Chapter 8. ANACHARSIS
Anacharsis the Scythian was the son of Gnurus
and brother of Caduidas, king of Scythia. His mother
was a Greek, and for that reason he spoke both
languages. He wrote on the institutions of the
Greeks and the Scythians, dealing with simplicity of
life and military matters, a poem of 800 lines. So
outspoken was he that he furnished occasion for a
proverb, "To talk like a Scythian."
Sosicrates makes him come to Athens about the
in the archonship of
Hermippus relates that on his arrival at the house
of Solon he told one of the servants to announce
that Anacharsis had come and was desirous of seeing
him and, if possible, of becoming his guest.
servant delivered his message and was ordered by
Solon to tell him that men as a rule choose their
guests from among their own countrymen. Then
Anacharsis took him up and said that he was now
in his own country and had a right to be entertained
as a guest. And Solon, struck with his ready wit,
admitted him into his house and made him his
After a while Anacharsis returned to Scythia,
where, owing to his enthusiasm for everything Greek,
he was supposed to be subverting the national institutions, and was killed by his brother while they
were out hunting together. When struck by the
arrow he exclaimed, "My reputation carried me
safe through Greece, but the envy it excited at
home has been my ruin." In some accounts it is
said that he was slain while performing Greek rites.
Here is my own epitaph upon him2
Back from his travels Anacharsis came,
To hellenize the Scythians all aglow;
Ere half his sermon could their minds inflame,
A wingèd arrow laid the preacher low.
It was a saying of his that the vine bore three
kinds of grapes: the first of pleasure, the next of
intoxication, and the third of disgust. He said he
wondered why in Greece experts contend in the
games and non-experts award the prizes. Being
asked how one could avoid becoming a toper, he
answered, "By keeping before your eyes the disgraceful exhibition made by the drunkard." Again,
he expressed surprise that the Greek lawgivers should
impose penalties on wanton outrage, while they
honour athletes for bruising one another. After
ascertaining that the ship's side was four fingers'
breadth in thickness, he remarked that the passengers
were just so far from death.
Oil he called a drug which produced madness,
because the athletes when they anoint themselves
with it are maddened against each other. How is
it, he asked, that the Greeks prohibit falsehood and
yet obviously tell falsehoods in retail trade? Nor
could he understand why at the beginning of their
feasts they drink from small goblets and when they
are "full" from large ones. The inscription on his
statues is: "Bridle speech, gluttony, and sensuality."
Being asked if there were flutes in Scythia, he replied,
"No, nor yet vines." To the question what vessels
were the safest his reply was, "Those which have
been hauled ashore." And he declared the strangest
thing he had seen in Greece to be that they leave
the smoke on the mountains and convey the fuel
into the city.3
When some one
were more in number, the living or the dead, he
rejoined, "In which category, then, do you place
those who are on the seas?" When some Athenian
reproached him with being a Scythian, he replied,
"Well, granted that my country is a disgrace to
me, you are a disgrace to your country."
question, "What among men is both good and bad?"
his answer was "The tongue." He said it was
better to have one friend of great worth than many
friends worth nothing at all. He defined the market
as a place set apart where men may deceive and
overreach one another. When insulted by a boy
over the wine he said, "If you cannot carry your
liquor when you are young, boy, you will be a water
carrier when you are old."
According to some he was the inventor of the anchor
and the potter's wheel.
To him is attributed the following letter:
"I have come, O King of the Lydians, to the land
of the Greeks to be instructed in their manners and
pursuits. And I am not even in quest of gold, but
am well content to return to Scythia a better man.
At all events here I am in Sardis, being greatly
desirous of making your acquaintance."