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Demetrius of Sunium

Lucian of Samosata, Toxaris 27

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. During his absence, Antiphilus, who had remained behind (not liking the idea of the heat and the long journey), became involved in troubles which required all the assistance that faithful friendship could have rendered. He had a Syrian slave, whose name was also Syrus. This man had made common cause with a number of temple-robbers, had forced his way with them into the temple of Anubis, and robbed the God of a pair of golden cups, a caduceus, also of gold, some silver images of Cynocephali and other treasures; all of which the rest entrusted to Syrus’s charge. Later on they were caught trying to dispose of some of their booty, and were taken up; and being put on the rack, immediately confessed the whole truth. They were accordingly conducted to Antiphilus’s house, where they produced the stolen treasure from a dark corner under a bed. Syrus was immediately arrested, and his master Antiphilus with him: the latter being dragged away from the very presence of his teacher during lecture-time. There was none to help him: his former acquaintances turned their backs on the desecrator of Anubis’s temple, and made it a matter of conscience that they had ever sat at the same table with him. As to his other two servants, they got together all his belongings, and ran off.

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. At last, when Antiphilus had given up all hope, and refused to take any nourishment, Demetrius arrived, ignorant of all that had passed in his absence. He no sooner learnt the truth, than he flew to the prison. It was now evening, and he was refused admittance, the gaoler having long since bolted the door and retired to rest, leaving his slaves to keep guard. Morning came, and after many entreaties he was allowed to enter. Suffering had altered Antiphilus beyond recognition, and for long Demetrius sought him in vain: like men who seek their slain relatives on the day after a battle, when death has already changed them, he went from prisoner to prisoner, examining each in turn; and had he not called on Antiphilus by name, it would have been long before he could have recognized him, so great was the change that misery had wrought. Antiphilus heard the voice, and uttered a cry; then, as his friend approached, he brushed the dry matted hair from his face, and revealed his identity. At the unexpected sight of one another, the two friends instantly fell down in a swoon. But presently Demetrius recovered, and raised Antiphilus from the ground: he obtained from him an exact account of all that had happened, and bade him be of good cheer; then, tearing his cloak in two, he threw one half over himself, and gave the other to his friend, first ripping off the squalid, threadbare rags in which he was clothed. From that hour, Demetrius was unfailing in his attendance. From early morning till noon, he hired himself out as a porter to the merchants in the harbour, and thus made a considerable wage. Returning to the prison when his work was over, he would give a part of his earnings to the gaoler, thus securing his obsequious goodwill, and the rest sufficed him amply for supplying his friend’s needs. For the remainder of the day, he would stay by Antiphilus, administering consolation to him; and at nightfall made himself a litter of leaves near the prison door, and there took his rest. So things went on for some time, Demetrius having free entrance to the prison, and Antiphilus’s misery being much alleviated thereby. But presently a certain robber died in the gaol, apparently from the effects of poison; a strict watch was kept, and admittance was refused to all applicants alike, to the great distress of Demetrius, who could think of no other means of obtaining access to his friend than by going to the Prefect and professing complicity in the temple robbery. As the result of this declaration, he was immediately led off to prison, and with great difficulty prevailed upon the gaoler after many entreaties to place him next to Antiphilus, and under the same collar. It was now that his devotion to his friend appeared in the strongest light. Ill though he was himself, he thought nothing of his own sufferings: his only care was to lighten the affliction of his friend, and to procure him as much rest as possible; and the companionship in misery certainly lightened their load. Finally an event happened which brought their misfortunes to an end. One of the prisoners had somehow got hold of a file. He took a number of the others into his confidence, filed through the chain which held them together by means of their collars, and set all at liberty. The guards being few were easily slain; and the prisoners burst out of the gaol en masse. They then scattered, and each took refuge for the moment where he could, most of them being subsequently recaptured. Demetrius and Antiphilus, however, remained in the prison, and even secured Syrus when he was about to escape. The next morning the Prefect, hearing what had happened, sent men in pursuit of the other prisoners, and Demetrius and Antiphilus, being summoned to his presence, were released from their fetters, and commended for not having run away like the rest. The friends, however, declined to accept their dismissal on such terms: Demetrius protested loudly against the injustice which would be done to them if they were to pass for criminals, who owed their discharge to mercy, or to their discretion in not having run away. They insisted that the judge should examine carefully into the facts of their case. He at length did so; and was convinced of their innocence, did justice to their characters, and, with a warm commendation of Demetrius’s conduct, dismissed them; but not before he had expressed his regret at the unjust sentence under which they had suffered, and made each of them a present from his own purse,— 400 pounds to Antiphilus, and twice that sum to Demetrius. Antiphilus is still in Egypt at the present time, but Demetrius went off to India to visit the Brahmins, leaving his 800 pounds with Antiphilus. He could now, he said, leave his friend with a clear conscience. His own wants were simple, and as long as they continued so, he had no need of money: on the other hand, Antiphilus, in his present easy circumstances, had as little need of a friend.

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. These loyal friends whose stories I have related were the first that occurred to my memory; where I have given five instances, I might have given fifty. And now I am silent: it is your turn to speak. I need not tell you to make the most of your Scythians, and bring them out triumphant if you can: you will do that for your own sake, if you set any value on that right hand of yours. Quit you, then, like a man. You would look foolish if, after your truly professional panegyric of Orestes and Pylades, your art were to fail you in your country’s need.

cynics/demetrius_of_sunium.txt · Last modified: 2014/01/14 23:20 (external edit)