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This webpage reproduces a portion of
The Library of History

Diodorus Siculus

published in Vol. III
of the Loeb Classical Library edition, 1939

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
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(Vol. III) Diodorus Siculus
Library of History

 p331  Fragments of Book VI

[Our first six Books embrace the events and legends previous to the Trojan War, the first three setting forth the antiquities of the barbarians, and the next three almost exclusively those of the Greeks. (Diodorus, 1.4.6)]

1 [link to original Greek text] 1 The foregoing is told by Diodorus in the Third Book of his history.1 And the same writer, in the sixth Book as well, confirms the same view regarding the gods, drawing from the writing of Euhemerus of Messenê,2 and using the following words:

2 "As regards the gods, then, men of ancient times have handed down to later generations two different conceptions: Certain of the gods, they say, are eternal and imperishable, such as the sun and moon and the other stars of the heavens, and the winds as well and whatever else possesses a nature similar to theirs; for of each of these the genesis and duration are from everlasting to everlasting. But the other gods, we are told, were terrestrial beings who attained to immortal honour and fame because of their benefactions to mankind, such as Heracles, Dionysus, Aristaeus, and the others who were like them. 3 Regarding these terrestrial gods many and varying accounts have been handed down by the writers of history and mythology; of the historians, Euhemerus, who composed the Sacred  p333 History, has written a special treatise about them, while, of the writers of myths, Homer and Hesiod and Orpheus and the others of their kind have invented rather monstrous stories about the gods. But for our part, we shall endeavour to run over briefly the accounts which both groups of writers have given, aiming at due proportion in our exposition.

4 "Now Euhemerus, who was a friend of King Cassander3 and was required by him to perform certain affairs of state and to make great journeys abroad, says that he travelled southward as far as the ocean; for setting sail from Arabia the Blest he voyaged through the ocean for a considerable number of days and was carried to the shore of some islands in the sea, one of which bore the name of Panchaea. On this island he saw the Panchaeans who dwell there, who excel in piety and honour the gods with the most magnificent sacrifices and with remarkable votive offerings of silver and of gold. 5 The island is sacred to the gods, and there are a number of other objects on it which are admired both for their antiquity and for the great skill of their workmanship, regarding which severally we have written in the preceding Books.4 6 There is also on the island, situated upon an exceedingly high hill, a sanctuary of Zeus Triphylius, which was established by him during the time when he was king of all the inhabited world and was still in the company of men. 7 And in this temple there is a stele of gold on which is inscribed in summary, in the writing employed by the Panchaeans, the deeds of Uranus and Cronus and Zeus.

 p335  8 "Euhemerus goes on to say that Uranus was the first to be king, that he was an honourable man and beneficent, who was versed in the movement of the stars, and that he was also the first to honour the gods of the heavens with sacrifices, whence he was called Uranus or "Heaven." 9 There were born to him by his wife Hestia two sons, Titan and Cronus, and two daughters, Rhea and Demeter. Cronus became king after Uranus, and marrying Rhea he begat Zeus and Hera and Poseidon. And Zeus, on succeeding to the kingship, married Hera and Demeter and Themis, and by them he had children, the Curetes by the first named, Persephonê by the second, and Athena by the third. 10 And going to Babylon he was entertained by Belus, and after that he went to the island of Panchaea, which lies in the ocean, and here he set up an altar to Uranus, the founder of his family. From there he passed through Syria and came to Casius, who was ruler of Syria at that time, and who gave his name to Mt. Casius.5 And coming to Cilicia he conquered in battle Cilix, the governor of the region, and he visited very many other nations, all of which paid honour to him and publicly proclaimed him a god."

11 After recounting what I have given and more to the same effect about the gods, as if about mortal men, Diodorus goes on to say: "Now regarding Euhemerus, who composed the Sacred History, we  p337 shall rest content with what has been said, and shall endeavour to run over briefly the myths which the Greeks recount concerning the gods, as they are given by Hesiod and Homer and Orpheus." Thereupon Diodorus goes on to add the myths as the poets give them.

2 [link to original Greek text] 1 Regarding the gods, the most learned Diodorus also says in his writings that those gods whom men were wont to address as immortal, considering them to be so because of their beneficences, had indeed been born human beings; but that certain of them had acquired the appellations they have after the lands they conquered.

3 [link to original Greek text] 1 Diodorus says, following the account preserved in the myths, that Xanthus and Balius6 were formerly Titans and had come to the aid of Zeus, Xanthus as a companion of Poseidon and Balius of Zeus; and in the battle7 they asked that their shape might be changed, since they were ashamed to be seen by their brethren the Titans, and their request was granted; and it was these horses which were given to Peleus. This explains, Diodorus says, why Xanthus is able to prophesy his death to Achilleus.

4 [link to original Greek text] 1 Pherecydes records that Saturnus was the first, before all others, to wear a crown, and Diodorus relates that, after he had defeated the Titans, Jupiter was rewarded by the rest with this same distinction; the same writer gives even to Priapus fillets and to Ariadnê a wreath made of gold and precious stones from India, this wreath becoming also a distinction of Vulcan, and then of Liber, and later a constellation.8

 p339  5 [link to original Greek text] 1 Ninus' brother, Picus,9 who was also called Zeus, but also king of Italy, holding sway over the west for one hundred and twenty years. And he had many sons and daughters by the most comely women; for he assumed in some cases mysterious aspects when seducing them. And these women, when they were being debauched by him, looked upon him as a god. 2 This same Picus, who was also called Zeus, had a son named Faunus, whom he also called Hermes for the name of the wandering star.10 3 And when Zeus was on the point of death he gave orders that his remains be laid away on the island of Crete; and his sons built him a temple there in which they laid him. This monument exists even to the present day, and it bears the inscription "Here lies Picus whom men also call Zeus." Diodorus, the most learned chronographer, has composed an account of this Picus.

6 [link to original Greek text] 1 According to tradition, Castor and Polydeuces, who were also known as the Dioscori, far surpassed all other men in valour and gained the greatest distinction in the campaign in which they took part with the Argonauts; and they have come to the aid of many who have stood in need of succour. And, speaking generally, their manly spirit and skill as generals, and their justice and piety as well, have won them fame among practically all men, since they make their appearance as helpers of those who fall into unexpected perils.11 Moreover, because of their exceptional valour they have been  p341 judged to be sons of Zeus, and when they departed from among mankind they attained to immortal honours.

2 Epopeus, the king of Sicyon, challenged the gods to battle and violated their sanctuaries and altars.

3 Sisyphus, we are told, excelled all other men in knavery and ingenuity, and by means of his skill in divination by inspection of victims he discovered everything that was to happen and foretold it to mankind.

4 Salmoneus was impious and arrogant and made it his practice to ridicule the divinity, and he declared that his achievements excelled those of Zeus. Consequently he used to make a tremendous noise by means of a machine he contrived and to imitate in this way peals of thunder, and he would celebrate neither sacrifices nor festivals.12

5 The same Salmoneus had a daughter named Tyro,13 who received this name by reason of the whiteness and softness of her body.

7 [link to original Greek text] 1 For Salmoneus, being impious and arrogant, made it his practice to ridicule the divinity and to declare that his achievements excelled those of Zeus; consequently he used to make a tremendous noise by means of a machine he contrived, and by imitating claps of thunder he would declare that he had thundered more loudly than Zeus. Speaking generally, in his mockery of the gods he would celebrate neither sacrifices nor festivals in their honour, as the other rulers were accustomed to do.14 2 And there was born to him an only daughter, Tyro, to whom he  p343 thought this name was appropriate by reason of the softness of her body and the whiteness of her skin. 3 Poseidon became enamoured of this maiden because of her beauty, and lying with her he begat Pelias and Neleus. And Salmoneus, not believing that it was Poseidon who had taken her virginity, would not leave off ill-treating Tyro; but in the end he paid the penalty to the deity for his impiety, ending his life when struck by lightning from the hand of Zeus. 4 Of the sons born of Poseidon and Tyro, Pelias, when very young, was banished from his native land by Mimas, and going into exile together with his friends, he seized, with their aid, two islands, Sciathos and Peparethos; but at a later time, since Cheiron conferred benefactions upon him and shared his own country with him he departed from the islands we have mentioned, and became king of the city of Iolci.15 And there were born to him a number of daughters who took their name from their father, being called the Peliades, regarding whom we shall rest content with what has been said.16

8 [link to original Greek text] 1 Admetus was very dear to the gods because of his unusual righteousness and piety. His uprightness brought him such honour that once, when Apollo had offended17 Zeus, the command was given him that he should serve as a menial at the court of Admetus. And we are told that Alcestis, the daughter of Pelias, who was the only one of his daughters who had no part in the impiety18 practised upon  p345 their father, was given as a wife to Admetus because of her piety.

Melampus was a man of exceptional piety and became a friend of Apollo.

9 [link to original Greek text] 1 Bellerophon, who was in exile because of a murder he had unwittingly committed, came to Proetus who exchanged hospitality with his father; and the wife of Proetus became enamoured of Bellerophon because of his beauty, and since she was unable to win him by persuasion she accused him to her husband of having offered violence to her. Now Proetus was unwilling to slay his guest, and so instead he sent him to Lycia, having a written message to Iobates the king, who was his father-in‑law. Iobates received the letter and discovered that in it was written that he should slay Bellerophon with all speed; but, being unwilling to put him to death, he commanded him instead to go join combat with the fire-breathing Chimaera.19

The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 Chaps. 56‑61, in which Diodorus purports to give the account of the Atlantians regarding the origin of the gods.

2 Cp. p210, n1.

3 The first to become king of Macedonia after the death of Alexander; he was generally recognized as king in 301 B.C. and held the throne until his death in 297.

4 Cp. Book 5.41‑46.

5 Jebel el‑Akra, a mountain nearly 6000 feet high on the coast a few miles south of the mouth of the Orontes. It is the most conspicuous landmark of North Syria, its summit commanding a view of Cyprus and the Taurus mountains. Hadrian once climbed the mountain to view the spectacle of the sunrise from it. It is the "Mount Casius old" of Paradise Lost, 2.593.

6 The horses of Achilles (Iliad, 19.400).

7 Between Zeus and the Titans.

8 The constellation of the Northern Crown, still sometimes called "Ariadne's Crown"; cp. Ovid, Fasti, 3.459‑561; Metam. 8.176 ff.

Thayer's Note: For full details and some further citations, see Allen's Star Names, s.v.  Corona Borealis.

9 Students of Euhemerism will be interested in the note on Picus in M. P. Nilsson, The Minoan-Mycenaean Religion, 483.

10 Mercury.

11 i.e. to mariners in storms; cf. Book 4.43.2, and note.

12 Cp. Book 4.68.

13 τυρός means "cheese."

14 This last clause may have been added by the excerptor.

15 Or better, of Iolcus, in Thessaly.

16 Cp. Book 4.50 ff.

17 Zeus became annoyed at Asclepius, Apollo's son, who had discovered the healing art, because he was bringing the dead to life, and slew him with a thunderbolt. Apollo in revenge slew the Cyclopes, sons of Zeus, who, in their workshop under Mt. Aetna, forged the thunderbolts of Zeus.

18 Cp. Book 4.51 ff.

19 Cp. the Iliad, 6.152 ff.

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