroes. Nevertheless, if you will promise to read with indulgence, and fill up the gaps in my tale from your imagination, I will essay the task. I may not cleanse that Augean stable completely, but I will do my best, and fetch you out a few loads as samples of the unspeakable filth that three thousand oxen could produce in many years.

I confess to being a little ashamed both on your account and my own. There are you asking that the memory of an arch-scoundrel should be perpetuated in writing; here am I going seriously into an investigation of this sort — the doings of a person whose deserts entitled him not to be read about by the cultivated, but to be torn to pieces in the amphitheatre by apes or foxes, with a vast audience looking on. Well, well, if any one does cast reflections of that sort upon us, we shall at least have a precedent to plead. Arrian himself, disciple of Epictetus, distinguished Roman, and product of lifelong culture as he was, had just our experience, and shall make our defence. He condescended, that is, to put on record the life of the robber Tilliborus. The robber we propose to immortalize was of a far more pestilent kind, following his profession not in the forests and mountains, but in cities; he was not content to overrun a Mysia or an Ida; his booty came not from a few scantily populated districts of Asia; one may say that the scene of his depredations was the whole Roman Empire.

I will begin with a picture of the man himself, as lifelike (though I am not great at description) as I can make it with nothing better than words. In person — not to forget that part of him — he was a fine handsome man with a real touch of divinity about him, white-skinned, moderately bearded; he wore besides his own hair artificial additions which matched it so cunningly that they were not generally detected. His eyes were piercing, and suggested inspiration, his voice at once sweet and sonorous. In fact there was no fault to be found with him in these respects.

So much for externals. As for his mind and spirit — well, if all the kind Gods who avert disaster will grant a prayer, it shall be that they bring me not within reach of such a one as he; sooner will I face my bitterest enemies, my country’s foes. In understanding, resource, acuteness, he was far above other men; curiosity, receptiveness, memory, scientific ability — all these were his in overflowing measure. But he used them for the worst purposes. Endowed with all these instruments of good, he very soon reached a proud preeminence among all who have been famous for evil; the Cercopes, Eurybatus, Phrynondas, Aristodemus, Sostratus — all thrown into the shade. In a letter to his father-inlaw Rutilianus, which puts his own pretensions in a truly modest light, he compares himself to Pythagoras. Well, I should not like to offend the wise, the divine Pythagoras; but if he had been Alexander’s contemporary, I am quite sure he would have been a mere child to him. Now by all that is admirable, do not take that for an insult to Pythagoras, nor suppose I would draw a parallel between their achievements. What I mean is: if any one would make a collection of all the vilest and most damaging slanders ever vented against Pythagoras — things whose truth I would not accept for a moment — the sum of them would not come within measurable distance of Alexander’s cleverness. You are to set your imagination to work and conceive a temperament curiously compounded of falsehood, trickery, perjury, cunning; it is versatile, audacious, adventurous, yet dogged in execution; it is plausible enough to inspire confidence; it can assume the mask of virtue, and seem to eschew what it most desires. I suppose no one ever left him after a first interview without the impression that this was the best and kindest of men, ay, and the simplest and most unsophisticated. Add to all this a certain greatness in his objects; he never made a small plan; his ideas were always large.

While in the bloom of his youthful beauty, which we may assume to have been great both from its later remains and from the report of those who saw it, he traded quite shamelessly upon it. Among his other patrons was one of the charlatans who deal in magic and mystic incantations; they will smooth your course of love, confound your enemies, find you treasure, or secure you an inheritance. This person was struck with the lad’s natural qualifications for apprenticeship to his trade, and finding him as much attracted by rascality as attractive in appearance, gave him a regular training as accomplice, satellite, and attendant. His own ostensible profession was medicine, and his knowledge included, like that of Thoon the Egyptian’s wife,

Many a virtuous herb, and many a bane;

to all which inheritance our friend succeeded. This teacher and lover of his was a native of Tyana, an associate of the great Apollonius, and acquainted with all his heroics. And now you know the atmosphere in which Alexander lived.

By the time his beard had come, the Tyanean was dead, and he found himself in straits; for the personal attractions which might once have been a resource were diminished. He now formed great designs, which he imparted to a Byzantine chronicler of the strolling competitive order, a man of still worse character than himself, called, I believe, Cocconas. The pair went about living on occult pretensions, shearing ‘fat-heads,’ as they describe ordinary people in the native Magian lingo. Among these they got hold of a rich Macedonian woman; her youth was past, but not her desire for admiration; they got sufficient supplies out of her, and accompanied her from Bithynia to Macedonia. She came from Pella, which had been a flourishing place under the Macedonian kingdom, but has now a poor and much reduced population.

There is here a breed of large serpents, so tame and gentle that women make pets of them, children take them to bed, they will let you tread on them, have no objection to being squeezed, and will draw milk from the breast like infants. To these facts is probably to be referred the common story about Olympias when she was with child of Alexander; it was doubtless one of these that was her bed-fellow. Well, the two saw these creatures, and bought the finest they could get for a few pence.

And from this point, as Thucydides might say, the war takes its beginning. These ambitious scoundrels were quite devoid of scruples, and they had now joined forces; it could not escape their penetration that human life is under the absolute dominion of two mighty principles, fear and hope, and that any one who can make these serve his ends may be sure of a rapid fortune. They realized that, whether a man is most swayed by the one or by the other, what he must most depend upon and desire is a knowledge of futurity. So were to be explained the ancient wealth and fame of Delphi, Delos, Clarus, Branchidae; it was at the bidding of the two tyrants aforesaid that men thronged the temples, longed for fore-knowledge, and to attain it sacrificed their hecatombs or dedicated their golden ingots. All this they turned over and debated, and it issued in the resolve to establish an oracle. If it were successful, they looked for immediate wealth and prosperity; the result surpassed their most sanguine expectations.

The next things to be settled were, first the theatre of operations, and secondly the plan of campaign. Cocconas favoured Chalcedon, as a mercantile centre convenient both for Thrace and Bithynia, and accessible enough for the province of Asia, Galatia, and tribes still further east. Alexander, on the other hand, preferred his native place, urging very truly that an enterprise like theirs required congenial soil to give it a start, in the shape of ‘fat-heads’ and simpletons; that was a fair description, he said, of the Paphlagonians beyond Abonutichus; they were mostly superstitious and well-to-do; one had only to go there with some one to play the flute, the tambourine, or the cymbals, set the proverbial mantic sieve 45 a-spinning, and there they would all be gaping as if he were a God from heaven.

This difference of opinion did not last long, and Alexander prevailed. Discovering, however, that a use might after all be made of Chalcedon, they went there first, and in the temple of Apollo, the oldest in the place, they buried some brazen tablets, on which was the statement that very shortly Asclepius, with his father Apollo, would pay a visit to Pontus, and take up his abode at Abonutichus. The discovery of the tablets took place as arranged, and the news flew through Bithynia and Pontus, first of all, naturally, to Abonutichus. The people of that place at once resolved to raise a temple, and lost no time in digging the foundations. Cocconas was now left at Chalcedon, engaged in composing certain ambiguous crabbed oracles. He shortly afterwards died, I believe, of a viper’s bite.

Alexander meanwhile went on in advance; he had now grown his hair and wore it in long curls; his doublet was white and purple striped, his cloak pure white; he carried a scimetar in imitation of Perseus, from whom he now claimed descent through his mother. The wretched Paphlagonians, who knew perfectly well that his parentage was obscure and mean on both sides, nevertheless gave credence to the oracle, which ran:

Lo, sprung from Perseus, and to Phoebus dear, High Alexander, Podalirius’ son!

Podalirius, it seems, was of so highly amorous a complexion that the distance between Tricca and Paphlagonia was no bar to his union with Alexander’s mother. A Sibylline prophecy had also been found:

Hard by Sinope on the Euxine shore Th’ Italic age a fortress prophet sees. To the first monad let thrice ten be added, Five monads yet, and then a triple score: Such the quaternion of th’ alexic name.


This heroic entry into his long-left home placed Alexander conspicuously before the public; he affected madness, and frequently foamed at the mouth — a manifestation easily produced by chewing the herb soap-wort, used by dyers; but it brought him reverence and awe. The two had long ago manufactured and fitted up a serpent’s head of linen; they had given it a more or less human expression, and painted it very like the real article; by a contrivance of horsehair, the mouth could be opened and shut, and a forked black serpent tongue protruded, working on the same system. The serpent from Pella was also kept ready in the house, to be produced at the right moment and take its part in the drama — the leading part, indeed.

In the fullness of time, his plan took shape. He went one night to the temple foundations, still in process of digging, and with standing water in them which had collected from the rainfall or otherwise; here he deposited a goose egg, into which, after blowing it, he had inserted some new-born reptile. He made a resting-place deep down in the mud for this, and departed. Early next morning he rushed into the market-place, naked except for a gold-spangled loin-cloth; with nothing but this and his scimetar, and shaking his long loose hair, like the fanatics who collect money in the name of Cybele, he climbed on to a lofty altar and delivered a harangue, felicitating the city upon the advent of the God now to bless them with his presence. In a few minutes nearly the whole population was on the spot, women, old men, and children included; all was awe, prayer, and adoration. He uttered some unintelligible sounds, which might have been Hebrew or Phoenician, but completed his victory over his audience, who could make nothing of what he said, beyond the constant repetition of the names Apollo and Asclepius.

He then set off at a run for the future temple. Arrived at the excavation and the already completed sacred fount, he got down into the water, chanted in a loud voice hymns to Asclepius and Apollo, and invited the God to come, a welcome guest, to the city. He next demanded a bowl, and when this was handed to him, had no difficulty in putting it down at the right place and scooping up, besides water and mud, the egg in which the God had been enclosed; the edges of the aperture had been joined with wax and white lead. He took the egg in his hand and announced that here he held Asclepius. The people, who had been sufficiently astonished by the discovery of the egg in the water, were now all eyes for what was to come. He broke it, and received in his hollowed palm the hardly developed reptile; the crowd could see it stirring and winding about his fingers; they raised a shout, hailed the God, blessed the city, and every mouth was full of prayers — for treasure and wealth and health and all the other good things that he might give. Our hero now departed homewards, still running, with the new-born Asclepius in his hands — the twice-born, too, whereas ordinary men can be born but once, and born moreover not of Coronis 47 nor even of her namesake the crow, but of a goose! After him streamed the whole people, in all the madness of fanatic hopes.

He now kept the house for some days, in hopes that the Paphlagonians would soon be drawn in crowds by the news. He was not disappointed; the city was filled to overflowing with persons who had neither brains nor individuality, who bore no resemblance to men that live by bread, and had only their outward shape to distinguish them from sheep. In a small room he took his seat, very imposingly attired, upon a couch. He took into his bosom our Asclepius of Pella (a very fine and large one, as I observed), wound its body round his neck, and let its tail hang down; there was enough of this not only to fill his lap, but to trail on the ground also; the patient creature’s head he kept hidden in his armpit, showing the linen head on one side of his beard exactly as if it belonged to the visible body.

Picture to yourself a little chamber into which no very brilliant light was admitted, with a crowd of people from all quarters, excited, carefully worked up, all a-flutter with expectation. As they came in, they might naturally find a miracle in the development of that little crawling thing of a few days ago into this great, tame, human-looking serpent. Then they had to get on at once towards the exit, being pressed forward by the new arrivals before they could have a good look. An exit had been specially made just opposite the entrance, for all the world like the Macedonian device at Babylon when Alexander was ill; he was in extremis, you remember, and the crowd round the palace were eager to take their last look and give their last greeting. Our scoundrel’s exhibition, though, is said to have been given not once, but many times, especially for the benefit of any wealthy new-comers.

And at this point, my dear Celsus, we may, if we will be candid, make some allowance for these Paphlagonians and Pontics; the poor uneducated ‘fat-heads’ might well be taken in when they handled the serpent — a privilege conceded to all who choose — and saw in that dim light its head with the mouth that opened and shut. It was an occasion for a Democritus, nay, for an Epicurus or a Metrodorus, perhaps, a man whose intelligence was steeled against such assaults by scepticism and insight, one who, if he could not detect the precise imposture, would at any rate have been perfectly certain that, though this escaped him, the whole thing was a lie and an impossibility.

By degrees Bithynia, Galatia, Thrace, came flocking in, every one who had been present doubtless reporting that he had beheld the birth of the God, and had touched him after his marvellous development in size and in expression. Next came pictures and models, bronze or silver images, and the God acquired a name. By divine command, metrically expressed, he was to be known as Glycon. For Alexander had delivered the line:

Glycon my name, man’s light, son’s son to Zeus.

And now at last the object to which all this had led up, the giving of oracular answers to all applicants, could be attained. The cue was taken from Amphilochus in Cilicia. After the death and disappearance at Thebes of his father Amphiaraus, Amphilochus, driven from his home, made his way to Cilicia, and there did not at all badly by prophesying to the Cilicians at the rate of threepence an oracle. After this precedent, Alexander proclaimed that on a stated day the God would give answers to all comers. Each person was to write down his wish and the object of his curiosity, fasten the packet with thread, and seal it with wax, clay, or other such substance. He would receive these, and enter the holy place (by this time the temple was complete, and the scene all ready), whither the givers should be summoned in order by a herald and an acolyte; he would learn the God’s mind upon each, and return the packets with their seals intact and the answers attached, the God being ready to give a definite answer to any question that might be put.

The trick here was one which would be seen through easily enough by a person of your intelligence (or, if I may say so without violating modesty, of my own), but which to the ordinary imbecile would have the persuasiveness of what is marvellous and incredible. He contrived various methods of undoing the seals, read the questions, answered them as seemed good, and then folded, sealed, and returned them, to the great astonishment of the recipients. And then it was, ‘How could he possibly know what I gave him carefully secured under a seal that defies imitation, unless he were a true God, with a God’s omniscience?’

Perhaps you will ask what these contrivances were; well, then — the information may be useful another time. One of them was this. He would heat a needle, melt with it the under part of the wax, lift the seal off, and after reading warm the wax once more with the needle — both that below the thread and that which formed the actual seal — and re-unite the two without difficulty. Another method employed the substance called collyrium; this is a preparation of Bruttian pitch, bitumen, pounded glass, wax, and mastich. He kneaded the whole into collyrium, heated it, placed it on the seal, previously moistened with his tongue, and so took a mould. This soon hardened; he simply opened, read, replaced the wax, and reproduced an excellent imitation of the original seal as from an engraved stone. One more I will give you. Adding some gypsum to the glue used in book-binding he produced a sort of wax, which was applied still wet to the seal, and on being taken off solidified at once and provided a matrix harder than horn, or even iron. There are plenty of other devices for the purpose, to rehearse which would seem like airing one’s knowledge. Moreover, in your excellent pamphlets against the magians (most useful and instructive reading they are) you have yourself collected enough of them — many more than those I have mentioned.

So oracles and divine utterances were the order of the day, and much shrewdness he displayed, eking out mechanical ingenuity with obscurity, his answers to some being crabbed and ambiguous, and to others absolutely unintelligible. He did however distribute warning and encouragement according to his lights, and recommend treatments and diets; for he had, as I originally stated, a wide and serviceable acquaintance with drugs; he was particularly given to prescribing ‘cytmides,’ which were a salve prepared from goat’s fat, the name being of his own invention. For the realization of ambitions, advancement, or successions, he took care never to assign early dates; the formula was, ‘All this shall come to pass when it is my will, and when my prophet Alexander shall make prayer and entreaty on your behalf.’

There was a fixed charge of a shilling the oracle. And, my friend, do not suppose that this would not come to much; he made something like L3,000 per annum; people were insatiable — would take from ten to fifteen oracles at a time. What he got he did not keep to himself, nor put it by for the future; what with accomplices, attendants, inquiry agents, oracle writers and keepers, amanuenses, seal-forgers, and interpreters, he had now a host of claimants to satisfy.

He had begun sending emissaries abroad to make the shrine known in foreign lands; his prophecies, discovery of runaways, conviction of thieves and robbers, revelations of hidden treasure, cures of the sick, restoration of the dead to life — all these were to be advertised. This brought them running and crowding from all points of the compass; victims bled, gifts were presented, and the prophet and disciple came off better than the God; for had not the oracle spoken? —

Give what ye give to my attendant priest; My care is not for gifts, but for my priest.

A time came when a number of sensible people began to shake off their intoxication and combine against him, chief among them the numerous Epicureans; in the cities, the imposture with all its theatrical accessories began to be seen through. It was now that he resorted to a measure of intimidation; he proclaimed that Pontus was overrun with atheists and Christians, who presumed to spread the most scandalous reports concerning him; he exhorted Pontus, as it valued the God’s favour, to stone these men. Touching Epicurus, he gave the following response. An inquirer had asked how Epicurus fared in Hades, and was told:

Of slime is his bed, And his fetters of lead.

The prosperity of the oracle is perhaps not so wonderful, when one learns what sensible, intelligent questions were in fashion with its votaries. Well, it was war to the knife between him and Epicurus, and no wonder. What fitter enemy for a charlatan who patronized miracles and hated truth, than the thinker who had grasped the nature of things and was in solitary possession of that truth? As for the Platonists, Stoics, Pythagoreans, they were his good friends; he had no quarrel with them. But the unmitigated Epicurus, as he used to call him, could not but be hateful to him, treating all such pretensions as absurd and puerile. Alexander consequently loathed Amastris beyond all the cities of Pontus, knowing what a number of Lepidus’s friends and others like-minded it contained. He would not give oracles to Amastrians; when he once did, to a senator’s brother, he made himself ridiculous, neither hitting upon a presentable oracle for himself, nor finding a deputy equal to the occasion. The man had complained of colic, and what he meant to prescribe was pig’s foot dressed with mallow. The shape it took was:

In basin hallowed Be pigments mallowed.

I have mentioned that the serpent was often exhibited by request; he was not completely visible, but the tail and body were exposed, while the head was concealed under the prophet’s dress. By way of impressing the people still more, he announced that he would induce the God to speak, and give his responses without an intermediary. His simple device to this end was a tube of cranes’ windpipes, which he passed, with due regard to its matching, through the artificial head, and, having an assistant speaking into the end outside, whose voice issued through the linen Asclepius, thus answered questions. These oracles were called autophones, and were not vouchsafed casually to any one, but reserved for officials, the rich, and the lavish.

It was an autophone which was given to Severian regarding the invasion of Armenia. He encouraged him with these lines:

Armenia, Parthia, cowed by thy fierce spear, To Rome, and Tiber’s shining waves, thou com’st, Thy brow with leaves and radiant gold encircled.

Then when the foolish Gaul took his advice and invaded, to the total destruction of himself and his army by Othryades, the adviser expunged that oracle from his archives and substituted the following:

Vex not th’ Armenian land; it shall not thrive; One in soft raiment clad shall from his bow Launch death, and cut thee off from life and light.

For it was one of his happy thoughts to issue prophecies after the event as antidotes to those premature utterances which had not gone right. Frequently he promised recovery to a sick man before his death, and after it was at no loss for second thoughts:

No longer seek to arrest thy fell disease; Thy fate is manifest, inevitable.

Knowing the fame of Clarus, Didymus, and Mallus for sooth-saying much like his own, he struck up an alliance with them, sending on many of his clients to those places. So

Hie thee to Clarus now, and hear my sire.

And again,

Draw near to Branchidae and counsel take.


Seek Mallus; be Amphilochus thy counsellor.

So things went within the borders of Ionia, Cilicia, Paphlagonia, and Galatia. When the fame of the oracle travelled to Italy and entered Rome, the only question was, who should be first; those who did not come in person sent messages, the powerful and respected being the keenest of all. First and foremost among these was Rutilianus; he was in most respects an excellent person, and had filled many high offices in Rome; but he suffered from religious mania, holding the most extraordinary beliefs on that matter; show him a bit of stone smeared with unguents or crowned with flowers, and he would incontinently fall down and worship, and linger about it praying and asking for blessings. The reports about our oracle nearly induced him to throw up the appointment he then held, and fly to Abonutichus; he actually did send messenger upon messenger. His envoys were ignorant servants, easily taken in. They came back having really seen certain things, relating others which they probably thought they had seen and heard, and yet others which they deliberately invented to curry favour with their master. So they inflamed the poor old man and drove him into confirmed madness.

He had a wide circle of influential friends, to whom he communicated the news brought by his successive messengers, not without additional touches of his own. All Rome was full of his tales; there was quite a commotion, the gentlemen of the Court being much fluttered, and at once taking measures to learn something of their own fate. The prophet gave all who came a hearty welcome, gained their goodwill by hospitality and costly gifts, and sent them off ready not merely to report his answers, but to sing the praises of the God and invent miraculous tales of the shrine and its guardian.

This triple rogue now hit upon an idea which would have been too clever for the ordinary robber. Opening and reading the packets which reached him, whenever he came upon an equivocal, compromising question, he omitted to return the packet; the sender was to be under his thumb, bound to his service by the terrifying recollection of the question he had written down. You know the sort of things that wealthy and powerful personages would be likely to ask. This blackmail brought him in a good income.

I should like to quote you one or two of the answers given to Rutilianus. He had a son by a former wife, just old enough for advanced teaching. The father asked who should be his tutor, and was told,

Pythagoras, and the mighty battle-bard.

When the child died a few days after, the prophet was abashed, and quite unable to account for this summary confutation. However, dear good Rutilianus very soon restored the oracle’s credit by discovering that this was the very thing the God had foreshown; he had not directed him to choose a living teacher; Pythagoras and Homer were long dead, and doubtless the boy was now enjoying their instructions in Hades. Small blame to Alexander if he had a taste for dealings with such specimens of humanity as this.

Another of Rutilianus’s questions was, Whose soul he had succeeded to, and the answer:

First thou wast Peleus’ son, and next Menander; Then thine own self; next, a sunbeam shalt be; And nine score annual rounds thy life shall measure.

At seventy, he died of melancholy, not waiting for the God to pay in full.

That was an autophone too. Another time Rutilianus consulted the oracle on the choice of a wife. The answer was express:

Wed Alexander’s daughter and Selene’s.

He had long ago spread the report that the daughter he had had was by Selene: she had once seen him asleep, and fallen in love, as is her way with handsome sleepers. The sensible Rutilianus lost no time, but sent for the maiden at once, celebrated the nuptials, a sexagenarian bridegroom, and lived with her, propitiating his divine mother-inlaw with whole hecatombs, and reckoning himself now one of the heavenly company.

His finger once in the Italian pie, Alexander devoted himself to getting further. Sacred envoys were sent all over the Roman Empire, warning the various cities to be on their guard against pestilence and conflagrations, with the prophet’s offers of security against them. One oracle in particular, an autophone again, he distributed broadcast at a time of pestilence. It was a single line:

Phoebus long-tressed the plague-cloud shall dispel.

This was everywhere to be seen written up on doors as a prophylactic. Its effect was generally disappointing; for it somehow happened that the protected houses were just the ones to be desolated. Not that I would suggest for a moment that the line was their destruction; but, accidentally no doubt, it did so fall out. Possibly common people put too much confidence in the verse, and lived carelessly without troubling to help the oracle against its foe; were there not the words fighting their battle, and long-tressed Phoebus discharging his arrows at the pestilence?

In Rome itself he established an intelligence bureau well manned with his accomplices. They sent him people’s characters, forecasts of their questions, and hints of their ambitions, so that he had his answers ready before the messengers reached him.

It was with his eye on this Italian propaganda, too, that he took a further step. This was the institution of mysteries, with hierophants and torch-bearers complete. The ceremonies occupied three successive days. On the first, proclamation was made on the Athenian model to this effect: ‘If there be any atheist or Christian or Epicurean here spying upon our rites, let him depart in haste; and let all such as have faith in the God be initiated and all blessing attend them.’ He led the litany with, ‘Christians, avaunt!’ and the crowd responded, ‘Epicureans, avaunt!’ Then was presented the child-bed of Leto and birth of Apollo, the bridal of Coronis, Asclepius born. The second day, the epiphany and nativity of the God Glycon.

On the third came the wedding of Podalirius and Alexander’s mother; this was called Torch-day, and torches were used. The finale was the loves of Selene and Alexander, and the birth of Rutilianus’s wife. The torch-bearer and hierophant was Endymion–Alexander. He was discovered lying asleep; to him from heaven, represented by the ceiling, enter as Selene one Rutilia, a great beauty, and wife of one of the Imperial procurators. She and Alexander were lovers off the stage too, and the wretched husband had to look on at their public kissing and embracing; if there had not been a good supply of torches, things might possibly have gone even further. Shortly after, he reappeared amidst a profound hush, attired as hierophant; in a loud voice he called, ‘Hail, Glycon!’, whereto the Eumolpidae and Ceryces of Paphlagonia, with their clod-hopping shoes and their garlic breath, made sonorous response, ‘Hail, Alexander!’

The torch ceremony with its ritual skippings often enabled him to bestow a glimpse of his thigh, which was thus discovered to be of gold; it was presumably enveloped in cloth of gold, which glittered in the lamp-light. This gave rise to a debate between two wiseacres, whether the golden thigh meant that he had inherited Pythagoras’s soul, or merely that their two souls were alike; the question was referred to Alexander himself, and King Glycon relieved their perplexity with an oracle:

Waxes and wanes Pythagoras’ soul: the seer’s Is from the mind of Zeus an emanation. His Father sent him, virtuous men to aid, And with his bolt one day shall call him home.

I will now give you a conversation between Glycon and one Sacerdos of Tius; the intelligence of the latter you may gauge from his questions. I read it inscribed in golden letters in Sacerdos’s house at Tius. ‘Tell me, lord Glycon,’ said he, ‘who you are.’ ‘The new Asclepius.’ ‘Another, different from the former one? Is that the meaning?’ ‘That it is not lawful for you to learn.’ ‘And how many years will you sojourn and prophesy among us?’ ‘A thousand and three.’ ‘And after that, whither will you go?’ ‘To Bactria; for the barbarians too must be blessed with my presence.’ ‘The other oracles, at Didymus and Clarus and Delphi, have they still the spirit of your grandsire Apollo, or are the answers that now come from them forgeries?’ ‘That, too, desire not to know; it is not lawful.’ ‘What shall I be after this life?’ ‘A camel; then a horse; then a wise man, no less a prophet than Alexander.’ Such was the conversation. There was added to it an oracle in verse, inspired by the fact that Sacerdos was an associate of Lepidus:

Shun Lepidus; an evil fate awaits him.

As I have said, Alexander was much afraid of Epicurus, and the solvent action of his logic on imposture.

On one occasion, indeed, an Epicurean got himself into great trouble by daring to expose him before a great gathering. He came up and addressed him in a loud voice. ‘Alexander, it was you who induced So-and-so the Paphlagonian to bring his slaves before the governor of Galatia, charged with the murder of his son who was being educated in Alexandria. Well, the young man is alive, and has come back, to find that the slaves had been cast to the beasts by your machinations.’ What had happened was this. The lad had sailed up the Nile, gone on to a Red Sea port, found a vessel starting for India, and been persuaded to make the voyage. He being long overdue, the unfortunate slaves supposed that he had either perished in the Nile or fallen a victim to some of the pirates who infested it at that time; so they came home to report his disappearance. Then followed the oracle, the sentence, and finally the young man’s return with the story of his absence.

All this the Epicurean recounted. Alexander was much annoyed by the exposure, and could not stomach so well deserved an affront; he directed the company to stone the man, on pain of being involved in his impiety and called Epicureans. However, when they set to work, a distinguished Pontic called Demostratus, who was staying there, rescued him by interposing his own body; the man had the narrowest possible escape from being stoned to death — as he richly deserved to be; what business had he to be the only sane man in a crowd of madmen, and needlessly make himself the butt of Paphlagonian infatuation?

This was a special case; but it was the practice for the names of applicants to be read out the day before answers were given; the herald asked whether each was to receive his oracle; and sometimes the reply came from within, To perdition! One so repulsed could get shelter, fire or water, from no man; he must be driven from land to land as a blasphemer, an atheist, and — lowest depth of all — an Epicurean.

In this connexion Alexander once made himself supremely ridiculous. Coming across Epicurus’s Accepted Maxims, the most admirable of his books, as you know, with its terse presentment of his wise conclusions, he brought it into the middle of the market-place, there burned it on a fig-wood fire for the sins of its author, and cast its ashes into the sea. He issued an oracle on the occasion:

The dotard’s maxims to the flames be given.

The fellow had no conception of the blessings conferred by that book upon its readers, of the peace, tranquillity, and independence of mind it produces, of the protection it gives against terrors, phantoms, and marvels, vain hopes and inordinate desires, of the judgement and candour that it fosters, or of its true purging of the spirit, not with torches and squills and such rubbish, but with right reason, truth, and frankness.

Perhaps the greatest example of our rogue’s audacity is what I now come to. Having easy access to Palace and Court by Rutilianus’s influence, he sent an oracle just at the crisis of the German war, when M. Aurelius was on the point of engaging the Marcomanni and Quadi. The oracle required that two lions should be flung alive into the Danube, with quantities of sacred herbs and magnificent sacrifices. I had better give the words:

To rolling Ister, swoln with Heaven’s rain, Of Cybelean thralls, those mountain beasts, Fling ye a pair; therewith all flowers and herbs Of savour sweet that Indian air doth breed. Hence victory, and fame, and lovely peace.

These directions were precisely followed; the lions swam across to the enemy’s bank, where they were clubbed to death by the barbarians, who took them for dogs or a new kind of wolves; and our forces immediately after met with a severe defeat, losing some twenty thousand men in one engagement. This was followed by the Aquileian incident, in the course of which that city was nearly lost. In view of these results, Alexander warmed up that stale Delphian defence of the Croesus oracle: the God had foretold a victory, forsooth, but had not stated whether Romans or barbarians should have it.

The constant increase in the number of visitors, the inadequacy of accommodation in the city, and the difficulty of finding provisions for consultants, led to his introducing what he called night oracles. He received the packets, slept upon them, in his own phrase, and gave answers which the God was supposed to send him in dreams. These were generally not lucid, but ambiguous and confused, especially when he came to packets sealed with exceptional care. He did not risk tampering with these, but wrote down any words that came into his head, the results obtained corresponding well enough to his conception of the oracular. There were regular interpreters in attendance, who made considerable sums out of the recipients by expounding and unriddling these oracles. This office contributed to his revenue, the interpreters paying him L250 each.

Sometimes he stirred the wonder of the silly by answers to persons who had neither brought nor sent questions, and in fact did not exist. Here is a specimen:

Who is’t, thou askst, that with Calligenia All secretly defiles thy nuptial bed? The slave Protogenes, whom most thou trustest. Him thou enjoyedst: he thy wife enjoys — The fit return for that thine outrage done. And know that baleful drugs for thee are brewed, Lest thou or see or hear their evil deeds. Close by the wall, at thy bed’s head, make search. Thy maid Calypso to their plot is privy.

The names and circumstantial details might stagger a Democritus, till a moment’s thought showed him the despicable trick.

He often gave answers in Syriac or Celtic to barbarians who questioned him in their own tongue, though he had difficulty in finding compatriots of theirs in the city. In these cases there was a long interval between application and response, during which the packet might be securely opened at leisure, and somebody found capable of translating the question. The following is an answer given to a Scythian:

Morphi ebargulis for night Chnenchicrank shall leave the light.

Another oracle to some one who neither came nor existed was in prose. ‘Return the way thou earnest,’ it ran; ‘for he that sent thee hath this day been slain by his neighbour Diocles, with aid of the robbers Magnus, Celer, and Bubalus, who are taken and in chains.’

I must give you one or two of the answers that fell to my share. I asked whether Alexander was bald, and having sealed it publicly with great care, got a night oracle in reply:

Sabardalachu malach Attis was not he.

Another time I did up the same question — What was Homer’s birthplace? — in two packets given in under different names. My servant misled him by saying, when asked what he came for, a cure for lung trouble; so the answer to one packet was:

Cytmide and foam of steed the liniment give.

As for the other packet, he got the information that the sender was inquiring whether the land or the sea route to Italy was preferable. So he answered, without much reference to Homer:

Fare not by sea; land-travel meets thy need.

I laid a good many traps of this kind for him; here is another. I asked only one question, but wrote outside the packet in the usual form, So-and-so’s eight Queries, giving a fictitious name and sending the eight shillings. Satisfied with the payment of the money and the inscription on the packet, he gave me eight answers to my one question. This was, When will Alexander’s imposture be detected? The answers concerned nothing in heaven or earth, but were all silly and meaningless together. He afterwards found out about this, and also that I had tried to dissuade Rutilianus both from the marriage and from putting any confidence in the oracle; so he naturally conceived a violent dislike for me. When Rutilianus once put a question to him about me, the answer was:

Night-haunts and foul debauch are all his joy.

It is true his dislike was quite justified. On a certain occasion I was passing through Abonutichus, with a spearman and a pikeman whom my friend the governor of Cappadocia had lent me as an escort on my way to the sea. Ascertaining that I was the Lucian he knew of, he sent me a very polite and hospitable invitation. I found him with a numerous company; by good luck I had brought my escort. He gave me his hand to kiss according to his usual custom. I took hold of it as if to kiss, but instead bestowed on it a sound bite that must have come near disabling it. The company, who were already offended at my calling him Alexander instead of Prophet, were inclined to throttle and beat me for sacrilege. But he endured the pain like a man, checked their violence, and assured them that he would easily tame me, and illustrate Glycon’s greatness in converting his bitterest foes to friends. He then dismissed them all, and argued the matter with me: he was perfectly aware of my advice to Rutilianus; why had I treated him so, when I might have been preferred by him to great influence in that quarter? By this time I had realized my dangerous position, and was only too glad to welcome these advances; I presently went my way in all friendship with him. The rapid change wrought in me greatly impressed the observers.

When I intended to sail, he sent me many parting gifts, and offered to find us (Xenophon and me, that is; I had sent my father and family on to Amastris) a ship and crew — which offer I accepted in all confidence. When the passage was half over, I observed the master in tears arguing with his men, which made me very uneasy. It turned out that Alexander’s orders were to seize and fling us overboard; in that case his war with me would have been lightly won. But the crew were prevailed upon by the master’s tears to do us no harm. ‘I am sixty years old, as you can see,’ he said to me; ‘I have lived an honest blameless life so far, and I should not like at my time of life, with a wife and children too, to stain my hands with blood.’ And with that preface he informed us what we were there for, and what Alexander had told him to do.

He landed us at Aegiali, of Homeric fame, and thence sailed home. Some Bosphoran envoys happened to be passing, on their way to Bithynia with the annual tribute from their king Eupator. They listened kindly to my account of our dangerous situation, I was taken on board, and reached Amastris safely after my narrow escape. From that time it was war between Alexander and me, and I left no stone unturned to get my revenge. Even before his plot I had hated him, revolted by his abominable practices, and I now busied myself with the attempt to expose him; I found plenty of allies, especially in the circle of Timocrates the Heracleot philosopher. But Avitus, the then governor of Bithynia and Pontus, restrained me, I may almost say with prayers and entreaties. He could not possibly spoil his relations with Rutilianus, he said, by punishing the man, even if he could get clear evidence against him. Thus arrested in my course, I did not persist in what must have been, considering the disposition of the judge, a fruitless prosecution.

Among instances of Alexander’s presumption, a high place must be given to his petition to the Emperor: the name of Abonutichus was to be changed to Ionopolis; and a new coin was to be struck, with a representation on the obverse of Glycon, and, on the reverse, Alexander bearing the garlands proper to his paternal grandfather Asclepius, and the famous scimetar of his maternal ancestor Perseus.

He had stated in an oracle that he was destined to live to a hundred and fifty, and then die by a thunderbolt; he had in fact, before he reached seventy, an end very sad for a son of Podalirius, his leg mortifying from foot to groin and being eaten of worms; it then proved that he was bald, as he was forced by pain to let the doctors make cooling applications to his head, which they could not do without removing his wig.

So ended Alexander’s heroics; such was the catastrophe of his tragedy; one would like to find a special providence in it, though doubtless chance must have the credit. The funeral celebration was to be worthy of his life, taking the form of a contest — for possession of the oracle. The most prominent of the impostors his accomplices referred it to Rutilianus’s arbitration which of them should be selected to succeed to the prophetic office and wear the hierophantic oracular garland. Among these was numbered the grey-haired physician Paetus, dishonouring equally his grey hairs and his profession. But Steward-of-the-Games Rutilianus sent them about their business ungarlanded, and continued the defunct in possession of his holy office.

My object, dear friend, in making this small selection from a great mass of material has been twofold. First, I was willing to oblige a friend and comrade who is for me the pattern of wisdom, sincerity, good humour, justice, tranquillity, and geniality. But secondly I was still more concerned (a preference which you will be very far from resenting) to strike a blow for Epicurus, that great man whose holiness and divinity of nature were not shams, who alone had and imparted true insight into the good, and who brought deliverance to all that consorted with him. Yet I think casual readers too may find my essay not unserviceable, since it is not only destructive, but, for men of sense, constructive also.

45 I have no information on Coscinomancy or sieve-divination. ‘This kind of divination was generally practised to discover thieves . . . They tied a thread to the sieve, by which it was upheld, then prayed to the Gods to direct and assist them. After which they repeated the names of the person suspected, and he at whose name the sieve whirled round or moved was thought to have committed the fact.’ Francklin’s Lucian.

46 In 1. 2 of the oracle, the Italic age is the Roman Empire; the fortress prophet is one who belongs to a place ending in-tichus (fort). 11>> 3–5 mean: Take 1, 30, 5, 60 (the Greek symbols for which are the letters of the alphabet A, L, E, X), and you will have four letters of the name of your coming protector (alexic).

47 Coronis was the mother of Asclepius; ‘corone’ is Greek for a crow.

Of Pantomime


Lycinus. Crato

Ly. Here are heavy charges, Crato; I suppose you have been getting up this subject for some time. You are not content with attacking the whole pantomimic art, practical and theoretic; we too, the pleased spectators thereof, come in for our share: we have been lavishing our admiration, it seems, on effeminate triflers. And now let me show you how completely you have been mistaken; you will find that the art you have been maligning is the greatest boon of our existence. There is some excuse for your strictures: how should you know any better, confirmed ascetic that you are, believing that virtue consists in being uncomfortable?

Cr. Now, my dear sir, can any one who calls himself a man, and an educated man, and in some sort a student of philosophy — can such a one leave those higher pursuits, leave communing with the sages of old, to sit still and listen to the sound of a flute, and watch the antics of an effeminate creature got up in soft raiment to sing lascivious songs and mimic the passions of prehistoric strumpets, of Rhodopes and Phaedras and Parthenopes, to the accompaniment of twanging string and shrilling pipe and clattering heel? It is too absurd: these are not amusements for a gentleman; not amusements for Lycinus. When I first heard of your spending your time in this way, I was divided betwixt shame and indignation, to think that you could so far forget Plato and Chrysippus and Aristotle, as to sit thus having your ears tickled with a feather. If you want amusements, are there not a thousand things worth seeing and hearing? Can you not hear classical music performed at the great festivals? Are there not lofty tragedy and brilliant comedy — things that have been deemed worthy of state recognition? My friend, you have a long reckoning to settle with men of learning, if you would not be repudiated altogether, and expelled from the congregation of the wise. I think your best course will be a point-blank denial: declare flatly that you never did anything of the kind. Anyhow, you must watch your conduct for the future: we do not want to find that our Lycinus has changed his sex, and become a Bacchante or a Lydian damsel. That would be as much to our discredit as to yours: for ours should be Odysseus’s part — to tear you from the lotus, and bring you back to your accustomed pursuits; to save you from the clutches of these stage Sirens before it is too late. The Sirens, after all, did but plot against men’s ears; it needed but a little wax, and a man might sail past them uninjured: but yours is a captivity of ear and eye, of body and soul.

Ly. Goodness gracious! All the Cynic in you is loose, and snarls at me. At the same time, I think your Lotus-and-Siren simile is rather off the point: you see, the people who ate the Lotus and listened to the Sirens paid for the gratification of ear and palate with their lives: whereas I not only have a great deal more enjoyment than they had, but am all the better for it. I have experienced no oblivion of my domestic affairs, nor blindness to my own interests; in fact — if I may venture to say so — you will find my penetration and practical wisdom considerably increased by my theatrical experiences. Homer has it exactly: the spectator

Returns a gladder and a wiser man.

Cr. Dear, dear! Yours is a sad case, Lycinus. You are not even ashamed; you seem quite pleased with yourself. That is the worst of it: there seems no hope of your recovery, while you can actually commend the mire in which you wallow.

Ly. Now, Crato — you talk of pantomimes and theatres — have you seen these performances yourself, that you are so hard on them? or do you decide that they are ‘foul mire’ without personal experience? If you have seen them, you are just as bad as I am; and if not, are you justified in censuring them? does it not savour of over-confidence, to condemn what you know nothing about?

Cr. Truly that would be the climax: that I should show my long beard and white hairs amid that throng of women and lunatics; and clap and yell in unseemly rapture over the vile contortions of an abandoned buffoon.

Ly. I can make allowance for you. But wait till I have prevailed on you to give it a fair trial, to accept the judgement of your own eyes: after that you will never be happy till you have secured the best seat in the theatre, where you may hear every syllable, mark every gesture.

Cr. While this beard is yet unplucked, these limbs unshaven, God forbid that I should ever find happiness in such things. As it is, my poor friend, I see that you are wholly possessed.

Ly. Now suppose you were to abstain from further abuse, and hear what I have to say of the merits of Pantomime; of the manner in which it combines profit with amusement; instructing, informing, perfecting the intelligence of the beholder; training his eyes to lovely sights, filling his ears with noble sounds, revealing a beauty in which body and soul alike have their share. For that music and dancing are employed to produce these results is no disparagement of the art; it is rather a recommendation.

Cr. I have not much time for listening to a madman’s discourse in praise of his own madness. However — if you must deluge me with nonsense — I am prepared to do you that friendly office. My ears are at your service: they need no wax to render them deaf to foolishness. Henceforth I will be silent: speak on; — no one is listening.

Ly. Thank you, Crato; just what I wanted. As to ‘foolishness,’ that remains to be seen. Now, to begin with, you seem to be quite ignorant of the antiquity of the pantomimic art. It is not a new thing; it does not date from today or yesterday; not, that is to say, from our grandfathers’ times, nor from their grandfathers’ times. The best antiquarians, let me tell you, trace dancing back to the creation of the universe; it is coeval with that Eros who was the beginning of all things. In the dance of the heavenly bodies, in the complex involutions whereby the planets are brought into harmonious intercourse with the fixed stars, you have an example of that art in its infancy, which, by gradual development, by continual improvements and additions, seems at length to have reached its climax in the subtle harmonious versatility of modern Pantomime.

The first step, we learn, was taken by Rhea, who was so pleased with the art that she introduced it among the Corybantes in Phrygia and the Curetes in Crete. She was richly rewarded: for by their dancing they saved her child Zeus, who owes it to them (nor can he with decency deny it) that he escaped the paternal teeth. The dancing was performed in full armour; sword clashed against shield, and inspired heels beat martial time upon the ground. The art was presently taken up by the leading men in Crete, who by dint of practice became admirable dancers; and this applies not only to private persons, but to men of the first eminence, and of royal blood. Thus Homer, when he calls Meriones a dancer, is not disparaging him, but paying him a compliment: his dancing fame, it seems, had spread not only throughout the Greek world, but even into the camp of his enemies, the Trojans, who would observe, no doubt, on the field of battle that agility and grace of movement which he had acquired as a dancer. The passage runs as follows:

Meriones, great dancer though thou be, My spear had stopped thy dancings —

it did not, however, do so; his practice in that art enabling him, apparently, to evade without difficulty any spears that might be hurled at him.

I could mention a number of other heroes who went through a similar course of training, and made a serious study of dancing: but I will confine myself to the case of Neoptolemus, the son of Achilles, and a most eminent dancer. He it was who invented that beautiful dance called after him the Pyrrhic; a circumstance which may be supposed to have afforded more gratification to his father than his comeliness, or his prowess in other respects. Thus Troy, impregnable till then, falls a victim to the dancer’s skill, and is levelled with the dust.

The Lacedaemonians, who are reputed the bravest of the Greeks, ever since they learnt from Castor and Pollux the Caryatic (a form of dance which is taught in the Lacedaemonian town of Caryae), will do nothing without the accompaniment of the Muses: on the field of battle their feet keep time to the flute’s measured notes, and those notes are the signal for their onset. Music and rhythm ever led them on to victory. To this day you may see their young men dividing their attention between dance and drill; when wrestling and boxing are over, their exercise concludes with the dance. A flute-player sits in their midst, beating time with his foot, while they file past and perform their various movements in rhythmic sequence, the military evolutions being followed by dances, such as Dionysus and Aphrodite love. Hence the song they sing is an invitation to Aphrodite and the Loves to join in their dance and revel; while the other (I should have said that they have two songs) contains instructions to the dancers: ‘Forward, lads: foot it lightly: reel it bravely’ (i.e. dance actively). It is the same with the chain dance, which is performed by men and girls together, dancing alternately, so as to suggest the alternating beads of a necklace. A youth leads off the dance: his active steps are such as will hereafter be of use to him on the field of battle: a maiden follows, with the modest movements that befit her sex; manly vigour, maidenly reserve — these are the beads of the necklace. Similarly, their Gymnopaedia is but another form of dance.

You have read your Homer; so that I need say nothing of the Shield of Achilles, with its choral dance, modelled on that which Daedalus designed for Ariadne; nor of the two dancers (‘tumblers,’ he calls them) there represented as leading the dance; nor again of the ‘whirling dance of youth,’ so beautifully wrought thereon by Hephaestus. As to the Phaeacians, living as they did in the lap of luxury, nothing is more natural than that they should have rejoiced in the dance. Odysseus, we find, is particularly struck with this: he gazes with admiration on the ‘twinkling of their feet.’ In Thessaly, again, dancing was such a prominent feature, that their rulers and generals were called ‘Dancers-inchief,’ as may be seen from the inscriptions on the statues of their great men: ‘Elected Prime Dancer,’ we read; and again: ‘This statue was erected at the public expense to commemorate Ilation’s well-danced victory.’

I need hardly observe that among the ancient mysteries not one is to be found that does not include dancing. Orpheus and Musaeus, the best dancers of their time, were the founders of these rites; and their ordinances show the value they attached to rhythm and dance as elements in religion. To illustrate this point would be to make the ceremonial known to the uninitiated: but so much is matter of common knowledge, that persons who divulge the mysteries are popularly spoken of as ‘dancing them out.’ In Delos, not even sacrifice could be offered without dance and musical accompaniment. Choirs of boys gathered and performed their dance to the sound of flute and lyre, and the best of them were chosen to act characters; the songs written for these occasions were known as chorales; and the ancient lyric poetry abounded in such compositions.

But I need not confine myself to the Greeks. The Indians, when they rise to offer their morning salutation to the Sun, do not consider it enough to kiss their hands after the Greek fashion; turning to the East, they silently greet the God with movements that are designed to represent his own course through the heavens; and with this substitute for our prayers and sacrifices and choral celebrations they seek his favour at the beginning of every day and at its close. The Ethiopians go further, and dance even while they fight; the shaft an Ethiopian draws from that arrow-crown that serves him in place of a quiver will never be discharged before he has intimidated his enemy with the threatening gestures of the war-dance.

Having dealt with India and Ethiopia, let us now consider the neighbouring country of Egypt. If I am not mistaken, the Egyptian Proteus of ancient legend is no other than a dancer, whose mimetic skill enables him to adapt himself to every character: in the activity of his movements, he is liquid as water, rapid as fire; he is the raging lion, the savage panther, the trembling bough; he is what he will. The legend takes these data, and gives them a supernatural turn — for mimicry substituting metamorphosis. Our modern pantomimes have the same gift, and Proteus himself sometimes appears as the subject of their rapid transformations. And it may be conjectured that in that versatile lady Empusa we have but another artist of the same kind, mythologically treated.

Our attention is next claimed by the Roman dance of the Salii, a priesthood drawn from the noblest families; the dance is performed in honour of Mars, the most warlike of the Gods, and is of a particularly solemn and sacred character. According to a Bithynian legend, which agrees well with this Italian institution, Priapus, a war-like divinity (probably one of the Titans, or of the Idaean Dactyls, whose profession it was to teach the use of arms), was entrusted by Hera with the care of her son Ares, who even in childhood was remarkable for his courage and ferocity. Priapus would not put weapons into his hands till he had turned him out a perfect dancer; and he was rewarded by Hera with a tenth part of all Ares’s spoils. As to the rites of Dionysus, you know, without my telling you, that they consisted in dancing from beginning to end. Of the three main types of dance, the cordax, the sicinnis, and the emmelia, each was the invention and bore the name of one of the Satyrs, his followers. Assisted by this art, and accompanied by these revellers, he conquered Tyrrhenians, Indians, Lydians, dancing those warlike tribes into submission.

Then beware, my enlightened friend, of the guilt of sacrilege. Will you attack the holy mystic art in which so many Gods delight; by which their worshippers do them honour; which affords so much pleasure, so much useful instruction? To return once more to the poets: when I think of your affection for Homer and Hesiod, I am amazed to find you disputing the preeminence they assign to the dance. Homer, in enumerating all that is sweetest and best, mentions sleep, love, song, and dance; but of these dance alone is ‘faultless.’ He testifies, moreover, to the ‘sweetness’ of song: now our art includes ‘sweet song’ as well as the ‘faultless dance’ which you take upon you to censure. Again, in another passage we read:

To one the God hath given warlike deeds: But to another dance and lovely song.

And lovely indeed is the song that accompanies the dance; it is the Gods’ best gift. Homer seems to divide all things under the two heads of war and peace; and among the things of peace he singles out these two as the best counterpart to the things of war. Hesiod, not speaking from hearsay, but coming fresh from the sight of the Muses’ morning dance, has this high tribute to them in the beginning of his poem:

Their dainty feet round the dark waters dance,

about the altar of Zeus. — My dear sir, your onslaught upon the dance is little short of blasphemy.

Socrates — that wisest of men, if we may accept the judgement of the Pythian oracle — not only approved of dancing, but made a careful study of it; and, in his zeal for grace and elegance, for harmonious movement and carriage of the body, thought it no shame, reverend sage that he was, to rank this among the most important branches of learning. And well might he have an enthusiasm for dancing, who scrupled not to study the humblest arts; who frequented the schools of the flute-girls, and could stoop to learn wisdom from the mouth of an Aspasia. Yet in his days the art was in its infancy, its beauties undeveloped. Had Socrates seen the artists who have made modern Pantomime what it is, he would assuredly have given it his exclusive attention, and assigned it the first place in the education of youth.

I think you forget, when you advocate the claims of tragedy and comedy, that each of them has its own peculiar form of dance; tragedy its emmelia, comedy its cordax, supplemented occasionally by the sicinnis. You began by asserting the superiority of tragedy, of comedy, and of the periodic performances on flute and lyre, which you pronounce to be respectable, because they are included in public competitions. Let us take each of these and compare its merits with those of dancing. The flute and the lyre, to be sure, we might leave out of the discussion, as these have their part to play in the dance.

In forming our estimate of tragedy, let us first consider its externals — the hideous, appalling spectacle that the actor presents. His high boots raise him up out of all proportion; his head is hidden under an enormous mask; his huge mouth gapes upon the audience as if he would swallow them; to say nothing of the chest-pads and stomach-pads with which he contrives to give himself an artificial corpulence, lest his deficiency in this respect should emphasize his disproportionate height. And in the middle of it all is the actor, shouting away, now high, now low — chanting his iambics as often as not; could anything be more revolting than this sing-song recitation of tragic woes? The actor is a mouthpiece: that is his sole responsibility; — the poet has seen to the rest, ages since. From an Andromache or a Hecuba, one can endure recitative: but when Heracles himself comes upon the stage, and so far forgets himself, and the respect due to the lion-skin and club that he carries, as to deliver a solo, no reasonable person can deny that such a performance is in execrable taste. Then again, your objection to dancing — that men act women’s parts — is equally applicable to tragedy and comedy, in which indeed there are more women than men.

By comedy, the absurdity of the masks — of a Davus, for instance, or a Tibius, or a cook — is actually claimed as one of its attractions. On the other hand, I need not tell you how decent, how seemly, is the dancer’s attire; any one who is not blind can see that for himself. His very mask is elegant, and well adapted to his part; there is no gaping here; the lips are closed, for the dancer has plenty of other voices at his service. In old days, dancer and singer were one: but the violent exercise caused shortness of breath; the song suffered for it, and it was found advisable to have the singing done independently.

As to the subjects treated, they are the same for both, Pantomime differing from tragedy only in the infinite variety of its plots, and in the superior ingenuity and learning displayed in them. Dancing may not be included in our public competitions; but the reason is that the stewards regard it as a matter too high and solemn to be subjected to criticism. I forbear to add that in one Italian city — the greatest of the Chalcidian name — a special lustre has been added to the public games by the introduction of a dancing competition.

And now, before I proceed further, I wish to offer an explanation of themany omissions I have made, which might otherwise be attributed to ignorance. I am well aware that the subject has already been dealt with by a number of writers, who have chiefly occupied themselves with a description of the various forms of dance, and a catalogue of their names, their characters, and their inventors; and this they regard as a proof of erudition. Such work I leave to the ambition of dullards and pedants, as foreign to my own purpose. I would have you observe, and bear in mind, that I do not propose to make a complete history of the art of dancing; nor is it my object to enumerate the names of dances, except so far as I have already done, in handling a few of the principal types: on the contrary, I am chiefly concerned with pointing out the profit and pleasure to be derived from modern Pantomime, which did not begin to take its present admirable form in ancient days, but only in the time of Augustus, or thereabouts. In those earlier times we have but the beginnings of the art; the tree is taking root; the flower and the fruit have reached their perfection only in our own day, and it is with these that I have to do. The tongs-dance, the crane-dance, and others I pass over because they are alien to my subject; similarly, if I have said nothing of the Phrygian dance — that riotous convivial fling, which was performed by energetic yokels to the piping of a flute-girl, and which still prevails in country districts — I have omitted it not from ignorance, but because it has no connexion with the Pantomime of today. I have the authority of Plato, in his Laws, for approving some forms of dance and rejecting others; he there examines the dance from the two points of view of pleasure and utility, banishes those forms that are unseemly, and selects others for his recommendation.

Of dancing then, in the strict sense of the word, I have said enough. To enlarge further upon its history would be pedantic. And now I come to the pantomime. What must be his qualifications? what his previous training? what his studies? what his subsidiary accomplishments? You will find that his is no easy profession, nor lightly to be undertaken; requiring as it does the highest standard of culture in all its branches, and involving a knowledge not of music only, but of rhythm and metre, and above all of your beloved philosophy, both natural and moral, the subtleties of dialectic alone being rejected as serving no useful purpose. Rhetoric, too, in so far as that art is concerned with the exposition of human character and human passions, claims a share of its attention. Nor can it dispense with the painter’s and the sculptor’s arts; in its close observance of the harmonious proportions that these teach, it is the equal of an Apelles or a Phidias. But above all Mnemosyne, and her daughter Polyhymnia, must be propitiated by an art that would remember all things. Like Calchas in Homer, the pantomime must know all ‘that is, that was, that shall be’; nothing must escape his ever ready memory. Faithfully to represent his subject, adequately to express his own conceptions, to make plain all that might be obscure; — these are the first essentials for the pantomime, to whom no higher compliment could be paid than Thucydides’s tribute to Pericles, who, he says, ‘could not only conceive a wise policy, but render it intelligible to his hearers’; the intelligibility, in the present case, depending on clearness of gesticulation.

For his materials, he must draw continually, as I have said, upon his unfailing memory of ancient story; and memory must be backed by taste and judgement. He must know the history of the world, from the time when it first emerged from Chaos down to the days of Egyptian Cleopatra. These limitations we will concede to the pantomime’s wide field of knowledge; but within them he must be familiar with every detail:— the mutilation of Uranus, the origin of Aphrodite, the battle of Titans, the birth of Zeus, Rhea’s deception, her substitution of a stone for her child, the binding of Cronus, the partition of the world between the three brothers. Again, the revolt of the Giants, Prometheus’s theft of fire, his creation of mankind, and the punishment that followed; the might of Eros and of Anteros, the wanderings of the island Delos, the travail of Leto, the Python’s destruction, the evil design of Tityus, the flight of eagles, whereby the earth’s centre was discovered. He must know of Deucalion, in whose days the whole world suffered shipwreck, of that single chest wherein were preserved the remnants of the human race, of the new generation born of stones; of the rending of Iacchus, the guile of Hera, the fiery death of Semele, the double birth of Dionysus; of Athene and Hephaestus and Erichthonius, of the strife for the possession of Athens, of Halirrhothius and that first trial on the Areopagus, and all the legendary lore of Attica. Above all, the wanderings of Demeter, the finding of Persephone, the hospitality of Celeus; Triptolemus’s plough, Icarius’s vineyard, and the sad end of Erigone; the tale of Boreas and Orithyia, of Theseus, and of Aegeus; of Medea in Greece, and of her flight thereafter into Persia, and of Erechtheus’s daughters and Pandion’s, and all that they did and suffered in Thrace. Acamas, and Phyllis, and that first rape of Helen, and the expedition of Castor and Pollux against Athens, and the fate of Hippolytus, and the return of the Heraclids — all these may fairly be included in the Athenian mythology, from the vast bulk of which I select only these few examples.

Then in Megara we have Nisus, his daughter Scylla, and his purple lock; the invasion of Minos, and his ingratitude towards his benefactress. Then we come to Cithaeron, and the story of the Thebans, and of the race of Labdacus; the settlement of Cadmus on the spot where the cow rested, the dragon’s teeth from which the Thebans sprang up, the transformation of Cadmus into a serpent, the building of the walls of Thebes to the sound of Amphion’s lyre, the subsequent madness of the builder, the boast of Niobe his wife, her silent grief; Pentheus, Actaeon, Oedipus, Heracles; his labours and slaughter of his children.

Corinth, again, abounds in legends: of Glauce and of Creon; in earlier days, of Bellerophon and Stheneboea, and of the strife between Posidon and the Sun; and, later, of the frenzy of Athamas, of Nephele’s children and their flight through the air on the ram’s back, and of the deification of Ino and Melicertes. Next comes the story of Pelops’s line, of all that befell in Mycenae, and before Mycenae was; of Inachus and Io and Argus her guardian; of Atreus and Thyestes and Aerope, of the golden ram and the marriage of Pelopeia, the murder of Agamemnon and the punishment of Clytemnestra; and before their days, the expedition of the Seven against Thebes, the reception of the fugitives Tydeus and Polynices by their father-inlaw Adrastus; the oracle that foretold their fate, the unburied slain, the death of Antigone, and that of Menoeceus.

Nor is any story more essential to the pantomime’s purpose than that of Hypsipyle and Archemorus in Nemea; and, in older days, the imprisonment of Danae, the begetting of Perseus, his enterprise against the Gorgons; and connected therewith is the Ethiopian narrative of Cassiopea, and Cepheus, and Andromeda, all of whom the belief of later generations has placed among the stars. To these must be added the ancient legend of Aegyptus and Danaus, and of that guilty wedding-night.

Lacedaemon, too, supplies him with many similar subjects: Hyacinth, and his rival lovers, Zephyr and Apollo, and the quoit that slew him, the flower that sprang up from his blood, and the inscription of woe thereon; the raising of Tyndareus from the dead, and the consequent wrath of Zeusagainst Asclepius; again, the reception of Paris by Menelaus, and the rape of Helen, the sequel to his award of the golden apple. For the Spartan mythology must be held to include that of Troy, in all its abundance and variety. Of all who fell at Troy, not one but supplies a subject for the stage; and all — from the rape of Helen to the return of the Greeks — must ever be borne in mind: the wanderings of Aeneas, the love of Dido; and side by side with this the story of Orestes, and his daring deeds in Scythia. And there are earlier episodes which will not be out of place; they are all connected with the tale of Troy: such are the seclusion of Achilles in Scyrus, the madness of Odysseus, the solitude of Philoctetes, with the whole story of Odysseus’s wanderings, of Circe and Telegonus, of Aeolus, controller of the winds, down to the vengeance wreaked upon the suitors of Penelope; and, earlier, Odysseus’s plot against Palamedes, the resentment of Nauplius, the frenzy of the one Ajax, the destruction of the other on the rocks.

Elis, too, affords many subjects for the intending pantomime: Oenomaus, Myrtilus, Cronus, Zeus, and that first Olympian contest. Arcadia, no less rich in legendary lore, gives him the flight of Daphne, the transformation of Callisto into a bear, the drunken riot of the Centaurs, the birth of Pan, the love of Alpheus, and his submarine wanderings.

Extending our view, we find that Crete, too, may be laid under contribution: Europa’s bull, Pasiphae’s, the Labyrinth, Ariadne, Phaedra, Androgeos; Daedalus and Icarus; Glaucus, and the prophecy of Polyides; and Talos, the island’s brazen sentinel.

It is the same with Aetolia: there you will find Althaea, Meleager, Atalanta, and the fatal brand; the strife of Achelous with Heracles, the birth of the Sirens, the origin of the Echinades, those islands on which Alcmaeon dwelt after his frenzy was past; and, following these, the story of Nessus, and of Deianira’s jealousy, which brought Heracles to the pyre upon Oeta. Thrace, too, has much that is indispensable to the pantomime: of the head of murdered Orpheus, that sang while it floated down the stream upon his lyre; of Haemus and of Rhodope; and of the chastisement of Lycurgus.

Thessalian story, richer still, tells of Pelias and Jason; of Alcestis; and of the Argo with her talking keel and her crew of fifty youths; of what befell them in Lemnos; of Aeetes, Medea’s dream, the rending of Absyrtus, the eventful flight from Colchis; and, in later days, of Protesilaus and Laodamia.

Cross once more to Asia, and Samos awaits you, with the fall of Polycrates, and his daughter’s flight into Persia; and the ancient story of Tantalus’s folly, and of the feast that he gave the Gods; of butchered Pelops, and his ivory shoulder.

In Italy, we have the Eridanus, Phaethon, and his poplar-sisters, who wept tears of amber for his loss.

The pantomime must be familiar, too, with the story of the Hesperides, and the dragon that guarded the golden fruit; with burdened Atlas, and Geryon, and the driving of the oxen from Erythea; and every tale of metamorphosis, of women turned into trees or birds or beasts, or (like Caeneus and Tiresias) into men. From Phoenicia he must learn of Myrrha and Adonis, who divides Assyria betwixt grief and joy; and in more modern times of all that Antipater 49 and Seleucus suffered for the love of Stratonice.

The Egyptian mythology is another matter: it cannot be omitted, but on account of its mysterious character it calls for a more symbolical exposition; — the legend of Epaphus, for instance, and that of Osiris, and the conversion of the Gods into animals; and, in particular, their love adventures, including those of Zeus himself, with his various transformations.

Hades still remains to be added, with all its tragic tale of guilt and the punishment of guilt, and the loyal friendship that brought Theseus thither with Pirithous. In a word, all that Homer and Hesiod and our best poets, especially the tragedians, have sung — all must be known to the pantomime. From the vast, nay infinite, mass of mythology, I have made this trifling selection of the more prominent legends; leaving the rest for poets to celebrate, for pantomimes to exhibit, and for your imagination to supply from the hints already given; and all this the artist must have stored up in his memory, ready to be produced when occasion demands.

Since it is his profession to imitate, and to show forth his subject by means of gesticulation, he, like the orators, must acquire lucidity; every scene must be intelligible without the aid of an interpreter; to borrow the expression of the Pythian oracle,

Dumb though he be, and speechless, he is heard

by the spectator. According to the story, this was precisely the experience of the Cynic Demetrius. He had inveighed against Pantomime in just your own terms. The pantomime, he said, was a mere appendage to flute and pipe and beating feet; he added nothing to the action; his gesticulations were aimless nonsense; there was no meaning in them; people were hoodwinked by the silken robes and handsome mask, by the fluting and piping and the fine voices, which served to set off what in itself was nothing. The leading pantomime of the day — this was in Nero’s reign — was apparently a man of no mean intelligence; unsurpassed, in fact, in wideness of range and in grace of execution. Nothing, I think, could be more reasonable than the request he made of Demetrius, which was, to reserve his decision till he had witnessed his performance, which he undertook to go through without the assistance of flute or song. He was as good as his word. The time-beaters, the flutes, even the chorus, were ordered to preserve a strict silence; and the pantomime, left to his own resources, represented the loves of Ares and Aphrodite, the tell-tale Sun, the craft of Hephaestus, his capture of the two lovers in the net, the surrounding Gods, each in his turn, the blushes of Aphrodite, the embarrassment of Ares, his entreaties — in fact the whole story. Demetrius was ravished at the spectacle; nor could there be higher praise than that with which he rewarded the performer. ‘Man,’ he shrieked at the top of his voice, ‘this is not seeing, but hearing and seeing, both:’tis as if your hands were tongues!’

And before we leave Nero’s times, I must tell you of the high tribute paid to the art by a foreigner of the royal family of Pontus, who was visiting the Emperor on business, and had been among the spectators of this same pantomime. So convincing were the artist’s gestures, as to render the subject intelligible even to one who (being half a Greek) could not follow the vocal accompaniment. When he was about to return to his country, Nero, in taking leave of him, bade him choose what present he would have, assuring him that his request should not be refused. ‘Give me,’ said the Pontian, ‘your great pantomime; no gift could delight me more.’ ‘And of what use can he be to you in Pontus?’ asked the Emperor. ‘I have foreign neighbours, who do not speak our language; and it is not easy to procure interpreters. Your pantomime could discharge that office perfectly, as often as required, by means of his gesticulations.’ So profoundly had he been impressed with the extraordinary clearness of pantomimic representation.

The pantomime is above all things an actor: that is his first aim, in the pursuit of which (as I have observed) he resembles the orator, and especially the composer of ‘declamations,’ whose success, as the pantomime knows, depends like his own upon verisimilitude, upon the adaptation of language to character: prince or tyrannicide, pauper or farmer, each must be shown with the peculiarities that belong to him. I must give you the comment of another foreigner on this subject. Seeing five masks laid ready — that being the number of parts in the piece — and only one pantomime, he asked who were going to play the other parts. He was informed that the whole piece would be performed by a single actor. ‘Your humble servant, sir,’ cries our foreigner to the artist; ‘I observe that you have but one body: it had escaped me, that you possessed several souls.’

The term ‘pantomime,’ which was introduced by the Italian Greeks, is an apt one, and scarcely exaggerates the artist’s versatility. ‘Oh boy,’ cries the poet, in a beautiful passage,

As that sea-beast, whose hue With each new rock doth suffer change, So let thy mind free range Through ev’ry land, shaping herself anew.

Most necessary advice, this, for the pantomime, whose task it is to identify himself with his subject, and make himself part and parcel of the scene that he enacts. It is his profession to show forth human character and passion in all their variety; to depict love and anger, frenzy and grief, each in its due measure. Wondrous art! — on the same day, he is mad Athamas and shrinking Ino; he is Atreus, and again he is Thyestes, and next Aegisthus or Aerope; all one man’s work.

Other entertainments of eye or ear are but manifestations of a single art: ’tis flute or lyre or song; ’tis moving tragedy or laughable comedy. The pantomime is all-embracing in the variety of his equipment: flute and pipe, beating foot and clashing cymbal, melodious recitative, choral harmony. Other arts call out only one half of a man’s powers — the bodily or the mental: the pantomime combines the two. His performance is as much an intellectual as a physical exercise: there is meaning in his movements; every gesture has its significance; and therein lies his chief excellence. The enlightened Lesbonax of Mytilene called pantomimes ‘manual philosophers,’ and used to frequent the theatre, in the conviction that he came out of it a better man than he went in. And Timocrates, his teacher, after accidentally witnessing a pantomimic performance, exclaimed: ‘How much have I lost by my scrupulous devotion to philosophy!’ I know not what truth there may be in Plato’s analysis of the soul into the three elements of spirit, appetite, and reason: but each of the three is admirably illustrated by the pantomime; he shows us the angry man, he shows us the lover, and he shows us every passion under the control of reason; this last — like touch among the senses — is all-pervading. Again, in his care for beauty and grace of movement, have we not an illustration of