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The Works of Lucian of Samosata. Translated by Fowler, H W and F G. Oxford: The Clarendon Press. 1905.
This dialogue is very entertaining. The stories are well told and extremely interesting: at the same time that a striking contrast between the Grecian and Scythian manners presents a degree of light and shade which greatly embellishes the picture.
- Based on Francklin
Mne. Now, Toxaris: do you mean to tell me that you people actually sacrifice to Orestes and Pylades? do you take them for Gods?
Tox. Sacrifice to them? of course we do. It does not follow that we think they are Gods: they were good men.
Mne. And in Scythia ‘good men’ receive sacrifice just the same as Gods?
Tox. Not only that, but we honour them with feasts and public gatherings.
Mne. But what do you expect from them? They are shades now, so their goodwill can be no object.
Tox. Why, as to that, I think it may be just as well to have a good understanding even with shades. But that is not all: in honouring the dead we consider that we are also doing the best we can for the living. Our idea is that by preserving the memory of the noblest of mankind, we induce many people to follow their example.
Mne. Ah, there you are right. But what could you find to admire in Orestes and Pylades, that you should exalt them to godhead? They were strangers to you: strangers, did I say? they were enemies! Why, when they were shipwrecked on your coast, and your ancestors laid hands on them, and took them off to be sacrificed to Artemis, they assaulted the gaolers, overpowered the garrison, slew the king, carried off the priestess, laid impious hands on the Goddess herself, and so took ship, snapping their fingers at Scythia and her laws. If you honour men for this kind of thing, there will be plenty of people to follow their example, and you will have your hands full. You may judge for yourselves, from ancient precedent, whether it will suit you to have so many Oresteses and Pyladeses putting into your ports. It seems to me that it will soon end in your having no religion left at all: God after God will be expatriated in the same manner, and then I suppose you will supply their place by deifying their kidnappers, thus rewarding sacrilege with sacrifice.
Tox. Now, in the first place, the incident you refer to is very much to their credit. Think of those two entering on that vast undertaking by themselves: sailing away from their country to the distant Euxine — that sea unknown in those days to the Greeks, or known only to the Argonauts — unmoved by the stories they heard of it, undeterred by the inhospitable name it then bore, which I suppose referred to the savage nations that dwelt upon its shores; think of their courageous bearing after they were captured; how escape alone would not serve them, but they must avenge their wrong upon the king, and carry Artemis away over the seas. Are not these admirable deeds, and shall not the doers be counted as Gods by all who esteem prowess? However, this is not our motive in giving them divine honours.
Mne. Proceed. What else of godlike and sublime was in their conduct? Because from the seafaring point of view, there are any number of merchants whose divinity I will maintain against theirs: the Phoenicians, in particular, have sailed to every port in Greek and foreign waters, let alone the Euxine, the Maeotian Lake and the Bosphorus; year after year they explore every coast, only returning home at the approach of winter. Hucksters though they be for the most part, and fishmongers, you must deify them all, to be consistent.
Tox. Now, now, Mnesippus, listen to me, and you shall see how much more candid we barbarians are in our valuation of good men than you Greeks. In Argos and Mycenae there is not so much as a respectable tomb raised to Orestes and Pylades: in Scythia, they have their temple, which is very appropriately dedicated to the two friends in common, their sacrifices, and every honour. The fact of their being foreigners does not prevent us from recognizing their virtues. We do not inquire into the nationality of noble souls: we can hear without envy of the illustrious deeds of our enemies; we do justice to their merits, and count them Scythians in deed if not in name. What particularly excites our reverent admiration in the present case is the unparalleled loyalty of the two friends; in them we have a model from which every man may learn how he must share good and evil fortune with his friends, if he would enjoy the esteem of all good Scythians.
Mne. Ah, Toxaris, so archery is not the only accomplishment of the Scythians, I find; they excel in rhetorical as well as in military skill. You have persuaded me already that you were right in deifying Orestes and Pylades, though I thought differently just now. I had no conception, either, what a painter you were. Your description of the pictures in the Oresteum was most vivid;— that battle-scene, and the way in which the two intercepted one another’s wounds. Only I should never have thought that the Scythians would set such a high value on friendship: they are such a wild, inhospitable race; I should have said they had more to do with anger and hatred and enmity than with friendship, even for their nearest relations, judging by what one is told; it is said, for instance, that they devour their fathers’ corpses.
Tox. Well, which of the two is the more dutiful and pious in general, Greek or Scythian, we will not discuss just now: but that we are more loyal friends than you, and that we treat friendship more seriously, is easily shown. Now please do not be angry with me, in the name of all your Gods: but I am going to mention a few points I have observed during my stay in this country. I can see that you are all admirably well qualified to talk about friendship: but when it comes to putting your words into practice, there is a considerable falling off; it is enough for you to have demonstrated what an excellent thing friendship is, and somehow or other, at the critical moment, you make off, and leave your fine words to look after themselves. Similarly, when your tragedians represent this subject on the stage, you are loud in your applause; the spectacle of one friend risking his life for another generally brings tears to your eyes: but you are quite incapable of rendering any such signal services yourselves; once let your friends get into difficulties, and all those tragic reminiscences take wing like so many dreams; you are then the very image of the silent mask which the actor has thrown aside: its mouth is open to its fullest extent, but not a syllable does it utter. It is the other way with us: we are as much superior to you in the practice of friendship, as we are inferior in expounding the theory of it.
Now, what do you say to this proposal? let us leave out of the question all the cases of ancient friendship that either of us might enumerate (there you would have the advantage of me: you could produce all the poets on your side, most credible of witnesses, with their Achilles and Patroclus, their Theseus and Pirithous, and others, all celebrated in the most charming verses); and instead let each of us advance a few instances of devotion that have occurred within his own experience, among our respective countrymen; these we will relate in detail, and whoever can show the best friendships is the winner, and announces his country as victorious. Mighty issues are at stake: I for my part would rather be worsted in single combat, and lose my right hand, as the Scythian custom is, than yield to any man on the question of friendship, above all to a Greek; for am I not a Scythian?
Mne. I have got my work cut out for me, if I am to engage an old soldier like Toxaris, with a whole arsenal of keen words at his command. Well, I am not such a craven as to decline the challenge, when my country’s honour is at stake. Could those two overcome the host of Scythians represented in the legend, and in the ancient pictures you have just described so impressively,— and shall Greece, her peoples and her cities, be condemned for want of one to plead her cause? Strange indeed, if that were so; I should deserve to lose not my hand like you, but my tongue. Well now, is the number of friendships to be limited, or does wealth of instances itself constitute one claim to superiority?
Tox. Oh no; number counts for nothing, that must be understood. We have the same number, and it is simply a question whether yours are better and more pointed than mine; if they are, of course, the wounds you inflict will be the more deadly, and I shall be the first to succumb.
Mne. Very well. Let us fix the number: I say five each.
Tox. Five be it, and you begin. But you must be sworn first: because the subject naturally lends itself to fictitious treatment; there is no checking anything. When you have sworn, it would be impious to doubt your word.
Mne. Very well, if you think it necessary. Have you any preference among our Gods? How would the God of Friendship meet the case?
Tox. Excellently; and when my turn comes, I will employ the national oath of the Scythians.
Mne. Zeus the God of Friendship be my witness, that all I shall now relate is derived either from my own experience, or from such careful inquiry as I was able to make of others; and is free from all imaginative additions of my own. I will begin with, the friendship of Agathocles and Dinias. The story is well known in Ionia. This Agathocles was a native of Samos, and lived not many years ago. Though his conduct showed him to be the best of friends, he was of no better family and in no better circumstances than the generality of the Samians. From boyhood he had been the friend of Dinias, the son of Lyson, an Ephesian. Dinias, it seems, was enormously wealthy, and as his wealth was newly acquired, it is not to be wondered at that he had plenty of acquaintances besides Agathocles; persons who were quite qualified to share his pleasures, and to be his boon-companions, but who were very far indeed from being friends. For some time Agathocles — little as he cared for such a life — played his convivial part with the rest, Dinias making no distinction between him and the parasites. Finally, however, he took to finding fault with his friend’s conduct, and gave great offence: his continual allusions to Dinias’s ancestry, and his exhortations to him to husband the fortune which had cost his father such labour to acquire, seemed to his friend to be in indifferent taste. He gave up asking Agathocles to join in his revels, contented himself with the company of his parasites, and sought to elude his friend’s observation.
Tox. I wish I were at liberty to doubt the truth of your story: but alas! you speak under oath. Your Agathocles is a truly Scythian friend; I only hope there are no more of the same kind to come.
Mne. See what you think of the next — Euthydicus of Chalcidice. I heard his story from Simylus, a shipmaster of Megara, who vowed that he had been an eyewitness of what he related. He set sail from Italy about the setting of the Pleiads, bound for Athens, with a miscellaneous shipload of passengers, among whom were Euthydicus and his comrade Damon, also of Chalcidice. They were of about the same age. Euthydicus was a powerful man, in robust health; Damon was pale and weakly, and looked as if he were just recovering from a long illness. They had a good voyage as far as Sicily: but they had no sooner passed through the Straits into the Ionian Sea, than a tremendous storm overtook them. I need not detain you with descriptions of mountainous billows and whirlwinds and hail and the other adjuncts of a storm: suffice it to say, that they were compelled to take in all sail, and trail cables after them to break the force of the waves, and in this way made Zacynthus by about midnight. At this point Damon, being seasick, as was natural in such a heavy sea, was leaning over the side, when (as I suppose) an unusually violent lurch of the vessel in his direction, combining with the rush of water across the deck, hurled him headlong into the sea. The poor wretch was not even naked, or he might have had a chance of swimming: it was all he could do to keep himself above water, and get out a cry for help.
Tox. I tremble for their fate: were they drowned, or did some miraculous providence deliver them?
Mne. Oh, they were saved all right; and they are in Athens at this day, both of them, studying philosophy. Simylus’s story closes with the events of the night: Damon has fallen overboard, Euthydicus has jumped in to his rescue, and the pair are left swimming about till they are lost in the darkness. Euthydicus himself tells the rest. It seems that first they came across some pieces of cork, which helped to support them; and they managed with much ado to keep afloat, till about dawn they saw the gangway, swam up to it, clambered on, and were carried to Zacynthus without further trouble.
Eudamidas of Corinth, though he was himself in very narrow circumstances, had two friends who were well-to-do, Aretaeus his fellow townsman, and Charixenus of Sicyon. When Eudamidas died, he left a will behind him which I dare say would excite most people’s ridicule: but what the generous Toxaris, with his respect for friendship and his ambition to secure its highest honours for his country, may think of the matter, is another question. The terms of the will — but first I should explain that Eudamidas left behind him an aged mother and a daughter of marriageable years;— the will, then, was as follows: To Aretaeus I bequeath my mother, to tend and to cherish in her old age: and to Charixenus my daughter, to give in marriage with such dowry as his circumstances will admit of: and should anything befall either of the legatees, then let his portion pass to the survivor. The reading of this will caused some merriment among the hearers, who knew of Eudamidas’s poverty, but did not know anything of the friendship existing between him and his heirs. They went off much tickled at the handsome legacy that Aretaeus and Charixenus (lucky dogs!) had come in for: ‘Eudamidas,’ as they expressed it, ‘was apparently to have a death-interest in the property of the legatees.’
Tox. Excellent as was the behaviour of Aretaeus, I admire still more Eudamidas’s confidence in his friends. It shows that he would have done as much for them; even if nothing had been said about it in their wills, he would have been the first to come forward and claim the inheritance as natural heir.
Mne. Very true. And now I come to Number Four — Zenothemis of Massilia, son of Charmoleos. He was pointed out to me when I was in Italy on public business: a fine, handsome man, and to all appearance well off. But by his side (he was just driving away on a journey) sat his wife, a woman of most repulsive appearance; all her right side was withered; she had lost one eye; in short, she was a positive fright. I expressed my surprise that a man in the prime of manly beauty should endure to have such a woman seated by him. My informant, who was a Massiliot himself, and knew how the marriage had come about, gave me all the particulars. ‘The father of this unsightly woman,’ he said, ‘was Menecrates; and he and Zenothemis were friends in days when both were men of wealth and rank. The property of Menecrates, however, was afterwards confiscated by the Six Hundred, and he himself disfranchised, on the ground that he had proposed an unconstitutional measure; this being the regular penalty in Massilia for such offences. The sentence was in itself a heavy blow to Menecrates, and it was aggravated by the sudden change from wealth to poverty and from honour to dishonour. But most of all he was troubled about this daughter: she was now eighteen years old, and it was time that he found her a husband; yet with her unfortunate appearance it was not probable that any one, however poor or obscure, would have taken her, even with all the wealth her father had possessed previous to his sentence; it was said, too, that she was subject to fits at every increase of the moon.
Such was the Massiliot’s story. As you see, it was no slight service that Zenothemis rendered to his friend; I fancy there are not many Scythians who would do the same; they are said to be very nice even in their selection of concubines.
I have still one friend to produce, and I think none is more worthy of remembrance than Demetrius of Sunium. He and Antiphilus of the deme of Alopece had been playmates in their childhood, and grown up side by side. They subsequently took ship for Egypt, and carried on their studies there together, Demetrius practising the Cynic philosophy under the famous sophist of Rhodes, while Antiphilus, it seems, was to be a doctor. Well, on one occasion Demetrius had gone up country to see the Pyramids, and the statue of Memnon. He had heard it said that the Pyramids in spite of their great height cast no shadow, and that a sound proceeded from the statue at sunrise: all this he wished to see and hear for himself, and he had now been away up the Nile six months.
Antiphilus had now lain long in captivity. He was looked upon as the vilest criminal of all in the prison; and the native gaoler, a superstitious man, considered that he was avenging the God’s wrongs and securing his favour by harsh treatment of Antiphilus. His attempts to clear himself of the charge of sacrilege only served to set him in the light of a hardened offender, and materially to increase the detestation in which he was held. His health was beginning to give way under the strain, and no wonder: his bed was the bare ground, and all night he was unable so much as to stretch his legs, which were then secured in the stocks; in the daytime, the collar and one manacle sufficed, but at night he had to submit to being bound hand and foot. The stench, too, and the closeness of the dungeon, in which so many prisoners were huddled together gasping for breath, and the difficulty of getting any sleep, owing to the clanking of chains,— all combined to make the situation intolerable to one who was quite unaccustomed to endure such hardships.
See, Toxaris, what a Greek friend can do! You were so hard just now upon our rhetorical vanity, that I forbear to give you the admirable pleadings of Demetrius in court: not one word did he say in his own behalf; all was for Antiphilus; he wept and implored, and sought to take all the guilt upon himself; till at last the confession of Syrus under torture cleared them both.
Tox. I honour you for your disinterested encouragement: apparently you are under no uneasiness as to the loss of your tongue, in the event of my winning. Well, I will begin: and you will get no flowery language from me; it is not our Scythian way, especially when the deeds we handle dwarf description. Be prepared for something very different from the subjects of your own eulogy: here will be no marryings of ugly and dowerless women, no five-hundred-pound-portionings of friends’ daughters, nor even surrenderings of one’s person to gaolers, with the certain prospect of a speedy release. These are very cheap manifestations; the lofty, the heroic, is altogether wanting.
But before I begin, I should like to describe to you our manner of making friends. Friendships are not formed with us, as with you, over the wine-cups, nor are they determined by considerations of age or neighbourhood. We wait till we see a brave man, capable of valiant deeds, and to him we all turn our attention. Friendship with us is like courtship with you: rather than fail of our object, and undergo the disgrace of a rejection, we are content to urge our suit patiently, and to give our constant attendance. At length a friend is accepted, and the engagement is concluded with our most solemn oath: ‘to live together and if need be to die for one another.’ That vow is faithfully kept: once let the friends draw blood from their fingers into a cup, dip the points of their swords therein, and drink of that draught together, and from that moment nothing can part them. Such a treaty of friendship may include three persons, but no more: a man of many friends we consider to be no better than a woman who is at the service of every lover; we feel no further security in a friendship that is divided between so many objects.
I will commence with the recent story of Dandamis. In our conflict with the Sauromatae, Dandamis’s friend Amizoces had been taken captive,— oh, but first I must take the Scythian oath, as we agreed at the start. I swear by Wind and Scimetar that I will speak nothing but truth of the Scythian friendships.
Mne. You need not have troubled to swear, as far as I am concerned. However, you showed judgement in not swearing by a God.
Tox. What can you mean? Wind and Scimetar not Gods? Are you now to learn that life and death are the highest considerations among mankind? When we swear by Wind and Scimetar, we do so because Wind is the cause of life and Scimetar of death.
Mne. On that principle, you get a good many other Gods besides Scimetar, and as good as he: there is Arrow, and Spear, and Hemlock, and Halter, and so on. Death is a God who assumes many shapes; numberless are the roads that lead into his presence.
Tox. Now you are just trying to spoil my story with these quibbling objections. I gave you a fair hearing.
Mne. You are quite right, Toxaris; it shall not occur again, be easy on that score. I’ll be so quiet, you would never know I was here at all.
Tox. Four days after Dandamis and Amizoces had shared the cup of blood, the Sauromatae invaded our territory with 10,000 horse, their infantry being estimated at three times that number. The invasion was unexpected, and we were completely routed; many of our warriors were slain, and the rest taken captive, with the exception of a few who managed to swim across to the opposite bank of the river, on which half our host was encamped, with a part of the waggons. The reason of this arrangement I do not know; but our leaders had seen good to divide our camp between the two banks of the Tanais. The enemy at once set to work to secure their booty and collect the captives; they plundered the camp, and took possession of the waggons, most of them with their occupants; and we had the mortification of seeing our wives and concubines mishandled before our very eyes.
There was comfort for all of us in this act of Dandamis. Our defeat, it seemed, was no defeat, after all: our most precious possessions had escaped the hands of our enemies; loyal friendship, noble resolution, these were still our own. On the Sauromatae it had the contrary effect: they did not at all like the idea of engaging with such determined adversaries on equal terms; gaining an advantage of them by means of a surprise was quite another matter. The end of it was, that when night came on they left behind the greater part of the herds, burnt the waggons, and beat a hasty retreat. As for Amizoces, he could not endure to see, when Dandamis was blind: he blinded himself, and the two now sit at home, supported in all honour at the public expense.
Can you match that, friend? I think not, though I should give you ten new chances on the top of your five; ay, and release you from your oath, too, for that matter, leaving you free to exaggerate as much as you choose. Besides, I have given you just the bare facts. Now, if you had been telling Dandamis’s story, what embroidery we should have had! The supplications of Dandamis, the blinding process, his remarks on the occasion, the circumstances of his return, the effusive greetings of the Scythians, and all the ad captandum artifices that you Greeks understand so well.
And now let me introduce you to another friend, not inferior to Dandamis,— a cousin of Amizoces, Belitta by name. Belitta was once hunting with his friend Basthes, when the latter was torn from his horse by a lion. Already the brute had fallen upon him, and was clutching him by the throat and beginning to tear him to pieces, when Belitta, leaping to earth, rushed upon him from behind, and attempted to drag him off, and to turn his rage upon himself, thrusting his hands into the brute’s mouth, and doing his best to extricate Basthes from those teeth. He succeeded at last: the lion, abandoning his half dead prey, turned upon Belitta, grappled with him, and slew him; but not before Belitta had plunged a scimetar into his breast. Thus all three died together; and we buried them, the two friends in one grave, the lion in another close by.
For my third instance, I shall give you the friendship of Macentes, Lonchates, and Arsacomas. This Arsacomas had been on a visit to Leucanor, king of Bosphorus, in connexion with the tribute annually paid to us by that country, which tribute was then three months overdue; and while there he had fallen in love with Mazaea, the king’s daughter. Mazaea was an extremely fine woman, and Arsacomas, seeing her at the king’s table, had been much smitten with her charms. The question of the tribute was at length settled, Arsacomas had his answer, and the king was now entertaining him prior to his departure. It is the custom for suitors in that country to make their proposals at table, stating at the same time their qualifications. Now in the present case there were a number of suitors — kings and sons of kings, among whom were Tigrapates the prince of the Lazi and Adyrmachus the chief of the Machlyans. What each suitor has to do is, first to declare his intentions, and quietly take his seat at table with the rest; then, when dinner is over, he calls for a goblet, pours libation upon the table, and makes his proposal for the lady’s hand, saying whatever he can for himself in the way of birth, wealth, and dominion.
Our custom of the hide is as follows. When a man has been injured by another, and desires vengeance, but feels that he is no match for his opponent, he sacrifices an ox, cuts up the flesh and cooks it, and spreads out the hide upon the ground. On this hide he takes his seat, holding his hands behind him, so as to suggest that his arms are tied in that position, this being the natural attitude of a suppliant among us. Meanwhile, the flesh of the ox has been laid out; and the man’s relations and any others who feel so disposed come up and take a portion thereof, and, setting their right foot on the hide, promise whatever assistance is in their power: one will engage to furnish and maintain five horsemen, another ten, a third some larger number; while others, according to their ability, promise heavy or light-armed infantry, and the poorest, who have nothing else to give, offer their own personal services. The number of persons assembled on the hide is sometimes very considerable; nor could any troops be more reliable or more invincible than those which are collected in this manner, being as they are under a vow; for the act of stepping on to the hide constitutes an oath. By this means, then, Arsacomas raised something like 5,000 cavalry and 20,000 heavy and light armed.
Meanwhile, Lonchates arrived unknown in Bosphorus, and presented himself co the king, who was occupied at the moment in affairs of state. ‘I come,’ he said, ‘on public business from Scythia: but I have also a private communication of high import to make to your Majesty.’ The king bade him proceed. ‘As to my public errand, it is the old story: we protest against your herdsmen’s crossing the Rocks and encroaching on the plains. And with reference to the robbers of whom you complain, I am instructed to say that our government is not responsible for their incursions, which are the work of private individuals, actuated merely by the love of booty; accordingly, you are at liberty to punish as many of them as you can secure,
The news of this reached Macentes while he was on his way to Machlyene, and on his arrival there he was the first to announce the king’s death. ‘You, Adyrmachus,’ he added, ‘are his son-inlaw, and are now summoned to the throne. Ride on in advance, and establish your claim while all is still unsettled. Your bride can follow with the waggons; the presence of Leucanor’s daughter will be of assistance to you in securing the support of the Bosphorans. I myself am an Alanian, and am related to this lady by the mother’s side: Leucanor’s wife, Mastira, was of my family. I now come to you from Mastira’s brothers in Alania: they would have you make the best of your way to Bosphorus at once, or you will find your crown on the head of Eubiotus, Leucanor’s bastard brother, who is a friend to Scythia, and detested by the Alanians.’ In language and dress, Macentes resembled an Alanian; for in these respects there is no difference between Scythians and Alanians, except that the Alanians do not wear such long hair as we do. Macentes had completed the resemblance by cropping his hair to the right shortness, and was thus enabled to pass for a kinsman of Mastira and Mazaea.
Adyrmachus, on hearing of the trick that had been played upon him, did not pursue his journey to Bosphorus; indeed, Eubiotus was already on the throne, having been summoned thither from his home in Sarmatia. He therefore returned to his own country, collected a large army, and marched across the mountains into Scythia. He was presently followed by Eubiotus himself, at the head of a miscellaneous army of Greeks, together with 20,000 each of his Alanian and Sarmatian allies. The two joined forces, and the result was an army of 90,000 men, one third of whom were mounted bowmen. We Scythians (I say we, because I myself took part in this enterprise, and was maintaining a hundred horse on the hide)— we Scythians then, numbering in all not much less than 30,000 men, including cavalry, awaited their onset, under the command of Arsacomas. As soon as we saw them approaching, we too advanced, sending on our cavalry ahead. After a long and obstinate engagement, our lines were broken, and we began to give ground; and finally our whole army was cut clean in two. One half had not suffered a decisive defeat; with these it was rather a retreat than a flight, nor did the Alanians venture to follow up their advantage for any distance. But the other and smaller division was completely surrounded by the Alanians and Machlyans, and was being shot down on every side by the copious discharge of arrows and javelins; the position became intolerable, and most of our men were beginning to throw down their arms. In this latter division were Lonchates and Macentes.
Such, Mnesippus, are the deeds that Scythians will do for friendship’s sake.
Mne. Truly deeds of high emprise; quite a legendary look about them. With Wind’s and Scimetar’s good leave, I think a man might be excused for doubting their truth.
Tox. Now, honestly, Mnesippus, does not that doubt look a little like envy? However, doubt if you will: that shall not deter me from relating other Scythian exploits of the same kind which have happened within my experience.
Mne. Brevity, friend, is all I ask. Your story is apt to run away with you. Up hill and down dale you go, through Scythia and Machlyene, off again to Bosphorus, then back to Scythia, till my taciturnity is exhausted.
Tox. I am schooled. Brevity you shall have; I will not run you off your ears this time. My next story shall be of a service rendered to myself, by my friend Sisinnes. Induced by the desire for Greek culture, I had left my home and was on my way to Athens. The ship put in at Amastris, which comes in the natural route from Scythia, being on the shore of the Euxine, not far from Carambis. Sisinnes, who had been my friend from childhood, bore me company on this voyage. We had transferred all our belongings from the ship to an inn near the harbour; and whilst we were busy in the market, suspecting nothing wrong, some thieves had forced the door of our room and carried off everything, not leaving us even enough to go on with for that day. Well, when we got back and found what had happened, we thought it was no use trying to get legal redress from our landlord, or from the neighbours; there were too many of them; and if we had told our story,— how we had been robbed of four hundred darics and our clothes and rugs and everything, most people would only have thought we were making a fuss about a trifle.
He now received his arms, and put them on; with the exception, however, of the helmet, for he fought bareheaded. He was the first to be wounded, his adversary’s curved sword drawing a stream of blood from his groin. I was half dead with fear. However, Sisinnes was biding his time: the other now assailed him with more confidence, and Sisinnes made a lunge at his breast, and drove the sword clean through, so that his adversary fell lifeless at his feet. He himself, exhausted by the loss of blood, sank down upon the corpse, and life almost deserted him; but I ran to his assistance, raised him up, and spoke words of comfort. The victory was won, and he was free to depart; I therefore picked him up and carried him home. My efforts were at last successful: he rallied, and is living in Scythia to this day, having married my sister. He is still lame, however, from his wound. Observe: this did not take place in Machlyene, nor yet in Alania; there is no lack of witnesses to the truth of the story this time; many an Amastrian here in Athens would remember the fight of Sisinnes.
One more story, that of Abauchas, and I have done. Abauchas once arrived in the capital of the Borysthenians, with his wife, of whom he was extremely fond, and two children; one, a boy, was still at the breast, the other was a girl of seven. With him also was his friend Gyndanes, who was still suffering from the effects of a wound he had received on the journey: they had been attacked by some robbers, and Gyndanes in resisting them had been stabbed in the thigh, and was still unable to stand on account of the pain. One night they were all asleep in the upper story, when a tremendous fire broke out; the whole building was wrapped in flames, and every means of exit blocked. Abauchas started up, and leaving his sobbing children, and shaking off his wife, who clung to him and implored him to save her, he caught up his friend in his arms, and just managed to force his way down without being utterly consumed by the flames. His wife followed, carrying the boy, and bade the girl come after her; but, scorched almost to a cinder, she was compelled to drop the child from her arms, and barely succeeded in leaping through the flames; the little girl too only just escaped with her life. Abauchas was afterwards reproached with having abandoned his own wife and children to rescue Gyndanes. ‘I can beget other children easily enough,’ said he: ‘nor was it certain how these would turn out: but it would be long before I got such another friend as Gyndanes; of his affection I have been abundantly satisfied by experience.’
There, Mnesippus, you have my little selection. The next thing is to settle whether my hand or your tongue is to be amputated. Who is umpire?
Mne. Umpire we have none; we forgot that. I tell you what: we have wasted our arrows this time, but some other day we will appoint an arbitrator, and submit other friendships to his judgement; and then off shall come your hand, or out shall come my tongue, as the case may be. Perhaps, though, this is rather a primitive way of doing things. As you seem to think a great deal of friendship, and as I consider it to be the highest blessing of humanity, what is there to prevent our vowing eternal friendship on the spot? We shall both have the satisfaction of winning then, and shall get a substantial prize into the bargain: two right hands each instead of one, two tongues, four eyes, four feet;— everything in duplicate. The union of two friends — or three, let us say — is like Geryon in the pictures: a six-handed, three-headed individual; my private opinion is, that there was not one Geryon, but three Geryons, all acting in concert, as friends should.
Tox. Done with you, then.
Mne. And, Toxaris,— we will dispense with the blood-and-scimetar ceremony. Our present conversation, and the similarity of our aims, are a much better security than that sanguinary cup of yours. Friendship, as I take it, should be voluntary, not compulsory.
Tox. Well said. From this day, I am your friend, you mine; I your guest here in Greece, you mine if ever you come to Scythia.
Mne. Scythia! I would go further than Scythia, to meet with such friends as Toxaris’s narratives have shown him to be.