of Emesa Helidorus.

The Greek romances of Heliodorus, Longus, and Achilles Tatius : comprising the Ethiopics : or, Adventures of Theagenes and Chariclea ; The pastoral amours of Daphnis and Chloe; and The loves of Clitopho and Leucippe online

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Online Libraryof Emesa HelidorusThe Greek romances of Heliodorus, Longus, and Achilles Tatius : comprising the Ethiopics : or, Adventures of Theagenes and Chariclea ; The pastoral amours of Daphnis and Chloe; and The loves of Clitopho and Leucippe → online text (page 25 of 50)
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country, who are called Gymnosophists, and who are the
assessors and privy councillors of the ./Ethiopian kings in
affairs of moment.

" Hydaspes to the most holy Council.

" I acquaint you with my victory over the Persians. I do
not boast of my success, for I know and fear the mutability
of fortune ; but I would greet your holy order, which I
have always found wise and faithful. I invite and command
your attendance at the usual place, in order that the thanks-
giving sacrifices for victory, may, by your presence, be
rendered more august and solemn in the sight of the
^Ethiopian people."

To his consort, Persina, he wrote as follows:

" Know that I am returning a conqueror, and, what you
will still more rejoice at, unhurt. Make therefore prepara-
tions for the most sumptuous processions and sacrifices, that
we may give thanks to the gods, for the blessings which

* In. Bk. viii., 98, Herodotus gives an account of the Persian system
of estafette comparing it to the torch race: " KaTcnrtp "EXXrjvi )
\a/j.7radii(popi7i, rr]v T(f 'H0ai<rry cTrirtXfovcri." See also, Xen. Cyrop.
viii. 6, 17.


they have bestowed. In accordance with my letters, assist
in summoning the Gymnosophists ; and hasten to attend,
with them, in the consecrated field before the city, which is
dedicated to our country's gods the Sun, the Moon, and

When this letter was delivered to Persina " I now see,"
said she, " the interpretation of a dream which I had last
night. Methought I was pregnant, and in labour, and that
I brought forth a daughter in the full bloom of youth and
beauty. I see, that by my throes, were signified the travails
of war ; and by my daughter, this victory."

" Go," continued she, " and fill the city with these joyful
tidings." The expresses obeyed her commands; and
mounting their horses, having crowned their heads with the
lotus of the Nile, and waving branches of palm in their
hands, rode through the principal parts of the city, dis-
closing by their very appearance, the joyous news.

Meroe resounded with rejoicings; night and day the
inhabitants, in every family, and street, and tribe, made
processions, offered sacrifices; and suspended garlands in
the temples ; not more out of gratitude for the victory,
than for the safety of Hydaspes ; whose justice and cle-
mency, mildness and affability, had made him beloved, like
a father, by his subjects. The* queen, on her side, collected
together from all parts, quantities of sheep and oxen, of
horses and wild asses, of hippogriffs,* and all sorts of ani-
mals, and sent them into the sacred field, partly to furnish
an hecatomb of each, for sacrifice, partly to provide from
the remainder, an entertainment for all the people.

She next visited the Gymnosophists, who inhabit the
grove of Pan, and exhorted them to obey the summons of
their king, as also to gratify her by adorning and sanctify-
ing the solemnity with their presence. They, entreating
her to wait a few moments, while they consulted the gods,
as they are used to do on any new undertaking, entered
their temple, and after a short time returned, when Sisi-
mithres, their president, thus addressed her : " O queen !
we will attend you, the gods order us to do so ; but, at the

* Solinus describes these fabulous creatures as " alites ferocissimsa
et ultra omnem rabiem ssevientes ;" others speak of them as resem-
bling an eagle in the upper part, a lion in the lower. See ^Each. P.V.,
395 and 803.


same time, they signify to us, that this sacrifice will be
attended with much disturbance and tumult, which, how-
ever, will have an agreeable and happy end. A limb of
your body, or a member of the state, seems to have been
lost ; which will be restored by fate."

" Tour presence," said Persina, "will avert every threat-
ening presage, and change it into good ; I w r ill take care to
inform you when Hydaspes arrives."

" You will have no occasion to do that," replied Sisimi-
thres: "he will arrive to-morrow, and you will presently
receive letters to that effect." His prediction was fulfilled.
Persina, on her return to the palace, found a messenger
with letters from the king, announcing his intended
arrival for the following day.

The heralds dispersed the new^s through the city, and at
the same time, made proclamation, that the men alone
should be suffered to go out and meet him, but that the
women should keep within their houses ; for, as the sacrifice
was destined to be offered to the purest of all deities the
Sun and Moon the presence of females was forbidden, lest
the victims should acquire even an involuntary contamination.

The priestess of the Moon was the only woman suffered
to attend the ceremony, and she was Persina ; for by the
law and custom of the country, the queens of ^Ethiopia are
always priestesses of that divinity, as the kings are of the
Sun. Chariclea, also was to be present at the ceremonial,
not as a spectatress, but as a victim to the Moon.

The eagerness and curiosity of the citizens was incredible.
Before they knew the appointed day, they poured in mul-
titudes out of the city, crossed the river Astabora, some
over the bridge ; some who dwelt at a distance from it, in
boats made of canes, many of which lay near the banks,
affording an expeditious means of passage.

These little skiffs are very swift, both on account of the
materials of which they are composed, and the slight bur-
den which they carry, which never exceeds two or three
men : for one cane is split in two, and each section forms
a boat.*

* See Blakesley's edit, of Herod, iii. 98 : where mention is made of
boats made of bamboo, used by the Indians, of which Pliny says, that
the length of the boats, made of the internodal wood, often exceeded
five cubits, and that they would hold three persons.


Meroe, the metropolis of ^Ethiopia, is situated in a sort
of triangular island, formed by the confluence of three navi-
gable rivers; the Nile, the Astabora, and the Asasoba.
The former flows towards it from above, where it forms
two branches ; the others, flowing round it on either side,
unite their waters, and hasten to mingle their stream, and
lose their names, in the channel of the Nile.

This island, which is almost a continent, (being in length
three thousand furlongs, in -width one thousand), abounds
in animals of every kind, and, among the rest, with ele-
phants. It is especially fertile in producing trees. The
palm trees rise to an unusual height, bearing dates of large
size and delicious flavour. The stalks of wheat and barley
are so tall, as to cover and conceal a man when mounted
on a horse or camel, and they multiply their fruit three
hundred fold. The canes are of the size which I have
before mentioned.

All the night were the inhabitants employed in crossing
the river ; they met, received, and congratulated Hydaspes,
extolling him as a god. They had gone a considerable way
to meet him. The Gymnosophists went only a little beyond
the sacred field, when, taking his hand, they kissed him.
Next appeared Persina at the vestibule, and within the
precincts of the temple.

After worshipping the gods, and returning thanks for his
victory and safety, they left the precincts, and prepared to
attend the approaching sacrifice, repairing for that purpose
to a tent, which had been erected for them on the plain.
Four canes, newly cut down, were fixed in the ground, one
at each corner, serving as a pillar, supported the vaulted
roof, which was covered with the branches of palm and
other trees. Near this another tent was erected, raised
considerably from the ground, in which were placed the
images of the gods of the country Memnon, Perseus, and
Andromeda whom the kings of JEthiopia boasted to be the
founders of their race : under these, on a lower story, having
their gods above them, sat the Gymnosophists. A large por-
tion of the ground was surrounded by the soldiers ; who in
close order, and with their shields joined, kept off the mul-
titude, and afforded a clear space sufficient for the priests to
perform their sacrifice, without confusion or disturbance.

Hydaspes, after speaking briefly upon the victory which


he had gained, and the advantages obtained by it to the
state, commanded the sacred ministers to begin their rites.

Three lofty altars were erected, two in close proximity to
the Sun and Moon ; a third, at some distance, to Bacchus :
to him they sacrificed animals of every kind, as being a
common deity, gracious and bountiful to all. To the Sun
they offered 'four white horses, the swiftest of animals to
the swiftest of the gods ;* to the Moon, a yoke of oxen, con-
secrating to her, as being nearest the earth, their assistants
in agriculture.

While these things were transacting, a loud confused
murmur began to rise as among a promiscuous multitude ;
" Let our country's rites be performed let the appointed
sacrifice be made let the first-fruits of war be offered to
onr gods."

Hydaspes understood that it was a human victim whom
they demanded, which it was customary to offer from among
the prisoners taken only in a foreign war. Making a
motion for silence, with his hand, he intimated to them, by
gestures, that they should soon have what they required,
and ordered those who had the charge of the captives to
bring them forward. They obeyed, and led them forth,
guarded, but freed from their chains.

The generality were, as may be imagined, dejected and
sorrowful. Theagenes, however, appeared much less so than
the others ; but the countenance of Chariclea was cheerful
and elate. She fixed her eyes upon Persina with a fixed and
steady glance, so as to cause in her considerable emotion ;
she could not help sighing, as she said " O husband ! what
a maiden have you destined for sacrifice ! I never remember
to have seen such beauty. How noble is her presence !
with what spirit and fortitude does she seem to meet her
impending fate ! How worthy is she of compassion, owing
to the flower of her age. If my only and unfortunately lost
daughter were living, she would be about the same age.
O that it were possible to save this maiden from destruc-
tion ; it would be a great satisfaction to me to have her in
my service. She is probably Grecian, for she has not at all
the air of an Egyptian."

* Herod, i. 216, states the same concerning the Massagetae, and
assigns the same cause : <! T&v Qtwv T(f ra\lar(^ KCIVTUV TUJV QVYIT&I
TO rd^iarov "


"She is from Greece," replied Hydaspes : "who are her
parents she will presently declare ; shew them she cannot,
though such has been her promise. To deliver her from
sacrifice is impossible: were it in my power, I should be
very glad to do so ; for I feel, I know not why, great com-
passion and affection for her. But you are aware that the
law requires a male to be offered to the Sun, and a female
to the Moon ; and she being the first captive presented to
me, and having been allotted for the sacrifice, the disap-
pointment of the people's wishes w r ould admit of no excuse.
One only chance can favour her escape, and that is, if she
should be found when she ascends the pile, not to have
preserved her chastity inviolate; for the law demands a
pure victim to be offered to the goddess as well as to the
god the condition of those offered on the altar of Bacchus
is indifferent. But should she be found unchaste, reflect
whether it would be proper that she should be received
into your family."

"Let her," replied Persina, "be found unchaste, provided
only she be preserved. Captivity and war, absence from
friends, and a wandering life, furnish an excuse for guilt,
particularly in her, whose transcendent beauty must have
exposed her to more than common temptations."

While she was weeping and striving to conceal her weak-
ness from the people, Hydaspes ordered the fire-altar* to
be prepared, and brought out. A number of young children,
collected by the officials from among the multitude, brought
it from the temple (they alone being permitted to touch
it), and placed it in the midst. Each of the captives was
then ordered to ascend it. It was furnished with golden
bars of such mystic virtue, that whenever any unchaste or
perjured person placed his foot upon it, it burnt him imme-
diately, and he was obliged to retire : the pure, on the con-
trary, and the uncontaminated, could mount it uninjured.

The greatest part of the prisoners failed in the trial, and
were destined as victims to Bacchus, and the other gods
save two or three Grecian maidens whose virginity was
found intact. Theagenes at length ascended it, and was
found pure. It raised great admiration in the assembly,
that with his beauty, stature, and in the flower of youth, he
should be a stranger to the power of love acccordingly

* T)jv iffxctpa -.\


he was destined ' as an offering to the Sun. He said softly
to Chariclea "Is death then, and sacrifice, the reward
which the ^Ethiopians bestow upon purity and integrity ?
But why, my dearest life, do you not discover yourself?
How long will you delay ? Until the sacrificer's knife is
at your throat ? Speak, ' I beseech you, and disclose your
condition. Perhaps when you are known, your intercession
may preserve me ; but if that should not happen, you will be
safe, and then I shall die with comfort and satisfaction."

" Our trial," said Chariclea, " now approaches our fate
trembles in the balance.*" So saying, and without await-
ing any command, she drew from out of a scrip which
she had with her, and put on, her sacred Delphic robe,
interwoven and glittering with rays of light. She let her
hair fall dishevelled upon her shoulders, and as under the
influence of inspiration, leaped upon the altar, and remained
there a long time, unhurt.

Dazzling every beholder with more than ever resplendent
beauty ; visible to all from this elevated place, and with her
peculiar dress, she resembled an image of the goddess, more
than a mere mortal maiden. An inarticulate murmur of
applause ran through the multitude, expressive of their
surprise and admiration, that with charms so superhuman,
she should have preserved her honour, enhancing her beauty
by her chastity.f Yet they were almost sorry that she was
found a pure and fitting victim for the goddess. Notwith-
standing their religious reverence they would have been glad
could she by any means escape. But Persina felt more for
her than all the rest. She could not help saying to Hydas-
pes " How miserable and ill-fated is this poor maiden !
To no purpose giving token of her purity ! Eeceiving for
her many virtues only an untimely death ? Can nothing be
done to save her ?"

" Nothing, I fear," replied the king : " your wishes and
pity are unavailable. It seems that the gods have from the
beginning selected by reason of her very excellence this
perfect victim for themselves." And then directing his dis-
course to the Grymnosophists : "Sages," said he, "since every
thing is ready, why do you not begin the sacrifice?" "Ear

* TaXavrtvti icaQ' r}/ic?c 17 /loipa.

^ " Gratior et pulchro veniens in corpore virtus."

Virg. JEu. v. 344.


be it from us," said Sisimithres (speaking in Greek, that
the multitude might not understand him) to assist at such
rites ; our eyes and ears have already been sufficiently
wounded by the preparations. We will retire into the
temple, abhorring ourselves the detestable offering of a
human victim, and believing too that the gods do not ap-
prove it. Would that the sacrifices even of brute animals
might cease ; those consisting of prayers and incense being,
to our mind, sufficient.* Do you, however, remain ; for the
presence of a ruler is sometimes necessary to stay the
turbulence of the multitude. G-o on with this unhallowed
sacrifice, since the inveterate custom of the people has
made it unavoiable ; remembering that when it is performed,
yourself will stand in need of expiation, though perhaps,
you will not need it, for I think this rite will never be
brought to consummation. I judge from various divine
tokens, and particularly from a kind of glory shed around
these strangers, signifying that they are under the peculiar
protection of the gods;" having said this, he arose, and
was about to retire with his brethren.

At this instant Chariclea leapt down from the altar ;
rushed towards Sisimithres, and fell at his feet. The officials
would have hindered her, supposing that she was deprecating
death, but she exclaimed! "Stay, Sages, I beseech you ! I
have a cause to plead before the king and queen ; you are
the only judges, in such a presence ; you must decide
in this, the trial for my life. You will find that it is neither
possible nor just that I should be sacrificed to the gods."
They listened to her readily, and addressing the king, said,
"Do you hear, O king, the challenge and averment of
this foreign maiden."

Hydaspes smiling, replied, "What controvesy can she
have with me ? From what pretext, or from what right,
can it arise?" " That, her own relation will discover"
said Sisimithres. "But will it not be an indignity," rather
than an act of justice, rejoined the monarch, " for a king to
enter into a judicial dispute with a slave?" "Equity regards
not lofty rank," said the sage. " He is king in judgment

* " Immunis aram si tetigit manus,
Non surnptuosa blandior hostia
Mollivit aversos penatcs

Farre pio et saliente mica." Hor. III. Od. xxiii. 1*


who prevails by strength of arguments." " But," returned
Hydaspes, " your office gives you a right of deciding only
when a controversy arises between the king and his own
subjects, riot between him and foreigners." "Justice," said
Sisimithres, "is weighed among the wise, not by mere appear-
ances, but by facts/' " It is clear that she can have nothing
serious to advance," said the king, "but some mere idle pretext
to delay her fate, as is the case with those who are in fear
of their lives. Let her, however, speak, since Sisimithres
would have it so."

Chariclea, who had always been sanguine, in expecting
her deliverance, was now inspired with additional confidence
when she heard the name of Sisimithres. He was the
person to whose care she had been committed ten years
before, and who delivered her to Charicles at Catadupa,
when he was sent ambassador to Oroondates in the matter
of the emerald mines he was then one of the ordinary
Gymnosophists : but now, he was their president. Chari-
clea did not call to mind his face (having been parted from
him when only seven years' old), but recollected and rejoiced
at hearing his name, trusting that she should find in him
a support and an advocate. Stretching out then her hands
towards heaven, and speaking audibly, "O Sun!" she
exclaimed, " author of my family ; and you, ye gods and
heroes who adorn my race ! I call you to witness the truth
of what I say. Be you my supporters and assistants in the
trial which I am about to undergo my cause is just, and
thus I enter upon it: Does the law. O king, command
you to sacrifice natives or foreigners ?"

" Foreigners only," replied Hydaspes. "You must then
seek another victim," said she, " for you will find me a
native." The king seemed surprised, declaring it to be a
figment. "Do you wonder at this?" said she; "you will
hear much stranger things. I am not only a native, but
closely allied to the royal family." This assertion was re-
ceived with contempt, as so much idle speech : when she
added " Cease, my father, to despise and reject your

By this time the king began to appear not only contemp-
tuous, but indignant, taking the matter as a personal insult
to himself. He said, therefore, to Sisimithres, "Behold
the reward of my endurance ! Is not the maiden downright


mad! Endeavouring with wild and incredible fictions to
escape the fate awaiting her ! desperately feigning herself
to be my daughter, as in some sudden appearance and dis-
covery upon the stage mine, who was never so fortunate
as to have any offspring. Once, indeed, I heard of a daugh-
ter's birth, only, however, to learn her death. Let then
some one lead her away, that the sacrifice may be no longer
deferred. 17 " No one shall lead me away," cried out Chari-
clea, " till the judges have given sentence. You are in this
affair a party, not a judge ; the law perhaps permits you to
sacrifice foreigners, but to sacrifice your children, neither
law nor nature allows ; and the gods shall this day declare
you to be my father, however unwilling you appear to own
me. Every cause, O king, which comes for judgment, leans
principally upon two kinds of proof, written evidence, and
that of living witnesses : both these will I bring forward to
prove myself your child. I shall appeal to no common
witness, but to my judge himself (the consciousness of
the judge is the prisoner's best ground of confidence) ;
as to my written evidence it shall be a history of my own
and your misfortunes." So saying, she loosened from her
waist the fillet* which had been exposed with her, unrolled,
and presented it to Persina. She, as soon as it met her
sight, appeared struck dumb with astonishment ; she con-
tinued a considerable time casting her eyes first on the
writing, then again on the maiden. A cold sweat bedewed
her limbs, and convulsive tremblings shook her frame.

Her first emotions were those of joy and hope; but
anxiety and doubt succeeded. Dread of the suspicions
of Hydaspes followed; of his incredulity, and perhaps of
his anger and vengeance.

The king observing her agitation and astonishment, said
to her, " Persina ! what is it which ails you ? from what
cause has this writing such effect upon you ?" " My king,
my lord, and my husband!" she replied, "I know not
what to answer you: take and read it yourself: let this
fillet explain everything." She gave it him, and remained
trembling, in anxious silence.

He took the fillet, and began to read it, calling to the
Gymnosophists to read it with him. As he proceeded, he
was struck with doubt and amazement ; but Sisimithres
* See Book iv.


was still more astonished : his ever-changing colour betrayed
the various emotions of his mind : he fixed his eyes now
on the fillet, and now on Chariclea.

At length Hydaspes, when he came to the account of the
exposing of the infant, and the cause of it, broke silence,
and said, " I know that I had once a daughter born to me,
having been told that it died almost as soon as it was born.
This writing now informs me that it was exposed : but who
took it up, who preserved, who educated it ? who brought
it into Egypt ? Was that person, whoever he were, taken
captive at the same time with her ? How shall I be satisfied
that this is the real child that was exposed ? May she not
have perished ? May not these tokens have fallen into the
hands of some one, who takes advantage of this chance ?
May not some evil genius be paltering with my desire of
offspring, and clothed with the person of this maiden, be
endeavouring to pass off a supposititious birth as my successor,
overshadowing the truth with this fillet, as with a cloud ?

But now Sisimithres replied, " I can clear up some of
your doubts ; for I am the person who took her up, who
educated and carried her into Egypt, when you sent me thither
on an embassy. You know me too well to suspect me of
asserting what is untrue. I perfectly recollect the fillet,
which is inscribed with the royal characters of the kings of
-^Ethiopia, which you cannot suspect to have been counter-
feited elsewhere ; for you yourself must recognize the hand-
writing of Persina. But there were other tokens exposed
with her, which I delivered at the same time to him who
received the damsel from me, who was a Grecian, and, in
appearance, an honest and worthy man."

"I have preserved them likewise," said Chariclea, and
immediately shewed the necklace and the bracelet. Persina
was yet more affected when she saw these.

Hydaspes still inquiring what all this agitation could
mean, and whether she had anything to discover which
might throw light upon this matter ; she answered, " that
she certainly had, but it was an examination more proper
to be made in private than in public."

Hydaspes was more than ever perplexed, and Chariclea
proceeded " These are the tokens of my mother ; but this
ring is a present of your own ;" and produced the stone


Online Libraryof Emesa HelidorusThe Greek romances of Heliodorus, Longus, and Achilles Tatius : comprising the Ethiopics : or, Adventures of Theagenes and Chariclea ; The pastoral amours of Daphnis and Chloe; and The loves of Clitopho and Leucippe → online text (page 25 of 50)