The Great Outcast
1. The New Wolf Progeny
1. The New Wolf Progeny
As a captive he finally experienced all the joys of life and thrived on the island for two years on end knowing no hardships or grief. There was an abundance of everything – time, exquisite food, tender concubines and above all excellent papyrus, ink and audacious thoughts. While a slave he thought of himself as a master and it seemed that this state would last forever, although this bliss evoked an uneasy realisation of the world’s fragility. And on Aris’ orders it was forbidden to shout loudly, to beat drums and to toll a bell to mark midday and bedtime on the island.
Throughout all those auspicious days even the sea was not agitated at the time of the autumn storms and instead was quietly splashing in the harbour like a baby in a bathtub.
And so it went on until one day a foreign ship moored at the island flaunting a mysterious marking on its sails–a twin black cross. Thinking that it was his master or his envoy paying visit, the helot Philosopher arrived at the pier. However it was a man of a respectable age and of quite imperious appearance, wrapped in a judicial robe that came down from the lofty tiera. Two servants carried out and planted on the pier a wooden chair, which was rather reminiscent of a throne with its high backrest. Two others brought a pyramid- shaped wooden chest on legs, decorated with the same black badges and crowned with a golden globe. The Philosopher duly bent on one knee and cast down his gaze. The stranger in the robe could be anyone – his master’s confidant, a newly- appointed satrap of the island or a new master altogether, but he, however, called himself merely by the name of Thais Kilios, without identifying his status or rank.
But what startled the helot the most was the fact that he addressed him by his real name!
- “Rise, Aristotle Stagirite!” – He ordered as he sat in the chair.
The visitor cast the top of the pyramid open and extracted a book from it:
- “Look and answer: who does this work belong to?”
- “It has the name of Lucretius Iriy on it”, - the slave said cautiously. – “I have no reason to question the authorship…..”
- “And who created this work?”
Waiting for an answer, the visitor was looking at the slave with the impervious face of a sphinx and it was impossible to guess what he was after. And then the Philosopher grabbed his own hand as though he was a thief caught reaching into his own pocket; even his brief life in captivity imperceptibly filled him with the trepidation of fear, hence to him the world appeared evanescent. He remembered his teacher Bion and, tossing up his head, gazed straight into Ephor’s face.
- “The authorship of these works belongs to me”, – Aris said proudly, feeling the chilly breath of danger, - “But who are you, stranger, to ask me about it?”
- “Thais Kilios”, – the visitor simply introduced himself.
- “The name doesn’t ring a bell…” - the captive started to say and went silent for the look of the judge reminded him more of the lash of a whip.
- “Why, then, is there a different name on the frontispiece?”, – he asked dispassionately, – “Did you conceal the authorship deliberately?”
- “So you state that Lucretius Iriy appropriated your works?” – he clarified.
- “He did it with my consent” – admitted the Philosopher frankly.
- “Are you prepared to put your name back on these titles?”
- “I am.”
- “This would be tantamount to a death sentence.”
- “Watch out!”
- “If in Iliad they don’t heed the words of philosophers and execute them for their work, then there is no reason for existence”, - Aris said with dignity, feeling a new surge of energy”, - “And death prevails over any thought.”
- “Did you see the barbarians come out of the water?”
- “Yes, Ephor. And what an incredible sight it was…”
- “And you claim that they can breathe under water like fish?”
- “No, Ephor, I don’t.”
- “In your tractate you unravelled the mystery of the preparation of papyrus.” – the Ephor concluded, – “According to the law of the Collegiate you must be sentenced to death. And then when you are dead your skin will be flayed…”
- “But I was never a member of the College of Artisans”, – he reminded him. – “I never swore an oath, I never made a vow. I cannot be condemned by their internal laws….”
- “I am vested to decide whether you can or you cannot!”, – he was interrupted by the Ephor. - “You became a member when a young artisan initiated you into the secrets of the craft. And it is this that is considered to be an act of initiation and thus of an entry into the College. Was it not you who wrote about it in your works?”
- “Yes, superior, I did….”
- “Prepare to die!”
- “And who are you to judge me and condemn me to death? Since when did Ephors start to hand out death penalties to philosophers?”
- “I am an Ephor, and I oversee the mysteries in all poleis in Iliad”, - he said with cold dignity, - “Including the secrets of the Colleges. And I am empowered to determine your fate.”
- “If you studied the manuscript”, - Aris plucked up the courage to say, -“You must know that I did not disclose the secret of the craft, because it was known to anyone who ever used parchment for writing. Leather is first macerated in lime solution, then scoured, flattened with pumice and rubbed with chalk…”
- “The secret lies in the type of leather that is being used for currying!”, – Thais Kilios interrupted”, - “ And it was not the invasion of the barbarians, but rather your work that adversely affected the College of Papyrus Makers. And it wouldn’t have been so bad if only the craft suffered. You brought disgrace upon Iliad in front of the whole of the Middle Earth, humiliated Hellenic people likening them to barbarians”.
- “You wrought abomination upon the parchment manuscripts of philosophical works and tractates on natural history. You gave the Romans the right to judge the values of the Hellenic world. You deserve death”.
And then Aris remembered his unfinished essay and asked dispassionately:
- “Allow me, Superior, to complete my work. It will require a month or a little longer…”
- “You are irrepressible, Aristotle”, - he muttered. –“I delivered a verdict to you…..”
- “Delay the execution, Ephor.”
- “Are you really allured by fame after death? What would you like to say to our descendants? Would you once again stir their minds with similar creations?” – He looked at the chest. – “To exalt savages through the humiliation of Iliad as it suffers at their hands?”
- “I will tell the descendants what I saw during my life. And it will be up to them to judge whether I was right or wrong…”
- “So you would like a verdict of time?” – said the Ephor, seemingly bored. – “All right… Go with my guards and bring your work. And then I will decide whether it is to be completed or burnt.”
- “Shall I bring both copies or just the unfinished one?” – Aris asked, feeling how the cold grip of death slightly eased upon his throat.
- “Do you have two?”
- “Yes, Superior. I finished one under the name of my master. And the other one I was writing secretly….”
- “Bring both!”
Whereas the Ephor accepted the papyri from the servants and started to read right there at the pier ordering that Aris be taken to the side and kept under guard. The Philosopher lied down upon the sand. He did not just while away the time; instead he enjoyed it, reminiscing how he ended upon these shores, wondering where he was going to wind up on his journey.
In the torched and plundered city of Stagira he had gifted his lover Herpyllis generously so yet again the Philosopher had not one Obol in his pocket. That is why, without any hesitation he hired himself out as a navigator on a merchant galley to steer the ship at night time, getting bearings from the stars. Aris had long been used to paying for his journeys with his labour and did not shy away from any work. Soon having lucratively sold his fast selling goods, the merchant hastened his departure from tumultuous Chalcis, therefore he set out to sail day and night, anxious of plunderers and never touching land. The vessel safely circumnavigated the cape with the shrine on the island of Scyros. It was less than half way to Athens, when suddenly the wind changed and strong Boreas stirred up a storm – the Gods were avenging the one who took silver by giving bread to the afflicted.
All attempts to enter a harbour or at least to approach refuge of the shallows came to the loss of oars, without which the helm was rendered useless and the sail suggested impending shipwreck, since the wind was sweeping away the galley into the high seas anyway. Endless spears of lightning were hailing from the low, black skies, and the gaping old deck was not holding up under the onslaught of the elements. Showers and swells were filling the galley with water like a generous sommelier would fill up a chalice, so that the oarsmen could not keep up to shift it.. The guide-less galley with its hewed mast would heave up to the clouds and forks of lightnings only to be tossed back into the abyss. People would cry out to the Gods, because no one else could save them, but the Philosopher, gazing at the swells, remained calm and was almost joyful. Even when a blow of a wave ripped off the remnants of his clothes, a thought suddenly dawned upon him about a wavelike world and everything in it. Clinging to the stump of the mast, Aris was lying on the deck and was sailing in his mind through the waves of his life; having experienced sensuous demise in Olbia, he rose again after coming in contact with the mysteries of the barbarians’ lives. And yet again being plunged into the chasm of his native Stagira ablaze, he soared back into the skies experiencing the bliss of love on the night sea shores and found hope again. Now he was once again plummeting down with the galley, but he knew and felt that there bound to be another rise!
For another week after the storm the vessel was carried adrift by the will of the elements. Parched people drank sea water, starved they ate fat ship rats and rotten grain having extracted it from the cracks in the hold and they felt disdain towards the precious silver which was plentiful. Just recently it miraculously rescued victims of the fire in Stagira, whereas here it could not save anyone. And so even such a category as the money, embodied in this metal, was subject to the law of the waves and to their fluctuating motion. Both man and Gods could deliver them from certain death by suddenly showing up amongst the endless waters and show up they did, in the guise of pirates.
And this time the Philosopher could not escape slavery, as all the oarsmen along with the ship owner and his mates were captured and taken to the slave market in Persia. A free and an affluent citizen, the merchant, who just recently could order his own slaves around, himself became a slave – and so the sinuous law of the world was at play here too! But this was salvation still, as even in slavery there was life!
And once again Bion’s admonition helped him, when tied with a single rope the captives were displayed at the market. Unlike other captives, Aris warded off the feelings of torment and looked into the eye of the merchants with openness and intent as though he was looking at his mentors. In his new journeys he had grown a beard, his face had become weather-beaten and all his clothes consisted of a mere loincloth – so the free-born and noble Hellene, resembled more a Barbarian from the wild forests of the Rhiphean mountains, although he had no hatred or spite in his eyes.
This was what attracted attention of one of the buyers – a resident of Rome judging by the way he looked and dressed, God knows how he had turned up on the shores of Persia; the Philosopher did not know yet that slaves had not been traded in Capeum cape for a long time, because after the invasion of barbarians not a single strategos of the Pontic poleis ventured to go sunward after loot let alone toward the midnight side. So now slaves were sent to Iliad mostly from Persia and from the shores of the Red Sea. It turned out that this Roman arranged and secretly took young Greek hoplites to Persia to serve Darius. The Persians, in return, allowed him for a small fee to select strong and healthy men from the slave markets to work in the marble stone pits. He did not value his gratuitous slaves and the captives would survive for about three years, and those unfit to work, sick but still alive, would simply be covered with rubble or have stone piled over them.
The Roman asked him about his age and abruptly, hearing the speech of the captive, livened up, because he recognized a Hellene in him. When the slave named himself, he could not believe at first that in front of him was this very Philosopher, the author of a well-known but prohibited tractate on the invasion of the barbarians, but Aris, at that date knowing his work by heart, proved his authorship in a minute.
In such a way he found out about his own fame, which had long spread through the Middle Earth and this circumstance made him believe in the lucky star of his publicly condemned work. However, the Roman Lucretius, having bought him from the Persians as a slave, did not want to part with his acquisition. And though he promised freedom, showing his lofty intentions, he conceived to reap the benefits as the merchant prevailed in his master. The Roman had it all – wealth, palaces, vessels, concubines and the respect of his own folk; what was missing was the fame of a Philosopher - of a seditious Philosopher, as the nature of oligarchs would have it, of one that challenged the whole world order! And it was the glory that dazzled him mostly letting him extend his earthy existence beyond death, compelling attention of many generations to his persona.
When already on the way to Lesbos, where Lucretius Iriy had an estate, he suggested that Aris should serve as a hired scientist; in other words he would settle him in a beautiful villa on one of the islands he owned and provide him with all the necessities in order to free him of any worries about the worldly existence, thus allowing him to throw himself into scholarly writings. In exchange he demanded that he should abandon his own name, of which Aris was deprived anyway since he had been reduced to captivity. However the master left him absolutely no choice; if he turned him down, no one would have known that one of the slaves in the stone pits, resembling so much a Scythian Barbarian, was a scholar and a student of Plato himself, who had caused so much controversy amongst the pundits of Iliad and those citizens of Rome that were engaged in trade in Peloponnesus.
- “What was your name when you were a disciple?” – he asked, having told him his plan.
- “My teacher used to call me Aris”, – the captive admitted. – “The lover of my youth, Herpyllis from Stagira, called me by this name as well.”
- “Then I will call you Aris”, - said the master. – “It sounds like the name of the God of War – Ares! Let this consonance be of some solace to you. From now on you must forget your real name.”
The Philosopher once again remembered his teacher and decided to take refuge in his fate. And so he ended up on a small heavenly island near Lesbos, where he indeed settled into his scholarly philosophical works, and for the first months of his life there he felt such an inspiration and bliss, that at times he would forget that he was a slave. On the contrary, beautiful maidservants and concubines were at his beck and call fulfilling his every wish with such abandon, that it seemed appropriate to think of himself as master. However the recollections of Bion the Pontic, who taught him to observe every phenomenon openly and draw lessons from it, would not let him do so. The work written after long travels had only indirect relationship to philosophy and was more like the notes and observations of a nomad, who had come in contact with the unknown world of barbarians. He had not had time to reflect upon, summarize and translate into academic form all that he had recently seen and heard, that is why, without further ado, he talked about his travels throughout Great Scythia and spoke of what he had learnt from the wise men of those lands and finally from their most prophetic sage.
Simple-minded and a little bit vain barbarians, thinking of themselves as wise men, took to the learned pilgrim and told him not just about the countless mingled peoples and immense expanses of land in their possession, but inadvertently, in their naivety, they told him their secret, which Bion had been trying to uncover all his life and of which Aris was not even aware. They unlocked the truth, the verity of what the power, the invisible unity and persistence of the whole world of barbarians comes down to, the truth of why they are irrepressible and unmanageable, why they wouldn’t let any of the enlightened laws of the noble peoples of the Middle Earth govern over them and are in constant state of opposition to them.
And the essence was in the fact that the wild and mixed tribes of the three corners of the world, which at first glance were not linked with one another in any way and often at war with one another, had some deeper inner connection enabling them to perpetuate their barbarian customs, traditions and ways. Each corner of their barbarian world had a sacred relic in the form of sacred books also seemingly unrelated to each other; in the East it was Avesta, in the Midnight corner – Vesta and in the Midday Corner – Veda. However all of those, just like these barbarian peoples, had a very mysterious trinity, which even the sages had very obscure knowledge of and were crudely and ineptly bluffing about, because they did not want to reveal everything to the foreign scholar. At that time no one amongst the learned men of the past or present had even heard of such sanctities of the barbarians let alone anyone having any knowledge about their world view, which was founded upon the unwavering and unknown trinity of all things and based on notions seemingly unconnected.
One could argue with the sages by asserting one’s own dualistic perception of the world, commonly accepted amongst the noble peoples of the Middle Earth, Aris, however, thought it unworthy to enter into a discourse with the uninitiated and he had a different purpose in mind for his travels altogether. Declared plagued by the Chud Scolots*, he lived for several months in a chum** far away from people but was still eliciting knowledge from them about the way of life of the barbarians; and the youth who fed him bread would accidentally reveal other secrets. But due to the indolence of their intellect they never delved into the nature of the philosophical laws of their peoples because they did not think it was their pursuit to understand the nature of things. And there was just one prophet that lifted the veil over the sanctity of their shrines and the reason why their trinity was formed. At the very least he explained how Midnight barbarians mine for Time, considering it the utmost blessing.
*Scolots - 'Scythians' was the name given by ancient Greek writers to a group of Indo-European nomadic tribes who occupied Central Europe and Asia in the 8th century BC. The name was used for the Scythians proper, or Scolots, who inhabited the area, called Scythia, north of the Black Sea, between the Carpathian Mountains and the Don River, in what is now Moldova, Ukraine, and eastern Russia, and for all the nomadic tribes who inhabited the steppes between what is now Hungary to the mountains of Turkestan.
**Chum – an makeshift tent.
In the same way as they extracted Time in the East, they did so in the Midday Corner over the river Ind.
And now soaring from wave on to wave in the raging sea as in that deciding instant when he stood in the observatory on the seventh tier of the scientific tower in Olbia and looked at the mourning and crying barbarians by the fire, Aris’ eye and mind instantly caught the concealed, strange and enigmatic nature of the phenomenon, the meaning of which was still impenetrable. However his senses already grasped the enticing direction, where the truth should be sought.
To be continued