Texts : Herodotus
All text below is from The Histories of Herodotus, A. D. Godley, translator, Loeb Classical Library edition of 1920-25. The text itself was copied from the LacusCurtius Herodotus web site, a most useful resource.
What Herodotus the Halicarnassian has learnt by inquiry is here set forth: in order that so the memory of the past may not be blotted out from among men by time, and that great and marvelous deeds done by Greeks and foreigners and especially the reason why they warred against each other may not lack renown.
So much I can say of them of my own certain knowledge. But there are other matters concerning the dead which are secretly and obscurely told — how the dead bodies of Persians are not buried before they have been mangled by bird or dog. That this is the way of the Magians I know for a certainty; for they do not conceal the practice. But this is certain, that before the Persians bury the body in earth they embalm it in wax. These Magians are much unlike to the priests of Egypt, as to all other men: for the priests count it sacrilege to kill aught that lives, save what they sacrifice; but the Magians kill with their own hands every creature, save only dogs and men; they kill all alike, ants and snakes, creeping and flying things, and take much pride therein. Leaving this custom to be such as it has been from the first,? I return now to my former story.
What language the Pelasgians spoke I cannot accurately say. But if one may judge by those that still remain of the Pelasgians who dwell above the Tyrrheni in the city of Creston — who were once neighbors of the people now called Dorians, and at that time inhabited the country which now is called Thessalian — and of the Pelasgians who inhabited Placia and Scylace on the Hellespont, who came to dwell among the Athenians, and by other towns too which were once Pelasgian and afterwards took a different name: — if (I say) one may judge by these, the Pelasgians spoke a language which was not Greek. If then all the Pelasgian stock so spoke, then the Attic nation, being of Pelasgian blood, must have changed its language too at the time when it became part of the Hellenes. For the people of Creston and Placia have a language of their own in common, which is not the language of their neighbors; and it is plain that they still preserve the fashion of speech which they brought with them in their migration into the places where they dwell.
Moreover, wishing to get clear knowledge of this matter whence it was possible so to do, I took ship to Tyre in Phoenice, where I heard that there was a very holy temple of Heracles. There I saw it, richly equipped with many other offerings, besides that in it there were two pillars, one of refined gold, one of emerald, a great pillar that shone in the night-time; and in converse with the priests I asked how long it was since their temple was built. I found that neither did their account tally with the belief of the Greeks; for they said that the temple of the god was founded when Tyre first became a city, and that was two thousand three hundred years since. At Tyre I saw yet another temple of that Heracles called the Thasian. Then I went to Thasos, too, where I found a temple of Heracles built by the Phoenicians, who made a settlement there when they voyaged in search of Europe; now they did so as much as five generations before the birth in Hellas of Heracles the son of Amphitryon. Therefore, what I have discovered by inquiry plainly shows that Heracles is an ancient god.
All these are the customs of Egyptians who dwell above the marsh country. Those who inhabit the marshes have the same customs as the rest, both in other respects, and in that each man has one wife, as in Greece. They have, besides, devised means to make their food less costly. When the river is in flood and overflows the plains, many lilies, which the Egyptians call lotus, grow in the water. They pluck these and dry them in the sun, then they crush the poppy-like centre of the plant and bake loaves of it. The root also of this lotus is eatable, and of a sweetish taste; it is round, and of the bigness of an apple. Other lilies also grow in the river, which are like roses; the fruit of these is found in a calyx springing from the root by a separate stalk, and is most like to a comb made by wasps; this produces many eatable seeds as big as an olive-stone, which are eaten both fresh and dried. They use also the byblus which grows annually; it is plucked from the marshes, the top of it cut off and turned to other ends, and the lower part, about a cubit's length, eaten or sold. Those who wish to use the byblus at its very best bake it before eating in a red-hot oven. Some live on fish alone. They catch the fish, take out the intestines, then dry them in the sun and eat them dried.
Fish that go in shoals do not often come to birth in the river; they are reared in the lakes, and this is the way with them: when the desire of spawning comes on them, they swim out to sea in shoals, the males leading, and throwing out their seed, while the females come after and swallow it and so conceive. When the females have become pregnant in the sea, then all the fish swim back to their homes; but now it is the females and not the males who lead the way, going before in a shoal, and (like the males) throwing off ever and anon a few of their eggs (which are like millet-seeds), which the male devour as they follow. These millet-seeds, or eggs, are fish. It is from the surviving eggs, which are not devoured, that the fish which grow come to the birth. Those fish that are caught while swimming seawards show bruises on the left side of their heads; those that are caught returning, on the right side. This happens to them because as they swim seawards they keep close to the left bank, and hold p381 to the same bank also in their return, grazing it and touching it as much as they may, I suppose lest the current should make them miss their course. When the Nile begins to rise, hollow and marshy places near the river are the first to begin to fill, the water trickling through from the river, and as soon as they are flooded they are suddenly full of little fishes. Whence it is like that these come into being I believe that I can guess. When the Nile falls, the fish have spawned into the mud before they leave it with the last of the water; and as the time comes round, and in the next year the flood comes again, this spawn at once gives birth to these fishes.
I will now tell of a thing that but few of those who sail to Egypt have perceived. Earthen jars full of wine are brought into Egypt twice a year from all Greece and Phoenice besides: yet there is not to be seen, so to say, one single wine jar lying anywhere in the country. What then (one may ask) becomes of them? This too I will tell. Each governor of a district must gather in all the earthen pots from his own township and take them to Memphis, and the people of Memphis must fill them with water and carry them to those waterless lands of Syria; so the earthen pottery that is brought to Egypt and sold there is carried to Syria to join the stock whence it came.
Book 3.116This is also plain, that to the north of Europe there is by far more gold than elsewhere. In this matter again I cannot with certainty say how the gold is got; some will have it that one-eyed men called Arimaspians steal it from griffins. But this too I hold incredible, that there can be men in all else like other men, yet having but one eye. Suffice it that it is but reasonable that the most distant parts of the world, as they enclose and wholly surround all other lands, should have those things which we deem best and rarest.
So far then as these men this country is known; but, for what lies beyond the bald men, no one can speak with exact knowledge; for mountains high and impassable bar the way, and no man crosses them. These bald men say (but for my part I believe them not) that the mountains are inhabited by men with goats' feet; and that beyond these again are men who sleep for six months of the twelve. This I cannot at all accept for true. But the country east of the bald-heads is known for certain to be inhabited by the Issedones; howbeit, of what lies northward either of the bald-heads or the Issedones we have no knowledge, save what comes from the report of these latter.
Their country, and the rest of the western part of Libya, is much fuller of wild beasts and more wooded than the country of the nomads. For the eastern region of Libya, which the nomads inhabit, is low-lying and sandy as far as the river Triton; but the land westward of this, where dwell the tillers of the soil, is exceeding hilly and wooded and full of wild beasts. In that country are the huge snakes, and the elephants and bears and asps, the horned asses, the dog-headed men and the headless that have their eyes in their breasts, as the Libyans say, and the wild men and women, besides many other creatures not fabulous. But in the nomads' country there are none of these; yet there are others, gazelles of divers kinds, asses, not the horned asses, but those that called undrinking (for indeed they never drink), antelopes of the bigness of an ox, the horns whereof are made into the sides of a lyre, foxes, hyenas, porcupines, wild rams, the dictys and the , jackals and panthers, land crocodiles three cubits long, most like to lizards, and ostriches and at all one-headed serpents; all these beasts are there besides those that are elsewhere too, save only deer and wild swine; of these two kinds there are none at all in Libya. There are in this country three kinds of mice, the two-footed,? the "zegeries" (this is a Libyan word, signifying in our language hills), and the hairy, as they are called. There are also weasels found in the silphium, very like to the weasels of Tartessus. So many are the wild creatures of the nomads' country, as far as by our utmost enquiry we have been able to learn.