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III.35‑48

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.62‑74

(Vol. II) Diodorus Siculus
Library of History

(Book III, continued)

p237 49 1 But now that we have examined these matters, it will be appropriate1 to discuss the Libyans who dwell near Egypt and the country which borders upon them. The parts about Cyrenê and the Syrtes as well as the interior of the mainland in these regions are inhabited by four tribes of Libyans; of these the Nasamones, as they are called, dwell in the parts to the south, the Auschisae in those to the west, the Marmaridae occupy the narrow strip between Egypt and Cyrene and come down to the coast, and the Macae, who are more numerous than their fellow Libyans, dwell in the regions about the Syrtis.2 2 Now of the Libyans whom we have just mentioned those are farmers who possess land which is able to produce abundant crops, while those are nomads who get their sustenance from the flocks and herds which they maintain; and both of these groups have kings and lead a life which is not entirely savage or different from that of civilized men. The third group, however, obeying no king and taking no account or even thought of justice, makes robbery its constant practice, and attacking unexpectedly from out of the desert it seizes whatever it has happened upon and quickly withdraws to the place from which it had set p239out. 3 All the Libyans of this third group lead a life like that of the wild beasts, spending their days under the open sky and practising the savage in their mode of life; for they have nothing to do with civilized food or clothing, but cover their bodies with the skins of goats. Their leaders have no cities whatsoever, but only towers near the sources of water, and into these they bring and store away the excess of their booty. Of the peoples who are their subjects they annually exact an oath of obedience to their authority, and to any who have submitted to them they extend their protection as being allies, and such as take no heed of them they first condemn to death and then make war upon them as robbers. 4 Their weapons are appropriate to both the country and their mode of life; for since they are light of body and inhabit a country which is for the most part a level plain, they face the dangers which beset them armed with three spears and stones in leather bags; and they carry neither sword nor helmet nor any other armour, since their aim is to excel in agility both in pursuit and again in withdrawal. 5 Consequently they are expert in running and hurling stones, having brought to full development by practice and habit the advantages accorded them by nature. And, speaking generally, they observe neither justice nor good faith in any respect in dealing with peoples of alien race.

50 1 That part of the country which lies near the city of Cyrenê has a deep soil and bears products of many kinds; for not only does it produce wheat, but it also possesses large vineyards and olive orchards and native forests, and rivers which are of great utility; but the area which extends beyond its southern border where nitre is found, being uncultivated p241and lacking springs of water, is in appearance like a sea; and in addition to its showing no variety of landscape it is surrounded by desert land, the desert which lies beyond ending in a region from which egress is difficult. 2 Consequently not even a bird is to be seen there nor any four-footed animal except the gazelle and the ox, nor indeed any plant or anything that delights the eye, since the land which stretches into the interior contains nearly continuous dunes throughout its length. And greatly as it is lacking in the things which pertain to civilized life, to the same degree does it abound in snakes of every manner of appearance and size, and especially in those which men call cerastes,3 the stings of which are mortal and their colour is like sand;º 3 and since for this reason they look like the ground on which they lie, few men discern them and the greater number tread on them unwittingly and meet with unexpected perils. Moreover, the account runs that in ancient times these snakes once invaded a large part of that section of Egypt which lies below this desert and rendered it uninhabitable.

4 And both in this arid land and in Libya which lies beyond the Syrtis there takes place a marvellous thing. For at certain times, and especially when there is no wind, shapes are seen gathering in the sky which assume the forms of animals of every kind;4 and some of these remain fixed, but others begin to move, p243sometimes retreating before a man and at other times pursuing him, and in every case, since they are of monstrous size, they strike such as have never experienced them with wondrous dismay and terror. 5 For when the shape which are pursuing overtake the persons they envelop their bodies, causing a chilling and shivering sensation, so that strangers who are unfamiliar with them are overcome with fear, although the natives, who have often met with such things, pay no attention to the phenomenon.

51 1 Now incredible though this effect may seem and like a fanciful tale, yet certain physical philosophers attempt to set forth the causes of it somewhat as follows: 2 The winds, they say, either blow in this land not at all or else are altogether sluggish and without vigour; and often there prevails in the air a calm and wondrous lack of movement, because of the fact that neither wooded vales nor thickly-shaded glens lie near it nor are there any elevations that make hills; furthermore, these regions lack large rivers and, in general, the whole territory round about, being barren of plants, gives forth no vapour. Yet it is all these things which are wont, they explain, to generate beginnings, as it were, and gatherings of air-currents. 3 Consequently, when so stifling an atmosphere extends over the arid land the phenomenon which we observe taking place now and then with respect to the clouds on humid days, when every kind of shape is formed, occurs likewise in Libya, they tell us, the air as it condenses assuming manifold shapes. Now this air is driven along by the weak and sluggish breezes, rising aloft and making quivering motions and impinging upon other bodies of similar character, but when a calm succeeds, it then descends p245towards the earth by reason of its weight and in the shape which it may chance to have assumed, whereupon, there being nothing to dissipate it, the air clings to such living creatures as accidentally come to be in the way. 4 As for the movements which these shapes make in both directions,5 these, they say, indicate no volition on their part, since it is impossible that voluntary flight or pursuit should reside in a soulless thing. And yet the living creatures are, unknown to themselves, responsible for this movement through the air; for, if they advance, they push up by their violent motion the air which lies beneath them, and this is the reason why the image which has been formed retreats before them and gives the impression of fleeing; whereas if the living creatures withdraw, they follow in the opposite direction, the cause having been reversed, since that which is empty and rarefied draws the shapes towards itself. 5 Consequently it has the appearance of pursuing men who withdraw before it, for the image is drawn to the empty space and rushes forward in a mass under the influence of the backward motion of the living creature; and as for those who flee, it is quite reasonable that, whether they turn about or stand still, their bodies should feel the light touch of the image which follows them; and this is broken in pieces as it strikes upon the solid object, and as it pours itself out in all directions it chills the bodies of all with whom it comes in contact.

52 1 But now that we have examined these matters it will be fitting, in connection with the regions we have mentioned, to discuss the account which history records of the Amazons who were in Libya in ancient times. For the majority of mankind believe that p247the only Amazons were those who are reported to have dwelt in the neighbourhood of the Thermodon river on the Pontus;6 but the truth is otherwise, since the Amazons of Libya were much earlier in point of time and accomplished notable deeds. 2 Now we are not unaware that to many who read this account the history of this people will appear to be a thing unheard of and entirely strange; for since the race of these Amazons disappeared entirely many generations before the Trojan War, whereas the women about the Thermodon river were in their full vigour a little before that time, it is not without reason that the later people, who were also better known, should have inherited the fame of the earlier, who are entirely unknown to most men because of the lapse of time. 3 For our part, however, since we find that many early poets and historians, and not a few of the later ones as well, have made mention of them, we shall endeavour to recount their deeds in summary, following the account of Dionysius,7 who composed a narrative about the Argonauts and Dionysus, and also about many other things which took place in the most ancient times.

4 Now there have been in Libya a number of races of women who were warlike and greatly admired for their manly vigour; for instance, tradition tells us of the race of the Gorgons, against whom, as the account is given, Perseus made war, a race distinguished p249for its valour; for the fact that it was the son of Zeus,8 the mightiest Greek of his day, who accomplished the campaign against these women, and that this was his greatest Labour may be taken by any man as proof of both the pre-eminence and the power of the women we have mentioned. Furthermore, the manly prowess of those of whom we are now about to write presupposes an amazing pre-eminence when compared with the nature of the women of our day.

53 1 We are told, namely, that there was once on the western parts of Libya, on the bounds of the inhabited world, a race which was ruled by women and followed a manner of life unlike that which prevails among us. For it was the custom among them that the women should practise the arts of war and be required to serve in the army for a fixed period, during which time they maintained their virginity; then, when the years of their service in the field had expired, they went in to the men for the procreation of children, but they kept in their hands the administration of the magistracies and of all the affairs of the state. 2 The men, however, like our married women, spent their days about the house, carrying out the orders which were given them by their wives; and they took no part in military campaigns or in office or in the exercise of free citizenship9 in the affairs of the community by virtue of which they might become presumptuous and rise up against the women. 3 When their children were born the babies were turned over to the men, who brought them up on milk and such cooked foods as were appropriate to the age of the infants; and if it happened that a girl was born, its breasts were p251seared that they might not develop at the time of maturity; for they thought that the breasts, as they stood out from the body, were no small hindrance in warfare; and in fact it is because they have been deprived of their breasts that they are called by the Greeks Amazons.10

4 As mythology relates, their home was on an island which, because it was in the west, was called Hespera, and it lay in the marsh Tritonis. This marsh was near the ocean which surrounds the earth and received its name from a certain river Triton which emptied into it; and this marsh was also near Ethiopia and that mountain by the shore of the ocean which is the highest of those in the vicinity and impinges upon the ocean and is called by the Greeks Atlas. 5 The island mentioned above was of great size and full of fruit-bearing trees of every kind, from which the natives secured their food. It contained also a multitude of flocks and herds, namely, of goats and sheep, from which possessors received milk and meat for their sustenance; but grain the nation used not at all because the use of this fruit of the earth had not yet been discovered among them.

6 The Amazons, then, the account continues, being a race superior in valour and eager for war, first of all subdued all the cities on the island except the one called Menê, which was considered to be sacred and was inhabited by Ethiopian Ichthyophagi, and was also subject to great eruptions of fire and possessed a multitude of the precious stones which the Greeks p253call anthrax, sardion, and smaragdos;11 and after this they subdued many of the neighbouring Libyans and nomad tribes, and founded within the marsh Tritonis a great city which they named Cherronesus12 after its shape.

54 1 Setting out from the city of Cherronesus, the account continues, the Amazons embarked upon great ventures, a longing having come over them to invade many part of the inhabited world. The first people against whom they advanced, according to the tale, was the Atlantians, the most civilized men among the inhabitants of those regions, who dwelt in a prosperous country and possessed great cities; it was among them, we are told, that mythology places the birth of the gods, in the regions which lie along the shore of the ocean, in this respect agreeing with those among the Greeks who relate legends, and about this13 we shall speak in detail a little later.

2 Now the queen of the Amazons, Myrina, collected, it is said, an army of thirty thousand foot-soldiers and three thousand cavalry, since they favoured to an unusual degree the use of cavalry in their wars.14 3 For protective devices they used the skins of large snakes, since Libya contains such animals of incredible size, and for offensive weapons, swords and lances; they also used bows and arrows, with which they struck not only when facing the enemy but also when in flight, by shooting backwards at their p255pursuers with good effect. 4 Upon entering the land of the Atlantians they defeated in a pitched battle the inhabitants of the city of Cernê, as it is called, and making their way inside the walls along with the fleeing enemy, they got the city into their hands; and desiring to strike terror into the neighbouring peoples they treated the captives savagely, put to the sword the men from the youth upward, led into slavery the children and women, and razed the city. 5 But when the terrible fate of the inhabitants of Cernê became known among their fellow tribesmen, it is related that the Atlantians, struck with terror, surrendered their cities on terms of capitulation and announced that they would do whatever should be commanded them, and that the queen Myrina, bearing herself honourably towards the Atlantians, both established friendship with them and founded a city to bear her name in place of the city which had been razed; and in it she settled both the captives and any native who so desired. 6 Whereupon the Atlantians presented her with magnificent presents and by public decree voted to her notable honours, and she in return accepted their courtesy and in addition promised that she would show kindness to their nation. 7 And since the natives were often being warred upon by the Gorgons, as they were named, a folk which resided upon their borders, and in general had that people lying in wait to injure them, Myrina, they say, was asked by the Atlantians to invade the land of the afore-mentioned Gorgons. But when the Gorgons drew up their forces to resist them a mighty battle took place in which the Amazons, gaining the upper hand, slew great numbers of their opponents and took no fewer than p257three thousand prisoners; and since the rest had fled for refuge into a certain wooded region, Myrina undertook to set fire to the timber, being eager to destroy the race utterly, but when she found that she was unable to succeed in her attempt she retired to the borders of her country.

55 1   [link to original Greek text] Now as the Amazons, they go on to say, relaxed their watch during the night because of their success, the captive women, falling upon them and drawing the swords of those who thought they were conquerors, slew many of them; in the end, however, the multitude poured in about them from every side and the prisoners fighting bravely were butchered one and all. 2 Myrina accorded a funeral to her fallen comrades on three pyres and raised up three great heaps of earth as tombs, which are called to this day "Amazon Mounds." 3 But the Gorgons, grown strong again in later days, were subdued a second time by Perseus, the son of Zeus, when Medusa was queen over them; and in the end both they and the race of the Amazons were entirely destroyed by Heracles, when he visited the regions to the west and set up his pillars15 in Libya, since he felt that it would ill accord with his resolve to be the benefactor of the whole race of mankind if he should suffer any nations to be under the rule of women. The story is also told that the marsh disappeared from sight in the course of an earthquake, when those parts of it which lay towards the ocean were torn asunder.

4 As for Myrina, the account continues, she visited the larger part of Libya, and passing over into p259Egypt she struck a treaty of friendship with Horus, the son of Isis, who was king of Egypt at that time, and then, after making war to the end upon the Arabians and slaying many of them, she subdued Syria; but when the Cilicians came out with presents to meet her and agreed to obey her commands, she left those free who yielded to her of their free will and for this reason these are called to this day the "Free Cilicians." 5 She also conquered in war the races in the region of the Taurus, peoples of outstanding courage, and descended through Greater Phrygia to the sea;16 and then she won over the land lying along the coast and fixed the bounds of her campaign at the Caïcus River.17 6 And selecting in the territory which she had won by arms sites well suited for the founding of cities, she built a considerable number of them and founded one18 which bore her own name, but the others she named after the women who held the most important commands, such as Cymê, Pitana, and Prienê.

7 These, then, are the cities she settled along the sea, but others, and a larger number, she planted in the regions stretching towards the interior. She seized also some of the islands, and Lesbos in particular, on which she founded the city of Mitylenê, which was named after her sister who took part in the campaign. 8 After that, while subduing some of the rest of the islands, she was caught in a storm, and after she had offered up prayers for her safety to the Mother of the Gods,19 she was carried to one of the uninhabited islands; this island, in obedience p261to a vision which she beheld in her dreams, she made sacred to this goddess, and set up altars there and offered magnificent sacrifices. She also gave it the name of Samothrace, which means, when translated into Greek, "sacred island," although some historians say that it was formerly called Samos and was then given the name of Samothrace by Thracians who at one time dwelt on it. 9 However, after the Amazons had returned to the continent, the myth relates, the Mother of the Gods, well pleased with the island, settled in it certain other people, and also her own sons, who are known by the name of Corybantes — who their father was is handed down in their rites as a matter not to be divulged; and she established the mysteries which are now celebrated on the island and ordained by law that the sacred area should enjoy the right of sanctuary.

10 In these times, they go on to say, Mopsus the Thracian, who had been exiled by Lycurgus, the king of the Thracians, invaded the land of the Amazons with an army composed of fellow-exiles, and with Mopsus on the campaign was also Sipylus the Scythian, who had likewise been exiled from that part of Scythia which borders upon Thrace. 11 There was a pitched battle, Sipylus and Mopsus gained the upper hand, and Myrina, the queen of the Amazons, and the larger part of the rest of her army were slain. In the course of the years, as the Thracians continued to be victorious in their battles, the surviving Amazons finally withdrew again into Libya. And such was the end, as the myth relates, of the campaign which the Amazons of Libya made.

p263 56 1 But since we have made mention of the Atlantians, we believe that it will not be inappropriate in this place to recount what their myths relate about the genesis of the gods, in view of the fact that it does not differ greatly from the myths of the Greeks. 2 Now the Atlantians, dwelling as they do in the regions on the edge of the ocean and inhabiting a fertile territory, are reputed far to excel their neighbours in reverence towards the gods and the humanity they showed in their dealings with strangers, and the gods, they say, were born among them. And their account, they maintain, is in agreement with that of the most renowned of the Greek poets20 when he represents Hera as saying:

For I go to see the ends of the bountiful earth,

Oceanus source of the gods and Tethys divine

Their mother.

3 This is the account given in their myth: Their first king was Uranus, and he gathered the human beings, who dwelt in scattered habitations, within the shelter of a walled city and caused his subjects to cease from their lawless ways and their bestial manner of living, discovering for them the uses of cultivated fruits, how to store them up, and not a few other things which are of benefit to man; and he also subdued the larger part of the inhabited earth, in particular the regions to the west and the north. 4 And since he was a careful observer of the stars he foretold many things which would take place throughout the world; and for the common people he introduced the year on the basis of the movement of the sun and the months on that of the p265moon, and instructed them in the seasons which recur year after year. 5 Consequently the masses of the people, being ignorant of the eternal arrangement of the stars and marvelling at the events which were taking place as he had predicted, conceived that the man who taught such things partook of the nature of the gods, and after he had passed from among men they accorded him immortal honours, both because of his benefactions and because of his knowledge of the stars and then they transferred his name to the firmament of heaven, both because they thought that he had been so intimately acquainted with the risings and the settings of the stars and with whatever else took place in the firmament, and because they would surpass his benefactions by the magnitude of the honours which they would show him, in that for all subsequent time they proclaimed him to be the king of the universe.

57 1 To Uranus, the myth continues, were born forty-five sons from a number of wives, and, of these, eighteen, it is said, were by Titaea, each of them bearing a distinct name, but all of them as a group were called, after their mother, Titans. 2 Titaea, because she was prudent and had brought about many good deeds for the peoples, was deified after her death by those whom she had helped and her name was changed to Gê. To Uranus were also born daughters, the two eldest of whom were by far the most renowned above all the others and were called Basileia and Rhea, whom some also named Pandora. 3 Of these daughters Basileia, who was the eldest and far excelled the others in both prudence and understanding, reared all her brothers, showing them collectively a mother's kindness; consequently she was p267given the appellation of "Great Mother"; and after her father had been translated from among men into the circle of the gods, with the approval of the masses and of her brothers she succeeded to the royal dignity, though she was still a maiden and because of her exceedingly great chastity had been unwilling to unite in marriage with any man. But later, because of her desire to leave sons who should succeed to the throne, she united in marriage with Hyperion, one of her brothers, for whom she had the greatest affection. 4 And when there were born to her two children, Helius and Selenê,21 who were greatly admired for both their beauty and their chastity, the brothers of Basileia, they say, being envious of her because of her happy issue of children and fearing that Hyperion would divert the royal power to himself, committed an utterly impious deed; 5 for entering into a conspiracy among themselves they put Hyperion to the sword, and casting Helius, who was still in years a child, into the Eridanus22 river, drowned him. When this crime came to light, Selenê, who loved her brother very greatly, threw herself down from the roof, but as for his mother, while seeking his body along the river, her strength left her and falling into a swoon she beheld a vision in which she thought that Helius stood over her and urged her not to mourn the death of her children; for, he said, the Titans would meet the punishment which they deserve, while he and his sister would be transformed, by some divine providence, into immortal natures, since that which had formerly been called the "holy fire" in the heavens would be called by men Helius ("the sun") and that p269addressed as "menê" would be called Selenê ("the moon"). 6 When she was aroused from the swoon she recounted to the common crowd both the dream and the misfortunes which had befallen her, asking that they render to the dead honours like those accorded to the gods and asserting that no man should thereafter touch her body. 7 And after this she became frenzied, and seizing such of her daughter's playthings as could make a noise, she began to wander over the land, with her hair hanging free, inspired by the noise of the kettledrums and cymbals, so that those who saw her were struck with astonishment. 8 And all men were filled with pity at her misfortune and some were clinging to her body,23 when there came a mighty storm and continuous crashes of thunder and lightning; and in the midst of this Basileia passed from sight, whereupon the crowds of people, amazed at this reversal of fortune, transferred the names and the honours of Helius and Selenê to the stars of the sky, and as for their mother, they considered her to be a goddess and erected altars to her, and imitating the incidents of her life by the pounding of the kettledrums and the clash of the cymbals they rendered unto her in this way sacrifices and all other honours.

58 1 However, an account is handed down also that this goddess24 was born in Phrygia. For the natives of that country have the following myth: In ancient times Meïon became king of Phrygia and Lydia; p271and marrying Dindymê he begat an infant daughter, but being unwilling to rear her he exposed her on the mountain which was called Cybelus. There, in accordance with some divine providence, both the leopards and some of the other especially ferocious wild beasts offered their nipples to the child and so gave it nourishment, 2 and some women who were tending the flocks in that place witnessed the happening, and being astonished at the strange event took up the babe and called her Cybelê after the name of the place. The child, as she grew up, excelled in both beauty and virtue and also came to be admired for her intelligence; for she was the first to devise the pipe of many reeds and to invent cymbals and kettledrums with which to accompany the games and the dance, and in addition she taught how to heal the sicknesses of both flocks and little children by means of rites of purification; 3 in consequence, since the babes were saved from death by her spells and were generally taken up in her arms, her devotion to them and affection for them led all the people to speak of her as the "mother of the mountain." The man who associated with her and loved her more than anyone else, they say, was Marsyas the physician, who was admired for his intelligence and chastity; and a proof of his intelligence they find in the fact that he imitated the sounds made by the pipe of many reeds and carried all its notes over into the flute,25 and as an indication of his chastity they cite his abstinence from sexual pleasures until the day of his death.

4 Now Cybelê, the myth records, having arrived at full womanhood, came to love a certain native youth p273who was known as Attis, but at a later time received the appellation Papas;26 with him she consorted secretly and became with child, and at about the same time her parents recognized her as their child. 59 Consequently she was brought up into the palace, and her father welcomed her at the outset under the impression that she was a virgin, but later, when he learned of her seduction, he put to death her nurses and Attis as well and cast their bodies forth to lie unburied; whereupon Cybelê, they say, because of her love for the youth and grief over the nurses, became frenzied and rushed out of the palace into the countryside. And crying aloud and beating upon a kettledrum she visited every country alone, with hair hanging free, and Marsyas, out of pity for her plight, voluntarily followed her and accompanied her in her wanderings because of the love which he had formerly borne her. 2 When they came to Dionysus in the city of Nysa they found there Apollo, who was being accorded high favour because of the lyre, which, they say, Hermes invented, though Apollo was the first to play it fittingly; and when Marsyas strove with Apollo in a contest of skill and the Nysaeans had been appointed judges, the first time Apollo played upon the lyre without accompanying it with his voice, while Marsyas, striking up upon his pipes, amazed the ears of his hearers by their strange music and in their opinion far excelled, by reason of his melody, the first contestant. 3 But since they had agreed to take turn about in displaying their skill to the judges, p275Apollo, they say, added, this second time, his voice in harmony with the music of the lyre, whereby he gained greater approval than that which had formerly been accorded to the pipes. Marsyas, however, was enraged and tried to prove to the hearers that he was losing the contest in defiance of every principle of justice; for, he argued, it should be a comparison of skill and not of voice, and only by such a test was it possible to judge between the harmony and music of the lyre and of the pipes; and furthermore, it was unjust that two skills should be compared in combination against but one. Apollo, however, as the myth relates, replied that he was in no sense taking any unfair advantage of the other; 4 in fact, when Marsyas blew into his pipes he was doing almost the same thing as himself;27 consequently the rule should be made either that they should both be accorded this equal privilege of combining their skills, or that neither of them should use his mouth in the contest but should display his special skill by the use only of his hands. 5 When the hearers decided that Apollo presented the more just argument, their skills were again compared; Marsyas was defeated, and Apollo, who had become somewhat embittered by the quarrel, flayed the defeated man alive. But quickly repenting and being distressed at what he had done, he broke the strings of the lyre and destroyed the harmony of sounds which he had discovered. 6 The harmony of the strings, however, was rediscovered, when the Muses added later the middle string, Linus the string struck with the forefinger, and Orpheus and Thamyras the lowest p277string and the one next to it.28 And Apollo, they say, laid away both the lyre and the pipes as a votive offering in the cave of Dionysus, and becoming enamoured of Cybelê joined in her wanderings as far as the land of the Hyperboreans.

7 But, the myth goes on to say, a pestilence fell upon human beings throughout Phrygia and the land ceased to bear fruit, and when the unfortunate people inquired of the god how they might rid themselves of their ills he commanded them, it is said, to bury the body of Attis and to honour Cybelê as a goddess. Consequently the physicians, since the body had disappeared in the course of time, made an image of the youth, before which they sang dirges and by means of honours in keeping with his suffering propitiated the wrath of him who had been wronged; and these rites they continue to perform down to our own lifetime. 8 As for Cybelê, in ancient times they erected altars and performed sacrifices to her yearly; and later they built for her a costly temple in Pisinus of Phrygia, and established honours and sacrifices of the greatest magnificence, Midas their king taking part in all these works out of his devotion to beauty; and beside the statue of the goddess they set up panthers and lions, since it was the common opinion that she had first been nursed by these animals.

Such, then, are the myths which are told about Mother of the God both among the Phrygians and by the Atlantians who dwell on the coast of the ocean.

p279 60 1 After the death of Hyperion,29 the myth relates, the kingdom was divided among the sons of Uranus, the most renowned of whom were Atlas and Cronus. Of these sons Atlas received as his part the regions on the coast of the ocean, and he not only gave the name of Atlantians to his peoples but likewise called the greatest mountain in the land Atlas. 2 They also say that he perfected the science of astrology and was the first to publish to mankind the doctrine of the sphere;30 and it was for this reason that the idea was held that the entire heavens were supported upon the shoulders of Atlas, the myth darkly hinting in this way at his discovery and description of the sphere. There were born to him a number of sons, one of whom was distinguished above the others for his piety, justice to his subjects, and love of mankind, his name being Hesperus. 3 This king, having once climbed to the peak of Mount Atlas, was suddenly snatched away by mighty winds while he was making his observations of the stars, and never was seen again; and because of the virtuous life he had lived and their pity for his sad fate the multitudes accorded to him immortal honours and called the brightest31 of the stars of heaven after him.

4 Atlas, the myth goes on to relate, also had seven daughters, who as a group were called Atlantides p281after their father, but their individual names were Maea, Electra, Taÿgetê, Steropê, Meropê, Halcyonê, and the last Celaeno. These daughters lay with the most renowned heroes and gods and thus became the first ancestors of the larger part of the race of human beings, giving birth to those who, because of their high achievements, came to be called gods and heroes; Maea the eldest, for instance, lay with Zeus and bore Hermes, who was the discoverer of many things for the use of mankind; similarly the other Atlantides also gave birth to renowned children, who became the founders in some instances of nations in other cases of cities. 5 Consequently, not only among certain barbarians but among the Greeks as well, the great majority of the most ancient heroes trace their descent back to the Atlantides. These daughters were also distinguished for their chastity and after their death attained to immortal honour among men, by whom they were both enthroned in the heavens and endowed with the appellation of Pleiades.32 The Atlantides were also called "nymphs" because the natives of that land addressed their women by the common appellation of "nymph."33

61 1 Cronus, the brother of Atlas, the myth continues, who was a man notorious for his impiety and greed, married his sister Rhea, by whom he begat that Zeus who was later called "the Olympian." But there had been also another Zeus, the brother of Uranus p283and a king of Crete, who, however, was far less famous than the Zeus who was born at a later time.34 2 Now the latter was king over the entire world, whereas the earlier Zeus, who was lord of the above-mentioned island, begat ten sons who were given the name of Curetes; and the island he named after his wife Idaea, and on it he died and was buried, and the place which received his grave is pointed out to our day. 3 The Cretans, however, have a myth which does not agree with the story given above, and we shall give a detailed account of it when we speak of Crete.35 Cronus, they say, was lord of Sicily and Libya, and Italy as well, and, in a word, established his kingdom over the regions to the west; and everywhere he occupied with garrisons the commanding hills and the strongholds of the regions, this being the reason why both throughout Sicily and the parts which incline towards the west many of the lofty places are called to this day after him "Cronia."

4 Zeus, however, the son of Cronus, emulated a manner of life the opposite of that led by his father, and since he showed himself honourable and friendly to all, the masses addressed him as "father." As for his succession to the kingly power, some say that his father yielded it to him of his own accord, but others state that he was chosen as king by the masses because of the hatred they bore towards his father, and that when Cronus made war against him with the aid of the Titans, Zeus overcame him in battle, and on gaining supreme power visited all the inhabited world, conferring benefactions upon the p285race of men. 5 He was pre-eminent also in bodily strength and in all the other qualities of virtue and for this reason quickly became master of the entire world. And in general he showed all zeal to punish impious and wicked men and to show kindness to the masses. 6 In return for all this, after he had passed from among men he was given the name of Zên,36 because he was the cause of right "living" among men, and those who had received his favours showed him honour by enthroning him in the heavens, all men eagerly acclaiming him as god and lord for ever of the whole universe.

These, then, are in summary the facts regarding the teachings of the Atlantians about the gods.


The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 i.e. to the plan of Diodorus' history.

2 The Greater Syrtis.

3 Literally, "horned serpents," or asps.

4 Cp. Aristophanes, The Clouds, 346: "Didst thou never espy a cloud in the sky which a centaur or leopard might be, or a wolf or a cow?" (tr. by Rogers in the L. C. L.); and Lucretius 4.139‑42: "For often giant's countenances appear to fly over and to draw their shadow afar, sometimes great mountains and rocks torn from the mountains to go before and to pass by the sun, after them some monster pulling and dragging other clouds" (tr. by Rouse in the L. C. L.).

5 i.e. either pursuing or retreating before men; cp. chap. 50.4 and below.

6 Cp. Book 2.44‑6.

7 This Dionysius, nicknamed Skytobrachion, "of the leathern arm," lived in Alexandria in the middle of the second century B.C. and composed a mythical romance from which Diodorus drew the following account of the Amazons and his description of the Atlanteans (cc. 56, 57, 60, 61), of the Dionysus born in Libya (cc. 66.4‑73.8), and of the Argonauts (Book 4.40‑55). The following account is an excellent example of the syncretism and rationalization of the old Greek myths.

8 i.e. Perseus.

9 Literally, "freedom of speech."

10 Cp. p33, note 1.

11 The anthrax was a precious stone of dark red colour, such as the carbuncle, ruby, and garnet; the sardion included our cornelian and sardine; the smaragdos was any green stone.

12 i.e. "Peninsula"; presumably the city lay on a ridge of land running out into the marsh.

13 i.e. the birth of the gods; cp. chap. 56 below.

14 A strange statement, in connection with so small a number of cavalry. Perhaps the numbers should be transposed.

15 Cp. Book 4.18.

16 The Mediterranean.

17 This river flows past Pergamum and empties into the Aegean Sea.

18 The city of Myrina in Mysia; cp. Strabo 13.3.6.

19 Cybelê.

20 Homer; the lines are from the Iliad 14.200‑1.

21 The "sun" and the "moon" respectively.

22 The Po.

Thayer's Note: Although the Po was indeed sometimes called Eridanus, already in Antiquity a dozen other major rivers were identified with it, as were the Ocean, and in the heavens both the Milky Way and a constellation apparently overlapping the modern constellation of that name; to which modern scholars have added further candidates. The student will do much better to follow the geographer Strabo who says (V.1.9) that it exists nowhere on earth. For a good initial survey of the question, see Allen's Star Names, pp215‑217.

23 Cp. the scene in Sophocles, Oedipus at Colonus, 1620‑1, immediately before Oedipus passes from earth in the storm:

So clinging to each other sobbed and wept

Father and daughters both.

(tr. by Storr in the L. C. L.)

24 i.e. the Magna Mater.

25 i.e. into a single pipe.

26 "Papa" or "father." Attis-Papas was the supreme god of the physicians, occupying the position held by Zeus in the Greek world.

27 i.e. they were both using their breath; Marsyas to make the pipes sound, Apollo to produce vocal notes.

28 Hermes had discovered the three-stringed lyre (cp. Book 1.16.1), and Apollo had presumably added four more strings. It is these additional four strings which then had to be rediscovered.

29 The account is resumed which was dropped at the end of chap. 57.

30 This phrase must be interpreted in the light of the context and of the statement in Book 4.27.5, that Atlas "discovered the spherical nature of the stars." Ancient writers in many places refer to Atlas as the discoverer of astronomy; and since Diodorus is referring to the first beginnings of astronomical thinking among the Greeks, we have in these references to the "doctrine of the sphere" and the "spherical nature of the stars" a memory of the Pythagorean quadrivium, in which " 'sphaeric' means astronomy, being the geometry of the sphere considered solely with reference to the problem of accounting for the motions of the heavenly bodies" (T. L. Heath, Greek Mathematics, 1. p11).

31 Hesperus.

32 It has been conjectured that the name is derived from the verb "to sail" (Pleō), since this constellation rose at the beginning of the sailing season.

Thayer's Note: Another derivation, to my mind more plausible, is given in Allen's Star Names, p395; πλεῖν was very likely a folk-etymology, although a very old one.

33 i.e. in addressing their women they did not distinguish between the married and unmarried, as most Greeks did.

34 i.e. "the Olympian."

35 In Book 5.64 ff.

36 This is another form of the name "Zeus," and also the infinitive of the verb "live."


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