The Life of Apollonius of Tyana, by Philostratus, tr. F.C. Conybeare, , at sacred-texts.com
AND as they made their way to the Indus they met a boy of about thirteen years old mounted on an elephant and striking the animal. And when they wondered at the sight, Apollonius said: "Damis, what is the business of a good horseman?" "Why, what else," he replied, "than to sit firm upon the horse, and then control it, and turn it with the bit, and punish it when it is unruly, and to take care that the horse does not plunge into a chasm or a ditch or a hole, especially when he is passing over a marsh or a clay bog?" "And shall we require nothing else, Damis, of a good horseman?" said Apollonius. "Why, yes," he said, "when the horse is galloping up a hill he must slacken the bit; and when he is going down hill he must not let the horse have his way, but hold him in; and he must caress his ears and man; and in my opinion a clever rider is not always whipping, and I should commend any one who rode in this way." "And what is needful for a soldier who rides a charger?" "The same things," he said, "O Apollonius, and in addition the ability to hurl and avoid missiles and to pursue and to retire, and crowd the enemies together without letting his horse be frightened by the rattling of
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shields or the flashing of the helmets, or by the noise made when the men raise their war-cry and give a whoop; this, I think all belongs to good horsemanship." "What then will you say of this boy who is riding on the elephant?" "He is much more wonderful, Apollonius. For it seems to me a superhuman feat for such a tiny mite to manage so huge an animal and guide it with the crook, which you see him digging into the elephant like an anchor, without fearing either the look of the brute or its height, or its enormous strength; and I would not have believed it possible, I swear by Athena, if I had heard another telling it, and had not seen it." "Well then," said Apollonius, "if anyone wanted to sell us this boy, would you buy him, Damis?" "Yes, by Zeus," he said, "and I would give everything I have to possess him. For it seems to me the mark of a liberal and splendid nature, to be able to capture like a citadel the greatest animal which earth sustains, and then govern it as its master." "What then would you do with the boy," said the other, "unless you bought the elephant as well?" "I would set him," said Damis, "to preside over my household and over my servants, and he would rule them much better than I can." "And are you not able," said Apollonius, "to rule your own servants?" "About as able to do so," replied Damis, "as you are yourself, Apollonius. For I have abandoned my property, and am going about, like yourself, eager to learn and to investigate things in foreign countries." "But if you did actually buy the boy, and if you had two horses, one of them a racer, and the other a charger, would you put him, O Damis, on these horses?" "I would perhaps," he answered, "upon
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the racer, for I see others doing the same, but how could he ever mount a war-horse accustomed to carry armor? For he could not either carry a shield, as knights must do; or wear a breast-plate or helmet; and how could he wield a javelin, when he cannot use the shaft of a bolt or of an arrow, but he would in military matters be like a stammerer." "Then," said the other, "there is, Damis, something else which controls and guides this elephant, and not the driver alone, whom you admire almost to the point of almost worshipping." Damis replied: "What can that be, Apollonius? For I see nothing else upon the animal except the boy." "This animal," he answered, " is docile beyond all others; and when he has once been broken in to serve man, he will put up with anything at the hands of man, and he makes it his business to be tractable and obedient to him, and he loves to eat out of his hands, in the way little dogs do; and when his master approaches he fondles him with his trunk, and he will allow him to thrust his head into his jaws, and he holds them as wide open as his master likes, as we have seen among the nomads. But of a night the elephant is said to lament his state of slavery, yes by heaven, not by trumpeting in his ordinary way, but by wailing mournfully and piteously. And if a man comes upon him when he is lamenting in this way, the elephant stops his dirge at once as if he were ashamed. Such control, O Damis, has he over himself, and it is his instinctive obedience which actuates him rather than the man who sits upon and directs him."
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AND when they came to the Indus, they saw a herd of elephants crossing the river, and they say they heard this account of the animals. Some of them are marsh elephants, others again mountain elephants, and there is third kind which belong to the plain: and they are captured for use in war. For indeed they go into battle, saddled with towers big enough to accommodate ten or fifteen Indians all at once; and from these towers the Indians shoot their bows and hurl their javelins, just as if they were taking aim from gate towers. And the animal itself regards his trunk as a hand and uses it to hurl weapons. And the Indian elephants are as much bigger as those of Libya, as these are bigger than the horses of Nisa. And other authorities have dwelt on the age of the animals, and say that they are very long-lived; but our party too say that they came on an elephant near Taxila, the greatest city in India, who was anointed with myrrh by the natives and adorned with fillets. For, they said, this elephant was one of those who fought on the side of Porus against Alexander; and, as it had made a brave fight, Alexander dedicated it to the Sun. And it had, they say, gold rings around its tusks or horns, whichever you call them, and an inscription was on them written in Greek, as follows: "Alexander the son of Zeus dedicates Ajax to the Sun." For he had given this name to the elephant, thinking so great an animal deserved a great name. And the natives reckoned that 350 years had elapsed since the battle, without taking into account how old the elephant was when he went into battle.
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AND Juba, who was once sovereign of the Libyan race, says that formerly the knights of Libya fought with one another on elephants, and division of these had a tower engraved upon their tusks, but the others nothing. And when night interrupted the fray the animals which were so marked had, he says, got the worst of it, and fled into Mount Atlas; but he himself 400 years afterwards caught one of the fugitives and found the cavity of the stamp still fresh on the tusk and not yet worn away by time. This Juba is of opinion that the tusks are horns, because they grow just where the temples are, and there is no grinding of one upon another, and they remain as they grew and do not, like teeth, fall out and then grow afresh. But I cannot accept this view; for horns, if not all, at any rate those of stags, do fall out and grow afresh, but the teeth, although in the case of men those which may fall out, will every one of them grow again, on the other hand there is not a single animal whose tusk or dog-tooth falls out naturally, nor in which, when it has fallen out, it will come again. For nature implants these tusks in their jaws for the sake of defense. And moreover, a circular ridge is formed year by year at the base of the horns, as we see in the case of goats and sheep and oxen; but a tusk grows out quite smooth, and unless something breaks it, it always remains so, for it consists of a material and substance as hard as stone. Moreover the carrying of horns is confined to animals with cloven hoofs, but this animal has five nails and the foot
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branches into more toes than two, and since these are not squeezed into a hoof, the elephant has a pliable sole. And in the case of all animals that have horns, nature supplies cavernous bones and causes the horn to grow from outwards, whereas she makes the elephant tusk full and equally massive throughout; and when in the lathe you lay bare the interior, you find a very thin tube piercing the center of it, as is the case with teeth. Now the tusks of the marsh elephants are dark in color and porous and difficult to work, because they are hollowed out into many cavities, and often knots are formed in them which oppose difficulties to the craftsman's tool; but the tusks of the mountain kind, though smaller than these, are pretty white and there is nothing about them difficult to work; but best of all are the tusks of the elephants of the plain, for these are very large and very white and so pleasant to turn and carve that the hand can shape them into whatever it likes.
If I may also describe the characters of these elephants; those which come from the marshes, and are taken there, are considered to be stupid and flighty by the Indians; but those which come from the mountains they regard as vicious and treacherous and, unless they want something, not to be relied upon by man; but the elephants of the plain are said to be good and tractable, and fond of learning tricks; for they will write and dance, and will sway themselves to and fro and leap up and down from the ground to the sound of the pipe.
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AND Apollonius saw a herd, I think, of about thirty elephants crossing over the River Indus, and they were following as their leader the smallest among them; but the bigger ones had picked up their young ones on their projecting tusks, where they held them fast by twining their trunks around them. Said Apollonius: "No one, O Damis, has instructed them to do this, but they act of their own instinctive wisdom and cleverness; and you see how, like baggage-porters, they have picked up their young, and have them bound fast on, and so carry them along." "I see," he said, "Apollonius, how cleverly and with what sagacity they do this. What then is the sense of this silly speculation indulged in by those who idly dispute whether the affection that men feel for their young is natural or not, when these very elephants, by their conduct, proclaim that it is so, and that it comes to them by nature? For they have certainly not learnt to do so from men, as have other creatures; for these have never yet shared the life of men, but have been endowed by nature with their love of their offspring, and this is why they provide for them and feed their young." "And," said Apollonius, "you need not, Damis, confine your remarks to elephants; for this animal is only second to man, in my opinion, in understanding and foresight; but I am thinking rather of bears, for they are the fiercest of all animals, and yet they will do anything for their whelps; and also of wolves, among which, although they are so addicted to plunder, yet the female protects its young ones, and
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the male brings her food in order to save the life of the whelps. And I also equally have in mind the panther, which, from the warmth of its temperament, delights to become a mother, for that is the time when it is determined to rule the male and be mistress of the household; and the male puts up with anything and everything from her, subordinating everything to the welfare of the offspring. And there is also told a story of the lioness, how she will make a lover of the panther and receive him in the lion's lair in the plain; but when she is going to bring forth her young she flees into the mountains to the haunts of the panthers; for she brings forth young ones that are spotted, and that is why she hides her young and nurses them in winding thickets, pretending that she is spending the day out hunting. For if the lion detected the trick, he would tear the whelps in pieces and claw her offspring as illegitimate. You have read not doubt, also, of one of Homer's lions, and of how he made himself look terrible in behalf of his own whelps and steeled himself to do battle for them. And they say the tigress, although she is the cruelest animal, will in this country and also on the Read Sea approach the ships, to demand back her whelps; and if she gets them back, she goes off mightily delighted; but if the ships sail away, they say that she howls along the sea-coast and sometimes dies outright. And who does not know the ways of birds, how that the eagles and the storks will not build their nests until they have fixed in them, the one an eagle-stone, and other a stone of light, to help the hatching out of the eggs and to drive away the snakes. And if we look at creatures in the sea, we need not wonder at the dolphins loving their
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offspring, for they are superior creatures; but shall we not admire the whales and seals and the viviparous species? For I once saw a seal that was kept shut up at Aegae in the circus, and she mourned so deeply for her whelp, which had died after being born in confinement, that she refused food for three days together, although she is the most voracious of animals. And the whale takes up its young ones into the cavities of its throat, whenever it is fleeing from a creature stronger than itself. And a viper has been seen licking the serpents which it had borne, and caressing them with her tongue, which she shoots out for the purpose. But we need not entertain, Damis, the silly story that the young of vipers are brought into the world without mothers; for that is a thing which is consistent neither with nature nor with experience."
Damis then resumed the conversation by saying: "You will allow me then to praise Euripides, for this iambic line which he puts into the mouth of Andromache:
"I admit," said Apollonius, "that that is said cleverly and divinely; but much cleverer and truer would have been the verse, if it had included all animals." "Then you would like," said Damis, "O Apollonius, to rewrite the line so that we might sing it as follows:
and I agree with you, for it is better so."
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"BUT tell me this: did we not, at the beginning our conversation, declare that the elephants display wisdom and intelligence in what they do?" "Why certainly," he replied, "we did say so, Damis; for if intelligence did not govern this animal, neither would it subsist, nor the populations among which it lived." "Why then," said Damis, "do they conduct their passage over the river in a way so stupid and inconvenient to themselves? For as you see, the smallest one is leading the way, and he is followed by a slightly larger one, then comes another still larger than he, and the biggest ones come last of all. But surely they ought to travel in the opposite fashion, and make the biggest ones a wall and rampart in front of themselves." "But," replied Apollonius, "in the first place they appear to be running away from men who are pursuing them, and whom we shall doubtless come across, as they follow the animals' tracks; and they must and ought to use their best strength to fortify their rear against attack, as is done in war; so that you may regard this maneuver as tactically excellent on the part of the brutes. Secondly, as they are crossing a river, if their biggest ones went first, that would not enable the rest of the herd to judge whether the water is shallow enough for all to pass; for the tallest ones would find the passage practicable and easy, but the others would find it dangerous and difficult, because they would not rise above the level of the stream. But the fact that the smallest is able to get across is a sign in itself to the rest that there is no difficulty. And
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moreover, if the bigger ones went in first, they would deepen the river for the small ones, for the mud is forced to settle down into ruts and trenches, owing to the heaviness of the animal and the thickness of his feet; whereas the larger ones are in no way prejudiced by the smaller ones, crossing in front, because they sink in less deeply."
"AND I have read in the discourse of Juba that elephants assist one another when they are being hunted, and that they will defend one that is exhausted, and if they can remove him out of danger, they anoint his wounds with the tears of the aloe tree, standing round him like physicians." Many such learned discussions were suggested to them as one occasion after another worth speaking of arose.
AND the statements by Nearchus and Pythagoras, about the river Acesines, to the effect that it debauches into the Indus, and that snakes breed in it seventy cubits long, were, they say, fully verified by them; but I will defer what I have to say till I come to speak about dragons, on whose capture Damis gives an account. But when they reached the Indus and were inclined to pass over the river, they asked the Babylonian whether he knew anything of the river, and questioned him about how to get across it.
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[paragraph continues] But he said that he had never navigated it, nor did he know whence he they could get a boat on it. "Why then," said they, "did you not hire a guide?" "Because," he said, "I have one who will direct us." And with that, he showed them a letter, written to that effect, and this gave them occasion to marvel afresh at the humanity and foresight of Vardanes. For he had addressed the letter in question to the satrap of the Indus, although he was not subject to his dominion; and in it he reminded him of the good service he had done him, but declared that he would not ask any recompense for the same, "for," he said, "it is not my habit to ask for a return of favors." But he said he would be very grateful, if he could give a welcome to Apollonius and send him on wherever he wished to go. And he had given gold to the guide, so that in case he found Apollonius in want thereof, he might give it him and save him from looking to the generosity of anyone else. And when the Indian received the letter, he declared that he was highly honored, and would interest himself in the sage as much as if the king of India had written in his behalf; and he lent his official boat for him to embark in and other vessels on which the camels were ferried across, and he also sent a guide to the whole of the country which is bordered by the Hydraotes, and he wrote to his own king, begging him not to treat with less respect than Vardanes a man who was a Greek and divine.
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THUS they crossed the Indus at a point where it was nearly 40 stades broad, for such is the size of its navigable portion; and they write the following account of this river. They say that the Indus arises in the Caucasus and is bigger at its source than any of the other rivers of Asia; and as it advances it absorbs into itself several navigable rivers and, like the Nile, it floods the land of India and brings down soil over it, and so provides the Indians with land to sow in the manner of the Egyptians. Now it is said that there is snow on the hills in Ethiopia and in the land of the Catadupi, and I do not choose to contradict, out of respect for the authorities; nevertheless, I cannot agree with them, when I consider how the Indus effects the same results as the Nile, without any snow falling on the country that rises behind and above it. And moreover I know that God has set the Ethiopian and the Indian at the two extremes or horns of the entire earth, making black the latter who dwell where the sun rises no less than the former who dwell where it sets; now how should this be the case of the inhabitants, unless they enjoyed summer heat even in the winter? But where the sun warms the earth all over through the year, how can one suppose that it ever snows? And how could it ever snow there so hard, as to supply the rivers there with water, and make them rise above their normal levels? But even if there were frequent snowfalls in regions so exposed to the sun, how could the melted snow ever cover such an expanse as to resemble a sea? And how could it ever supply a river which deluges the whole of Egypt?
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AND as they were being conveyed across the Indus, they say that they came across many river-horses and many crocodiles; and they say that the vegetation on the Indus resembles that which grows along the Nile, and that the climate of India is sunny in winter, but suffocating in summer; but to counteract this Providence has excellently contrived that it should often rain in their country. And they also say that they learned from the Indians that the king was in the habit of coming to this river when it rose in the appropriate seasons, and would sacrifice to the river black bulls and horses; for white is less esteemed by the Indians than black, because, I imagine, the latter is their own color; and when he has sacrificed, they say that he plunges into the river a measure of gold made to resemble that which is used in measuring wheat. And why the king does this, the Indians, they say, have no idea; but they themselves conjectured that this measure was sunk in the river, either to secure the plentiful harvest, whose yield the farmers use such a measure to gauge, or to keep the river within its proper bounds and prevent it from rising to such heights as that it would drown the land.
AND after they had crossed the river, they were conducted by the satrap's guide direct to Taxila, where the Indian had his royal palace. And they say that on that side of the Indus the dress of the
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people consists of native linen, with shoes of byblus and a hat when it rains; but that the upper classes there are appareled in byssus; and that the byssus grows upon a tree of which the stem resembles that of the white poplar, and the leaves those of the willow. And Apollonius says that he was delighted with the byssus, because it resembled his sable philosopher's cloak. And the byssus is imported into Egypt from India for many sacred uses. Taxila, they tell us, is about as big as Nineveh, and was fortified fairly well after the manner of Greek cities; and here was the royal residence of the personage who then ruled the empire of Porus. And they saw a Temple, they saw, in front of the wall, which was not far short of 100 feet in size, made of porphyry, and there was constructed within it a shrine, somewhat small as compared with the great size of the Temple which is surrounded with columns, but deserving of notice. For bronze tablets were nailed into each of its walls on which were engraved the exploits of Porus and Alexander. But the pattern was wrought with orichalcus and silver and gold and black bronze, of elephants, horses, soldiers, helmets, shields, but spears, and javelins and swords, were all made of iron; and the composition was like the subject of some famous painting by Zeuxis or Polygnotus and Euphranor, who delighted in light and shade; and, they say, here also was an appearance of real life, as well as depth and relief. And the metals were blended in the design, melted in like so many colors; and the character of the picture was also pleasing in itself, for Porus dedicated these designs after the death of the Macedonian, who is depicted in the hour of victory, restoring Porus who
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is wounded, and presenting him with India which was now his gift. And it is said that Porus mourned over the death of Alexander, and that he lamented him as generous and a good prince; and as long as Alexander was alive after his departure from India, he never used the royal diction and style, although he had license to do so, nor issued kingly edicts to the Indians, but figured himself as satrap full of moderation, and guided every action by the wish to please Alexander.