Lucian of Samosata: Alexander The False Prophet

AN account of the false priest of Asclepius, Alexander of Abonoteichus. It has been discussed in detail by Cumont in the Mémoires couronndes de l’academie de Belgique, vol. xl (1887).

Although Alexander achieved honour not only in his own country, a small city in remote Paphlagonia, but over a large part of the Roman world, almost nothing is known of him except from the pages of Lucian. Gems, coins, and inscriptions corroborate Lucian as far as they go, testifying to Alexander’s actual existence and widespread influence, and commemorating the name and even the appearance of Glycon, his human-headed serpent. But were it not for Lucian, we should not understand their full significance.

Alexander’s religious activity covered roughly the years A.D. 150-170. The cult which he  established outlasted him for at least a century. It was highly unusual in its character, as Cumont observes. Sacred snakes were a regular feature of sanctuaries of Asclepius ; but to give a serpent a human head and style it the god incarnate was a distinct innovation. Moreover, the proper function of Asclepius was to heal the sick, who passed the night in his temple, expecting either to be cured while they slept or to have some form of treatment suggested to them in their dreams. But at Abonoteichus we hear nothing of incubation, and only incidentally of healing; the “new Asclepius” deals in oracles like Apollo, and gives advice on any subject. This, together with Alexander’s extravagant claims of divine descent, confirms Lucian in his appraisal of him as an out-and-out charlatan, aiming to play upon the gross credulity of the times and to secure the greatest gain with the least effort.

Lucian was in a position to know a good deal about Alexander, and clearly believes all that he says. Without doubt his account is essentially accurate, but it need not be credited absolutely to the letter. Lucian was no historian at best, and he was angry. In the account of his relations with Alexander he reveals his own personality more clearly than usual, but not in a pleasant light.

The piece was written at the request of a friend, after A.D. 180, when Alexander had been in his grave for ten years.


1.  No doubt, my dear Celsus,1 you think it a slight and trivial matter to bid me set down in a book and send you the history of Alexander, the impostor of Abonoteichus, including all his clever schemes, bold emprises, and sleights of hand; but in point of fact, if one should aim to examine each detail closely, it would be no less a task than to record the exploits of Philip’s son Alexander. The one was as great in villainy as the other in heroism. Nevertheless, if it should be your intention to overlook faults as you read, and to fill out for yourself the gaps in my tale, I will undertake the task for you and will essay to clean up that Augean stable, if not wholly, yet to the extent of my ability, fetching out some few basketsful, so that from them you may judge how great, how inexpressible, was the entire quantity of filth that three thousand head of cattle were able to create in many years.

2.  I blush for both of us, I confess, both for you and for myself—for you because you want a consummate rascal perpetuated in memory and in writing, and for myself because I am devoting my energy to such an end, to the exploits of a man who does not deserve to have polite people read about him, but rather to have the motley crowd in a vast amphitheatre see him being torn to pieces by foxes or apes. Yet if anyone brings this reproach against us, we shall be able to refer to an apt precedent. Arrian, the disciple of Epictetus, a Roman of the highest distinction, and a life-long devotee of letters, laid himself open to the same charge, and so can plead our cause as well as his own; he thought fit, you know, to record the life of Tillorobus, the brigand.2 In our own case, however, we shall commemorate a far more savage brigand, since our hero plied his trade not in forests and mountains, but in cities, and instead of infesting just Mysia and Mount Ida and harrying a few of the more deserted districts of Asia, he filled the whole Roman Empire, I may say, with his brigandage.

3.  First I shall draw you a word-picture of the man himself, making as close a likeness as I can, although I am not particularly good at drawing. As regards his person—in order that I may exhibit this also to you—he was tall and handsome in appearance, and really godlike; his skin was fair, his beard not very thick; his long hair was in part natural, in part false, but very similar, so that most people did not detect that it was not his own. His eyes shone with a great glow of fervour and enthusiasm; his voice was at once very sweet and very clear; and in a word, no fault could be found with him in any respect as far as all that went.

4.  Such, then, was his outward appearance; but his soul and his mind—O Heracles Forfender! O Zeus, Averter of Mischief! O Twin Brethren, our Saviours! may it be the fortune of our enemies and ill-wishers to encounter and have to do with the like of him! In understanding, quick-wittedness, and penetration he was far beyond everyone else; and activity of mind, readiness to learn, retentiveness, natural aptitude for studies—all these qualities were his, in every case to the full. But he made the worst possible use of them, and with these noble instruments at his service soon became the most perfect rascal of all those who have been notorious far and wide for villainy, surpassing the Cercopes, surpassing Eurybatus, or Phrynondas, or Aristodemus, or Sostratus.3 He himself, writing to his son-in-law Rutilianus once upon a time and speaking of himself with the greatest reserve, claimed to be like Pythagoras; but— with all due respect to Pythagoras, a wise man of more than human intelligence—if he had been this man’s contemporary, he would have seemed a child, I am very sure, beside him!4  In the name of the Graces, do not imagine that I say this to insult Pythagoras, or in the endeavour to bring them into connection with one another by likening their doings. On the contrary, if all that is worst and most opprobrious in what is said of Pythagoras to discredit him (which I for my part cannot believe to be true) should nevertheless be brought together for comparison, the whole of it would be but an infinitesimal part of Alexander’s knavery. In sum, imagine, please, and mentally configure a highly diversified soul-blend, made up of lying, trickery, perjury, and malice; facile, audacious, venturesome, diligent in the execution of its schemes, plausible, convincing, masking as good, and wearing an appearance absolutely opposite to its purpose. indeed, there is nobody who, after meeting him for the first time, did not come away with the idea that he was the most honest and upright man in the world—yes, and the most simple and unaffected. And on top of all this, he had the quality of magnificence, of forming no petty designs but always keeping his mind upon the most important objects.

5.  While he was still a mere boy, and a very handsome one, as could be inferred from the sere and yellow leaf of him, and could also be learned by hearsay from those who recounted his story, he trafficked freely in his attractiveness and sold his company to those who sought it. Among others, he had an admirer who was a quack, one of those who advertise enchantments, miraculous incantations, charms for your love-affairs, “sendings” 5 for your enemies, disclosures of buried treasure, and successions to estates. As this man saw that he was an apt lad, more than ready to assist him in his affairs, and that the boy was quite as much enamoured with his roguery as he with the boy’s beauty, he gave him a thorough education and constantly made use of him as helper, servant, and acolyte. He himself was professedly a public physician, but, as Homer says of the wife of Thon, the Egyptian, he knew

“Many a drug that was good in a compound, and many a bad one,”6

all of which Alexander inherited and took over. This teacher and admirer of his was a man of Tyana by birth, one of those who had been followers of the notorious Apollonius, and who knew his whole bag of tricks. You see what sort of school the man that I am describing comes from!

6.  Alexander was just getting his beard when the death of the Tyanean put him in a bad way, since it coincided with the passing of his beauty, by which he might have supported himself. So he abandoned petty projects for ever. He formed a partnership with a Byzantine writer of choral songs, one of those who enter the public competitions, far more abominable than himself by nature— Cocconas,7 I think, was his nickname,— and they went about the country practising quackery and sorcery, and “trimming the fatheads “—for so they style the public in the traditional patter of magicians. Well, among these they hit upon a rich Macedonian woman, past her prime but still eager to be charming, and not only lined their purses fairly well at her expense, but went with her from Bithynia to Macedon. She came from Pella, a place once flourishing in the time of the kings of Macedon but now insignificant, with very few inhabitants. [7] There they saw great serpents, quite tame and gentle, so that they were kept by women, slept with children, let themselves be stepped upon, were not angry when they were stroked, and took milk from the breast just like babies. There are many such in the country, and that, probably, is what gave currency in former days to the story about Olympias; no doubt a serpent of that sort slept with her when she was carrying Alexander.8 So they bought one of the reptiles, the finest, for a few coppers; [8] and, in the words of Thucydides: “Here beginneth the war!”9

As you might have expected of two consummate rascals, greatly daring, fully prepared for mischief, who had put their heads together, they readily discerned that human life is swayed by two great tyrants, hope and fear, and that a man who could use both of these to advantage would speedily enrich himself. For they perceived that both to one who fears and to one who hopes, foreknowledge is very essential and very keenly coveted, and that long ago not only Delphi, but Delos and Clarus and Branchidae, had become rich and famous because, thanks to the tyrants just mentioned, hope and fear, men continually visited their sanctuaries and sought to learn the future in advance, and to that end sacrificed hecatombs and dedicated ingots of gold. By turning all this round and round in conference with one another and keeping it astir, they concocted the project of founding a prophetic shrine and oracle, hoping that if they should succeed in it, they would at once be rich and prosperous—which, in fact, befell them in greater measure than they at first expected, and turned out better than they hoped.

9.  Then they began planning, first about the place, and next, what should be the commencement and the character of the venture. Cocconas thought Chalcedon a suitable and convenient place, close to Thrace and Bithynia, and not far, too, from Asia10 and Galatia and all the peoples of the interior. Alexander, on the other hand, preferred his own home, saying— and it was true—that to commence such a venture they needed “fat-heads” and simpletons to be their victims, and such, he said, were the Paphlagonians who lived up above Abonoteichus, who were for the most part superstitious and rich; when­ever a man but turned up with someone at his heels to play the flute or the tambourine or the cymbals, telling fortunes with a sieve, as the phrase goes,11 they were all agog over him on the instant and stared at him as if he were a god from heaven.

10.  There was no slight difference of opinion between them on that score, but in the end Alexander won, and going to Chalcedon, since after all that city seemed to them to have some usefulness, in the temple of Apollo, which is the most ancient in Chalcedon, they buried bronze tablets which said that very soon Asclepius, with his father Apollo, would move to Pontus and take up his residence at Abonoteichus. The opportune discovery of these tablets caused this story to spread quickly to all Bithynia and Pontus, and to Abonoteichus sooner than anywhere else. Indeed, the people of that city immediately voted to build a temple and began at once to dig for the foundations. Then Cocconas was left behind in Chalcedon, composing equivocal, ambiguous, obscure oracles, and died before long, bitten, I think, by a viper. [11] It was Alexander who was sent in first; he now wore his hair long, had falling ringlets, dressed in a parti-coloured tunic of white and purple, with a white cloak over it, and carried a falchion like that of Perseus, from whom he claimed descent on his mother’s side. And although those miserable Paphlagonians knew that both his parents were obscure, humble folk, they believed the oracle when it said:

“Here in your sight is a scion of Perseus, dear unto Phoebus;
This is divine Alexander, who shareth the blood of the Healer!”

Podaleirius, the Healer, it would appear, was so passionate and amorous that his ardour carried him all the way from Tricca to Paphlagonia in quest of Alexander’s mother! 12

An oracle by now had turned up which purported to be a prior prediction by the Sibyl:

“On the shores of the Euxine sea, in the neighbourhood of Sinope,
There shall be born, by a Tower, in the days of the Romans, a prophet;
After the foremost unit and three times ten, he will shew forth
Five more units besides, and a score told three times over,
Matching, with places four, the name of a valiant defender !” 13

12.  Well, upon invading his native land with all this pomp and circumstance after a long absence, Alexander was a man of mark and note, affecting as he did to have occasional fits of madness anti causing his mouth to fill with foam. This he easily managed by chewing the root of soapwort, the plant that dyers use; but to his fellow-countrymen even the foam seemed supernatural and awe-inspiring. Then, too, they had long ago prepared and fitted up a serpent’s head of linen, which had something of a human look, was all painted up, and appeared very lifelike. It would open and close its mouth by means of horsehairs, and a forked black tongue like a snake’s, also controlled by horsehairs, would dart out. Besides, the serpent from Pella was ready in advance and was being cared for at home, destined in due time to manifest himself to them and to take a part in their show—in fact, to be cast for the leading rôle.

13.  When at length it was time to begin, he contrived an ingenious ruse. Going at night to the foundations of the temple which were just being excavated, where a pool of water had gathered which either issued from springs somewhere in the foundations themselves or had fallen from the sky, he secreted there a goose-egg, previously blown, which contained a snake just born; and after burying it deep in the mud, he went back again. In the morning he ran out into the market-place naked, wearing a loin-cloth (this too was gilded),14 carrying his falchion, and tossing his unconfined mane like a devotee of the Great Mother in the frenzy. Addressing the people from a high altar upon which he had climbed, he congratulated the city because it was at once to receive the god in visible presence. The assembly—for almost the whole city, including women, old men, and boys, had come running— marvelled, prayed and made obeisance. Uttering, a few meaningless words like Hebrew or Phoenician, he dazed the creatures, who did not know what he was saying save only that he everywhere brought in Apollo and Asclepius. [14] Then he ran at full speed to the future temple, went to the excavation and the previously improvised fountain-head of the oracle, entered ‘the water, sang hymns in honour of Asclepius and Apollo at the top of his voice, and besought the god, under the blessing of Heaven, to come to the city. Then he asked for a libation-saucer, and when somebody handed him one, deftly slipped it underneath and brought up, along with water and mud, that egg in which he had immured the god; the joint about the plug had been closed with wax and white lead. Taking it in his hands, he asserted that at that moment he held Asclepius! They gazed unwaveringly to see what in the world was going to happen; indeed, they had already marvelled at the discovery of the egg in the water. But when he broke it and received the tiny snake into his hollowed hand, and the crowd saw it moving and twisting about his fingers, they at once raised a shout, welcomed the god, congratulated their city, and began each of them to sate him­self greedily with prayers, craving treasures, riches, health, and every other blessing from, him. But Alexander went home again at full speed, taking with him the new-born Asclepius, “born twice, when other men are born but once,”15 whose mother was not Coronis,16 by Zeus, nor yet a crow, but a goose! And the whole population followed, all full of religious fervour and crazed with expectations.

15.  For some days he remained at home, expecting what actually happened—that as the news spread, crowds of Paphlagonians would come running in. When the city had become over-full of people, all of them already bereft of their brains and sense, and not in the least like bread-eating humans, but different from beasts of the field only in their looks, he seated himself on a couch in a certain chamber, clothed in apparel well suited to a god, and took into his bosom his Asclepius from Pella, who, as I have said, was of uncommon size and beauty.17 Coiling him about his neck, and letting the tail, which was long, stream over his lap and drag part of its length on the floor, he concealed only the head by holding it under his arm—the creature would submit to anything—and showed the linen head at one side of his own beard, as if it certainly belonged to the creature that was in view.

16.  Now then, please imagine a little room, not very bright and not admitting any too much daylight; also, a crowd of heterogeneous humanity, excited, wonder-struck in advance, agog with hopes. When they went in, the thing, of course, seemed to them a miracle, that the formerly tiny snake within a few days had turned into so great a serpent, with a human face, moreover, and tame! They were immediately crowded towards the exit, and before they could look closely were forced out by those who kept coming in, for another door had been opened on the opposite side as an exit. That was the way the Macedonians did, they say, in Babylon during Alexander’s illness, when he was in a bad way and they surrounded the palace, craving to see. him and say good-bye. This exhibition the scoundrel gave not merely once, they say, but again and again, above all if any rich men were newly arrived.

17.  In that matter, dear Celsus, to tell the truth, we must excuse those men of Paphlagonia and Pontus, thick-witted, uneducated fellows that they were, for being deluded when they touched the serpent— Alexander let anyone do so who wished—and besides saw in a dim light what purported to be its head opening and shutting its mouth. Really the trick stood in need of a Democritus, or even Epicurus himself or Metrodorus, or someone else with a mind as firm as adamant toward such matters, so as to disbelieve and guess the truth— one who, if he could not discover how it went, would at all events be convinced beforehand that though the method of the fraud escaped him, it was nevertheless all sham and could not possibly happen.

18.  Little by little, Bithynia, Galatia, and Thrace came pouring in, for everyone who carried the news very likely said that he not only had seen the god born but had subsequently touched him, after he had grown very great in a short time and had a face that looked like a man’s. Next came paintings and statues and cult-images, some made of bronze, some of silver, and naturally a name was bestowed upon the god. He was called Glycon in consequence of a divine behest in metre; for Alexander proclaimed:

“Glycon am I, the grandson of Zeus, bright beacon to mortals!”

19.  When it was time to carry out the purpose for which the whole scheme had been concocted—that is to say, to make predictions and give oracles to those who sought them—taking his cue from Amphilochus in Cilicia, who, as you know, after the death and disappearance of his father Amphiaraus at Thebes,18 was exiled from his own country, went to Cilicia, and got on very well by foretelling the future, like his father, for the Cilicians and getting two obols for each prediction—taking, as I say, his cue from him, Alexander announced to all comers that the god would make prophecies, and named a date for it in advance. He directed everyone to write down in a scroll whatever he wanted and what he especially wished to learn, to tie it up, and to seal it with wax or clay or something else of that sort. Then he himself, after taking the scrolls and entering the inner sanctuary—for by that time the temple had been erected and the stage set—proposed to summon in order, with herald and priest, those who had submitted them, and after the god told him about each case, to give back the scroll with the seal upon it, just as it was, and the reply to it endorsed upon it; for the god would reply explicitly to any question that anyone should put.

20.  As a matter of fact, this trick, to a man like you, and if it is not out of place to say so, like myself also, was obvious and easy to see through, but to those drivelling idiots it was miraculous and almost as good as incredible. Having discovered various ways of undoing the seals, he would read all the questions and answer them as he thought best. Then he would roll up the scrolls again, seal them, and give them back, to the great astonishment of the recipients, among whom the comment was frequent: “Why, how did he learn the questions which I gave him very securely sealed with impressions hard to counterfeit, unless there was really some god that knew everything?”

21.  “What were his discoveries, then?” perhaps you will ask. Listen, therefore, in order to be able to show up such impostors. The first, my dear Celsus, was a well-known method; heating a needle, he removed the seal by melting through the wax underneath it, and after reading the contents he warmed the wax once more with the needle, both that which was under the thread and that which contained the seal, and so stuck it together without difficulty. Another method was by using what they call plaster; this is a compound of Bruttian pitch, asphalt, pulverized gypsum, wax, and gum Arabic. Making his plaster out of all these materials and warming it over the fire, he applied it to the seal, which he had previously wetted with saliva, and took a mould of the impression. Then, since the plaster hardened at once, after easily opening and reading the scrolls, he applied the wax and made an impression upon it precisely like the original, just as one would with a gem. Let me tell you a third method, in addition to these. Putting marble-dust into the glue with which they glue books and making a paste of it, he applied that to the seal while it was still soft, and then, as it grows hard at once, more solid than horn or even iron, he removed it and used it for the impression. There are many other devices to this end, but they need not all be mentioned, for fear that we might seem to be wanting in taste, especially in view of the fact that in the book which you wrote against the sorcerers, a very good and useful treatise, capable of preserving common-sense in its readers, you cited instances enough, and indeed a great many more than I have.19

22.  Well, as I say, Alexander made predictions and gave oracles, employing great shrewdness in it and combining guesswork with his trickery. He gave responses that were sometimes obscure and am­biguous, sometimes downright unintelligible, for this seemed to him in the oracular manner. Some people he dissuaded or encouraged as seemed best to him at a guess. To others he prescribed medical treatments and diets, knowing, as I said in the beginning, many useful remedies. His “cytmides” were in highest favour with him—a name which he had coined for a restorative ointment compounded of bear’s grease.20 Expectations, however, and advancements and successions to estates he always put off to another day, adding: “It shall all come about when I will, and when Alexander, my prophet, asks it of me and prays for you.”

23.  A price had been fixed for each oracle, a drachma and two obols.21 Do not think that it was low, my friend, or that the revenue from this source was scanty! He gleaned as much as seventy or eighty thousand 22 a year, since men were so greedy as to send in ten and fifteen questions each. What he received he did not use for himself alone nor treasure up to make himself rich, but since he had many men about him by this time as assistants, servants, collectors of information, writers of oracles, custodians of oracles, clerks, sealers, and expounders, he divided with all, giving each one what was proportionate to his worth.

24.  By now he was even sending men abroad to create rumours in the different nations in regard to the oracle and to say that he made predictions, discovered fugitive slaves, detected thieves and robbers, caused treasures to be dug up, healed the sick, and in some cases had actually raised the dead. So there was a hustling and a bustling from every side, with sacrifices and votive offerings—and twice as much for the prophet and disciple of the god. For this oracle also had come out:

“Honour I bid you to give my faithful servant, the prophet;
No great store do I set upon riches, but much on the prophet.”

25.  When at last many sensible men, recovering, as it were, from profound intoxication, combined against him, especially all the followers of Epicurus, and when in the cities they began gradually to detect all the trickery and buncombe of the show, he issued a promulgation designed to scare them, saying that Pontus was full of atheists and Christians who had the hardihood to utter the vilest abuse of him; these he bade them drive away with stones if they wanted to have the god gracious. About Epicurus, moreover, he delivered himself of an oracle after this sort; when someone asked him how Epicurus was doing in Hades, he replied:

“With leaden fetters on his feet in filthy mire he sitteth.”

Do you wonder, then, that the shrine waxed great, now that you see that the questions of its visitors were intelligent and refined?

In general, the war that he waged upon Epicurus was without truce or parley, naturally enough. Upon whom else would a quack who loved humbug and bitterly hated truth more fittingly make war than upon Epicurus, who discerned the nature of things and alone knew the truth in them? The followers of Plato and Chrysippus and Pythagoras were his friends, and there was profound peace with them; but “the impervious Epicurus” —for that is what he called him—was rightly his bitter enemy, since he considered all that sort of thing a laughing-matter and a joke. So Alexander hated Amastris most of all the cities in Pontus because he knew that the followers of Lepidus 23 and others like them were numerous in the city; and he would never deliver an oracle to an Amastrian. Once when he did venture to make a prediction for a senator’s brother, he acquitted himself ridiculously, since he could neither compose a clever response himself nor find anyone else who could do it in time. The man complained of colic, and Alexander, wishing to direct him to eat a pig’s foot cooked with mallow, said:

“Mallow with cummin digest in a sacred pipkin of piglets.”

26.  Again and again, as I said before, he exhibited the serpent to all who requested it, not in its entirety, but exposing chiefly the tail and the rest of the body and keeping the head out of sight under his arm. But as he wished to astonish the crowd still more, he promised to produce the god talking—delivering oracles in person without a prophet. It was no difficult matter for him to fasten cranes’ windpipes together and pass them through the head, which he had so fashioned as to be lifelike. Then he answered the questions through someone else, who spoke into the tube from the outside, so that the voice issued from his canvas Asclepius.24

These oracles were called autophones, and were not given to everybody promiscuously, but only to those who were noble, rich, and free-handed. [27] For example, the oracle given to Severianus in regard to his invasion of Armenia was one of the autophones. Alexander encouraged him to the invasion by saying:

“Under your charging spear shall fall Armenians and Parthi;
Then you shall fare to Rome and the glorious waters of Tiber
Wearing upon your brow the chaplet studded with sunbeams.” 25


Then when that silly Celt, being convinced, made the invasion and ended by getting himself and his army cut to bits by Osroes, Alexander expunged this oracle from his records and inserted another in its place

“Better for you that your forces against Armenia march not,
Lest some man, like a woman bedight, despatch from his bowstring
Grim death, cutting you off from life and enjoyment of sunlight.” 26

28.  That was one of his devices, and a very clever one—belated oracles to make amends for those in which he had made bad predictions and missed the mark. Often he would promise good health to sick men before their demise, and when they died another oracle would be ready with a recantation:

“Seek no more for assistance against thy bitter affliction;
Death now standeth in view; ‘tis beyond thy power to ‘scape him.”

29.  As he was aware that the priests at Clarus and Didymi and Mallus were themselves in high repute for the same sort of divination, he made them his friends by sending many of his visitors to them, saying:

“Now unto Clarus begone, to the voice of my father27 to hearken.”

and at another time,

Visit the fane of the Branchids and hear what the oracle sayeth,”

and again,

“Make thy way unto Mallus and let Amphilochus answer.”

30.  So far, we have been concerned with his doings near the frontier, extending over Ionia, Cilicia, Paphlagonia, and Galatia. But when the renown of his prophetic shrine spread to Italy and invaded the city of Rome, everybody without exception, each on the other’s heels, made haste, some to go in person, some to send; this was the case particularly with those who had the greatest power and the highest rank in the city. The first and foremost of these was Rutilianus,28 who, though a man of birth and breeding, put to the proof in many Roman offices, nevertheless in all that concerned the gods was very infirm and held strange beliefs about them. If he but saw anywhere a stone smeared with holy oil or adorned with a wreath,29 he would fall on his face forthwith, kiss his hand, and stand beside it for a long time making vows and craving blessings from it.

When this man heard the tales about the oracle, he very nearly abandoned the office which had been committed to him and took wing to Abonoteichus. Anyhow, he sent one set of messengers after another, and his emissaries, mere illiterate serving-people, were easily deluded, so when they came back, they told not only what they had seen but what they had heard as if they had seen it, and threw in something more for good measure, so as to gain favour with their master. Consequently, they inflamed the poor old man and made him absolutely crazy. [31] Having many powerful friends, he went about not only telling what he had heard from his messengers but adding still more on his own account. So he flooded and convulsed the city, and agitated most of the court, who themselves at once hastened to go and hear something that concerned them.

To all who came, Alexander gave a very cordial reception, made them think well of him by lavish entertainment and expensive presents, and sent them back not merely to report the answers to their questions, but to sing the praises of the god and to tell portentous lies about the oracle on their own account. [32] At the same time, however, the plaguy scoundrel devised a trick which was really clever and not what one would expect of your ordinary swindler. In opening and reading the forwarded scrolls, if he found anything dangerous and venturesome in the questions, he would keep them himself and not send them back, in order to hold the senders in subjection and all but in slavery because of their fear, since they remembered what it was that they had asked. You understand what questions are likely to be put by men who are rich and very powerful. So he used to derive much gain from those men, who knew that he had them in his net.

33.  I should like to tell you some of the responses that were given to Rutilianus. Asking about his son by a former marriage, who was then in the full bloom of youth, he enquired who should be appointed his tutor in his studies. The reply was:

“Be it Pythagoras; aye, and the good bard, master of warfare.”

Then after a few days the boy died, and Alexander was at his wit’s end, with nothing to say to his critics, as the oracle had been shown up so obviously. But Rutilianus himself, good soul, made haste to defend the oracle by saying that the god had predicted precisely this outcome, and on account of it had bidden him to select as his tutor nobody then alive, but rather Pythagoras and Homer, who died long ago, with whom, no doubt, the lad was then studying in Hades. What fault, then, should we find with Alexander if he thought fit to amuse himself at the expense of such homunculi?

34.  At another time, when Rutilianus enquired whose soul he had inherited, the reply was:

“Peleus’ son wert thou at the first; thereafter Menander,
Then what thou seemest now, and hereafter shalt turn to a sunbeam.
Four score seasons of life shall be given thee over a hundred.”

But as a matter of fact he died insane at seventy without awaiting the fulfilment of the god’s promise! [35] This oracle too was one of the autophones.

When one time he enquired about getting married, Alexander said explicitly:

“Take Alexander’s daughter to wife, who was born of Selene.”

He had long before given out a story to the effect that his daughter was by Selene; for Selene had fallen in love with him on seeing him asleep once upon a time—it is a habit of hers, you know, to adore handsome lads in their sleep ! 30 Without any hesitation that prince of sages Rutilianus sent for the girl at once, celebrated his nuptials as a sexagenarian bridegroom, and took her to wife, propitiating his mother-in-law, the moon, with whole hecatombs and imagining that he  himself had become one of the Celestials!

36.  No sooner did Alexander get Italy in hand than he began to devise projects that were ever greater and greater, and sent oracle-mongers everywhere in the Roman Empire, warning the cities to be on their guard against plagues and conflagrations and earth­quakes; he promised that he would himself afford them infallible aid so that none of these calamities should befall them. There was one oracle, also an autophone, which he despatched to all the nations during the pestilence 31; it was but a single verse:

“Phoebus, the god unshorn, keepeth off plague’s nebulous onset.”

This verse was to be seen everywhere written over doorways as a charm against the plague; but in most cases it had the contrary result. By some chance it was particularly the houses on which the verse was inscribed that were depopulated! Do not suppose me to mean that they were stricken on account of the verse—by some chance or other it turned out that way, and perhaps, too, people neglected precautions because of their confidence in the line and lived too carelessly, giving the oracle no assistance against the disease because they were going to have the syllables to defend them and “unshorn Phoebus” to drive away the plague with his arrows!

37.  Moreover, Alexander posted a great number of his fellow-conspirators in Rome itself as his agents, who reported everyone’s views to him and gave him advance information about the questions and the especial wishes of those who consulted him, so that the messengers might find him ready to answer even before they arrived

38.  He made these preparations to meet the situation in Italy, and also made notable preparations at home. He established a celebration of mysteries, with torch­light ceremonies and priestly offices, which was to be held annually, for three days in succession, in perpetuity. On the first day, as at Athens,32 there was a proclamation, worded as follows: “If any atheist or Christian or Epicurean has come to spy upon the rites, let him be off, and let those who believe in the god perform the mysteries, under the blessing of Heaven.” Then, at the very outset, there was an “expulsion,” in which he took the lead, saying: “Out with the Christians,” and the whole multitude chanted in response, “Out with the Epicureans!” Then there was the child-bed of Leto, the birth of Apollo, his marriage to Coronis, and the birth of Asclepius. On the second day came the manifestation of Glycon, including the birth of the god. [39] On the third day there was the union of Podaleirius and the mother of Alexander—it was called the Day of Torches, and torches were burned. In conclusion there was the amour of Selene and Alexander, and the birth of Rutilianus’ wife. The torch-bearer and hierophant was our Endymion, Alexander. While he lay in full view, pretending to be asleep, there came down to him from the roof, as if from heaven, not Selene but Rutilia, a very pretty woman, married to one of the Emperor’s stewards. She was genuinely in love with Alexander and he with her; and before the eyes of her worthless husband there were kisses and embraces in public. If the torches had not been numerous, perhaps the thing would have been carried even further. After a short time Alexander entered again, robed as a priest, amid profound silence, and said in a loud voice, over and over again, “Hail, Glycon,” while, following in his train, a number of would-be Eumolpids and Ceryces33 from Paphlagonia, with brogans on their feet and breaths that reeked of garlic, shouted in response, “Hail, Alexander!”

40.  Often in the course of the torchlight ceremonies and the gambols of the mysteries his thigh was bared purposely and showed golden. No doubt gilded leather had been put about it, which gleamed in the light of the cressets. There was once a discussion between two of our learned idiots in regard to him, whether he had the soul of Pythagoras, on account of the golden thigh, or some other soul akin to it.34 They referred this question to Alexander himself, and King Glycon resolved their doubt with an oracle:

“Nay, Pythagoras’ soul now waneth and other times waxeth;
His, with prophecy gifted, from God’s mind taketh its issue,
Sent by the Father to aid good men in the stress of the conflict;
Then it to God will return, by God’s own thunder­bolt smitten.”

41.  Although he cautioned all to abstain from intercourse with boys on the ground that it was impious, for his own part this pattern of propriety made a clever arrangement. He commanded the cities in Pontus and Paphlagonia to send choir-boys for three years’ service, to sing hymns to the god in his household; they were required to examine, select, and send the noblest, youngest, and most handsome. These he kept under ward and treated like bought slaves, sleeping with them and affronting them in every way. He made it a rule, too, not to greet anyone over eighteen years with his lips, or to embrace and kiss him; he kissed only the young, extending his hand to the others to be kissed by them. They were called “those within the kiss.”

42.  He duped the simpletons in this way from first to last, ruining women right and left as well as living with favourites. Indeed, it was a great thing that everyone coveted if he simply cast his eyes upon a man’s wife; if, however, he deemed her worthy of a kiss, each husband thought that good fortune would flood his house. Many women even boasted that they had had children by Alexander, and their husbands bore witness that they spoke the truth!

43.  I want to include in my tale a dialogue between Glycon and one Sacerdos, a man of Tius, whose intelligence you will be able to appraise from his questions. I read the conversation in an inscription in letters of gold, at Tius, in the house of Sacerdos. “Tell me, Master Glycon,” said he, “who are you?” “I am the latter-day Asclepius,” he replied. “A different person from the one of former times? What do you mean?” “It is not permitted you to hear that.” “How many years will you tarry among us delivering oracles?” “One thousand and three.” “Then where shall you go?” “To Bactra and that region, for the barbarians too must profit by my presence among men.” “What of the other prophetic shrines, the one in Didymi, the one in Clarus, and the one in Delphi—do they still have your father Apollo as the source of their oracles, or are the predictions now given out there false?” “This too you must not wish to know; it is not permitted.” “What about myself—what shall I be after my present life?” “A camel, then a horse, then a wise man and prophet just as great as Alexander.”

That was Glycon’s conversation with Sacerdos; and in conclusion he uttered an oracle in verse, knowing that Sacerdos was a follower of Lepidus:’

“Put not in Lepidus faith, for a pitiful doom is in waiting.”

That was because he greatly feared Epicurus, as I have said before, seeing in him an opponent and critic of his trickery.

44.  Indeed, he seriously imperilled one of the Epicureans who ventured to expose him in the presence of a great crowd. The man went up to him and said in a loud voice: “Come now, Alexander! You prevailed upon such-and-such a Paphlagonian to put his servants on trial for their lives before the governor of Galatia on the charge that they had murdered his son, a student at Alexandria. But the young man is living, and has come back alive after the execution of the servants, whom you gave over to the wild beasts.” What had happened was this. The young man cruised up the Nile as far as Clysma,35 and as a vessel was just putting to sea, was induced to join others in a voyage to India. Then because he was overdue, those ill-starred servants concluded that the young man either had lost his life during his cruise upon the Nile or had been made away with by brigands, who were numerous at the time; and they returned with the report of his disappearance. Then followed the oracle and their condemnation, after which the young man presented himself, telling of his travels.

45.  When he told this tale, Alexander, indignant at the exposure and unable to bear the truth of the reproach, told the bystanders to stone him, or else they themselves would be accurst and would bear the name of Epicureans. They had begun to throw stones when a man named Demostratus who happened to be in the city, one of the most prominent men in Pontus,36 flung his arms about the fellow and saved him from death. But he had come very near to being overwhelmed with stones, and quite properly! Why did he have to be the only man of sense among all those lunatics and suffer from the idiocy of the Paphlagonians?

46.  That man, then, was thus dealt with. Moreover, if in any case, when men were called up in the order of their applications (which took place the day before the prophecies were given out) and the herald enquired: “Has he a prophecy for So-and-so,” the reply came from within: “To the ravens,” nobody would ever again receive such a person under his roof or give him fire or water, but he had to be harried from country to country as an impious man, an atheist, and an Epicurean—which, indeed, was their strongest term of abuse.

47.  One of Alexander’s acts in this connection was most comical. Hitting upon the “Established Beliefs” of Epicurus, which is the finest of his books, as you know, and contains in summary the articles of the man’s philosophic creed,37 he brought it into the middle of the market-place, burned it on fagots of fig-wood just as if he were burning the man in person, and threw the ashes into the sea, even adding an oracle also:

“Burn with fire, I command you, the creed of a purblind dotard!”

But the scoundrel had no idea what blessings that book creates for its readers and what peace, tranquillity, and freedom it engenders in them, liberating them as it does from terrors and apparitions and portents, from vain hopes and extravagant cravings, developing in them intelligence and truth, and truly purifying their understanding, not with torches and squills and that sort of foolery, but with straight thinking, truthfulness and frankness.

48.  Of all this blackguard’s emprises, however, hear one, the greatest. Since he had no slight influence in the palace and at court through the favour which Rutilianus enjoyed, he published an oracle at the height of the war in Germany, when the late Emperor Marcus himself had at last come to grips with the Marcomanni and Quadi. The oracle recommended that two lions be cast into the Danube alive, together with a quantity of perfumes and magnificent offerings. But it will be better to repeat the oracle itself.

“Into the pools of the Ister, the stream that from Zeus taketh issue,
Hurl, I command you, a pair of Cybele’s faithful attendants,
Beasts that dwell on the mountains, and all that the Indian climate
Yieldeth of flower and herb that is fragrant; amain there shall follow
Victory and great glory, and welcome peace in their footsteps.”

But when all this had been done as he had directed, the lions swam across to the enemy territory and the barbarians slaughtered them with clubs, thinking them some kind of foreign dogs or wolves; and “amain” that tremendous disaster befel our side, in which a matter of twenty thousand were wiped out at a blow. Then came what happened at Aquileia, and that city’s narrow escape from capture. To meet this issue, Alexander was flat enough to adduce the Delphian defence in the matter of the oracle given to Croesus, that the God had indeed foretold victory, but had not indicated whether it would go to the Romans or to the enemy.38

49.  As by this time throngs upon throngs were pouring in and their city was becoming overcrowded on account of the multitude of visitors to the shrine, so that it had not sufficient provisions, he devised the so-called “nocturnal” responses. Taking the scrolls, he slept on them, so he said, and gave replies that he pretended to have heard from the god in a dream; which, however, were in most cases not clear but ambiguous and confused, particularly when he observed that the scroll had been sealed up with unusual care. Taking no extra chances, he would append at random whatever answer came into his head, thinking that this procedure too was appropriate to oracles; and there were certain expounders who sat by with that in view and garnered large fees from the recipients of such oracles for explaining and unriddling them. Moreover, this task of theirs was subject to a levy; the expounders paid Alexander an Attic talent each.

50.  Sometimes, to amaze dolts, he would deliver an oracle for the benefit of someone who had neither enquired nor sent—who, in fact, did not exist at all. For example:

“Seek thou out that man who in utmost secrecy shrouded
Tumbleth at home on the couch thy helpmeet Calligeneia,
Slave Protogenes, him upon whom thou fully reliest.
He was corrupted by thee, and now thy wife he corrupteth,
Making a bitter return unto thee for his own violation.
Aye more, now against thee a baneful charm they have fashioned
So that thou mayst not hear nor see what deeds they are doing;
This shalt thou find on the floor, beneath thy bed, by the wall-side,
Close to the head; thy servant Calypso shareth the secret.”

What Democritus39 would not have been disturbed on hearing names amid places specified—and would not have been filled with contempt soon afterward, when he saw through their stratagem?

52.*  Again, to someone else who was not there and did not exist at all, he said in prose: “Go back; he  who sent you was killed today by his neighbour Diodes, with the help of the bandits Magnus, Celer, and Bubalus, who already have been caught and imprisoned.”

51.  I may say too that he often gave oracles to barbarians, when anyone put a question in his native language, in Syrian or in Celtic; since he readily found strangers in the city who belonged to the same nation as his questioners. That is why the time between the presentation of the scrolls and the delivery of the oracle was long, so that in the interval the questions might be unsealed at leisure without risk and men might be found who would be able to translate them fully. Of this sort was the response given to the Scythian:

“Morphen eubargoulis eis skian chnechikrage leipsei phaos.” 40

53.  Let me also tell you a few of the responses that were given to me. When I asked whether Alexander was bald, and sealed the question carefully and conspicuously, a “nocturnal” oracle was appended:

“Sabardalachou malachaattealos en.”41

At another time, I asked a single question in each of two scrolls under a different name, “What was the poet Homer’s country?” In one case, misled by my serving-man, who had been asked why he came and had said, “To request a cure for a pain in the side,” he replied:

“Cytmis42 I bid you apply, combined with the spume of a charger.”

To the other, since in this case he had been told that the one who sent it enquired whether it would be better for him to go to Italy by sea or by land, he gave an answer which had nothing to do with Homer:

“Make not your journey by sea, but travel afoot by the highway.”

54.  Many such traps, in fact, were set for him by me and by others. For example, I put a single question, and wrote upon the outside of the scroll, following the usual form: “Eight questions from So-and-so,” using a fictitious name and sending the eight drachmas and whatever it came to besides.43 Relying upon the fee that had been sent and upon the inscription on the roll, to the single question: “When will Alexander be caught cheating?” he sent me eight responses which, as the saying goes, had no connection with earth or with heaven, but were silly and nonsensical every one.

When he found out about all this afterward, and also that it was I who was attempting to dissuade Rutilianus from the marriage and from his great dependence upon the hopes inspired by the shrine, he began to hate me, as was natural, and to count me a bitter enemy. Once when Rutilianus asked about me, he replied:

“Low-voiced walks in the dusk are his pleasure, and impious matings.”

And generally, I was of course the man he most hated.

55.  When he discovered that I had entered the city and ascertained that I was the Lucian of whom he had heard (I had brought, I may add, two soldiers with me, a pikeman and a spearman borrowed from the Governor of Cappadocia, then a friend of mine, to escort me to the sea), he at once sent for me very politely and with great show of friendliness. When I went, I found many about him; but I had brought along my two soldiers, as luck would have it. He extended me his right hand to kiss, as his custom was with the public; I clasped it as if to kiss it, and almost crippled it with a right good bite!

The bystanders tried to choke and beat me for sacrilege; even before that, they had been indignant because I had addressed him as Alexander and not as “Prophet.” But he mastered himself very handsomely, held them in check, and promised that he would easily make me tame and would demonstrate Glycon’s worth by showing that he transformed even bitter foes into friends. Then he removed everybody and had it out with me, professing to know very well who I was and what advice I was giving Rutilianus, and saying, “What possessed you to do this to me, when I can advance you tremendously in his favour?” By that time I was glad to receive this proffer of friendship, since I saw what a perilous position I had taken up; so, after a little, I reappeared as his friend, and it seemed quite a miracle to the observers that my change of heart had been so easily effected.

56.  Then, when I decided to sail—it chanced that I was accompanied only by Xenophon44 during my visit, as I had previously sent my father and my family on to Amastris—he sent me many remembrances and presents, and promised too that he himself would furnish a boat and a crew to transport me. I considered this a sincere and polite offer; but when I was in mid-passage, I saw the master in tears, disputing with the sailors, and began to be very doubtful about the prospects. It was a fact that they had received orders from Alexander to throw us bodily into the sea. If that had been done, his quarrel with me would have been settled without ado; but by his tears the master prevailed upon his crew to do us no harm. “For sixty years, as you see,” said he to me, “I have led a blameless and God-fearing life, and I should not wish, at this age and with a wife and children, to stain my hands with murder;” and he explained for what purpose he had taken us aboard, and what orders had been given by Alexander. [57]  He set us ashore at Aegiali (which noble Homer mentions45), and then they went back again.

There I found some men from the Bosporus who were voyaging along the coast. They were going as ambassadors from King Eupator to Bithynia, to bring the yearly contribution.46 I told them of the peril in which we had been, found them courteous, was taken aboard their vessel, and won safely through to Amastris, after coming so close to losing my life.

Thereupon I myself began to prepare for battle with him, and to employ every resource in my desire to pay him back. Even before his attempt upon me, I detested him and held him in bitter enmity on account of the vileness of his character. So I undertook to prosecute him, and had many associ­ates, particularly the followers of Timocrates, the philosopher from Heraclea. But the then governor of Bithynia and Pontus, Avitus,47 checked me, all but beseeching and imploring me to leave off, because out of good will to Rutilianus he could not, he said, punish Alexander even if he should find him clearly guilty of crime. In that way my effort was thwarted, and I left off exhibiting misplaced zeal before a judge who was in that state of mind.48

58.  Was it not also a great piece of impudence on the part of Alexander that he should petition the Emperor to change the name of Abonoteichus and call it Ionopolis, and to strike a new coin bearing on one side the likeness of Glycon and on the other that of Alexander, wearing the fillets of his grand­father Asclepius and holding the falchion of his maternal ancestor Perseus?49

59.  In spite of his prediction in an oracle that he was fated to live a hundred and fifty years and then die by a stroke of lightning, he met a most wretched end before reaching the age of seventy, in a manner that befitted a son of Podaleirius ; 50 for his leg became mortified quite to the groin and was infested with maggots. it was then that his baldness was detected when because of the pain he let the doctors foment his head, which they could not. have done unless his wig had been removed.

60.  Such was the conclusion of Alexander’s spectacular career, and such the denouement of the whole play; being as it was, it resembled an act of Providence, although it came about by chance. It was inevitable, too, that he should have funeral games worthy of his career—that a contest for the shrine should arise. The foremost of his fellow-conspirators and impostors referred it to Rutilianus to decide which of them should be given the preference, should succeed to the shrine, and should be crowned with the fillet of priest and prophet. Paetus was one of them, a physician by profession, a greybeard, who conducted himself in a way that befitted neither a physician nor a greybeard. But Rutilianus, the umpire, sent them off unfilleted, keeping the post of prophet for the master after his departure from this life.

61.  This, my friend, is but a little out of a great deal; I have thought fit to set it down as a specimen, not only to pleasure you as an associate and friend whom above all others I hold in admiration for your wisdom, your love of truth, the gentleness and reasonableness of your ways, the peacefulness of your life, and your courtesy toward all whom you encounter, but mostly—and this will give greater pleasure to you also—to right the wrongs of Epicurus, a man truly saintly and divine in his nature, who alone truly discerned right ideals and handed them down, who proved himself the liberator of all who sought his converse. I think too that to its readers the writing will seem to have some usefulness, refuting as it does certain falsehoods and confirming certain truths in the minds of all men of sense.

Lucian of Samosata: The Passing of Peregrinus

An account of the life and death of a Cynic philosopher who for a time in his early life went over to Christianity, practicing it to the point of imprisonment under a very tolerant administration, and after returning to Cynicism became in his old age so enamoured of Indic ideas and precedents that he cremated himself at Olympia, just after the games of A.D. 165, even as Calanus had done at Susa in the presence of Alexander the Great and as Zarmarus had done at Athens, after initiation into the mysteries, in the presence of Augustus.

Writing soon after the event, of which he was a witness, Lucian makes his main theme the story of what went on at Olympia. The earlier life of Peregrinus is portrayed incidentally in a speech attributed by Lucian to someone whose name he did not know, but clearly made by Lucian himself.

Lucian believes himself to be exposing a sham, whose zeal was not at all for truth but only for applause and renown. Many notable modern critics, including Zeller, Bernays, Croiset, and Wilamowitz, dissent from his interpretation, discerning in the man an earnest seeker after truth; for to them thirst for glory is not an adequate explanation of his final act. This point of view hardly embodies sufficient recognition of the driving force of that motive with Greeks, and particularly Greeks of the second century (Nock, Conversion, p. 201). Greek writers recognised it as a possible explanation of the behaviour of Calanus and of Zarmarus. In this case, Lucian not only knew the man but knew others who knew him: for instance, Demonax. Assuredly, the interpretation that he gives is not his alone. Perhaps it is not so far wrong after all. Certainly there are authentic features in it, like the attempt of Proteus to get back the inheritance he had previously renounced and bestowed upon his native city, which make it impossible to see in him the “earnest and steadfast man” that Aulus Gellius thought him.


Best wishes from Lucian to Cronius.
1.    Unlucky Peregrinus,1 or, as he delighted to style himself, Proteus,2 has done exactly what Proteus in Homer did.3 After turning into everything for the sake of notoriety and achieving any number of transformations, here at last he has turned into fire; so great, it seems, was the love of notoriety that possessed him. And now your genial friend has got himself carbonified after the fashion of Empedocles, except that the latter at least tried to escape observation when he threw himself into the crater,4 while this gentleman waited for that one of the Greek festivals which draws the greatest. crowds, heaped up a very large pyre, and leaped into it before all those, witnesses; he even addressed the Greeks on the subject not many days before his venture.
2.    I think I can see you laughing heartily at the old man’s drivelling idiocy—-indeed, I hear you give tongue as you, naturally would: “Oh, the stupidity! Oh, the vainglory! Oh”—everything else that we are in the habit of saying about it all. Well, you are doing this at a distance and ‘with far greater security, but I said it right by the fire and even earlier in a great crowd of listeners, angering some of them—as many as admired the old man’s fool-hardiness; but there were others beside myself who laughed at him. However, I narrowly missed getting torn limb from limb for you by the Cynics just as Actaeon was by his dogs or his cousin Pentheus by the Maenads.
3.     The complete mise en scène of the affair was as follows. You know, of course, what the playwright was like and what spectacular performances he presented his whole life long, outdoing Sophocles and Aeschylus. As for my part in it, as soon as I came to Elis, in going up5 by way of the gymnasium I overheard a Cynic bawling out the usual street-corner invocations to Virtue in a loud, harsh voice, and abusing everyone without exception. Then his harangue wound up with Proteus, and to the best of my ability I shall try to quote for you the very words he said. You will find the style familiar, of course, as you have often stood near them while they were ranting.
4.     “Does anyone dare,”, he said, “to call Proteus vainglorious, O Earth, O sun, O rivers, O sea, O Heracles, god of Our fathers !—Proteus, who was imprisoned in Syria, who renounced five thousand talents in favour of his native hand, who was banished from the city of Rome, who is more conspicuous than the sun, who is able to rival Olympian Zeus himself? Because he has resolved to depart from life by way of fire, are there people who attribute this to vainglory?’ Why, did not Heracles do so? Did not Asclepius and Dionysus,6 by grace of the thunderbolt? Did not Empedocles end by leaping into the crater?”
5.    When Theagenes7 —for that was the bawler’s name—said that, I asked a bystander, “What is the meaning of his talk about fire, and what have Heracles and Empedocles to do with Proteus?” “Before long,” he replied, Proteus is going to burn himself up at the Olympic festival.” “How,” said I, “and why?” Then he undertook to tell me, but the Cynic was bawling, so that it was impossible to hear anyone else. I listened, therefore, while he flooded us with the rest of his bilge-water and got off a lot of amazing hyperbole about – Proteus, for, not deigning to compare him with the man of Sinope,8 or his teacher Antisthenes, or even with Socrates himself, he summoned Zeus to the lists. Then, however, he decided to keep them about equal, and thus concluded his speech:
6.      “These are the two noblest masterpieces that the world has seen—the Olympian Zeus, and Proteus; of the one, the creator and artist was Phidias, of the other, Nature. But now this holy image is about to depart from among men to gods, borne on the wings of fire, leaving us bereft.” After completing this discourse with copious perspiration, he shed tears in a highly ridiculous way and tore his hair, taking care not to pull very hard; and at length he was led away, sobbing as he went, by some of the Cynics, who strove to comfort him.
7.    After him, another man went up at once,9 not permitting the throng to disperse, but pouring a libation on the previous sacrificial offerings while they were still ablaze. At first he laughed a long time, and obviously did it from the heart. Then he began somewhat after this fashion: “Since that accursed Theagenes terminated his pestilential remarks with the tears of Heraclitus, I, on the contrary, shall begin with the laughter of Democritus.” And again he went on laughing a long time, so that he drew most of us into doing likewise; Then, changing countenance, he said,
8.     “Pray, what else, gentlemen, are we to do when we hear utterances so ridiculous, and see old men all but standing on their heads, in public for the sake of a little despicable notoriety? That you may know what manner of thing is this ‘holy image’ which is about to be burned up, give me your ears, for I have observed his character and kept an eye on his career from the beginning, and have ascertained various particulars from his fellow-citizens and people who cannot have helped knowing him thoroughly.
9.     “This creation and masterpiece of nature, this Polyclitan canon,10 as soon as he came of age, was taken in adultery in Armenia and got a sound thrashing, but finally jumped down from the roof and made his escape, with a radish stopping his vent. Then he corrupted a handsome boy, and by paying three thousand drachmas to the boy’s parents, who were poor, bought himself off from being brought before the governor of the province of Asia.
10.    “All this and the like of it I propose to pass over; for he was still unshapen clay, and our ‘holy image’ had not yet been consummated for us. What he did to his father, however, is very well worth hearing; but you all know it—you have heard how he strangled the aged man, unable to tolerate his living beyond sixty years. Then, when the affair had been noised abroad, he condemned himself to exile and roamed about, going to one country after another.
11.    “It was then that he learned the wondrous lore of the Christians, by associating with their priests and scribes in Palestine.   And—how else could it be?—in a trice he made them all look like children, for he was prophet, cult-leader, head of the synagogue, and everything, all by himself. He inter preted and explained some of their books and even composed many, and they revered him as a god, made use of him as a lawgiver, and set him down as a protector, next after that other, to be sure, whom11 they still worship, the man who was crucified in Palestine because he introduced this new cult into the world.
12.    “Then at length Proteus was apprehended for this and thrown into prison, which itself gave him no little reputation as an asset for his future career and the charlatanism and notoriety-seeking that he was enamoured of. Well, when he had been imprisoned, the Christians, regarding the incident as a calamity, left nothing undone in the effort to rescue him Then, as this was impossible, every other form of attention was shown him, not in any casual way but with assiduity, and from the very break of day aged widows and orphan children could be seen waiting near the prison, while their officials even slept inside with him after bribing the guards. Then elaborate meals were brought in, and sacred books of theirs were read aloud, and excellent Peregrinus—for he still went by that name—was called by them ‘the new Socrates.’
13.   “Indeed, people came even from the cities in Asia, sent by the Christians at their common expense, to succour and defend and encourage the hero. They show incredible speed whenever any such public action is taken; for in no time they lavish their all.  So it was then in the case of Peregrinus; much money came to him from them by reason of his imprisonment, and he procured not a little revenue from it. The poor wretches have convinced themselves, first and foremost, that they are going to be immortal and live for all time, in consequence of which they despise death and even willingly give themselves into custody; most of them. Furthermore, their first lawgiver12 persuaded them that they are all brothers of one another after they have transgressed once, for all by denying the Greek gods and by worshipping that crucified sophist himself and living under his laws. Therefore they despise all things indiscriminately and consider them common property, receiving such doctrines traditionally without any definite evidence. So if any charlatan and trickster, able to profit by occasions, comes among them, he quickly acquires sudden wealth by imposing upon simple folk.
14.    “However, Peregrinus was freed by the then governor of Syria, a man who was fond of philosophy.13 Aware of his recklessness and that he would gladly die in order that he might leave behind him a reputation for it, he freed him, not consider ing him worthy even of the usual chastisement.14 Upon returning to his home, he found that the matter of his father’s murder was still at fever heat and that there were many who were for pressing the charge. against him. Most of his possessions had been carried off during his absence, and only his farms remained, amounting to fifteen talents; for the entire property which the old man left had been worth perhaps thirty talents, not five thousand as that utterly ridiculous Theagenes asserted. Even the entire city of Parium,15 taking along with it the five that are its neighbours, would not fetch that much, including the men, the cattle, and all the rest of their belongings.
15.    “However, the charge and complaint was still aglow, and it was probable that before long somebody would appear. against him; above all,  the people themselves were enraged, mourning over a good old man (as he was called by those who had seen him) so impiously slain. But observe what a plan our clever Proteus discovered to cope with all this, and, how he escaped the danger. Coming before the assembly of the Parians—he wore his hair long by now, dressed in a dirty mantle, had a wallet slung at ‘his side, the staff was in his hand, and in general he was very histrionic in his get-up—manifesting himself to them in this guise, he said that he relinquished to the state all the property which had been left him by his father of blessed memory. When the people, poor folk agape for largesses, heard that, they lifted their voices forthwith: ‘The one and only philosopher! The one and only patriot! The one and only rival of Diogenes and Crates!’ His enemies were muzzled, and anyone who tried to mention the murder was at once pelted with stones.
16.    “He left home, then, for the second time, to roam about, possessing an ample source of funds in the Christians, through whose ministrations he lived in unalloyed prosperity. For a time he battened himself thus; but then, after he had transgressed in some way even against them—he was seen, I think, eating some of the food that is forbidden them,16 they no longer accepted him, and so, being at a loss, he thought he must sing a palinode and demand his possessions back from his city. Submitting a petition, he expected to recover them by order of the Emperor. Then, as the city sent representatives to oppose the claim, he achieved nothing, but was directed to abide by what he had once for all determined, under no compulsion from anyone.
17.    “Thereafter he went away a third time, to Egypt, to visit Agathobulus,17 where he took that wonderful course of training in asceticism, shaving one half of his head, daubing his face with mud, and demonstrating what they call ‘indifference’ by erecting his yard amid a thronging mob of bystanders,18 besides giving and, taking blows on the back-sides with a stalk of fennel, and playing the mountebank even more audaciously in many other ways.
18.    “From there, thus equipped, he set sail for Italy and immediately after disembarking he fell to abusing. everyone, and in particular the Emperor,19 knowing him to be mild and gentle, so that he was safe in making bold. The Emperor, as one would expect, cared little for his libels and did not think fit to punish for mere words a man who only used philosophy as a cloak, and above all, a man who had made a profession of abusiveness. But in our friend’s case, even from this his reputation grew, among simple folk any how, and he was a cynosure for his recklessness, until finally the city prefect, a wise man, packed him off for immoderate indulgence in the thing, saying that the city had no need of any such philosopher. However, this too made for his renown, and he was on everybody’s lips as the philosopher who had been banished for his frankness and excessive freedom, so that in this respect he approached Musonius, Dio, Epictetus, and anyone else who has been in a similar predicament.
19.    “Coming at last to Greece under these circum¬stances, at one moment he abused the Eleans, at another he counselled the Greeks to take up arms against the Romans,20 and at another he libelled a man outstanding in literary attainments and position because he had been a benefactor to Greece in many ways, and particularly because he had brought water to Olympia and prevented the visitors to the festival from dying of thirst, maintaining that he was making the Greeks effeminate, for the spectators of the Olympic games ought to endure their thirst—yes, by Heaven, and even to lose their lives, no doubt, many of them, through the frequent distempers which formerly ran riot in the vast crowd on account of the dryness of the place! 21 And he said this while he drank that same water!
1.  The greeting marks Cronius as a Platonist.
2.  Cf. Aulus Gellius, XII, 11: philosophum nomine Peregrinum, cui postea cognomentum Proteus factum est, virum gravem et constantem, etc.  Lucian calls him Peregrinus Proteus in Demonax, 21 (I., p.156), but simply Proteus the Cynic in adu. Indoct., 14 (III, p.192), and he is Proteus to the Philostrati (of. Vit. Sophi II, 1, 33 and for the elder Philostratus the title of his lost work Proteus the Cynic; or, the Sophist), to Tatian (Orat. ad Graecos, 25), and to Athena goras (Legat. de Christian., 26). The name Peregrinus is used in Aulus Gellius, VIII, 3, Ammianus Marcellinus, XXIX, 1, 39, Tertullian ad Martyres, 4, and Eusebius, Chron., Vol. II, p. 170, Schöne. From the passage in Gellius cited above we can infer only that he did not hear the sobriquet Proteus when he was in Athens. The manner of its employment by Lucian is sufficient evidence that it did not origmate with Lucian or after the death of Peregrinus. It was probably applied to him towards the close of his career. That it bears a sense very like what Lucian attributes to it is clear from Maximus of Tyre, VIII, 1. In § 27 Lucian professes to have heard that he wanted to change it to Phoenix after his decision to immolate himself.
3. The transformations of the sea-god in his effort to escape from Menelaus, who wanted to consult him, are told in the Odyssey, IV, 454-459.
4.  Of Aetna; it was said that the manner of his death remained unknown until the mountain cast up one of his golden sandals.
5.  To Olympia.
6.  Who achieved divinity after his mother had been so killed, rather than himself, as with Asclepius.  An epigram in the Anthology (XVI, 185) similarly links Dionysius with achieving immortality by fire.
7.  We learn elsewhere in this piece that Theagenes lived in Patras and had property worth fifteen talents, obtained by lending money. Bernays (Lucian und die Kyniker, pp. 13-18) is very likely right in thinking this to be the man whose death in Rome is described by Galen (Meth. Med., 13, 15: X, 909 Kühn), but he makes rather too much of that passage as an endorsement of Theagenes.
8.  Diogenes.
9.  Lucian himself, no doubt.  Evidently the cynic had spoken from a high place (perhaps the portico of the gymnasium).
10.  The proportions of the statue of a naked youth carrying a spear (the doryphorus), made by Polyclitus, were analysed by the sculptor himself in a book called the Canon, and universally accepted as canonical for the male figure.
11. The sense of the unemended text here is “protector; that great man, to be sure, they’ still worship,” etc.
12.  From the wording of this sentence the allusion is so obviously to Christ himself that one is at a loss to under stand why Paul, let alone Moses, should have been suggested. For the doctrine of brotherly love cf. Matt. 23, 8.
13.  The Roman governor of the province of Syria is meant. Identification is impossible because the date of the imprison ment of Peregrinus cannot be fixed.
14.  “The usual chastisement” (Allinson’s phrase) was Scourging.
15.  A small (but not really so contemptible) Greek town on the Hellespont, site of a Roman colony since Augustus. See Sir W. Leaf, Strabo on the Troad, pp. 80—85.
16.  Probably what Lucian has in mind is pagan sacrificial meats.  This is just a guess from the way he puts it, but if so, it is highly plausible on account of the notorious indifference of the Cynics towards what they ate. Peregrinus may have signalised his relapse to Cynicism by sampling a “dinner of Hecate” at the cross-roads.
17.  In Demonax, 3, Lucian alludes to Agathobulus as one of those with whom Demonax had studied. The teacher of Peregrinus was therefore reputable as well as famous.
18.  The allusion is to that variety of “indifferent” action (i.e. neither good nor bad) ascribed to Diogenes himself by Dio Chrysostom VI, 16-20 (pp. 203-204 r).
19.  Antoninus Pius.
20. The life of Antoninus Pius (Script. Hist. Aug.), § 5, notes suppression of a rebellion in Achaia.
21. The man was the famous Herodes Atticus. For the aqueduct built by him at Olympia see Frazer’s Pausanias, Vol. IV, pp. 72 ff. Philostratus (Vit. Soph. II, 1, 33) records that Herodes was often berated by Proteus, to whom on one occasion he hinted that it might at least be done in Greek.

20.    “When they almost killed him with stones, mobbing him with one accord, he managed to escape death at the moment by fleeing to Zeus for sanctuary (stout fellow!), and afterwards, at the next Olympiad, he gave the Greeks a speech which he had composed during the four years that had intervened, praising the man who had brought in the water and defending himself for running away at that time.
“At last, he was disregarded by all and no longer so admired; for all his stuff was stale and be could not turn out any further novelty with which to surprise those who came in his way and make them marvel and stare at him—a thing for which he had a fierce craving from the first. So he devised this ultimate venture of the pyre, and spread a report among the Greeks immediately after the last Olympic games that he would burn himself up at the next festival. [21].  And now, they say, he is playing the mountebank over that very thing, digging a pit, collecting logs, and promising really awesome fortitude.22
“What he should have done, I think, was first and foremost to await death and not to cut and run from life, but if he had determined to be off, at all costs not to use fire or any of these devices out of tragedy, but to choose for his departure some other form of death out of the myriads that there are.  If, however, he is partial to fire as something connected with Heracles, why in the world did he not quietly select a well-wooded mountain and cremate himself upon it in solitude, taking along only one person such as Theagenes here for his Philoctetes? 23 On the contrary, it is in Olympia, at the height of the festival, all but in the theatre, that he plans to roast himself— not undeservedly, by Heracles, if it is right for parricides and for atheists to suffer for their hardinesses.24  And from that point of view he seems to be getting about it very late in the day, he ought long ago to have been flung into the bull of Phalaris25 to pay the fitting penalty instead of opening his mouth to the flames once for all and expiring in a trice. For people tell me that no other form of death is quicker than that by fire, you have only to open your mouth, and die forthwith.
22.     “The spectacle is being planned, I suppose, as something awe-inspiring—a fellow getting burnt up in a holy place where it is impious even to bury the others who die.  But you have heard, no doubt, that long ago a man who wished to become famous burned the temple of Ephesian Artemis, not being able to attain that end in any other way.26  He himself has something similar in mind, so great is the craving for fame that has penetrated him to the core.
23.    “He alleges, however, that he is doing it for the sake of his fellow men, that he may teach them to despise death and endure what is fearsome. For my part, I should like to ask, not him but you, whether you would wish malefactors to become his disciples in this fortitude of his, and to despise death and burning and similar terrors. No, you would not, I am very sure.  How, then, is Proteus to draw distinctions in this matter, and to benefit the good without making the bad more adventurous and daring?
24.    “Nevertheless, suppose it possible that only those will present themselves at this affair who will see it to their advantage Once more I shall question you : would you desire your children to become imitators of such a man? You will not say so. But why did I ask that question, when even of his disciples themselves not one would imitate him? In fact, the thing for which one might blame Theagenes most of all is that although he copies the man in everything else, he does not follow his teacher and take the road with him, now that he is off, as he says, to join Heracles; why, he has the opportunity to attain absolute felicity instanter by plunging headlong into the fire with him!
“Emulation is not a matter of wallet, staff, and mantle; all this is safe and easy and within anyone’s power. One should emulate the consummation and culmination, build a pyre of fig-wood logs as green as can be, and stifle one’s self in the smoke of them. Fire itself belongs not only to Heracles and Asclepius, but to doers of sacrilege and murder, who can be seen enduring it by judicial sentence. Therefore it is better to employ smoke, which would be peculiar and belong only to you and your like.
25.    “Besides, if Heracles really did venture any such act, he did it because he was ailing, because the blood of the Centaur, as the tragedy tells us, was preying upon him; but for what reason does this man throw himself bodily into the fire? Oh, yes! to demon¬strate his fortitude, like the Brahmans, for Theagenes thought fit to compare him with them, just as if there could not be fools and notoriety-seekers even among the Indians. Well, then, let him at least imitate them. They do not leap into the fire (so Onesicritus says, Alexander’s navigator, who saw Calanus burning), but when they have built their pyre, they stand close beside it motionless and endure being toasted; then, mounting upon it, they cremate themselves decorously without the slightest alteration of the position in which they are lying.
“In this man’s case, what great thing will it be if he tumbles in and dies in the sudden grip of the fire? It is not beyond expectation that he will jump out half consumed, unless, as they say, he is going to see to it that the pyre is deep down in a pit. [26]  There are people who say that he has even changed his mind, and is telling certain dreams, to the effect that Zeus does not permit pollution of a holy place.  But let him be assured on that score ; I would take my oath to it that no one of the gods would be angry if Per egrinus should die a rogue s death. Moreover, it is not easy for him to withdraw now, for his Cynic associates are urging him on and pushing him into the fire and inflaming his resolution; they will not let him shirk it. If he should pull a couple of them into the fire along with him when he jumps in, that would be the only nice thing about his performance.
22.  Thanks to Paul Graindor, the date of the Olympiads mentioned in connection with Peregrinus can now be determined.  He has deduced from the apparent ages of the children represented in the exedra erected by Herodes on the completion of his aqueduct  that this took place in A.D. 153 (Herode Atticus et Sa Famille, pp. 87-88).  His deduction finds support in the text of Lucian as soon as we recognise that Lucian is talking about four different Olympiads, not three.  The first is that on which Peregrinus criticised the aqueduct, which will be the year of its completion, A. D. 153.  At the next, A.D. 157, he withdrew his criticism.  The Olympiad just after which he announced his intention of cremating  himself need not and cannot be identical with the one of A. D. 157 it is called by the speaker the last or previous, and the text clearly implies a lapse of time. It must therefore be the one of A. D. 161. Then comes the fourth, on which the cremation took place, dated by Eusebius in A. D. 165.
23.   Philoctetes had helped Heracles to cremate himself on Mt Oeta by kindling the pyre for him
24.  As the cremation actually took place at Harpina, two miles away from Olympia and on the day after the festival closed, it may be that religious scruples (cf. § 26) caused Peregrinus to modify an original plan which involved its taking place at Olympia itself while the festival was in progress.
25.  See Phalaris I, 11-12 (Vol. I, pp. 17 ff.)
26.  Herostratus, in 356 B.C.  The Ephesians sought to defeat his object by forbidding anyone for all time to mention his name (Valerius Maximus, VIII, 14, 5).  The prohibition which very likely was accompanied by a curse, was far from ineffective, for nearly all ancient authors who mention the story, including Cicero and Plutarch, omit the name just as Lucian does.
27.    “I have heard that he no longer deigns to be called Proteus but has changed his name to Phoenix, because the phoenix the Indian bird, is said to mount a pyre when it is very far advanced in age Indeed, he even manufactures myths and repeats certain oracles, ancient, of course, to the purport that he is to become a guardian spirit of the night; it is plain, too, that he already covets altars and expects to be imaged in gold.
28.     “By Zeus, it would be nothing unnatural if, among all the dolts that there are, some should be found to assert that they were relieved of quartan fevers by him, and that in the dark they had encountered the guardian spirit of the night! Then too these accursed disciples of his will make an oracular shrine, I suppose, with a holy of holies, at the site of the pyre, because the famous Proteus, son of Zeus, the progenitor of his name, was given to soothsaying.27 I pledge my word, too, that priests of his will be appointed, with whips or branding irons or some such flummy-diddle, or even that a nocturnal mystery will be got up in his honour, including a torch festival at the site of the pyre.
27.  Athenagoras reports that Parium, where Peregrinus was born, cherished a statue of him from which oracles were derived (Leg. de Christ., 26).
29.     “Theagenes, as I have been told by one of my friends, recently said that the Sibyl had made a prediction about all this, in fact, he quoted the verses from memory:
But when the time shall come that Proteus, noblest of Cynics,
Kindleth fire in the precinct of Zeus, our Lord of the Thunder,
Leapeth into the flame, and cometh to lofty Olympus,
Then do I bid all alike who eat the fruit of the ploughland
Honour to pay unto him that walketh abroad in the night-time,
Greatest of spirits, thronéd with Heracles and Hephaestus.

30.    “That is what Theagenes alleges he heard from the Sibyl. But I will quote him one of the oracles of Bacis dealing with these matters.28 Bacis expresses himself as follows, with a very excellent moral
Nay, when the time shall come that a Cynic with names that are many
Leaps into roaring flame, soul stirred by a passion for glory,
Then it is meet that the others, the jackals that follow his footsteps,
Mimic the latter end of the wolf that has taken departure.
But if a dastard among them shall shun the might of Hephaestus,
Let him be pelted with stones forthwith by all the Achaeans,
Learning, the frigid fool, to abjure all fiery speeches,
He that has laden his wallet with gold by the taking of usance,
Thrice five talents he owns in the lovely city of Patras.
28.  Lucian gives the Cynic a Roland for his Oliver.  Bacis was a title rather than a name, and in early Greece prophets who bore it were little less numerous than the Sibyls.  Naturally it was a convenient tag for a spurious oracle, whether composed with fraudulent intention or, as often in Aristophanes, for fun.
What do you think, gentlemen? That Bacis is a worse soothsayer than the Sibyl? It is high time, then, for these wondrous followers of Proteus to look about for a place in which to aerify themselves—for that is the name they give to cremation.29
29.  Below (§29) Proteus speaks of being “commingled with the ether.”
31.    When he had said these words all the bystanders shouted: “Let them be burned right now; they deserve the flames!” And the man got down again laughing; but “Nestor failed not to mark the din:”30  I mean Theagenes. When he heard the shouting he came at once, took the platform, and fell to ranting and telling countless malicious tales about the man who had just got down—I do not know what that excellent gentleman s name was. For my part, I left him splitting his lungs and went off to see the athletes, as the Hellanodicae were said to be already in the Plethrium.31
30.  Iliad, XIV, 1.
31.  According to Pausanias (VI 23 2) a place in the Gym nasium of Elis where the officials of the games (Hellanodicae) determined by lot the matching of the athletes.
32.  Well, there you have what happened at Elis, and when we reached Olympia, the rear chamber3 2 was full of people criticising Proteus or praising his purpose, so that most of them even came to blows Finally, Proteus himself appeared, escorted by a countless multitude, after the contest of the heralds, and had somewhat to say about himself, telling of the life that he had led and the risks that he had run, and of all the troubles that he had endured for philosophy’ s sake. His speech was protracted, though I heard but little on account of the number of bystanders. Afterwards, fearing to be crushed in such a throng, because I saw this happening to many, I went away, bidding a long farewell to the sophist enamoured of death who was pronouncing his own funeral oration before his demise.
32. Of the temple of Zeus as it was open at the end it formed a sort of portico Cf Runaways 7 Herodotus 1.
33.  This much however I overheard, he said that he wanted to put a tip of gold on a golden bow;33 for one who had lived as Heracles should die like Heracles and be commingled with the ether. And I wish, said he, to benefit mankind by showing them the way in which one should despise death; wherefore all men ought to play Philoctetes to me.” The more witless among the people began to shed tears and call out: “Preserve your life for the Greeks!” but the more virile part bawled “Carry out your purpose!” by which the old man was immoderately upset, because he hoped that all would cling to him and not give him over to the fire, but retain him in life—against his will, naturally! That “Carry out your purpose” assailing him quite unexpectedly caused him to turn still paler, although his colour was already deathly, and even to tremble slightly, so that he brought his speech to an end.
33.  Pandarus the Trojan (Iliad, IV, 111) put a tip of gold on the bow he had fashioned of horn. The golden bow(bio) of Peregrinus is his life (bio).
34.  You can imagine, I expect, how I laughed; for it was not fitting to pity a man so desperately in love with glory beyond all others who are driven by the same Fury. Anyhow, he was being escorted by crowds and getting his fill of glory as lie gazed at the number of his admirers, not knowing, poor wretch, that men on their way to the cross or in the grip of the executioner have many more at their heels.

35.  Soon the Olympic games were ended, the most splendid Olympics that I have seen, though it was then the fourth time that I had been a spectator. As it was not easy to secure a carriage, since many were leaving at the same time, I lingered on against my will, and Peregrinus kept making postponements, but at last had announced a night on which he would stage his cremation; so, as one of my friends had invited me to go along, I arose at midnight and took the road to Harpina, where the pyre was. This is quite twenty furlongs from Olympia as one goes past the hippodrome towards the east. As soon as we arrived, we found a pyre built in a pit about six feet deep. It was composed mostly of torchwood, and the interstices filled with brush, that it might take fire quickly. When the moon was rising—for she too had to witness this glorious deed—he came forward, dressed in his usual fashion, and with him the leaders of the Cynics, in particular, the gentleman from Patras, with a torch—no bad understudy. Proteus too was bearing a torch. Men, approaching from this side and that, kindled the fire into a very great flame, since it came from torchwood and brush. Per egrinus—and give me your close attention now !—laying aside the wallet, the cloak, and that notable Heracles-club, stood there in a shirt that was downright filthy. Then he requested incense to throw on the fire, when someone had proffered it, he threw it on, and gazing towards the south—even the south, too, had to do with the show33—he said, “Spirits of my mother and my father, receive me with favour.” With that he leaped into the fire, he was not visible, however, but was encompassed by the flames, which had risen to a great height.
33.  Part of the Hindu element was the idea that the souls after death were conducted to the South, the region of the Manes See Atharvaveda 18, 3, 13; 4, 40, 2.
37.  Once more I see y ou laughing, Cronius, my urbane friend, at the denoument of the play.  For my own part, when he called upon the guardian spirits of his mother, I did not criticise him very strongly, but when he invoked those of his father as well, I recalled the tales that had been told about his murder, and I could not control my laughter.  The Cynics stood about the pyre, not weeping, to be sure, but silently evincing a certain amount of grief as they gazed into the fire, until my gorge rose at them, and I said, “Let us go away, you simpletons.  It is not an agreeable spectacle to look at an old man who has been roasted, getting our nostrils filled with a villanous reek.  Or are you waiting for a painter to come and picture you as the companions of Socrates in prison are portrayed beside him?”  They were indignant and reviled me, and several even took to their sticks.  Then, when I threatened to gather up a few of them and throw them into the fire, so that they might follow their master, they checked themselves and kept the peace.

38.  As I returned, I was thinking busily, my friend, reflecting what a strange thing love of glory isl how this passion alone is unescapeable even by those who are considered wholly admirable, let alone that man who in other respects had led a life that was insane and reckless, and not  undeserving of the fire.  Then I encountered many people coming out to see the show themselves, for they expected to find him still alive.  You see, on the day before it had been given out that he would greet the rising sun, as in fact they say the Brahmans do, before mountin the pyre. Well, I turned back most of them by saying the deed had been done already, those to whom it was not in itself highly desirable to see the actual spot, anyhow, and gather up some relic of the fire.
In that business I assure you, my friend, I had no end of trouble, telling the story to all while they asked questions and sought exact information. Whenever I noticed a man of taste, I would tell him the facts without embellishment, as I have to you, but for the benefit of the dullards, agog to listen, I would thicken the plot a bit on my own account, saying that when the pyre was kindled and Proteus flung himself bodily in, a great earthquake first took place, accompanied by a bellowing of the ground, and then a vulture, flying up out of the midst of the flames, went off to Heaven,34 saying, in human speech, with a loud voice:
“I am through with the earth; to Olympus I fare.”
They were wonder-struck and blessed themselves with a shudder, and asked me whether the vulture sped eastwards or westwards; I made them whatever reply occurred to me.
34.  At the death of Plato and of Augustus it was an eagle;  in the case of Polycarp, a dove.
40.  On my return to the festival, I came upon a grey-haired man whose face, I assure you, inspired confidence in addition to his beard and his general air of consequence, telling all about Proteus, and how, since his cremation, he had beheld him in white raiment a little while ago, and had just now left him walking about cheerfully in the Portico of the Seven Voices,35 wearing a garland of wild olive. Then on top of it all, he put the vulture, swearing that he himself had seen it flying up out of the pyre, when I myself had just previously let it fly to ridicule fools and dullards.
35.  This was a portico on the east side of the Altis which had a sevenfold echo (Pausan., V, 21, 17; Pliny, XXXVI, 100).
41.  Imagine what is likely to happen in his honour hereafter, how many bees will not settle on the place, what cicadas will not sing upon it, what crows will not fly to it, as they did to the tomb of Hesiod36 and so forth!  As to statues, I know that many will be set up right soon by the Eleans themselves and also by the other Greeks, to whom he said he had sent letters.  The story is that he despatched missives to almost all the famous cities—testamentary dispositions, so to speak, and exhortations and prescriptions—and he appointed a number of ambassadors for this purpose from among his comrades, styling them ” messengers from the dead” and “underworld couriers.”37
42.  So ended that poor wretch Proteus, a man who (to put it briefly) never fixed his gaze on the verities, but always did and said everything with a view to glory and the praise of the multitude, even to the extent of leaping into fire, when he was sure not to enjoy the praise because he could not hear it.
43.  I shall add one thing more to my story before I stop, in order that you may be able to have a good laugh. For of course you have long known that other tale of mine, as you heard it from me at once, when on my return from Syria I recounted how I sailed from the Troad in his company, and about his self-indulgence on the voyage, and the handsome boy whom he had persuaded to turn Cynic that he too might have an Alcibiades, and how, when we were disturbed during the night in mid-Aegean by a tempest that descended and raised an enormous sea, this wondrous person who was thought to be superior to death fell to wailing along with the women! Well, a short time before his end, about nine days, it may be, having eaten more than enough, I suppose, he was sick during the night and was taken with a very violent fever. This was told me by Alexander the physician, who had been called in to see him. He said that he found him rolling on the ground, unable to stand the burning, pleading very passionately for a drink of cold water, but that he would not give it to him. Moreover, he told him, he said, that Death, if he absolutely wanted him, had come to his door spontaneously, so that it would be well to go along, without asking any favour from the fire; and Proteus replied: “But that way would not be so notable, being common to all men.”
45.  That is Alexander’s story. And I myself not many days previously saw him smeared with ointment in order that the sharp salve might relieve his vision by making him shed tears. Do you get the idea? Aeacus is reluctant to receive people with weak eyes! It is as if a man about to go up to the cross should nurse the bruise on his finger. What do you think Democritus would have done, had he seen this? Would not he have laughed at the man as roundly as he deserved? And yet, where could he have got that much laughter? Well, my friend, you may have your laugh also, particularly when you hear the rest of them admiring him.