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From the wanderings of Apollonius:

IT is now time to notice the river Hyphasis, and to ask what is its size as it traverses India, and, what remarkable features it possesses. The springs of this river well forth out of the plain, and close to its source its streams are navigable, but as they advance they soon become impossible for boats, because spits of rock alternating with one another, rise up just below the surface; round these. the current winds of necessity, so rendering the river unnavigable. And in breadth it approaches to the river Ister, and this is allowed to be the greatest of all the rivers which flow through Europe. Now the woods along the bank closely resemble those of the river in question, and a balm also is distilled from the trees, out of which the Indians make a nuptial ointment; and unless the contracting parties to the wedding have besprinkled the young couple with this balm, the union is not considered complete nor compatible with Aphrodite bestowing her grace upon it. Now they say that the grove in the neighbourhood of the river is dedicated to this goddess, as also the fishes called peacock fish which are bred in this river alone, and which have been' given the same name as the bird, because their fins are blue, and their scales spotty, and their tails golden, and because they can fold and spread the latter at will.

There is also a creature in this river which resembles a white worm. By melting down they make an oil, and from this oil, it appears, there is given off a flame such that nothing but glass can contain it. And this creature may be caught by the king alone, who utilises it for the capture of cities; for as soon as the fat in question touches the battlements, a fire is kindled which defies all the ordinary means : devised by men against combustibles.

AND they say that wild asses are also to be captured in these marshes, and these creatures have a horn upon the forehead, with which they butt like a bull and make a noble fight of it; the Indians make this horn into a cup, for they declare that no one can ever fall sick on the day on which he has drunk out of it, nor will any one who has done so be the worse for being wounded, and he will be able to pass through fire unscathed, and he is even immune from poisonous draughts which others would drink to their harm.  Accordingly, this goblet is reserved for kings, and the king alone may indulge in the chase of this creature.

And ../apollonius says that he saw this animal, and admired its natural features; but when Damis asked him if he believed the story about the goblet, he answered: "I will believe it, if I find the king of the Indians hereabout to be immortal; for surely a man who can offer me or anyone else a draught potent against disease and so wholesome, he not be much more likely to imbibe it himself, and take a drink out of this horn every day even at the risk of intoxication? For no one, I conceive, would blame him for exceeding in such cups."

AT this place they say that they also fell in with a woman who was black from her head to her bosom, but was altogether white from her bosom down to her feet; and the rest of the party fled from her believing her to be a monster, but ../apollonius clasped the woman by the hand and understood what she was; for in fact such a woman in India is consecrated to Aphrodite, and a woman is born piebald in honour of this goddess, just as is Apis among the Egyptians.

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Kent Steadman Editor

Member, Internet for the Fine Arts