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From The Æthiopica: “Heliodorus - An Aethiopian Romance” translated by Thomas Underdowne (Anno 1587), revised and partly rewritten by F. A. Wright; George Routledge & Sons Ltd.: London; New York: E. P. Dutton & Co.; [with additional corrections in the online edition by S. Rhoads;] pp. 286-323.




Let this suffice concerning what was done about Syene, which, after it was come into so great a danger, by the clemency and equity of one man received so good a turn. This done, Hydaspes sent a great part of his army before and went himself into Ethiopia, the people of Syene and all the Persians following him a great way and praising him much and making many supplications for his good and prosperous health. First he took his journey along the banks of the Nile and such other places as were near unto the same. But after he came to the Cataracts and had sacrificed to the Nile and the other gods of the land, he turned aside and went through the middle country rather. When he came to Phylae he gave his army leave to rest and refresh themselves for two days, and sending away a great number of his meanest soldiers tarried himself, to fortify the walls and set a garrison. This done, he chose two horsemen, who should ride in post before him and in certain towns and villages change their horses, with letters to Meroe to certify them of his victory. To the wise men who are called Gymnosophists and are of the king’s council he wrote thus.

‘To the divine council Hydaspes sendeth greeting. I certify you of the victory I have had over the Persians. Yet I make no great count of my success 287 but pay homage rather to the instability of fortune. I salute and commend by this letter your holy priesthood, which as at all times so now hath told me the truth. I pray you also and, as far as I may, command you to come to the appointed place, that with your presence you may make the sacrifice more acceptable to all the people of Ethiopia.’ to his wife Persina he wrote thus: ’Know that we have won the day, and, what touches you more nearly, are in good health. Wherefore make sumptuous provision to do sacrifice of thanksgiving to the gods, and when you have shewn the wise men our letters and exhorted them to be present, hasten to be in the field before the city, which is consecrated to our gods, the Sun, the Moon, and Bacchus.’

When Persina had read this letter she said: ‘Surely this was the dream I had last night. I thought that I was with child and brought forth a daughter who was straightway ripe for marriage. I guess now that my sorrow in travail betokened the battle, and my daughter the victory. Wherefore go into the city and tell them of this joyful news.’ The couriers did as she commanded, and wreathing their heads with lotus of the Nile, and waving branches of palm in their hands they rode through the chief places of the city; and if they had said nothing else their gestures and the habit of their body would have declared the victory. Therefore all Meroe was suddenly full of joy, and the people flocked together, and sacrificed day and night in every family, street, and tribe, and thronged the temples; not so much glad of the victory as that Hydaspes was safe, because by his equity and courteous usage he had so won the hearts of his subjects that they loved him as a father.

Persina prepared great droves of oxen and horses and sheep, together with wild asses and gryphons and 288 all manner of other beasts, and sent them before into the sacred field, that of every kind there might be a hecatomb, while what was left should serve for the public feast. Then she went to the Gymnosophists who dwell in the grove of Pan and gave them Hydaspes’ letters, and prayed them to fulfil the king’s request, and do her a pleasure and be an ornament to the sacrifice by their presence. They asked her to stay a while, and went themselves into the temple to pray and seek counsel from the gods what was best to do. Returning by and by, Sisimithres, who was chief of the king’s council, said: ‘We will come, Persina; for the gods command us so to do: marry they foreshow that there will be a stir and business at the sacrifice, but it will have a good and delectable end, because that destiny will bring to light a member of your body for which you have sought, and a part of the kingdom which has long been lost.’ ‘Even terrible things,’ said Persina ‘will change, and end happily, if you are here. And I will send you word when I hear that Hydaspes is almost come.’ ‘You need not send us word when he will come,’ quoth Sisimithres; ‘for to-morrow morning he will be here, and so you will have knowledge by his letter anon.’ And it happened so indeed. When Persina had departed and was almost come home to the king’s palace, a post gave her letters from the king that told her he would be there the next day. Then straightway heralds spread the news abroad, commanding the men only to go out to meet the king, and forbidding the women. For as they were to sacrifice to the brightest and most pure of the gods, the Sun and the Moon, it was not the custom for women to be present, lest the sacrifice should unknowingly be defiled. Only the priestess of the Moon might take part; which was Persina, for 289 by the custom of the country the king is the Sun’s priest, and the queen the Moon’s. Chariclea also was to be there, not as a looker on, but as a sacrifice to the moon. Then was there great ado in the city, and the people did not wait for the appointed day but that evening began to pass over the river Astabora, some by the bridge, others who dwelled afar off in boats made of reeds, whereof many grow at the river’s side. And these boats are very swift, both because of the stuff whereof they are made and also for their burden, since they never carry more than two or three persons. For the reed is cut into two parts and of either part they make a boat.

Meroe the chief city of Ethiopia is a three-cornered island about which do run navigable rivers, the Nile, and the Astabora and the Asasoba. At the topmost point is the Nile, which there divides itself into two parts; the other two rivers run on both sides one by the other, and then meeting fall into the Nile, and yield their waters and their name. The island is very large and almost imitates the mainland — for it is three hundred three score and fifteen miles long and six score and five broad — and it engenders beasts of wonderful greatness of all kinds and especially elephants. Trees grow there without the work of men, and it brings forth much other fruit. There are palm trees of great height which bear stores of dates, and corn and wheat of such tallness that it will hide a man on horseback and even sometimes though he sits upon a camel. And the reeds that grow there are such as we spake of before.

The people spent the night in crossing the rivers, and going on to meet Hydaspes received him with great shouts and clamours as though he had been a god. But the Gymnosophists waited for him just 290 before the sacred field and gave him their hands and welcomed him with kisses. When they had done, Persina met him in the temple porch. Then after prayers were ended and thanksgiving for his victory and safe return, they made them ready for the public sacrifice. The king sat in a tabernacle built before for the purpose, which was made of four reeds newly cut down, four square, so that at every corner stood a reed to stay it up instead of a pillar, while the top was round and covered with divers boughs, the fairest whereof were branches broken from the palm trees. In another tabernacle close by upon a high platform were set the images of the native gods and the pictures of their heroes, Memnon, Perseus and Andromeda, whom the kings of Ethiopia suppose to be the authors of their stock. On a lower platform, with the gods as it were above their heads, sat the Gymnosophists. About them stood a company of soldiers, with lifted shields touching one another, who kept back the multitude and reserved a place in the midst for the sacrifices free from tumult. Hydaspes in few words declared to the people his victory and what he had done else fortunately for the common wealth, and then commanded the priests to begin the sacrifice. There were three altars made, of which the two appertaining to the Sun and Moon were set together. The third, the altar of Bacchus, was erected a good way off, and thereon they sacrificed all manner of living things, because that the power of his divinity extends over all the people, I think, and pleases every man. Upon the other altars, they offered to the Sun four white horses, the swiftest creatures to the most rapid of the gods; to the Moon a pair of oxen, giving her who is nearest to the earth those animals that work the earth.


While these things were a doing, suddenly a confused and mingled shout arose, as was like from such an infinite multitude, crying: ‘Let the rites of our country be performed; let the wonted sacrifice for the nation be offered: let the first fruits of the war be presented to the gods.’ Hydaspes perceived that they called for human sacrifices, which are wont to be offered only from those that are taken in foreign wars, and beckoned with his hand, and told them that he would do forthwith what they required; and thereupon he commanded that the prisoners appointed for the purpose be brought forth; among whom came Theagenes and Chariclea, loosed from their chains and with garlands upon their heads. All the others were very heavy, and good reason why, save that Theagenes was less dismayed than the rest. But Chariclea smiled and went with a cheerful countenance, and ever looked steadfastly upon Persina, so that the queen herself was moved thereby, and sore sighing said; ‘O husband, what a maid have you appointed to be sacrificed! I know not whether I ever saw so fair a creature. What a stout stomach and what a beautiful visage hath she! With how courageous a heart beareth she this misfortune! How doth she move my mind by reason of her flowering age! If the daughter I had by you, who was so cruelly lost, had lived, she would have been almost as old. I would to God, husband, you might deliver her by some means from this peril. Surely I should have great comfort if she served at my table and waited upon me. Perhaps also the unhappy creature is a Greek, for never was there such a face in Egypt.’ ‘She is a Greek,’ answered he; ’and as to her parents she promised that she would shew them to us at this time; though how she can I know not. But that she should be 292 delivered from this sacrifice is not possible; although I would fain it were, for I too am moved somewhat by the maid and feel compassion toward her. You know that our law requireth a man to be offered to the Sun and a woman to the Moon, and as she was the first prisoner brought to me and ordained for this purpose, the people would be content with no excuse. Only one help is there, if she be found not to be a clean virgin when she shall go to the fire, seeing that the law willeth that she who is offered to the Moon shall be clean, and likewise he that is sacrificed to the Sun; but as for Bacchus it makes no great matter. But take heed that if she be found at the fire to have accompanied with men it will not be seemly to take her into your household.’ Then said Persina: ‘Let her found to have done that, so only she be saved. Captivity, war, and banishment so far from her own country do excuse her even if she have done any such thing, whose beauty is sufficient to make her to be forced.’

While she spake thus and wept — although she would not have them that were by perceive it — Hydaspes commanded the sacred fire to be brought. Then the priests, choosing young children from among the crowd — for they alone could touch it without hurt — brought the fire from the temple and set it in the midst and bade all the prisoners tread upon it. But when they trod they were burned in the soles of their feet and were not able to abide even for a moment, there being spits of gold laid in the fire that possessed power to burn every unchaste person and those that were forsworn; but such as had lived purely might tread upon them and have no harm. Wherefore they set aside all those prisoners for Bacchus and the other gods, save only two or three maids of Greece who 293 were found by the fire to have kept their virginity.

When Theagenes put his foot to the fire and was found a maid, there was great wondering among the people, both because he was so tall and beautiful and also that being young and lusty he never had to do with any woman: and so he was appointed to be offered to the Sun. Then spake he softly to Chariclea: ’Is sacrificing the reward of such as live cleanly in Ethiopia, and shall they be slain who keep their virginity? Why, Chariclea, do you not now manifest yourself? What other time do you look for hereafter, or will you tarry till some one cut our throats? Utter, I pray you, and tell your estate. Perhaps when you are known you will save me; and if not, you yourself at least will escape from danger: which thing when I see I shall be content to die.’ She answered him that the time was now at hand and that all their fortune was now at six and seven; and then, without tarrying for any command from those who had charge of that matter, she put upon her the holy garment that she had brought from Delphi, which she always carried in a little fardell about her, wrought with gold and bright gleaming spangles. Then casting her hair abroad, like one taken with a divine fury, she ran and leapt into the fire and stood there a great while unharmed, her beauty shining the more, so that every man marvelled at her, and by reason of her dress thought her more like a goddess than a mortal woman. Thereat was every man amazed and muttered sore, but nothing they said plainly; and above all things they wondered that she, being more beautiful than any mortal woman and in her best youth, had not lost her virginity. So that many of the company were sorrowful that she was fit to be offered, and if they wist how would gladly have delivered her, even 294 though they were very superstitious. But Persina above all was sad, and spake to Hydaspes: ‘How unhappy is this wench who boasteth so of her virginity at this unseasonable time, and will pay with death for all her praise! What can be done, husband?’ He answered: ‘You trouble me to no purpose and vainly pity her who cannot be saved, but has been kept from the beginning, it seems, for the gods, because of the great excellency of her nature.’ Then turning to the Gymnosophists he said: ‘Right wise men, seeing that all things are ready, why do you not begin the sacrifice?’ ‘God forbid,’ said Sisimithres speaking in Greek that the people might not understand: ‘we have defiled our eyes and ears too much with this that is done already. As for us, we will go away hence to the temple, for this abominable sacrifice of men and women we do not ourselves allow, nor do we think the gods approve. I would that we might prevent indeed all sacrifice that is made with slaughter of living things, for in our opinion that sufficeth which is done with prayers and the sweet savour of incense. Do you tarry — for it is necessary beyond doubt at times for a king to bow to the desire of the multitude — and perform this unholy sacrifice, which because of the ancient law of Ethiopia cannot be avoided. Hereafter will you need purification — and yet perhaps no; for I do not think that this sacrifice will ever be performed. That I guess both from the other signs that God now gives me and the light that shines around these strangers signifying that some god is their defender.’

When he had said this, he and the others who sat with him arose and prepared to depart. But Chariclea leapt out of the fire and ran to him and fell at his 295 knees — in spite of the officers who would have stayed her, because they thought that her supplication was for nothing else but to crave that she might not die — and said: ‘Most wise men, stay a little; for I have a cause to plead with the king and queen, and must have judgment thereon, and I hear that you only can give sentence upon such noble persons. Wherefore abide, and be judges in this plea of life and death; for you shall know that it is neither possible nor just to offer me to the gods.’ They heard what she said gladly, and spake to the king saying: ‘Dost thou hear, O king, this appeal and what this stranger requireth?’ Hydaspes smiled and said, ‘What fashion of judgment may this be, and what have I to do with her, and on what grounds of equity doth it depend?’ ‘That which she will say,’ quoth Sisimithres, ‘will declare that.’ ‘But will not the matter seem no judgment but plain insolence,’ said Hydaspes, ‘if the king stand to plead against a prisoner?’ ‘Equity and justice have no respect for honour and estate,’ answered Sisimithres; ‘with them he is king who bringeth the best reasons.’ Hydaspes said: ’The law giveth you leave to determine controversies between the king and his subjects, not with aliens and strangers.’ Sisimithres answered: ’Wise and discreet men do not measure justice by outward appearances but rather by equity.’ ’Well,’ quoth Hydaspes, ’let her speak, since it is Sisimithres pleasure; but it is manifest that she will speak nothing to the purpose, but only some foolish things devised to make delay, as those who are in extreme peril are commonly wont to do.’

Chariclea was already bold of spirit, for hope of her delivery from these dangers which she trusted 296 would come to pass, but when she heard the name of Sisimithres she was exceeding glad. For he it was who first took her and gave her to Charicles these ten years past, when he was sent as ambassador to Oroöndates about the emerald mines. At that time he was but one of the Gymnosophists, but now he was chief of all the rest. Chariclea knew him not by face, because she was separated from him very young when she was but seven years old; marry she remembered his name, and was the more glad for that, because she trusted he would be her advocate and help her to be known. Therefore she held her hands up to heaven and said aloud that all might hear: ‘O Sun, the founder of my ancestors’ pedigree, and ye other gods and heroes, bear me witness that I say nothing but truth, and help me in this case, wherein of many just pleas I will begin with this: Doth the law command strangers, O king, or men of this country to be sacrificed?’ ‘Strangers,’ quoth he. ‘Then it is time,’ she said, ‘that you seek some other to be sacrificed; for you will find me to be one of this country born and your subject.’ He marvelled at this and said she lied. ‘Soft, quoth Chariclea, ‘you wonder at small things, but there be grater matters than this, for I am not only of this country but also of the blood royal.’ Hydaspes despised her words and turned away as though they were folly. ‘Nay, father,’ quoth she, ‘leave off thus to despise and refuse your own daughter.’ Thereon the king not only despised her but waxed very wroth, thinking this to be scorn and intolerable insolence, and said: ‘Sisimithres and ye others, how long shall she abuse my patience? Is not the maid stark mad, with bold lies seeking to avoid death? She pretends that she is my daughter as though this were a scene in a comedy. 297 For my part I never had so good luck as to have a child: once only it was told that I had one, but I lost her forthwith. Wherefore let some one carry her away, that she delay the sacrifice no longer.’ ‘No man shall carry me away,’ cried Chariclea, ‘except the judges command it: you yourself are not judge now, you are being judged. The law perhaps suffereth you, O king, to kill strangers, but neither this law nor the law of nature allows you, father, to kill your own children. For the gods will prove this day that you are my father, though you say nay. Every controversy in law, O king, standeth upon two points especially; that is to say, on proof by writings and confirmation by witnesses; and I will bring both to prove that I am your daughter. For my witness I will bring none of the common sort but the judge himself — for the judge’s knowledge is the surest proof methinks that a pleader can give — and for writings I will lay before you this, which shall tell you both of mine and of your estate.’

Saying this she took the band that was exposed with her, which she wore about her body, and unfolded it and gave it to Persina. As soon as the queen saw it she was straightway so amazed that she could say never a word, and looked a great while upon that which was written therein and upon the maid together, so that for fear she trembled and sweat sore, and was glad of what she saw, marry she was much troubled with the suddenness of the chance, which happened in such sort as no man would believe it. Besides she feared lest Hydaspes should suspect somewhat now that this was discovered, and be too light of belief, or angry, or perhaps punish her. Insomuch that Hydaspes seeing her so troubled said: ‘Wife, what meaneth this? Doth aught contained in this writing 298 thus trouble thee?’ ‘O king,’ quoth she, ‘my lord and husband, I have nothing to say thereto; take it and read it yourself; it will tell you all well enough.’ And as soon as she had given it she sat silent with downcast face. When Hydaspes had it, and called the Gymnosophists to read it with him, he ran over the same and marvelled much thereat himself, and perceived well that Sisimithres was amazed and that a thousand thoughts arose in his mind, so that he looked often upon the writing and often upon the maid. At length when he had read of how she was exposed and the reason thereof he said: ‘I know well that a daughter was born to me and that I was told she dead, and I learn now, as Persina herself says, that she was not dead but was sent abroad to seek her fortune. But who was the man who took her up, saved her, and nourished her thus, and who was he that carried her to Egypt? Has she not been taken now as a prisoner? To be short, how may I know that this is she, and that my child who was cast forth is not dead, and some one happening on these tokens is not now abusing fortune? I fear that some evil spirit is mocking us with this maid for his instrument, and that scorning our desire to have a child he puts off some changeling upon us and by this writing darkens the truth.’

To this Sisimithres answered: ‘I can resolve you of your first doubt. I am the man who took her up and kept her secretly and carried her to Egypt, when you sent me thither as ambassador. You know that we may not lie. And I recognise the writing on the band, which is, as you see, in the royal Ethiopian characters, and you have good reason to know it too, for it was written by Persina’s hand. But there were 299 other tokens also which I gave to him who received her from me, a Greek and by seeming a good and honest man.’ ‘I have them also,’ said Chariclea; and so showed them the jewels; with which sight Persina was more astonished than she was before. When Hydaspes asked her what they were and whether she knew anything thereof she gave him no other answer but that she knew them, marry it was better to make further trial of these things at home. Then was Hydaspes almost beside himself again. But Chariclea said: ‘These tokens my mother gave me; but this ring is yours.’ And therewith she showed him the Pantarbe. Hydaspes knew it, for he gave it to Persina when he was betrothed to her. and said: ‘These tokens, good maid, are mine, but I am not yet assured that you who have them are my daughter, and have not come by them by some other means. For to omit other things, your colour is strange and the like is not seen in Ethiopia.’ ‘She was white also,’ said Sisimithres, ‘that I took up: moreover the term of years doth well agree with the age of this maid; for the time when the child was exposed is now seventeen years gone and she is seventeen years old. The look of her eyes too makes for us, and I recognise the excellent beauty of her body to be like that I saw at that time.’ ‘Sisimithres,’ quoth Hydaspes, ‘you have said very well, and rather have defended this cause as an advocate than sat upon it in judgment. But beware that, while you take away this part of this doubt, you rouse not a hard question and one difficult for my wife to resolve. How is it possible in reason that we being both Ethiopians should beget a white child?’ Sisimithres looked aside upon him, and smiling scornfully said: ‘I know not what aileth you that you thus strangely reproach 300 me with my advocacy. I deem not that I might not neglect the same, for we count that man to be a true judge who is ever the advocate of what is just. And why should I not seem to have pleaded for you as much as for the maid? By the help of Heaven I have shewn you to be her father. Was I to neglect the child whom I saved in her cradle, now that she has been preserved for you in the bloom of her youth? Think as you will of us, we care not at all. For we live not to please other men but to content our own conscience, following after right and equity. As touching your question of her colour, the writing on the band answereth you, for Persina there allows that in her conception she drew somewhat from the figure of Andromeda, by looking upon her when you had to do with her. If you desire to be fully satisfied herein, look yourself also now, and you will find that Andromeda is well expressed in the maid as in the picture without any difference.’

Thereupon the servants were bidden to bring the picture in, and when they set it down near to Chariclea there was such a shout among the people, wondering at the exactness of the likeness and telling the story to those who knew it not, that Hydaspes himself could disbelieve no more, but stood a great while held fast with joy and amazement. ‘One point still is wanting,’ quoth Sisimithres: ‘this is a question of the throne, and the true succession and above all of verity. Strip up your sleeve, maid. There was a black spot above your elbow. It is no shame to be stripped to testify to your parents and kindred.’ Chariclea uncovered her left arm, and upon it there was a circle as of ebony staining the ivory of her skin. Persina then could contain herself no longer. She leapt from her throne and embraced her and wept, 301 and for the exceedingness of her joy which she could not conceal she broke into sobs and mutterings, and almost fell to the ground in Chariclea’s arms. Hydaspes had pity upon his wife, when he saw her lament so, and himself was like affected in his mind too; but he kept the tears back from his eyes, as if they had been made of iron or horn, as he looked upon what was being done. His heart swelled with fatherly affection and with manly spirit, so that he was drawn both ways: but at length nature prevailed, which overcometh all things, and not only did he suffer himself to be persuaded that he was a father, but was also affected like a father, so that when he saw Persina fall, he took her up, embraced Chariclea, and with tears as with an offering made a fatherly league with her. Yet he did not forget what he had to do, but stood a while and looked upon the people, who were affected like himself and through joy and pity wept to see that strange hap and would not hear the heralds’ cries which commanded silence. Wherefore he stretched out his hand and bade them be still, and when he had appeased them he said: ‘Ye people that are present, contrary to all hope, as you see and hear, the gods have declared that I am a father, and that this is my daughter is proved by many arguments. Yet do I owe such good will to you and my country that without regard to the succession of my blood or the joy I have to be called father — both of which things by her are now like to ensue — I am ready on your behalf to offer her to the gods. I see that you are weeping and are affected like men, pitying the untimely age of the maid appointed to die, and pitying also my vain hope of succession hereafter; yet even though perhaps you say nay, I must needs perform the custom of our country, and rather have regard to the 302 public utility than to my private profit. I know not whether it be the gods’ will to give her to me and at once to take her away — as they did when first she was born and now are like to do again when she is found — but I leave that to be scanned by your discretion; nor can I determine whether they would have her sacrificed, whom they have banished into the farthest part of the world and by a wonderful chance brought to me again as a prisoner. I slew her not when she was my enemy, nor did I insult her when she was my captive, but now, when she has been shewn to be my daughter, I will sacrifice her, if you wish it, without more ado. I will not yield to affection, which in another father perhaps deserved pardon, nor hesitate, nor beg you to excuse me and justify this before the law, nor will I put the claims of nature first or think that in some other fashion we might appease the gods. Even as you have been like affected with me and have grieved for my sorrows as your own, so now I will make more account of your public weal than mine own, caring not for my loss or for poor Persina’s tears, who now hath seen her first child and is at once made childless again. Wherefore, if you will, leave your weeping and fruitless pitying of me, and let us go to the sacrifice. As for thee, my daughter — for now for the first and last time I call thee by that pleasant name — whose beauty is peerless to no purpose, and hast found thy parents in vain, in an ill time happening upon thine own country worse to thee than any strange land, who hast been safe in other countries but art in danger of death in thine own, trouble not my mind with sorrowful weeping, but if ever thou didst show thyself to be of stout courage and princely mind, now pluck up thy heart and follow thy father, who cannot provide a marriage for thee nor bring thee 303 to bed in any costly bowers, but makes thee ready for sacrifice and bears before thee not such tapers as are used for bridals but those appointed for sacrifice, and in place of a victim offers thine unspeakable beauty. And bear with me, O ye gods, if affection hath caused me to speak anything that is scarce godly or religious, who have both called this maid my daughter and am ready to take her life away.’

When he had said thus he took Chariclea by the hand and made as though he would lead her to the altars and they pyre. But his own heart burned with a fiercer fire and he prayed that the words he had spoken to the people might be of no effect. Then the whole multitude of the Ethiopians was moved and would not suffer him to lead Chariclea one foot further but cried out suddenly aloud: ‘Save the maid: save the blood royal: save her whom the gods have preserved. We thank you, you have done for us all that the law requireth, we acknowledge you for our good king. Now acknowledge yourself to be a father, and may the gods forgive us for our offence, if so it seems. Our offence will be greater if we resist their will. Let no man be so bold as to kill her whom they have preserved. You, who are the father of the people abroad, be father in your own house at home also.’ A thousand other things like these they said, and at length to show that they would prevent him in deed, they stepped before him and would not suffer him to go forward, but desired him to appease the gods with some other sacrifice. Hydaspes was content with all his heart to yield in this matter, and without much ado to bear this wished inforcement, and gave the people leave to wish him joy of his good luck, seeing that they were shouting and leaping in gladness and thinking that anon they would make an end of their own accord.


Then he himself standing nearer to Chariclea said: ‘Dear daughter, that thou art my child hath been proved by the tokens and wise Sisimithres beareth witness and above all the favour of the gods hath declared. But what fellow is this who was taken with thee and is now at the altar ready to be sacrificed, or how did you call him your brother when you were brought into my presence at Syene first? I do not think that he too will be proved my son; for Persina had no more but you at one time.’ Chariclea blushed and cast down her eyes and said: ‘I told you an untruth when I said he was my brother, but necessity forced me to make that excuse. What he is indeed he can tell you better than I; for he is a man, and therefore will not be afraid to speak more boldly than I, who am a woman.’ Hydaspes not perceiving what she meant said: ‘My daughter, pardon me because I made thee to blush in asking thee a question whereto a maid ought not answer. But sit you in the tabernacle with your mother, who will be more glad of you now than when you were born to her, and whereas she is ill at ease comfort her with your presence and tell her your affairs. I will see to the sacrifice and seek out some other maid, if there be any to be found, who may be sacrifice in your stead with the young man.’

Chariclea almost cried out for rage when she heard that Theagenes should be sacrificed. Yet, because it was best, with much ado she concealed her mad affection, and aiming secretly at her purpose again said: ‘Sire, you need not seek another woman, seeing that the people through me have remitted that part of the sacrifice. But if any one insist, then you must not only seek another woman but another man also: if you do not, then you must sacrifice none other but 305 me with him.’ ‘God forbid,’ said the king. ‘Why say you so?’ She answered: ‘Because the gods have appointed that I must both live and die with this man.’ Hydaspes not yet understanding the truth said: ‘Daughter, I praise you for your courtesy, in that you have pity upon this Greek stranger, your companion and fellow captive, with whom in your travels you have fallen acquainted, and desire to save his life. But he cannot be delivered from the sacrifice. It is not right at all that the custom of our country be broken as concerns the making of sacrifice for victory; and besides the people will not be content, who scarcely even by the goodness of the gods were moved to pity thee.’ Then said Chariclea: ‘O king — for perhaps I may not call thee father — if the goodness of the gods hath saved my body, that same goodness now may save my soul; for that this is my soul the gods of destiny know. But if the fates allow not this, and the slaughter of this stranger must needs adorn this offering, grant me one request. Let me kill the victim, and I will get me a name for stoutness among the Ethiopians, with a sword that shall be the greatest thing and the dearest that ever you shall be able to give me.’

Hydaspes was troubled at this, and said: ‘I understand not what this contrariety in your mind meaneth, who lately wished to defend and save the stranger, and now would with your own hand kill him as if he were your mortal enemy. Nor do I see for one of your age what honour or glory can be in such a thing. But even if there were, it is not possible; for this deed is only lawful for the priests of the Sun and Moon, and not to all of them, but only to the man who hath a wife and the wife who hath a husband. Which being so, your virginity doth debar your strange 306 request.’ ‘Truly,’ said Chariclea to Persina in her ear, ‘that need not prevent me. I have one already who fulfils that part, if you be willing.’ ‘We will be willing,’ said Persina merrily, ‘and with the gods consent we will marry you to some one whom we shall choose worthy both of you and us.’ Chariclea then spake more plainly: ‘You need not choose him; he is chosen already.’ She was about to say something more openly — for the present peril that she saw Theagenes in emboldened her and made her lay aside her maidenly modesty — but Hydaspes would hear no longer and said: ‘Ye gods, how seem you to mingle evil things and good together and to lessen on one way or other this unlooked for felicity of mine. You have given me a daughter whom I never expected, but you have made her in a manner mad. For must we not judge her frenzied that speaketh such foolish words? She called him her brother who was not so. When she was asked who this stranger was, she answered that she knew him not. Then, him whom she knew not she sought to save as her friend. Which when it was denied her, she begged me that she might kill him as her greatest enemy. When this could not be granted her, because it was lawful for none to do it but such a one as had a husband, she said that she was married, and named not to whom. How can she have a husband when the fire declares that he neither is nor ever has been? Unless perchance in her case alone that doth err which with the Ethiopians is an unerring trial of chastity, and sent her away unburned when she trod upon it, and would give her grace falsely to play the virgin. I never saw any but her who made the same man her friend and her enemy in one minute of an hour, and feigned to have brothers and husbands who never were. 307 Wherefore, wife, go you into the tabernacle and see if you can bring her to her wits again; whether she is made mad by the god who cometh to this sacrifice, or is beside herself with too much joy because of this unlooked for fortune. I will tell someone to look and find another maid in her place who must be sacrificed to the gods, and meanwhile I will go and deal with the embassies that have come from diverse foreign lands and receive the gifts that they have brought to welcome me home after my victory.’

When he had said this he sat on a high seat near to the tabernacle, and commanded the legates to come and let him see what they brought. The chamberlain Harmonias asked him whether all should come together or each nation in order by itself. ‘Let each one come in order,’ quoth he, ‘that I may honour every man as he deserves.’ ‘Then,’ said the chamberlain, ‘your brother’s son Meroebus shall come first, who has just arrived and waits beyond the guard for himself to be announced.’ ‘Thou dolt,’ quoth Hydaspes, ‘why didst thou not tell me of him forthwith? Thou knowest he is not legate but a king, my brother’s son who deceased but lately, whom I have placed on his throne and by adoption have made my heir.’ ‘All this I knew, O king,’ said Harmonias; ‘but I thought it best to wait for the fitting moment, and that is a thing for chamberlains that beyond all needs care. Pardon me therefore, I beseech you, if I durst not be so bold as to break off the pleasant talk you had with the royal ladies.’ ‘Well, let him come now,’ said the king. He went as he was bidden and returned straightway with his charge.

Meroebus was a tall and proper youth, at that time just coming to man’s estate, for he was seventeen years 308 old and was taller than any other who was there, and had a comely crew of goodly fellow who waited upon him, and the Ethiopian army with great admiration and reverence made him ready way. Nor did Hydaspes tarry in his seat, but arose to meet him, and embraced him with a fatherly affection, and set him beside him, and taking him by the right hand said: ‘My son, you come in good time; for beside celebrating this solemn sacrifice with me for my victory you shall be royally married. Our gods and heroes, the founders of our race, have provided me with a daughter who shall belike be your wife. But of the secrecies thereof you shall know hereafter: now tell me if you wish to do aught for the people under your dominion.’ Meroebus, when he heard mention of a wife, what for joy and shame, could not hide himself in his black colour, so that men did not see he blushed. A red glow, like fire on embers, spread over his cheeks, and after he had stayed awhile he said: ‘Father, the other legates that come will give you of the most precious things that grow in their countries to honour your glorious victory. But I, because you have been valiant in battle and declared your excellent manhood in noble exploits, have though it good to give you a gift like thereunto. I bring you therefore a man so well practised in bloodshed and war that none can be found to face him, so sturdy in wrestling and in fighting with plummets of lead and in all manner of other exercises that no man is able to withstand his strength.’ Therewith he bade the man come forth. He stepped out and did obeisance to Hydaspes, and was of such stature, being a man of the old making, that when he stooped to kiss the king’s knee he was as high almost as those who sat upon their raised chairs. This done, he waited not for command but put off his apparel and 309 stood naked, and made challenge against all that would come, either with weapon or with hand. After none came forth, though diverse proclamations were made, the king said: ‘You shall have a gift from us like to yourself. And then he commanded to fetch an old elephant, which was very great. When the beast was brought, the man received it gladly, and the people suddenly fell in a great laughter, being well pleased with the king’s joke and somewhat comforted for their submission by this jest against his boastfulness.

After him came the ambassadors of the Seres, and brought to him two garments, one purple and the other white, the yarn whereof was spun by the spiders that breed in their country. When their gifts were received, and they had begged the king that such of their countrymen as were condemned in his prison might be delivered, and had obtained their suit, the ambassadors of Arabia Felix came and offered to him odoriferous leaves of casia and cinnamon and other sweet scents that grow in Arabia, worth many talents, so that all the place was filled with their fragrance. After them came men of Troglodytis bringing powdered gold and a pair of gryphons harnessed in golden reins. Then came the embassy of the Blemmyes, who carried bows and arrows made of dragon’s bones entwined in a wreath, and said: ‘We bring you, O king, such gifts as are not in value equal to the others, but there was good account made of them, as you can say yourself, in the battle at the river against the Persians.’ ‘They are more worth than others of greater price,’ quoth Hydaspes, ‘for they are the cause why the others are brought to us:’ and then he bade them tell him what they requested. They desired that they might have their tribute abated, and he released them from it altogether for fourteen years.


This done, when almost all who came on embassy had been seen and were as well or better rewarded than their gifts deserved, last there came the legates of the Axiomitae, who paid no tribute but were his allies and confederates. Wherefore they rejoiced with him in his prosperity, and brought him gifts also, among others a beast of wonderful and rare nature as big as a camel. The colour of his skin was spotted as a leopard and though his hind quarters drooped lion-like, yet his shoulders, forefeet and breast rose high, far beyond the proportion of his other limbs. His neck was slender, and although the rest of his body was great, his throat was long and thin like a swan. His head was after a camel’s fashion and in size about twice as big as a Libyan ostrich, wherein he rolled his eyes terribly as though they were coloured beneath with red. In his gait he went like no beast either of the earth or water, but moved his legs on either side both at once, so that he moved his right legs and left legs not in order nor one after the other, but all his half body with either of them. He was so tame and gentle to move that he was guided by his keeper with a little cord, and obeyed his will as though it were a chain that could not be broken.

As soon as the beast was brought in it filled all the people with amazement and from the fashion of the principal parts of its body they gave it at once the name of camelopard. Moreover it threw all the gathering into confusion: for this is what befell. At the altar of the Moon stood two bullocks, and at the altar of the Sun four white horses ready to be sacrificed. When this monstrous strange foreign creature appeared they were as sore troubled and afraid as if they had seen a spirit, and the one of the two bulls who, it seems, 311 saw him, and two of the horses, broke away from those that held them, and ran about as fast as they could. They could not break out of the compass of the army, because all the soldiers with their shields had made as it were a wall round, but they ran here and there and overthrew all that came in their way, pots and pans and living creatures, so that there was a great shouting partly for fear from those on whom they came down, partly for joy and pleasure that others had to see them run over their mates and tread them under their feet. Wherefore Persina and Chariclea could not be quiet in their tabernacle, but drew aside the curtain to see what was being done. Then Theagenes, either moved by his own manly courage, or else stirred by an impulse from heaven, when he saw his keepers dispersed here and there in the tumult, started up suddenly — for before he kneeled at the altar and expected every minute to be slain — and took a cleft stick, whereof there lay a great many upon the altar, and leapt upon one of the horses that had not broken loose, and holding him by the mane instead of a bridle, and with his heels and the cleft stick making him to go, followed after the bull. At first every man thought that Theagenes was seeking to escape and they called one to the other not to let him go out from the compass of the soldiers. But by what he did next they learned that his was no act of cowardice to avoid the sacrifice. For when he had very quickly overtaken the bull, at first he drove him forward from behind, goading and stirring him on to a faster speed, following wherever he went and carefully avoiding his short horns so that they hurt him not. Then, after he had made the bull familiar with the sight of him and what he did, he rode his horse close to his side, so near that their skins touched and 312 their breath and sweat were mingled together, and he kept them to such an equal course that those who were afar off deemed that their heads were joined together, and commended Theagenes to the heavens who had so strangely yoked a horse and a bull at one. The people looked in wonder, but when Chariclea saw it she trembled and quaked, because she knew not what he meant to do and was as sore afraid of any hurt to him as if she should have been slain herself. Persina espied her and said: ‘Daughter, what ailest thou? Thou seemest to be in every danger that this stranger is in. Truly I myself am somewhat moved and have pity for his youth, and I pray that he escape this peril and be kept for sacrifice, so that the service of the gods may not be altogether imperfect and neglected by us.’ ’That is a jest indeed,’ said Chariclea, ’to wish that he may not die so that he may not live. If you can, mother, save the man and do me a pleasure.’ Persina, not suspecting the truth but thinking she was a little in love with him, said: ’It is not possible to save him; but be not afraid to tell thy mother what acquaintance thou hast with him that thou shouldest be so very anxious on his behalf. For though it be a youthful motion and scarce seemly for a maiden, a mother’s nature knows how to conceal her daughter’s weakness, and one woman another’s plight, because perhaps they have the same feelings.’ Thereat Chariclea wept very sorrowfully and said: ‘In this point above all am I unhappy, because even those that have understanding understand not my words, and when I tell them of my troubles they think that there is naught in my tale. So now I am forced to tell the bare truth and to accuse myself openly.’

As she said thus and was about to tell her the matter truly, she was stopped by a great cry of the 313 people again. For Theagenes, after he had let his horse run as fast as he could till his breast was level with the bull’s head, allowed him to go at liberty, and leaping flung himself upon the bull’s head between his horns, and cast his arms about it like a garland, and clasped his fingers on his forehead in front, and let the rest of his body hang down by his right shoulder. So hanging he was carried along, moving lightly with the bull’s leaps, and at length, when he perceived that he was weary with the burden and his muscles faint with too much straining, coming to the place where Hydaspes sat, he pulled his head sideways, and putting his own feet in front of the bull’s legs, while he pawed the ground with his hoofs, he made him stand still. The bull, being thus hindered in his course and overcome by the youth’s strength, fell down upon his head and shoulders, so that his horns stuck so fast in the ground that he could not move his head, and his feet stood upward, wherewith he sprawled in vain a great while and by his feebleness declared that he was overcome. Theagenes pressed him down, holding him with his left arm, while he lifted his right hand to heaven and looked merrily at Hydaspes and all who were there, by his smiling face inviting them to share in his triumph, whose famousness was declared by the bull’s bellowing as well as if it had been declared by a trumpet. The noise was re-echoed by the people’s shouting, who said nothing plainly in his praise but with wide throats and gaping mouths raised for a great while shouts of wonder to heaven. By Hydaspes’ command the servants ran and some brought Theagenes to him and others tied ropes about the bull’s horns, and took him with the horse, and fastened them to the altars again. Hydaspes was about to say somewhat to Theagenes, but the 314 people, delighted with the young man, and singularly well minded to him ever since they saw him first, and marvelling at his strength, but even more for spite they had toward Meroebus’ Ethiopian champion, cried with one voice: ‘Let this fellow be matched with Meroebus’ man: let him that received the elephant contend with him that overcame the bull.’ As they were very insistent, Hydaspes agreed and the Ethiopian was brought forth straightway, who looked proudly and fiercely about him and with slow steps shook his elbows broadways in very insolent fashion.

When he had come near to the king’s seat, Hydaspes looked at Theagenes and said in Greek: ‘Stranger, the people bid that you contend with this fellow.’ ‘I am pleased to do as they will have me,’ said Theagenes; ‘but in what fashion must we be matched?’ ‘In wrestling,’ quoth Hydaspes. ‘Why should we not rather fight with swords?’ said he. ‘Then either I might do some glorious deed or else in death be slain and so content Chariclea, who till now hath endured to conceal our estate or rather given me my last farewell.’ ‘What you mean by this talk of Chariclea,’ said Hydaspes, ‘I know not. But you must wrestle and not fight with swords, because it is not lawful to see any blood shed before the time of the sacrifice.’ Then Theagenes perceived that Hydaspes feared lest he should be slain before the offering, and said: ‘You do well to keep me for the gods, and they will have regard for me.’ So first he took dust and cast it upon his arms and shoulders, that were yet sweaty with chasing the bull, and shook that off which stuck not fast to his body. Then he stretched out both is arms and got a firm footing for his feet, and bending his knees and bowing his back inclined his neck forward with body taut awaiting for 315 the grip at the close. The Ethiopian seeing him laughed scornfully and with disdainful gestures seemed to mock his adversary and ran suddenly forward and with his elbow hit Theagenes in the neck, as sore as if he had stricken him with a bar, and then drew back and laughed again at his own foolish conceit. But Theagenes, like a man from his cradle brought up in wrestling and thoroughly instructed in Mercury’s art, thought it good to give way at first and make trial of his adversary’s strength, and not to withstand so rude a violence, but by art to delude the same. Therefore he stooped lower, and made semblance as though he had been very sorrowful, and laid the other side of his neck to receive the next blow, and when the Ethiopian struck gave way, and feigned to fall flat upon his face. The Ethiopian was now full of courage and despised his enemy and came on for the third time unadvisedly and prepared to strike him with his elbow again. But Theagenes avoiding his attack stooped and suddenly gripped him, pinning his left arm with his right elbow, and thus held fast made him bend forward, inasmuch as because of his vain blow he was already inclining to the ground. Next getting him under the armpits and with much ado twining his hands about his back and great gorbelly, he forced him off his feet by working his heel over his ankles and compelled him to sink on to his knees. Then he straddled over him and driving his legs apart with his feet he knocked away the Ethiopian’s wrists, wherewith he stayed himself from the ground, and bringing his forearms tight about his forehead and straining backwards constrained him to lay his belly flat upon the earth.

Thereat the people gave a greater shout than they did before, and the king himself could stay no longer, but started from his seat and said: ‘O hateful 316 necessity. What a man is this which our law compels us to kill!’ Then calling him unto him he said: ‘Young sir, naught remains now but that thou be crowned before the sacrifice. Take then the crown for this thy glorious victory, although it be one unprofitable and lasting but for the day. I cannot deliver thee from thy fate though I would, but I will do for thee all that I may without breach of the laws. If thou knowest anything wherewith I can please thee while yet thou livest, ask and thou shalt have it.’ And therewith he put a crown of gold and jewels upon Theagenes’ head, and many men did see him weep.

Theagenes said: ‘Then I require you to let me obtain this request at your hand according as you have promised. If there be no way to escape this sacrifice command me to be killed by the hand of her who to-day was found to be your daughter.’ Hydaspes was bitten by this word and recalled Chariclea’s request, which was like to this. But he judged it of no matter at that pressing time to consider it narrowly, and said: ‘Stranger, I bade thee ask somewhat that might be granted, and promised to perform it. But the law exactly ordains that she who makes the sacrifice should have a husband.’ ‘Chariclea hath a husband,’ said Theagenes. ‘This man is mad,’ Hydaspes cried, ‘and in truth giveth himself over to death. The fire declared that she was a maid unmarried who never had to do with a man: unless indeed you mean Meroebus here — I cannot tell how you should come by knowledge thereof — who is not yet her husband, although I have promised her to him.’ ‘You may add that he is not likely to be,’ said Theagenes, ‘if I know anything of Chariclea’s mind. And since I am a sacrifice it is only right to believe me when I prophecy.’ ‘Good sir,’ said Meroebus, 317sacrifices by their entrails do tell soothsayers of the future, not when they are alive but when they are killed and cut up. Wherefore, father, you said well that this stranger craved for death. Let some one, if you will, take him to the altar, and when you have dispatched any matter still left, do you perform the sacrifice.’

So Theagenes was carried to the place appointed, and Chariclea, who had been comforted a little by his victory and hoped for better fortune, when she saw him led away was sunk again in grief. Persina tried to comfort her in divers ways and told her that it was likely the young man might be saved, if only she would tell more plainly what remained of her story. Chariclea saw that the time would permit her to delay no longer, and prepared in haste to show to her the chief and principal points. But meanwhile, Hydaspes asking if there were any more come on embassy, Harmonias answered: ‘None save the people of Syene who have come but now, bringing with other presents a letter from Oroöndates.’ ‘Let them approach,’ said Hydaspes. And so they came and delivered the letter which he opened and read: the contents whereof were these:

‘To Hydaspes the gentle and fortunate king of the Ethiopians Oroöndates the great king’s governor sendeth greeting. Inasmuch as having overcome me in battle you overcame me even more in greatness of mind, and of your courtesy restored to me my governorship, I shall think it no marvel if you perform a small request for me now. There was a certain maid who in carriage from Memphis happened by chance of war to fall into your hands, and I was told by those who were with her and escaped that you commanded her to be carried captive to Ethiopia. This wench I beg 318 you to send me, both because I desire her myself and especially since for her father’s sake I would see her safe kept. He hath travelled far for her, and in his seeking was taken prisoner in this time of way by my soldiers who lay in garrison at Elephantina. I saw him there when I held review of those that escaped from the battle, and he desired that he might be sent to ask your clemency. You will find him with my present embassy, a man who by his manners alone declareth that he is a gentleman, and by his countenance showeth that he is worthy to obtain his desire at your hand. Send him back to me, O king, rejoicing, a father not merely in name but in truth.’

When Hydaspes had read the letter he asked which of these men is he who seeketh his daughter. They showed him a certain old man, to whom he said: ‘Stranger, I will gladly do anything that Oroöndates requests. I commanded ten captive maidens only to be brought here. One of them is known not to be thine. But for the rest, look upon them all, and if thou canst find thy daughter take her back with thee.’ The old man fell down and kissed his feet; but after he had looked upon them all as they were brought before him and found her not whom he sought, he was very sad, and said: ‘None of these, O king, is she.’ ‘You know,’ quoth Hydaspes, ‘there is no want of good will in me. If you find her not whom you seek for, you must blame fortune. I give you leave to make yourself sure that there are no other maidens here beside these nor yet in the tents.’

The old man beat his brow and wept and then lifting up his head and looking at the multitude around him, he suddenly ran forward as though he had been mad. When he came to the altars he wound his 319 cloak like a rope — for he had a cloak on by chance — and cast it about Theagenes’ neck, and cried so that all men might hear: ‘I have found thee, mine enemy: I have gotten thee, thou mischievous and accursed fellow.’ The keepers would have stayed him and plucked him away, but he held so fast that at last he prevailed upon them to bring him before Hydaspes and the council. There he spake thus: ‘This man, O king, is he who like a thief took my daughter from me: this is he who hath made my house desolate and without a child: this is he who took my dearest heart even from the altars of Apollo: and yet he sitteth now at the altars of your gods like a good and devout man.’ All that were there were moved, and though they understood not his words they marvelled greatly at his doings.

Then did Hydaspes bid him tell more plainly what he wished; and the old man — who was Charicles — concealing the truth of Chariclea — for he feared lest if she had lost her maidenhood in her flight he would have much ado with her true parents — told briefly what was little hurtful to him, in this fashion. ’I had a daughter, O king. How wise she was and withal how fair, only if you had seen her would you believe. She led her life in virginity and was one of Diana’s priests at Delphi. This maid this jolly Thessalian stole away from Apollo’s temple, having come to Delphi, my native city, as captain of a holy embassy to celebrate a certain feast. Wherefore we may deem that he hath offended also against you, for he hath sinned against your god Apollo, who is one with the Sun and defiled his temple. Furthermore a false priest of Memphis was his companion in doing this shameful and heinous deed. After I had been to Thessaly and required this fellow from the people of 320 Oeta, and they were all content that he should be slain wherever he was as a common plague of all their country, not finding him there I went to Memphis, which I deemed to be a place whither Calasiris would go for diverse reasons. When I came there I found him dead, as well he had deserved, and was told by his son Thyamis of all that belonged to my daughter, and how she had been sent to Syene to Oroöndates. I went thither too, and not finding Oroöndates was taken prisoner at Elephantina, whence at this present I come in humble sort to seek my daughter; and you will do me, unhappy man, a good turn and a deed well beseeming a king, if you will accept the governor’s request made on my behalf.’ Thereat he held his peace and wept bitterly to confirm what he said.

Hydaspes turned to Theagenes and said: ‘What answer have you to this?’ Theagenes replied: ‘All that he hath laid against me in this accusation is true: as touching him I am the thief, the unjust man, and the robber: yet have I done you a good turn.’ ‘Restore then that which is not yours,’ said Hydaspes; ‘you are consecrated to the gods and your death shall be a glorious sacrifice rather than the just punishment for your misdeeds.’ ‘Nay,’ quoth Theagenes, ‘not he that did the wrong but he that hath the benefit of it ought to make restitution. Seeing then that you have her, restore her; unless indeed this man also shall acknowledge that Chariclea is your daughter.’ Then no man could contain himself and everywhere was confusion. Sisimithres had known a good while all that was being said and done, but he had waited until every thing should be plainly revealed by God. Now he came forward and embracing Charicles said: ‘Your adopted daughter whom I once delivered to you is safe and found to be 321 the daughter of those whom you yourself well know.’

Chariclea also ran out of the tabernacle like a mad woman, without regard to what became her sex and age, and fell at Charicles’ knees and said: ‘O father, no less dear to me that those who begat me, take what revenge you will for my unnatural sin, without any regard to the excuse that some man might allege, that this is all the gods’ will and their doing.’ Persina on the other side kissed Hydaspes and said: ‘Husband, be sure that this is so, and know that this young Greek is indeed your daughter’s husband, for she has just now at last told me all her tale.’ The people on their side rejoiced and danced for gladness, and with one consent exulted in what was done; marry they understood not everything but inferred the truth from what had already befallen Chariclea. Perhaps also they were moved to understand by inspiration of the gods, whose will it was that all this should turn out like a play upon the stage. In truth they made very contrary things agree, sorrow and mirth, tears and laughter: fear and terror were turned into a merry banquet at the end: such as were sorrowful rejoiced, finding what they sought not for, and losing what they hoped to find: to be short, the cruel slaughters that were looked for every moment were turned into holy sacrifices.

Then said Hydaspes to Sisimithres: ‘Right wise man, what must we do? To deny the gods their sacrifice is an impious thing: yet we may not rightly offer those whom the gods themselves have given us. We must bethink ourselves what is best to do.’ Thereupon Sisimithres answered, not in Greek but in the Ethiopian tongue that all might understand, thus: ‘O king, is seems that too great joy blinds the eyes even of the wisest among men. You might 322 have perceived long ago that the gods liked not the sacrifice you prepared them, who have now at the very altars declared that happy Chariclea is your daughter, and brought him who reared her, as of set intent, from the midst of Greece hither. They sent fear and panic too upon the horses and bulls that stood before altars, declaring thereby that the greater sacrifices which were used among our ancestors should cease now and be done no more. And as the end and happy conclusion of this comedy they have revealed not that this young Greek is the maid’s husband. Let us therefore take to our hearts the wondrous works that the gods have done, and be helpers of their will, and do only righteous sacrifices to them, and leave the murdering of men and women for ever hereafter.’

When Sisimithres had said this loud enough to hear, Hydaspes, who understood also the native tongue, took Theagenes and Chariclea by the hand and said: ‘Seeing that these things be thus appointed by the will and pleasure of the gods, I think — how seemeth it to you who be here also? — that it is not good to strive against them. Wherefore before them who have preordained this, and before you also who show that you agree, I wish that these two young folks may increase and grow in wedlock and give them leave to rejoice one the other, that they may engender and have children. And if you shall think it good, let this decree be confirmed with sacrifice, and let us fall now to worshipping of the gods.’ The army consented thereto and with clapping of their hands gave a sign that they were contented with the match.

Hydaspes then came to the altars and being ready to begin sacrifice said: ‘O Sun our lord, and lady Moon, forasmuch as Theagenes and Chariclea are 323 declared man and wife by your good will, you will surely accept their offerings and suffer them to do sacrifice to you.’ This said, he took off his own mitre and Persina’s, which were the signs of their priesthood, and set one which was his own upon Theagenes’ head and the other that was Persina’s upon the head of Chariclea. When this was done Charicles remembered the oracle’s answer at Delphi, and saw that now that was fulfilled indeed which was promised before by the gods. Which was that after they fled from Delphi they should come at length to country scorched.

   ‘With burning Phoebus beams.
Where they as recompenses due
    That virtues rare do gain
In time to come ere it be long,
     White mitres shall obtain.

Thus after they had put on these white mitres and were made priests by the voice and judgment of Hydaspes and had duly done sacrifice, they rode away in chariots drawn by horses, Hydaspes and Theagenes in one, Sisimithres and Charicles in another, and Persina with Chariclea in the third drawn by two white oxen, with great joy and burning torches and melody of instruments of music. And so they came to Meroe that the secreter affairs of wedlock might be accomplished with greater pomp in that city.





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