The Life of Apollonius of Tyana, by Philostratus, tr. F.C. Conybeare, , at sacred-texts.com
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IN the summer our travelers, together with their guide, left Babylon and started out, mounted on camels; and the king had supplied them with the camel-driver, and plenty of provisions, as much as they wanted. The country through which they traveled was fertile; and the villages received them very respectfully, for the leading camel bore upon his forehead a chain of gold, to intimate to all who met them that the king was sending on their way some of his own friends. And as they approached the Caucasus they say that they found the land becoming more fragrant.
WE may regard this mountain as the beginning of the Taurus, which extends through Armenia and Cilicia as far as Pamphylia and Mycale, and it ends at the sea on the shore of which the Carians live, and we may regard this as the extreme end of the Caucasus, and not as its beginning, as some people say. For the height of Mycale is not very great, whereas the peaks of the Caucasus are so lofty that the sun is cloven asunder by them. And it encompasses with the rest of the Taurus the whole of
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[paragraph continues] Scythia which borders on India, and skirts Maeotis and the left side of the Pontus, a distance almost of 20,000 stades; for no less than this is the extent of land enclosed by the elbow of the Caucasus. As to the statement made about such part of the Taurus as is in our country, to the effect that it projects beyond Armenia,—it was long disbelieved, but has received definite confirmation from the conduct of the On leopards.pards, which I know are caught in the spice-bearing region of Pamphylia. For these animals delight in fragrant odors, and scenting their smell from afar off they quit Armenia and traverse the mountains in search of the tear or gum of the Styrax, whenever the winds blow from its quarter and the trees are distilling. And they say that a pard was once caught in Pamphylia which was wearing a chain round its neck, and the chain was of gold, and on it was inscribed in Armenian lettering: "The king Arsaces to the Nysian god." Now the king of Armenia was certainly at that time Arsaces, and he, I imagine, finding the pard, had let it go free in honor of Dionysus because of its size. For Dionysus is called Nysian by the Indians and by all the Oriental races from Nysa in India. And this animal had been for a time under the restraint of a man, and would let you pat with your hand and caress it; bit when it was goaded to excitement by the springtime, for in that season pards begin to rut, it would rush into the mountains, from longing to meet the male, decked as it was with the ring; and it was taken in the lower Taurus whither it had been attracted by the fragrance of the gum. And the Caucasus bounds India and Media, and stretches down by another arm to the Red Sea.
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AND legends are told of this mountain by the barbarians, which also have an echo in the poems of the Greeks about it, to the effect that Prometheus, because of his love of man, was bound there, and that Heracles—another Heracles, for of course the Theban is not meant—could not brook the ill-treatment of Prometheus, and shot the bird which was feeding upon his entrails. And some say that he was bound in a cave, which as a matter of fact is shown in a foot-hill of the mountain; and Damis says that his chains still hung from the rocks, though you could not easily guess at the material of which they were made, but others say that they bound him on the peak of the mountain; and it has two summits, and they say that his hands were lashed to them, although they are distant from one another not less than as stade 1, so great was his bulk. But the inhabitants of the Caucasus regard the eagle as a hostile bird, and burn out the nests which they build among the rocks by hurling into them fiery darts, and they also set snares for them, declaring that they are avenging Prometheus; to such an extent are their imaginations dominated by the fable.
HAVING passed the Caucasus our travelers say they saw men four cubits height, and they were already black, and that when they passed over the river Indus they saw others five cubits high. But on their way to this river our wayfarers found the
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following incidents worth of notice. For they were traveling by bright moonlight, when the figure of an empusa or hobgoblin appeared to them, that changed from one form into another, and sometimes vanished into nothing. And Apollonius realized what it was, and himself heaped abuse on the hobgoblin and instructed his party to do the same, saying that this was the right remedy for such a visitation. And the phantasm fled away shrieking even as ghosts do.
AND as they were passing over the summit of the mountain, going on foot, for it was very steep, Apollonius asked of Damis the following question. "Tell me," he said, "where we were yesterday." And he replied: "On the plain." "And today, O Damis, where are we?" "In the Caucasus," said he, "if wholly I mistake not." "Then when were you lower down than you are now?" he asked again, and Damis replied: "That's a question hardly worth asking. For yesterday we were traveling through the valley below, while today we are close up to heaven." "Then you think," said the other, "O Damis, that our road yesterday lay low down, whereas our road today lies high up?" "Yes, by Zeus," he replied, "unless at least I'm mad." "In what respect then," said Apollonius, "do you suppose that our roads differ from one another, and what advantage has todays' path for you over that of yesterday?" "Because," said Damis, "yesterday I was walking along where a great many people go, but today, where are very few." "Well," said the other, "O
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[paragraph continues] Damis, can you not also in a city turn out of the main street and walk where you will find very few people?" "I did not say that," replied Damis, "but that yesterday we were passing through villages and populations, whereas today we are ascending through an untrodden and divine region: for you heard our guide say that the barbarians declare this tract to be the home of the gods." And with that he glanced up to the summit of the mountain. But Apollonius recalled his attention to the original question by saying: "Can you tell me then, O Damis, what understanding of divine mystery you get by walking so near the heavens?" "None whatever," he replied. "And yet you ought," said Apollonius. "When your feet are placed on a platform so divine and vast as this, you ought henceforth to publish more accurate conceptions of the heaven and about the sun and moon, since you think, I suppose, that you will even lay a rod to them as you stand as close to the heavens here." "Whatever," said he, "I knew about God's nature yesterday, I equally know today, and so far no fresh idea has occurred to me concerning him." "So then," replied the other, "you are, O Damis, still below, and have won nothing from being high up, and you are as far from heaven as you were yesterday. And my question which I asked you to begin with was a fair one, although you thought that I asked it in order to make fun of you." "The truth is," replied Damis, ''that I thought I should anyhow go down from the mountain wiser than I came up it, because I had heard, O Apollonius, that Anaxagoras of Clazomenae observed the heavenly bodies from the mountain Mimas in Ionia, and Thales of Miletus from
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[paragraph continues] Mycale which was close by his home; and some are said to have used as their observation mount Pangaeus and others Athos. But I have come up a greater height than any of these, and yet shall go down again no wiser than I was before." "For neither did they," replied Apollonius: "and such lookouts show you indeed a bluer heaven and bigger stars and the sun rising out of the night; but all these phenomena were manifest long ago to shepherds and goatherds, but neither Athos will reveal to those who climb up it, nor Olympus, so much extolled by the poets, in what way God cares for the human race and how he delights to be worshipped by them, nor reveal the nature of virtue and of justice and temperance, unless the soul scan these matters narrowly, and the soul, I should say, if it engages on the task pure and undefiled, will sour much higher than this summit of Caucasus."
AND having passed beyond the mountain, they at once came upon elephants with men riding on them; and these people dwell between the Caucasus and the river Cophen, and they are rude in their lives and they are nomad riders on the herds of elephants; some of them however rode on camels, which are used by Indians for carrying dispatches, and they will travel 1,000 stades a day without ever bending the knee or lying down anywhere. One of the Indians, then, who was riding on such a camel, asked the guide where they were going, and when he was told the object of their voyage, he informed the nomads
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thereof; and they raised a shout of pleasure, and bade them approach, and when they came up they offered them wine which they had made out of palm dates and honey from the same tree, and steaks from the flesh of lions and leopards which they had just flayed. And our travelers accepted everything except the flesh, and then started off for India and betook themselves eastwards.
AND as they were taking breakfast by a spring of water, Damis poured out a cup of the Indians' wine, and said: "Here's to you, Apollonius, on the part of Zeus the Savior; for it is a long time since you have drunk any wine. But you will not, I am sure, refuse this as you do wine that is made from the fruit of the vine." And withal he poured out a libation, because he had mentioned the name of Zeus. Apollonius then gave a laugh and said: "Do we not also abstain from money, O Damis?" "Yes, by Zeus," said the other, "as you have often demonstrated to us." "Shall we then," said the other, "abstain from the use of a golden drachma and a silver piece, and be proof against temptation by any such coin, although we see not private individuals only, but kings as well, agape for money, and then if anyone offers us a brass coin for a silver coin, or a gilded one and a counterfeit, shall we accept it, merely because it not what it pretends to be, and what the many itch to have? And be sure the Indians have coins of orichalcus and black brass, with which, I suppose, all who come the Indian haunts must purchase everything; what
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then? Supposing the nomads, good people as they are, offered us money, would you in that case, Damis, seeing me decline it, have advised me better and have explained that what is coined by the Romans or by the king of Media is really money, whereas this is another sort of stuff polished up among the Indians? And what would you think of me, if you could persuade me of such things? Would you not think I was a cheat and abandoned my philosophy as thoroughly as cowardly soldiers do their shields? And yet, when you have thrown away your shield you can procure another that is quite as good as the first, in the opinion of Archilochus. But how can one who has dishonored and cast away philosophy, ever recover her? And in this case Dionysus might will pardon one who refuses all wine whatever, but if I chose date wine in preference to that made of grapes, he would be aggrieved, I am sure, and say that this gift had been scorned and flouted. And we are not far away from this god, for you hear the guide saying that the mountain of Nysa is close by, upon which Dionysus works, I believe, a great many miracles. Moreover, drunkenness, Damis, invades men not from drinking the wine of grapes alone, for they are equally well roused to frenzy by date wine. Anyhow we have seen a great many Indians overcome by this wine, some of them dancing till they fell, and others singing drowsily, just like the people among us, who end drinking bouts at night and don't go home till dawn. And that you yourself regard this drink as genuine wine, is clear from the fact that you poured out a libation of it to Zeus and offered up the prayers which usually accompany wine. And this, Damis, is the defense which I have to make of
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myself against you; for neither do I wish to dissuade you from drinking, nor these companions of ours either; nay, I would allow you also to eat meat; for the abstinence from these things has, I perceive, profited you nothing, though it has profited me in the philosophic profession which I have made from my boyhood." The companions of Damis welcomed this speech and took to their good cheer with a will, thinking that they would find the journey easier if they lived rather better.
THEY crossed the river Cophen, themselves in boats, but the camels by a ford on foot; for the river has not yet reached its full size here. They were now in a continent subject to the king, in which the mountain of Nysa rises, covered to its very top with plantations, like the mounntain of Tmolus in Lydia, and you can ascend it, because paths been made by cultivators. They say then that when they ascended it, they found the shrine of Dionysus, which it is said Dionysus founded in honor of himself, planting round it a circle of laurel trees which encloses just as much ground as suffices to contain a moderate sized temple. He also surrounded the laurels with a border of ivy and vines; and he set up inside an image of himself, knowing that in time the trees would grow together and make themselves into a kind of roof; and this had now formed itself, so that neither rain can wet nor wind blow upon the shrine. And there were sickles and wine-presses and their
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furniture dedicated to Dionysus, as if to one who gathers grapes, all made of gold and silver. And the image resembled a youthful Indian, and was carved out of polished white stone. And when Dionysus celebrates his orgies and shakes Nysa, the cities underneath the mountain hear the noise and exult in sympathy.
NOW the Hellenes disagree with the Indians, and the Indians among themselves, concerning this Dionysus. For we declare that the Theban Dionysus made an expedition to India in the role both of soldier and of reveler, and we base our arguments, among other things, on the offering at Delphi, which is secreted in the treasuries there. And it is a disk of silver bearing the inscription: "Dionysus the son of Semele and of Zeus, from the men of India to the Apollo of Delphi." But the Indians who dwell in the Caucasus and along the river Cophen say that he was an Assyrian visitor when he came to them, who knew the religious rites of the Theban. But those who inhabit the district between the Indus and the Hydraotes and the continental region beyond, which ends at the river Ganges, declare that Dionysus was son of the river Indus, and that the Dionysus of Thebes having become his disciple adopted the thyrsus and devoted himself to the orgies; that this Dionysus on saying that he was the son of Zeus and had lived safe inside his father's thigh until he was born, gained from this Dionysus a mountain called Merus or "Thigh" on which Nysa borders, and planted Nysa in honor of
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[paragraph continues] Dionysus with the vine of which he had brought the suckers from Thebes; and that it was there that Alexander held his orgies. But the inhabitants of Nysa deny that Alexander ever went up the mountain, although he was eager to do so, being an ambitious person and fond of old-world things; but he was afraid lest his Macedonians, if they got among vines, which they had not seen for a long time, would fall into a fit of home-sickness or recover their taste for wine, after they had become accustomed to water only. So they say he passed by Nysa, making his vow to Dionysus, and sacrificing at the foot of the mountain. Well I know that some people will take amiss what I write, because the companions of Alexander on his campaigns did not write down the truth in reporting this, but I at any rate insist upon the truth, and hold that, if they had respected it more, they would never have deprived Alexander of the praise due to him in this matter; for, in my opinion, it was a greater thing that he never went up, in order to maintain the sobriety of his army, than that he should have ascended the mountain and have himself held a revel there, which is what they tell you.
DAMIS says that he did not see the rock called the "Birdless" (Aornus), which is not far distant from Nysa, because this lay off their road, and their guide feared to diverge from the direct path. But he says he heard that it had been captured by Alexander, and was called "Birdless," not because it rises 9,000 feet, for the sacred birds fly higher than that;
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but because on the summit of the rock there is, they say, a cleft which draws into itself the birds which fly over it, as we may see at Athens also in the vestibule of the Parthenon, and in several places in Phrygia and Lydia. And this is why the rock was called and actually is "Birdless".
1:123:1 606 English feet.