Thomas Stanley, translator (1665) Claudius Aelianus His Various History. Book V (pages 122-132)


Various History.

The Fifth Book.


That Tachos died upon using more delicate Diet.

Tachos the Ægyptian, whilest he used the Diet of his Country, and lived sparingly, was the most healthful of men ; but when he went to the Persians, and fell into their Luxury, not able to bear their unaccustomed Diet, he ended his life by a Dysentery, and changed Luxury for Death.

Chap. II.

Pherecydes how he died.

Pherecydes, Master of Pythagoras, falling sick, first had a very hot Sweat, viscous-like Phlegm, afterwards like that of Beasts ; then little Vermin grew in him : and his flesh corrupting into them, he wasted away, and so ended his life.1

Chap. III.

Of Hercules his Pillars.

Aristotle affirms that those Pillars which are now called of Hercules, were first called the Pillars of Briareus ; but after that Hercules had cleared the Sea and Land, and beyond all question shewed much kindness to men, they in honour of him, not esteeming the memory of Briareus, called them Heraclean.

Chap. IV.

Of some Trees growing in Delus.

It is reported that in Delus there groweth an Olive and a Palm, which Latona touching was immediately brought to bed ; whereas until then she could not.2

Chap. V.

Of Epaminondas his Indigence and Magnanimity.

Epaminondas had but one Vest, and that sordid, so that whenoever he sent it to the Fuller, he was forced to stay at home for want of another. Whilest he was thus indigent, the Persian King3 sending him a great summe of money, he would not accept it. And, if I mistake not, he that refused the Gift was more Magnanimous then he that offered it.

Chap. VI.

Of the voluntary death of Calanus.

Likewise the end of Calanus the Indian is worthy to be praised, another would say to be admired. It was on this manner ; Calanus the Indian Sophist,4 having bid a long farewell to Alexander and the Macedonians, and to life, when he would free himself from the Fetters of the Body, caused a Pyre to be made in the fairest Suburb of Babylon ; the wood thereof was dry, and chosen for fragrancy, Cedar, Thyum, Cypress, Myrtle and Laurel. He having performed his accustomed exercise (which was to run a course) came and stood in the middle of the Pyre, crowned with reeds. The Sun shone upon him, and he worshipped him, which was the sign he had given the Macedonians, that they should kindle the Pyre, which they did ; and continued standing upright in the flame, and fell not till he was quite consumed. Hereat Alexander (as is reported) much astonished, said, that Calanus had vanquished greater Enemies then he. For he warred with Porus, and Taxiles, and Darius ; but Calanus with Pains and Death.

Chap. VII.

Of Anacharsis.

The Scythians wander up and down their own Country ; but Anacharsis, being a wise man, extended his travells farther : for he came into Greece, and Solon admired him.

Chap. VIII.

How some have born Scoffs.

Scoffs and Reproches to me seem of no force : for if they meet with a solid minde, they are shattered in pieces ; but if with a mean and low, they have power, and many times occasion not onely grief, but death : whereof take this instance ; Socrates being derided in a Comedy, laughed ; but Poliagras hanged himself.5

Chap. IX.

Of Aristotle.

Aristotle having prodigally consumed his Patrimony, went to the Warres ; which succeeding ill with him also, he then traded as an Apothecary. But coming by chance in to the Peripatus, and hearing the discourses there, being of better natural parts then most of them, he acquired that habit which he afterwards put in execution.6

Chap. X.

The number of some Ships and Arms which the Athenians left.

The Athenians were diligent in taking care for their Navy. Sometimes having the better, and sometimes being worsted, they lost in Ægypt two hundred Galleys, with all that belonged to them ; at Cyprus a hundred and fifty ; in Sicily two hundred and forty ; in the Hellespont two hundred. Of compleatly-armed Souldiers there were slain in Sicily forty thousand, and at Charonæa a thousand.

Chap. XI.

The Cruelty of a King of Thrace towards his Children.

A King of Thrace, (his name let some other tell) when Xerxes warred against Greece, fled to the Mountain Rhodope, and advised his six Sons not to fight against Greece. But they not obeying him, when he returned, he put out the eyes of them all ; an act unlike a Grecian.

Chap. XII.

That Demades was fined for making a Decree, that Alexander should be accounted a God.

I cannot but love this act of the Athenians ; In a publick Assembly of the Athenians, Demades rising up decreed that Alexander should be the thirteenth Deity. But the people not enduring his excessive impiety, fined him a hundred Talents, for enrolling Alexander, who was a mortal, amongst the Celestial Gods.

Chap. XIII.

That the Athenians were inclined to Novelties.

The Athenians were very changeable as to Government, and exceedingly inclined to alteration. They patiently suffered Kingly Government under Cecrops, Erechtheus and Theseus, and afterwards under the Codrida ; they experimented Tyranny under the Pisistratidæ ; they used Aristocracy four hundred years ; after which they chose yearly ten Citizens which governed the City. At last there happened an Anarchy by the Sedition of the Thirty Tyrants. This ready change of customes, whether it should be commended or not, I know not.7

Chap. XIV.

An Attick Law concerning the Interrment of Bodies, and killing of Oxen.

This was an Attick Law ; Whosoever happens to light upon the Carcase of any man, he must throw earth all over it, and bury it as looking towards the West.

This also was observed by them ; A ploughing Oxe, that laboureth under the yoak, either with Plough or Cart, sacrifice not. For he also is a Tiller of the earth, and partakes with men of their labour.

Chap. XV.

Places of Judicature in Athens for Murthers.

Attick Courts of Judicature, for wilfull Murthers in the Arepoagus, for involuntary in the Palladium ; for those who confessed the Murther, but pleaded the lawfulness of it, in the Delphinium.

Chap. XVI.

That a little Boy was condemned for Sacrilege.

A little Boy carried away a Plate of Gold which fell from the Crown of Diana. It was discovered. The Judged caused playthings and Dice to be set before him, as also the Plate. He again laid hold of the Plate : whereupon they put him to death for Sacrilege, not sparing his age, but punishing the act.

Chap. XVII.

Of the Superstition of the Athenians.

The Athenians were so Superstitious, that if any one felled a little Oak out of the Heroes Grove, they put him to death. And Atarbes, for that he killed the Sparrow8 sacred to Æsculapius, they spared not, but executed him : Not pardoning either his ignorance or madness, but preferring the concernment of the God before both these. For some said he did it by chance, others, through fury.

Chap. XVIII.

Of a Woman with child condemned to death.

The Court of Areopagus having tried a Woman poisoner, and it being judged she should die, they would not put her to death until she were delivered of the Infant wherewith she was great. Then saving the innocent Child, they executed the guilty person.

Chap. XIX.

How Æschylus condemned for Impiety was preserved.

Æschylus the Tragick Poet was by reason of some Play condemned for Impiety. Whereupon the Athenians being ready to stone him, Amynias his younger Brother, throwing back his Vest, shewed his Arm without a Hand. Amynias had the reward for fighting best at Salamis, where he lost his Hand, and was the first of the Athenians that was rewarded. The Judges seeing the trouble of the man, called to mind his actions, and dismist Æschylus.9

Chap. XX.

Of the Fasting of the Tarentines and Rhegians.

The Tarentines being besieged by the Romans, and ready to surrender through Famine, the Rhegians ordered a Fast to be kept every ten daies ; and with the allowance of that food supplied the Tarentines. Hereupon the Romans raised their siege ; and the Tarentines, in memory of their distress, kept a Feast, which they called The Fast.

Chap. XX.

That Medea did not kill her own Children.

Some say that the relation concerning Medea is false, and that she did not kill her Children, but the Corinthians. This Fable concerning Colchis, and the Tragedy (Medea) they say Euripides made at the request of the Corinthians. The falsity prevailed above the truth, by reason of the excellency of the Poet. But for the Murther of the Children, they say that even to this day the Corinthians offer expiatory Sacrifices to them ; which they render as a kind of Tribute.10

The End.


Stanley's notes are marked by glyphs (e.g., *); other notes are numbered.

1. On Pherecydes, see also the previous book, Chap. XXVIII.

2. Brought to bed: of Apollo and Diana.

3. King of Persia: According to Cornelius Nepos, Epaminondas, this was Artaxerxes II Mnenon, and it was a bribe rather than a gift, as a kind of test.

4. Calanus: According to Plutarch, Life of Alexander, his name was Sphines. The Greeks called him Calanus because it was his habit to greet people in his native language, saying Cale. On the games that Alexander instituted to honor Calanus after his death, see Book II.

5. On Socrates, see also Book II. Poliager, according to Plutarch, de Audiend. poet., was represented on stage as (and accused in real life of) prostituting his wife. In Holland's translation:

If say [Odysseus] joyed, in that his wife received their courtesies and tokens, and so made a gaine of them, surely he surpasseth Poliager the notorious bawd, playing his part in the Comedies, of whom there goeth this by-word:

Bawde Poliager happie man hee, That keepes at home in house a shee : A heavenly goate whose influence, Brings in riches with affluence.

6. The feeling of this sentence would be better conveyed by something like "He acquired that knowledge that he later appropriated to himself" -- that is, something very close to a charge of plagiarism or intellectual thievery, without an absolutely commitment to the charge.

7. The account of the monarchs of Athens is abridged; Cecrops was the first king, Erectheus the sixth, Theseus the tenth. Codrus was the last king of Athens, but his descendants (the "Codrida") held essentially monarchical power as hereditary Archons for the next 300 years, when the hereditary archonship was replaced with a decennial archonship. The "four hundred years" is probably a mistake for the system of 400 "senators" established by Solon. The "ten citizens" probably refers to the strategoi, elected each year. The Thirty Tyrants were in 404-403 B.C. (and government continued afterward using the archon system). It should be remembered that we are talking about a long time in this passage -- about 1100 years. It's a bit of a stretch to use this as evidence of "inconstancy".

8. Sparrow: στρυθὸς, though commentators, unhappy because it is usually the rooster that is associated with Aesculapius, sometimes want to meddle here. One suggestion is that the said sparrow had built a nest in the temple of Aesculapius and was thereby made sacred to the god. We shall probably never know.

9. According to Clement of Alexander, Stromata II (if this is the same episode), Aeschylus was accused of revealing religious mysteries on the stage and absolved of the charge on his showing that he was not an initiate. The family seems to have been careless or unlucky; another of Aeschylus's brothers lost both hands at Marathon, if the Cynaegirus of Justin II.9 is the same as Aeschylus's brother.

10. Pausanias, in a somewhat confusing passage in his description of Corinth Chap. III reports that the Corinthians stoned the children. It seems unlikely that the Corinthians would perform expiatory sacrifices (including cutting their children's hair and habiting them in black) and also pay for Euripides to produce a false version of the story.

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