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  The Amazing Life of Cyrus the Persian, Who Defeated Babylon and Freed the Jewish Captives Shortly Afterward.  



  Herodotus is an ancient historian who wrote an important work called "the Histories", which is divided into 9 books.  In the first book Herodotus recounts, among other things, the birth and life of Cyrus of Persia, and it is clear from the account that Cyrus led a very strange life indeed.  He seems a chosen instrument, and we Christians know which God is capable of shaping a human life for a certain purpose, though Cyrus would have worshiped false gods, being a Persian of the ancient times. 

  He became a conqueror of very great renown, rivalling the greatest in all of history. He defeated Babylon, who had held some of the earlier Jewish captives since as early as around 606 B.C..  Jerusalem had been besieged for a while before falling.  And maybe during that time they were besieged they were considered "captive".  At any rate, God prophesied through the great prophet Jeremiah that the Jews would be captive for 70 years, and I am personally certain that if we knew the actual dates and times with certainty, we would find out that God was completely accurate in His words.  This is from Jeremiah Chapter 25:

Therefore the Lord Almighty says this: “Because you have not listened to my words, I will summon all the peoples of the north and my servant Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon,” declares the Lord, “and I will bring them against this land and its inhabitants and against all the surrounding nations. I will completely destroy[a] them and make them an object of horror and scorn, and an everlasting ruin. 10 I will banish from them the sounds of joy and gladness, the voices of bride and bridegroom, the sound of millstones and the light of the lamp. 11 This whole country will become a desolate wasteland, and these nations will serve the king of Babylon seventy years.

12 “But when the seventy years are fulfilled, I will punish the king of Babylon and his nation, the land of the Babylonians,[b] for their guilt,” declares the Lord, “and will make it desolate forever. 13 I will bring on that land all the things I have spoken against it, all that are written in this book and prophesied by Jeremiah against all the nations. 14 They themselves will be enslaved by many nations and great kings; I will repay them according to their deeds and the work of their hands.”  End Quote



And God, in one of the more amazing prophesies, had Isaiah write these following words about Cyrus (from Isaiah 44) when it was about 150 years before Cyrus would even be born:

I am the Lord,
    the Maker of all things,
    who stretches out the heavens,
    who spreads out the earth by myself,
25 who foils the signs of false prophets
    and makes fools of diviners,
who overthrows the learning of the wise
    and turns it into nonsense,
26 who carries out the words of his servants
    and fulfills the predictions of his messengers,

who says of Jerusalem, ‘It shall be inhabited,’
    of the towns of Judah, ‘They shall be rebuilt,’
    and of their ruins, ‘I will restore them,’
27 who says to the watery deep, ‘Be dry,
    and I will dry up your streams,’
28 who says of Cyrus, ‘He is my shepherd
    and will accomplish all that I please;
he will say of Jerusalem, “Let it be rebuilt,”
    and of the temple, “Let its foundations be laid.”’

  End Quote

  And the Jews, under Ezra, were allowed back to Jerusalem and began rebuilding the temple just about 70 years after the 606 B.C. conquering of Jerusalem by Babylon.  It was around 537 B.C. according to some sources. 

  In what was probably 539 B.C. the prophet Daniel presented Cyrus, in the year he conquered Babylon, the scrolls on which this already quite old prophecy had been written.  Cyrus was apparently very deeply moved by these prophetic words, using his very name!  It is probably the moment when he first realized Who it was that had been guiding the events of his amazing life:  Yahweh, the God of the Israelites.  

  Cyrus would go on to more and greater glory as a conqueror in following years, but it would all finally end for him when he took his large hugely successful army and tried to quarrel with a warrior queen named Tomyris of the savage, Scythian-like tribe called the Massagatae.  In the first clash, Cyrus played a ruse and got the better of her army, and captured the queen's son, who got freed for a moment and killed himself.  In the second battle, the army of the aggrieved queen destroyed Cyrus' army and killed Cyrus.  The queen had his body brought to her and she submerged his head in a bag of blood to shame his name. He, who had shed the blood of her family, was both defeated by a woman and submerged in blood, and all the world would know that to be his fitting end.

  But in the end, God was right, when He said that Cyrus his servant would free His captive people the Jews.  And God was right again when He said, in another place, that He who lives by the sword will die by the sword.

  But Cyrus the Great's name remains famous even in our day.  And here is part of Herodotus wrote about Cyrus.  If you want to learn more, read the first book of Herodotus' work titled "the History", which is probably 25 pages long, and available on line. 


Here is Herodotus writing, from his knowledge, about the life of Cyrus the Persian.


Afterwards, Cyaxares died after a reign of forty years (among which I count the years of the Scythian domination) and his son Astyages inherited the sovereignty.

Astyages had a daughter, whom he called Mandane: he dreamed that she urinated so much that she filled his city and flooded all of Asia. He communicated this vision to those of the Magi who interpreted dreams, and when he heard what they told him he was terrified; [2] and presently, when Mandane was of marriageable age, he feared the vision too much to give her to any Mede worthy to marry into his family, but married her to a Persian called Cambyses, a man whom he knew to be wellborn and of a quiet temper: for Astyages held Cambyses to be much lower than a Mede of middle rank. 108.

But during the first year that Mandane was married to Cambyses, Astyages saw a second vision. He dreamed that a vine grew out of the genitals of this daughter, and that the vine covered the whole of Asia. [2] Having seen this vision, and communicated it to the interpreters of dreams, he sent to the Persians for his daughter, who was about to give birth, and when she arrived kept her guarded, meaning to kill whatever child she bore: for the interpreters declared that the meaning of his dream was that his daughter's offspring would rule in his place. [3] Anxious to prevent this, Astyages, when Cyrus was born, summoned Harpagus, a man of his household who was his most faithful servant among the Medes and was administrator of all that was his, and he said: [4] “Harpagus, whatever business I turn over to you, do not mishandle it, and do not leave me out of account and, giving others preference, trip over your own feet afterwards. Take the child that Mandane bore, and carry him to your house, and kill him; and then bury him however you like.” [5] “O King,” Harpagus answered, “never yet have you noticed anything displeasing in your man; and I shall be careful in the future, too, not to err in what concerns you. If it is your will that this be done, then my concern ought to be to attend to it scrupulously.” 109.

Harpagus answered thus. The child was then given to him, consigned to its death, and he went to his house weeping. When he came in, he told his wife the entire speech uttered by Astyages. [2] “Now, then,” she said to him, “what do you propose to do?” “Not to obey Astyages' instructions,” he answered, “not even if he should lose his mind and be more frantic than he is now: I will not lend myself to his plan or be an accessory to such a murder. [3] There are many reasons why I will not kill him: because the child is related to me, and because Astyages is old and has no male children. [4] Now if the sovereignty passes to this daughter of his after his death, whose son he is now killing by means of me, what is left for me but the gravest of all dangers? For the sake of my safety this child has to die; but one of Astyages' own people has to be the murderer and not one of mine.” 110.

So saying, he sent a messenger at once to one of Astyages' cowherds, who he knew pastured his herds in the likeliest spots and where the mountains were most infested with wild beasts. The man's name was Mitradates, and his wife was a slave like him; her name was in the Greek language Cyno, in the Median Spako: for “spax” is the Median word for dog. [2] The foothills of the mountains where this cowherd pastured his cattle are north of Ecbatana, towards the Euxine sea; for the rest of Media is everywhere a level plain, but here, on the side of the Saspires,41 the land is very high and mountainous and covered with woods. [3] So when the cowherd came in haste at the summons, Harpagus said: “Astyages wants you to take this child and leave it in the most desolate part of the mountains so that it will perish as quickly as possible. And he wants me to tell you that if you do not kill it, but preserve it somehow, you will undergo the most harrowing death; and I am ordered to see it exposed.” 111.

Hearing this, the cowherd took the child and went back the same way and came to his dwelling. Now as it happened his wife too had been on the verge of delivering every day, and as the divinity would have it, she did in fact give birth while the cowherd was away in the city. Each of them was anxious for the other, the husband being afraid about his wife's labor, and the wife because she did not know why Harpagus had so unexpectedly sent for her husband. [2] So when he returned and stood before her, she was startled by the unexpected sight and asked him before he could speak why Harpagus had so insistently summoned him. “Wife,” he said, “when I came to the city, I saw and heard what I ought never to have seen, and what ought never to have happened to our masters. Harpagus' whole house was full of weeping; astonished, I went in; [3] and immediately I saw a child lying there struggling and crying, adorned in gold and embroidered clothing. And when Harpagus saw me, he told me to take the child in haste and bring it away and leave it where the mountains are the most infested with wild beasts. It was Astyages, he said, who enjoined this on me, and Harpagus threatened me grievously if I did not do it. [4] So I took him and brought him away, supposing him to be the child of one of the servants; for I could never have guessed whose he was. But I was amazed at seeing him adorned with gold and clothing, and at hearing, too, the evident sound of weeping in the house of Harpagus. [5] Very soon on the way I learned the whole story from the servant who brought me out of the city and gave the child into my custody: namely, that it was the son of Mandane the king's daughter and Cambyses the son of Cyrus, and that Astyages gave the command to kill him. And now, here he is.” 112.

And as he said this the cowherd uncovered it and showed it. But when the woman saw how fine and fair the child was, she began to cry and laid hold of the man's knees and begged him by no means to expose him. But the husband said he could not do otherwise; for, he said, spies would be coming from Harpagus to see what was done, and he would have to die a terrible death if he did not obey. [2] Being unable to move her husband, the woman then said: “Since I cannot convince you not to expose it, then, if a child has to be seen exposed, do this: I too have borne a child, but I bore it dead. [3] Take this one and put it out, but the child of the daughter of Astyages let us raise as if it were our own; this way, you won't be caught disobeying our masters, and we will not have plotted badly. For the dead child will have royal burial, and the living will not lose his life.” 113.

Thinking that his wife advised him excellently in his present strait, the cowherd immediately did as she said. He gave his wife the child whom he had brought to kill, and his own dead child he put into the chest in which he carried the other, [2] and dressed it with all the other child's finery and left it out in the most desolate part of the mountains. Then on the third day after leaving the child out, the cowherd left one of his herdsmen to watch it and went to the city, where he went to Harpagus' house and said he was ready to show the child's dead body. [3] Harpagus sent the most trusted of his bodyguard, and these saw for him and buried the cowherd's child. So it was buried: and the cowherd's wife kept and raised the boy who was afterwards named Cyrus; but she did not give him that name, but another. 114.

Now when the boy was ten years old, the truth about him was revealed in some such way as this. He was playing in the village where these herdsmen's quarters were, playing in the road with others of his age. The boys while playing chose to be their king this one who was supposed to be the son of the cowherd. [2] Then he assigned some of them to the building of houses, some to be his bodyguard, one doubtless to be the King's Eye; to another he gave the right of bringing him messages; to each he gave his proper work. [3] Now one of these boys playing with him was the son of Artembares, a notable Mede; when he did not perform his assignment from Cyrus, Cyrus told the other boys to seize him, and when they did so he handled the boy very roughly and whipped him. [4] As soon as he was let go, very upset about the indignity he had suffered, he went down to his father in the city and complained of what he had received at the hands of the son of Astyages' cowherd—not calling him Cyrus, for that name had not yet been given. [5] Artembares, going just as angry as he was to Astyages and bringing his son along, announced that an impropriety had been committed, saying, “O King, by your slave, the son of a cowherd, we have been outraged thus”: and with that he bared his son's shoulders. 115.

When Astyages heard and saw, he was ready to avenge the boy in view of Artembares' rank: so he sent for the cowherd and his son. When they were both present, Astyages said, fixing his eyes on Cyrus, [2] “Is it you, then, the child of one such as this, who have dared to lay hands on the son of the greatest of my courtiers?” Cyrus answered, “Master, what I did to him I did with justice. The boys of the village, of whom he was one, chose me while playing to be their king, for they thought me the most fit for this. [3] The other boys then did as assigned: but this one was disobedient and cared nothing for me, for which he got what he deserved. Now, if I deserve punishment for this, here I am to take it.” 116.

While the boy spoke, it seemed to Astyages that he recognized him; the character of his face was like his own, he thought, and his manner of answering was freer than customary: and the date of the exposure seemed to agree with the boy's age. [2] Astonished at this, he sat a while silent; but when at last with difficulty he could collect his wits, he said (for he wanted to be rid of Artembares and question the cowherd with no one present), “I shall act in such a way, Artembares, that you and your son shall have no cause of complaint.” [3] So he sent Artembares away, and the attendants led Cyrus inside at Astyages' bidding. When the cowherd was left quite alone, Astyages asked him where he had got the boy and who had been the giver. [4] The cowherd answered that Cyrus was his own son and that the mother was still with him. Astyages said that he was not well advised if he wished to find himself in a desperate situation, and as he said this made a sign to the spearbearers to seize him. [5] Then, under stress of necessity, the cowherd disclosed to him the whole story, telling everything exactly as it had happened from the beginning, and at the end fell to entreaty and urged the king to pardon him. 117.

When the cowherd had disclosed the true story, Astyages took less interest in him, but he was very angry with Harpagus and had the guards summon him. [2] Harpagus came, and Astyages asked him “Harpagus, how did you kill the boy, my daughter's son, whom I gave you?” Harpagus, when he saw the cowherd was there, did not take the way of falsehood, lest he be caught and confuted: [3] “O King,” he said,” when I took the boy, I thought and considered how to do what you wanted and not be held a murderer by your daughter or by you even though I was blameless toward you. [4] So I did this: I summoned this cowherd here, and gave the child to him, telling him that it was you who gave the command to kill it. And that was the truth; for such was your command. But I gave the child with the instructions that the cowherd was to lay it on a desolate mountainside and wait there and watch until it was dead; and I threatened all sorts of things if he did not accomplish this. [5] Then, when he had done what he was told, and the child was dead, I sent the most trusted of my eunuchs and had the body viewed and buried. This, O king, is the story, and such was the end of the boy.” 118.

Harpagus told the story straight, while Astyages, hiding the anger that he felt against him for what had been done, first repeated the story again to Harpagus exactly as he had heard it from the cowherd, then, after repeating it, ended by saying that the boy was alive and that the matter had turned out well. [2] “For,” he said, “I was greatly afflicted by what had been done to this boy, and it weighed heavily on me that I was estranged from my daughter. Now, then, in this good turn of fortune, send your own son to this boy newly come, and (since I am about to sacrifice for the boy's safety to the gods to whom this honor is due) come here to dine with me.” 119.

When Harpagus heard this, he bowed and went to his home, very pleased to find that his offense had turned out for the best and that he was invited to dinner in honor of this fortunate day. [2] Coming in, he told his only son, a boy of about thirteen years of age, to go to Astyages' palace and do whatever the king commanded, and in his great joy he told his wife everything that had happened. [3] But when Harpagus' son came, Astyages cut his throat and tore him limb from limb, roasted some of the flesh and boiled some, and kept it ready after he had prepared it. [4] So when the hour for dinner came and the rest of the guests and Harpagus were present, Astyages and the others were served dishes of lamb's meat, but Harpagus that of his own son, all but the head and hands and feet, which lay apart covered up in a wicker basket. [5] And when Harpagus seemed to have eaten his fill, Astyages asked him, “Did you like your meal, Harpagus?” “Exceedingly,” Harpagus answered. Then those whose job it was brought him the head of his son and hands and feet concealed in the basket, and they stood before Harpagus and told him to open and take what he liked. [6] Harpagus did; he opened and saw what was left of his son: he saw this, but mastered himself and did not lose his composure. Astyages asked him, “Do you know what beast's meat you have eaten?” [7] “I know,” he said, “and all that the king does is pleasing.” With that answer he took the remains of the meat and went home. There he meant, I suppose, after collecting everything, to bury it. 120.

Thus Astyages punished Harpagus. But, to help him to decide about Cyrus, he summoned the same Magi who had interpreted his dream as I have said: and when they came, Astyages asked them how they had interpreted his dream. They answered as before, and said that the boy must have been made king had he lived and not died first. [2] Then Astyages said, “The boy is safe and alive, and when he was living in the country the boys of his village made him king, and he duly did all that is done by true kings: for he assigned to each individually the roles of bodyguards and sentinels and messengers and everything else, and so ruled. And what do you think is the significance of this?” [3] “If the boy is alive,” said the Magi, “and has been made king without premeditation, then be confident on this score and keep an untroubled heart: he will not be made king a second time. Even in our prophecies, it is often but a small thing that has been foretold and the consequences of dreams come to nothing in the end.” [4] “I too, Magi,” said Astyages, “am very much of your opinion: that the dream came true when the boy was called king, and that I have no more to fear from him. Nevertheless consider well and advise me what will be safest both for my house and for you.” [5] The Magi said, “O King, we too are very anxious that your sovereignty prosper: for otherwise, it passes from your nation to this boy who is a Persian, and so we Medes are enslaved and held of no account by the Persians, as we are of another blood, but while you, our countryman, are established king, we have our share of power, and great honor is shown us by you. [6] Thus, then, we ought by all means to watch out for you and for your sovereignty. And if at the present time we saw any danger we would declare everything to you: but now the dream has had a trifling conclusion, and we ourselves are confident and advise you to be so also. As for this boy, send him out of your sight to the Persians and to his parents.” 121.

Hearing this, Astyages was glad, and calling Cyrus, said, “My boy, I did you wrong because of a vision I had in a dream, that meant nothing, but by your own destiny you still live; now therefore, go to the Persians, and good luck go with you; I will send guides with you. When you get there you will find a father and mother unlike the cowherd, Mitradates, and his wife.” 122.

After saying this, Astyages sent Cyrus away. When he returned to Cambyses' house, his parents received him there, and learning who he was they welcomed him enthusiastically, for they had supposed that long ago he had been killed, and they asked him how his life had been saved. [2] Then he told them, and said that until now he had known nothing but been very deceived, but that on the way he had heard the whole story of his misfortune; for he had thought, he said, that Astyages' cowherd was his father, but in his journey from the city his escort had told him the whole story. [3] And he had been raised, he said, by the cowherd's wife, and he was full of her praises, and in his tale he was constantly speaking of Cyno. Hearing this name, his parents circulated a story that Cyrus was suckled by a dog when exposed, thinking in this way to make the story of his salvation seem more marvellous to the Persians. 123.

This then was the beginning of that legend. But as Cyrus grew up to be the manliest and best loved of his peers, Harpagus courted him and sent him gifts, wishing to be avenged on Astyages; for he saw no hope for a private man like himself of punishing Astyages, but as he saw Cyrus growing up, he tried to make him an ally, for he likened Cyrus' misfortune to his own. [2] Even before this the following had been done by him: since Astyages was harsh toward the Medes, he associated with each of the chief Medes and persuaded them to make Cyrus their leader and depose Astyages. [3] So much being ready and done, Harpagus wanted to reveal his intent to Cyrus, who then lived among the Persians. But the roads were guarded, and he had no plan for sending a message but this: [4] he carefully slit the belly of a hare, and then leaving it as it was without further harm he put into it a paper on which he wrote what he thought best. Then he sewed up the hare's belly, and sent it to Persia by the most trusted of his servants, giving him nets to carry as if he were a huntsman. The messenger was instructed to give Cyrus the hare and tell him by word of mouth to cut it open with his own hands, with no one else present. 124.

All this was done. Cyrus took the hare and slit it and read the paper which was in it; the writing was as follows: “Son of Cambyses, since the gods watch over you (otherwise you would not have prospered so) avenge yourself now on Astyages, your murderer; [2] for thanks to his intention you are dead, while thanks to the gods, and me, you live. I expect that long ago you heard the story of what was done concerning you and how Astyages treated me because I did not kill you but gave you to the cowherd. If, then, you will listen to me, you shall rule all the country which is now ruled by Astyages. Persuade the Persians to rebel, and lead their army against the Medes; [3] then you have your wish, whether I am appointed to command the army against you or some other notable man among the Medes: for they will of themselves revolt from Astyages and join you and try to pull him down. Seeing then that all is ready here, do as I say and do it quickly.” 125.

When Cyrus read this, he deliberated as to what was the shrewdest way to persuade the Persians to revolt; and what he thought to be most effective, he did: [2] writing what he liked on a paper, he assembled the Persians, and then unfolded the paper and declared that in it Astyages appointed him leader of the Persian armies. “Now,” he said in his speech, “I command you, men of Persia, to come, each provided with a sickle.” This is what Cyrus said. [3] Now there are many tribes in Persia: those of them that Cyrus assembled and persuaded to revolt from the Medes were the Pasargadae, the Maraphii, and the Maspii. On these all the other Persians depend. The chief tribe is that of the Pasargadae; to them belongs the clan of the Achaemenidae, the royal house of Persia. [4] The other Persian tribes are the Panthialaei, the Derusiaei, and the Germanii, all tillers of the soil, and the Dai, the Mardi, the Dropici, the Sagartii, all wandering herdsmen. 126.

So when they all came with sickles as ordered, Cyrus commanded them to reclaim in one day a thorny tract of Persia, of two and one quarter or two and one half miles each way in extent. [2] The Persians accomplished the task appointed; Cyrus then commanded them to wash themselves and come the next day; meanwhile, collecting his father's goats and sheep and oxen in one place, he slaughtered and prepared them as a feast for the Persian host, providing also wine and all the foods that were most suitable. [3] When the Persians came on the next day he had them sit and feast in a meadow. After dinner he asked them which they liked more: their task of yesterday or their present pastime. [4] They answered that the difference was great: all yesterday they had had nothing but evil, to-day nothing but good. Then, taking up their word, Cyrus laid bare his whole purpose, and said: [5] “This is your situation, men of Persia: obey me and you shall have these good things and ten thousand others besides with no toil and slavery; but if you will not obey me, you will have labors unnumbered like your toil of yesterday. [6] Now, then, do as I tell you, and win your freedom. For I think that I myself was born by a divine chance to undertake this work; and I hold you fully as good men as the Medes in war and in everything else. All this is true; therefore revolt from Astyages quickly now!” 127.

The Persians had long been discontent that the Medes ruled them, and now having got a champion they were glad to win their freedom. But when Astyages heard that Cyrus was about this business, he sent a messenger to summon him; [2] Cyrus told the messenger to take back word that Astyages would see him sooner than he liked. Hearing this, Astyages armed all his Medes, and was distracted by Providence so that he forgot what he had done to Harpagus, and appointed him to command the army. [3] So when the Medes marched out and engaged with the Persians, those who were not in on the plan fought, while others deserted to the enemy, and most were deliberate cowards and ran. 128.

Thus the Median army was shamefully scattered. As soon as Astyages heard, he sent a threatening message to Cyrus: “Nevertheless, Cyrus shall not rejoice”; [2] and with that he took the Magi who interpreted dreams, who had persuaded him to let Cyrus go free, and impaled them; then he armed the Medes who were left in the city, the very young and very old men. [3] Leading these out, and engaging the Persians, he was beaten: Astyages himself was taken prisoner, and lost the Median army which he led. 129.

When Astyages was a captive, Harpagus came and exulted over him and taunted him, and besides much other bitter mockery he recalled his banquet, when Astyages had fed Harpagus his son's flesh, and asked Astyages what it was like to be a slave after having been a king. [2] Fixing his gaze on Harpagus, Astyages asked, “Do you imagine that this, which Cyrus has done, is your work?” “It was I,” said the other, “who wrote the letter; the accomplishment of the work is rightly mine.” [3] “Then,” said Astyages, “you stand confessed the most foolish and most unjust man on earth; most foolish, in giving another the throne which you might have had for yourself, if the present business is indeed your doing; most unjust, in enslaving the Medes because of that banquet. [4] For if in any event another and not you had to possess the royal power, then in justice some Mede should have had it, not a Persian: but now you have made the Medes, who did you no harm, slaves instead of masters and the Persians, who were the slaves, are now the masters of the Medes.” 130.

Thus Astyages was deposed from his sovereignty after a reign of thirty-five years: and the Medes had to bow down before the Persians because of Astyages' cruelty. They had ruled all Asia beyond the Halys for one hundred and twenty-eight years,42 from which must be subtracted the time when the Scythians held sway. [2] At a later time they repented of what they now did, and rebelled against Darius43 ; but they were defeated in battle and brought back into subjection. But now, in Astyages' time, Cyrus and the Persians rose in revolt against the Medes, and from this time ruled Asia. [3] As for Astyages, Cyrus did him no further harm, and kept him in his own house until Astyages died.

This is the story of the birth and upbringing of Cyrus, and of how he became king; and afterwards, as I have already related, he subjugated Croesus in punishment for the unprovoked wrong done him; and after this victory he became sovereign of all Asia. 131.

As to the customs of the Persians, I know them to be these. It is not their custom to make and set up statues and temples and altars, but those who do such things they think foolish, because, I suppose, they have never believed the gods to be like men, as the Greeks do; [2] but they call the whole circuit of heaven Zeus, and to him they sacrifice on the highest peaks of the mountains; they sacrifice also to the sun and moon and earth and fire and water and winds. [3] From the beginning, these are the only gods to whom they have ever sacrificed; they learned later to sacrifice to the “heavenly”44 Aphrodite from the Assyrians and Arabians. She is called by the Assyrians Mylitta, by the Arabians Alilat, by the Persians Mitra. 132.

And this is their method of sacrifice to the aforesaid gods: when about to sacrifice, they do not build altars or kindle fire, employ libations, or music, or fillets, or barley meal: when a man wishes to sacrifice to one of the gods, he leads a beast to an open space and then, wearing a wreath on his tiara, of myrtle usually, calls on the god. [2] To pray for blessings for himself alone is not lawful for the sacrificer; rather, he prays that the king and all the Persians be well; for he reckons himself among them. He then cuts the victim limb from limb into portions, and, after boiling the flesh, spreads the softest grass, trefoil usually, and places all of it on this. [3] When he has so arranged it, a Magus comes near and chants over it the song of the birth of the gods, as the Persian tradition relates it; for no sacrifice can be offered without a Magus. Then after a little while the sacrificer carries away the flesh and uses it as he pleases. 133.

The day which every man values most is his own birthday. On this day, he thinks it right to serve a more abundant meal than on other days: oxen or horses or camels or asses, roasted whole in ovens, are set before the rich; the poorer serve the lesser kinds of cattle. [2] Their courses are few, the dainties that follow many, and not all served together. This is why the Persians say of Greeks that they rise from table still hungry, because not much dessert is set before them: were this too given to Greeks (the Persians say) they would never stop eating. [3] They are very partial to wine. No one may vomit or urinate in another's presence: this is prohibited among them. Moreover, it is their custom to deliberate about the gravest matters when they are drunk; [4] and what they approve in their deliberations is proposed to them the next day, when they are sober, by the master of the house where they deliberate; and if, being sober, they still approve it, they act on it, but if not, they drop it. And if they have deliberated about a matter when sober, they decide upon it when they are drunk. 134.

When one man meets another on the road, it is easy to see if the two are equals; for, if they are, they kiss each other on the lips without speaking; if the difference in rank is small, the cheek is kissed; if it is great, the humbler bows and does obeisance to the other. [2] They honor most of all those who live nearest them, next those who are next nearest, and so going ever onwards they assign honor by this rule: those who dwell farthest off they hold least honorable of all; for they think that they are themselves in all regards by far the best of all men, that the rest have only a proportionate claim to merit, until those who live farthest away have least merit of all. [3] Under the rule of the Medes, one tribe would even govern another; the Medes held sway over all alike and especially over those who lived nearest to them; these ruled their neighbors, and the neighbors in turn those who came next to them, on the same scheme by which the Persians assign honor; for the nation kept advancing its rule and dominion.45 135.

But the Persians more than all men welcome foreign customs. They wear the Median dress, thinking it more beautiful than their own, and the Egyptian cuirass in war. Their luxurious practices are of all kinds, and all borrowed: the Greeks taught them pederasty. Every Persian marries many lawful wives, and keeps still more concubines. 136.

After valor in battle it is accounted noble to father the greatest number of sons: the king sends gifts yearly to him who gets most. Strength, they believe, is in numbers. [2] They educate their boys from five to twenty years old, and teach them only three things: riding and archery and honesty. A boy is not seen by his father before he is five years old, but lives with the women: the point of this is that, if the boy should die in the interval of his rearing, the father would suffer no grief. 137.

This is a law which I praise; and it is a praiseworthy law, too, which does not allow the king himself to slay any one for a single offense, or any other Persian to do incurable harm to one of his servants for one offense. Not until an accounting shows that the offender's wrongful acts are more and greater than his services may a man give rein to his anger. [2] They say that no one has ever yet killed his father or mother; when such a thing has been done, it always turns out on inquest that the doer is shown to be a changeling or the fruit of adultery; for it is not to be believed (say they) that a son should kill his true parent. 138.

Furthermore, of what they may not do, they may not speak, either. They hold lying to be the most disgraceful thing of all and next to that debt; for which they have many other reasons, but this in particular: it is inevitable (so they say) that the debtor also speak some falsehood. The citizen who has leprosy or the white sickness may not come into town or mingle with other Persians. They say that he is so afflicted because he has sinned in some way against the sun. [2] Every stranger who gets such a disease, many drive out of the country; and they do the same to white doves, for the reason given. Rivers they especially revere; they will neither urinate nor spit nor wash their hands in them, nor let anyone else do so. 139.

There is another thing that always happens among them; we have noted it although the Persians have not: their names, which agree with the nature of their persons and their nobility, all end in the same letter, that which the Dorians call san, and the Ionians sigma; you will find, if you search, that not some but all Persian names alike end in this letter. 140.

So much I can say of them from my own certain knowledge. But there are other matters concerning the dead which are secretly and obscurely told: how the dead bodies of Persians are not buried before they have been mangled by birds or dogs. [2] That this is the way of the Magi, I know for certain; for they do not conceal the practice. But this is certain, that before the Persians bury the body in earth they embalm it in wax. These Magi are as unlike the priests of Egypt as they are unlike all other men: [3] for the priests consider it sacrilege to kill anything that lives, except what they sacrifice; but the Magi kill with their own hands every creature, except dogs and men; they kill all alike, ants and snakes, creeping and flying things, and take great pride in it. Leaving this custom to be such as it has been from the first,46 I return now to my former story. 141.

As soon as the Lydians had been subjugated by the Persians, the Ionians and Aeolians sent messengers to Cyrus, offering to be his subjects on the same terms as those which they had under Croesus. After hearing what they proposed, Cyrus told them a story. Once, he said, there was a flute-player who saw fish in the sea and played upon his flute, thinking that they would come out on to the land. [2] Disappointed of his hope, he cast a net and gathered it in and took out a great multitude of fish; and seeing them leaping, “You had best,” he said, “stop your dancing now; you would not come out and dance before, when I played to you.” [3] The reason why Cyrus told the story to the Ionians and Aeolians was that the Ionians, who were ready to obey him when the victory was won, had before refused when he sent a message asking them to revolt from Croesus. [4] So he answered them in anger. But when the message came to the Ionians in their cities, they fortified themselves with walls, and assembled in the Panionion,47 all except the Milesians, with whom alone Cyrus made a treaty on the same terms as that which they had with the Lydians. The rest of the Ionians resolved to send envoys in the name of them all to Sparta, to ask help for the Ionians. 142.

Now these Ionians possessed the Panionion, and of all men whom we know, they happened to found their cities in places with the loveliest of climate and seasons. [2] For neither to the north of them nor to the south does the land effect the same thing as in Ionia [nor to the east nor to the west], affected here by the cold and wet, there by the heat and drought. [3] They do not all have the same speech but four different dialects. Miletus lies farthest south among them, and next to it come Myus and Priene; these are settlements in Caria, and they have a common language; Ephesus, Colophon, Lebedos, Teos, Clazomenae, Phocaea, all of them in Lydia, [4] have a language in common which is wholly different from the speech of the three former cities. There are yet three Ionian cities, two of them situated on the islands of Samos and Chios, and one, Erythrae, on the mainland; the Chians and Erythraeans speak alike, but the Samians have a language which is their own and no one else's. It is thus seen that there are four modes of speech. 143.

Among these Ionians, the Milesians were safe from the danger (for they had made a treaty), and the islanders among them had nothing to fear: for the Phoenicians were not yet subjects of the Persians, nor were the Persians themselves mariners. [2] But those of Asia were cut off from the rest of the Ionians only in the way that I shall show. The whole Hellenic stock was then small, and the last of all its branches and the least regarded was the Ionian; for it had no considerable city except Athens. [3] Now the Athenians and the rest would not be called Ionians, but spurned the name; even now the greater number of them seem to me to be ashamed of it; but the twelve cities aforesaid gloried in this name, and founded a holy place for themselves which they called the Panionion, and agreed among themselves to allow no other Ionians to use it (nor in fact did any except the men of Smyrna ask to be admitted); 144.

just as the Dorians of what is now the country of the “Five Cities”—formerly the country of the “Six Cities”—forbid admitting any of the neighboring Dorians to the Triopian temple, and even barred from using it those of their own group who had broken the temple law. [2] For long ago, in the games in honor of Triopian Apollo, they offered certain bronze tripods to the victors; and those who won these were not to carry them away from the temple but dedicate them there to the god. [3] Now when a man of Halicarnassus called Agasicles won, he disregarded this law, and, carrying the tripod away, nailed it to the wall of his own house. For this offense the five cities—Lindus, Ialysus, Camirus, Cos, and Cnidus—forbade the sixth city—Halicarnassus—to share in the use of the temple. Such was the penalty imposed on the Halicarnassians. 145.

As for the Ionians, the reason why they made twelve cities and would admit no more was in my judgment this: there were twelve divisions of them when they dwelt in the Peloponnese, just as there are twelve divisions of the Achaeans who drove the Ionians out—Pellene nearest to Sicyon; then Aegira and Aegae, where is the never-failing river Crathis, from which the river in Italy took its name; Bura and Helice, where the Ionians fled when they were worsted in battle by the Achaeans; Aegion; Rhype; Patrae; Phareae; and Olenus, where is the great river Pirus; Dyme and Tritaeae, the only inland city of all these—these were the twelve divisions of the Ionians, as they are now of the Achaeans. 146.

For this reason, and for no other, the Ionians too made twelve cities; for it would be foolishness to say that these are more truly Ionian or better born than the other Ionians; since not the least part of them are Abantes from Euboea, who are not Ionians even in name, and there are mingled with them Minyans of Orchomenus, Cadmeans, Dryopians, Phocian renegades from their nation, Molossians, Pelasgian Arcadians, Dorians of Epidaurus, and many other tribes; [2] and as for those who came from the very town-hall of Athens and think they are the best born of the Ionians, these did not bring wives with them to their settlements, but married Carian women whose parents they had put to death. [3] For this slaughter, these women made a custom and bound themselves by oath (and enjoined it on their daughters) that no one would sit at table with her husband or call him by his name, because the men had married them after slaying their fathers and husbands and sons. This happened at Miletus. 147.

And as kings, some of them chose Lycian descendants of Glaucus son of Hippolochus, and some Caucones of Pylus, descendants of Codrus son of Melanthus, and some both. Yet since they set more store by the name than the rest of the Ionians, let it be granted that those of pure birth are Ionians; [2] and all are Ionians who are of Athenian descent and keep the feast Apaturia.48 All do keep it, except the men of Ephesus and Colophon; these are the only Ionians who do not keep it, and these because, they say, of a certain pretext of murder. 148.

The Panionion is a sacred ground in Mykale, facing north; it was set apart for Poseidon of Helicon by the joint will of the Ionians. Mykale is a western promontory of the mainland opposite Samos; the Ionians used to assemble there from their cities and keep the festival to which they gave the name of Panionia. [2] Not only the Ionian festivals, but all those of all the Greeks alike, end in the same letter, just as do the names of the Persians. 149.

Those are the Ionian cities, and these are the Aeolian: Cyme (called “Phriconian”),49 Lerisae, Neon Teichos, Temnos, Cilla, Notion, Aegiroessa, Pitane, Aegaeae, Myrina, Gryneia.50 These are the ancient Aeolian cities, eleven in number; but one of them, Smyrna, was taken away by the Ionians; for these too were once twelve, on the mainland. [2] These Aeolians had settled where the land was better than the Ionian territory, but the climate was not so good. 150.

Now this is how the Aeolians lost Smyrna. Some men of Colophon, the losers in civil strife and exiles from their country, had been received by them into the town. These Colophonian exiles waited for the time when the men of Smyrna were holding a festival to Dionysus outside the walls; then they shut the gates and so got the city. [2] Then all the Aeolians came to recover it; and an agreement was made, whereby the Aeolians would receive back their movable goods from the Ionians, and leave the city. After this was done, the other eleven cities divided the Smyrnaeans among themselves and made them citizens of their own. 151.

These then are the Aeolian cities on the mainland, besides those that are situated on Ida and are separate. [2] Among those on the islands, five divide Lesbos among them (there was a sixth on Lesbos, Arisba, but its people were enslaved by their kinfolk of Methymna); there is one on Tenedos, and one again in the “Hundred Isles,”51 as they are called. [3] The men of Lesbos and Tenedos, then, like the Ionian islanders, had nothing to fear. The rest of the cities deliberated together and decided to follow the Ionians' lead. 152.

So when the envoys of the Ionians and Aeolians came to Sparta (for they set about this in haste) they chose a Phocaean, whose name was Pythennos, to speak for all. He then put on a purple cloak, so that as many Spartans as possible might assemble to hear him, and stood up and made a long speech asking aid for his people. [2] But the Lacedaemonians would not listen to him and refused to help the Ionians. So the Ionians departed; but the Lacedaemonians, though they had rejected their envoys, did nevertheless send men in a ship of fifty oars to see (as I suppose) the situation with Cyrus and Ionia. [3] These, after coming to Phocaea, sent Lacrines, who was the most esteemed among them, to Sardis, to repeat there to Cyrus a proclamation of the Lacedaemonians, that he was to harm no city on Greek territory, or else the Lacedaemonians would punish him. 153.

When the herald had proclaimed this, Cyrus is said to have asked the Greeks who were present who and how many in number these Lacedaemonians were who made this declaration. When he was told, he said to the Spartan herald, “I never yet feared men who set apart a place in the middle of their city where they perjure themselves and deceive each other. They, if I keep my health, shall talk of their own misfortunes, not those of the Ionians.” [2] He uttered this threat against all the Greeks, because they have markets and buy and sell there; for the Persians themselves were not used to resorting to markets at all, nor do they even have a market of any kind. [3] Presently, entrusting Sardis to a Persian called Tabalus, and instructing Pactyes, a Lydian, to take charge of the gold of Croesus and the Lydians, he himself marched away to Ecbatana, taking Croesus with him, and at first taking no notice of the Ionians. [4] For he had Babylon on his hands and the Bactrian nation and the Sacae and Egyptians; he meant to lead the army against these himself, and to send another commander against the Ionians. 154.

But no sooner had Cyrus marched away from Sardis than Pactyes made the Lydians revolt from Tabalus and Cyrus; and he went down to the sea, where, as he had all the gold of Sardis, he hired soldiers and persuaded the men of the coast to join his undertaking. Then, marching to Sardis, he penned Tabalus in the acropolis and besieged him there. 155.

When Cyrus heard of this on his journey, he said to Croesus, “What end to this business, Croesus? It seems that the Lydians will never stop making trouble for me and for themselves. It occurs to me that it may be best to make slaves of them; for it seems I have acted like one who slays the father and spares the children. [2] So likewise I have taken with me you who were more than a father to the Lydians, and handed the city over to the Lydians themselves; and then indeed I marvel that they revolt!” So Cyrus uttered his thought; but Croesus feared that he would destroy Sardis, and answered him thus: [3] “O King, what you say is reasonable. But do not ever yield to anger, or destroy an ancient city that is innocent both of the former and of the present offense. For the former I am responsible, and bear the punishment on my head; while Pactyes, in whose charge you left Sardis, does this present wrong; let him, then, pay the penalty. [4] But pardon the Lydians, and give them this command so that they not revolt or pose a danger to you: send and forbid them to possess weapons of war, and order them to wear tunics under their cloaks and knee-boots on their feet, and to teach their sons lyre-playing and song and dance and shop-keeping. And quickly, O king, you shall see them become women instead of men, so that you need not fear them, that they might revolt.” 156.

Croesus proposed this to him, because he thought this was better for the Lydians than to be sold as slaves; he knew that without some reasonable plea he could not change the king's mind, and feared that even if the Lydians should escape this time they might later revolt and be destroyed by the Persians. [2] Cyrus was pleased by this counsel; he relented in his anger and said he would follow Croesus' advice. Then calling Mazares, a Mede, he told him to give the Lydians the commands that Croesus advised; further, to enslave all the others who had joined the Lydians in attacking Sardis; and as for Pactyes himself, by all means to bring him into his presence alive. 157.

After giving these commands on his journey, he marched away into the Persian country. But Pactyes, learning that an army sent against him was approaching, was frightened and fled to Cyme. [2] Mazares the Mede, when he came to Sardis with the part that he had of Cyrus' host and found Pactyes' followers no longer there, first of all compelled the Lydians to carry out Cyrus' commands; and by his order they changed their whole way of life. [3] After this, he sent messengers to Cyme demanding that Pactyes be surrendered. The Cymaeans resolved to make the god at Branchidae their judge as to what course they should take; for there was an ancient place of divination there, which all the Ionians and Aeolians used to consult; the place is in the land of Miletus, above the harbor of Panormus. 158.

The men of Cyme, then, sent to Branchidae to inquire of the shrine what they should do in the matter of Pactyes that would be most pleasing to the gods; and the oracle replied that they must surrender Pactyes to the Persians. [2] When this answer came back to them, they set about surrendering him. But while the greater part were in favor of doing this, Aristodicus son of Heraclides, a notable man among the citizens, stopped the men of Cyme from doing it; for he did not believe the oracle and thought that those who had inquired of the god spoke falsely; until at last a second band of inquirers was sent to inquire concerning Pactyes, among whom was Aristodicus. 159.

When they came to Branchidae, Aristodicus, speaking for all, put this question to the oracle: “Lord, Pactyes the Lydian has come to us a suppliant fleeing a violent death at the hands of the Persians; and they demand him of us, telling the men of Cyme to surrender him. [2] But we, as much as we fear the Persian power, have not dared give up this suppliant of ours until it is clearly made known to us by you whether we are to do this or not.” Thus Aristodicus inquired; and the god again gave the same answer, that Pactyes should be surrendered to the Persians. [3] With that Aristodicus did as he had already decided; he went around the temple, and took away the sparrows and all the families of nesting birds that were in it. But while he was doing so, a voice (they say) came out of the inner shrine calling to Aristodicus, and saying, “Vilest of men, how dare you do this? Will you rob my temple of those that take refuge with me?” [4] Then Aristodicus had his answer ready: “Lord,” he said, “will you save your own suppliants, yet tell the men of Cyme to deliver up theirs?” But the god replied, “Yes, I do command them, so that you may perish all the sooner for your impiety, and never again come to inquire of my oracle about giving up those that seek refuge with you.” 160.

When the Cymaeans heard this answer, they sent Pactyes away to Mytilene; for they were anxious not to perish for delivering him up or to be besieged for keeping him with them. [2] Then Mazares sent a message to Mytilene demanding the surrender of Pactyes, and the Mytilenaeans prepared to give him, for a price; I cannot say exactly how much it was, for the bargain was never fulfilled; [3] for when the Cymaeans learned what the Mytilenaeans were about, they sent a ship to Lesbos and took Pactyes away to Chios. From there he was dragged out of the temple of City-guarding Athena and delivered up by the Chians, [4] who received in return Atarneus, which is a district in Mysia opposite Lesbos. The Persians thus received Pactyes and kept him guarded, so that they might show him to Cyrus; [5] and for a long time no one would use barley meal from this land of Atarneus in sacrifices to any god, or make sacrificial cakes of what grew there; everything that came from that country was kept away from any sacred rite. 161.

The Chians, then, surrendered Pactyes, and afterwards Mazares led his army against those who had helped to besiege Tabalus, and he enslaved the people of Priene, and overran the plain of the Maeandrus, giving it to his army to pillage and Magnesia likewise. Immediately after this he died of an illness. 162.

After his death, Harpagus, a Mede like Mazares, came down to succeed him in his command; this is the Harpagus who was entertained by Astyages the king of the Medes at that unnatural feast, and who helped win the kingship for Cyrus. [2] This man was now made general by Cyrus. When he came to Ionia, he took the cities by means of earthworks; he would drive the men within their walls and then build earthworks against the walls and so take the cities. 163.

Phocaea was the first Ionian town that he attacked. These Phocaeans were the earliest of the Greeks to make long sea-voyages, and it was they who discovered the Adriatic Sea, and Tyrrhenia, and Iberia, and Tartessus,52 [2] not sailing in round freightships but in fifty-oared vessels. When they came to Tartessus they made friends with the king of the Tartessians, whose name was Arganthonius; he ruled Tartessus for eighty years and lived a hundred and twenty.53 [3] The Phocaeans won this man's friendship to such a degree that he invited them to leave Ionia and settle in his country wherever they liked; and then, when he could not persuade them to, and learned from them how the Median power was increasing, he gave them money to build a wall around their city. [4] He gave it generously: for the circuit of the wall is of not a few stades, and all this is made of great stones well fitted together. 164.

In such a manner the Phocaeans' wall was built. Harpagus marched against the city and besieged it, but he made overtures, and said that it would suffice him if the Phocaeans would demolish one rampart of the wall and dedicate one house. [2] But the Phocaeans, very indignant at the thought of slavery, said they wanted to deliberate for a day, and then they would answer; but while they were deliberating, Harpagus must withdraw his army from the walls, they said. Harpagus said that he well knew what they intended to do, but that nevertheless he would allow them to deliberate. [3] So when Harpagus withdrew his army from the walls, the Phocaeans launched their fifty-oared ships, embarked their children and women and all their movable goods, besides the statues from the temples and everything dedicated in them except bronze or stonework or painting, and then embarked themselves and set sail for Chios; and the Persians took Phocaea, left thus uninhabited. 165.

The Phocaeans would have bought the islands called Oenussae from the Chians;54 but the Chians would not sell them, because they feared that the islands would become a market and so their own island be cut off from trade: so the Phocaeans prepared to sail to Cyrnus,55 where at the command of an oracle they had built a city called Alalia twenty years before. [2] Arganthonius was by this time dead. While getting ready for their voyage, they first sailed to Phocaea, where they destroyed the Persian guard to whom Harpagus had entrusted the defense of the city; and when this was done, they called down mighty curses on any one of them who should stay behind when the rest sailed. [3] Not only this, but they sank a mass of iron in the sea, and swore never to return to Phocaea before the iron should appear again. But while they prepared to sail to Cyrnus, more than half of the citizens were overcome with longing and pitiful sorrow for the city and the life of their land, and they broke their oath and sailed back to Phocaea. Those of them who kept the oath put out to sea from the Oenussae. 166.

And when they came to Cyrnus they lived there for five years as one community with those who had come first, and they founded temples there. But they harassed and plundered all their neighbors, as a result of which the Tyrrhenians and Carthaginians made common cause against them, and sailed to attack them with sixty ships each. [2] The Phocaeans also manned their ships, sixty in number, and met the enemy in the sea called Sardonian. They engaged and the Phocaeans won, yet it was only a kind of Cadmean victory;56 for they lost forty of their ships, and the twenty that remained were useless, their rams twisted awry. [3] Then sailing to Alalia they took their children and women and all of their possessions that their ships could hold on board, and leaving Cyrnus they sailed to Rhegium. 167.

As for the crews of the disabled ships, the Carthaginians and Tyrrhenians drew lots for them, and of the Tyrrhenians the Agyllaioi57 were allotted by far the majority and these they led out and stoned to death. But afterwards, everything from Agylla that passed the place where the stoned Phocaeans lay, whether sheep or beasts of burden or men, became distorted and crippled and palsied. [2] The Agyllaeans sent to Delphi, wanting to mend their offense; and the Pythian priestess told them to do what the people of Agylla do to this day: for they pay great honors to the Phocaeans, with religious rites and games and horse-races. [3] Such was the end of this part of the Phocaeans. Those of them who fled to Rhegium set out from there and gained possession of that city in the Oenotrian58 country which is now called Hyele;59 [4] they founded this because they learned from a man of Posidonia that the Cyrnus whose establishment the Pythian priestess ordained was the hero, and not the island. 168.

Thus, then, it went with the Ionian Phocaea. The Teians did the same things as the Phocaeans: when Harpagus had taken their walled city by building an earthwork, they all embarked aboard ship and sailed away for Thrace. There they founded a city, Abdera, which before this had been founded by Timesius of Clazomenae; yet he got no profit of it, but was driven out by the Thracians. This Timesius is now honored as a hero by the Teians of Abdera. 169.

These were the only Ionians who left their native lands, unable to endure slavery. The rest of the Ionians, except the Milesians, though they faced Harpagus in battle as did the exiles, and conducted themselves well, each fighting for his own country, yet, when they were defeated and their cities taken, they remained where they were and did as they were told. [2] The Milesians, as I have already said, made a treaty with Cyrus himself and struck no blow. Thus Ionia was enslaved for the second time: and when Harpagus had conquered the Ionians of the mainland, the Ionians of the islands, fearing the same fate, surrendered to Cyrus. 170.

When the Ionians, despite their evil plight, nonetheless assembled at the Panionion, Bias of Priene, I have learned, gave them very useful advice, and had they followed it they might have been the most prosperous of all Greeks: [2] for he advised them to put out to sea and sail all together to Sardo and then found one city for all Ionians: thus, possessing the greatest island in the world and ruling others, they would be rid of slavery and have prosperity; but if they stayed in Ionia he could see (he said) no hope of freedom for them. [3] This was the advice which Bias of Priene gave after the destruction of the Ionians; and that given before the destruction by Thales of Miletus, a Phoenician by descent, was good too; he advised that the Ionians have one place of deliberation, and that it be in Teos (for that was the center of Ionia), and that the other cities be considered no more than demes.

Thus Bias and Thales advised. 171.

Harpagus, after subjugating Ionia, made an expedition against the Carians, Caunians, and Lycians, taking Ionians and Aeolians with him. [2] Of these, the Carians have come to the mainland from the islands; for in the past they were islanders, called Leleges and under the rule of Minos, not (as far as I can learn by report) paying tribute, but manning ships for him when he needed them. [3] Since Minos had subjected a good deal of territory for himself and was victorious in war, this made the Carians too at that time by far the most respected of all nations. [4] They invented three things in which they were followed by the Greeks: it was the Carians who originated wearing crests on their helmets and devices on their shields, and who first made grips for their shields; until then all who used shields carried them without these grips, and guided them with leather belts which they slung round the neck and over the left shoulder.60 [5] Then, a long time afterwards, the Carians were driven from the islands by Dorians and Ionians and so came to the mainland. This is the Cretan story about the Carians; but the Carians themselves do not subscribe to it, but believe that they are aboriginal inhabitants of the mainland and always bore the name which they bear now; [6] and they point to an ancient shrine of Carian Zeus at Mylasa, to which Mysians and Lydians, as brethren of the Carians (for Lydus and Mysus, they say, were brothers of Car), are admitted, but not those who spoke the same language as the Carians but were of another people. 172.

I think the Caunians are aborigines of the soil, but they say that they came from Crete. Their speech has become like the Carian, or the Carian like theirs (for I cannot clearly decide), but in their customs they diverge widely from the Carians, as from all other men. Their chief pleasure is to assemble for drinking-bouts in groups according to their ages and friendships: men, women, and children. [2] Certain foreign rites of worship were established among them; but afterwards, when they were inclined otherwise, and wanted to worship only the gods of their fathers, all Caunian men of full age put on their armor and went together as far as the boundaries of Calynda, striking the air with their spears and saying that they were casting out the alien gods. 173.

Such are their ways. The Lycians were from Crete in ancient times (for in the past none that lived on Crete were Greek). [2] Now there was a dispute in Crete about the royal power between Sarpedon and Minos, sons of Europa; Minos prevailed in this dispute and drove out Sarpedon and his partisans; who, after being driven out, came to the Milyan land in Asia. What is now possessed by the Lycians was in the past Milyan, and the Milyans were then called Solymi. [3] For a while Sarpedon ruled them, and the people were called Termilae, which was the name that they had brought with them and that is still given to the Lycians by their neighbors; but after Lycus son of Pandion came from Athens—banished as well by his brother, Aegeus—to join Sarpedon in the land of the Termilae, they came in time to be called Lycians after Lycus. [4] Their customs are partly Cretan and partly Carian. But they have one which is their own and shared by no other men: they take their names not from their fathers but from their mothers, [5] and when one is asked by his neighbor who he is, he will say that he is the son of such a mother, and rehearse the mothers of his mother. Indeed, if a female citizen marries a slave, her children are considered pure-blooded; but if a male citizen, even the most prominent of them, takes an alien wife or concubine, the children are dishonored. 174.

Neither the Carians nor any Greeks who dwell in this country did any thing notable before they were all enslaved by Harpagus. [2] Among those who inhabit it are certain Cnidians, colonists from Lacedaemon. Their country (it is called the Triopion) lies between the sea and that part of the peninsula which belongs to Bubassus, and all but a small part of the Cnidian territory is washed by the sea [3] (for it is bounded on the north by the gulf of Ceramicus, and on the south by the sea off Syme and Rhodes). Now while Harpagus was conquering Ionia, the Cnidians dug a trench across this little space, which is about two-thirds of a mile wide, in order that their country might be an island. So they brought it all within the entrenchment; for the frontier between the Cnidian country and the mainland is on the isthmus across which they dug. [4] Many of them were at this work; and seeing that the workers were injured when breaking stones more often and less naturally than usual, some in other ways, but most in the eyes, the Cnidians sent envoys to Delphi to inquire what it was that opposed them. [5] Then, as they themselves say, the priestess gave them this answer in iambic verse: ““Do not wall or trench the isthmus:
Zeus would have given you an island, if he had wanted to.”
” [6] At this answer from the priestess, the Cnidians stopped their digging, and when Harpagus came against them with his army they surrendered to him without resistance. 175.

There were Pedaseans dwelling inland above Halicarnassus; when any misfortune was approaching them or their neighbors, the priestess of Athena grew a long beard. This had happened to them thrice. These were the only men near Caria who held out for long against Harpagus, and they gave him the most trouble; they fortified a hill called Lide. 176.

The Pedaseans were at length taken, and when Harpagus led his army into the plain of Xanthus, the Lycians came out to meet him, and showed themselves courageous fighting few against many; but being beaten and driven into the city, they gathered their wives and children and goods and servants into the acropolis, and then set the whole acropolis on fire. [2] Then they swore great oaths to each other, and sallying out fell fighting, all the men of Xanthus. [3] Of the Xanthians who claim now to be Lycians the greater number, all except eighty households, are of foreign descent; these eighty families as it happened were away from the city at that time, and thus survived. So Harpagus gained Xanthus, and Caunus too in a somewhat similar manner, the Caunians following for the most part the example of the Lycians. 177.

Harpagus, then, made havoc of lower Asia; in the upper country, Cyrus himself vanquished every nation, leaving none untouched. Of the greater part of these I will say nothing, but will speak only of those which gave Cyrus the most trouble and are most worthy of being described. 178.

When Cyrus had made all the mainland submit to him, he attacked the Assyrians. In Assyria there are many other great cities, but the most famous and the strongest was Babylon, where the royal dwelling had been established after the destruction of Ninus.61 Babylon was a city such as I will now describe. [2] It lies in a great plain, and is in shape a square, each side fifteen miles in length; thus sixty miles make the complete circuit of the city. Such is the size of the city of Babylon; and it was planned like no other city of which we know. [3] Around it runs first a moat deep and wide and full of water, and then a wall eighty three feet thick and three hundred thirty three feet high. The royal measure is greater by three fingers' breadth than the common measure.62 179.

Further, I must relate where the earth was used as it was dug from the moat and how the wall was constructed. As they dug the moat, they made bricks of the earth which was carried out of the place they dug, and when they had moulded bricks enough, they baked them in ovens; [2] then using hot bitumen for cement and interposing layers of wattled reeds at every thirtieth course of bricks, they built first the border of the moat and then the wall itself in the same fashion. [3] On the top, along the edges of the wall, they built houses of a single room, facing each other, with space enough between to drive a four-horse chariot. There are a hundred gates in the circuit of the wall, all of bronze, with posts and lintels of the same. [4] There is another city, called Is,63 eight days' journey from Babylon, where there is a little river, also named Is, a tributary of the Euphrates river; from the source of this river Is, many lumps of bitumen rise with the water; and from there the bitumen was brought for the wall of Babylon. 180.

Thus, then, this wall was built; the city is divided into two parts; for it is cut in half by a river named Euphrates, a wide, deep, and swift river, flowing from Armenia and issuing into the Red Sea. [2] The angles of the wall, then, on either side are built quite down to the river; here they turn, and from here a fence of baked bricks runs along each bank of the stream. [3] The city itself is full of houses three and four stories high; and the ways that traverse it, those that run crosswise towards the river and the rest, are all straight. [4] Further, at the end of each road there was a gate in the riverside fence, one gate for each alley; these gates also were of bronze, and these too opened on the river. 181.

These walls are the city's outer armor; within them there is another encircling wall, nearly as strong as the other, but narrower. [2] In the middle of one division of the city stands the royal palace, surrounded by a high and strong wall; and in the middle of the other is still to this day the sacred enclosure of Zeus Belus,64 a square of four hundred and forty yards each way, with gates of bronze. [3] In the center of this sacred enclosure a solid tower has been built, two hundred and twenty yards long and broad; a second tower rises from this and from it yet another, until at last there are eight. [4] The way up them mounts spirally outside the height of the towers; about halfway up is a resting place, with seats for repose, where those who ascend sit down and rest. [5] In the last tower there is a great shrine; and in it stands a great and well-covered couch, and a golden table nearby. But no image has been set up in the shrine, nor does any human creature lie there for the night, except one native woman, chosen from all women by the god, as the Chaldaeans say, who are priests of this god. 182.

These same Chaldaeans say (though I do not believe them) that the god himself is accustomed to visit the shrine and rest on the couch, as in Thebes of Egypt, as the Egyptians say [2] (for there too a woman sleeps in the temple of Theban Zeus,65 and neither the Egyptian nor the Babylonian woman, it is said, has intercourse with men), and as does the prophetess of the god66 at Patara in Lycia, whenever she is appointed; for there is not always a place of divination there; but when she is appointed she is shut up in the temple during the night. 183.

In the Babylonian temple there is another shrine below, where there is a great golden image of Zeus, sitting at a great golden table, and the footstool and the chair are also gold; the gold of the whole was said by the Chaldeans to be eight hundred talents' weight. [2] Outside the temple is a golden altar. There is also another great altar, on which are sacrificed the full-grown of the flocks; only nurslings may be sacrificed on the golden altar, but on the greater altar the Chaldeans even offer a thousand talents' weight of frankincense yearly, when they keep the festival of this god; and in the days of Cyrus there was still in this sacred enclosure a statue of solid gold twenty feet high. [3] I myself have not seen it, but I relate what is told by the Chaldeans. Darius son of Hystaspes proposed to take this statue but dared not; Xerxes his son took it, and killed the priest who warned him not to move the statue. Such is the furniture of this temple, and there are many private offerings besides. 184.

Now among the many rulers of this city of Babylon (whom I shall mention in my Assyrian history) who finished the building of the walls and the temples, there were two that were women. The first of these lived five generations earlier than the second, and her name was Semiramis: it was she who built dikes on the plain, a notable work; before that the whole plain used to be flooded by the river. 185.

The second queen, whose name was Nitocris, was a wiser woman than the first. She left such monuments as I shall record; and moreover, seeing that the kingdom of Media was great and restless and Ninus itself among other cities had fallen to it, she took such precautions as she could for her protection. [2] First she dealt with the river Euphrates, which flows through the middle of her city; this had been straight before; but by digging canals higher up she made the river so crooked that its course now passes one of the Assyrian villages three times; the village which is so approached by the Euphrates is called Ardericca. And now those who travel from our sea to Babylon must spend three days as they float down the Euphrates coming three times to the same village. [3] Such was this work; and she built an embankment along either shore of the river, marvellous for its greatness and height. [4] Then a long way above Babylon she dug the reservoir of a lake, a little way off from the river, always digging deep enough to find water, and making the circumference a distance of fifty two miles; what was dug out of this hole, she used to embank either edge of the river; [5] and when she had it all dug, she brought stones and made a quay all around the lake. [6] Her purpose in making the river wind and turning the hole into marsh was this: that the current might be slower because of the many windings that broke its force, and that the passages to Babylon might be crooked, and that right after them should come also the long circuit of the lake. [7] All this work was done in that part of the country where the passes are and the shortest road from Media, so that the Medes might not mix with her people and learn of her affairs. 186.

So she made the deep river her protection; and this work led to another which she added to it. Her city was divided into two parts by the river that flowed through the middle. In the days of the former rulers, when one wanted to go from one part to the other, one had to cross in a boat; and this, I suppose, was a nuisance. But the queen also provided for this; she made another monument of her reign out of this same work when the digging of the basin of the lake was done. [2] She had very long blocks of stone cut; and when these were ready and the place was dug, she turned the course of the river into it, and while it was filling, the former channel now being dry, she bricked the borders of the river in the city and the descent from the gate leading down to the river with baked bricks, like those of the wall; and near the middle of the city she built a bridge with the stones that had been dug up, binding them together with iron and lead. [3] Each morning, she laid square-hewn logs across it, on which the Babylonians crossed; but these logs were removed at night, lest folk always be crossing over and stealing from one another. [4] Then, when the basin she had made for a lake was filled by the river and the bridge was finished, Nitocris brought the Euphrates back to its former channel out of the lake; thus she had served her purpose, as she thought, by making a swamp of the basin, and her citizens had a bridge made for them. 187.

There was a trick, too, that this same queen contrived. She had a tomb made for herself and set high over the very gate of that entrance of the city which was used most, with writing engraved on the tomb, which read: [2] “If any king of Babylon in the future is in need of money, let him open this tomb and take as much as he likes: but let him not open it unless he is in need; for it will be the worse for him.” [3] This tomb remained untouched until the kingship fell to Darius. He thought it a very strange thing that he should never use this gate, or take the money when it lay there and the writing itself invited him to. [4] The reason he did not use the gate was that the dead body would be over his head as he passed through. [5] After opening the tomb, he found no money there, only the dead body, with writing which read: “If you were ever satisfied with what you had and did not disgrace yourself seeking more, you would not have opened the coffins of the dead.” Such a woman, it is recorded, was this queen. 188.

Cyrus, then, marched against Nitocris' son, who inherited the name of his father Labynetus and the sovereignty of Assyria. Now when the Great King campaigns, he marches well provided with food and flocks from home; and water from the Choaspes river that flows past Susa is carried with him, the only river from which the king will drink. [2] This water of the Choaspes67 is boiled, and very many four-wheeled wagons drawn by mules carry it in silver vessels, following the king wherever he goes at any time. 189.

When Cyrus reached the Gyndes river on his march to Babylon,68 which rises in the mountains of the Matieni and flows through the Dardanean country into another river, the Tigris, that again passes the city of Opis and empties into the Red Sea—when, I say, Cyrus tried to cross the Gyndes, which was navigable there, one of his sacred white horses dashed recklessly into the river trying to get through it, but the current overwhelmed him and swept him under and away. [2] At this violence of the river Cyrus was very angry, and he threatened to make it so feeble that women could ever after cross it easily without wetting their knees. [3] After uttering this threat, he paused in his march against Babylon, and, dividing his army into two parts, drew lines planning out a hundred and eighty canals running every way from either bank of the Gyndes; then he organized his army along the lines and made them dig. [4] Since a great multitude was at work, it went quickly; but they spent the whole summer there before it was finished. 190.

Then at the beginning of the following spring, when Cyrus had punished the Gyndes by dividing it among the three hundred and sixty canals, he marched against Babylon at last. The Babylonians sallied out and awaited him; and when he came near their city in his march, they engaged him, but they were beaten and driven inside the city. [2] There they had stored provisions enough for very many years, because they knew already that Cyrus was not a man of no ambitition, and saw that he attacked all nations alike; so now they were indifferent to the siege; and Cyrus did not know what to do, being so long delayed and gaining no advantage. 191.

Whether someone advised him in his difficulty, or whether he perceived for himself what to do, I do not know, but he did the following. [2] He posted his army at the place where the river goes into the city, and another part of it behind the city, where the river comes out of the city, and told his men to enter the city by the channel of the Euphrates when they saw it to be fordable. Having disposed them and given this command, he himself marched away with those of his army who could not fight; [3] and when he came to the lake, Cyrus dealt with it and with the river just as had the Babylonian queen: drawing off the river by a canal into the lake, which was a marsh, he made the stream sink until its former channel could be forded. [4] When this happened, the Persians who were posted with this objective made their way into Babylon by the channel of the Euphrates, which had now sunk to a depth of about the middle of a man's thigh. [5] Now if the Babylonians had known beforehand or learned what Cyrus was up to, they would have let the Persians enter the city and have destroyed them utterly; for then they would have shut all the gates that opened on the river and mounted the walls that ran along the river banks, and so caught their enemies in a trap. [6] But as it was, the Persians took them unawares, and because of the great size of the city (those who dwell there say) those in the outer parts of it were overcome, but the inhabitants of the middle part knew nothing of it; all this time they were dancing and celebrating a holiday which happened to fall then, until they learned the truth only too well. 192.

  End excerpt

  Cyrus was a very fortunate man indeed.  He was seemingly a man fated to accomplish big things from his earliest days, a man destined to rule.  But as with all men, there comes an end to their lives, and Cyrus met a rather undignified end in a way.  The man who had conquered many great empires, this great war lord of the ancient days, met in battle with a great Queen.  His army was trounced, and he was killed.  


**Herodotus wrote many things about many peoples, and there are some odd and interesting nuggets to be found among all of his writings.  I'll throw out a few or them here below, whenever I run into them:

  Ladies, shoes can be an important part of the ensemble, right?  But did you know that in Egypt it was the signature business of a certain town to provide the King's (Pharaoh's) consort with her shoes?  From book 2 of Herodotus' histories, chapter 98 in some translations:

Anthylla is a town of some reputation, and is especially assigned to the consort of the reigning king of Egypt, to provide her shoes. This has been done since Egypt has been under Persian dominion. [2] The other town, I think, is named after Arkhandrus son of Phthius the Achaean, and son-in-law of Danaus; for it is called Arkhandrus' town. It may be that there was another Arkhandrus; but the name is not Egyptian. 99.

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