Mne. Now, Toxaris: do you mean to tell me that you people actually sacrifice to Orestes and Pylades? do you take them for Gods?
Tox. Sacrifice to them? of course we do. It does not follow that we think they are Gods: they were good men.
Mne. And in Scythia ‘good men’ receive sacrifice just the same as Gods?
Tox. Not only that, but we honour them with feasts and public gatherings.
Mne. But what do you expect from them? They are shades now, so their goodwill can be no object.
Tox. Why, as to that, I think it may be just as well to have a good understanding even with shades. But that is not all: in honouring the dead we consider that we are also doing the best we can for the living. Our idea is that by preserving the memory of the noblest of mankind, we induce many people to follow their example.
Mne. Ah, there you are right. But what could you find to admire in Orestes and Pylades, that you should exalt them to godhead? They were strangers to you: strangers, did I say? they were enemies! Why, when they were shipwrecked on your coast, and your ancestors laid hands on them, and took them off to be sacrificed to Artemis, they assaulted the gaolers, overpowered the garrison, slew the king, carried off the priestess, laid impious hands on the Goddess herself, and so took ship, snapping their fingers at Scythia and her laws. If you honour men for this kind of thing, there will be plenty of people to follow their example, and you will have your hands full. You may judge for yourselves, from ancient precedent, whether it will suit you to have so many Oresteses and Pyladeses putting into your ports. It seems to me that it will soon end in your having no religion left at all: God after God will be expatriated in the same manner, and then I suppose you will supply their place by deifying their kidnappers, thus rewarding sacrilege with sacrifice. If this is not your motive in honouring Orestes and Pylades, I shall be glad to know what other service they have rendered you, that you should change your minds about them, and admit them to divine honours. Your ancestors did their best to offer them up to Artemis: you offer up victims to them. It seems an absurd inconsistency.
Tox. Now, in the first place, the incident you refer to is very much to their credit. Think of those two entering on that vast undertaking by themselves: sailing away from their country to the distant Euxine 60— that sea unknown in those days to the Greeks, or known only to the Argonauts — unmoved by the stories they heard of it, undeterred by the inhospitable name it then bore, which I suppose referred to the savage nations that dwelt upon its shores; think of their courageous bearing after they were captured; how escape alone would not serve them, but they must avenge their wrong upon the king, and carry Artemis away over the seas. Are not these admirable deeds, and shall not the doers be counted as Gods by all who esteem prowess? However, this is not our motive in giving them divine honours.
Mne. Proceed. What else of godlike and sublime was in their conduct? Because from the seafaring point of view, there are any number of merchants whose divinity I will maintain against theirs: the Phoenicians, in particular, have sailed to every port in Greek and foreign waters, let alone the Euxine, the Maeotian Lake and the Bosphorus; year after year they explore every coast, only returning home at the approach of winter. Hucksters though they be for the most part, and fishmongers, you must deify them all, to be consistent.
Tox. Now, now, Mnesippus, listen to me, and you shall see how much more candid we barbarians are in our valuation of good men than you Greeks. In Argos and Mycenae there is not so much as a respectable tomb raised to Orestes and Pylades: in Scythia, they have their temple, which is very appropriately dedicated to the two friends in common, their sacrifices, and every honour. The fact of their being foreigners does not prevent us from recognizing their virtues. We do not inquire into the nationality of noble souls: we can hear without envy of the illustrious deeds of our enemies; we do justice to their merits, and count them Scythians in deed if not in name. What particularly excites our reverent admiration in the present case is the unparalleled loyalty of the two friends; in them we have a model from which every man may learn how he must share good and evil fortune with his friends, if he would enjoy the esteem of all good Scythians. The sufferings they endured with and for one another our ancestors recorded on a brazen pillar in the Oresteum; and they made it law, that the education of their children should begin with committing to memory all that is inscribed thereon. More easily shall a child forget his own father’s name than be at fault in the achievements of Orestes and Pylades. Again, in the temple corridor are pictures by the artists of old, illustrating the story set forth on the pillar. Orestes is first shown on shipboard, with his friend at his side. Next, the ship has gone to pieces on the rocks; Orestes is captured and bound; already Iphigenia prepares the two victims for sacrifice. But on the opposite wall we see that Orestes has broken free; he slays Thoas and many a Scythian; and the last scene shows them sailing away, with Iphigenia and the Goddess; the Scythians clutch vainly at the receding vessel; they cling to the rudder, they strive to clamber on board; at last, utterly baffled, they swim back to the shore, wounded or terrified. It is at this point in their conflict with the Scythians that the devotion of the friends is best illustrated: the painter makes each of them disregard his own enemies, and ward off his friend’s assailants, seeking to intercept the arrows before they can reach him, and counting lightly of death, if he can save his friend, and receive in his own person the wounds that are meant for the other. Such devotion, such loyal and loving partnership in danger, such true and steadfast affection, we held to be more than human; it indicated a spirit not to be found in common men. While the gale is prosperous, we all take it very much amiss if our friends will not share equally with us: but let the wind shift ever so little, and we leave them to weather the storm by themselves. I must tell you that in Scythia no quality is more highly esteemed than this of friendship; there is nothing on which a Scythian prides himself so much as on sharing the toils and dangers of his friend; just as nothing is a greater reproach among us than treachery to a friend. We honour Orestes and Pylades, then, because they excelled in the Scythian virtue of loyalty, which we place above all others; and it is for this that we have bestowed on them the name of Coraci, which in our language means spirits of friendship.
Mne. Ah, Toxaris, so archery is not the only accomplishment of the Scythians, I find; they excel in rhetorical as well as in military skill. You have persuaded me already that you were right in deifying Orestes and Pylades, though I thought differently just now. I had no conception, either, what a painter you were. Your description of the pictures in the Oresteum was most vivid; — that battle-scene, and the way in which the two intercepted one another’s wounds. Only I should never have thought that the Scythians would set such a high value on friendship: they are such a wild, inhospitable race; I should have said they had more to do with anger and hatred and enmity than with friendship, even for their nearest relations, judging by what one is told; it is said, for instance, that they devour their fathers’ corpses.
Tox. Well, which of the two is the more dutiful and pious in general, Greek or Scythian, we will not discuss just now: but that we are more loyal friends than you, and that we treat friendship more seriously, is easily shown. Now please do not be angry with me, in the name of all your Gods: but I am going to mention a few points I have observed during my stay in this country. I can see that you are all admirably well qualified to talk about friendship: but when it comes to putting your words into practice, there is a considerable falling off; it is enough for you to have demonstrated what an excellent thing friendship is, and somehow or other, at the critical moment, you make off, and leave your fine words to look after themselves. Similarly, when your tragedians represent this subject on the stage, you are loud in your applause; the spectacle of one friend risking his life for another generally brings tears to your eyes: but you are quite incapable of rendering any such signal services yourselves; once let your friends get into difficulties, and all those tragic reminiscences take wing like so many dreams; you are then the very image of the silent mask which the actor has thrown aside: its mouth is open to its fullest extent, but not a syllable does it utter. It is the other way with us: we are as much superior to you in the practice of friendship, as we are inferior in expounding the theory of it.
Now, what do you say to this proposal? let us leave out of the question all the cases of ancient friendship that either of us might enumerate (there you would have the advantage of me: you could produce all the poets on your side, most credible of witnesses, with their Achilles and Patroclus, their Theseus and Pirithous, and others, all celebrated in the most charming verses); and instead let each of us advance a few instances of devotion that have occurred within his own experience, among our respective countrymen; these we will relate in detail, and whoever can show the best friendships is the winner, and announces his country as victorious. Mighty issues are at stake: I for my part would rather be worsted in single combat, and lose my right hand, as the Scythian custom is, than yield to any man on the question of friendship, above all to a Greek; for am I not a Scythian?
Mne. I have got my work cut out for me, if I am to engage an old soldier like Toxaris, with a whole arsenal of keen words at his command. Well, I am not such a craven as to decline the challenge, when my country’s honour is at stake. Could those two overcome the host of Scythians represented in the legend, and in the ancient pictures you have just described so impressively — and shall Greece, her peoples and her cities, be condemned for want of one to plead her cause? Strange indeed, if that were so; I should deserve to lose not my hand like you, but my tongue. Well now, is the number of friendships to be limited, or does wealth of instances itself constitute one claim to superiority?
Tox. Oh no; number counts for nothing, that must be understood. We have the same number, and it is simply a question whether yours are better and more pointed than mine; if they are, of course, the wounds you inflict will be the more deadly, and I shall be the first to succumb.
Mne. Very well. Let us fix the number: I say five each.
Tox. Five be it, and you begin. But you must be sworn first: because the subject naturally lends itself to fictitious treatment; there is no checking anything. When you have sworn, it would be impious to doubt your word.
Mne. Very well, if you think it necessary. Have you any preference among our Gods? How would the God of Friendship meet the case?
Tox. Excellently; and when my turn comes, I will employ the national oath of the Scythians.
Mne. Zeus the God of Friendship be my witness, that all I shall now relate is derived either from my own experience, or from such careful inquiry as I was able to make of others; and is free from all imaginative additions of my own. I will begin with, the friendship of Agathocles and Dinias. The story is well known in Ionia. This Agathocles was a native of Samos, and lived not many years ago. Though his conduct showed him to be the best of friends, he was of no better family and in no better circumstances than the generality of the Samians. From boyhood he had been the friend of Dinias, the son of Lyson, an Ephesian. Dinias, it seems, was enormously wealthy, and as his wealth was newly acquired, it is not to be wondered at that he had plenty of acquaintances besides Agathocles; persons who were quite qualified to share his pleasures, and to be his boon-companions, but who were very far indeed from being friends. For some time Agathocles — little as he cared for such a life — played his convivial part with the rest, Dinias making no distinction between him and the parasites. Finally, however, he took to finding fault with his friend’s conduct, and gave great offence: his continual allusions to Dinias’s ancestry, and his exhortations to him to husband the fortune which had cost his father such labour to acquire, seemed to his friend to be in indifferent taste. He gave up asking Agathocles to join in his revels, contented himself with the company of his parasites, and sought to elude his friend’s observation. Well, the misguided youth was presently persuaded by his flatterers that he had made a conquest of Chariclea, the wife of Demonax, an eminent Ephesian, holding the highest office in that city. He was kept well supplied with billets-doux, half-faded flowers, bitten apples, and all the stock-intrade of those intriguing dames whose business it is to fan an artificial passion that vanity has inspired. There is no more seductive bait to young men who value themselves on their personal attractions, than the belief that they have made an impression; they are sure to fall into the trap. Chariclea was a charming little woman, but sadly wanting in reserve: any one might enjoy her favours, and on the easiest of terms; the most casual glance was sure to meet with encouragement; there was never any fear of a repulse from Chariclea. With more than professional skill, she could draw on a hesitating lover till his subjugation was complete: then, when she was sure of him, she had a variety of devices for inflaming his passion: she could storm, and she could flatter; and flattery would be succeeded by contempt, or by a feigned preference for his rival; — in short, her resources were infinite; she was armed against her lovers at every point. This was the lady whom Dinias’s parasites now associated with them; they played their subordinate part well, and between them fairly hustled the boy into a passion for Chariclea. Such a finished mistress of the art of perdition, who had ruined plenty of victims before, and acted love-scenes and swallowed fine fortunes without number, was not likely to let this simple inexperienced youth out of her clutches: she struck her talons into him on every side, and secured her quarry so effectually, that she was involved in his destruction — to say nothing of the miseries of the hapless victim. She got to work at once with the billets-doux. Her maid was for ever coming with news of tears and sleepless nights: ‘her poor mistress was ready to hang herself for love.’ The ingenuous youth was at length driven to conclude that his attractions were too much for the ladies of Ephesus; he yielded to the girl’s entreaties, and waited upon her mistress. The rest, of course, was easy. How was he to resist this pretty woman, with her captivating manners, her well-timed tears, her parenthetic sighs? Lingering farewells, joyful welcomes, judicious airs and graces, song and lyre — all were brought to bear upon him. Dinias was soon a lost man, over head and ears in love; and Chariclea prepared to give the finishing stroke. She informed him that he was about to become a father, which was enough in itself to inflame the amorous simpleton; and she discontinued her visits to him; her husband, she said, had discovered her passion, and was watching her. This was altogether too much for Dinias: he was inconsolable; wept, sent messages by his parasites, flung his arms about her statue — a marble one which he had had made — shrieked forth her name in loud lamentation, and finally threw himself down upon the ground and rolled about in a positive frenzy. Her apples and her flowers drew forth presents which were on quite another scale of munificence: houses and farms, servants, exquisite fabrics, and gold to any extent. To make a long story short, the house of Lyson, which had the reputation of being the wealthiest in Ionia, was quite cleared out. No sooner was this the case, than Chariclea abandoned Dinias, and went off in pursuit of a certain golden youth of Crete, irresistible as he, and not less gullible. Deserted alike by her and by his parasites (who followed the chase of the fortunate Cretan), Dinias presented himself before Agathocles, who had long been aware of his friend’s situation. He swallowed his first feelings of embarrassment, and made a clean breast of it all: his love, his ruin, his mistress’s disdain, his Cretan rival; and ended by protesting that without Chariclea he could not live. Agathocles did not think it necessary to remind Dinias just then how he alone had been excluded from his friendship, and how parasites had been preferred to him: instead, he went off and sold his family residence in Samos — the only property he possessed — and brought him the proceeds, 750 pounds. Dinias had no sooner received the money, than it became evident that he had somehow recovered his good looks, in the opinion of Chariclea: once more the maid-servant and the notes, with reproaches for his long neglect; once more, too, the throng of parasites; they saw that there were still pickings to be had. Dinias arrived at her house, by agreement, at about bedtime, and was already inside, when Demonax — whether he had an understanding with his wife in the matter, as some say, or had got his information independently — sprang out from concealment, gave orders to his servants to make the door fast and to secure Dinias, and then drew his sword, breathing fire and flagellation against the paramour. Dinias, realizing his danger, caught up a heavy bar that lay near, and dispatched Demonax with a blow on the temple; then, turning to Chariclea, he dealt blow after blow with the same weapon, and finally plunged her husband’s sword into her body. The domestics stood by, dumb with amazement and terror; and when at length they attempted to seize him, he rushed at them with the sword, put them to flight, and slipped away from the fatal scene. The rest of that night he and Agathocles spent at the latter’s house, pondering on the deed and its probable consequences. The news soon spread, and in the morning officers came to arrest Dinias. He made no attempt to deny the murder, and was conducted into the presence of the then Prefect of Asia, who sent him up to the Emperor. He presently returned, under sentence of perpetual banishment to Gyarus, one of the Cyclades. All this time, Agathocles had never left his side: with unfaltering devotion, he accompanied him to Italy, and was the only friend who stood by him in his trial. And now even in his banishment he would not desert him, but condemned himself to share the sentence; and when the necessaries of life failed them, he hired himself out as a diver in the purple-fishery, and with the proceeds of his industry supported Dinias and tended him in his sickness till the end. Even when all was over, he would not return to his own home, but remained on the island, thinking it shame even in death to desert his friend. There you have the history of a Greek friendship, and one of recent date; I think it can scarcely be as much as five years ago that Agathocles died on Gyarus.
Tox. I wish I were at liberty to doubt the truth of your story: but alas! you speak under oath. Your Agathocles is a truly Scythian friend; I only hope there are no more of the same kind to come.
Mne. See what you think of the next — Euthydicus of Chalcidice. I heard his story from Simylus, a shipmaster of Megara, who vowed that he had been an eyewitness of what he related. He set sail from Italy about the setting of the Pleiads, bound for Athens, with a miscellaneous shipload of passengers, among whom were Euthydicus and his comrade Damon, also of Chalcidice. They were of about the same age. Euthydicus was a powerful man, in robust health; Damon was pale and weakly, and looked as if he were just recovering from a long illness. They had a good voyage as far as Sicily: but they had no sooner passed through the Straits into the Ionian Sea, than a tremendous storm overtook them. I need not detain you with descriptions of mountainous billows and whirlwinds and hail and the other adjuncts of a storm: suffice it to say, that they were compelled to take in all sail, and trail cables after them to break the force of the waves, and in this way made Zacynthus by about midnight. At this point Damon, being seasick, as was natural in such a heavy sea, was leaning over the side, when (as I suppose) an unusually violent lurch of the vessel in his direction, combining with the rush of water across the deck, hurled him headlong into the sea. The poor wretch was not even naked, or he might have had a chance of swimming: it was all he could do to keep himself above water, and get out a cry for help. Euthydicus was lying in his berth undressed. He heard the cry, flung himself into the sea, and succeeded in overtaking the exhausted Damon; and a powerful moonlight enabled those on deck to see him swimming at his side for a considerable distance, and supporting him. ‘We all felt for them,’ said Simylus, ‘and longed to give them some assistance, but the gale was too much for us: we did, however, throw out a number of corks and spars on the chance of their getting hold of some of them, and being carried to shore; and finally we threw over the gangway, which was of some size.’— Now only think: could any man give a surer proof of affection, than by throwing himself into a furious sea like that to share the death of his friend? Picture to yourself the surging billows, the roar of crashing waters, the hissing foam, the darkness, the hopeless prospect: look at Damon — he is at his last gasp, he barely keeps himself up, he holds out his hands imploringly to his friend: and lastly look at Euthydicus, as he leaps into the water, and swims by his side, with only one thought in his mind — Damon must not be the first to perish; — and you will see that Euthydicus too was no bad friend.
Tox. I tremble for their fate: were they drowned, or did some miraculous providence deliver them?
Mne. Oh, they were saved all right; and they are in Athens at this day, both of them, studying philosophy. Simylus’s story closes with the events of the night: Damon has fallen overboard, Euthydicus has jumped in to his rescue, and the pair are left swimming about till they are lost in the darkness. Euthydicus himself tells the rest. It seems that first they came across some pieces of cork, which helped to support them; and they managed with much ado to keep afloat, till about dawn they saw the gangway, swam up to it, clambered on, and were carried to Zacynthus without further trouble. These, I think, are passable instances of friendship; and my third is no way inferior to them, as you shall hear.
Eudamidas of Corinth, though he was himself in very narrow circumstances, had two friends who were well-to-do, Aretaeus his fellow townsman, and Charixenus of Sicyon. When Eudamidas died, he left a will behind him which I dare say would excite most people’s ridicule: but what the generous Toxaris, with his respect for friendship and his ambition to secure its highest honours for his country, may think of the matter, is another question. The terms of the will — but first I should explain that Eudamidas left behind him an aged mother and a daughter of marriageable years; — the will, then, was as follows: To Aretaeus I bequeath my mother, to tend and to cherish in her old age: and to Charixenus my daughter, to give in marriage with such dowry as his circumstances will admit of: and should anything befall either of the legatees, then let his portion pass to the survivor. The reading of this will caused some merriment among the hearers, who knew of Eudamidas’s poverty, but did not know anything of the friendship existing between him and his heirs. They went off much tickled at the handsome legacy that Aretaeus and Charixenus (lucky dogs!) had come in for: ‘Eudamidas,’ as they expressed it, ‘was apparently to have a death-interest in the property of the legatees.’ However, the latter had no sooner heard the will read, than they proceeded to execute the testator’s intentions. Charixenus only survived Eudamidas by five days: but Aretaeus, most generous of heirs, accepted the double bequest, is supporting the aged mother at this day, and has only lately given the daughter in marriage, allowing to her and to his own daughter portions of 500 pounds each, out of his whole property of 1,250 pounds; the two marriages were arranged to take place on the same day. What do you think of him, Toxaris? This is something like friendship, is it not — to accept such a bequest as this, and to show such respect for a friend’s last wishes? May we pass this as one of my five?
Tox. Excellent as was the behaviour of Aretaeus, I admire still more Eudamidas’s confidence in his friends. It shows that he would have done as much for them; even if nothing had been said about it in their wills, he would have been the first to come forward and claim the inheritance as natural heir.
Mne. Very true. And now I come to Number Four — Zenothemis of Massilia, son of Charmoleos. He was pointed out to me when I was in Italy on public business: a fine, handsome man, and to all appearance well off. But by his side (he was just driving away on a journey) sat his wife, a woman of most repulsive appearance; all her right side was withered; she had lost one eye; in short, she was a positive fright. I expressed my surprise that a man in the prime of manly beauty should endure to have such a woman seated by him. My informant, who was a Massiliot himself, and knew how the marriage had come about, gave me all the particulars. ‘The father of this unsightly woman,’ he said, ‘was Menecrates; and he and Zenothemis were friends in days when both were men of wealth and rank. The property of Menecrates, however, was afterwards confiscated by the Six Hundred, and he himself disfranchised, on the ground that he had proposed an unconstitutional measure; this being the regular penalty in Massilia for such offences. The sentence was in itself a heavy blow to Menecrates, and it was aggravated by the sudden change from wealth to poverty and from honour to dishonour. But most of all he was troubled about this daughter: she was now eighteen years old, and it was time that he found her a husband; yet with her unfortunate appearance it was not probable that any one, however poor or obscure, would have taken her, even with all the wealth her father had possessed previous to his sentence; it was said, too, that she was subject to fits at every increase of the moon. He was bewailing his hard lot to Zenothemis, when the latter interrupted him: “Menecrates,” he said, “be sure that you shall want for nothing, and that your daughter shall find a match suitable to her rank.” So saying, he took his friend by the hand, brought him into his house, assigned him a share of his great wealth, and ordered a banquet to be prepared, at which he entertained Menecrates and his friends, giving the former to understand that he had prevailed upon one of his acquaintance to marry the girl. When dinner was over, and libations had been poured to the Gods, Zenothemis filled a goblet and passed it to Menecrates: “Accept,” he cried, “from your son-inlaw the cup of friendship. This day I wed your daughter Cydimache. The dowry I have had long since; 60,000 pounds was the sum.” “You?“ exclaimed Menecrates; “Heaven forbid that I should be so mad as to suffer you, in the pride of your youth, to be yoked to this unfortunate girl!” But even while he spoke, Zenothemis was conducting his bride to the marriage-chamber, and presently returned to announce that she was his wedded wife. Since that day, he has lived with her on the most affectionate terms; and you see for yourself that he takes her about with him wherever he goes. As to his being ashamed of his wife, one would rather 26 suppose that he was proud of her; and his conduct in this respect shows how lightly he esteems beauty and wealth and reputation, in comparison with friendship and his friend; for Menecrates is not less his friend because the Six Hundred have condemned him. To be sure, Fortune has already given him one compensation: his ugly wife has borne him a most beautiful child. Only a few days ago, he carried his child into the Senate-house, crowned with an olive-wreath, and dressed in black, to excite the pity of the senators on his grandfather’s behalf: the babe smiled upon them, and clapped his little hands together, which so moved the senators that they repealed the sentence against Menecrates, who is now reinstated in his rights, thanks to the pleadings of his tiny advocate.’
Such was the Massiliot’s story. As you see, it was no slight service that Zenothemis rendered to his friend; I fancy there are not many Scythians who would do the same; they are said to be very nice even in their selection of concubines.
I have still one friend to produce, and I think none is more worthy of remembrance than Demetrius of Sunium. He and Antiphilus of the deme of Alopece had been playmates in their childhood, and grown up side by side. They subsequently took ship for Egypt, and carried on their studies there together, Demetrius practising the Cynic philosophy under the famous sophist of Rhodes, while Antiphilus, it seems, was to be a doctor. Well, on one occasion Demetrius had gone up country to see the Pyramids, and the statue of Memnon. He had heard it said that the Pyramids in spite of their great height cast no shadow, and that a sound proceeded from the statue at sunrise: all this he wished to see and hear for himself, and he had now been away up the Nile six months. During his absence, Antiphilus, who had remained behind (not liking the idea of the heat and the long journey), became involved in troubles which required all the assistance that faithful friendship could have rendered. He had a Syrian slave, whose name was also Syrus. This man had made common cause with a number of temple-robbers, had forced his way with them into the temple of Anubis, and robbed the God of a pair of golden cups, a caduceus, also of gold, some silver images of Cynocephali and other treasures; all of which the rest entrusted to Syrus’s charge. Later on they were caught trying to dispose of some of their booty, and were taken up; and being put on the rack, immediately confessed the whole truth. They were accordingly conducted to Antiphilus’s house, where they produced the stolen treasure from a dark corner under a bed. Syrus was immediately arrested, and his master Antiphilus with him: the latter being dragged away from the very presence of his teacher during lecture-time. There was none to help him: his former acquaintances turned their backs on the desecrator of Anubis’s temple, and made it a matter of conscience that they had ever sat at the same table with him. As to his other two servants, they got together all his belongings, and ran off.
Antiphilus had now lain long in captivity. He was looked upon as the vilest criminal of all in the prison; and the native gaoler, a superstitious man, considered that he was avenging the God’s wrongs and securing his favour by harsh treatment of Antiphilus. His attempts to clear himself of the charge of sacrilege only served to set him in the light of a hardened offender, and materially to increase the detestation in which he was held. His health was beginning to give way under the strain, and no wonder: his bed was the bare ground, and all night he was unable so much as to stretch his legs, which were then secured in the stocks; in the daytime, the collar and one manacle sufficed, but at night he had to submit to being bound hand and foot. The stench, too, and the closeness of the dungeon, in which so many prisoners were huddled together gasping for breath, and the difficulty of getting any sleep, owing to the clanking of chains — all combined to make the situation intolerable to one who was quite unaccustomed to endure such hardships. At last, when Antiphilus had given up all hope, and refused to take any nourishment, Demetrius arrived, ignorant of all that had passed in his absence. He no sooner learnt the truth, than he flew to the prison. It was now evening, and he was refused admittance, the gaoler having long since bolted the door and retired to rest, leaving his slaves to keep guard. Morning came, and after many entreaties he was allowed to enter. Suffering had altered Antiphilus beyond recognition, and for long Demetrius sought him in vain: like men who seek their slain relatives on the day after a battle, when death has already changed them, he went from prisoner to prisoner, examining each in turn; and had he not called on Antiphilus by name, it would have been long before he could have recognized him, so great was the change that misery had wrought. Antiphilus heard the voice, and uttered a cry; then, as his friend approached, he brushed the dry matted hair from his face, and revealed his identity. At the unexpected sight of one another, the two friends instantly fell down in a swoon. But presently Demetrius recovered, and raised Antiphilus from the ground: he obtained from him an exact account of all that had happened, and bade him be of good cheer; then, tearing his cloak in two, he threw one half over himself, and gave the other to his friend, first ripping off the squalid, threadbare rags in which he was clothed. From that hour, Demetrius was unfailing in his attendance. From early morning till noon, he hired himself out as a porter to the merchants in the harbour, and thus made a considerable wage. Returning to the prison when his work was over, he would give a part of his earnings to the gaoler, thus securing his obsequious goodwill, and the rest sufficed him amply for supplying his friend’s needs. For the remainder of the day, he would stay by Antiphilus, administering consolation to him; and at nightfall made himself a litter of leaves near the prison door, and there took his rest. So things went on for some time, Demetrius having free entrance to the prison, and Antiphilus’s misery being much alleviated thereby. But presently a certain robber died in the gaol, apparently from the effects of poison; a strict watch was kept, and admittance was refused to all applicants alike, to the great distress of Demetrius, who could think of no other means of obtaining access to his friend than by going to the Prefect and professing complicity in the temple robbery. As the result of this declaration, he was immediately led off to prison, and with great difficulty prevailed upon the gaoler after many entreaties to place him next to Antiphilus, and under the same collar. It was now that his devotion to his friend appeared in the strongest light. Ill though he was himself, he thought nothing of his own sufferings: his only care was to lighten the affliction of his friend, and to procure him as much rest as possible; and the companionship in misery certainly lightened their load. Finally an event happened which brought their misfortunes to an end. One of the prisoners had somehow got hold of a file. He took a number of the others into his confidence, filed through the chain which held them together by means of their collars, and set all at liberty. The guards being few were easily slain; and the prisoners burst out of the gaol en masse. They then scattered, and each took refuge for the moment where he could, most of them being subsequently recaptured. Demetrius and Antiphilus, however, remained in the prison, and even secured Syrus when he was about to escape. The next morning the Prefect, hearing what had happened, sent men in pursuit of the other prisoners, and Demetrius and Antiphilus, being summoned to his presence, were released from their fetters, and commended for not having run away like the rest. The friends, however, declined to accept their dismissal on such terms: Demetrius protested loudly against the injustice which would be done to them if they were to pass for criminals, who owed their discharge to mercy, or to their discretion in not having run away. They insisted that the judge should examine carefully into the facts of their case. He at length did so; and was convinced of their innocence, did justice to their characters, and, with a warm commendation of Demetrius’s conduct, dismissed them; but not before he had expressed his regret at the unjust sentence under which they had suffered, and made each of them a present from his own purse — 400 pounds to Antiphilus, and twice that sum to Demetrius. Antiphilus is still in Egypt at the present time, but Demetrius went off to India to visit the Brahmins, leaving his 800 pounds with Antiphilus. He could now, he said, leave his friend with a clear conscience. His own wants were simple, and as long as they continued so, he had no need of money: on the other hand, Antiphilus, in his present easy circumstances, had as little need of a friend.
See, Toxaris, what a Greek friend can do! You were so hard just now upon our rhetorical vanity, that I forbear to give you the admirable pleadings of Demetrius in court: not one word did he say in his own behalf; all was for Antiphilus; he wept and implored, and sought to take all the guilt upon himself; till at last the confession of Syrus under torture cleared them both. These loyal friends whose stories I have related were the first that occurred to my memory; where I have given five instances, I might have given fifty. And now I am silent: it is your turn to speak. I need not tell you to make the most of your Scythians, and bring them out triumphant if you can: you will do that for your own sake, if you set any value on that right hand of yours. Quit you, then, like a man. You would look foolish if, after your truly professional panegyric of Orestes and Pylades, your art were to fail you in your country’s need.
Tox. I honour you for your disinterested encouragement: apparently you are under no uneasiness as to the loss of your tongue, in the event of my winning. Well, I will begin: and you will get no flowery language from me; it is not our Scythian way, especially when the deeds we handle dwarf description. Be prepared for something very different from the subjects of your own eulogy: here will be no marryings of ugly and dowerless women, no five-hundred-pound-portionings of friends’ daughters, nor even surrenderings of one’s person to gaolers, with the certain prospect of a speedy release. These are very cheap manifestations; the lofty, the heroic, is altogether wanting. I have to speak of blood and war and death for friendship’s sake; you will learn that all you have related is child’s-play, when compared with the deeds of the Scythians. After all, it is natural enough: what should you do but admire these trifles? Living in the midst of peace, you have no scope for the exhibition of an exalted friendship, just as in a calm we cannot tell a good pilot from a bad; we must wait till a storm comes; then we know. We, on the contrary, live in a state of perpetual warfare, now invading, now receding, now contending for pasturage or booty. There is the true sphere of friendship; and there is the reason that its ties among us are drawn so close; friendship we hold to be the one invincible, irresistible weapon.
But before I begin, I should like to describe to you our manner of making friends. Friendships are not formed with us, as with you, over the wine-cups, nor are they determined by considerations of age or neighbourhood. We wait till we see a brave man, capable of valiant deeds, and to him we all turn our attention. Friendship with us is like courtship with you: rather than fail of our object, and undergo the disgrace of a rejection, we are content to urge our suit patiently, and to give our constant attendance. At length a friend is accepted, and the engagement is concluded with our most solemn oath: ‘to live together and if need be to die for one another.’ That vow is faithfully kept: once let the friends draw blood from their fingers into a cup, dip the points of their swords therein, and drink of that draught together, and from that moment nothing can part them. Such a treaty of friendship may include three persons, but no more: a man of many friends we consider to be no better than a woman who is at the service of every lover; we feel no further security in a friendship that is divided between so many objects.
I will commence with the recent story of Dandamis. In our conflict with the Sauromatae, Dandamis’s friend Amizoces had been taken captive — oh, but first I must take the Scythian oath, as we agreed at the start. I swear by Wind and Scimetar that I will speak nothing but truth of the Scythian friendships.
Mne. You need not have troubled to swear, as far as I am concerned. However, you showed judgement in not swearing by a God.
Tox. What can you mean? Wind and Scimetar not Gods? Are you now to learn that life and death are the highest considerations among mankind? When we swear by Wind and Scimetar, we do so because Wind is the cause of life and Scimetar of death.
Mne. On that principle, you get a good many other Gods besides Scimetar, and as good as he: there is Arrow, and Spear, and Hemlock, and Halter, and so on. Death is a God who assumes many shapes; numberless are the roads that lead into his presence.
Tox. Now you are just trying to spoil my story with these quibbling objections. I gave you a fair hearing.
Mne. You are quite right, Toxaris; it shall not occur again, be easy on that score. I’ll be so quiet, you would never know I was here at all.
Tox. Four days after Dandamis and Amizoces had shared the cup of blood, the Sauromatae invaded our territory with 10,000 horse, their infantry being estimated at three times that number. The invasion was unexpected, and we were completely routed; many of our warriors were slain, and the rest taken captive, with the exception of a few who managed to swim across to the opposite bank of the river, on which half our host was encamped, with a part of the waggons. The reason of this arrangement I do not know; but our leaders had seen good to divide our camp between the two banks of the Tanais. The enemy at once set to work to secure their booty and collect the captives; they plundered the camp, and took possession of the waggons, most of them with their occupants; and we had the mortification of seeing our wives and concubines mishandled before our very eyes. Amizoces was among the prisoners, and while he was being dragged along he called upon his friend by name, to witness his captivity and to remember the cup of blood. Dandamis heard him, and without a moment’s delay plunged into the river in the sight of all, and swam across to the enemy. The Sauromatae rushed upon him, and were about to transfix him with their raised javelins, when he raised the cry of Zirin. The man who pronounces that word is safe from their weapons: it indicates that he is the bearer of ransom, and he is received accordingly. Being conducted into the presence of their chief, he demanded the liberation of Amizoces, and was told in reply, that his friend would only be released upon payment of a high ransom. ‘All that was once mine,’ said Dandamis, ‘has become your booty: but if one who is stripped of all can have anything yet left to give, it is at your disposal. Name your terms: take me, if you will, in his place, and use me as seems best to you.’ ‘To detain the person of one who comes with the Zirin on his lips is out of the question: but you may take back your friend on paying me a part of your possessions.’ ‘What will you have?’ asked Dandamis. ‘Your eyes,’ was the reply. Dandamis submitted: his eyes were plucked out, and the Sauromatae had their ransom. He returned leaning on his friend, and they swam across together, and reached us in safety.
There was comfort for all of us in this act of Dandamis. Our defeat, it seemed, was no defeat, after all: our most precious possessions had escaped the hands of our enemies; loyal friendship, noble resolution, these were still our own. On the Sauromatae it had the contrary effect: they did not at all like the idea of engaging with such determined adversaries on equal terms; gaining an advantage of them by means of a surprise was quite another matter. The end of it was, that when night came on they left behind the greater part of the herds, burnt the waggons, and beat a hasty retreat. As for Amizoces, he could not endure to see, when Dandamis was blind: he blinded himself, and the two now sit at home, supported in all honour at the public expense.
Can you match that, friend? I think not, though I should give you ten new chances on the top of your five; ay, and release you from your oath, too, for that matter, leaving you free to exaggerate as much as you choose. Besides, I have given you just the bare facts. Now, if you had been telling Dandamis’s story, what embroidery we should have had! The supplications of Dandamis, the blinding process, his remarks on the occasion, the circumstances of his return, the effusive greetings of the Scythians, and all the ad captandum artifices that you Greeks understand so well.
And now let me introduce you to another friend, not inferior to Dandamis — a cousin of Amizoces, Belitta by name. Belitta was once hunting with his friend Basthes, when the latter was torn from his horse by a lion. Already the brute had fallen upon him, and was clutching him by the throat and beginning to tear him to pieces, when Belitta, leaping to earth, rushed upon him from behind, and attempted to drag him off, and to turn his rage upon himself, thrusting his hands into the brute’s mouth, and doing his best to extricate Basthes from those teeth. He succeeded at last: the lion, abandoning his half dead prey, turned upon Belitta, grappled with him, and slew him; but not before Belitta had plunged a scimetar into his breast. Thus all three died together; and we buried them, the two friends in one grave, the lion in another close by.
For my third instance, I shall give you the friendship of Macentes, Lonchates, and Arsacomas. This Arsacomas had been on a visit to Leucanor, king of Bosphorus, in connexion with the tribute annually paid to us by that country, which tribute was then three months overdue; and while there he had fallen in love with Mazaea, the king’s daughter. Mazaea was an extremely fine woman, and Arsacomas, seeing her at the king’s table, had been much smitten with her charms. The question of the tribute was at length settled, Arsacomas had his answer, and the king was now entertaining him prior to his departure. It is the custom for suitors in that country to make their proposals at table, stating at the same time their qualifications. Now in the present case there were a number of suitors — kings and sons of kings, among whom were Tigrapates the prince of the Lazi and Adyrmachus the chief of the Machlyans. What each suitor has to do is, first to declare his intentions, and quietly take his seat at table with the rest; then, when dinner is over, he calls for a goblet, pours libation upon the table, and makes his proposal for the lady’s hand, saying whatever he can for himself in the way of birth, wealth, and dominion. Many suitors, then, had already preferred their request in due form, enumerating their realms and possessions, when at last Arsacomas called for a cup. He did not make a libation, because it is not the Scythian custom to do so; we should consider it an insult to Heaven to pour away good wine: instead, he drank it all off at one draught, and then addressed the king. ‘Sire,’ he said, ‘give me your daughter Mazaea to wife: if wealth and possessions count for anything, I am a fitter husband for her than these.’ Leucanor was surprised: he knew that Arsacomas was but a poor commoner among the Scythians. ‘What herds, what waggons have you, Arsacomas?’ he asked; ‘these are the wealth of your people.’ ‘Waggons and herds I have none,’ was Arsacomas’s reply: ‘but I have two excellent friends, whose like you will not find in all Scythia.’ His answer only excited ridicule; it was attributed to drunkenness, and no further notice was taken of him. Adyrmachus was preferred to the other suitors, and was to take his bride away the next morning to his Maeotian home. Arsacomas on his return informed his friends of the slight that had been put upon him by the king, and of the ridicule to which he had been subjected on account of his supposed poverty. ‘And yet,’ he added, ‘I told him of my wealth: told him that I had the friendship of Lonchates and Macentes, a more precious and more lasting possession than his kingdom of Bosphorus. But he made light of it; he jeered at us; and gave his daughter to Adyrmachus the Machlyan, because he had ten golden cups, and eighty waggons of four seats, and a number of sheep and oxen. It seems that herds and lumbering waggons and superfluous beakers are to count for more than brave men. My friends, I am doubly wounded: I love Mazaea, and I cannot forget the humiliation which I have suffered before so many witnesses, and in which you are both equally involved. Ever since we were united in friendship, are we not one flesh? are not our joys and our sorrows the same? If this be so, each of us has his share in this disgrace.’ ‘Not only so,’ rejoined Lonchates; ‘each of us labours under the whole ignominy of the affront.’ ‘And what is to be our course?’ asked Macentes. ‘We will divide the work,’ replied the other. ‘I for my part undertake to present Arsacomas with the head of Leucanor: you must bring him his bride.’ ‘I agree. And you, Arsacomas, can stay at home; and as we are likely to want an army before we have done, you must be getting together horses and arms, and raise what men you can, A man like you will have no difficulty in getting plenty of people to join him, and there are all our relations; besides, you can sit on the ox-hide.’ This being settled, Lonchates set off just as he was for the Bosphorus, and Macentes for Machlyene, each on horseback; while Arsacomas remained behind, consulting with his acquaintance, raising forces from among the relations of the three, and, finally, taking his seat on the ox-hide.
Our custom of the hide is as follows. When a man has been injured by another, and desires vengeance, but feels that he is no match for his opponent, he sacrifices an ox, cuts up the flesh and cooks it, and spreads out the hide upon the ground. On this hide he takes his seat, holding his hands behind him, so as to suggest that his arms are tied in that position, this being the natural attitude of a suppliant among us. Meanwhile, the flesh of the ox has been laid out; and the man’s relations and any others who feel so disposed come up and take a portion thereof, and, setting their right foot on the hide, promise whatever assistance is in their power: one will engage to furnish and maintain five horsemen, another ten, a third some larger number; while others, according to their ability, promise heavy or light-armed infantry, and the poorest, who have nothing else to give, offer their own personal services. The number of persons assembled on the hide is sometimes very considerable; nor could any troops be more reliable or more invincible than those which are collected in this manner, being as they are under a vow; for the act of stepping on to the hide constitutes an oath. By this means, then, Arsacomas raised something like 5,000 cavalry and 20,000 heavy and light armed.
Meanwhile, Lonchates arrived unknown in Bosphorus, and presented himself co the king, who was occupied at the moment in affairs of state. ‘I come,’ he said, ‘on public business from Scythia: but I have also a private communication of high import to make to your Majesty.’ The king bade him proceed. ‘As to my public errand, it is the old story: we protest against your herdsmen’s crossing the Rocks and encroaching on the plains. And with reference to the robbers of whom you complain, I am instructed to say that our government is not responsible for their incursions, which are the work of private individuals, actuated merely by the love of booty; accordingly, you are at liberty to punish as many of them as you can secure, And now for my own news. You will shortly be invaded by a large host under Arsacomas the son of Mariantas, who was lately at your court as an ambassador. I suppose the cause of his resentment is your refusing him your daughter’s hand. He has now been on the ox-hide for seven days, and has got together a considerable force.’ ‘I had heard,’ exclaimed Leucanor, ‘that an army was being raised on the hide: but who was raising it, and what was its destination, I had no idea.’ ‘You know now,’ said Lonchates. ‘Arsacomas is a personal enemy of mine: the superior esteem in which I am held, and the preference shown for me by our elders, are things which he cannot forgive. Now promise me your other daughter Barcetis: apart from my present services, I shall be no discreditable son-inlaw: promise me this, and in no long time I will return bringing you the head of Arsacomas.’ ‘I promise,’ cried the king, in great perturbation; for he realized the provocation he had given to Arsacomas, and had a wholesome respect for the Scythians at all times. ‘Swear,’ insisted Lonchates, ‘that you will not go back from your promise.’ The king was already raising up his hand to Heaven, when the other interrupted him. ‘Wait!’ he exclaimed; ‘not here! these people must not know what is the subject of our oath. Let us go into the temple of Ares yonder, and swear with closed doors, where none may hear. If Arsacomas should get wind of this, I am likely to be offered up as a preliminary sacrifice; he has a good number of men already.’ ‘To the temple, then, let us go,’ said the king; and he ordered the guards to remain aloof, and forbade any one to approach the temple unless summoned by him. As soon as they were inside, and the guards had withdrawn, Lonchates drew his sword, and putting his left hand on the king’s mouth to prevent his crying out, plunged it into his breast; then, cutting off his head, he went out from the temple carrying it under his cloak; affecting all the time to be speaking to the king, and promising that he would not be long, as if the king had sent him on some errand. He thus succeeded in reaching the place where he had left his horse tethered, leapt on to his back, and rode off into Scythia. There was no pursuit: the people of Bosphorus took some time to discover what had happened; and then they were occupied with disputes as to the succession. Thus Lonchates fulfilled his promise, and handed the head of Leucanor to Arsacomas.
The news of this reached Macentes while he was on his way to Machlyene, and on his arrival there he was the first to announce the king’s death. ‘You, Adyrmachus,’ he added, ‘are his son-inlaw, and are now summoned to the throne. Ride on in advance, and establish your claim while all is still unsettled. Your bride can follow with the waggons; the presence of Leucanor’s daughter will be of assistance to you in securing the support of the Bosphorans. I myself am an Alanian, and am related to this lady by the mother’s side: Leucanor’s wife, Mastira, was of my family. I now come to you from Mastira’s brothers in Alania: they would have you make the best of your way to Bosphorus at once, or you will find your crown on the head of Eubiotus, Leucanor’s bastard brother, who is a friend to Scythia, and detested by the Alanians.’ In language and dress, Macentes resembled an Alanian; for in these respects there is no difference between Scythians and Alanians, except that the Alanians do not wear such long hair as we do. Macentes had completed the resemblance by cropping his hair to the right shortness, and was thus enabled to pass for a kinsman of Mastira and Mazaea. ‘And now, Adyrmachus,’ he concluded, ‘I am ready to go with you to Bosphorus; or, if you prefer it, I will escort your bride.’ ‘If you will do the latter,’ replied Adyrmachus, ‘I shall be particularly obliged, since you are Mazaea’s kinsman. If you go with us, it is but one horseman more; whereas no one could be such a suitable escort for my wife.’ And so it was settled: Adyrmachus rode off, and left Mazaea, who was still a maid, in the care of Macentes. During the day, Macentes accompanied Mazaea in the waggon: but at nightfall he placed her on horseback (he had taken care that there should be a horseman in attendance), and, mounting behind her, abandoned his former course along the Maeotian Lake, and struck off into the interior, keeping the Mitraean Mountains on his right. He allowed Mazaea some time for rest, and completed the whole journey from Machlyene to Scythia on the third day; his horse stood still for a few moments after arrival, and then dropped down dead. ‘Behold,’ said Macentes, presenting Mazaea to Arsacomas, ‘behold your promised bride.’ Arsacomas, amazed at so unexpected a sight, was beginning to express his gratitude: but Macentes bade him hold his peace. ‘You speak,’ he exclaimed, ‘as if you and I were different persons, when you thank me for what I have done. It is as if my left hand should say to my right: Thank you for tending my wound; thank you for your generous sympathy with my pain. That would be no more absurd than for us — who have long been united, and have become (so far as such a thing may be) one flesh — to make such ado because one part of us has done its duty by the whole; the limb is but serving its own interest in promoting the welfare of the body.’ And that was how Macentes received his friend’s thanks.
Adyrmachus, on hearing of the trick that had been played upon him, did not pursue his journey to Bosphorus; indeed, Eubiotus was already on the throne, having been summoned thither from his home in Sarmatia. He therefore returned to his own country, collected a large army, and marched across the mountains into Scythia. He was presently followed by Eubiotus himself, at the head of a miscellaneous army of Greeks, together with 20,000 each of his Alanian and Sarmatian allies. The two joined forces, and the result was an army of 90,000 men, one third of whom were mounted bowmen. We Scythians (I say we, because I myself took part in this enterprise, and was maintaining a hundred horse on the hide)— we Scythians then, numbering in all not much less than 30,000 men, including cavalry, awaited their onset, under the command of Arsacomas. As soon as we saw them approaching, we too advanced, sending on our cavalry ahead. After a long and obstinate engagement, our lines were broken, and we began to give ground; and finally our whole army was cut clean in two. One half had not suffered a decisive defeat; with these it was rather a retreat than a flight, nor did the Alanians venture to follow up their advantage for any distance. But the other and smaller division was completely surrounded by the Alanians and Machlyans, and was being shot down on every side by the copious discharge of arrows and javelins; the position became intolerable, and most of our men were beginning to throw down their arms. In this latter division were Lonchates and Macentes. They had borne the brunt of the attack, and both were wounded: Lonchates had a spear-thrust in his thigh, and Macentes, besides a cut on the head from an axe, had had his shoulder damaged by a pike. Arsacomas, seeing their condition (he was with us in the other division), could not endure the thought of turning his back on his friends: plunging the spurs into his horse, and raising a shout, he rode through the midst of the enemy, with his scimetar raised on high. The Machlyans were unable to withstand the fury of his onset; their ranks divided, and made way for him to pass. Having rescued his friends from their danger, he rallied the rest of the troops; and charging upon Adyrmachus brought down the scimetar on his neck, and cleft him in two as far as the waist. Adyrmachus once slain, the whole of the Machlyans and Alanians soon scattered, and the Greeks followed their example. Thus did we turn defeat into victory; and had not night come to interrupt us, we should have pursued the fugitives for a considerable distance, slaying as we went. The next day came messengers from the enemy suing for reconciliation, the Bosphorans undertaking to double their tribute, and the Machlyans to leave hostages; whilst the Alanians promised to expiate their guilt by reducing the Sindians to submission, that tribe having been for some time in revolt against us. These terms we accepted, at the instance of Arsacomas and Lonchates, who conducted the negotiations and concluded the peace.
Such, Mnesippus, are the deeds that Scythians will do for friendship’s sake.
Mne. Truly deeds of high emprise; quite a legendary look about them. With Wind’s and Scimetar’s good leave, I think a man might be excused for doubting their truth.
Tox. Now, honestly, Mnesippus, does not that doubt look a little like envy? However, doubt if you will: that shall not deter me from relating other Scythian exploits of the same kind which have happened within my experience.
Mne. Brevity, friend, is all I ask. Your story is apt to run away with you. Up hill and down dale you go, through Scythia and Machlyene, off again to Bosphorus, then back to Scythia, till my taciturnity is exhausted.
Tox. I am schooled. Brevity you shall have; I will not run you off your ears this time. My next story shall be of a service rendered to myself, by my friend Sisinnes. Induced by the desire for Greek culture, I had left my home and was on my way to Athens. The ship put in at Amastris, which comes in the natural route from Scythia, being on the shore of the Euxine, not far from Carambis. Sisinnes, who had been my friend from childhood, bore me company on this voyage. We had transferred all our belongings from the ship to an inn near the harbour; and whilst we were busy in the market, suspecting nothing wrong, some thieves had forced the door of our room and carried off everything, not leaving us even enough to go on with for that day. Well, when we got back and found what had happened, we thought it was no use trying to get legal redress from our landlord, or from the neighbours; there were too many of them; and if we had told our story — how we had been robbed of four hundred darics and our clothes and rugs and everything, most people would only have thought we were making a fuss about a trifle. So we had to think what was to be done: here we were, absolutely destitute, in a foreign country. For my part, I thought I might as well put a sword through my ribs there and then, and have done with it, rather than endure the humiliation that might be forced upon us by hunger and thirst. Sisinnes took a more cheerful view, and implored me to do nothing of the kind: ‘I shall think of something,’ he said, ‘and we may do well yet.’ For the moment, he made enough to get us some food by carrying up timber from the harbour. The next morning, he took a walk in the market, where it seems he saw a company of fine likely young fellows, who as it turned out were hired as gladiators, and were to perform two days after. He found out all about them, and then came back to me. ‘Toxaris,’ he exclaimed, ‘consider your poverty at an end! In two days’ time, I will make a rich man of you.’ We got through those two days somehow, and then came the show, in which we took our places as spectators, Sisinnes bidding me prepare myself for all the novel delights of a Greek amphitheatre. The first thing we saw on sitting down was a number of wild beasts: some of them were being assailed by javelins, others hunted by dogs, and others again were let loose upon certain men who were tied hand and foot, and whom we supposed to be criminals. The gladiators next made their appearance. The herald led forward a strapping young fellow, and announced that any one who was prepared to stand up against him might step into the arena and take his reward, which would be 400 pounds. Sisinnes rose from his seat, jumped down into the ring, expressed his willingness to fight, and demanded arms. He received the money, and brought it to me. ‘If I win,’ he said, ‘we will go off together, and are amply provided for: if I fall, you will bury me and return to Scythia.’ I was much moved.
He now received his arms, and put them on; with the exception, however, of the helmet, for he fought bareheaded. He was the first to be wounded, his adversary’s curved sword drawing a stream of blood from his groin. I was half dead with fear. However, Sisinnes was biding his time: the other now assailed him with more confidence, and Sisinnes made a lunge at his breast, and drove the sword clean through, so that his adversary fell lifeless at his feet. He himself, exhausted by the loss of blood, sank down upon the corpse, and life almost deserted him; but I ran to his assistance, raised him up, and spoke words of comfort. The victory was won, and he was free to depart; I therefore picked him up and carried him home. My efforts were at last successful: he rallied, and is living in Scythia to this day, having married my sister. He is still lame, however, from his wound. Observe: this did not take place in Machlyene, nor yet in Alania; there is no lack of witnesses to the truth of the story this time; many an Amastrian here in Athens would remember the fight of Sisinnes.
One more story, that of Abauchas, and I have done. Abauchas once arrived in the capital of the Borysthenians, with his wife, of whom he was extremely fond, and two children; one, a boy, was still at the breast, the other was a girl of seven. With him also was his friend Gyndanes, who was still suffering from the effects of a wound he had received on the journey: they had been attacked by some robbers, and Gyndanes in resisting them had been stabbed in the thigh, and was still unable to stand on account of the pain. One night they were all asleep in the upper story, when a tremendous fire broke out; the whole building was wrapped in flames, and every means of exit blocked. Abauchas started up, and leaving his sobbing children, and shaking off his wife, who clung to him and implored him to save her, he caught up his friend in his arms, and just managed to force his way down without being utterly consumed by the flames. His wife followed, carrying the boy, and bade the girl come after her; but, scorched almost to a cinder, she was compelled to drop the child from her arms, and barely succeeded in leaping through the flames; the little girl too only just escaped with her life. Abauchas was afterwards reproached with having abandoned his own wife and children to rescue Gyndanes. ‘I can beget other children easily enough,’ said he: ‘nor was it certain how these would turn out: but it would be long before I got such another friend as Gyndanes; of his affection I have been abundantly satisfied by experience.’
There, Mnesippus, you have my little selection. The next thing is to settle whether my hand or your tongue is to be amputated. Who is umpire?
Mne. Umpire we have none; we forgot that. I tell you what: we have wasted our arrows this time, but some other day we will appoint an arbitrator, and submit other friendships to his judgement; and then off shall come your hand, or out shall come my tongue, as the case may be. Perhaps, though, this is rather a primitive way of doing things. As you seem to think a great deal of friendship, and as I consider it to be the highest blessing of humanity, what is there to prevent our vowing eternal friendship on the spot? We shall both have the satisfaction of winning then, and shall get a substantial prize into the bargain: two right hands each instead of one, two tongues, four eyes, four feet; — everything in duplicate. The union of two friends — or three, let us say — is like Geryon in the pictures: a six-handed, three-headed individual; my private opinion is, that there was not one Geryon, but three Geryons, all acting in concert, as friends should.
Tox. Done with you, then.
Mne. And, Toxaris — we will dispense with the blood-and-scimetar ceremony. Our present conversation, and the similarity of our aims, are a much better security than that sanguinary cup of yours. Friendship, as I take it, should be voluntary, not compulsory.
Tox. Well said. From this day, I am your friend, you mine; I your guest here in Greece, you mine if ever you come to Scythia.
Mne. Scythia! I would go further than Scythia, to meet with such friends as Toxaris’s narratives have shown him to be.
60 See Euxine in Notes.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:57