Qayid Aljaysh Juyub

The First Journey of Herodides

From Ephesus to Massilia

I, Herodides of Ephesus, the son of Archon Archelaos, would like to relate the wondrous events that befell me when I travelled to the limits of the earth's circle. In those days, after the defeat of Xerxes and before the great war between the Athenians and Lacedaimonians that plunged our world into the abyss, I set out on a sea voyage from my hometown of Ephesus to Corinth in order to discover the secrets of the world and to expand the knowledge of mankind.

My ship, a proud merchant vessel, glided across the shimmering surface of the sea, illuminated by Helios' radiant chariot. The shorelines passed me by, a breathtaking backdrop of coasts and islands filled with gods and stories. I, Herodides, sat on deck, my pen ready to put into words the beauty and splendour of the world. Under the benevolent protection of the mighty Athenians, we passed the islands of the Aegean, which once languished like the Ionians under the yoke of the Persian barbarians, and the shores of the land of the Lacedaemonians.

But fate led me on a different course when I landed in Corinth. There I met a Corinthian merchant whose ship was sailing to Massilia, that distant city still beyond my imagination. My thirst for adventure was unquenchable, so I changed ships and put myself once more into the hands of the waves.

The sailors of the Corinthian ship prophesied a coming storm that would break upon us like the wrath of Poseidon himself. The rage of Zeus' brother was terrible, foam-crowned waves broke cruelly over us and I felt reminded of the endless storms that the son of Laeartes from Ithaca had to endure in the ten years of his odyssey. Like Odysseus surviving Scylla and Charybdis, we escaped the storm.

I, who was more familiar with knowledge than with the mysteries of the sea, listened attentively to the stories of the nauarch. Some of them spoke of fascinating creatures, half dolphin and half woman, who supposedly inhabited the seas. They abducted sailors into the depths of the ocean to show them the treasures of Poseidon's kingdom. But those unfortunates faced a cruel fate, for never again would they be allowed to leave the undersea realm and have to serve the god of the seas as slaves.

The skipper's words, interwoven like elaborate threads, drew me under their spell. I, Herodides, recognised the power of the legends that filled the hearts of the sailors, and I was eager to learn more about these secrets myself.

We passed the shores of Sicily and crossed the Etruscan Sea. Once, after the great naval battle of the Phocaeans against Carthaginians and Etruscans, those regions were under the strict control of the latter. But not long ago, the Hellenes from the Italian colonies succeeded in breaking the naval power of the Etruscans. Now it is possible for our ships to cross the Etruscan sea unhindered, but now countless pirates are up to their mischief there.

Finally, we reached the safe harbour of Massilia unharmed, and I stepped ashore, full of curiosity about the unknown land before me. The polis stretched before me like a painting of diversity and culture, a place where the stories of the past echoed in the streets and alleys.

My journey from Ephesus to Massilia was not only a physical journey, but also a journey of discovery and learning. I, Herodides of Ephesus, was determined to share with my readers the wonders and mysteries I experienced on this journey and to give them an insight into the world of gods and men.

Into the Heart of Gaul

In those distant days, when my journey took me from the sun-drenched shores of Corinth to the wilds of Gaul, I found myself at the side of a Massiliot merchant. He traded in precious luxury goods and had a destination in mind, which was in the lands of the Haudians, that proud Celtic royal seat.

We passed through the green valleys and majestic forests that criss-crossed the land of the Haudians. We also passed villages surrounded by palisades, whose buildings consisted of mud huts. In addition to free farmers, there also lived numerous unfree peasants who were bound as tenants to their slough and subject to a great lord. Unlike ordinary slaves, they enjoyed protective rights, so their master could not simply kill them at will, as is the case, for example, with the Helots from Messenia. The wifes of the barbarians also enjoyed extraordinary rights of freedom, which were most comparable to those of the Lacedaemonian women.

Finally we reached the gates of the royal estate. The buildings that opened before my eyes were an impressive testimony of exotic artistry and splendour, a place that reflected, as that Massiliot merchant told me, the stories and legends of the barbarians.

The walls, made of noble wood, rose majestically into the sky, adorned by ornate carvings and decorations. Elegant archways led into the inner courtyards, which were flanked by strange statues resembling chimeras. I, Herodides, could not help but admire the artistry of those barbarians, which testified to the creativity and skill of Gauls.

As I entered the great hall of the royal residence, a world of strange colours, sounds and aromas opened up to me. This strange but fascinating culture of those people lived in every corner of the estate, from the intricately woven carpets to the barbaric banquets accompanied by strange chants of their bards, which, however, did not sound unpleasant to the ears of a civilised person. I, Herodides, had the honour of taking part in these festivities and experiencing the hospitality of the Celtoi.

However, at those feasts of the Gauls, things were quite strange for a Hellen. The guests got drunk on a coarse drink of fermented honey. The more affluent drank wine imported from the land of the Hellenes in a barbaric manner, undiluted. My Massiliot companion had sold some amphorae of this nectar of the gods to the barbarians for a very good price. The consumption of these drinks also knew no reasonable measure, so that there were many unpleasant scenes that sometimes degenerated into bloody duels. The Gauls also did not lie down like civilised people, but sat at tables on chairs that were quite artistically made.

This may seem uncivilised to us, but I was told of an even wilder people who lived far to the east, beyond a great river, and who were a nuisance to the Celtoi. It was rumoured that their priests could transform themselves into ferocious beasts of the forest during the full moon, preferring the form of a wolf.

The Haudians, however, were a proud people of primordial origin, with their roots deeply rooted in the earth. Their customs and rituals were marked by reverence for nature, and their artwork bore witness to a connection to the world of their mysterious gods. The beauty of their jewellery and clothing, which shimmered in vivid colours, told stories of myths and legends that lived in their barbaric hearts.

During my stay in this distant land of the Haudians, I learned a lot about their way of life, their customs and their view of the world. Their connection to nature and their pride in their roots were impressive and inspiring at the same time, although some of their habits seemed strange and repulsive to a Hellene.

I, Herodides of Ephesus, felt honoured to be allowed to get to know this culture, even if only for a short time.

Thus, my days in the royal seat of the Haudians gradually came to an end, and I decided to set out again to discover more adventures and wonders.

The voyage to Hibernia

During my stay at the royal seat of the Haudians, a place of barbaric splendour and culture, I met a Celtic druid named Carabellin. This wise man gave me insights into the secrets and rituals of the Celtic religion, which I would now like to pass on.

For a Hellen, the role of the druids among the Celts is difficult to comprehend. Those wise men were not just any priests, as we are used to. They were also artists, teachers and philosophers. Women could also be druids of great power. Among those who were most like our priests, there were three distinct groups. The servants of the earth dealt with the spiritual world and the connection with the benevolent gods. Then there were the Whisperers of the Great Oak, who walked among the people as healers. The last group was the followers of the Blood Moon. Those dark clerics embodied the negative aspects of the cosmos, comparable to the Brotherhood of Hades. They maintained the connection to the more merciless gods and performed bloody rituals, which included human sacrifices. It seemed very strange to me that this people had no temples and performed their rituals in sacred groves or caves.

Carabellin, a wise man of the Servants of the Earth, who in his old age carried the wisdom of the centuries in his eyes, took me under his care. Under the shade of ancient oak trees, he shared with me stories of the gods of the Celtoi, of their attachment to nature and the mysterious rites they performed in secret groves or places of power such as caves. I, Herodides, listened to his words with awe and interest, as these insights into Celtic spirituality broadened my horizons.

Our meeting developed into a deep friendship that became not only my travelling companion but also a connection of hearts. Carabellin told me about his homeland of Hibernia, that land shrouded in green hills and mystical mists. He invited me to accompany him to his homeland, and without hesitation, I decided to make the journey.

Together we crossed the land of the Haudians and finally reached the realms of the Venetans. There we boarded one of the Venetans' cyclopean tall ships, which fascinated me and at the same time filled me with wonder, since the ships of these barbarians were propelled only by the wind and not by oarsmen. The unusual construction, which in its strangeness was beyond my previous experience, the high masts and the impressive sails told me that the art of shipbuilding in these lands had reached almost as high a level of mastery as among the Hellenes.

The sea was unpredictable and I, Herodides, found myself on board this ship, carried by waves and winds. The Venetan sailors knew their craft, and so we glided majestically over the water, driven by the hope of new adventures and discoveries. I could not help but compare the different cultures I encountered on my journey and was deeply impressed by the diversity of the people and their way of life.

Thus my journey led me from the Haudians to the Venetans, and from there finally to distant Hibernia, where I would discover new worlds and further deepen my friendship with Carabellin. I, Herodides of Ephesus, placing the words in awe on the pages of the papyrus, am grateful for the experiences that befell me and am pleased to be able to share them with my readers.

Hibernia

We landed and finally found rest in the large coastal settlement that stretched along the shore. The name of this settlement was Dalin, a lively place that combined trade and culture. Amidst the busy streets and market stalls, I and my faithful friend found hospitality and rest before continuing on our way.

The path led us through green hills and over rivers until we finally reached majestic Tara, a royal seat of great splendour and historical significance. Carabellin, who was native to these climes, received admiring glances from the locals who curiously eyed the exotic stranger, me, Herodides of Ephesus. Their looks spoke of benevolence and at the same time of a certain attention that rested on my unusual background.

One day Carabellin received a special invitation that came from the high above. The King of Tara himself, a powerful man of proud bearing, invited us to a banquet in his great hall. The hall was decorated with rich fabrics and magnificent tapestries, and the king himself was enthroned on a raised seat.

During the guest meal we had animated conversations, and in my enthusiasm I, Herodides, told in lively and not exactly modest words of the splendour of the Artemision in my home town of Ephesus. I spoke of the impressive statues and ornate buildings that adorned our polis and of the cultural superiority of the Hellenes over the barbarians.

Carabellin, noticing the offended looks of those present, gave me a penetrating glance. His displeasure at my supposed boasting could not be overlooked. But instead of addressing this openly, he decided to show in another way that Celtic culture also had its depths and secrets.

That night Carabellin invited me to a special ritual, one that would open the gates to the Otherworld. The king, apparently negatively impressed by my overconfidence and my apparent ignorance of Celtic traditions, agreed to let me participate in the ritual.

The Gate to the Otherworld

I, Herodides of Ephesus, the son of Archon Archelaos, will describe the events that presented themselves to me when I ventured to the borders that separate the world of men from that of the gods. Into the shadows of history my pen leads me to tell of the wondrous experiences that pierced my soul.

That night after the banquet, when the sky was covered with dark clouds and the stars were only sparsely shining through, Carabellin led me and a select group of druids to a hidden cave. A place that seemed mysterious and filled with ancient power, hidden from the eyes of the world.

The cave was a portal to the past, a witness to the ages that had left their mark here. The walls were adorned with magnificent murals that told stories of days long gone. Strange creatures, painted on the walls of the cave by the first human race, danced in seemingly endless motion, their outlines and colours engulfed by the darkness of the room. Gems shimmered in the walls, embedded like stars in the darkness, while stalagmites and stalactites hung from the ceiling and floor as if forged by the earth itself.

An air of awe and magic filled the air as Carabellin and the other druids gathered in the cave with sublime dignity. Their figures stood out in the flickering glow of the torches, and their faces were marked by centuries of wisdom and knowledge. There was a tension in the air, an aura of expectation that permeated the darkness around them.

With bowed heads, the druids began their rites, their voices rising in ancient song. Their words were more than mere onomatopoeia - they were an echo from distant times, a link to the spirits of the ancestors and the powers that rested in the depths of the earth.

And then the unexpected happened, the overwhelming. A portal opened before my eyes, a threshold to the Otherworld. The boundaries between dimensions blurred and I found myself in a world that was alien to my senses. Light and shadow danced together and the atmosphere was filled with an invisible sound, a humming and whispering that seemed to come from all sides.

The presence of the spirits and divine power was palpable, their presence a whisper on my skin and a tingling in the air. Visions flashed through my mind - images of days gone by, of heroes and gods, of wars and peace. I felt like part of an ancient story that spanned the ages.

At that moment I realised the depth and truth of the Celtic culture interwoven in the rituals of the Druids. The connection between human beings and the powers beyond the material world, the bond with the spirits of nature and the ancestors - all this was revealed to me in the darkness of the cave. I understood then that the culture of those barbarians was alien, but by no means inferior to ours.

Thus ended that night when the gates to the Otherworld were opened, and I, Herodides of Ephesus, wrote down these words to preserve the splendour and magic of that moment for posterity. May these lines be a window through which readers can look into a world that is as mysterious as it is fascinating, a world that lies hidden in the mysteries of Celtic culture.

Homecoming

So it happened that I, Herodides of Ephesus, spent the days at Tara filled with wonder and knowledge. But like all good things, this time was to come to an end. Carabellin and I, we spent countless hours exchanging our thoughts and knowledge. I learned about the deep connections between the cycles of nature and the gods who watched over them. Carabellin, in turn, was fascinated by my stories of Greek culture and the wonders revealed in the Artemision of Ephesus.

With a heavy heart, I finally said goodbye to my friend. We exchanged promises to meet again one day in another world, and with a final handshake I continued on my way.

Carabellin organised safe conduct for me with a merchant party that brought valuable ores directly from Hibernia to Massilia. It was a long and arduous journey that took us through countless landscapes, past majestic mountains, dense forests and rushing rivers. I took the opportunity to marvel at the beauty and diversity of the world, to take in every breath of this incomparable experience.

On my journey, I heard stories of the islands beyond the seas, of distant lands and exotic peoples. I heard of Britain, an island rich in tin deposits, once visited by the natives in brisk trade with the Phoenicians. But now the Carthaginians had replaced the Phoenicians and were the new trading partners of these distant lands. I was also told about the lands of the north where monsters and ice giants were at work.

Finally I reached Massilia, the familiar streets and squares welcomed me with open arms. And there, in the harbour, I found a ship that would take me back to Ephesus. So I set sail and the sound of the sea accompanied me on my journey home.

I, Herodides of Ephesus, felt great joy in my heart when I saw the shores of my homeland again. The gods had watched over me, Hermes had accompanied me on my journeys. I had gathered riches of knowledge and experiences that I would now carry into the halls of history.

I am now a feeble old man and remember with wistfulness, but also with deep gratitude, that adventurous and instructive time so many years ago.

So may my journey be recorded for posterity, a testimony of adventure, friendship and man's ceaseless drive for knowledge.
© 2023 Q.A.Juyub

 

 

All rights belong to its author. It was published on e-Stories.org by demand of Qayid Aljaysh Juyub.
Published on e-Stories.org on 08/16/2023.

 
 

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