[ 2 ] Thessaliam - nam et illic originis maternae nostrae fundamenta a Plutarcho illo inclito ac mox Sexto philosopho nepote eius prodita gloriam nobis faciunt - eam Thessaliam ex negotio petebam . Postquam ardua montium ac lubrica vallium et roscida cespitum et glebosa camporum emersi , in equo indigena peralbo vehens iam eo quoque admodum fesso , ut ipse etiam fatigationem sedentariam incessus vegetatione discuterem in pedes desilio , equi sudorem frontem curiose exfrico , auris remulceo , frenos detraho , in gradum lenem sensim proveho , quoad lassitudinis incommodum alvi solitum ac naturale praesidium eliquaret . Ac dum is ientaculum ambulatorium prata quae praeterit ore in latus detorto pronus adfectat , duobus comitum qui forte paululum processerant tertium me facio . Ac dum ausculto quid sermonibus agitarent , alter exserto cachinno : " Parce " inquit " in verba ista haec tam absurda tamque immania mentiendo . " Isto accepto sititor alioquin novitatis : " Immo vero " inquam " impertite sermonem non quidem curiosum sed qui velim scire vel cuncta vel certe plurima ; simul iugi quod insurgimus aspritudinem fabularum lepida iucunditas levigabit . "
[ 3 ] At ille qui coeperat : " Ne " inquit " istud mendacium tam verum est quam siqui velit dicere magico susurramine amnes agiles reverti , mare pigrum conligari , ventos inanimes exspirare , solem inhiberi , lunam despumari , stellas evelli , diem tolli , noctem teneri . " Tunc ego in verba fidentior : " Heus tu " inquam " qui sermonem ieceras priorem , ne pigeat te vel taedeat reliqua pertexere " , et ad alium : " Tu vero crassis auribus et obstinato corde respuis quae forsitan vere perhibeantur . Minus hercule calles pravissimis opinionibus ea putari mendacia quae vel auditu nova vel visu rudia vel certe supra captum cogitationis ardua videantur ; quae si paulo accuratius exploraris , non modo compertu evidentia verum etiam factu facilia senties .
[ 4 ] Ego denique vespera , dum polentae caseatae modico secus offulam grandiorem in convivas aemulus contruncare gestio , mollitie cibi glutinosi faucibus inhaerentis et meacula spiritus distinentis minimo minus interii . Et tamen Athenis proxime et ante Poecilen porticum isto gemino obtutu circulatorem aspexi equestrem spatham praeacutam mucrone infesto devorasse , ac mox eundem , invitamento exiguae stipis venatoriam lanceam , qua parte minatur exitium , in ima viscera condidisse . Et ecce pone lanceae ferrum , qua bacillum inversi teli ad occipitium per ingluviem subit , puer in mollitiem decorus insurgit inque flexibus tortuosis enervam et exossam saltationem explicat cum omnium qui aderamus admiratione : diceres dei medici baculo , quod ramis semiamputatis nodosum gerit , serpentem generosum lubricis amplexibus inhaerere . Sed iam cedo tu sodes , qui coeperas , fabulam remetire . Ego tibi solus haec pro isto credam , et quod ingressui primum fuerit stabulum prandio participabo . Haec tibi merces posita est . "
1 . 2
I was going to Thessaly-my mother is from Thessaly , by the way , and she ' s descended
from Plutarch , you know , the famous biographer , and not to mention his grandson , the philosopher Sextus of Chaeronea , and they made our family famous-anyways , I was on my way to Thessaly for a business trip . I surpassed the heights of the mountains , the crumbling paths of the valleys , the dewy parts of the pastures , and the clumpy furrows of the fields , riding on my native , pure-white horse . We were both exhausted , my horse and I , he from the journey and me from sitting ; so , now that we had passed through the thick vegetation , I jumped down to shake off my weariness . I carefully wiped my horse ' s sweaty forehead , stroked his ears , took off his bridle , and slowly led him at a gentle pace , until nature could restore his weary troubles and his empty belly , as it usually did . Meanwhile , he found his breakfast while we walked , leaning toward the fields we passed with his mouth turned to the side . By chance , we found ourselves walking a little ways near two companions , and I joined their little group . I listened to the conversation they were having , and one of the men , erupting with a deep guffaw , said , " That ' s enough already , what you ' re telling me is absurd , nothing but enormous lies . " Since I ' m always thirsting for such a tale-or really , for any peculiarity-I said , " Oh , come now , tell me your story . It ' s not that I ' m prying , but I ' m just the kind of guy who wants to know everything , or at least as much as I can . Not to mention , a delightful anecdote will ease our difficult climb up this big hill we ' re coming to . "
1 . 3
But the man who spoke first said , " If you told me that a whispered spell could make the swiftest rivers flow backwards , turn the sea into something too lazy to swell , force the winds to breathe out their last breath , stop the sun right in its tracks , wipe the shine off of the moon , pluck out the stars from the sky , kidnap the day , and stretch out the night-if you told me all that , I ' d believe it exactly as much as I believe those lies of yours . " More confident than before , I spoke up again . " Hey , you , " I said , pointing to the one who had already begun his story . " Don ' t get fed up or bored , finish it for me . " To the doubter , I said , " As for you , your ears are filled with mud . It ' s with a stubborn heart that you reject what very well could be true . By Hercules , you ' re not that bright to have these depraved opinions , thinking everything is a lie , even if the things sound strange to your ears , look like a heap of codswallop , or seem too lofty to grasp . If you would just look a little more carefully , you would see for yourself that not only are such things easy to find , they are even easy to do . "
1 . 4
I continued , " In fact , just last night , I was eating dinner with some co-banqueters , my gastronomic rivals . I was eager to gobble up a sort-of-largish chunk of cheesy porridge , and when the soft and sticky food stuck to my jaws and throat , I couldn ' t breathe-I nearly died . But this is nothing compared to what I saw swallowed on my recent trip to Athens . I was visiting the Poecilen colonnade , you know , outside the famous picture gallery in the market where Zeno liked to meet . I saw with my own two eyes a traveling performer swallow a very sharp broadsword , the kind cavalry would carry , tip-first ! Then , spurred onward by a small coin , the very same man swallowed a hunting spear by the end which threatened to be his ruin , burying it deep in his belly . And , right there in front of me , on top of the lance ' s hilt , where the handle of the upside-down weapon rose up through his mouth and out the back of his head , a boy ( who was quite the little princess ) climbed up and , twisting and turning , began to dance , contorting like he had no bones . Everyone there was dumbstruck . You would have said he was the noble serpent that winds itself in a slippery embrace around the staff borne by the medicine god , knotted with many half-pruned twigs . But now , if you don ' t mind , " I finished , nodding to the one who needed to finish his tale , " get on with it . Recount your story , and I alone will believe you , even if that man won ' t . And at the first tavern we come to , I ' ll buy you dinner . That ' ll be the return on your investment . "
1 . 2
I was going to Thessaly , -for my mother ' s family is sprung from that country and I am proud to say can count among its members the famous Plutarch and later his nephew , the philosopher Sextus . Well then , I was going to Thessaly on business . I had passed and left behind me steep mountain passes and slippery valley paths , dewy greensward and rich loam of plough lands , and the Thessalian horse that carried me , a beast of spotless whiteness , was exceeding weary . I too was tired of long sitting in the saddle and longed to dispel my fatigue by a brisk walk . So I leapt to the ground , carefully wiped away the sweat from my horse ' s fore- head , stroked his ears , loosened the reins , and gradually urged him to a gentle walk , until such time as nature should bring its wonted relief and remove the burden of his weariness . With head stooped to earth he broke his fast as he walked and with sidelong sweep of his mouth browsed on the fields through which he passed , while I rejoined my two comrades who had forged somewhat ahead of us . As I listened to hear of what they might be talking , one of them laughed loud and said , ' Nay ! spare us such monstrous and absurd fabrications ! ' I am always athirst for novelties , and when I heard this , I cried , ' Come now , you must admit me to your conversation . It is no mere curiosity that prompts me to make such a request , but the desire to make my knowledge complete , or at any rate as complete as may be . Besides , the charm and wit of your stories will smoothe away the difficulties of this hill we ' re climbing . '
1 . 3
Then he who had first spoken said to the other , ' Call it a lie if you will , but in good truth it is no more a lie than it would be to say that magic chants have power to make rushing rivers flow backwards , to bind the sea in sluggish calm , put breath in lifeless bodies , stay the sun in his course , draw foam from the moon , tear the stars from their places , banish the day and hold fast the darkness of night . ' This encouraged me to press my suit , and I said to him , ' Please finish the story you had begun ; do not grudge it me . There ' s no cause for reluctance . ' Then turning to the other , ' As for you , ' said I , ' you , with your dull ears and obstinate scepticism , are rejecting what may perhaps turn out to be true after all . Good heavens ! you don ' t seem to realize that it ' s mere perversity makes men think that things must needs be false because they seem strange to the hearing or new to the eyes , or at any rate far removed beyond the range of imagination . If you will only look into them a little more carefully , it ' s likely enough that you will find them not only obvious to the understanding but even easy to perform . Take an example
1 . 4
One 4 evening in the attempt to keep pace with my companions at table I hurried a little too much . I attempted to gulp down a rather large mouthful of pearl-barley flavoured with cheese and came within a hair ' s-breadth of death ; for the food , being soft and sticky , became lodged in my throat and obstructed the channels of my breath . And yet , only the other day , at Athens in front of the Painted Porch with these two eyes of mine I saw a mountebank on horseback swallow a sharp sword point foremost , and again , for the offer of a few pence , thrust a hunting-spear , its death-dealing point downwards , right into his very vitals ! And , look you , above the lance-head , where the shaft of the inverted lance rose from his open jaws toward his crown , there stood up a pretty girlish-looking boy who danced so nimbly with many a tortuous bending of his body that he seemed to have neither bone nor muscle . All we who stood by marvelled . You might have likened him to some splendid snake twining with slippery coils about the staff that the god of healing bears , all rough with knots where the twigs have been lopped away . But now come , I beg you , begin once more the story you had set forth to tell . If our friend here won ' t believe it , I will , and at the first inn we come to you shall lunch with me . That shall be your payment for the story . You have my word for it . '