Trips to the Moon

Part 1 out of 2

This eBook was prepared by Les Bowler, St. Ives, Dorset.


by Lucian.

Translated from the Greek by Thomas Francklin, D.D.


Introduction by Professor Henry Morley.
Instructions for Writing History.
The True History.
Book 1.
Book 2.
Icaro-Menippus--A Dialogue.


Lucian, in Greek Loukianos, was a Syrian, born about the year 120 at
Samosata, where a bend of the Euphrates brings that river nearest to
the borders of Cilicia in Asia Minor. He had in him by nature a
quick flow of wit, with a bent towards Greek literature. It was
thought at home that he showed as a boy the artist nature by his
skill in making little waxen images. An uncle on his mother's side
happened to be a sculptor. The home was poor, Lucian would have his
bread to earn, and when he was fourteen he was apprenticed to his
uncle that he might learn to become a sculptor. Before long, while
polishing a marble tablet he pressed on it too heavily and broke it.
His uncle thrashed him. Lucian's spirit rebelled, and he went home
giving the comic reason that his uncle beat him because jealous of
the extraordinary power he showed in his art.

After some debate Lucian abandoned training as a sculptor, studied
literature and rhetoric, and qualified himself for the career of an
advocate and teacher at a time when rhetoric had still a chief place
in the schools. He practised for a short time unsuccessfully at
Antioch, and then travelled for the cultivation of his mind in
Greece, Italy, and Gaul, making his way by use of his wits, as
Goldsmith did long afterwards when he started, at the outset also of
his career as a writer, on a grand tour of the continent with
nothing in his pocket. Lucian earned as he went by public use of
his skill as a rhetorician. His travel was not unlike the modern
American lecturing tour, made also for the money it may bring and
for the new experience acquired by it.

Lucian stayed long enough in Athens to acquire a mastery of Attic
Greek, and his public discourses could not have been without full
seasoning of Attic salt. In Italy and Gaul his success brought him
money beyond his present needs, and he went back to Samosata, when
about forty years old, able to choose and follow his own course in

He then ceased to be a professional talker, and became a writer,
bold and witty, against everything that seemed to him to want
foundation for the honour that it claimed. He attacked the gods of
Greece, and the whole system of mythology, when, in its second
century, the Christian Church was ready to replace the forms of
heathen worship. He laughed at the philosophers, confounding
together in one censure deep conviction with shallow convention.
His vigorous winnowing sent chaff to the winds, but not without some
scattering of wheat. Delight in the power of satire leads always to
some excess in its use. But if the power be used honestly--and even
if it be used recklessly--no truth can be destroyed. Only the
reckless use of it breeds in minds of the feebler sort mere pleasure
in ridicule, that weakens them as helpers in the real work of the
world, and in that way tends to retard the forward movement. But on
the whole, ridicule adds more vigour to the strong than it takes
from the weak, and has its use even when levelled against what is
good and true. In its own way it is a test of truth, and may be
fearlessly applied to it as jewellers use nitric acid to try gold.
If it be uttered for gold and is not gold, let it perish; but if it
be true, it will stand trial.

The best translation of the works of Lucian into English was that by
Dr. Thomas Francklin, sometime Greek Professor in the University of
Cambridge, which was published in two large quarto volumes in the
year 1780, and reprinted in four volumes in 1781. Lucian had been
translated before in successive volumes by Ferrand Spence and
others, an edition, completed in 1711, for which Dryden had written
the author's Life. Dr. Francklin, who produced also the best
eighteenth century translation of Sophocles, joined to his
translation of Lucian a little apparatus of introductions and notes
by which the English reader is often assisted, and he has skilfully
avoided the translation of indecencies which never were of any use,
and being no longer sources of enjoyment, serve only to exclude good
wit, with which, under different conditions of life, they were
associated, from the welcome due to it in all our homes. There is a
just and scholarly, as well as a meddlesome and feeble way of
clearing an old writer from uncleannesses that cause him now to be a
name only where he should be a power. Dr. Francklin has understood
his work in that way better than Dr. Bowdler did. He does not
Bowdlerise who uses pumice to a blot, but he who rubs the copy into
holes wherever he can find an honest letter with a downstroke
thicker than becomes a fine-nibbed pen. A trivial play of fancy in
one of the pieces in this volume, easily removed, would have been as
a dead fly in the pot of ointment, and would have deprived one of
Lucian's best works of the currency to which it is entitled.

Lucian's works are numerous, and they have been translated into
nearly all the languages of Europe.

The "Instructions for Writing History" was probably one of the
earliest pieces written by him after Lucian had settled down at
Samosata to the free use of his pen, and it has been usually
regarded as his best critical work. With ridicule of the
affectations of historians whose names and whose books have passed
into oblivion, he joins sound doctrine upon sincerity of style.
"Nothing is lasting that is feigned," said Ben Jonson; "it will have
another face ere long." Long after Lucian's day an artificial
dignity, accorded specially to work of the historian, bound him by
its conventions to an artificial style. He used, as Johnson said of
Dr. Robertson, "too big words and too many of them." But that was
said by Johnson in his latter days, with admission of like fault in
the convention to which he had once conformed: "If Robertson's
style is bad, that is to say, too big words and too many of them, I
am afraid he caught it of me." Lucian would have dealt as
mercilessly with that later style as Archibald Campbell, ship's
purser and son of an Edinburgh Professor, who used the form of one
of Lucian's dialogues, "Lexiphanes," for an assault of ridicule upon
pretentious sentence-making, and helped a little to get rid of it.
Lucian laughed in his day at small imitators of the manner of
Thucydides, as he would laugh now at the small imitators of the
manner of Macaulay. He bade the historian first get sure facts,
then tell them in due order, simply and without exaggeration or toil
after fine writing; though he should aim not the less at an enduring
grace given by Nature to the Art that does not stray from her, and
simply speaks the highest truth it knows.

The endeavour of small Greek historians to add interest to their
work by magnifying the exploits of their countrymen, and piling
wonder upon wonder, Lucian first condemned in his "Instructions for
Writing History," and then caricatured in his "True History,"
wherein is contained the account of a trip to the moon, a piece
which must have been enjoyed by Rabelais, which suggested to Cyrano
de Bergerac his Voyages to the Moon and to the Sun, and insensibly
contributed, perhaps, directly or through Bergerac, to the
conception of "Gulliver's Travels." I have added the Icaro-
Menippus, because that Dialogue describes another trip to the moon,
though its satire is more especially directed against the

Menippus was born at Gadara in Coele-Syria, and from a slave he grew
to be a Cynic philosopher, chiefly occupied with scornful jests on
his neighbours, and a money-lender, who made large gains and killed
himself when he was cheated of them all. He is said to have written
thirteen pieces which are lost, but he has left his name in
literature, preserved by important pieces that have taken the name
of "Menippean Satire."

Lucian married in middle life, and had a son. He was about fifty
years old when he went to Paphlagonia, and visited a false oracle to
detect the tricks of an Alexander who made profit out of it, and who
professed to have a daughter by the Moon. When the impostor offered
Lucian his hand to kiss, Lucian bit his thumb; he also intervened to
the destruction of a profitable marriage for the daughter of the
Moon. Alexander lent Lucian a vessel of his own for the voyage
onward, and gave instructions to the sailors that they were to find
a convenient time and place for throwing their passenger into the
sea; but when the convenient time had come the goodwill of the
master of the vessel saved Lucian's life. He was landed, therefore,
at AEgialos, where he found some ambassadors to Eupator, King of
Bithynia, who took him onward upon his way.

It is believed that Lucian lived to be ninety, and it is assumed,
since he wrote a burlesque drama on gout, that the cause of his
death was not simply old age. Gout may have been the immediate
cause of death. Lucian must have spent much time at Athens, and he
held office at one time in his later years as Procurator of a part
of Egypt.

The works of Lucian consist largely of dialogues, in which he
battled against what he considered to be false opinions by bringing
the satire of Aristophanes and the sarcasm of Menippus into
disputations that sought chiefly to throw down false idols before
setting up the true. He made many enemies by bold attacks upon the
ancient faiths. His earlier "Dialogues of the Gods" only brought
out their stories in a way that made them sound ridiculous.
Afterwards he proceeded to direct attack on the belief in them. In
one Dialogue Timocles a Stoic argues for belief in the old gods
against Damis an Epicurean, and the gods, in order of dignity
determined by the worth of the material out of which they are made,
assemble to hear the argument. Damis confutes the Stoic, and laughs
him into fury. Zeus is unhappy at all this, but Hermes consoles him
with the reflection that although the Epicurean may speak for a few,
the mass of Greeks, and all the barbarians, remain true to the
ancient opinions. Suidas, who detested such teaching, wrote a Life
of him, in which he said that Lucian was at last torn to pieces by

Dr. Francklin prefaced his edition with a Life, written by a friend
in the form of a Dialogue of the Dead in the Elysian Fields between
Lord Lyttelton--who had been, in his Dialogues of the Dead, an
imitator of the Dialogues so called in Lucian--and Lucian himself.
"By that shambling gait and length of carcase," says Lucian, "it
must be Lord Lyttelton coming this way." "And by that arch look and
sarcastic smile," says Lyttelton, "you are my old friend Lucian,
whom I have not seen this many a day. Fontenelle and I have just
now been talking of you, and the obligations we both had to our old
master: I assure you that there was not a man in all antiquity for
whom, whilst on earth, I had a greater regard than yourself." After
Lucian has told Lyttelton something about his life, his lordship
thanks Lucian for the little history, and says, "I wish with all my
heart I could convey it to a friend of mine in the other world"--
meaning Dr. Francklin--"to whom, at this juncture, it would be of
particular service: I mean a bold adventurer who has lately
undertaken to give a new and complete translation of all your works.
It is a noble design, but an arduous one; I own I tremble for him."
Lucian replies, "I heard of it the other day from Goldsmith, who
knew the man. I think he may easily succeed in it better than any
of his countrymen, who hitherto have made but miserable work with
me; nor do I make a much better appearance in my French habit,
though that I know has been admired. D'Ablancourt has made me say a
great many things, some good, some bad, which I never thought of,
and, upon the whole, what he has done is more a paraphrase than a
translation." Then, says Lord Lyttelton, "All the attempts to
represent you, at least in our language, which I have yet seen, have
failed, and all from the same cause, by the translator's departing
from the original, and substituting his own manners, phraseology,
expression, wit, and humour instead of yours. Nothing, as it has
been observed by one of our best critics, is so grave as true
humour, and every line of Lucian is a proof of it; it never laughs
itself, whilst it sets the table in a roar; a circumstance which
these gentlemen seem all to have forgotten: instead of the set
features and serious aspect which you always wear when most
entertaining, they present us for ever with a broad grin, and if you
have the least smile upon your countenance make you burst into a
vulgar horse-laugh: they are generally, indeed, such bad painters,
that the daubing would never be taken for you if they had not
written 'Lucian' under the picture. I heartily wish the Doctor
better luck." Upon which the Doctor's friend makes Lucian reply:
"And there is some reason to hope it, for I hear he has taken pains
about me, has studied my features well before he sat down to trace
them on the canvas, and done it con amore: if he brings out a good
resemblance, I shall excuse the want of grace and beauty in his
piece. I assure you I am not without pleasing expectation;
especially as my friend Sophocles, who, you know, sat to him some
time ago, tells me, though he is no Praxiteles, he does not take a
bad likeness. But I must be gone, for yonder come Swift and
Rabelais, whom I have made a little party with this morning: so, my
good lord, fare you well."

Lucian had another translator in 1820, who in no way superseded Dr.
Francklin. The reader of this volume is reminded that the notes are
Dr. Francklin's, and that any allusion in them to a current topic,
has to be read as if this present year of grace were 1780.
H. M.


Lucian, in this letter to his friend Philo, after having, with
infinite humour, exposed the absurdities of some contemporary
historians, whose works, being consigned to oblivion, have never
reached us, proceeds, in the latter part of it, to lay down most
excellent rules and directions for writing history. My readers will
find the one to the last degree pleasant and entertaining; and the
other no less useful, sensible, and instructive. This is, indeed,
one of Lucian's best pieces.

My Dear Philo,--In the reign of Lysimachus, {17} we are told that
the people of Abdera were seized with a violent epidemical fever,
which raged through the whole city, continuing for seven days, at
the expiration of which a copious discharge of blood from the
nostrils in some, and in others a profuse sweat, carried it off. It
was attended, however, with a very ridiculous circumstance: every
one of the persons affected by it being suddenly taken with a fit of
tragedising, spouting iambics, and roaring out most furiously,
particularly the Andromeda {18a} of Euripides, and the speech of
Perseus, which they recited in most lamentable accents. The city
swarmed with these pale seventh-day patients, who, with loud voices,
were perpetually bawling out--

"O tyrant love, o'er gods and men supreme," etc.

And this they continued every day for a long time, till winter and
the cold weather coming on put an end to their delirium. For this
disorder they seem, in my opinion, indebted to Archelaus, a
tragedian at that time in high estimation, who, in the middle of
summer, at the very hottest season {18b} of the year, exhibited the
Andromeda, which had such an effect on the spectators that several
of them, as soon as they rose up from it, fell insensibly into the
tragedising vein; the Andromeda naturally occurring to their
memories, and Perseus, with his Medusa, still hovering round them.

Now if, as they say, one may compare great things with small, this
Abderian disorder seems to have seized on many of our literati of
the present age; not that it sets them on acting tragedies (for the
folly would not be so great in repeating other people's verses,
especially if they were good ones), but ever since the war was begun
against the barbarians, the defeat in Armenia, {19a} and the
victories consequent on it, not one is there amongst us who does not
write a history; or rather, I may say, we are all Thucydideses,
Herodotuses, and Xenophons. Well may they say war is the parent of
all things, {19b} when one action can make so many historians. This
puts me in mind of what happened at Sinope. {20a} When the
Corinthians heard that Philip was going to attack them, they were
all alarmed, and fell to work, some brushing up their arms, others
bringing stones to prop up their walls and defend their bulwarks,
every one, in short, lending a hand. Diogenes observing this, and
having nothing to do (for nobody employed him), tucked up his robe,
and, with all his might, fell a rolling his tub which he lived in up
and down the Cranium. {20b} "What are you about?" said one of his
friends. "Rolling my tub," replied he, "that whilst everybody is
busy around me, I may not be the only idle person in the kingdom."
In like manner, I, my dear Philo, being very loath in this noisy age
to make no noise at all, or to act the part of a mute in the comedy,
think it highly proper that I should roll my tub also; not that I
mean to write history myself, or be a narrator of facts; you need
not fear me, I am not so rash, knowing the danger too well if I roll
it amongst the stones, especially such a tub as mine, which is not
over-strong, so that the least pebble I strike against would dash it
in pieces. I will tell you, however, what my design is--how I mean
to be present at the battle and yet keep out of the reach of danger.
I intend to shelter myself from the waves and the smoke, {21} and
the cares that writers are liable to, and only give them a little
good advice and a few precepts; to have, in short, some little hand
in the building, though I do not expect my name will be inscribed on
it, as I shall but just touch the mortar with the tip of my finger.

There are many, I know, who think there is no necessity for
instruction at all with regard to this business, any more than there
is for walking, seeing, or eating, and that it is the easiest thing
in the world for a man to write history if he can but say what comes
uppermost. But you, my friend, are convinced that it is no such
easy matter, nor should it be negligently and carelessly performed;
but that, on the other hand, if there be anything in the whole
circle of literature that requires more than ordinary care and
attention, it is undoubtedly this. At least, if a man would wish,
as Thucydides says, to labour for posterity. I very well know that
I cannot attack so many without rendering myself obnoxious to some,
especially those whose histories are already finished and made
public; even if what I say should be approved by them, it would be
madness to expect that they should retract anything or alter that
which had been once established and, as it were, laid up in royal
repositories. It may not be amiss, however, to give them these
instructions, that in case of another war, the Getae against the
Gauls, or the Indians, perhaps, against the barbarians (for with
regard to ourselves there is no danger, our enemies being all
subdued), by applying these rules if they like them, they may know
better how to write for the future. If they do not choose this,
they may even go on by their old measure; the physician will not
break his heart if all the people of Abdera follow their own
inclination and continue to act the Andromeda. {23}

Criticism is twofold: that which teaches us what we are to choose,
and that which teaches us what to avoid. We will begin with the
last, and consider what those faults are which a writer of history
should be free from; next, what it is that will lead him into the
right path, how he should begin, what order and method he should
observe, what he should pass over in silence, and what he should
dwell upon, how things may be best illustrated and connected. Of
these, and such as these, we will speak hereafter; in the meantime
let us point out the faults which bad writers are most generally
guilty of, the blunders which they commit in language, composition,
and sentiment, with many other marks of ignorance, which it would be
tedious to enumerate, and belong not to our present argument. The
principal faults, as I observed to you, are in the language and

You will find on examination, that history in general has a great
many of this kind, which, if you listen to them all, you will be
sufficiently convinced of; and for this purpose it may not be
unseasonable to recollect some of them by way of example. And the
first that I shall mention is that intolerable custom which most of
them have of omitting facts, and dwelling for ever on the praises of
their generals and commanders, extolling to the skies their own
leaders, and degrading beyond measure those of their enemies, not
knowing how much history differs from panegyric, that there is a
great wall between them, or that, to use a musical phrase, they are
a double octave {24a} distant from each other; the sole business of
the panegyrist is, at all events and by every means, to extol and
delight the object of his praise, and it little concerns him whether
it be true or not. But history will not admit the least degree of
falsehood any more than, as physicians say, the wind-pipe {24b} can
receive into it any kind of food.

These men seem not to know that poetry has its particular rules and
precepts; and that history is governed by others directly opposite.
That with regard to the former, the licence is immoderate, and there
is scarce any law but what the poet prescribes to himself. When he
is full of the Deity, and possessed, as it were, by the Muses, if he
has a mind to put winged horses {25a} to his chariot, and drive some
through the waters, and others over the tops of unbending corn,
there is no offence taken. Neither, if his Jupiter {25b} hangs the
earth and sea at the end of a chain, are we afraid that it should
break and destroy us all. If he wants to extol Agamemnon, who shall
forbid his bestowing on him the head and eyes of Jupiter, the breast
of his brother Neptune, and the belt of Mars? The son of Atreus and
AErope must be a composition of all the gods; nor are Jupiter, Mars,
and Neptune sufficient, perhaps, of themselves to give us an idea of
his perfection. But if history admits any adulation of this kind,
it becomes a sort of prosaic poetry, without its numbers or
magnificence; a heap of monstrous stories, only more conspicuous by
their incredibility. He is unpardonable, therefore, who cannot
distinguish one from the other; but lays on history the paint of
poetry, its flattery, fable, and hyperbole: it is just as
ridiculous as it would be to clothe one of our robust wrestlers, who
is as hard as an oak, in fine purple, or some such meretricious
garb, and put paint {26} on his cheeks; how would such ornaments
debase and degrade him! I do not mean by this, that in history we
are not to praise sometimes, but it must be done at proper seasons,
and in a proper degree, that it may not offend the readers of future
ages; for future ages must be considered in this affair, as I shall
endeavour to prove hereafter.

Those, I must here observe, are greatly mistaken who divide history
into two parts, the useful and the agreeable; and in consequence of
it, would introduce panegyric as always delectable and entertaining
to the reader. But the division itself is false and delusive; for
the great end and design of history is to be useful: a species of
merit which can only arise from its truth. If the agreeable
follows, so much the better, as there may be beauty in a wrestler.
And yet Hercules would esteem the brave though ugly Nicostratus as
much as the beautiful Alcaeus. And thus history, when she adds
pleasure to utility, may attract more admirers; though as long as
she is possessed of that greatest of perfections, truth, she need
not be anxious concerning beauty.

In history, nothing fabulous can be agreeable; and flattery is
disgusting to all readers, except the very dregs of the people; good
judges look with the eyes of Argus on every part, reject everything
that is false and adulterated, and will admit nothing but what is
true, clear, and well expressed. These are the men you are to have
a regard to when you write, rather than the vulgar, though your
flattery should delight them ever so much. If you stuff history
with fulsome encomiums and idle tales, you will make her like
Hercules in Lydia, as you may have seen him painted, waiting upon
Omphale, who is dressed in the lion's skin, with his club in her
hand; whilst he is represented clothed in yellow and purple, and
spinning, and Omphale beating him with her slipper; a ridiculous
spectacle, wherein everything manly and godlike is sunk and degraded
to effeminacy.

The multitude perhaps, indeed, may admire such things; but the
judicious few whose opinion you despise will always laugh at what is
absurd, incongruous, and inconsistent. Everything has a beauty
peculiar to itself; but if you put one instead of another, the most
beautiful becomes ugly, because it is not in its proper place. I
need not add, that praise is agreeable only to the person praised,
and disgustful to everybody else, especially when it is lavishly
bestowed; as is the practice of most writers, who are so extremely
desirous of recommending themselves by flattery, and dwell so much
upon it as to convince the reader it is mere adulation, which they
have not art enough to conceal, but heap up together, naked,
uncovered, and totally incredible, so that they seldom gain what
they expected from it; for the person flattered, if he has anything
noble or manly in him, only abhors and despises them for it as mean
parasites. Aristobulus, after he had written an account of the
single combat between Alexander and Porus, showed that monarch a
particular part of it, wherein, the better to get into his good
graces, he had inserted a great deal more than was true; when
Alexander seized the book and threw it (for they happened at that
time to be sailing on the Hydaspes) directly into the river:
"Thus," said he, "ought you to have been served yourself for
pretending to describe my battles, and killing half a dozen
elephants for me with a single spear." This anger was worthy of
Alexander, of him who could not bear the adulation of that architect
{29} who promised to transform Mount Athos into a statue of him; but
he looked upon the man from that time as a base flatterer, and never
employed him afterwards.

What is there in this custom, therefore, that can be agreeable,
unless to the proud and vain; to deformed men or ugly women, who
insist on being painted handsome, and think they shall look better
if the artist gives them a little more red and white! Such, for the
most part, are the historians of our times, who sacrifice everything
to the present moment and their own interest and advantage; who can
only be despised as ignorant flatterers of the age they live in; and
as men, who, at the same time, by their extravagant stories, make
everything which they relate liable to suspicion. If
notwithstanding any are still of opinion, that the agreeable should
be admitted in history, let them join that which is pleasant with
that which is true, by the beauties of style and diction, instead of
foisting in, as is commonly done, what is nothing to the purpose.

I will now acquaint you with some things I lately picked up in Ionia
and Achaia, from several historians, who gave accounts of this war.
By the graces I beseech you to give me credit for what I am going to
tell you, as I could swear to the truth of it, if it were polite to
swear in a dissertation. One of these gentlemen begins by invoking
the Muses, and entreats the goddesses to assist him in the
performance. What an excellent setting out and how properly is this
form of speech adapted to history! A little farther on, he compares
our emperor to Achilles, and the Persian king to Thersites; not
considering that his Achilles would have been a much greater man if
he had killed Hector rather than Thersites; if the brave should fly,
he who pursues must be braver. Then follows an encomium on himself,
showing how worthy he is to recite such noble actions; and when he
is got on a little, he extols his own country, Miletus, adding that
in this he had acted better than Homer, who never tells us where he
was born. He informs us, moreover, at the end of his preface, in
the most plain and positive terms, that he shall take care to make
the best he can of our own affairs, and, as far as lies in his
power, to get the upper hand of our enemies the barbarians. After
investigating the cause of the war, he begins thus: "That vilest of
all wretches, Vologesus, entered upon the war for these reasons."
Such is this historian's manner. Another, a close imitator of
Thucydides, that he may set out as his master does, gives us an
exordium that smells of the true Attic honey, and begins thus:
"Creperius Calpurnianus, a citizen of Pompeia, hath written the
history of the war between the Parthians and the Romans, showing how
they fought with one another, commencing at the time when it first
broke out." After this, need I inform you how he harangued in
Armenia, by another Corcyraean orator? or how, to be revenged of the
Nisibaeans for not taking part with the Romans, he sent the plague
amongst them, taking the whole from Thucydides, excepting the long
walls of Athens. He had begun from AEthiopia, descended into Egypt,
and passed over great part of the royal territory. Well it was that
he stopped there. When I left him, he was burying the miserable
Athenians at Nisibis; but as I knew what he was going to tell us, I
took my leave of him.

Another thing very common with these historians is, by way of
imitating Thucydides, to make use of his phrases, perhaps with a
little alteration, to adopt his manner, in little modes and
expressions, such as, "you must yourself acknowledge," "for the same
reason," "a little more, and I had forgot," and the like. This same
writer, when he has occasion to mention bridges, fosses, or any of
the machines used in war, gives them Roman names; but how does it
suit the dignity of history, or resemble Thucydides, to mix the
Attic and Italian thus, as if it was ornamental and becoming?

Another of them gives us a plain simple journal of everything that
was done, such as a common soldier might have written, or a sutler
who followed the camp. This, however, was tolerable, because it
pretended to nothing more; and might be useful by supplying
materials for some better historian. I only blame him for his
pompous introduction: "Callimorphus, physician to the sixth legion
of spearmen, his history of the Parthian war." Then his books are
all carefully numbered, and he entertains us with a most frigid
preface, which he concludes with saying that "a physician must be
the fittest of all men to write history, because AEsculapius was the
son of Apollo, and Apollo is the leader of the Muses, and the great
prince of literature."

Besides this, after setting out in delicate Ionic, he drops, I know
not how, into the most vulgar style and expressions, used only by
the very dregs of the people.

And here I must not pass over a certain wise man, whose name,
however, I shall not mention; his work is lately published at
Corinth, and is beyond everything one could have conceived. In the
very first sentence of his preface he takes his readers to task, and
convinces them by the most sagacious method of reasoning that "none
but a wise man should ever attempt to write history." Then comes
syllogism upon syllogism; every kind of argument is by turns made
use of, to introduce the meanest and most fulsome adulation; and
even this is brought in by syllogism and interrogation. What
appeared to me the most intolerable and unbecoming the long beard of
a philosopher, was his saying in the preface that our emperor was
above all men most happy, whose actions even philosophers did not
disdain to celebrate; surely this, if it ought to be said at all,
should have been left for us to say rather than himself.

Neither must we here forget that historian who begins thus: "I come
to speak of the Romans and Persians;" and a little after he says,
"for the Persians ought to suffer;" and in another place, "there was
one Osroes, whom the Greeks call Oxyrrhoes," with many things of
this kind. This man is just such a one as him I mentioned before,
only that one is like Thucydides, and the other the exact
resemblance of Herodotus.

But there is yet another writer, renowned for eloquence, another
Thucydides, or rather superior to him, who most elaborately
describes every city, mountain, field, and river, and cries out with
all his might, "May the great averter of evil turn it all on our
enemies!" This is colder than Caspian snow, or Celtic ice. The
emperor's shield takes up a whole book to describe. The Gorgon's
{35} eyes are blue, and black, and white; the serpents twine about
his hair, and his belt has all the colours of the rainbow. How many
thousand lines does it cost him to describe Vologesus's breeches and
his horse's bridle, and how Osroes' hair looked when he swam over
the Tigris, what sort of a cave he fled into, and how it was shaded
all over with ivy, and myrtle, and laurel, twined together. You
plainly see how necessary this was to the history, and that we could
not possibly have understood what was going forward without it.

From inability, and ignorance of everything useful, these men are
driven to descriptions of countries and caverns, and when they come
into a multiplicity of great and momentous affairs, are utterly at a
loss. Like a servant enriched on a sudden by coming into his
master's estate, who does not know how to put on his clothes, or to
eat as he should do; but when fine birds, fat sows, and hares are
placed before him, falls to and eats till he bursts, of salt meat
and pottage. The writer I just now mentioned describes the
strangest wounds, and the most extraordinary deaths you ever heard
of; tells us of a man's being wounded in the great toe, and expiring
immediately; and how on Priscus, the general, bawling out loud,
seven-and-twenty of the enemy fell down dead upon the spot. He has
told lies, moreover, about the number of the slain, in contradiction
to the account given in by the leaders. He will have it that
seventy thousand two hundred and thirty-six of the enemy died at
Europus, and of the Romans only two, and nine wounded. Surely
nobody in their senses can bear this.

Another thing should be mentioned here also, which is no little
fault. From the affectation of Atticism, and a more than ordinary
attention to purity of diction, he has taken the liberty to turn the
Roman names into Greek, to call Saturninus, [Greek], Chronius;
Fronto, [Greek], Frontis; Titianus, [Greek], Titanius, and others
still more ridiculous. With regard to the death of Severian, he
informs us that everybody else was mistaken when they imagined that
he perished by the sword, for that the man starved himself to death,
as he thought that the easiest way of dying; not knowing (which was
the case) that he could only have fasted three days, whereas many
have lived without food for seven; unless we are to suppose that
Osroes stood waiting till Severian had starved himself completely,
and for that reason he would not live out the whole week.

But in what class, my dear Philo, shall we rank those historians who
are perpetually making use of poetical expressions, such as "the
engine crushed, the wall thundered," and in another place, "Edessa
resounded with the shock of arms, and all was noise and tumult
around;" and again, "often the leader in his mind revolved how best
he might approach the wall." At the same time amongst these were
interspersed some of the meanest and most beggarly phrases, such as
"the leader of the army epistolised his master," "the soldiers
bought utensils," "they washed and waited on them," with many other
things of the same kind, like a tragedian with a high cothurnus on
one foot and a slipper on the other. You will meet with many of
these writers, who will give you a fine heroic long preface, that
makes you hope for something extraordinary to follow, when after
all, the body of the history shall be idle, weak, and trifling, such
as puts you in mind of a sporting Cupid, who covers his head with
the mask of a Hercules or Titan. The reader immediately cries out,
"The mountain {39} has brought forth!" Certainly it ought not to be
so; everything should be alike and of the same colour; the body
fitted to the head, not a golden helmet, with a ridiculous breast-
plate made of stinking skins, shreds, and patches, a basket shield,
and hog-skin boots; and yet numbers of them put the head of a
Rhodian Colossus on the body of a dwarf, whilst others show you a
body without a head, and step directly into the midst of things,
bringing in Xenophon for their authority, who begins with "Darius
and Parysatis had two sons;" so likewise have other ancient writers;
not considering that the narration itself may sometimes supply the
place of preface, or exordium, though it does not appear to the
vulgar eye, as we shall show hereafter.

All this, however, with regard to style and composition, may be
borne with, but when they misinform us about places, and make
mistakes, not of a few leagues, but whole day's journeys, what shall
we say to such historians? One of them, who never, we may suppose,
so much as conversed with a Syrian, or picked up anything concerning
them in the barbers' {40} shop, when he speaks of Europus, tells us,
"it is situated in Mesopotamia, two days' journey from Euphrates,
and was built by the Edessenes." Not content with this, the same
noble writer has taken away my poor country, Samosata, and carried
it off, tower, bulwarks, and all, to Mesopotamia, where he says it
is shut up between two rivers, which at least run close to, if they
do not wash the walls of it. After this, it would be to no purpose,
my dear Philo, for me to assure you that I am not from Parthia, nor
do I belong to Mesopotamia, of which this admirable historian has
thought fit to make me an inhabitant.

What he tells us of Severian, and which he swears he heard from
those who were eye-witnesses of it, is no doubt extremely probable;
that he did not choose to drink poison, or to hang himself, but was
resolved to find out some new and tragical way of dying; that
accordingly, having some large cups of very fine glass, as soon as
he had taken the resolution to finish himself, he broke one of them
in pieces, and with a fragment of it cut his throat; he would not
make use of sword or spear, that his death might be more noble and

To complete all, because Thucydides {41} made a funeral oration on
the heroes who fell at the beginning of the Peloponnesian war, he
also thought something should be said of Severian. These
historians, you must know, will always have a little struggle with
Thucydides, though he had nothing to do with the war in Armenia; our
writer, therefore, after burying Severian most magnificently, places
at his sepulchre one Afranius Silo, a centurion, the rival of
Pericles, who spoke so fine a declamation upon him as, by heaven,
made me laugh till I cried again, particularly when the orator
seemed deeply afflicted, and with tears in his eyes, lamented the
sumptuous entertainments and drinking bouts which he should no more
partake of. To crown all with an imitation of Ajax, {42} the orator
draws his sword, and, as it became the noble Afranius, before all
the assembly, kills himself at the tomb. So Mars defend me! but he
deserved to die much sooner for making such a declamation. When
those, says he, who were present beheld this, they were filled with
admiration, and beyond measure extolled Afranius. For my own part,
I pitied him for the loss of the cakes and dishes which he so
lamented, and only blamed him for not destroying the writer of the
history before he made an end of himself.

Others there are who, from ignorance and want of skill, not knowing
what should be mentioned, and what passed over in silence, entirely
omit or slightly run through things of the greatest consequence, and
most worthy of attention, whilst they most copiously describe and
dwell upon trifles; which is just as absurd as it would be not to
take notice of or admire the wonderful beauty of the Olympian
Jupiter, {43} and at the same time to be lavish in our praises of
the fine polish, workmanship, and proportion of the base and

I remember one of these who despatches the battle at Europus in
seven lines, and spends some hundreds in a long frigid narration,
that is nothing to the purpose, showing how "a certain Moorish
cavalier, wandering on the mountains in search of water, lit on some
Syrian rustics, who helped him to a dinner; how they were afraid of
him at first, but afterwards became intimately acquainted with him,
and received him with hospitality; for one of them, it seems, had
been in Mauritania, where his brother bore arms." Then follows a
long tale, "how he hunted in Mauritania, and saw several elephants
feeding together; how he had like to have been devoured by a lion;
and how many fish he bought at Caesarea." This admirable historian
takes no notice of the battle, the attacks or defences, the truces,
the guards on each side, or anything else; but stands from morning
to night looking upon Malchion, the Syrian, who buys cheap fish at
Caesarea: if night had not come on, I suppose he would have supped
there, as the chars {44} were ready. If these things had not been
carefully recorded in the history we should have been sadly in the
dark, and the Romans would have had an insufferable loss, if
Mausacas, the thirsty Moor, could have found nothing to drink, or
returned to the camp without his supper; not to mention here, what
is still more ridiculous, as how "a piper came up to them out of the
neighbouring village, and how they made presents to each other,
Mausacas giving Malchion a spear, and Malchion presenting Mausacas
with a buckle." Such are the principal occurrences in the history
of the battle of Europus. One may truly say of such writers that
they never saw the roses on the tree, but took care to gather the
prickles that grew at the bottom of it.

Another of them, who had never set a foot out of Corinth, or seen
Syria or Armenia, begins thus: "It is better to trust our eyes than
our ears; I write, therefore, what I have seen, and not what I have
heard;" he saw everything so extremely well that he tells us, "the
Parthian dragons (which amongst them signifies no more than a great
number, {45} for one dragon brings a thousand) are live serpents of
a prodigious size, that breed in Persia, a little above Iberia; that
these are lifted up on long poles, and spread terror to a great
distance; and that when the battle begins, they let them loose on
the enemy." Many of our soldiers, he tells us, were devoured by
them, and a vast number pressed to death by being locked in their
embraces: this he beheld himself from the top of a high tree, to
which he had retired for safety. Well it was for us that he so
prudently determined not to come nigh them; we might otherwise have
lost this excellent writer, who with his own brave hand performed
such feats in this battle; for he went through many dangers, and was
wounded somewhere about Susa, I suppose, in his journey from Cranium
to Lerna. All this he recited to the Corinthians, who very well
knew that he had never so much as seen a view of this battle painted
on a wall; neither did he know anything of arms, or military
machines, the method of disposing troops, or even the proper names
of them. {46}

Another famous writer has given an account of everything that
passed, from beginning to end, in Armenia, Syria, Mesopotamia, upon
the Tigris, and in Media, and all in less than five hundred lines;
and when he had done this, tells us, he has written a history. The
title, which is almost as long as the work, runs thus: "A narrative
of everything done by the Romans in Armenia, Media, and Mesopotamia,
by Antiochianus, who gained a prize in the sacred games of Apollo."
I suppose, when he was a boy, he had conquered in a running match.

I have heard of another likewise, who wrote a history of what was to
happen hereafter, {47} and describes the taking of Vologesus
prisoner, the murder of Osroes, and how he was to be given to a
lion; and above all, our own much-to-be-wished-for triumph, as
things that must come to pass. Thus prophesying away, he soon got
to the end of the story. He has built, moreover, a new city in
Mesopotamia, most magnificently magnificent, and most beautifully
beautiful, and is considering with himself whether he shall call it
Victoria, from victory, or the City of Concord, or Peace, which of
them, however, is not yet determined, and this fine city must remain
without a name, filled as it is with nothing but this writer's folly
and nonsense. He is now going about a long voyage, and to give us a
description of what is to be done in India; and this is more than a
promise, for the preface is already made, and the third legion, the
Gauls, and a small part of the Mauritanian forces under Cassius,
have already passed the river; what they will do afterwards, or how
they will succeed against the elephants, it will be some time before
our wonderful writer can be able to learn, either from Mazuris or
the Oxydraci.

Thus do these foolish fellows trifle with us, neither knowing what
is fit to be done, nor if they did, able to execute it, at the same
time determined to say anything that comes into their ridiculous
heads; affecting to be grand and pompous, even in their titles: of
"the Parthian victories so many books;" Parthias, says another, like
Atthis; another more elegantly calls his book the Parthonicica of

I could mention many more of equal merit with these, but shall now
proceed to make my promise good, and give some instructions how to
write better. I have not produced these examples merely to laugh at
and ridicule these noble histories; but with the view of real
advantages, that he who avoids their errors, may himself learn to
write well--if it be true, as the logicians assert, that of two
opposites, between which there is no medium, the one being taken
away, the other must remain. {49}

Somebody, perhaps, will tell me that the field is now cleansed and
weeded, that the briars and brambles are cut up, the rubbish cleared
off, and the rough path made smooth; that I ought therefore to build
something myself, to show that I not only can pull down the
structures of others, but am able to raise up and invent a work
truly great and excellent, which nobody could find fault with, nor
Momus himself turn into ridicule.

I say, therefore, that he who would write history well must be
possessed of these two principal qualifications, a fine
understanding and a good style: one is the gift of nature, and
cannot be taught; the other may be acquired by frequent exercise,
perpetual labour and an emulation of the ancients. To make men
sensible and sagacious, who were not born so, is more than I pretend
to; to create and new-model things in this manner would be a
glorious thing indeed; but one might as easily make gold out of
lead, silver out of tin, a Titornus out of a Conon, or a Milo out of
a Leotrophides. {50}

What then is in the power of art or instruction to perform? not to
create qualities and perfections already bestowed, but to teach the
proper use of them; for as Iccus, Herodicus, Theon, {51} or any
other famous wrestler, would not promise to make Antiochus a
conqueror in the Olympic games, or equal to a Theagenes, or
Polydamas; but only that where a man had natural abilities for this
exercise he could, by his instruction, render him a greater
proficient in it: far be it from me, also, to promise the invention
of an art so difficult as this, nor do I say that I can make anybody
an historian; but that I will point out to one of good
understanding, and who has been in some measure used to writing,
certain proper paths (if such they appear to him), which if any man
shall tread in, he may with greater ease and despatch do what he
ought to do, and attain the end which he is in pursuit of.

Neither can it be here asserted, be he ever so sensible or
sagacious, that he doth not stand in need of assistance with regard
to those things which he is ignorant of; otherwise he might play on
the flute or any other instrument, who had never learned, and
perform just as well; but without teaching, the hands will do
nothing; whereas, if there be a master, we quickly learn, and are
soon able to play by ourselves.

Give me a scholar, therefore, who is able to think and to write, to
look with an eye of discernment into things, and to do business
himself, if called upon, who hath both civil and military knowledge;
one, moreover, who has been in camps, and has seen armies in the
field and out of it; knows the use of arms, and machines, and
warlike engines of every kind; can tell what the front, and what the
horn is, how the ranks are to be disposed, how the horse is to be
directed, and from whence to advance or to retreat; one, in short,
who does not stay at home and trust to the reports of others: but,
above all, let him be of a noble and liberal mind; let him neither
fear nor hope for anything; otherwise he will only resemble those
unjust judges who determine from partiality or prejudice, and give
sentence for hire: but, whatever the man is, as such let him be
described. The historian must not care for Philip, when he loses
his eye by the arrow of Aster, {53a} at Olynthus, nor for Alexander,
when he so cruelly killed Clytus at the banquet: Cleon must not
terrify him, powerful as he was in the senate, and supreme at the
tribunal, nor prevent his recording him as a furious and pernicious
man; the whole city of Athens must not stop his relation of the
Sicilian slaughter, the seizure of Demosthenes, {53b} the death of
Nicias, their violent thirst, the water which they drank, and the
death of so many of them whilst they were drinking it. He will
imagine (which will certainly be the case) that no man in his senses
will blame him for recording things exactly as they fell out.
However some may have miscarried by imprudence, or others by ill
fortune, he is only the relator, not the author of them. If they
are beaten in a sea-fight, it is not he who sinks them; if they fly,
it is not he who pursues them; all he can do is to wish well to, and
offer up his vows for them; but by passing over or contradicting
facts, he cannot alter or amend them. It would have been very easy
indeed for Thucydides, with a stroke of his pen, to have thrown down
the walls of Epipolis, sunk the vessel of Hermocrates, or made an
end of the execrable Gylippus, who stopped up all the avenues with
his walls and ditches; to have thrown the Syracusans on the
Lautumiae, and have let the Athenians go round Sicily and Italy,
according to the early hopes of Alcibiades: but what is past and
done Clotho cannot weave again, nor Atropos recall.

The only business of the historian is to relate things exactly as
they are: this he can never do as long as he is afraid of
Artaxerxes, whose physician {55a} he is; as long as he looks for the
purple robe, the golden chain, or the Nisaean horse, {55b} as the
reward of his labours; but Xenophon, that just writer, will not do
this, nor Thucydides. The good historian, though he may have
private enmity against any man, will esteem the public welfare of
more consequence to him, and will prefer truth to resentment; and,
on the other hand, be he ever so fond of any man, will not spare him
when he is in the wrong; for this, as I before observed, is the most
essential thing in history, to sacrifice to truth alone, and cast
away all care for everything else. The great universal rule and
standard is, to have regard not to those who read now, but to those
who are to peruse our works hereafter.

To speak impartially, the historians of former times were too often
guilty of flattery, and their works were little better than games
and sports, the effects of art. Of Alexander, this memorable saying
is recorded: "I should be glad," said he, "Onesicritus, after my
death, to come to life again for a little time, only to hear what
the people then living will say of me; for I am not surprised that
they praise and caress me now, as every one hopes by baiting well to
catch my favour." Though Homer wrote a great many fabulous things
concerning Achilles, the world was induced to believe him, for this
only reason, because they were written long after his death, and no
cause could be assigned why he should tell lies about him.

The good historian, {56} then, must be thus described: he must be
fearless, uncorrupted, free, the friend of truth and of liberty; one
who, to use the words of the comic poet, calls a fig a fig, {57a}
and a skiff a skiff, neither giving nor withholding from any, from
favour or from enmity, not influenced by pity, by shame, or by
remorse; a just judge, so far benevolent to all as never to give
more than is due to any in his work; a stranger to all, of no
country, bound only by his own laws, acknowledging no sovereign,
never considering what this or that man may say of him, but relating
faithfully everything as it happened.

This rule therefore Thucydides observed, distinguishing properly the
faults and perfections of history: not unmindful of the great
reputation which Herodotus had acquired, insomuch that his books
were called by the names of the Muses. {57b} Thucydides tells us
that he "wrote for posterity, and not for present delight; that he
by no means approved of the fabulous, but was desirous of delivering
down the truth alone to future ages." It is the useful, he adds,
which must constitute the merit of history, that by the
retrospection of what is past, when similar events occur, men may
know how to act in present exigencies.

Such an historian would I wish to have under my care: with regard
to language and expression, I would not have it rough and vehement,
consisting of long periods, {58} or complex arguments; but soft,
quiet, smooth, and peaceable. The reflections, short and frequent,
the style clear and perspicuous; for as freedom and truth should be
the principal perfections of the writer's mind, so, with regard to
language, the great point is to make everything plain and
intelligible, not to use remote and far-fetched phrases or
expressions, at the same time avoiding such as are mean and vulgar:
let it be, in short, what the lowest may understand; and, at the
same time, the most learned cannot but approve. The whole may be
adorned with figure and metaphor, provided they are not turgid or
bombast, nor seem stiff and laboured, which, like meat too highly
seasoned, always give disgust.

History may sometimes assume a poetical form, and rise into a
magnificence of expression, when the subject demands it; and
especially when it is describing armies, battles, and sea-fights.
The Pierian spirit {59} is wanting then to swell the sails with a
propitious breeze, and carry the lofty ship over the tops of the
waves. In general, the diction should creep humbly on the ground,
and only be raised as the grand and beautiful occurring shall
require it; keeping, in the meantime, within proper bounds, and
never soaring into enthusiasm; for then it is in danger of ranging
beyond its limits, into poetic fury: we must then pull in the rein
and act with caution, well knowing that it is the worst vice of a
writer, as well as of a horse, to be wanton and unmanageable. The
best way therefore is, whilst the mind of the historian is on
horseback, for his style to walk on foot, and take hold of the rein,
that it may not be left behind.

With regard to composition, the words should not be so blended and
transposed as to appear harsh and uncouth; nor should you, as some
do, subject them entirely to the rhythmus; {60} one is always
faulty, and the other disagreeable to the reader.

Facts must not be carelessly put together, but with great labour and
attention. If possible, let the historian be an eye-witness of
everything he means to record; or, if that cannot be, rely on those
only who are incorrupt, and who have no bias from passion or
prejudice, to add or to diminish anything. And here much sagacity
will be requisite to find out the real truth. When he has collected
all or most of his materials, he will first make a kind of diary, a
body whose members are not yet distinct; he will then bring it into
order and beautify it, add the colouring of style and language,
adopt his expression to the subject, and harmonise the several parts
of it; then, like Homer's Jupiter, {61} who casts his eye sometimes
on the Thracian, and sometimes on the Mysian forces, he beholds now
the Roman, and now the Persian armies, now both, if they are
engaged, and relates what passes in them. Whilst they are
embattled, his eye is not fixed on any particular part, nor on any
one leader, unless, perhaps, a Brasidas {62a} steps forth to scale
the walls, or a Demosthenes to prevent him. To the generals he
gives his first attention, listens to their commands, their
counsels, and their determination; and, when they come to the
engagement, he weighs in equal scale the actions of both, and
closely attends the pursuer and the pursued, the conqueror and the
conquered. All this must be done with temper and moderation, so as
not to satiate or tire, not inartificially, not childishly, but with
ease and grace. When these things are properly taken care of, he
may turn aside to others, ever ready and prepared for the present
event, keeping time, {62b} as it were, with every circumstance and
event: flying from Armenia to Media, and from thence with
clattering wings to Italy, or to Iberia, that not a moment may
escape him.

The mind of the historian should resemble a looking-glass, shining
clear and exactly true, representing everything as it really is, and
nothing distorted, or of a different form or colour. He writes not
to the masters of eloquence, but simply relates what is done. It is
not his to consider what he shall say, but only how it is to be
said. He may be compared to Phidias, Praxiteles, Alcamenus, or
other eminent artists; for neither did they make the gold, the
silver, the ivory, or any of the materials which they worked upon.
These were supplied by the Elians, the Athenians, and Argives; their
only business was to cut and polish the ivory, to spread the gold
into various forms, and join them together; their art was properly
to dispose what was put into their hands; and such is the work of
the historians, to dispose and adorn the actions of men, and to make
them known with clearness and precision: to represent what he hath
heard, as if he had been himself an eye-witness of it. To perform
this well, and gain the praise resulting from it, is the business of
our historical Phidias.

When everything is thus prepared, he may begin if he pleases without
preface or exordium, unless the subject particularly demands it; he
may supply the place of one, by informing us what he intends to
write upon, in the beginning of the work itself: if, however, he
makes use of any preface, he need not divide it as our orators do,
into three parts, but confine it to two, leaving out his address to
the benevolence of his readers, and only soliciting their attention
and complacency: their attention he may be assured of, if he can
convince them that he is about to speak of things great, or
necessary, or interesting, or useful; nor need he fear their want of
complacency, if he clearly explains to them the causes of things,
and gives them the heads of what he intends to treat of.

Such are the exordiums which our best historians have made use of.
Herodotus tells us, "he wrote his history, lest in process of time
the memory should be lost of those things which in themselves were
great and wonderful, which showed forth the victories of Greece, and
the slaughter of the barbarians;" and Thucydides sets out with
saying, "he thought that war most worthy to be recorded, as greater
than any which had before happened; and that, moreover, some of the
greatest misfortunes had accompanied it." The exordium, in short,
may be lengthened or contracted according to the subject matter, and
the transition from thence to the narration easy and natural. The
body of the history is only a long narrative, and as such it must go
on with a soft and even motion, alike in every part, so that nothing
should stand too forward, or retreat too far behind. Above all, the
style should be clear and perspicuous, which can only arise, as I
before observed, from a harmony in the composition: one thing
perfected, the next which succeeds should be coherent with it; knit
together, as it were, by one common chain, which must never be
broken: they must not be so many separate and distinct narratives,
but each so closely united to what follows, as to appear one
continued series.

Brevity is always necessary, especially when you have a great deal
to say, and this must be proportioned to the facts and circumstances
which you have to relate. In general, you must slightly run through
little things, and dwell longer on great ones. When you treat your
friends, you give them boars, hares, and other dainties; you would
not offer them beans, saperda, {66a} or any other common food.

When you describe mountains, rivers, and bulwarks, avoid all pomp
and ostentation, as if you meant to show your own eloquence; pass
over these things as slightly as you can, and rather aim at being
useful and intelligible. Observe how the great and sublime Homer
acts on these occasions! as great a poet as he is, he says nothing
about Tantalus, Ixion, Tityus, and the rest of them. But if
Parthenius, Euphorion, or Callimachus, had treated this subject,
what a number of verses they would have spent in rolling Ixion's
wheel, and bringing the water up to the very lips of Tantalus!
Mark, also, how quickly Thucydides, who is very sparing {66b} of his
descriptions, breaks off when he gives an account of any military
machine, explains the manner of a siege, even though it be ever so
useful and necessary, or describes cities or the port of Syracuse.
Even in his narrative of the plague which seems so long, if you
consider the multiplicity of events, you will find he makes as much
haste as possible, and omits many circumstances, though he was
obliged to retain so many more.

When it is necessary to make any one speak, you must take care to
let him say nothing but what is suitable to the person, and to what
he speaks about, and let everything be clear and intelligible:
here, indeed, you may be permitted to play the orator, and show the
power of eloquence. With regard to praise, or dispraise, you cannot
be too modest and circumspect; they should be strictly just and
impartial, short and seasonable: your evidence otherwise will not
be considered as legal, and you will incur the same censure as
Theopompus {67} did, who finds fault with everybody from enmity and
ill-nature; and dwells so perpetually on this, that he seems rather
to be an accuser than an historian.

If anything occurs that is very extraordinary or incredible, you may
mention without vouching for the truth of it, leaving everybody to
judge for themselves concerning it: by taking no part yourself, you
will remain safe.

Remember, above all, and throughout your work, again and again, I
must repeat it, that you write not with a view to the present times
only, that the age you live in may applaud and esteem you, but with
an eye fixed on posterity; from future ages expect your reward, that
men may say of you, "that man was full of honest freedom, never
flattering or servile, but in all things the friend of truth." This
commendation, the wise man will prefer to all the vain hopes of this
life, which are but of short duration.

Recollect the story of the Cnidian architect, when he built the
tower in Pharos, where the fire is kindled to prevent mariners from
running on the dangerous rocks of Paraetonia, that most noble and
most beautiful of all works; he carved his own name on a part of the
rock on the inside, then covered it over with mortar, and inscribed
on it the name of the reigning sovereign: well knowing that, as it
afterwards happened, in a short space of time these letters would
drop off with the mortar, and discover under it this inscription:
"Sostratus the Cnidian, son of Dexiphanes, to those gods who
preserve the mariner." Thus had he regard not to the times he lived
in, not to his own short existence, but to the present period, and
to all future ages, even as long as his tower shall stand, and his
art remain upon earth.

Thus also should history be written, rather anxious to gain the
approbation of posterity by truth and merit, than to acquire present
applause by adulation and falsehood.

Such are the rules which I would prescribe to the historian, and
which will contribute to the perfection of his work, if he thinks
proper to observe them; if not, at least, I have rolled my tub. {69}



Lucian's True History is, as the author himself acknowledges in the
Preface to it, a collection of ingenious lies, calculated
principally to amuse the reader, not without several allusions, as
he informs us, to the works of ancient Poets, Historians, and
Philosophers, as well as, most probably, the performances of
contemporary writers, whose absurdities are either obliquely glanced
at, or openly ridiculed and exposed. We cannot but lament that the
humour of the greatest part of these allusions must be lost to us,
the works themselves being long since buried in oblivion. Lucian's
True History, therefore, like the Duke of Buckingham's Rehearsal,
cannot be half so agreeable as when it was first written; there is,
however, enough remaining to secure it from contempt. The vein of
rich fancy, and wildness of a luxuriant imagination, which run
through the whole, sufficiently point out the author as a man of
uncommon genius and invention. The reader will easily perceive that
Bergerac, Swift, and other writers have read this work of Lucian's,
and are much indebted to him for it.


As athletics of all kinds hold it necessary, not only to prepare the
body by exercise and discipline, but sometimes to give it proper
relaxation, which they esteem no less requisite, so do I think it
highly necessary also for men of letters, after their severer
studies, to relax a little, that they may return to them with the
greater pleasure and alacrity; and for this purpose there is no
better repose than that which arises from the reading of such books
as not only by their humour and pleasantry may entertain them, but
convey at the same time some useful instruction, both which, I
flatter myself, the reader will meet with in the following history;
for he will not only be pleased with the novelty of the plan, and
the variety of lies, which I have told with an air of truth, but
with the tacit allusions so frequently made, not, I trust, without
some degree of humour, to our ancient poets, historians, and
philosophers, who have told us some most miraculous and incredible
stories, and which I should have pointed out to you, but that I
thought they would be sufficiently visible on the perusal.

Ctesias the Cnidian, son of Ctesiochus, wrote an account of India
and of things there, which he never saw himself, nor heard from
anybody else. Iambulus also has acquainted us with many wonders
which he met with in the great sea, and which everybody knew to be
absolute falsehoods: the work, however, was not unentertaining.
Besides these, many others have likewise presented us with their own
travels and peregrinations, where they tell us of wondrous large
beasts, savage men, and unheard-of ways of living. The great leader
and master of all this rhodomontade is Homer's "Ulysses," who talks
to Alcinous about the winds {75} pent up in bags, man-eaters, and
one-eyed Cyclops, wild men, creatures with many heads, several of
his companions turned into beasts by enchantment, and a thousand
things of this kind, which he related to the ignorant and credulous

These, notwithstanding, I cannot think much to blame for their
falsehoods, seeing that the custom has been sometimes authorised,
even by the pretenders to philosophy: I only wonder that they
should ever expect to be believed: being, however, myself incited,
by a ridiculous vanity, with the desire of transmitting something to
posterity, that I may not be the only man who doth not indulge
himself in the liberty of fiction, as I could not relate anything
true (for I know of nothing at present worthy to be recorded), I
turned my thoughts towards falsehood, a species of it, however, much
more excusable than that of others, as I shall at least say one
thing true, when I tell you that I lie, and shall hope to escape the
general censure, by acknowledging that I mean to speak not a word of
truth throughout. Know ye, therefore, that I am going to write
about what I never saw myself, nor experienced, nor so much as heard
from anybody else, and, what is more, of such things as neither are,
nor ever can be. I give my readers warning, therefore, not to
believe me.

* * * *

Once upon a time, {77} then, I set sail from the Pillars of
Hercules, and getting into the Western Ocean, set off with a
favourable wind; the cause of my peregrination was no more than a
certain impatience of mind and thirst after novelty, with a desire
of knowing where the sea ended, and what kind of men inhabited the
several shores of it; for this purpose I laid in a large stock of
provisions, and as much water as I thought necessary, taking along
with me fifty companions of the same mind as myself. I prepared
withal, a number of arms, with a skilful pilot, whom we hired at a
considerable expense, and made our ship (for it was a pinnace), as
tight as we could in case of a long and dangerous voyage.

We sailed on with a prosperous gale for a day and a night, but being
still in sight of land, did not make any great way; the next day,
however, at sun-rising, the wind springing up, the waves ran high,
it grew dark, and we could not unfurl a sail; we gave ourselves up
to the winds and waves, and were tossed about in a storm, which
raged with great fury for threescore and nineteen days, but on the
eightieth the sun shone bright, and we saw not far from us an
island, high and woody, with the sea round it quite calm and placid,
for the storm was over: we landed, got out, and happy to escape
from our troubles, laid ourselves down on the ground for some time,
after which we arose, and choosing out thirty of our company to take
care of the vessel, I remained on shore with the other twenty, in
order to take a view of the interior part of the island.

About three stadia from the sea, as we passed through a wood, we
found a pillar of brass, with a Greek inscription on it, the
characters almost effaced; we could make out however these words,
"thus far came Hercules and Bacchus:" near it were the marks of two
footsteps on a rock, one of them measured about an acre, the other
something less; the smaller one appeared to me to be that of
Bacchus, the larger that of Hercules; we paid our adorations to the
deities and proceeded. We had not got far before we met with a
river, which seemed exactly to resemble wine, particularly that of
Chios; {79} it was of a vast extent, and in many places navigable;
this circumstance induced us to give more credit to the inscription
on the pillar, when we perceived such visible marks of Bacchus's
presence here. As I had a mind to know whence this river sprung, I
went back to the place from which it seemed to arise, but could not
trace the spring; I found, however, several large vines full of
grapes, at the root of every one the wine flowed in great abundance,
and from them I suppose the river was collected. We saw a great
quantity of fish in it which were extremely like wine, both in taste
and colour, and after we had taken and eaten a good many of them we
found ourselves intoxicated; and when we cut them up, observed that
they were full of grape stones; it occurred to us afterwards that we
should have mixed them with some water fish, as by themselves they
tasted rather too strong of the wine.

We passed the river in a part of it which was fordable, and a little
farther on met with a most wonderful species of vine, the bottoms of
them that touched the earth were green and thick, and all the upper
part most beautiful women, with the limbs perfect from the waist,
only that from the tops of the fingers branches sprung out full of
grapes, just as Daphne is represented as turned into a tree when
Apollo laid hold on her; on the head, likewise, instead of hair they
had leaves and tendrils; when we came up to them they addressed us,
some in the Lydian tongue, some in the Indian, but most of them in
Greek; they would not suffer us to taste their grapes, but when
anybody attempted it, cried out as if they were hurt.

We left them and returned to our companions in the ship. We then
took our casks, filled some of them with water, and some with wine
from the river, slept one night on shore, and the next morning set
sail, the wind being very moderate. About noon, the island being
now out of sight, on a sudden a most violent whirlwind arose, and
carried the ship above three thousand stadia, lifting it up above
the water, from whence it did not let us down again into the seas
but kept us suspended {81a} in mid air, in this manner we hung for
seven days and nights, and on the eighth beheld a large tract of
land, like an island, {81b} round, shining, and remarkably full of
light; we got on shore, and found on examination that it was
cultivated and full of inhabitants, though we could not then see any
of them. As night came on other islands appeared, some large,
others small, and of a fiery colour; there was also below these
another land with seas, woods, mountains, and cities in it, and this
we took to be our native country: as we were advancing forwards, we
were seized on a sudden by the Hippogypi, {82a} for so it seems they
were called by the inhabitants; these Hippogypi are men carried upon
vultures, which they ride as we do horses. These vultures have each
three heads, and are immensely large; you may judge of their size
when I tell you that one of their feathers is bigger than the mast
of a ship. The Hippogypi have orders, it seems, to fly round the
kingdom, and if they find any stranger, to bring him to the king:
they took us therefore, and carried us before him. As soon as he
saw us, he guessed by our garb what we were. "You are Grecians,"
said he, "are you not?" We told him we were. "And how," added he,
"got ye hither through the air?" We told him everything that had
happened to us; and he, in return, related to us his own history,
and informed us, that he also was a man, that his name was Endymion,
{82b} that he had been taken away from our earth in his sleep, and
brought to this place where he reigned as sovereign. That spot,
{83a} he told us, which now looked like a moon to us, was the earth.
He desired us withal not to make ourselves uneasy, for that we
should soon have everything we wanted. "If I succeed," says he, "in
the war which I am now engaged in against the inhabitants of the
sun, you will be very happy here." We asked him then what enemies
he had, and what the quarrel was about? "Phaeton," he replied, "who
is king of the sun {83b} (for that is inhabited as well as the
moon), has been at war with us for some time past. The foundation
of it was this: I had formerly an intention of sending some of the
poorest of my subjects to establish a colony in Lucifer, which was
uninhabited: but Phaeton, out of envy, put a stop to it, by
opposing me in the mid-way with his Hippomyrmices; {84} we were
overcome and desisted, our forces at that time being unequal to
theirs. I have now, however, resolved to renew the war and fix my
colony; if you have a mind, you shall accompany us in the
expedition; I will furnish you everyone with a royal vulture and
other accoutrements; we shall set out to-morrow." "With all my
heart," said I, "whenever you please." We stayed, however, and
supped with him; and rising early the next day, proceeded with the
army, when the spies gave us notice that the enemy was approaching.
The army consisted of a hundred thousand, besides the scouts and
engineers, together with the auxiliaries, amongst whom were eighty
thousand Hippogypi, and twenty thousand who were mounted on the
Lachanopteri; {85a} these are very large birds, whose feathers are
of a kind of herb, and whose wings look like lettuces. Next to
these stood the Cinchroboli, {85b} and the Schorodomachi. {85c} Our
allies from the north were three thousand Psyllotoxotae {85d} and
five thousand Anemodromi; {85e} the former take their names from the
fleas which they ride upon, every flea being as big as twelve
elephants; the latter are foot-soldiers, and are carried about in
the air without wings, in this manner: they have large gowns
hanging down to their feet, these they tuck up and spread in a form
of a sail, and the wind drives them about like so many boats: in
the battle they generally wear targets. It was reported that
seventy thousand Strathobalani {86a} from the stars over Cappadocia
were to be there, together with five thousand Hippogerani; {86b}
these I did not see, for they never came: I shall not attempt,
therefore, to describe them; of these, however, most wonderful
things were related.

Such were the forces of Endymion; their arms were all alike; their
helmets were made of beans, for they have beans there of a
prodigious size and strength, and their scaly breast-plates of
lupines sewed together, for the skins of their lupines are like a
horn, and impenetrable; their shields and swords the same as our

The army ranged themselves in this manner: the right wing was
formed by the Hippogypi, with the king, and round him his chosen
band to protect him, amongst which we were admitted; on the left
were the Lachanopteri; the auxiliaries in the middle, the foot were
in all about sixty thousand myriads. They have spiders, you must
know, in this country, in infinite numbers, and of pretty large
dimensions, each of them being as big as one of the islands of the
Cyclades; these were ordered to cover the air from the moon quite to
the morning star; this being immediately done, and the field of
battle prepared, the infantry was drawn up under the command of
Nycterion, the son of Eudianax.

The left wing of the enemy, which was commanded by Phaeton himself,
consisted of the Hippomyrmices; these are large birds, and resemble
our ants, except with regard to size, the largest of them covering
two acres; these fight with their horns and were in number about
fifty thousand. In the right wing were the Aeroconopes, {87a} about
five thousand, all archers, and riding upon large gnats. To these
succeeded the Aerocoraces, {87b} light infantry, but remarkably
brave and useful warriors, for they threw out of slings exceeding
large radishes, which whoever was struck by, died immediately, a
most horrid stench exhaling from the wound; they are said, indeed,
to dip their arrows in a poisonous kind of mallow. Behind these
stood ten thousand Caulomycetes, {88a} heavy-armed soldiers, who
fight hand to hand; so called because they use shields made of
mushrooms, and spears of the stalks of asparagus. Near them were
placed the Cynobalani, {88b} about five thousand, who were sent by
the inhabitants of Sirius; these were men with dog's heads, and
mounted upon winged acorns: some of their forces did not arrive in
time; amongst whom there were to have been some slingers from the
Milky-way, together with the Nephelocentauri; {88c} they indeed came
when the first battle was over, and I wish {88d} they had never come
at all: the slingers did not appear, which, they say, so enraged
Phaeton that he set their city on fire.

Thus prepared, the enemy began the attack: the signal being given,
and the asses braying on each side, for such are the trumpeters they
make use of on these occasions, the left wing of the Heliots, unable
to sustain the onset of our Hippogypi, soon gave way, and we pursued
them with great slaughter: their right wing, however, overcame our
left. The Aeroconopes falling upon us with astonishing force, and
advancing even to our infantry, by their assistance we recovered;
and they now began to retreat, when they found the left wing had
been beaten. The defeat then becoming general, many of them were
taken prisoners and many slain; the blood flowed in such abundance
that the clouds were tinged with it and looked red, just as they
appear to us at sunset; from thence it distilled through upon the
earth. Some such thing, I suppose, happened formerly amongst the
gods, which made Homer believe that Jove {89} rained blood at the
death of Sarpedon.

When we returned from our pursuit of the enemy we set up two
trophies; one, on account of the infantry engagement in the spider's
web, and another in the clouds, for our battle in the air. Thus
prosperously everything went on, when our spies informed us that the
Nephelocentaurs, who should have been with Phaeton before the
battle, were just arrived: they made, indeed, as they approached
towards us, a most formidable appearance, being half winged horses
and half men; the men from the waist upwards, about as big as the
Rhodian Colossus, and the horses of the size of a common ship of
burthen. I have not mentioned the number of them, which was really
so great, that it would appear incredible: they were commanded by
Sagittarius, {90a} from the Zodiac. As soon as they learned that
their friends had been defeated they sent a message to Phaeton to
call him back, whilst they put their forces into order of battle,
and immediately fell upon the Selenites, {90b} who were unprepared
to resist them, being all employed in the division of the spoil;
they soon put them to flight, pursued the king quite to his own
city, and slew the greatest part of his birds; they then tore down
the trophies, ran over all the field woven by the spiders, and
seized me and two of my companions. Phaeton at length coming up,
they raised other trophies for themselves; as for us, we were
carried that very day to the palace of the Sun, our hands bound
behind us by a cord of the spider's web.

The conquerors determined not to besiege the city of the Moon, but
when they returned home, resolved to build a wall between them and
the Sun, that his rays might not shine upon it; this wall was double
and made of thick clouds, so that the moon was always eclipsed, and
in perpetual darkness. Endymion, sorely distressed at these
calamities, sent an embassy, humbly beseeching them to pull down the
wall, and not to leave him in utter darkness, promising to pay them
tribute, to assist them with his forces, and never more to rebel; he
sent hostages withal. Phaeton called two councils on the affair, at
the first of which they were all inexorable, but at the second
changed their opinion; a treaty at length was agreed to on these

The Heliots {92} and their allies on one part, make the following
agreement with the Selenites and their allies on the other:--"That
the Heliots shall demolish the wall now erected between them, that
they shall make no irruptions into the territories of the Moon; and
restore the prisoners according to certain articles of ransom to be
stipulated concerning them; that the Selenites shall permit all the
other stars to enjoy their rights and privileges; that they shall
never wage war with the Heliots, but assist them whenever they shall
be invaded; that the king of the Selenites shall pay to the king of
the Heliots an annual tribute of ten thousand casks of dew, for the
insurance of which, he shall send ten thousand hostages; that they
shall mutually send out a colony to the Morning-star, in which,
whoever of either nation shall think proper, may become a member;
that the treaty shall be inscribed on a column of amber, in the
midst of the air, and on the borders of the two kingdoms. This
treaty was sworn to on the part of the Heliots, by Pyronides, {93}
and Therites, and Phlogius; and on the part of the Selenites, by
Nyctor, and Menarus, and Polylampus."

Such was the peace made between them; the wall was immediately
pulled down, and we were set at liberty. When we returned to the
Moon, our companions met and embraced us, shedding tears of joy, as
did Endymion also. He intreated us to remain there, or to go along
with the new colony; this I could by no means be persuaded to, but
begged he would let us down into the sea. As he found I could not
be prevailed on to stay, after feasting us most nobly for seven
days, he dismissed us.

I will now tell you every thing which I met with in the Moon that
was new and extraordinary. Amongst them, when a man grows old he
does not die, but dissolves into smoke and turns to air. They all
eat the same food, which is frogs roasted on the ashes from a large
fire; of these they have plenty which fly about in the air, they get
together over the coals, snuff up the scent of them, and this serves
them for victuals. Their drink is air squeezed into a cup, which
produces a kind of dew.

He who is quite bald is esteemed a beauty amongst them, for they
abominate long hair; whereas, in the comets, it is looked upon as a
perfection at least; so we heard from some strangers who were
speaking of them; they have, notwithstanding, small beards a little
above the knee; no nails to their feet, and only one great toe.
They have honey here which is extremely sharp, and when they
exercise themselves, wash their bodies with milk; this, mixed with a
little of their honey, makes excellent cheese. {94} Their oil is
extracted from onions, is very rich, and smells like ointment.
Their wines, which are in great abundance, yield water, and the
grape stones are like hail; I imagine, indeed, that whenever the
wind shakes their vines and bursts the grape, then comes down
amongst us what we call hail. They make use of their belly, which
they can open and shut as they please, as a kind of bag, or pouch,
to put anything in they want; it has no liver or intestines, but is
hairy and warm within, insomuch, that new-born children, when they
are cold, frequently creep into it. The garments of the rich
amongst them are made of glass, but very soft: the poor have woven
brass, which they have here in great abundance, and by pouring a
little water over it, so manage as to card it like wool. I am
afraid to mention their eyes, lest, from the incredibility of the
thing, you should not believe me. I must, however, inform you that
they have eyes which they take in and out whenever they please: so
that they can preserve them anywhere till occasion serves, and then
make use of them; many who have lost their own, borrow from others;
and there are several rich men who keep a stock of eyes by them.
Their ears are made of the leaves of plane-trees, except of those
who spring, as I observed to you, from acorns, these alone have
wooden ones. I saw likewise another very extraordinary thing in the
king's palace, which was a looking-glass that is placed in a well
not very deep; whoever goes down into the well hears everything that
is said upon earth, and if he looks into the glass, beholds all the
cities and nations of the world as plain as if he was close to them.
I myself saw several of my friends there, and my whole native
country; whether they saw me also I will not pretend to affirm. He
who does not believe these things, whenever he goes there will know
that I have said nothing but what is true.

To return to our voyage. We took our leave of the king and his
friends, got on board our ship, and set sail. Endymion made me a
present of two glass robes, two brass ones, and a whole coat of
armour made of lupines, all which I left in the whale's belly. {96}
He likewise sent with us a thousand Hippogypi, who escorted us five
hundred stadia.

We sailed by several places, and at length reached the new colony of
the Morning-star, where we landed and took in water; from thence we
steered into the Zodiac; leaving the Sun on our left, we passed
close by his territory, and would have gone ashore, many of our
companions being very desirous of it, but the wind would not permit
us; we had a view, however, of that region, and perceived that it
was green, fertile, and well-watered, and abounding in everything
necessary and agreeable. The Nephelocentaurs, who are mercenaries
in the service of Phaeton, saw us and flew aboard our ship, but,
recollecting that we were included into the treaty, soon departed;
the Hippogypi likewise took their leave of us.

All the next night and day we continued our course downwards, and
towards evening came upon Lycnopolis: {97} this city lies between
the Pleiades and the Hyades, and a little below the Zodiac: we
landed, but saw no men, only a number of lamps running to and fro in
the market-place and round the port: some little ones, the poor, I
suppose, of the place; others the rich and great among them, very
large, light, and splendid: every one had its habitation or
candlestick to itself, and its own proper name, as men have. We
heard them speak: they offered us no injury, but invited us in the
most hospitable manner; we were afraid, notwithstanding: neither
would any of us venture to take any food or sleep. The king's court
is in the middle of the city; here he sits all night, calls every
one by name, and if they do not appear, condemns them to death for
deserting their post; their death is, to be put out; we stood by and
heard several of them plead their excuses for non-attendance. Here
I found my own lamp, talked to him, and asked him how things went on
at home; he told me everything that had happened. We stayed there
one night, and next day loosing our anchor, sailed off very near the
clouds; where we saw, and greatly admired the city of Nephelo-
coccygia, {98a} but the wind would not permit us to land. Coronus,
the son of Cottiphion, is king there. I remember Aristophanes,
{98b} the poet, speaks of him, a man of wisdom and veracity, the
truth of whose writings nobody can call in question. About three
days after this, we saw the ocean very plainly, but no land, except
those regions which hang in the air, and which appeared to us all
bright and fiery. The fourth day about noon, the wind subsiding, we
got safe down into the sea. No sooner did we touch the water, but
we were beyond measure rejoiced. We immediately gave every man his
supper, as much as we could afford, and afterwards jumped into the
sea and swam, for it was quite calm and serene.

It often happens, that prosperity is the forerunner of the greatest
misfortunes. We had sailed but two days in the sea, when early in
the morning of the third, at sun-rise, we beheld on a sudden several
whales, and one amongst them, of a most enormous size, being not
less than fifteen hundred stadia in length, he came up to us with
his mouth wide open, disturbing the sea for a long way before him,
the waves dashing round on every side; he whetted his teeth, which
looked like so many long spears, and were white as ivory; we
embraced and took leave of one another, expecting him every moment;
he came near, and swallowed us up at once, ship and all; he did not,
however, crush us with his teeth, for the vessel luckily slipped
through one of the interstices; when we were got in, for some time
it was dark, and we could see nothing; but the whale happening to
gape, we beheld a large space big enough to hold a city with ten
thousand men in it; in the middle were a great number of small fish,
several animals cut in pieces, sails and anchors of ships, men's
bones, and all kinds of merchandise; there was likewise a good
quantity of land and hills, which seemed to have been formed of the
mud which he had swallowed; there was also a wood, with all sorts of
trees in it, herbs of every kind; everything, in short, seemed to
vegetate; the extent of this might be about two hundred and forty
stadia. We saw also several sea-birds, gulls, and kingfishers,
making their nests in the branches. At our first arrival in these
regions, we could not help shedding tears; in a little time,
however, I roused my companions, and we repaired our vessel; after
which, we sat down to supper on what the place afforded. Fish of
all kinds we had here in plenty, and the remainder of the water
which we brought with us from the Morning-star. When we got up the
next day, as often as the whale gaped, we could see mountains and
islands, sometimes only the sky, and plainly perceived by our motion
that he travelled through the sea at a great rate, and seemed to
visit every part of it. At length, when our abode become familiar
to us, I took with me seven of my companions, and advanced into the
wood in order to see everything I could possibly; we had not gone
above five stadia, before we met with a temple dedicated to Neptune,
as we learned by the inscription on it, and a little farther on,
several sepulchres, monumental stones, and a fountain of clear
water; we heard the barking of a dog, and seeing smoke at some
distance from us, concluded there must be some habitation not far
off; we got on as fast as we could, and saw an old man and a boy
very busy in cultivating a little garden, and watering it from a
fountain; we were both pleased and terrified at the sight, and they,
as you may suppose, on their part not less affected, stood fixed in
astonishment and could not speak: after some time, however, "Who
are you?" said the old man; "and whence come ye? are you daemons of
the sea, or unfortunate men, like ourselves? for such we are, born
and bred on land, though now inhabitants of another element;
swimming along with this great creature, who carries us about with
him, not knowing what is to become of us, or whether we are alive or
dead." To which I replied, "We, father, are men as you are, and but
just arrived here, being swallowed up, together with our ship, but
three days ago; we came this way to see what the wood produced, for
it seemed large and full of trees; some good genius led us towards
you, and we have the happiness to find we are not the only poor
creatures shut up in this great monster; but give us an account of
your adventures, let us know who you are, and how you came here."
He would not however, tell us anything himself, or ask us any
questions, till he had performed the rites of hospitality; he took
us into his house, therefore, where he had got beds, and made
everything very commodious; here he presented us with herbs, fruit,
fish, and wine: and when we were satisfied, began to inquire into
our history; when I acquainted him with everything that had happened
to us; the storm we met with; our adventures in the island; our
sailing through the air, the war, etc., from our first setting out,
even to our descent into the whale's belly.

He expressed his astonishment at what had befallen us, and then told
us his own story, which was as follows:--"Strangers," said he, "I am
a Cyprian by birth, and left my country to merchandise with this
youth, who is my son, and several servants. We sailed to Italy with
goods of various kinds, some of which you may, perhaps, have seen in
the mouth of the whale; we came as far as Sicily with a prosperous
gale, when a violent tempest arose, and we were tossed about in the
ocean for three days, where we were swallowed up, men, ship and all,
by the whale, only we two remaining alive; after burying our
companions we built a temple to Neptune, and here we have lived ever
since, cultivating our little garden, raising herbs, and eating fish
or fruit. The wood, as you see, is very large, and produces many
vines, from which we have excellent wine; there is likewise a
fountain, which perhaps you have observed, of fresh and very cold
water. We make our bed of leaves, have fuel sufficient, and catch a
great many birds and live fish. Getting out upon the gills of the
whale, there we wash ourselves when we please. There is a salt
lake, about twenty stadia round, which produces fish of all kinds,
and where we row about in a little boat which we built on purpose.
It is now seven-and-twenty years since we were swallowed up.
Everything here, indeed, is very tolerable, except our neighbours,
who are disagreeable, troublesome, savage, and unsociable." "And
are there more," replied I, "besides ourselves in the whale?" "A
great many," said he, "and those very unhospitable, and of a most
horrible appearance: towards the tail, on the western parts of the
wood, live the Tarichanes, {104a} a people with eel's eyes, and
faces like crabs, bold, warlike, and that live upon raw flesh. On
the other side, at the right hand wall, are the Tritonomendetes,
{104b} in their upper parts men, and in the lower resembling
weasels. On the left are the Carcinochires, {104c} and the
Thynnocephali, {104d} who have entered into a league offensive and
defensive with each other. The middle part is occupied by the
Paguradae, {105a} and the Psittopodes, {105b} a warlike nation, and
remarkably swift-footed. The eastern parts, near the whale's mouth,
being washed by the sea, are most of them uninhabited. I have some
of these, however, on condition of paying an annual tribute to the
Psittopodes of five hundred oysters. Such is the situation of this
country; our difficulty is how to oppose so many people, and find
sustenance for ourselves." "How many may there be?" said I. "More
than a thousand," said he. "And what are their arms?" "Nothing,"
replied he, "but fish-bones." "Then," said I, "we had best go to
war with them, for we have arms and they none; if we conquer them we
shall live without fear for the future." This was immediately
agreed upon, and, as soon as we returned to our ship, we began to
prepare. The cause of the war was to be the non-payment of the
tribute, which was just now becoming due: they sent to demand it;
he returned a contemptuous answer to the messengers: the
Psittopodes and Paguradae were both highly enraged, and immediately
fell upon Scintharus (for that was the old man's name), in a most
violent manner.

We, expecting to be attacked, sent out a detachment of five-and-
twenty men, with orders to lie concealed till the enemy was past,
and then to rise upon them, which they did, and cut off their rear.
We, in the meantime, being likewise five-and-twenty in number, with
the old man and his son, waited their coming up, met, and engaged
them with no little danger, till at length they fled, and we pursued
them even into their trenches. Of the enemy there fell an hundred
and twenty; we lost only one, our pilot, who was run through by the
rib of a mullet. That day, and the night after it, we remained on
the field of battle, and erected the dried backbone of a dolphin as
a trophy. Next day some other forces, who had heard of the
engagement, arrived, and made head against us; the Tarichanes; under
the command of Pelamus, in the right wing, the Thynnocephali on the
left, and the Carcinochires in the middle; the Tritonomendetes
remained neutral, not choosing to assist either party: we came
round upon all the rest by the temple of Neptune, and with a hideous
cry, rushed upon them. As they were unarmed, we soon put them to
flight, pursued them into the wood, and took possession of their
territory. They sent ambassadors a little while after to take away
their dead, and propose terms of peace; but we would hear of no
treaty, and attacking them the next day, obtained a complete
victory, and cut them all off, except the Tritonomendetes, who,
informed of what had passed, ran away up to the whale's gills, and
from thence threw themselves into the sea. The country being now
cleared of all enemies, we rambled through it, and from that time
remained without fear, used what exercise we pleased, went a-
hunting, pruned our vines, gathered our fruit, and lived, in short,
in every respect like men put together in a large prison, which
there was no escaping from, but where they enjoy everything they can
wish for in ease and freedom; such was our way of life for a year
and eight months.

On the fifteenth day of the ninth month, about the second opening of
the whale's mouth (for this he did once every hour, and by that we
calculated our time), we were surprised by a sudden noise, like the
clash of oars; being greatly alarmed, we crept up into the whale's
mouth, where, standing between his teeth, we beheld one of the most
astonishing spectacles that was ever seen; men of an immense size,
each of them not less than half a stadium in length, sailing on
islands like boats. I know what I am saying is incredible, I shall
proceed, notwithstanding: these islands were long, but not very
high, and about a hundred stadia in circumference; there were about
eight-and-twenty of these men in each of them, besides the rowers on
the sides, who rowed with large cypresses, with their branches and
leaves on; in the stern stood a pilot raised on an eminence and
guiding a brazen helm; on the forecastle were forty immense
creatures resembling men, except in their hair, which was all a
flame of fire, so that they had no occasion for helmets; these were
armed, and fought most furiously; the wind rushing in upon the wood,
which was in every one of them, swelled it like a sail and drove
them on, according to the pilot's direction; and thus, like so many
long ships, the islands, by the assistance of the oars, also moved
with great velocity. At first we saw only two or three, but
afterwards there appeared above six hundred of them, which
immediately engaged; many were knocked to pieces by running against
each other, and many sunk; others were wedged in close together and,
not able to get asunder, fought desperately; those who were near the
prows showed the greatest alacrity, boarding each other's ships, and
making terrible havoc; none, however, were taken prisoners. For
grappling-irons they made use of large sharks chained together, who
laid hold of the wood and kept the island from moving: they threw
oysters at one another, one of which would have filled a waggon, and
sponges of an acre long. AEolocentaurus was admiral of one of the
fleets, and Thalassopotes {109} of the other: they had quarrelled,
it seems, about some booty; Thalassopotes, as it was reported,
having driven away a large tribe of dolphins belonging to
AEolocentaurus: this we picked up from their own discourse, when we
heard them mention the names of their commanders. At length the
forces of AEolocentaurus prevailed, and sunk about a hundred and
fifty of the islands of the enemy, and taking three more with the
men in them: the rest took to their oars and fled. The conquerors
pursued them a little way, and in the evening returned to the wreck,
seizing the remainder of the enemy's vessels, and getting back some
of their own, for they had themselves lost no less than fourscore
islands in the engagement. They erected a trophy for this victory,
hanging one of the conquered islands on the head of the whale, which
they fastened their hawsers to, and casting anchor close to him, for
they had anchors immensely large and strong, spent the night there:
in the morning, after they had returned thanks, and sacrificed on
the back of the whale, they buried their dead, sung their Io Paeans,
and sailed off. Such was the battle of the islands.


From this time our abode in the whale growing rather tedious and
disagreeable, not able to bear it any longer, I began to think
within myself how we might make our escape. My first scheme was to
undermine the right-hand wall and get out there; and accordingly we
began to cut away, but after getting through about five stadia, and
finding it was to no purpose, we left off digging, and determined to
set fire to the wood, which we imagined would destroy the whale, and
secure us a safe retreat. We began, therefore, by burning the parts
near his tail; for seven days and nights he never felt the heat, but
on the eighth we perceived he grew sick, for he opened his mouth
very seldom, and when he did, shut it again immediately; on the
tenth and the eleventh he declined visibly, and began to stink a
little; on the twelfth it occurred to us, which we had never thought
of before, that unless, whilst he was gaping, somebody could prop up
his jaws, to prevent his closing them, we were in danger of being
shut up in the carcase, and perishing there: we placed some large
beams, therefore, in his mouth, got our ship ready, and took in
water, and everything necessary: Scintharus was to be our pilot:
the next day the whale died; we drew our vessel through the
interstices of his teeth, and let her down from thence into the sea:
then, getting on the whale's back, sacrificed to Neptune, near the
spot where the trophy was erected. Here we stayed three days, it
being a dead calm, and on the fourth set sail; we struck upon
several bodies of the giants that had been slain in the sea-fight,
and measured them with the greatest astonishment: for some days we
had very mild and temperate weather, but the north-wind arising, it
grew so extremely cold, that the whole sea was froze up, not on the
surface only, but three or four hundred feet deep, so that we got
out and walked on the ice. The frost being so intense that we could
not bear it, we put in practice the following scheme, which
Scintharus put us in the head of: we dug a cave in the ice, where
we remained for thirty days, lighting a fire, and living upon the
fish which we found in it; but, our provisions failing, we were
obliged to loosen our ship which was stuck fast in, and hoisting a
sail, slid along through the ice with an easy pleasant motion; on
the fifth day from that time, it grew warm, the ice broke, and it
was all water again.

After sailing about three hundred stadia, we fell in upon a little
deserted island: here we took in water, for ours was almost gone,
killed with our arrows two wild oxen, and departed. These oxen had
horns, not on their heads, but, as Momus seemed to wish, under their
eyes. A little beyond this, we got into a sea, not of water, but of
milk; and upon it we saw an island full of vines; this whole island
was one compact well-made cheese, as we afterwards experienced by
many a good meal, which we made upon it, and is in length five-and-
twenty stadia. The vines have grapes upon them, which yield not
wine, but milk. In the middle of the island was a temple to the
Nereid {113} Galataea, as appeared by an inscription on it: as long
as we stayed there, the land afforded us victuals to eat, and the
vines supplied us with milk to drink. Tyro, {114a} the daughter of
Salmoneus, we were told, was queen of it, Neptune having, after her
death, conferred that dignity upon her.

We stopped five days on this island, and on the sixth set sail with
a small breeze, which gently agitated the waves, and on the eighth,
changed our milky sea for a green and briny one, where we saw a
great number of men running backwards and forwards, resembling
ourselves in every part, except the feet, which were all of cork,
whence, I suppose, they are called Phellopodes. {114b} We were
surprised to see them not sinking, but rising high above the waves,
and making their way without the least fear or apprehension; they
came up to, and addressed us in the Greek tongue, telling us they
were going to Phello, their native country; they accompanied us a
good way, and then taking their leave, wished us a good voyage. A
little after we saw several islands, amongst which, to the left of
us, stood Phello, to which these men were going, a city built in the
middle of a large round cork; towards the right hand, and at a
considerable distance, were many others, very large and high, on
which we saw a prodigious large fire: fronting the prow of our
ship, we had a view of one very broad and flat, and which seemed to
be about five hundred stadia off; as we approached near to it, a
sweet and odoriferous air came round us, such as Herodotus tells us
blows from Arabia Felix; from the rose, the narcissus, the hyacinth,
the lily, the violet, the myrtle, the laurel, and the vine.
Refreshed with these delightful odours, and in hopes of being at
last rewarded for our long sufferings, we came close up to the
island; here we beheld several safe and spacious harbours, with
clear transparent rivers rolling placidly into the sea; meadows,
woods, and birds of all kinds, chanting melodiously on the shore;
and, on the trees, the soft and sweet air fanning the branches on
every side, which sent forth a soft, harmonious sound, like the
playing on a flute; at the same time we heard a noise, not of riot
or tumult, but a kind of joyful and convivial sound, as of some
playing on the lute or harp, with others joining in the chorus, and
applauding them.

We cast anchor and landed, leaving our ship in the harbour with
Scintharus and two more of our companions. As we were walking
through a meadow full of flowers, we met the guardians of the isle,
who, immediately chaining us with manacles of roses, for these are
their only fetters, conducted us to their king. From these we
learned, on our journey, that this place was called the Island of
the Blessed, {116a} and was governed by Rhadamanthus. We were
carried before him, and he was sitting that day as judge to try some
causes; ours was the fourth in order. The first was that of Ajax
Telamonius, {116b} to determine whether he was to rank with the
heroes or not. The accusation ran that he was mad, and had made an
end of himself. Much was said on both sides. At length
Rhadamanthus pronounced that he should be consigned to the care of
Hippocrates, and go through a course of hellebore, after which he
might be admitted to the Symposium. The second was a love affair,
to decide whether Theseus or Menelaus should possess Helen in these
regions; and the decree of Rhadamanthus was, that she should live
with Menelaus, who had undergone so many difficulties and dangers
for her; besides, that Theseus had other women, the Amazonian lady
and the daughters of Minos. The third cause was a point of
precedency between Alexander the son of Philip, and Hannibal the
Carthaginian, which was given in favour of Alexander, who was placed
on a throne next to the elder Cyrus, the Persian. Our cause came on
the last. The king asked us how we dared to enter, alone as we
were, into that sacred abode. We told him everything that had
happened; he commanded us to retire, and consulted with the
assessors concerning us. There were many in council with him, and
amongst them Aristides, the just Athenian, and pursuant to his
opinion it was determined that we should suffer the punishment of
our bold curiosity after our deaths, but at present might remain in
the island for a certain limited time, associate with the heroes,
and then depart; this indulgence was not to exceed seven months.

At this instant our chains, if so they might be called, dropped off,
and we were left at liberty to range over the city, and to partake
of the feast of the blessed. The whole city was of gold, {118} and
the walls of emerald; the seven gates were all made out of one trunk
of the cinnamon-tree; the pavement, within the walls, of ivory; the
temples of the gods were of beryl, and the great altars, on which
they offered the hecatombs, all of one large amethyst. Round the
city flowed a river of the most precious ointment, a hundred cubits
in breadth, and deep enough to swim in; the baths are large houses
of glass perfumed with cinnamon, and instead of water filled with
warm dew. For clothes they wear spider's webs, very fine, and of a
purple colour. They have no bodies, but only the appearance of
them, insensible to the touch, and without flesh, yet they stand,
taste, move, and speak. Their souls seem to be naked, and separated
from them, with only the external similitude of a body, and unless
you attempt to touch, you can scarce believe but they have one; they
are a kind of upright shadows, {119} only not black. In this place
nobody ever grows old: at whatever age they enter here, at that
they always remain. They have no night nor bright day, but a
perpetual twilight; one equal season reigns throughout the year; it
is always spring with them, and no wind blows but Zephyrus. The
whole region abounds in sweet flowers and shrubs of every kind;
their vines bear twelve times in the year, yielding fruit every
month, their apples, pomegranates, and the rest of our autumnal
produce, thirteen times, bearing twice in the month of Minos.
Instead of corn the fields bring forth loaves of ready-made bread,
like mushrooms. There are three hundred and sixty-five fountains of
water round the city, as many of honey, and five hundred rather
smaller of sweet-scented oil, besides seven rivers of milk and eight
of wine.

Their symposia are held in a place without the city, which they call
the Elysian Field. This is a most beautiful meadow, skirted by a
large and thick wood, affording an agreeable shade to the guests,
who repose on couches of flowers; the winds attend upon and bring
them everything necessary, except wine, which is otherwise provided,
for there are large trees on every side made of the finest glass,
the fruit of which are cups of various shapes and sizes. Whoever
comes to the entertainment gathers one or more of these cups, which
immediately, becomes full of wine, and so they drink of it, whilst
the nightingales and other birds of song, with their bills peck the
flowers out of the neighbouring fields, and drop them on their
heads; thus are they crowned with perpetual garlands. Their manner
of perfuming them is this. The clouds suck up the scented oils from
the fountains and rivers, and the winds gently fanning them, distil
it like soft dew on those who are assembled there. At supper they
have music also, and singing, particularly the verses of Homer, who
is himself generally at the feast, and sits next above Ulysses, with
a chorus of youths and virgins. He is led in accompanied by Eunomus
the Locrian, {121a} Arion of Lesbos, Anacreon, and Stesichorus,
{121b} whom I saw there along with them, and who at length is
reconciled to Helen. When they have finished their songs, another
chorus begins of swans, {122a} swallows, and nightingales, and to
these succeeds the sweet rustling of the zephyrs, that whistle
through the woods and close the concert. What most contributes to
their happiness is, that near the symposium are two fountains, the
one of milk, the other of pleasure; from the first they drink at the
beginning of the feast; there is nothing afterwards but joy and

I will now tell you what men of renown I met with there. And first
there were all the demigods, and all the heroes that fought at Troy
except Ajax the Locrian, {122b} who alone, it seems, was condemned
to suffer for his crimes in the habitations of the wicked. Then
there were of the barbarians both the Cyruses, Anacharsis the
Scythian, Zamolxis of Thrace, {123a} and Numa the Italian; {123b}
besides these I met with Lycurgus the Spartan, Phocion and Tellus of
Athens, and all the wise men except Periander. {123c} I saw also
Socrates, the son of Sophroniscus, prating with Nestor and
Palamedes; near him were Hyacinthus of Sparta, Narcissus the
Thespian, Hylas, and several other beauties: he seemed very fond of
Hyacinthus. Some things were laid to his charge: it was even
reported that Rhadamanthus was very angry with him, and threatened
to turn him out of the island if he continued to play the fool, and
would not leave off his irony and sarcasm. Of all the philosophers,
Plato {123d} alone was not to be found there, but it seems he lived
in a republic of his own building, and which was governed by laws
framed by himself. Aristippus and Epicurus were in the highest
esteem here as the most polite, benevolent, and convivial of men.
Even AEsop the Phrygian was here, whom they made use of by way of
buffoon. Diogenes of Sinope had so wonderfully changed his manners
in this place, that he married Lais the harlot, danced and sang, got
drunk, and played a thousand freaks. Not one Stoic did I see
amongst them; they, it seems, were not yet got up to the top of the
high hill {124a} of virtue; and as to Chrysippus, we were told that
he was not to enter the island till he had taken a fourth dose of
hellebore. The Academicians, we heard, were very desirous of coming
here, but they stood doubting and deliberating about it, neither
were they quite certain whether there was such a place as Elysium or
not; perhaps they were afraid of Rhadamanthus's judgment {124b} on
them, as decisive judgments are what they would never allow. Many
of them, it is reported, followed those who were coming to the
island, but being too lazy to proceed, turned back when they were
got half way.

Such were the principal persons whom I met with here. Achilles is
had in the greatest honour among them, and next to him Theseus.

Two or three days after my arrival I met with the poet Homer, and
both of us being quite at leisure, asked him several questions, and
amongst the rest where he was born, that, as I informed him, having
been long a matter of dispute amongst us. We were very ignorant
indeed, he said, for some had made him a Chian, others a native of
Smyrna, others of Colophon, but that after all he was a Babylonian,
and amongst them was called Tigranes, though, after being a hostage
in Greece, they had changed his name to Homer. I then asked him
about those of his verses which are rejected as spurious, and
whether they were his or not. He said they were all his own, which
made me laugh at the nonsense of Zenodotus and Aristarchus the
grammarians. I then asked him how he came to begin his "Iliad" with


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