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This is a translation of Photius' epitome of Antonius Diogenes' novel On the Wonders Beyond Thule, chapter 166 in Photius' Library.


166Read by Antonius Diogenes The incredible wonders beyond Thule, in twenty-four books. The work is a novel; the style is clear and of such a purity that the clarity never leaves anything to be desired, even in the digressions. In the thought, it is most agreeable as, so close to the myths and incredible wonders, it gives to the material of the story a fashion and arrangement which is absolutely believeable.

The story begins with a man called Dinias who, during a voyage of exploration, is cast away with his son Demochares, far from his country. They crossed Pontus, passed by the edges of the Caspian or Hyrcanian Sea, and arrived at the Riphaean mountains and the sources of the Tanais. Then because of the great cold they make a half-turn towards the Scythian Sea and travel East; they arrive in the land where the sun rises; from there, they make a tour of the exterior sea spending much time and often getting lost; during which they meet Carmanians, Meniscians and Azoulians.

They arrive in the island of Thule which they consider at the time a stage on their journey. In this island of Thule, Dinias forms a relationship with a woman called Dercyllis with whom he falls in love; she came from Tyre and was the daughter of a notable family; she lived with her brother called Mantinias. Dinias, in his discussions with her, learns that the wanderings of the brother and the sister and all their misfortunes are caused by Paapis, an Egyptian priest. His country had been devastated and he had emigrated to Tyre; received by the parents of the brother and sister, Dercyllis and Mantinias, he appeared initially full of good intentions towards his benefactors and all their house; but then he did much evil to this house, the children and their parents. After misfortune which struck them, the girl was taken to Rhodes along with her brother; from there, she went away, wandering, in Crete, then to the land of the Tyrrhenians, then, from there, to those called Cimmerians; there, she saw Hades and learned enormous amounts about what occurs there; she was instructed by Myrto, her own maidservant, who was long dead and returned from to death to teach her mistress.

Then begins the account given by Dinias to a certain Cymbas, originally from Arcadia, whom the Arcadian League had sent to Tyre to ask Dinias to return with him to his country. But, as the weight of age prevented this, he recounts instead all he has seen himself in his journeys, what he has learned from other witnesses and that which he knows from the account of Dercyllis in Thule, i.e. her travels which have been mentioned, and how, after her return from Hades with Ceryllos and Astraios, since she was already separated from her brother, she had arrived with them at the tomb of the Siren; she tells how she herself, in her turn, heard what was said by Astraios about Pythagoras and Mnesarch, that which Astraios himself had heard said by Philotis and the fabulous spectacle which appeared before their eyes and finally what Dercyllis, returned from her own peregrinations, told him. By chance she arrived in a town in Spain whose inhabitants could see at night, but were blind each day ; she reports what Astraios, while playing the flute, did to the enemies of those people. Relaxed and careless, they fell to the Celts, a cruel and stupid tribe; they escaped by horse; she relates the adventures which happened to them with these horses which changed color. They arrived in Aquitain and the honors are reported which were given to Dercyllis and Ceryllos but especially to Astraios, because of his eyes which, dilating and narrowing, announced the phases of the moon; it put an end to the quarrel of the kings of this country in this matter: they were two and they followed one another mutually according to the phases of the moon. This is why the people of this country were delighted by the presence of Astraios and his friends.

Then follows the account of all that Dercyllis saw and endured further. She lived among the Artabres, a people where the women fight while the men keep house and deal with womans' work. Then follows what happened to them, to her and Ceryllos, among the people of Astures and the adventures of Astraios in particular; while, beyond any hope, Ceryllos and Dercyllis escaped many dangers, at Astures, Astraios did not avoid the punishment which was owed him for an old fault; but without delay he was first saved from danger, then cut up.

Then is told what she saw in her journey in Italy and Sicily; arrived at Eryx, the chief town of Sicily, she was stopped and led to Enesidemus, then head of the Leontins.

There she found once more this thrice-detestable Paapis who lived with the tyrant and, in this unexpected misfortune, she found an unexpected consolation : her brother Mantinias. He had wandered much; he had seen incredible spectacles concerning men and other beings, the sun itself and the moon, the planets and the islands especially. He told them to her, thus providing her with an inexhaustible matter of marvellous accounts which she will tell later to Dinias, who reunites them and who is supposed to tell this to the Arcadian, Cymbas.

Then, Mantinias and Dercyllis, on their departure from the Leontins, stole the leather bag of Paapis and the books which it contained, and his box of herbs; they embarked for Rhegium and from there for Metaponte, where Astraios found them and announced to them that Paapis followed them closely. They passed among the Thracians and Massagetes with Astraios, who returned to his friend Zamolxis; the account details all that happens during this voyage, how Astraios met Zamolxis among the Getes, who already regarded him as a god, and what Dercyllis and Mantinias requested Astraios to say and obtain for them. There, an oracle announced to them that their destiny was to go to Thule; they would return to their country later. But, before, they would know misfortune and, to requite their impiety however involuntary towards their parents, their existence would be shared between life and death: they would live during the night, but would be corpses every day. After having received this oracle, they left the country and left Astraios with Zamolxis, honoured by the Getes. The account reports all the wonders in the North which they saw and heard.

All these journeys Dinias heard told at Thule by Dercyllis; now are presented the stories recounted by the Arcadian Cymbas. Then it reports that Paapis, following the trail of the companions of Dercyllis, caught up with them in the isle by an artifice of magic and cursed them with a glamour to die during the day and live again the night following. He afflicted this torment on their publicly spitting in his face. Throuscan, an inhabitant of Thule, ardently taken with Dercylis, when he saw his lobe fall under the stroke of torment inflicted by Paapis, was very angry ; he brutally attacked the priest and in a moment killed him with a blow of his sword; this was the only way he could find to put a limit to these innumerable misfortunates. And as Dercyllis appeared dead, Throuscan killed himself over her body.

All these adventures and many others which are like them, the funerals of the dead, their exit from the tomb, the love-affairs of Mantinias and what followed from them as well as the other similar journeys which happened in the isle of Thule, Dinias, who learned them from the mouth of Dercyllis, is now presented in the process of retelling them for the Arcadian Cymbas. And so closes the twenty-third book of Antonius Diogenes on the marvels to be found beyond Thule without the work offering anything about Thule except the little information furnished at the beginning.

The twenty-fouth book presents Azoulis as narrator and Dinias reunites the stories of Azoulis to the fables recounted above by Cymbas. He tells how Azoulis discovered the type of enchantment by which Paapis had ensorcelled Dercyllis and Mantinias to make them live during the day and be corpses at night, how he delivered them from the spell after having discovered the secret of this punishment and of the cure at the same time in Paapis' own bag which Mantinias and Dercyllis carried with them. He discovers, moreover, how Dercyllis and Mantinias delivered their parents from the terrible evil; Paapis had led them, by tricks and under a pretext that it would benefit them, to make them remain a long time extended as if dead.

Following this discovery, Dercyllis and Mantinias hurry home to resuscitate and save their parents. Dinias, with Carmanes and Meniscos (Azoulis goes elsewhere), continues his course towards the regions situated beyond Thule; it is during this that he sees the unbelievable marvels which happen beyond Thule and which he now is supposed to tell to Cymbas. He says he has seen what the astronomers teach, for example that it is possible that some people live under the artic pole, where a night lasts a month, or much shorter or longer, a night of six months and, what is most extraordinary, a night of a year; that it is not only the night which reaches these durations, but the day knows an analogous phenomenon.

He pretends to have seen other strangeness of the same genre and he makes an extraordinary story about some men and about certain wonders of another sort which he saw and which no-one, he says, could have seen nor heard tell of nor imagined. But what is most incredible than all is that in journeying toward the north, they arrived near the moon, which resembled a shining land; arrived there, they saw what must normally be seen by those who imagine such exaggerated inventions.

He then says that the Sibyl performed a divination with Carmanes. He recounts after that how each made personal prayers; each of the others saw their dreams come true. For him, when he woke up after his prayer, he was discovered at Tyre in the temple of Heracles. He got up, found that Dercyllis and Mantinias had completed their adventure happily; they had delivered their parents from their long sleep or rather from death and, as for the rest, they were happy.

See what Dinias says to Cymbas; he presented him with tablets of cypress and made them ready in a manner learned from Erasinides of Athens, the companion of Cymbas, who knew the art of letters. He also showed them to Dercyllis – it was her, in fact, who brought the tablets – and he ordered Cymbas to tell his story twice: he would keep one copy and the other, when they died, Dercyllis would place in a coffer and deposit it in her tomb.

And, in fact, Diogenes, who was also called Antonius and who has told the story of Dinias recounting all these marvels to Cymas, wrote at the same time to Faustinus that he was in the process of composing a work on the marvels to be found beyond Thule, and that he dedicated his romance to his sister Isidora, who loved this sort of book. On the other hand, he is called the narrator of an ancient intrigue and even while inventing these incredible and untrue stories, he pretends to use the testimony of older authors on the fables he tells; it is on these witnesses he would throw the responsibility for all the mischief in the story he wrote; he even cites at the head of each book the authors who have treated the subject before him so that his incredible stories do not lack the air of witnesses.

At the head of his book, he writes a letter to his sister Isidora; there he attests that it is to her that he dedicated these works; but at the same time he introduces Balagros, who writes to his wife, named Phila, daughter of Antipater; he writes that, when Tyre was taken by Alexander, the king of Macedon, and much of it destroyed by fire, a soldier came to find Alexander to reveal to him, he says, a strange marvel visible in the town. The king took along with him Hephaestion and Parmenion; they followed the soldier and discovered stone coffins in some underground chambers. One carried as epitaph: "Lysilla lived thrity-five years"; another: "Mnason, son of Mantinias, lived sixty-six years, then seventy-one"; another: "Aristion, son of Philocles, lived forty-seven years, then fifty-two"; another: "Mantinias, son of Mnason, lived forty-two years and seven hundred and six nights"; another: "dercyllis, daughter of Mnason, lived thrity-none years and seven hundred and sixty nights"; the sixth coffin said: "Dinias the Arcadian lived one hundred and twenty-five years".

After standing perplexed before these inscriptions, apart from that of the first tomb which was plain, they found near a wall a small coffer of cypress wood carrying the inscription: "Stranger, whoever you are, open to learn what astonished you". The companions of Alexander opened therefore the box and found the tablets of cypress which Dercyllis, no doubt, had deposited there following the instructions of Dinias.

This is what Balagros wrote in the letter to his wife where he says that he transcribed the tablets of cypress to send them to her. From this the text passes to the reading and transcription of the tablets of cypress, one sees Dinias recounting to Cynibas what was said above. See therefore in what manner and on what subject Antionius Diogenes has composed and invented this romance.


According to all appearance, he is earlier in time than the authors who have imagined fictions of this kind, i.e. Lucian, Lucius, Iamblicus, Achilles Tatius, Heliodorus and Damascius. In fact this story seems to have been the source of the True History of Lucian, of the Metamorphoses of Lucius and even for the histories of Sinonis and Rhodanes, of Leucippe and Clitophon, of Chariclea and Theagenes, for the inventions in their wandering journeys, their loves, their departures, their dangers, Dercyllis, Ceryllos, Throuscan and Dinias seem to have furnished the models.

At what era to situate the career of the father of similar inventions, Antonius Diogenes, I can say nothing more certain; all the same it may be conjectured that he is not far from the era of king Alexander. He cites himself an author more ancient than himself, a certain Antiphanes who, he says, also was involved with marvellous stories of the same genre.

In the story, particularly, as in fabulous fictions of the same kind, there are two considerations most useful to notice. The first is that they show that evildoers, even if they seem to escape a thousand times, always get their punishment; the second, that they show many innocents placed in great danger often saved against all hope.

Sir Graham