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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

 
[§56] They say that they also touched at Balara,[1] which is an emporium full of myrtles and date palms; and they also saw laurels, and the place was well watered by springs. And there were kitchen gardens there, as well as flower gardens, all growing luxuriantly, and the harbors therein were entirely calm.

But off there lies a sacred island, which was called Selera,[2] and the passage to it from the mainland was a hundred stades long. Now in this island there lived a Nereid, a dreadful female demon, which would snatch away many mariners and would not even allow ships to fasten a cable to the island.

[§57] It is just as well not to omit the story of the other kind of pearl: since even Apollonius did not regard it as puerile, and it is anyhow a pretty invention, and there is nothing in the annals of sea fishing so remarkable. For on the side of the island which is turned towards the open sea, the bottom is of great depth, and produces an oyster in a white sheath full of fat, for it does not produce any jewel. The inhabitants watch for a calm day, or they themselves render the sea smooth, and this they do by flooding it with oil; and then a man plunges in in order to hunt the oyster in question, and he is in other aspects equipped like those who cut off the sponges from the rocks, but he carries in addition an oblong iron block and an alabaster case of myrrh.

The Indian then halts alongside of the oyster and holds out the myrrh before him as a bait; whereupon the oyster opens and drinks itself drunk upon the myrrh. Then its pierced with a long pin and discharges a peculiar liquid called ichor,[3] which the man catches in the iron block which is hollowed out in regular holes. The liquid so obtained petrifies in regular shapes, just like the natural pearl, and it is a white blood furnished by the Red Sea.

And they say that the Arabs also who live on the opposite coast devote themselves to catching these creatures.

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Coin of Vardanes I.
Vardanes I (©!!)

From this point on they found the entire sea full of sharks, and whales gathered there in schools; and the ships, they say, in order to keep off these animals, carry bells at the bow and at the stern, the sound of which frightens away these creatures and prevents them from approaching the ships.

[§58] And when they sailed as far as the mouth of the Euphrates, they say they sailed up by it to Babylon to see Vardanes, whom the found just as they had found him before. They then came afresh to Nineveh, and as the people of Antioch displayed their customary insolence and took no interest in any affairs of the Hellenes, they went down to the sea at Seleucia, and finding a ship, they sailed to Cyprus and landed at Paphos, where there is the statue of Aphrodite. Apollonius marveled at the symbolic construction of the same, and gave the priests instruction with regard to the ritual of the temple. He then sailed to Ionia, where he excited much admiration and no little esteem among all lovers of wisdom.

Philostratus: Life of Apollonius : next
Note 1:
Nearchus calls this port Barna.

Note 2:
Nearchus calls this island Nosala.

Note 3:
The word ichor is also used to describe a mineral present in the blood of the immortal gods, or their blood itself.

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