Sections of The Description of Greece

1.3.5 Here is built also a sanctuary of the Mother of the gods; the image is by Pheidias. Hard by is the council chamber of those called the Five Hundred, who are the Athenian councillors for a year. In it are a wooden figure of Zeus Counsellor and an Apollo, the work of Peisias, and a Demos by Lyson. The thesmothetae (lawgivers) were painted by Protogenesthe Caunian, and Olbiades portrayed Callippus, who led the Athenians to Thermopylae to stop the incursion of the Gauls into Greece.


1.4.1 These Gauls inhabit the most remote portion of Europe, near a great sea that is not navigable to its extremities, and possesses ebb and flow and creatures quite unlike those of other seas. Through their country flows the river Eridanus, on the bank of which the daughters of Helius (Sun) are supposed to lament the fate that befell their brother Phaethon. It was late before the name “Gauls” came into vogue; for anciently they were called Celts both amongst themselves and by others. An army of them mustered and turned towards the Ionian Sea, dispossessed the Illyrian people, all who dwelt as far as Macedonia with the Macedonians themselves, and overran Thessaly. And when they drew near to Thermopylae, the Greeks in general made no move to prevent the inroad of the barbarians, since previously they had been severely defeated by Alexander and Philip. Further, Antipater and Cassander afterwards crushed the Greeks, so that through weakness each state thought no shame of itself taking no part in the defence of the country.

1.4.2 But the Athenians, although they were more exhausted than any of the Greeks by the long Macedonian war, and had been generally unsuccessful in their battles, nevertheless set forth to Thermopylae with such Greeks as joined them, having made the Callippus I mentioned their general. Occupying the pass where it was narrowest, they tried to keep the foreigners from entering Greece; but the Celts, having discovered the path by which Ephialtes of Trachis once led the Persians, over whelmed the Phocians stationed there and crossed Oeta unperceived by the Greeks.

1.4.3 Then it was that the Athenians put the Greeks under the greatest obligation, and although outflanked offered resistance to the foreigners on two sides. But the Athenians on the fleet suffered most, for the Lamian gulf is a swamp near Thermopylae – the reason being, I think, the hot water that here runs into the sea. These then were more distressed; for taking the Greeks on board they were forced to sail through the mud weighted as they were by arms and men.

1.4.4 So they tried to save Greece in the way described, but the Gauls, now south of the Gates, cared not at all to capture the other towns, but were very eager to sack Delphi and the treasures of the god. They were opposed by the Delphians themselves and the Phocians of the cities around Parnassus; a force of Aetolians also joined the defenders, for the Aetolians at this time were pre-eminent for their vigorous activity. When the forces engaged, not only were thunderbolts and rocks broken off from Parnassus hurled against the Gauls, but terrible shapes as armed warriors haunted the foreigners. They say that two of them, Hyperochus and Amadocus, came from the Hyperboreans, and that the third was Pyrrhus son of Achilles. Because of this help in battle the Delphians sacrifice to Pyrrhus as to a hero, although formerly they held even his tomb in dishonor, as being that of an enemy.

1.4.5 The greater number of the Gauls crossed over to Asia by ship and plundered its coasts. Some time after, the inhabitants of Pergamus, that was called of old Teuthrania, drove the Gauls into it from the sea. Now this people occupied the country on the farther side of the river Sangarius capturing Ancyra, a city of the Phrygians, which Midas son of Gordius had founded in former time. And the anchor, which Midas found, was even as late as my time in the sanctuary of Zeus, as well as a spring called the Spring of Midas, water from which they say Midas mixed with wine to capture Silenus. Well then, the Pergameni took Ancyra and Pessinus which lies under Mount Agdistis, where they say that Attis lies buried.

1.4.6 They have spoils from the Gauls, and a painting which portrays their deed against them. The land they dwell in was, they say, in ancient times sacred to the Cabeiri, and they claim that they are themselves Arcadians, being of those who crossed into Asia with Telephus. Of the wars that they have waged no account has been published to the world, except that they have accomplished three most notable achievements; the subjection of the coast region of Asia, the expulsion of the Gauls therefrom, and the exploit of Telephus against the followers of Agamemnon, at a time when the Greeks after missing Troy, were plundering the Meian plain thinking it Trojan territory. Now I will return from my digression.

1.7.2 Ptolemy fortified the entrance into Egypt and awaited the attack of the Cyrenians. But while on the march Magas was in formed that the Marmaridae,a tribe of Libyan nomads, had revolted, and thereupon fell back upon Cyrene. Ptolemy resolved to pursue, but was checked owing to the following circumstance. When he was preparing to meet the attack of Magas, he engaged mercenaries, including some four thousand Gauls. Discovering that they were plotting to seize Egypt, he led them through the river to a deserted island. There they perished at one another’s hands or by famine.

1.8.1 It is pertinent to add here an account of Attalus, because he too is one of the Athenian eponymoi. A Macedonian of the name of Docimus, a general of Antigonus, who afterwards surrendered both himself and his property to Lysimachus, had a Paphlagonian eunuch called Philetaerus. All that Philetaerus did to further the revolt from Lysimachus, and how he won over Seleucus, will form an episode in my account of Lysimachus. Attalus, however, son of Attalus and nephew of Philetaerus, received the kingdom from his cousin Eumenes, who handed it over. The greatest of his achievements was his forcing the Gauls to retire from the sea into the country which they still hold.

1.9.5 This Lysimachus was a Macedonian by birth and one of Alexander’s body-guards, whom Alexander once in anger shut up in a chamber with a lion, and afterwards found that he had overpowered the brute. Henceforth he always treated him with respect, and honored him as much as the noblest Macedonians. After the death of Alexander, Lysimachus ruled such of the Thracians, who are neighbors of the Macedonians, as had been under the sway of Alexander and before him of Philip. These would comprise but a small part of Thrace. If race be compared with race no nation of men except the Celts are more numerous than the Thracians taken all together, and for this reason no one before the Romans reduced the whole Thracian population. But the Romans have subdued all Thrace, and they also hold such Celtic territory as is worth possessing, but they have intentionally overlooked the parts that they consider useless through excessive cold or barrenness.

1.13.2 After the defeat in Italy Pyrrhus gave his forces a rest and then declared war on Antigonus, his chief ground of complaint being the failure to send reinforcements to Italy. Overpowering the native troops of Antigonus an his Gallic mercenaries he pursued them to the coast cities, and himself reduced upper Macedonia and the Thessalians. The extent of the fighting and the decisive character of the victory of Pyrrhus are shown best by the Celtic armour dedicated in the sanctuary of Itonian Athena between Pherae and Larisa, with this inscription on them,

1.13.3 Pyrrhus the Molossian hung these shields taken from the bold Gauls as a gift to Itonian Athena, when he had destroyed all the host of Antigonus. ‘Tis no great marvel. The Aeacidae are warriors now, even as they were of old. These shields then are here, but the bucklers of the Macedonians themselves he dedicated to Dodonian Zeus. They too have an inscription. These once ravaged golden Asia, and brought slavery upon the Greeks. Now ownerless they lie by the pillars of the temple of Zeus, spoils of boastful Macedonia.

1.16.2 After these successes, which were shortly followed by the fall of Lysimachus, he entrusted to his son Antiochus all his empire in Asia, and himself proceeded rapidly towards Macedonia, having with him an army both of Greeks and of foreigners. But Ptolemy, brother of Lysandra, had taken refuge with him from Lysimachus; this man, an adventurous character named for this reason the Thunderbolt, when the army of Seleucus had advanced as far as Lysimachea, assassinated Seleucus, allowed the kings to seize his wealth, and ruled over Macedonia until, being the first of the kings to my knowledge to dare to meet the Gauls in battle, he was killed by the foreigners. The empire was recovered by Antigonus, son of Demetrius.

1.25.2 By the south wall are represented the legendary war with the giants, who once dwelt about Thrace and on the isthmus of Pallene, the battle between the Athenians and the Amazons, the engagement with the Persians at Marathon and the destruction of the Gauls in Mysia.  Each is about two cubits, and all were dedicated by Attalus. There stands too Olympiodorus, who won fame for the greatness of his achievements, especially in the crisis when he displayed a brave confidence among men who had met with continuous reverses, and were therefore in despair of winning a single success in the days to come.

1.30.3 Not far from the Academy is the monument of Plato, to whom heaven foretold that he would be the prince of philosophers. The manner of the foretelling was this. On the night before Plato was to become his pupil Socrates in a dream saw a swan fly into his bosom. Now the swan is a bird with a reputation for music, because, they say, a musician of the name of Swan became king of the Ligyes on the other side of the Eridanus beyond the Celtic territory, and after his death by the will of Apollo he was changed into the bird. I am ready to believe that a musician became king of the Ligyes, but I cannot believe that a bird grew out of a man.

Description of Greece. Translated by Jones, W. H. S. and Omerod, H. A. Loeb Classical Library Volumes. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1918.