Yperboreon daumaue odos. The wonderful road of the Hyperboreans.
In the history of megalithic monuments of Dacia, an important place has a long uninterrupted series of several thousand boulders, or huge slabs, which stretched, until the 18th century, from Basarabia, through southern Russia, towards Crimea, out of which a few remains still exist today close to Chisineu. The learned Domn of Moldova, Dimitrie Cantermir, wrote around 1716 the following, regarding this (Descriptio Moldaviae, ed. 1872, p.15): “Not far from Chisineu, a little town near the river Bac, can be seen a series of very large slabs, arranged in a straight line in such a way, as if they might have been placed there by man’s hand. But what makes us doubt is, on the one hand, the great size of these slabs, and on the other hand, the length of the terrain on which they stand. In truth, some of these boulders cover a space of 3-4 ells (TN – approx. 3.5 to 4.6m) in width and length, and their line crosses the Nistru and stretches as far as Crimea. In peasant language this series of rocks is called the Keys of Bac (TN – or Straits), and the peasants, in their simplicity, say that this construction was made by smei (dragons), who had conspired to close the course of the river Bac. The poet Constantin Stamati, who lived at Chisineu, in a note written in Russian about the antiquities of Basarabia and published around 1850, communicates also the following important data regarding this megalithic construction: “About three versts (TN – cca 3.2km) south of Chisineu, can be seen a row of very large stone slabs, half stuck in the ground in a right line, which the locals call the Keys of the river Bac. This row of stones starts at the river Prut, built as a wall, passes through the woods of Capriana, and cuts across the whole of Basarabia. But the locals dig up these stones from time to time, so that the ancient wall is destroyed” (Hasdeu, Dictionarul limbei istorice si poporane, Tom. III. v. Bac, p.2795). And captain Zascuk, in the best statistical – geographical description of Basarabia, which he had done at the request of the Russian government, tells us the following: “From Chisineu, in the direction of Prut, through the woods of Capriana, a row of stone slabs half buried in the ground once stretched. Those slabs are still preserved in some places, and about others the peasants still tell that they’ve taken from them a few times, for their needs. I don’t think that somebody will ever try to prove that those stones once formed a compact wall, from behind which the ancient inhabitants have defended themselves against their neighbors’ invasions. Those stones followed a continuous uninterrupted route through woods, swamps and gullies. In all probability they served, like the earth walls, as boundary signs” Captain Zascuk also adds in a note: “In late surveys of some monastery estates in Basarabia, especially of those from the woody zone of the districts Chisineu, Orheiu and Iasi, rows of stone slabs, thrust in the ground and left there from ancient times are mentioned” (Ibid. III. p.2795-6). Finally, in a manuscript note, the Romanian patriot Alesandru Hasdeu from Basarabia, also states that he saw those “blocks of stone thrust into the ground” close to Chisineu on the estates Petricani and Ghidighis (Ibid. III. p. 2796).
From this positive data, transmitted by various authors and eye witnesses, it results that this monumental row of slabs thrust vertically into the ground, was nothing else than what in prehistoric archaeology is called an alignment, but of an extraordinary length, which stretched from Moldova along the valley of Bac, to far away towards east … towards Crimea, according to CanTumir. We have to state something else here, regarding the aspect and technical system of this megalithic construction. This gigantic series of several tens of thousands of blocks had not the character of a wall or of a defensive construction. Neither Prince CanTumir, nor the others who saw, examined and described this astonishing monument of antiquity, affirm that the slabs or monoliths which composed this megalithic line, had been arranged and tied together, so as to form a compact and impenetrable wall. Prince CanTumir calls them only “series maximorum lapidum”. Constantin Stamati calls them “a row in a straight line of very large slabs” and captain Zascuk, quite competent in knowing the character of defensive fortifications, declares very precisely: “I don’t think that somebody will ever try to prove that those stones once formed a compact wall; in all probability they served … as boundary signs”. By the nature of the terrain which it crossed, as well as by its direction from west to east, this long series of rough stone slabs, thrust into the ground of the wild deserted places of ancient Scythia, was not made in order to prevent an invasion.
We are now presented with the important question, which was the origin and which was the destination of this marvelous megalithic work? We find a very precious mention of this incomparable monument of prehistoric antiquity with Quintus Curtius Rufus, one of the Roman historians, who probably lived at the time of Vespasian (lib. VII. Cap.7). Based on Greek sources, a large part of which we don’t have any more today, Quintus Curtius Rufus had composed a work in ten books “De gestis Alexandri Magni”, in which he tells us that king Alexander, encouraged by his successes in Asia, after defeating the Persians, Bactrians and other barbarian populations from near the Caspian Sea, decided to expand his expedition also to the Scythians of Europe; namely king Alexander believed that until the Macedonians defeated the Scythians of Europe, considered in those times as undefeatable, their Macedonian empire in Asia will have just a transitory existence. The defeated populations of Asia, some of which had already started to rebel, will despise the Macedonians; only if they also defeated and subjected the Scythians of Europe, the Macedonians will appear everywhere as the strongest. So, king Alexander arrived with his army at Tanais (Don), the great river which separated in those times the Bactrians from the European Scythians, and Europe from Asia. After Alexander founded a new city, called “Alexandria”, and made all the necessary preparations for war with the Scythians, he ordered his army to cross into Europe. The Scythians tried to oppose him from the other bank of the river Tanais. But Alexander and his army, despite the raining arrows of the Scythians and the great rush of the waters of the river Tanais, crossed with boats to the European bank. The Macedonian foot soldiers, leaving the boats, started the battle with lances against the riding bands of the Scythians, who occupied the bank, and the Macedonian cavalry, seeing that the Scythians began to turn their horses, threw themselves on them and broke their ranks. The Scythians, being unable to sustain the attack of the Macedonians, gave free reins to the horses and started to run away, while the Macedonian cavalry, on the order of Alexander, chased them for the rest of the day and passed even beyond the Posts of Liber Pater. These Posts of Liber Pater, Quintus Curtius tells us, “were some monuments, which consisted of blocks or large slabs arranged in a regular row, at small intervals one from the other”. So we have therefore a precise and positive text from the history of Alexander the Great; text which directly refers to this megalithic alignment from European Scythia .
[1. In Greek antiquity, some authors thought that the stela (columns), or the legendary Termini of Liber Pater, were situated in the extreme parts of India (Apollodorus Bibl. III. 5.2). To them Strabo answers (III.5.6) that in India nobody saw either the columns of Hercules, or of Dionysius (Liber Pater)].
It results then from this important historical document that this monumental series of stone blocks, whose eastern end reached almost to the Don, was the same megalithic construction as series maximorum lapidum, which according to CanTumir stretched from Basarabia through southern Russia towards Crimea. In ancient historical literature therefore this grandiose monument from the north of the Black Sea, composed of an extraordinary long series of rough monoliths thrust into the ground, had the name Termini Liberi Patris. And this Liber Pater of the Romans, as we saw in the last chapter, was the same legendary personality of Dionysos of the Greeks, and Osiris of the Egyptians (Herodotus, lib. II. c. 144; In a Roman inscription from Dalmatia, Isis and Serapis /Osiris, the universal Egyptian divinities, appear in Latin language as Libera and Liber (C.I.L.III.nr.2903). We find the same perfect identity between Liber Pater and Osiris in prehistoric traditions of the Romanian people. According to some of these legends, the huge plough furrow, which cuts from west to east the plains of Romania, Basarabia and southern Russia as far as the Don, had been made by the emperor of the Jidovs, Ostrea-Novac (Osiris), and according to other traditions, this furrow is attributed to Ler emperor (Liber Pater), who had come with countless, evil armies against the inhabitants of this country .
[2. In our folk incantations, Ler emperor (TN – Ler imparat) appears as a plundering, detested hero. “Ler emperor” (Osiris) of Romanian folk traditions is only a warlike figure, who wanders through the world, but totally distinct from “Ler Domnul”, the son of the holy Mother, or Apollo, of our religious carols. About the origin and archaic meaning of the word “ler” see the chapters referring to the first Pelasgian empire. We also note here that Liber Pater of the Romans appears also in an inscription discovered at Narona in Dalmatia under the form Leiber Patrus (C.I.L.III.nr.1784), name very close to the Romanian one, Ler imparat].
But which was the primitive destination of these famous monoliths arranged in a row, which stretched from Prut over Basarabia and southern Russia, towards Don, close to the point where one passed from Europe to Asia? In prehistoric antiquity the columns of rough stone also had a purpose of public use. They served in those remote times to indicate to travelers the direction through the less populated lands, and where other orienting signs were missing (Cartailhac, La France prehistorique, p.315).
[3. Near Tanais also existed, until the Roman epoch, the Altars consecrated to Alexander the Great, as monuments of his expedition in those parts. Those altars were situated, according to Ptolemy (III.5.12), lower than the turns of the river Tanais. Orosius mentions also near Tanais the altars and posts of Alexander the Great (Historiarum adversus paganos, I. 2)].
The entire vast area of southern Scythia formed until late, in historical times, a pastoral region, deserted spaces of limitless pastures, without cities, villages or forests, on which continuously wandered countless tribes of shepherds, transporting their households and families in carts, from one place to the other (Herodotus, lib. IV. 47, 61). “We have neither towns, nor cultivated fields, to be afraid that our enemies will lay them bare”, answers Idanthyrsus, the king of the Scythians, to Darius, the king of the Persians, when the latter asked him to either accept to fight, or bring him gifts, earth and water, as signs of surrender (Herodotus, lib. IV. 127). The Greeks, Curtius tells us, called the entire geographical region of European Sarmatia, the “solitudes of the Scythians”, and the part between the mouths of the Danube, Nistru and the Pontos, or the lands of lower Basarabia, had especially the name of the “desert of the Getae” (Strabo, Geogr. lib. VII. 3.14). Ammianus Marcellinus (1. XXII c.8) also calls the lands of Scythia solitudines vastas; and in “Divisio orbis terrarium”, antedating the 4th century ad, we read: Dacia. Finitur ab oriente deserto Sarmatiae (Riese, Geographi latini minores, p.17). On Tabula Peutingeriana, the region between the rivers Agalingus (Cogalnic in Basarabia) and Hypanis (Bug) is designated with the words sors desertus.
Through these solitudes, north of the Black Sea, Darius had lost his way, with his entire army; even the warring bands of the Scythians, who were chasing Darius, had lost their way (Herodotus, lib. IV. c.136). In those remote historical times, the only road which presented fewer difficulties for the communication between the Carpathians and the lands near the Meotic lake, was on the valley of Bac in today Basarabia, which then continued from the Nistru towards the Don. But even this road was only a simple road “per deserta”. On this way the invasion of the Neolithic tribes into Europe had taken place. Here was until late the great line of communication between east and west, between Asia, always poor, and opulent Europe. “Termini Liberi Patris”, these monuments of the ancient world, which stretched in a right line from Prut, along the valley of Bac towards Tanais, appear therefore as simple itinerary columns in the deserted wilderness of Scythia, with the purpose of indicating to the travelers and merchants the line of the great road between Asia and Europe .
[4. We find an important note with Pliny, who tells us (Hist. Nat. IV.17.6) that the Macedonians, in this expedition of theirs, had followed into the steps of Liber Pater and Hercules, or in other words, on the roads and guided by the remains of the monuments of those heroes. The Romans still had ancient traditions about the famous war deeds of Liber Pater, as results from another passage of Pliny (Hist. Hat. Lib. VII.1) regarding Pompei the Great].
Osiris, the king of the Egyptians, or Liber Pater, as the Romans called him, by defeating Typhon, had also conquered the lands from the north of the Black Sea. The ancient traditions and legends attributed to Osiris the building of this astonishing row of blocks thrust into the ground, between Asia and the Carpathians of Dacia. In the old prayers of the Egyptians, worded by the priests of Thebes and Memphis, for the divinization of Osiris, is mentioned as an eternal blessing, as one of the great achievements of this monarch, the opening of the roads in the region of the north, and the geography of antique times understood par excellence the country of the Scythians as the “region of the north” (Pierret, Le livre des morts des anciens Egyptiens, ch. CXLII). Even Herodotus tells us that the pillars or columns of Sesostris (the same with Osiris) still existed in the lands of Scythia even during his times (lib. II. 103). And the poet Ovid also mentions the triumphal roads of Bachus or Liber Pater, through Scythia (Fast. III. 714 seqq) .
[5. Erecting triumphal pillars or columns has been in use with the Romanians until the 14th century. The Polish chronicler Strykowski writes the following: The Hungarian king Carolus (Robert), starting a sudden war against the Valahian (TN – or Muntean, from Muntenia, another name for Valahia, or the Romanian-country) Domn Basaraba, was thoroughly defeated by the Munteni and Moldoveni by a stratagem, so that he and a few of his men could barely escape by running to Hungary. On the place of the battle the Valahian Domni built a church and erected three stone pillars, as I myself saw in 1574 when returning from Turkey, beyond the little market town Gherghita, two days of travel from the Transilvanian city of Sibiu, in the mountains (Hasdeu, Archiva istorica, tom.II.p.7)].
This monumental glorious road of Liber Pater had become legendary in Greek lands even much earlier than the times of Herodotus. The poet Pindar mentions in two odes of his this marvelous monument from the country of the Hyperboreans, settled at the north of the Lower Danube and the Black Sea even from the time of the Neolithic migration. In one of these odes the text referring to this long series of itinerary columns sounds like this: “Beyond the sources of the Nile, as well as in the country of the Hyperboreans, countless numbers of itinerary pillars exist, made of cut rock, 100 feet tall and arranged in a row, like monuments commemorating some glorious deeds” (Isthmia, V. 20).
[6. Pindar uses the word cheleudoi (sing. cheleudos), which is not a synonym of odoi, but has the meaning of itinerary pillars (posts). From a point of view of its origin and form, cheleudos is identical with Romanian “calauz” or “calauza”, word which in Romanian language is applied to persons as well as things, particularly to the posts which indicate the roads. In this text Pindar still tells us that the itinerary posts from the country of the Hyperboreans were 100 feet high. Taking as a basis for this unit of measurement the ancient Greek or Olympic foot of 0,382m, the height of these columns was 30,82m. In France, the menhir from Locmariaker at Morbihan, is 21m long. That some of the stone slabs or boulders, which formed the megalithic row near the river Bac, had colossal dimensions, results from the communication of the Russian traveler Sviniin, who had visited Basarabia around 1822. According to him, these stones had an extraordinary height, looking at some places like the crest of a mountain (Hasdeu, Dict. III. p.2796)].
This countless number or itinerary pillars mentioned by Pindar, assembled in a row through the country of the Hyperboreans, appear therefore to be the same megalithic alignment as the “series maximorum lapidum” about which CanTumir talks, and as “lapides crebris intervallis dispositi”, or “Termini Liberi Patris” of Quintus Curtius. In another ode of his, the poet Pindar praises once more this extraordinary monument form the country of the Hyperboreans. The following are his words (Pythia, X.29): “One would not find the road, worthy of admiration, which leads to the main place of assembly of the Hyperboreans, even if one traveled on sea or on land” .
[7. Pindar presents here the real fact of the triumphal road of the Hyperboreans, in a moral sense. He wants to say in these verses: the road to eternal glory and true happiness cannot be found, either traveling on sea, or on land. They Hyperboreans appear in ancient legends as the most just, the happiest and with a zest for life which went beyond the limits of old age (Pliny, lib. IV. 26. 11) ].
It results therefore, from these words of Pindar, that in the country of the Hyperboreans at the north of the Danube and the Black Sea, a monumental road existed even in his times; an astonishing road, due to the great number and colossal size of its itinerary pillars arranged in a row. The origin of this road, says Pindar, went back to some glorious deeds. So, it was a triumphal road as well, identical with “Scythici triumphi” of Liber Pater, mentioned by Ovid. Both poets, Pindar and Ovid, referred to the same war events, the same legendary monuments.
This marvelous sacred road from the north of the Lower Danube and the Black Sea, led, as Pindar tells us, to the common place of assembly of the Hyperboreans. It crossed therefore a large part of the vast territory of this people. As we know, the magnificent Temple of Apollo the Hyperborean was located in the island called Leuce or Alba (TN – White) near the mouths of the Danube. And on the lower parts of the river Prut, close to this religious metropolis of the Hyperboreans, a city called Piroboridava still existed even during the Roman epoch, doubtless the same capital, the same political center which Pindar calls Hyperboreon agon. The geographical location of Piroboridava, mentioned by Ptolemy (III.10.6.8) was almost identical with that of later Noviodunum, today Isaccea). Still on the eastern parts of Dacia, between the rivers Agalingus (today Cogalnic) and Hypanis (Bug), an extended population called “Dac(i) Petoporiani” appears settled during the Roman epoch, its evidently altered name of Daci Piroboriani, meaning Hyperborean (Tab. Peut., Ed. Miller, Segm.VIII.3.4).
We recapitulate: “The marvelous (miraculous) road of the Hyperboreans”, about which speaks Pindar, and along which were aligned a countless number of itinerary posts, appears to have been, on the basis of the geographical location of the Hyperboreans, as well as on the character and destination of these monuments, one and the same megalithic construction as the long line of stone boulders thrust into the ground mentioned by CanTumir and Quintus Curtius.
‘Exampaios, ‘Irai odoi. The sacred roads of the Scythians.
Herodotus, in his description of Scythia, mentions a region, north of the Black Sea, which the Scythians called in their language Exampaeos, word which in Greek translation meant ‘Irai odoi, meaning the Sacred Roads (lib. IV.c.52). These places called Exampaeos were, according to Herodotus, situated at a distance of four days navigation upstream the river Hypanis (Bug), and formed the frontier between the Agricultural Scythians, settled towards north, and Alazoni, with their dwellings towards south (Ibid.IV.c.81). But Herodotus doesn’t tell us anything about the origin and destination of these sacred roads of the Scythians. This sacred road, at the north of the Black Sea, was therefore almost on the same parallel with today Chisineu, having a direction from west towards east, or vice versa.
During Greek antiquity, the lines of communication established between the principal centers and the more important religious places were called “sacred roads”. Along these sacred roads were scattered in antiquity various sanctuaries and Temples of divinities, columns, statues, graves of heroes and distinguished people, and other commemorative monuments. On these roads took place the solemn processions of the clergy and the people, on them were sung the funeral hymns, the hymns of victory, of praises and of thanks to the gods. Finally, on these roads of public safety were transported the gifts of private persons, of the cities, and of the population to the sanctuaries of the gods.
Such a sacred road (odos iera) existed in antiquity between Athens and Eleusis, famous place for the Elysian mysteries, which it was believed to have been the residence of the great divinities Ceres and Proserpine (Pausanias, Descriptio Graeciae, I.36.37.38). Another sacred road was established between Elis, the capital of the province with this name, and Olympia, the plain famous for the Olympic games of ancient Greece (Ibid. V.c.25.7). Some of these sacred roads crossed entire provinces. Three sacred roads led especially to the famous sanctuaries of Delphi, which had such an immense role in the religious and political history of Greece. One of them started in the north, at the valley Tempe, passed over the entire Thessaly, over Doris and Locris and was used by the pilgrims coming from the parts of the north and Thrace. Another sacred road came from south-east, from Attica. It was built, as traditions say, by Theseus, and served for the sending of gifts to Delphi by the Athenians, the Peloponnesians and the Beotians. Finally, the third sacred road towards Delphi started at the port Crissa of the Aegean Sea, had a length of 80 stades and was used by the pious travelers who came by way of the sea (Pauly, Real-Encyclopadie, II Bd. 1842 p.915).
The same institution of the sacred roads is also found with the ancient Egyptians. Strabo, talking about the building of the memorable Temple of Thebes in Egypt, the one with one hundred gates, makes the following description of the Egyptian sacred roads: “In front of the Temples”, says he, “there is a space a jugerum wide or less (TN – approx. 25m), but three or four times as long, or even more. This space is called the sacred road (dromos ieros) and along this sacred road statues of sphinxes are aligned on both sides, situated at a distance of 10 ells (TN – cca 11m) from each other, so that a row of these statues is on the right side and another on the left side of the road; the number of these sphinxes is not limited, but depends of the length of each road, and at the end of these two lines of statues there is the vestibule of the Temple” (Geogr. lib. XVIII. p.28).
The same monumental aspect must have had also the Exampaeos, or the sacred roads of the Scythians. But what sort of religious monuments could decorate these sacred roads on the deserted expanses of land at the north of the Black Sea? The Scythians, as Herodotus also tells us (lib. IV.c.59), erected neither altars, nor statues or Temples to their divinities. The principal monuments which decorated the sacred roads of the Scythians could not be therefore but a long series of enormous tumuli, as well as the famous pillars of Liber Pater, considered sacred .
[1. Herodotus (lib. IV.c.81) mentions only one sacral object which was deposited at the Exampaeos. This antique monument was a copper crater of enormous size, which had a capacity of cca 600 amphorae, and the thickness of its sides was 6 fingers. The origin of this sacred vase went back, according to Herodotus, to the times of the Scythian king Ariantanus who, wishing to know the number of the Scythians in his empire, had given order that each should bring him an arrow tip. As a huge number of arrow tips was gathered, the king ordered to be made a copper vase out of them, which was consecrated as a monument in the Exampaeos].
There exists though another important geographical proof that this series of huge slabs stuck into the ground, which extended from Prut towards Crimeea and Tanais, was one of the Exampaeos, or the sacred roads of southern Scythia. The waters of Bac, along which this famous line of monolith monuments passed until the 18th century, flow into ancient Tyras, or Nistru, close to the Romanian village called today Gura-Bacului (TN – the Mouth of Bac). At a short distance, north from this point, there are today situated two villages; one on the right bank and the other on the left bank of Nistru, both having the same characteristic name of “Speia” (Charta Basarabiei, published by the Russian military topographical Section in 1868-69, col. XXIX. page 7). From a historical and philological point of view, these two topographical names of Speia appear identical with the Scythian term of Exampae-os, the last syllable forming here only a simple Greek suffix. These names of Speia prove at the same time that ancient Exampaeos of Herodotus, which formed the frontier between the Agricultural Scythians and Alazoni, stretched westwards beyond Nistru, to the valley of Bac .
[2. The name of the river Bac is not from the German Bach. The origin of this name rests with the ancient legend about the roads of Bach or Liber Pater through Thrace and Scythia. In the heroic folk songs of the Romanians is mentioned even today the “valiant Bac”, the “outlaw Bac”, who had established a watch service along the long road between Odriu (Adrianopole) and Diu (Vidin).
(The high emperor) heard, yes he heard, The name of Bac, of Bac the outlaw, of Bac the valiant, Who put watch on the road, from the hill of Odriu, to close to the Diu … (Teodorescu, Folk poetry, p.605)
Liber Pater or Osiris had in antique traditions and legends various other names, out of which one of the most known was Bachos. In old Slavonic language bikz means bull (Romanian bica, young bull). In Egyptian papyri Osiris bears also the epithet “bull” (Pierret, Le livre des morts, ch. I.1). According to the doctrines of the Egyptian priests, Osiris and Apis, the sacred bull, formed the same idea. Apis was only the living image of Osiris, or in other words Osiris was the god-bull (fertilizing). This is enough for the time being regarding the history and primitive meaning of the name Bachus].
We have therefore established the following positive fact about the history of the archaic times of Dacia: The long row of huge slabs stuck into the ground, which stretched from Basarabia towards Crimea and Don, represented in a remote antiquity as many sacred monoliths, or itinerary pillars, called in historical Roman literature “Termini Liberi Patris”, placed along the great road, which had no villages and cities in its proximity, which passed through the deserted regions of ancient Scythia, and which connected Asia to Europe. This sacred road, which began in eastern Dacia, presented a grandiose aspect and appeared with Pindar as one of the marvels of the prehistoric world (‘Yperboreon daumate odos). Its origin was connected to memorable war deeds. It was a triumphal road, identical with “Scythici triumphi” of Bachus or Liber Pater. According to Herodotus the name of this road in the language of the Scythian tribes was Exampae-os, word of Pelasgian origin, whose national form appears to have been “sam-biae”, meaning sanctae viae. (In Romanian language the word “sant” (TN – saint) becomes “sam” in compounded words, for example Sam-Petru, Sam-Medru).
Prince CanTumir has left us in “Descriptio Moldoviae” (Edit. 1872, p.24-25), written around 1716, the following archaeological notes about one of the most important and colossal megalithic statue of Dacia: “The highest mountain of Moldova is Cehleul (TN – today Ceahlau), and if this mountain were known to the ancient poets, it would have been as famous as Olympus, Pindus or Pelias. From its peak, which rises to a huge height in the shape of a tower, flows a little stream with a very clear water … In the middle of this peak can be seen a very ancient statue, 5 fathoms high (TN – approx. 9.00m), representing an old woman, encircled, if I am not wrong, by 20 sheep, and from the natural part of this feminine figure flows a permanent water spring. In truth, it is difficult to decide, if in this monument nature showed its play, or if it was formed as such by the able hand of some master. This statue is not thrust into any base, but it is one with the rest of the mass of the rock, but up from the abdomen and back it is free … Probably this statue has once served as an idol for a pagan cult … How high is this mountain can be ascertained from the fact that, when the sky is clear and the sun descends towards west, this mountain can be seen very clearly, in its entirety, as if it were close by, from the city Acherman (Tyras, Cetatea-Alba / TN – the White Citadel), which is 60 hours away. And on the hills around it can be seen traces of horses, dogs and birds engraved in rocks, in such a large number, as if an immense riding army has once passed by”.
The highest peak, or the dome of Cehleu mountain, seen from the eastern terrace. On the northern part are “The towers”. (From Jahrbuch d. siebenb. Karpathenvereines, XVI Jahrg. p.10). This strong massif, which dominates with its height all the mountains around, presents a quite curious shape. It certainly looks like a colossal idol. See the ceramic figures from Troy (Schliemann, Ilios, p.385-394) and the idol from Turdas (Hunyadm. Evk. I. Tab. IV. 1).
About this same holy mountain of prehistoric antiquity wrote around 1859 the distinguished man of letters of Moldova, Gh. Asaky: “The sailor on the Black Sea sees the high peak of this mountain from the Cape of Mangalia to Cetatea-Alba. The dweller on the bank of Nistru sees the sun setting behind the mass of this mountain, and the nomad shepherd, after spending the winter with his flocks on the plains of Bugeac, turns back towards home, eyeing the Pion peak or Cehleu, exactly as a ship orients herself by the light of the lighthouse, in order to enter into port” .
[1. Romanian folk legends tell that this simulacrum represents Baba Dochia (TN – Old woman Dochia) – the Great Mother plus the geographical epithet of Dachia – who, going up the mountain with her sheep on the first day of March, was caught on the peak of Cehleu by a great icy cold, was turned to ice together with the sheep, and later into stone (Asaky, Nouvelles historiques, 1859, I. p. 36, 43-50). Regarding this statue, we also find the following notes with Asaky (TN – translated from French): “Because of the fame of this place, a monastery was built here, which existed until 1704; but on the day of Easter … an avalanche starting from the top of Pion (Cehleu) peak, which dislocated and incorporated within it masses of rocks, engulfed the monastery with all its monks and gave a new shape to this place … At that time the simulacrum of Dochia, despite its solidity, also suffered a visible change: the upper part, which represented the head and the bust, crumbled, and can be seen at some distance on the ground; this mass, composed of small agglomerations could have figured the face and the hair. The trunk and legs are made of a rock massif of basalt, the gravel accumulated between the legs barely leave space for a man to pass; the rivulet Albu has its source there, as CanTumir also says. Other agglomerated rocks, representing sheep, encircle the simulacrum here and there, and on the side there is another quite large rock called the Eagle”.
According to Frunzescu, (Dict. Top. P. 356), the eastern part of Pion or Ceahleu, which is the highest, is called Panaghia or Fecioara (TN – the Virgin), and the western part is called Turnul Butului, or Turnurile Budei or Bughei (TN – the Tower of Butu, or the Towers of Buda or Bugha). The word panagia has the meaning of “saint” in Greek language, and this name shows that the simulacrum from the peak of Ceahleu had once a public cult. Like Panagia, the name Pion is also of Greek origin, being synonymous with chion, column, pillar, post.
Other simulacra about which we have information, are the following: At the sources of the river Domna (TN – the Lady), at the place called Valea-rea in the Muscel district, can be seen even today some stone figures in the shape of women, and the legend tells that 9 old women went on the mountain in the month of March, with their goats, but were changed into stone because of the cold. On the meadow at the source of the river Arges, there is a rock with the figure of a woman, called “Caprareasa” (TN – the Goat woman), who had been turned to stone by the harshness of the wind (Martian, Analele statistice, 1868, p.120). At the source of Gilort, in the Gorj district, there is another rock which represents a “Baba” (TN – Old woman) turned to stone because of the cold. Downhill from Tismana monastery, on the eastern coast of the valley, there is an archaic figure sculpted in rock on the edge of a precipice. The folk call it “Mama” (TN – Mother). On the territory of the villages Balta and Gornovita in Mehedinti district, there existed until recent times figures hewn in rocks, which represented Baba Dochia and her son Dragomir. The village Gornovita is situated on “Delul Babelor” (TN – the Hill of the old women) (Cf. Spineanu, Dict. Jud. Mehedinti, p.10,138). Close to Vama Buzeului, in the valley called Urlatore, there is the stone face of a woman called Baba Dochia, and from there springs a very clear water. At the village Caragelele, Buzeu district, there is a stone with the shape of a man, which the legend says had been thrown from the mountain by a daughter of giants. On the mountain Serba in Suceva district, at the place called Petrele rosii, there are rocks and stones which resemble men and animals. In Bucovina, near the river of Homor, a rock bears the name of “Dochia, the Virgin of the mountain”, who had been turned to stone (Saineanu, Studii folclorice, p.12). On the mountains near Piatra-Craiului, near Zernesci in Transilvania, there is a rock with the face of a woman. On the territory of the village Vaida-Recea in the county of Fagaras, there is a rock resembling the face of an old woman (probably the same as the former). On the mountain near the village Cetea in Transilvania, rise two high peaks, which look from afar like two monks, one of whom seems to hold a bowl in his hand. About another similar simulacrum writes Muller (Siebenburgische Sagen, p.168). In the county Bihor in Hungary, there is a legend about “Baba Dochia”, who turned to stone on the mountain “Gaina”, because of a cold icy storm. In Banat, on the mountain near Almas, there are two stone posts which, according to the folk legend, represent an old woman and her son turned to stone by cold (Schott, Walach Marchen, nr. 6, p.112-115, 330)].
This primitive statue from the highest peak of Cehleu mountain is not the only monument of megalithic sculpture in the countries of Dacia. The entire chain of the Carpathians, from the tablelands of Moldova to the north-west parts of Hungary, presents countless numbers of rough imposing columns, which rise on tops of rock masses and which show from a distance the forms and attitude of some human figures, about which the people says in its legends that represent the figures turned to stone of some mythical personalities.
On the road from Trebici towards Mezerici, writes the Moravian man of letters Schuller, can be seen a rock boulder with a particular shape, which seems to resemble a woman with a cover on her head. The locals call this stone figure “The old Mother” or “The Grandmother from Trebici”, and the legend tells us that this megalithic statue represented a very wise old woman, with the name of “Altruna” (Pelasgian divinity Larunda, the Mother of the Lari, Alraun in German legends), who dwelt close to this rock. She knew the healing power of plants and healed with kindness all the sick people who called on her. Later though, she became wicked and because of her greed for money she was turned to stone on the top of that rock (Sagen aus Mahren, 1888, p.164). Another rock with the figure of a woman called “The stone maiden” is in the forest of Rakwitz in Moravia (Ibid. p.167).
The general character of all these monuments of megalithic sculpture is that the types are hewn in gigantic style and in irregular shapes; that generally these simulacra have the appearance of human figures only when seen from a distance; that these primitive images appear everywhere only on tops of mountains or hills, on the coasts of valleys, around spring sources, around mountain passes and in the proximity of roads, from where vast perspectives open. In the most ancient times known by history, statues representing the faces of divinities in an artistic form did not exist, either in Greece, or in Asia Minor. For the pious feeling, but tough, of those times, a simple shapeless figure made of wood or stone, and symbolizing the divinity, was enough.
This is how a womanly figure, sculpted in rock in a primitive fashion, had become legendary even in ante-Homeric times (Homer, Iliad, XXIV.602 seqq). This huge statue, hewn in rock on the top of the mountain Sipyl in Asia Minor, represented Niobe, the daughter of Tantalus, the wife of king Amphion of Thebe of Beotia, the granddaughter of Jove and the titan Atlas, who supported with his head the pole of the sky. Niobe, proud that she was the happy mother of twelve children, and apart from this, a beautiful woman of divine origin, the wife of a rich king reigning over extensive territories, had the vanity to consider herself higher than Latona, the powerful and popular goddess, about whom she said with conTempt that she had only two children, Apollo and Diana. Aspiring to divine honors in Latona’s place, Niobe invited her people to desert the altars of this goddess, and stopped them from bringing her honors and sacrifices. Latona, resentful of Niobe’s insolence, and of her contesting her divinity, asked her children for help. They, in order to avenge the offense brought to their mother, killed with their arrows all the children of Niobe, while Niobe was turned into stone and taken by winds to the top of the mountain Sipyl in Lidia in Asia Minor, where this stone figure shed tears day and night (Apollodorus, Bibl. III. 5.6; Ovid, Metam. VI. 146 seqq). Pausanias writes about this legendary monument of prehistoric antiquity (lib. I c. 21.3; lib.VIII c. 2. 7): “I saw and examined this statue of Niobe, after I climbed on Sipyl mountain. It is a hard rock, with a precipitous edge. When someone is close to this rock, it doesn’t appear to have any shape of woman or human being who cries, but when someone looks at it from afar, it appears as a sad woman who cries. (It seems that in ancient times the primitive statue from Cehleu also “shed tears”: “Of grief over my young one, the rocks cry on Cehleu – Tocilescu, Material folcloric, I. 2. 1406). This colossal statue of Niobe on Sipyl mountain was therefore so ancient, that its cult had disappeared even around the beginning of the historical epoch, and all that had been preserved at the time of Homer was only a simple legend, about the turning into stone of an arrogant and impious woman. Also on the mountain Sipyl in Lidia, on the rock called Codin, there was during the Graeco-Roman epoch a primitive statue of “The Great Mother” or “The Mother of Gods”, which, as Pausanias tells us (lib. III. c. 22 4), was “the most archaic of all the simulacra of this divinity, belonging to the same epoch as the ancient figure of Niobe from another peak of Sipyl mountain. The Phrygians believed that the divinity of the Great Mother, sleeps over winter, and in summer wakes up (Plutarc, Oeuvres, Tom. XI, 1794, p.367). This has the same common idea with the Romanian legend about the turning to ice of the “Old women” (Babe). On the mountain Liban in Syria, according to Macrobius, there was an antique statue with a covered head, in a sad attitude, supporting her face with her hand covered in her cloak; when seen from the front, it seemed that it shed tears. Macrobius says that, with the Assyrians and the Phoenicians, the area above the earth, which we inhabit, is personified by the goddess Venus, and this statue from the mountain of Liban was once a simulacrum of the Phoenician Venus; at the same time it was a simulacrum of the earth, symbolizing our terrestrial globe during winter, when it is covered by clouds and without sun, when the springs, which represent the eyes of the earth, flow with more water, and the bare fields present a sad face (Cronosaliorum, lib. I. 21) In the town Paphos in Cyprus there was a renowned archaic Temple consecrated to the goddess Venus, and the statue of this divinity, according to Tacitus (Hist. II. 3), did not have a human form, but only a simple conical shape, wider at the base and pointed at the top, in the shape of a boundary post. We cannot know today the meaning of this shape. The inhabitants of the town Thespiae in Beotia, according to Pausanias (lib. IX. 27.1), venerated most among all the divinities, even from the beginning of their religion, Eros (Cupid), the most beautiful of all the gods, but his statue was only a rough stone, but very ancient. Hesiod tells us in his Theogony (v.497) about the stone which Rhea had presented to Cronos to swallow when she had given birth to Jove, that this new monarch of the ancient world thrust it later into the ground near the town Pytho, to be a future monument of veneration by the mortals. On the territory of the town Sicyon in the north of the Peloponnesus, as Pausanias writes (lib. II. 9.6), there was a simulacrum of Jove with the epithet Milichios, and one of Diana Patroa. Milichios was in the shape of a pyramid, while Patroa had the shape of a column. In the town Orchomenos in Beotia, the most ancient Temple was that of the Graces, and their statues were just some simple rough stones (Pausanias, lib. IX. 38. 1). Also near the town Gyteon in the Peloponnesus, the same author tells us (Ibid. III. 22.1) that there was even in his time a simulacrum in the shape of a rough boulder, and this stone was called in the language of the Doriens, Zeus Cappotas, meaning “Jove who rested”. Pausanias writes also the following: In the town Pharae in Achaia, near the statue of Hermes, there are some 30 stones stuck into the ground, having a tetragonal shape, which the inhabitants of Pharae venerate, giving to each stone the name of a god, and “once all the Greeks used only rough stones as simulacra, to which they gave divine honors” (Ibid.VII.22.4). At the village called Hyett in Beotia, there still existed in his time an ancient Temple, dedicated to Hercules, and a statue of this god, which was not an artistic work, but a simple rough stone, as dictated by the archaic rite (Ibid. IX. 24.3). Other sacred stones dedicated to Hercules existed in Spain, about which Strabo writes the following (Geogr. lib. III. 1.4): On the sacred promontory of Spain there is no sanctuary or altar consecrated to Hercules or other divinities. All what is there, are only some upright rough stones, set in some places in groups of three or four, and the people make religious processions to these stones, and following the custom of the ancestors, lay wreaths and make libations on them. Around 204 bc, the Roman state was in one of its most difficult situations. Hannibal, its sworn enemy, had been for 16 years on the land of lower Italy, together with his army of undisciplined mercenaries, and on another hand, an epidemic made ravages among the whole army of the Consul P. Licinius Crassus. By order of the Senate, the priests consulted the sibylline books, in which they found the following sentence: “When a foreign enemy will enter with war on the territory of Italy, he could be defeated and chased away if the Great Mother goddess was brought to Rome from Pessinus (Livy, lib. XXIX. c.10). The same idea of the sibylline books is presented by Ovid in the following form: “Mother is missing, Roman, go and search for Mother, and when she will come, receive her with clean hands” (Fast. Lib. IV.239). The legates appeared on the shores of Asia Minor with five big ships, each having five rows of oars, so that they will show the dignity of the Roman people. They presented themselves to king Atalus in Pergammon, who took them with goodwill to Pessinus, and gave them “the sacred stone, about which the inhabitants of that place said that it was the Mother of gods”. The legates transported it to Rome. This stone, Arnobius tells us (VII. 49), was not too big, had an angular shape on the edges, was hard, unpolished and represented a simulacrum with a less definite face. Regarding other rough simulacra considered as antique images of divinities, Lampridius writes that Heliogabalus had wanted to lift from the Temple of Diana at Laodicea the stones called “sacred”, and take them to Rome (Heliogabalus, c.7). It is without doubt that Laodicea of Syria is meant here, or that from “near the sea”, called in antiquity Ramitha (Stephanus Byzanthinus, Laodicheia), after the name of a shepherd Ramanthas (Raman athas), an ancient Pelasgian locality, to which the Romans accorded the prerogatives of a colony with Italic right. So, there existed in Roman religion, even during the time of the empire, a strong tendency of archaism in regard to the figure of divinities.
The legend of Ariadna turned to stone has a special significance for the history of the megalithic simulacra of Dacia. In the island called Naxos, situated close to Delos, there was during the Graeco-Roman antiquity a rock, which represented in its upper part the figure of a woman, in the same sad stance as the statue of Niobe on the mountain Sipyl. According to the Graeco-Roman ancient traditions, this stone figure represented beautiful Ariadna, the daughter of king Minos of Crete, crying after the hero Theseus, who had kidnapped her from her parents’ house, only to abandon her later on this solitary island. According to this tradition, Ariadna turned to stone and rock, more because of the harshness of the cold wind and the climate, than because of her sadness, which shows us that the essence of the Romanian legends about the turning to stone of the Babe in the mountains, because of the cold, is a tradition from the first times of antiquity. The poet Ovid presents this ancient legend in the following way (Heroid. X): “There was a mountain”, says Ariadna, “on the top of which were only a few trees, and on this mountain rises a rock, polished by the waves of the sea. I climb on this rock and measure with my eyes the vast expanse of the sea. From here, where very cold winds blow on me, I saw the sails of your ship, swelled by the dangerous wind (Boreas). Once I saw them, or maybe I thought I saw them, I was seized by shivers much colder than ice, and I got numb … With my eyes aimed towards the sea and turned to ice, I sat on the rock, and I turned into stone, exactly like that stone seat. Look at me now if you could, not with your eyes, by in your thought, how I sit on top of this rock, on which beat the restless waves of the sea”. The origin of this antique simulacrum from the island Naxos harked back to a race of people from the parts of the lower Danube. As Diodorus Siculus tells us (lib. V. 50), the island Naxos was inhabited in the beginning by some people whom the ancients called Thracians, migrated there from the empire of Boreas. But pre-antique Thrace included not only the eastern parts of Hem peninsula, but also the vast territories of Dacia and Scythia (Stephanos Byzanthinos, Schitai, ethnos Thrachion). The empire of Boreas was located at the north of the lower Danube (Diodorus Siculus, lib. V. 79), and had its centre in the Ripaei mountains, or Carpathians (Homer, Iliad, XV.v.171; Isidorus, Orig. XIII. 11.13; Stephanos Byzanthinos, ‘Ripaia oros ‘Yperboreon). So the island of Naxos had had in the beginning the same population as the island of Delos, near which it was located.
In conclusion: Even from the most remote times of prehistory, there existed in the eastern parts of Europe and western Asia, a type of megalithic monuments, archaic simulacra, some sculpted in live rock, on the tops or coasts of mountains and hills, others stuck into the ground as menhirs, or rough columns, near Temples and other holy places; monuments which, by the religious belief of the peoples of those times, represented certain divinities. Many of these megalithic simulacra had an extremely great age, so that the memory of their origin and cult had been lost even before the beginnings of Greek history; on the other hand, the time had erased from these stones almost all traces of human hand, like for example the statues of Niobe and Ariadna, and all that had been preserved in local traditions was only a confused reminiscence, a simple mythical legend .
[2. We also find traces of primitive statues of the Great Mother in the mountains of Western Europe. In Itinerarium Hierosolymitanum (Ed. Parthey, 263), a station called “Matrona” is mentioned in the Cotic Alps, which today separate Italy from France. This mountain called Matrona, as Ammianus Marcellinus tells us (XV. 10), formed the highest peak and the most difficult to climb in the Cotic Alps. Another geographical name of “Matrona” appears in ante-Roman Gaul. Cesar (B.G. I. 1) tells us that the rivers Matrona and Sequana separated the Belgians from the Gauls. Doubtless, the river Matrona was named as such after a simulacrum of the Great Mother, which had existed at its sources, exactly as in Romania, where such primitive statues (Babe) are mentioned at the sources of the rivers Ialomita, Domna, Arges and Gilort, and where one had probably also existed once at the sources of the river Hypanis or Bug in Scythia (Cf. Herodotus, IV. 52: mater ‘Ypanios].
The Hyperboreans in Apollinic legends.
In Hecateus Abderitas’ narrations we are presented with different accounts from the prehistoric geography and ethnography of Europe. Among these, the most important are the ones regarding the ethnic individuality and the abodes of the Hyperboreans in those times, and finally, the geographic notion of Oceanus, and what it meant in those primitive times of history.
The geography of ancient Egyptian and Greek theology doesn’t correspond any more to the geography of the post – Trojan epoch. A long series of prehistoric tribes and populations, which had still left a faint echo of their existence in the poems of Homer and Hesiodus, disappeared afterwards from the annals of the world. The same happened with the old geographic names. A great part of the prehistoric localities were later mistaken for the historic ones, others remained obscured and a mythical veil spread above them, while others still migrated from the Danube and the Euxine Pontos, northwards to under the Arctic pole, westwards to the Atlantic Ocean and southwards past the sources of the Nile, although these were unknown in the Greco-Roman epoch.
In this geographic confusion, that started even since Homer’s times, then was inherited and transmitted from authors to authors, our task to pinpoint and re-establish the geographic truth regarding such remote times, is not at all easy.
The Hyperboreans’ country, especially in that epoch, when their religion had started to have a decisive influence on Greek life, was, according to what the most important authors tell us, on the northern parts of the Lower Danube and the Black Sea.
According to Pindar (6th century bc), the most erudite poet of Greek antiquity, the Hyperboreans were the inhabitants of the banks of the Istru, or the Lower Danube. Apollo, the great and popular god of antiquity, whose priests, prophets, exorcists and pilgrims roved along the roads which led from the Hyperboreans to Delos, their hymns echoing in all the Temples, at all the sacrifices and on all the sacred ways; this beloved and powerful (Homer, Hymn. in Apoll. V.1-3) god of the ancient world, Pindar tells us (Olymp. VIII,46; Olymp. III, 14-17), had returned to his country from the Istru, in other words to the Hyperboreans, after building the walls of Troy, together with Poseidon and the mortal Aeacus. On another hand, Strabo says (Geogr. XI. 6.2) “The first men who have described the different parts of the world, tell us that the Hyperboreans dwelt above the Euxine Pontos, the Ister and Adria”. And finally, Clement the Alexandrine, who had a vast knowledge of the pagan Greek philosophy and theology, named Zamolxe, the philosopher of the Dacians, Hyperborean, meaning a native of the country of the Hyperboreans (Strom. IV. 213 / Apud Pauly, Real-Encyclopadie., IV. p.1394). A memory of the dwellings of the Hyperboreans, situated on the northern parts of the Lower Danube, has been conserved in the geographic nomenclature of Dacia, until late in the historic epoch. One of the most important towns of eastern Dacia, situated on the lower part of the river Hierasus (today Siret), had in Roman times the name of Piriboridava (Ptolemy, Geogr. Lib. III. 10), name which indicates that this town was, once upon a time, a principal center of the people, whom the Greek authors name Hyperboreans. The first dwellings of the Hyperboreans in prehistoric times were, according to the most important writers of antiquity, on the northern parts of the Lower Danube (according to Bessell, De rebus Geticis. P.39-40, the Hyperboreans dwelt in the beginning in the region of the Getes. According to Papadopol – Calimach, they dwelt in Dacia (the column of Trajan, An.V. 1874, p.172)
But which was the ethnic origin and character of the civilization of this memorable people from the prehistoric antiquity?
According to the traditions and historic data which we possess, the Hyperboreans, who figure in the holy legends of Apollo, appear as a branch of the great and powerful Pelasgian nation. Their pastoral and agricultural occupations, their social and religious institutions, are identical with those of the other Pelasgian tribes from the lands of Greece, Asia Minor and the Italic peninsula. The Hyperborean shepherds, Pausanias tells us, referring to those who, together with their flocks, had reached the southern parts of the Pindus, have founded the Oracle of Delphi, which in the beginning had surely quite a modest character, conform to their pastoral life (lib. X. 5.7). Apart from shepherding, their agriculture also flourished. Each year they sent to Delos gifts of fruit and of their first wheat harvest. The religious custom of the Hyperboreans to sacrifice to Apollo from their first harvest (frugum primitiae) had a Latin character (Festus, Ad v. Sacrima; Ovid, Metam. X. 433; Tibullus, I. Eleg. V. 24).
The Hyperboreans had a state, political and religious organisation. Their constitution was theocratic. Boreazii, or Boreas’ descendants, were at the head of the political government, and at the same time they were the great priests of Apollo. The Hyperboreans are considered by the Greek authors as a people with very pure mores, and with feelings of justice superior, for that epoch, to those of anybody else. Mela (III. c.5) calls the Hyperboreans “cultores justissimi”, and Hellanic calls them “people who practice justice” (Fragmenta Hist. grace. I. 58. fragm. 96).
The Hyperboreans present in everything the character of ancient Latin mores and beliefs. They are kind and hospitable, religious, superstitious, loving predictions (oracles) and exorcisms. They play the flutes, the bagpipes and the “cobzas”, during the religious ceremonies honoring their gods (they also have a college of the “cobza” players for religious ceremonies, which corresponds to collegium tibicinum of the Romans – Mommsen, Rom.Gesch. I. 1856. p.159). The tunes they play are sweet and harmonious. At the hecatombs or feasts thrown in Apollo’s honor, they sing continuously, with pleasant voices, praises to the god (Pindar, Pyth. X. 30). And during the great holly days of this god (starting with the spring equinox to the middle of the month of May), they dance the “hora” until late at night (Mommsen, Rom. Gesch. I, 1856, p.159). They are wealthy and lead a happy life. They cultivate also the sciences, especially theology, philosophy and poetry. They send to Greece their most cultured representatives.
In the genealogy of the prehistoric peoples, the Hyperboreans are shown as a Pelasgian branch. Their proto-father is Hyperboreos, son of Pelasg, the powerful king and patriarch of the entire Pelasgian nation (Pindar’s scholiast, Olymp.III.28 (Fragmenta Hist. graec.II,p.387)
But not only their national character is Latin, but their gods bear Latin archaic names: Aplu (Alb) , Latona (or Leta). Still Latin are the names of the prophets Olen and Abaris, to which we can also add Orpheus. Finally, the remains of the language we are left with from them, perpheres (gift bearers), Nereu (Negru, TN – black), Helixoea, or the island of the blessed, are also Latin.
[1. Apollo, an archaic divinity of the Lelegi (Pelasgian tribe) was called by them, and also by the Thessalians, Aplun (Tomaschek, Die alten Thraker, II. 48). The Etruscans called him Aplu and Apulu (Wissowa, Pauly’s Real-Encyclopadie ad. V. Apollo). Regarding the etymology of this name, the words of Festus are important: we say album…the Sabines said alpum. Romanians call the time between Easter and the Sunday of Toma “saptamana alba”, or “saptamana Albilor “(TN – the white week, or the week of the white ones) (Conv. Lit. XXI, p.355) and it has to be noted that the holly days of Apollo with the Hyperboreans, started at the same time of the year.
An archaic Romanian legend of the Apollinic cycle.
We hear from the village of Floresti, in the county of Dolj, the following legend:
A king had a daughter, as beautiful as “the white world” (TN – lumea alba). One could look at the sun, but not at her face. A dragon kidnapped the girl, while she strolled through the woods, put her on his horse, flew with her far away and sank into a deep and wide sea, where there were some beautiful islands, covered with short and thick grass. The kidnapped girl fell pregnant by the dragon, whose palace was in the sea. When close to giving birth, the dragon was killed by Fat – Frumos (TN- the Handsome Youth) and the girl found herself and also the palace, on the beautiful island of the sea. Here on the island she gave birth to two children so beautiful, it seemed they had gold on them. Once, when the children had grown a little, they crawled away from their mother, who had fallen asleep. A servant of the king (the girl’s father), who was grazing the cattle near the sea shore, saw the two kids playing in the sand with some golden apples. “The sun stayed in his way, looking at them, and the moon also”. The servant told the king about seeing those children, so the king went to see them himself, and was astonished by their beauty. Then, getting close and touching them with his hand, one became white with fright and the other black. The white one was called Albul, and the black one Negrul. The white one, while hold in the kings’ arms, jumped up and burst out (this legend, told by the teacher G.Scantea, who collected it from an old peasant, continues only about the second son, called Negru).
When examining the mythical essence of this legend, we see that it presents in its entirety the character of the Apollinic legends. In Romanian tradition, Albul, the beautiful and golden child (Apollo), appears as the son of a maritime divinity (Neptune), and the most archaic Pelasgian legend says the same.
Aristotle writes that Greek antiquity knew four gods by the name of Apollo, or in other words, there were four legends about the genealogy of the solar god. The first Apollo, says he, was the son of Neptune and Minerva, the second was the son of Corybas of Crete, the third was Zeus’s son and the fourth, or Apollo of Arcadia, was the son of Silen, and the Arcadians called him “the shepherd god” (Fragm. Hist. graec. II. p.190).
According to Apollodorus (Bibl. I. 7. 4), the first two sons of Neptune were called Opleus and Nereus. It’s beyond any doubt that the older form of these two names was Aplus and Nierus, meaning Albul and Negrul, exactly as in the Romanian legend. So, the Romanian legend, according to which Albul appears like the son of a maritime divinity, belongs to the oldest cycle of Apollinic legends. In the Romanian legend, exactly as in the genealogy communicated by Apollodorus, dominates the dualistic principle, with two opposite characters: one of the two legendary figures representing the light (Albul), and the other the dark (Negrul)].
The Hyperborean religion was Apollinic par excellence. Apollo, as a divinity of the Sun, was a lot closer to the needs of the Pelasgians’ life than any other god. Apollo, tells us Hecateus Abderitas, is venerated by them more than any other god. On the other hand, the entire character of the Apollinic religion, as it is manifested in Greece, depict the Pelasgian life and beliefs. Apollo of Delos, Delphi, Athens and the lands of Troy, is neither a Greek god, nor Egyptian, but a divinity with national Pelasgian legends, dogmas and rites.
Apollo is venerated especially in Pelasgian lands, in Thessaly, Phocis, Beotia, Attica, Arcadia, Crete and the lands of Troy. He is the god who protects the flocks and the shepherds. On the plains of Thessaly, Apollo guards the cattle herds of king Admet of Pherae (Apollodorus, Bibl. I. 9.15, III. 10.4), while in the mountains of Troy he serves as a shepherd for king Laomedon, Priam’s father (Iliad, XXI, 441-44). Together with Neptune he builds the walls of Pelasgian Troy (Iliad. VII. 452, XXI, 515), and helps king Alcatous to build the Pelasgian citadel of Megara (Pausanias, lib.I. 42.2). He fights alongside the Pelasgians against their enemies. He urges the Trojans to fight the Greeks and wishes the victory to be theirs (Homer, Iliad, IV, 507; VII. 21; Ovid, Trist. II.el.2.5). He often helps Aeneas or Hector in battle. And, when the latter hero goes to the battle field to fight against the Greeks, he takes this solemn vow in front of the Trojans and the enemy army: that if Apollo gave him glory, to kill whomever will come out to fight him, he would bring his opponent’s weapons inside blessed Ilium, and will hang them as trophies in the Temple of Apollo (Iliad, VII.51). And during this same war, Apollo directs Paris’ arrow on Achilles and kills him (Arctinus in Aethiopida / Homer, Carmina, Ed.Didot, p.583).
Apollo appears as the protecting god of the Pelasgians even when fate seems to persecute them wherever they turn, and part of them are forced to leave their old abodes in the Balkan peninsula. The Pelasgians, writes Macrobius (Cronos, I.7), chased from their dwellings from every side, gathered all at Dodona and consulted the oracle, in which part of the world should they settle; and the oracle told them to go to the country consecrated to Cronos, and there to offer tithes to Apollo, etc. Apollo is for Pelasgians the god of light, physical and spiritual; the god of shepherding, of agriculture, of health, of wars, of citadels and of divination (Calchas, Cassandra, Helenus and the Sybils had the gift of divination from Apollo).
As a physical type, he is of eternal beauty and youth. The archaic Apollo is shown on old Greek sculptures and paintings, with the curled locks and beautiful Pelasgian long hair, exactly as Romanian shepherds and peasants, from near the Retezat Mountains, wear even today. That’s why Homer (Hymn. in Apoll. V.134) gives him also the epithet “achersechomes” (intonsus). And our Romanian folk songs tell us also that the sun has radiant locks (ballad communicated from the village Resvad, Dambovita district).
‘Oceanus (the Ocean) in the old traditions.
In the Apollinic legends, near the pious Hyperboreans, and north of the Greek zone, appears also the archaic Ocean, which plays such an important role in the Urano – Cronosian theogony. Hecateus Abderitas tells us that Apollo’s island from the region of the Hyperboreans, was in the parts of the Ocean.
The word Oceanus did not have in the beginning the meaning which was later given to it by the Greek authors, or in other words, the primitive Ocean of the old legends is not the Ocean of the historians and geographers, beginning even with old Herodotus’ time.
At the time of Homer, the Greeks did not know the external sea, which today we call ocean. They had not explored westwards even the whole of the Mediterranean Sea. And as for the northern areas of Europe, their geographical notions had not extended in that epoch farther than the Black Sea and the Lower Danube. The world was not always known as it is today, and even in Herodotus’ time, a quite late epoch after all, the geographic Greek horizon stopped at the Lower Danube. “North of Thrace” writes Herodotus, “nobody can know what sort of people live; it only seems that beyond the Istru there is uninhabited, infinite land” (lib. V. c. 9).
On another hand, the word Oceanus is not even Greek (the Greeks had only the general term of Thalassa for the notion of sea). It belongs to the archaic Pelasgian lexicon, by its original form (aqua), as well as by the ending an – os. By its primitive meaning, the word Oceanus meant big stagnant water .
[1. In Romanian language the word ochiu (and more correctly ociu) has the meaning of locus paluster (Lexiconul de Buda) and lake (TN – lac)(Cihac, Dictionnaire d’etymologie Daco-Romane, I. 184). So the form Ocean appears only as an increase in meaning of ochiu, ociu, meaning big lake. According to Diodorus Siculus (I, 12. 5) the ancients understood by the word Oceane, humidity].
In the beginning the authors of antiquity used the word Oceanus as they had borrowed it from the Pelasgians, applying it exclusively to the Black Sea, which in a very remote prehistoric epoch, was only an immense lake, having no outlet to the Mediterranean Sea (Strabo, Geogr. I. 3. 4). Strabo also tells us (Geogr. I. 2.10), when speaking about the Argonauts sailing towards the land rich in gold (Colchis), that in that epoch the Black Sea was considered as another Ocean. He says that those who navigated on the Black Sea, considered themselves as having traveled as far from the inhabited world, as if they had gone beyond the Columns of Hercules, and everybody believed that this sea was the most vast among the seas, reason for which it had been given the name of Pontos. Even the archaic name Axenos (Axenus), given in the beginning to the Black Sea, was only a simple form of Greek pronunciation of the old Pelasgian word Ocean (Oceanus)(Strabo, Geogr. V. 3; Mela, lib. I. c.19). The antique etymologies which propose that Oceanus would derive from the adjective ochus, fast, and Axenus from the Greek word Axenos, inhospitable, have neither meaning, nor historical basis. On another hand we find in Gaul even in the 4th century ad, the form Accion ( = Ocean), used as a name for the vast lakes (Rufus Aviennus, Ora maritima/ after Mullerus in Cl. Ptolemaei Geographia, Ed. Didot, p.235).
This Ocean (or vast lake) of prehistoric geography, included not only the hydrographic basin of the Black Sea, but at the same time the wide, deep and slow course of the Istru, or the lower Danube. So, in the Argonautica of Apollonius Rhodius (Argon. IV. 282), a work of important Alexandrine erudition, the “wide and deep” lower Danube or Istru appears under the name of the Gulf or Horn of the Ocean (Keras Okeanoio).
But the name of Oceanus was applied exclusively to the lower Danube (Oceanus potamos), especially in the theogonic legends of Homer (Odyss. XII.1) and Hesiodus (Theogonia, v.242. 959), probably because this great river of the ancient world was considered the final left over of the great masses of water which had covered the basin of the Romanian country and Hungary in past geological epochs. This explains at the same time why the dwellings of the Hyperboreans appear to have been near the Ocean with Hecateus, while with Pindar they appear near the Istru or the lower Danube (Olymp.III.17).
We’ve therefore established that, from a geographical point of view, the Hyperboreans’ Ocean, about which Hecateus Abderita writes, is neither the Arctic Ocean, nor the Western Ocean, or other unknown or imaginary sea, but exclusively the sea located north of the Greek world, the sea which Herodotus names “the most admirable of all seas” (lib. IV. 85), which Pomponius Mela (lib. I.c.19) and Dionysius Periegetus (Orbis Descriptio, v. 165) name “immense sea”, which the Romanian folk traditions name the Sea of seas (Codrescu, Bucium. Rom. III. 139) and which is named “Mare majus” on the medieval geographic maps.
In this Ocean therefore, at the edge of the Greek known world, was the holy island of Apollo, which, as we shall see in the following chapters, presents itself in everything as the Leuce Island or Alba (TN – white), which later on was consecrated to the memory and tomb of Achilles.
The Celts near the island of the Hyperboreans.
In the Apollinic genesis we are faced with two more important questions of the prehistoric geography. The blessed island of Apollo, Hecateus tells us, is in the northern parts (understand the Greek zone) and namely facing the land of the Celts (Diodorus Siculus, lib.II.47). According to all the historical and geographical data, the Celts had immigrated to Europe from Asia only late, after the two big Neolithic currents. This warlike people had occupied in the beginning an important part of the vast lands from north of the Black Sea. Pushed afterwards by the new ethnic currents (German), which poured forth out of Asia towards Europe, they spread to different parts of Dacia, Pannonia and Germany, while some groups penetrated southwards, even during Pelasgian times, and settled sporadically as far as Beotia.
Diverse historical and geographical sources of antiquity mention those Celts from near the Black Sea. So, the renowned sophist Asclepiades of Thrace, who lived in the 4th century bc, shows the legendary Boreas (from the Rhipae mountains, the Carpathians), as a king of the Celts (Probus ad Virgil. Georg. II. 84 / Fragmenta Hist. grace. Ed. Didot. III 306; fragm. 28). This Boreas appears with other authors as king of the Scythians, and Hecateus Abderitas says that the Boreazii, or the descendants of king Boreas, are the rulers and great priests of the Hyperboreans, in the holly island of Apollo. The Agathyrses, renowned for their gold riches – a Tursene (Pelasgian) people – who in Herodotus’ times dwelt in today Transylvania – are considered by some Greek authors as Celts (Stephanos Byzanthinos, cf. Tacitus, Germania c. XXVIII. XLIII; Diefenbach, Origines Europaeae, p.139 seqq.). Finally, the renowned grammarian and poet Lycophron from Eubea, who lived in the 3rd century bc, tells us that Leuce island is situated in front of the mouths of the river named Keltos (Cassandr. V. 189 / Kohler, Memoire, p.544, 730), and under this name he understands the Istru, which came from the lands of the Celts, as Herodotus also writes. Diodorus Siculus also mentions the Celts, as living close to the Black Sea. He says “the Celts who dwell in the northern region, and in the lands near the Ocean and the Hercinic mountains, as well as all those who are scattered as far as Scythia, are called Galls. And of these, the ones who dwell under the Northern Pole and those neighboring the Scythians are the wildest… their power and savagery had become so renowned in the world, that it is told that in ancient times they had wandered across, and had laid waste the whole of Asia, under the then name of Cimerians (lib. V.c.32). Strabo (XI.7.2) writes also: The old Greek authors called Scythians and Celtoscythians all the northern populations (Cf. Ibid. VII. 1.1).
When Hecateus tells us therefore, that the holly island of Apollo is in the northern region (or at north of the Greek zone) and faces the lands of the Celts, he considers the same historical sources as Asclepiades, who maintained that Boreas from the Rhipaei mountains was a king of the Celts; as Diodorus Siculus, who presents the Cimmerians from near the shores of the Nipru (TN – Dneper) river as Celts; and finally as Stephanos Byzanthinos, who considers the Agathyrsos, or the Pelasgian Tursens from near the river Mures, as Celts.
We will examine now the last geographical matter from the Apollinic legends. Geography is one of the principal lights of history.
From the blessed island of Apollo, writes Hecateus Abderitas, were seen some heights from Selina, which was not too distant. This Selina, near the island of Apollo, has complicated even more the geographical question of the location of the pious and virtuous Hyperboreans, about whom Hecateus speaks. Namely, the commentators of the fragments of Hecateus Abderitas, some for lack of precise geographical knowledge, others seduced by the text somewhat altered, as transmitted by Diodorus Siculus, believed that by this enigmatic Selene, from near the island of Apollo the Hyperborean, must be understood the moon (TN – luna) in the sky, interpreting therefore this passage not in the pure geographical spirit of the author, but giving it a totally fabulous meaning.
But Selina from the land of the Hyperboreans was a geographical reality. Leuce Island or Alba, which, after the Trojan war was consecrated to Achilles’ tomb, is situated, as we know, facing the two upper mouths of the Danube, one Chilia and the other Sulina. This latter arm of the Danube, which in the 10th century ad appears to have been the most navigable, is called Selina by Constantinos Porfynogenitos (De admin. Imp. C.9), and under the same name of Selina it also appears in the “Catalan periple” of 1375 (Notices et Extraits de manuscrits de la Bibliotheque du roi et autres bibliotheques publies par l’Institut royal de France, T.XIV. 2-me partie, Paris, 1843). Finally, under the name of Selina, this part of the Danube Delta appears in all our heroic songs (Teodorescu, Folk poetry, p.562).
When Hecateus Abderitas writes then, that from the blessed island of Apollo were seen some terrestrial heights from Selina, he did not consider the aspect of the sky, or the distance, shorter or longer, of the moon to this corner of the earth, but he considered exclusively only that continental part of the Danube Delta, which, even in the Middle Ages was known to the Black Sea navigators under the name of Selina .
[1. An analogous geographical situation about Selina presents itself in Italy. Luna (TN -the moon), writes Strabo (V.2.5), is a city and port of Etruria and the Greeks call both Selene. The port is encircled by tall mountains, from where can be seen the sea and Sardinia, and a large part of the shore, both from here (Italy) and from there (Sardinia). So, there were in ancient time cities and ports dedicated to the moon or Selene, and bore the name of this divinity. It is possible that today the highest points of the Danube Delta can not be seen any more from the Serpents’ Island (Leuce), but this cannot serve as evidence, that in remote times the geological situation has been the same. According to Romanian traditions, a feature of the Temple from Leuce Island was its considerable height].
We have examined here the main parts of the positive geography found in the fragments left from Hecateus Abderitas. This information will permit us to fix with complete certainty the geographical position of the island, where the memorable Temple of Apollo the Hyperborean is to be found.
As Greek traditions tell us, Perseus, the renowned hero from Argos, a son of Jove and the nymph Danae, had been sent by the king Polydectes from the island of Seriphos to bring him the head of Medusa, one of the Gorgons which dwelt on the northern parts of the famous river Oceanus (Hesiod, Theog. v. 274 seqq). Perseus, after severing the head of Medusa, whom he had found asleep, visits also Atlas, the king from the country of Hyperboreans (Pindar, Pyth. X. 50), tells him that he is a son of Jove, recounts for him all his miraculous deeds, and asks hospitality for one night. Atlas though, remembering the pronouncement of an ancient oracle from Parnas, which said “Atlas! The time will come when your trees will be despoiled of their gold and this glorious deed is reserved for a son of Jove”, refused to give Perseus hospitality. As Perseus insisted, he invited him to depart straight away, as otherwise neither the glory of his false deeds, nor even Jove, would save him from his hands. At these words Perseus, who could not match the strength of the titan Atlas, took out of his bag the head of Medusa, which had the magical attribute to turn to stone anybody who looked into her face, and in this way Atlas was turned on the spot into a huge mountain, his head became the top of a high peak and his bones changed into rocks. This had been the wish of the gods, writes Ovid (Metam. IV. 637 seqq), and from now on only the sky with the stars shall lean on Atlas.
The names of the three Gorgons who dwelt on the northern shore of the famous river Oceanus were, according to Hesiod (Theog. v. 276), Stheno, Euryale and Medusa. There existed another version which said about Medusa that she had been the daughter of one called Sthenelos, considered as king of Mycenae (Apollodorus, Bibl. lib. II. 4. 5).
In the Romanian tradition though, Matusa is the mother of Stanislav (Negoescu, Balade, p. 75). The Turks who come against Stanislav catch Matusa first, tie her up, torture her and one of them, the captain, intends to cut her head (Teodorescu, Poesii pop. 565). And the Turks tie a stone around the head of Stanislav or Tanislav, who represents here the titan Atlas.
The tradition is the same, but there is a difference in form. Hellada being more removed from the theatre of events, the Greek legend has been altered; it has taken the character of a simple fabulous tale, while the Romanian version has preserved its fundamental historical character, and therefore a more original form. The Romanian tradition about Tanislav the brave, Tanislav the renowned, “big in stature and terrible at sight”, and about his mother Matusa, helps in establishing that the titan Atlas of the Greek mythology, this representative of the ancient Pelasgian generation, has been one of the legendary heroes from the Carpathians and the Danube
[1. Medusa (Matusa) is one and the same with Clymene (“Renowned” for her beauty). She was in the beginning an entirely distinct personality than the legendary Gorgon. As Pliny writes (VI. 36. 3. 4), the Gorgons were some wild hairy women, while according to Diodorus Siculus (III. 54. 55), the Gorgons were a nation of women always warring with the Amazons. The legend of the ancient Gorgon, or the terrible Gorgon, is also found in Romanian heroic songs. She is “a wild maid”, who dwells in “the plain of Nistru” at the shore “of the seas”. She has an entirely sinister figure, when one sees her, shivers of death run through him. The most warlike hero of Romanian traditions, Old Novac, goes to cut the head of this wild girl, whom he finds asleep, like Perseus had found Medusa. Novac wakes her up, fights her, beheads her, puts her head on top of his spear and takes it home, as trophy of victory (Catana, Balade, p. 108)].
In the geographical poem, commonly attributed to Scymnus of Chios, is mentioned a colossal column, which rose on the crest of a mountain near the Lower Istru, and which had the name Stele boreios, Boreal Column. The text of this passage, so important for the prehistoric geography of ancient Dacia, is the following: “In the most extreme parts of the Celts there is a Column which is called boreal. It is very high and the crest of the mountains on which it stands, stretches towards the sea full of waves. Close to this column dwell the most remote of the Celts, whose dwellings stop there. In the vicinity of the Column dwell also the Enetii, as well as the Lower Istriens, who are spread from here inside towards Adrian” (Orbis Descriptio, in Geographi graeci minores. Ed. Didot, Vol. I. v. 188-195).
In later times, different authors tried to establish the geographical position of this column, some near the strait of Gibraltar, others in the Alps, Pyrenees, or in the extreme corner of the peninsula named Bretagne (Mullerus, Geographi graeci minores, I. p. 202-203; Bertrand, La Gaule avant les Gaulois, p. 299-300). But all these locations present enormous difficulties, geographical and ethnographic, for the western parts of Europe. As mysterious as the primitive and colossal monuments of the ante-Homeric times appear today, they are nevertheless an important vestige of the civilization of a vanished world and we should never avoid the task imposed by history to study those still extant today, to fix the position of the enigmatic ones, and bring to light their primitive character and meaning.
In ancient geographic literature, the famous monument of the prehistoric world about which Scymnus speaks, was called the Boreal Column. It was therefore situated in those parts of the European continent which ancient geography considered as a northern region. Ephorus, one of the Greek historians who had tried to bring some light to ante-Homeric times, summarizes like this the ideas of the ancients about the geographic and ethnographic divisions of the earth: “The eastern region is inhabited by the Indians, the southern by Ethiopians, the western by the Celts and the northern region is occupied by the Scythians. But not all these parts are equal in size, because the regions occupied by the Scythians and Ethiopians are more extensive, while those of the Indians and Celts are smaller” (Fragm. 38 in Gragmenta Hist. graec. I. p. 243).
The Boreal Column was therefore in the geographical region of the Scythians, but in their western parts, close to the Celts, according to Scymnus. About the position of this gigantic Column of the ancient world we find another important geographical indication with him. According to what this author tells us, the crest of the mountains on which the Boreal Column rose, stretched towards the sea full of waves, or the stormy sea. Only one stormy sea par excellence was known to the ancient Greeks and this was Pontos axeinos, the inhospitable sea or the Black Sea of today. The same Pontos figures with Hesiod as the stormy or angry sea (Theog. v. 131-137), and with Herodotus as the boreal sea (lib. IV. c. 37).
It results therefore that the so-called Boreal Column was on one of the heights of the mountains which stretched on the western side of the Euxine Pontos, also called “the boreal sea”. We have to examine now the ethnographic data presented by Scymnus regarding the geographic position of this important prehistoric monument. According to him, three populations known to the ethnographic history of the ancient world were settled in the vicinity of the Boreal Column. The first one mentioned by the author of this geography, were the extreme Celts, or the Celts most removed from their main body and who, says he, were extended only that far. According to Diodorus Siculus, the Celts were scattered in ancient times as far as Scythia (lib. V. c. 32), in groups more or less considerable; and according to Stephanos Byzanthinos, the Agathyrsii or Tursenii rich in gold, who dwelt near the river Maris (Mures in Transilvania), were considered as a Celtic people.
The second ethnic group which dwelt close to the Boreal Column is called by Scymnus ‘Enetoi. About these Eneti we find another important geographical note with him: they were neighbors with the Thracians called Istriens (Orbis Descriptio, v. 391). Scylax also tells us that Enetii were settled near Istru and the Istriens (Periplus, c. 20). According to Herodotus, Enetii dwelt this side of Istru, at north of Thrace and were neighbors with Sigynii (lib. V. 9; Apollonius Rhodius, lib. IV. 320), while Eustathius tells us that Enetii were neighbors with Tribalii, who dwelt near the river Oescus (Isker) in Lower Mesia. We have therefore an absolute historical certitude that Enetii, about whom Scymnus speaks in the above text, were a people from near the Lower Istru .
[1. Homer mentions Enetii of Pahlagonia, as allies of the Trojans. Of Trojan origin were considered also Venetii of Italy, a small group separated from the large tribe of the Eneti (Pliny, I. III. 23. 3). We find the same ideas also with Strabo (XII. 3. 8). Enetii of Paphlagonia, writes he, after the destruction of Troy, scattered throughout Thrace and after wandering they reached Venetia (Cf. Scymnus, v. 889). But the current of migrations between Europe and Asia Minor appears to have been completely different in history. It is a positive fact that all the Pelasgian tribes, which we find settled in Asia Minor, like Brygii, Bithynii, Mysii, Trojans, Lelegii, Cauconii, etc, had immigrated there from the Hem peninsula and from the parts of the Lower Danube. It seems then that Enetii of Paphlagonia too, who dwelt near the shores of the Black Sea, in close vicinity with the so-called Caucones, were only a fragment of the large group of Eneti from near the Istru].
The ethnic name of the prehistoric Eneti (‘Enetoi, Veneti), has left its trace in Romanian topography to this day. In the western parts of today Romania, a number of villages are called even today Vineti (Olt district), Venata (Gorj, Mehedinti, Ialomita, Prahova districts), Vinetesci (Falciu district, Vinetia (the country of Fagaras).
Finally, the third people who dwelt close to the Boreal Column were the so-called ‘Istroi. Under the name of ‘Istroi, appear here the inhabitants of the lower parts of the Istru, who must not be mistaken for the ‘Istrianoi (Mnemonis, Fragm. 21, in Fragm. Historicorum graecorum, Ed. Didot, Vol. III. p.537; Herodotus, lib. IV. c. 78), the inhabitants of the rich and powerful city called ‘Istros, ‘Istria, ‘Istrie, situated near the old mouth of the Istru (Herodotus, lib. II. 33; Arrianus, Periplus Ponti euxini, c. 35; Pliny, IV. 18. 5; Mela, II. 2). These Istri, according to what Scymnus tells us, were part of the large and historically important family of the Thracians (v.391), and extended “inside” towards Adrian .
[2. Mela (De Situ Orbis, lib. II. c. 1) understands under the name Istrici the entire population from the Lower Danube, starting near the river Tyras or Nistru (TN – Dnestr). At Trog Pompeius the same ‘Istroi or Istrici also figure under the general name of Istriani (Justinus, lib. X. 2). Scymnus mentions three times in his “Periegesa” the geographical name of ‘Adrian (in the accusative). The same does Theopompus (Frag. 143). There existed therefore a scientific reason to do this, which puts in evidence that the real name of the territory in question was not at all ‘Adrias, but a form somehow near the Greek mode of expression, Adrian or Andrian (according to another version). The Greek and Roman authors had tried often, and we have numerous examples, to assimilate different personal and geographical names of the barbarians, with the grammatical forms of the language in which they wrote. But in no case, under the geographical term of Adrian or Andrian, which Scymnus mentions in connection with the Istru and the Boreal Column, can be understood the lands from the NE parts of the Adriatic Sea, or the city Adria from the plains of the river Padus (Po) in Italy].
These Istri formed therefore a considerable ethnic group, homogenous and speaking the same language, with the inhabitants of the region called by Scymnus Adrian. The geographical expression “inside”, which we find with Scymnus, designated, by the natural meaning of the words, a territory further away from the open region of the big waters, a territory surrounded on all sides by high mountains, like an enclosure. Jornandes, the historian of the Getae and the Goths, applies the same term of “inside” (intorsus) for the interior region of Dacia, today Ardel (De Getarum origine, c. 5). So, this geographical matter becomes even clearer. The region which Scymnus calls “inside” (This expression is in use even today with the Romanian people. Those who travel from Romania to Ardel, say that they go inside), Adrian or Andrian, which was in an ethnic continuity with the Lower Istrieni, could be no other than the central region of Dacia, or today Ardel .
[3. The Hyperboreans, as we know, dwelt in the northern parts of the Lower Istru, of the Euxine Pontos, and beyond Rhipaei mountains (or the southern Carpathians). In the oldest geographical sources though, instead of Rhipaei figured the name of Adria (‘Adrias). “The first to describe the regions of the earth, Strabo tells us (XI. 6. 2), called the Hyperboreans who dwelt above the Euxine Pontos, Istru and Adria, Sauromati and Arimaspi”. It is evident that here too, under the name of Adrias was not understood the territory near the Adriatic Sea. Nobody mentions the Arimaspi and Sauromati in those parts. A suburb of Philipopoli was called around 227ad, vicus Ardilenus (C. I. L. VI. nr. 2799) and probably the inhabitants of that “vicus” had emigrated or resettled there from the northern parts of the Istru, from Ardel ].
Scymnus though is not the only author of antiquity who called Adrian the mountainous zone from north of the Lower Istru. This complex of mountains, valleys and hills appears under the same geographical name of ‘Adrian and ‘Adrias, at Theopompus (Fragm. 143 in Fragm. Hist. graec. I. p.303), Eratosthenes (Strabo, lib. VII. 5. 9), in the history of Alexander the Great (Strabo, lib. VII. 3. 8) and even Herodotus (lib. V. 9). In Scymnus’ passage related to the boreal Column, it is also said in the final verse: “From here (the lands of the Istriens) starts, as it is said, the course of the Istru”. But by these words must not be understood the sources, but the cataracts of the Istru. According to Strabo (VII. 3. 13), the Danube was called Istru only downstream from the cataracts. We are confronted now with the principal historical matter of knowing what significance had the so-called Boreal Column in the beliefs of the ancients. According to the cosmographic ideas of the Hyperboreans, the universe (chosmos, mundus) was considered as a concave sphere, at the center of which was the earth (Plato, Axiochus, Ed. Didot, Vol. II. p.561). The firmament with all its stars turned continually around the earth. The axis around which the sky, or the universe turned, was considered to pass through the centre of the earth. So the sky and the earth had a common axis (Strabo, Geogr. lib. II. c. 5. 2). The extreme parts of the axis between the earth and the sky were called Cardines mundi (hinges of the world), the northern one Septentrio or axis boreus, the southern Meridies (Vitruvius, De architectura, lib. IX. 1; Isidorus, Originum, III. 32. 1. 2, 36 and 37; Ibid. XIII. 1. 8). They touched the surface of the terrestrial globe on both sides, and represented therefore certain points of the celestial and terrestrial geography. According to the astronomical and geographical ideas of classic antiquity, the northern pole, also called axis boreus or cardines mundi, around which turned the sphere of the universe, touched the earth near the Lower Istru, on the territory of the Hyperboreans (Pliny, H. N. IV. 26. 11), or the Getae, on the Rhipaei mountains.
The poet Ovid, exiled at Tomis, complains in one of his elegies (Trist. Lib. IV. 8. 41-42) that he must spend his life under axis boreus, on the left side of the Euxine Pontos, and in another letter, addressed to his friend Macerus in Rome, Ovid tells him that he was right under the Cardines mundis, and that he talks often with his friend under the boreal axis (axis gelidus) in the country of the Getae. Martial calls the same geographic and astronomic point Geticus polus (Epigr. Lib. IX. 46), Statius calls it Hyperborei axes (Thebaid. Lib. XII. V. 650-651), Virgil, Hyperboreus septentrio. The same Virgil tells us also that the northern pole is in Scythia, on Rhipaei mountains, from where it rises up in the shape of a rock peak (Georg. I. v. 240-241, III. v. 381).
As we see from the texts referred to here, the astronomical and geographical terms of axis boreus, Geticus polus, Hyperborei axes, cardines mundi, were identical expressions which indicated that in the region of the Lower Istru was the important geographical point, around which the ancients believed that the celestial sphere turned. The authors of antiquity also present the same geographical idea under another form. According to the grammarian Apollodorus of Athens, the titan Atlas from the country of the Hyperboreans, supports the pole of the universe (Bibl. lib. II. 5. 11. 13). Virgil says: the giant Atlas turns on his shoulders the starry axis of the sky (Aen. IV. v. 482). And Ovid: Atlas still labors, barely supporting on his shoulders the white and glowing axis of the sky (Metam. lib. II. v. 297). This northern axis of the universe, also called polus Geticus, which the titan Atlas supported on his shoulders, was therefore identical with the Sky Column from the Atlas mountain (chion ouranou – Eschyl, Prom. Vinct. v. 349), or as Homer says, with “the long columns, which Atlas supports and which hold the sky around the earth” (Odyss. I. v. 53).
We have examined here the principal texts regarding the geographical character of the Boreal Column. From all this data, fragmented and scattered among the authors of antiquity, an important historical truth comes out to light: according to the geographical ideas of ante-Homeric times, the Column called stele boreios from near the Lower Istru, was the same traditional and sacred monument as the great Column of theogony, or chion ouranou, from the south-eastern arch of the Carpathians.
Hecateus Abderita about the island and Temple of Apollo, in the land of the Hyperboreans.
The tumulus of Achilles in Leuce (Alba) Island, prompts us also to pay attention to the antiquity of its Temple. In a very remote prehistoric epoch, a magnificent Temple existed in the eastern parts of Dacia, the renown and influence of which had reached far, to the south-eastern lands of Europe, and the memory and holiness of which is celebrated even today in Romanian religious carols. Several authors of the antiquity wrote about this Temple, which appears to us like one of the great and holy marvels of the prehistoric world, and among these was the historic Hecateus Abderita, who lived in the time of Alexander the Great. We will reproduce here these precious accounts of Hecateus, taken from the few fragments which have survived in the writings of Diodorus Siculus and Claudius Aelianus.
Diodorus Siculus (lib. II, 47 – Fragmenta Hist. graec. Ed. Didot. II, p.386) writes: “Now, after we have described the northern parts of Asia, we believe it is of interest to also mention here what is being told about the Hyperboreans. Among the writers of antiquity, Hecateus (Abderita) and others, tell that, facing the land of the Celts in the parts of the Ocean, there is an island, which is not smaller than Sicily, situated in the northern region and inhabited by the Hyperboreans, so named because they are more distant than the wind Boreas. Here the soil is very good and fertile, the Temperate climate excellent, and because of this, the fruits are produced here twice a year (cf. p.68-69). It is said that Latona, (Leto), Apollo’s mother, was born here, and that’s why Apollo is venerated here more than the other gods; and because the Hyperboreans of this island celebrate this god every day, continuously singing his praises and giving him the greatest honors, it is said that these men are like a sort of priests of Apollo. There is also in this island (Hecateus uses here a form of expression by which he gives a vague indication of location, meaning, in the parts of the Ocean, in the parts of the island, or in its vicinity) a magnificent holy grove of Apollo, of a considerable size, and a renowned Temple, the exterior shape of which is spherical, and which Temple is decorated with many offerings (cf.p.72-73). This god, Apollo, also has a holy city of his own, and the people who dwell in this city are mostly cither players (the shape of this instrument resembles exactly the Romanian “cobza” of today), who, during the divine service, play in unison the cithers, and sing hymns, honoring and praising the God’s deeds. The Hyperboreans have a distinctive way of talking (dialectos) and show a very familiar friendship to the Greeks, especially to the Athenians and the inhabitants of Delos (the old inhabitants of Athens and Delos were Pelasgians); this goodwill of theirs had been established and confirmed since the oldest of times. It is even said that some of the Greeks went to the Hyperboreans and left there very precious gifts, inscribed with Greek letters; and that, similarly, Abaris came from there to Greece, and renewed the old friendship and kinship with the Delians. It is also said that from this island, the whole of Selina (Selene) can be seen at a short distance from earth, and that some heights can be seen also in it. It is also said that god Apollo comes to this island every 19 years, during which time the constellations make their periodic cycle on the sky. During the time of the God’s apparition in their island, beginning with the spring equinox, until the rising of the Pleiades in the first half of the month of May, the Hyperboreans play the cithers at night and dance in circles (hora), enjoying these beautiful days. The mastery of the city and the supreme administration of the Temple belong to the Boreazi, who are descendants of Boreas, and they rule successively, by right”. We showed so far the fragment of Hecateus Abderita, transmitted by Diodorus Siculus.
On the other hand, the sophist Claudius Aelianus, who lived at the time of the emperor Adrian, transmits another fragment from Hecateus’ writings, regarding this important Temple of the prehistory: “Not only the poets”, says Aelianus, “but also other writers, celebrate the Hyperborean people and the honors they bring to Apollo. Among others, Hecateus Abderita, but not the one from Miletus, relates that Apollo’s priests are the sons of Boreas and Chiona, three brothers in all, six ells tall. When they hold, at the usual time, the solemn divine service, or prayer, countless flocks of swans fly there from the mountains which they name Ripaei, and these swans, after flying firstly around the Temple, like they wished to purify it, descend to the court of the Temple, which is very spacious and beautiful. During the divine service, while the Temple singers intone praises to god Apollo, in a sort of melodies specific to them, and while the cither players accompany in unison the harmonious melody of the singers, from outside the Temple, the swans join in their singing, gaggling together; and it must be noted that these swans make no mistake, like emitting dissonant or unpleasant sounds, but follow the tone and the start given by the master of the choir, and sing together with the singers, who are most accustomed with the holy hymns. After the hymn ends, this birds’ choir withdraws, looking like they have come here with only the special purpose of celebrating the god, of listening all day to the honors done to the gods, of singing together and delighting others at the same time”. These are the precious fragments preserved from the writings of Hecateus, about the magnificent Temple of Apollo from the land of the Hyperboreans.
The Hyperboreans’ cult of Apollo represents the golden epoch of the ante-Greek Pelasgian civilization. With the beginning of the Pelasgian migrations from the Carpathian Mountains towards south, this cult spreads over ancient Greece, over the islands of the Archipelagos and the shores of Asia Minor. We will examine here, from a historic and geographic point of view, the details preserved in Hecateus’ writings about the Hyperboreans. A new, important chapter in the history of the old Pelasgian world opens in front of us.
Leto and Apollo. The prophets Olen and Abaris from the land of the Hyperboreans.
During Greek antiquity, the true home of the god Apollo was considered to have been in the land of the Hyperboreans. Even the inhabitants of Croton (Lower Italy), a city famous for the purity of its mores, gave Apollo, according to Aristotle, the epithet “Hyperborean” (Aelianus, V. H. II. 26; Frag. Hist. Graec. II. p.175. frag. 233 b; Cicero, De nat. Deor. III.23). Leto, on the other hand, the gentle goddess, with a sweet and kind disposition, the mother of Apollo and ArTumis, was born in the Hyperborean country, according to Hecateus, as well as to other authors of the antiquity (Diodorus Siculus, II. c. 47, IV.51; Pausanisas, Descriptio Graeciae, I. 18. 5; Aristoteles, Hist. Anim. VI. 35). According to Greek legend, Leto, pregnant by Jove, was persecuted by jealous Juno, being chased everywhere on the face of the earth, so much so that no country wished to receive her in order to give birth. Rejected everywhere, Leto at last reached, after long wanderings this way and that, Delos, a small unproductive island in the Archipelagos, and the solitary rocks of this island gave her asylum. The birth pains lasted for nine days and nine nights and here, on the green grass, under a fragrant palm tree, the Hyperborean goddess (from the Lower Danube) gave birth to the great god of the antique light (Apollodorus, Bibliotheca, I. 4.1). Since that time, the island of Delos became a holy ground for the new Hyperborean god, and strong religious ties were established between the Hyperboreans and the Temple of Apollo in Delos, ties which continued during the whole of Greek antiquity.
Herodotus and Plutarch mention an old custom of the Hyperboreans, to send each year to the Temple of Apollo in Delos gifts from their first harvest. They wrapped these gifts in straw, and sent them to Delos with a delegation, which travelled to the holy place of their destination, in accompaniment of whistles, bagpipes and “cobze” (Plutarc, Oeuvres, Tome XIV, p.518). The Hyperborean mission went first to Dodona in Epirus, the old religious centre of the Balkan Pelasgians, from Dodona they crossed Thessaly and over to Eubea Island, and from there they continued the trip to Delos on water. In the beginning, writes Herodotus (lib. IV. C. 33-35), the Hyperboreans sent to Delos with these gifts two virgins, whose names, according to the Delians, were Hyperoche and Laodicea. To ensure their safety they sent with them five men, whom, according also to Herodotus, the Delians called Perpheres (bringers of gifts) and whom they treated with great honor. But it so happened that this delegation sent to Delos did not return, the Hyperboreans were very affected and, afraid that it could happen again in the future, they introduced the custom to bring the holy gifts, wrapped in straw, to the boundary of their country, where they asked their neighbors to hand them on, from people to people, until they reached Delos. But even before Hyperoche and Laodicea, continues Herodotus, the Hyperboreans had sent to Delos another two virgins, one called Arge and the other Opis, girls, who had travelled there together with Ilithya, who afterwards had helped Leto to give birth to the god Apollo. The women from Delos and from the Ionian islands venerated these two girls and Ilithya as divinities, and invoked them in the hymns composed by the hieratic poet Olen .
[1. So, the virgins sent by the Hyperboreans to Delos were, according to Herodotus, Arge and Opis (IV, 35), and the ones sent the second time were Hyperoche and Laodicea (IV,33). Pausanias names the first ones Hecaerge and Opis (V, 7. 8) and another one, sent later, Achaea. It results therefore that Arge was identical with Hecaerge and Hyperoche with Achaea. It is without doubt that the names of these Hyperborean virgins were expressed in Greek forms. In Pelasgian language Arg(os) means country (TN – tera) and field (Strabo, VIII, 6. 9). Homer calls the country of the Pelasgians Pelasgichon ‘argos (Iliad, II, 681). The whole of the Peloponnesus was once called Argos (Strabo, VIII, 6. 9). So, in this case, Arge cannot have another meaning than countrywoman or from the country (TN – terana or from tera); a word identical in fact with Opis, the second virgin’s name, which in the old Pelasgian – Latin language meant Terra (Varro, L, L, V. 57. 64). As we have seen, the name Arge appears with Pausanias as Hecaerge, the Greek adverb “hecas”, from far away, having been added. So, Hecaerge appears as a name with a topical character, having the meaning: from a far away country.
The name of the virgin Hyperoche also, is a simple Greek translation. In Pelasgian language Oche means big stagnant water, word identical with the Latin aqua, with the Greek root acha, and the old German Oche, Ache or Aache. The etymology of the word Achaei, with the meaning of river dwellers (Wissowa, Pauly’s Real-Encyclopadie ad. V. Achaei), belongs also to the primitive form of aqua. We also mention here that a population called Achaei had really existed at the north of the mouths of Istru. Pliny (IV, 26. 2) mentions a Portus Achaeorum there.
So the name Hyperoche appears as a word composed of Oche and the Greek preposition yper, from across, from beyond, having the meaning: from beyond the big water. We establish therefore that the names of the Hyperborean virgins Arge, Hecaerge, Achaea, Hyperoche (and probably Laodice also) are only simple topic and ethnical designations, and have nothing to do with either the Greek adjective arges, white, brilliant, bright, or the verb yperecho, to excel.
Herodotus (lib. IV. 35), Pausanias (lib. I. 18. 5) and Strabo (V. 2. 8) tell us that the Pelasgians of Etruria had built a Temple dedicated to Ilithya at the sea port near the town of Caere. She was therefore a Pelasgian divinity].
The renowned Temple of Apollo at Delos, where the treasury of the Greek confederation was later deposited (Thucydidis, lib. I. 36), was not the only Temple which owed its origin to the Hyperborean people, but the Hyperboreans appear at the same time as the founders of the Oracle of Apollo at Delphi, near Parnassus, one of the most important and central places of Greek life. According to what Pausanias tells us, a group of shepherds, who had come with their flocks right to the very spot where the oracle of Delphi would be later established, were the first to start there the art of divination. On another hand, Boeo, a poetess from the province of Phocis, tells us in one of her hymns, that the oracle of Apollo at Delphi had been founded by some people calling from the country of the Hyperboreans (Pausanias, lib. X.5.7), and among those she mentions Olen, a prophet of Apollo, the most learned Hyperborean man of that epoch.
[2. The geographer Mnaseas from Patrae, Eratosthenes’ disciple, tells us that the inhabitants of Delphi were of Hyperborean nationality (Fragmenta Hist. Graec. III. p.153, frag. 24). Clearch of Soli, Aristotle’s disciple, also writes that Leto, after giving birth to Apollo and ArTumis, came to Delphi (Fragmenta Hist. Graec. Ed. Didot. II p.318, frag.46). The most famous oracles of the ancient world were those of Delphi and Dodona, both founded by Pelasgians (Pliny, IV. 4.1). The Delphians asked Apollo each year, in festive songs, to come to them from the land of the Hyperboreans, for the duration of the summer (Preller, Griech. Myth. I. 1854, p.157-158). The Pelasgians of Spinetum, situated near the mouth of the river Pad, sent to Delphi gifts from their maritime income (Dionysius of Halicarnassos, I. 18)].
According to some, this Olen had lived before Hesiodus, and according to others, even before Orpheus. He is the most ancient hieratic poet known in Greek literature. He had composed several sacred hymns, in which he celebrated the pilgrimages of the Hyperboreans to the island of Delos, and in which he also mentioned some pious women, who had taken part in those travels. To Olen is attributed especially the invention of the hexameter .
[3. The Greek authors also tried to nationalize the epic poet Olen, as they did with a great many other heroes of the mythical epoch. So, while some insist that Olen was Hyperborean by origin, as results even from his hymns and his apostolate for spreading the cult of Apollo the Hyperborean, others, on the contrary, attribute the city Dyme of Achaia, or Xanthus of Lycia as his place of origin (see Suidas ad v. ‘Olen).
But the name Olen has a wholly Pelasgian character. This name appears with the Etruscans and the Romans (Pliny, Hist. nat. XXVIII. 4.1; Tacitus, Ann. IV.72). Pausanias writes that Olen had composed a hymn about the Hyperboreans, in which he celebrated the coming at Delos of the virgin Achea (V.6.8), and another hymn about the coming at Delos of Ilithya or Lucina (I. 18.5), and that he had been the earliest poet who had composed hymns for the Greeks, and the first who had introduced the hexameter (X.5.7)].
Another devoted preacher of Apollo’s cult throughout Greek lands was Abaris, whose origin was also in Hyperborean lands, a man who, through his great feelings of justice and his extremely frugal life, had been a real sensation among the Greeks. He used to show the people an arrow, which he said was the symbol of Apollo. He composed and distributed diverse prophetic sentences of his god, and healed the sick with incantations .
[4. The time in which Abaris lived is uncertain. Hyppostratus places him during the 3rd Olympiad, around 768bc, while Suidas places him during the 53rd Olympiad, around 568bc. This name has been transmitted to us in a form more or less altered. In Moldova, especially in the districts Falciu, Roman and Neamtu, we find 12 topographical names of Averesci. The name Averescu is also very much used in the parts of Moldova. Virgil (Aen. IX.344) presents a soldier called Abaris. Abaris appears as Hyperborean with Herodotus (IV.36) and Plato (Charmides, c.6), while Suidas tells us that Pythagora (ad vocem) had been the disciple of Abaris the Hyperborean].
These legends and religious hymns attest not only the powerful cult of Apollo in the lands of the Hyperboreans, but at the same time they tell us that the founding of the renowned Temples of Apollo at Delos and Delphi (two cultural centers which had shone in Greece for a long time), was owing to a very religious agricultural and pastoral people, named by the Greek authors Hyperboreans.
But who are these Hyperboreans, admirable for their sentiments of justice, their religion and advanced civilization? This is an important matter, which would explain several difficult questions in the history of the ancient world. Therefore, it is necessary to talk now about the ethnic characteristics and the dwellings of this people, representative of the golden age of the prehistoric times.
Spenaer, Faerie Queene, Bk. II. 7, xxi, xxi. The ancient Irish believed there was a sunken land lying to the north or north-west of Ireland which contained a city called Tir-Hudi, or city of Hud, that once possessed all the riches of the world. The Assyrian Anu, corresponding to Hades or Pluto, bears such titles as ‘king of the lower world,’ ‘lord of darkness’ or ‘death,’ ‘ruler of the far-off city,’ and is also ‘the layer up of treasures,’ ‘the lord of the earth’ or ‘mountains,’ from whence the precious metals are extracted (Rawlinson, Herodotus, vol. i. p. 591). It is significant to find that the god Anu, apparently known to the Greeks as Erebus (i.e., Assyrian ereb, ‘setting,’ ‘the west,’ ‘darkness’), was considered the father of Martu, ‘the west,’ gave his name to one of the principal metals, had the western gate of the city Dur-sargina dedicated to him, was also known by the name Dis, and especially presided over Urca or Orech, which was emphatically ‘the city of the dead,’ the great necropolis of Babylonia. The resemblance of the Latin orcus is curious (Rawlinson, Herodotus, vol. i. pp. 592 teq.)
WESTERN EUROPE, ANCIENTLY CALLED AFRICA.
Major “Wilford’s investigations led him to remark, in the 8th volume of the “Asiatic Researches,” that” it is well known to the learned that, at a very remote period, Europe and Africa were considered as but one of two grand divisions of the world, and that the appellation Africa was even extended to the western parts of Europe, all along the shores of the Atlantic.” His fact will not be questioned; there may, however, be some question relative to its signification. He points out that the word Africa comes from Apar, Aphar, Apara, or Aparica, terms used, in times almost forgotten by tradition, to signify “The West,” just as we now, continuing the ancient method of designation, call most of the Asiatic world ” The East.”
It is only since the time of the Romans that the word Africa has become a name for one of the grand divisions of the globe. In the most ancient times the eastern part of that grand division was called ” Sancha,” a term that still remains in the words Zengh, Zenghbhar, Zanguebar, Zingis, and the like; while the northern, and especially the northwestern part, was designated as Apar, Aparica, Afarica, and finally Africa. We must suppose that, in early prehistoric times, Northern Africa and Western Europe had strongly engaged the attention of civilized nations in Asia; that in Asia they were described as ” The West;” and that this remote Western world had risen to such eminence because it was, to a large extent, occupied by civilized peoples who had made it important. Spain, as Heeren remarks, ” was the Peru of antiquity;” but in that Western world there was much besides gold and silver to command attention and attract commercial enterprise.
It seems to me impossible to study the Greek literature carefully without perceiving that the people on the eastern shores- of the Mediterranean knew more of Western Europe in the time of Homer than in the time of Strabo, and much more in the ages previous to Homer than when he wrote. I have discussed the fact that many of the oldest myths relate to Spain, Northwestern Africa, and other regions on the Atlantic, such as those concerning Hercules, the Cronidae, the Hyperboreans, the Hesperides, and the Islands of the Blessed. Strabo, while admitting that Homer described the Atlantic region of Europe in his account of the wanderings of Ulysses, shows, nevertheless, a very remarkable ignorance of that region, which comes out in what he says of Ireland, and especially in his ill-tempered and coarse attack on Pytheas of Massilia, an eminent astronomer and navigator, who, about the time of Alexander the Great, sailed to Thule or Iceland, and to a point in Northern Europe where, from a mountain, he beheld the midnight sun. In the ages previous to the decline of Phoenician influence in Greece and around the iEgean Sea, the people of those regions must have had a much better knowledge of Western Europe than prevailed there during either the Ionian or the Hellenic period, when actual information
THE OLD SANSKRIT BOOKS ON WESTERN EUROPE.
This ancient knowledge of Western Europe extended to India. Recollections of it are recorded in the old Sanskrit books, of which Major Wilford gave an account in the eleventh volume of the Asiatic Researches. The Brahmanical mythology, as we have it, combines the gods and mythological legends brought into India by the Aryan race with those of the Cushites which the invading Aryans found there. This may explain why the Sanskrit records tell us so much of Africa and Europe. According to the Puranic traditions, there was, in very remote times, much communication between India and the western part of Europe. The Varaha Purana describes that region with the accuracy of actual knowledge. “Wilford, quoting this description, and reproducing an old Puranic map of Western Europe, says: “Here we may trace the Bay of Biscay, the German Sea, and the entrance into the Baltic; but, above all, the greatest resemblance appears in the arrangement of the British Islands and Iceland; this surely cannot be merely accidental.”
England is variously designated, but is usually called Sweta or Swetam: “Sweta-Saila, or the White Cliffs, is often used, which is literally the Leucas-Petra of Homer, and Al-Fionn in Gaelic.” Homer placed his Leucas-Petra at the extremities of the earth, in the ocean, near the setting sun. The Argonautics, ascribed to Orpheus, call England Lexicon- Cherson, the White Country, and it is placed in the Western Ocean, with Ierne or Ireland. The Sanskrit “Suvarna-dwipa, the land of Suvarna or of gold, is also called Hiranya, a denomination of the same import. Hiranya and Suvarneya are obviously the same as Ierne, Erin, and Juvernia, ancient names of Ireland. Another name for Ireland is Surya-dwipa, Island of the Sun [or the land of sunworship]; and it was probably the old garden of Phoebus of the western mythologists.” England,” the White Island, is considered as the abode of the mighty; Ravana, in the Ramayana, inquires where the mighty ones dwell, and is told by Narada that they dwell in the White Island. The most ancient inhabitants of Britain, in their romances, called it the White Island, and Ynys-y- Ceideirn, the Island of the Mighty Ones.”
In the Sanskrit books the British Islands are described as ” The Sacred Isles of the West.” The White Island, or England, was “the land of Tarpaua” or of ” libations to the Pitris;” and it seems to have been the Therapnae of the Argonautics. It is called the land of Tapas, or the most proper country for performing tapasya (religious austerity), which Wilford identifies with the blessed Theba or Thebai of the ancient Greeks. “In the Santiparva, one of the greater divisions of the Mahabharata, Narada goes to Sweta-dwipa, in the far northwest, to worship the original form of Narayana, which resides in that island.” Wilford stated that, in modern times, Hindu pilgrims have attempted to visit the ” Sacred Islands of the “West,” and added: “A Yogi now living is said to have advanced with his train of pilgrims as far as Moscow; but, annoyed by the great and troublesome curiosity of the Russians, he turned back. He would probably have been exposed to similar inconveniences in the Sacred Isles, not excepting Bretasfhan, or the place of religious duty.”
Before Old Tyre was founded—before Martu or Marathos became the ruling city of the people called Phoenicians, it may be—in the ages when Beirut, Byblos or Gebal, and Joppa or Iopia, were the chief cities of that people on the Eastern Mediterranean, or even previous to the time of their greatness—an important civilization had grown up in Northwestern Africa, in Spain, and in some other places on the Atlantic coast of Europe, under Cushite influence, with which the great civilized peoples of Southwestern Asia were well acquainted. There was constant communication with that region until this intercourse was interrupted by political changes throughout the Mediterranean world, of which history can give no explanation. All this was very much older than Assyria. Traces of it remain in the oldest myths and records of Greece, India, and Egypt, which, however, do not fully reveal their significance to those who cannot see the antiquity and importance of the Cushite civilization of Arabia. Its origin and history were doubtless fully described in the ancient Phoenician records, but the language in which these records were written must have become a dead language before the Assyrian empire appeared.
HYPERBOREA was a fabulous realm of eternal spring located in the far north beyond the land of winter. Its people were a blessed, long-lived race free of war, hard toil, and the ravages of old age and disease.
Hyperborea was usually described as a continent-bound land, bordered by the great earth-encircling river Okeanos to the north, and the great peaks of the mythical Rhipaion mountains to the south. Its main river was the Eridanos, which flowed south, drawing its waters directly from the Okean-stream. The shores of this stream were lined by amber-bearing poplar trees and its waters inhabited by flocks of white swans. Blessed with eternal spring, the land producing two crops of grain per year. But most of the country was wild, covered with rich and beautiful forests, “the garden of Apollon.”
To the south the realm was guarded by the bitterly cold peaks of the near-impassable Rhipaion mountains. This was the home of Boreas, god of the north wind, whose chill breath brought winter to all the lands to the south–Skythia, Thrake, Istria, Celtica, Italy and Greece. The peaks of the mountains were also the home of Griffins (eagle-lions), and its valleys were inhabited by the fierce, one-eyed Arimaspoi tribe. Directly to the south lay Pterophoros, a desolate, snow-covered land cursed by eternal winter.
Hyperborea was a theocracy ruled by three priests of the god Apollon. These gigantic kings, known as the Boreades, were sons or descendants of the north wind Boreas. Their capital contained a circular temple dedicated to the god where hecatombs of asses were sacrificed in his honour. The musical race also celebrated his divinity with a constant festival music, song and dance. The hymns were joined by the sweet song of circling, white Hyperborean swans.
The land appears in several myths. The first of these was the story of Phaethon, the boy who tried to fly the chariot of the sun, but lost control, and was struck down by Zeus with a thunderbolt, His flaming body fell into the Hyperborean river Eridanos, where his mourning sisters, the Heliades, gathered and were transformed into amber-shedding poplar trees. His friend Kyknos, in his grief, leapt into the bitumen lake of Phaethon’s fall, and was transformed into a swan. Hyperboreans afterwards leapt in this same very lake as they were approaching death and were transformed into singing white swans. The bird migrated to the Lydian river Kaystros and other places in the south, but remained mute beyond its homeland.
Perseus travelled to Hyperborea and was entertained by its folk when he went in search of certain Nymphs who guarded treasures of the gods, or else the Graiai, swan-bodied hags who could reveal the location of Medousa.
Perseus’ descendant Herakles made the same journey on two separate occassions. The first time was in his quest for the golden-horned deer of Artemis which fled north during the chase. The second time he was seeking Atlas to obtain the golden apples of Hesperides. The Titan stood holding the sky aloft in Hyperborea beneath the heavenly axis around which the constellations revolved. (Later? versions of this story place Atlas in North-West Africa).
Another body of stories connected the Hyperboreans with the founding of several important religious shrines in ancient Greece. In the distant past the god-blessed race was said to have sent many holy prophets and pilgrims into Greece.
On Delos, one story told how the pregnant goddess Leto travelled south to the island from Hyperborea, accompanied by wolves, where she gave birth to the god Apollon. Artemis-Eileithyia was summoned from the northern realm to assist with the labour.
After the event, the Hyperboreans despatched pilgrims to the island, five men known as the and maiden-priestesses of the goddess. However, after several of the maidens were either raped or killed the Hyperboreans ended the pilgrimage, delivering their offerings instead through neighbouring tribes and peoples. Sometimes these are described as passing through Skythia on the Black Sea, at other times through Istria at the northern end of the Adriatic. Within Greece itself the offerings were carried from Dodona to Karystos in Euboia, then Tenos, before finally reaching Delos. The Athenians claimed they came to their town of Prasiai from Sinope on the Black Sea.
The next major shrine connected with the Hyperboreans was the oracle of Apollon at Delphoi. The second of the temples built to the god was said to have been built by Hyperborean pilgrims of beeswax and (swan ?) feathers. When the army of the Gauls tried to seize the temple in historical times, phantoms of these prophets were said to have appeared on the battlefield, routing the invading army.
Finally they appear in the myths of the founding of the Olympic Games. It was said that when Herakles (either the Daktylos or the son of Zeus) established the festival in honour of Zeus he decided to adorn the grounds with holy trees. To this end he made a pilgrimage to Hyperborea to obtain sacred wild olives for the shrine.
Perhaps the most famous prophet of the Hyperboreans was a man named Abaris, who was given a magical arrow by the god Apollon on which he flew around the world performing miracles. Some say this arrow was the one which Apollon had used to slay the Kyklopes, which he had hidden beneath a Hyperborean mountain.
Hesiod, Catalogues of Women Fragment 40a (from Oxyrhynchus Papyri 1358 fr. 2) (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th or C7th B.C.) :
“[The Boreades pursued the Harpyiai :] Round about all these [the Boreades] sped in darting flight . . (lacuna) of the well-horsed Hyperboreans–whom Gaia (Earth) the all-nourishing bare far off by the tumbling streams of deep-flowing Eridanos . . (lacuna) of amber, feeding her wide-scattered offspring.”
Homeric Hymn 7 to Dionysos 27 ff (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C7th – 4th B.C.) :
“[The captain of the Tyrrhenian pirates has captured the god Dionysos :] `As for this fellow we men will see to him: I reckon he is bound for Aigyptos (Egypt) or for Kypros or to the Hyperboreans or further still.'”
Pindar, Pindar Pythian Ode 10. 27 ff (trans. Conway) (Greek lyric C5th B.C.) :
“Of the fairest glories that mortals may attain, to him is given to sail to the furthest bound. Yet neither ship nor marching feet may find the wondrous way to the gatherings of the Hyperborean people.
Yet was it with these that Perseus the warrior chief once feasted, entering their homes, and chanced upon their sacrifices unto the god, those famous offerings of hecatombs of asses; for in their banquets and rich praise Apollon greatly delights, and laughs to see the rampant lewdness of those brutish beasts.
Nor is the Mousa (Muse) a stranger to their life, but on all sides the feet of maidens dancing, the full tones of the lyre and pealing flutes are all astir; with leaves of gleaming laurel bound upon their hair, they throng with happy hearts to join the revel. Illness and wasting old age visit not this hallowed race, but far from toil and battle they dwell secure from fate’s remorseless vengeance.
There with the breath of courage in his heart, unto that gathering of happy men, by guidance of Athene, came long ago the son of Danaë, Perseus, who slew the Gorgo.”
Pindar, Pindar, Olympian Ode 3. 12 ff :
“[The Olympic Games,] rites long years ago established by Herakles, set on his brow aloft that shining glory, wreathed upon his hair, of the green olive leaf; which once from Istros’ [the Danube’s] shady streams Amphitryon’s son brought hither, to be the fairest emblem of Olympia’s Games.
For the Hyperborean folk, Apollon’s servants, he so persuaded with fair words, when, for the all-hospitable grove of Zeus, his loyal heart begged for the tree, to make shade for all men to share, and for brave deeds of valorous spirits, a crown. For he had seen long since his father’s [Zeus’] altars sanctified, and the light of evening smiling at mid-month to the golden care of the full-orbèd moon; and of the great Games had set up the contest and sacred judgment, with the rites of the four-yearly feast, on the high banks of Alpheios’ holy river. But the land of Pelops, and the vales by Kronos’ hill nourished no lovely trees, and his eyes saw a garden spread defenceless beneath the fierce rays of the sun.
Then at length did his heart bid him be one, to journey to the land of Istria, where, long since, Leto’s daughter [Artemis], lover of horsemanship, received him. For he came from Arkadia’s high peaks and winding glens, by constraint of his father, to perform the bidding of Eurystheus, and bring back the Hind of the golden horns . . . And in that search he saw, too, the famed land that lay behind cold Boreas of bleak and frozen breath; and standing there marvelled to see the trees. And in his heart a dear resolve was born, to set them planted there, where ends the course twelve times encircled by the racing steeds.”
Aeschylus, Libation Bearers 372 ff (trans. Weir Smyth) (Greek tragedy C5th B.C.) :
“Your wish is better than gold. It surpasses great good fortune, even that of the Hyperboreans.”
Herodotus, Histories 4. 13. 1 (trans. Godley) (Greek historian C5th B.C.) :
“There is also a story related in a poem by Aristeas [Greek poet C7th B.C.] son of Kaüstrobios, a man of Prokonnesos. This Aristeas, possessed by Phoibos [the god Apollon], visited the Issedones; beyond these (he said) live the one-eyed Arimaspians, beyond whom are the Grypes (Griffins) that guard gold, and beyond these again the Hyperboreans, whose territory reaches to the sea. Except for the Hyperboreans, all these nations (and first the Arimaspians) are always at war with their neighbors; the Issedones were pushed from their lands by the Arimaspians, and the Skythians by the Issedones, and the Kimmerians, living by the southern sea, were hard pressed by the Skythians and left their country. Thus Aristeas’ story does not agree with the Skythian account about this country.”
Herodotus, Histories 4. 32 – 36 :
“Concerning the Hyperborean people, neither the Skythians nor any other inhabitants of these lands tell us anything, except perhaps the Issedones. And, I think, even they say nothing; for if they did, then the Skythians, too, would have told, just as they tell of the one-eyed men. But Hesiod speaks of Hyperboreans, and Homer too in his poem The Epigonoi, if that is truly the work of Homer.
But the Delians say much more about them than any others do. They say that offerings wrapped in straw are brought from the Hyperboreans to Skythia; when these have passed Skythia, each nation in turn receives them from its neighbors until they are carried to the Adriatic sea, which is the most westerly limit of their journey; from there, they are brought on to the south, the people of Dodona being the first Greeks to receive them. From Dodona they come down to the Melian gulf, and are carried across to Euboia, and one city sends them on to another until they come to Karystos; after this, Andros is left out of their journey, for Karystians carry them to Tenos, and Tenians to Delos.Thus (they say) these offerings come to Delos.
But on the first journey, the Hyperboreans sent two maidens bearing the offerings, to whom the Delians give the names Hyperokhe and Laodike, and five men of their people with them as escort for safe conduct, those who are now called Perpherees and greatly honored at Delos. But when those whom they sent never returned, they took it amiss that they should be condemned always to be sending people and not getting them back, and so they carry the offerings, wrapped in straw, to their borders, and tell their neighbors to send them on from their own country to the next; and the offerings, it is said, come by this conveyance to Delos. I can say of my own knowledge that there is a custom like these offerings; namely, that when the Thrakian and Paionian women sacrifice to the Royal Artemis, they have straw with them while they sacrifice.
I know that they do this. The Delian girls and boys cut their hair in honor of these Hyperborean maidens, who died at Delos; the girls before their marriage cut off a tress and lay it on the tomb, wound around a spindle (this tomb is at the foot of an olive-tree, on the left hand of the entrance of the temple of Artemis); the Delian boys twine some of their hair around a green stalk, and lay it on the tomb likewise.
In this way, then, these maidens are honored by the inhabitants of Delos. These same Delians relate that two virgins, Arge and Opis, came from the Hyperboreans by way of the aforesaid peoples to Delos earlier than Hyperokhe and Laodike; these latter came to bring to Eileithyia [i.e. Artemis] the tribute which they had agreed to pay for easing child-bearing; but Arge and Opis, they say, came with the gods themselves [i.e. Apollon and Artemis], and received honors of their own from the Delians. For the women collected gifts for them, calling upon their names in the hymn made for them by Olen of Lykia; it was from Delos that the islanders and Ionians learned to sing hymns to Opis and Arge, calling upon their names and collecting gifts (this Olen, after coming from Lycia, also made the other and ancient hymns that are sung at Delos). Furthermore, they say that when the thighbones are burnt in sacrifice on the altar, the ashes are all cast on the burial-place of Opis and Arge, behind the temple of Artemis, looking east, nearest the refectory of the people of Keos.
I have said this much of the Hyperboreans, and let it suffice; for I do not tell the story of that Abaris, alleged to be a Hyperborean, who carried the arrow over the whole world, fasting all the while. But if there are men beyond the north wind (Boreas), then there are others beyond the south. And I laugh to see how many have before now drawn maps of the world, not one of them reasonably; for they draw the world as round as if fashioned by compasses, encircled by the Okeanos river, and Asia and Europe of a like extent. For myself, I will in a few words indicate the extent of the two, and how each should be drawn.”
Plato, Charmides 158c (trans. Lamb) (Greek philosopher C4th B.C.) :
“[If] you are sufficiently temperate, then you never had any need of the charms of Zalmoxis or of Abaris the Hyperborean, and might well be given at once the remedy for the head; but if you prove to be still lacking that virtue, we must apply the charm before the remedy.” [N.B. Abaris was a fabulous prophet from the far north, to whom oracles and charms were ascribed by the Greeks; cf. Herodotus. 4. 36.]
Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 1. 27 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
“Artemis shot him [the giant Orion] as he was forcing his attention on Oupis, a virgin who had come from the Hyperboreans.”
Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 2. 114 :
“[The golden apples of the Hesperides :] These apples were not, as some maintain, in Libya, but rather were with Atlas among the Hyperboreans. Ge (Earth) had given them to Zeus when he married Hera.”
Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 2. 119 :
“Prometheus advised Herakles not to go after the apples [of the Hesperides] himself, but rather to reelive Atlas of the celestial sphere and dispatch him. So when Herakles reached Atlas among the Hyperboreans, he remembered Prometheus’ advise and took over the sphere. Atlas picked three apples from the garden of the Hesperides, then returned to Herakles.” [N.B. Here Atlas holds the heavens aloft in Hyperborea, beneath the northern axis around which the stars revolve. Usually he is located in Hesperia in the west.]
Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica 2. 674 ff (trans. Seaton) (Greek epic C3rd B.C.) :
“And to them the son of Leto [i.e. Apollon] appeared, as he passed from Lykia far away to the countless folk of the Hyperboreans; and about his cheeks on both sides his golden locks flowed in clusters as he moved.”
Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica 4. 594 ff :
“[On their return voyage to Greece from the Black Sea the Argonauts sail through the mythical interconnecting northern rivers of Hyperborea :] Far on sped Argo under sail, and entered deep into the stream of Eridanos; where once, smitten on the breast by the blazing bolt, Phaethon half-consumed fell from the chariot of Helios into the opening of that deep lake; and even now it belcheth up heavy steam clouds from the smouldering wound. And no bird spreading its light wings can cross that water; but in mid-course it plunges into the flame, fluttering. And all around the maidens, the daughters of Helios, enclosed in tall poplars, wretchedly wail a piteous plaint; and from their eyes they shed on the ground bright drops of amber. These are dried by the sun upon the sand; but whenever the waters of the dark lake flow over the strand before the blast of the wailing wind, then they roll on in a mass into Eridanos with swelling tide. But the Keltoi (Celts) have attached this story to them, that these are the tears of Leto’s son, Apollon, that are borne along by the eddies, the countless tears that he shed aforetime when he came to the sacred race of the Hyperboreans and left shining heaven at the chiding of his father [Zeus], being in wrath concerning his son [Asklepios] whom divine Koronis bare in bright Lakereia at the mouth of Amyros. And such is the story told among these men. But no desire for food or drink seized the heroes nor were their thoughts turned to joy. But they were sorely afflicted all day, heavy and faint at heart, with the noisome stench, hard to endure, which the streams of Eridanos sent forth from Phaethon still burning; and at night they heard the piercing lament of the Heliades (daughters of Helios), wailing with shrill voice; and, as they lamented, their tears were borne on the water like drops of oil.
Thence they entered the deep stream of Rhodanos [the Rhone] which flows into Eridanos; and where they meet there is a roar of mingling waters. Now that river, rising from the ends of the earth, where are the portals and mansions of Nyx (Night), on one side bursts forth upon the beach of Okeanos, at another pours into the Ionian sea, and on the third through seven mouths sends its stream to the Sardinian sea and its limitless bay. And from Rhodanos they entered stormy lakes, which spread throughout the Keltic mainland of wondrous size; and there they would have met with an inglorious calamity; for a certain branch of the river was bearing them towards a gulf of Okeanos.”
[N.B. The Hyperborean river Eridanos flows directly from the earth-encircling, fresh-water Okean-stream.]
Callimachus, Hymn 4 to Delos 275 ff (trans. Mair) (Greek poet C3rd B.C.) :
“Thou [Delos] art famed as the most holy of islands, nurse of Apollon’s youth. On thee treads not Enyo nor Haides nor the horses of Ares; but every year tithes of first-fruits are sent to thee : to thee all cities lead up choirs, both those cities which have cast their lots toward the East and those toward the West and those in the South, and the Hyperboreans (peoples which have their homes above the northern shore), a very long-lived race. These first bring thee cornstalks and holy sheaves of corn-ears, which the Pelasgians of Dodona [i.e. the famous oracle of Zeus] . . . first receive, as these offerings enter their country from afar. Next they come to the Holy town and mountains of the Malian land; and thence they sail across to the goodly Lelantian plain of the Abantes [i.e. the island of Euboia]; and then not long is the voyage from Euboia, since thy havens are nigh thereto. The first to bring thee these offerings from the fair-haired Arimaspoi were Oupis and Loxo and happy Hekaerge, daughters of Boreas, and those who then were the best of the young men. And they returned no home again, but a happy fate was theirs, and they shall never be without their glory. Verily the girls of Delos, when the sweet-sounded marriage hymn affrights the maidens’ quarters, bring offerings of their maiden hair to the maidens, while the boys offer to the young men the first harvest of the down upon their cheeks.”
Callimachus, Fragment 187 (from Clement Protrept. 25) (trans. Trypanis) (Greek poet C3rd B.C.) :
“Phoibos [Apollon] visits the Hyperborean sacrifices of asses.”
Callimachus, Fragment 187 (from Scholiast on Pindar’s Pythian 10. 49) :
“Fat sacrifices of asses delight Phoibos.”
Callimachus, Fragment 215 (from Scholiast on Apollonius Rhodius 4. 284) :
“They [the Hyperboreans] send [offerings to Apollon at Delos] from the Rhipaion Mountains.”
Diodorus Siculus, Library of History 2. 47. 1 – 6 (trans. Oldfather) (Greek historian C1st B.C.) :
“Since we have seen fit to make mention of the regions of Asia which lie to the north, we feel that it will not be foreign to our purpose to discuss the legendary accounts of the Hyperboreans. Of those who have written about the ancient myths, Hekataios [Greek philosopher C4th B.C.] and certain others say that in the regions beyond the land of the Keltoi there lies in Okeanos (the Ocean) an island no smaller than Sikelia (Sicily). This island, the account continues, is situated in the north and is inhabited by the Hyperboreans, who are called by that name because their home is beyond the point whence the north wind (Boreas) blows; and the island is both fertile and productive of every crop, and since it has an unusually temperate climate it produces two harvests each year.
Moreover, the following legend is told concerning it : Leto was born on this island, and for that reason Apollon is honoured among them above all other gods; and the inhabitants are looked upon as priests of Apollon, after a manner, since daily they praise this god continuously in song and honour him exceedingly. And there is also on the island both a magnificent sacred precinct of Apollon and a notable temple which is adorned with many votive offerings and is spherical in shape. Furthermore, a city is there which is sacred to this god, and the majority of its inhabitants are players on the cithara; and these continually play on this instrument in the temple and sing hymns of praise to the god, glorifying his deeds.
The Hyperboreans also have a language, we are informed, which is peculiar to them, and are most friendly disposed towards the Greeks, and especially towards the Athenians and the Delians, who have inherited this good-will from most ancient times. The myth also relates that certain Greeks visited the Hyperboreans and left behind them there costly votive offerings bearing inscriptions in Greek letters. And in the same way, Abaris, a Hyperborean, came to Greece in ancient times and renewed the goodwill and kinship of his people to the Delians.
They say also that the moon, as viewed from this island appears to be but a little distance from the earth and to have upon it prominences, like those of the earth, which are visible to the eye. The account is also given that the god visits the island every nineteen years, the period in which the return of the stars to the same place in the heavens is accomplished; and for this reason the nineteen-year period is called by the Greeks the ‘year of Meton.’ At the time of this appearance of the god he both plays on the cithara and dances continuously the night through from the vernal equinox until the rising of the Pleiades, expressing in this manner his delight in his successes. And the kings of this city are called Boreadae, since they are descendants of Boreas, and the succession to these positions is always kept in their family.”
Diodorus Siculus, Library of History 3. 59. 6 :
“[In Phrygian mythology :] Apollon, they say, laid away both the lyre and the pipes as a votive offering in the cave of Dionysos, and becoming enamoured of Kybelê joined in her wanderings as far as the land of the Hyperboreans.”
Diodorus Siculus, Library of History 4. 51. 1 – 4 :
“[Medea in the kingdom of Pelias in Thessalia, disguises herself as a Hyperborean priestess of Artemis :] Medea fashioning a hollow image of Artemis secreted in it drugs of diverse natures, and as for herself, she anointed her hair with certain potent ointments and made it grey, and filled her face and body so full of wrinkles that all who looked upon her thought that she was surely an old woman. And finally, taking with her the statue of the goddess which had been so made as to strike with terror the superstitious populace and move it to fear of the gods, at daybreak she entered the city.
She acted like one inspired, and as the multitude rushed together along the streets she summoned the whole people to receive the goddess with reverence, telling them that he goddess had come to them from the Hyperboreans to bring good luck to both the whole city and the king. And while all the inhabitants were rendering obeisance to the goddess and honouring her with sacrifices, and the whole city, in a word, was, along with Medea herself, acting like people inspired, she entered the palace . . . For she declared that Artemis, riding through the air upon a chariot drawn by drakones, had flown in the air over many parts of the inhabited earth and had chosen out the realm of the most pious king in all the world for the establishment of her own worship and for honours which should be for ever and ever.”
Strabo, Geography 7. 3. 1 (trans. Jones) (Greek geographer C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
“It is because of men’s ignorance of these regions [i.e. the land of the Thrakian Getai, now Bulgaria and Romania] that any heed has been given to those who created the mythical ‘Rhipaíon Mountains and Hyperborean’, and also to all those false statements made by Pytheas the Massalian [Greek writer C4th B.C.] regarding the country along the Okeanos, wherein he uses as a screen his scientific knowledge of astronomy and mathematics. So then, those men should be disregarded; in fact, if even Sophokles [tragedian C5th B.C.], when in his role as a tragic poet he speaks of Oreithyia, tells how she was snatched up by Boreas and carried `over the whole sea to the ends of the earth and to the sources of night and to the unfoldings of heaven and to [Hyperborea] the ancient garden of Phoibos [Apollon].'”
Pausanias, Description of Greece 1. 18. 5 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
“[In Athens] is built a temple of Eileithyia, who they say came from the Hyperboreans to Delos and helped Leto in her labour; and from Delos the name spread to other peoples. The Delians sacrifice to Eileithyia and sing a hymn of Olen [a legendary poet] . . . Only among the Athenians are the wooden figures of Eileithyia draped to the feet . . . the third, which is the oldest, Erysikhthon brought from Delos.
Pausanias, Description of Greece 1. 31. 2 :
“At Prasiai [a village near Athens] is a temple of Apollo. Hither they say are sent the first-fruits of the Hyperboreans, and the Hyperboreans are said to hand them over to the Arimaspoi, the Arimaspoi to the Issedones, from these the Skythians bring them to Sinope, thence they are carried by Greeks to Prasiai, and the Athenians take them to Delos. The first-fruits are hidden in wheat straw, and they are known of none. There is at Prasiai a monument to Erysikhthon, who died on the voyage home from Delos, after the sacred mission thither.”
Pausanias, Description of Greece 3. 13. 2 :
“The Lakedaimonians [of Sparta] have a temple of the Saviour Maid [i.e. Artemis]. Some say that it was made by Orpheus the Thrakian, others by Abaris when he had come from the Hyperboreans.”
Pausanias, Description of Greece 5. 7. 6 – 9 :
“As for the Olympic games, the most learned antiquaries of Elis say that Kronos was the first king of heaven, and that in his honor a temple was built in Olympia by the men of that age, who were named the Golden Race. When Zeus was born, Rhea entrusted the guardianship of her son to the Daktyloi of Ida . . . They came from Kretan Ida–Herakles, Paionaios, Epimedes, Iasios and Idas. Herakles, being the eldest, matched his brothers, as a game, in a running-race, and crowned the winner with a branch of wild olive, of which they had such a copious supply that they slept on heaps of its leaves while still green. It is said to have been introduced into Greece by Herakles from the land of the Hyperboreans, men living beyond the home of the North Wind.
Olen the Lykian [semi-legendary poet], in his hymn to Akhaeia, was the first to say that from these Hyperboreans Akhaeia came to Delos. When Melanopos of Kyme composed an ode to Oupis and Hekaerge declaring that these, even before Akhaeia, came to Delos from the Hyperboreans.
And Aristeas of Prokonnesos [semi-legendary poet C7th B.C.]–for he too made mention of the Hyperboreans–may perhaps have learnt even more about them from the Issedones, to whom he says in his poem that he came.”
[N.B. In Pindar, the Herakles who fetches the sacred olive from Hyperborea is the great hero rather than the Dakyl. The two were always confounded.]
Pausanias, Description of Greece 10. 5. 7 – 9 :
“[On the founding of the Delphic Oracle :] Boeo, a native woman who composed a hymn for the Delphians, said that the oracle was established for the god [Apollon] by comers from the Hyperboreans, Olen [a semi-legendary poet] and others, and that he was the first to prophesy and the first to chant the hexameter oracles [i.e. like the Phthia]. The verses of Boeo are:–-`Here in truth a mindful oracle was built by the sons of the Hyperboreans, Pagasos and divine Agyieos.’ After enumerating others also of the Hyperboreans, at the end of the hymn she names Olen:–-`And Olen, who became the first prophet of Phoibos, and first fashioned a song of ancient verses.’ Tradition, however, reports no other man as prophet, but makes mention of prophetesses only.
They say that the most ancient temple of Apollo was made of laurel, the branches of which were brought from the laurel in Tempe. This temple must have had the form of a hut. The Delphians say that the second temple was made by bees from bees-wax and feathers, and that it was sent to the Hyperboreans by Apollon.”
Pausanias, Description of Greece 1. 4. 4 :
“[The Gauls invaded Greece in 279 B.C. :] Nw south of the Gates [of Thermopylai], [they] cared not at all to capture the other towns, but were very eager to sack Delphoi and the treasures of the god [Apollon]. They were opposed by the Delphians themselves and the Phokians of the cities around Parnassos; a force of Aitolians also joined the defenders, for the Aitolians at this time were pre-eminent for their vigorous activity. When the forces engaged, not only were thunderbolts and rocks broken off from Parnassos hurled against the Gauls, but terrible shapes as armed warriors haunted the foreigners. They say that two of them, Hyperokhos and Amadokos, came from the Hyperboreans, and that the third was Pyrrhos son of Akhilleus.”
[N.B. In this account of an historical battle with the Gauls near Delphoi, the mythical heroes Hyperokhos, Amadokos and Pyrrhos appear on the scene in the form of phantoms to frighten the enemy troops. Pyrrhos (better known as Neoptolemos) was a hero of the Trojan War who was buried at Delphoi, while the Hyperboreans were presumably those reputed to have founded the shrine; cf. Pausanias 10.5.7 above.]
Antoninus Liberalis, Metamorphoses 20 (trans. Celoria) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
“Apollon and Artemis had a very great affection for him [Klinis, a man of Babylon] and he frequently attended with these gods the temple of Apollon in the land of the Hyperboreoi where he saw the consecration of the sacrifices of asses to the god. Returning to Babylon, he too wanted to worship the god as among the Hyperboreans and arranged by the altar a hecatomb of asses. Apollon appeared and threatened him with death if he did not cease from this sacrifice and did not offer up to him the usual goats, sheep and cattle. For this sacrifice of asses was a source of pleasure for the god only if carried out by the Hyperboreans.”
Aelian, On Animals 4. 4 (trans. Scholfield) (Greek natural history C2nd A.D.) :
“Wolves are not easily delivered of their young, only after twelve days and twelve nights, for the people of Delos maintain that this was the length of time that it took Leto to travel from the Hyperboreans to Delos.”
Aelian, On Animals 11. 1 :
“The race of the Hyperboreans and the honours there paid to Apollon are sung of by poets and are celebrated by historians, among whom is Hekataios, not of Miletos but of Abdera [Greek philosopher C4th B.C.] . . . This god [Apollon] has as priests the sons of Boreas (North Wind) and Khione (Snow), three in number, brothers by birth, and six cubits in height. So when at the customary time they perform the established ritual of the aforesaid god there swoop down from what are called the Rhipaion mountains swans in clouds, past numbering, and after they have circled round the temple as though they were purifying it by their flight, they descend into the precinct of the temple, an area of immense size and of surpassing beauty. Now whenever the singers sing their hymns to the god and the harpers accompany the chorus with their harmonious music, thereupon the swans also with one accord join in the chant and never once do they sing a discordant note or out of tune, but as though they had been given the key by the conductor they chant in unison with the natives who are skilled in the sacred melodies. Then when the hymn is finished the aforesaid winged choristers, so to call them, after their customary service in honour of the god and after singing and celebrating his praises all through the day, depart.”
Aelian, On Animals 11. 10 :
“I have mentioned the swans from the Rhipaion Mountains in the country of the Hyperboreans on account of their daily and assiduous service of [Apollon] the son of Zeus and Leto.”
Aelian, Historical Miscellany 2. 26 (trans. Wilson) (Greek rhetorician C2nd to 3rd A.D.) :
“Aristotle says that Pythagoras [C6th B.C.] was addressed by the citizens of Kroton as Apollon Hyperboreus (of the Hyperboreans).” [I.e. probably because he was a prophet of the northern mysteries.]
Philostratus the Elder, Imagines 1. 11 (trans. Fairbanks) (Greek rhetorician C3rd A.D.) :
“Golden are the tears of the daughters of Helios (the Sun). The story is that they are shed for Phaëthon; for in his passion for driving this son of Helios ventured to mount his father’s chariot, but because he did not keep a firm rein he came to grief and fell into the Eridanos . . . Now the youth is thrown from the chariot and is falling headlong–for his hair is on fire and his breast smouldering with the heat; his fall will end in the river Eridanos and will furnish this stream with a mythical tale. For swans scattered about, breathing sweet notes, will hymn the youth; and flocks of swans rising aloft will sing the story to Kaÿstros and Istros [rivers of Lykia and Skythia]; nor will any place fail to hear the strange story. And they will have Zephyros, nimble god of wayside shrines, to accompany their song, for it is said that Zephyros has made a compact with the swans to join them in the music of the dirge. This agreement is even now being carried out, for look! The wind is playing on the swans as on musical instruments.” [N.B.The swans were said to spend the summer on the Kaystros river in Lydia and the winter on the Danube (Istros) among the Hyperboreans. Cf. Himerius 79. 17d (not quoted here).]
Clement, Exhortation to the Greeks 3 (trans. Butterworth) (Greek Christian rhetoric C2nd to 3rd A.D.) :
“These temples [those of the pagan Greeks] . . . are called by a fair-sounding name, but in reality they are tombs. But I appeal to you, even at this late hour forget daimon-worship, feeling ashamed to honour tombs . . . Why recount to you the Hyperborean women? They are called Hyperokhe and Laodike, and they lie in the Artemision (Temple of Artemis) at Delos; this is in the temple precincts of Delian Apollon.”
Pseudo-Hyginus, Astronomica 2. 15 (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
“Eratosthenes [Greek writer C3rd B.C.] says about the Arrow, that with this Apollo killed the Cyclopes who forged the thunderbolt by which Aesculapius died. Apollo had buried this arrow in the Hyperborean mountain, but when Jupiter [Zeus] pardoned his son, it was borne by the wind and brought to Apollo along with the grain which at that time was growing. Many point out that for this reason it is among the constellations.”
[N.B. Presumably the “arrow in the Hyperborean mountain” is connected with the tale of Abaris, the Hyperborean arrow-riding prophet of Apollon.]
Ovid, Metamorphoses 10. 352 ff (trans. Brookes More) (Roman epic C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
“Or if some black bitumen catches fire or yellow sulphur burns with little smoke, then surely, when the ground no longer gives such food and oily nutriment for flames . . . ‘Tis said that Hyperboreans of Pallene can cover all their bodies with light plumes by plunging nine times in Minerva’s marsh [i.e. a lake of bitumen]. But I cannot believe another tale : that Scythian women get a like result by having poison sprinkled on their limbs.”
[N.B. The bitumen marsh is presumably the mythical swamp of the Eridanos into which Phaethon fell after he was struck down from the chariot of the sun by Zeus with a thunderbolt. The swans of Hyperborea were said to rise from its waters. In Ovid’s story the Hyperborean folk themselves become swans after bathing in the waters. Cf. Ovid’s myth of the metamorphosis of Kyknos “the Swan,” a friend of Phaethon.]
Virgil, Georgics 3. 195 ff (trans. Fairclough) (Roman bucolic C1st B.C.) :
“When the gathered North Wind (Aquilo) swoops down from Hyperborean coasts, driving on Scythia’s storms and dry clouds.”
Pliny the Elder, Natural History 4. 88 ff (trans. Rackham) (Roman encyclopedia C1st A.D.) :
“Along the [Black Sea] coast [of Europe], as far as the river Tanais [the Don], are the Maeotae [a Skythian tribe] . . . and last of all in the rear of the Maeotae are the Arimaspi. Then come the Ripaean Mountains [the Carpathians?] and the region called Peterophorus [‘wing-bringers’], because of the feather-like snow continually falling there; it is a part of the world that lies under the condemnation of nature and is plunged in dense darkness, and occupied only by the work of frost and the chilly lurking-places of Aquilo [Boreas the North Wind]. Behind these mountains and beyond Aquilo there dwells–if we can believe it–a happy race of people called the Hyperboreans, who live to extreme old age and are famous for legendary marvels. Here are believed to be the hinges on which the firmament turns and the extreme revolutions of the stars, with six months’ daylight and a single day of the sun in retirement, not as the ignorant have said, from the spring equinox till autumn: for these people the sun rises once in the year, at midsummer, and sets once, at midwinter. It is a genial region, with a delightful climate and exempt from every harmful blast. The homes of the natives are the woods and groves; they worship the gods severally and in congregations; all discord and all sorrow is unknown. Death comes to them only when, owing to the satiety of life, after holding a banquet and anointing their old age with luxury, they leap from a certain rock into the sea: this mode of burial is the most blissful. Some authorities have placed these people not in Europe but on the nearest part of the coasts of Asia, because there is a race there with similar customs and a similar location, named the Attaci; others have put them midway between the two suns, the sunsets of the antipodes and our sunrise, but this is quite impossible because of the enormous expanse of sea that comes between. Those who locate them merely in a region having six months of daylight have recorded that they sow in the morning periods, reap at midday, pluck the fruit from the trees at sunset, and retire into caves for the night. Nor is it possible to doubt about this race, as so may authorities state that they regularly send the first fruits of their harvests to Delos as offerings to Apollo, whom they specially worship. These offerings used to be brought by virgins, who for many years were held in veneration and hospitably entertained by the nations on the route, until because of a violation of good faith they instituted the custom of depositing their offerings at the nearest frontiers of the neighbouring people, and these of passing them on to their neighbours, and so till they finally reached Delos. Later this practice itself also passed out of use.”
Pliny the Elder, Natural History 6. 34 :
“From the extreme north-north-east to the northernmost point at which the sun rises in summer there are the Scythians, and outside of them and beyond the point where north-north-east begins some have placed the Hyperboreans, who are said by a majority of authorities to be in Europe. After that point the first place known is Lytharmis, a promontory of Celtica, and the river Carambucis, where the range of the Ripaean Mountains terminates and with it the rigour of the climate relaxes; here we have reports of a people called the Arimphaei, a race not unlike the Hyperboreans. They dwell in forests and live on berries; long hair is deemed to be disgraceful in the case of women and men alike; and their manners are mild. Consequently they are reported to be deemed a sacred race and to be left unmolested by the savage tribes uamong their neighbours, this immunity not being confined to themselves but extended also to people who have fled to them for refuge. Beyond them we come directly to the Scythians, Cimmerians, Cissi, Anthi, Georgi, and a race of Amazones, the last reaching to the Caspian and Hyrcanian Sea.”
Seneca, Phaedra 930 ff (trans. Miller) (Roman tragedy C1st A.D.) :
“Traverse nations remote, unknown; though a land on the remotest confines of the world hold thee separated by Oceanus’ tracts, though thou take up thy dwelling in the world opposite our feet, though thou escape to the shuddering realms of the high north and hide deep in its farthest corner, and though, placed beyond the reach of winter (Hyperborea) and his hoar snows, thou leave behind thee the threatening rage of cold Boreas.”
Valerius Flaccus, Argonautica 8. 209 ff (trans. Mozley) (Roman epic C1st A.D.) :
“No lake, no river of Scythia but mourns for her as she passes; the sight of her . . . stirred the Hyperborean snows.”
Statius, Thebaid 1. 694 ff (trans. Mozley) (Roman epic C1st A.D.) :
“The frosty wagoner of the Hyperborean Bear droops languidly, with backward slanting pole.” [N.B. The constellation known as Ursa Major or the Wain circles the heavenly pole, above the land of the Hyperboreans.]
Statius, Thebaid 5. 390 ff :
“Even so does Jupiter [Zeus] lash the green fields with Hyperboreans snow; beasts of all kinds perish on the plains, and birds are overtaken and fall dead, and the harvest is blasted with untimely frost; then is there thundering on the heights, and fury in the rivers.” [N.B. Hyperborea is here any far northern land, rather than the fabulous realm of eternal spring.]
Statius, Thebaid 12. 650 ff :
“As when Jupiter [Zeus] plants his cloudy footsteps upon the Hyperborean pole and makes the stars tremble at the oncoming of winter, Aeolia [the island home of the winds] is riven, and the storm, indignant at its long idleness, takes heart, and the North whistles with the hurricane; then roar the mountains and the waves, clouds battle in the blind gloom, and thunders and crazed lightnings revel.” [N.B. Winter rises in Hyperborea, or from the mountains beneath it.]
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 11. 132 ff (trans. Rouse) (Greek epic C5th A.D.) :
“Abaris also you have heard of, whom Phoibos [Apollon] through the air perched on his winged roving arrow.”
Suidas s.v. Abaris (trans. Suda On Line) (Byzantine Greek lexicon C10th A.D.) :
“Abaris : Skythian, son of Seuthes. He wrote the so-called Skythinian Oracles and Marriage of the river Hebros and Purifications and a Theogony in prose and Arrival of Apollon among the Hyperboreans in meter. He came from Skythia to Greece.
The legendary arrow belongs to him, the one he flew on from Greece to Hyperborean Skythia. It was given to him by Apollon.
Gregory the Theologian [Christian writer C4th A.D.] mentioned this man in his Epitaphios for Basil the Great. They say that once, when there was a plague throughout the entire inhabited world, Apollon told the Greeks and barbarians who had come to consult his oracle that the Athenian people should make prayers on behalf of all of them. So, many peoples sent ambassadors to them, and Abaris, they say, came as ambassador of the Hyperboreans in the third Olympiad.”