Alexander Romance ( "Pseudo-Callisthenes" )

Book 1 , Chapters 1-12

A combination of the Greek version translated by E.H.Haight (1955); the Armenian version translated by A.M.Wolohojian (1969); and the Syriac version translated by E.A.W.Budge (1889).

Most of the Armenian version is a fairly close translation of the Greek version. Sentences that appear in the Armenian version but not in the Greek version are shown in green   Click on the G symbols to go the Greek text of each chapter.

Olympias, Nectanebus and Philip

  Olympias, Nectanebus and Philip   -   BNF Fr. 50 (15th century)

{ Greek & Armenian versions }


{ Syriac version }

[1] G   The very wise Egyptians, descendants of the gods, measured the earth, calmed the waves of the sea, marked out the course of the river Nile, determined the places of the constellations in the sky, then handed over to the inhabited earth the power, the might of reason, the discovery of the art of magic. For they say that Nectanebōs *, the last king of Egypt, after whom Egypt lost its great glory, surpassed all men in the use of magic. For through reason he subjugated all the cosmic elements to himself. If a cloud of war suddenly appeared, he did not prepare an expedition, or assemble arms or iron weapons, or the machines of warfare, but he went into the palace, selected a bronze cauldron, filled it with rain-water, fashioned little boats of wax and sailors, threw them into the cauldron, and chanted an incantation, holding an ebony rod. He called upon the Messengers and Ammon, god of Libya. So when by such magic he observed the boats in the cauldron . . . when the enemy came they perished and he reigned supreme. And he used the same control over enemies who came by land.

* { The name of the king is recorded as Nectanebus in Latin, and usually as Nectanebo in histories of Egypt. }

[1] Now there used to be Egyptian sages, who were sprung from the families of the gods. They measured the earth, and stood thereon; they put in commotion the waves of the sea; and laid hold of the great Nile by its measure. They calculated the ordering of the stars of heaven. They delivered all these things to the world by the might of invincible words and by the powers of sorcery. Men say then of Naktibôs {Nectanebus} who was the last king of Egypt and was famed for great discoveries, that he was through his perfect knowledge the glory of Egypt, and to him were the creatures of the world subservient by reason of his magic. This king was a marvel, for when suddenly the hosts of the enemy were standing ready at his gate, and wished to come to battle, he used not to trouble his camp, neither did he bring weapons of war for the use of the men, nor polished iron that glittered, nor was it his wont to contrive the stratagems or plans which are necessary for war; but he used to go into his palace and to set a brazen basin in the middle of the hall and to fill it with rain water. He then made small models of ships and men in asphalt and placed them in the basin. And he took in his hand a rod of plane wood, and then uttered those words which he knew, and invoked the angels and Ammon the god of Libya. Now by this form of sorcery which took place in the basin, he was wont to contrive plans, until those models of ships and men which were in the basin went forth against the enemy and turned them back. In this manner he held constantly by his skill for a great length of time the kingdom of Egypt.

[2] G   So in this way, by his experience, the king stayed on the throne, but after some time from the so-called explorers among the Romans and the Greeks a spy presented himself and addressed the king:

"Most august Nectanebos, dismiss your faith that the world is at peace, for a great cloud of thousands of enemies is rising. For there are Scythians, Arabians, Oxydraces, Iberians, Seres, Caucones, Dapates, Bosporians, Agri, Zalbi, Chaldaeans, Mesopotamians, Agriophagi, Euonymitae, - all the great nations of the East, - an uncounted host of thousands, who are hastening to seize your Egypt."

[2] After a while, a certain man, a spy from among the guards who were there, came to him and answered and said, "O Nectanebus, while as yet thou hast peace, seek deliverance for thyself, for behold innumerable multitudes of hosts of enemies are making ready and coming against thee, to wit the Tûrâyê (or mountaineers), the Alâni, the Gûrbarbedâyê, the Armenians, the Medes, the Arabs, the Midianites, the people of Adôrbâigân, the Belsâyê, the Alôsâyê, the Shabrônkâyê, the Alinikâyê, the Galatians, the Têbarinikâye , the people of Gurgân, the Chaldeans, the eaters of fish and of beasts of prey, multitudes without end of the nations from the regions of the East, mighty men, with a vast host, hastening to come to this land of Egypt which is thine. Consider now what is expedient and useful [to be done]."

When the informer made this report, Nectanebos smiled and answered: "You are performing carefully and well the duty entrusted to you. But I will not act as a coward or a warrior. For power lies not in numbers, but in reason. One mind routs many men, overwhelming the multitudes with the right arm." With these words he dismissed the fellow.

When the spy had spoken after this manner, Nectanebus laughed and said to the scout, "Thou hast done well, and hast acted properly as regards the watch which was entrusted to thee, in that thou hast spied out these things for me ; but thou hast spoken timidly and not courageously. For I have observed that host of men which is coming, and they have no strength, although their will is very ready. One little word of wisdom however is able to turn back many, and a man who does good things can overwhelm a multitude of armies in the waves of the sea." And when he had spoken these things to the spy, he called him and said to him, "One dog is able to turn back many deer, and one wolf is able to destroy a whole flock of she-goats. Do thou, then, with those numerous horsemen that are under thy orders, go and keep thy watch carefully ; for by one word I am able to overwhelm and drown in the waves of the sea this innumerable band of enemies."

[3] G   He himself returned to the palace and ordered all to leave his presence. Then when alone, he set the cauldron out and filled it with water. And first throwing into it the little wax boats and taking the rod in his hand, he pronounced the potent words. Then, gazing into the cauldron, he saw that the gods of the Egyptians were piloting the boats of the barbarian enemies. Therefore, realising that the king of the Egyptians had been betrayed by the Blessed Ones, he shaved his head and beard to disguise himself, and, putting in his robe as much gold as he could conceal, he fled from Egypt through Pelusium. And after travelling through many nations, he came to Pella in Macedonia. There he clad himself in a linen garment like an Egyptian soothsayer and astrologer and took a seat in the public square to give advice to any who approached him. That was the situation.

[3] And Nectanebus went into his palace, and put out all the people, and remained by himself. Then he filled the brazen basin with rain water, made those ships of asphalt spring up in the middle of the house, took the rod of plane wood in his hand, and began to speak those words which were full of terror. And when he had spoken them, he looked into the basin, and saw all the gods of Egypt leading the ships and guarding them. When he saw that Egypt was betrayed by her gods, he left his kingdom and fled. He shaved the hair of his head and his beard, and put on other apparel ; then he took as much gold as he was able [to carry] and departed from Egypt, and went by way of Pelusium. Now when he had travelled through a multitude of countries and a number of nations, he came to Pella of the Macedonians, And he put on linen clothing like the Egyptian prophets and astrologers {"those who show the signs of the zodiac"}, and sat in the midst of the highways, and the people of the land came to ask him questions. In those times he was renowned.

In Egypt, when Nectanebos had disappeared, the Egyptians decided to consult the ancestor of their gods, Hephaestus, as to what had happened to the king of Egypt. He sent them an oracle bidding them to stand beside the hidden part of the Sinopeion. He gave this oracle: "The king who has fled from Egypt, the mighty, the strong, aged ruler, after a time will return to the plain of Egypt a young man, having thrown off the aspect of old age ; and having travelled over the whole world, he will give you victory over your enemies." When this oracle was uttered, they did not understand its meaning, so they wrote down on the pedestal of the statue of Nectanebos the verses for a record when some time, somewhere, the oracle should be fulfilled.

And after Nectanebus had gone away from the land of Egypt, all the Egyptians drew near to Hephaestus, the head of the race of the gods, and besought him with entreaty to show them what had happened to Nectanebus the king of Egypt, and at what place he had arrived. Then Hephaestus promptly sent to them an oracle concerning him by the hands of the priests, saying, "The king of Egypt who has fled, a mighty man and a warrior, but an old man, will after a time bring a new lord, a young man, mightier and more powerful than he, who will kill him and seize his land; and he shall traverse the world, and shall subjugate all the enemies of Egypt to your service." And when the Egyptians had heard this oracle, they forthwith inscribed it with carved letters under the tablet of brass on the stone pedestal upon which [the statue of] king Nectanebus stood, that they might see what would be the issue of the oracle.

[4] G   Now in Macedonia it became clear to all that Nectanebos was highly respected. His reputation, indeed, was so great that Olympias wished to interview him and summoned him while Philip happened to be away at a war. When he went to the palace, he saw that her beauty was brighter than the moon. He had been indifferent to women, restraining his mind from erotic desire. Now, stretching out his hand, he greeted her, saying: "A blessing on you, Queen of the Macedonians!" He did not deem it fitting to address her as "Lady," remembering that he too once was a king. Olympias replied: "A blessing on you, most noble scholar. Come and sit beside me."

[4] And Nectanebus was going to and fro openly in Macedonia, and many people came to see him and to ask him questions. He was so renowned that even Olympias the queen desired to enquire of him as to what was about to happen. Now Philip, the husband of Olympias, had gone to war, and she commanded that Nectanebus should come to her. And when he had come and had entered the royal palace, he saw the beautiful countenance of the queen, whose countenance was more beautiful than the moon. He was a man innocent of women, but at the sight of Olympias his mind was excited and his heart burned with love for her. He stretched out his hand, and saluted Olympias, and answered and said to her, "Peace be with thee, O queen of the Macedonians." Now he could not persuade himself to call her "lady," for as yet the royal manner of speech was in his mouth. Olympias answered and said to him, "Peace be with thee, O doer of good things, and knower of everything ; come, seat thyself"

And when they were seated, Olympias said: "Are you really an Egyptian?" Nectanebos answered: "So those who have examined me say." She continued: "What form of art do you use in giving true oracles?" He answered: "You appear wise, O Queen. The analysis of the art is complex. For there are interpreters of dreams, translators of ciphers, watchers of birds, diviners of different types, students of horoscopes, magicians, astrologers. Now I have studied diligently all these arts, for I am a distinguished Egyptian prophet, and I am a magician and an astrologer." After these words, he gave her a piercing look. And she, believing the look an omen, asked: "What are you thinking, learned prophet, when you look at me so earnestly?" Nectanebos replied: "I am recalling an oracle, Queen. For once I heard from my own gods, 'You must prophesy for a queen and the words you utter will be found true.'"

And when he had sat down, Olympias said to him, "Art thou really an Egyptian ? for in thy speech there is no lying." Nectanebus answered and said to her, "Those who have had experience of me speak well [of me]." Olympias said to him, "By what wisdom and knowledge, or by what power, knowest thou to speak correctly what is going to happen?" Nectanebus answered and said to her, "O queen, well dost thou know how to put a question ; for the interpreters of dreams are of many kinds, and the knowers of signs, those who understand divination, Chaldeans [or] augurs, and casters of nativities ; the Greeks call the signs of the Zodiac (?) 'sorcerers' and others are counters of the stars. As for me, all these are in my hands, and I myself am an Egyptian prophet, a magus, and a counter of the stars." And while he was saying these and other such like things to her, he was scrutinising her with great earnestness and intentness. Now when she saw in what manner he was looking at and scrutinising her, she answered and said to him, "O sage, whilst thou wert enumerating thy wisdom and skill in these things, why didst thou gaze on me lustfully?" Nectanebus answered and said to her, "I looked at thee carefully for the sake of becoming well acquainted with thee ; for there is something which I heard a long time ago, and which I now remember. It was revealed to me of old by my god, who said to me 'In the future thou wilt give augury to a queen, and everything that thou shalt say to her shall really come to pass.' "

After these words, he brought forth a tablet, very elegant and regal, which language cannot describe. It was made of ivory, ebony, gold, and silver. The symbols on it were in three zones: on the first circle the thirty-six decans, on the second the twelve signs of the zodiac, in the centre the sun and the moon. He placed it on a stool. Then he opened carefully a small ivory case and emptied out the seven stars and the horoscope of eight different (?) stones, revealing the great heaven in a small circle. The sun was of crystal, the moon of adamant, Ares of a blood-red jewel, Hermes of emerald, Zeus of a caerulean stone, Aphrodite of sapphires, Cronus of serpentine, the horoscope of white marble.

And when he had thus spoken to her with such like words, she straightway brought out into the midst a beautiful and magnificent table of ivory which belonged to the palace, set with splendid stones and of great value, the qualities of which the mouth of man knows not how to describe, for it was made of acacia wood and gold and silver. Three circles were fitted to it after the manner of belts. Upon the outer belt there was a representation of Zeus with the thirty-six decani surrounding him; upon the second the twelve signs of the Zodiac were represented ; and upon the third the sun and moon. Then he set the table upon a tripod, and he emptied a small box which was set [with stones] after the manner of the table upon the table, and there were in it [models of] those seven stars that were in the belts, and in that one which was in the middle, which they call in Greek 'the watcher of the hours' (ton hōroskopon), were set by the crafts of art eight kinds of precious stones; and he arranged them upon the table with the other gems. Thus he completed his representation of the great heavens upon so small a table. He arranged a sun of crystal and a moon of adamant; and Ares, whom they call in Persian Vahrâm, of a red stone, the colour of blood ; Nâbô the scribe, who is called in Persian Tîr, of an emerald ; Bêl, who is called in Persian Hormazd, of a white stone ; Baltî, who is called in Persian Anâhîd, of a sapphire stone of a dark colour, and the horoscope of copper (?), which is called in Persian Farnôj.

Then he said: "Tell me, Queen, the year, the month, the day, and the hour of your birth." And when she told him, Nectanebos compared his own horoscope with hers to see if the stars agreed. Then, seeing that there was harmony, he said: "What do you wish to hear, Queen?" She answered: "I wish to learn the news about Philip. For rumour says that after the war he will forsake me and marry another." Nectanebos replied: "The rumour about immediate separation is false, Queen. After a time, this will actually occur. Then I, as an Egyptian prophet and magician, can be of great aid to you when there is need of such work. For fate has decreed, according to the hour of your birth which you gave me, that you should meet an earth-born god, and be embraced by him and conceive a son, your own child, an avenger of the sins of Philip." She said: "And who is this god with whom you say I will lie?" And he said: "The god of Libya, the horned, wealth-bringing Ammon." She asked: "What is his age: is he young, or middle-aged? What is his personality?" He replied: "He is middle-aged. His hair is grey. He has ram's horns above his temples. Therefore, prepare yourself as woman and queen for the marriage. You will see a vision and the god with you." Olympias said: "When?" He said: "After a short time, - tomorrow. Therefore, I urge you to be yourself, putting aside your royal rank. For tonight in dreams, you will be embraced." She said: "If I see this, I shall reverence you not as a prophet, or a magician, but as a god."

And after he had set these in order, he said to Olympias, "Tell me, O queen, the year, the month, the day and the hour of thy birth; and she told him. Then Nectanebus calculated his own nativity and that of Olympias, that he might know if the stars of both of them coincided exactly. And when he saw that they were precisely the same, he said to her, "It is fitting that thou shouldest tell me thy mind, and what thou wishest to ask, and what it is that thou desirest?" She said to him, "[I wish to ask] concerning my husband Philip, for I have heard a rumour that, after he returns from the war, he will divorce me, and will take another wife." Then Nectanebus answered and said to her, "This report about thyself which thou hast mentioned, O queen, is false, in so far as that it will happen now shortly; after a time, however, it will actually be done. But I, being an Egyptian prophet and a magus, am able to help thee in many things, when thou hast need of it in any such matter as this. Now, however, it is granted unto thee - according to what thy nativity which is before me reveals - that a god of the land shall sleep with thee ; thou shalt be pregnant by him, and thou shalt bear a son to him, who shall avenge thee upon Philip thy husband for the offence which he has committed against thee." Olympias answered and said to him, "Who is this god who thou sayest will sleep with me ?" Nectanebus answered and said to her, "He will have horns on his head, and will be clothed in the rich apparel of Ammon the god of Libya." Olympias said to him, "What is the age of this god, and what is his appearance, and the form of his figure ?" Then Nectanebus answered, "He is of middle age, and his form and appearance are thus ; upon each side of his head he has the like of ram's horns. Do thou, however, O queen, prepare thyself to sleep with him ; but first of all in a dream thou wilt see this god who is going to sleep with thee." Olympias answered and said to him, "When?" Nectanebus said to her, "It will not be far off, but to-day ; therefore I counsel thee to prepare thyself magnificently like a queen, for in this very night he will unite with thee in thy dream." Olympias said to him, "If it be that I see any such thing, I will not only hold thee to be a prophet, but I will worship thee as if thou wert a god."

[5] G   After this conversation, Nectanebos left the palace. Without delay, he rushed to the desert and gathered the herbs which have the power of producing visions, through which he would bewitch the sleep of Olympias and produce an image of the act which she desired.   And having rapidly done this, he made a female body of wax and wrote on the figure Olympias' name. Then he made a bed of wax and put on it the statue he had made of Olympias. He lit a fire and poured thereon the broth of the plant, saying over it the vows suited for these doings, until the spirits appeared to Olympias.   So actually in her sleep she saw Ammon meeting Olympias and embracing her and, after he arose, saying: "Madam, in your womb you carry your avenger."

[5] Now when they had spoken these words with one another and conversed, Nectanebus went forth from the royal palace, and went out swiftly and speedily to the plain. Then he hastened to the desert, and gathered those roots which men use for dreams, and he pounded and pressed them all; and in a dream of the night Nectanebus by his magic sent to Olympias what she desired, so that in her dream she thought that she was actually sleeping with the god Ammon, and that he was embracing her, and that of his own free will he abode with her, and that when he had done with her he said to her, "O woman, behold, thy womb will avenge thee."

{ Greek & Armenian versions }


{ Syriac version }

[6] G   When she arose from her sleep, Olympias marvelled at the fulfilment of the prophecy. She sent for the mathematician and said: "I saw the god of whom you spoke to me. He came to me in person, laying aside his godhead. Now, therefore, I wish to lie with him when I am awake and it is day. Do you then arrange this. I marvel how this escapes you." He merely said: "Nothing escapes me. Since now you acknowledge that you wish to meet him when you are awake, there must be some preparation for it. A dream is one thing, reality is another. I believe that I must occupy the little room near your bed that, when the god approaches you, you may not be terrified since I will be near to help you with my incantations. For this god on his coming to you will become first a serpent creeping over the earth with a hissing sound, then he will be transformed into the horned Ammon, then into mighty Heracles, then into Dionysus bearing the thyrsus. Finally, arriving a god in human form, he will appear in the semblance of myself."

[6] And when Olympias awoke from her sleep, great terror laid hold of her because of this dream ; and she sent and called Nectanebus to her. And when he had come into her presence, she commanded that everyone should go forth from her. Then Olympias answered and said to Nectanebus, "Behold I have this day seen a dream according to what thou didst say unto me, and the god Ammon sleeping with me; but I wish that when I am awake, he should sleep with me continually. This I require of thee, and thou art able to supply this need. I wonder now if I shall obtain this through thee." Nectanebus answered, "Nothing is more feeble than I, but inasmuch as thou desirest this, that thou mightest see him when thou art waking, it is right for me to consider, because a dream is one thing, but the thing that thou requirest is another. Now, I have thought that since thou hast this desire, bid them construct a place for me close by thy bedchamber, that, if thou art terrified when the god comes to thee, I who know thee may strengthen thee ; for this god, when he comes to thee will be in the form of a serpent and will creep and crawl on the ground, sending forth loud hisses. Then he will return, and his horns will be in the form of those of a ram ; thus will he be. Then he will return again, and will appear in the form of the hero Heracles; and he will return a third time, and appear in the form of Dionysus, decorated and ornamented with ringlets; and he will return yet again, coming back and appearing in my own form.

Olympias said: "Noble is your prophecy. Take the bedroom. And when awake I see him and know that I have received the semen of a god, I as a queen will honour you, and I will boast that you are the father of the child." He said: "I foretold to you the hissing of the serpent that you may not frighten the creature, but rather be kind to him and without fear."   Nectanebus said: "The first harbinger of the god who is coming to you is this: when you go inside and sit in your room, you shall see a serpent come slithering to you. You are to order those who are there to leave. Do not extinguish the light of the lamps, go and recline on your couch and cover your face. Once again you shall see the god whom you saw come to you in your dreams." Having thus spoken, he left.

When Olympias heard these things, she said to him, "O prophet, thou hast spoken well ; abide now in one of the bedchambers within the palace where I sleep, and if it happens that, being awake, I see such things and know that I am pregnant by the race of the gods, I will honour thee and will hold thee to be the father of the child." Then Nectanebus answered and said to her, "Behold, I have told thee beforehand concerning the snake; now therefore fear him not, but trust thyself the more to him, and be fearless."

[7] G     And immediately she gave him another room there close to her chamber. And he prepared the softest fleece of a ram together with the horns from its head, and a staff and a white robe. And he made a serpent, and he made it soft and limp; and it slithered out of his hands. All of a sudden he set the serpent loose and it entered Olympias' bedroom.   Now when all the events described had occurred, the queen had no fear, but courageously endured the transformation of the god.   And she bid those who were there to go away, each to his own place. And she reclined on the bed and covered her face; only out of the corner of her eye did she see him assuming the appearance which she saw in the dream. And he put aside the date-tree wood staff, got up onto the bed and turned Olympias toward him and mated with her.   And he, when he arose from her, smote her belly and said: "O child, remain forever unconquered, supreme!" With these words, he went away to his own time of waiting. And the future took its course: she rejoiced because she had been embraced by a serpent, Ammon, Heracles, Dionysus, all divine.

And when it was morning, Olympias arose and came to Nectanebos' room. Awakening, he asked: "My lady, what is it? Tell me; did your dream come true?" Olympias replied, "Your words came true." And he said, "I rejoice with you, my lady." And Olympias asked: "Now is he not again to come to me? I await as a wife his coming and mating with me; for I received him with loving desire, Prophet. But I am surprised if this happened without your knowing, and you were not aware of it." And he rejoiced for he was loved by the queen. He said: "Listen, Olympias, I am the prophet of this god. If you will let me sleep here so that no one is disturbed or upset, I shall do the customary ablution for him and he will come to you." And Olympias said, "Let your will be done hereafter." And she said to her doorkeepers, "Give him the key to that room." And when he acted, he did so secretly; and indeed he came to her as many times as Olympias desired that he come to her. Ahead of time, she let her wishes be known through the prophet, and he, as was his custom, mated with Olympias, giving the illusion that he was Ammon.

[7] When therefore all these things happened as Nectanebus had said, the queen was not terrified at all at the change of the forms of the gods, but she feared when she slept with the form of the serpent. Now when he had done with her, he again stood over her, and set his mouth upon her mouth, and said to her, "An unconquerable seed, and one which shall not be subject to any man, flows into this womb." And when Nectanebus had said these words, he went to his own bedchamber; and afterwards at this time he slept with her in the form of Ammon and of Heracles and of Dionysus.

And when her belly grew large, she summoned Nectanebos and said: "Prophet, what am I going to do if Philip on his return finds me pregnant?" And he said: "Fear nothing, Queen. In this time, you will be aided by the tri-formed god, Ammon, who will show a sign to Philip, so that you will not be reproached by him." So Olympias strayed, for she met a human adulterer as a god, not the Egyptian king.

And when she was great with child, she lifted up her eyes and saw Nectanebus, and she answered and said to him, "O prophet, what shall I do when Philip my husband returns from war and finds me pregnant ?" Nectanebus answered and said to her, "Fear not, O queen, this Ammon of the three-fold form is able to help thee in every way, and can show Philip in a dream [what has happened], that thou mayest be without blame and without care." So for a long time Olympias was beguiled by these words, and played the harlot with a man, thinking he was a god.

[8] G   Then he procured a sea falcon and bewitching it made it a messenger of a dream to Philip.   And exercising his magic on the falcon, he spoke, and caused the falcon to fly. And having flown over land and sea, in two days and two nights it reached the place where Philip was (and spoke to him in a) dream.   For he saw a god, handsome, hoary, horned, the image of Ammon, lying with Olympias. And when he arose from her bed, he said: "In your womb you bear my child, who will be the avenger of you and of his father, Philip. Now he fancied that the man drew her image on a papyrus from the Nile and sealed it with a golden seal having on the stone a symbol with the head of a lion, the might and darting brightness of the sun. Then it seemed that a falcon with its wings woke him from sleep.

After seeing these things, he arose, sent for an interpreter and told him the oracle.   Philip said to him: "I saw, in a dream, a handsome white-haired god with the horns of a ram in his beard above his jaws. And he came in the night to my wife Olympias and lay with her. And upon rising, he said to her, 'You have conceived from me a boy child who shall fructify you and shall avenge his father's death.' And I seemed to patch up the womb of my wife with papyrus and to seal it with my seal. And the ring was of gold and the insignia, sun-like, with the head of a lion and a lance. And this is what I thought I had done when the falcon came to me and awoke me from my sleep with his wings and gave no sign."

Then Nectanebus the Egyptian king brought a hawk and muttered over it his charms, and made it fly away with a small quantity of a drug, and that night it showed Philip a dream. In his dream it showed him a god, whose form was fair, of middle age, with horns upon his head like the god Ammon, who was sleeping with Olympias. And when he had done with her, he said to her, "Behold thou hast in thy womb my seed, and thou shalt bear me a child who will avenge thee and Philip his father." And in the same dream he saw as if a river like the Nile flowed and went forth from the couch on which they were lying; and [he saw] the figure of a man sewing linen. He saw too the womb of Olympias sealed with a gold ring, with a gem on which was engraved the head of a lion holding the sun in his claws, or in his paws, and there was a whip beside him, and a hawk which overshadowed him with its wings.

He said: "King, as you thought, Olympias is pregnant, but by a god. For the fact that someone sealed up her image demands credence. For no one puts a seal on an empty vessel, but on a full one. And since her image was depicted on papyrus, the seed is Egyptian. For papyrus grows only in Egypt. And her fortune, far from being humble, is brilliant and glorious and marked for fame by the seal-ring of gold. For what is brighter than gold by which even gods are honoured? And the sun on the seal, head of lion and spear, means something like this. From the rising of his sun to its setting, he will be a leader and he will make the cities subject to his spear. The fact that the god wears ram's horns and is grey-haired shows that Ammon, the god of Libya, is the sower of the seed." When the interpreter of dreams had made this explanation, Philip was reconciled because Olympias had been made pregnant by a god.

When the interpreter of dreams had finished this explanation, Philip did not docilely hear of the pregnancy of his wife, even though he knew it was by the gods. And having won the war, he rushed back to Macedon. Meanwhile, Olympias was afraid, and Nectanebos comforted her.

[8] Now when Philip had seen these appearances in his dream, he rose up early in the morning, and sent and brought into his presence the wise men the interpreters of dreams, and related before them the dream which he had seen. Then they answered and said to him, "O king Philip, as thou hast seen in the dream, so shall it be ; behold, Olympias is pregnant, but she is pregnant by a god. Forasmuch as thou hast seen her womb sealed, surely it is pregnant ; for an empty vessel is not sealed, but only one that is full. And whereas thou hast seen the form of a man sewing linen, this seed is Egyptian ; for they do not sew linen in any other place but Egypt. And his fortune is not little, but great and mighty and glorious and renowned, because [the womb] was sealed with a seal of gold, and there is nothing more valued than gold, for even the gods are worshipped for the sake of gold. And the lion which held the sun in his claws, and the whip which was [engraved] on the ring, [shew that] he will go to the east, and will walk like a lion in his might ; and he will subdue all countries and cities with his whip. And as for the god whom thou didst see, of middle age and with horns on his head, this is Ammon the god of Libya, and the seed is his." Now when the learned in dreams had given the explanation in this manner, Philip believed of a certainty that Olympias was pregnant by a god.

[9] G   Now, having won the war against Macedonia, he made the journey home. And when he came to the palace, Olympias welcomed him with some fear. And Philip glancing at her said: "By whom were you betrayed, Olympias? . . . For having sinned, you did not sin. For a god did violence to you that, impregnated by a god, you should announce that he is Philip's son. For I have learned your story through dreams. Therefore you are above reproach. For we royal rulers who conquer all men have no power against the gods." His words set Olympias' mind at rest.   And she was grateful to the forewarning prophet. And thereafter Philip was with Olympias.

[9] And when [Philip] had conquered, he returned from the war, and came to his own house and greeted Olympias. Then she was ashamed; and when he saw that she was agitated through fear of him, he answered and said to her, "To whom didst thou deliver thyself to be defiled, O Olympias ? He has not, however, defiled thee, for thou shalt bear a son by him, and shalt name him the son of Philip ; for I have seen in a dream everything that has happened to thee, and therefore I leave thee in peace. Kings are able to contend with everything, but to contend with the gods they are not able." And when he had said these things to her, he heartened her and Olympias regained her self-possession.

[10] G   Such was the situation in the palace. Now Nectanebos, by spying, heard Philip say to Olympias: "You have deceived me, Lady. For you have not conceived by a god, but by a human being." So, when there was a great banquet, he changed himself by magic into a serpent much larger than the first one and came through the middle of the dining-room with a strange and terrible hissing sound so that fear and confusion fell on all on the couches. But Olympias, seeing her own lover, sitting up stretched out from her couch her right hand. He, rearing up, placed his chin in her hand, and coiled his whole body in her bosom. Then, darting out his cloven tongue, he kissed her, giving a proof of friendship and love to the spectators and to Philip himself. And having produced this evidence, he disappeared.   But Philip was both frightened and amazed, and revealed his unawareness of its coming. And since Nectanebus did not wish to be seen too much by the audience, he transformed himself from the serpent into an eagle and flew away from there. As to where he went, it is unnecessary for me to say.

[10] Now it fell out one day, because Nectanebus was within the royal palace, that he heard Philip say to Olympias, "Thou art an erring woman, for thou art not with child by a god, but by one of the human race." And while they were thus speaking together, Nectanebus by his sorcery changed his own form and assumed that of a huge serpent, and he hissed with a loud voice in the midst of the hall where Philip was standing, gliding in a terrible manner, and hissing as he went, so that all who heard quaked and trembled at his voice. And when Olympias saw her lover, she lay down upon her couch, while the monster reared himself up over her, and suddenly he straightened himself out. Then Olympias spread out her hands and embraced his neck, whereupon the serpent opened his mouth and placed his lips upon her lips, kissing her repeatedly just as a man kisses his friend out of love.

Philip, after witnessing this said: "I saw this serpent, when I waged the war against the wicked, making the horde of them flee by his hissing.   But, as to who the god was, I did not know, for he showed us the forms of Zeus and of Ammon," Olympias said, "As he revealed himself to me at the time of mating with me, he is Ammon, the god of all the Libyans."   So afterwards, on account of this, Philip thought himself fortunate because he was to be called the father of a god.

And while it was doing thus, everyone in the palace and Philip too saw it. Philip answered and said to Olympias, "O great queen Olympias, and all the rest of you who stand before me, I saw such a serpent as this when I was fighting with my enemies at yon time, and also the mind of many of the enemy was humbled and made weak thereby. But as for me, from this time forward I will glorify and praise myself because men will call me father of one sprung from a god."

{ Greek & Armenian versions }


{ Syriac version }

[11] G   Not many days later, Philip was sitting in a certain garden of the palace where all sorts of birds lived and were fed by him. While he was reading at his leisure some works of literature, a tame, young bird lighting on his breast, laid an egg there, which rolled down to the earth and was broken. And out of it came a tiny serpent. It coiled around the egg from which it had issued, wishing to enter it, but before it put its head inside, it perished.

[11] Now after some days, when Philip was sitting in his summerhouse by the side of the royal reservoir of water, and all kinds of birds were pecking grain before and around him, he was reading in the book of the philosophers. Suddenly a half-bred hen which was being reared in the house happened to sit in Philip's lap. Now she was but a small [bird], and when she had sat in his lap, she laid an egg thereon. When Philip saw this egg, he put it upon the ground ; but the egg rolled about and broke, and immediately a small serpent sprang from within the egg and crawled round about it Then it turned back and began to enter the egg again, and when it had put its head within the egg, it died immediately.

Philip was greatly alarmed by this occurrence and summoned Antiphon, his famous interpreter of omens, and told him what had happened. He spoke to this effect: "You will have a son who will be king and will travel around the whole world, subduing all to his rule. But when, after a little, he turns back to his own land, he will die. For the serpent is a royal creature, and the egg from which the serpent comes is like the cosmos. And when he encircles the egg and wishes to enter it, before he sets his eyes upon his native land, he has died outside of it." Then the soothsayer, after interpreting the omen, was rewarded and departed.

Now when Philip saw such a wonder, he was sore afraid and was much troubled ; and straightway he commanded, and they called the chief of the Chaldeans at that time, whose name was Antiphon, into his presence. And when he arrived, Philip related to him the matter just as it had occurred. And when he had told it to him, Antiphon answered and said, "O king Philip, the child that is to be born to thee will be a son, and he will be a king; he will traverse the whole world and subjugate all men by his power, and he will not be conquered by man ; but when this [son of thine] shall retrace his steps and return to his own place, within a few days he shall die. For the serpent is a sign of royalty, and the egg is the whole world ; and the serpent which went forth from thence and went round about it, when it returned and put its head into it, died immediately : even so in this manner, when he has traversed the whole world and returns to enter his own land, he will die," And when he had spoken according to this augury, Philip gave him many gifts and he went home.

[12] G   And now, her time of pregnancy completed, Olympias sat down upon the seat of safety for childbirth and her pains began. Nectanebos stood beside her and, having observed the course of the stars in heaven in relation to the movement of the cycle of the zodiac, said: "Arise from the chair for a little and walk about. For the Scorpion is in the ascendant and the shining Sun of the four-horse chariot, beholding the heavenly bodies revolving backwards, turns one born at this hour altogether away from the heavens. Mighty be the reverence for yourself under this star. For Cancer controls the horoscope, and Cronus {Saturn} who was plotted against by his own two sons cut off his genitals to the root, and bearing in mind Poseidon, ruler of the sea, and Pluto of the lower world, took the throne of Zeus in heaven. In this hour, you will give birth to one, doomed to be a eunuch. Let the brief space of this hour pass. For the moon, the horned, with the yoke of bulls left behind, was the last to descend on earth, and she embraced a fair lad, the cowherd Endymion. Because of the meeting, burned by fire, he perished. So he who is born under such conditions dies, smitten by fire. Not such is the fate of the happy son of heaven. For Aphrodite, goddess of marriage, mother of Eros the bowman, will destroy Adonis the hunter. The one born in this hour, when he sees the light, arouses the wailing of the women of Byblos for himself, and he has the soul of Ares, the lion-hearted. For he is a horseman and a warrior, and now, unarmed, naked, he was revealed by the Sun on the bed of lust. So the one born in this hour will die despised. Await now this star of Hermes, Queen, beside the One of Ill Name of the goat horns. So you will bear a famous warrior of a different mind, your own son. In this hour, you give birth to a marvel. Be seated now comfortably on the chair that gives easy childbirth and endure the more severe and cutting pangs of delivery. For Zeus, the lover of maidens, brought to light Dionysus, the raver, who was nursed in his thigh, Zeus the divine god of heaven. He became the ram Ammon, born under Aquarius and the Fish, and he established an Egyptian man, a king, ruler of the world. In this hour, give birth to your child."   And he himself delivered her child and said, "If you give birth now, O Queen, the one you bear is a world conqueror." And Olympias cried out louder than a bull and gave birth to a boy child.   At this word, the infant fell on the ground. Lightning flashed, thunder rumbled, earth shook, so that all the universe was in commotion.

[12] Now when the time for the delivery of Olympias had arrived, she sat upon the childbed, and the birth-pangs began to pain her. Nectanebus was standing before her and calculating the stars of heaven. When he had made his calculation, he said to Olympias, "Rise up for a little, O queen, from the seat until an hour pass, for the sign of the Scorpion holds this hour, and Saturn and the Sun and the Balance are opposed to it, and a vast host of wild beasts devour him who is born in this hour. In this hour the signs of the heaven revolve swiftly; but be strong and restrain thyself, and pass by this hour, for in this hour Cancer [predominates], and Saturn was plotted against by his children, and he was born in Gemini ; and he bound him and cast him into the ocean and he was deprived of his superiority, and Bêl obtained the throne of heaven in his place. In this hour Leopos (?) was born, who taught wandering. In this hour the horned Moon forsook the Balance, and descended from her height to the earth, and was united with the simple Endymion ; and she gave birth to a beautiful son by him, but he died by the flame of fire, therefore whosoever is born in this hour dies by fire. In this hour home-loving Baltin {Aphrodite} was with her husband, and she was slain by the hand of Ares without sword and without wound. In this hour the women who worship Baltin {Aphrodite} set up mourning and weep for her husband. Let this hour pass, because the god Ares stands in it wrathfully and threatens. In this hour Ares the lover of weapons and the warrior, naked and unarmed, placed his trust in the men of (?) Electryone the daughter of the Sun, and he stands put to shame; therefore everyone born in this hour will be despised and of no account among men. Restrain thyself in this hour too, O queen, for the star of Nâbo the scribe holds the sign of the zodiac, and he was born in [the sign of] the horned Goat, and afterwards his children rid themselves of him, and were estranged [from him], and went to the desert. In this hour Rhea was born ; do thou then sit upon the childbed, and bear bravely thy pains as best thou mayest, because Bêl is the lover of virgins. In this hour Dionysus was born, the gentle and humble, who makes to dwell in peace, who taught gentleness. And under this sign of the zodiac, Ammon with the ram's horns was born over Aquarius and Pisces of Egypt (?). In this hour Bel was horn, the father of men, and the king of the gods, and the ruler of the world, who establishes royalty. In this hour give birth, O queen." And when Nectanebus had finished speaking, the queen brought forth. And when the child fell upon the ground, suddenly there was the noise of thunders and lightnings, and mighty earthquakes, so that the whole world trembled.

Following chapters (13-19) →

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