Ctesias, Overview of the works

Ctesias was a Greek physician who stayed at the court of the Persian king Artaxerxes II Mnemon from 404 to 398/397. He wrote several books about Persia and India. These books are now lost but were quoted by ancient authors; consequently, we are able to judge their value as history (low) and as works of art (entertaining).

This page contains an overview of all fragments of the History of the Persians and the History of India. These summaries are based on an ancient re-telling (by Diodorus of Sicily) and two excerpts by the Byzantine scholar Photius (Persica; Indica). It would be wrong to conclude that they offer a very reliable impression of Ctesias' books. 

Ctesias of Cnidus: overview of all fragments

History of the Persians

History of India

Photius, Summary: §1, size of the Indus; §2, number of the Indians; §3, the river worm; §4, the desert; §5, irrigation; §6, the pantarbe-stone; §7, elephants; §8, birds, including the parrot; §9, a fountain of gold; §10, Indian dogs, capable of chasing lions; §11, precious stones; §12, the extreme heat, due to the enormous size of the sun; §13, because of the heat, fish cannot live in the seas; §14, bamboo; §15, the martichora; §16, righteousness of the Indians; §17, the holy mountain, dedicated to the Sun and Moon; §18, India's hot climate; §19, why the Indians are black; §20, a brief period of freshness explained; §21, the Pygmees; §22, the lambs of the Pygmees; §23, number of Pygmees; §24, hunting; §25, an oil producing lake; §26, Indian gold; §27, great size of Indian lambs and goats; §28, great size palms and dates; §29, a honey river; §30, Indian justice, loyalty and acceptance of death; §31, a mysterious lake; §32, good health and extreme age of the Indians; §33, a giant snake; §34, the dicairus-bird; §35, the parebus-tree; §36, the river Hyparchus; §37, the Cynoscephalae a mountain tribe of people with dogs' heads; §38, a purple flower near the sources of the Hyparchus; §39, a giant red chaver; §40, hunting habits of the Cynoscephalae; §41, other habits of the Cynoscephalae; §42, cave dwellings of the Cynoscephalae; §43, righteousness and extreme age of the Cynoscephalae; §44, the mountain-Indians; §45, the rhinocerus; §46, the river worm; §47, the carpius-tree; §48, sweetness of cheese and wine; §49, a strange fountain; §50, a warrior tribe in the mountains; §51, statement that the author has spoken the truth.

This page was created in 2006; last modified on 27 February 2017.