previous next
For if that be a good saying of Callimachus, that we ought not to measure wisdom by a Persian cord, much less should we measure happiness by cords of furlongs, or, if we chance to inhabit an island of two hundred furlongs and not (like Sicily) of four days' sail in compass, think that we ought to disquiet ourselves and lament as if we were very miserable and unfortunate. For what does a place of large extent contribute to the tranquillity of one's life? Do you not hear Tantalus saying in the tragedy: [p. 24]
I sow the Berecyntian ground,
A field of twelve days' journey round?

But he says a little after:

My mind, that used to mount the skies,
Fallen to the earth dejected lies,
And now this friendly counsel brings,—
Less to admire all earthly things.

Nausithous, forsaking the spacious country of Hyperia because the Cyclops bordered upon it, and removing to an island far distant from all other people, chose there,

Remote from all commerce t' abide,
By sea's surrounding waves denied;

and yet he procured a very pleasant way of living to his own citizens.

The Cyclades islands were formerly inhabited by the children of Minos, and afterwards by the children of Codrus and Neleus; in which now fools that are banished thither think they are punished. And indeed, what island is there to which men are wont to be banished that is not larger than the land that lies about Scillus, in which Xenophon after his military expedition passed delicately his old age? The Academy near Athens, that was purchased for three thousand drachmas, was the place where Plato, Xenocrates, and Polemo dwelt; there they held their schools, and there they lived all their lifetime, except one day every year, when Xenocrates came into the city at the time of the Bacchanals and the new tragedies, to grace the feast, as they say. Theocritus of Chios reproached Aristotle, who affected a court-life with Philip and Alexander, that he chose instead of the Academy rather to dwell at the mouth of Borborus. For there is a river by Pella, which the Macedonians call by that name.

But as for islands, Homer sets himself as it were studiously to commend them in these verses: [p. 25]

He comes to the isle of Lemnos, and the town
Where divine Thoas dwelt, of great renown;


As much as fruitful Lesbos does contain,
A seat which Gods above do not disdain;


When he to th' lofty hills of Scyros came,
And took the town that boasts Enyeus's name;


These from Dulichium and th' Echinades,
Blest isles, that lie 'gainst Elis, o'er the seas.

And among the famous men that dwelt in islands they reckon Aeolus, a great favorite of the Gods, the most prudent Ulysses, the most valiant Ajax, and Alcinous, the most courteous entertainer of strangers.

1 From the Niobe of Aeschylus, Frag. 153 and 154.

2 Odyss. VI. 204.

3 Il. XIV. 230; XXIV. 544; IX. 668; II. 625.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

load focus Greek (Gregorius N. Bernardakis, 1891)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: