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III.1‑14

This webpage reproduces a section of
The Library of History

of
Diodorus Siculus

published in Vol. II
of the Loeb Classical Library edition, 1935

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!


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III.35‑48

(Vol. II) Diodorus Siculus
Library of History

(Book III, continued)

p123 15 1 The first people we shall mention are the Ichthyophagi1 who inhabit the coast which extends from Carmania and Gedrosia2 to the farthest limits of the arm of the sea which is found at the Arabian Gulf, which extends inland an unbelievable distance and is enclosed at its mouth by two continents, on the one side by Arabia Felix and on the other by the land of the Trogodytes. 2 As for these barbarians, certain of them go about entirely naked and have the women and children in common like their flocks and herds, and since they recognize only the physical perception of pleasure and pain they take no thought of things which are disgraceful and those which are honourable. 3 They have their dwellings not far from the sea along the rocky shores, where there are not only deep valleys but also jagged ravines and very narrow channels which Nature has divided by means of winding side-branches. These branches being by their nature suited to their need, the natives close up the passages and3 outlets with heaps of great p125stones, and by means of these, as if with nets, they carry on the catching of the fish. 4 For whenever the flood-tide of the sea sweeps violently over the land, which happens twice daily and usually about the third and ninth hour, the sea covers in its flood all the rocky shore and together with the huge and violent billow carries to the land an incredible multitude of fish of every kind, which at first remain along the coast, wandering in search of food among the sheltered spots and hollow places; but whenever the time of ebb comes, the water flows off little by little through the heaps of rocks and ravines, but the fish are left behind in the hollow places. 5 At this moment the multitude of the natives with their children and women gather, as if at a single word of command, at the rocky shores. And the barbarians, dividing into several companies, rush in bands each to its respective place with a hideous shouting, as if they had come unexpectedly upon some prey. 6 Thereupon the women and children, seizing the smaller fish which are near the shore, throw them on the land, and the men of bodily vigour lay hands upon the fish which are hard to overcome because of their size; for there are driven out of the deep creatures of enormous size, not only sea-scorpions4 and sea-eels and dog-fish, but also seals5 and many other kinds which are strange both in appearance and in name. 7 These animals they subdue without the assistance of any skilful device of weapons but by piercing them through with sharp goathorns and by p127gashing them with the jagged rocks; for necessity teaches Nature everything, as Nature, in her own fashion, by seizing upon the opportunities which lie at hand adapts herself to their hoped-for utilization.

16 1 Whenever they have collected a multitude of all kinds of fish they carry off their catch and bake the whole of it upon the rocks which are inclined towards the south. And since these stones are red-hot because of the very great heat, they leave the fish there for only a short time and then turn them over, and then, picking them up bodily by the tail, they shake them. 2 And the meat, which has become tender by reason of the warmth, falls away, but backbones are cast into a single spot and form a great heap, being collected for a certain use of which we shall speak a little later. Then placing the meat upon a smooth stone they carefully tread upon it for a sufficient length of time and mix with it the fruit of the Christ's thorn;6 3 for when this has been thoroughly worked into the meat the whole of it becomes a glutinous mass, and it would appear that this takes the place among them of a relish. Finally, when this has been well trodden, they mould it into little oblong bricks and place them in the sun; and after these have become thoroughly dry they sit down and feast upon them, eating not according to any measure or weight but according to every man's own wish, inasmuch as they make their physical desire the bounds of their indulgence. 4 For they have at all times stores which are unfailing and ready for use, as though Poseidon had assumed the task of Demeter.

p129 But at times a tidal wave of such size rolls in from the sea upon the land, a violent wave that for many days submerges the rocky shores, that no one can approach those regions. 5 Consequently, being short of food at such times, they at first gather the mussels, which are of so great a size that some of them are found that weigh four minas;7 that is, they break their shells by throwing huge stones at them and then eat the meat raw, its taste resembling somewhat that of oysters. 6 And whenever it comes to pass that the ocean is high for a considerable period because of the continued winds, and the impossibility of coping with that state of affairs prevents them from making their usual catch of fish, they turn, as has been said, to the mussels. But if the food from the mussels fails them, they have recourse to the heap of backbones; 7 that is, they select from this heap such backbones as are succulent and fresh and take them apart joint by joint, and then they grind some at once with their teeth, though the hard ones they first crush with rocks and thus prepare them before they eat them, their level of life being much the same as that of the wild beasts which make their homes in dens.

17 1 Now as for dry8 food they get an abundance of it in the manner described, but their use of wet food is astonishing and quite incredible. For they devote themselves assiduously for four days to the sea-food they have caught, the whole tribe feasting upon it merrily while entertaining one another with inarticulate songs; and furthermore, they lie at this time with any women they happen to meet in order to beget children, being relieved of every concern p131because their food is easily secured and ready at hand. 2 But on the fifth day the whole tribe hurries off in search of drink to the foothills of the mountains, where there are springs of sweet water at which the pastoral folk water their flocks and herds. 3 And their journey thither is like that of herds of cattle, all of them uttering a cry which produces, not articulate speech, but merely a confused roaring. As for their children, the women carry the babies continually in their arms, but the fathers do this after they have been separated from their milk, while those above five years of age lead the way accompanied by their parents, playing as they go and full of joy, as though they were setting out for pleasure of the sweetest kind. 4 For the nature of this people, being as yet unperverted, considers the satisfying of their need to be the greatest possible good, desiring in addition none of the imported pleasures. And so soon as they arrive at the watering-places of the pastoral folk and have their bellies filled with the water, they return, scarcely able to move because of the weight of it. 5 On that day they taste no food, but everyone lies gorged and scarcely able to breathe, quite like a drunken man. The next day, however, they turn again to the eating of the fish; and their way of living follows a cycle after this fashion throughout their lives.

Now the inhabitants of the coast inside the Straits lead the kind of life which has been described, and by reason of the simplicity of their food they rarely are subject to attacks of disease, although they are far shorter-lived than the inhabitants of our part of the world.

18 1 But as for the inhabitants of the coast outside p133the gulf, we find that their life is far more astonishing than that of the people just described, it being as though their nature never suffers from thirst and is insensible to pain. For although they have been banished by fortune from the inhabited regions into the desert, they fare quite well from their catch of the fish, but wet food they do not require. 2 For since they eat the fish while it is yet juicy and not far removed from the raw state, they are so far from requiring wet food that they have not even a notion of drinking. And they are content with that food which was originally allotted to them by fortune, considering that the mere elimination of that pain which arises from want (of food) is happiness.9

3 But the most surprising thing of all is, that in lack of sensibility they surpass all men, and to such a degree that what is recounted of them is scarcely credible. And yet many merchants of Egypt, who sail, as is their practice, through the Red Sea down to this day and have often sailed as far as the land of the Ichthyophagi, agree in their accounts with what we have said about the human beings who are insensible to pain. 4 The third Ptolemy10 also, who was passionately fond of hunting the elephants which are found in that region, sent one of his friends named Simmias to spy out the land; and he, setting out with suitable supplies, made, as the historian Agatharchides of Cnidus asserts, a thorough investigation of the nations lying along the coast. Now he11 says that the nation of the "insensible" Ethiopians12 p135makes no use whatsoever of drink and that their nature does not require it for the reasons given above. 5 And as a general thing, he relates, they have no intercourse with other nations nor does the foreign appearance of people who approach their shores have any effect upon the natives, but looking at them intently they show no emotion and their expressions remain unaltered, as if there were no one present. Indeed when a man drew his sword and brandished it at them they did not turn to flight, nor, if they were subjected to insult or even to blows, would they show irritation, and the majority were not moved to anger in sympathy with the victims of such treatment; on the contrary, when at times children or women were butchered before their eyes they remained "insensible" in their attitudes, displaying no sign of anger or, on the other hand, of pity. 6 In short, they remained unmoved in the face of the most appalling horrors, looking steadfastly at what was taking place and nodding their heads at each incident. Consequently, they say, they speak no language, but by movements of the hands which describe each object they point out everything they need. 7 And the most marvellous fact of all is that seals live with these tribes and catch the fish for themselves in a manner similar to that employed by the human beings. Likewise with respect to their lairs and the safety of their offspring these two kinds of beings place the greatest faith in one another; for the association with animals of a different species continues without any wrongdoing and with peace and complete observance of propriety. Now this manner of life, strange as it is, has been observed by these tribes from very early times, whether it p137has been fashioned by habit over the long space of time or by a need imposed by necessity because of stress of circumstances.

19 1 As for their dwelling-places, those used by these tribes are not all similar, but they inhabit homes modified to suit the peculiar nature of their surroundings. For instance, certain of them make their home in caves which open preferably towards the north and in which they cool themselves, thanks to the deep shade and also to the breezes which blow about them; since those which face the south, having as they do a temperature like that of an oven, cannot be approached by human beings because of the excessive heat. 2 But others who can find no caves facing the north collect the ribs of the whales which are cast up by the sea; and then, since there is a great abundance of these ribs, they interweave them13 from either side, the curve outwards and leaning towards each other, and then weave fresh seaweed through them.14 Accordingly, when this vaulted structure is covered over, in it they gain relief from the heat when it is most intense, the necessity imposed by Nature suggesting to them a skill in which they were self-taught.

3 A third method by which the Ichthyophagi find a dwelling for themselves is as follows. Olive trees15 grow about these regions in very great numbers and their roots are washed by the sea, but they bear thick foliage and a fruit which resembles the sweet p139chestnut. 4 These trees they interlace, forming in this way a continuous shade, and live in tents of this peculiar kind; for passing their days as they do on land and in the water at the same time, they lead a pleasurable life, since they avoid the sun by means of the shade cast by the branches and offset the natural heat of the regions with the continual washing of the waves against them, giving their bodies comfort and ease by the pleasant breezes which blow about them.

We must speak also about the fourth kind of habitation. 5 From time immemorial there has been heaped up a quantity of seaweed of tremendous proportions, resembling a mountain, and this has been so compacted by the unceasing pounding of the waves that it has become hard and intermingled with sand. Accordingly, the natives dig in these heaps tunnels the height of a man, leaving the upper portion for a roof, and in the lower part they construct passage-ways connected with each other by borings.16 As they cool themselves in these tunnels they free themselves from all troubles, and leaping forth from them at the times when the waves pour over the shore they busy themselves with the catching of the fish; then, when the ebb-tide sets in, they flee back together into these same passage-ways to feast upon their catch. 6 Their dead, moreover, they "bury" by leaving the bodies just as they are cast out17 at the ebb of the tide, and then when the flood-tide sets in they cast the bodies into the sea. Consequently, by making their own interment a p141nutriment of the fish, they have a life which follows in singular fashion a continuous cycle throughout all eternity.

20 1 One tribe of the Ichthyophagi has dwellings so peculiar that they constitute a great puzzle to men who take a pride in investigating such matters; for certain of them make their home among precipitous crags which these men could not possibly have approached at the outset, since from above there overhangs a lofty rock, sheer at every point, while on the sides unapproachable cliffs shut off entrance, and on the remaining face the sea hems them in, which cannot be passed through on foot, and they do not use rafts at all, while of boats such as we have they have no notion. 2 Such being the puzzle concerning them, the only solution left to us is that they are autochthonous, and that they experienced no beginning of the race they originally sprang from, but existed always from the beginning of time, as certain natural philosophers have declared to be true of all the phenomena of nature.18 3 But since the knowledge of such matters is unattainable by us, nothing prevents those who have the most to say about them from knowing the least, inasmuch as, while plausibility may persuade the hearing, it by no means discovers the truth.

21 1 We must speak also about the Chelonophagi,19 as they are called, and the nature of their entire manner of life. There are islands in the ocean, which lie near the land, many in number, but small in size and low-lying, and bearing no food either cultivated or wild. Because these islands are so near to one another no waves occur among them, p143since the surf breaks upon the outermost islands, and so a great multitude of sea-turtles tarry in these regions, resorting thither from all directions to gain the protection afforded by the calm. 2 These animals spend the nights in deep water busied with their search for food, but during the days they resort to the sea which lies between the islands and sleep on the surface with their upper shells towards the sun, giving to the eye an appearance like that of overturned boats; for they are of extraordinary magnitude and not smaller than the smallest fishing skiffs. 3 And the barbarians who inhabit the islands seize the occasion and swim quietly out to the turtles; and when they have come near the turtle on both sides, those on the one side push down upon it while those on the other side lift it up, until the animal is turned over on its back. 4 Then the men, taking hold on both sides, steer the entire bulk of the creature, to prevent it from turning over and making its escape into the deep water by swimming with the means with which Nature has endowed it, and one man with a long rope, fastening it to its tail, swims towards the land, and drawing the turtle along after him he hauls it to the land, those who had first attacked it assisting him in bringing it in. 5 And when they have got the turtles upon the shore of their island, all the inside meat they bake slightly for a short time in the sun and then feast upon it, but the upper shells, which are shaped like a boat, they use both for sailing over to the mainland, as they do in order to get water, and for their dwellings, by setting them right side up on elevations, so that it would appear that Nature, by a single act of favour, had bestowed upon these peoples the p145satisfaction of many needs; for the same gift constitutes for them food, vessel, house and ship.

6 Not far distant from these people the coast is inhabited by barbarians who lead an irregular life. For they depend for their food upon the whales which are cast up by the land, at times enjoying an abundance of food because of the great size of the beasts which they discover, but at times, when interruptions of the supply occur, they suffer greatly from the shortage; and when the latter is the case they are forced by the scarcity of food to gnaw the cartilages of old bones and the parts which grow from the ends of the ribs.

As for the Ichthyophagi, then this is the number of their tribes and such, speaking summarily, are the ways in which they live.

22 1 But the coast of Babylonia20 borders on a land which is civilized and well planted and there is such a multitude of fish for the natives that the men who catch them are unable readily to keep ahead of the abundance of them. 2 For along the beaches they set reeds close to one another and interwoven, so that their appearance is like that of a net which has been set up along the edge of the sea. And throughout the entire construction there are doors which are fixed close together and resemble basket-work21 in the way they are woven, but are furnished with hinges that easily yield to movements of the water in either direction. These doors are opened by the p147waves as they roll towards the shore at the time of flood-tide, and are closed at ebb-tide as they surge back. 3 Consequently it comes about that every day, when the sea is at flood-tide, the fish are carried in from the deep water with the tide and pass inside through the doors, but when the sea recedes they are unable to pass with the water through the interwoven reeds. As a result it is possible at times to see beside the ocean heaps being formed of gasping fish, which are being picked up unceasingly by those who have been appointed to this work, who have from their catch subsistence in abundance as well as large revenues. 4 And some of the inhabitants of these parts, because the country is both like a plain and low-lying, dig wide ditches leading from the sea over a distance of many stades to their private estates, and setting wicker gates at their openings they open these when the flood-tide is coming inland and close them when the tide changes to the opposite direction. Then, inasmuch as the sea pours out through the interstices of the gate but the fish are held back in the ditches, they have a controlled store of fish and can take of them as many as they choose and at whatever time they please.

23 1 Now that we have discussed the peoples who dwell on the coast from Babylonia to the Arabian Gulf,22 we shall describe the nations who live next to them. For in the Ethiopia which lies above Egypt there dwells beside the river Asa23 the nation of the Rhizophagi.24 For the barbarians here dig p149up the roots of the reeds which grow in the neighbouring marshes and then thoroughly wash them; and after they have made them clean they crush them with stones until the stuff is without lumps and glutinous; and then, moulding it into balls as large as can be held in the hand, they bake it in the sun and on this as their food they live all their life long. 2 Enjoying as they do the unfailing abundance of this food and living ever at peace with one another, they are nevertheless preyed upon by a multitude of lions; for since the air about them is fiery hot, lions come out of the desert to them in search of shade and in some cases in pursuit of the smaller animals. Consequently it comes to pass that when the Ethiopians come out of the marshy lands they are eaten by these beasts; for they are unable to withstand the might of the lions, since they have no help in the form of weapons, and indeed in the end the race of them would have been utterly destroyed had not Nature provided them with an aid which acts entirely of itself. 3 For at the time of the rising of the dog-star,25 whenever a calm unexpectedly comes on, there swarms to these regions such a multitude of mosquitoes, surpassing in vigour those that are known to us, that while the human beings find refuge in the marshy pools and suffer no hurt, all the lions flee from those regions, since they not only suffer from their stings but are at the same time terrified by the sound of their humming.

24 1 Next to these people are the Hylophagi26 p151and the Spermatophagi,27 as they are called. The latter gather the fruit as it falls in great abundance from the trees in the summer season and so find their nourishment without labour, but during the rest of the year they subsist upon the most tender part of the plant which grows in the shady glens; for this plant, being naturally stiff and having a stem like the bounias,28 as we call it, supplies the lack of the necessary food. 2 The Hylophagi, however, setting out with children and wives in search of food, climb the trees and subsist off the tender branches. And this climbing of theirs even to the topmost branches they perform so well as a result of their continued practice that a man can scarcely believe what they do; indeed they leap from one tree to another like birds and make their way up the weakest branches without experiencing dangers. 3 For being in body unusually slender and light, whenever their feet slip they catch hold instead with their hands, and if they happen to fall from a height they suffer no hurt by reason of their light weight; and every juicy branch they chew so thoroughly with their teeth that their stomachs easily digest them. 4 These men go naked all their life, and since they consort with their women in common they likewise look upon their offspring as the common children of all. They fight with one another for the possession of certain places, arming themselves with clubs, with which they also keep off enemies, and they dismember whomsoever they have overcome. Most of them die from becoming exhausted by hunger, when cataracts form upon p153their eyes and the body is deprived of the necessary use of this organ of sense.

25 1 The next part of the country of the Ethiopians is occupied by the Cynegi,29 as they are called, who are moderate in number and lead a life in keeping with their name. For since their country is infested by wild beasts and is utterly worthless,30 and has few streams of spring water, they sleep in the trees from fear of the wild beasts, but early in the morning, repairing with their weapons to the pools of water, they secrete themselves in the woods and keep watch from their positions in the trees. 2 And at the time when the heat becomes intense, wild oxen and leopards and a multitude of every other kind of beast come to drink, and because of the excessive heat and their great thirst they greedily quaff the water until they are gorged, whereupon the Ethiopians, the animals having become sluggish and scarcely able to move, leap down from the trees, and by the use of clubs hardened in the fire and of stones and arrows easily kill them. 3 They hunt in this way in companies and feed upon the flesh of their prey, and although now and then they are themselves slain by the strongest animals, yet for the most part they master by their cunning the superior strength of the beasts. 4 And if at any time they find lack of animals in their hunt they soak the skins of some which they had taken at former times and then hold them over a low fire; and when they have singed off the hair they divide the hides among themselves, and on such fare as has been forced upon them they satisfy their want. Their boys they train in shooting at a mark and give p155food only to those who hit it. Consequently, when they come to manhood, they are marvellously skilled in marksmanship, being most excellently instructed by the pangs of hunger.

26 1 Far distant from this country towards the parts to the west are Ethiopians known as Elephant-fighters, hunters also. For dwelling as they do in regions close together, they carefully observe the places where the elephants enter and their favourite resorts, watching them from the tallest trees; and when they are in herds they do not set upon them, since they would have no hope of success, but they lay hands on them as they go about singly, attacking them in an astonishingly daring manner. 2 For as the beast in its wandering comes near the tree in which the watcher happens to be hidden, the moment it is passing the spot he seizes its tail with his hands and plants his feet against its left flank; he has hanging from his shoulders an axe, light enough to that a blow may be struck with one hand and yet exceedingly sharp, and seizing this in his right hand he hamstrings the elephant's right leg, raining blows upon it and maintaining the position of his own body with his left hand. And they bring an astonishing swiftness to bear upon the task, since there is a contest between the two of them for their very lives; for all that is left to the hunter is either to get the better of the animal or to die himself, the situation not admitting another conclusion. 3 As for the beast which has been hamstrung, sometimes being unable to turn about because it is hard for it to move and sinking down on the place where it has been hurt, it falls to the ground and causes the death of the Ethiopian p157along with its own, and sometimes squeezing the man against a rock or tree it crushes him with its weight until it has killed him. 4 In some cases, however, the elephant in the extremity of its suffering is far from thinking of turning on its attacker, but flees across the plain until the man who has set his feet upon it, striking on the same place with his axe, has severed the tendons and paralysed the beast. And as soon as the beast has fallen they run together in companies, and cutting the flesh off the hind-quarters of the elephant while it is still alive they hold a feast.

27 1 But some of the natives who dwell near by hunt the elephants without exposing themselves to dangers, overcoming their strength by cunning. For it is the habit of this animal, whenever it has had its fill of grazing, to lie down to sleep, the manner in which it does this being different from that of all other four-footed animals; 2 for it cannot bring its whole bulk to the ground by bending its knees, but leans against a tree and thus gets the rest which comes from sleep.a Consequently the tree, by reason of the frequent leaning against it by the animal, becomes both rubbed and covered with mud, and the place about it, furthermore, shows both tracks and many signs, whereby the Ethiopians who search for such traces discover where the elephants take their rest. 3 Accordingly, when they come upon such a tree, they saw it near the ground until it requires only a little push to make it fall; thereupon, after removing the traces of their own presence, they quickly depart in anticipation p159of the approach of the animal, and towards evening the elephant, filled with food, comes to his accustomed haunt. But as soon as he leans against the tree with his entire weight he at once rolls to the ground along with the tree, and after his fall he remains there lying on his back the night through, since the nature of his body is not fashioned for rising.31 4 Then the Ethiopians who have sawn the tree gather at dawn, and when they have slain the beast without danger to themselves they pitch their tents at the place and remain there until they have consumed the fallen animal.

28 1 The parts west of these tribes are inhabited by Ethiopians who are called Simi,32 but those towards the south are held by the tribe of the Struthophagi.33 2 For there is found among them a kind of bird having a nature which is mingled with that of the land animal, and this explains the compound name it bears.34 This animal is not inferior in size to the largest deer and has been fashioned by Nature with a long neck and a round body, which is covered with feathers. Its head is weak and small, but it has powerful thighs and legs and its foot is cloven. 3 It is unable to fly in the air p161because of its weight, but it runs more swiftly than any other animal, barely touching the earth with the tips of its feet; and especially when it raises its wings adown the blasts of the wind it makes off like a ship under full sail; and it defends itself against its pursuers by means of its feet, hurling, as if from a sling, in an astonishing manner, stones as large as can be held in the hand. 4 But when it is pursued at a time of calm, its wings quickly collapse, it is unable to make use of the advantages given it by nature, and being easily overtaken it is made captive. 5 And since these animals abound in the land in multitude beyond telling, the barbarians devise every manner of scheme whereby to take them; moreover, since they are easily caught in large numbers, their meat is used for food and their skins for clothing and bedding. 6 But being constantly warred upon by the Ethiopians known as "Simi," they are in daily peril from their attackers, and they use as defensive weapons the horns of gazelles; these horns, being large and sharp, are of great service and are found in abundance throughout the land by reason of the multitude of the animals which carry them.

29 1 A short distance from this tribe on the edge of the desert dwell the Acridophagi,35 men who are smaller than the rest, lean of body, and exceeding dark. For among them in the spring season strong west and south-west winds drive out of the desert a multitude beyond telling of locusts, of great and unusual size and with wings of an ugly, dirty colour. p1632 From these locusts they have food in abundance all their life long, catching them in a manner peculiar to themselves. For along the border of their land over many stades there extends a ravine of considerable depth and width; this they fill with wood from the forests, which is found in plenty in their land; and then, when the winds blow which we have mentioned and the clouds of the locusts approach, they divide among themselves the whole extent of the ravine and set fire to the brush in it. 3 And since a great volume of pungent smoke rises, the locusts, as they fly over the ravine, are choked by the pungency of the smoke and fall to the ground after they have flown through it only a short space, and as the destruction of them continues over several days, great heaps of them are raised up; moreover, since the land contains a great amount of brine, all the people bring this to the heaps, after they have been gathered together, soak them to an appropriate degree with the brine and thus both give the locusts a palatable taste and make their storage free from rot and lasting for a long time.36 4 Accordingly, the food of this people, at the moment and thereafter, consists of these animals; for they possess no herds nor do they live near the sea nor do they have at hand any other resources; and light in body and very swift of foot as they are, they are also altogether short-lived, the oldest among them not exceeding forty years of age.

5 As for the manner in which they end their lives, not only is it astounding but extremely pitiful. For when old age draws near there breed in their p165bodies winged lice, which not only have an unusual form but are also savage and altogether loathsome in aspect. 6 The affliction begins on the belly and the breast and in a short time spreads over the whole body. And the person so affected is at first irritated by a kind of itching and insists on scratching himself a bit, the disease at this point offering a satisfaction combined with pain; but after this stage the animals, which have been continuously engendered more and more in the body, break out to the surface and there is a heavy discharge of a thin humour, the sting of which is quite unbearable. 7 Consequently the man who is in the grip of the disease lacerates himself with his nails the more violently, groaning and moaning deeply. And as his hands tear at his body, such a multitude of the vermin pours forth that those who try to pick them off accomplish nothing, since they issue forth one after another, as from a kind of vessel that is pierced throughout with holes. And so these wretches end their lives in a dissolution of the body after this manner, a miserable fate, meeting with such a sudden reversal of fortune either by reason of the peculiar character of their food or because of the climate.

30 1 Along the borders of this people there stretches a country great in size and rich in its varied pasturage; but it is without inhabitants and altogether impossible for man to enter; not that it has from the first never known the race of men, but in later times, as a result of an unseasonable abundance of rain, it brought forth a multitude of venomous spiders and scorpions. 2 For, as historians relate,37 so great a multitude of these p167animals came to abound that, although at the outset the human beings dwelling there united in killing the natural enemy, yet, because the multitude of them was not to be overcome and their bites brought swift death to their victims, they renounced both their ancestral land and mode of life and fled from these regions. Nor is there any occasion to be surprised at this statement or to distrust it, since we have learned through trustworthy history of many things more astonishing than this which have taken place throughout all the inhabited world. 3 In Italy, for instance, such a multitude of field-mice was generated in the plains that they drove certain people out of their native country; in Media birds, which came to abound beyond telling and made away with the seeds sown by the inhabitants, compelled them to remove into regions held by another people; and in the case of the Autariatae,38 as they are called, frogs were originally generated in the clouds, and when they fell upon the people in place of the customary rain, they forced them to leave their native homes and to flee for safety to the place where they now dwell. 4 And who indeed has not read in history, in connection with the Labours which Heracles performed in order to win his immortality, the account of the one Labour in the course of which he drove out of the Stymphalian Lake the multitude of birds which had come to abound in it? Moreover, in Libya certain cities have become depopulated because a multitude of lions came out of the desert against them.

Let these instances, then, suffice in reply to those p169who adopt a sceptical attitude towards histories because they recount what is astonishing; and now we shall in turn pass on to what follows the subjects we have been treating.

31 1 The borders of the parts to the south are inhabited by men whom the Greeks call "Cynamolgi,"39 but who are known in the language of the barbarians who live near them as Agrii.40 They wear great beards and maintain packs of savage dogs which serve to meet the needs of their life. 2 For from the time of the beginning of the summer solstice until mid-winter, Indian cattle, in a multitude beyond telling, resort to their country, the reason for this being uncertain; for no man knows whether they are in flight because they are being attacked by a great number of carnivorous beasts, or because they are leaving their own regions by reason of a lack of food, or because of some other reversal of fortune which Nature, that engenders all astonishing things, devises, but which the mind of the race of men cannot comprehend. 3 However, since they have not the strength of themselves to get the better of the multitude of the cattle, they let the dogs loose on them, and hunting them by means of the dogs they overcome a very great number of the animals; and as for the beasts which they have taken, some of them they eat while fresh and some they pack down with salt and store up. Many also of the other animals they hunt, thanks to the courage of their dogs, and so maintain themselves by the eating of flesh.41

4 Now the most distant tribes of those peoples who live to the south have indeed the forms of men but p171their life is that of the beasts; however, it remains for us to discuss two peoples, the Ethiopians and the Trogodytes. But about the Ethiopians we have written in other connections, and so we shall now speak of the Trogodytes.

32 1 The Trogodytes,42 we may state, are called Nomads by the Greeks, and living as they do a nomadic life off their flocks, each group of them has its tyrant, and their women, like their children, they hold in common, with the single exception of the wife of the tyrant; but if any man goes in to this woman the ruler exacts of him a fine of a specified number of sheep. 2 At the time of the etesian winds, when there are heavy rains in their country, they live off blood and milk which they mix together and seethe for a short while. But after this season the pasturage is withered by the excessive heat, and they retreat into the marshy places and fight with each other for the pasturage of the land. 3 They eat the older animals of the flocks and such as are growing sick and maintain themselves on them at all times. Consequently they give the name of parents to no human being, but rather to a bull and a cow, and also to a ram and a sheep; these they call their fathers or their mothers, by reason of the fact that they ever secure their daily food from them, and not from those who had begotten them. And as a drink the common people make use of juice from the plant Christ's-thorn, but for the rulers there is prepared from a certain flower a beverage like the vilest of our sweet new wines. Following after their p173herds and flocks they move about from one land of the another, avoiding any stay in the same regions. 4 And they are all naked as to their bodies except for the loins, which they cover with skins; moreover, all the Trogodytes are circumcised like the Egyptians with the exception of those who, because of what they have experienced, are called "colobi";43 for these alone of all who live inside the Straits44 have in infancy all that part cut completely off with the razor which among other peoples merely suffers circumcision.

33 1 As for the arms of the Trogodytes, those who bear the name of Megabari have round shields covered with raw ox-hide and a club with iron knobs, but the rest of them have bows and arrows and lances. Again, the burials practised by them differ entirely from all others; 2 for after binding the bodies of the dead with withes of Christ's-thorn they tie the neck to the legs, and then placing the corpse upon a mound they cast at it stones as large as can be held in the hand, making merry the while, until they have built up a heap of stones and have hidden the bodies from sight; and finally they set up a goat's horn on the heap and separate, having shown no fellow-feeling for the dead. 3 And they fight with one another, not, as the Greeks do, for possession of land or because of some alleged misdeeds, but for pasturage as it comes up at one time and another. In their quarrels they at first hurl stones at each other, until some are wounded, and the rest of the time they resort to the struggle with bows and arrows. And it is but a moment before many are p175dead, since they are accurate shooters by reason of their practice in archery and the object at which they are aiming is bare of protective armour. 4 The fighting is terminated by the older women, who rush into the fray and offer themselves as a protection to the fighters, and are the object of respect; for it is a custom with these people that they shall in no wise strike one of these women, and so at their appearance they cease shooting. 5 Those who can no longer accompany the flocks by reason of old age bind the tail of an ox about their own necks and so put an end to their lives of their own free will; and if a man postpones his death, anyone who wishes has the authority to fasten the noose about his neck, as an act of good-will, and, after admonishing the man, to take his life. 6 Likewise it is a custom of theirs to remove from life those who have become maimed or are in the grip of incurable diseases; for they consider it to be the greatest disgrace for a man to cling to life when he is unable to accomplish anything worth living for. Consequently, a man can see every Trogodyte sound in body and of vigorous age, since no one of them lives beyond sixty years.

7 But we have said enough about the Trogodytes; and if anyone of our readers shall distrust our histories because of what is strange and astonishing in the different manners of life which we have described, when he has considered and compared the climate of Scythia and that of the Trogodyte country and has observed the differences between them, he will not distrust what has been here related.

34 1 So great, for instance, is the contrast between our climate and the climates which we have described that the difference, when considered in detail, p177surpasses belief. 2 For example, there are countries where, because of the excessive cold, the greatest rivers are frozen over, the ice sustaining the crossing of armies and the passage of heavily laden wagons, the wine and all other juices freeze so that they must be cut with knives, yea, what is more wonderful still, the extremities of human beings fall off when rubbed by the clothing, their eyes are blinded, fire furnishes no protection, even bronze statues are cracked open, and at certain seasons, they say, the clouds are so thick that in those regions there is neither lightning nor thunder; and many other things, more astonishing than these, come to pass, which are unbelievable to such as are ignorant of them, but cannot be endured by any who have actually experienced them. 3 But on the farthermost bounds of Egypt and the Trogodyte country, because of the excessive heat from the sun at midday, men who are standing side by side are unable even to see one another by reason of the thickness of the air as it is condensed, and no one can walk about without foot-gear, since blisters appear at once on any who go barefoot. 4 And as for drink, unless it is ready to hand to satisfy the need of it, they speedily perish, since the heat swiftly exhausts the natural moistures in the body. Moreover, whenever any man puts any food into a bronze vessel along with water and sets it in the sun, it quickly boils without fire or wood. 5 Nevertheless, the inhabitants of both the lands which we have mentioned,45 far from desiring to escape from the excessive evils which befall them, actually, on the contrary, give up their lives of their own accord simply to avoid being compelled p179to make trial of a different fare and manner of life. 6 Thus it is that every country to which a man has grown accustomed holds a kind of spell of its own over him, and the length of time which he has spent there from infancy overcomes the hardship which he suffers from its climate. 7 And yet countries so different in both ways46 are separated by no great interval of space. For from Lake Maeotis,47 near which certain Scythians dwell, living in the midst of frost and excessive cold, many sailors of merchant vessels, running before a favourable wind, have made Rhodes in ten days, from which they have reached Alexandria in four, and from that city many men, sailing by way of the Nile,48 have reached Ethiopia in ten, so that from the cold parts of the inhabited world to its warmest parts the sailing time is not more than twenty-four days, if the journey is made without a break. 8 Consequently, the difference in climates in a slight interval being so great, it is nothing surprising that both the fare and the manners of life as well as the bodies of the inhabitants should be very different from such as prevail among us.


The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 Fish-eaters.

2 Approximately modern south-eastern Persia and Baluchistan.

3 Or "at their outlets"; cp. critical note.

The critical note to the Greek text, (τὰς ἐκτροπὰς καὶ διεξόδους συγκεχώκασι λίθοις μεγάλοις), reads:

For καὶ Capps suggests κατὰ τάς, "at their outlets."

4 Perhaps the scorpaena scrofa, which is described in Athenaeus 320D, where Gulick (in the L. C. L.) suggests "sculpin" as an "inexact but convenient" equivalent.

5 Perhaps the phoca monachus of Odyssey 4.404.

6 A shrub of the buckthorn family.

7 About five pounds.

8 i.e. "solid."

9 The Epicurean doctrine. Cp. Lucretius 2.20‑1: ergo corpoream ad naturam pauca videmus esse opus omnino, quae demant cumque dolorem. ("Therefore we see that few things altogether are necessary for the bodily nature, only such in each case as take pain away"; tr. of Rouse.)

10 Ptolemy Euergetes I, who reigned 246‑221 B.C.

11 i.e. Agatharchides, who is the chief source of Diodorus in this section of his work; cp. Agatharchides, 41 (Müller).

12 The Ethiopians of the east; cp. Book 2.22.2 and note.

13 Diodorus evidently refers to the interweaving of the rib-ends at the top, like the poles of the tepee or wigwam of the American Indian.

14 Strabo (15.2.2) also says that their dwellings were made of whale ribs; cp. his account (15.2.11‑13) of the "spouting whales" of the Persian Gulf (tr. by Jones in the L. C. L.).

15 Or "olive trees of a kind"; see critical note. Since the fruit is quite different the emendation seems justified.

The critical note to the Greek text, (ἐλαῖαι φύονται), reads:

ἐλαῖαι Casaubon, cp. Agatharchides, 43; Capps suggests ἐλαῖαί τινες for ἐλάται of the MSS.

16 This custom and the following about the disposal of the dead is recounted by Strabo (16.4.14) in connection with the "Turtle-eaters."

17 i.e. without formal burial.

18 Cp. Book 1.6.2.

19 Turtle-eaters; cp. Strabo 16.4.14 ff.

20 In using the term "Babylonia" Diodorus must be thinking of the satrapy of that name, which included the north coast of the Persian Gulf and presumably extended down the west coast of the Gulf as far as "the uninhabited portion of Arabia" (cp. Book 18.6 and below ch. 23.1).

21 i.e. they are closely woven, so as to offer resistance to the water.

22 The Red Sea.

23 Called Astabara by Agatharchides (On the Red Sea, 50) and Astaboras by Strabo (16.4.8).

24 Root-eaters.

25 Sirius.

26 Wood-eaters.

27 Seed-eaters, called by Strabo (16.4.9) Spermophagi.

28 "French turnip," Brassica Napus.

29 Hunters.

30 i.e. not suitable for agriculture.

31 Strabo (16.4.10) in a similar account of the hunting of elephants says this is because "its legs have a continuous and unbending bone"; cp. a similar account of how the Germans capture the elk of the Hercynian forest in Caesar, Gallic War, 6.27 (tr. by Edwards in the L. C. L.). J. E. Tennent, The Natural History of Ceylon, pp100‑106, gives examples of the prevalence of the idea, both in antiquity and the Middle Ages, that the legs of the elephant had no joints. The facts lying back of the account in our author are that elephants, after wallowing in pools, rub their sides against trees and that they do often sleep leaning against rocks or trees.

32 Flat-nosed.

33 Bird-eaters; but see the following note.

34 Probably a double compound stood above, such as "Struthocamelophagi" (cp. the critical note). The struthocameli (from strouthos, "sparrow," and kamelos, i.e. the "bird like a camel," or the "ostrich") are described in Book 2.50.3.

The critical note to the Greek text, (Στρουθοφάγων), reads:

Bekker suggests Στρουθοκαμηλοφάγων.

35 Locust-eaters.

36 A much shorter account of the same custom is in Strabo (16.4.12).

37 Cp. Strabo 16.4.12; Aelian, History of Animals, 17.40; Pliny 8.29.

38 A people of Illyria; Justin (15.2) also says that they were driven out in this way.

39 Milkers of bitches.

40 Savages.

41 Strabo (16.4.10) also says that the dogs hunt the cattle; but Agatharchides (60) and Aelian (History of Animals, 16.31) add that this people drink the milk of bitches when they have no meat.

42 Much of what follows is in Strabo (16.4.17). The spelling of Trogodytes, without the λ, is supported by D, the oldest MS., and Vogel (I.LXXII) regrets that he did not adopt it. On further grounds for this spelling cp. Kallenberg, Textkritik u. Sprachgebrauch Diodors, I.1.

43 The word means "mutilated" (persons whose sexual organs have been removed).

44 At the entrance into the Red Sea.

45 i.e. Scythia and the Trogodyte land.

46 i.e. as to severe cold and severe heat.

47 The Sea of Azof.

48 i.e. instead of by the Red Sea.


Thayer's Note:

a This is of course arrant nonsense, and peculiar nonsense at that, since by Diodorus' time the ancients had seen many elephants, and the well-traveled Diodorus himself must surely have seen some himself. In addition to the Loeb editor's note above, for a thorough debunking, with citations from other ancient authors who knew better, see Sir Thomas Browne, Pseudodoxia Epidemica III.1, "Of the Elephant".


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