Trips to the Moon
by Lucian
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This eBook was prepared by Les Bowler, St. Ives, Dorset.


by Lucian.

Translated from the Greek by Thomas Francklin, D.D.


Introduction by Professor Henry Morley. Instructions for Writing History. The True History. Preface. Book 1. Book 2. Icaro-Menippus—A Dialogue.


Lucian, in Greek Loukianos, was a Syrian, born about the year 120 at Samosata, where a bend of the Euphrates brings that river nearest to the borders of Cilicia in Asia Minor. He had in him by nature a quick flow of wit, with a bent towards Greek literature. It was thought at home that he showed as a boy the artist nature by his skill in making little waxen images. An uncle on his mother's side happened to be a sculptor. The home was poor, Lucian would have his bread to earn, and when he was fourteen he was apprenticed to his uncle that he might learn to become a sculptor. Before long, while polishing a marble tablet he pressed on it too heavily and broke it. His uncle thrashed him. Lucian's spirit rebelled, and he went home giving the comic reason that his uncle beat him because jealous of the extraordinary power he showed in his art.

After some debate Lucian abandoned training as a sculptor, studied literature and rhetoric, and qualified himself for the career of an advocate and teacher at a time when rhetoric had still a chief place in the schools. He practised for a short time unsuccessfully at Antioch, and then travelled for the cultivation of his mind in Greece, Italy, and Gaul, making his way by use of his wits, as Goldsmith did long afterwards when he started, at the outset also of his career as a writer, on a grand tour of the continent with nothing in his pocket. Lucian earned as he went by public use of his skill as a rhetorician. His travel was not unlike the modern American lecturing tour, made also for the money it may bring and for the new experience acquired by it.

Lucian stayed long enough in Athens to acquire a mastery of Attic Greek, and his public discourses could not have been without full seasoning of Attic salt. In Italy and Gaul his success brought him money beyond his present needs, and he went back to Samosata, when about forty years old, able to choose and follow his own course in life.

He then ceased to be a professional talker, and became a writer, bold and witty, against everything that seemed to him to want foundation for the honour that it claimed. He attacked the gods of Greece, and the whole system of mythology, when, in its second century, the Christian Church was ready to replace the forms of heathen worship. He laughed at the philosophers, confounding together in one censure deep conviction with shallow convention. His vigorous winnowing sent chaff to the winds, but not without some scattering of wheat. Delight in the power of satire leads always to some excess in its use. But if the power be used honestly—and even if it be used recklessly—no truth can be destroyed. Only the reckless use of it breeds in minds of the feebler sort mere pleasure in ridicule, that weakens them as helpers in the real work of the world, and in that way tends to retard the forward movement. But on the whole, ridicule adds more vigour to the strong than it takes from the weak, and has its use even when levelled against what is good and true. In its own way it is a test of truth, and may be fearlessly applied to it as jewellers use nitric acid to try gold. If it be uttered for gold and is not gold, let it perish; but if it be true, it will stand trial.

The best translation of the works of Lucian into English was that by Dr. Thomas Francklin, sometime Greek Professor in the University of Cambridge, which was published in two large quarto volumes in the year 1780, and reprinted in four volumes in 1781. Lucian had been translated before in successive volumes by Ferrand Spence and others, an edition, completed in 1711, for which Dryden had written the author's Life. Dr. Francklin, who produced also the best eighteenth century translation of Sophocles, joined to his translation of Lucian a little apparatus of introductions and notes by which the English reader is often assisted, and he has skilfully avoided the translation of indecencies which never were of any use, and being no longer sources of enjoyment, serve only to exclude good wit, with which, under different conditions of life, they were associated, from the welcome due to it in all our homes. There is a just and scholarly, as well as a meddlesome and feeble way of clearing an old writer from uncleannesses that cause him now to be a name only where he should be a power. Dr. Francklin has understood his work in that way better than Dr. Bowdler did. He does not Bowdlerise who uses pumice to a blot, but he who rubs the copy into holes wherever he can find an honest letter with a downstroke thicker than becomes a fine-nibbed pen. A trivial play of fancy in one of the pieces in this volume, easily removed, would have been as a dead fly in the pot of ointment, and would have deprived one of Lucian's best works of the currency to which it is entitled.

Lucian's works are numerous, and they have been translated into nearly all the languages of Europe.

The "Instructions for Writing History" was probably one of the earliest pieces written by him after Lucian had settled down at Samosata to the free use of his pen, and it has been usually regarded as his best critical work. With ridicule of the affectations of historians whose names and whose books have passed into oblivion, he joins sound doctrine upon sincerity of style. "Nothing is lasting that is feigned," said Ben Jonson; "it will have another face ere long." Long after Lucian's day an artificial dignity, accorded specially to work of the historian, bound him by its conventions to an artificial style. He used, as Johnson said of Dr. Robertson, "too big words and too many of them." But that was said by Johnson in his latter days, with admission of like fault in the convention to which he had once conformed: "If Robertson's style is bad, that is to say, too big words and too many of them, I am afraid he caught it of me." Lucian would have dealt as mercilessly with that later style as Archibald Campbell, ship's purser and son of an Edinburgh Professor, who used the form of one of Lucian's dialogues, "Lexiphanes," for an assault of ridicule upon pretentious sentence-making, and helped a little to get rid of it. Lucian laughed in his day at small imitators of the manner of Thucydides, as he would laugh now at the small imitators of the manner of Macaulay. He bade the historian first get sure facts, then tell them in due order, simply and without exaggeration or toil after fine writing; though he should aim not the less at an enduring grace given by Nature to the Art that does not stray from her, and simply speaks the highest truth it knows.

The endeavour of small Greek historians to add interest to their work by magnifying the exploits of their countrymen, and piling wonder upon wonder, Lucian first condemned in his "Instructions for Writing History," and then caricatured in his "True History," wherein is contained the account of a trip to the moon, a piece which must have been enjoyed by Rabelais, which suggested to Cyrano de Bergerac his Voyages to the Moon and to the Sun, and insensibly contributed, perhaps, directly or through Bergerac, to the conception of "Gulliver's Travels." I have added the Icaro- Menippus, because that Dialogue describes another trip to the moon, though its satire is more especially directed against the philosophers.

Menippus was born at Gadara in Coele-Syria, and from a slave he grew to be a Cynic philosopher, chiefly occupied with scornful jests on his neighbours, and a money-lender, who made large gains and killed himself when he was cheated of them all. He is said to have written thirteen pieces which are lost, but he has left his name in literature, preserved by important pieces that have taken the name of "Menippean Satire."

Lucian married in middle life, and had a son. He was about fifty years old when he went to Paphlagonia, and visited a false oracle to detect the tricks of an Alexander who made profit out of it, and who professed to have a daughter by the Moon. When the impostor offered Lucian his hand to kiss, Lucian bit his thumb; he also intervened to the destruction of a profitable marriage for the daughter of the Moon. Alexander lent Lucian a vessel of his own for the voyage onward, and gave instructions to the sailors that they were to find a convenient time and place for throwing their passenger into the sea; but when the convenient time had come the goodwill of the master of the vessel saved Lucian's life. He was landed, therefore, at AEgialos, where he found some ambassadors to Eupator, King of Bithynia, who took him onward upon his way.

It is believed that Lucian lived to be ninety, and it is assumed, since he wrote a burlesque drama on gout, that the cause of his death was not simply old age. Gout may have been the immediate cause of death. Lucian must have spent much time at Athens, and he held office at one time in his later years as Procurator of a part of Egypt.

The works of Lucian consist largely of dialogues, in which he battled against what he considered to be false opinions by bringing the satire of Aristophanes and the sarcasm of Menippus into disputations that sought chiefly to throw down false idols before setting up the true. He made many enemies by bold attacks upon the ancient faiths. His earlier "Dialogues of the Gods" only brought out their stories in a way that made them sound ridiculous. Afterwards he proceeded to direct attack on the belief in them. In one Dialogue Timocles a Stoic argues for belief in the old gods against Damis an Epicurean, and the gods, in order of dignity determined by the worth of the material out of which they are made, assemble to hear the argument. Damis confutes the Stoic, and laughs him into fury. Zeus is unhappy at all this, but Hermes consoles him with the reflection that although the Epicurean may speak for a few, the mass of Greeks, and all the barbarians, remain true to the ancient opinions. Suidas, who detested such teaching, wrote a Life of him, in which he said that Lucian was at last torn to pieces by dogs.

Dr. Francklin prefaced his edition with a Life, written by a friend in the form of a Dialogue of the Dead in the Elysian Fields between Lord Lyttelton—who had been, in his Dialogues of the Dead, an imitator of the Dialogues so called in Lucian—and Lucian himself. "By that shambling gait and length of carcase," says Lucian, "it must be Lord Lyttelton coming this way." "And by that arch look and sarcastic smile," says Lyttelton, "you are my old friend Lucian, whom I have not seen this many a day. Fontenelle and I have just now been talking of you, and the obligations we both had to our old master: I assure you that there was not a man in all antiquity for whom, whilst on earth, I had a greater regard than yourself." After Lucian has told Lyttelton something about his life, his lordship thanks Lucian for the little history, and says, "I wish with all my heart I could convey it to a friend of mine in the other world"— meaning Dr. Francklin—"to whom, at this juncture, it would be of particular service: I mean a bold adventurer who has lately undertaken to give a new and complete translation of all your works. It is a noble design, but an arduous one; I own I tremble for him." Lucian replies, "I heard of it the other day from Goldsmith, who knew the man. I think he may easily succeed in it better than any of his countrymen, who hitherto have made but miserable work with me; nor do I make a much better appearance in my French habit, though that I know has been admired. D'Ablancourt has made me say a great many things, some good, some bad, which I never thought of, and, upon the whole, what he has done is more a paraphrase than a translation." Then, says Lord Lyttelton, "All the attempts to represent you, at least in our language, which I have yet seen, have failed, and all from the same cause, by the translator's departing from the original, and substituting his own manners, phraseology, expression, wit, and humour instead of yours. Nothing, as it has been observed by one of our best critics, is so grave as true humour, and every line of Lucian is a proof of it; it never laughs itself, whilst it sets the table in a roar; a circumstance which these gentlemen seem all to have forgotten: instead of the set features and serious aspect which you always wear when most entertaining, they present us for ever with a broad grin, and if you have the least smile upon your countenance make you burst into a vulgar horse-laugh: they are generally, indeed, such bad painters, that the daubing would never be taken for you if they had not written 'Lucian' under the picture. I heartily wish the Doctor better luck." Upon which the Doctor's friend makes Lucian reply: "And there is some reason to hope it, for I hear he has taken pains about me, has studied my features well before he sat down to trace them on the canvas, and done it con amore: if he brings out a good resemblance, I shall excuse the want of grace and beauty in his piece. I assure you I am not without pleasing expectation; especially as my friend Sophocles, who, you know, sat to him some time ago, tells me, though he is no Praxiteles, he does not take a bad likeness. But I must be gone, for yonder come Swift and Rabelais, whom I have made a little party with this morning: so, my good lord, fare you well."

Lucian had another translator in 1820, who in no way superseded Dr. Francklin. The reader of this volume is reminded that the notes are Dr. Francklin's, and that any allusion in them to a current topic, has to be read as if this present year of grace were 1780. H. M.


Lucian, in this letter to his friend Philo, after having, with infinite humour, exposed the absurdities of some contemporary historians, whose works, being consigned to oblivion, have never reached us, proceeds, in the latter part of it, to lay down most excellent rules and directions for writing history. My readers will find the one to the last degree pleasant and entertaining; and the other no less useful, sensible, and instructive. This is, indeed, one of Lucian's best pieces.

My Dear Philo,—In the reign of Lysimachus, {17} we are told that the people of Abdera were seized with a violent epidemical fever, which raged through the whole city, continuing for seven days, at the expiration of which a copious discharge of blood from the nostrils in some, and in others a profuse sweat, carried it off. It was attended, however, with a very ridiculous circumstance: every one of the persons affected by it being suddenly taken with a fit of tragedising, spouting iambics, and roaring out most furiously, particularly the Andromeda {18a} of Euripides, and the speech of Perseus, which they recited in most lamentable accents. The city swarmed with these pale seventh-day patients, who, with loud voices, were perpetually bawling out—

"O tyrant love, o'er gods and men supreme," etc.

And this they continued every day for a long time, till winter and the cold weather coming on put an end to their delirium. For this disorder they seem, in my opinion, indebted to Archelaus, a tragedian at that time in high estimation, who, in the middle of summer, at the very hottest season {18b} of the year, exhibited the Andromeda, which had such an effect on the spectators that several of them, as soon as they rose up from it, fell insensibly into the tragedising vein; the Andromeda naturally occurring to their memories, and Perseus, with his Medusa, still hovering round them.

Now if, as they say, one may compare great things with small, this Abderian disorder seems to have seized on many of our literati of the present age; not that it sets them on acting tragedies (for the folly would not be so great in repeating other people's verses, especially if they were good ones), but ever since the war was begun against the barbarians, the defeat in Armenia, {19a} and the victories consequent on it, not one is there amongst us who does not write a history; or rather, I may say, we are all Thucydideses, Herodotuses, and Xenophons. Well may they say war is the parent of all things, {19b} when one action can make so many historians. This puts me in mind of what happened at Sinope. {20a} When the Corinthians heard that Philip was going to attack them, they were all alarmed, and fell to work, some brushing up their arms, others bringing stones to prop up their walls and defend their bulwarks, every one, in short, lending a hand. Diogenes observing this, and having nothing to do (for nobody employed him), tucked up his robe, and, with all his might, fell a rolling his tub which he lived in up and down the Cranium. {20b} "What are you about?" said one of his friends. "Rolling my tub," replied he, "that whilst everybody is busy around me, I may not be the only idle person in the kingdom." In like manner, I, my dear Philo, being very loath in this noisy age to make no noise at all, or to act the part of a mute in the comedy, think it highly proper that I should roll my tub also; not that I mean to write history myself, or be a narrator of facts; you need not fear me, I am not so rash, knowing the danger too well if I roll it amongst the stones, especially such a tub as mine, which is not over-strong, so that the least pebble I strike against would dash it in pieces. I will tell you, however, what my design is—how I mean to be present at the battle and yet keep out of the reach of danger. I intend to shelter myself from the waves and the smoke, {21} and the cares that writers are liable to, and only give them a little good advice and a few precepts; to have, in short, some little hand in the building, though I do not expect my name will be inscribed on it, as I shall but just touch the mortar with the tip of my finger.

There are many, I know, who think there is no necessity for instruction at all with regard to this business, any more than there is for walking, seeing, or eating, and that it is the easiest thing in the world for a man to write history if he can but say what comes uppermost. But you, my friend, are convinced that it is no such easy matter, nor should it be negligently and carelessly performed; but that, on the other hand, if there be anything in the whole circle of literature that requires more than ordinary care and attention, it is undoubtedly this. At least, if a man would wish, as Thucydides says, to labour for posterity. I very well know that I cannot attack so many without rendering myself obnoxious to some, especially those whose histories are already finished and made public; even if what I say should be approved by them, it would be madness to expect that they should retract anything or alter that which had been once established and, as it were, laid up in royal repositories. It may not be amiss, however, to give them these instructions, that in case of another war, the Getae against the Gauls, or the Indians, perhaps, against the barbarians (for with regard to ourselves there is no danger, our enemies being all subdued), by applying these rules if they like them, they may know better how to write for the future. If they do not choose this, they may even go on by their old measure; the physician will not break his heart if all the people of Abdera follow their own inclination and continue to act the Andromeda. {23}

Criticism is twofold: that which teaches us what we are to choose, and that which teaches us what to avoid. We will begin with the last, and consider what those faults are which a writer of history should be free from; next, what it is that will lead him into the right path, how he should begin, what order and method he should observe, what he should pass over in silence, and what he should dwell upon, how things may be best illustrated and connected. Of these, and such as these, we will speak hereafter; in the meantime let us point out the faults which bad writers are most generally guilty of, the blunders which they commit in language, composition, and sentiment, with many other marks of ignorance, which it would be tedious to enumerate, and belong not to our present argument. The principal faults, as I observed to you, are in the language and composition.

You will find on examination, that history in general has a great many of this kind, which, if you listen to them all, you will be sufficiently convinced of; and for this purpose it may not be unseasonable to recollect some of them by way of example. And the first that I shall mention is that intolerable custom which most of them have of omitting facts, and dwelling for ever on the praises of their generals and commanders, extolling to the skies their own leaders, and degrading beyond measure those of their enemies, not knowing how much history differs from panegyric, that there is a great wall between them, or that, to use a musical phrase, they are a double octave {24a} distant from each other; the sole business of the panegyrist is, at all events and by every means, to extol and delight the object of his praise, and it little concerns him whether it be true or not. But history will not admit the least degree of falsehood any more than, as physicians say, the wind-pipe {24b} can receive into it any kind of food.

These men seem not to know that poetry has its particular rules and precepts; and that history is governed by others directly opposite. That with regard to the former, the licence is immoderate, and there is scarce any law but what the poet prescribes to himself. When he is full of the Deity, and possessed, as it were, by the Muses, if he has a mind to put winged horses {25a} to his chariot, and drive some through the waters, and others over the tops of unbending corn, there is no offence taken. Neither, if his Jupiter {25b} hangs the earth and sea at the end of a chain, are we afraid that it should break and destroy us all. If he wants to extol Agamemnon, who shall forbid his bestowing on him the head and eyes of Jupiter, the breast of his brother Neptune, and the belt of Mars? The son of Atreus and AErope must be a composition of all the gods; nor are Jupiter, Mars, and Neptune sufficient, perhaps, of themselves to give us an idea of his perfection. But if history admits any adulation of this kind, it becomes a sort of prosaic poetry, without its numbers or magnificence; a heap of monstrous stories, only more conspicuous by their incredibility. He is unpardonable, therefore, who cannot distinguish one from the other; but lays on history the paint of poetry, its flattery, fable, and hyperbole: it is just as ridiculous as it would be to clothe one of our robust wrestlers, who is as hard as an oak, in fine purple, or some such meretricious garb, and put paint {26} on his cheeks; how would such ornaments debase and degrade him! I do not mean by this, that in history we are not to praise sometimes, but it must be done at proper seasons, and in a proper degree, that it may not offend the readers of future ages; for future ages must be considered in this affair, as I shall endeavour to prove hereafter.

Those, I must here observe, are greatly mistaken who divide history into two parts, the useful and the agreeable; and in consequence of it, would introduce panegyric as always delectable and entertaining to the reader. But the division itself is false and delusive; for the great end and design of history is to be useful: a species of merit which can only arise from its truth. If the agreeable follows, so much the better, as there may be beauty in a wrestler. And yet Hercules would esteem the brave though ugly Nicostratus as much as the beautiful Alcaeus. And thus history, when she adds pleasure to utility, may attract more admirers; though as long as she is possessed of that greatest of perfections, truth, she need not be anxious concerning beauty.

In history, nothing fabulous can be agreeable; and flattery is disgusting to all readers, except the very dregs of the people; good judges look with the eyes of Argus on every part, reject everything that is false and adulterated, and will admit nothing but what is true, clear, and well expressed. These are the men you are to have a regard to when you write, rather than the vulgar, though your flattery should delight them ever so much. If you stuff history with fulsome encomiums and idle tales, you will make her like Hercules in Lydia, as you may have seen him painted, waiting upon Omphale, who is dressed in the lion's skin, with his club in her hand; whilst he is represented clothed in yellow and purple, and spinning, and Omphale beating him with her slipper; a ridiculous spectacle, wherein everything manly and godlike is sunk and degraded to effeminacy.

The multitude perhaps, indeed, may admire such things; but the judicious few whose opinion you despise will always laugh at what is absurd, incongruous, and inconsistent. Everything has a beauty peculiar to itself; but if you put one instead of another, the most beautiful becomes ugly, because it is not in its proper place. I need not add, that praise is agreeable only to the person praised, and disgustful to everybody else, especially when it is lavishly bestowed; as is the practice of most writers, who are so extremely desirous of recommending themselves by flattery, and dwell so much upon it as to convince the reader it is mere adulation, which they have not art enough to conceal, but heap up together, naked, uncovered, and totally incredible, so that they seldom gain what they expected from it; for the person flattered, if he has anything noble or manly in him, only abhors and despises them for it as mean parasites. Aristobulus, after he had written an account of the single combat between Alexander and Porus, showed that monarch a particular part of it, wherein, the better to get into his good graces, he had inserted a great deal more than was true; when Alexander seized the book and threw it (for they happened at that time to be sailing on the Hydaspes) directly into the river: "Thus," said he, "ought you to have been served yourself for pretending to describe my battles, and killing half a dozen elephants for me with a single spear." This anger was worthy of Alexander, of him who could not bear the adulation of that architect {29} who promised to transform Mount Athos into a statue of him; but he looked upon the man from that time as a base flatterer, and never employed him afterwards.

What is there in this custom, therefore, that can be agreeable, unless to the proud and vain; to deformed men or ugly women, who insist on being painted handsome, and think they shall look better if the artist gives them a little more red and white! Such, for the most part, are the historians of our times, who sacrifice everything to the present moment and their own interest and advantage; who can only be despised as ignorant flatterers of the age they live in; and as men, who, at the same time, by their extravagant stories, make everything which they relate liable to suspicion. If notwithstanding any are still of opinion, that the agreeable should be admitted in history, let them join that which is pleasant with that which is true, by the beauties of style and diction, instead of foisting in, as is commonly done, what is nothing to the purpose.

I will now acquaint you with some things I lately picked up in Ionia and Achaia, from several historians, who gave accounts of this war. By the graces I beseech you to give me credit for what I am going to tell you, as I could swear to the truth of it, if it were polite to swear in a dissertation. One of these gentlemen begins by invoking the Muses, and entreats the goddesses to assist him in the performance. What an excellent setting out and how properly is this form of speech adapted to history! A little farther on, he compares our emperor to Achilles, and the Persian king to Thersites; not considering that his Achilles would have been a much greater man if he had killed Hector rather than Thersites; if the brave should fly, he who pursues must be braver. Then follows an encomium on himself, showing how worthy he is to recite such noble actions; and when he is got on a little, he extols his own country, Miletus, adding that in this he had acted better than Homer, who never tells us where he was born. He informs us, moreover, at the end of his preface, in the most plain and positive terms, that he shall take care to make the best he can of our own affairs, and, as far as lies in his power, to get the upper hand of our enemies the barbarians. After investigating the cause of the war, he begins thus: "That vilest of all wretches, Vologesus, entered upon the war for these reasons." Such is this historian's manner. Another, a close imitator of Thucydides, that he may set out as his master does, gives us an exordium that smells of the true Attic honey, and begins thus: "Creperius Calpurnianus, a citizen of Pompeia, hath written the history of the war between the Parthians and the Romans, showing how they fought with one another, commencing at the time when it first broke out." After this, need I inform you how he harangued in Armenia, by another Corcyraean orator? or how, to be revenged of the Nisibaeans for not taking part with the Romans, he sent the plague amongst them, taking the whole from Thucydides, excepting the long walls of Athens. He had begun from AEthiopia, descended into Egypt, and passed over great part of the royal territory. Well it was that he stopped there. When I left him, he was burying the miserable Athenians at Nisibis; but as I knew what he was going to tell us, I took my leave of him.

Another thing very common with these historians is, by way of imitating Thucydides, to make use of his phrases, perhaps with a little alteration, to adopt his manner, in little modes and expressions, such as, "you must yourself acknowledge," "for the same reason," "a little more, and I had forgot," and the like. This same writer, when he has occasion to mention bridges, fosses, or any of the machines used in war, gives them Roman names; but how does it suit the dignity of history, or resemble Thucydides, to mix the Attic and Italian thus, as if it was ornamental and becoming?

Another of them gives us a plain simple journal of everything that was done, such as a common soldier might have written, or a sutler who followed the camp. This, however, was tolerable, because it pretended to nothing more; and might be useful by supplying materials for some better historian. I only blame him for his pompous introduction: "Callimorphus, physician to the sixth legion of spearmen, his history of the Parthian war." Then his books are all carefully numbered, and he entertains us with a most frigid preface, which he concludes with saying that "a physician must be the fittest of all men to write history, because AEsculapius was the son of Apollo, and Apollo is the leader of the Muses, and the great prince of literature."

Besides this, after setting out in delicate Ionic, he drops, I know not how, into the most vulgar style and expressions, used only by the very dregs of the people.

And here I must not pass over a certain wise man, whose name, however, I shall not mention; his work is lately published at Corinth, and is beyond everything one could have conceived. In the very first sentence of his preface he takes his readers to task, and convinces them by the most sagacious method of reasoning that "none but a wise man should ever attempt to write history." Then comes syllogism upon syllogism; every kind of argument is by turns made use of, to introduce the meanest and most fulsome adulation; and even this is brought in by syllogism and interrogation. What appeared to me the most intolerable and unbecoming the long beard of a philosopher, was his saying in the preface that our emperor was above all men most happy, whose actions even philosophers did not disdain to celebrate; surely this, if it ought to be said at all, should have been left for us to say rather than himself.

Neither must we here forget that historian who begins thus: "I come to speak of the Romans and Persians;" and a little after he says, "for the Persians ought to suffer;" and in another place, "there was one Osroes, whom the Greeks call Oxyrrhoes," with many things of this kind. This man is just such a one as him I mentioned before, only that one is like Thucydides, and the other the exact resemblance of Herodotus.

But there is yet another writer, renowned for eloquence, another Thucydides, or rather superior to him, who most elaborately describes every city, mountain, field, and river, and cries out with all his might, "May the great averter of evil turn it all on our enemies!" This is colder than Caspian snow, or Celtic ice. The emperor's shield takes up a whole book to describe. The Gorgon's {35} eyes are blue, and black, and white; the serpents twine about his hair, and his belt has all the colours of the rainbow. How many thousand lines does it cost him to describe Vologesus's breeches and his horse's bridle, and how Osroes' hair looked when he swam over the Tigris, what sort of a cave he fled into, and how it was shaded all over with ivy, and myrtle, and laurel, twined together. You plainly see how necessary this was to the history, and that we could not possibly have understood what was going forward without it.

From inability, and ignorance of everything useful, these men are driven to descriptions of countries and caverns, and when they come into a multiplicity of great and momentous affairs, are utterly at a loss. Like a servant enriched on a sudden by coming into his master's estate, who does not know how to put on his clothes, or to eat as he should do; but when fine birds, fat sows, and hares are placed before him, falls to and eats till he bursts, of salt meat and pottage. The writer I just now mentioned describes the strangest wounds, and the most extraordinary deaths you ever heard of; tells us of a man's being wounded in the great toe, and expiring immediately; and how on Priscus, the general, bawling out loud, seven-and-twenty of the enemy fell down dead upon the spot. He has told lies, moreover, about the number of the slain, in contradiction to the account given in by the leaders. He will have it that seventy thousand two hundred and thirty-six of the enemy died at Europus, and of the Romans only two, and nine wounded. Surely nobody in their senses can bear this.

Another thing should be mentioned here also, which is no little fault. From the affectation of Atticism, and a more than ordinary attention to purity of diction, he has taken the liberty to turn the Roman names into Greek, to call Saturninus, [Greek], Chronius; Fronto, [Greek], Frontis; Titianus, [Greek], Titanius, and others still more ridiculous. With regard to the death of Severian, he informs us that everybody else was mistaken when they imagined that he perished by the sword, for that the man starved himself to death, as he thought that the easiest way of dying; not knowing (which was the case) that he could only have fasted three days, whereas many have lived without food for seven; unless we are to suppose that Osroes stood waiting till Severian had starved himself completely, and for that reason he would not live out the whole week.

But in what class, my dear Philo, shall we rank those historians who are perpetually making use of poetical expressions, such as "the engine crushed, the wall thundered," and in another place, "Edessa resounded with the shock of arms, and all was noise and tumult around;" and again, "often the leader in his mind revolved how best he might approach the wall." At the same time amongst these were interspersed some of the meanest and most beggarly phrases, such as "the leader of the army epistolised his master," "the soldiers bought utensils," "they washed and waited on them," with many other things of the same kind, like a tragedian with a high cothurnus on one foot and a slipper on the other. You will meet with many of these writers, who will give you a fine heroic long preface, that makes you hope for something extraordinary to follow, when after all, the body of the history shall be idle, weak, and trifling, such as puts you in mind of a sporting Cupid, who covers his head with the mask of a Hercules or Titan. The reader immediately cries out, "The mountain {39} has brought forth!" Certainly it ought not to be so; everything should be alike and of the same colour; the body fitted to the head, not a golden helmet, with a ridiculous breast- plate made of stinking skins, shreds, and patches, a basket shield, and hog-skin boots; and yet numbers of them put the head of a Rhodian Colossus on the body of a dwarf, whilst others show you a body without a head, and step directly into the midst of things, bringing in Xenophon for their authority, who begins with "Darius and Parysatis had two sons;" so likewise have other ancient writers; not considering that the narration itself may sometimes supply the place of preface, or exordium, though it does not appear to the vulgar eye, as we shall show hereafter.

All this, however, with regard to style and composition, may be borne with, but when they misinform us about places, and make mistakes, not of a few leagues, but whole day's journeys, what shall we say to such historians? One of them, who never, we may suppose, so much as conversed with a Syrian, or picked up anything concerning them in the barbers' {40} shop, when he speaks of Europus, tells us, "it is situated in Mesopotamia, two days' journey from Euphrates, and was built by the Edessenes." Not content with this, the same noble writer has taken away my poor country, Samosata, and carried it off, tower, bulwarks, and all, to Mesopotamia, where he says it is shut up between two rivers, which at least run close to, if they do not wash the walls of it. After this, it would be to no purpose, my dear Philo, for me to assure you that I am not from Parthia, nor do I belong to Mesopotamia, of which this admirable historian has thought fit to make me an inhabitant.

What he tells us of Severian, and which he swears he heard from those who were eye-witnesses of it, is no doubt extremely probable; that he did not choose to drink poison, or to hang himself, but was resolved to find out some new and tragical way of dying; that accordingly, having some large cups of very fine glass, as soon as he had taken the resolution to finish himself, he broke one of them in pieces, and with a fragment of it cut his throat; he would not make use of sword or spear, that his death might be more noble and heroic.

To complete all, because Thucydides {41} made a funeral oration on the heroes who fell at the beginning of the Peloponnesian war, he also thought something should be said of Severian. These historians, you must know, will always have a little struggle with Thucydides, though he had nothing to do with the war in Armenia; our writer, therefore, after burying Severian most magnificently, places at his sepulchre one Afranius Silo, a centurion, the rival of Pericles, who spoke so fine a declamation upon him as, by heaven, made me laugh till I cried again, particularly when the orator seemed deeply afflicted, and with tears in his eyes, lamented the sumptuous entertainments and drinking bouts which he should no more partake of. To crown all with an imitation of Ajax, {42} the orator draws his sword, and, as it became the noble Afranius, before all the assembly, kills himself at the tomb. So Mars defend me! but he deserved to die much sooner for making such a declamation. When those, says he, who were present beheld this, they were filled with admiration, and beyond measure extolled Afranius. For my own part, I pitied him for the loss of the cakes and dishes which he so lamented, and only blamed him for not destroying the writer of the history before he made an end of himself.

Others there are who, from ignorance and want of skill, not knowing what should be mentioned, and what passed over in silence, entirely omit or slightly run through things of the greatest consequence, and most worthy of attention, whilst they most copiously describe and dwell upon trifles; which is just as absurd as it would be not to take notice of or admire the wonderful beauty of the Olympian Jupiter, {43} and at the same time to be lavish in our praises of the fine polish, workmanship, and proportion of the base and pedestal.

I remember one of these who despatches the battle at Europus in seven lines, and spends some hundreds in a long frigid narration, that is nothing to the purpose, showing how "a certain Moorish cavalier, wandering on the mountains in search of water, lit on some Syrian rustics, who helped him to a dinner; how they were afraid of him at first, but afterwards became intimately acquainted with him, and received him with hospitality; for one of them, it seems, had been in Mauritania, where his brother bore arms." Then follows a long tale, "how he hunted in Mauritania, and saw several elephants feeding together; how he had like to have been devoured by a lion; and how many fish he bought at Caesarea." This admirable historian takes no notice of the battle, the attacks or defences, the truces, the guards on each side, or anything else; but stands from morning to night looking upon Malchion, the Syrian, who buys cheap fish at Caesarea: if night had not come on, I suppose he would have supped there, as the chars {44} were ready. If these things had not been carefully recorded in the history we should have been sadly in the dark, and the Romans would have had an insufferable loss, if Mausacas, the thirsty Moor, could have found nothing to drink, or returned to the camp without his supper; not to mention here, what is still more ridiculous, as how "a piper came up to them out of the neighbouring village, and how they made presents to each other, Mausacas giving Malchion a spear, and Malchion presenting Mausacas with a buckle." Such are the principal occurrences in the history of the battle of Europus. One may truly say of such writers that they never saw the roses on the tree, but took care to gather the prickles that grew at the bottom of it.

Another of them, who had never set a foot out of Corinth, or seen Syria or Armenia, begins thus: "It is better to trust our eyes than our ears; I write, therefore, what I have seen, and not what I have heard;" he saw everything so extremely well that he tells us, "the Parthian dragons (which amongst them signifies no more than a great number, {45} for one dragon brings a thousand) are live serpents of a prodigious size, that breed in Persia, a little above Iberia; that these are lifted up on long poles, and spread terror to a great distance; and that when the battle begins, they let them loose on the enemy." Many of our soldiers, he tells us, were devoured by them, and a vast number pressed to death by being locked in their embraces: this he beheld himself from the top of a high tree, to which he had retired for safety. Well it was for us that he so prudently determined not to come nigh them; we might otherwise have lost this excellent writer, who with his own brave hand performed such feats in this battle; for he went through many dangers, and was wounded somewhere about Susa, I suppose, in his journey from Cranium to Lerna. All this he recited to the Corinthians, who very well knew that he had never so much as seen a view of this battle painted on a wall; neither did he know anything of arms, or military machines, the method of disposing troops, or even the proper names of them. {46}

Another famous writer has given an account of everything that passed, from beginning to end, in Armenia, Syria, Mesopotamia, upon the Tigris, and in Media, and all in less than five hundred lines; and when he had done this, tells us, he has written a history. The title, which is almost as long as the work, runs thus: "A narrative of everything done by the Romans in Armenia, Media, and Mesopotamia, by Antiochianus, who gained a prize in the sacred games of Apollo." I suppose, when he was a boy, he had conquered in a running match.

I have heard of another likewise, who wrote a history of what was to happen hereafter, {47} and describes the taking of Vologesus prisoner, the murder of Osroes, and how he was to be given to a lion; and above all, our own much-to-be-wished-for triumph, as things that must come to pass. Thus prophesying away, he soon got to the end of the story. He has built, moreover, a new city in Mesopotamia, most magnificently magnificent, and most beautifully beautiful, and is considering with himself whether he shall call it Victoria, from victory, or the City of Concord, or Peace, which of them, however, is not yet determined, and this fine city must remain without a name, filled as it is with nothing but this writer's folly and nonsense. He is now going about a long voyage, and to give us a description of what is to be done in India; and this is more than a promise, for the preface is already made, and the third legion, the Gauls, and a small part of the Mauritanian forces under Cassius, have already passed the river; what they will do afterwards, or how they will succeed against the elephants, it will be some time before our wonderful writer can be able to learn, either from Mazuris or the Oxydraci.

Thus do these foolish fellows trifle with us, neither knowing what is fit to be done, nor if they did, able to execute it, at the same time determined to say anything that comes into their ridiculous heads; affecting to be grand and pompous, even in their titles: of "the Parthian victories so many books;" Parthias, says another, like Atthis; another more elegantly calls his book the Parthonicica of Demetrius.

I could mention many more of equal merit with these, but shall now proceed to make my promise good, and give some instructions how to write better. I have not produced these examples merely to laugh at and ridicule these noble histories; but with the view of real advantages, that he who avoids their errors, may himself learn to write well—if it be true, as the logicians assert, that of two opposites, between which there is no medium, the one being taken away, the other must remain. {49}

Somebody, perhaps, will tell me that the field is now cleansed and weeded, that the briars and brambles are cut up, the rubbish cleared off, and the rough path made smooth; that I ought therefore to build something myself, to show that I not only can pull down the structures of others, but am able to raise up and invent a work truly great and excellent, which nobody could find fault with, nor Momus himself turn into ridicule.

I say, therefore, that he who would write history well must be possessed of these two principal qualifications, a fine understanding and a good style: one is the gift of nature, and cannot be taught; the other may be acquired by frequent exercise, perpetual labour and an emulation of the ancients. To make men sensible and sagacious, who were not born so, is more than I pretend to; to create and new-model things in this manner would be a glorious thing indeed; but one might as easily make gold out of lead, silver out of tin, a Titornus out of a Conon, or a Milo out of a Leotrophides. {50}

What then is in the power of art or instruction to perform? not to create qualities and perfections already bestowed, but to teach the proper use of them; for as Iccus, Herodicus, Theon, {51} or any other famous wrestler, would not promise to make Antiochus a conqueror in the Olympic games, or equal to a Theagenes, or Polydamas; but only that where a man had natural abilities for this exercise he could, by his instruction, render him a greater proficient in it: far be it from me, also, to promise the invention of an art so difficult as this, nor do I say that I can make anybody an historian; but that I will point out to one of good understanding, and who has been in some measure used to writing, certain proper paths (if such they appear to him), which if any man shall tread in, he may with greater ease and despatch do what he ought to do, and attain the end which he is in pursuit of.

Neither can it be here asserted, be he ever so sensible or sagacious, that he doth not stand in need of assistance with regard to those things which he is ignorant of; otherwise he might play on the flute or any other instrument, who had never learned, and perform just as well; but without teaching, the hands will do nothing; whereas, if there be a master, we quickly learn, and are soon able to play by ourselves.

Give me a scholar, therefore, who is able to think and to write, to look with an eye of discernment into things, and to do business himself, if called upon, who hath both civil and military knowledge; one, moreover, who has been in camps, and has seen armies in the field and out of it; knows the use of arms, and machines, and warlike engines of every kind; can tell what the front, and what the horn is, how the ranks are to be disposed, how the horse is to be directed, and from whence to advance or to retreat; one, in short, who does not stay at home and trust to the reports of others: but, above all, let him be of a noble and liberal mind; let him neither fear nor hope for anything; otherwise he will only resemble those unjust judges who determine from partiality or prejudice, and give sentence for hire: but, whatever the man is, as such let him be described. The historian must not care for Philip, when he loses his eye by the arrow of Aster, {53a} at Olynthus, nor for Alexander, when he so cruelly killed Clytus at the banquet: Cleon must not terrify him, powerful as he was in the senate, and supreme at the tribunal, nor prevent his recording him as a furious and pernicious man; the whole city of Athens must not stop his relation of the Sicilian slaughter, the seizure of Demosthenes, {53b} the death of Nicias, their violent thirst, the water which they drank, and the death of so many of them whilst they were drinking it. He will imagine (which will certainly be the case) that no man in his senses will blame him for recording things exactly as they fell out. However some may have miscarried by imprudence, or others by ill fortune, he is only the relator, not the author of them. If they are beaten in a sea-fight, it is not he who sinks them; if they fly, it is not he who pursues them; all he can do is to wish well to, and offer up his vows for them; but by passing over or contradicting facts, he cannot alter or amend them. It would have been very easy indeed for Thucydides, with a stroke of his pen, to have thrown down the walls of Epipolis, sunk the vessel of Hermocrates, or made an end of the execrable Gylippus, who stopped up all the avenues with his walls and ditches; to have thrown the Syracusans on the Lautumiae, and have let the Athenians go round Sicily and Italy, according to the early hopes of Alcibiades: but what is past and done Clotho cannot weave again, nor Atropos recall.

The only business of the historian is to relate things exactly as they are: this he can never do as long as he is afraid of Artaxerxes, whose physician {55a} he is; as long as he looks for the purple robe, the golden chain, or the Nisaean horse, {55b} as the reward of his labours; but Xenophon, that just writer, will not do this, nor Thucydides. The good historian, though he may have private enmity against any man, will esteem the public welfare of more consequence to him, and will prefer truth to resentment; and, on the other hand, be he ever so fond of any man, will not spare him when he is in the wrong; for this, as I before observed, is the most essential thing in history, to sacrifice to truth alone, and cast away all care for everything else. The great universal rule and standard is, to have regard not to those who read now, but to those who are to peruse our works hereafter.

To speak impartially, the historians of former times were too often guilty of flattery, and their works were little better than games and sports, the effects of art. Of Alexander, this memorable saying is recorded: "I should be glad," said he, "Onesicritus, after my death, to come to life again for a little time, only to hear what the people then living will say of me; for I am not surprised that they praise and caress me now, as every one hopes by baiting well to catch my favour." Though Homer wrote a great many fabulous things concerning Achilles, the world was induced to believe him, for this only reason, because they were written long after his death, and no cause could be assigned why he should tell lies about him.

The good historian, {56} then, must be thus described: he must be fearless, uncorrupted, free, the friend of truth and of liberty; one who, to use the words of the comic poet, calls a fig a fig, {57a} and a skiff a skiff, neither giving nor withholding from any, from favour or from enmity, not influenced by pity, by shame, or by remorse; a just judge, so far benevolent to all as never to give more than is due to any in his work; a stranger to all, of no country, bound only by his own laws, acknowledging no sovereign, never considering what this or that man may say of him, but relating faithfully everything as it happened.

This rule therefore Thucydides observed, distinguishing properly the faults and perfections of history: not unmindful of the great reputation which Herodotus had acquired, insomuch that his books were called by the names of the Muses. {57b} Thucydides tells us that he "wrote for posterity, and not for present delight; that he by no means approved of the fabulous, but was desirous of delivering down the truth alone to future ages." It is the useful, he adds, which must constitute the merit of history, that by the retrospection of what is past, when similar events occur, men may know how to act in present exigencies.

Such an historian would I wish to have under my care: with regard to language and expression, I would not have it rough and vehement, consisting of long periods, {58} or complex arguments; but soft, quiet, smooth, and peaceable. The reflections, short and frequent, the style clear and perspicuous; for as freedom and truth should be the principal perfections of the writer's mind, so, with regard to language, the great point is to make everything plain and intelligible, not to use remote and far-fetched phrases or expressions, at the same time avoiding such as are mean and vulgar: let it be, in short, what the lowest may understand; and, at the same time, the most learned cannot but approve. The whole may be adorned with figure and metaphor, provided they are not turgid or bombast, nor seem stiff and laboured, which, like meat too highly seasoned, always give disgust.

History may sometimes assume a poetical form, and rise into a magnificence of expression, when the subject demands it; and especially when it is describing armies, battles, and sea-fights. The Pierian spirit {59} is wanting then to swell the sails with a propitious breeze, and carry the lofty ship over the tops of the waves. In general, the diction should creep humbly on the ground, and only be raised as the grand and beautiful occurring shall require it; keeping, in the meantime, within proper bounds, and never soaring into enthusiasm; for then it is in danger of ranging beyond its limits, into poetic fury: we must then pull in the rein and act with caution, well knowing that it is the worst vice of a writer, as well as of a horse, to be wanton and unmanageable. The best way therefore is, whilst the mind of the historian is on horseback, for his style to walk on foot, and take hold of the rein, that it may not be left behind.

With regard to composition, the words should not be so blended and transposed as to appear harsh and uncouth; nor should you, as some do, subject them entirely to the rhythmus; {60} one is always faulty, and the other disagreeable to the reader.

Facts must not be carelessly put together, but with great labour and attention. If possible, let the historian be an eye-witness of everything he means to record; or, if that cannot be, rely on those only who are incorrupt, and who have no bias from passion or prejudice, to add or to diminish anything. And here much sagacity will be requisite to find out the real truth. When he has collected all or most of his materials, he will first make a kind of diary, a body whose members are not yet distinct; he will then bring it into order and beautify it, add the colouring of style and language, adopt his expression to the subject, and harmonise the several parts of it; then, like Homer's Jupiter, {61} who casts his eye sometimes on the Thracian, and sometimes on the Mysian forces, he beholds now the Roman, and now the Persian armies, now both, if they are engaged, and relates what passes in them. Whilst they are embattled, his eye is not fixed on any particular part, nor on any one leader, unless, perhaps, a Brasidas {62a} steps forth to scale the walls, or a Demosthenes to prevent him. To the generals he gives his first attention, listens to their commands, their counsels, and their determination; and, when they come to the engagement, he weighs in equal scale the actions of both, and closely attends the pursuer and the pursued, the conqueror and the conquered. All this must be done with temper and moderation, so as not to satiate or tire, not inartificially, not childishly, but with ease and grace. When these things are properly taken care of, he may turn aside to others, ever ready and prepared for the present event, keeping time, {62b} as it were, with every circumstance and event: flying from Armenia to Media, and from thence with clattering wings to Italy, or to Iberia, that not a moment may escape him.

The mind of the historian should resemble a looking-glass, shining clear and exactly true, representing everything as it really is, and nothing distorted, or of a different form or colour. He writes not to the masters of eloquence, but simply relates what is done. It is not his to consider what he shall say, but only how it is to be said. He may be compared to Phidias, Praxiteles, Alcamenus, or other eminent artists; for neither did they make the gold, the silver, the ivory, or any of the materials which they worked upon. These were supplied by the Elians, the Athenians, and Argives; their only business was to cut and polish the ivory, to spread the gold into various forms, and join them together; their art was properly to dispose what was put into their hands; and such is the work of the historians, to dispose and adorn the actions of men, and to make them known with clearness and precision: to represent what he hath heard, as if he had been himself an eye-witness of it. To perform this well, and gain the praise resulting from it, is the business of our historical Phidias.

When everything is thus prepared, he may begin if he pleases without preface or exordium, unless the subject particularly demands it; he may supply the place of one, by informing us what he intends to write upon, in the beginning of the work itself: if, however, he makes use of any preface, he need not divide it as our orators do, into three parts, but confine it to two, leaving out his address to the benevolence of his readers, and only soliciting their attention and complacency: their attention he may be assured of, if he can convince them that he is about to speak of things great, or necessary, or interesting, or useful; nor need he fear their want of complacency, if he clearly explains to them the causes of things, and gives them the heads of what he intends to treat of.

Such are the exordiums which our best historians have made use of. Herodotus tells us, "he wrote his history, lest in process of time the memory should be lost of those things which in themselves were great and wonderful, which showed forth the victories of Greece, and the slaughter of the barbarians;" and Thucydides sets out with saying, "he thought that war most worthy to be recorded, as greater than any which had before happened; and that, moreover, some of the greatest misfortunes had accompanied it." The exordium, in short, may be lengthened or contracted according to the subject matter, and the transition from thence to the narration easy and natural. The body of the history is only a long narrative, and as such it must go on with a soft and even motion, alike in every part, so that nothing should stand too forward, or retreat too far behind. Above all, the style should be clear and perspicuous, which can only arise, as I before observed, from a harmony in the composition: one thing perfected, the next which succeeds should be coherent with it; knit together, as it were, by one common chain, which must never be broken: they must not be so many separate and distinct narratives, but each so closely united to what follows, as to appear one continued series.

Brevity is always necessary, especially when you have a great deal to say, and this must be proportioned to the facts and circumstances which you have to relate. In general, you must slightly run through little things, and dwell longer on great ones. When you treat your friends, you give them boars, hares, and other dainties; you would not offer them beans, saperda, {66a} or any other common food.

When you describe mountains, rivers, and bulwarks, avoid all pomp and ostentation, as if you meant to show your own eloquence; pass over these things as slightly as you can, and rather aim at being useful and intelligible. Observe how the great and sublime Homer acts on these occasions! as great a poet as he is, he says nothing about Tantalus, Ixion, Tityus, and the rest of them. But if Parthenius, Euphorion, or Callimachus, had treated this subject, what a number of verses they would have spent in rolling Ixion's wheel, and bringing the water up to the very lips of Tantalus! Mark, also, how quickly Thucydides, who is very sparing {66b} of his descriptions, breaks off when he gives an account of any military machine, explains the manner of a siege, even though it be ever so useful and necessary, or describes cities or the port of Syracuse. Even in his narrative of the plague which seems so long, if you consider the multiplicity of events, you will find he makes as much haste as possible, and omits many circumstances, though he was obliged to retain so many more.

When it is necessary to make any one speak, you must take care to let him say nothing but what is suitable to the person, and to what he speaks about, and let everything be clear and intelligible: here, indeed, you may be permitted to play the orator, and show the power of eloquence. With regard to praise, or dispraise, you cannot be too modest and circumspect; they should be strictly just and impartial, short and seasonable: your evidence otherwise will not be considered as legal, and you will incur the same censure as Theopompus {67} did, who finds fault with everybody from enmity and ill-nature; and dwells so perpetually on this, that he seems rather to be an accuser than an historian.

If anything occurs that is very extraordinary or incredible, you may mention without vouching for the truth of it, leaving everybody to judge for themselves concerning it: by taking no part yourself, you will remain safe.

Remember, above all, and throughout your work, again and again, I must repeat it, that you write not with a view to the present times only, that the age you live in may applaud and esteem you, but with an eye fixed on posterity; from future ages expect your reward, that men may say of you, "that man was full of honest freedom, never flattering or servile, but in all things the friend of truth." This commendation, the wise man will prefer to all the vain hopes of this life, which are but of short duration.

Recollect the story of the Cnidian architect, when he built the tower in Pharos, where the fire is kindled to prevent mariners from running on the dangerous rocks of Paraetonia, that most noble and most beautiful of all works; he carved his own name on a part of the rock on the inside, then covered it over with mortar, and inscribed on it the name of the reigning sovereign: well knowing that, as it afterwards happened, in a short space of time these letters would drop off with the mortar, and discover under it this inscription: "Sostratus the Cnidian, son of Dexiphanes, to those gods who preserve the mariner." Thus had he regard not to the times he lived in, not to his own short existence, but to the present period, and to all future ages, even as long as his tower shall stand, and his art remain upon earth.

Thus also should history be written, rather anxious to gain the approbation of posterity by truth and merit, than to acquire present applause by adulation and falsehood.

Such are the rules which I would prescribe to the historian, and which will contribute to the perfection of his work, if he thinks proper to observe them; if not, at least, I have rolled my tub. {69}



Lucian's True History is, as the author himself acknowledges in the Preface to it, a collection of ingenious lies, calculated principally to amuse the reader, not without several allusions, as he informs us, to the works of ancient Poets, Historians, and Philosophers, as well as, most probably, the performances of contemporary writers, whose absurdities are either obliquely glanced at, or openly ridiculed and exposed. We cannot but lament that the humour of the greatest part of these allusions must be lost to us, the works themselves being long since buried in oblivion. Lucian's True History, therefore, like the Duke of Buckingham's Rehearsal, cannot be half so agreeable as when it was first written; there is, however, enough remaining to secure it from contempt. The vein of rich fancy, and wildness of a luxuriant imagination, which run through the whole, sufficiently point out the author as a man of uncommon genius and invention. The reader will easily perceive that Bergerac, Swift, and other writers have read this work of Lucian's, and are much indebted to him for it.


As athletics of all kinds hold it necessary, not only to prepare the body by exercise and discipline, but sometimes to give it proper relaxation, which they esteem no less requisite, so do I think it highly necessary also for men of letters, after their severer studies, to relax a little, that they may return to them with the greater pleasure and alacrity; and for this purpose there is no better repose than that which arises from the reading of such books as not only by their humour and pleasantry may entertain them, but convey at the same time some useful instruction, both which, I flatter myself, the reader will meet with in the following history; for he will not only be pleased with the novelty of the plan, and the variety of lies, which I have told with an air of truth, but with the tacit allusions so frequently made, not, I trust, without some degree of humour, to our ancient poets, historians, and philosophers, who have told us some most miraculous and incredible stories, and which I should have pointed out to you, but that I thought they would be sufficiently visible on the perusal.

Ctesias the Cnidian, son of Ctesiochus, wrote an account of India and of things there, which he never saw himself, nor heard from anybody else. Iambulus also has acquainted us with many wonders which he met with in the great sea, and which everybody knew to be absolute falsehoods: the work, however, was not unentertaining. Besides these, many others have likewise presented us with their own travels and peregrinations, where they tell us of wondrous large beasts, savage men, and unheard-of ways of living. The great leader and master of all this rhodomontade is Homer's "Ulysses," who talks to Alcinous about the winds {75} pent up in bags, man-eaters, and one-eyed Cyclops, wild men, creatures with many heads, several of his companions turned into beasts by enchantment, and a thousand things of this kind, which he related to the ignorant and credulous Phaeacians.

These, notwithstanding, I cannot think much to blame for their falsehoods, seeing that the custom has been sometimes authorised, even by the pretenders to philosophy: I only wonder that they should ever expect to be believed: being, however, myself incited, by a ridiculous vanity, with the desire of transmitting something to posterity, that I may not be the only man who doth not indulge himself in the liberty of fiction, as I could not relate anything true (for I know of nothing at present worthy to be recorded), I turned my thoughts towards falsehood, a species of it, however, much more excusable than that of others, as I shall at least say one thing true, when I tell you that I lie, and shall hope to escape the general censure, by acknowledging that I mean to speak not a word of truth throughout. Know ye, therefore, that I am going to write about what I never saw myself, nor experienced, nor so much as heard from anybody else, and, what is more, of such things as neither are, nor ever can be. I give my readers warning, therefore, not to believe me.

* * * *

Once upon a time, {77} then, I set sail from the Pillars of Hercules, and getting into the Western Ocean, set off with a favourable wind; the cause of my peregrination was no more than a certain impatience of mind and thirst after novelty, with a desire of knowing where the sea ended, and what kind of men inhabited the several shores of it; for this purpose I laid in a large stock of provisions, and as much water as I thought necessary, taking along with me fifty companions of the same mind as myself. I prepared withal, a number of arms, with a skilful pilot, whom we hired at a considerable expense, and made our ship (for it was a pinnace), as tight as we could in case of a long and dangerous voyage.

We sailed on with a prosperous gale for a day and a night, but being still in sight of land, did not make any great way; the next day, however, at sun-rising, the wind springing up, the waves ran high, it grew dark, and we could not unfurl a sail; we gave ourselves up to the winds and waves, and were tossed about in a storm, which raged with great fury for threescore and nineteen days, but on the eightieth the sun shone bright, and we saw not far from us an island, high and woody, with the sea round it quite calm and placid, for the storm was over: we landed, got out, and happy to escape from our troubles, laid ourselves down on the ground for some time, after which we arose, and choosing out thirty of our company to take care of the vessel, I remained on shore with the other twenty, in order to take a view of the interior part of the island.

About three stadia from the sea, as we passed through a wood, we found a pillar of brass, with a Greek inscription on it, the characters almost effaced; we could make out however these words, "thus far came Hercules and Bacchus:" near it were the marks of two footsteps on a rock, one of them measured about an acre, the other something less; the smaller one appeared to me to be that of Bacchus, the larger that of Hercules; we paid our adorations to the deities and proceeded. We had not got far before we met with a river, which seemed exactly to resemble wine, particularly that of Chios; {79} it was of a vast extent, and in many places navigable; this circumstance induced us to give more credit to the inscription on the pillar, when we perceived such visible marks of Bacchus's presence here. As I had a mind to know whence this river sprung, I went back to the place from which it seemed to arise, but could not trace the spring; I found, however, several large vines full of grapes, at the root of every one the wine flowed in great abundance, and from them I suppose the river was collected. We saw a great quantity of fish in it which were extremely like wine, both in taste and colour, and after we had taken and eaten a good many of them we found ourselves intoxicated; and when we cut them up, observed that they were full of grape stones; it occurred to us afterwards that we should have mixed them with some water fish, as by themselves they tasted rather too strong of the wine.

We passed the river in a part of it which was fordable, and a little farther on met with a most wonderful species of vine, the bottoms of them that touched the earth were green and thick, and all the upper part most beautiful women, with the limbs perfect from the waist, only that from the tops of the fingers branches sprung out full of grapes, just as Daphne is represented as turned into a tree when Apollo laid hold on her; on the head, likewise, instead of hair they had leaves and tendrils; when we came up to them they addressed us, some in the Lydian tongue, some in the Indian, but most of them in Greek; they would not suffer us to taste their grapes, but when anybody attempted it, cried out as if they were hurt.

We left them and returned to our companions in the ship. We then took our casks, filled some of them with water, and some with wine from the river, slept one night on shore, and the next morning set sail, the wind being very moderate. About noon, the island being now out of sight, on a sudden a most violent whirlwind arose, and carried the ship above three thousand stadia, lifting it up above the water, from whence it did not let us down again into the seas but kept us suspended {81a} in mid air, in this manner we hung for seven days and nights, and on the eighth beheld a large tract of land, like an island, {81b} round, shining, and remarkably full of light; we got on shore, and found on examination that it was cultivated and full of inhabitants, though we could not then see any of them. As night came on other islands appeared, some large, others small, and of a fiery colour; there was also below these another land with seas, woods, mountains, and cities in it, and this we took to be our native country: as we were advancing forwards, we were seized on a sudden by the Hippogypi, {82a} for so it seems they were called by the inhabitants; these Hippogypi are men carried upon vultures, which they ride as we do horses. These vultures have each three heads, and are immensely large; you may judge of their size when I tell you that one of their feathers is bigger than the mast of a ship. The Hippogypi have orders, it seems, to fly round the kingdom, and if they find any stranger, to bring him to the king: they took us therefore, and carried us before him. As soon as he saw us, he guessed by our garb what we were. "You are Grecians," said he, "are you not?" We told him we were. "And how," added he, "got ye hither through the air?" We told him everything that had happened to us; and he, in return, related to us his own history, and informed us, that he also was a man, that his name was Endymion, {82b} that he had been taken away from our earth in his sleep, and brought to this place where he reigned as sovereign. That spot, {83a} he told us, which now looked like a moon to us, was the earth. He desired us withal not to make ourselves uneasy, for that we should soon have everything we wanted. "If I succeed," says he, "in the war which I am now engaged in against the inhabitants of the sun, you will be very happy here." We asked him then what enemies he had, and what the quarrel was about? "Phaeton," he replied, "who is king of the sun {83b} (for that is inhabited as well as the moon), has been at war with us for some time past. The foundation of it was this: I had formerly an intention of sending some of the poorest of my subjects to establish a colony in Lucifer, which was uninhabited: but Phaeton, out of envy, put a stop to it, by opposing me in the mid-way with his Hippomyrmices; {84} we were overcome and desisted, our forces at that time being unequal to theirs. I have now, however, resolved to renew the war and fix my colony; if you have a mind, you shall accompany us in the expedition; I will furnish you everyone with a royal vulture and other accoutrements; we shall set out to-morrow." "With all my heart," said I, "whenever you please." We stayed, however, and supped with him; and rising early the next day, proceeded with the army, when the spies gave us notice that the enemy was approaching. The army consisted of a hundred thousand, besides the scouts and engineers, together with the auxiliaries, amongst whom were eighty thousand Hippogypi, and twenty thousand who were mounted on the Lachanopteri; {85a} these are very large birds, whose feathers are of a kind of herb, and whose wings look like lettuces. Next to these stood the Cinchroboli, {85b} and the Schorodomachi. {85c} Our allies from the north were three thousand Psyllotoxotae {85d} and five thousand Anemodromi; {85e} the former take their names from the fleas which they ride upon, every flea being as big as twelve elephants; the latter are foot-soldiers, and are carried about in the air without wings, in this manner: they have large gowns hanging down to their feet, these they tuck up and spread in a form of a sail, and the wind drives them about like so many boats: in the battle they generally wear targets. It was reported that seventy thousand Strathobalani {86a} from the stars over Cappadocia were to be there, together with five thousand Hippogerani; {86b} these I did not see, for they never came: I shall not attempt, therefore, to describe them; of these, however, most wonderful things were related.

Such were the forces of Endymion; their arms were all alike; their helmets were made of beans, for they have beans there of a prodigious size and strength, and their scaly breast-plates of lupines sewed together, for the skins of their lupines are like a horn, and impenetrable; their shields and swords the same as our own.

The army ranged themselves in this manner: the right wing was formed by the Hippogypi, with the king, and round him his chosen band to protect him, amongst which we were admitted; on the left were the Lachanopteri; the auxiliaries in the middle, the foot were in all about sixty thousand myriads. They have spiders, you must know, in this country, in infinite numbers, and of pretty large dimensions, each of them being as big as one of the islands of the Cyclades; these were ordered to cover the air from the moon quite to the morning star; this being immediately done, and the field of battle prepared, the infantry was drawn up under the command of Nycterion, the son of Eudianax.

The left wing of the enemy, which was commanded by Phaeton himself, consisted of the Hippomyrmices; these are large birds, and resemble our ants, except with regard to size, the largest of them covering two acres; these fight with their horns and were in number about fifty thousand. In the right wing were the Aeroconopes, {87a} about five thousand, all archers, and riding upon large gnats. To these succeeded the Aerocoraces, {87b} light infantry, but remarkably brave and useful warriors, for they threw out of slings exceeding large radishes, which whoever was struck by, died immediately, a most horrid stench exhaling from the wound; they are said, indeed, to dip their arrows in a poisonous kind of mallow. Behind these stood ten thousand Caulomycetes, {88a} heavy-armed soldiers, who fight hand to hand; so called because they use shields made of mushrooms, and spears of the stalks of asparagus. Near them were placed the Cynobalani, {88b} about five thousand, who were sent by the inhabitants of Sirius; these were men with dog's heads, and mounted upon winged acorns: some of their forces did not arrive in time; amongst whom there were to have been some slingers from the Milky-way, together with the Nephelocentauri; {88c} they indeed came when the first battle was over, and I wish {88d} they had never come at all: the slingers did not appear, which, they say, so enraged Phaeton that he set their city on fire.

Thus prepared, the enemy began the attack: the signal being given, and the asses braying on each side, for such are the trumpeters they make use of on these occasions, the left wing of the Heliots, unable to sustain the onset of our Hippogypi, soon gave way, and we pursued them with great slaughter: their right wing, however, overcame our left. The Aeroconopes falling upon us with astonishing force, and advancing even to our infantry, by their assistance we recovered; and they now began to retreat, when they found the left wing had been beaten. The defeat then becoming general, many of them were taken prisoners and many slain; the blood flowed in such abundance that the clouds were tinged with it and looked red, just as they appear to us at sunset; from thence it distilled through upon the earth. Some such thing, I suppose, happened formerly amongst the gods, which made Homer believe that Jove {89} rained blood at the death of Sarpedon.

When we returned from our pursuit of the enemy we set up two trophies; one, on account of the infantry engagement in the spider's web, and another in the clouds, for our battle in the air. Thus prosperously everything went on, when our spies informed us that the Nephelocentaurs, who should have been with Phaeton before the battle, were just arrived: they made, indeed, as they approached towards us, a most formidable appearance, being half winged horses and half men; the men from the waist upwards, about as big as the Rhodian Colossus, and the horses of the size of a common ship of burthen. I have not mentioned the number of them, which was really so great, that it would appear incredible: they were commanded by Sagittarius, {90a} from the Zodiac. As soon as they learned that their friends had been defeated they sent a message to Phaeton to call him back, whilst they put their forces into order of battle, and immediately fell upon the Selenites, {90b} who were unprepared to resist them, being all employed in the division of the spoil; they soon put them to flight, pursued the king quite to his own city, and slew the greatest part of his birds; they then tore down the trophies, ran over all the field woven by the spiders, and seized me and two of my companions. Phaeton at length coming up, they raised other trophies for themselves; as for us, we were carried that very day to the palace of the Sun, our hands bound behind us by a cord of the spider's web.

The conquerors determined not to besiege the city of the Moon, but when they returned home, resolved to build a wall between them and the Sun, that his rays might not shine upon it; this wall was double and made of thick clouds, so that the moon was always eclipsed, and in perpetual darkness. Endymion, sorely distressed at these calamities, sent an embassy, humbly beseeching them to pull down the wall, and not to leave him in utter darkness, promising to pay them tribute, to assist them with his forces, and never more to rebel; he sent hostages withal. Phaeton called two councils on the affair, at the first of which they were all inexorable, but at the second changed their opinion; a treaty at length was agreed to on these conditions:—

The Heliots {92} and their allies on one part, make the following agreement with the Selenites and their allies on the other:—"That the Heliots shall demolish the wall now erected between them, that they shall make no irruptions into the territories of the Moon; and restore the prisoners according to certain articles of ransom to be stipulated concerning them; that the Selenites shall permit all the other stars to enjoy their rights and privileges; that they shall never wage war with the Heliots, but assist them whenever they shall be invaded; that the king of the Selenites shall pay to the king of the Heliots an annual tribute of ten thousand casks of dew, for the insurance of which, he shall send ten thousand hostages; that they shall mutually send out a colony to the Morning-star, in which, whoever of either nation shall think proper, may become a member; that the treaty shall be inscribed on a column of amber, in the midst of the air, and on the borders of the two kingdoms. This treaty was sworn to on the part of the Heliots, by Pyronides, {93} and Therites, and Phlogius; and on the part of the Selenites, by Nyctor, and Menarus, and Polylampus."

Such was the peace made between them; the wall was immediately pulled down, and we were set at liberty. When we returned to the Moon, our companions met and embraced us, shedding tears of joy, as did Endymion also. He intreated us to remain there, or to go along with the new colony; this I could by no means be persuaded to, but begged he would let us down into the sea. As he found I could not be prevailed on to stay, after feasting us most nobly for seven days, he dismissed us.

I will now tell you every thing which I met with in the Moon that was new and extraordinary. Amongst them, when a man grows old he does not die, but dissolves into smoke and turns to air. They all eat the same food, which is frogs roasted on the ashes from a large fire; of these they have plenty which fly about in the air, they get together over the coals, snuff up the scent of them, and this serves them for victuals. Their drink is air squeezed into a cup, which produces a kind of dew.

He who is quite bald is esteemed a beauty amongst them, for they abominate long hair; whereas, in the comets, it is looked upon as a perfection at least; so we heard from some strangers who were speaking of them; they have, notwithstanding, small beards a little above the knee; no nails to their feet, and only one great toe. They have honey here which is extremely sharp, and when they exercise themselves, wash their bodies with milk; this, mixed with a little of their honey, makes excellent cheese. {94} Their oil is extracted from onions, is very rich, and smells like ointment. Their wines, which are in great abundance, yield water, and the grape stones are like hail; I imagine, indeed, that whenever the wind shakes their vines and bursts the grape, then comes down amongst us what we call hail. They make use of their belly, which they can open and shut as they please, as a kind of bag, or pouch, to put anything in they want; it has no liver or intestines, but is hairy and warm within, insomuch, that new-born children, when they are cold, frequently creep into it. The garments of the rich amongst them are made of glass, but very soft: the poor have woven brass, which they have here in great abundance, and by pouring a little water over it, so manage as to card it like wool. I am afraid to mention their eyes, lest, from the incredibility of the thing, you should not believe me. I must, however, inform you that they have eyes which they take in and out whenever they please: so that they can preserve them anywhere till occasion serves, and then make use of them; many who have lost their own, borrow from others; and there are several rich men who keep a stock of eyes by them. Their ears are made of the leaves of plane-trees, except of those who spring, as I observed to you, from acorns, these alone have wooden ones. I saw likewise another very extraordinary thing in the king's palace, which was a looking-glass that is placed in a well not very deep; whoever goes down into the well hears everything that is said upon earth, and if he looks into the glass, beholds all the cities and nations of the world as plain as if he was close to them. I myself saw several of my friends there, and my whole native country; whether they saw me also I will not pretend to affirm. He who does not believe these things, whenever he goes there will know that I have said nothing but what is true.

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