Thomas Stanley, translator (1665) Claudius Aelianus His Various History. Book IX (pages 170-192)


Various History.

The Ninth Book.


That Hiero loved Learning, and was liberal, and lived friendly with his Brothers.

They say that Hiero the Syracusian was a lover of the Grecians, and esteemed Learning exceedingly. They affirm also that he was most ready to conferre benefits ; for he was more forward to bestow them, then the suiters to receive them. His soul likewise was of great courage, and he lived together with his Brothers, who were three, without any jealousie, loving them, and beloved in like manner of them exceedingly. With him lived Simonides and Pindar ; neither did Simonides, though of extraordinary age, decline coming to him. For the Cean was naturally very covetous, and that which chiefly allured him was (as they say) the Liberality of Hiero.

Chap. II.

Of the Victory of Taurosthenes.

To Ægina from Olympia on the same day news of the Victory at Taurosthenes was brought to his Father, some say by an Apparition1 ; others reports that he carried along with him a Pigeon taken from her young (not yet fledged,) and as soon as he gained the Victory, let her loose, having tied a little purple about her, and then she came back to her young the same day from Pisa to Ægina.

Chap. III.

Of the Luxury and Pride of Alexander and some others.

Alexander made his Companions effeminate by allowing them to be Luxurious. For Agno wore golden nails in his Shoes. Clitus, when any came to ask counsel of him, came out to his Clients clothed in Purple. Perdiccas and Craterus, who loved exercise, had alwaies brought after them Lifts made of Skin of the length of a Stadium, which upon occasion they pitched on the ground, and exercised within them. They were attended with a continual cloud of dust raised by the Beasts that brought these Carriages.2 Leonnatus and Menelaus, who were addicted to Hunting, had Hangings brought after them which reached the length of a hundred Stadia. Alexander himself had a Tent that held a hundred Couches ; the partitions made by fifty Pillars of Gold which upheld the Roof : the Roof it self was of Gold curiously wrought. Within it round about were placed first five hundred Persians, called Melophori, clothed in purple and yellow Coats. Next those a thousand Archers in flame-colour and light red. Withall a hundred Macedonian Squires with silver Shields. In the middle of the Tent was placed a Golden Throne, upon which Alexander sate and heard suits, encompassed round about with this Guard. The Tent it self was surrounded with a thousand Macedonians, and ten thousand Persians. Neither might any man without much difficulty get access to him, for he was much dreaded, being raised by Fortune and exalted with Pride to so large a Tyranny.

Chap. IV.

Of the diligence of Polycrates in hearing Anacreon, and of his Jealousie.

Polycrates the Samian was addicted to the Muses, and much respected Anacreon the Teian, and took delight as well in his Verses as Company : but I cannot commend his intemperate life. Anacreon made an Encomium of Smerdias.3

Chap. V.

Of Hiero and Themistocles.

Themistocles, when Hiero brought Horses to the Olympick Games, forbad him the Solemnity, saying, It was not fit that he that would not share in their greatest Danger,4 should partake of their Festivals. For which Themistocles was commended.

Chap. VI.

Of Pericles and his Sons dying of the Pestilence.

Pericles, when his Sons were taken away by the Pestilence, bore their death with great fortitude : By whose example the rest of the Athenians were encourged to suffer patiently the loss of their nearest friends.

Chap. VII.

Of Socrates his Equanimity in all things.

Xanthippe used to say, that when the State was oppressed with a thousand miseries, yet Socrates alwaies went abroad and came home with the same look. For he bore a mind smooth and chearful upon all occasions, farre remote from Grief, and above all Fear.

Chap. VIII.

Of Dionysius his Incontinence.

Dionysius the younger coming to the City of the Locrians, (for Doris his Mother was a Locrian) took possession of the fairest houses of the City, and caused the floors to be strewed with Roses, Marjoram, and other Flowers. He also sent for the Daughters of the Locrians, with whom he conversed lasciviously. But he was punished for this ; for when his Tyranny was subverted by Dio, the Locrians seized on his Daughters, and prostituted them publickly to all persons, especially to such as were of kin to the Virgins whom Dionysius had abused : This done, they pricked their fingers under their nails, and so killed them ; then they pounded their bones in a Mortar, and whosoever tasted not of the flesh that was taken from them, they cursed. What remained they cast into the Sea. As for Dionysius, he suffered the vicissitude of Fortune at Corinth, in extreme poverty, becoming a Metragyrta,5 and begging Alms, beating a Tabour and playing on a Pipe till he died.6

Chap. IX.

That Demetrius also was Incontinent.

Demetrius Poliorcetes, having taken Cities, abused them to maintain his Luxury, exacting of them yearly one thousand and two hundred Talents. Of which summe, the least part was employed for the Army, the rest expended upon his own Disorders : for not onely himslef, but the floors of his House were anointed with sweet Unguents ; and according to the season of the year, Flowers strewed for him to tread on. He was lascivious also ; he studied to appear handsome, and Died his hair yellow, and used Paint.7

Chap. X.

Of Plato's little valuing Life.

Plato, when it was told him that the Academy was an unhealthful place, and the Physicians advised him to remove to the Lyceum, refused, saying, "I would not, to prolong my life, goe live on the top of Athos."8

Chap. XI.

Of Parrhasius the Painter.

That Parrhasius the Painter wore a Purple Vest and Crown of gold, besides others, the Epigrams on many of his Images attest.9 On a time he contested at Samos, and met with an Adversary not much inferiour to himself ; he was worsted : the subject was Ajax contending with Ulysses for the Arms of Achilles. Parrhasius being thus overcome, said to a friend who bewailed the misfortune, that for his own being worsted he valued it not, but he was sorry for the son of Telamon, that in the same contest had been twice overcome by his Adversary. He carried a Staff full of golden Nails : His Shoes were fastened on the top with golden Buckles. They say he wrought freely and without trouble, and chearfully, singing softly all the while to divert himself. This is related by Theophrastus.

Chap. XII.

Of the Epicureans banished by the Romans and Messenians.

The Romans expelled Alcæus and Philiscus out of the City, because they taught the young men many dishonest pleasures. Likewise the Messenians expelled the Epicureans.10

Chap. XIII.

Of the Gluttony and exceßive Fatneß of Dionysius.

I am informed that Dionysius the Heracleote, son of Clearchus the Tyrant, through daily Gluttony and intemperance, increased to an extraordinary degree of Corpulency and Fatness, by reason whereof he had much adoe to take breath. The Physicians ordered for remedy of this inconvenience, that Needles should be made very long and small, which when he fell into sound sleep should be thrust through his sides into his belly. Which office his Attendants performed, and till the Needle had passed quite through the fat, and came to the flesh it self, he lay like a stone ; but when it came to the firm flesh, he felt it and awaked.11 When he had any business, when any came to speak with him for advice or orders, he set a Chest before him, (some say it as not a Chest, but a little kind of Turret) which hid all of him but his face, which was seen out of the top, and so talked with them : an excellent Garment, farre fitter for a Beast then a Man.

Chap. XIV.

Of the extraordinary Leanneß of Philetas.

They say that Philetas the Coan was extremely lean ; insomuch that being apt to be thrown down upon the least occasion, he was fain, as they report, to put Lead within the soles of his Shoes, lest the wind, if it blew hard, should overturn him. But if he were so feeble that he could not resist the wind, how was he able to draw such a weight after him ? To me it seems improbable. I onely relate what I have heard.

Chap. XV.

Of Homer.

The Argives give the first Palm of all Poetry to Homer, making all others second to him. When they sacrificed, they invoked Apollo and Homer to be present with them. Moreover they say, that not being able to give a portion with his Daughter, he bestowed on her his Cyprian Poems, as Pindar attests.12

Chap. XVI.

Of Italy, and of Mares both Man and Horse.

The Ausonians first inhabited Italy, being Natives of the place. They say that in old time a man lived there named Mares, before like a Man, behind like a Horse, his name signifying as much as Hippomiges in Greek, Half-horse. My opinion is, that he first back'd and managed a Horse ; whence he was believed to have both Natures. They fable that he lived a hundred twenty three years ; and that he died thrice, and was restored thrice to life : which I conceive incredible. They that more several Nations inhabited Italy then any other Land, by reason of the temperateness of the Country and goodness of the Soil, it being well watered, fruitful, and full of Rivers, and having all along convenient Havens to harbour Ships. Moreover, the humanity and civility of the Inhabitants allured many to remove thither. And that there were in Italy one thousand one hundred and ninety seven Cities.

Chap. XVII.

Of Demosthenes his Pride.

Demosthenes seems to be argued of Pride by this relation, which saith, that the Water-bearers raised a Pride in him, when they said something of him softly to one another as he passed by. For he who was puffed up by them, and proud of such commendations, what must he be when the whole publick Assembly applauded him?

Chap. XVIII.

Of Themistocles.

Themistocles son of Neocles likened him self to Oaks, saying that men come to them for shelter, when they have need of them, in rain, and desire to be protected by their boughs ; but when it is fair, they come to them to strip and peel them. He also said, "If any one should shew me two waies, one leading to the Grave, the other to the Tribunal, I should think it more pleasant to take that which leads to the Grave."

Chap. XIX.

That Demosthenes refused, being called by Diogenes to goe into a Cook's Shop.

As on a time Diogenes was at Dinner in a Cook's Shop, he called to Demosthenes who passed by. But he taking no notice, "Do you think it a disparagement, Demosthenes, (said he) to come into a Cook's Shop? your Master comes hither every day" ; meaning the Common people, and implying that Oratours and Lawyers are Servants of the Vulgar.

Chap. XX.

Of Aristippus.

Aristippus being in a great storm at Sea, one of those who were aboard with him said, "Are you afraid too, Aristippus, as well as we of the ordinary sort?" "Yes, answered he, and with reason ; for you shall onely lose a wicked life, but I, Felicity."13

Chap. XXI.

Of Theramenes.

It happened that as soon as Theramenes came out of an House, that House fell down immediately : The Athenians flocked to him from every side to congratulate his escape ; but he contrary to all their expectations, said, "O Jupiter, to what opportunity do you reserve me?" And not long after he was put to death by the Thirty Tyrants, drinking Hemlock.

Chap. XXII.

Of some that studied Medicine.

They say that Pythagoras was much addicted to the Art of Medicine. Plato also studied it much. So did Aristotle son of Nicomachus, and many others.

Chap. XXIII.

Of Aristotle being sick.

Aristotle on a time falling sick, the Physician prescribed him something. "Cure me not as if I were an Oxe-driver, (saith he) but shew me first a reason, and then I will obey" : Implying, that nothing is to be done but upon good grounds.

Chap. XXIV.

Of the Luxury of Smindyrides.

Smindyrides the Sybarite advanced to so high degree of Luxury, that though the Sybarites themselves were very luxurious, yet he farre out-went them. On a time being laid to sleep on a bed of Roses, as soon as he awaked he said, That the hardness of the Bed had raised Blisters on him. How would he have done to lie on the Ground, or on a Carpet, or on the Grass, or on a Bulls' skin, as Diomedes? a Bed befitting a Souldier.

And underneath him a Bull's skin they spread.14

Chap. XXV.

How Pisistratus behaved himself towards his Citizens.

Pisistratus having obtained the Government, sent for such as passed their time idlely in the Market-place, and asked them the reason why they walked up and down unemployed, adding, "If your yoke of Oxen be dead, take of mine, and goe your waies and work ; if you want Corn for feed, you shall have some of me." He feared lest being idle, they might contrive some Treason against him.

Chap. XXVI.

Of Zeno and Antigonus.

Antigonus the King loved and respected Zeno the Cittican exceedingly. It happened, that on a time being full of Wine, he met Zeno, and like a drunken man embraced and kissed him, and bade him ask something of him, binding himself by an Oath to grant it. Zeno said to him, "Goe then and sleep" ; gravely and discreetly reproving his Drunkenness, and consulting his Health.

Chap. XXVII.

Ingenuity of Manners.

One reprehended a Lacedemonian Rustick for grieving immoderately. He answered with great simplicity, "What should I doe? It is not I that am the cause, but Nature."


Of Diogenes.

A Spartan commending this Verse of Hesiod15,

Not so much as an Oxe can die, Unleß a Neighbour ill be by ;

and Diogenes hearing him, "But, saith he, the Messenians and their Oxen were destroyed, and you are their Neighbours."16

Chap. XXIX.

That Socrates was fearleß, and despised Gifts.

Socrates coming home late one night from a Feast, some wild young men knowing of his return, lay in wait for him, attired like Furies, with Vizards and Torches, whereby they used to fright such as they met. Socrates as soon as he saw them, nothing troubled, made a stand, and fell to question them, as he used to doe to others in the Lyceum, or Academy.

Alcibiades, ambitiously munificent, sent many Presents to Socrates. Xanthippe admiring their value, desired him to accept them, "We (answered Socrates) will contest in Liberality with Alcibiades, not accepting by a kind of munificence what he hath sent us."

Also when one said to him, "It is a great thing to enjoy what we desire" ; He answered, "But a greater not to desire at all."

Chap. XXX.

Of the Providence of Anaxarchus.

Anaxarchus when he accompanied Alexander in the Warres, the Winter coming on, foreseeing that Alexander would encamp in a place destitute of wood, buried all his Vessels and other Utensils in his Tent, and laded his Carriages with wood. When they came to the Rendezvous, there being want of wood, Alexander was forced to make use of his Bedsteds for Fuell. But being told that Anaxarchus had gotten fire, he went to him and anointed himself in his Tent. And having understood his Providence, commended it ; bestowing on him Utensils and Garments double in value to those he had thrown away, for the use of his fire.

Chap. XXXI.

Of a Wrastler who, having gained the Victory, died before he was Crowned.

A Wrastler of Crotona having gained the Victory at the Olympick Games, going to the Judges to receive the Crown, was suddenly seized with an Epileptick fit, and died with the fall.

Chap. XXXII.

Of the Statues of Phryne a Curtizan, and of the Mares of Cimon.

The Grecians erected a Statue of Phryne the Curtizan at Delphi upon a high Pillar : I say not simply the Grecians, lest I seem to involve all in that crime whom I chiefly love, but those of the Grecians who were most addicted to Intemperance.17 The Statue was of Gold. There were also at Athens Statues of the Mares of Cimon in Brass proportioned to the life.18


The Answer of a young man to his Father, demanding what he had learned.

A young man of Eretria,19 having heard Zeno a long time, returning home, his Father asked him what Wisedome he had learnt. He answered that he would shew him. His Father being angry, and beating him, he bore it humbly. "This (saith he) I have learnt, To bear with the anger of a Father."

Chap. XXXIV.

Of persons richly clad.

Diogenes coming to Olympia, and seeing at the Solemnity some young men, Rhodians, richly attired, laughing said, "This is Pride." Then meeting with some Lacedemonians clad in Coats coarse and sordid, "This (said he) is another Pride."

Chap. XXXV.

Of Antisthenes taking pride in a torn Cloak.

Socrates seeing that Antisthenes alwaies exposed to view the torn part of his Cloak, "Will you not (saith he) lay aside Ostentation amongst us?"

Chap. XXXVI.

Of Antigonus and a Lutenist.

A Lutenist shewed his skill before Antigonus, who often saying to him, "Scrue the Treble" ; and again, "Scrue up the Tenor" : The Lutenist angrily said, "The Gods divert such a mischief from you, O King, as for you to be more skilful herein then I am."


How Anaxarchus derided Alexander, who would be esteemed a God.

Anaxarchus, surnamed Endæmonicus, laughed at Alexander for making himself a God. Alexander on a time falling sick, the Physician prescribed a Broth for him. Anaxarchus laughing, said, "The hopes of our God are in a Porrenger of Broth."


Of Alexander, and the Harp of Paris.

Alexander went to Troy, and making there a curious Scrutiny, one of the Trojans came to him, and shewed him the Harp of Paris. He said, "I had much rather see that of Achilles then this of Paris." For he desired to see that which belonged to the excellent Souldier, and to which he sung the praises of great persons. But to that of Paris, what were sung but adulterous Airs to take and entice Women?

Chap. XXXIX.

Of ridiculous and extravagant affections.

Who can say that these affections were not ridiculous and extravagant? That of Xerxes, when he fell in love with a Plane-tree.20 Likewise a young man at Athens, of a good Family, fell desperately in love with the Statue of good Fortune, which stood before the Prytaneum. He often would embrace and kiss it ; at last transported with mad desire, he came to the Senate, and desired that he might purchase it at any rate. But not obtaining his suit, he Crowned it with many Garlands and Ribbons, offered Sacrifice, put upon it a very rich Garment, and, after he had shed innumerable tears, killed himself. * * * *21

Chap. XL.

Of the Pilots of the Carthaginian Ships.

The Carthaginians appointed two Pilots for every Ship, saying, that it was not fit a Ship should have two Rudders ; and he who did chiefly benefit the Passengers, and had command of the Ship, should be desolate and alone without an assistant.

Chap. XLI.

Of Pausanias and Simonides.

Simonides the Cean and Pausanias the Lacedemonian (they say) were at a Feast together. Pausanias bade Simonides speak some wise thing. But the Cean laughing, said, "Remember you are a Man." At that present Pausanias slighted this, and valued it not ; siding then with the Medes, & proud of the Hospitality which the King shewed him ; perhaps also transported with Wine : But when he was in the Temple of Minerva Chalciæcus,22 and struggled with famine, and was ready to die the most miserable of men, he then remembered Simonides, and cried out thrice, "O Cean guest, thy speech imported much, though I ignorantly undervalued it."

Chap. XLII.

Of Artaxerxes and Darius.

Artaxerxes having put his eldest Son Darius to death for conspiring against him ; the second, his Father commanding, drew his Scimitar and slew himself before the Palace.23

The End.


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

1. Pausanias, VI.9.3.

2. This translation is scarcely comprehensible. Perdiccas and Craterus, given to gymnastic exercise, carried about with them sufficient skins to pave an area the size of a stadium. They had with them beasts carrying sacks of dust that they used in wrestling.

3. This has been bowdlerized to the point of making no sense at all. Read: "Polycrates, addicted to the Muses, was enamoured of Anacreon, loving as much his person as his verses. But I cannot approve in the tyrant of Samos the weakness that I am about to tell. Anacreon, speaking of Smerdias, whom Polycrates loved, praised him with great warmth. The young man, flattered, took a great shine to Anacreon. — Let none conclude anything bad about the mores of the poet of Teos! By the gods, he loved in Smerdias the qualities of his mind, and nothing else! — But Polycrates, jealous of the honor Anacreon had shown Smerdias, and not less jealous of the friendship that was forming between the two, had Smerdias's head shaved, as much to humiliate Smerdias as to displease Anacreon. Anacreon, however, was sufficiently master of himself to pretend that this had nothing to do with Polycrates, but was Smerdias's own choice. He reproached Smerdias with having committed an idiocy in taking up arms against his own hair. Let Anacreon sing the verses that he made on the loss of Smerdias' hair : he will sing them better than I can." Those verses do not survive. Anacreon seems to have made up his quarrel with Polycrates, with whom he stayed until Polycrates died.

4. See Herodotus VII.157 and following. Gelo (and Hiero) did not exactly refuse their help; rather, the Greek ambassadors refused to accept Gelo's quite reasonable terms for that help.

5. Or Agyrta, the Roman Gallus: a priest of Cybele. In later times the priests of Cybele were castrated, but classical Greek writers do not mention this, so it is not clear whether it was done at this time. While the goddess herself was held in great veneration, her priests were generally regarded as vile.

6. Playing a pipe: καταυλούμενος; more likely "having a pipe played to him" while doing something else: drinking or (given his status as a priest of Cybele) dancing, or just standing about playing his tambour.

7. Once again, Stanley has bowdlerized the translation. "He was lascivious also, and he did not restrain his lust to women alone. His appearance was a matter of serious effort : not only was his air always arranged artfully, but he had found a way to dye it blond, just as he knew, by the aid of acanthus, how to rouge his cheeks. I won't even talk about the drugs of all kinds that this showily effeminate man used."

8. See Pomponius Mela, II.28. There was a town, Acrothon, upon the top of Athos where people, says Pomponius, lived half again as long as people elsewhere. Pliny, IV, mentions the town but not the long life of its inhabitants. In VII Pliny writes that Isogonus attributes the long life of those who live on Mount Athos (not just the top) to the fact that they feed on vipers, which prevents lice from breeding in their hair or other vermin in their clothes. (We won't speak of the illogic of Plato's reply: as though I were to ask you to move to the other side of the room because a meteorite is about to strike, and you were to answer "I wouldn't move to Timbuctoo if you promised me I would live 150 years". But, dear Plato, we did not ask you to move to the top of a mountain....)

9. Parrhasius of Ephesus, fl. around 400 BC. He was the rival (and superior) of Zeuxis. Athenaeus XII.62 records some of the epigrams (and also the story of Ajax).

10. This should probably read "The Romans expelled from Rome the Epicureans A and P.... For the same reason, the Messenians banished all Epicureans".

11. This interesting experiment seems better calculated to amuse the physicians than to provide any remedy for difficulty in breathing, unless the physicians intended a primitive liposuction of some sort, or maybe to scare Dionysius into losing some weight.

12. The Cypria has not survived. Herodotus, II, along with many other ancient writers, believed that Homer was not the author. Later authors ascribe it to Stasinus or Hegesias.

13. The question was designed to catch Aristippus denying his own philosophy, that the aim of life is pleasure and that the greatest felicity is to be content with life as it is at the present moment. See VII.3.

14. Iliad X.155. Diomedes was clad in his armor and sleeping on an oxe skin -- but he had a "fine carpet" for a pillow.

15. Hesiod, Works and Days v. 348.

16. On the Lacedemonians and the Messenians, see book VI chapter I.

17. The statue, according to Athenaeus XIII, was by Praxiteles. Aelian echoes the comment of Crates, who called it "an offering dedicated to Greek incontinence".

18. On Cimon and his mares, who won the prize at the Olympics three times and thus merited burial in a grave opposite Cimon's, see Herodotus VI 103.

19. The town in Euboea, refounded in 1824.

20. On Xerxes and his plane tree, see also II Chap. 14.

21. The asterisks are Stanley's and represent a part left out (good for him: he usually just leaves the material out with no indication). Roughly, "Glauce the lyre player was beloved, according to some, by a dog; others say it was a ram, or a goose. A dog fell madly in love with a child named Xenophon of the Cilician town of Solois. There is a story about a jay who became enamoured of a Spartan child who was particularly beautiful [or, according to some versions of text, particularly ugly]." See Aelian's History of Animals, VIII.12 and I.6.

22. See Book IV, Chap. 7 and Note.

23. According to Plutarch, Life of Artaxerxes 30, Ariaspes poisoned himself, fooled by his (illegitimate) brother Ochus into believing that Artaxerxes was determined to put him to a "cruel and shameful death".

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