History of Apollonius of Tyre, Chapters 30-32


Tharsia said to her, “Dear nurse, I call God as my witness, that if some downfall had befallen me before you could tell me these things, I would have been ignorant of my own lineage!” While they were relating their stories in turn, the nurse died in the girl’s lap. The girl provided for her nurse’s funeral, and grieved over her for a year. Once she set aside her grief, she resumed her previous dignity. She then sought out her old school, and returning to a study of the liberal arts, did not eat until she entered the nurse’s tomb, where she brought a vial and garlands. There, she called upon the spirits of her parents.


Meanwhile, on a certain holiday, Dionysias was walking in public with her own daughter, Philomusia, as well as Tharsia. When everyone saw Tharsia’s well-dressed appearance, she seemed to all of the citizens and nobles to be a something of a miracle. Everyone was saying, “Whoever is father to Tharsia is a right fortunate man; but that girl who stands to her side is a shameful little disgrace.” When Dionysias heard them praise Tharsia and criticize her own daughter, she fell into a fit of insanity. She sat down alone and began to think thus: “It has been fourteen years now since her father Apollonius set off from here, yet he has not come back to retrieve his daughter, nor has he sent us any letter. I imagine that he either died naturally, or has perished at sea. Indeed, his nurse is dead. I have no one to stand in my way. My plan cannot be accomplished unless I remove her from the middle, and adorn my daughter with her jewels.”

While she was revolving these plans in her mind, it was announced to her that the estate manager Theophilus had come to see her.

She called him to her and said, “If you would like to obtain your liberty, along with a little prize, get rid of Tharsia.”

He asked, “What has this innocent maiden done?”

“You dare to disobey me? Just do what I tell you, lest you have occasion to feel that your master and mistress are wroth with you.”

“How am I supposed to do it?” asked the manager.

“When she is returning from school, she has a habit of abstaining from food until she has visited the monument of her nurse. Hide yourself there with a dagger. Then, when she comes in, kill her and throw her body into the sea. Once you arrive back here and announce that the deed is done, you will have your freedom and your reward.”

The manager took the dagger and hid it at his side. He then looked to the sky and asked, “Oh God, do I not deserve my freedom except by spilling the blood of an innocent girl?” Saying this, he went weeping with troubled breath to the tomb of Tharsia’s nurse and hid himself there. The girl, returning from school her usual way, and pouring out the vial of wine, then entered the tomb and placed garlands therein. While she was busy invoking the spirits of her parents, the manager rushed at her, grabbed her hair, and threw her to the ground. As he was about to strike her dead, she said to him, “Theophilus, what have I done wrong, that I – an innocent maiden – should die at your hand?” Theophilus responded, “You have done nothing wrong. It is Apollonius, your father, who made a mistake in leaving you here with a heap of money and regal clothing, while entrusting you to Stranguillio and Dionysias.” When the girl heard this, she entreated him in tears, “Oh hope and solace of my life, please, let me call God as my witness!” The manager said, “Call him – God himself knows that I do not commit this crime by choice.”


While the girl was praying to the lord, some pirates suddenly arrived. They saw a man with weapon in hand about to strike a girl, and exclaimed, “Stand by, you barbarian! Stay yourself, and don’t kill her! For you see, she is our prize, and not your victim!” As the manager heard this, he fled and attempted to hide behind the tomb. The pirates, setting off for the shore, dragged the girl there and bound her up; then they set sail upon the sea.

Theophilus then returned after a delay, and once he saw that the girl had been abducted, he thanked God that he had not perpetrated the crime. He returned to his mistress and told her, “The deed is done – now fulfill your promise.” That wicked woman then said, “You have committed a murder, and now you want your liberty? Return to the estate, and get back to your work, lest master and mistress be wroth with you.” The manager then lifted his eyes to the sky and said, “Lord, you know that I did not commit the crime. Let there be a judge between us.” He then returned to the estate.

Then, Dionysias contemplating the crime which she had contemplated, considered how she could conceal it. She went to her husband Stranguillio and said, “Dear husband, save your wife, save your daughter! Awful censure hurled me into a mad fury and insanity, and suddenly I thought to myself, ‘Look now, it has been fourteen years since Apollonius left his daughter here, and he has never sent any letters; certainly he has died among the waves and storms of the sea. Certainly, his nurse is dead. I have no rival. I shall make Tharsia disappear, and adorn our daughter with her finery.’ Know this: it is done. But now, to ward off the curiosity of our citizens, put on mourning dress as I have, and we shall say with our false tears that she was taken off by a sudden illness of the stomach. We will construct a pyre right outside the city, where we will say that we rested her.”

As Stranguillio heard this, he was shaking and dumbfounded, and responded, “Yes, give me mourning clothes, that I may rightly grieve over myself, since Fortune has given me such a wicked wife! Oh me! Oh, the pain of it all! What shall I do about her father, who freed the city from death and the fear of starvation when I first found him, and then at my urging left the city! Because of this city, he suffered shipwreck, came face-to-face with death, lost all his possessions, and suffered the doom of poverty. When he was restored by God to a better fortune, he was pious and did not think about evil before good, nor did he keep it before his eyes, but he forgot all of the bad things, and on top of that, remembered us kindly in good fortune, gave is his trust, endowed us with gifts and because he thought us pious, gave us his daughter to raise. He regarded us with such an unaffected love that he would name his daughter after our city. Oh me, I have been blinded! Let me grieve for myself, that I have been joined to the vilest, most poisonous serpent, my wicked wife.” He raised his eyes to the sky and said, “God, you know that I am not tainted by the blood of Tharsia; look for her, and avenge her in Dionysias!” Then, looking at his wife, he said, “How, you enemy of God, will you be able to conceal this unspeakable crime?”

But Dionysias dressed herself and her daughter in mourning clothes, and poured out fictive tears. She called her fellow citizens to her and said, “Dearest citizens, we have called you here because we have lost the hope of our days, the work and outcome of our years. That is, Tharsia, whom you well know, has left to us suffering and bitter tears; we have buried in as dignified a manner as possible.” Then the citizens made their way to the sepulcher wrought by Dionysias, and they constructed a pyre in exchange for the deeds and favors of Apollonius; they added a bronze inscription which read thus: “Dedicated to the spirits of the dead. The citizens of Tharsus dedicate this to the maiden Tharsia because of her father’s good deeds.”

30 Cui Tharsia ait: “Cara nutrix, testor deum, quod si fortasse aliqui casus mihi evenissent, antequam haec mihi referres, penitus ego nescissem stirpem nativitatis meae!” Et cum haec adinvicem confabularentur, nutrix in gremio puellae emisit spiritum. Puella vero corpus nutricis suae sepulturae mandavit, lugens eam anno. Et deposito luctu induit priorem dignitatem et petiit scolam suam et ad studia liberalia reversa non prius sumebat cibum, nisi primo monumentum intraret ferens ampullam vini et coronas. Et ibi manes parentum suorum invocabat.

31 Et dum haec aguntur, quodam die feriato Dionysias cum filia sua nomine Philomusia et Tharsia puella transibat per publicum. Videntes omnes cives speciem Tharsiae ornatam, omnibus civibus et honoratis miraculum apparebat, atque omnes dicebant: “Felix pater, cuius filia est Tharsia, illa vero, quae adhaeret lateri eius, multum turpis est atque dedecus.”

Dionysias vero, ut audivit laudare Tharsiam et suam vituperare filiam in insaniae furorem conversa est. Et sedens sola coepit cogitare taliter: “Pater eius Apollonius, ex quo hinc profectus est, habet annos XIIII et nunquam venit ad suam recipiendam filiam nec nobis misit litteras. Puto, quia mortuus est aut in pelago periit. Nutrix vero eius decessit. Neminem habeo aemulum. Non potest fieri nisi ferro aut veneno tollam illam de medio; et ornamentis eius filiam meam ornabo.”

Et dum haec secum cogitat, nuntiatur ei villicum venisse nomine Theophilum. Quem ad se convocans ait: “Si cupis habere libertatem cum praemio, tolle Tharsiam de medio.” Villicus ait: “Quid enim peccavit virgo innocens?” Scelesta mulier ait: “Iam mihi non pares? Tantum fac, quod iubeo. Sin alias, sentias esse contra te iratos dominum et dominam.” Villicus ait: “Et qualiter hoc potest fieri?” Scelesta mulier ait: “Consuetudo sibi est, ut mox cum de scola venerit, non prius cibum sumat, antequam monumentum suae nutricis intraverit. Oportet te ibi cum pugione abscondere, et eam venientem interfice et proice corpus eius in mare. Et cum adveneris et de hoc facto nuntiaveris, cum praemio libertatem accipies.”

Villicus tulit pugionem et latere suo celat et intuens caelum ait: “Deus, ego non merui libertatem accipere nisi per effusionem sanguinis virginis innocentis?” Et haec dicens suspirans et flens ibat ad monumentum nutricis Tharsiae et ibi latuit.

Puella autem rediens de scola solito more fudit ampullam vini et ingressa monumentum posuit coronas supra, et dum invocat manes parentum suorum, villicus impetum fecit et aversae puellae capillos apprehendit et eam iactavit in terram. Et cum eam vellet percutere, ait ad eum puella: “Theophile, quid peccavi, ut manu tua innocens virgo moriar?” Cui villicus ait: “Tu nihil peccasti, sed pater tuus peccavit Apollonius, qui te cum magna pecunia et vestimentis regalibus reliquit Stranguillioni et Dionysiadi. “Quod puella audiens eum cum lacrimis deprecata est: “Vitae meae spes aut solatium, permitte me testari dominum!” Cui villicus ait: “Testare. Et deus ipse scit voluntate me hoc scelus non facere.”

32 Itaque puella cum dominum deprecatur, subito advenerunt piratae et videntes hominem armata manu velle eam percutere, exclamaverunt dicentes: “Parce, barbare, parce et noli occidere! Haec enim nostra praeda est et non tua victima!” Sed ut audivit villicus vocem, eam dimittit et fugit et coepit latere post monumentum. Piratae applicantes ad litus tulerunt virginem et colligantes altum petierunt pelagus.

Villicus post moram rediit, et ut vidit puellam raptam a morte, deo gratias egit, quod non fecit scelus. Et reversus ad dominam suam ait: “Quod praecepisti, factum est; comple, quod mihi promiseras.” Scelesta mulier ait: “Homicidium fecisti; insuper et libertatem petis? Revertere ad villam et opus tuum facito, ne iratos dominum et dominam sentias!” Villicus itaque, ut audivit, elevans ad caelum oculos dixit: “Tu scis, deus, quod non feci scelus. Esto iudex inter nos.” Et ad villam suam abiit.

Tunc Dionysias apud semet ipsam consiliata pro scelere quod excogitaverat, quomodo possit facinus illud celare, ingressa ad maritum suum Stranguillionem sic ait: “Care coniunx, salva coniugem, salva filiam nostram. Vituperia in grandem me furiam concitaverunt et insaniam, subitoque aput me excogitavi dicens: ‘Ecce iam sunt anni plus XIIII, ex quo nobis suus pater commendavit Tharsiam, et numquam salutarias nobis misit litteras: forsitan aut afflictione luctus est mortuus aut certe inter fluctus maris et procellas periit. Nutrix vero eius defuncta est. Nullum habeo aemulum. Tollam Tharsiam de medio et eius ornamentis nostram ornabo filiam.’ Quod et factum esse scias. Nunc vero propter civium curiositatem ad praesens indue vestes lugubres, sicut ego facio, et falsis lacrimis dicamus eam subito dolore stomachi fuisse defunctam. Hic prope in suburbio faciamus rogum maximum, ubi dicamus eam esse positam.”

Stranguillio ut audivit, tremor et stupor in eum irruit, et ita respondit: “Equidem da mihi vestes lugubres, ut lugeam me, qui talem sum sortitus sceleratam coniugem. Heu mihi! Pro dolor!” inquit, “Quid faciam, quid agam de patre eius, quem primo cum suscepissem, cum civitatem istam a morte et periculo famis liberavit, meo suasu egressus est civitatem; propter hanc civitatem naufragium incidit, mortem vidit, sua perdidit, exitium penuriae perpessus est: a deo vero in melius restitutus malum pro bono quasi pius non excogitavit neque ante oculos illud habuit, sed omnia oblivioni ducens, insuper adhuc memor nostri in bono, fidem eligens, remunerans nos et pios aestimans, filiam suam nutriendam tradidit, tantam simplicitatem et amorem circa nos gerens, ut civitatis nostrae filiae suae nomen imponeret. Heu mihi, caecatus sum! Lugeam me et innocentem virginem, qui iunctus sum ad pessimam venenosamque serpentem et iniquam coniugem.” Et in caelum levans oculos ait: “Deus, tu scis, quia purus sum a sanguine Tharsiae, et requiras et vindices illam in Dionysiade!” Et intuens uxorem suam ait: “Quo, inimica dei, celare poteris hoc nefandum facinus?”

Dionysias vero induit se et filiam suam vestes lugubres, falsasque fundit lacrimas et cives ad se convocat, quibus ait: “Carissimi cives, ideo vos clamavimus, quia spem luminum et labores et exitus annorum nostrorum perdidimus: id est, Tharsia, quam bene nostis, nobis cruciatus et fletus reliquit amarissimos; quam digne sepelire fecimus.” Tunc pergunt cives, ubi figuratum fuerat sepulcrum a Dionysiade, et pro meritis ac beneficiis Apollonii, patris Tharsiae, fabricantes rogum ex aere conlato inscripserunt taliter: D. M. CIVES THARSI THARSIAE VIRGINI BENEFICIIS TYRII APOLLONII.

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