Palaephatus, On Unbelievable ThingsPalaephatus, On Things not to be Believed (ΠΕΡΙ ΑΠΙΣΤΩΝ, De incredibilibus). Translated by John Brady Kiesling (1957- ) from the Greek text of N. Festa (Teubner 1902). A readable but not literal translation by Jacob Stern came out in 1996. This rough, usually literal translation for ToposText (2019) makes no claim to accuracy or readability, but is free for any reasonable reuse with acknowledgment of the source. Corrections gratefully accepted. This text has 100 tagged references to 71 ancient places.
CTS URN: urn:cts:greekLit:tlg1553.tlg001; Wikidata ID: Q29747577; Trismegistos: authorwork/893 [Open Greek text in new tab]
§ i This rough, usually literal translation for ToposText (2019) makes no claim to accuracy or readability, but is free for any reasonable reuse with acknowledgment of the source. Corrections gratefully accepted. Palaiphatos was said to be from Abydos, presumably that on the Hellespont rather than in Egypt, and was allegedly a protégé (παιδικά) of Aristotle, therefore of the later 4th century BCE. Only condensed fragments remain of his work, which was popular in Byzantine times. Chapters 46-52 are by some later author, added to some manuscripts.
§ P I have written about things not to be believed. The more credulous of men are persuaded by anything that is said, not being conversant with wisdom and science. The more solid by nature and more curious completely disbelieve that any of these things happened. It seems to me that all the said events happened (not just the names, but there was no rational account of them. First the deed happened, and then the account of it.) As many species and shapes were talked about as occurring then, which now do not exist, such things did not happen. For if something ever happened another time, it happens now and will again.
I, for one, continually praise the writers Melissus and Lamiscus the Samian, who say, What happened in the beginning will be now. Poets and logographers turned aside from what happened and toward the more untrustworthy and more marvelous, so that people would marvel. I know that it is not possible for such things to be as they are reported. I have dealt with this issue, that, "if it didn't happened, they wouldn't have said it." Going to most of the countries, I have inquired from the older people what they heard about each of these, and I have written what I learned from them. And I saw the places as each one was, and wrote this, not the way they are spoken about, but as having gone and looked into them.
§ 1 Centaurs
About Centaurs, they say they were beasts with the whole appearance of a horse, except for the head, which was that of a man. So if someone believes such a beast existed, it is impossible: first, the natures of horse and human are incompatible, nor is their food similar, nor could the food of a horse to pass through the mouth and throat of a human. If a form once existed, it would still exist now. Here is the truth: When Ixion was king of Thessaly, a herd of bulls went wild on Mt Pelion, which made the rest of the mountains inaccessible. The bulls would come down to where humans lived, damage trees and crops and destroy their plough animals. So Ixion announced via heralds that he would give a great amount of money to whomever killed the bulls. Some young men from the foothills, from a town called Nephele (cloud), thought up the idea of teaching teach horses to carry riders. (Before this they did not know how to ride horses, but only used them for chariots.) They mounted their horses and rode to where the bulls were, and attacked the herd by hurling javelins. Whenever they were chased by the bulls, the youths would manage to retreat - for horses are more swift-footed. But when the bulls came to a stop, they would turn and hurl their javelins. In this way they killed them, and took the name ‘Centaurs’ since they ‘pierced the bulls through and through’. (The name did not come from their having the appearance of bulls, for Centaurs do not have the appearance of a bull, but of a horse and a human). So the name came from this event. The Centaurs got money from Ixion, and their pride in their achievement and their wealth grew into arrogance: they committed many brutal acts, especially against Ixion himself. Ixion resided in what is now called Larissa, although at the time the people who lived there were called ‘Lapiths’. The Lapiths invited the Centaurs to a feast; the Centaurs got drunk and carried off their wives: they bundled the women onto their horses and fled homeward. From that position, they made war on the Lapiths, descending onto the plain by night, they would hide, then burn and pillage by day before returning to the mountains. When they rode away in this manner, all that was visible to those watching them from a distance were their backs: like a horse but without a horse’s head, then the rest like a human, but without the legs. Onlookers, describing this strange sight, would say: ‘The Centaurs, from Nephele, are attacking us!’ And from such statements, and their appearance the unbelievable myth was fabricated, that from a cloud a horse and man was born on the mountain.
§ 2 Pasiphae
Concerning Pasiphae, it is related in myth that she fell in love with a grazing bull, that Daedalus made a wooden cow and closed Pasiphae in it, and thus the bull mounted it and had sex with the woman, she got pregnant, and bore a child with the body of a man and the head of a bovine. But I say this did not happen. First, it is not possible for one animal to feel sexual love for another having a womb unsuited to its private part. For it is not possible for a dog and an ape or wolf and hyena to have sex with each other, or buffalo with deer (for they are different races) nor, if they have sex with each other, to give birth. And it does not seem likely to be that a bull would have sex with a wooden cow. For all quadruped animals sniff the private parts of the animal before copulation, and then mount it. Nor could the woman withstand being mounted by a bull, nor would it be possible for a woman to bear an embryo with horns. The truth is this: They say that Minos, when his private parts were in pain, had been treated by Procris the daughter of Pandion on the puppy and javelin. [??] Cephalus. [...] At this time, a youth of distinguished beauty, whose name was Taurus, was in Minos' retinue. Pasiphae was smitten with desire for him, persuaded him to have sex, and gave birth to his child. Minos calculated the time when his private parts were in pain, and recognized that the child could not be his since they had not been sleeping together. Investigating carefully, he realized that the child was fathered by Taurus. He decided not to kill it, because he considered it a brother to his children. He sent the child to the mountain, where he grew up in the role of servant to the herdsmen. On coming to manhood, he did not obey the cowherds. When Minos learned this, he ordered him to be taken down to the city and detained. Left free, if he came willingly, but bound if not. Perceiving this, the young man went away in the mountains, and lived by rustling cattle. Minos sent a larger force to arrest him. The youth made a deep excavation and enclosed himself in it. There he stayed the rest of the time, attacking sheep; and goats, and thus he fed himself. When Minos wanted to punish a person, he would send him to the man penned in this structure, and in this way he would be killed. When Minos took Theseus, a warlike man, he took him to this place to die. Ariadne sent ahead a sword inside the enclosure, where Theseus killed the Minotaur. From such an incident, the poets distorted the story in a mythical direction.
§ 3 Spartoi (Sown men)
An ancient account says that Cadmus killed a snake, gathered its teeth, and sowed them in his earth. Then men and weapons sprouted. If this were true, no one would sow anything but serpents' teeth. And if they didn't sprout in other land, then they would sow them henceforth in that land where they had sprouted before. So the truth is this. Cadmus was a man of Phoenician race who came to Thebes, having fallen out in rivalry over the kingdom with his brother Phoenix. Drakon the child of Ares was king of Thebes then. As king, he had many other things and also elephants' teeth. Cadmus killed him and became king. The friends of Drakon waged war on him, and his sons stood by Cadmus. The friends of Drakon, were worsted in the battle. They grabbed Cadmus' money and the ivory lying in the sanctuary, and fled homeward. Others were scattered here and there, some in Attica, some in the Peloponnese and Phocis and Locris. From there they had set out to fight the Thebans. They were troublesome fighters, sharing the same language and knowing the countryside. So when they snatched the teeth and fled, the citizens said, "Cadmus worked such evils for us by killing Drakon. For from the teeth of that guy, many brave men came, who were scattered, to contend with us." From this event, which really happened, the myth was elaborated.
§ 4 Cadmeian Sphinx
About the Cadmeian Sphinx it is said that there was a beast with the body of a dog, the head and face of a girl, the wings of a bird, and a human voice. She used to sit on Mt. Phikion and sing to each citizen a riddle. She killed whoever was unable to solve the riddle. When Oedipus solved the riddle, he threw her down and killed her. The account is faithless and weak. No such form can exist, while eating those unable to solve a riddle is childish, and the Cadmeians not being able to shoot the beast with arrows, but instead to watch their citizens being eaten up as enemies, is silly. So the truth is as follows: Cadmus had an Amazonian wife whose name was Sphinx. He came to Thebes, killed Drakon and took the kingdom. Afterwards he took the sister of Drakon, whose name was Harmonia. Sphinx felt that he was going to marry the other woman, so she persuaded many of the citizens to come away with her. They seized most of the money, and the swift-footed hound that Cadmus brought, and took them to Mt. Phikion. There she waged war on Cadmus, setting ambushes at appropriate moments and tearing to pieces those she killed. The Cadmeians called the ambush "riddle". It was common talk among the citizens that "The savage Sphinx tears us to pieces having set a riddle, and sits upon a mountain." No one was able to discover the riddle, from it being impossible to fight openly. For she doesn't run but flies, and is dog and woman, so swift-footed she is." Cadmus proclaims that he will give lots of money to whoever kills Sphinx. So Oedipus comes, a Corinthian man good at military things, with a swift horse. He made a band of the Cadmeians and they went out at night and ambushed her. He found the riddle, i.e. the ambush, and killed Sphinx. After this happened, the rest was mythologized.
§ 5 Teumessian fox
They say about the Teumesian Fox that it used to snatch up the Cadmeians and eat them. This is naive. For there is no land animal that is able to snatch and carry a human, and a fox is small and weak. Something like this happened. A Theban man of noble character was called Alopex (fox), that is, "cunning". In the consensus of everyone he was superior. The king feared that he might plot against him, so he drove him from the city. He collected a large army and other mercenaries and occupied the hill called Teumesion. From there he attacked and took and brought in the Thebans. People used to say, "Alopex overruns us and withdraws." A man named Cephalus, an Athenian by race, came to assist the Thebans with a large army. He killed Alopex and drove his army from Teumesion. When it happened, these things were mythologized.
§ 6 Actaeon
They say that Actaeon was eaten up by his own dogs. This is false, for a dog loves his master and provider, and hunting dogs especially wag their tails for everyone. Some say that Artemis changed Actaeon into a deer, and the dogs killed the deer. It seems to me that Artemis can do whatever she wants, yet it is not true that a man became a deer or a deer a man. Such myths were composed by poets to deter their audience from committing any outrage against divinity. The truth is as follows. Actaeon was a man of Arcadian race, an avid hunter. He raised many dogs and hunted in the mountains, neglecting his own affairs. People then did their own labor and had no household slaves but farmed for themselves. The one who was the most industrious became the wealthiest. But Actaeon lost his livelihood because he neglected his own affairs in favor of hunting. When he no longer had anything left, people said: “Poor Actaeon! Eaten up by his own dogs.” Just as now, if some whoremonger goes broke, we customarily say he has been “eaten up by whores.” This is what happened in the case of Actaeon.
§ 7 The Horses of Diomedes
They say Diomedes’ horses were man-eaters. Ridiculous! This animal takes pleasure in green fodder and barley rather than human meat. Here is the truth: men of old did their own work, and it was by working the earth that they acquired food and property. But a certain person took up horse-rearing and loved his horses to the point where he sold everything to spend it on horse fodder. His friends named his horses "man-eaters" and from that the myth began.
§ 8 Niobe
They say that Niobe, a living woman, turned into stone on the tomb of her children. Whoever believes a human being turned into a stone or a stone into a human being is naive. The truth is as follows. When her children died, someone made a stone image and Niobe set it on the tomb. Passersby used to say: “A stone Niobe stood on the tomb. We saw her ourselves." Just as one says now, “I was sitting by the bronze Heracles;" or “I was at the Parian Herm." That is how it was, but Niobe herself did not turn into stone.
§ 9 Lynceus
It is said that Lynceus could see even things underground. This is false; the truth is as follows. Lynceus was the first to mine copper, silver and the rest. He used to carry lamps down into the mines underground. He left them on the spot, and carried up sacks of copper and iron. People used to say: “Lynceus sees even what is under the earth; he goes down and brings up silver."
§ 10 Caeneus
They say that Caeneus was invulnerable. Anyone who supposes there is some human being who cannot be wounded by iron is babbling. The truth is as follows. Caeneus was a Thessalian by race, excellent in military affairs and the art of battle. Although he took part in many battles, he never received a wound—not even when he died fighting alongside the Lapiths against the Centaurs. They captured him and buried him, and he died in this way. The Lapiths said, when they raised up his corpse and found his body unwounded: “Caeneus was unwounded his whole life, and died unwounded as well."
§ 11 Cycnus
The same story—that he was invulnerable—is also told about Cycnus from Colonae. He too was a warrior, skilled in combat, who died at Troy, struck by Achilles with a stone—but not even then was he wounded. So people said, when they saw his corpse, “Cycnus really was invulnerable [ατρωτος]," just as they call competitors, if someone is unwounded. Those too are called “invulnerable.” Telamonian Ajax is a witness for me against these accounts: he was also called invulnerable, and he died, wounded by a sword, self-inflicted.
§ 12 Daedalus and Icarus
They say that Minos confined Daedalus and Icarus his son for some reason, and that Daedalus made wings for both of them he attached them, and flew off with Icarus. The idea of a flying man is impossible, even one with added wings. So the story was this: Daedalus, while in confinement, let himself down through the window and lowered his son, got in a small boat, and went away. When Minos learned, he sent ships in pursuit. When they perceived themselves being pursued, there being a violent, favorable wind, they seemed to be flying along. Then, sailing with a favorable south wind in the Cretan sea, they overturned. Daedalus safely came to land, but Icarus was killed (whence from him it is called the Icarian Sea). His body, cast ashore by the waves, was buried by his father.
§ 13 Atalante and Melanion
About Atalante and Melanion, it is said that he became a lion, she a lioness. The truth is this: Atalante and Melanion were hunters. Melanion persuaded the girl to have sex with him. They went into some cave to have sex. A lion and lioness had their lair in the cave. They heard voices, came out, fell upon the two and killed them. And some time the lion and lioness went out. Seeing them, Melanion's fellow hunters opined that they have been transformed into these animals. Going back to the city they advertised how Atalante and Melanion had been turned into lions.
§ 14 Kallisto
The story of Kallisto is that while she was hunting she became a bear. I say that she too was eaten up while hunting, in a thicket they came to, where there happened to be a bear, and that her fellow-hunters saw her go in but not come out, and said the girl became a bear.
§ 15 Europa
They say that Europa the daughter of Phoenix was carried through the sea on a bull from Tyre to Crete. It seems to me that neither bull nor horse could cross so great a sea, nor a girl mount a wild bull. Zeus, if he wished Europa to come to Crete, would have found another, better way. The truth is this. A Knossian man named Taurus waged war on the Tyrian country. So finishing, he snatched from Tyre many other girls and Europa, the king's daughter. So people said, Taurus departed with Europa, the king's daughter. From these occurrences, the myth developed.
§ 16 Trojan Horse
They say that the Achaean chiefs in the hollow Wooden Horse overthrew Ilion. this account is excessively mythical. The truth is this: They build a Wooden Horse to the measure of the gates, so they could not drag it in, because it was too large. The captains waited in a hollow space near the city; they were called an Argive company until now. A deserter Sinon came from the Argives to tell them that, according to a prophecy, if they don't bring the horse into the city, the Achaeans will return, and if they bring it in, they won't come again. The Trojans gave no heed, pulled down the wall and brought in the horse. While they were feasting, the Hellenes fell upon them through the pulled-down part of the wall, and thus Ilion was taken.
§ 17 Aeolus
It is said that Aeolus was a man who mastered the winds, and who gave to Odysseus the winds in a sack. Regarding this, that this is not something that could happen, is clear to everyone, I think. More likely, an astrologer named Aeolus told Odysseus the times and at which star risings certain winds will blow. They say he surrounded his city with a bronze wall, which is false. He had hoplites guarding the city.
§ 18 Hesperides
It is said that the Hesperides were some women who had golden apples on an apple tree a dragon guarded. Heracles mobilized to get these apples. The truth is this. Hesperus was a Milesian who lived in Caria and had two daughters called the Hesperides. He had good and fruitful sheep, the breed that still exists in Miletus. They were named Golden, since gold is very beautiful and so were they. The sheep were called mela (flocks/apples). Seeing them grazing by the sea, Heracles rounded them up and put them in the ship and [killed] the shepherd, named Drakon. ... He took them to the house, with Hesperus no longer alive, but his children. People said, we saw the gold flocks/apples that Heracles led from the Hesperides having killed the guardian, Drakon. Hence the myth.
§ 19 Cottus and Briareus
About Cottus and Briareus being men with 100 hands, how is that not naive? The truth is this. The name of the city in which they lived was Hekatoncheria (hundredhands), part of Chaonia which is now called Orestias. My evidence is that they fought with the Olympians the battle against the Titans, and these places border on Olympus. So people used to say that Cottus and Briareus [and Gyges] the Hundred-handers helped the Olympians to drive the Titans from Olympus.
§ 20 Scylla
It is said about Scylla that she was a monster in Tyrrenia, a woman to the navel and the rest of her body a snake. This nature implies great naivete. The truth is this: Tyrrenian ships were plundering the countryside of Sicily and the Ionian gulf. One of these ships was a trireme, very fast then, named Scylla, and this was written on the prow. This trireme gathered together the rest of the ships many times, used to earn its keep, and there was much talk about it. Odysseus using a strong favorable wind escaped this ship. He told the story in Corcyra to Alcinous, how he was pursued and how he escaped, and the form of the boat. The myth developed.
§ 21 Daedalus
It is said about Daedalus that he made sacred statues that walked by themselves. This seems, to me at least, impossible for a statue to walk by itself. The truth is such: Makers of statues and cult figures used to make the feet as if growing together and the hands stretched out beside. Daedalus was the first who made one foot striding. For this reason, people used to say "Daedalus worked this walking statue but not standing." As we now say, "fighting men are enrolled," and "running horses" and "tempest-tossed ships". Thus he was said to make walking statues.
§ 22 Phineus
It is related about Phineus that Harpies ruined his life. Some think they are winged beasts who snatched the dinner from Phineus' table. The truth is: Phineus was king of Paeonia. When he was an old man, his sight failed and his male children died. He had daughters, Eraeia and Harpyreia, who consumed his livelihood. So the citizens used to say, "Wretched Phineus, the Harpyes destroyed his life." Pitying him, Zetes and Kalais, his city neighbors, the sons of Boreos (a man, not the wind) helped him and chased the daughters out of the city. They gathered the money and appointed a trustee for him, some Thracian.
§ 23 Mestra
About Mestra the daughter of Erysichthon, they say that whenever she wished she could change her shape. The myth is laughable. How likely is it that from a girl she could become a cow and again a dog or bird? The truth is thus: Erysichthon was a Thessalian man, who went through his money and became poor. He had a daughter, the good and beautiful Mestra. Whoever saw her was amorously disposed. People then did not get betrothed with silver coin but instead some gave horses, others cows, some sheep or whatever Mestra wanted. The Thessalians said, seeing the livelihood of Erysichthon piling up, "From Mestra came horse and cow and other things," whence the myth developed.
§ 24 Geryon
They say that Geryon was three-headed. Impossible for one body to have three heads. It was such. There is a city in the Euxine Pontus called Trikarenia. Geryon was well-known among them then, distinguished by his wealth and other things. He had as well a marvelous herd of cattle. When Heracles attacked it, he killed Geryon for resisting. Those seeing the cows being driven away marveled, for they were small in size, from head to loins long and flat-nosed, without horns, with big, flat bones. To those who asked, some said Heracles was driving them, that belonged to Geryon the Trikarene. Some supposed from what was said that he had three heads.
§ 25 Glaucus and Sisyphus
They say that he was swallowed up by the horses, not knowing that he was a horse-breeder and undertook large expenses and did not take care of his own affairs, and ate away and finally destroyed his livelihood.
§ 26 Glaucus the son of Minos
This myth is also completely ridiculous, how when Glaucus died in a pithos full of honey, Minos buried him in the tomb. Polyidos son of Koiranos (who was from Argos) had seen a serpent put a plant on another serpent that had died, and resurrect it. He did the same to Glaucus and resurrected him. It is impossible to resurrect a dead man, or a snake, or any other animal. Something of this sort happened. Glaucus drank honey and his stomach got upset. An excess of bile got to him and he fainted. Other doctors came to get money, and Polyides as well, when he was already far gone. This one knew some beneficial herb, which he had learned from a doctor named Drakon (serpent). Using this herb, he made Glaucus healthy.
§ 27 The Marine Glaucus
It is said that this Glaucus also once ate a plant, became immortal, and now lives in the sea. That Glaucus would be the only one to stumble on such a plant is very naive; likewise, for a man or some other land animal to live in the sea, when not even a river animal can live in the sea, and conversely, sea animals can't live in a river. This is empty talk. The truth is this. Glaucus was a fisherman, Anthedonian by race. He was a swimmer, distinguished from the rest in this. Swimming in the harbor, with people from the city watching him, he swam across to somewhere and was not seen by his loved ones for several days. He swam back, and was seen by them. When they asked, "Where have you been all these days?", he said, "In the sea." He penned fish in a water tank, and when winter came and none of the other fishermen could catch fish, he inquired of the citizens what fish they wanted him to bring, and brought them what they wanted. Marine Glaucus he was called, just as now when someone lives in the mountains and is a good hunter, he is called 'mountain man.' Thus Glaucus, from spending most of his time in the sea, was called 'Marine Glaucus'. Running across some sea monster he was killed. When he didn't emerge from the sea, people created a myth that he lives in the sea and spends his time there.
§ 28 Bellerophontes
They say that the winged horse Pegasus carried Bellerophontes. In my opinion this horse could never be, not even if it had all the wings of the birds. For if there had ever been such an animal, there would be one now. They say it killed the Chimaera of Amisodaros. The Chimaera was a lion in front, a serpent behind, a chimaera [goat?] in the middle. Some think such a beast had three heads and one body. It is impossible for a snake, a lion, and a goat to use the same food, and naive to think something with a mortal nature could breathe out fire. For which of the heads would the body obey? The truth is this: Bellerophontes was a man, a fugitive, of Corinthian race, a gentleman. Having built a long ship he was plundering the coastal places. The ship's name was Pegasus (as even now each ship has a name, and the name Pegasus seems to suit a ship better than a horse). King Amisodaros lived on the Xanthus river on some high mountain, from which the Telmissis wood/substance is deposited. To this mountain there are two means of access, the one in front, from the city of the Xanthians, the other behind, from Caria. Elsewhere the cliffs are high, and in the middle there is a great opening in the earth, from which fire emerges. The name of this mountain is Chimaera. Then there was, as the locals say, a lion living by the front access, and a serpent by the rear. They used to injure the woodcutters and herders. Then Bellerophontes came and set fire to the mountain, and the Telmissis burned up and the beasts were destroyed. The locals used to say, "Bellerophontes came with the Pegasus and destroyed the Chimaera of Amisodaros. From this occurrence the myth was fabricated.
§ 29 Pelops and the Horses
They say that Pelops came with winged horses to Pisa to woo Hippodameia the daughter of Oenomaus. I say the same things I say about Pegasus. Since Oenomaus, if he saw that Pelops' horses were winged, would not have given his daughter to mount on his chariot. It should be said therefore that Pelops came with a ship, on the awning of which was written "Winged Horses." He grabbed the girl and fled. People said that having taken the daughter of Oenomaus he loaded her on the winged horses and left. And the myth grew out of that.
§ 30 Phrixus and Helle
About Phrixus, they tell how the ram forewarned him that their father was going to sacrifice them. He took his sister and mounted it with her, and they came through the sea to the Euxine Pontus, crossing the whole thing in three or four days. This is hard to believe, that a ram would navigate faster than a ship, while carrying two people plus food and drink for him and them (for they could not have gone without food for so long). Then Phrixus slaughtered the ram, which had showed them their salvation and rescued them, flayed it, and gave the skin to Aetes as the bride-price of his daughter (Aetes was then ruling over those places). Do you see how skins then were so scarce that a king would take a fleece as bride-price for his own daughter, or else he thought his daughter was worthless? Already some, in order to avoid this ridiculous thing, say the skin was golden. And if the skin was golden, the king didn't need to take it from a foreign man. It is said that Jason sent the Argo for this fleece, with the best of the Hellenes. But Phrixus would not have been so ungrateful as to kill his benefactor, nor, even if the fleece was emerald, would the Argo have sailed for it. The truth is this: Athamas the son of Aeolus the son of Hellen was king over Phthia. He had a man who was controller of the money and authority, someone he thought loyal and worthy, whose name was Krios (ram). When the mother died, he gave the rule to Phrixus, as the eldest. Learning this, Krios said nothing to Athamas, but to Phrixus he said he was ordered to remove him from the land. He sent a ship and put in it whatever was of most value to Athamas, and filled the ship with all kinds of goods and money, among which things there was an image the mother of Merops, the daughter of Helios (her name was Kos) had made from her own money, an image of herself, life-size, of gold (it was a lot of gold and there was much talk of it). He put these things on the ship along with Phrixus and Helle, and it sailed away. Helle got sick on the voyage and died (the Hellespont is named for her). But they came to Phasis and settled there, and Phrixus married the daughter of the Colchians' king Aetes, giving him as bride-price the golden image of Kos. Later when Athamas died, Jason sailed in the Argo to get the gold Kos, but not the skin of a ram. This is the true version.
§ 31 The Daughters of Phorcys
About these a much sillier story is told, how Phorcys had three daughters, who had one eye they used in turns. the one using it put it in her head and thus could see. And in this way, with one of them giving the eye to the other, they all could see. Perseus came up behind them with a quiet tread and took their eye, and said he wouldn't give it back until they told him where the Gorgon was. So they say he cut off her head, came to Seriphos, showed it to Polydectes, and turned him to stone. And this is rather ridiculous, for a living man who sees the head of a corpse to be fossilized. For what power does a corpse have? Someone such happened instead. Phorcys was a Kernaean man. The Kernaeans are an Ethiopian race, and life on the island Kerne outside the Pillars of Heracles, and they till the part of Libya by the Anno river straight past Carthage, and there is a lot of gold. This Phorcys was king of the islands (there are three) beyond the Pillars of Heracles. He made a four-cubit gold statue of Athena. The Kernaeans call Athena Gorgo, just as the Thracians call Artemis Bendis, the Cretans Dictynna, the Lacedaemonians Oupis. Phorcys died before the statue could be dedicated in the sanctuary. He left three daughters, Stheno, Euryale, Medusa. They did not want to marry anyone, and they divided the property with each ruling one island. They couldn't decide whether to dedicate the Gorgo or to divide it up, but they put in alternately in the treasury of each. There was a companion of Phorcys, a man of noble character, and they used him for everything, "like their eye." Perseus was a fugitive from Argos who had ships and some forces with him. He plundered the sea shores. When he learned that here was a kingdom of women, with lots of gold and few men, he arrived. First he anchored in the strait between Kerne and Sarpedonia, and caught the Eye while he was sailing from one sister to another. This man told him that there was nothing else to take from them worth mentioning, except the Gorgo. He told him how much gold it had. The girls, when Eye didn't come as arranged, met in one place together. Each started blaming the other. Once each had denied having him, they wondered what could have happened. At this point, Perseus sailed up to them, still together, and told them he had Eye. He said he would give him back to them only if they told him where the Gorgo was. He also threatened to kill them if they didn't talk. Medusa said not to show him, but Stheno and Euryale showed him. So he killed Medusa, but gave Eye back to the others. He took the Gorgo and cut it up. He readied a trireme and put Gorgo's head on it, and gave the ship the name Gorgo. He then sailed around in it and collected money from the islanders, killing those who didn't give. He sailed up and demanded money from the Seriphians as well. They asked a few days to collect the money. They gathered human-sized stones and put them in the agora. Then they left Seriphus and went away. Perseus sailed back to demand the money and came to the agora. He found no people but only man-sized rocks. Perseus told the rest of the islanders, when they hadn't provided the money, "Watch out, not to be like the Seriphians, who saw the Gorgon head and turned to stone; you could suffer the same."
§ 32 The Amazons
This is said about the Amazons, that they weren't fighting women but barbarian men. They wore chitons reaching their feet, just like the Thracian women; they put up their hair in a headband; they shaved their beards like the Pateriates by the Xithos [??], and for this reason they were called women by their enemies. The Amazons as a race were good at fighting. It is unlikely there ever was an army of women, not now or any other time.
§ 33 Orpheus
The myth about Orpheus is false as well, that quadrupeds and reptiles and birds and trees obeyed him when he played the kithara. This is what I think it was: Bacchantes went raving in Pieria, tore livestock apart, and performed many other violent deeds. They turned toward the mountain and passed the days there. While they were staying there, the citizens feared for their wives and daughters. They sent for Orpheus and asked him to contrive something that would bring them down from the mountain. He celebrated orgies for Dionysus and brought them back, bacchantizing, while he played the kithara. They were holding giant fennel stalks, and branches of various trees, when they came down from the mountain. All this wood seemed miraculous to the people watching, and they asserted that "Orpheus, by playing the kithara, brought down from the mountain even the forest." From that the myth was shaped.
§ 34 Pandora
The story about Pandora is unbearable, that she having been shaped out of earth, dealt out her form to others. This does not seem possible to me. Pandora was a Hellene woman, quite rich: whenever she was going out, she would put on make-up, and she used earth a lot. It was she who first discovered how to apply earth for color (as many women do even now, but no one gets a name for it because it is so frequent). This was the deed; but the story was twisted into something impossible.
§ 35 The Lineage of the Meliai (Ash trees)
They have said other silly things, and that the first generation of men was born from ash trees. It seems to me impossible to bring about human beings from wood. But there was some person "Melios" and they were called Meliai from him, just as the Hellenes were named from Hellen and the Ionians from Ion. But all that lineage was destroyed and the name was erased. The Iron and Bronze Generations never existed either—this was talking nonsense.
§ 36 Heracles
This too for Heracles. The myth says that he had leaves on himself. [....] So Philoetes—[.whether ...] or as a private person devised it and burned and made healthy. The account derived from this.
§ 37 The Cetus (Sea Monster)
This is said about Cetus, that from the sea it used to frequent the Trojans, but if they gave it young girls to devour, it would go away; otherwise, it would lay waste to their land. Is there anyone who doesn't know that it is pointless for men to make treaties with fish? This was it: A great and powerful king with a large navy destroyed all the coastal part of Asia, so those people used to pay a tax, which they called tribute. But people then didn't use silver coinage, but furnishings. Some cities were ordered to give horses, others cows, others young girls. The name of this king was Ceton, but the barbarians called him Cetus (monster). He used to sail around at the appointed time and demand tribute. Those who didn't give it had their land harmed. He came to Troy when Heracles had come with an army of Hellenes. King Laomedon had hired him to defend the Trojans. Ceton disembarked his army and was going by road. Heracles and Laomedon encountered him, each with his army, and killed him. The myth was embroidered from this event.
§ 38 Hydra
It is said concerning the Lernaean Hydra that it was a snake with 50 heads and one body, and when Heracles cut off one head, two would sprout. And the crab came to help the Hydra. And then Iolaus defended Heracles, since the crab was defending the Hydra. Whoever thinks any of this happened is a dimwit. The snake is laughable, and how, when he cut off one head, he wasn't bitten by the rest and in pain? So it was something such: Lernos was king of the locality (χωρίον), which took its name from him. (All men lived in villages then (κατά κώμας), and the Argives have this locality now.) There were cities then - Argos, Mykene, Tyrene [Tiryns], Lerne - and a king was placed over each of these localities. So the other kings were subject to Eurystheus the son of Sthenelos the son of Perseus. For he had the largest and most populous one, Mycene. Lernos did not wish to be subject to him, and waged war on him for this reason. In Lernos had at the entry point to his country a strong town, with a garrison of fifty brave, strong archers, who came and went on the tower uninterruptedly, night and day. The name of the town was Hydra. Eurystheus sent Heracles to storm the town. Heracles' men were attacking the archers on the tower with fire. whenever anyone fell wounded, two archers went up instead of one, since their predecessor was very strong. When Lernos was hard-pressed by Heracles in the war, he hired Carian mercenaries. A large and warlike man named Karkinos (Crab) came leading the expedition. And with him they resisted Heracles. Then Heracles' nephew Iolaus the son of Iphicles, came to help, bring a force from Thebes. He approached and set fire to the tower planted at Hydra. With this force, Heracles sacked them and destroyed Hydra and wiped out the army. From what happened, they wrote about the Hydra snake, and the myth multiplied.
§ 39 Cerberus: It is said about Cerberus that he was a dog with three heads. Clearly, he was called Trikarenos from the city, just like Geryon. People used to say “what a good, large Trikarenian dog!" It is also said, speaking mythologically, that Heracles brought Cerberus out of Hades. Something like this happened: Big young dogs were guarding Geryon's cattle—the one Cerberus, the other Orthos. Heracles killed Orthos in Trikarenia before driving off Geryon’s cattle. Cerberus followed along with the cows. A Mycenaean man named Molottos wanted the dog. First he asked Eurystheus to give him the dog. When Eurystheus was unwilling, he persuaded the cowherds and fenced the dog in a cave on Taenaron in Laconia for breeding purposed, letting female dogs go inside. Eurystheus sent Heracles out to search for the dog. Heracles, after going around the whole Peloponnese, came to where he was informed the dog was. He descended and brought the dog out of the cave. So people said that Heracles descended through the cave into Hades and brought up the dog.
§ 40 Alcestis
Concerning Alcestis a myth of tragic form is recounted, that when Admetus was about to die, Alcestis took it on herself to die on his behalf, but Heracles robbed Death because of her piety and took her from Hades and restored her to Admetus. It seems to me, however, that no one can bring a person who has died back to life. What happened was something like this: When his daughters killed Pelias, his son Acastus chased after them, intending to kill them in return for their father. The other sisters he was able to catch, but Alcestis escaped to Pherae where her cousin Admetus lived. Since she sat down at his hearth [as a suppliant], Admetus was unable to give her back to Acastus when he demanded her. The latter besieged the city with a large army and began to ravage them with fire. Admetus made a sortie during the night but happened on an ambush and was captured alive. Acastus threatened to kill him, if he refused to hand over Alcestis, even though she was a suppliant. But Alcestis, when she found out that Admetus was about to lose his life because of her, came out and gave herself up to Acastus, who thereupon released Admetus and took Alcestis into custody. People therefore said: “Brave/manly Alcestis, who voluntarily died on behalf of Admetus.” However it did not happen in the way the myth has it. At about that time, Heracles came from somewhere driving the mares of Diomedes. Admetus hosted him when he traveled. Admetus was mourning the misfortune of Alcestis; Heracles got annoyed, attacked Acastus, and destroyed his whole army. The booty from this attack he distributed to his own troops, but Alcestis he turned over to Admetus. People, therefore, said that Heracles had happened by and had rescued Alcestis from Death. It was from these events that the myth was fashioned.
§ 41 Zethus and Amphion
Regarding Zethus and Amphion, others and also Hesiod tell the story that the walls of Thebes were built with a kithara. Some people think this to mean that they played the kithara and the stones spontaneously took their places on the wall. But the truth is as follows. They were the best kithara-players and performed for hire. But the people of their day did not use silver money. Instead, Amphion and Zethus told anyone who wanted to hear them to go and work on the city walls. It was not that the stones listened and followed along; so with reason people said that the wall was built with a lyre.
§ 42 Io
They say that from a woman Io turned into a cow and that she was goaded by a gadfly and travelled across the sea from Argos to Egypt. But it is improbable [...] and without food for so many days. The truth is as follows. Io was the daughter of the king of the Argives. The people of the city honored her by making her priestess of Argive Hera. She became pregnant and in fear of her father and the citizens of Argos she fled from the city. The Argives set out in search. If they had found here, they would have arrested her and held her in bonds. They said: “She is in flight like a maddened cow." Finally, she handed herself over to some foreign merchants and begged them to bring her to Egypt. When she got there, she gave birth. And the myth was embroidered.
§ 43 Medeia
They say Medeia boiled down older people and made them young, but she has not been shown to have made anyone young. In any case, whoever she boiled down died. Something such happened: Medeia was first to discover the tawny and the black flower. She made old men with gray hair to appear black-haired or red-haired by dying them to make the white hairs black and red. Medeia first discovered the vapor bath, a benefit to mankind. She gave vapor-baths to those who desired one, but not openly, so no doctors would find out, but bathing them under an oath to reveal it to no one. The name she gave to the steam bath was boiling-off. In the same way, people became lighter and healthier from the sauna. For this reason, those who saw the caldron and fire beside her, believed she boiled people. Pelias, who was old and sick, died while in the sauna. Hence the myth.
§ 44 Omphale
It is said about Omphale that Heracles served her. This account is silly. For he was master of her and her possessions. Something like this happened. Omphale was the daugher of Iardanos the king of the Lydians. She heard of Heracles' strength, and pretended to love him. Heracles approached and was caught by love for her, and fathered a son with her. He was delighted with Omphale and did whatever she asked. The naive supposed that he served her.
§ 45 The Horn of Amaltheia
They say Heracles carried the so-called Horn of Amalthea everywhere and that he obtained by praying whatever he wanted from it. Here is the truth. When Heracles was traveling in Boeotia with his nephew Iolaus he lodged at a certain inn in Thespiae. The innkeeper happened to be a beautiful and very fine young woman called Amaltheia. Heracles was pleased with her and was entertained by her for rather a long time. Iolaus was bored and decided to steal Amaltheia's business profits which were in a horn. From this profit, Iolaus bought whatever he wanted for himself and Heracles. So their fellow-travelers said: “Heracles got the horn of Amalthea and bought whatever he wanted from it.” From this the myth was created, and artists who paint Heracles add the Horn of Amaltheia.
§ 46 Narrative about Hyacinthus
Hyacinthus was a beautiful young boy from Amyclae. Apollo saw him, Zephyrus too; and both were caught by his beauty. Each of them was generous in the way he had: Apollo shot arrows and Zephyrus blew. From the former there were songs and sweet pleasure; from the other panic and confusion. The youth inclined toward the god. Zephyrus was jealous and armed himself for combat. At a later time, Hyacinthus was training at the gymnasium, and punishment from Zephyrus. It was a discus which served to slay the youth, let fly by the god, but carried along by Zephyrus. Hyacinthus died. Earth could not leave the disaster without a monument. A flower grew in the youth’s stead and took his name. And people say the beginning of that name is written on the petals.
§ 47 Narrative about Marsyas
Marsyas was a rustic, and became a musician in the following way: Athena came to hate the aulos because it took away not a little of her beauty. When a spring of water revealed her image, the event taught her. So she threw the aulos away, where Marsyas happened to be lurking. The herdsman picked it up and put it to his lips. The oboe sang its song through a divine power, despite the user. But Marsyas believed the aulos's power was his artistry: he put himself forward against the Muses and against Apollo, saying he did not wish to exist if he could not surpass the god. But in the competition he was beaten, and following his defeat his skin was flayed off him. I myself saw the river in Phrygia, named for Marsyas. And the Phrygians say that the stream arose from the blood of Marsyas.
§ 48 Phaon
Phaon's livelihood was with his boat and the sea. The sea was a ferry crossing. No man had any complaint against Phaon: he was fair and only took pay from those who could afford it. Among the people of Lesbos there was admiration for his character. A goddess—they say it was Aphrodite—gave her approval to Phaon. She put on a human disguise as an aged woman and asked Phaon about passage. He quickly ferried her across and did not ask for any payment. What did the goddess do? They say that she transformed him—rewarded the old man with youth and beauty. This is the Phaon, the love for whom Sappho often put in song.
§ 49 Ladon
Earth decided to approach the river Ladon to have sex; after their union, Earth got pregnant and gave birth to Daphne (laurel). The Pythian fell in love with the girl, and his to her were the words of a lover. But Daphne loved propriety: it was necessary to pursue her, and she was pursued. Before renouncing her flight, Daphne called on her mother to take her back inside and preserve her as she was born. Earth did so, and kept Daphne inside herself. But at that place a plant at once sprang forth. Apollo at the peak of his desire ran into the plant for he had no way to avoid it. But his hands took it up; henceforth his head was ornamented. It is said that the tripod over the chasm by Boeotia was not established without the laurel.
§ 50 Hera
The Argives considered Hera their poliouchos (guardian deity of the city) and for that reason hold a regular festival for her. The manner of the festival is: there is a cart with white cows, and the priestess of Hera needs to be on the cart as far as the temple. The sanctuary is outside the city. The time came for the festival once, but the rite was imperfect because there were no cows. The priestess, however, cleverly solved the problem. She was the mother of young men who replaced the cows for the vehicle. Since the cows’ role was performed by the children, when they stopped by the sacred statue, they asked a wage for their trouble. They say the Goddess gave it to them: sleep and the final end of life.
§ 51 Orion
Child of Zeus Poseidon and Hermes. Hyrieus the son of Poseidon and Alcyone, one of the daughters of Atlas, dwelt in Tanagra of Boeotia. He was extremely hospitable and once entertained the gods. Zeus and Poseidon and Hermes were hosted by him. Having been beneficiaries of his kind treatment, they urged him to ask whatever he wanted. Since he was childless, he asked for a child. The gods took the hide of the ox that had been sacrificed for them and ejaculated in it. They ordered him to hide it under ground and to take it up again after ten months. When the time passed, Ourion was born, named from the gods' having urinated. Afterwards, Orion as a euphemism. He was hunting with Artemis and tried to rape her. Furious, the goddess produced a scorpion from the earth, which wounded him in the ankle and killed him. Zeus, in sympathy, made him a constellation.
§ 52 Phaethon
Phaethon the child of Helios was gripped by an irrational desire to go up in his father's chariot, and after many tears and supplications persuaded him. When he mounted the chariot and began to spur on the horses, not knowing how to handle the reins well, nor able to ride sitting steady and unshakable, he was carried off by his horses, who were incited to great brashness and arrogance. Coming too close to the ground, he was thrown out by the Eridanus river and drowned, while most parts of the surrounding area were consumed by fire.