En 14e Demetrius and Friso

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    Ott 2023

    14e. Demetrius and Friso

    [125/05] Among the many princes, Nearchus had a friend named Antigonus.[1] Both were dedicated to the same purpose, as they said: to serve the royal lineage and to regain for all Greeks their old freedoms.

    Among many others, Antigonus had a son. His name was Demetrius,[2] later given the epithet ‘Besieger of Cities’.[3] He once attacked the city-state Salamis. After a long battle there, he was confronted with the fleet of Ptolemy,[4] the prince who reigned over Egypt. Demetrius won the conflict, not through his soldiers, but because we had assisted him. This we had done as allies of Nearchus, since we knew he was partly of our blood, having fair skin, blue eyes, and white hair. Thereafter, Demetrius attacked Rhodes. We delivered his mercenaries and food supplies. When we completed our final voyage to Rhodes, we found the war was over.[5] Demetrius had sailed to Athenia, and when our king learned this, he led us back. But when we arrived at the harbor, [126] the whole town was immersed in grief.

    Friso, the king of the fleet, had a son and a daughter at home; exceptionally fair, as if they had just come from Fryasland, and unimaginably delightful to look upon.[6] The fame of this went out over all the Greeklands, and reached Demetrius’ ears. Demetrius was vile and immoral, and he thought that he was free to do anything he pleased. He had the daughter publicly kidnapped. The mother did not dare wait for the return of her ‘joy’. (The steersmen’s wives call their men ‘joy’; they also say ‘sweetheart’. The steersmen call their wives ‘solace’ and ‘fro’ or ‘frow’, which means ‘delight’, also ‘frolic’.) As she dared not wait for her husband, she went to Demetrius with her son, begging him to give back her daughter. But when Demetrius saw her son, he had him taken to his palace and used him the way he had used his sister. To the mother he sent a bag of gold, but she dumped it into the sea. When she arrived home, she became frantic. She ran all about the streets, calling: “Have you not seen my children? O wall, help me hide! My joy will kill me for having lost his children.”

    [127] When Demetrius heard that Friso was home, he sent a messenger to him, saying that he had adopted his children to raise them to a high position, as a reward for his services. But Friso, who was proud and stern, sent a messenger with a letter to his children, urging them to obey Demetrius, who desired to make them happy. Yet the messenger had also brought poison and another letter ordering them to take it.[7] “Because,” he said, “against your will, your body was defiled. For that, you are not to blame. But if you defile your soul, you shall never reach Walhalla.[8] Your soul shall then wander the earth, never permitted to see the light. Like bats and owls you shall hide in your hole by day, and come out at night, crying and howling upon our graves, while Frya must turn her head away from you.” The children did as they were told. Demetrius had their corpses thrown into the sea and the people were told that they had fled.

    Now Friso wanted to sail with all his men to Fryasland, where he had been before. But most of them refused. So Friso went and shot fire into the town with [128] its royal storehouses. As a result, no one could, nor dared, remain, and all were relieved once they had made it out. Except for the women and children, we left everything behind, though we were well equipped with provisions and armaments. Yet Friso still had no peace. When we passed the old harbor, he went off with his bold men for a surprise attack, shooting fire into the ships he could reach with his arrows. After six days, we saw Demetrius’ battle fleet approaching. Friso ordered us to keep back the smaller ships in a broad line and to put the more massive ones with women and children in front. He also called for us to move the crossbows from the front to the stern of the ships. “Because,” he said, “we must fight as we flee. None may take it upon themselves to pursue any single enemy.” “This,” he said, “is my decree.”

    While we were busy getting these things ready, the wind turned against us, which frightened the cowardly and the women. Because we had no slaves except those who had voluntarily joined us, we could not escape them by rowing. But Wralda knew what he was doing, and Friso, [129] who understood, quickly had fire arrows placed on the crossbows, with the order to wait until he had shot first. He also told us to aim for the central ship. “If that target is hit hard enough,” he said, “the others will come to his aid, and then we must all shoot as best we can.” When they were a cable and a half distance off,[9] the Phoenicians started shooting, but Friso did not answer until the first arrow landed six fathoms from his ship.[10] Then he loosed a shot, and the rest followed. It was like a rain of fire and, as our arrows went with the wind, they all remained alight and reached even the third line. Everyone shouted and cheered, but the cries of our adversaries were so terrible that our hearts were crushed. When Friso thought it was enough, he called us off and we sped away.

    But after we had plied on for two days, another fleet of thirty ships came into view, gaining on us all the time. Friso had us again prepare, but the other fleet sent forward a light longboat full of rowers. Messengers bade us on behalf of them all for permission to join us. They were Ionians who had been forced by Demetrius to sail to the [130] old harbor. There, they had heard of the battle, which led them to tie on the proud sword and follow us.[11] Friso, who had often sailed with the Ionians, said yes. But Wichhirte, our king, said no. “The Ionians are idol worshipers,” he said. “I myself have heard how they invoke them.”

    Friso replied: “It comes through their dealings with the native Greeks. I have often done the same myself, yet I am as true a Frya as the finest of you.” And, as Friso was the one who had to guide us to Fryasland, the Ionians joined us.

    This also seemed to be Wralda’s intention, for within three months we rounded Britannia; three days later, we could cheer, “huzzah!”


    1. 'Antigonus' (ANTIGONUS, Greek: Ἀντίγονος) — Macedonian nobleman, general and governor, known from other sources, would have lived 382 - 301 BCE.
    2. 'Demetrius' (DEMÉTRIUS, Greek: Δημήτριος) — known from other sources, lived 337 - 283 BCE.
    3. ‘Besieger of Cities’ (STÉDAWINNER) — Greek: Πολιορκητής, Poliorcetes.
    4. 'Ptolemy' (PTHOLEMÉUS, Greek: Πτολεμαῖος, c. 367 - c. 282 BCE) — one of Alexander's most trusted Macedonian generals, known from other sources.
    5. According to other sources, this war ended 304 BCE.
    6. ‘of marvelous, unmatched beauty’ — lit.: ‘so wonderfully beautiful as no one could remember (having seen before)’.
    7. ‘had also brought poison and another letter...’ — lit.: ‘had yet another letter with poison’; changed for clarity.
    8. Walhalla (Valhalla in Norse mythology) must somehow be related to Walhallagara (see note at [156/15] and List of Names).
    9. 'When they were ... off' — lit.: 'When we were ... from them'; ‘a cable and a half’ — in current measure ca. 900 feet or 275 meters.
    10. ‘six fathoms’ — in current measure ca. 36 feet or 10 meters.
    11. ‘tie on the proud sword’ — ‘declare their loyalties’ (expression).

    Sandbach 1876

    [p.171 cont.] Among the many princes Nearchus had a friend named Antigonus. These two had only one object in view, as they told us—to help the royal race, and to restore freedom to all the Greek lands. Antigonus had, among many others, one son named Demetrius, afterwards called the "City Winner." He went once to the town of Salamis, and after he had been some time fighting there, he had an engagement with the fleet of Ptolemy. Ptolemy was the name of the prince who reigned over Egypt. Demetrius won the battle, not by his own soldiers, but because we helped him. We had done this out of friendship for Nearchus, because we knew that he was of bastard birth by his white skin, blue eyes, and [p.173] fair hair. Afterwards, Demetrius attacked Rhodes,[1] and we transported thither his soldiers and provisions. When we made our last voyage to Rhodes, the war was finished. Demetrius had sailed to Athens. When we came into the harbour, the whole village was in deep mourning. Friso, who was king over the fleet, had a son and a daughter so remarkably fair, as if they had just come out of Fryasland, and more beautiful than any one could picture to himself. The fame of this went all over Greece, and came to the ears of Demetrius. Demetrius was vile and immoral, and thought he could do as he pleased. He carried off the daughter. The mother did not dare await the return of her joi[2] (the sailors wives call their husbands joi or zoethart (sweetheart). The men call their wives troost (comfort) and fro or frow, that is, vreugde (delight) and frolic; that is the same as vreugde.

    As she dared not wait for her husband's return, she went with her son to Demetrius, and implored him to send back her daughter; but when Demetrius saw the son he had him taken to his palace, and did to him as he had done to his sister. He sent a bag of gold to the mother, which she flung into the sea. When she came home she was out of her mind, and ran about the streets calling out: Have you seen my children. Woe is me! let me find a place to hide in, for my husband will kill me because I have lost his children.

    When Demetrius heard that Friso had come home, he sent messengers to him to say that he had taken his children to raise them to high rank, and to reward him for his services. But Friso was proud and passionate, and sent a messenger with a letter to his children, in which he recommended them to accept the will of Demetrius, as he wished to promote their happiness; but the messenger had another letter with poison, which he ordered them to take: [p.175] But, said he, your bodies have been defiled against your will. That you are not to blame for; but if your souls are not pure, you will never come into Walhalla. Your spirits will haunt the earth in darkness. Like the bats and owls, you will hide yourselves in the daytime in boles, and in the night will come and shriek and cry about our graves, while Frya must turn her head away from you. The children did as their father had commanded. The messenger had their bodies thrown into the sea, and it was reported that they had fled. Now Friso wished to go with all his people to Frya's land, where he had been formerly, but most of them would not go. So Friso set fire to the village and all the royal storehouses; then no one could remain there, and all were glad to be out of it. We left everything behind us except wives and children, but we had an ample stock of provisions and warlike implements.

    Friso was not yet satisfied. When we came to the old harbour, he went off with his stout soldiers and threw fire into all the ships that he could reach with his arrows. Six days later we saw the war-fleet of Demetrius coming down upon us. Friso ordered us to keep back the small ships in a broad line, and to put the large ships with the women and children in front. Further, he ordered us to take the crossbows that were in the fore part and fix them on the sterns of the ships, because, said he, we must fight a retreating battle. No man must presume to pursue a single enemy—that is my order. While we were busy about this, all at once the wind came ahead, to the great alarm of the cowards and the women, because we had no slaves except those who had voluntarily followed us. Therefore we could not escape the enemy by rowing. But Wr-alda knew well why he [p.177] did this; and Friso, who understood it, immediately had the fire-arrows placed on the crossbows. At the same time he gave the order that no one should shoot before he did, and that we should all aim at the centre ship. If we succeeded in this, he said, the others would all go to its assistance, and then everybody might shoot as he best was able. When we were at a cable and a half distance from them the Phœnicians began to shoot, but Friso did not reply till the first arrow fell six fathoms from his ship. Then he fired, and the rest followed. It was like a shower of fire; and as our arrows went with the wind, they all remained alight and reached the third line. Everybody shouted and cheered, but the screams of our opponents were so loud that our hearts shrank. When Friso thought that it was sufficient he called us off, and we sped away; but after two days' slow sailing another fleet of thirty ships came in sight and gained upon us. Friso cleared for action again, but the others sent forward a small rowing-boat with messengers, who asked permission to sail with us, as they were Joniers. They had been compelled by Demetrius to go to the old haven; there they had heard of the battle, and girding on their stout swords, had followed us. Friso, who had sailed a good deal with the Joniers, said Yes; but Wichirte, our king, said No. The Joniers, said he, are worshippers of heathen gods; I myself have heard them call upon them. That comes from their intercourse with the real Greeks, Friso said. I have often done it myself, and yet I am as pious a Fryas man as any of you. Friso was the man to take us to Friesland, therefore the Joniers went with us. It seems that this was pleasing to Wr-alda, for before three months were past we coasted along Britain, and three days later we could shout huzza.

    Notes Sandbach

    1. 305 before Christ.
    2. Joi en trâst. At Scheveningen you still hear "Joei en troos." Joi is the French joye.

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