A True Story [History]
125-180 AD [written]
125-180 AD [written]
As athletics of all kinds hold it necessary, not only to prepare the body by exercise and discipline, but sometimes to give it proper relaxation, which they esteem no less requisite, so do I think it highly necessary also for men of letters, after their severer studies, to relax a little, that they may return to them with the greater pleasure and alacrity; and for this purpose there is no better repose than that which arises from the reading of such books as not only by their humour and pleasantry may entertain them, but convey at the same time some useful instruction, both which, I flatter myself, the reader will meet with in the following history; for he will not only be pleased with the novelty of the plan, and the variety of lies, which I have told with an air of truth, but with the tacit allusions so frequently made, not, I trust, without some degree of humour, to our ancient poets, historians, and philosophers, who have told us some most miraculous and incredible stories, and which I should have pointed out to you, but that I thought they would be sufficiently visible on the perusal.
Ctesias the Cnidian, son of Ctesiochus, wrote an account of India and of things there, which he never saw himself, nor heard from anybody else. Iambulus also has acquainted us with many wonders which he met with in the great sea, and which everybody knew to be absolute falsehoods: the work, however, was not unentertaining. Besides these, many others have likewise presented us with their own travels and peregrinations, where they tell us of wondrous large beasts, savage men, and unheard-of ways of living. The great leader and master of all this rhodomontade is Homer’s “Ulysses,” who talks to Alcinous about the winds pent up in bags, man-eaters, and one-eyed Cyclops, wild men, creatures with many heads, several of his companions turned into beasts by enchantment, and a thousand things of this kind, which he related to the ignorant and credulous Phæacians.
These, notwithstanding, I cannot think much to blame for their falsehoods, seeing that the custom has been sometimes authorised, even by the pretenders to philosophy: I only wonder that they should ever expect to be believed: being, however, myself incited, by a ridiculous vanity, with the desire of transmitting something to posterity, that I may not be the only man who doth not indulge himself in the liberty of fiction, as I could not relate anything true (for I know of nothing at present worthy to be recorded), I turned my thoughts towards falsehood, a species of it, however, much more excusable than that of others, as I shall at least say one thing true, when I tell you that I lie, and shall hope to escape the general censure, by acknowledging that I mean to speak not a word of truth throughout. Know ye, therefore, that I am going to write about what I never saw myself, nor experienced, nor so much as heard from anybody else, and, what is more, of such things as neither are, nor ever can be. I give my readers warning, therefore, not to believe me.
Once upon a time, then, I set sail from the Pillars of Hercules, and getting into the Western Ocean, set off with a favourable wind; the cause of my peregrination was no more than a certain impatience of mind and thirst after novelty, with a desire of knowing where the sea ended, and what kind of men inhabited the several shores of it; for this purpose I laid in a large stock of provisions, and as much water as I thought necessary, taking along with me fifty companions of the same mind as myself. I prepared withal, a number of arms, with a skilful pilot, whom we hired at a considerable expense, and made our ship (for it was a pinnace), as tight as we could in case of a long and dangerous voyage.
We sailed on with a prosperous gale for a day and a night, but being still in sight of land, did not make any great way; the next day, however, at sun-rising, the wind springing up, the waves ran high, it grew dark, and we could not unfurl a sail; we gave ourselves up to the winds and waves, and were tossed about in a storm, which raged with great fury for threescore and nineteen days, but on the eightieth the sun shone bright, and we saw not far from us an island, high and woody, with the sea round it quite calm and placid, for the storm was over: we landed, got out, and happy to escape from our troubles, laid ourselves down on the ground for some time, after which we arose, and choosing out thirty of our company to take care of the vessel, I remained on shore with the other twenty, in order to take a view of the interior part of the island.
About three stadia from the sea, as we passed through a wood, we found a pillar of brass, with a Greek inscription on it, the characters almost effaced; we could make out however these words, “thus far came Hercules and Bacchus:” near it were the marks of two footsteps on a rock, one of them measured about an acre, the other something less; the smaller one appeared to me to be that of Bacchus, the larger that of Hercules; we paid our adorations to the deities and proceeded. We had not got far before we met with a river, which seemed exactly to resemble wine, particularly that of Chios; it was of a vast extent, and in many places navigable; this circumstance induced us to give more credit to the inscription on the pillar, when we perceived such visible marks of Bacchus’s presence here. As I had a mind to know whence this river sprung, I went back to the place from which it seemed to arise, but could not trace the spring; I found, however, several large vines full of grapes, at the root of every one the wine flowed in great abundance, and from them I suppose the river was collected. We saw a great quantity of fish in it which were extremely like wine, both in taste and colour, and after we had taken and eaten a good many of them we found ourselves intoxicated; and when we cut them up, observed that they were full of grape stones; it occurred to us afterwards that we should have mixed them with some water fish, as by themselves they tasted rather too strong of the wine.
We passed the river in a part of it which was fordable, and a little farther on met with a most wonderful species of vine, the bottoms of them that touched the earth were green and thick, and all the upper part most beautiful women, with the limbs perfect from the waist, only that from the tops of the fingers branches sprung out full of grapes, just as Daphne is represented as turned into a tree when Apollo laid hold on her; on the head, likewise, instead of hair they had leaves and tendrils; when we came up to them they addressed us, some in the Lydian tongue, some in the Indian, but most of them in Greek; they would not suffer us to taste their grapes, but when anybody attempted it, cried out as if they were hurt.
We left them and returned to our companions in the ship. We then took our casks, filled some of them with water, and some with wine from the river, slept one night on shore, and the next morning set sail, the wind being very moderate. About noon, the island being now out of sight, on a sudden a most violent whirlwind arose, and carried the ship above three thousand stadia, lifting it up above the water, from whence it did not let us down again into the seas but kept us suspended in mid air, in this manner we hung for seven days and nights, and on the eighth beheld a large tract of land, like an island, round, shining, and remarkably full of light; we got on shore, and found on examination that it was cultivated and full of inhabitants, though we could not then see any of them. As night came on other islands appeared, some large, others small, and of a fiery colour; there was also below these another land with seas, woods, mountains, and cities in it, and this we took to be our native country: as we were advancing forwards, we were seized on a sudden by the Hippogypi, for so it seems they were called by the inhabitants; these Hippogypi are men carried upon vultures, which they ride as we do horses. These vultures have each three heads, and are immensely large; you may judge of their size when I tell you that one of their feathers is bigger than the mast of a ship. The Hippogypi have orders, it seems, to fly round the kingdom, and if they find any stranger, to bring him to the king: they took us therefore, and carried us before him. As soon as he saw us, he guessed by our garb what we were. “You are Grecians,” said he, “are you not?” We told him we were. “And how,” added he, “got ye hither through the air?” We told him everything that had happened to us; and he, in return, related to us his own history, and informed us, that he also was a man, that his name was Endymion, that he had been taken away from our earth in his sleep, and brought to this place where he reigned as sovereign. That spot, he told us, which now looked like a moon to us, was the earth. He desired us withal not to make ourselves uneasy, for that we should soon have everything we wanted. “If I succeed,” says he, “in the war which I am now engaged in against the inhabitants of the sun, you will be very happy here.” We asked him then what enemies he had, and what the quarrel was about? “Phaëton,” he replied, “who is king of the sun (for that is inhabited as well as the moon), has been at war with us for some time past. The foundation of it was this: I had formerly an intention of sending some of the poorest of my subjects to establish a colony in Lucifer, which was uninhabited: but Phaëton, out of envy, put a stop to it, by opposing me in the mid-way with his Hippomyrmices; we were overcome and desisted, our forces at that time being unequal to theirs. I have now, however, resolved to renew the war and fix my colony; if you have a mind, you shall accompany us in the expedition; I will furnish you everyone with a royal vulture and other accoutrements; we shall set out to-morrow.” “With all my heart,” said I, “whenever you please.” We stayed, however, and supped with him; and rising early the next day, proceeded with the army, when the spies gave us notice that the enemy was approaching. The army consisted of a hundred thousand, besides the scouts and engineers, together with the auxiliaries, amongst whom were eighty thousand Hippogypi, and twenty thousand who were mounted on the Lachanopteri; these are very large birds, whose feathers are of a kind of herb, and whose wings look like lettuces. Next to these stood the Cinchroboli, and the Schorodomachi. Our allies from the north were three thousand Psyllotoxotæ and five thousand Anemodromi; the former take their names from the fleas which they ride upon, every flea being as big as twelve elephants; the latter are foot-soldiers, and are carried about in the air without wings, in this manner: they have large gowns hanging down to their feet, these they tuck up and spread in a form of a sail, and the wind drives them about like so many boats: in the battle they generally wear targets. It was reported that seventy thousand Strathobalani from the stars over Cappadocia were to be there, together with five thousand Hippogerani; these I did not see, for they never came: I shall not attempt, therefore, to describe them; of these, however, most wonderful things were related.
Such were the forces of Endymion; their arms were all alike; their helmets were made of beans, for they have beans there of a prodigious size and strength, and their scaly breast-plates of lupines sewed together, for the skins of their lupines are like a horn, and impenetrable; their shields and swords the same as our own.
The army ranged themselves in this manner: the right wing was formed by the Hippogypi, with the king, and round him his chosen band to protect him, amongst which we were admitted; on the left were the Lachanopteri; the auxiliaries in the middle, the foot were in all about sixty thousand myriads. They have spiders, you must know, in this country, in infinite numbers, and of pretty large dimensions, each of them being as big as one of the islands of the Cyclades; these were ordered to cover the air from the moon quite to the morning star; this being immediately done, and the field of battle prepared, the infantry was drawn up under the command of Nycterion, the son of Eudianax.
The left wing of the enemy, which was commanded by Phaëton himself, consisted of the Hippomyrmices; these are large birds, and resemble our ants, except with regard to size, the largest of them covering two acres; these fight with their horns and were in number about fifty thousand. In the right wing were the Aeroconopes, about five thousand, all archers, and riding upon large gnats. To these succeeded the Aerocoraces, light infantry, but remarkably brave and useful warriors, for they threw out of slings exceeding large radishes, which whoever was struck by, died immediately, a most horrid stench exhaling from the wound; they are said, indeed, to dip their arrows in a poisonous kind of mallow. Behind these stood ten thousand Caulomycetes, heavy-armed soldiers, who fight hand to hand; so called because they use shields made of mushrooms, and spears of the stalks of asparagus. Near them were placed the Cynobalani, about five thousand, who were sent by the inhabitants of Sirius; these were men with dog’s heads, and mounted upon winged acorns: some of their forces did not arrive in time; amongst whom there were to have been some slingers from the Milky-way, together with the Nephelocentauri; they indeed came when the first battle was over, and I wish they had never come at all: the slingers did not appear, which, they say, so enraged Phaëton that he set their city on fire.
Thus prepared, the enemy began the attack: the signal being given, and the asses braying on each side, for such are the trumpeters they make use of on these occasions, the left wing of the Heliots, unable to sustain the onset of our Hippogypi, soon gave way, and we pursued them with great slaughter: their right wing, however, overcame our left. The Aeroconopes falling upon us with astonishing force, and advancing even to our infantry, by their assistance we recovered; and they now began to retreat, when they found the left wing had been beaten. The defeat then becoming general, many of them were taken prisoners and many slain; the blood flowed in such abundance that the clouds were tinged with it and looked red, just as they appear to us at sunset; from thence it distilled through upon the earth. Some such thing, I suppose, happened formerly amongst the gods, which made Homer believe that Jove rained blood at the death of Sarpedon.
When we returned from our pursuit of the enemy we set up two trophies; one, on account of the infantry engagement in the spider’s web, and another in the clouds, for our battle in the air. Thus prosperously everything went on, when our spies informed us that the Nephelocentaurs, who should have been with Phaëton before the battle, were just arrived: they made, indeed, as they approached towards us, a most formidable appearance, being half winged horses and half men; the men from the waist upwards, about as big as the Rhodian Colossus, and the horses of the size of a common ship of burthen. I have not mentioned the number of them, which was really so great, that it would appear incredible: they were commanded by Sagittarius, from the Zodiac. As soon as they learned that their friends had been defeated they sent a message to Phaëton to call him back, whilst they put their forces into order of battle, and immediately fell upon the Selenites, who were unprepared to resist them, being all employed in the division of the spoil; they soon put them to flight, pursued the king quite to his own city, and slew the greatest part of his birds; they then tore down the trophies, ran over all the field woven by the spiders, and seized me and two of my companions. Phaëton at length coming up, they raised other trophies for themselves; as for us, we were carried that very day to the palace of the Sun, our hands bound behind us by a cord of the spider’s web.
The conquerors determined not to besiege the city of the Moon, but when they returned home, resolved to build a wall between them and the Sun, that his rays might not shine upon it; this wall was double and made of thick clouds, so that the moon was always eclipsed, and in perpetual darkness. Endymion, sorely distressed at these calamities, sent an embassy, humbly beseeching them to pull down the wall, and not to leave him in utter darkness, promising to pay them tribute, to assist them with his forces, and never more to rebel; he sent hostages withal. Phaëton called two councils on the affair, at the first of which they were all inexorable, but at the second changed their opinion; a treaty at length was agreed to on these conditions:-
The Heliots and their allies on one part, make the following agreement with the Selenites and their allies on the other:-“That the Heliots shall demolish the wall now erected between them, that they shall make no irruptions into the territories of the Moon; and restore the prisoners according to certain articles of ransom to be stipulated concerning them; that the Selenites shall permit all the other stars to enjoy their rights and privileges; that they shall never wage war with the Heliots, but assist them whenever they shall be invaded; that the king of the Selenites shall pay to the king of the Heliots an annual tribute of ten thousand casks of dew, for the insurance of which, he shall send ten thousand hostages; that they shall mutually send out a colony to the Morning-star, in which, whoever of either nation shall think proper, may become a member; that the treaty shall be inscribed on a column of amber, in the midst of the air, and on the borders of the two kingdoms. This treaty was sworn to on the part of the Heliots, by Pyronides, and Therites, and Phlogius; and on the part of the Selenites, by Nyctor, and Menarus, and Polylampus.”
Such was the peace made between them; the wall was immediately pulled down, and we were set at liberty. When we returned to the Moon, our companions met and embraced us, shedding tears of joy, as did Endymion also. He intreated us to remain there, or to go along with the new colony; this I could by no means be persuaded to, but begged he would let us down into the sea. As he found I could not be prevailed on to stay, after feasting us most nobly for seven days, he dismissed us.
I will now tell you every thing which I met with in the Moon that was new and extraordinary. Amongst them, when a man grows old he does not die, but dissolves into smoke and turns to air. They all eat the same food, which is frogs roasted on the ashes from a large fire; of these they have plenty which fly about in the air, they get together over the coals, snuff up the scent of them, and this serves them for victuals. Their drink is air squeezed into a cup, which produces a kind of dew.
He who is quite bald is esteemed a beauty amongst them, for they abominate long hair; whereas, in the comets, it is looked upon as a perfection at least; so we heard from some strangers who were speaking of them; they have, notwithstanding, small beards a little above the knee; no nails to their feet, and only one great toe. They have honey here which is extremely sharp, and when they exercise themselves, wash their bodies with milk; this, mixed with a little of their honey, makes excellent cheese. Their oil is extracted from onions, is very rich, and smells like ointment. Their wines, which are in great abundance, yield water, and the grape stones are like hail; I imagine, indeed, that whenever the wind shakes their vines and bursts the grape, then comes down amongst us what we call hail. They make use of their belly, which they can open and shut as they please, as a kind of bag, or pouch, to put anything in they want; it has no liver or intestines, but is hairy and warm within, insomuch, that new-born children, when they are cold, frequently creep into it. The garments of the rich amongst them are made of glass, but very soft: the poor have woven brass, which they have here in great abundance, and by pouring a little water over it, so manage as to card it like wool. I am afraid to mention their eyes, lest, from the incredibility of the thing, you should not believe me. I must, however, inform you that they have eyes which they take in and out whenever they please: so that they can preserve them anywhere till occasion serves, and then make use of them; many who have lost their own, borrow from others; and there are several rich men who keep a stock of eyes by them. Their ears are made of the leaves of plane-trees, except of those who spring, as I observed to you, from acorns, these alone have wooden ones. I saw likewise another very extraordinary thing in the king’s palace, which was a looking-glass that is placed in a well not very deep; whoever goes down into the well hears everything that is said upon earth, and if he looks into the glass, beholds all the cities and nations of the world as plain as if he was close to them. I myself saw several of my friends there, and my whole native country; whether they saw me also I will not pretend to affirm. He who does not believe these things, whenever he goes there will know that I have said nothing but what is true.
To return to our voyage. We took our leave of the king and his friends, got on board our ship, and set sail. Endymion made me a present of two glass robes, two brass ones, and a whole coat of armour made of lupines, all which I left in the whale’s belly. He likewise sent with us a thousand Hippogypi, who escorted us five hundred stadia.
We sailed by several places, and at length reached the new colony of the Morning-star, where we landed and took in water; from thence we steered into the Zodiac; leaving the Sun on our left, we passed close by his territory, and would have gone ashore, many of our companions being very desirous of it, but the wind would not permit us; we had a view, however, of that region, and perceived that it was green, fertile, and well-watered, and abounding in everything necessary and agreeable. The Nephelocentaurs, who are mercenaries in the service of Phaëton, saw us and flew aboard our ship, but, recollecting that we were included into the treaty, soon departed; the Hippogypi likewise took their leave of us.
All the next night and day we continued our course downwards, and towards evening came upon Lycnopolis: this city lies between the Pleiades and the Hyades, and a little below the Zodiac: we landed, but saw no men, only a number of lamps running to and fro in the market-place and round the port: some little ones, the poor, I suppose, of the place; others the rich and great among them, very large, light, and splendid: every one had its habitation or candlestick to itself, and its own proper name, as men have. We heard them speak: they offered us no injury, but invited us in the most hospitable manner; we were afraid, notwithstanding: neither would any of us venture to take any food or sleep. The king’s court is in the middle of the city; here he sits all night, calls every one by name, and if they do not appear, condemns them to death for deserting their post; their death is, to be put out; we stood by and heard several of them plead their excuses for non-attendance. Here I found my own lamp, talked to him, and asked him how things went on at home; he told me everything that had happened. We stayed there one night, and next day loosing our anchor, sailed off very near the clouds; where we saw, and greatly admired the city of Nephelo-coccygia, but the wind would not permit us to land. Coronus, the son of Cottiphion, is king there. I remember Aristophanes, the poet, speaks of him, a man of wisdom and veracity, the truth of whose writings nobody can call in question. About three days after this, we saw the ocean very plainly, but no land, except those regions which hang in the air, and which appeared to us all bright and fiery. The fourth day about noon, the wind subsiding, we got safe down into the sea. No sooner did we touch the water, but we were beyond measure rejoiced. We immediately gave every man his supper, as much as we could afford, and afterwards jumped into the sea and swam, for it was quite calm and serene.
It often happens, that prosperity is the forerunner of the greatest misfortunes. We had sailed but two days in the sea, when early in the morning of the third, at sun-rise, we beheld on a sudden several whales, and one amongst them, of a most enormous size, being not less than fifteen hundred stadia in length, he came up to us with his mouth wide open, disturbing the sea for a long way before him, the waves dashing round on every side; he whetted his teeth, which looked like so many long spears, and were white as ivory; we embraced and took leave of one another, expecting him every moment; he came near, and swallowed us up at once, ship and all; he did not, however, crush us with his teeth, for the vessel luckily slipped through one of the interstices; when we were got in, for some time it was dark, and we could see nothing; but the whale happening to gape, we beheld a large space big enough to hold a city with ten thousand men in it; in the middle were a great number of small fish, several animals cut in pieces, sails and anchors of ships, men’s bones, and all kinds of merchandise; there was likewise a good quantity of land and hills, which seemed to have been formed of the mud which he had swallowed; there was also a wood, with all sorts of trees in it, herbs of every kind; everything, in short, seemed to vegetate; the extent of this might be about two hundred and forty stadia. We saw also several sea-birds, gulls, and kingfishers, making their nests in the branches. At our first arrival in these regions, we could not help shedding tears; in a little time, however, I roused my companions, and we repaired our vessel; after which, we sat down to supper on what the place afforded. Fish of all kinds we had here in plenty, and the remainder of the water which we brought with us from the Morning-star. When we got up the next day, as often as the whale gaped, we could see mountains and islands, sometimes only the sky, and plainly perceived by our motion that he travelled through the sea at a great rate, and seemed to visit every part of it. At length, when our abode become familiar to us, I took with me seven of my companions, and advanced into the wood in order to see everything I could possibly; we had not gone above five stadia, before we met with a temple dedicated to Neptune, as we learned by the inscription on it, and a little farther on, several sepulchres, monumental stones, and a fountain of clear water; we heard the barking of a dog, and seeing smoke at some distance from us, concluded there must be some habitation not far off; we got on as fast as we could, and saw an old man and a boy very busy in cultivating a little garden, and watering it from a fountain; we were both pleased and terrified at the sight, and they, as you may suppose, on their part not less affected, stood fixed in astonishment and could not speak: after some time, however, “Who are you?” said the old man; “and whence come ye? are you daemons of the sea, or unfortunate men, like ourselves? for such we are, born and bred on land, though now inhabitants of another element; swimming along with this great creature, who carries us about with him, not knowing what is to become of us, or whether we are alive or dead.” To which I replied, “We, father, are men as you are, and but just arrived here, being swallowed up, together with our ship, but three days ago; we came this way to see what the wood produced, for it seemed large and full of trees; some good genius led us towards you, and we have the happiness to find we are not the only poor creatures shut up in this great monster; but give us an account of your adventures, let us know who you are, and how you came here.” He would not however, tell us anything himself, or ask us any questions, till he had performed the rites of hospitality; he took us into his house, therefore, where he had got beds, and made everything very commodious; here he presented us with herbs, fruit, fish, and wine: and when we were satisfied, began to inquire into our history; when I acquainted him with everything that had happened to us; the storm we met with; our adventures in the island; our sailing through the air, the war, etc., from our first setting out, even to our descent into the whale’s belly.
He expressed his astonishment at what had befallen us, and then told us his own story, which was as follows:-“Strangers,” said he, “I am a Cyprian by birth, and left my country to merchandise with this youth, who is my son, and several servants. We sailed to Italy with goods of various kinds, some of which you may, perhaps, have seen in the mouth of the whale; we came as far as Sicily with a prosperous gale, when a violent tempest arose, and we were tossed about in the ocean for three days, where we were swallowed up, men, ship and all, by the whale, only we two remaining alive; after burying our companions we built a temple to Neptune, and here we have lived ever since, cultivating our little garden, raising herbs, and eating fish or fruit. The wood, as you see, is very large, and produces many vines, from which we have excellent wine; there is likewise a fountain, which perhaps you have observed, of fresh and very cold water. We make our bed of leaves, have fuel sufficient, and catch a great many birds and live fish. Getting out upon the gills of the whale, there we wash ourselves when we please. There is a salt lake, about twenty stadia round, which produces fish of all kinds, and where we row about in a little boat which we built on purpose. It is now seven-and-twenty years since we were swallowed up. Everything here, indeed, is very tolerable, except our neighbours, who are disagreeable, troublesome, savage, and unsociable.” “And are there more,” replied I, “besides ourselves in the whale?” “A great many,” said he, “and those very unhospitable, and of a most horrible appearance: towards the tail, on the western parts of the wood, live the Tarichanes, a people with eel’s eyes, and faces like crabs, bold, warlike, and that live upon raw flesh. On the other side, at the right hand wall, are the Tritonomendetes, in their upper parts men, and in the lower resembling weasels. On the left are the Carcinochires, and the Thynnocephali, who have entered into a league offensive and defensive with each other. The middle part is occupied by the Paguradæ, and the Psittopodes, a warlike nation, and remarkably swift-footed. The eastern parts, near the whale’s mouth, being washed by the sea, are most of them uninhabited. I have some of these, however, on condition of paying an annual tribute to the Psittopodes of five hundred oysters. Such is the situation of this country; our difficulty is how to oppose so many people, and find sustenance for ourselves.” “How many may there be?” said I. “More than a thousand,” said he. “And what are their arms?” “Nothing,” replied he, “but fish-bones.” “Then,” said I, “we had best go to war with them, for we have arms and they none; if we conquer them we shall live without fear for the future.” This was immediately agreed upon, and, as soon as we returned to our ship, we began to prepare. The cause of the war was to be the non-payment of the tribute, which was just now becoming due: they sent to demand it; he returned a contemptuous answer to the messengers: the Psittopodes and Paguradæ were both highly enraged, and immediately fell upon Scintharus (for that was the old man’s name), in a most violent manner.
We, expecting to be attacked, sent out a detachment of five-and-twenty men, with orders to lie concealed till the enemy was past, and then to rise upon them, which they did, and cut off their rear. We, in the meantime, being likewise five-and-twenty in number, with the old man and his son, waited their coming up, met, and engaged them with no little danger, till at length they fled, and we pursued them even into their trenches. Of the enemy there fell an hundred and twenty; we lost only one, our pilot, who was run through by the rib of a mullet. That day, and the night after it, we remained on the field of battle, and erected the dried backbone of a dolphin as a trophy. Next day some other forces, who had heard of the engagement, arrived, and made head against us; the Tarichanes; under the command of Pelamus, in the right wing, the Thynnocephali on the left, and the Carcinochires in the middle; the Tritonomendetes remained neutral, not choosing to assist either party: we came round upon all the rest by the temple of Neptune, and with a hideous cry, rushed upon them. As they were unarmed, we soon put them to flight, pursued them into the wood, and took possession of their territory. They sent ambassadors a little while after to take away their dead, and propose terms of peace; but we would hear of no treaty, and attacking them the next day, obtained a complete victory, and cut them all off, except the Tritonomendetes, who, informed of what had passed, ran away up to the whale’s gills, and from thence threw themselves into the sea. The country being now cleared of all enemies, we rambled through it, and from that time remained without fear, used what exercise we pleased, went a-hunting, pruned our vines, gathered our fruit, and lived, in short, in every respect like men put together in a large prison, which there was no escaping from, but where they enjoy everything they can wish for in ease and freedom; such was our way of life for a year and eight months.
On the fifteenth day of the ninth month, about the second opening of the whale’s mouth (for this he did once every hour, and by that we calculated our time), we were surprised by a sudden noise, like the clash of oars; being greatly alarmed, we crept up into the whale’s mouth, where, standing between his teeth, we beheld one of the most astonishing spectacles that was ever seen; men of an immense size, each of them not less than half a stadium in length, sailing on islands like boats. I know what I am saying is incredible, I shall proceed, notwithstanding: these islands were long, but not very high, and about a hundred stadia in circumference; there were about eight-and-twenty of these men in each of them, besides the rowers on the sides, who rowed with large cypresses, with their branches and leaves on; in the stern stood a pilot raised on an eminence and guiding a brazen helm; on the forecastle were forty immense creatures resembling men, except in their hair, which was all a flame of fire, so that they had no occasion for helmets; these were armed, and fought most furiously; the wind rushing in upon the wood, which was in every one of them, swelled it like a sail and drove them on, according to the pilot’s direction; and thus, like so many long ships, the islands, by the assistance of the oars, also moved with great velocity. At first we saw only two or three, but afterwards there appeared above six hundred of them, which immediately engaged; many were knocked to pieces by running against each other, and many sunk; others were wedged in close together and, not able to get asunder, fought desperately; those who were near the prows showed the greatest alacrity, boarding each other’s ships, and making terrible havoc; none, however, were taken prisoners. For grappling-irons they made use of large sharks chained together, who laid hold of the wood and kept the island from moving: they threw oysters at one another, one of which would have filled a waggon, and sponges of an acre long. Æolocentaurus was admiral of one of the fleets, and Thalassopotes of the other: they had quarrelled, it seems, about some booty; Thalassopotes, as it was reported, having driven away a large tribe of dolphins belonging to Æolocentaurus: this we picked up from their own discourse, when we heard them mention the names of their commanders. At length the forces of Æolocentaurus prevailed, and sunk about a hundred and fifty of the islands of the enemy, and taking three more with the men in them: the rest took to their oars and fled. The conquerors pursued them a little way, and in the evening returned to the wreck, seizing the remainder of the enemy’s vessels, and getting back some of their own, for they had themselves lost no less than fourscore islands in the engagement. They erected a trophy for this victory, hanging one of the conquered islands on the head of the whale, which they fastened their hawsers to, and casting anchor close to him, for they had anchors immensely large and strong, spent the night there: in the morning, after they had returned thanks, and sacrificed on the back of the whale, they buried their dead, sung their Io Pæans, and sailed off. Such was the battle of the islands.
From this time our abode in the whale growing rather tedious and disagreeable, not able to bear it any longer, I began to think within myself how we might make our escape. My first scheme was to undermine the right-hand wall and get out there; and accordingly we began to cut away, but after getting through about five stadia, and finding it was to no purpose, we left off digging, and determined to set fire to the wood, which we imagined would destroy the whale, and secure us a safe retreat. We began, therefore, by burning the parts near his tail; for seven days and nights he never felt the heat, but on the eighth we perceived he grew sick, for he opened his mouth very seldom, and when he did, shut it again immediately; on the tenth and the eleventh he declined visibly, and began to stink a little; on the twelfth it occurred to us, which we had never thought of before, that unless, whilst he was gaping, somebody could prop up his jaws, to prevent his closing them, we were in danger of being shut up in the carcase, and perishing there: we placed some large beams, therefore, in his mouth, got our ship ready, and took in water, and everything necessary: Scintharus was to be our pilot: the next day the whale died; we drew our vessel through the interstices of his teeth, and let her down from thence into the sea: then, getting on the whale’s back, sacrificed to Neptune, near the spot where the trophy was erected. Here we stayed three days, it being a dead calm, and on the fourth set sail; we struck upon several bodies of the giants that had been slain in the sea-fight, and measured them with the greatest astonishment: for some days we had very mild and temperate weather, but the north-wind arising, it grew so extremely cold, that the whole sea was froze up, not on the surface only, but three or four hundred feet deep, so that we got out and walked on the ice. The frost being so intense that we could not bear it, we put in practice the following scheme, which Scintharus put us in the head of: we dug a cave in the ice, where we remained for thirty days, lighting a fire, and living upon the fish which we found in it; but, our provisions failing, we were obliged to loosen our ship which was stuck fast in, and hoisting a sail, slid along through the ice with an easy pleasant motion; on the fifth day from that time, it grew warm, the ice broke, and it was all water again.
After sailing about three hundred stadia, we fell in upon a little deserted island: here we took in water, for ours was almost gone, killed with our arrows two wild oxen, and departed. These oxen had horns, not on their heads, but, as Momus seemed to wish, under their eyes. A little beyond this, we got into a sea, not of water, but of milk; and upon it we saw an island full of vines; this whole island was one compact well-made cheese, as we afterwards experienced by many a good meal, which we made upon it, and is in length five-and-twenty stadia. The vines have grapes upon them, which yield not wine, but milk. In the middle of the island was a temple to the Nereid Galatæa, as appeared by an inscription on it: as long as we stayed there, the land afforded us victuals to eat, and the vines supplied us with milk to drink. Tyro, the daughter of Salmoneus, we were told, was queen of it, Neptune having, after her death, conferred that dignity upon her.
We stopped five days on this island, and on the sixth set sail with a small breeze, which gently agitated the waves, and on the eighth, changed our milky sea for a green and briny one, where we saw a great number of men running backwards and forwards, resembling ourselves in every part, except the feet, which were all of cork, whence, I suppose, they are called Phellopodes. We were surprised to see them not sinking, but rising high above the waves, and making their way without the least fear or apprehension; they came up to, and addressed us in the Greek tongue, telling us they were going to Phello, their native country; they accompanied us a good way, and then taking their leave, wished us a good voyage. A little after we saw several islands, amongst which, to the left of us, stood Phello, to which these men were going, a city built in the middle of a large round cork; towards the right hand, and at a considerable distance, were many others, very large and high, on which we saw a prodigious large fire: fronting the prow of our ship, we had a view of one very broad and flat, and which seemed to be about five hundred stadia off; as we approached near to it, a sweet and odoriferous air came round us, such as Herodotus tells us blows from Arabia Felix; from the rose, the narcissus, the hyacinth, the lily, the violet, the myrtle, the laurel, and the vine. Refreshed with these delightful odours, and in hopes of being at last rewarded for our long sufferings, we came close up to the island; here we beheld several safe and spacious harbours, with clear transparent rivers rolling placidly into the sea; meadows, woods, and birds of all kinds, chanting melodiously on the shore; and, on the trees, the soft and sweet air fanning the branches on every side, which sent forth a soft, harmonious sound, like the playing on a flute; at the same time we heard a noise, not of riot or tumult, but a kind of joyful and convivial sound, as of some playing on the lute or harp, with others joining in the chorus, and applauding them.
We cast anchor and landed, leaving our ship in the harbour with Scintharus and two more of our companions. As we were walking through a meadow full of flowers, we met the guardians of the isle, who, immediately chaining us with manacles of roses, for these are their only fetters, conducted us to their king. From these we learned, on our journey, that this place was called the Island of the Blessed, and was governed by Rhadamanthus. We were carried before him, and he was sitting that day as judge to try some causes; ours was the fourth in order. The first was that of Ajax Telamonius, to determine whether he was to rank with the heroes or not. The accusation ran that he was mad, and had made an end of himself. Much was said on both sides. At length Rhadamanthus pronounced that he should be consigned to the care of Hippocrates, and go through a course of hellebore, after which he might be admitted to the Symposium. The second was a love affair, to decide whether Theseus or Menelaus should possess Helen in these regions; and the decree of Rhadamanthus was, that she should live with Menelaus, who had undergone so many difficulties and dangers for her; besides, that Theseus had other women, the Amazonian lady and the daughters of Minos. The third cause was a point of precedency between Alexander the son of Philip, and Hannibal the Carthaginian, which was given in favour of Alexander, who was placed on a throne next to the elder Cyrus, the Persian. Our cause came on the last. The king asked us how we dared to enter, alone as we were, into that sacred abode. We told him everything that had happened; he commanded us to retire, and consulted with the assessors concerning us. There were many in council with him, and amongst them Aristides, the just Athenian, and pursuant to his opinion it was determined that we should suffer the punishment of our bold curiosity after our deaths, but at present might remain in the island for a certain limited time, associate with the heroes, and then depart; this indulgence was not to exceed seven months.
At this instant our chains, if so they might be called, dropped off, and we were left at liberty to range over the city, and to partake of the feast of the blessed. The whole city was of gold, and the walls of emerald; the seven gates were all made out of one trunk of the cinnamon-tree; the pavement, within the walls, of ivory; the temples of the gods were of beryl, and the great altars, on which they offered the hecatombs, all of one large amethyst. Round the city flowed a river of the most precious ointment, a hundred cubits in breadth, and deep enough to swim in; the baths are large houses of glass perfumed with cinnamon, and instead of water filled with warm dew. For clothes they wear spider’s webs, very fine, and of a purple colour. They have no bodies, but only the appearance of them, insensible to the touch, and without flesh, yet they stand, taste, move, and speak. Their souls seem to be naked, and separated from them, with only the external similitude of a body, and unless you attempt to touch, you can scarce believe but they have one; they are a kind of upright shadows, only not black. In this place nobody ever grows old: at whatever age they enter here, at that they always remain. They have no night nor bright day, but a perpetual twilight; one equal season reigns throughout the year; it is always spring with them, and no wind blows but Zephyrus. The whole region abounds in sweet flowers and shrubs of every kind; their vines bear twelve times in the year, yielding fruit every month, their apples, pomegranates, and the rest of our autumnal produce, thirteen times, bearing twice in the month of Minos. Instead of corn the fields bring forth loaves of ready-made bread, like mushrooms. There are three hundred and sixty-five fountains of water round the city, as many of honey, and five hundred rather smaller of sweet-scented oil, besides seven rivers of milk and eight of wine.
Their symposia are held in a place without the city, which they call the Elysian Field. This is a most beautiful meadow, skirted by a large and thick wood, affording an agreeable shade to the guests, who repose on couches of flowers; the winds attend upon and bring them everything necessary, except wine, which is otherwise provided, for there are large trees on every side made of the finest glass, the fruit of which are cups of various shapes and sizes. Whoever comes to the entertainment gathers one or more of these cups, which immediately, becomes full of wine, and so they drink of it, whilst the nightingales and other birds of song, with their bills peck the flowers out of the neighbouring fields, and drop them on their heads; thus are they crowned with perpetual garlands. Their manner of perfuming them is this. The clouds suck up the scented oils from the fountains and rivers, and the winds gently fanning them, distil it like soft dew on those who are assembled there. At supper they have music also, and singing, particularly the verses of Homer, who is himself generally at the feast, and sits next above Ulysses, with a chorus of youths and virgins. He is led in accompanied by Eunomus the Locrian, Arion of Lesbos, Anacreon, and Stesichorus, whom I saw there along with them, and who at length is reconciled to Helen. When they have finished their songs, another chorus begins of swans, swallows, and nightingales, and to these succeeds the sweet rustling of the zephyrs, that whistle through the woods and close the concert. What most contributes to their happiness is, that near the symposium are two fountains, the one of milk, the other of pleasure; from the first they drink at the beginning of the feast; there is nothing afterwards but joy and festivity.
I will now tell you what men of renown I met with there. And first there were all the demigods, and all the heroes that fought at Troy except Ajax the Locrian, who alone, it seems, was condemned to suffer for his crimes in the habitations of the wicked. Then there were of the barbarians both the Cyruses, Anacharsis the Scythian, Zamolxis of Thrace, and Numa the Italian; besides these I met with Lycurgus the Spartan, Phocion and Tellus of Athens, and all the wise men except Periander. I saw also Socrates, the son of Sophroniscus, prating with Nestor and Palamedes; near him were Hyacinthus of Sparta, Narcissus the Thespian, Hylas, and several other beauties: he seemed very fond of Hyacinthus. Some things were laid to his charge: it was even reported that Rhadamanthus was very angry with him, and threatened to turn him out of the island if he continued to play the fool, and would not leave off his irony and sarcasm. Of all the philosophers, Plato alone was not to be found there, but it seems he lived in a republic of his own building, and which was governed by laws framed by himself. Aristippus and Epicurus were in the highest esteem here as the most polite, benevolent, and convivial of men. Even Æsop the Phrygian was here, whom they made use of by way of buffoon. Diogenes of Sinope had so wonderfully changed his manners in this place, that he married Lais the harlot, danced and sang, got drunk, and played a thousand freaks. Not one Stoic did I see amongst them; they, it seems, were not yet got up to the top of the high hill of virtue; and as to Chrysippus, we were told that he was not to enter the island till he had taken a fourth dose of hellebore. The Academicians, we heard, were very desirous of coming here, but they stood doubting and deliberating about it, neither were they quite certain whether there was such a place as Elysium or not; perhaps they were afraid of Rhadamanthus’s judgment on them, as decisive judgments are what they would never allow. Many of them, it is reported, followed those who were coming to the island, but being too lazy to proceed, turned back when they were got half way.
Such were the principal persons whom I met with here. Achilles is had in the greatest honour among them, and next to him Theseus.
Two or three days after my arrival I met with the poet Homer, and both of us being quite at leisure, asked him several questions, and amongst the rest where he was born, that, as I informed him, having been long a matter of dispute amongst us. We were very ignorant indeed, he said, for some had made him a Chian, others a native of Smyrna, others of Colophon, but that after all he was a Babylonian, and amongst them was called Tigranes, though, after being a hostage in Greece, they had changed his name to Homer. I then asked him about those of his verses which are rejected as spurious, and whether they were his or not. He said they were all his own, which made me laugh at the nonsense of Zenodotus and Aristarchus the grammarians. I then asked him how he came to begin his “Iliad” with the wrath of Achilles; he said it was all by chance. I desired likewise to know whether, as it was generally reported, he wrote the “Odyssey” before the “Iliad.” He said, no. It is commonly said he was blind, but I soon found he was not so; for he made use of his eyes and looked at me, so that I had no reason to ask him that question. Whenever I found him disengaged, I took the opportunity of conversing with him, and he very readily entered into discourse with me, especially after the victory which he obtained over Thersites, who had accused him of turning him into ridicule in some of his verses. The cause was heard before Rhadamanthus, and Homer came off victorious. Ulysses pleaded for him.
I met also Pythagoras the Samian, who arrived in these regions after his soul had gone a long round in the bodies of several animals, having been changed seven times. All his right side was of gold, and there was some dispute whether he should be called Pythagoras or Euphorbus. Empedocles came likewise, who looked sodden and roasted all over. He desired admittance, but though he begged hard for it, was rejected.
A little time after the games came on, which they call here Thanatusia. Achilles presided for the fifth time, and Theseus for the seventh. A narrative of the whole would be tedious; I shall only, therefore, recount a few of the principal circumstances in the wrestling match. Carus, a descendant of Hercules, conquered Ulysses at the boxing match; Areus the Egyptian, who was buried at Corinth, and Epeus contended, but neither got the victory. The Pancratia was not proposed amongst them. In the race I do not remember who had the superiority. In poetry Homer was far beyond them all; Hesiod, however, got a prize. The reward to all was a garland of peacock’s feathers.
When the games were over word was brought that the prisoners in Tartarus had broken loose, overcome the guard, and were proceeding to take possession of the island under the command of Phalaris the Agrigentine, Busiris of Egypt, Diomede the Thracian, Scyron, and Pityocamptes. As soon as Rhadamanthus heard of it he despatched the heroes to the shore, conducted by Theseus, Achilles, and Ajax Telamonius, who was now returned to his senses. A battle ensued, wherein the heroes were victorious, owing principally to the valour of Achilles. Socrates, who was placed in the right wing, behaved much better than he had done at Delius in his life-time, for when the enemy approached he never fled, nor so much as turned his face about. He had a very extraordinary present made him as the reward of his courage, no less than a fine spacious garden near the city; here he summoned his friends and disputed, calling the place by the name of the Academy of the Dead. They then bound the prisoners and sent them back to Tartarus, to suffer double punishment. Homer wrote an account of this battle, and gave it me to show it to our people when I went back, but I lost it afterwards, together with a great many other things. It began thus-
“Sing, Muse, the battles of the heroes dead-”
The campaign thus happily finished, they made an entertainment to celebrate the victory, which, as is usual amongst them, was a bean-feast. Pythagoras alone absented himself on that day, and fasted, holding in abomination the wicked custom of eating beans.
Six months had now elapsed, when a new and extraordinary affair happened. Cinyrus, the son of Scintharus, a tall, well-made, handsome youth, fell in love with Helen, and she no less desperately with him. They were often nodding and drinking to one another at the public feasts, and would frequently rise up and walk out together alone into the wood. The violence of his passion, joined to the impossibility of possessing her any other way, put Cinyrus on the resolution of running away with her. She imagined that they might easily get off to some of the adjacent islands, either to Phellus or Tyroessa. He selected three of the bravest of our crew to accompany them; never mentioning the design to his father, who he knew would never consent to it, but the first favourable opportunity, put it in execution; and one night when I was not with them (for it happened that I stayed late at the feast, and slept there) carried her off.
Menelaus, rising in the middle of the night, and perceiving that his wife was gone, made a dreadful noise about it, and, taking his brother along with him, proceeded immediately to the king’s palace. At break of day the guards informed him that they had seen a vessel a good distance from land. He immediately put fifty heroes on board a ship made out of one large piece of the asphodelus, with orders to pursue them. They made all the sail they possibly could, and about noon came up with and seized on them, just as they were entering into the Milky Sea, close to Tyroessa; so near were they to making their escape. The pursuers threw a rosy chain over the vessel and brought her home again. Helen began to weep, blushed, and hid her face. Rhadamanthus asked Cinyrus and the rest of them if they had any more accomplices: they told him they had none. He then ordered them to be chained, whipped with mallows, and sent to Tartarus.
It was now determined that we should stay no longer on the island than the time limited, and the very next day was fixed for our departure. This gave me no little concern, and I wept to think I must leave so many good things, and be once more a wanderer. They endeavoured to administer consolation to me by assuring me that in a few years I should return to them again; they even pointed out the seat that should be allotted to me, and which was near the best and worthiest inhabitants of these delightful mansions. I addressed myself to Rhadamanthus, and humbly entreated him to inform me of my future fate, and let me know beforehand whether I should travel. He told me that, after many toils and dangers, I should at last return in safety to my native country, but would not point out the time when. He then showed me the neighbouring islands, five of which appeared near to me, and a sixth at a distance. “Those next to you,” said he, “where you see a great fire burning, are the habitations of the wicked; the sixth is the city of dreams; behind that lies the island of Calypso, which you cannot see yet. When you get beyond these you will come to a large tract of land inhabited by those who live on the side of the earth directly opposite to you, there you will suffer many things, wander through several nations, and meet with some very savage and unsociable people, and at length get into another region.”
Having said thus, he took a root of mallow out of the earth, and putting it into my hand, bade me remember, when I was in any danger, to call upon that; and added, moreover, that if, when I came to the Antipodes, I took care “never to stir the fire with a sword, and never to eat lupines,” I might have hopes of returning to the Island of the Blessed.
I then got everything ready for the voyage, supped with, and took my leave of them. Next day, meeting Homer, I begged him to make me a couple of verses for an inscription, which he did, and I fixed them on a little column of beryl, at the mouth of the harbour; the inscription was as follows:
“Dear to the gods, and favourite of heaven,
Here Lucian lived: to him alone ’twas given,
Well pleased these happy regions to explore,
And back returning, seek his native shore.”
Here Lucian lived: to him alone ’twas given,
Well pleased these happy regions to explore,
And back returning, seek his native shore.”
I stayed that day, and the next set sail; the heroes attending to take their leave of us; when Ulysses, unknown to Penelope, slipped a letter into my hand for Calypso, at the island of Ogygia. Rhadamanthus was so obliging as to send with us Nauplius the pilot, that, if we stopped at the neighbouring islands, and they should lay hold on us, he might acquaint them that we were only on our passage to another place.
As soon as we got out of the sweet-scented air, we came into another that smelt of asphaltus, pitch, and sulphur burning together, with a most intolerable stench, as of burned carcases: the whole element above us was dark and dismal, distilling a kind of pitchy dew upon our heads; we heard the sound of stripes, and the yellings of men in torment.
We saw but one of these islands; that which we landed on I will give you some description of. Every part of it was steep and filthy, abounding in rocks and rough mountains. We crept along, over precipices full of thorns and briers, and, passing through a most horrid country, came to the dungeon, and place of punishment, which we beheld with an admiration full of horror: the ground was strewed with swords and prongs, and close to us were three rivers, one of mire, another of blood, and another of fire, immense and impassable, that flowed in torrents, and rolled like waves in the sea; it had many fish in it, some like torches, others resembling live coals; which they called lychnisci. There is but one entrance into the three rivers, and at the mouth of them stood, as porter, Timon of Athens. By the assistance, however, of our guide, Nauplius, we proceeded, and saw several punished, as well kings as private persons, and amongst these some of our old acquaintance; we saw Cinyrus, hung up and roasting there. Our guides gave us the history of several of them, and told us what they were punished for; those, we observed, suffered most severely who in their lifetimes had told lies, or written what was not true, amongst whom were Ctesias the Cnidian, Herodotus, and many others. When I saw these I began to conceive good hopes of hereafter, as I am not conscious of ever having told a story.
Not able to bear any longer such melancholy spectacles, we took our leave of Nauplius, and returned to our ship. In a short time after we had a view, but confused and indistinct, of the Island of Dreams, which itself was not unlike a dream, for as we approached towards it, it seemed as it were to retire and fly from us. At last, however, we got up to it, and entered the harbour, which is called Hypnus, near the ivory gates, where there is a harbour dedicated to the cock. We landed late in the evening, and saw several dreams of various kinds. I propose, however, at present, to give you an account of the place itself, which nobody has ever written about, except Homer, whose description is very imperfect.
Round the island is a very thick wood; the trees are all tall poppies, or mandragoræ, in which are a great number of bats; for these are the only birds they have here; there is likewise a river which they call Nyctiporus, and round the gates two fountains: the name of one is Negretos, and of the other Pannychia. The city has a high wall, of all the colours of the rainbow. It has not two gates, as Homer tells us, but four; two of which look upon the plain of Indolence, one made of iron, the other of brick; through these are said to pass all the dreams that are frightful, bloody, and melancholy; the other two, fronting the sea and harbour, one of horn, the other, which we came through, of ivory; on the right hand, as you enter the city, is the temple of Night, who, together with the cock, is the principal object of worship amongst them. This is near the harbour; on the left is the palace of Somnus, for he is their sovereign, and under him are two viceroys, Taraxion, the son of Matæogenes, and Plutocles, the son of Phantasion. In the middle of the market-place stands a fountain, which they call Careotis, and two temples of Truth and Falsehood; there is an oracle here, at which Antiphon presides as high-priest; he is inventor of the dreams, an honourable employment, which Somnus bestowed upon him.
The dreams themselves are of different kinds, some long, beautiful, and pleasant, others little and ugly; there are likewise some golden ones, others poor and mean; some winged and of an immense size, others tricked out as it were for pomps and ceremonies, for gods and kings; some we met with that we had seen at home; these came up to and saluted us as their old acquaintance, whilst others putting us first to sleep, treated us most magnificently, and promised that they would make us kings and noblemen: some carried us into our own country, showed us our friends and relations, and brought us back again the same day. Thirty days and nights we remained in this place, being most luxuriously feasted, and fast asleep all the time, when we were suddenly awaked by a violent clap of thunder, and immediately ran to our ship, put in our stores, and set sail. In three days we reached the island of Ogygia. Before we landed, I broke open the letter, and read the contents, which were as follows:
ULYSSES TO CALYPSO
“This comes to inform you, that after my departure from your coasts in the vessel which you were so kind as to provide me with, I was shipwrecked, and saved with the greatest difficulty by Leucothea, who conveyed me to the country of the Phæacians, and from thence I got home; where I found a number of suitors about my wife, revelling there at my expense. I destroyed every one of them, and was afterwards slain myself by Telegonus, a son whom I had by Circe. I still lament the pleasures which I left behind at Ogygia, and the immortality which you promised me; if I can ever find an opportunity, I will certainly make my escape from hence, and come to you.”
This was the whole of the epistle except, that at the end of it he recommended us to her protection.
On our landing, at a little distance from the sea, I found the cave, as described by Homer, and in it Calypso, spinning; she took the letter, put it in her bosom, and wept; then invited us to sit down, and treated us magnificently. She then asked us several questions about Ulysses, and inquired whether Penelope was handsome and as chaste as Ulysses had reported her to be. We answered her in such a manner as we thought would please her best; and then returning to our ship, slept on board close to the shore.
In the morning, a brisk gale springing up, we set sail. For two days we were tossed about in a storm; the third drove us on the pirates of Colocynthos. These are a kind of savages from the neighbouring islands, who commit depredations on all that sail that way. They have large ships made out of gourds, six cubits long; when the fruit is dry, they hollow and work it into this shape, using reeds for masts, and making their sails out of the leaves of the plant. They joined the crews of two ships and attacked us, wounding many of us with cucumber seeds, which they threw instead of stones. After fighting some time without any material advantage on either side, about noon we saw just behind them some of the Caryonautæ, whom we found to be avowed enemies to the Colocynthites, who, on their coming up, immediately quitted us, and fell upon them. We hoisted our sail, and got off, leaving them to fight it out by themselves; the Caryonautæ were most probably the conquerors, as they were more in number, for they had five ships, which besides were stronger and better built than those of the enemy, being made of the shells of nuts cut in two, and hollowed, every half-nut being fifty paces long. As soon as we got out of their sight, we took care of our wounded men, and from that time were obliged to be always armed and prepared in case of sudden attack. We had too much reason to fear, for scarce was the sun set when we saw about twenty men from a desert island advancing towards us, each on the back of a large dolphin. These were pirates also: the dolphins carried them very safely, and seemed pleased with their burden, neighing like horses. When they came up, they stood at a little distance, and threw dried cuttle-fish and crabs’-eyes at us; but we, in return, attacking them with our darts and arrows, many of them were wounded; and, unable to stand it any longer, they retreated to the island.
In the middle of the night, the sea being quite calm, we unfortunately struck upon a halcyon’s nest, of an immense size, being about sixty stadia in circumference; the halcyon was sitting upon it, and was herself not much less; as she flew off, she was very near oversetting our ship with the wind of her wings, and, as she went, made a most hideous groaning. As soon as it was day we took a view of the nest, which was like a great ship, and built of trees; in it were five hundred eggs, each of them longer than a hogshead of Chios. We could hear the young ones croaking within; so, with a hatchet we broke one of the eggs, and took the chicken out unfledged; it was bigger than twenty vultures put together.
When we were got about two hundred stadia from the nest, we met with some surprising prodigies. A cheniscus came, and sitting on the prow of our ship, clapped his wings and made a noise. Our pilot Scintharus had been bald for many years, when on a sudden his hair came again. But what was still more wonderful, the mast of our ship sprouted out, sent forth several branches, and bore fruit at the top of it, large figs, and grapes not quite ripe. We were greatly astonished, as you may suppose, and prayed most devoutly to the gods to avert the evil which was portended.
We had not gone above five hundred stadia farther before we saw an immensely large and thick wood of pines and cypresses; we took it for a tract of land, but it was all a deep sea, planted with trees that had no root, which stood, however, unmoved, upright, and, as it were, swimming in it. Approaching near to it, we began to consider what we could do best. There was no sailing between the trees, which were close together, nor did we know how to get back. I got upon one of the highest of them, to see how far they reached, and perceived that they continued for about fifty stadia or more, and beyond that it was all sea again; we resolved therefore to drag the ship up to the top boughs, which were very thick, and so convey it along, which, by fixing a great rope to it, with no little toil and difficulty, we performed; got it up, spread our sails, and were driven on by the wind. It put me in mind of that verse of Antimachus the poet, where he says-
“The ship sailed smoothly through the sylvan sea.”
We at length got over the wood, and, letting our ship down in the same manner, fell into smooth clear water, till we came to a horrid precipice, hollow and deep, resembling the cavity made by an earthquake. We furled our sails, or should soon have been swallowed up in it. Stooping forward, and looking down, we beheld a gulf of at least a thousand stadia deep, a most dreadful and amazing sight, for the sea as it were was split in two. Looking towards our right hand, however, we saw a small bridge of water that joined the two seas, and flowed from one into the other; we got the ship in here, and with great labour rowed her over, which we never expected.
From thence we passed into a smooth and calm sea, wherein was a small island with a good landing place, and which was inhabited by the Bucephali: a savage race of men, with bulls’ heads and horns, as they paint the minotaur. As soon as we got on shore we went in search of water and provision, for we had none left; water we found soon, but nothing else; we heard, indeed, a kind of lowing at a distance, and expected to find a herd of oxen, but, advancing a little farther, perceived that it came from the men. As soon as they saw us, they ran after and took two of our companions; the rest of us got back to the ship as fast as we could. We then got our arms, and, determined to revenge our friends, attacked them as they were dividing the flesh of our poor companions: they were soon thrown into confusion and totally routed; we slew about fifty of them, and took two prisoners, whom we returned with. All this time we could get no provision. Some were for putting the captives to death, but not approving of this, I kept them bound till the enemy should send ambassadors to redeem them, which they did; for we soon heard them lowing in a melancholy tone, and most humbly beseeching us to release their friends. The ransom agreed on was a quantity of cheeses, dried fish, and onions, together with four stags, each having three feet, two behind and one before. In consideration of this, we released the prisoners, stayed one day there, and set sail.
We soon observed the fish swimming and the birds flying round about us, with other signs of our being near the land; and in a very little time after saw some men in the sea, who made use of a very uncommon method of sailing, being themselves both ships and passengers. I will tell you how they did it; they laid themselves all along in the water, they fastened to their middle a sail, and holding the lower part of the rope in their hands, were carried along by the wind. Others we saw, sitting on large casks, driving two dolphins who were yoked together, and drew the carriage after them: these did not run away from, nor attempt to do us any injury; but rode round about us without fear, observing our vessel with great attention, and seeming greatly astonished at it.
It was now almost dark, when we came in sight of a small island inhabited by women, as we imagined, for such they appeared to us, being all young and handsome, with long garments reaching to their feet. The island was called Cabalusa, and the city Hydamardia. I stopped a little, for my mind misgave me, and looking round, saw several bones and skulls of men on the ground; to make a noise, call my companions together, and take up arms, I thought would be imprudent. I pulled out my mallow, therefore, and prayed most devoutly that I might escape the present evil; and a little time afterwards, as one of the strangers was helping us to something, I perceived, instead of a woman’s foot, the hoof of an ass. Upon this I drew my sword, seized on and bound her, and insisted on her telling me the truth with regard to everything about them. She informed me, much against her will, that she and the rest of the inhabitants were women belonging to the sea, that they were called Onoscileas, and that they lived upon travellers who came that way. “We make them drunk,” said she, “and when they are asleep, make an end of them.” As soon as she had told me this, I left her bound there, and getting upon the house, called out to my companions, brought them together, showed them the bones, and led them in to her; when on a sudden she dissolved away into water, and disappeared. I dipped my sword into it by way of experiment, and the water turned into blood.
We proceeded immediately to our vessel and departed. At break of day we had a view of that continent which we suppose lies directly opposite to our own. Here, after performing our religious rites, and putting up our prayers, we consulted together about what was to be done next. Some were of opinion that, after making a little descent on the coast, we should turn back again; others were for leaving the ship there, and marching up into the heart of the country, to explore the inhabitants. Whilst we were thus disputing a violent storm arose, and driving our ship towards the land, split it in pieces. We picked up our arms, and what little things we could lay hold on, and with difficulty swam ashore.
Such were the adventures which befell us during our voyage, at sea, in the islands, in the air, in the whale, amongst the heroes, in the land of dreams, and lastly, amongst the Bucephali, and the Onoscileæ. What we met with on the other side of the world, shall be related in the ensuing books.