Sacred Texts  Classics  Apollonius of Tyana  Index  Previous  Next 
Buy this Book at

The Life of Apollonius of Tyana, by Philostratus, tr. F.C. Conybeare, [1912], at


Having reached this point, Apollonius sent back the camels to Iarchas together with the following letter:

“Apollonius to Iarchas and the other sages greeting.

“I came to you on foot, and yet you presented me with the sea; but by sharing with me the wisdom which is yours, you have made it mine even to travel through the heavens. All this I shall mention to the Hellenes; and I shall communicate my words to you as if you were present, unless I have in vain drunk the draught of Tantalus. Farewell, ye goodly philosophers.”


He then embarked upon the ship and was borne away by a smooth and favorable breeze, and he was struck at the formidable manner in which the Hyphasis discharges itself into the sea at its mouth; for in its later course, as I said before, it falls into rocky and narrow places and over precipices, and breaking its way through these to the sea by a single mouth, presents a formidable danger to those who hug the land too closely.

p. 338 p. 339


They say, moreover, that they saw the mouth of the Indus, and that there was situated on it the city of Patala, round which the Indus flows. It was to this city that the fleet of Alexander came, under the command of Nearchus, a highly trained naval captain. But as for the stories of Orthagoras about the sea called Erythra, to the effect that the constellation of the bear is not to bee seen in it, and that the mariners cast no reckoning at midday, and that the visible stars there vary from their usual positions, this account is endorsed by Damis; and we must consider it to be sound and based on local observations of the heavens. The also mention a small island, of the name of Biblus, in which there is the large cockle, and where there are mussels and oysters and such like organisms, clinging to the rocks and ten times as big as those which we find in Greece. And there is also taken in this region a stone, the pearl in a white shell, wherein it occupies the place of he heart of the oyster.


And they say they also touched at Pegadae in the country of the Oreitae. As for these people, they have rocks of bronze and sand of bronze, and the dust which the rivers bring down is of bronze. But they regard their land as full of gold because the bronze is of such high quality.

p. 340 p. 341


And they say that they came across the people called the Fish-Eaters, whose city is Stobera; and they clothe themselves in the skins of very large fishes, and the cattle there look like fish and eat extraordinary things; for the shepherds feed them upon fish, just as in Caria the flocks are fed on figs. But the Indians of Carman are a gentle race, who live on the edge of a sea so well stocked with fish, that they neither lay them in by stores, not salt them as is done in Pontus, but they just sell a few of them and throw back most they catch panting into the sea.


They say that they also touched at Balara, which is an emporium full of myrtles and date palms; and they also saw laurels, and the place was well watered by springs. And there were kitchen gardens there, as well as flower gardens, all growing luxuriantly, and the harbors therein were entirely calm. But off there lies a sacred island, which was called Selera, and the passage to it from the mainland was a hundred stades long. Now in this island there lived a Nereid, a dreadful female demon, which would snatch away many mariners and would not even allow ships to fasten a cable to the island.

p. 342 p. 343


It is just as well not to omit the story of the other kind of pearl: since even Apollonius did not regard it as puerile, and it is anyhow a pretty invention, and there is nothing in the annals of sea fishing so remarkable. For on the side of the island which is turned towards the open sea, the bottom is of great depth, and produces an oyster in a white sheath full of fat, for it does not produce any jewel. The inhabitants watch for a calm day, or they themselves render the sea smooth, and this they do by flooding it with oil; and then a man plunges in in order to hunt the oyster in question, and he is in other aspects equipped like those who cut off the sponges from the rocks, but he carries in addition an oblong iron block and an alabaster case of myrrh. The Indian then halts alongside of the oyster and holds out the myrrh before him as a bait; whereupon the oyster opens and drinks itself drunk upon the myrrh. Then its pierced with a long pin and discharges a peculiar liquid called ichor, which the man catches in the iron block which is hollowed out in regular holes. The liquid so obtained petrifies in regular shapes, just like the natural pearl, and it is a white blood furnished by the Red Sea. And they say that the Arabs also who live on the opposite coast devote themselves to catching these creatures. From this point on they found the entire sea full of sharks, and whales gathered there in schools; and the ships, they say, in order to keep off these animals, carry bells at the bow and at the stern, the sound of which frightens away these creatures and prevents them from approaching the ships.

p. 344 p. 345


And when they sailed as far as the mouth of the Euphrates, they say they sailed up by it to Babylon to see Vardanes, whom the found just as they had found him before. They then came afresh to Nineveh, and as the people of Antioch displayed their customary insolence and took no interest in any affairs of the Hellenes, they went down to the sea at Seleucia, and finding a ship, they sailed to Cyprus and landed at Paphos, where there is the statue of Aphrodite. Apollonius marveled at the symbolic construction of the same, and gave the priests instruction with regard to the ritual of the temple. He then sailed to Ionia, where he excited much admiration and no little esteem among all lovers of wisdom.

Next: Chapters 1-10