Scytharum gens antiquissima semper habita, quamquam inter Scythas et Aegyptios diu contentio de generis vetustate fuerit: Aegyptiis praedicantibus, initio rerum, cum aliae terrae nimio fervore solis arderent, aliae rigerent frigoris immanitate, ita ut non modo primae generare homines, sed ne advenas quidem recipere ac tueri possent, priusquam adversus calorem vel frigus velamenta corporis invenirentur vel locorum vitia quaesitis arte remediis mollirentur, Aegyptum ita temperatam semper fuisse, ut neque hiberna frigora nec aestivi solis ardores incolas eius premerent, solum ita fecundum, ut alimentorum in usum hominum nulla terra feracior fuerit: iure igitur ibi primum homines natos videri debere, ubi educari facillime possent. contra Scythae caeli temperamentum nullum esse vetustatis argumentum putabant, quippe naturam, cum primum incrementa caloris ac frigoris regionibus distinxit, statim ad locorum patientiam animalia quoque generasse, sed et arborum ac frugum pro regionum condicione apte genera variata; et quanto Scythis sit caelum asperius quam Aegyptiis, tanto et corpora et ingenia esse duriora. ceterum si mundi quae nunc partes sunt, aliquando unitas fuit, sive illuvies aquarum principio rerum terras obrutas tenuit, sive ignis, qui et mundum genuit, cuncta possedit, utriusque primordiis Scythas origine praestare. nam si ignis prima possessio rerum fuit, qui paulatim extinctus sedem terris dedit, nullam prius quam septentrionalem partem hiemis rigore ab igne secretam, adeo ut nunc quoque nulla magis rigeat frigoribus; Aegyptum vero et totum Orientem tardissime temperatum, quippe qui etiam nunc torrenti calore solis exaestuet. quodsi omnes quondam terrae submersae profundo fuerunt, profecto editissimam quamque partem decurrentibus aquis primum detectam; humillimo autem solo eandem aquam diutissime immoratam; et quanto prior quaeque pars terrarum siccata sit, tanto prius animalia generare coepisse. porro Scythiam adeo editiorem omnibus terris esse, ut cuncta flumina ibi nata in Maeotim, tum deinde in Ponticum et Aegyptium mare decurrant; Aegyptum autem, quae tot regum, tot saeculorum cura impensaque munita sit et adversum vim incurrentium aquarum tantis structa molibus, tot fossis concisa, ut, cum his arceantur, illis recipiantur aquae, nihilo minus coli nisi excluso Nilo non potuerit nec possit, videri hominum vetustate ultima, quae ex aggerationibus regum sive Nili trahentis limum terrarum recentissima videatur. his igitur argumentis superatis Aegyptiis antiquiores semper Scythae visi.
(Justinus, Epitome Pompeii Trogi 2.1.5-21)

The nation of the Scythians was always regarded as very ancient; though there was long a dispute between them and the Egyptians concerning the antiquity of their respective races; the Egyptians alleging that, “In the beginning of things, when some countries were parched with the excessive heat of the sun, and others frozen with extremity of cold, so that, in their early condition, they were not only unable to produce human beings, but were incapable even of receiving and supporting such as came from other parts (before coverings for the body were found out against heat and cold, or the inconveniences of countries corrected by artificial remedies), Egypt was always so temperate, that neither the cold in winter nor the sun’s heat in summer, incommoded its inhabitants; and its soil so fertile, that no land was ever more productive of food for the use of man; and that, consequently, men must reasonably be considered to have been first produced in that country, where they could most easily be nourished.” The Scythians, on the other hand, thought that the temperateness of the air was no argument of antiquity; “because Nature, when she first distributed to different countries degrees of heat and cold, immediately produced in them animals fitted to endure the several climates, and generated also numerous sorts of trees and herbs, happily varied according to the condition of the places in which they grew; and that, as the Scythians have a sharper air than the Egyptians, so are their bodies and constitutions in proportion more hardy. But that if the world, which is now distinguished into parts of a different nature, was once uniform throughout; whether a deluge of waters originally kept the earth buried under it; or whether fire, which also produced the world, had possession of all the parts of it, the Scythians, under either supposition as to the primordial state of things, had the advantage as to origin. For if fire was at first predominant over all things, and, being gradually extinguished, gave place to the earth, no part of it would be sooner separated from the fire, by the severity of winter cold, than the northern, since even now no part is more frozen with cold; but Egypt and all the east must have been the latest to cool, as being now burnt up with the parching heat of the sun. But if originally all the earth were sunk under water, assuredly the highest parts would be first uncovered when the waters decreased, and the water must have remained longest in the lowest grounds; while the sooner any portion of the earth was dry, the sooner it must have begun to produce animals; but Scythia was so much higher than all other countries, that all the rivers which rise in it run down into the Maeotis, and then into the Pontic and Egyptian seas; whereas Egypt, (which, though it had been fenced by the care and expense of so many princes and generations, and furnished with such strong mounds against the violence of the encroaching waters, and though it had been intersected also by so many canals, the waters being kept out by the one, and retained by the other, was yet uninhabitable, unless the Nile were excluded,) could not be thought to have been the most anciently peopled; being a land, which, whether from the accessions of soil collected by its kings, or those from the Nile, bringing mud with it, must appear to have been the most recently formed of all lands.” The Egyptians being confounded with these arguments, the Scythians were always accounted the more ancient. (tr. John Selby Watson)



Interea Messenii, cum virtute non possent, per insidias expugnantur. dein cum per annos octoginta gravia servitutis verbera, plerumque et vincula ceteraque captivitatis mala perpessi essent, post longam poenarum patientiam bellum restaurant. Lacedaemonii quoque eo conspiratius ad arma concurrunt, quod adversus servos dimicaturi videbantur. itaque cum hinc iniuria, inde indignitas animos acueret, Lacedaemonii de belli eventu oraculo Delphis consulto iubentur ducem belli ab Atheniensibus petere. porro Athenienses, cum responsum cognovissent, in contemptum Spartanorum Tyrtaeum, poetam claudum pede, misere, qui tribus proeliis fusos eo usque desperationis Spartanos adduxit, ut servos suos ad supplementum exercitus manumitterent hisque interfectorum matrimonia pollicerentur, ut non numero tantum amissorum civium, sed et dignitati succederent. sed reges Lacedaemoniorum, ne contra fortunam pugnando maiora detrimenta civitati infligerent, reducere exercitum voluerunt ni intervenisset Tyrtaeus, qui composita carmina exercitui pro contione recitavit, in quibus hortamenta virtutis, damnorum solacia, belli consilia conscripserat. itaque tantum ardorem militibus iniecit, ut non de salute, sed de sepultura solliciti tesseras insculptis suis et patrum nominibus dextro bracchio deligarent, ut, si omnes adversum proelium consumpsisset et temporis spatio confusa corporum liniamenta essent, ex indicio titulorum tradi sepulturae possent. cum sic animatum reges exercitum viderent, curant rem hostibus nuntiare; Messeniis autem non timorem res, sed aemulationem mutuam dedit. itaque tantis animis concursum est, ut raro umquam cruentius proelium fuerit. ad postremum tamen victoria Lacedaemoniorum fuit.
(Justinus, Epitome Pompeii Trogi 3.5)

Meantime the Messenians, who could not be conquered by valour, were reduced by stratagem. For eighty years they bore the severe afflictions of slaves, as frequent stripes, and chains, and other evils of subjugation; and then, after so long an endurance of suffering, they proceeded to resume hostilities. The Lacedaemonians, at the same time, ran to arms with the greater ardour and unanimity, because they seemed to be called upon to fight against their own slaves. While ill-treatment, therefore, on the one side, and indignation on the other, exasperated their feelings, the Lacedaemonians consulted the oracle at Delphi concerning the event of the war, and were directed to ask the Athenians for a leader to conduct it. The Athenians, learning the answer of the oracle, sent, to express their contempt of the Spartans a lame poet, named Tyrtaeus; who, being routed in three battles, reduced the Lacedaemonians to so desperate a condition, that, to recruit their army, they liberated a portion of their slaves, promising that they should marry the widows of those who were slain, and thus fill up, not merely the number of the lost citizens, but their offices. The kings of Sparta, however, lest, by contending against fortune, they should bring greater losses on their city, would have drawn off their army, had not Tyrtaeus interposed, and recited to the soldiers, in a public assembly, some verses of his own composition, in which he had comprised exhortations to courage, consolations for their losses, and counsels concerning the war. By this means he inspired the soldiers with such resolution, that, being no longer concerned for their lives, but merely for the rites of burial, they tied on their right arms tickets, inscribed with their names and those of their fathers, that if an unsuccessful battle should cut them off, and their features after a time become indistinct, they might be consigned to burial according to the indication of the inscriptions. When the kings saw the army thus animated, they took care that the state of it should be made known to the enemy; the report, however, raised in the Messenians no alarm, but a correspondent ardour. Both sides accordingly encountered with such fury, that there scarcely ever was a more bloody battle. But at last victory fell to the Lacedaemonians. (tr. John Selby Watson)