Hum 110 | Reed Classics | Reed Library | Reed | Perseus

Book One

Mythical Origins of East-West Conflict

Opening alludes to Homer, suggests epic scale and purpose (memorialization). Rape of Io by Phoenician traders as Persian version of origin of East-West conflict (1). Reciprocal rapes of Europa and Medea by Greeks (2). Rape of Helen; negotiations fail (3). Women are guilty in rape cases, as Helen was; Helen was not worth fighting for (4). A Phoenician version of Io story makes her responsible. Hdt. reserves judgement; he will tell the history of states large and small, with an awareness of human instability (5). Croesus of Lydia (ruled c. 560-546 BC) was the first eastern king to encroach on Greek freedom (6).

Lydian History

Digression from Croesus: how Lydian sovereignty passed from the Heraclidae to Croesus' ancestors. Candaules (c. 700 BC) was the last of the Heraclidae (7). Candaules offers his servant Gyges a chance to peep at his wife; Gyges is reluctant (8). Candaules insists, and Gyges is forced to agree (9). Gyges spies on the queen, who notices him; she does not let on (10). The queen summons Gyges, and offers him a choice: die himself, or kill the king and marry her. Gyges chooses to be king (11). Gyges murders the king; Gyges is mentioned by Archilochus (12). Gyges' rule is endorsed by an oracle. The revenge of the Heraclidae is predicted; Hdt. notes that the prophecy was accurate (13). Offerings of Gyges are still to be seen at Delphi in Hdt.'s own time (14). Gyges and his son Ardys both invaded Miletus, a major Greek city on the coast of Asia Minor. Cimmerians in Asia (15). Military exploits of Sadyattes and Alyattes (ruled c. 610-560 BC), successors of Ardys (16). Repeated invasions of Milesian territory by Sadyattes and Alyattes (17). Men of Chios (an island off the coast of Asia Minor) assist the Milesians (18). Alyattes' soldiers burn the temple of Athene; Alyattes falls ill. An oracle advises rebuilding the temple (19). Note on sources: this is the Milesian version. Periander of Corinth (ruled c. 625-585 BC) advises Thrasybulus of Miletus about an oracle (20). Thrasybulus gives a public party when the ambassador from Alyattes arrives (21). Alyattes is tricked into thinking the Milesians have plenty of food, so he makes peace and builds new temples (22). The strange but true tale of Arion, a pioneering musician and poet. Made to walk the plank at sea, he jumped overboard and rode to safety on a dolphin; a statue of him & the dolphin at Taenarum in southern Italy (23-24). The death of Alyattes; his silver bowl at Delphi (25).

Croesus of Lydia

Attacks by Alyattes' son Croesus on Ephesus and other Greek cities of Asia Minor (26). Croesus conquers all Greeks on the coast, but decides not to use his navy against Greeks of the islands (27). Extent of the Lydian empire under Croesus (28). Solon the Athenian lawgiver visits Croesus; the Athenians were bound to keep his laws for ten years (29). Solon is shown the wealth of Croesus; asked to name the luckiest man he knows, Solon tells Croesus the story of Tellus of Athens, to illustrate true nature of happiness/wealth (Gk olbos; 30). Solon names Cleobis and Biton, who won a lasting reputation for piety by pulling their mother to the temple of Hera in an ox-cart, the second most fortunate (31). Solon cites the unpredictability of human affairs in explaining why he refuses to call Croesus fortunate (32). Solon is dismissed by the heedless Croesus (33). How divine anger (Nemesis) got Croesus. After dreaming that his son Atys would be killed by an iron spear, Croesus tries to change Atys' life from military to domestic (34). Croesus gives purification and refuge to a Phrygian fratricide named Adrastus (35). Croesus agrees to send help to the Mysians, who are unable to defeat a monstrous boar (36). Croesus' son Atys asks to be allowed to go and fight the boar (37). Croesus refuses and explains to Atys about the dream (38). Atys argues that a boar cannot kill him with a spear; Croesus agrees and lets him go (39-40). Croesus sends Adrastus to look after Atys (41-2). Adrastus accidentally kills Atys with a spear, fulfilling the oracle (43). Croesus invokes Zeus in three aspects (god of hearth, purification, and friendship) to punish Adrastus; but then Croesus forgives the penitent Adrastus, who commits suicide (44-5). Croesus consults various oracles about challenging the growing power of Persia (46). How Croesus tested the veracity of the different oracles, and Delphi won (47-9). Sumptuous offerings to Delphian Apollo by Croesus; some seen by Hdt himself (50-1). Offerings to oracle of Amphiaraus in Thebes by Croesus (52). Greek oracles consulted by Croesus re attacking Persia reply that he (Croesus) will destroy a great empire, and should ally with most powerful Greek state (53). Croesus is pleased by the response; friendship of Lydians and Delphians (54). Croesus asks the oracle about the length of his rule; the oracle suggests he flee when a mule is king of Persia (55). Croesus deliberates whether to ally with Athens or Sparta; prehistory of the 'Ionians' (ancestors of the Athenians) and 'Dorians' (Spartans) (56).

Athens and Sparta: Early History

Researches of Hdt on the non-Greek nature of Pelasgian speech (57-8). Strange portent of the self-boiling kettle does not convince Hippocrates of Athens to disown his son Pisistratus. How Pisistratus, when Attica was split by factions, tricked the Athenians into giving him a bodyguard and became tyrant; benevolent nature of the rule of Peisistratus (59). Pisistratus expelled by coalition of two rivals, Megacles and Lycurgus. Reconciliation of Megacles and Pisistratus; Athenians tricked into believing that Athene (in fact a costumed woman of Attica) was bringing Pisistratus back in a chariot (60). Pisistratus marries Megacles' daughter, but fears to have children because of the curse on the Alcmaeonids (Megacles' ancestors) and so practices birth control by continually sodomizing Megacles' daughter. The angry Megacles forces Pisitratus into exile in Macedonia, where he spends ten years amassing an army with his sons Hippias and Hipparchus (61). Return of Pisistratus to Attica; Pisistratus and his allies take Marathon, face Athenians at Pallene; prophecy of the tuna fish (62). Successful advance of Pisistratus into Athens. Hostages to Naxos (one of the Cyclades islands, previously taken by Peisistratus); Delos is purified by exhumation (63-4). What Croesus learned about Sparta: that she had recently beaten Tegea (in the northern Peloponnesus) in war, and that long before their lawgiver Lycurgus had given the Spartan state its form (65). How the Spartans asked the Delphic oracle about conquering Arcadia, misinterpreted the oracle, and were beaten by the Tegeans (66). How the Spartans were told by the oracle to recover the bones of Orestes (son of Agamemnon) from Tegea, and did so, and so were successful against the Tegeans (67-8).

Further Adventures of Croesus

An alliance made between Croesus and the Spartans (69). A valuable gift from the Spartans to Croesus, a huge bronze bowl, disappears at Samos (an island off the Ionian coast); conflicting accounts of what happened to the bowl (70). Advice of Sandanis the Lydian to Croesus, preparing to attack Cappadocia (a territory of the Persians); Croesus advised not to attack; rough nature of Persian civilisation makes them an unworthy target (71). Ethnographic and geographic info on the Cappadocians (Syrians) (72). Origin of Croesus' hatred for Cyrus the Persian King. Cyaxares, father of Croesus' brother-in-law, hosts some Scythian exiles, who quarrel with him, feed him human flesh, and escape to Croesus' father Alyattes; the resulting war of Lydians and Cappadocians ends when the armies are terrified by an eclipse (585 BC?); Croesus' sister is given to Cyaxares' son Astyages as part of the treaty. Cyrus attacks and defeats Astyages, thus angering Croesus (73-4). Story of how Thales of Miletus diverted the river Halys so Croesus' army could cross is doubted by Hdt, who thinks bridges were used (75). Croesus battles Cyrus at Pteria in Cappadocia (76). Croesus retreats back to Lydia, and summons reinforcements from his allies Egypt, Babylon, and Sparta (77). Croesus dismisses the mercenaries. The portent of the horses and snakes is interpreted too late for Croesus to benefit (78). Cyrus decides to advance into Lydia and surprises Croesus; excellence of Lydian soldiers (79). Battle of Sardis; Cyrus uses camels to defeat the Lydian cavalry. Sardis under seige (80). Urgent requests of Croesus for aid from allies (81). The Spartans are battling the Argives (their neighbors to the northeast) over Thyreae. A Homeric battle of champions fails to resolve the issue. The Spartans are victorious; why the Spartans have long hair and the Argives short (82). The Spartans are too late to help Croesus (83). How Sardis was taken by Cyrus. Tale of Meles and the lion (84). How Croesus' mute son fulfilled a prophecy by speaking his first words on an unlucky day (85). The fall of Sardis fulfills the Pythian oracle (cf. 1.53). Croesus, about to be burned alive, names Solon. Croesus explains Solon's wisdom to Cyrus. Cyrus is moved and orders Croesus removed from pyre (86). The Lydians say Apollo sent a rainstorm to put it out. Croesus blames the gods for his decision to attack (87). Croesus warns Cyrus that his soldiers will be corrupted if allowed to plunder Sardis; he convinces him to dedicate the treasure to Zeus instead (88-9). Cyrus gives Croesus permission to send symbolic chains to Apollo at Delphi and reproach the god for ingratitude (90). How the oracle defended itself and Apollo against the accusations of Cyrus. Cyrus fulfilled the prophecy dooming the descendants of Gyges, and himself misinterpreted the oracle (91). Dedicatory offerings of Croesus are seen by Hdt.; some stolen from Croesus' half-brother Pantaleon, whom Croesus tortured to death (92). Strange but true facts about Lydia and the Lydians (93). Lydian coinage, games, and colonisation of Umbria in Italy (Tyrrhenians) (94).

Early History of Persia

Sources for Cyrus and Persia are discussed. Assyrians and Medes (95). How Deioces the Mede won a reputation for justice and was made king. Description of his capital at Agbatana (96-8). Why Deioces lived in isolation from his people (99). His administration of justice and iron-fisted policies. The Median tribes (100-1). His son Phraortes becomes king (656 B.C. ?) and expands the empire greatly (102). Phraortes' son Cyaxares is defeated by the Scythians while trying to conquer the Assyrians; how the Scythians crossed into Asia Minor. Scythians are the masters of Asia (103-4). The Scythians attack Egypt without success. How some Scythians destroyed a temple of Aphrodite and were forever cursed with an hereditary venereal disease (105). Harsh rule of the Scythians in Asia Minor is ended after 28 years by Cyaxares (106). His son Astyages is in power. Astyages' daughter, married to Cambyses, bears a son, Cyrus. Astyages is warned by dreams about Cyrus, so he gives the baby to a servant, Harpagus, to kill it (107-8). Harpagus decides not to kill the baby (109). Harpagus instructs a herdsman to expose the baby (110). The herdsman and his wife, knowing the child's royal blood, decide to raise it; she has just given birth to a stillborn baby, whose body they substitute for Cyrus'. Harpagus is fooled (111-13). How Cyrus' identity was revealed at the age of ten. Playing King of the Hill, he beats the son of a nobleman; upon questioning by Astyages (his grandfather) his regal manner gives the secret away (114-15). Astyages confirms his suspicions by questioning the herdsman (116). Harpagus confesses and reveals how he was fooled (117). Astyages pretends to forgive Harpagus, and invites him and his own son (a boy of 13) to dinner (118). Astyages has Harpagus' son roasted and fed to Harpagus, then reveals the deed. Harpagus accepts the punishment (119). Astyages is advised by his wise men that the prophecy (that Cyrus would be king) has already been fulfilled by the game. Cyrus is allowed to live (120). Cyrus is sent to Persia to live with his real parents. The origin of the story that he was suckled by a wild dog is explained (121-22). An angry Harpagos sends a secret letter to Cyrus, urging him to lead the Persians in rebellion against Astyages and promising the support of Median nobles (123-24). Cyrus is convinced. He assembles all the tribes of the Persians and wins their loyalty by showing them the good life of ease and feasting (125-26). Astyages puts Harpagus in command of the Medes; Cyrus' first victory is assured by defections among the Medes (127). Astyages executes his wise men, leads his reserves against Cyrus, and is defeated and captured (128). The final bitter words between Harpagus and Astyages (129). Persians are supreme in Asia thereafter; Cyrus' clemency for Astyages; overview of Persian affairs (130). Strange but true religious practices of the Persians (131). Persian birthdays, and their eating/drinking habits (132-33). Social practices and hierarchy of the Persians. How the Medes ran their empire (134). Further customs of the Persians: sexual practices; education; legal system; superstitions; nomenclature (135-39). Burial customs of the Persians and Magi; sacrifices (140).

The Greeks of Asia Minor

History of East-West conflict momentarily resumed. Cyrus rejects a peace offer from the Ionian Greeks; the parable of the flutist-fisherman. Assembly of Ionians at Mycale (Samos) (141). Climate and dialects of the Ionian Greeks (142). The Milesians and islanders are temporarily safe from the Persians, who have no navy yet. Remarks on the tribal characteristics of the Ionians (143). A Dorian parallel for intertribal rivalry. Why Hdt's own city of Halicarnassus is barred from the Dorian temple of Triopian Apollo (144). Ionians and Achaeans (145). Why the claim of the Ionians of Asia to be the purest Ionians is false (146). Yet some Asian Ionians are pure Ionians (147). The Panionium or Ionian Center at Mycale; an Ionian festival there (148). Aeolic cities of Asia Minor (149). How Smyrna changed from an Aeolic to an Ionian city. Aeolians of the islands, Lesbos and Tenedos (150).

The Growth of Persian Power

History of East-West conflict resumed. The half-hearted support of Sparta for the Greeks of Asia Minor; the Spartan warning to Cyrus, and his scornful reply. Cyrus goes to fight his enemies to the east, and leaves his deputies in charge of the coast (151-53). The Lydians rebel under Pactyes, and besiege the Persian governor at Sardis (154). Cyrus complains to Croesus about the ingratitude of the Lydians and asks his advice. Croesus suggests he punish Pactyes, but spare the Lydians. Croesus' advice: emasculate the Lydians by making them singers, dancers, and salesmen (155). Why Croesus said this: to save his countrymen. Cyrus agrees and sends orders to Lydia on those lines (156). Pactyes flees to Cyme. Sardis is again in Persian hands. The Cymaeans consult an oracle on whether to surrender Pactyes to the Persians. The oracle is doubted by Aristodicus of Cyme, but it insists that Pactyes be handed over (157-59). The Cymaeans, reluctant to deny the suppliant, send Pactyes to Mytilene (Lesbos), then to Chios, whence he is handed over to the Persians (160). The Persians begin attacks on the Greeks of Asia Minor. Harpagus is Cyrus' general. Phocaea is attacked (161-62). Naval history of Phocaea; how they got their wall (163). Harpagus besieges Phocaea; the Phocaeans evacuate the city by sea (164). Some Phocaeans defy a curse to resettle at Phocaea; others move to their colony on Corsica (165-66). Naval battle of Phocaeans from Corsica vs. Carthaginians (Tunisians) and Tyrrhenians. Murder of Phocaean prisoners, and origin of funeral games at Agylla. Foundation of Elea by Phocaeans (167). Teos falls to Harpagus; the Teans evacuate (168). Harpagus completes the conquest of the Ionian Greeks; the islanders surrender (169). Proposals of Bias and Thales for Ionian migration and resettlement are rejected by the Ionians at the Panionium (170). Harpagus attacks Caria. History of the Carian people; their innovations in shield-making; their involvement with the Cretans (171). Customs of the Caunians (172). History and customs of the Lycians (173). Further conquests of Harpagus. The Cnidian canal is forbidden by an oracle; surrender of the Cnidians (174). The heroic resistance to Harpagus by Carians of Pedasus and Lycians of Xanthus eventually fails (175-76). The conquests of Cyrus. His attack on the Assyrians; their capital of Babylon and its wall are described (177-78). Further remarks on the fortifications of Babylon (179-81). The Chaldaean shrine at Babylon and its virgin priestess (182). The fabulous golden treasures in the shrines at Babylon (183). The Babylonian queen Semiramis built the dikes (184). A later Babylonian queen, Nitocris, and her achievements in fortification and the diversion of rivers (185-86). The tomb of Nitocris, and how it was eventually opened by Darius (king of Persia, 521-486 B.C.) in search of treasure, but found to be empty (187). How the Persian king drinks only special water on campaign (188). How Cyrus, en route to Babylon, grew angry at the river Gyndes for drowning his horse, and defeated the river by dividing it into 360 channels (189). Cyrus besieges Babylon, then takes the city by draining off the Euphrates and leading his men through the shallow river bed to within the walls (190-91). Examples illustrating the wealth and productivity of Babylon and environs (192). Climate and agriculture of Assyria (Iraq) (193). Construction and usage of the Armenian circle-boats (194). Clothing, appearance, and customs of the Assyrians. The public auction of young women for marriage (195-96). Medical and burial practices of the Babylonians (197-98). The strange custom of the Assyrian women, whereby once in her life each woman must be a prostitute in honor of Mylitta (their Aphrodite) (199). Three Assyrian tribes eat only fish-cakes (200). Cyrus advances east to attack the Massagetae; geography and customs of the Massagetae. The Caspian and the Caucasus (201-4). Tomyris, queen of the Massagetae, suggests that Cyrus cease trying to bridge the Araxes under duress, and that the two sides meet in a fair fight on either side of the river (205-6). Only Croesus opposes this idea. Croesus proposes to cross the Araxes, then to set a trap for the Massagetae by setting out a great feast and attacking them as they eat (207). Cyrus accepts this plan; Croesus is sent back to Persia with Cyrus' son Cambyses in his care (208). Cyrus dreams of Darius with wings looming over Europe and Asia, but misinterprets the dream. Darius' father is sent back to Persia to keep an eye on his son, who Cyrus fears is plotting against him (209-10). The plan of Croesus succeeds; the Massagetae are defeated, and Tomyris' son is captured (211). Tomyris warns Cyrus to return her son and retreat, but he refuses (212). The suicide of Tomyris' son (213). A huge battle of the Persians and the Massagetae; Cyrus is defeated and killed. His corpse is abused by Tomyris (214). Manners and customs of the Massagetae (215-16).

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