Abaris the Hyperborean

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Abaris the Hyperborean was a legendary or semi-legendary sage, healer and priest known to the ancient Greeks.

According to Herodotus (4.36) he was said to have traveled around the world with an arrow, eating no food. Plato (Charmides 158C) classes him amongst the "Thracian physicians", who practice medicine upon the soul as well as the body by means of "incantations" (epodai). A temple to Persephone at Sparta was attributed to Abaris (Pausanias 9.10).

A particularly rich trove of anecdote is found in Iamblichus's Vita Pythagorica. Here, Abaris is said to have purified Sparta and Knossos, among other cities, from plagues (VP 92-93). Abaris also appears in a climactic scene alongside Pythagoras at the court of the Sicilian tyrant Phalaris. The two sages discuss divine matters, and urge the obstinate tyrant towards virtue (ibid. 215-221). Iamblicus also (disapprovingly) attributes to Abaris a special expertise at animal sacrifice (ibid. 93).

The Suda attributes a number of books to Abaris, including a volume of Scythian Oracles in dactylic hexameter, a prose theogony, a work on purifications, and an account of Apollo's visit to the Hyperboreans.

References

  • Plato's Charmides in the most famous passage concerning Αβάρις Υπερβορέος
  • History of Herodotus, in the classical translation of George Rawlinson (ed. and tr., vol. 3, Book 4, Chapters 2-36, 46-82. New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1885.)
  • Plato. Platonis Opera, ed. John Burnet. Oxford University Press. 1903.pt:Abaris
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