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XIV. TANAIS.

TANAIS is a river of Scythia, formerly called the Amazonian river, because the Amazons bathed themselves therein; but it altered its name upon this occasion. Tanais, the son of Berossus and Lysippe, one of the Amazons, became a vehement hater of the female sex, and looking upon marriage as ignominious and dishonorable, applied himself wholly to martial affairs. This so offended Venus, that she caused him to fall passionately in love with his own mother. True it is, at first he withstood the force of his passion; but finding he could not vanquish the fatal necessity of yielding to divine impulse, and yet desirous to preserve his respect and piety towards his mother, he flung himself into the Amazonian river, which was afterwards called Tanais, from the name of the young man.

In this river grows a plant which is called halinda, resembling a colewort; which the inhabitants bruising, and anointing their bodies with the juice of it, find themselves in a condition better able to endure the extremity of the cold; and for that reason, in their own language they call it Berossus's oil.

In this river grows a stone not unlike to crystal, resembling the shape of a man with a crown upon his head. Whoever finds the stone when the king dies, and has it ready against the time that the people meet upon the banks of the river to choose a new sovereign, is presently elected king, and receives the sceptre of the deceased prince;—as Ctesiphon relates in his Third Book of Plants; and Aristobulus gives us the same account in his First Book of Stones.

Near to this river also lies a mountain, in the language of the natives called Brixaba, which signifies the forehead of a ram. And it was so called upon this occasion. Phryxus having lost his sister Helle near the Euxine Sea, [p. 495] and; as Nature in justice required, being extremely troubled for his loss, retired to the top of a certain hill to disburden himself of his sorrow. At which time certain barbarians espying him, and mounting up the hill with their arms in their hands, a gold-fleeced ram leaping out of a thicket, and seeing the multitude coming, with articulate language and the voice of a man, awakened Phryxus, who was fast asleep, and taking him upon his back, carried him to Colchis. From this accident it was that the mountainous promontory was called the ram's forehead.

In this mountain grows an herb, by the barbarians called phryxa (which being interpreted signifies hating the wicked), not unlike our common rue. If the son of a former mother have it in his possession, he can never be injured by his step-dame. It chiefly grows near the place which is called Boreas's Den, and being gathered, is colder than snow. But if any step-dame be forming a design against her son-in-law, it sets itself on fire and sends forth a bright flame. By which means they who are thus warned avoid the danger they are in;—as Agatho the Samian testifies in his Second Book of Scythian Relations.

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