History of Apollonius of Tyre, Chapters 25-26


The king, once he heard this, was overjoyed, and immediately ordered that the ships be led upon the shore and filled with all the necessary supplies. Further, he ordered that the nurse, named Lycoris, and well experienced in assisting childbirth, should sail with them for the event of the birth. Once the farewell feast was given, he led them to the shore, kissing his daughter and son in law, and wishing them a favorable wind. The king then returned to his palace. Apollonius then boarded the ship with a large attendance of servants, along with an ample supply of provisions, and they sailed along their certain course with a blowing wind. They were detained for some days and nights on the sea because of the East Wind’s gusts, and under the compulsion of her ninth month, the princess gave birth. However, her afterbirth receded, the girl’s blood was congealed, and once her breath was constricted, she died. The servants saw this with a great clamor and cry of grief, at which point Apollonius ran and saw his wife lying lifeless. He ripped his shirt from his chest with his nails, tore out the beard of his early youth, and with his tears pouring forth, he threw himself over her body, and began to weep and say bitterly, “Dear wife, sole daughter of the king, what happened to you? How shall I respond about you to your father, or what shall I say, since he took me up as a poor and needy shipwreck?”

When he was weeping over these and similar things in a manly way, the captain entered, and said to him, “Master, you are doing the pious thing indeed, but the ship cannot bear the burden of a corpse. Order that the body be thrown into the sea, so that we can avoid the swelling of the waves. Apollonius did not bear this suggestion well, and said to him, “What sayst thou, vilest knave?  Does it please you that I should throw her body into the sea, though she rescued me when I was poor and shipwrecked?”

Apollonius had among his servants some carpenters, who were summoned and ordered to cut some boards and join them together, while filling with cracks and holes with pitch; with this they were to make an ample coffin joined over with lead leaf.

Once this was done, he decked her out in royal ornaments, put her together in her little spot, and placed twenty sesterces of gold upon her head. He gave her a kiss, poured out tears upon her, and ordered that the child be taken up and nourished, so that he could, in the midst of all his troubles, grant some solace to the king in exchange for his dead daughter.


He ordered that the coffin be thrown into the sea with the bitterest tears. On the third day, the waves tossed out the coffin. It came to the shore of Ephesus, not far from the estate of a certain doctor, who was walking along that day with his students near the shore, and when he saw the coffin so beaten about by the waves laying there, he ordered his servants to take up the coffin and bear it with all becoming diligence to his villa. Once the servants had done this, the doctor opened it and saw a wonderfully beautiful girl decked in regal ornaments, laying in a sort of false death, and said, “Oh, what tears this girl must have left to her parents!” He suddenly saw the money placed upon her head, and some note written underneath; he then said, “Let us find out grief demands or entreats.” Once he had broken the seal, he found written, “Whoever finds this coffin, which has within it twenty sesterces of gold, I ask that he take ten for himself, and use the other ten for a funeral, for this body has left behind many tears and the bitterest grief. If he does ought otherwise than my grief demands, may he die the last of his line, and may there be no one who would commit his body to burial.”

Once he had read the note, he said to his servants, “Give to the body what grief demands! Thus have I sworn by the hope of my own life that I will provide more for this funeral than grief demands!” Saying this, he ordered that a pyre be drawn up. While the pyre was being built in a diligent and solicitous fashion, a student of the doctor came upon them who looked like an adolescent, but was an old man if measured by his genius. Once he had seen the body of the girl placed upon the pyre, he looked at his teacher and said, “From whence comes this new funereal fashion?” His teacher said, “Ah, you have come just in time! Take an ampule of oil, and pour it over the highest point of the body of the dead girl.”

The young man pulled out the ampule, and went to the couch of the girl; he drew her clothes away from her chest, poured out the unguent, and traced over all her limbs with a careful hand; he then sensed that there was a languid silence in her heart. He stood dumbstruck, because he realized that the girl was in a state of false death. Palpitation in her veins gave indications of life, as did the air coming from her nostrils. He tested her lips with his, and sensed that life was struggling with death, and then said, “Place the torches into four corners.” Once this was done, he began to draw his hands back over the limbs which were laid out, and the blood, which had coagulated, became liquid again through the influence of the unguent.

25 Rex vero, ut audivit omnia, gaudens atque exhilaratus est et continuo iubet naves adduci in litore et omnibus bonis impleri. Praeterea nutricem eius nomine Lycoridem et obstetricem peritissimam propter partum eius simul navigare iussit. Et data profectoria deduxit eos ad litus, osculatur filiam et generum et ventum eis optat prosperum. Reversus est rex ad palatium. Apollonius vero ascendit naves cum multa familia multoque apparatu atque copia, et flante vento certum iter navigant.

Qui dum per aliquantos dies totidemque noctes Austri ventorum flatibus diu pelago detinerentur, nono mense cogente Lucina enixa est puella. Sed secundis rursum redeuntibus coagulato sanguine conclusoque spiritu subito defuncta est.

Quod cum videret familia cum clamore et ululatu magno, cucurrit Apollonius et vidit coniugem suam iacentem exanimem, scidit a pectore vestes unguibus et primas suae adulescentiae discerpit barbulas et lacrimis profusis iactavit se super corpus eius et coepit amarissime flere atque dicere: “Cara coniunx et unica regis filia, quid fuit de te? Quid respondebo pro te patri tuo aut quid de te proloquar, qui me naufragum suscepit pauperem et egenum?”

Et cum haec et his similia defleret atque ploraret fortiter, introivit gubernius, qui sic ait: “Domine, tu quidem pie facis, sed navis mortuum sufferre non potest. Iube ergo corpus in pelagus mitti, ut possimus undarum fluctus evadere.” Apollonius vero dictum aegre ferens ait ad eum: “Quid narras, pessime hominum? Placet tibi, ut eius corpus in pelagus mittam, qui me naufragum suscepit et egenum?”

Erant ex servis eius fabri, quibus convocatis secari et conpaginari tabulas, rimas et foramina picari praecepit et facere loculum amplissimum et carta plumbea obturari iubet eum inter iuncturas tabularum. Quo perfecto loculo regalibus ornamentis ornat puellam, in loculo composuit, et XX sestertia auri ad caput eius posuit. Dedit postremo osculum funeri, effudit super eam lacrimas et iussit infantem tolli et diligenter nutriri, ut haberet in malis suis aliquod solatium et pro filia sua neptem regi ostenderet.

26 Iussit loculum mitti in mare cum amarissimo fletu. Tertia die eiciunt undae loculum: venit ad litus Ephesiorum, non longe a praedio cuiusdam medici, qui in illa die cum discipulis suis deambulans iuxta litus vidit loculum effusis fluctibus iacentem et ait famulis suis: “Tollite hunc loculum cum omni diligentia et ad villam afferte!” Quod cum fecissent famuli, medicus libenter aperuit et vidit puellam regalibus ornamentis ornatam, speciosam valde et in falsa morte iacentem et ait: “Quantas putamus lacrimas hanc puellam suis parentibus reliquisse!” Et videns subito ad caput eius pecuniam positam et subtus codicillos scriptos ait: “Perquiramus, quid desiderat aut mandat dolor.”

Qui cum resignasset, invenit sic scriptum ‘Quicumque hunc loculum invenerit habentem in eo XX sestertia auri, peto ut X sestertia habeat, X vero funeri impendat. Hoc enim corpus multas dereliquit lacrimas et dolores amarissimos. Quodsi aliud fecerit, quam dolor exposcit, ultimus suorum decidat, nec sit, qui corpus suum sepulturae commendet’.

Perlectis codicillis ad famulos ait: “Praestetur corpori, quod imperat dolor! Iuravi itaque per spem vitae meae in hoc funere amplius me erogaturum, quam dolor exposcit.” Et haec dicens iubet continuo instrui rogum.

Sed dum sollicite atque studiose rogus aedificatur atque componitur, supervenit discipulus medici, aspectu adulescens, sed, quantum ingenio, senex. Hic cum vidisset speciosum corpus super rogum poni, intuens magistrum ait: “Unde hoc novum nescio quod funus?” Magister ait: “Bene venisti, haec enim hora te expectat. Tolle ampullam unguenti et, quod est supremum, defunctae corpori puellae superfunde.”

At vero adulescens tulit ampullam unguenti et ad lectum devenit puellae et detraxit a pectore vestes, unguentum fudit et omnes artus suspiciosa manu retractat, sentitque a praecordiis pectoris torporis quietem. Obstupuit iuvenis, quia cognovit puellam in falsa morte iacere. Palpat venarum indicia, rimatur auras narium; labia labiis probat: sentit gracile spirantis vitam prope luctare cum morte adultera et ait: “Supponite faculas per IIII partes.” Quod cum fecissent, tentat lentas igne supposito retrahere manus, et sanguis ille, qui coagulatus fuerat, per unctionem liquefactus est.

2 thoughts on “History of Apollonius of Tyre, Chapters 25-26

  1. As I read these episodes I wonder whether these novels were originally issued in serial form like Dickens novels. Every Kalends you would get the next instalment of the cliff hanger. The device of the heroine dying and coming back to life was used three times in Achilles Tatius’ novel “The adventures of Leucippe and Clitophon”.

    1. Along these lines, I wonder whether a riveting story would be reviewed by an ancient literary critic as, “a real scroll-unroller!”

      I am an unapologetic champion of ancient literature, but even the most fawning partisan of antiquity would be hard-pressed to find much aesthetic merit in the ancient novel.

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