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ANF05. Fathers of the Third Century: Hippolytus, Cyprian, Caius, Novatian, Appendix
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Chapter III.—Story of Apsethus the Libyan.

Apsethus613613    Miller refers us to Apostolius’ Proverb., s.v. ψαφῶν. Schneidewin remarks that Maximus Tyrius relates almost a similar story concerning one Psapho, a Libyan, in his Dissert. (xxxv.), and that Apostolius extracted this account and inserted it in his Cent., xviii. p. 730, ed. Leutsch, mentioning at the same time a similar narrative from Ælian’s Hist., xiv. 30. See Justin., xxi. 4, and Pliny, Nat. Hist., viii. 16. the Libyan inordinately longed to become a god; but when, after repeated intrigues, he altogether failed to accomplish his desire, he nevertheless wished to appear to have become a god; and he did at all events appear, as time wore on, to have in reality become a god. For the foolish Libyans were accustomed to sacrifice unto him as to some divine power, supposing that they were yielding credence to a voice that came down from above, from heaven. For, collecting into one and the same cage a great number of birds,—parrots,—he shut them up. Now there are very many parrots throughout Libya, and very distinctly these imitate the human voice. This man, having for a time nourished the birds, was in the habit of teaching them to say, “Apsethus is a god.” After, however, the birds had practised this for a long period, and were accustomed to the utterance of that which he thought, when said, would make it supposed that Apsethus was a god, then, opening the habitation (of the birds), he let forth the parrots, each in a different direction. While the birds, however, were on the wing, their sound went out into all Libya, and the expressions of these reached as far as the Hellenic country. And thus the Libyans, being astonished at the voice of the birds, and not perceiving the knavery perpetrated by Apsethus, held Apsethus to be a god. Some one, however, of the Greeks, by accurate examination, perceiving the trick of the supposed god, by means of those same parrots not only refutes, but also utterly destroys, that boastful and tiresome fellow. Now the Greek, by confining many of the parrots, taught them anew to say, “Apsethus, having caged us, compelled us to say, Apsethus is a god.” But having heard of the recantation of the parrots, the Libyans, coming together, all unanimously decided on burning Apsethus.


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