λ The Lucian of Samosata Project

   Use the Texts / Library button above to access texts.

Dialogues of the Sea-Gods | Dialogi Marini

The Works of Lucian of Samosata. Translated by Fowler, H W and F G. Oxford: The Clarendon Press. 1905.


Doris. Galatea.

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

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

Dor. Well, and if he were Zeus’s, and still such a wild shaggy creature, with only one eye (there is nothinguglier than to have only one eye), do you think his birth would improve his beauty?

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

Dialogues on the Sea Gods

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dor. Oh, I have not got one; I do not set up to be lovely. But one like the Cyclops — faugh, he mightbe one of his own goats!— he eats raw meat, they say, and feeds on travellers — one like him, dear, you may keep; I wish younothing worse than to return his love.



Cyclops. Posidon

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

Po. Who has dared to do this?

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

Po. I know — the Ithacan; on his way back from Troy. But how did he come to do such a thing? He is notdistinguished for courage.

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

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

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

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

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

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



Posidon. Alpheus

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

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

Pos. Woman, nymph, or Nereid?

Al. All wrong; she is a fountain.

Pos. A fountain? and where does she flow?

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

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

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

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

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

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



Menelaus. Proteus

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

Pro. Don’t let it; because I can.

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

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

Me. That would be rash.

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

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

Pro. The polypus, having selected his rock, and attached himself by means of his suckers, assimilates himself toit, changing his colour to match that of the rock. By this means he hopes to escape the observation of fishermen: there isno contrast of colour to betray his presence; he looks just like stone.

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

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

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



Panope. Galene

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

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

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

Ga. Yes. and the Goddesses, Panope?

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

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

Triton. Posidon. Amymone

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tri. Here is a racer for you.

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

Tri. Here she comes.

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

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

Tri. Hush, Amymone; it is Posidon.

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

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



South Wind. West Wind

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

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

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

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

S. The heifer a God?

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

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

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

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

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



Posidon. Dolphins

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

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

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

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

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



Posidon. Amphitrite and other Nereids

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

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

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

Amph. Rescue a wicked creature like her?

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

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

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

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

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



Iris. Posidon

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

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

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

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

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

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



The Xanthus. The Sea

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

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

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

Sea. What made him use his fire upon you?

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

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

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

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



Doris. Thetis

Dor. Crying, dear?

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

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

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

Dor. And what did she do then?

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

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

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

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

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



Triton. Iphianassa. Doris. Nereids

Tri. Well, ladies: so the monster you sent against the daughter of Cepheus has got killed himself, and neverdone Andromeda any harm at all!

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

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

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

Tri. It was he who killed your monster.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



West Wind. South Wind

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

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

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

W. Well, you know Agenor the Sidonian?

S. Europa’s father? what of him?

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

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

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

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

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

W. Ay, but what followed was lovelier far.

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

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

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

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