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This webpage reproduces a section of
Herodotus
published in Vol. I
of the Loeb Classical Library edition,
1920

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!

next:

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I.45‑140

(Vol. I) Herodotus

 p3  Book I: chapters 1‑44

The flags in the text are links to the Greek as printed on facing pages in the Loeb edition.
In the left margin, links to Rawlinson's translation (Vol. I, with valuable notes),
and to the running commentary by How and Wells.
Links marked L are to in‑depth articles at Livius.Org.

[link to original Greek text] 1 Rawlinson p153 H & W What Herodotus the Halicarnassian has learnt by inquiry is here set forth: in order that so the memory of the past may not be blotted out from among men by time, and that great and marvellous deeds done by Greeks and foreigners and especially the reason why they warred against each other may not lack renown.


[image ALT: A stone bust of an old man with a flowing beard. He is the ancient Greek historian Herodotus, as further captioned in the text of this webpage.]

Herodotus. The first words of the Histories, in which he presents himself as the author, may have shocked some of his audience, which was used to invocations of a muse or a goddess. Although unusual, Herodotus' self-confidence was not unique: Hecataeus had done the same.

Agora Museum, Athens.
Photo © Livius.Org | Marco Prins, by kind permission.

The Persian learned men say that L the Phoenicians were the cause of the feud. These (they say) came to our seas from the sea which is called Red,1 and having settled in the country which they still occupy, at once began to make long voyages. Among other places to which they carried Egyptian and Assyrianα merchandise, they came to Argos, which was about that time preeminent in every way among the people of what is now called Hellas. The Phoenicians then came, as I say, to Argos, and set out their cargo. On the fifth or sixth day from their coming, their wares being now well-nigh all sold, there came to the sea shore among many other women the king's daughter, whose name (according to Persians and Greeks alike) was Io, the daughter of Inachus. They  p5 stood about the stern of the ship: and while they bargained for such wares as they fancied, the Phoenicians heartened each other to the deed, and rushed to take them. Most of the women escaped: Io with others was carried off; the men cast her into the ship and made sail away for Egypt.

[link to original Greek text] 2 Rawlinson p155 This, say the Persians (but not the Greeks), was how Io came to Egypt, and this, according to them, was the first wrong that was done. Next, according to their tale, certain Greeks (they cannot tell who) landed at L Tyre in Phoenice and carried off the king's daughter Europe. These Greeks must, I suppose, have been Cretans. So far, then, the account between them stood balanced. But after this (say they) it was the Greeks who were guilty of the second wrong. They sailed in a long ship to Aea of the Colchians and the river Phasis:2 and when they had done the rest of the business for which they came, they carried off the king's daughter Medea. When the Colchian king sent a herald to demand reparation for the robbery, and restitution of his daughter, the Greeks replied that as they had been refused reparation for the abduction of the Argive Io, neither would they make any to the Colchians.

[link to original Greek text] 3 Rawlinson p156 H & W Then (so the story runs) in the second generation after this Alexandrus son of Priam, having heard this tale, was minded to win himself a wife out of Hellas by ravishment; for he was well persuaded that, as the Greeks had made no reparation, so neither would he. So he carried off Helen. The Greeks first resolved to send messengers demanding  p7 that Helen should be restored and atonement made for the rape; but when this proposal was made, the Trojans pleaded the rape of Medea, and reminded the Greeks that they had asked reparation of others, yet had made none themselves, nor given up the plunder at request.

[link to original Greek text] 4 Thus far it was a matter of mere robbery on both sides. But after this (the Persians say) the Greeks were greatly to blame; for they invaded Asia before the Persians attacked Europe. "We think," say they, " that it is wrong to carry women off: but to be zealous to avenge the rape is foolish: wise men take no account of such things: for plainly the women would never have been carried away, had not they themselves wished it. We of Asia regarded the rape of our women not at all; but the Greeks, all for the sake of a Lacedaemonian woman, mustered a great host, came to Asia, and destroyed the power of Priam. Ever since then we have regard the Greeks as our enemies." The Persians claim Asia for their own, and the foreign nations that dwell in it; Europe and the Greek race they hold to be separate from them.

[link to original Greek text] 5 Such is the Persian account of the matter: in their opinion, it was the taking of Troy which began their feud with the Greeks. But the Phoenicians do not tell the same story about Io as the Persians. They say that they did not carry her off to Egypt by force: she had intercourse in Argos with the captain  p9 of the ship: then, perceiving herself to be with child, she was ashamed that her parents should know it, and so, lest they should discover her condition, she sailed away with the Phoenicians of her own accord.

These are the stories of the Persians and the Phoenicians. For my own part, I will not say that this or that story is true, but I will name him whom I myself know to have done unprovoked wrong to the Greeks, and so go forward with my history, and speak of small and great cities alike. For many states that were once great have now become small: and those that were great in my time were small formerly. Knowing therefore that human prosperity never continues in one stay, I will make mention alike of both kinds.

[link to original Greek text] 6 Rawlinson p159 Croesus was by birth a Lydian, son of Alyattes, and monarch of all the nations west of the river Halys, which flows from the south between Syria and Paphlagonia, and issues northward into the sea called Euxinus. This Croesus was as far as we know the first foreigner who subdued Greeks and took tribute of them, and won the friendship of others, — the former being the Ionians, the Aeolians, and the Dorians of Asia, and the latter the Lacedaemonians. Before the reign of Croesus all Greeks were free: for the Cimmerian host which invaded Ionia before his time did not subdue the cities but rather raided and robbed them.

[link to original Greek text] 7 Rawlinson p160 Now the sovereign power, which belonged to  p11 the descendants of Heracles,3a fell to the family of Croesus — the Mermnadae as they were called — in the following way. Candaules, whom the Greeks call Myrsilus, was the ruler of Sardis; he was descended from Alcaeus, son of Heracles; Agron, son of Ninus, son of Belus, son of Alcaeus, was the first Heraclid king of Sardis, and Candaules, son of Myrsus, was the last. The kings of this country before Agron were descendants of Lydus, son of Atys, from whom all this Lydian district took its name; before that it was called the land of the Meii. From these the Heraclidae, descendants of Heracles3b and a female slave of Iardanus, received the sovereignty and held it in charge, by reason of an oracle; and they ruled for two and twenty generations, or 505 years, son succeeding father, down to Candaules, son of Myrsus.

[link to original Greek text] 8 H & W This Candaules, then, fell in love with his own wife, so much that he supposed her to be by far the fairest woman in the world; and being persuaded of this, he raved of her beauty to Gyges, son of Dascylus, who was his favourite among his bodyguard; for it was to Gyges that he entrusted all his weightiest secrets. Then after a little while Candaules, being doomed to ill‑fortune, spoke thus to Gyges: "I think, Gyges, that you do not believe what I tell you of the beauty of my wife; men trust their ears less than their eyes; do you, then, so contrive that you may see her naked." Gyges exclaimed loudly at this. "Master," said he, "what a pestilent command is this that you lay upon me! that I should see her who  p13 is my mistress naked! with the stripping off of her tunic a woman is stripped of the honour due to her. Men have long ago made wise rules for our learning; one of these is, that we, and none other, should see what is our own. As for me, I fully believe that your queen is the fairest of all women; ask not lawless acts of me, I entreat you."

[link to original Greek text] 9 Rawlinson p162 Thus speaking Gyges sought to turn the king's purpose, for he feared lest some ill to himself should come of it: but this was Candaules' answer: Take courage, Gyges: fear not that I say this to put you to the proof, nor that my wife will do you any harm. I will so contrive the whole business that she shall never know that you have seen her. I will bring you into the chamber where she and I lie and set you behind the open door; and after I have entered, my wife too will come to her bed. There is a chair set near the entrance of the room: on this she will lay each part of her raiment as she takes it off, and you will be able to gaze upon her at your leisure. Then, when she goes from the chair to the bed, turning her back upon you, do you look to it that she does not see you going out through the doorway."

[link to original Greek text] 10 As Gyges could not escape, he consented. Candaules, when he judged it to be bed time, brought Gyges into the chamber, his wife presently followed, and when she had come in and was laying aside her garments Gyges beheld her; and when she turned her back upon him, going to her bed, he slipped privily from the room. The woman saw him as he passed out, and perceived what her husband had done. But shamed though she was she never cried  p15 out nor let it be seen that she had perceived aught, for she had it in mind to punish Candaules; seeing that among the Lydians and most of the foreign peoples it is held great shame that even a man should be seen naked.

[link to original Greek text] 11 For the nonce she made no sign and held her peace. But as soon as it was day, she assured herself of those of her household whom she perceived to be most faithful to her, and called Gyges: who, supposing that she knew nothing of what had been done, came at call; for he had always been wont to attend the queen whenever she bade him. So when he came, the lady thus addressed him: "Now, Gyges, you have two roads before you; choose which you will follow. You must either kill Candaules and take me for your own and the throne of Lydia, or yourself be killed now without more ado; that will prevent you from obeying all Candaules' commands in the future and seeing what you should not see. One of you must die: either he, the contriver of this plot, or you, who have outraged all usage by looking on me unclad." At this Gyges stood awhile astonished: presently he entreated her not to compel him to such a choice; but when he could not move her, and saw that dire necessity was in very truth upon him either to kill his master or himself be killed by others, he chose his own life. Then he asked the queen to tell him, since she forced him against his will to slay his master, how they were to attack the king: and she replied, "You shall come at him from the same place whence he made you see me naked; attack him in his sleep."

 p17  [link to original Greek text] 12 Rawlinson p164 So when they had made ready this plot, and night had fallen, Gyges followed the lady into the chamber (for he could not get free or by any means escape, but either he or Candaules must die), and she gave him a dagger and hid him behind the same door; and presently he stole out and slew Candaules as he slept, and thus made himself master of the king's wife and sovereignty. He is mentioned in the iambic verses of Archilochus of Parus who lived about the same time.

[link to original Greek text] 13 So he took possession of the sovereign power, and was confirmed therein by the Delphic oracle. For when the Lydians were much angered by the fate of Candaules, and took up arms, the faction of Gyges and the rest of the people came to an agreement that if the oracle should ordain him to be king of the Lydians, then he should reign: but if not, then he should render back the kingship to the Heraclidae. The oracle did so ordain: and Gyges thus became king. Howbeit the Pythian priestess declared that Heraclidae should have vengeance on Gyges' posterity in the fifth generation: an utterance of which the Lydians and their kings took no account, till it was fulfilled.

[link to original Greek text] 14 Thus did the Mermnadae rob the Heraclidae of the sovereignty and take it for themselves. Having gained it, Gyges sent not a few offerings to Delphi: there are very many silver offerings of his there: and besides the silver, he dedicated great store of  p19 gold: among which six golden bowls are the offerings chiefly worthy of record. These weigh 30 talents4 and stand in the treasury5 of the Corinthians: though in very truth it is the treasury not of the Corinthian people but of Cypselus son of Eetion. This Gyges then was the first foreigner (of our knowledge) who placed offerings at Delphi after the king of Phrygia, Midas son of Gordias. For Midas too made an offering, to wit, the royal seat whereon he sat to give judgment, and a marvellous seat it is; it is set in the same place as the bowls of Gyges. This gold and the silver offered by Gyges is called by the Delphians "Gygian" after its dedicator.

[link to original Greek text] 15 Rawlinson p166 H & W As soon as Gyges came to the throne, he too, like others, led an army into the lands of Miletus and Smyrna; and he took the city of Colophon. But he did nothing else great in his reign of thirty-eight years; I will therefore say no more of him, and will speak rather of Ardys the son of Gyges, who succeeded him. He took Priene and invaded the country of Miletus; and it was while he was monarch of Sardis that the Cimmerians, driven from their homes by the nomad Scythians, came into Asia, and took Sardis, all but the citadel.

[link to original Greek text] 16 H & W Ardys reigned for forty-nine years, and was succeeded by his son Sadyattes, who reigned for twelve years; and after Sadyattes came Alyattes, who waged war against Deioces' descendant Cyaxares and the Medes, drove the Cimmerians out of Asia, took Smyrna (which was a colony from Colophon),  p21 and invaded the lands of Clazomenae. But here he came off not at all as he wished, but with great disaster. Of other deeds done by him in his reign these were most notable:

[link to original Greek text] 17 He continued the war against the Milesians which his father had begun. This was the manner in which he attacked and laid siege to Miletus: he sent his invading army, marching to the sound of pipes and harps and flutes bass and treble, when the crops in the land were ripe: and whenever he came to the Milesian territory, the country dwellings he neither demolished nor burnt nor tore off their doors, but let them stand unharmed; but the trees and the crops of the land he destroyed, and so returned whence he came; for as the Milesians had command of the sea, it was of no avail for his army to besiege their city. The reason why the Lydian did not destroy the houses was this — that the Milesians might have homes whence to plant and cultivate their land, and that there might be the fruit of their toil for his invading army to lay waste.

[link to original Greek text] 18 In this manner he waged war for eleven years, and in these years two great disasters befel the Milesians, one at the battle of Limeneion in their own territory, and the other in the valley of the Maeander. For six of these eleven years Sadyattes son of Ardys was still ruler of Lydia, and he it was who invaded the lands of Miletus, for it was he who had begun the war; for the following five the war was waged by Sadyattes' son Alyattes, who, as I have before shown, inherited the war from his father and carried  p23 it on vigorously. None of the Ionians helped to lighten this war for the Milesians, except only the Chians: these lent their aid for a like service done to themselves; for the Milesians had formerly helped the Chians in their war against the Erythraeans.

[link to original Greek text] 19 Rawlinson p168 In the twelfth year, when the Lydian army was burning the crops, it so happened that the fire set to the crops and blown by a strong wind caught the temple of Athene called Athene of Assesos:6 and the temple was burnt to the ground. For the nonce no account was taken of this. But presently after the army had returned to Sardis Alyattes fell sick; and, his sickness lasting longer than it should, he sent to Delphi to inquire of the oracle, either by someone's counsel or by his own wish to question the god about his sickness: but when the messengers came to Delphi the Pythian priestess would not reply to them before they should restore the temple of Athene at Assesos in the Milesian territory, which they had burnt.

[link to original Greek text] 20 Thus far I know the truth, for the Delphians told me. The Milesians add to the story, that Periander son of Cypselus, being a close friend of Thrasybulus who then was sovereign of Miletus, learnt what reply the oracle had given to Alyattes and sent a despatch to tell Thrasybulus, so that thereby his friend should be forewarned and make his plans accordingly.

[link to original Greek text] 21 Such is the Milesian story. Then, when the Delphic reply was brought to Alyattes, straightway he sent a herald to Miletus, offering to make a truce with Thrasybulus and the Milesians during his building of the temple. So the envoy went to  p25 Miletus. But Thrasybulus, being exactly forewarned of the whole matter, and knowing what Alyattes meant to do, devised the following plan: he brought together into the market place all the food in the city, from private stores and his own, and bade the men of Miletus all drink and revel together when he should give the word.

[link to original Greek text] 22 The intent of his so doing and commanding was, that when the herald from Sardis saw a great heap of food piled up, and the citizens making merry, he might bring word of it to Alyattes:a and so it befell. The herald saw all this, gave Thrasybulus the message he was charged by the Lydian to deliver, and returned to Sardis; and this, as far as I can learn, was the single reason of the reconciliation. For Alyattes had supposed that there was great scarcity in Miletus and that the people were reduced to the last extremity of misery; but now on his herald's return from the town he heard an account contrary to his expectations; so presently the Lydians and Milesians ended the war and agreed to be friends and allies, and Alyattes built not one but two temples of Athene at Assesos, and recovered of his sickness. Such is the story of Alyattes' war against Thrasybulus and the Milesians.

[link to original Greek text] 23 Periander, who disclosed the oracle's answer to Thrasybulus, was the son of Cypselus, and sovereign lord of Corinth. As the Corinthians and Lesbians agree in relating, there happened to him a thing which was the most marvellous in his life, namely the landing of Arion of Methymna on Taenarus, borne thither by a dolphin. This Arion was a  p27 lyre-player second to none in that age; he was the first man, as far as we know, to compose and name the dithyramb7 which he afterwards taught at Corinth.

[link to original Greek text] 24 Rawlinson p170 H & W Thus then, the story runs: for the most part he lived at the court of Periander; then he formed the plan of voyaging to Italy and Sicily, whence, after earning much money, he was minded to return to Corinth. Having especial trust in men of that city, he hired a Corinthian ship to carry him from Taras.8 But when they were out at sea, the crew plotted to cast Arion overboard and take his money. Discovering the plot, he earnestly entreated them, offering them all his money is they would but spare his life; but the sailors would not listen to him; he must, they said, either kill himself and so receive burial on land, or straightway cast himself into the sea. In this extremity Arion besought them, seeing that such was their will, that they would suffer him to stand on the poop with all his singing robes about him and sing; and after his song, so he promised, he would make away with himself. The men, well pleased at the thought of hearing the best singer in the world, drew away from the stern amidships; Arion, putting on all his adornment and taking his lyre, stood up on the poop and sang the "Shrill Strain,"9 and at its close threw himself without more ado into the sea, clad in his robes. So the crew sailed away to Corinth; but a dolphin (so the story goes) took Arion on his back and bore him to Taenarus. There he  p29 landed, went to Corinth in his singing robes, and when he came told all that had befallen him. Periander, not believing the tale, put him in close ward and kept careful watch for the coming of the sailors. When they came they were called and questioned, what news they brought of Arion, and they replied that he was safe in the parts of Italy, and that they had left him sound and well at Taras: when, behold, they were confronted with Arion, just as he was when he leapt from the ship; whereat they were amazed, and could no more deny what was proved against them. Such is the story told by the Corinthians and Lesbians. There is moreover a little bronze monument to Arion on Taenarus, the figure of a man riding upon a dolphin.


[image ALT: A close‑up of part of a Roman mosaic, showing a boy or young man riding the sea on a dolphin. He is the poet Arion — or maybe not — as further captioned in the text of this webpage.]

The story of Arion, and similar stories about people being rescued by dolphins, became a classic in Graeco-Roman art.

Roman mosaic, still in situ, Piazzale delle Corporazioni, Ostia Antica.
Photo © Livius.Org | Jona Lendering, by kind permission.

[link to original Greek text] 25 Rawlinson p172 So Alyattes the Lydian, having finished his war with the Milesians, died after a reign of fifty-seven years. He was the second of his family to make an offering to Delphi — and this was a thank-offering for his recovery — of a great silver bowl on a stand of welded iron. This is the most notable among all the offerings at Delphi, and is the work of Glaucus the Chian, the only man of that age who discovered how to weld iron.

[link to original Greek text] 26 After the death of Alyattes Croesus his son came to the throne,10 being then thirty-five years of age. The first Greeks whom he attacked were the Ephesians. These, being besieged by him, dedicated their city to Artemis; this they did by attaching a rope to the city wall from the temple of the goddess, standing seven furlongs away from the ancient city, which was then being besieged. These  p31 were the first whom Croesus attacked; afterwards he made war on the Ionian and Aeolian cities in turn, each on its separate indictment: he found graver charges where he could, but sometimes alleged very paltry grounds of offence.

[link to original Greek text] 27 Then, when he had subdued and made tributary to himself all the Asiatic Greeks of the mainland, he planned to build ships and attack the islanders; but when his preparations for shipbuilding were ready, either Bias of Priene or Pittacus of Mytilene (the story is told of both) came to Sardis, and being asked by Croesus for news about Hellas, put an end to the shipbuilding by giving the following answer: "King, the islanders are buying ten thousand horse, with intent to march against you to Sardis." Croesus, thinking that he spoke the truth, said: "Would that the gods may put it in the minds of the island men to come on horseback against the sons of the Lydians!" Then the other answered and said: "King, I see that you earnestly pray that you may catch the islanders riding horses on the mainland, and what you expect is but natural. And the islanders, now that they have heard that you are building ships to attack them therewith, think you that they pray for aught else than that they may catch Lydians on the seas, and thereby be avenged on you for having enslaved the Greeks who dwell on the mainland?" Croesus was well pleased with this conclusion, for it seemed to him that the man spoke but reasonably; so he took the advice and built no more ships. Thus it came about that he made friends of the Ionian islanders.

[link to original Greek text] 28 Rawlinson p174 H & W As time went on, Croesus subdued well-nigh  p33 all the nations west of the Halys and held them in subjection, except only the Cilicians and Lycians: the rest, Lydians, Phrygians, Mysians, Mariandynians, Chalybes, Paphlagonians, Thymians and Bithynians (who are Thracians), Carians, Ionians, Dorians, Aeolians, Pamphylians, were subdued and became subjects of Croesus like the Lydians, and Sardis was at the height of its wealth. [link to original Greek text] 29 There came to the city all the teachers from Hellas who then lived, in this or that manner; and among them came Solon of Athens: he, having made laws for the Athenians at their request, left his home for ten years and set out on a voyage to see the world, as he said. This he did, lest he should be compelled to repeal any of the laws he had made, since the Athenians themselves could not repeal them, for they were bound by solemn oaths to abide for ten years by such laws as Solon should make.


[image ALT: A close‑up of part of a Roman mosaic, showing a head-and‑torso portrait, in a circular medallion, of an old man with dishevelled hair and a full mustache and beard. He is Solon, the Athenian sage, as further captioned in the text of this webpage.]

Solon was recognized as one the "seven sages", the founders of Greek philosophy, often shown in classical art. This mosaic is from a Roman villa near Suweydie in the Bekaa valley. The inscription identifies him and gives the Delphic watchword for which he was best known:

ϹΟΛΩΝ ΑΘΗΝΑΙΟϹ · ΜΗΔΕΝ ΑΓΑΝ
Solon the Athenian — Nothing in Excess

Solon's life was written by Plutarch and, less satisfactorily, by Diogenes Laërtius. (In this photo we also see part of the caption to the portrait of Socrates.)

National Museum, Beirut.
Photo © Livius.Org | Jona Lendering, by kind permission.

[link to original Greek text] 30 H & W For this reason, and to see the world, Solon left Athens and visited Amasis in Egypt and Croesus at Sardis: and when he had come, Croesus entertained him in his palace. Now on the third or fourth day after his coming Croesus bade his servants lead Solon round among his treasures, and they showed him all that was there, the greatness and the prosperous state of it;β and when he had seen and considered all, Croesus when occasion served thus questioned him: "Our Athenian guest, we have heard much of  p35 you, by reason of your wisdom and your wanderings, how that you have travelled far to seek knowledge and to see the world. Now therefore I am fain to ask you, if you have ever seen a man more blest than all his fellows." So Croesus inquired, supposing himself to be blest beyond all men. But Solon spoke the truth without flattery: "Such an one, O King," he said, "I have seen — Tellus of Athens." Croesus wondered at this, and sharply asked Solon "How do you judge Tellus to be most blest? Solon replied: "Tellus' city was prosperous, and he was the father of noble sons, and he saw children born to all of them and their state well stablished; moreover, having then as much wealth as a man may among us, he crowned his life with a most glorious death: for in a battle between the Athenians and their neighbours at Eleusis he attacked and routed the enemy and most nobly there died; and the Athenians gave him public burial where he fell and paid him great honour."

[link to original Greek text] 31 Rawlinson p176 Now when Solon had roused the curiosity of Croesus by recounting the many ways in which Tellus was blest, the king further asked him whom he placed second after Tellus, thinking that assuredly the second prize at least would be his. Solon answered: "Cleobis and Biton. These were Argives, and besides sufficient wealth they had such strength of body as I will show. Both were prizewinners; and this story too is related of them. There was a festival of Here towardº among the Argives, and their mother must by all means be drawn to the temple by a yoke of oxen. But the oxen did not come in time from the fields; so the young men, being thus thwarted by lack of time, put themselves  p37 to the yoke and drew the carriage with their mother sitting thereon: for five and forty furlongs they drew it till they came to the temple. Having done this, and been seen by the assembly, they made a most excellent end of their lives, and the god showed by these men how that it was better for a man to die than to live. For the men of Argos came round and gave the youths joy of their strength, and so likewise did the women to their mother, for the excellence of her sons. She then in her joy at what was done and said, came before the image of the goddess and prayed that her sons Cleobis and Biton, who had done such great honour to the goddess, should be given the best boon that a man may receive. After the prayer the young men sacrificed and ate of the feast; then they lay down to sleep in the temple itself and never rose up more, but here ended their lives. Then the Argives made and set up at Delphi images of them because of their excellence."


[image ALT: Two life-sized statues, in an archaic style, each of a young man, naked, in a hieratic pose only slightly relaxed. They are ancient Greek kouroi statues at Delphi (Greece), as further captioned in the text of this webpage.]

Statues of kouroi, usually identified as Cleobis and Biton. Dated to about 580 B.C., they were found at Delphi in 1893‑1894, near the Athenian Treasury: the bases are original and are inscribed with the name of the sculptor, Polymedes of Argos. For full details, see the page at Perseus.

Archaeological Museum of Delphi.
Photo © Livius.Org | Marco Prins, by kind permission.

[link to original Greek text] 32 So Solon gave to Cleobis and Biton the second prize of happiness. But Croesus said in anger, "Guest from Athens! is our prosperity, then, held by you so worthless that you match us not even with common men?" "Croesus," said Solon, "you ask me concerning the lot of man; well I know how jealous is Heaven and how it loves to trouble us. In a man's length of days he may see and suffer many things that he much mislikes. For I set the limit of man's life at seventy years; in these seventy are days twenty-five thousand and two hundred, if we count not the intercalary month.11 But if every  p39 second year be lengthened by a month so that the seasons and the calendar may rightly accord, then the intercalary months are five and thirty, over and above the seventy years; and the days of these months and one thousand and fifty; so then all the days together of the seventy years are seen to be twenty‑six thousand two hundred and fifty; and one may well say that no one of all these days is like another in that which it brings. Thus then, Croesus, the whole of man is but chance. Now if I am to speak of you, I say that I see you very rich and the king of many men. But I cannot yet answer your question, before I hear that you have ended your life well. For he who is very rich is not more blest than he who had but enough for the day, unless fortune so attend him that he ends his life well, having all good things about him. Many men of great wealth are unblest, and many that have no great substance are fortunate. Now the very rich man who is yet unblest has but two advantages over the fortunate man, but the fortunate man has many advantages over the rich but unblest: for this latter is the stronger to accomplish his desire and to bear the stroke of great calamity; but these are the advantages of the fortunate man, that though he be not so strong as the other to deal with calamity and desire, yet these are kept far from him by his good fortune, and he is free from deformity, sickness, and all evil, and happy in his children and his comeliness. If then such a man besides all this shall also end his life well, then he is the man whom you seek, and is worthy to be called blest; but we must wait till he be dead, and call him not yet blest, but fortunate. Now  p41 no one (who is but man) can have all these good things together, just as no land is altogether self-sufficing in what it produces: one thing it has, another it lacks, and the best land is that which has most; so too no single person is sufficient for himself: one thing he has, another he lacks; but whoever continues in the possession of most things, and at last makes a gracious end of his life, such a man, O King, I deem worthy of this title. We must look to the conclusion of every matter, and see how it shall end, for there are many to whom heaven has given a vision of blessedness, and yet afterwards brought them to utter ruin."

[link to original Greek text] 33 Rawlinson p180 H & W So spoke Solon: Croesus therefore gave him no largess, but sent him away as a man of no account, for he thought that man to be very foolish who disregarded present prosperity and bade him look rather to the end of every matter.

[link to original Greek text] 34 But after Solon's departure, the divine anger fell heavily on Croesus: as I guess, because he supposed himself to be blest beyond all other men. Presently, as he slept, he was visited by a dream, which foretold truly to him the evil which would befall his son. He had two sons, one of whom was wholly undone, for he was deaf and dumb, but the other, whose name was Atys, was in every way far pre‑eminent over all of his years. The dream then showed to Croesus that Atys should be smitten and killed by a spear of iron. So Croesus, when he woke and considered the dream with himself, was greatly affrighted by it; and first he made a marriage for his son, and moreover, whereas Atys was wont to lead the Lydian armies, Croesus now would not suffer him to go out on any such enterprise, while  p43 he took the javelins and spears and all such instruments of war from the men's apartments and piled them up in his storehouse,12 lest any of them should fall upon his son from where it hung.

[link to original Greek text] 35 Now while Croesus was busied about the marriage of his son, there came to Sardis a Phrygian of the royal house, in great distress and with hands unclean. This man came to Croesus' house, and entreated that he might be purified after the custom of the country; so Croesus purified him (the Lydians use the same manner of purification as do the Greeks), and when he had done all according to usage, he inquired of the Phrygian whence he came and who he was: "Friend," said he, "who are you, and from what place in Phrygia do you come to be my suppliant? and what man or woman have you slain?" "O King," the man answered, "I am the son of Gordias the son of Midas, and my name is Adrastus; by no will of mine, I slew my brother, and hither I am come, banished by my father and bereft of all." Croesus answered, "All of your family are my friends, and to friends you have come, among whom you shall lack nothing but abide in my house. And for your misfortune, bear it as lightly as may be and you will be the more profited."

[link to original Greek text] 36 Rawlinson p182 H & W So Adrastus lived in Croesus' house. About this same time there appeared on the Mysian Olympus a great monster of a boar, who would issue out from that mountain and ravage the fields of the Mysians. Often had the Mysians gone out against him:  p45 but they never did him any harm and rather were themselves hurt thereby. At last they sent messengers to Croesus, with the message: "King, a great monster of a boar has appeared in the land, who destroys our fields; for all our attempts, we cannot kill him; now therefore, we beseech you, send with us your son, and chosen young men and dogs, that we may rid the country of him." Such was their entreaty, but Croesus remembered the prophecy of his dream and thus answered them: "Say no more about my son: I will not send him with you: he is newly married, and that is his present business. But I will send chosen men of the Lydians, and all the hunt, and I will bid those who go to use all zeal in aiding you to rid the country of this beast."

[link to original Greek text] 37 So he replied, and the Mysians were satisfied with this. But the son of Croesus now came in, who had heard the request of the Mysians; and when Croesus refused to send his son with them, "Father," said the young man, "it was formerly held fairest and noblest that we princes should go constantly to war and the chase and win thereby renown; but now you have barred me from both of these, not for any sign that you have seen in me of a coward or craven spirit. With what face can I thus show myself whenever I go to and from the market-place? What will the men of the city think of me, and what my new‑wedded wife? With what manner of man will she think that she dwells? Nay, do you either let me go to this hunt, or show me by reason good that what you are doing is best for me."

 p47  [link to original Greek text] 38 "My son," answered Croesus, "if I do this, it is not that I have seen cowardice or aught unseemly in you; no, but the vision of a dream stood over me in my sleep, and told me that your life should be short, for you should be slain by a spear of iron. It is for that vision that I was careful to make your marriage, and send you on no enterprise that I have in hand, but keep guard over you, so that haply I may trick death of you through my lifetime. You are my only son: for that other, since his hearing is lost to him, I count no son of mine."

[link to original Greek text] 39 "Father," the youth replied, "none can blame you for keeping guard over me, when you have seen such a vision; but it is my right to show you this which you do not perceive, and wherein you mistake the meaning of the dream. You say that the dream told you that I should be killed by a spear of iron; but has a boar hands? Has it that iron spear which you dread? Had the dream said I should be slain by a tusk or some other thing belonging to a boar, you had been right in acting as you act; but no, it was to be a spear. Therefore, since it is not against men that we are to fight, suffer me to go."

[link to original Greek text] 40 Croesus answered, "My son, your judgment concerning the dream does somewhat overpersuade me; and being so convinced by you I change my purpose and permit you to go to the chase."

[link to original Greek text] 41 Rawlinson p184 Having said this, Croesus sent for Adrastus the Phrygian and when he came thus addressed him: "Adrastus, when you were smitten by grievous misfortune, for which I blame you not, it was I who cleansed you, and received and still keep you in my house, defraying all your charges. Now therefore (as you owe me a return of good service for the benefits  p49 which I have done you) I ask you to watch over my son as he goes out to the chase. See to there is that no ruffian robbers meet you on the way, to do you harm. Moreover it is but right that you too should go where you can win renown by your deeds. That is fitting for your father's son; and you are strong enough withal."

[link to original Greek text] 42 "O King," Adrastus answered, "had it been otherwise, I would not have gone forth on this enterprise. One so unfortunate as I should not consort with the prosperous among his peers; nor have I the wish so to do, and for many reasons I would have held back. But now, since you so desire and I must do your pleasure (owing you as I do a requital of good service), I am ready to obey you in this; and for your son, in so far as I can protect him, look for his coming back unharmed."

[link to original Greek text] 43 So when Adrastus had thus answered Croesus they went out presently equipped with a company of chosen young men and dogs. When they had come to Mount Olympus they hunted for the beast, and having found him they made a ring and threw their spears at him: then the guest called Adrastus, the man who had been cleansed of the deed of blood, missed the boar with his spear and hit the son of Croesus. So Atys was smitten by the spear and fulfilled the utterance of the dream. One ran to bring Croesus word of what had been done, and came to Sardis, where he told the king of the fight and the manner of his son's end.

[link to original Greek text] 44 Croesus, distraught by the death of his son, cried out the more vehemently because the slayer was one whom he himself had cleansed of a bloody  p51 deed, and in his great and terrible grief at this mischance he called on Zeus by three names — Zeus the Purifier, Zeus of the Hearth, Zeus of Comrades: the first, because he would have the god know what evil his guest had wrought him; the second, because he had received the guest into his house and thus unwittingly entertained the slayer of his son; and the third, because he had found his worst foe in the man whom he sent as a protector.


The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 Not the modern Red Sea, but the Persian Gulf and adjacent waters.

2 This is the legendary cruise of the Argonauts.

3a 3b Descendants of Heracles seems to mean descended from the Asiatic sungod identified with Heracles by the Greeks.

4 The "Attic" talent had a weight of about 58 lbs. avoirdupois, the "Aeginetan" of about 82.

5 Many Greek states had special "treasuries" allotted to them in the temple precincts at Delphi, in which their offerings were deposited.

6 A small town or village near Miletus.

7 The dithyramb was a kind of dance-music particularly associated with the cult of Dionysus.

8 Tarentum.

9 The ὄρθιος νόμος was a high-pitched (and apparently very well-known) song or hymn in honour of Apollo.

10 Croesus' reign began in 560 B.C., probably.

11 The "intercalary" month is a month periodically inserted to make the series of solar and calendar years eventually correspond. But Herodotus' reckoning here would make the average length of a year 375 days.

12 Or, perhaps, "in the women's quarters."


Thayer's Notes:

a A fairly common stratagem: Frontinus devotes a whole chapter of the Strategemata (III.15) to historical examples, including this one.


Lendering's Notes:

α The word Assyrian is best considered a reference to a legendary nation of old, combining elements of what we call today Assyrian and Babylonian history with a fair amount of fiction.

β The wealth of Croesus, whose capital Sardis was next to the gold-carrying river Pactolus, was proverbial. The Lydian kings were the first to mint coins to pay their soldiers.


[image ALT: An irregular oval piece of gold-colored metal, just recognizable as a coin, bearing in relief a very schematic lion's head, its jaws open. It is a Lydian stater, as further captioned in the text of this webpage.]

Lydian stater, of the early "lion" type, 7c‑6c B.C. (held in place by two modern pegs, not part of the coin). Irregular shapes notwithstanding, the weight of these coins was remarkably precise.

Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, Ankara.
Photo © Livius.Org | Marco Prins, by kind permission.


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Page updated: 20 Sep 18