[Back] [Blueprint] [Next]


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. 7-46.




At the first smile of day, when the sun was just beginning to shine on the summits of the hills, men whose custom was to live by rapine and violence ran to the top of a cliff that stretched toward that mouth of the Nile which is called Heracleot. Standing awhile they viewed the sea underneath them, and when they had looked a good season afar off into the same, and could see nothing which could put them in hope of prey, they cast their eyes towards the neighbouring shore, where a ship lay moored, without sailors but full freighted: which thing they who were afar off might easily conjecture, for the cargo brought the water up to the ship’s third loading line. But on the shore every place was full of men newly-slain, some quite dead, some half dead, some whose bodies yet panted and plainly declared that there had been a battle fought of late. There could be seen no signs or tokens of any just quarrel, but only some poor confused remnants of an unlucky banquet which had ended so. For the tables were furnished with delicate dishes, some whereof lay in the hands of those that were slain, having served as weapons in the battle so suddenly begun. Others covered such as had crept under them to hide themselves, as they thought. Besides the cups were overthrown and fallen from the hands, either of them that drank, or those who had 8 instead of stones used them. For that sudden mischief wrought new devices, and taught them in stead of weapons to use their pots. Of those who lay there, one was wounded with an axe, another was hurt with the shells of fishes, whereof on the shore there was great plenty, another was battered with a club, many burnt by fire, and the rest by divers other means, but most of all were slain with arrows. To be brief, God showed a wonderful sight in so small a space, imbruing wine with blood, joining battle with banqueting, mingling indifferently slaughters with drinking, and killing with quaffings, providing such a sight for the thieves of Egypt to gaze at. For they, when they had looked upon these things a good while from the hill, could not understand what that sight meant, forasmuch as they saw some slain there, but the conquerors could they see nowhere, a manifest victory but no spoils taken away, a ship without mariners only but as concerning other things untouched, as if she had been kept with a guard of many men and lay at road in a peaceful harbour.

But though they knew not what the thing meant, they still had regard for gain, and deeming themselves to be victors hurried with all speed to seize their booty. They were but a little way from the ship when they saw a sight more perplexing than the rest a great deal. A maid endowed with excellent beauty, who almost might be supposed a goddess, sat upon a rock, seeming not a little to be grieved with that present mischance, but for all that of excellent courage. She had a garland of laurel on her head, a quiver on her back; to her left shoulder a bow was fastened and her left arm hung carelessly down. Her right elbow she rested upon her thigh holding her cheek in her hand, looking downward, without moving her head, 9 beholding a certain young man who lay before her, the which was sore wounded and seemed to lift up himself, as if he had been awakened out of a dead sleep, almost of death itself: yet was he in this case of singular beauty, and although his cheeks were besprinkled with blood, his whiteness did appear so much the more. He was constrained for grief to close his eyes, but the sight of the maiden drew them towards her, and they must needs see, because they saw her. As soon as he came to himself he heaved a deep sigh and uttered these words very faintly, ‘And art thou safe indeed my sweetheart?’ quoth he. ‘Or hast thou by thy death augmented the slaughter? Canst thou not endure even after death to be separated from me that now a vision of thy spirit haunts this place of trouble?’ ‘Nay,’ answered the maid, ‘on you doth all my estate depend for good or ill, and for this cause, you see’ — showing a knife in her hand — ‘this has hitherto been waiting, and only by the chance of your recovery was restrained.’

As soon as she had said thus, she leaped from the stone, and they who were on the hill, as well for wonder, as also for the fear they had, as if they had been stricken with lightning, ran every man to hide them in the bushes there beside. For she seemed to them a thing of greater price, and more heavenly, when she stood upright, and her arrows with the sudden moving of her body gave a clash on her shoulders, her apparel wrought with gold glistered against the sun, and her hair under the garland, blown about with the wind, covered a great part of her back. The thieves were greatly afraid; and even more than what they saw did their ignorance of what had happened before terrify them. Some of them said indeed it was a 10 goddess — Artemis, or Isis the lady of the land — others declared it was a priestess of the gods who, replenished with divine fury had made the great slaughter which there appeared. And they every man gave his verdict, because they knew not yet the truth. But she, hastily running to the young man, embraced him, wept for sorrow, kissed him, wiped away his blood, and made pitiful moan, scarcely believing that she held him in her arms. Which things when the Egyptians had seen they turned their opinions: ‘And are these’, said they, ‘the works of a goddess? Would a goddess kiss a dead man with such compassion?’ They determined therefore with themselves that it was best to take heart of grace, and draw near to find out the truth. When they had therefore encouraged each other a little, they ran down, and found the maid busy in dressing the young man’s wounds, and coming behind her suddenly stood still, and durst neither speak nor do anything more for their lives.

When she heard the noise around her, and their shadows before her eyes, she lifted herself up a little and looked back; but then at once stooped down again, no whit dismayed by the strange colour of their skin nor yet abashed to see the thieves in harness, but applying herself only to bind up his wounds that lay before her. Such is the force of earnest desire and true love; it despiseth all outwards chances, be they pleasant or otherwise, only beholding that which it loveth, and thereabout bestoweth all diligence and travail. But when the thieves passed by and stood before her, and seemed as though they would enterprise somewhat, she lifted herself up again, and beholding them black and ill favoured said: — ‘If you be the spirits of those who are slain here, you 11 trouble us wrongfully, for most of you were slain by your own hands: as for us, if we slew any, we did it but in our own defence to repel the violence which was proffered to my virginity. But if you be men alive, it seemeth you are thieves and you have come here in good season: rid us, I pray, from these present miseries and by death finish this our unhappy tragedy.’ Thus did she sorrowfully lament. But they, not understanding what she said, left them there, accounting their weakness a sufficient guard, and hastened to the ship, and brought out that which was in the same, paying no regard to other things, whereof therein was great store, but every man bearing out as much as he could of gold, silver, precious stones, and silk. And when they thought they had enough, and there was such plenty as might satisfy even a thief’s greed, laying their booty on the shore they fell to dividing it into portions such as they could carry, not according to the worth and value of what they had, but contenting themselves with equality of weight. As for the young man and the maid, they would take order for them afterward.

In the meantime another company of thieves, whereof two horsemen were captains, came toward them: which thing as soon as those saw that had been there before, having no courage to oppose them, they ran away as fast as they could, without taking with them any part of the prey, that they might give their enemy no occasion to pursue them. For they were in number but ten, and those who came upon them were three times as many. And so the maid and her companion, though not yet prisoners, were again in durance. But the robbers, although they were eager for the spoil, yet, partly because they knew not what 12 these things signified which they saw, and partly also for fear, stayed themselves a while, thinking that the former slaughter had been made by the thieves that had been there before. But when they beheld the maid in her fine foreign dress, who despised the dangers that hung over her head as if they had been none, and altogether employed her care to ease the young man’s wounds, taking his grief as heavily as her own sorrow, they not only marvelled at her beauty and high spirit, but were wonderfully moved by the comeliness of the wounded man’s person. Such was the seemliness of his countenance and tallness of his stature, as he lay before them. For by this time he was a little mended and his person had recovered its old handsomeness again. At length after they had beheld them a good while, and he drew near who was their master, he laid hand on the maid and bade her arise and follow him. She, although she understood not what he said, conjecturing what he wished her to do, drew the young man with her himself holding her fast, and pointing with a knife to her breast threatened that she would kill herself if they carried them not away both together. Which thing when the master, partly by her talk but more plainly by her gestures understood, hoping also to use the young man’s help in great affairs when he recovered, he alighted himself from his horse and commanded is harness-bearer likewise so to do, and set his prisoners upon them. Then, ordering the rest when they had gathered up the prey to follow them, he himself like a lackey ran by their side and stayed them upright, if by reason of their infirmity they were likely to fall. Surely this deed was not without glory; for he who was their master now waited upon them, and he who took them prisoners was content to serve them. Such is the 13 impression that nobility makes, and such the force of comeliness, which can subdue the disposition of thieves and bring under the wild and savage.

When they had gone about two furlongs by the seaside, they moved straight toward the crest of the hill, and left the sea on their right hand. And having with difficulty gone over the top of the said hill, they hastened to a pool that lay on the other side thereof, the manner whereof was thus. The whole place is called by the Egyptians The Pasture Land, about the which is a low valley which receiveth certain exundations of the Nile, by means whereof it becomes a pool, and is in the midst very deep, while about its brims are marshes or fens. For look, as the shore is to the sea, so are the fens to every great pool. In that place have the thieves of Egypt, however many they be, their commonwealth. And as there is but little land above the water, some live in small cottages, others in boats, which they use as well for their house as for passage over the pool. In these do their women serve them and, if need require, be also brought to bed. When a child is born, they let him suck his mother’s milk a while; but afterwards they feed him with fishes taken in the lake and roasted in the hot sun. And when they perceive that he begins to go, they tie a cord about his ankles and suffer him only to crawl the length of the boat or the cottage, teaching him even at the first after a new fashion to go by a halter. Many a herdsman is born and bred in the pool, which he accounts to be his country and a sufficient defence for the safety of the thieves. And for that cause all such people flock thither, for they all do use the water instead of a wall. Moreover the great plenty of weeds that groweth there in the moozy 14 ground is as good as a bulwark unto them. For by devising many crooked and cumbrous ways, through which the passages to them by frequent use are very easy but to others hard, they have made it a sure defence, so that by no sudden invasion they may be endamaged. And thus much as touching the Lake, and those rogues that inhabit the same.

About the sun setting cometh home the captain with all his retinue. Then took they the young couple from their houses and laid their prey aboard certain boats, and the rest of the robbers that tarried at home, who were a great number, ran to meet the captain from out of every part of the fen, and welcomed him as if he had been their king. But when they considered the multitude of the spoils that they had won, and saw the beauty of the maid to be so heavenly a thing, they guessed that their companions had robbed some temple, and that they had brought away the priestess of the goddess, or rather the lively picture of the goddess herself. Thus in their simplicity did they conjecture from the maid. And therefore they congratulated their captain in hearty wise for his valiant exploit, and so escorted him to his own house, which was an island far from the rest, separated for his own use and for a few others who most commonly used to keep him company. Whither after he was brought, he commanded the others to depart, every man to his own house, charging them the next day all to wait upon him. He himself with a few others that tarried with him, after they had made a short supper, delivered the young folks to the custody of a Grecian whom he had taken a few days before, that he might be their interpreter, letting them have a corner of his own house not far from his lodging, with commandment as well diligently to see to the wounded young 15 man as anxiously to look to the maid, that she by no means should be annoyed. Then, what with his former travel the day before, and also with care of his present affairs, he fell asleep.

When all was whist in the marsh and the time of the first night watch had come, the maid took that occasion and absence of tumultuous men to be a fit time to lament and wail; and the rather for that in the night she could neither see nor hear anything that might comfort her, but contrarywise move her to sorrow. When therefore with herself secretly she had wailed alone (for she was by the captain’s commandment separated from company and laid in a simple bed) and wept very bitterly — ‘Apollo’, said she, ‘how much more grievous punishment does thou take of us than we have deserved. Hast thou not been sufficiently revenged on us in the past? Forasmuch as we are far from our friends and kinsfolk, and that we were taken by pirates and subject to six hundred dangers more by sea, but that now again we must on the land fall into the hands of thieves and robbers: beside, who knoweth whether anything worse is like to light upon us? When wilt thou make an end? If it be in death that shall be void of injury, oh that death would like me well! But rather than any man should filthily know me, which Theagenes never did, surely with a halter I would end my life, reserving myself pure and chaste, as hitherto I have done, even unto death and thereby gain a beautiful epitaph for my singular virginity, and no judge shall be so cruel as thou.’ While she spake thus Theagenes willed her to be content and said: ‘Mine own dear heart and only joy, Chariclea, cease your mourning. I know you have just cause to complain, but in your thus 16 doing you displease God a great deal more than you think. Neither have we any need to provoke God to wrath, but rather to pray: for that which is mightier must with prayers and not with accusation be appeased.’ ‘You give me indeed good counsel,’ quoth she, ‘but I pray you, tell me how you fare.’ ‘Better,’ said he, ‘than I did yesternight, since this young man trimmed my wounds, whereby the burning heat of them is well cooled.’ ‘Yea,’ quoth he who had the charge to look to them,’ in the morning you shall see they shall be in better case, for I will provide such a herb for you that within three dressings your wound shall be healed. And this I have proved true by experience; for if any that were under this captain since I was taken prisoner in any conflict happened to be wounded, he never needed many days to be cured. You need not marvel that I am greatly moved with your estate, for you seem to be in as ill case as I; and I have the more compassion on you, since you are Grecians and I myself also am a Grecian born.’ ‘A Grecian, O immortal God,’ cried they out suddenly for joy, ‘a Grecian indeed both in tongue and country. Hereafter we trust to have some respite from our mishaps.’ ‘But what must we call you?’ said Theagenes. ‘Cnemon,’ answered he. ‘Of what part of Greece?’ said Theagenes. ‘Of Athens,’ answered he. ‘And how came you here?’ said Theagenes. ‘Peace, I pray you:’ quoth he, ‘and ask me that question no more. Let us leave that to such as write tragedies. I would not wish at this time to increase your sorrows by repeating mine. Besides, the night is so far spent that the rest would not serve to tell you the same, especially as you need rest and sleep after your troubles.’ But when they would not cease, but were still very insistent to have him tell his 17 story, accounting it a great comfort to hear any man have as ill luck as they had themselves, Cnemon began in this sort.

‘My father’s name was Aristippus; he was born at Athens, one of the upper senate, as rich as any commoner in the city. He, after the decease of my mother, applied his mind to marry again, being loth to risk all his hopes of posterity on one only child. He doth therefore bring home a little woman somewhat fine, but passing malicious, named Demeneta. As soon as she was married, she claimed my father all to her own lure and made him do what she list, enticing the old man with her beauty. In many other points too she was very curious, for if ever any woman knew how to make a man mad of her, she was better skilled in that art than any man would think. When my father went forth she would be sorrowful, and run to him when he came home and blame him much for his long tarrying, and not stick to tell him that she would have died if he had tarried never so little longer. At every word would she embrace him and moist her kisses with tears; with which means my father was so bewitched that he never was well but when he either had her in his arms or else was looking at her. Above all else, she would ever have me in her sight, as if I had been her own son; by this means also making Aristippus to love her the better. Sometimes she would kiss me, oftentimes she would wish that she might pastime herself with me, wherewith I was well content, mistrusting nothing less than what she intended, and marvelling that she bare such a motherly affection toward me. But when she came to me more wantonly and her kisses were more hot than 18 beseemed an honest woman and her countenance passed modesty, then many things caused me to suspect her, so that I conveyed myself away and would not regard her fair words. I will let other things pass, which would be too long to tell, by what means she went about to win me, what proffers she made, how sometimes she would call me ‘her pretty boy,’ sometimes ‘her sweet heart,’ then ‘her heir,’ and then ‘her own life,’ and how to these fair names she would add many enticements with especial consideration to what I liked best: so that in grave affairs she would behave herself like my mother, but if she list to dally then would she manifestly declare her love.

At length such a chance befell, when the high feast of Pallas was celebrated, on which the Athenians were accustomed to consecrate a ship by land. I, for I was not then sixteen years old, had sung the usual hymn of her praise, and done other rites and ceremonies due to the same, and came home attired in my robes and my crown on my head. As soon as she saw me she was distraught of her wits and not able with policy to cover her love any longer, but for very desire ran to me and took me in her arms and said: ‘O my young Hippolytus and my dear Theseus.’ In what case was I then, think you, who even now am ashamed to tell you the same. That night my father supped at the castle, and as often happened in such company and public resort he determined to lie there all night; that night she came to me and strived to have an unlawful thing at my hand. But I with all my power withstood her, and regarded neither her flattering words nor fair promises, no, nor her threatenings: wherefore, fetching a sigh from the bottom of her heart, for that time she departed; but within two nights after, like a mischievous quean, 19 she sought all means possible to entrap me. First of all she kept her bed, and when my father came home and asked her how she fared, made no answer but said she was sick. When he became importunate and desired to know what she ailed — ‘That goodly young man,’ said she, ‘son to us both, whom I — the gods know — loved even more than you, when he perceived by certain signs that I was great with child by you — which thing I concealed from you until I knew the certainty myself — and waiting for your absence, when I counselled him, as my manner was, and persuaded him to leave haunting of harlots and too much drinking — which things I knew well enough, but would never tell you of them, lest thereby I should incur the cruel suspicion of a stepmother with you — while, I say, I talked with him of these things, alone, no more but he and I, lest he should be ashamed — I will not tell the worst, for I am abashed so to do, nor in what manner he insulted both you and me — he lastly spurned me on the belly, and hath caused me to be in such case as you see.’

As soon as my father heard this, he said nothing, nor asked me any questions, neither gave me leave to speak for myself; but persuading himself that she, who loved me so well, would by no means traduce me, as soon as he found me in a certain corner of the house, boxed me with his fists, and calling his servants together scourged me with rods, and would not suffer me to know — which all men do — why I was cruelly beaten. When his anger was cooled, I said to him: ‘Father, now at length I pray you tell me why I have had thus many stripes.’ At this the more incensed — ‘O the dissembler,’ he cried ‘he wants to learn from me of his own misdeeds:’ and with that he turned away and hastened back to Demeneta. But she 20 was not yet content, and devised this other trick against me. She had a maid called Thisbe who could play well on the harp, and was otherwise fair, and a very proper wench. Her she made a stale for me and commanded her to love me, and by and by she did so indeed. Before this oftentimes, when I had attempted her, she had refused; but now she allured me with countenance, becks, and many other signs. In my foolishness I thought I had become beautiful of a sudden, and one night, when she came to my bed, thought no scorn to make her room. She liked her entertainment so well that she came again, and continually haunted my bed. At length when I gave her counsel to use circumspection in this matter, and take heed that her mistress found her not with me: ‘Cnemon,’ said she, ‘you seem to be too simple: you count it a dangerous matter for me, a bond servant bought with money, to be taken abed with you; but what punishment, think you, does she deserve, who, professing herself a free woman and lawfully married to a husband and knowing that the penalty of her transgression is death, yet playeth the naughti-pack.’ ‘Peace,’ said I, ‘I cannot believe that.’ ‘Nay,’ said she, ‘if you will, I will deliver the adulterer to you, even in the deed doing.’ ‘If you will do so,’ quoth I, ‘you shall do me a pleasure.’ ‘With all my heart,’ said she, ‘not only for your own sake who have been injured by her before, but for mine also who, since she hath me in jealousy, am used by her very extremely. Wherefore, if you be a man, apprehend him.’ I promised her I would do so, and she for that time went her way.

About three nights after she came and waked me out of my sleep, and told me that an adulterer was come in and that my father upon occasion suddenly 21 was gone into the country, and he, according to appointment, was gone to bed to Demeneta: therefore it was expedient for me to haste to be revenged, and put on my sword that the knave might not escape. I did so, and taking a dagger in my hand followed Thisbe, who had before lit a torch, and went to the bed chamber. When I came near and perceived the glimmering of a light through the slivers, and the door locked, in my fury and anger I burst down the door and ran in crying out: ‘Where is that villain, the worthy lover of this chaste dame?’

And with the words I rushed upon them, in mind to slay them both. But it was my father — O god — who leapt out of the bed and falling at my knees before me said: ‘My son, wait a while, have pity upon thy father; spare his white hairs that have brought thee up. We have done thee wrong indeed, yet not so great that therefore with death thou shouldest be revenged on me. Give not so much to thy wrath, neither by thy father’s blood imbrue thy hands.’ This, with much more, spake my father, humbly upon his knees, desiring me to save his life. But I, as if I had been stricken with a thunderbolt, stood still amazed and looked round about after Thisbe who had, I know not how, conveyed herself away. I gazed at the bed and my eyes wandered all over the room. I had no word to say, nor could I tell what was best to do. My sword fell out of my hands, which Demeneta straightway caught up, and my father then out of danger laid hands upon me and commanded me to be bound, Demeneta in the mean while moving many ways and setting him on. ‘Did I not tell you this before,’ cried she; ‘that it was best to look to the princocks; which would no doubt if time served attempt somewhat.’ I saw the look on his face and 22 knew what he meant. My father answered: ‘You told me indeed but I believed you not.’

Thus was I in bonds, and he would not give me leave to tell him how the matter was handled. As soon as it was day, he brought me, bound as I was, before the people, and strewing ashes on his head said: ‘I brought not up my son, ye men of Athens, to see him come to this end, but trusting he would be a staff to stay my age upon. As soon as he was born I brought him up gentlemanlike and set him to school, and when I had well placed him among our kinsfolk and written him in the number of other young men his equals, I made him one of our citizens according to the laws of this city. On him I have made all my doubtful hopes depend. But he has not only forgotten all these things but also diversely injured me, and beaten this woman who according to our law is my second wife. At length he came to me by night with a sword in his hand, and was no farther from being a parricide but that Fortune hindered him, and by a sudden fear the sword fell out of his hand. I flee to you and tell you thereof. And although by the law I might with my own hand slay him, yet I would not: therefore remit I my whole cause to your discretion, thinking that I shall do better if I punish my son rather by public law than by private bloodshed.’ And therewithal he wept, as did Demeneta also, feigning herself to be very sorry for my mishap and calling me an unhappy creature, as well she might, being in danger to die before my natural time, whom evil spirits had stirred against my parents. Not only did she lament but testified with tears, and as though her accusation had been true, with weeping she confirmed the same. When I craved license to speak for myself, the scribe came to me and propounded this straight 23 question, whether I came to my father, or not, with a sword in my hand. ‘I did,’ quoth I, ‘but I will tell you how.’ Thereupon every man cried out and said that I ought not to speak for myself: some judged me worthy to be stoned to death, others to be hanged, others to be cast headlong down into the pit. All the while they were consulting of my punishment I was crying: ‘O my cruel stepmother! Alas, for my stepmother’s sake am I thus troubled. My stepmother killeth me without judgment:’ and many marked my words very well and began to suspect the truth. But for all that, at the time I could not get a hearing: such was the tumult and noise of the people. When the votes were reckoned, those who condemned me to die were a thousand seven hundred, whereof the one half would have me stoned, the other cast into the pit: the rest, of whom there were about a thousand, crediting somewhat the suspicion they had conceived of my stepmother, gave sentence that I should be banished for ever. Yet these prevailed; for though they were fewer than the whole number of the others, yet since the others differed, on the reckoning a thousand was the greater number: and thus was I banished from my father’s house and native country. But for all that the accursed woman Demeneta did not go unpunished. How, you shall hereafter know; but now we must fall to sleep, for it is far into the night and you have need of rest in plenty!*#8217;

‘Nay,’ said Theagenes, ‘you will vex us still more, if you leave the story with that mischievous creature unpunished.’ ‘Since you will needs know,’ said Cnemon, ‘give ear. I, in such case as I was after the judgment, came to the Piraeus, and finding a ship ready to depart sailed to Aegina, for I knew I had some kinsfolk there, by my mother’s side. When I 24 arrived there and had found those I sought for, at the first I lived pleasantly enough: about a twenty days after, roaming about as I was wont to do, I walked down to the haven, and behold, a barque was within kenning. I stayed there a little, and devised with myself whence that barque should come and what manner of people should be in her. The bridge was scarce down when one leaped out and ran and embraced me — his name was Charias one of my companions — and said: ‘Cnemon, I bring thee merry tidings; now art thou well revenged upon thine enemy; Demeneta is dead.’ ‘Welcome! Charias,’ said I; ‘but why do you scant this joyful news, as though it were some disaster you were telling? Recount, I pray you, the manner of this revenge; for I fear much that she died as other folk do, and escaped the death she deserved.’ ‘Justice,’ quoth Charias, ‘hath not utterly forsaken us, as Hesiod imagined. But although she wink a while upon the misdeeds of men and prolong the revenge a good season, yet at length she casteth a terrible eye upon such offenders, who also hath taken just punishment of the mischievous Demeneta. And in all this nothing was either said or done, whereto by Thisbe, for our old acquaintance sake, I was not made privy. After thine unhappy father had procured thine unjust banishment, repenting of what he had done he conveyed himself to a solitary manor of his, away from the company of men, and there lived, eating his heart out, as the proverb hath it. As for her, she was tormented by the Furies and loved thee absent with a madder passion, neither at any time ceased she from sorrow, as though she lamented thy chance, but rather in truth her own mishap. Day and night she would cry — ‘O Cnemon, my pretty boy,’ — calling thee her own life and soul 25 in so much that when women of her acquaintance came to visit and comfort her, they wondered greatly that she, a stepmother, should bear such motherly affection toward thee. She would make them answer that it was a greater grief to her than any comfortable words could assuage, and that few of them knew what a cruel stab it was to her heart. Whenever she came to herself again, she would accuse Thisbe, in that she had not served her well: ‘Oh, how ready thou art to do mischief,’ she would say, ‘who hast not helped me now in my love, but rather caused me to lose, in the turning of a hand almost, my dearest joy, without giving me any time to change my mind:’ and therewith she gave manifest tokens that she meant to do her some harm.

So Thisbe, perceiving her to be very wroth and almost overcome with sorrow and prepared to do some great mischief to her, being set on as well by anger as by love, determined to prevent her; and by beguiling her to provide for her own safety. Wherefore she entered in to her and said: ‘What ado is this, mistress? Why do you accuse thus your maid who for my part have always heretofore done, and even now also did as you commanded me. If anything happened not according to your mind, you must ascribe that to fortune, and if now also you will command me to devise some remedy for your present sorrow, you will easily perceive you shall not want my good will.’ ‘What remedy,’ replied she, ‘can be found, seeing that he would could give me comfort is by distance of place separated from me, while the unhoped for leniency of those that gave sentence on him hath brought me to destruction? If he had been stoned and quite done to death, then also in me had been quenched and dead the blazing flames of my 26 burning desire. For that whose hope is past is taken from the heart, and that which is looked for no more causeth grieved minds to intermit all manner of sorrow. Now methinketh I see him and as though he were present hear him, how he casteth in my teeth the unjust guiles that I ensnared him with, as a thing shamefully done, so that I blush to speak to him. Sometimes methinketh he comes toward me, and I shall enjoy him: sometimes I determine to go toward him, in whatever coast of the world it be. These things set me on fire; these things make me mad. But, O ye gods, I have as I deserve. Why did I not rather with good will seek to win him than by craft to compel him? Why did I not humbly pray him rather than like an enemy persecute him? He would not take me at the first, and for good reason; I was another man’s. He feared to defile his father’s bed; but haply either by time or by fair words he might have been allured to be more gentle unto me. But I, savage and cruel that I am, as though I loved no man but had authority to compel him, because he obeyed me not at the first and despised Demeneta whom in beauty he far excelled, have committed a heinous crime. But, O my sweet Thisbe, what is this remedy that thou sayest is easy?’ ’Mistress,’ quoth the maid, ’many men think that Cnemon is gone out of the city and territory of Athens, as he was judged to do. But I know well enough, who have searched all things narrowly for your sake, that he keepeth himself secretly in a certain place near the city. You have heard doubtless of the flute-girl Arsinoe. With her he was acquainted before, and after his mishap the maid took him in, promised to go away with him, and keepeth him at her house until she can provide all things ready for her journey.’ 27 ‘O happy Arsinoe,’ said Demeneta, ‘both for the former acquaintance she had with Cnemon and for the banishment which she shall have with him! But how do these things touch us?’ ‘Greatly, mistress,’ said she. ‘I will say I love Cnemon, and will desire Arsinoe, with whom by reason of her trade I have been long familiar, that she should in her stead suffer me to lie with him one night. Which if I shall obtain, it shall be yours, and he shall think you to be Arsinoe, and in her place shall you be with him. And I will provide also that when he goes to bed he shall have drunk a little; and if you get what you desire, then it may well be that your passion will be assuaged. For in many women the flame of love is quenched at the first experiment, and a full fruition brings with it satiety. And if your passion even then remain — which God forbid — then we will make, as the proverb says, a new voyage and seek a new way. In the meantime let us apply that which the present opportunity permitteth.’

Demeneta allowed and praised this well, and begged her not to slack this determination at all. She craved of her mistress but one day to bring it about, and went to Arsinoe and asked her if she knew not Teledemus. She answered, ‘yes.’ ‘Let us have a chamber,’ quoth the other, ‘for I have promised him this night. He will come first and I will follow as soon as I have brought my mistress to bed.’ This done, she went into the country to Aristippus and said to him thus: ‘Master, I come to you to accuse myself, and am ready to take such punishment at your hand as your discretion shall think good. By me you have lost your son, not willing indeed so to do, yet of truth a helper in the same. For when I perceived that my mistress lived not well but was 28 injurious to your bed, fearing not only that I myself should have some shrewd turn, if the matter came to light, for keeping her counsel, but especially sorrowful for your mishap, who for loving your wife so entirely should have such recompense, daring not myself to tell you of it I came one night, that no man should know thereof, and told my young master that there was one who used to play the harlot with my mistress. He thinking that there was a man with her in bed — for he was vexed before by her, as you know well enough — took his sword in his hand very angry, and not esteeming that I said that then there was no one but supposing rather that I had repented me of betraying her, ran like a madman to your bed’s side: what followed you know. To-day you have an opportunity, if you wish, to clear yourself as regards your son, though he be in banishment, and to take vengeance on her who has done you both wrong. I will show you this night Demeneta lying with her paramour, and that too in another man’s house outside the city.’ ‘If,’ said Aristippus, ‘thou wilt show me this, I will make thee free; and I myself may revive again, if I be revenged on mine enemy. I have been grieved about the same in my conscience a great while, yet for all that, though I suspected no less, because I could not convince it by manifest proofs, I held myself content. But what must I do?’ ‘You know,’ quoth she, ‘the garden wherein remaineth the monument of the Epicureans: come thither a little before night, and tarry for me.’ When she had said this she returned, and coming again to Demeneta — ‘Make ready yourself,’ said she; ‘you must be fine; all that I have promised you is done.’ She apparelled herself, and did as Thisbe commanded her, and when the evening was come she carried her to the place as was 29 appointed. When they came near the house, she told her to stay a while, and went in herself before, and desired Arsinoe to go aside into another house and let all things be quiet; for she said the young man was somewhat shamefast, being but of late inured to Venus’ sports. The other agreed, and returning she took Demeneta, and brought her in, and laid her in bed, and took the light away — lest you, forsooth, should know her, who were then here in Aegina — and told her to take her pleasure and say nothing; ‘And I,’ said she, ‘will fetch the young man in to you, for he is making merry hereby.’ Then she went forth and found Aristippus at the place appointed, and urged him now to catch the adulterer and bind him fast. He followed her, and when they were come to the house scarcely finding the bed by reason of the moon’s faint light, he cried: ‘I have thee now, O thou much hated of the gods.’ While he spake thus, Thisbe ran to the doors, and made them give as great a crash as she could, and cried out: ‘O wonderful thing! The adulterer is fled. Master, take heed you be not deceived again.’ ‘Peace,’ quoth he, ‘and be of good cheer. I have this wicked and mischievous woman, which I most desired.’ And thus, after he had taken her, he he brought her toward the city. But she, weighing with herself — as is likely — in what case she was; the beguiling of her expectation, the punishment decreed by the laws, and the shamefulness of her offence; moreover vexing herself because she was caught in such fashion, but especially taking it heavily that she was thus deluded and flouted; when she came to the pit which is in the compass of Plato’s school — you know it I am sure — where the captains do celebrate the honour of our dead Heroes after the manner of our country, suddenly 30 pulling herself out of the old man’s hands leapt headlong into the same: and such an unhappy end had that mischievous woman. Then said Aristippus: ‘Indeed thy punishment hath prevented the laws.’ The next day he declared the whole matter to the people, and having scarcely obtained pardon for the deed, he went to divers of his friends and devised with them by what means he might obtain leave for you to come home again. Whether he has done anything or not I cannot tell; for, as you see, before anything could be finished I sailed hither about certain business of my own. Notwithstanding, you ought to be in good comfort that the people will consent easily to your return, and that your father shortly will come to seek you and fetch you home again; for that he declared openly that he would do.’ Thus much Charias told me. What followed, and how I came here, and what mischances I have met require both longer talk and time to tell.’

Therewithal he wept, as did the strangers also under cover of his calamity, but indeed for the remembrance of their own mishaps. And for they very pleasure of tears they would not have ceased from weeping had not sleep flying down upon them assuaged their grief. So they fell to slumber. But Thyamis, — for thus was the master of the thieves called — after he had passed the grater part of the night quietly, was later troubled with certain dreams and therewith suddenly awakened lay wondering what the solution of them should be. For about the time that cocks crow — whether it be, as men say, that they naturally perceive the conversion of the Sun as he approacheth near to us and so are moved to salute the god, or else from too much heat and a desire for movement 31 and food they give such as dwell with them by their crowing a warning to rise to their work — a vision such as this, sent from God, appeared to him. As he entered into the temple of Isis at Memphis in his own city, he thought that all was on fire, and that the altars filled with every kind of beast did swim with blood, and that all the place about was filled with the noise and tumult of men. When he came into the priviest place of the shrine, the goddess met him and gave Chariclea into his hands and said: ‘Thyamis, I commit this maid to thee; yet, having her thou shalt not have her: thou shalt be unjust and kill the strange, but she shall not be killed.’ After he had had this dream he was troubled in mind, casting this way and that way how that which was foreshowed to him might be interpreted. At length, being weary of beating his brains he drew the meaning thereof to his own will and construed it thus. ‘Thou having shall not have her’ — that is, a wife and not a maid any longer. By ‘thou shalt kill’ he conjectured ‘thou shalt take her virginity’; whereof, for all that, Chariclea should not die. Thus did he interpret the dream, following therein his own lust and desire.

As soon as the day appeared he commanded the chief of those who were under his jurisdiction to come unto him, and charged them to bring forth their prey, which by a graver name he termed their spoils; and calling for Cnemon told him also to bring those with him who were committed to his custody. As they were being brought, ‘Oh,’ said they, ‘what shall become of us.’ And therewith they desired Cnemon, if by any means he might, that he would help them. He promised so to do, and bade them be of good cheer, affirming that their captain was not altogether barbarously disposed but had in him some gentleness 32 and courtesy, as one that was come of a noble stock but by necessity compelled to follow such a trade. After they were brought thither and the rest of the company assembled, Thyamis, being set in a higher place than the others in the island which he appointed the place of their meeting, commanded Cnemon — for he by this time understood the Egyptian tongue perfectly but Thyamis was not very skilled in the Greek — to interpret what he said to the prisoners, and thus began: ‘My mates, of what mind I have been ever toward you, you know very well. Although I was the son of the priest of Memphis, as you can bear me witness, I was frustrated of the priestly honour, since my younger brother by craft beguiled me of the same. I fled to you, the better to revenge my wrong and recover my ancient estate, and by all your voices made your captain have hitherto lived with you and not given any special honour to myself. If money was to be divided, I ever loved equality; if prisoners sold, I always brought the sum forth to you, accounting it the office of him who will rule well to do most himself but to take equal share with the others of that which is gotten. Such captives as were strong I enrolled among your company; the feeble sort I sold to make money of. I never did wrong to women; such as were of good parentage I suffered to depart, either redeemed with money or else for sheer pity of their ill hap; such as were of inferior condition, whom not only the law of arms made prisoners but also their continual use had taught to serve, I distributed among you severally to do you service. To-day, of all the spoils I crave one thing only of you, this stranger maid, whom although I might give unto myself, yet I thought I should do better to take her with all your consents. For it 33 would be foolish for me to force our prisoner and seem to be acting contrary to my comrades’ pleasure. Wherefore I crave this good turn at your hands, not for naught, but rewarding you again in such sorts that of all the other booty I will have no part at all. For seeing that the prophetical sort of men despiseth the common sort of woman, I have decreed to make her my companion, not for pleasure so much as to have issue by her; and therefore I am content to rehearse to you the causes that move me thus to do. First, she seemeth to be of good parentage; which a man may easily guess both by the riches found about her, and for that she is nothing broken with these adversities, but even now is of a haughty stomach against fortune. Secondly, I infer she is of an excellent nature and good disposition; for if she doth surpass all others in beauty and by the modesty of her look doth move all those who gaze upon her to a certain kind of gravity, shall she not deservedly leave behind her a due estimation of herself? Lastly, and this is of more account than all I have said, she seemeth to be priestess to some god. For even in her adversity she accounteth it an intolerable and heinous offence to leave off her sacred stole and laurel garland. Can there be therefore, O you that be present, any marriage more meet than that a man being a prophet should marry one consecrated to some god?’

All that were there approved his sayings and prayed the gods to give him joy of his marriage. Which thing when he heard he said to them again: ‘I thank you all: but in my opinion it will not be amiss if about this matter we enquire the maid’s mind. For if I listed to use my own authority my will were sufficient, because it is a needless thing to ask their good will whom a man may constrain. 34 But in this case, seeing we deal with a lawful marriage it is convenient to be done with both consents.’ Then, turning his talk to them, he asked the maid how she liked that which was propounded as touching her marriage, and therewithal bade them to declare what they were and where they were born. But she for a long time cast her eyes to the ground, moving her head to and fro as though she were thinking what she should say. At last she looked up at Thyamis and with the brightness of her beauty abashed him more than ever she did before — for by the inward cogitation of her mind her cheeks became more red than accustomably they were and her eyes were very earnestly bent upon him — and by Cnemon her interpreter spake thus: ‘It were more meet that my brother Theagenes here should have told this tale, for my opinion is that a woman ought to keep silence and a man amongst men should make answer. But seeing that you have given me leave to speak, and thereby an especial token of your courtesy, that you mean rather by persuasion to attempt that which is just than by force to compel; and the rather because that which hath been spoken most touches me, I am constrained to pass those bonds which I prescribed to myself and are proper for maidens, and to answer now the victor’s question in so great an assembly of men. We were born in Ionia and come of a noble house of Ephesus. When we came to the age of fourteen years, by the law — which calleth such as us to the office of priesthood — I was maid priest to Artemis, and this my brother of Apollo. But, as this honour lasts but for a year and our time was expired, we prepared to go to Delos with our sacred attire, and there to make certain games of music and gymnastic, and give over our priesthood according 35 to the manner of our ancestors. For this cause was our ship laden with gold, silver, goodly apparel and other necessaries, as much as were necessary for the expenses of the same and to make the people a public feast; and thus we loosed out of the haven. Our parents, since they were old and feared the dangerousness of the voyage, tarried at home; but many of the other citizens, some in our ship, others in boats of their own, came to accompany us. After we had ended the greatest part of our voyage a tempest suddenly arose and a vehement wind with fearful blasts moving great waves of the sea. This caused us to leave our determined journey, for our steersman overcome by the greatness of the danger in the violence of the storm gave up the tiller and let fortune control our course. We were driven by the wind for seven days and seven nights, and at last we were cast upon the shore whereon you found us and saw the great slaughter. In that place the mariners, as we were banqueting for joy of our unlooked for delivery, attacked us and for our riches sought to destroy us. But they were all slain, not without the destruction of our friends and acquaintance — which would God had not happened — and we only poor miserable creatures were left as victors. But seeing it is thus, we have good cause in one respect to count ourselves happy, because some god has brought us into your hands, where those who feared death have now space to think on marriage. Which surely I shall not refuse. For that the captive should be judged worthy of the victor’s bed doth not only pass all other felicity, but that a priest’s son shall marry a woman consecrated to the gods seemeth not to be done without the singular foresight and providence of God. I therefore crave but one thing only at thy 36 hand, Thyamis. Suffer me first, as soon as I shall come to any city or any place where is an altar or temple sacred to Apollo, to surrender my priesthood and the tokens thereof. This might be done very commodiously at Memphis, when you have recovered the honour of your priesthood; for by that means it should come to pass that marriage joined with victory after good luck celebrated shall be much more merry. But whether this must be done before or after I leave to your discretion; only I beg that I may fulfil the rites of my country before. I know that you will hereunto agree, who have been brought up, as you said, from your childhood to holy offices and think also very well and reverently of the gods.’

With this she made an end of speaking and began bitterly to weep. All they who were present praised her and willed that it should be done even so, and for their parts they promised their ready aid to do whatsoever he would. So Thyamis, partly willing, partly against his will consented. For through the desire he had toward Chariclea he accounted the time necessary for the doing of these things to be an infinite delay; but on the other hand he was enchanted by her speech, as if had been some mermaid’s song, and was enforced to consent to her; and he thought withal of his dream, supposing that he should be married at Memphis. This done, having first divided the booty and taken some of the best jewels, which of their own accord they gave him, he suffered every man to depart, with further commandment to be ready the tenth day after to go toward Memphis. He let the Greeks have the tent that they had before; and with them was Cnemon, not as a keeper now but as a companion; and Thyamis furnished them with as good victual as there might be gotten. Whereof 37 Theagenes for his sister’s sake had part. Thyamis determined not to look upon Chariclea very often, that her beauty might not move his hot desire to do something contrary to that which by common counsel was decreed, as was before rehearsed. For these causes he would not look upon the maid, thinking it an impossible thing that a man should both look upon a fair maid and keep himself within the bounds of temperance. But Cnemon, after every man was quickly dispatched and were crept into the corners which they had in the marsh, went to seek the herb which the day before he promised Theagenes.

Then Theagenes, having got fit opportunity, began to weep and cry out, speaking never a word to Chariclea, but without cease calling upon the gods. And when she asked him whether after his accustomed manner he deplored their common mishap, or had any new grief befallen him — ‘What,’ quoth he, ‘can be more new or contrary to equity than to break an oath and final agreement? Chariclea hath forgotten me and is content to marry another man.’ ’God forbid,’ said the maid; ’I pray you be not more grievous to me than the miseries I have already, neither misdeem anything from my speech, applied to the time and perhaps to some purpose, seeing that before this by many proofs you have tried how I am affected toward you. Except perchance the contrary may happen, and that you sooner change your mind than I will depart from any the least jot of my promise. For I am content and take in good part all these calamities; but that I shall not live chastely there is no torment that may constrain me. In one thing only I know I have not ruled myself, that is in the love I have borne to you from the beginning. But my affection for you is both lawful and honest. 38 I have not yielded to you as a lover, but from the first concluding marriage with you as a husband have committed myself to your care, and have lived chastely without copulation hitherto, not without refusing you often times proffering me such things, and have waited for occasion to be married, if anywhere it might lawfully be done, which thing at the first was decreed between us and by oath established. Besides, consider how foolish you are if you suppose that I esteem a barbarous fellow more than a Greek, a thief more than him whom with my heart I love.’ ‘What did those things then mean,’ said Theagenes, ‘which in that goodly company were of you openly rehearsed? For in that you feigned me to be your brother, it was a very wise device, which caused Thyamis to be very far from jealousy of our love and made us to be together safely. I perceived also to what end that tended which you said of Ionia and of wandering about Delos. For they were shadows that might easily cover the truth and deceive indeed the auditors. But so readily to approve the marriage, and openly to conclude the same, and to appoint the time therefore; what that should signify neither could I guess, nor would I. But I wished that the earth might have cloven and swallowed me up rather than that I should have seen such an end of the travail and hope that for your sake I undertook.’ Herewithal Chariclea embraced Theagenes, and kissed him a thousand times, and bemoistening his face with her tears — ‘Oh in how good part,’ said she, ‘do I take these fears that for my sake you sustain, For hereby you declare that you quail not in your love toward me, although many miseries depend thereupon. But know for a truth, Theagenes, that we should not be now talking together if I had not made him such a 39 promise. For drawing back and opposition do much kindle the force of vehement desire; whereas yielding talk that coincided with a man’s wishes quiets his burning love and with a pleasant promise puts to sleep his too keen appetite. For rude lovers think that such a promise is the first round in the battle and think therewith that they are victors, and after that are of quieter minds ever hovering in hope. All which things I foreseeing in word committed myself to him, commending what shall follow to the gods and to the angel, who at first obtained the tuition of our love. Often the space of a day or two has been very healthful, and fortune brings things to a happy pass such as no device of man could ensure: wherefore, weighing the sure against the uncertain, I have preferred this invention of mine before all others. We must then, sweet love, use this policy wisely, and keep it secret not only from all others but also from Cnemon too. For although he seem to favour our estate and is a Grecian, yet being at this time a prisoner he will perhaps, if occasion serve, be ready to do the captain a good turn. For neither this time of friendship nor his countrymanship is a sufficient pledge to us of his fidelity and truth. Wherefore if at any time by suspicion he gather anything touching our estate we must deny it. For that manner of a lie is tolerable, which profiteth the inventor and hurteth not the hearer.’

While Chariclea spake these words and many others to good purpose, Cnemon ran in hastily, declaring a great perturbation by his countenance. ‘Theagenes,’ quoth he, ‘I bring you this herb, wherewith I pray you dress your own wounds. But I fear me you must prepare yourself to receive other as great wounds 40 as these and shedding of blood.’ Theagenes asked of him what the matter was and desired him to tell it more plainly. ‘The time,’ answered he, ‘will not suffer me; for it is to be feared lest we should feel the stripes before I could tell you the circumstances. But follow me quickly, and Chariclea also.’ Thus he carried them both to Thyamis, whom he found scouring of his helmet and sharpening the point of his spear. ‘In good time,’ said he, ‘are you in hand with your arms: put them on quickly yourself and command the others to do the like. For such a company of enemies is at hand as I never saw before, so close that I saw them crossing the top of the next hill, and for that cause came running as fast as I could to tell you of their coming, and have moreover by the way as I came commanded such as I saw to be in readiness.’ Thyamis when he heard this, leapt up and asked where Chariclea was, as though he were more afraid for her than for himself. When Cnemon had shown her to him standing quiet at the door — ‘Carry her alone,’ quoth he, ‘into the den where our treasures are kept: lower her down and put the cover back over the entrance, as our manner is, friend; and then come quickly back. As for the war, let me alone with it.’ Then he bade his shield-bearer bring his offering that after sacrifice done to the gods they might begin the battle, while Cnemon did as he was commanded and carried Chariclea away diversely lamenting and often looking back to Theagenes, and at the length put her into the den.

This was no natural work, as many caverns are both in and under the earth; but devised by the wit of thieves in imitation of nature and dug out by Egyptian hands very artfully to keep their spoils. It was made after this sort. It had a dark narrow 41 entrance and was shut with privy doors, so that even the threshold was in stead of a gate, when need required, and would open and shut very easily. The inner part was countermined variously with divers slanting ways, the which would sometimes run along by themselves artfully for a while and sometimes would be entangled like the roots of trees; but in the end they all led to one level place which received a dim light from an opening made at the edge of the pool. Cnemon, who was well experienced in the place, took Chariclea down and led her to the end of the den, comforting her in many ways, but especially in that he promised her that he with Theagenes would come to her that night, and that he would not suffer him to strike one stroke in the battle, but would privily convey him out of the same. Then he left her, who spake not one word, but was as stricken by that misfortune as though it had been by death, in that she was deprived of Theagenes whom she loved as her own soul. Se he went forth, and shutting the outmost door he wept a little, not only for that of force he was constrained so to do, but for her sake also, inasmuch as he had almost buried her alive and committed the joyfullest name in the world, Chariclea, to night and darkness. This done, he ran back to Thyamis, whom he found very desirous to fight, and with him Theagenes well armed, making those that were with him almost mad by his earnest oration. For as he stood in the midst of them, he said thus: ‘My mates, I see not to what end it should tend to use many words in exhorting you, who need no encouragement at all but have ever accounted war the pleasantest life, especially since the sudden approaching of our enemies will not permit us to use many words. For seeing that our enemies do now 42 violently assault us, if we should not with like courage repulse their violence, we should seem void of counsel and at our wits’ end. We know that we are fighting not for our wives and children — these words make men pluck up their hearts for battle, although indeed they are not of great value and we shall have all that the conquerors gain, if we get the victory — but rather for our own lives and safety. A war with thieves never ends with a composition nor is concluded by a truce: those who win survive, those who are beaten are slain. So let us now with all our hearts and hands hasten to meet our cruel enemies.’

When he had said this he looked about for his shield-bearer and called him by name, Thermuthis; but when he could not see him anywhere, grievously threatening him, he ran as fast as he could to the landing place. For by this time the battle was begun, and a man even from afar might see that those who dwelt in the outer coasts of the fen were already in the enemies’ hands. They who came upon them burned up the boats and cottages of such as either were slain or else fled out of the battle, whose eyes also were dazzled by the great and intolerable brightness of the fire that burned up the reeds, whereof there was great plenty, and their eyes filled with the great noise and tumult. A man might both see and hear the whole manner of the skirmish, whose who dwelt there maintaining the battle with all their power and strength, and their enemies, being more in number and taking them at a sudden, killing some of them on the earth while others they drowned in the pool with boats and houses too. From all these, from those who fought by land and lake, did kill and were killed, as also from those who were beset by fire and water, there arose a marvellous sound in the air. Which 43 when Thyamis saw, he remembered his dream, wherein he saw Isis and her temple filled with fire and dead men, and supposing thereby to be meant that which he had now seen, he gathered thereof a contrary interpretation to that which he had made before, that — ‘having thou shalt not have Chariclea’ — she should be taken away by war, and that ‘he should kill and not wound her,’ that is with his sword and not with carnal copulation. So, upbraiding the goddess as though she had beguiled him, and thinking it not meet that any other should enjoy Chariclea, he commanded his men to keep their places and maintain the battle as long as they might, by fighting stealthily round the island and making sallies from the marshes about, and thus to hold out against the greater numbers of the enemy. But he himself, pretending to seek Thermuthis and do certain sacrifices to his privy gods, suffering no man to go with him, in haste went to the cave, like a madman. Surely a barbarous nature cannot be easily withdrawn or turned from that which it hath once determined. And if barbarous folk be in despair of their own safety they have a custom to kill all those by whom they set much, and whose company they desire after death, or else would keep them from the violence and wrong of their enemies. For that same cause Thyamis, forgetting all he had to do, being enclosed by the enemy army as if he had been caught in a net, almost enraged with love jealousy and anger, after he came in haste to the cave, going into the same and crying with a loud voice and speaking many things in the Egyptian tongue, as soon as he heard one speak Greek to him about the entry of the cave and was conducted to her by her voice, laid his left hand upon her head and with his 44 sword thrust her through the body, a little beneath the paps.

And after this sorrowful sort that woman, giving up her last and ghastly groan, was slain. But he, after he had come out and had shut the door and had cast a little gravel thereon with tears, said: ‘These espousals hast thou at my hand.’ Then, coming to his boats, he found a great many ready to run their way, as they saw the enemy now were near, and Thermuthis also coming to do sacrifice. Him he chided sharply, for that he himself had offered the most acceptable victim already, and went with him into a boat with another to row them; for the boats that they use in the pool will carry no more than three, being but rudely hewed out of the rough wood. Theagenes also, and Cnemon took another boat, and so did all the rest. After they had gone a little way from the island, rather rowing about the banks than venturing into the deep, they stayed their oars and set their boats in line, as though they would have received their enemies face to face. But when the others approached they could not even abide the splashing of the water, and as soon as they saw them took to flight, not enduring the first clamour and noise of battle. Theagenes also and Cnemon, but not for fear, by little and little withdrew themselves. Only Thyamis accounted it a shame to flee, or perhaps had no mind to live after Chariclea, and thrust himself into the thickest press of his enemies. As soon as they were come to blows, one cried out: ‘This is Thyamis; let every man do his part to take him alive.’ And therewithal they compassed him about and held him inclosed, as in a ring, in the midst of them. He fought against them stoutly, and to see how he wounded some and killed other some, it was 45 a worthy sight. For of so great a number there was none that either drew his sword against him, or else cast any dart; but every man laboured to take him alive. He fought against them a great while, but at length he lost his spear, by reason that many fell on him at once. He lost also his harness-bearer, who had done him very good service; for he being deadly wounded, as it seemed, despairing of his safety leapt into the pool and with much ado did swim to land, inasmuch as no man thought to pursue him.

And now they had taken Thyamis, and with him thought they had gotten the whole victory: and although they had lost so many of their companions, yet since they now had him in their hands, by whom they were slain, they had a greater joy thereby than sorrow for all their dead friends and kinsfolk. Such is the nature of thieves: they esteem money more than their own lives, and only regard the name of friendship and affinity so far as lucre and gain shall extend. And this truth might easily be gathered from these men; for they were those same who at the mouth of Nile called Heracleot fled for fear of Thyamis and his companions. Indignant at the loss of other men’s goods as if they had been their own, they had got together their household friends and also those that dwelt near about them, and promising them an equal part of the booty had made themselves conductors and captains of the host. Now why they took Thyamis prisoner, this was the cause. He had a brother called Petosiris at Memphis, who, contrary to the manner and ordinance of the country — for he was a younger brother — had by craft beguiled him of his priesthood. And hearing now that his brother was become a captain of robbers, and fearing lest if 46 he got occasion he would return, or lest time itself should detect his subtle dealing; and besides this considering the voice of many people who supposed that he had slain him, because he could no where be seen, he sent to the thieves’ villages, and promised a great sum of money and cattle to those who would take and bring him alive. Wherewith the thieves being allured forgot not their gain even in the midst of war, and after one had recognised him took him alive, at the price of many deaths, and carried him to land and placed one half of them as a guard about him, casting in their teeth the clemency they had used towards him and misliking their bonds worse than death itself. The rest went to search the island, in hope to find other treasures that they sought for. But though they went over the same and left nothing unsearched that was there, they found nothing of that they hoped for, except a few things of little value left about the mouth of the cave when the rest had been hidden under the ground. So as it drew toward night, and they might tarry no longer in the island, for fear lest they should fall into an ambush at the hands of those that had escaped from the battle, they set fire to the tents and returned to their own company.

Further corrections in the online edition by S. Rhoads © 2006


[Back] [Blueprint] [Next]

Valid CSS!