This is one of the chapters from A Traveller’s True Tale by Lucian and translated by Alfred J. Church.
I was one that had always my head filled with wandering thoughts and the desire to see strange countries. And especially did I wish to discover whether there be any opposite shore to the ocean by which I dwelt, and what manner of men they were that inhabited it. So having purchased a pinnace, which I strengthened as for a voyage that would beyond doubt be both long and stormy, I busied myself in making all things ready for my journey. First I chose me fifty stout young fellows having the same love of adventure that I myself had, and next I hired the best captain that could be got for money; and put good store of provisions and water on board.
All this being done, I set sail, and for a day and a night the wind was fair and gentle. But afterward it began to blow and the sea to rise in a terrible manner. We could not even shorten sail, and so were tossed about for seventy-nine days. On the eightieth day, the weather abating and the sun beginning to shine, we saw an island with high cliffs and well covered with trees. On this we landed and, being very weary, lay down to sleep on the shore and rested a good space. When we awoke, I appointed thirty men to guard the ship, and with the twenty that remained went up into the island to discover the country.
When we had gone about three furlongs’ space from the sea, we found a pillar of bronze, whereon was engraved in Greek letters, but these very faint and hardly to be read, “So far came Hercules and Bacchus.” Hard by there were two footmarks upon the rocks, whereof one was one hundred feet long or thereabout, and the other somewhat less. We judged the smaller to be of Bacchus, and the other of Hercules.
After this, we came on a river that was running with wine, and the wine, when we tasted it, was found to be such as they make in the island of Chios. ‘Twas a pretty strong stream, and in some parts could have carried a good-sized vessel. This thing made us the more ready to believe that which was written on the pillar; for we held it to be good proof that Bacchus had been in the country. After this, I judged it well to travel up the river, that we might learn where it had its beginning. We found indeed no spring, but only many great vines, full all of them of clusters of grapes, and from the root of each clear wine flowing. ‘Twas from these that the river came.
Also we saw in it a great store of fish, and these had the color of wine, aye, and the taste also. For we caught some with fishing lines that we chanced to have with us, which, when we had cooked and eaten, we were as tipsy as if we had drunk two or three bottles apiece. However, we devised a remedy against this, for we caught other fish in a river of water that was at hand, and so mixing the two, made a dish that was not more than sufficiently strong.
After this, we went back to our comrades at the ship, and the next day having filled our casks, some with water and others with wine from the river, set sail, the wind blowing gently. But after a while there fell upon us a very violent whirlwind, which twisted our ship about and lifted it up into the air four hundred miles and more. Nor did we fall back into the sea; for there came a wind from below and filled out our sails and so carried us up for seven days and nights.
And on the eighth day we saw an island, having the shape of a globe and shining with a very bright light. To this we came and, having anchored, disembarked. And when we had gone a little way inland, we found houses in it fairly built and fields well tilled. Now by day we could see nothing but the island itself; but at night we saw other islands hard by, some greater and some less, and all of them bright as fire.
And below us we could see another country, in which were cities and rivers and seas and woods and mountains. This was judged to be the earth from which we had come. Traveling farther, we came upon a company of people that were called Vulture Horsemen. These are men that ride upon mighty great vultures, and the vultures for the greater part have three heads. And how great they are, anyone may learn from this, that each of the pinions of their wings is larger and thicker than the mast of a merchantman. These Vulture Horsemen had been commanded to fly about the country, and, if they encountered any stranger, to take him to the King. So they laid hold of us and took us to the King.
And when he saw us, knowing our garb, he said, “Are ye not Greeks, my friends?” And learning that we were, he inquired how we had come, crossing so great a space as is between the Earth and the Moon. So we told him the whole truth. And when he had heard it, he also told to us the truth about himself, that he was a man, Endymion by name, who had been carried away from the Earth while he lay asleep, and, having been brought to this country, had been made king. “For know,” he said, “that this land where you are is in the Moon. But be of good cheer and fear nothing. I will furnish you with all that you need. And also, if I prosper in this war which I am waging with the folk that dwell in the Sun, you shall have such wealth and happiness as shall fully content you.”
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Then I asked him who were his foes, and for what cause he had fallen out with them? To this, he answered:
“The King of the Sun is one Phaeton, and there has been war between us now these many years. And the beginning of our quarrel was this: I gathered all the poorest folk in my dominions and would have sent them as a colony to the Morning Star, which is desert and uninhabited. But King Phaeton was jealous and met the colony on its way with his Ant Horsemen, and hindered it from going. That time we were worsted in battle, being much weaker than they. But now I purpose to fight again and plant my colony. And if ye be minded to join with me in this enterprise, so do, and I will furnish you with a vulture for each from the King’s stable and other equipment. For we march tomorrow.”
“So be it,” I said, “if it is your Majesty’s pleasure.”
Then he gave us right royal entertainment. And the next morning early, we set ourselves in battle array, for the scouts came in with news that the enemy were hard at hand. Now the number of our army was one hundred thousand, they that carried the baggage and made the artillery not being reckoned, nor the infantry, nor the allies from foreign parts. The Vulture Horsemen were eighty thousand, and the riders upon Cabbage Fowl twenty thousand. Now, the Cabbage Fowl is a mighty great bird, with cabbages all over him for feathers; but the swifter have lettuce leaves. On these rode the Millet Seed Shooters and the Garlic Fighters. We had also many allies from the Great Bear, Flea Archers thirty thousand, and Wind Runners fifty thousand. Now, the Flea Archers ride upon very great fleas, from which also they have their name, each flea being as big as twelve elephants; and the Wind Runners are foot soldiers, but fly in the air without wings. And the way of their flight is this. They have cloaks reaching down to the ground. These they gird about them and, setting them to the wind as sails are set, they are carried about like the ships. These for the most part fight as skirmishers.
I heard say also that there would come to fight for us seventy thousand Acorn Ostriches and five thousand Horse Cranes. But these I saw not, for they had not yet arrived; wherefore I will not venture to write of them, for the things that were said about them were altogether beyond belief.
Now, all these soldiers were equipped in like fashion, having helmets of beans — and the beans in that country are very great and strong — and breastplates of lupines, plated with scales — ’tis the husk of the lupines that they sew together to make their breastplates; and in those parts the husk of the lupine is strong as horn, so that no man can break it. But their shields and swords were after the Greek fashion.
Now our order of battle was this: on the right wing were the Vulture Horsemen, and with them King Endymion. And here also I and my companions had our place. And on the left wing were the Cabbage Fowl Riders; and in the centre the allies, in their order, one hundred and sixty thousand in all. Now there were with the army a multitude of very great spiders, bigger each of them than the islands in the Greek sea. These King Endymion made spin over the space between the Moon and the Morning Star. And when they had done this, so that there was a great plain between the two, the King set his infantry in order. Their captain was Night Bird, the son of Fair Weather.
On the left wing of the enemy were the Ant Horsemen, and King Phaeton among them. Now these are very great beasts with wings, like to the ants that are upon the Earth, but bigger by much, for the greatest of them are two hundred feet long and more. Not only did the riders on these fight, but the beasts also themselves, pushing with their horns. I heard say that there were fifty thousand of them. On the right wing were set the Gnat Troopers, another fifty thousand, archers all of them, riding upon very great gnats; and next to them the Crow Troopers, light infantry, and very keen fighters. These had slings and slung from them great radishes. And whosoever was wounded by these died forthwith, his wounds stank so terribly. ‘Tis said that they dipped their weapons in mallow poison.
Next to them were the Long Stalk Mushroomites, ten thousand in number, stout men-at-arms, and very good at close quarters, that had mushrooms for shields and asparagus stalks for spears. Hard by these were the Acorn Dogs, that came from the Dog Star, dog-faced men, riding upon acorns that had wings. Certain also of King Phaeton’s allies had not yet come the Slingers from the Milky Way and the Cloud Centaurs. These last indeed came when we had now joined battle, and it had been well, as will be seen hereafter, that they had not come. But the Slingers came not at all, and I heard say that King Phaeton burned their country with fire for their default.