Wandering Souls and Empty Bodies

These tales are popular among the paradoxographers. Apollonios also tells of Epimenides and Aristeas, and Hermotimus.

 Pliny the Elder 7. 174-5 

“This is the mortal condition—we are born to face these chance occurrences and others like them so that we ought not even trust death when it comes to a human. We find, among other examples, so soul of Hermotimos the Clazomenian which was in the habit of wandering with his body left behind and after a long journey to announce what they could not know unless they were present. Meanwhile, the body remained half-alive until it was cremated by some enemies called the Cantharidae who, ultimately, stole from the returning body as if taking away a sheath.

We also know of Aristeas of Procennesus whose soul was seen alighting from his mouth in the image of a crow—along with the excessive fiction that accompanies this tale. I also approach the story of Epimenides of Knossos in a similar way: when he was a boy and tired out by heat and a journey he went to sleep in a cave and slumbered for 57 years. Upon waking, he wondering and the shape of things and the change as if it were just the next day. Even though old age overcame him in the same number of days as years slept, he still lived to 157 years old.

The gender of women seems to be especially susceptible to this ill because of the disruption of the womb—which, if corrected can restore proper breathing. That work famous among the Greeks of Heraclides pertains to this subject as well—he tells the story of a woman returned to life after being dead for seven days.”

haec est conditio mortalium: ad has et eiusmodi occasiones fortunae gignimur, ut de homine ne morti quidem debeat credi. reperimus inter exempla Hermotimi Clazomenii animam relicto corpore errare solitam vagamque e longinquo multa adnuntiare quae nisi a praesente nosci non possent, corpore interim semianimi, donec cremato eo inimici qui Cantharidae vocabantur remeanti animae veluti vaginam ademerint; Aristeae etiam visam evolantem ex ore in Proconneso corvi effigie, cum magna quae sequitur hanc fabulositate. quam equidem et in Gnosio Epimenide simili modo accipio, puerum aestu et itinere fessum in specu septem et quinquaginta dormisse annis, rerum faciem mutationemque mirantem velut postero die experrectum, hinc pari numero dierum senio ingruente, ut tamen in septimum et quinquagesimum atque centesimum vitae duraret annum. feminarum sexus huic malo videtur maxime opportunus conversione volvae, quae si corrigatur, spiritus restituitur. huc pertinet nobile illud apud Graecos volumen Hexaclidis septem diebus feminae exanimis ad vitam revocatae.

Image result for medieval manuscript epimenides
Yates_thompson_ms_14_f070v_detail

The Hyena’s Alternating Gender

Aelian, History of Animals 1.25

“if you should at any time see the male Hyena, the next time you see the same animal it will be female. If you see the female first, then later you will see the male. They have the aspects of sex in common: they marry and are married and they alternate their nature every year. Therefore, this animal has demonstrated the antique nature of Kaineus and Teiresias not with wild tales but with the fact themselves.”

Τὴν ὕαιναν τῆτες μὲν ἄρρενα εἰ θεάσαιο, τὴν αὐτὴν ἐς νέωτα ὄψει θῆλυν· εἰ δὲ θῆλυν νῦν, μετὰ ταῦτα ἄρρενα· κοινωνοῦσί τε ἀφροδίτης ἑκατέρας, καὶ γαμοῦσί τε καὶ γαμοῦνται, ἀνὰ ἔτος πᾶν ἀμείβουσαι τὸ γένος. οὐκοῦν τὸν Καινέα καὶ τὸν Τειρεσίαν ἀρχαίους ἀπέδειξε τὸ ζῷον τοῦτο οὐ κόμποις ἀλλὰ τοῖς ἔργοις αὐτοῖς.

From bestiary.ca

An explanation:

Wandering Souls and Empty Bodies

These tales are popular among the paradoxographers. Apollonios also tells of Epimenides and Aristeas, and Hermotimus.

 Pliny the Elder 7. 174-5 

“This is the mortal condition—we are born to face these chance occurrences and others like them so that we ought not even trust death when it comes to a human. We find, among other examples, so soul of Hermotimos the Clazomenian which was in the habit of wandering with his body left behind and after a long journey to announce what they could not know unless they were present. Meanwhile, the body remained half-alive until it was cremated by some enemies called the Cantharidae who, ultimately, stole from the returning body as if taking away a sheath.

We also know of Aristeas of Procennesus whose soul was seen alighting from his mouth in the image of a crow—along with the excessive fiction that accompanies this tale. I also approach the story of Epimenides of Knossos in a similar way: when he was a boy and tired out by heat and a journey he went to sleep in a cave and slumbered for 57 years. Upon waking, he wondering and the shape of things and the change as if it were just the next day. Even though old age overcame him in the same number of days as years slept, he still lived to 157 years old.

The gender of women seems to be especially susceptible to this ill because of the disruption of the womb—which, if corrected can restore proper breathing. That work famous among the Greeks of Heraclides pertains to this subject as well—he tells the story of a woman returned to life after being dead for seven days.”

haec est conditio mortalium: ad has et eiusmodi occasiones fortunae gignimur, ut de homine ne morti quidem debeat credi. reperimus inter exempla Hermotimi Clazomenii animam relicto corpore errare solitam vagamque e longinquo multa adnuntiare quae nisi a praesente nosci non possent, corpore interim semianimi, donec cremato eo inimici qui Cantharidae vocabantur remeanti animae veluti vaginam ademerint; Aristeae etiam visam evolantem ex ore in Proconneso corvi effigie, cum magna quae sequitur hanc fabulositate. quam equidem et in Gnosio Epimenide simili modo accipio, puerum aestu et itinere fessum in specu septem et quinquaginta dormisse annis, rerum faciem mutationemque mirantem velut postero die experrectum, hinc pari numero dierum senio ingruente, ut tamen in septimum et quinquagesimum atque centesimum vitae duraret annum. feminarum sexus huic malo videtur maxime opportunus conversione volvae, quae si corrigatur, spiritus restituitur. huc pertinet nobile illud apud Graecos volumen Hexaclidis septem diebus feminae exanimis ad vitam revocatae.

Image result for medieval manuscript epimenides
Yates_thompson_ms_14_f070v_detail

Mermaids in Greece and Rome?

My wife has a job at a remote island hospital on the weekends and we often travel with her by ferry. During the busier part of the summer it is too busy to get a vehicle on the ferry, so we took a taxi to the hospital apartment this morning. The driver had a pile of books next to the gear shaft and one was Claude Levi-Strauss’s The Savage Mind. I asked the driver what he thought of Levi-Strauss, and he said “Not much. But I do like what he says about mermaids. I have been thinking about mermaids since I lived in Montreal in 1969.”

The driver proceeded to tell me that there was a global conspiracy to hide the truth about mermaids from the rest of us: not only do they exist—and many have recently been captured alive and dead—but they leave coral spears in sharks all over the world, they can dive over 100 feet, and they are actually our ancestors. And, just in case I was interested, they don’t wear shells on their breasts.

Now, I had not ever really given much thoughts to mermaids. Sea-nymphs and the like seem like obvious analogs in Greek myth occupying a positive angle—as in Thetis and the daughters of Nereus—or a negative one as in Skylla or the Sirens. And there are transformations like those of Ino the Cadmeid into Leukothea the ‘sea-nymph’ who rescues Odysseus in Odyssey 5. But there’s more! (thanks to Wikipedia and googling the truth about mermaids).

Picture Of The Goddess Atargatis As A Fish With Human Head On Ancient Greek Coin
Demetrios III Eukairos, Late 2nd, early 1st Century BCE (Derketo on back of coin)

Pliny, Nat. Hist. 5

“The following is about the interior lands. Hollow Syria contains Apamea which is divided from the tetrarchy of the Nosairis by the river Marsyas; Bambyx, which is also called Hierapolis and Mabog by the Syrians. This is where the fearsome goddess Atargatis, whom the Greeks call Dercetô, is worshipped.”

XIX. Nunc interiora dicantur. Coele habet Apameam Marsya amne divisam a Nazerinorum tetrarchia, Bambycen quae alio nomine Hierapolis vocatur, Syris vero Mabog—ibi prodigiosa Atargatis, Graecis autem Derceto dicta, colitur

Atagartis=Astarte

In the following example we find a typical motif of a figure turned into an animal because of an illicit love affair. The resulting blend imagined in this account is like the image on the coin above: fish-body with human head.

Diodorus Siculus, 2.82

“In Syria, there is a city called Askalôn and close to it is a large lake full of fish. Next to it, there is the precinct of the well-known goddess the Syrians call Dercetô. She has the head of a woman, but her body is completely fish for the following reasons. The most well-versed of the region tell the story that because Aphrodite was angry at this goddess, she filled her with love for a certain pretty youth among those sacrificing to her. After she had sex with the Syrian man, she gave birth to a daughter. Because she was ashamed for her actions, she killed the youth and exposed the child in a a deserted, rocky place. Beset by shame and grief, she threw herself into the lake and the shape of her body reformed into a fish. For this reason Syrians still abstain from the animal to this day and honor fish as gods.”

Κατὰ τὴν Συρίαν τοίνυν ἔστι πόλις Ἀσκάλων, καὶ ταύτης οὐκ ἄπωθεν λίμνη μεγάλη καὶ βαθεῖα πλήρης ἰχθύων. παρὰ δὲ ταύτην ὑπάρχει τέμενος θεᾶς ἐπιφανοῦς, ἣν ὀνομάζουσιν οἱ Σύροι Δερκετοῦν· αὕτη δὲ τὸ μὲν πρόσωπον ἔχει γυναικός, τὸ δ᾿ ἄλλο σῶμα πᾶν ἰχθύος διά τινας τοιαύτας αἰτίας. μυθολογοῦσιν οἱ λογιώτατοι τῶν ἐγχωρίων τὴν Ἀφροδίτην προσκόψασαν τῇ προειρημένῃ θεᾷ δεινὸν ἐμβαλεῖν ἔρωτα νεανίσκου τινὸς τῶν θυόντων οὐκ ἀειδοῦς· τὴν δὲ Δερκετοῦν μιγεῖσαν τῷ Σύρῳ γεννῆσαι μὲν θυγατέρα, καταισχυνθεῖσαν δ᾿ ἐπὶ τοῖς ἡμαρτημένοις τὸν μὲν νεανίσκον ἀφανίσαι, τὸ δὲ παιδίον εἴς τινας ἐρήμους καὶ πετρώδεις τόπους ἐκθεῖναι·ἑαυτὴν δὲ διὰ τὴν αἰσχύνην καὶ λύπην ῥίψασαν εἰς τὴν λίμνην μετασχηματισθῆναι τὸν τοῦ σώματος τύπον εἰς ἰχθῦν· διὸ καὶ τοὺς Σύρους μέχρι τοῦ νῦν ἀπέχεσθαι τούτου τοῦ ζῴου καὶ τιμᾶν τοὺς ἰχθῦς ὡς θεούς.

Sirens are more ornithogunaikes (bird-women) than ikhthuogunaikes (“fish-women”)

In other accounts we find an association with pigeons as well–perhaps a symbolic bleed from the association of women with birds (e.g. Sirens, Harpies etc.) and women with fish. The important thing for myth and genealogy is that this goddess becomes the mother of the famous Semiramis, a wife of King Nimrod and eventually ruler herself of Assyria). Here we get a description of mermaids closer to our own…

Lucian, On the Syrian Goddess 14

“There is an ancient story among them about the shrine of this sort. There are some who say that Semiramis the Babylonian, many of whose deeds are in Asia, built this temple but erected it for her mother, named Derketô rather than Hera. I saw an image of Derketô in Phoenicia, a wonderful sight. She is half woman—but as much of her as extends from thighs to the end of her feet was made up with a fish tail! But the statue at Hierapols is just a woman.

The explanations for this story are not really mysterious. For they believe that fish are sacred creatures—they don’t touch them—and they use the rest of the birds for food except they refrain from eating pigeons, which are also sacred. They think that Derketô and pigeons are holy for the following reasons. They think that Derketô takes the shape of a fish; and Semiramos turned into a pigeon. But I will accept that the temple in question belongs to Semiramos. I cannot believe that it is Derketô’s since even some of the Egyptians do not eat fish, and they don’t do it to please Derketô!”

     ῾Ο μὲν ὦν ἀρχαῖος αὐτοῖσι λόγος ἀμφὶ τοῦ ἱροῦ τοιόσδε ἐστίν. ἄλλοι δὲ Σεμίραμιν τὴν Βαβυλωνίην, τῆς δὴ πολλὰ ἔργα ἐν τῇ ᾿Ασίῃ ἐστίν, ταύτην καὶ τόδε τὸ ἕδος εἵσασθαι νομίζουσιν, οὐκ ῞Ηρῃ δὲ εἵσασθαι ἀλλὰ μητρὶ ἑωυτῆς, τῆς Δερκετὼ οὔνομα. Δερκετοῦς δὲ εἶδος ἐν Φοινίκῃ ἐθεησάμην, θέημα ξένον· ἡμισέη μὲν γυνή, τὸ δὲ ὁκόσον ἐκ μηρῶν ἐς ἄκρους πόδας ἰχθύος οὐρὴ ἀποτείνεται. ἡ δὲ ἐν τῇ ἱρῇ πόλει πᾶσα γυνή ἐστιν, πίστιες δὲ τοῦ λόγου αὐτοῖσιν οὐ κάρτα ἐμφανέες. ἰχθύας χρῆμα ἱρὸν νομίζουσιν καὶ οὔκοτε ἰχθύων ψαύουσι· καὶ ὄρνιθας  τοὺς μὲν ἄλλους σιτέονται, περιστερὴν δὲ μούνην οὐ σιτέονται, ἀλλὰ σφίσιν ἥδε ἱρή. τὰ δὲ γιγνόμενα δοκέει αὐτοῖς ποιέεσθαι Δερκετοῦς καὶ Σεμιράμιος εἵνεκα, τὸ μὲν ὅτι Δερκετὼ μορφὴν ἰχθύος ἔχει, τὸ δὲ ὅτι τὸ Σεμιράμιος τέλος ἐς περιστερὴν ἀπίκετο. ἀλλ’ ἐγὼ τὸν μὲν νηὸν ὅτι Σεμιράμιος ἔργον ἐστὶν τάχα κου δέξομαι· Δερκετοῦς δὲ τὸ ἱρὸν ἔμμεναι οὐδαμὰ πείθομαι, ἐπεὶ καὶ παρ’ Αἰγυπτίων ἐνίοισιν ἰχθύας οὐ σιτέονται, καὶ τάδε οὐ Δερκετοῖ χαρίζονται.

I can connect this to Homer too!

“Around the waters of the Kaustrios on the Asian plain…”

᾿Ασίω ἐν λειμῶνι Καϋστρίου ἀμφὶ ῥέεθρα , Il. 2.461

Schol. A  ad Il. 2.461d

“Kaüstros was the son of Penthesileia, the Amazon, who married Derketô and had Semiramis from her. Among the Syrians, Derketô is called Atargatis.”

(Porph. ?) Κάϋστρος υἱὸς Πενθεσιλείας τῆς ᾿Αμαζόνος, ὃς ἐν ᾿Ασκάλωνι ἔγημεν τὴν Δερκετὼ καὶ ἐξ αὐτῆς ἔσχεν τὴν Σεμίραμιν. | ἡ δὲ Δερκετὼ παρὰ Σύροις καλεῖται ᾿Αταργατῖς. A

 

Some addenda from our friends on Twitter:

Alexander in India: Talking Trees Prophesy Death

For previous translations from the Alexander Romance (attributed to Pseudo-Callisthenes but available in many different versions and languages), including Alexander’s visit with the naked-philosophers, go here.

Alexander’s Letter to Aristotle about India (Alexander Romance 3.17)

“Once we had organized everything, we went by the road that naturally leads to the Prasiakan land. And when I was ready to go, around the sixth hour, a wonder appeared in the sky in the third month, named Dios. First, a wind arose suddenly with a force that knocked the tents to the ground along with those of us who were standing around [the Armenian version goes on to describe a great deal of snow that killed many men]. After thirty days the road was passable and we departed. After five days we conquered Prasaikê along with Poros and all this stuff. His city overflowed with goods which I have already described to you.

When this happened and I was setting everything in perfectly good order, many of the Indians came to me willingly and were saying, “King Alexander, you will take cities, and palaces, mountains, and tribes, place where no living man or king has ever gone…” And then some very smart men came out and were saying to me “King, we have something beyond belief to show you. For we will show you plants that talk like men….” Then they led us to some preserve, a guard [for them]…and a temple of the sun and the moon. There are two trees there that talked. They were close in size to the cypress. The trees were in a circle, similar to the Egyptian chestnut tree and with similar fruit. They claimed that one was male with male offspring and one was female with female offspring—and that the name of one was the sun and the name of the female was the moon.

The trees had been draped with the skins of all sorts of animals (female skins on the female tree; male skins on the male tree). Near them there was neither iron, nor bronze, nor tin, nor clay for pottery. When I asked them what these hides seemed to be, they said they were from lions and leopards It is not possible to conduct a burial here without the priest of the sun and the moon. They use the skins of the beasts for ceremonial purposes.

I set out to learn about the origin of the trees. They said “When it is the first part of dawn and the sun is rising, a voice issues from the tree. And when the sun is at the middle of the sky and then again when it is about to set, a third time. The same thing occurs with the moon.” Men who appeared to be priests approached me saying “Enter cleansed and fall to your knees.” I took with me my friends Parmenion, Krateros, Iollas, Makhêtês, Thrasuleon, Theodektês, Diiphilos, Neokles, altogether ten. And the priest was saying “King, it is not permitted for iron to enter the shrine.” I ordered my men to put aside their swords. Unarmed men came from my army and I ordered them all to observe the place in a circle. Then I selected some men from the Indians to accompany us so they might interpret for me. I prayed to the Olympian Ammon, Athena the bringer of victory, and the other gods.

Just as the sun went down an Indian voice issued from the tree. It was interpreted by the Indians who were present with us. Because of fear, they were unwilling to translate it. I became agitated and berated them one by one. Eventually the Indians said this: “You will die soon at the hands of your friends.” Even though I and those with me were thunderstruck, I desired to get another oracle from the moon as it rose into sight. Now armed with knowledge of the future I entered and asked if I should embrace my mother Olympias and my relatives. Again then as my friends stood around the tree issued a voice to me, but this time in Greek, “King Alexander, you must die in Babylon. You will be slain by your own people and you will not return to your mother Olympias.”

“Even as my friends and I were distraught by this, I desired to bestow the finest garlands upon the gods. Then the priest was saying “It is not possible to do this. But if you will force it, do what you want. For there is no law written for a king.”

As I was laying in deep grief and disturbed, Parmenion and Philip encouraged me to go to sleep. But I was not able to sleep, I got up and left near dawn with my ten friends, the priest and the Indians and again when to the shrine giving out orders. I went to the shrine with the priest and once I placed my hand on the tree I questioned it asking “if the years of my life are done, I wish to learn this from you, whether I will return to Macedonia and greet my mother and my wife and die after.” Again, at the breaking of dawn when a ray of light it the top of the tree, a voice issued from it saying, “The years of your life are at end. You will not return to your mother Olympias, but you will die in Babylon. After a short time, your mother and wife will died badly at the hands of your friends. Your brother too, killed by those around you. Do not ask about these things any longer: you will not hear anything more about what you ask.”

Alexander india

Ταῦτα δὲ πάντα διοικονομήσαντες ἤλθομεν εἰς τὴν κατὰ φύσιν ὁδὸν τὴν φέρουσαν εἰς τὴν Πρασιακὴν γῆν. καὶ ἑτοίμως μου ἔχοντος ἀναζεῦξαι περὶ ἕκτην ὥραν γίνεται περὶ τὸν ἀέρα τοιαύτη θεωρία μηνὶ Δίῳ ἡμέρᾳ τρίτῃ· πρῶτον μὲν ἐξαίφνης πνοή, ὥστε τὰ σκηνώματα καταρριφῆναι καὶ ἡμᾶς ἑστῶτας εἰς τὸ ἔδαφος καταπεσεῖν . . . Μετὰ δὲ ἡμέρας λʹ τῆς ὁδοῦ εὐβάτου γενομένης ἀνεζεύξαμεν καὶ μεθ´ ἡμέρας εʹ ἐκυριεύσαμεν τῆς Πρασιακῆς πόλεως σὺν Πώρῳ καὶ τοῖς σὺν αὐτῷ [καὶ τοὺς ἐκείνῳ πᾶσιν]. παμπληθὴς δὲ ἦν ἀγαθοῖς, περὶ ὧν ἡμῖν γέγραπται. γενομένου δὲ 〈τούτου〉 καί μου τὰ πέριξ κατὰ φύσιν οἰκονομήσαντος καὶ τῶν Ἰνδῶν προθύμως συνελθόντων ἔλεγόν μοι· ‘Βασιλεῦ Ἀλέξανδρε, λήψῃ πόλεις καὶ βασιλείας καὶ ὄρη καὶ ἔθνη, εἰς ἃ οὐδεὶς τῶν ζώντων ἐπέβη 〈ποτὲ βασιλεύς〉.’ . . . τινὲς δὲ ἐκ τῶν πολυϊδρίων ἐλθόντες ἔλεγον· ‘Βασιλεῦ, ἔχομέν σοι δεῖξαί τι παράδοξον ἄξιόν σου· δείξομεν γάρ σοι 〈φυτὰ〉 ἀνθρωπιστὶ λαλοῦντα.’ . . . καὶ εἰσήνεγκαν ἡμᾶς εἴς τινα παράδεισον, ἔνθα . . . ἥλιος καὶ [ἡ] σελήνη ἐν μέσῳ τοῦ παραδείσου· † κατὰ δὲ αὐτοὺς φρουρὰ . . . ἱερὸν ἡλίου καὶ σελήνης. δύο δὲ ἦν δένδρα τὰ προειρημένα, ἃ ἦν παραπλήσια κυπαρίσσοις . . . κύκλῳ δὲ ἦν δένδρα [τὰ προειρημένα] παρόμοια τῇ ἐν Αἰγύπτῳ μυροβαλάνῳ, καὶ ὁ καρπὸς ὅμοιος. προσηγόρευον δὲ τὸ μὲν ἀρρενικὸν ἀρρένων λογισμόν, τὸ δὲ θηλυκὸν θηλειῶν· ὄνομα δὲ ἦν τοῦ ἑνὸς ἥλιος, τῆς δὲ θηλείας σελήνη, 〈ἃ〉 ἔλεγον τῇ ἰδίᾳ φωνῇ μουθοῦ ἐμαοῦσαι. ταῦτα δὲ περιεβέβλητο δορὰς παντοίων 〈θηρίων〉, τὸ μὲν ἄρρεν ἀρρένων τὸ δὲ θῆλυ θηλειῶν. παρ´ αὐτοῖς δὲ σίδηρος οὐχ ὑπῆρχεν οὔτε χαλκὸς οὔτε κασσίτερος οὔτε πηλὸς 〈εἰς〉 πλάσιν. ἐμοῦ δὲ ἐρωτῶντος τίνες αἱ δοραὶ δοκοῦσιν εἶναι, ἔφησαν λεόντων καὶ παρδάλεων. οὐκ ἔξεστι δὲ ὧδε τάφον ἔχειν εἰ μὴ τὸν τοῦ ἡλίου καὶ τῆς σελήνης 〈ἱερέα〉. περιβολαῖς δὲ ἐχρῶντο τῶν θηρίων ταῖς δοραῖς.

Περὶ δὲ τῶν δένδρων τὴν αἰτίαν ἐζήτουν μαθεῖν· οἱ δὲ ἔφησαν· ‘Πρωίας γενομένης, ὅταν ὁ ἥλιος ἀνατείλῃ, φωνὴ ἐκ τοῦ δένδρου φέρεται, καὶ ὅταν κατὰ μέσον τοῦ οὐρανοῦ γένηται, καὶ ὅταν μέλλῃ δύνειν, τοῦτο τρίτον· τὸ δ´ αὐτὸ καὶ ἐπὶ τῆς σελήνης.’ καὶ οἱ δοκοῦντες ἱερεῖς εἶναι προσῆλθόν μοι λέγοντες· ‘Εἴσελθε καθαρὸς καὶ προσκύνησον.’ συνεισῆγον δὲ τοὺς φίλους Παρμενίωνα Κρατερὸν 〈Φίλιππον〉 Ἰόλλαν Μαχήτην Θρασυλέοντα 〈Μαχάονα〉 Θεοδέκτην Διίφιλον Νεοκλῆν, ἄνδρας ιʹ. ὁ δὲ ἱερεὺς ἔλεγεν· ‘Βασιλεῦ, σίδηρον οὐ καθήκει εἰς τὸ ἱερὸν εἰσελθεῖν.’ Προστάσσω οὖν τοῖς φίλοις τὰ ξίφη ἀποθέσθαι ἔξω τοῦ περιβόλου· συνεισῆλθον δέ μοι ἐκ τῆς δυνάμεως ἄνδρες τʹ ἀμάχαιροι. ἐκέλευσα οὖν τοὺς σὺν ἐμοὶ πάντας κατοπτεῦσαι κύκλῳ τὸν τόπον. καὶ προσκαλοῦμαι ἐκ τῶν συνακολουθησάντων μοι Ἰνδῶν, ἵνα ἑρμηνείας τύχω παρ´ αὐτῶν. ὄμνυμι δὲ Ὀλύμπιον Ἄμμωνα Ἀθηνᾶν νικηφόρον θεοὺς ἅπαντας . . . ἅμα τῷ δῦναι τὸν ἥλιον φωνὴ ἠνέχθη Ἰνδικὴ ἐκ τοῦ δένδρου, ἣ ἑρμηνεύθη μοι ὑπὸ τῶν Ἰνδῶν τῶν ὄντων σὺν ἡμῖν. καὶ φοβούμενοι οὐκ ἤθελον μεθερμηνεῦσαι· σύννους ἐγενάμην καὶ εἵλκυσα αὐτοὺς κατὰ μόνας, καὶ εἶπον τοῦτο οἱ Ἰνδοί· ‘Ταχὺ ἀπολέσθαι ἔχεις ὑπὸ τῶν ἰδίων.’ ἐμοῦ δὲ καὶ τῶν παρεστηκότων μοι ἀποτερατωθέντων ἀπὸ τῆς σελήνης ἠβουλήθην πρὸς τὴν ἀνατολὴν ὀψίας πάλιν χρηματισθῆναι. εἰκάσας δὲ τὸ μέλλον εἰσῆλθον καὶ ἠξίωσα, εἰ ἀσπάσομαι τὴν μητέρα μου Ὀλυμπιάδα καὶ τοὺς γνησίους μου φίλους. πάλιν δέ μοι τῶν φίλων παρεστώτων ἅμα τῷ τὴν σελήνην ἀνατεῖλαι φωνὴν τὸ δένδρον τὴν αὐτὴν ἐξήνεγκεν Ἑλληνικῇ διαλέκτῳ· ‘Βασιλεῦ Ἀλέξανδρε, ἐν Βαβυλῶνι δεῖ σε ἀποθανεῖν· ὑπὸ τῶν ἰδίων ἀναιρῇ καὶ οὐ δύνασαι ἀνακομισθῆναι πρὸς τὴν μητέρα σου Ὀλυμπιάδα.’

Ἐμοῦ δὲ λίαν καὶ τῶν φίλων μου θαυμαζόντων ἐβουλόμην στεφάνους καλλίστους περιθεῖναι τοῖς θεοῖς. τοῦ δὲ ἱερέως λέγοντος· ‘Οὐκ ἐξὸν τοῦτο γενέσθαι· εἰ δὲ βιάζει, πρᾶξον ὃ θέλεις· βασιλεῖ γὰρ νόμος ἄγραφος’ . . . περιλύπου δέ μου διακειμένου καὶ λίαν δυσφοροῦντος ὅ τε Παρμενίων καὶ ὁ Φίλιππος παρεκάλουν με περὶ τὸν ὕπνον γενέσθαι· μὴ βουληθέντος δέ μου ἀναστὰς ὤρθρισα 〈καὶ〉 περὶ τὴν ἀνατολὴν σὺν τοῖς ιʹ φίλοις καὶ τῷ ἱερεῖ καὶ τοῖς Ἰνδοῖς πάλιν εἰς τὸ ἱερὸν ἀπελθὼν καὶ διαστολὰς δοὺς προσελθών τε εἰς τὸ ἱερὸν σὺν τῷ ἱερεῖ καὶ ἐπιθεὶς τὴν χεῖρα πρὸς τὸ δένδρον ἐπηρώτησα λέγων· ‘Εἰ πεπλήρωταί μοι τὰ τῆς ζωῆς ἔτη, τοῦτο βούλομαι παρ´ ὑμῶν μαθεῖν, εἰ ἀνακομισθήσομαι εἰς Μακεδονίαν καὶ ἀσπάσομαι τὴν μητέρα μου καὶ τὴν γυναῖκα, καὶ τότε † ἀπαναλῦσαι.’ Ἅμα δὲ τῷ γενέσθαι τὴν ἀνατολὴν τοῦ ἡλίου καὶ βαλεῖν τὴν αὐγὴν εἰς τὴν κορυφὴν τοῦ δένδρου φωνὴ ἐξαυδᾷ διαρρήδην λέγουσα· ‘Πεπλήρωταί σου τὰ τῆς ζωῆς ἔτη καὶ ἀνακομισθῆναι οὐκ ἔχεις πρὸς Ὀλυμπιάδα τὴν μητέρα σου, ἀλλ´ ἐν Βαβυλῶνι ἔχεις ἀπολέσθαι. μετὰ δὲ ὀλίγον χρόνον καὶ ἡ μήτηρ σου καὶ ἡ γυνή σου κακὴν κακῶς ἀπολοῦνται ὑπὸ τῶν ἰδίων καὶ αἱ ἀδελφαί σου ὑπὸ τῶν περὶ σέ. καὶ περὶ τούτων μηκέτι ἀξίου· οὐ γὰρ ἀκούσῃ ἔτι πρὸς ἃ ἀξιοῖς.’

Alexander The Great, Philosopher

Pseudo-Callisthenes, Alexander Romance 3.6-7 (Go here for collated Greek texts and a translation)

Alexander continues his conversation with the gymnosophists in India and ends it with an epic mic-drop.

 

“He asked again, “What is greater, land or the sea.?” And one responded, “Land, for the sea rests upon the earth.” Then he asked “Which of all the beasts is the most capable?” And another answered, “man…” Then he said to another, “Whom can we not deceive but must always present with the truth?” And he answered, “God: for we cannot deceive one who knows everything?” And then he said to them, “What do you want to ask of me?” And he said “Immortality.” Alexander said, “I do not have this wealth—for I too am merely mortal.” And they said, “Since you are mortal, why do you make so much war? Is it so that you may seize everything and carry it off somewhere? You will leave them to others in turn.”

And Alexander said to them, “These things depend on the will of those above—and we are but servants of their assignment. The sea will not move unless the wind blows. The trees will not dance unless the air strikes them. Man accomplishes nothing without the will of those above. Even though I wish to stop warring, the tyrant of my mind does not allow it.   If we were all in agreement; the universe would be sluggish, the sea would not fill; the land would not be farmed; marriages would not be completed, and there would be no child-bearing.  How many met misfortune in the wars I waged by losing all their possessions? Well, how many profited from their losses? For all who steal from others eventually leave their possessions to others still. Nothing belongs to anyone.” After he said this, Alexander walked away…”

Gymnosophists

εἶπε πάλιν· ‘τί πλεῖον, ἡ γῆ ἢ ἡ θάλασσα;’ εἶπεν· ‘ἡ γῆ· καὶ γὰρ αὐτὴ ἡ θάλασσα ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς ἵδρυται.’ ὁ δὲ εἶπε· ‘τί πάντων τῶν θηρίων πανουργότερον;’ καὶ εἶπεν· ‘ὁ ἄνθρωπος.’ . . . ἑτέρῳ ἔφη· ‘τίνα οὐ δυνάμεθα ψεύσασθαι, ἀλλὰ τὸν ἀληθινὸν λόγον αὐτῷ προσφέρομεν;’ — ‘θεόν· οὐ γὰρ δυνάμεθα ψεύσασθαι τὸν πάντα εἰδότα.’ . . . Εἶπεν αὐτοῖς· ‘τί θέλετε ἐξαιτήσασθαί με;’ οἱ δὲ εἶπον· ‘ἀθανασίαν.’ ὁ δὲ Ἀλέξανδρος εἶπεν· ‘ταύτην ἐγὼ οὐκ ἔχω τὴν ἐξουσίαν· καὶ γὰρ ἐγὼ θνητὸς ὑπάρχω.’ οἱ δὲ εἶπον· ‘τί τοίνυν θνητὸς ὑπάρχων τοσαῦτα πολεμεῖς; ἵνα πάντα ἄρας που ἀπενέγκῃς; σὺ πάλιν αὐτὰ ἑτέροις καταλείψεις.’ καὶ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς ὁ Ἀλέξανδρος· ‘ταῦτα ἐκ τῆς ἄνωθεν προνοίας διοικοῦνται, ἵνα ἡμεῖς [ὑμῖν] διάκονοι γενώμεθα τῆς ἐκείνων ἐπιταγῆς. οὐ γὰρ κινεῖται θάλασσα, εἰ μὴ πνεύσῃ ἄνεμος, οὐδὲ σαλεύεται δένδρα, εἰ μὴ ῥιπίζῃ πνεῦμα, οὐκ ἐνεργεῖται ἄνθρωπος εἰ μὴ ἐκ τῆς ἄνωθεν προνοίας. κἀγὼ δὲ παύσασθαι θέλω τοῦ πολεμεῖν, ἀλλ´ οὐκ ἐᾷ με ὁ τῆς γνώμης μου δεσπότης. εἰ γὰρ πάντες ὁμογνώμονες ἦμεν, ἀργὸς ἐτύγχανεν ὁ κόσμος, θάλασσα οὐκ ἐπλέετο, γῆ οὐκ ἐγεωργεῖτο, γάμοι οὐκ ἐπετελοῦντο, παιδοποιίαι οὐκ ἦσαν. πόσοι γὰρ ἐν τοῖς ὑπ´ ἐμοῦ γενομένοις πολέμοις ἐδυστύχησαν ἀπολέσαντες τὰ ἴδια, ἄλλοι δὲ ηὐτύχησαν ἐκ τῶν ἀλλοτρίων; πάντες γὰρ τὰ πάντων λαμβάνοντες ἑτέροις παραχωροῦμεν καὶ οὐδενὶ οὐδὲν ὑπάρχει.’ Οὕτως εἰπὼν ὁ Ἀλέξανδρος ἀπεχώρει . . .