Herodotus is full of wonderful things.
Aristeas, they say, was in lineage the equal or superior of any citizen in his town. One day he entered a fuller’s shop in Proconnesus and died there, so the fuller locked up his workshop and went to announce to Aristeas’ relatives that he had died. The news of his death spread quickly throughout the city, but a man of Cyzicus objected. he had just come from the city of Artace and he claimed to have just met and talked with Aristeas, who was on his way to Cyzicus. So he vehemently denied that Aristeas was dead. Meanwhile, the relatives of Aristeas went for his body at the fuller’s shop bringing along what they needed to take up the corpse for burial. But when the place was opened, Aristeas was nowhere to be seen, dead or alive. Seven years later, he appeared in Proconnesus, composed the verses that the Hellenes now call the Arimaspea, and, after he had finished them, disappeared a second time.
(Herodotus, Histories 4.14)
The Arimaspea detailed Aristeas’s travels in the far north among the cannibal Issedones, who tell him of the the one-eyed titular Arimaspi, locked in perpetual battle with the gold-guarding griffins, and the Hyberboreans, living with Apollo beyond the beyond. (As an aside, Herodotus also teaches us about Abaris the Hyberborean, who traveled with an arrow and ate no food.) Only two fragments of the poem remain, the more notable of which is quoted by Longinus:
A marvel exceeding great is this withal to my soul—
Men dwell on the water afar from the land, where deep seas roll.
Wretches are they, for they reap but a harvest of travail and pain,
Their eyes on the stars ever dwell, while their hearts abide in the main.
Often, I ween, to the Gods are their hands upraised on high,
And with hearts in misery heavenward-lifted in prayer do they cry.
(On the Sublime, 10)
What a fascinating character.
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