HOMO SUM - VOLUME 1.
HOMO SUM - VOLUME 1.
Translated by Clara Bell
In the course of my labors preparatory to writing a history of the
Sinaitic peninsula the study of the first centuries of Christianity for
a long time claimed my attention; and in the mass of martyrology of
ascetic writings and of histories of saints and monks which it was
necessary to work through and sift for my strictly limited object I came
upon a narrative (in Cotelerius Ecclesiae Grecae Monumenta) which seemed
to me peculiar and touching notwithstanding its improbability. Sinai and
the oasis of Pharan which lies at its foot were the scene of action.
When in my journey through Arabia Petraea I saw the caves of the
anchorites of Sinai with my own eyes and trod their soil with my own
feet that story recurred to my mind and did not cease to haunt me while
I travelled on farther in the desert.
A soul's problem of the most exceptional type seemed to me to be offered
by the simple course of this little history.
An anchorite falsely accused instead of another takes his punishment
of expulsion on himself without exculpating himself and his innocence
becomes known only through the confession of the real culprit.
There was a peculiar fascination in imagining what the emotions of a soul
might be which could lead to such apathy to such an annihilation of all
sensibility; and while the very deeds and thoughts of the strange cave-
dweller grew more and more vivid in my mind the figure of Paulus took
form as it were as an example and soon a crowd of ideas gathered round
it growing at last to a distinct entity which excited and urged me on
till I ventured to give it artistic expression in the form of a
narrative. I was prompted to elaborate this subject--which had long been
shaping itself to perfect conception in my mind as ripe material for a
romance--by my readings in Coptic monkish annals to which I was led
by Abel's Coptic studies; and I afterwards received a further stimulus
from the small but weighty essay by H. Weingarten on the origin of
monasticism in which I still study the early centuries of Christianity
especially in Egypt.
This is not the place in which to indicate the points on which I feel
myself obliged to differ from Weingarten. My acute fellow-laborer at
Breslau clears away much which does not deserve to remain but in many
parts of his book he seems to me to sweep with too hard a broom.
Easy as it would have been to lay the date of my story in the beginning
of the fortieth year of the fourth century instead of the thirtieth I
have forborne from doing so because I feel able to prove with certainty
that at the time which I have chosen there were not only heathen recluses
in the temples of Serapis but also Christian anchorites; I fully agree
with him that the beginnings of organized Christian monasticism can in no
case be dated earlier than the year 350.
The Paulus of my story must not be confounded with the "first hermit"
Paulus of Thebes whom Weingarten has with good reason struck out of the
category of historical personages. He with all the figures in this
narrative is a purely fictitious person the vehicle for an idea neither
more nor less. I selected no particular model for my hero and I claim
for him no attribute but that of his having been possible at the period;
least of all did I think of Saint Anthony who is now deprived even of
his distinguished biographer Athanasius and who is represented as a man
of very sound judgment but of so scant an education that he was master
only of Egyptian.
The dogmatic controversies which were already kindled at the time of my
story I have on careful consideration avoided mentioning. The dwellers
on Sinai and in the oasis took an eager part in them at a later date.
That Mount Sinai to which I desire to transport the reader must not be
confounded with the mountain which lies at a long day's journey to the
south of it. It is this that has borne the name at any rate since the
time of Justinian; the celebrated convent of the Transfiguration lies at
its foot and it has been commonly accepted as the Sinai of Scripture.
In the description of my journey through Arabia Petraea I have endeavored
to bring fresh proof of the view first introduced by Lepsius that the
giant-mountain now called Serbal must be regarded as the mount on which
the law was given--and was indeed so regarded before the time of
Justinian--and not the Sinai of the monks.
As regards the stone house of the Senator Petrus with its windows
opening on the street--contrary to eastern custom--I may remark in
anticipation of well founded doubts that to this day wonderfully well-
preserved fire-proof walls stand in the oasis of Pharan the remains of
a pretty large number of similar buildings.
But these and such external details hold a quite secondary place in this
study of a soul. While in my earlier romances the scholar was compelled
to make concessions to the poet and the poet to the scholar in this one
I have not attempted to instruct nor sought to clothe the outcome of my
studies in forms of flesh and blood; I have aimed at absolutely nothing
but to give artistic expression to the vivid realization of an idea that
had deeply stirred my soul. The simple figures whose inmost being I have
endeavored to reveal to the reader fill the canvas of a picture where in
the dark background rolls the flowing ocean of the world's history.
The Latin title was suggested to me by an often used motto which exactly
agrees with the fundamental view to which I have been led by my
meditations on the mind and being of man; even of those men who deem that
they have climbed the very highest steps of that stair which leads into
In the Heautontimorumenos of Terence Chremes answers his neighbor
Menedemus (Act I SC. I v. 25) "Homo sum; humani nil a me alienum puto"
which Donner translates literally:
"I am human nothing that is human can I regard as alien to me."
But Cicero and Seneca already used this line as a proverb and in a sense
which far transcends that which it would seem to convey in context with
the passage whence it is taken; and as I coincide with them I have
transferred it to the title-page of this book with this meaning:
"I am a man; and I feel that I am above all else a man."
Leipzig November 11 1877.
Rocks-naked hard red-brown rocks all round; not a bush not a blade
not a clinging moss such as elsewhere nature has lightly flung on the
rocky surface of the heights as if a breath of her creative life had
softly touched the barren stone. Nothing but smooth granite and above
it a sky as bare of cloud as the rocks are of shrubs and herbs.
And yet in every cave of the mountain wall there moves a human life; two
small grey birds too float softly in the pure light air of the desert
that glows in the noonday sun and then they vanish behind a range of
cliffs which shuts in the deep gorge as though it were a wall built by
There it is pleasant enough for a spring bedews the stony soil and
there as wherever any moisture touches the desert aromatic plants
thrive and umbrageous bushes grow. When Osiris embraced the goddess of
the desert--so runs the Egyptian myth--he left his green wreath on her
But at the time and in the sphere where our history moves the old legends
are no longer known or are ignored. We must carry the reader back to the
beginning of the thirtieth year of the fourth century after the birth of
the Saviour and away to the mountains of Sinai on whose sacred ground
solitary anchorites have for some few years been dwelling--men weary of
the world and vowed to penitence but as yet without connection or rule
Near the spring in the little ravine of which we have spoken grows a
many-branched feathery palm but it does not shelter it from the piercing
rays of the sun of those latitudes; it seems only to protect the roots of
the tree itself; still the feathered boughs are strong enough to support
a small thread-bare blue cloth which projects like a penthouse
screening the face of a girl who lies dreaming stretched at full-length
on the glowing stones while a few yellowish mountain-goats spring from
stone to stone in search of pasture as gaily as though they found the
midday heat pleasant and exhilarating. From time to time the girl seizes
the herdsman's crook that lies beside her and calls the goats with a
hissing cry that is audible at a considerable distance. A young kid
comes dancing up to her. Few beasts can give expression to their
feelings of delight; but young goats can.
The girl puts out her bare slim foot and playfully pushes back the
little kid who attacks her in fun pushes it again and again each time it
skips forward and in so doing the shepherdess bends her toes as
gracefully as if she wished some looker-on to admire their slender form.
Once more the kid springs forward and this time with its bead down. Its
brow touches the sole of her foot but as it rubs its little hooked nose
tenderly against the girl's foot she pushes it back so violently that
the little beast starts away and ceases its game with loud bleating.
It was just as if the girl had been waiting for the right moment to hit
the kid sharply; for the kick was a hard one-almost a cruel one. The
blue cloth hid the face of the maiden but her eyes must surely have
sparkled brightly when she so roughly stopped the game. For a minute she
remained motionless; but the cloth which had fallen low over her face
waved gently to and fro moved by her fluttering breath. She was
listening with eager attention with passionate expectation; her
convulsively clenched toes betrayed her.
Then a noise became audible; it came from the direction of the rough
stair of unhewn blocks which led from the steep wall of the ravine down
to the spring. A shudder of terror passed through the tender and not
yet fully developed limbs of the shepherdess; still she did not move; the
grey birds which were now sitting on a thorn-bush near her flew up but
they had merely heard a noise and could not distinguish who it was that
The shepherdess's ear was sharper than theirs. She heard that a man was
approaching and well knew that one only trod with such a step. She put
out her hand for a stone that lay near her and flung it into the spring
so that the waters immediately became troubled; then she turned on her
side and lay as if asleep with her head on her arm. The heavy steps
became more and more distinctly audible.
A tall youth was descending the rocky stair; by his dress he was seen to
be one of the anchorites of Sinai for he wore nothing but a shirt-shaped
garment of coarse linen which he seemed to have outgrown and raw
leather sandals which were tied on to his feet with fibrous palm-bast.
No slave could be more poorly clothed by his owner and yet no one would
have taken him for a bondman for he walked erect and self-possessed. He
could not be more than twenty years of age; that was evident in the young
soft hair on his upper lip chin and cheeks; but in his large blue eyes
there shone no light of youth only discontent and his lips were firmly
closed as if in defiance.
He now stood still and pushed back from his forehead the superabundant
and unkempt brown hair that flowed round his head like a lion's mane;
then he approached the well and as he stooped to draw the water in the
large dried gourd-shell which he held he observed first that the spring
was muddy and then perceived the goats and at last their sleeping
He impatiently set down the vessel and called the girl loudly but she
did not move till he touched her somewhat roughly with his foot. Then
she sprang up as if stung by an asp and two eyes as black as night
flashed at him out of her dark young face; the delicate nostrils of her
aquiline nose quivered and her white teeth gleamed as she cried:
"Am I a dog that you wake me in this fashion?" He colored pointed
sullenly to the well and said sharply: "Your cattle have troubled the
water again; I shall have to wait here till it is clear and I can draw
"The day is long" answered the shepherdess and while she rose she
pushed as if by chance another stone into the water.
Her triumphant flashing glance as she looked down into the troubled
spring did not escape the young man and he exclaimed angrily:
"He is right! You are a venomous snake--a demon of hell."
She raised herself and made a face at him as if she wished to show him
that she really was some horrible fiend; the unusual sharpness of her
mobile and youthful features gave her a particular facility for doing so.
And she fully attained her end for he drew back with a look of horror
stretched out his arms to repel her and exclaimed as he saw her
"Back demon back! In the name of the Lord! I ask thee who art
"I am Miriam--who else should I be?" she answered haughtily.
He had expected a different reply her vivacity annoyed him and he said
angrily "Whatever your name is you are a fiend and I will ask Paulus to
forbid you to water your beasts at our well."
"You might run to your nurse and complain of me to her if you had one"
she answered pouting her lips contemptuously at him.
He colored; she went on boldly and with eager play of gesture.
"You ought to be a man for you are strong and big but you let yourself
be kept like a child or a miserable girl; your only business is to hunt
for roots and berries and fetch water in that wretched thing there. I
have learned to do that ever since I was as big as that!" and she
indicated a contemptibly little measure with the outstretched pointed
fingers of her two hands which were not less expressively mobile than
her features. "Phoh! you are stronger and taller than all the Amalekite
lads down there but you never try to measure yourself with them in
shooting with a bow and arrows or in throwing a spear!"
"If I only dared as much as I wish!" he interrupted and flaming scarlet
mounted to his face "I would be a match for ten of those lean rascals."
"I believe you" replied the girl and her eager glance measured the
youth's broad breast and muscular arms with an expression of pride.
"I believe you but why do you not dare? Are you the slave of that man
"He is my father and besides--"
"What besides?" she cried waving her hand as if to wave away a bat.
"If no bird ever flew away from the nest there would be a pretty swarm in
it. Look at my kids there--as long as they need their mother they run
about after her but as soon as they can find their food alone they seek
it wherever they can find it and I can tell you the yearlings there have
quite forgotten whether they sucked the yellow dam or the brown one. And
what great things does your father do for you?"
"Silence!" interrupted the youth with excited indignation. "The evil one
speaks through thee. Get thee from me for I dare not hear that which I
dare not utter."
"Dare dare dare!" she sneered. "What do you dare then? not even to
"At any rate not to what you have to say you goblin!" he exclaimed
vehemently. "Your voice is hateful to me and if I meet you again by the
well I will drive you away with stones."
While he spoke thus she stared speechless at him the blood had left her
lips and she clenched her small hands. He was about to pass her to
fetch some water but she stepped into his path and held him spell-bound
with the fixed gaze of her eyes. A cold chill ran through him when she
asked him with trembling lips and a smothered voice "What harm have I
"Leave me!" said he and he raised his hand to push her away from the
"You shall not touch me" she cried beside herself. "What harm have I
"You know nothing of God" he answered "and he who is not of God is of
"You do not say that of yourself" answered she and her voice recovered
its tone of light mockery. "What they let you believe pulls the wires of
your tongue just as a hand pulls the strings of a puppet. Who told you
that I was of the Devil?"
"Why should I conceal it from you?" he answered proudly. "Our pious
Paulus warned me against you and I will thank him for it. 'The evil
one' he says 'looks out of your eyes' and he is right a thousand
times right. When you look at me I feel as if I could tread every thing
that is holy under foot; only last night again I dreamed I was whirling
in a dance with you--"
At these words all gravity and spite vanished from Miriam's eyes; she
clapped her hands and cried "If it had only been the fact and not a
dream! Only do not be frightened again you fool! Do you know then what
it is when the pipes sound and the lutes tinkle and our feet fly round
in circles as if they had wings?"
"The wings of Satan" Hermas interrupted sternly. "You are a demon a
"So says our pious Paulus" laughed the girl.
"So say I too" cried the young man. "Who ever saw you in the
assemblies of the just? Do you pray? Do you ever praise the Lord and
"And what should I praise them for?" asked Miriam. "Because I am
regarded as a foul fiend by the most pious among you perhaps?"
"But it is because you are a sinner that Heaven denies you its blessing."
"No--no a thousand times no!" cried Miriam. "No god has ever troubled
himself about me. And if I am not good why should I be when nothing but
evil ever has fallen to my share? Do you know who I am and how I became
so? I was wicked perhaps when both my parents were slain in their
pilgrimage hither? Why I was then no more than six years old and what
is a child of that age? But still I very well remember that there were
many camels grazing near our house and horses too that belonged to us
and that on a hand that often caressed me--it was my mother's hand--a
large jewel shone. I had a black slave too that obeyed me; when she and
I did not agree I used to hang on to her grey woolly hair and beat her.
Who knows what may have become of her? I did not love her but if I had
her now how kind I would be to her. And now for twelve years I myself
have eaten the bread of servitude and have kept Senator Petrus's goats
and if I ventured to show myself at a festival among the free maidens
they would turn me out and pull the wreath out of my hair. And am I to
be thankful? What for I wonder? And pious? What god has taken any
care of me? Call me an evil demon--call me so! But if Petrus and your
Paulus there say that He who is up above us and who let me grow up to
such a lot is good they tell a lie. God is cruel and it is just like
Him to put it into your heart to throw stones and scare me away from your
With these words she burst out into bitter sobs and her features worked
with various and passionate distortion.
Hermas felt compassion for the weeping Miriam. He had met her a hundred
times and she had shown herself now haughty now discontented now
exacting and now wrathful but never before soft or sad. To-day for the
first time she had opened her heart to him; the tears which disfigured
her countenance gave her character a value which it had never before had
in his eyes and when he saw her weak and unhappy he felt ashamed of his
hardness. He went up to her kindly and said: "You need not cry; come to
the well again always I will not prevent you."
His deep voice sounded soft and kind as he spoke but she sobbed more
passionately than before almost convulsively and she tried to speak but
she could not. Trembling in every slender limb shaken with grief and
overwhelmed with sorrow the slight shepherdess stood before him and he
felt as if he must help her. His passionate pity cut him to the heart
and fettered his by no means ready tongue.
As he could find no word of comfort he took the water-gourd in his left
hand and laid his right in which he had hitherto held it gently on her
shoulder. She started but she let him do it; he felt her warm breath;
he would have drawn back but he felt as if he could not; he hardly knew
whether she was crying or laughing while she let his hand rest on her
black waving hair.
She did not move. At last she raised her head her eyes flashed into
his and at the same instant he felt two slender arms clasped round his
neck. He felt as if a sea were roaring in his ears and fire blazing in
his eyes. A nameless anguish seized him; he tore himself violently free
and with a loud cry as if all the spirits of hell were after him he fled
up the steps that led from the well and heeded not that his water-jar
was shattered into a thousand pieces against the rocky wall.
She stood looking after him as if spell-bound. Then she struck her
slender hand against her forehead threw herself down by the spring again
and stared into space; there she lay motionless only her mouth continued
When the shadow of the palm-tree grew longer she sprang up called her
goats and looked up listening to the rock-steps by which he had
vanished; the twilight is short in the neighborhood of the tropics and
she knew that she would be overtaken by the darkness on the stony and
fissured road down the valley if she lingered any longer. She feared the
terrors of the night the spirits and demons and a thousand vague
dangers whose nature she could not have explained even to herself; and
yet she did not stir from the spot nor cease listening and waiting for
his return till the sun had disappeared behind the sacred mountain and
the glow in the west had paled.
All around was as still as death she could hear herself breathe and as
the evening chill fell she shuddered with cold.
She now heard a loud noise above her head. A flock of wild mountain
goats accustomed to come at this hour to quench their thirst at the
spring came nearer and nearer but drew back as they detected the
presence of a human being. Only the leader of the herd remained standing
on the brink of the ravine and she knew that he was only awaiting her
departure to lead the others down to drink. Following a kindly impulse
she was on the point of leaving to make way for the animals when she
suddenly recollected Hermas's threat to drive her from the well and she
angrily picked up a stone and flung it at the buck which started and
hastily fled. The whole herd followed him. Miriam listened to them as
they scampered away and then with her head sunk she led her flock