Home | Texts by category | | Quick Search:   
Works by Herodotus
Pages of Melpomene

Previous | Next


like lizards, ostriches, and little snakes, each with a single horn.
All these animals are found here, and likewise those belonging to
other countries, except the stag and the wild boar; but neither stag
nor wild-boar are found in any part of Libya. There are, however,
three sorts of mice in these parts; the first are called two-footed;
the next, zegeries, which is a Libyan word meaning "hills"; and the
third, urchins. Weasels also are found in the Silphium region, much
like the Tartessian. So many, therefore, are the animals belonging
to the land of the wandering Libyans, in so far at least as my
researches have been able to reach.
Next to the Maxyan Libyans are the Zavecians, whose wives drive
their chariots to battle.
On them border the Gyzantians; in whose country a vast deal of
honey is made by bees; very much more, however, by the skill of men.
The people all paint themselves red, and eat monkeys, whereof there is
inexhaustible store in the hills.
Off their coast, as the Carthaginians report, lies an island, by
name Cyraunis, the length of which is two hundred furlongs, its
breadth not great, and which is soon reached from the mainland.
Vines and olive trees cover the whole of it, and there is in the
island a lake, from which the young maidens of the country draw up
gold-dust, by dipping into the mud birds' feathers smeared with pitch.
If this be true, I know not; I but write what is said. It may be
even so, however; since I myself have seen pitch drawn up out of the
water from a lake in Zacynthus. At the place I speak of there are a
number of lakes; but one is larger than the rest, being seventy feet
every way, and two fathoms in depth. Here they let down a pole into
the water, with a bunch of myrtle tied to one end, and when they raise
it again, there is pitch sticking to the myrtle, which in smell is
like to bitumen, but in all else is better than the pitch of Pieria.
This they pour into a trench dug by the lake's side; and when a good
deal has thus been got together, they draw it off and put it up in
jars. Whatever falls into the lake passes underground, and comes up in
the sea, which is no less than four furlongs distant. So then what
is said of the island off the Libyan coast is not without likelihood.
The Carthaginians also relate the following:- There is a country
in Libya, and a nation, beyond the Pillars of Hercules, which they are
wont to visit, where they no sooner arrive but forthwith they unlade
their wares, and, having disposed them after an orderly fashion
along the beach, leave them, and, returning aboard their ships,
raise a great smoke. The natives, when they see the smoke, come down
to the shore, and, laying out to view so much gold as they think the
worth of the wares, withdraw to a distance. The Carthaginians upon
this come ashore and look. If they think the gold enough, they take it
and go their way; but if it does not seem to them sufficient, they
go aboard ship once more, and wait patiently. Then the others approach
and add to their gold, till the Carthaginians are content. Neither
party deals unfairly by the other: for they themselves never touch the
gold till it comes up to the worth of their goods, nor do the
natives ever carry off the goods till the gold is taken away.
These be the Libyan tribes whereof I am able to give the names;
and most of these cared little then, and indeed care little now, for
the king of the Medes. One thing more also I can add concerning this
region, namely, that, so far as our knowledge reaches, four nations,
and no more, inhabit it; and two of these nations are indigenous,
while two are not. The two indigenous are the Libyans and
Ethiopians, who dwell respectively in the north and the south of
Libya. The Phoenicians and the Greek are in-comers.
It seems to me that Libya is not to compare for goodness of soil
with either Asia or Europe, except the Cinyps region, which is named
after the river that waters it. This piece of land is equal to any
country in the world for cereal crops, and is in nothing like the rest
of Libya. For the soil here is black, and springs of water abound;
so that there is nothing to fear from drought; nor do heavy rains (and

Previous | Next
Site Search