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Statue of a sophist from the reign of Septimius Severus. Archaeological museum of Izmir (Turkey).

Flavius Philostratus:

The Life of Apollonius

Translated by F.C. Conybeare

 
Detail of the decoration of a stupa at the monastery of Jaulian at Taxila. Photo Marco Prins. Buddha (Taxila, Jaulian)
[§46] However about the stone which attracts and binds to itself other stones you must not be skeptical; for you can see the stone yourself if you like, and admire its properties. For the greatest specimen is exactly of the size of this finger nail," and here he pointed to his own thumb, "and it is conceived in a hollow in the earth at a depth of four fathoms; but it is so highly endowed with spirit, that the earth swells and breaks open in many places when the stone is conceived in it. But no one can get hold of it, for it runs away, unless it is scientifically attracted; but we alone can secure, partly by performance of certain rites and partly by certain forms of words, this pantarbe, for such is the name given to it.

Now in the night-time it glows like the day just as fire might, for it is red and gives out rays; and if you look at it in the daytime it smites your eyes with a thousand glints and gleams. And the light within it is a spirit of mysterious power, for it absorbs to itself everything in its neighborhood. And why do I say in its neighborhood? Why you can sink anywhere in river or in sea as many stones as you like, and these not even near to one another, but here there; and everywhere; and then if you let down this stone among them by a string it gathers them all together by the diffusion of its spirit, and the stones yield to its influence and cling to it in bunch, like a swarm of bees."

[§47] And having said this he showed the stone itself and all that it was capable of effecting.

And as to the pigmies, he said that they lived underground, and that they lay on the other side of the Ganges and lived in the manner which is related by all. As to men that are shadow-footed or have long heads, and as to the other poetical fancies which the treatise of Scylax recounts about them, he said that they didn't live anywhere on the earth, and least of all in India.

[§48] As to the gold which the griffins dig up, there are rocks which are spotted with drops of gold as with sparks, which this creature can quarry because of the strength of its beak. "For these animals do exist in India," he said, "and are held in veneration as being sacred to the Sun; and the Indian artists, when they represent the Sun, yoke four of them abreast to draw the imaged car; and in size and strength they resemble lions but having this advantage over them that they have wings, they will attack them, and they get the better of elephants and of dragons. But they have no great power of flying, not more than have birds of short flight; for they are not winged as is proper with birds, but the palms of their feet are webbed with red membranes, such that they are able to revolve them, and make a flight and fight in the air; and the tiger alone is beyond their powers of attack, because in swiftness it rivals the winds."

[§49] "And the phoenix," he said, "is the bird which visits Egypt every five hundred years, but the rest of that time it flies about in India; and it is unique in that it gives out rays of sunlight and shines with gold, in size and appearance like an eagle; and it sits upon the nest; which is made by it at the springs of the Nile out of spices. The story of the Egyptians about it, that it comes to Egypt, is testified to by the Indians also, but the latter add this touch to the story, that the phoenix which is being consumed in its nest sings funeral strains for itself. And this is also done by the swans according to the account of those who have the wit to hear them."[1]

[§50] In such conversations with the sages Apollonius spent the four months which he passed there, and he acquired all sorts of lore both profane and mysterious. But when he was minded to go on his way they persuaded him to send back to Phraotes with a letter his guide and the camels; and they themselves gave him another guide and camels, and sent him forth on his way, congratulating both themselves and him. And having embraced Apollonius and declared that he would be esteemed a god by the many, not merely after his death, but while he was still alive, they turned back to their place of meditation, though ever and anon they turned towards him, and showed by their action that they parted from him against their will.

And Apollonius keeping the Ganges on his right hand, but the Hyphasis on his left, went down towards the sea a journey of ten days from the sacred ridge. And as they went down they saw a great many ostriches, and many wild bulls, and many asses and lions and pards and tigers, and another kind of apes than those which inhabit the pepper trees, for these were black and bushy-haired and were dog-like in features and as big as small men.

And in the usual discussion of what they saw they reached the sea, where small factories had been built, and passenger ships rode in them resembling those of the Tyrrhenes. And they say that the sea called Erythra or "red" is of a deep blue color, but that it was so named from a king Erythras, who gave his own name to the sea in question.

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Note 1:
This may be a description of Garuda, the golden bird of Vishnu.
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